Key Witness Will Not Testify in Milke Trial

Former Phoenix police detective Armando Saldate will not testify again during the retrial of Debra Milke, scheduled for February 2015, according to the Huffington Post.

Saldate was the lynchpin in the original trial against Milke, testifying that Milke had confessed to killing her four-year-old son with two other men in the desert in 1989.

This confession has held extreme importance in this case because it is the only connection between Milke and the murder. The confession violated Milke’s rights as she did not waive her rights to have an attorney present at the time of the interrogation, and the proposed confession was never recorded, courts determined. Debra Milke

The entire case has been a game of his word against hers and, in the process, Milke has spent over two decades of her life in prison while Saldate, who has been accused by the court of misconduct in various occurrences, was granted his right to the fifth amendment which gives him protection against self incrimination.

“The court finds that Saldate has demonstrated a reasonable apprehension of danger that, if compelled to answer, he would face criminal charges,” Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz wrote. Mroz also states she did “not fully agree” with every allegation the appeals court made against Saldate.

Milke has maintained her innocence and denied she ever told Saldate she was involved in the murder of her son.

This case is now facing many new challenges as the Saldate interrogation was the key piece of evidence in helping to prove Milke’s innocence. She was released over a year ago due to unreliable evidence, and her defense is now arguing that the case be dismissed because that purported confession is the only evidence connecting Milke to the murder.

The two men who were convicted in her son’s murder remain on death row and did not testify against her in the past.

The defense argued in a motion that Milke’s trial should be dismissed with prejudice, so that prosecutors can’t try her again, KTAR reports from the Associated Press.

Milke is still released on bond and awaits trial in February 2015.

Prosecution of Aurora Theater Shooting Gunman Stands Still

It’s been nearly two years since the attack on an Aurora, Colorado movie theater rattled the country, and the fate of gunman James Holmes is still not certain as defense attorneys and prosecutors continue to argue viciously over issues of his mental sanity and the death penalty. The latest development finds the defense accusing the judge in the case of favoritism.

While the defense focuses on its latest set of motions (two other motions remain sealed) filed last week, the issue of Holmes’ mental state continues to be determined.

During the week of January 27, 2014, a series of four hearings closed to the media and public took place followed by an open hearing on that Friday at the Arapahoe County District Court.James Holmes

Prosecutors requested a second court ordered psychiatric evaluation of Holmes on the claim that the first results, from the summer of 2013 after Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, were made by a biased doctor and therefore invalid.

The determination of the mental state of Holmes is crucial.

If Holmes is found to be insane, he is too mentally sick to be a fit candidate for the death penalty. If he is found to have been sane during the shooting, he will most likely face execution. Juries have a tendency to side with the findings of the psychiatric evaluation, so the report on his mental health will have an extraordinary impact on the results of this case.

The results of the first psychiatric evaluation are not available to the public, which is why the first several hearings took place behind closed doors.

The Friday hearing was open, and it was established that the family and friends of Holmes are allowed to testify, but will not be able to discuss their opinions on the death penalty with the jury. Victims of the shooting, and survivors of victims, face the same rules in court.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour set the trial date for October, which is when one of the largest juries in U.S. history, at 6,000 prospective jurors, will be summoned for the first phase of jury selection.

Before that process begins, which could take months and push back prosecution even further, Samour set two weeks of hearings on arguments about the death penalty for the end of April and beginning of May.

A date for the final efforts to further postpone the trial is set for September 5, in an attempt to keep the already delayed case on schedule.

12 people were shot to death and 70 were injured by gunfire in the summer of 2012. Those left in the wake of the attack are frustrated with the time it has taken for trial to begin.

The Role of Social Media in Law Enforcement

The widespread participation and constant availability of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MySpace is practically yesterday’s news.

Social media has had such a great presence for several years now, constantly evolving to find a place in society’s daily activities. Most social media apps and sites allow users to communicate with others, upload photos and check into locations at any moment both privately, for friends’ eyes only, and publicly for the entire internet to see.Social media and law enforcement

What is notable about social media’s growing establishment in everyday behavior is the impact these sites are having on law enforcement, acting as both a help and a hindrance.

Locational information as well as public photos and comments have provided police, prosecutors and investigators with new forms of evidence that can act as catalysts to punish criminal behavior.

Many suspected offenders have been caught with the help of social media that was intentionally used as a platform to document their crimes, like a Vietnamese man who surrendered to Ho Chi Minh police shortly after confessing on Facebook that he killed his girlfriend, or a Delaware woman whose vehicular manslaughter sentence was increased due to incriminating photos and messages that portrayed her glamorizing alcohol abuse, The New York Times reports.

Many other cases exist where social media has proved helpful to law enforcement, and with 80 percent of an estimated 500 agencies using social media in criminal investigations, according to a 2013 survey by the International Association of Police, it would seem as though the vast amount of available information social media provides is a crime fighting miracle – but there’s a catch.

Social media is just as challenging for law enforcement as it is helpful.

The expansive amount of online information is overwhelming. Anyone with internet access can have an online identity, and with credibility on the web still a developing phenomenon, investigators must learn to work with false tips and anonymous online confessions that could turn a case upside down and cost agencies time and money for information that may or may not be of value.

There’s also the issue of the Fifth Amendment, which gives citizens the right to not incriminate themselves. Judges and jurors are supposed to base their conclusions on evidence that is, “authentic, reliable and relevant,” said law professor and social media expert for Chicago-Kent Institute of Technology, Lori B. Andrews in The New York Times.

Sometimes posts and comments on social media are taken out of context and misunderstood, resulting in unfortunate outcomes for those involved. For example, Andrews said that photos of people jokingly flashing gang signs have been used by courts to prove actual gang affiliation, and sexualized photos of women have been used against them in divorce and child custody cases.

What’s even more difficult to manage is the use of social media by jurors and those involved in investigations and cases.

In the past, lawyers have been known to hire private investigators to research jurors in order to create a more persuasive and well tailored argument. Today, social media is an online biography displaying personal information making it easy for lawyers to evaluate a jury.

Jurors themselves are increasingly causing issues in court due to their social media use while serving jury duty. Restrictions banning or controlling technology use while in court vary from state to state, so instances of live tweeting during testimonies and Facebook updates revealing highly sensitive information have resulted in mistrials, appeals and overturned verdicts.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/sunday-review/social-media-a-trove-of-clues-and-confessions.html?_r=0

Controversial Arizona Photo Radar Cameras Back in the News

A new bill concerning the use of photo radar in Arizona has been introduced by state representatives. HB 2690 says that all authorities and agencies in Arizona using photo enforcement have to calibrate the camera systems at least once every 24 hours.

If a ticket produced from a photo enforcement system is distributed without the proper time stamp that meets the 24 hour calibration requirement, that ticket would be dismissed by the court.Photo radar in Arizona

Proponents of HB 2690, such as the sponsor of the bill, Rep. David Gowan, believe that this new bill would ensure that photo radar systems reach the same level of quality as hand held radar systems, which are tested everyday by police officers, and would also grant drivers fair treatment if they are ticketed by a photo radar system.

Previously, state legislators like Governor Jan Brewer have signed bills that aim to eliminate photo enforcement in Arizona, including a law from 2013 that only allows photo radar systems if state transportation officials confirm they’re necessary due to safety needs, the Associated Press and KPHO reports.

Criticism of the new bill focus on the confusion surrounding the term “calibrate” and how exactly it defines this piece of legislation.

In Tucson, photo enforcement systems have been in placement since 2009 by American Traffic Solutions and the systems are tested for accuracy through a computer once a day, according to KGUN 9.

Tucson police Commander Robert Shoun said in the East Valley Tribune that calibrate could mean anything, but if it means a specialist is required to visit each affected intersection and check on the camera devices personally at least once every 24 hours, that would be a large expense for towns and cities.

Update: Although HB 2690 passed out of the House Transportation Committee in February, on March 18, 2014, HB 2690 failed to pass the Senate Transportation Committee. For more details, you can review the bill’s history here.

Arizona DUI Lawyers Corso Law Group Remind Valley of DUI Risks for St. Patrick’s Day 2014

The Phoenix area offers plenty of fun and festivities every year for Valley residents to enjoy during St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Holidays are by all means a time to celebrate, but Corso Law Group wants to remind you to celebrate responsibly and be aware of the dangers of driving under the influence and the consequences of a DUI or DWI conviction in Arizona.

Arizona DUI lawyers Corso Law Group know from experience that St. Patrick’s Day means an increase in Arizona DUI arrests because the alcohol-fueled holiday results in partygoers not designating a sober driver or not realizing they are incapable of driving.

In 2013, 273 DUI arrests were made statewide from Thursday to Sunday of St. Patrick’s Day weekend, just shy of the more than 280 arrests made in 2012.Arizona DUI Charges

Although police believe that this number is not terribly high compared to other December holidays, any number of drunk drivers is still a danger to themselves and those around them, which is why it’s important to remember that the only way to prevent DUI related accidents is to never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Holidays like St. Patrick’s Day mean that more people are engaging in behavior that can land them in jail for an alcohol-related offense,” said John M. Rhude, Esq., a Corso Law Group founding partner.

Both Rhude and his law firm partner Christopher P. Corso know the hazards of drinking and driving. The pair previously prosecuted DUIs, DWIs and OUIs for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Combined, they have handled more than 15,000 DUI cases as prosecutors and defense attorneys.

“It’s important that Arizona residents arm themselves with the facts if they’re suspected of driving under the influence,” Rhude said.

For people suspected of a DUI in Arizona, Rhude cautions that they understand their rights including the right to remain silent; only providing insurance, registration and identification; and refusing to submit to all field sobriety tests. According to Rhude, a blood and alcohol test is the only test a person suspected of drunk driving should take.

Arizona takes DUI laws very seriously, Rhude said, even for first time offenders. Any person found guilty of drinking and driving is required to serve a minimum of 24 hours in jail, even if there were no damages or injuries involved.

Heavy fines are also included with DUI convictions and can be as high as $2,500 plus additional charges. Other penalties assessed include suspension of driving privileges, probation and the installation of an ignition interlock device.

“DUI is a serious offense and something that no person should take lightly,” Corso said. “When you’re armed with the facts, it makes it even more vital that you have a designated driver if you plan on drinking on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Every DUI defense case in Arizona is different, and the outcome is dependent upon the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the DUI charges, which makes having an experienced Arizona DUI defense attorney even more important.

In addition to DUIs and DWIs, the Arizona criminal defense attorneys at Corso Law Group handle myriad criminal cases, including domestic violence defense, possession of drugs, felony drug charges, photo radar, criminal speeding, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession.

Corso Law Group attorneys do everything in their power to protect defendants’ families and advocate for their rights. They have the experience and expertise to deal with DUI charges in Arizona and will fight to get the charges dismissed while counseling the accused’s family.

To schedule a free consultation, please visit www.corsolawgroup.com or call (480) 471-4616. Corso Law Group, PLLC is located at 14500 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 116 in Scottsdale, Arizona, 85260.

Marissa DeVault’s Trial Course a Turbulent One

A Gilbert woman faces charges of first-degree murder and possibility of the death penalty for the death of her husband in 2009. The trial has taken many turns amid conflicting statements from the defendant and witnesses.

On January 14, 2009, Marissa DeVault’s husband, Dale Harrell, was found in the master bedroom of their home, his face and head severely beaten with a claw hammer. DeVault did not deny bludgeoning her husband’s skull, but claimed she acted in self defense.

Marissa DeVault, 36, of Gilbert claimed that she “snapped,” according to AZ Central.

Marissa DeVault

Harrell died three weeks after the beating, and DeVault now stands trial for first-degree murder, with allegations of a decade of physical abuse and rape by her husband as her explanation.

DeVault was indicted on March 4, 2009, according to Maricopa County Court records. It was determined she was mentally competent to stand trial on Sept. 14, 2010.

Prosecutors later claimed in court that DeVault killed Harrell in an attempt to collect from his insurance.

The course of the trial has been turbulent since the beginning, with a false confession from roommate, Stanley Cook, who suffers from brain damage-induced memory loss, to an ex-boyfriend who claims DeVault told him to “take care” of the abusive husband who she initially told him had died of stomach cancer.

A string of ex-lovers have made statements to police, one of whom said he gave DeVault $360,000 over the course of two years. The lover, Allen Flores, stated the two met on a website designed to connect endowed men, or “sugar daddies,” to “women in financial need,” according to azcentral.com.

The conflicting statements by all parties have complicated DeVault’s accusations of abuse of her and her daughters.

On March 5, 2014, a controversy arose regarding the court usage of the interview of one of DeVault’s daughters, who recently turned 18. Judge Roland Steinle has barred the use of the interview in the trial unless the daughter testifies.

The court must determine whether the allegations of abuse are credible. According to court records, DeVault will appear in court for her 19th day of trial on March 10.

Know Your Rights When Police Misconduct Strikes

With numerous police misconduct and brutality cases throughout Arizona and the U.S., citizens should know when they are being taken advantage of by the law.

A Phoenix police officer with a history of misconduct resigned amid an investigation after he was arrested recently for criminal sexual conduct for having sex with a minor.

This was not the first time former officer Justin LaClere has drawn negative attention to himself. In 2010, he pulled over a Valley woman for dim headlights, pulled her out of her car at gunpoint and placed her in handcuffs for a DUI that she stated was bogus.

The woman, Ayensa Millian, said LaClere was aggressive and she felt harassed and violated. Shortly thereafter, Millian fought the multiple DUI charges that she was accused of and sued the City of Phoenix and LaClere. The court dismissed all charges and she earned $25,000 in the settlement.

LaClere is just the latest incident of police officer misconduct to be uncovered in Phoenix. In November, a Tempe cop was the subject of an investigation after allegedly having an affair with a drug dealer she was investigating in an undercover operation.

Officer Jessica Dever-Jakusz was investigating the sale of drugs on Mill Avenue while undercover. According to reports, she purchased drugs multiple times from the same drug dealer, and a romantic relationship ensued.Jessica Dever-Jakusz

During that period, Dever-Jakusz told her lover she was a police officer and about the ongoing undercover investigation. Shortly after, an anonymous tip regarding the officer’s conduct was submitted to Tempe Police.

The officer is now facing charges of hindering a crime investigation, and possible criminal charges.

Police misconduct happens more frequently than many realize. While some people are aware of their basic rights, many are not.

To prevent the harmful results of police misconduct, it is essential to have an expert attorney on your side. Whether you need advice or legal assistance, the Arizona criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Corso Law Group can protect and defend your rights.

Call (480) 471-4616 to speak with one of our expert attorneys or to schedule a free consultation.

Embattled Child Abuse Agency Abolished by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer abolished the state’s Child Protective Services (CPS) minutes before delivering her State of the State address on Monday, Jan. 13.

Minutes before delivering what many consider to be her last address, Brewer signed an executive order abolishing the troubled agency.

The announcement surprised lawmakers, as did Brewer’s proposal that the agency’s duties should now fall under a new cabinet-level department that would report directly to Brewer.Arizona Governor Jan Brewer

“It is evident that our child welfare system is broken, impeded by years of structural and operational failures,” Brewer said during her annual address.

The announcement came as state officials continue to sort through more than 6,500 cases that CPS admitted had not been investigated, despite reports of abuse and neglect.

Brewer announced that she would favor reform of the system, and on, Jan. 13, officially created a new Division of Child Safety and Family Services with a director who would report directly to her. The Arizona governor would need the support of lawmakers to establish such a department.

On Jan. 30, the Arizona Legislature approved a $6.8 million appropriation that will allow Brewer’s updated agency to immediately hire 192 new workers. $1.1 million will go to the current budget and another $5.7 million will go to the new agency, ABS 15 and the AP report.

Currently, almost 7,000 cases are being reviewed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Clarence Carter, director of Arizona’s Department of Economic Security, revealed the uninvestigated reports on Nov. 21, placing five CPS workers on leave as officials investigated the claims. In late December, officials announced that nearly 1,700 of the 6,500 cases had been reviewed and cleared.

Brewer’s announcement ended the tenure of Carter and replaced him with Charles Flanagan, who oversees Arizona’s Department of Juvenile Corrections.

More troubling, however is the fact that there is no standard for making a report, causing many illegitimate claims to be mixed in with legitimate claims. Because of this level of scrutiny, our experience has shown that many frivolous claims are investigated when they should be dropped, keeping investigators from the real claims of abuse that need a closer review.

A few questions to consider regarding the proposed reform:

– How does the Brewer proposal actually solve the problems of CPS?

– Will the new agency see an increase in investigators, allowing them sufficient time to investigate each claim?

– Will the law of mandatory reporting and mandatory investigating be changed to benefit CPS?

– How will this new investigating agency identify the problems that led to the original CPS controversies?

Brewer also told lawmakers she is hoping to create a campaign against human trafficking that will strengthen laws, better protect its victims, and end the gruesome crime. She established a Human Trafficking Task Force last year and with its recommendations, plans to improve on their methods of protection, as well as establishing a campaign to give victims of human trafficking the resources and support systems to create a life of their own.