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The Botched Execution of Clayton Lockett

Murder victim Stephanie Neiman

Murder victim Stephanie Neiman

People seem to have forgotten that after raping her friend, Clayton Lockett shot and then ordered his friends to bury his teenage victim alive. Stephanie Neiman’s parents, who have spent the past 15-years going through the motions of living, are constantly faced with terrifying images of her last moments. They eat, they sleep, and her father goes to work and comes home again. Stephanie’s mother says that, “We do what we have to do to make it through the day and we start all over again the next. We exist.”

All Stephanie Neiman’s family has ever wanted was for justice to be served. In this case that meant that Stephanie’s killer needed to be executed because that was the sentence imposed at trial. In a statement released to the press on the killer’s execution day they said in part, “God blessed us with our precious daughter, Stephanie for 19 years. Stephanie loved children. She was the joy of our life. We are thankful this day has finally arrived and justice will finally be served.”
Stephanie Neiman and Parents

Stephanie Neiman and Parents

Now, because of arguments being made by death penalty opponents Mr. and Mrs. Neiman are implicated in death by torture through association. Lockett was an unrepentant, sexually sadistic psychopath, and the case against him was solid, making it impossible for abolitionists to argue that an innocent man had been executed, or that his trial lawyer was incompetent. Instead their best case scenario was realized when his vein collapsed, because it provided them with an opportunity to pass moral judgment. They say that he was tortured to death, that the death penalty is inhumane, that it is beneath us as a civilization, and that it is immoral. The obvious implication is that if you favor the death penalty as a fair and just punishment then you favor torture, are unenlightened, and are morally bankrupt.

The ironies of the death penalty are not lost on me. Good people who lost loved ones to maniacal killers are portrayed as cold and vindictive, while killers being led to the death gurney are victims of a cruel society. Death penalty abolitionists want a factually innocent person executed so that they can gloat, while death penalty proponents fear that possibility.

It is also worth noting that the states that execute the worst of the worst are scrambling to purchase death penalty approved drugs. They now pursue a back alley and black market approach to securing the drugs used in the executioner’s cocktail because of the abolitionist’s success in convincing drug manufacturers to stop selling execution approved drugs.
Killer Clayton Lockett

Killer Clayton Lockett

Stephanie Neiman and Clayton Lockett are both dead. But, as was alluded to by Stephanie’s parents; her last moments were rushed, solitary, terrifying, and tortured. She was an innocent victim who was abused in the worst way possible and then buried alive. She did not have an opportunity to make amends with her God, say good bye to her family, or reconcile her brief life on earth. Lockett, on the other hand, benefited from a major public investment. After murdering Stephanie the state hired a lawyer, provided due process, held a trial, and subsequently housed, clothed and fed Lockett as the appeals process wound its way through the system. He had 15-years to contemplate his deed, make peace with his Lord, and put his affairs in order. An army of abolitionists fought for his life as surely as he isolated Stephanie prior to assassinating her. Lockett died with full knowledge that a jury carefully and deliberately weighed the evidence and found him worthy of execution. He never showed remorse, and he never apologized for killing a teen aged girl. The manner in which he died cannot be compared to the soulless evil he inflicted upon Stephanie Neiman.

Will the botched execution of Clayton Lockett represent a watershed moment in the United States ongoing death penalty debate? The abolitionists and other prison rights apologists certainly hope so and will play it for everything they can. However, I have faith that the American public will see through their disingenuous arguments and administrative bottlenecks and continue to support the death penalty as they have throughout our history.

When A Victim Has No Voice

By Danny Domingo

I’ve spent the past hour reading blogs about the shortcomings of Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.  In my minimal experience with only one Santa Clara County Sheriff’s investigation I would have to agree that the criticism is warranted.

 

Sierra LaMar

Sierra LaMar

My name is Danny Domingo and I am a retired police veteran of an east bay Police Department.  I have also volunteered with the KlaasKids Organization since 2000.  Currently I am embedded with the search for Sierra Lamar and have volunteered my time in this worthwhile effort for the past two years.  The Sierra Lamar search is the fourth high profile search in which I have been involved since meeting Marc Klaas in 1999.  The Sierra Lamar search is also the ONLY ONE of the four searches in which I’ve been involved where the local law enforcement jurisdiction has refused to assist the civilian search effort.  Instead, Sheriff Smith and her media representatives have stated multiple times, in one way or another that they wish they could discuss the case with the civilian search leaders but they CAN’T.  Allow me to make this point very clear.  The leaders of the search for Sierra Lamar have never asked Sheriff Smith or her representatives to discuss the case with us.  What we have asked for is assistance in identifying viable search areas.

 

In the first days, weeks and months of the search effort we asked Sheriff Smith and her Search and Rescue leaders to share the areas where they’ve searched so that the civilian team could leap frog those areas thereby searching a larger area in a shorter period of time.  The requests led to empty promises of assistance from the Sheriff.  Finally, in October 2013, nineteen months after Sierra Lamar disappeared; civilian search leaders finally received a map outlining search areas covered by county Search & Rescue teams.  Nineteen months during which body decomposition, animal destruction and weather conditions have taken its toll on any evidence which might have been recovered.

 

Xiana Fairchild

Xiana Fairchild

In my personal estimation, Sheriff Smith has hampered the search effort for Sierra Lamar.  A couple of examples if I may; 1) for several months in the beginning of the search Sheriff Smith refused to disclose that all of the clothing connected with Sierra Lamar had been recovered.  Hence, civilian search teams spent countless hours searching for, logging and documenting an exorbitant amount of female clothing found during searches.  All of this documentation was then turned over to the Sheriff’s Office.  Hundreds of hours could have been saved by a simple statement by the Sheriff’s Office saying, “We are not looking for any outstanding clothing.”  Yet, Sheriff Smith forced her investigators to remain mum about any information at all.  2) The civilian search leaders have asked the Sheriff Investigators to assist the civilian search effort by suggesting areas in which the suspect and his friends might have frequented so that searches could be conducted in those areas.  These requests have been met with no response by the Sheriff or her investigators.  3) There are rumors of the existence of a video surveillance photograph taken of the suspect showing his clothing in a particular state of disarray taken on the date of Sierra’s disappearance and the existence of medical records indicating the suspect was treated for a particular condition days after the disappearance of Sierra Lamar.  A simple confirmation or denial of these two rumors could do a lot to steer this search in a particular direction.  Once again, the requests were met with no response.  Having been an investigator for 16 of the 25 years I served in law enforcement, I fail to see how assistance in any of the above would jeopardize this case.

 

Murder Victim Michelle Le

Murder Victim Michelle Le

I have been researching missing person cases since the disappearance of my own niece, Xiana Fairchild in December 1999.  I have documented numerous cases in which missing persons have been located by civilian search teams.  In that same research I’ve yet to find a single case in which prosecution was compromised by the acts of a civilian search team member.  Conversely, I have a long list of cases in which SAR team members missed a body only to have the body discovered by a civilian or a civilian search team member at a later date.  The most recent example of this is the case of Michelle Le who was discovered by a KlaasKids search team in an area that had been searched by SAR teams up to three previous times.

 

The case against Antolin Garcia has all the appearances of being a very difficult case to win.  It is not a secret that juries find it difficult to convict the defendant in a capital case in which there is no body.  Is there any question in anyone’s mind that the best chances of finding a body now rests with the civilian search team?  Why then does Sheriff Smith and her investigators, to this very day, still refuse to assist the civilian search effort.

 

If Sheriff Smith or her investigators had a loved one missing they would want as many boots on the ground as possible as quickly as possible.  Perhaps the rules are different when the missing is not one of their own.

 

I don’t even live in Santa Clara County but I will be making a donation to the campaign of anybody running against Sheriff Laurie Smith.  It is time for a change in philosophy.

Book Review: My Deer Friends

My Deer FriendsSpoiler alert: I wrote the forward to My Deer Friends

My Deer Friends resonates with me in profound and personal ways. Although Piper, the spunky protagonist is diminutive in size, her stature is vast. Her sharing nature and positive vibe resonates throughout the book as the reader shares in her journey of self-realization and discovery. Nineteen years ago I also embarked upon a journey of self-realization, and like Piper I found that my greatest discoveries were the simple things that fill life with purpose and resonate with joy.

 

Much like the playful puppy Piper, I have found that an inquisitive mind is the key to personal growth and both of us want others to understand and benefit from our expanded horizons.  In the years that immediately followed the death of my only daughter Polly, my own survival depended upon learning as much as possible about the new world in which I had been thrust and then sharing that knowledge in hopes of protecting other young children.

 

Instead of documenting my expanded horizons within the pages of literature, I chose to advocate through the non-profit KlaasKids Foundation. Successfully conveying new found knowledge is dependent upon an ability to communicate, and viable communication requires the ability to express a fresh perspective. I like to think that KlaasKids fresh perspective on child safety found meaning out of Polly’s death and helped to strengthen our families, secure better laws, and create a safer society.

 

While Polly’s years were few, her stature diminutive and her experience was limited, her legacy is as vast as her courage. She inspired us to be bigger, better and more than we otherwise would have been. Through the work of the KlaasKids Foundation her final act has reverberated from the family kitchen table to the president’s cabinet table.

 

Like Piper, Polly was a happy, inquisitive, and determined little girl who was opening up to the possibilities that life had in store for her. Although she had big dreams she was relatively untested in life until she faced her worst fears with uncommon valor. As she was being stolen in the night she faced her devil and said, “Please don’t hurt my mother and sister.”

 

Polly was never seen alive again. Now she exists in memory, in legacy, occasionally in dreams and always in the realm of angels. If you don’t believe me just ask Piper, a kindred spirit who is graced by the spirit of angels in the wonder of her everyday life.

California Death Penalty Reform Initiative Filed with Attorney General

A coalition of District Attorneys, law enforcement officials, and victims’ rights advocates are proposing a statewide ballot initiative to reform the death penalty in California.

 

“Last year Californians overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for the death penalty. Unfortunately, it has become ineffective because of waste, delays, and inefficiencies.  Fixing it will save California taxpayers millions of dollars every year, assure due process protections for those sentenced to death  and promote justice for murder victims and their families,” said initiative proponent Kermit Alexander, whose mother, sister, and two nephews were murdered in 1984 by a gang member in Los Angeles. The killer has been on death row since 1986.

This initiative will ensure justice for both victims and defendants by:

Reforming the Appeals Process

  • Death penalty appeals will first be heard by the California Court of Appeals and then heard by the California Supreme Court if necessary.
  • A defendant’s claim of actual innocence should not be limited, but frivolous and unnecessary claims should be restricted.

Reforming Death Row Housing and Victim Restitution

  • According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, eliminating single cell housing of death row inmates will save tens of millions of dollars every year.
  • Death row inmates should be required to work in prison to pay restitution to their victims’ families consistent with the Victims’ Bill of Rights (Marsy’s law). Refusal to work and pay restitution should result in loss of special privileges.

Reforming the Appointment of Appellate Counsel and Agency Oversight 

  • Reforming the existing inefficient appeals process for death penalty cases will ensure fairness for both defendants and victims. Capital defendants wait 5 years or more for appointments of their appellate lawyer. By providing prompt appointment of attorneys, the defendant’s claims will be heard sooner.
  • The state agency that is supposed to expedite secondary review of death penalty cases is operating without any effective oversight, causing long delays and wasting taxpayer dollars. California Supreme Court oversight of this state agency will ensure accountability.

2 Rich 4 Prison

Ethan Couch Facebook

Ethan Couch Facebook

The American justice took a huge step backwards yesterday. The events of the incident were not in dispute. Late in the evening of June 16, 2013 sixteen-year-old Ethan Couch piled seven friends into the cabin and bed of his red Ford F-350 pickup truck. Within 400-yards he had accelerated to 70 in a 40 mph speed zone. Ethan’s truck swerved off the road and plowed into two parked vehicles, a disabled motorist and three good Samaritans before it came to a stop. Four pedestrians were killed, and two people were tossed from the bed of Ethan’s pickup and severely injured. One is no longer able to move or talk because of a brain injury, while the other suffered internal injuries and broken bones.

Crash Scene

Crash Scene

Although it is illegal for teenagers to drink alcoholic beverages Ethan’s blood alcohol was three times the legal limit in Texas, Valium was found in his system. So in September prosecutors decided to charge Ethan with 4-counts of intoxication manslaughter and 2-counts of intoxication assault. They sought a determinate sentence of 20-years in prison through the juvenile court system so that Ethan wouldn’t be released from a juvenile detention facility and have his record expunged when he turned 21-years old.

Hollie & Shelby Boyles

Hollie & Shelby Boyles

Ethan’s trial defense was based on Affluenza: a lifestyle where wealth brought privilege and there were no consequences for bad behavior. In other words, Ethan wasn’t responsible for killing and maiming innocent people. Instead a circumstance created by his parents was responsible. Unbelievably, Judge Jean Boyd bought into the defense theory and sentenced Ethan Couch to 10 years’ probation, and at least two years of therapy and no contact with his parents. Ethan’s father has agreed to pay $450,000 so that the murderous teen can receive treatment at a posh Southern California treatment facility.

Breanna Mitchell

Breanna Mitchell

The families of the victims were correctly outraged by this travesty of justice. Eric Boyles, who lost his wife Hollie and 21-year-old daughter Shelby hit the nail on the head when he told the Fort Worth Star Telegram, “Money always seems to keep (Couch) out of trouble. Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail. If (he) had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different.”

Youth Pastor Brian Jennings

Youth Pastor Brian Jennings

24-year-old Breanna Mitchell’s family and the family of 43-year-old youth minister Brian Jennings will join Mr. Boyles in a lifetime of grief, regret, and broken hearts as they live with the reality that justice money and privilege over the lives of their dearly departed loved ones.

 

When high-profile killers purchase their freedom faith in the criminal justice system is undermined by a fear of retribution. When only nine percent of reported violent crimes are resolved with the perpetrator being incarcerated, criminal justice is perceived as justice for criminals. When this perception infects the majority of innocent people, the process is eroded by a reluctance to cooperate, which fosters still more criminal activity.

Paying It Forward

 

MBDAs we rapidly approach the Holiday season, I want to share a story that exemplifies how creative partnerships can pay it forward, making everybody a winner in the game of life.

 

My friends Pam and Irving recently purchased a new home in Northern California. That purchase triggered a very generous donation to the KlaasKids Foundation, in their name, and it didn’t cost them a thing.

 

Pam and Irving utilized the services of a unique real estate service called My Broker Donates. My Broker Donates is a for-profit organization that connects home buyers and sellers to successful, reputable real estate agents. They then arrange for 15% of the agent’s commission to be donated to a charity chosen by the agent’s client. In Pam and Irving’s case that translated to more than $1,200 to the KlaasKids Foundation.

My Broker Donates 2 11-13

Accepting Donation Check From My Broker Donates CEO Jack McLaughlin

This unique approach to home buying and selling represents charitable giving at its best. It pairs motivated clients with a seasoned real estate agent. Once the transaction has been initiated everybody wins. The agent wins because he or she makes a commission that they otherwise would not have received. The client wins because they know that they are dealing with a professional real estate agent with a proven track record, giving them piece of mind knowing that their time and money will be maximized. They also arrange a generous zero-cost donation to their favorite charity. The charity, in this case the KlaasKids Foundation, wins because they are the beneficiaries of a generous donation. Finally, the charity’s clients win because the charity has working capital dedicated to providing needed services.

 

Are you planning on buying or selling a home soon? If so, why not give My Broker Donates a call first. Oh, and don’t forget to include your favorite charity, the KlaasKids Foundation.

 

Who is Little Maria?

Maria 1On October 16, 2013, during a drug and weapons raid, a little blond, blue eyed girl who goes by the name of Maria was found living in the squalor of a subsidized Gypsy encampment in central Greece. A local prosecutor on the scene became suspicious because the little girl, thought to be five or six-years-old, did not resemble her parents or siblings. A subsequent DNA test has determined that she is not related to other family members. The parents, who are also suspected of welfare fraud, have been arrested. They have provided conflicting reports on how Maria ended up in their custody. Maria has been placed with charity that is trying to locate her biological parents.

 

Parents

It is thought that there are upwards of 270,000 human trafficking victims living in the European Union at a given time. However, according to the latest data, a total of only 5,535 human trafficking victims were identified in the 24-European Union member states in 2010. 80% of victims were female and 17% were girls under the age of eighteen. The majority (around 62 %), of the victims are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, around 25 % for labor exploitation and around 14 % for the category “other”. Female victims have the largest share of victims classified under other forms of exploitation such as forced begging, selling of children etc., and there has been a gradual increase in the number of male victims across the three years. A clear majority (61 %) of the identified and presumed victims come from EU Member States.

 

Because the Greek birth registration system is antiquated welfare fraud is rampant. The couple who claimed to be Maria’s parents claim benefits totaling about $3,200/month for a total of 14-children, only four of whom have been identified. Various court records reveal that the woman was giving birth every four months during one period of time.

Parents 2

Maria’s Gypsy parents clearly have something to hide. The Gypsy couple say that they love Maria and are raising her as one of their own children, video suggests that she may have been singled out for exploitation. Initially they said that Maria had been given to them by her biological mother shortly after giving birth, but that story has changed repeatedly since they have been in custody.

 

Although this case is moving backwards in that the missing child was discovered before she was knowingly reported missing, it has already given hope to other missing child families. Madeline McCann’s parents have said that their hopes of being reunited with their daughter is reinvigorated by the discovery of little Maria. Similar sentiments have been published by the parents of other missing children.

Maria 2

There is a good chance that Maria will never be reunited with her biological family. If that occurs, let us hope that wherever she ends up, it is with a loving family who will give her the opportunities experience and love life that she never would have found in the squalor of the Gypsy village.

Castro’s Speech Full of “Empty Words”

175273297I was physically shaken by Ariel Castro’s testimony because it returned me to a time seventeen years ago when I sat in a courtroom and listened to another remorseless pervert, my daughter Polly’s killer, excuse and justify his own evil deeds. I am stunned that these guys have a right to speak in open court. Their self-serving lies are nothing more than delusional attempts to cast themselves as victims as they pitifully attempt to redefine unspeakable crimes against innocent and vulnerable victims, but the empty words of a coward cannot erase a lifetime of violence and perversion.

 

When Castro turned and stared at Michelle Knight, he should have been silenced and removed from the courtroom. Instead, his continued talking as he watched her.  There were enough lawyers in the courtroom that somebody should have objected. Nobody did. His attempt to intimidate Michelle fell flat when he, and not she, looked …http://www.hlntv.com/article/2013/08/02/ariel-castro-michelle-knight-victim-perpetrator-courtroom

 

Boy in the Bunker

UntitledOn January 29, 2013 retired long haul trucker Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded a school bus returning children home after school and demanded two young boys. When bus driver Charles Poland put himself between the interloper and the children Dykes shot him to death. He then kidnapped a five-year-old child, known only as Ethan, and took him into an underground bunker on his property. He was holed up in the bunker with the boy until today. This afternoon authorities raided the bunker, killed Dykes and rescued Ethan.

 

This would seem like the perfect conclusion to a tense ordeal that could have ended much more tragically. Although he was not physically harmed, little Ethan witnessed the violent death of two individuals, and was held prisoner in a small underground fortress with a bitter and angry man for nearly a week. What happens to crime victims after the TV Trucks coil the cable, lower the microwave antennas and move onto the next crime de jour? After all, he is a fragile little child who has endured more trauma than most people can imagine. Of course his path to normalcy is fraught with challenges.

 

I have crossed paths with many remarkable people these past twenty years, but few have inspired or awed me more than Alicia Kozakiewicz, Midsi Sanchez, or Elizabeth Shoaf. These amazing young women have not only triumphed over their own kidnapping/hostage situations, they have used that experience to build strength, resolve and focus.

 

Eight-year-old Midsi Sanchez was walking home from school in Vallejo, California on August 12, 2000 when she was kidnapped and chained to the filthy floorboard of a car. Forty-four hours later she took advantage of an opportunity, unlocked her shackles and escaped into the protective arms of a passing truck driver. Her kidnapper was later linked to the death of other young girls in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Midsi endured bullying in school, descended into alcohol and cheated death yet again, when at sixteen-she was in a near fatal car crash. Upon learning that she was pregnant while in the hospital, Midsi vowed to change her ways. These past years the devoted mother of a three-year-old toddler has been an invaluable KlaasKids Foundation volunteer and advocate for missing child. She has been profiled on numerous news magazines and talk shows.

 

On New Year’s Day 2002, thirteen-year-old Alicia Kozakiewicz was lured into the clutches of an internet predator. Five-days later the Western Pennsylvania Crimes Against Children Task Force located, rescued and reunited Alicia with her very relieved parents. Alicia has since testified before federal and state legislative committees about Internet safety. She is the driving force behind Alicia’s Law which, among other things, strives to provide permanent funding for Internet Crimes Against Children taskforces. Alicia continues to make frequent appearances on broadcast and cable news magazines and leads the Alicia Project which is dedicated to protecting other children from the online victimization.

 

Elizabeth Shoaf was fourteen-years-old when she was kidnapped by a registered sex offender posing as a police officer on September 6, 2006 after getting off of the school bus near her home in Lugoff, South Carolina. Her kidnapper walked her into the woods and imprisoned her in an underground bunker. Ten-days later Elizabeth completely outwitted her tormenter and engineered her own escape.  I met her earlier this year on the set of the Ricki Lake Show, one of many television programs she has appeared on to tell her story.

 

The path to recovery has been difficult for each of these young ladies, but each has found ways to triumph over their own demons. Counseling, prayer, family have engaged each of them to varying degrees. But, it was coming to terms with their own victimization and deciding to use their experience as a cautionary tale for other children that led them to the light. Midsi, Alicia, and Elizabeth are empowered young ladies who positive and productive in their lives. Let us hope that Ethan too will find a way to beat the devil.