National Roundup

Pennsylvania

Mom showed cops duct-taped kid photo, arrested

BROOKHAVEN, Pa. (AP) -- A southeastern Pennsylvania woman who police say showed them a photo of her toddler duct-taped to a chair as part of an identity theft complaint is being held without bail.

Police arrested 21-year-old Caira Ferguson on child endangerment and other charges Wednesday.

Ferguson went to police earlier this month to complain that her identity had been stolen and someone had posted online a photo of her young daughter bound to a chair with duct tape covering her mouth.

Nether Providence Township police say Ferguson admitted taping the girl to a chair about seven months ago. Ferguson denied the allegations to reporters as she was transported to jail.

Ferguson's mother says she thinks another child was responsible.

The girl is in custody of child welfare workers.

Washington

No charges for Seattle officer who shot woodcarver

SEATTLE (AP) -- Prosecutors said Wednesday they won't criminally charge a Seattle police officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding, homeless woodcarver during a brief encounter on a street corner in a case that has prompted angry protests and calls for increased scrutiny of police tactics.

Officer Ian Birk, who had been on paid leave since the Aug. 30 shooting, resigned hours after King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg's announcement.

Relatives and other supporters of John T. Williams had asked Satterberg to charge Birk, 27, with manslaughter, saying Williams didn't pose a threat to the officer. The officer said he fired only after Williams failed to drop the three-inch knife despite being repeatedly ordered to do so.

At a news conference, Satterberg said the shooting was a "good faith mistake, however tragic" and no charges would be filed.

But the police department's Firearms Review Board separately released findings Wednesday that describe the shooting as "unjustified and outside of policy, tactics and training." Police Chief John Diaz said Birk's resignation won't curtail a departmental investigation into his conduct.

"Reaching our own administrative conclusion is a necessary step to providing a small degree of closure to the many people affected by this tragedy," Diaz said.

The killing of the 50-year-old Williams prompted an almost-immediate outcry and calls for more scrutiny of the police force.

Days after the shooting, dozens marched through Seattle to protest. In December, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and other organizations asked the Department of Justice to conduct a civil-rights review, citing incidents including the shooting of Williams. The organizations claim some Seattle officers appear to "inflict injury out of anger" at suspects rather than to protect public safety.

On Wednesday afternoon, about 150 supporters of Williams, who was a Native American, gathered to demonstrate peacefully in the lobby of City Hall, surrounding an Indian drum circle and singing. Later, several hundred people marched for hours through downtown, chanting and occasionally blocking traffic. They were escorted by police officers and no arrests were reported.

Explaining the decision not to prosecute, Satterberg said Washington state law protects police officers from a homicide charge unless there's evidence of malice or bad faith.

"Unlike the rest of us they do not have the option of walking away," he said.

Nonetheless, Satterberg called the shooting troubling and said he has received 1,200 e-mails about the case with many people urging him to charge Birk as a way to bridge the divide with minorities who fear they will be mistreated by police.

Williams' brother, Rick Williams, told KOMO Radio he was not surprised.

"I kind of expected all this because of the way the system is," he said. He said Williams was a First Nation woodcarver from a family that has represented Seattle honorably for generations. He complained that Birk had been glorified.

A coroner's inquest jury in January watched Birk's patrol car video. It showed him getting out to pursue Williams, who had crossed the street in front of the cruiser, and was holding the knife and a piece of wood. Off camera, Birk quickly shouted three times for Williams to drop the knife, then fired five shots.

Of the eight jurors, just one said Williams posed a threat. Four jurors said Williams did not pose a threat, and three others said they didn't know.

Birk testified that Williams had a "very stern, very serious, very confrontational look on his face" and was in a "confrontational posture" when he opened fire.

An autopsy found that Williams' blood-alcohol level was at 0.18 percent, above the 0.08 percent level at which a driver is considered legally drunk.

Texas

Texas gov. discusses exonerated man's conviction

HOUSTON (AP) -- Gov. Rick Perry says the capital murder conviction of a man exonerated after 18 years in prison was a "great miscarriage of justice" and that he recognizes the man's attorneys are trying to win him compensation.

Perry made his comments about Anthony Graves' case during an appearance Tuesday in Houston, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Texas Comptroller's Office has denied compensation to Graves, even though prosecutors declared him innocent last October of the 1992 slayings of six members of a family in Burleson County, about 100 miles northwest of Houston.

The only evidence tying Graves, 45, to the killings came from his co-defendant, Robert Earl Carter, who absolved Graves shortly before he was executed 10 years ago. A federal appeals court eventually overturned Graves' conviction, and prosecutors -- proclaiming Graves' innocence -- decided to drop the case.

"We see that there has been a miscarriage of justice. His attorneys are pursuing every avenue to obtain compensation," Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

Nashed told the Chronicle the governor's office had been in contact with Graves' lawyers. She declined later Wednesday to say what if anything the governor's office might be doing to help Graves or his attorneys.

Graves' attorney, Jeff Blackburn of Amarillo, said Perry's comments gave Graves and his legal team a moral boost in their efforts to obtain compensation for Graves.

"We never lost our commitment to this case, and now we are going to re-enter the fray," he said.

Published: Fri, Feb 18, 2011

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