Ben Martin treated a tiny gallery to a course-record round, shooting a 10-under 62 in the first round of the Zurich Classic in Avondale, La.
Gun rights advocates have taken to carrying their weapons into the streets, drawing criticism from gun control supporters who say that such methods are unnecessarily provocative.
Detective Jay Poggi was arrested after accidentally shooting his partner in the wrist while in their unmarked patrol car, the authorities said.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A man accused in a double homicide at a Coast Guard communications station in Alaska is the only possible killer in a circumstantial case, federal prosecutors said Thursday, countering defense arguments that the government failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a case built on speculation.
After closing arguments in federal court in Anchorage, jurors were handed the case to begin deliberations in the murder trial of James Wells, a nationally recognized civilian expert in antennas the Coast Guard uses for sea and air traffic. Wells, 62, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the April 12, 2012, shooting deaths of his immediate supervisor, Petty Officer James Hopkins, 41, and Richard Belisle, 51, another civilian electronics technician. Prosecutors believe Wells used a Smith & Wesson .44-caliber silver revolver that went missing with no explanation, according to a retired Coast Guard technician who left a safe containing that gun and others with Wells in the 1990s. The weapon used in the killings has not been found.
In their closings, both sides returned to themes well-established during weeks of testimony.
Prosecutors said Wells was unhappy because the Coast Guard were reining in the independence he enjoyed for years and making him increasingly irrelevant through the advancement of the victims.
“The only way to return to his position of prominence was to eliminate the competition,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder said.
The killings at the Kodiak Island communications station had the markings of an inside job, prosecutors said. Wells was the only other worker who was due to work at the same time at the station’s Rigger Shop, where antennas are built and repaired. But instead of showing up on time, Wells said he had stopped to check on a soft tire and drove home to repair it.
Defense attorney Peter Offenbecher said authorities immediately zeroed in on Wells and ignored other possible suspects, including Hopkins’ widow, Deborah, who was called as a defense witness to answer questions about their marital problems, their finances and her familiarity with the crime scene. In his closing, Offenbecher also noted a white vehicle turning around twice by a nearby security camera as if staking out the site hours before the killings.
Offenbecher said the government’s case was a “house of cards” focused on tunnel vision that saw only Wells.
“Because of that tunnel vision, we may never know who killed these men,” Offenbecher said.
On the day of the killings, Wells, Hopkins and Belisle were due at the communications station at about 7 a.m. Hopkins and Belisle were found shot to death about a half hour later.
Unbeknownst to Wells, a security camera recorded his truck heading for the communication station at 6:48 a.m. and heading in the opposite direction toward his home at 7:22 a.m., a gap of 34 minutes.
Prosecutors say Wells used the time to switch to his wife’s blue Honda CRV that was parked at a nearby airport, follow Hopkins to the communication station and shoot Hopkins and Belisle. They contend he was in and out of the Rigger Shop in five minutes, giving him time to drive back to the airport, switch back to his pickup and drive home, where at 7:30 a.m. he called Hopkins’ office phone to report he would be late because of the flat tire.
Defense attorneys said Wells suffered from chronic diarrhea following of gallbladder surgery and was delayed returning home because he spent 20 minutes in an airport bathroom. Wells had made no mention of using the bathroom to the FBI after the killings.
During the trial, jurors also repeatedly viewed blurry security camera footage from a camera closer to the station showing a blue car passing the crime scene, then heading in the opposite direction five minutes later. Wells himself was not caught on that camera, and prosecutors say that’s because he knew the layout in a place where he had worked for more than 20 years.
Offenbecher said nothing in the trial was able to prove that the blue car belonged to Wells’ wife. There wasn’t even any evidence that it was the same vehicle going in each direction. Without the car, the government’s theory “goes up in smoke,” Offenbecher said.
In a rebuttal to the defense Thursday, U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said that based on evidence, the killing occurred between when the blue car was caught on camera arriving and leaving the area. Loeffler also noted the one camera that Wells failed to consider was the one he didn’t know about.
As for contentions by the defense that the killings could have been committed by intruders, Loeffler said nothing was taken and nothing was disturbed. Instead, the victims were shot at close range as intentional, targeted victims.
Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro .
More than 40 people were shot last weekend in Chicago, with nine deaths. But the police chief says the city’s homicide rate is still trending downward.
By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. April 24 (Reuters) – A bill banning the sale of single-shot handguns that can be modified into semi-automatic weapons advanced in the California legislature on Thursday as lawmakers sought to close what the bill’s supporters say is a loophole in the state’s gun safety laws.
Gun control advocates say thousands of weapons are sold in California each year without a required safety feature that indicates when a bullet is in the chamber, endangering children and others who may be shot accidentally.
“Right now there is a very large opening in the law that permits guns that otherwise we wouldn’t consider safe for sale and purchase in California,” said Sacramento assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a Democrat who authored the bill.
Under existing law, semi-automatic weapons must have an indicator showing when there is a bullet in the chamber. But many manufacturers do not include the feature, leading some dealers to convert guns to single-shot weapons before selling them, just to change them back later, Dickinson said.
The most populous U.S. state has some of the nation’s strictest gun control laws, and Dickinson’s measure is the latest of dozens of bills introduced in the state in the wake of mass shootings in 2012 in Colorado and Connecticut.
Last fall, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who has tacked to the center despite large Democratic majorities in the legislature, vetoed several of the bills, rebuffing efforts by fellow Democrats to enact a sweeping expansion of firearms regulation.
The proposed ban on converted semi-automatics without the safety feature is a priority for the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, said the group’s legislative expert, Amanda Wilcox.
The loophole was created after single-shot weapons were exempted from the safety requirement to protect collectors of antique guns, Dickinson said.
After the rule went into effect in 2007, the number of guns being sold as single-shot weapons in the state skyrocketed, which Dickinson said indicated many were being converted.
In 2013, more than 18,000 single-shot gun sales were registered in the state, up from 134 in 2007, the state says. But Assemblyman Brian Jones, a San Diego-area Republican who voted against the bill, said that doesn’t mean all purchasers are trying to get around the law.
The National Rifle Association said the measure would hurt law-abiding citizens by “eliminating the only options for Californians to purchase numerous handguns that are commonly owned throughout the rest of the country.”
The bill passed the assembly 48-25, and goes to the state senate. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)
LONDON — The world must wake up to an escalating tragedy now engulfing Nigeria. Today the lives of 230 teenage schoolgirls hang in the balance.
It has now been a week since the pupils were abducted en masse from their Chibok school in the remote northern state of Borno as they prepared for exams.
Boko Haram — the terrorist group whose name in the Hausa language means “Western education is a sin” — have yet to claim responsibility, but few doubt that the group that has murdered 5,000 Nigerians in the past four years is to blame.
Forty-three girls who managed to run away after being herded into lorries — they jumped from the back of the trucks and hid in the dense forests — have reported that their captors answered to Boko Haram, and one has said she counted over 200 Boko Haram militants involved in the attack.
In February, Boko Haram murdered 59 boys at a boarding school, shooting them and then burning down the school.
Last week in Abuja, the nation’s capital, the group bombed dozens to death, later issuing a statement taking credit for the act.
In the last year alone, 1,500 adults and children have lost their lives in wave after wave of terrorist violence.
There are fears now that the kidnapped girls could be imprisoned in unreachable bush camps and held for years to be used as sex slaves and servants.
But we know also from previous murders that the terrorists do not stop short of massacres in their campaign to create a civil war across Nigeria as part of their long-term aim of imposing Sharia law.
For some months now, aid agencies have been working with the Nigerian authorities to guarantee better conditions in Nigeria’s schools to help the 10.5 million out-of-school pupils in Nigeria.
We want to offer the Nigerian government and President Goodluck Jonathan support and financial assistance as they attempt to fight Boko Haram’s attacks on children. We need to show that they can keep their schools open and secure.
It is part of an education plan to ensure that the country with the world’s highest number of out-of-school children is given international backing to invest in teachers and school building and improvement, including the stepping up of safety measures for the students.
But school shootings, burnings and killings are now becoming too regular for the world not to take special measures. Children are being targeted simply because they want to go to school.
So we now need to make schools “protected places” and seek to ensure that the risks of violence are reduced.
We should agree with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende that schools, too, are given the protection of international law. We cannot stop terrorism overnight, but we can make sure that its perpetrators are aware that murdering and abducting schoolchildren is a heinous crime that the international authorities are determined to punish.
Here comes the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For something that he never done
Put him in a prison cell but one time he could have been
The champion of the world.
-”Hurricane,” Bob Dylan
Rubin Carter, who died a few days ago at 76, emerged from the broken streets of Paterson, New Jersey, to become a symbol of the racial violence and urban upheaval inflaming the U.S. in the 1960s. Known as “Hurricane” for his ferocity as a professional boxer, Carter’s life has been widely chronicled in literature, song, and film. The central chapter of his story is the 19 years he spent in a prison cell, his heroic efforts at exoneration and freedom, and his scornful defiance of his jailers. Was Carter guilty of murdering three people in a Paterson, New Jersey bar in 1966? Dylan’s anthem proclaims that Carter “was obviously framed, and couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land where justice is a game.” The prosecutors who tried Carter in two trials, and the juries that convicted him, believe otherwise.
Whether Carter, along with John Artis, were guilty or innocent will never be known for certain. What is certain, however, is that Carter and Artis were denied fair trials because of the deliberate misconduct by the Passaic County prosecutors. Carter’s and Artis’ convictions after their first trial were reversed by the New Jersey Supreme Court based on the prosecution’s subornation of perjury from two key witnesses and concealment of crucial exculpatory evidence. Carter’s and Artis’ convictions following their retrial were vacated by a federal district court based on the prosecutor’s concealment, once again, of critical exculpatory evidence and inflaming the jury with an appeal to racial prejudice. There is strong reason to endorse Dylan’s lyrics: “The trial was a pig circus he never had a chance.”
Notably absent from the reflections on Carter’s life is a reference to the shameful conduct of the officials responsible for destroying much of Carter’s life — and certainly preventing him from ever becoming middleweight champion of the world. It was the Passaic County prosecutors and their police helpers who orchestrated Carter’s and Artis’ fall. These officials have never been held accountable for their misconduct. Still, those who follow the justice system carefully, and the often wayward conduct of prosecutors, need to be reminded, lest they forget, how prosecutors in their zeal to convict lose their way, and destroy lives.
The three victims — the bartender at the Lafayette Bar and Grill and two patrons — were gunned down by two black men at 2:30 a.m. on June 17, 1966. The victims were all white, and it was suspected to be retaliation for the shotgun murder earlier that night of a black tavern owner by a white man. Carter and Artis were stopped by police because the white sedan they were driving resembled the getaway car described by a witness. But Carter and Artis were cleared; a patron in the bar who was wounded and another witness told the police that Carter and Artis were not the killers, the two had strong alibis, and both passed polygraph tests. And they testified voluntarily in a grand jury.
A few months later, however, Carter and Artis were indicted for first degree murder. They were identified by two witnesses — Alfred Bello and Arthur Dexter Bradley — who were in the process of burglarizing a nearby building when they said they heard gunfire and saw Carter and Artis flee the tavern with guns. Even without any proof of a motive, and despite the alibis, the all-white jury convicted Carter and Artis based on Bello’s and Bradley’s testimony.
But Bello and Bradley lied. They lied about deals they made with the prosecution in exchange for their testimony. Moreover, they both recanted their testimony, claiming they were pressured by the prosecution to falsely accuse Carter and Artis. One powerful piece of evidence, which the prosecutor hid from the defense, was a tape recording of an interview by the prosecutor’s lead investigator — a member of the prosecutor’s staff — with Bello. As the transcript shows, Bello in the beginning tells the investigator he is unable to identify Artis and is not sure about Carter, or the make of the white car he had seen near the bar. However, as the interview progresses, and after the investigator makes numerous assurances and promises to Bello of lenient treatment for his pending crimes, and helping him get his parole dropped, Bello becomes much more positive in his identification of Carter and Artis. Indeed, three days later he gave a written statement to the authorities positively identifying Carter and Artis as the two men he saw fleeing from the bar. Bradley also was promised help with several pending charges and future sentencing. At trial, however, Bello and Bradley swore under oath that no promises were made to them, and the prosecutor sat by silently, allowing these witnesses to commit perjury.
Carter’s and Artis’ retrial in 1976 featured only Bello as the prosecution’s key witness; he had recanted his recantation prior to trial. But given Bello’s dishonest testimony in the first trial, and his continued revising his story until, as one court observed, his account “became unrecognizable,” the prosecution faced a difficult challenge to win new convictions. The challenge appeared even more daunting because Bello swore in an affidavit in 1975 that he was “in the bar” when the shootings occurred, not outside the bar, as he had testified previously, and a polygraph expert retained by the prosecution concluded that Bello was telling the truth when he claimed he was “in the bar.” Faced with this additional blow to Bello’s credibility, the prosecutor concealed the polygraph expert’s report, and made sure that Bello testified consistently with his testimony in the first trial. But hiding the expert’s conclusion is a serious constitutional violation. Indeed, as Federal District Judge Lee Sarokin observed in vacating the convictions and freeing Carter and Artis, “a more egregious violation is difficult to imagine.”
Clearly, the prosecutor needed to shore up his case some other way. There was no new proof. However, the prosecutor concocted a spanking new theory to win convictions, the “Racial Revenge Theory,” as Judge Sarokin called it. This insidious gambit sought to incite the jury against Carter and Artis by arguing that the two killed the white bartender in retaliation for the killing of a black bar owner earlier that night. There were significant problems with this approach, however. First, the race theory did not fully explain the killings of the two bar patrons. But much more importantly, as Judge Sarokin noted, there was absolutely no proof against Carter and Artis to support the racial revenge theory. There was no evidence that either Carter or Artis knew that it was a white man who killed the black bar owner, or that even if they knew, they would have reacted in such a vicious and violent manner.
How could a jury buy such a blatant appeal to racial prejudice? The prosecutor knew that Paterson in the 1960s, as with so many other American cities, as well as other countries, experienced racial turmoil, race riots, and senseless violence. The prosecutor sought to exploit the jury’s racial prejudices by imputing this motive for revenge on the entire black community, and thus onto Carter and Artis. Citing racial conflicts among Greeks and Turks and Irish (some of whom were on the jury) the prosecutor argued in his summation that “No group is immune from hate;” “Revenge is one of the most powerful motives;” “What other reason could [the murders] have happened for?” “In essence,” Judge Sarokin observed, “the prosecution was permitted to argue to the jury that defendants who were black were motivated to murder total strangers solely because they were white.” In vacating Carter’s and Artis’ convictions and granting them their freedom, Judge Sarokin concluded:
“For the state to contend that an accused has the motive to commit murder solely because of his membership in a racial group is an argument which should never be permitted to sway a jury or provide the basis of a conviction.”
Dylan’s lyrics conclude somewhat wistfully:
That’s the story of the Hurricane
But it won’t be over till they clear his name
And give him back the time he’s done
Put him in a prison cell but one time he could a been
The champion of the world.
Most vacation videos consist of the same basic inconsequential fluff, but this one captured a robbery at gunpoint.
While on a motorcycle trip in Guatemala earlier this month, Dan Landsborough and his girlfriend, Heidi Burton, passed through a remote stretch of road between San Pedro La Laguna and Santiago Atitlan. Shortly after encountering a dirt stretch that forced them to reduce their speed, two armed men, masked in balaclavas, emerged from the bushes.
“I was heading up the hill and I saw the first guy jump out with a gun pointed straight at my head,” Landsborough recalled to the CBC. “So, I was pretty much forced to stop at that point and I looked out and the guy with the machete jumped out right next to us.”
Landsborough’s helmet camera kept rolling as the shadowy figures threatened the couple and then stole everything they could strip from the bike.
“They demanded [money] and proceeded to search us,” Burton wrote on her travel blog, adding, “Being paranoid, I had hidden my valuables … They didn’t get any of these as they seemed in a hurry, but cut Dan’s tank bag from his bike which contained some valuables worth about $300.”
Fortunately, Landsborough had the foresight to put together a “fake wallet,” using expired credit cards and a small amount of cash, which he handed off to the bandidos in place of the real thing.
A couple days after the encounter, Landsborough uploaded the video to YouTube in an effort to warn travelers planning to take that road in the future.
“We don’t want to in any way put people off from visiting … Guatemala … as it’s a beautiful place with generally warm and kind inhabitants,” he wrote in the video description. “We have felt safe for the majority of our trip.”
Watch the video above. Landsborough cut the audio 24 seconds in out of respect for his girlfriend, who he says “was understandably distressed.”