Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Confessed" killer released from prison when victim resurfaces after 10 years

Prison barsImage by Ken_Mayer via Flickr

A recent case of exoneration in China is yet another example of the utter worthlessness of most confessions. As explained in a Reuters article, 10 years after an alleged killer supposedly confessed to the murder of another man, the murder "victim" unexpectedly reappeared--alive--in his hometown. 10 years prior, Zhao Zuohai was accused of murdering the "victim" following the discovery of a headless corpse in the small Chinese town. Zuohai was interrogated by police and purportedly confessed that he'd killed the "victim" during the course of a hatchet fight. Zuohai claims that the confession occurred only after he was tortured by police, an apparently common practice in China, as explained in the article:
Convictions in the Chinese court system are strongly dependent on confessions, motivating police to use force to get a confession and close the case...

The courts conducted an audit of all death penalty cases after a woman in Hubei province reappeared over a decade after her husband, She Xianglin, was jailed for her murder, in a case that also rested on his confession to police.

Relatives who maintained She's innocence were also jailed.

The imprisoned Zhao's brother told the local Dahe Newspaper that police had forced him to drink chili water and set off fireworks over his head to force the confession.

The imprisoned Zhao narrowly escaped being executed for the crime. His sentence was commuted from a death penalty with two years' reprieve.

When the victim reappeared, Zuohai's conviction was reversed and he was released from custody after serving 10 years of a 29-year sentence. While he was incarcerated, his wife left him for another man and 3 of his 4 children were put up for adoption. Surprisingly, this unfortunate case reminds me of a lawyer joke I heard a while back:
A noted criminal defense lawyer was making his closing argument for his client accused of murder, although the body of the victim had never been found. The lawyer dramatically turned to the courtroom's clock and, pointing to it, announced, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have some astounding news. I have found the supposed victim of this murder to be alive! In just ten seconds, she will walk through the door of this courtroom." A heavy quiet suddenly fell over the courtroom as everyone waited for the dramatic entry. But nothing happened. The lawyer continued, "The mere fact that you were watching the door, expecting the victim to walk into this courtroom, is clear proof that you have far more than even a reasonable doubt as to whether a murder was actually committed." Tickled with the impact of his cleverness, the lawyer confidently sat down to await acquittal. The jury was instructed, filed out, and filed back in just ten minutes with a guilty verdict. When the judge brought the proceedings to an end, the dismayed lawyer chased after the jury foreman: "Guilty? How could you convict? You were all watching the door!" "Well," the foreman explained, "Most of us were watching the door. But one of us was watching the defendant, and he wasn't watching the door."
Except in this case, Mr. Zuohai would have looked toward the door, innocent man that he was. This case is not unusual. Innocent people are wrongfully convicted of crimes due to forced, false confessions every day across the United States and worldwide. And, like Zhuohai, if and when they are ultimately exonerated, their lives are in shambles, ruined by the overzealous--and arguably criminal--actions of police officers using unlawful and cruel tactics to force confessions from innocent people. Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Motorized lounging chairs and alcohol--a bad combination.

So far we've learned that Russian tankers, Barbie cars and golf carts are poor vehicle choices--especially if you're intoxicated. Today we're advising you that motorized lounging chairs--even if they're really cool and souped up--are also a bad choice. Unfortunately, Iowa resident Dennis LeRoy Anderson learned that lesson the hard way when he was arrested for driving a "motorized La-Z-Boy lounge chair" while he had a BAC of 0.29%. As reported in this Deluth News Tribune article, Anderson was traveling in style on the night of his arrest:

Proctor Deputy Police Chief Troy Foucault said the chair was powered by a converted lawnmower with a Briggs & Stratton engine. It has a stereo, cup holders and other custom options, including different power levels.

A National Hot Rod Racing Association sticker is posted on the chair’s head rest. The chair had a small steering wheel, about a third of the size of a golf cart’s, coming straight up from the middle of the La-Z-Boy.
The Proctor Police Department wisely recognized that the chair, an obvious shoe-in candidate for "Pimp My Ride," had some value. So they did what any reasonable, tech-savvy police department would do: they auctioned the car on eBay. The auction was halted temporarily when La-Z-Boy complained about the use of their corporate name in the auction title. It was later re-listed as simply a "DWI chair. " The winning bid netted $10,099.99 and the proceeds were slotted to "benefit Proctor tax payers." Meanwhile, as reported in this article, Mr. Anderson was convicted of DUI and his family was last seen attempting to recoup legal fees by selling a picture, on eBay, of him driving the infamous motorized chair. Of course, this entire fiasco could have been avoided if Mr. Anderson had made a better choice. So, we remind you once again to heed our advice: don't drink and drive. Walk, take a cab or call a friend.
Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Avoid drinking and driving-that way you won't have to hire us.

This is a very moving video that serves as a reminder to avoid drinking and driving in the first place--rather than having to hire us afterward. (WARNING: There are some graphic images toward the end of the video). Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Sloppy lab work leads to Toxicology Chief resigning in Indiana

The state seal of IndianaImage via Wikipedia

Two weeks ago we discussed how lab errors in California, Colorado and Pennsylvania resulted in challenges to DUI convictions and the dismissal of a multitude of DUI cases. It looks like Indiana is joining the club. According to this article from, the director of the Indiana State Department of Toxicology, Michael A. Wagner, has resigned amidst charges of inexcusable lab errors. Allegations include sloppy lab work, excessively long delays in processing specimens, and the failure to perform inspections as required by state law. In the article, Indianapolis defense attorney John L. Tompkins explained the basis for the allegations:
Tompkins, who teaches blood-testing issues to lawyers for their continuing education requirements, said sloppy work is not unusual from the state Department of Toxicology.

Within the past few months, he said, blood-testing reports have come back showing clotted blood being used -- a mistake -- and incomplete documentation of the testing machine's calibration.

Tompkins also contends that the department ignores a state law enacted in 2007...(which) requires the Department of Toxicology to conduct examinations of the people performing blood-alcohol detection tests and inspections of the equipment they use.

If the allegations are true, the resignation of Wagner is only the first step toward achieving justice for those who have been wrongfully convicted of DUI in Indiana. Simply put, the accusations of sloppy lab work are inexcusable. Where the life and liberty of a person accused of a crime is at stake, it is imperative that lab test results be performed carefully, accurately and in a timely manner. Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Golf carts: yet another bad choice.

I had a friend take this photo of me ghost rid...Image via Wikipedia

First we learned that operating a Barbie car while intoxicated was a very bad idea. We later learned that a Russian tanker is also a bad choice. Today's lesson: golf carts--also a bad choice. As reported in this Tampa Bay Online article, a young man was recently charged with operating a golf cart on U.S. 19 while intoxicated:
Early Thursday, a New Port Richey Police officer pulled over a golf cart cruising in the right lane of U.S. 19 heading south. Steven Lee Proctor had a dazed expression, slurred speech, watery bloodshot eyes and reeked of alcohol, the officer said in his report. At first the 18-year-old denied drinking any alcohol or using any controlled substances. But after performing poorly on field sobriety tests and being read his legal rights, Proctor admitted to the officer he had "a few beers" before driving the golf cart on the highway, the report said.
Our advice? If you've had a few drinks, take a cab or get where you're going the old fashioned way: walk. You'll retain your dignity and stay safe. Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Are DUI Breath Interlock Devices Reliable?

The short answer: no. DUI breath interlock devices malfunction all the time. These devices are intended to be used by individuals who have a DUI charge pending. Some judges will permit a person charged with DUI to operate a motor vehicle during the pendency of the criminal case only if a DUI breath interlock device is installed in their car. However, these devices are incredibly unreliable. Fox Chicago News recently addressed the issue in an article that examined the problems that are frequently encountered with these devices. As explained in the article, because of the devices often malfunction, they are used far less frequently than expected:

When the program began last year, the state expected more than 30,000 DUI defendants would use the devices, but we've learned less than 10,000 drivers are actually using them.

DUI defense attorneys say it's because the systems malfuction so often, drivers would rather risk driving without them than put up with all the headaches...

The Secretary of State admits the BAIID program has been used much less than expected. Pending legislation could make it harder for drivers to opt out. And as for malfunctioning devices, the state admits there are problems with cold weather and some foods.

Certain foods, including white bread and pizza crust, in addition to cough medicine and mouth wash, have been reported to cause the devices to malfunction. Clearly, something needs to change. Either a new type of device should be issued that doesn't malfunction or use of the devices should be eliminated altogether. Don Ramsell of our office was interviewed by Fox News regarding the failure rates and, in the video below, discusses how these devices can be so problematic: Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!