Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dallas D.A.'s Reputation Sinks Amid Reversals: New D.A. blames "cowboy" mentality; 19 convictions overturned..

The reputation of Dallas D.A. Henry Wade who gathered evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald and also prosecuted Jack Ruby is under assault. The Associated Press reports tonight that 19 of Wade's convictions have been overturned by DNA evidence; and 250 more of his cases are under review: No other county in America — and almost no state, for that matter — has freed more innocent people from prison in recent years than Dallas County, where Wade was DA from 1951 through 1986. Current District Attorney Craig Watkins, who in 2006 became the first black elected chief prosecutor in any Texas county, said that more wrongly convicted people will go free.
"There was a cowboy kind of mentality and the reality is that kind of approach is archaic, racist, elitist and arrogant," said Watkins, who is 40 and never worked for Wade or met him. "

The new DA and other Wade detractors say the cases won under Wade were riddled with shoddy investigations, evidence was ignored and defense lawyers were kept in the dark. They note that the promotion system under Wade rewarded prosecutors for high conviction rates.
In the case of James Lee Woodard — released in April after 27 years in prison for a murder DNA showed he didn't commit — Wade's office withheld from defense attorneys photographs of tire tracks at the crime scene that didn't match Woodard's car.
"Now in hindsight, we're finding lots of places where detectives in those cases, they kind of trimmed the corners to just get the case done," said Michelle Moore, a Dallas County public defender and president of the Innocence Project of Texas. "Whether that's the fault of the detectives or the DA's, I don't know."
John Stickels, a University of Texas at Arlington criminology professor and a director of the Innocence Project of Texas, blames a culture of "win at all costs."
"When someone was arrested, it was assumed they were guilty," he said. "I think prosecutors and investigators basically ignored all evidence to the contrary and decided they were going to convict these guys."


Monday, July 28, 2008

Caroline Kennedy Helps Obama Select VP

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New suit seeks FBI papers withheld from Congress

Carlos Marcello (1910-1993)

Gregory Scarpa (1928-1994)

A new suit is being filed seeking information from the FBI concerning longtime New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello, who died in 1993. This information was previously withheld from Congress during their investigation of the murder of JFK. It seems as if the FBI is also in violation of the JFK Records Act as all material relevant to the assassination of John F. Kennedy was to have been released to the JFK Review Board in the 1990's. Here are some excerpts from the Times' story:
"The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Washington by the paralegal, Angela Clemente, asks the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make public any documents it may still hold related to the mobster, Gregory Scarpa Sr., who for nearly 30 years led a stunning double life as a hit man for the Colombo crime family and, in the words of the F.B.I, a “top echelon” informant for the bureau....In her suit, Ms. Clemente asked the bureau to release all papers connected to Mr. Scarpa (who died of AIDS in 1994 after receiving a blood transfusion), especially those related to Carlos Marcello, a New Orleans don suspected by some of having played a role in the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
Ms. Clemente filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Mr. Scarpa’s file in April, and the F.B.I. acknowledged her request in a letter on June 9, saying that bureau officials would search their records for relevant papers. Ms. Clemente’s lawyer, James Lesar, said that the F.B.I. had not yet told her if it would release the file or not, but that under federal law, a lawsuit can be filed compelling the release of records 20 working days after such a letter is received....
In pursuing the Scarpa file and its potential to flesh out Mr. Marcello’s possible role in the Kennedy killing, Ms. Clemente is following a trail blazed in part by G. Robert Blakey, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame who also served as the chief counsel and staff director to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which from 1977 to 1979 investigated the killings of President Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
While the Warren Commission said there was no link between Mr. Marcello and the president’s death, Mr. Blakey’s report to the House was considerably more circumspect, saying the F.B.I.’s “handling of the allegations and information about Marcello was characterized by a less than vigorous effort to investigate its reliability.”
Ms. Clemente is in possession of several heavily redacted papers from the Scarpa file, which suggest, however vaguely, she said, that Mr. Scarpa, who spied on numerous gangsters for the F.B.I., may also have spied on Mr. Marcello.
Professor Blakey, reached by phone at his office at Notre Dame on Monday, said he had seen the papers, adding that no matter what the unredacted versions might eventually reveal, he was convinced that he should have seen them 30 years ago, while conducting his Congressional investigation.
“The issue here is not what’s in them,” Professor Blakey said, “so much as that they seem to have held them back from me. I thought I had the bureau file on Marcello — now it turns out I didn’t, did I? So I’m not a small, I’m a major, supporter of what Angela is trying to do.”
This is the second time in a year that the FBI has suffered a major embarassment as a result of its relationship with Gregory "The Grim Reaper" Scarpa. In October of 2007 the Brooklyn D.A. dropped murder charges against a former FBI agent when it was learned that a mob moll had given contradictory testimony against the agent's involvement in Mafia hits. But the presiding judge blasted the FBI for its complete lack of ethics in its relationship with Scarpa.
""I was particularly struck by the testimony of Carmine Sessa, former Consigliere of the Colombo family and multiple murderer, and who testified that when he and his fellow mobsters were discussing the possibility that Greg Scarpa was an FBI informant, they ultimately discounted the idea, reasoning that it was impossible...that it would be antinomic for the FBI, charged with fighting crime, to employ as an informer a murderer as vicious and prolific as Greg Scarpa. Apparently, and sadly, organized crime attributed to the FBI a greater sense of probity than the FBI in fact possessed," wrote State Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach.
"Not only did the FBI shield Scarpa from prosecution for his own crimes, they also actively recruited him to participate in crimes under their direction. That a thug like Scarpa would be employed by the federal government to beat witnesses and threaten them at gunpoint to obtain information regarding the deaths of civil rights workers in the south in the early 1960s is a shocking demonstration of the government's unacceptable willingness to employ criminality to fight crime. It is redolent of the current mindset of some in the government who argue that the practice of terror and torture can be freely employed against those the government claims are terrorists themselves: that it is permissible to make men scream in the name of national security. These are shortcuts that devalue legitimate police work, their yield is insignificant and the cost to the fundamental values they debase is enormous."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Eyeball to Eyeball? A Myth of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Michael Dobbs new book on the Cuban Missile Crisis (One Minute to Midnight) debunks a number of myths that were spawned about the affair. Dobbs has benefited from the declassification of both Russian and American files. "Thirteen Days" (Robert F. Kennedy's book on the crisis) told the story of a close confrontation between U.S. and Soviet vessels which in fact never took place. Secretary of State Dean Rusk had described the moment as an "eyeball to eyeball" encounter on the morning of October 24, 1962 but it didn't happen. Several other books on the crisis and films have also portrayed a dramatic showdown involving the ships of both sides. Russian documents show that Khrushchev in fact had ordered Soviet vessels to turn back 24 hours before. CIA and Pentagon analysts later reconstructed the actual positions of the American and Soviet vessels which agreed with Russian accounts. Nonetheless, RFK was correct in describing the mood at the White House on that day as tense, as the President and his cabinet still believed the Soviet vessels were on course to a confrontation. But the newly available material on the ships' positions shows the Russian ships were 500 nautical miles from the American ships. Another development which caused concern at the Kennedy White House was the presence of a Soviet submarine near the blockade line, commanded by Captain Nikolai Shumkov. Early on October 24, the Russians were warned of American intentions to force Soviet subs to surface by dropping practice depth charges. However, the information was never passed onto Shumkov and his men who suddenly heard depth charges exploding around their sub. This was another tense moment which might have escalated into something far worse had not Shumkov decided to surface rather than firing back at American ships.

Interested readers will find more details at the National Security Archive website: