Welcome to Mystery Crime Blog

In 1998, if someone had told me I would be spending the next eight years of my life involved in injustice, I would have said "You are stark raving mad!". Well, I am here to eat those words.

In 1997, a friend was telling me about twin sisters, Betty Wilson and Peggy Lowe, from Alabama who were arrested and tried for supposedly hiring an alcoholic, drug addict con-man, James Dennison White, to kill Betty's wealthy husband, Dr. Jack Wilson, who was a very well-liked and well-known eye doctor in Huntsville. Both sisters were tried on the same evidence and lying testimony. Betty was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole because she was a rich bitch and slept with a black man in Alabama. Peggy, the saintly one, was acquitted. The convicted con-man, who never really admitted to killing the doctor, has come up for parole several times but is still incarcerated.

After spending six years studying this case including both trial transcripts, putting up an extensive website (http://hankford.com/bettywilson) and spending the remaining two years putting together a book about this case Killer For Hire - The Final Chapter of the Alabama Twins Murder Case, I, as many others, believe that the real killer of the doctor is walking around free. Neither of the twin sisters had a motive to have the good doctor put away but the doctor's ex-wife and son did.

As time permits, I hope to present other similar cases of injustice along with information on books, movies, TV shows, video games, etc., related to mystery crime. In the meantime please visit http://mysterycrimescene.com/.

Innocent Man Who Spent 25 Years in Prison Tries to Hold Prosecutor Accountable

Friday, December 30, 2011

Jacob Sullum Senior Editor at Reason magazine and Reason.com December 21, 2011

This week Michael Morton, who spent 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, was officially exonerated by the state of Texas. Now he is seeking a "court of inquiry" to investigate Ken Anderson, the prosecutor who put him behind bars. Morton, with support from the Innocence Project, argues that Anderson, currently a state judge, improperly withheld exculpatory evidence. It's a long shot, since prosecutors are almost never held accountable for such malfeasance, but the details, described by The New York Times, are pretty damning:

Mr. Morton, who was a manager at an Austin supermarket and had no criminal history, was charged with the beating death of his wife, Christine, in 1986. He had contended that the killer must have entered their home after he left for work early in the morning. But Mr. Anderson convinced the jury that Mr. Morton, in a rage over his wife’s romantic rebuff the previous night — on Mr. Morton’s 32nd birthday — savagely beat her to death.

Mr. Morton was sentenced to life in prison. Beginning in 2005, he pleaded with the court to test DNA on a blue bandanna found near his home shortly after the murder, along with other evidence.

For six years, the Williamson County district attorney, John Bradley, fought the request for DNA testing, based on advice from Judge Anderson, his predecessor and friend. In 2010, however, a Texas court ordered the DNA testing, and the results showed that Mrs. Morton's blood on the bandanna was mixed with the DNA of another man: Mark A. Norwood, a felon with a long criminal history who lived about 12 miles from the Mortons at the time of the murder. By then, Mr. Morton had spent nearly 25 years in prison.

Mr. Norwood has been arrested and charged in Mrs. Morton’s death and is a suspect in a similar murder from 1988.

The DNA was not the only evidence pointing to someone else. In 1987 the judge overseeing Morton's trial ordered Anderson to turn over the prosecution's files so he could determine if they included information that would be helpful to the defense, which the Supreme Court has said must be shared as a matter of due process:

Missing from the file was the transcript of a telephone conversation between a sheriff’s deputy and Mr. Morton’s mother-in-law in which she reported that her 3-year-old grandson had seen a “monster” — who was not his father — attack and kill his mother.

Also missing were police reports from Mr. Morton’s neighbors, who said they had seen a man in a green van repeatedly park near their home and walk into the woods behind their house. And there were even reports, also never turned over, that Mrs. Morton’s credit card had been used and a check with her forged signature cashed after her death.

In a deposition, Anderson said that his memory of the case's details is fuzzy but that he recalls interpreting the judge's order narrowly. Also, he feels bad about Morton's wrongful conviction. The Times adds that "experts are skeptical that Judge Anderson could face serious punishment or disbarment, even if the court were to decide that he had committed malfeasance." And because of prosecutorial immunity, civil liability is pretty much out of the question.

More on prosecutorial misconduct and the lack of accountability for it, see No Accountability and Bad Boys below.
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No Accountability

Why are bad prosecutors so rarely punished?

Radley Balko – Senior Editor Reason.Com | October 26, 2009

Anthony Caravella was released from a Florida prison last month. He served 26 years for a rape and murder that DNA testing has shown he didn't commit. Caravella was 15 at the time he was arrested, and has an IQ of 67. He was convicted in part due to a confession his attorneys say was beaten out of him by police interrogators. Caravella's prosecutor, Robert Carney, has put at least two other people in prison for murder who were later cleared of the crimes for which they convicted. Carney is now a judge in Broward County, though he recently announced he's retiring at the end of this year.

The injustice in Caravella's case could have been worse. Carney originally sought the death penalty. The jury voted 11-1 for life in prison, instead. According to the Sun-Sentinel, in 1985 Carney also prosecuted another mentally-challenged man, John Purvis, for killing his Ft. Lauderdale neighbor. Months later, Carney received a tip that the victim's ex-husband had hired a hit man to kill her. Carney refused to reopen the case, leaving Purivs' attorneys to hear about the murder-for-hire through other means. Purvis did nine years in prison before the woman's ex-husband and the hit-man were arrested and prosecuted.

In 1981, Carney convicted another man, Christopher Clugston, for murder based on testimony from an informant who later recanted. In 1994, Clugston was cleared and released from prison by Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, but on the condition he never return to the state. Clugston also left prison with AIDS, the result of a gang rape while he was incarcerated.

Howard Finkelstein, the public defender in Broward County, Florida, said of Carney to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper, "I cannot think of another prosecutor anywhere in the U.S. that has put away three innocent people in separate cases."

Actually, it could be four. Carney also participated in the prosecution of Frank Lee Smith, convicted in 1986 of a rape and murder based on the testimony of a single eyewitness. Smith died of cancer on death row in 2000. Ten months after his death, DNA testing cleared Smith of the crime. In all, seven men have been wrongly convicted of murder by the state's attorney's office of Broward County.

As DNA exonerations continue to accumulate across the country, we're left with some tough questions about accountability for the public officials who put innocent people in prison. Certainly in some cases honest mistakes can be forgiven. But what about cases, like that of John Purvis, where a prosecutor illegally withholds evidence of a suspect's innocence? What about prosecutors who participated in multiple wrongful convctions? Is it fair to hold them accountable years or decades later? What of those who went on to become judges, and now preside over murder cases?

There are other Robert Carneys. A couple of months ago, I wrote about Daniel Ford, a former prosecutor, now a Massachusetts Superior Court Judge, who may have withheld evidence and committed other misconduct in his prosecution of Bernard Baran for child molestation. Baran was cleared of the charges and released earlier this year after serving 26 years in prison. Ford has never been investigated, much less disciplined, for his role in putting Baran in prison.

As an assistant district attorney, Mississippi Judge Bobby DeLaughter helped hide exculpatory evidence in the case of Cedric Willis, wrongly convicted of a rape and two murders. Willis served 12 years for a crime he didn't commit, despite DNA evidence pointing to his innocence. While Willis sat in Parchman Penitentiary, much of his time in solitary confinement, DeLaughter was elected a judge. Last summer, Delaughter himself plead guilty to lying to federal investigators looking into a corruption scandal. But he was never punished for the misconduct that sent an innocent man to jail.

Then there's Forrest Allgood, the Mississippi district attorney with a record that puts him in company with Carney. Allgood prosecuted both Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, each convicted of raping and killing young girls in Mississippi in the early 1990s. Allgood relied on the testimony of disgraced bite mark specialist Michael West to secure those convictions. Even after DNA testing cleared Brewer in 2000, Allgood pointed to West's match of bite marks on the victim's body to Brewer as evidence that Brewer must have participated in the crime, even if he didn't actually commit the rape. Brewer remained in prison an additional seven years. Brewer and Brooks were finally released in 2007 after a check of the state's DNA database (which Allgood tried to prevent) showed a single man committed both rapes and murders.

Two other people Allgood has convicted of murder were later given new trials and acquitted. Tyler Edmonds, who was 15 at the time he was charged, was convicted based on a confession Edmonds says was coerced and by implausible forensic testimony from disgraced Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne. Allgood also convicted 18-year-old Sabrina Butler, who is mentally challenged, of killing her infant son. Butler was sentenced to death. The state supreme court also tossed out her conviction, which also relied in part on bad forensic evidence.

Allgood hasn't (yet) been elected to the bench, but he continues to be reelected as district attorney.

Something is wrong here. It may well be true that the prosecutors noted above represent a tiny minority of those who serve or have served in the position. But whatever the number of "bad apples," our criminal justice and political systems seem unconcerned about weeding them out. Instead, they're often rewarded and promoted, despite long records of incompetence and misconduct. In fact, in the sense that misconduct can help win convictions, such prosecutors are often rewarded because of it. The Innocence Project estimates that prosecutorial misconduct factored into about a fourth of the wrongful convictions handled by the organization. Yet in none of those cases did a prosecutor face any serious sanction.

Be it through state bar association actions, judicial investigations and discipline, or legislation creating some other means of oversight, bad and incompetent prosecutors need to be held to account. When a prosecutor perpetrates misconduct or demonstrates incompetence that sends an innocent person to jail, it's a regrettable but understandable product of the fact that that any large system is going to have bad actors. But when that prosecutor remains free to go on prosecuting other cases, with no repercussions, the very legitimacy of the criminal justice system is called into question.

Radley Balko is a senior editor at Reason magazine.
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Bad Boys

A rogue’s gallery of misbehaving prosecutors, plus three worth praising

Radley Balko from the July 2011 issue

You might think that putting an innocent person in prison for a major crime like rape or murder would end or at least impede a prosecutor’s career. But prosecutors are rarely sanctioned for mistakes, even when their misconduct is egregious. In fact, they are often re-elected, promoted to judge, or encouraged to run for political office. Sometimes they even owe these successes to the publicity they get from high-profile convictions of people who turned out to be innocent. Here are some of the worst cases of prosecutors who put more than one innocent person in prison but suffered no significant professional consequences.

The Death Row Gambler

Forrest Allgood, district attorney for four Mississippi counties

Four people Forrest Allgood has convicted of murder were later set free. Two of them served time on death row.

One was Sabrina Butler, an 18-year-old mentally retarded woman Allgood convicted of killing her infant son in 1990. Butler was retried in 1995 after the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that Allgood had committed misconduct when he told jurors that Butler’s refusal to take the stand in her own defense was an indication of her guilt. In the retrial, the medical examiner that Allgood had used the first time around admitted to making some key mistakes, and outside examiners testified that Butler’s child likely died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or kidney disease. Butler was acquitted and released from prison.

Another Allgood victim was Tyler Edmonds. In Edmonds’ 2007 trial, Allgood posited that the defendant and his sister, Kristi Fulgham, had teamed up to kill Fulgham’s husband 13 years earlier. The duo, he argued, had waited until the man was asleep and then simultaneously pulled the trigger. At trial, Allgood called on controversial medical examiner Steven Hayne, who preposterously claimed that he could tell by the bullet wounds in the victim’s body that two people had held the gun. On review, the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out Hayne’s testimony and ordered a new trial. In 2008 Edmonds was retried, acquitted, and released. Kristi Fulgham was convicted in a separate trial and is still on death row.

In his 1995 prosecution of Kennedy Brewer, Allgood again solicited testimony from Hayne, this time accompanied by Hayne’s longtime sidekick, the disgraced bite mark specialist Michael West. West testified that he found bite marks on a 3-year-old murder victim that could only have been made by Brewer’s teeth. Based largely on that testimony, Brewer was convicted of raping and killing Christine Jackson, his girlfriend’s daughter, and sentenced to death. After the conviction, Allgood attempted to have the biological evidence from the case destroyed. Brewer’s lawyer objected and managed to preserve it.

A decade later, more-advanced DNA testing determined that there was semen from two men inside of Jackson, and neither of them was Kennedy Brewer. The state Supreme Court ordered a new trial. Despite the test results, Allgood planned to prosecute Brewer again. When The New York Times asked him why he hadn’t bothered checking the crime scene DNA against the state’s DNA database, Allgood replied that the state doesn’t have such a database. This came as a surprise to the man who had been running it.

Allgood’s decision to retry Brewer and his opposition to checking the crime scene evidence against the state DNA database kept Brewer in prison for another six years. When the DNA was finally checked, it revealed Christine Jackson’s murderer and showed that he had also raped and murdered another young girl two years later, just a few miles away. Allgood had used Hayne, West, and dubious bite mark testimony in that case too, convicting the wrong man. In 2008, that man, Levon Brooks, was exonerated and freed. The DNA in both cases matched a man named Justin Albert Johnson, who later confessed to both crimes.

Allgood continues to win re-election, and there are still countless people in prison based on his use of Hayne and West. One of them, Eddie Lee Howard, is still on death row.

The DNA Denialist

Michael Mermel, assistant state attorney, Lake County, Illinois

Michael Mermel has a history of standing behind his hunches, even in the face of contrary DNA evidence. In 2005, when a DNA test on an 11-year-old rape and murder victim didn’t match his suspect, Mermel argued that the victim must have been sexually active around the time of her murder.

When a DNA test in 2003 showed that the semen in the underwear of a 68-year-old woman didn’t belong to Bernie Starks, a man convicted in 1986 of raping and murdering her, Mermel dismissed the results because the semen came from the victim’s clothing. Had it come from the woman’s vagina, Mermel said, “I would be standing over there advocating the side that the defense has in the case.”

Three years later, defense attorneys found the rape kit and tested semen recovered from the woman’s vagina. Again, there was no match. Mermel again wouldn’t budge, this time arguing that the woman must have had sex with someone else just before the rape.
Mermel’s biggest blunder was Jerry Hobbs, who was arrested in 2005 on charges of raping and stabbing to death his 8-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old friend. Hobbs confessed to the killings, but only after 16 straight hours of questioning that began after he’d spent the previous night looking for the girls. The interrogation was not videotaped. Hobbs later retracted his confession and has since claimed he was physically and psychologically tortured by police. The confession was the only evidence against him.

When Hobbs’ attorneys revealed in court in 2008 that DNA tests showed the semen found in the mouth, rectum, and vagina of Hobbs’ daughter didn’t belong to Hobbs, Mermel postulated that the foreign semen must have found its way into the girl’s body while she was playing in a patch of woods where teenagers were known to have sex. The girl had been found fully clothed.

Hobbs was finally vindicated in July 2010, when Jorge Torrez was arrested in Arlington, Virginia, for the abduction and rape of a University of Maryland student. When police ran Torrez’s DNA against a national database, it provided a match to the semen found in Hobbs’ daughter. After five years in jail, Hobbs was released in August 2010.

Mermel continues to serve as a Lake County assistant state’s attorney.

The Witch Hunter

Ed Jagels, former district attorney, Kern County, California

Ed Jagels finally retired as district attorney of California’s Kern County in 2009. During his 26 years in office, Jagels boasted that the Central Valley district had a higher per capita rate of imprisonment than any other large county in the state. The mock slogan for Bakersfield, the county seat, was “Come for Vacation, Leave on Probation.” Yet with crime rates nosediving across the country, the Kern County rate did not fall as quickly as those in neighboring areas.

The boyish-looking Jagels, who was fond of strapping on a gun and tagging along on police raids, was at the forefront of California’s disastrous “three strikes” law, which imposed a life sentence on anyone convicted of three felonies. He also led an effort to get anti-death penalty justices removed from the California Supreme Court. He was regularly berated by appellate courts for withholding exculpatory evidence.

Jagels’ most egregious transgression was his prosecution of 26 working-class residents of Kern County in the 1980s and 1990s for shocking sex crimes against children. A rash of similar (and, it would turn out, equally bogus) prosecutions was erupting across the country at the time, but Jagels’ office in Bakersfield may well have been ground zero. Police and prosecutors told fantastical tales of satanic rituals, orgies, and bestiality, painting gruesome word-pictures of children hung on meat hooks and infants sodomized with knives. None of it happened. Of the 26 people Jagels’ office convicted, 25 have since had their convictions overturned. (For a moving account of these cases, see the 2009 documentary Witch Hunt.)

Even as the sex abuse convictions began to fall apart in the mid-1990s, Jagels continued to win re-election. His colleagues selected him to head the California District Attorneys Association. When Jagels finally announced his retirement, Scott Thorpe, the current head of that organization, called him “a prosecutor’s prosecutor.” An aide to Jagels told The Bakersfield Californian, “Prosecutors from around the state seek and respect his advice on almost every issue of public safety.” After retiring, Jagels served as a policy adviser to 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.

The Evidence Hoarder

Kenny Hulshof, former special prosecutor, Missouri Attorney General’s Office

For the first half of the 1990s, Kenny Hulshof was the go-to prosecutor when the Missouri attorney general’s office needed someone to handle a high-profile death penalty case. He quickly developed a reputation for winning big trials, which he later touted in successful runs for political office.

But in 2010 Missouri Circuit Court Judge Warren McElwain freed a man Hulshof had prosecuted, declaring Dale Helmig innocent of killing his mother in 1993, a crime for which he had been sentenced to death. In his decision, McElwain singled out Hulshof for harsh criticism, accusing him of withholding exculpatory evidence, knowingly presenting false or misleading evidence, and putting evidence before the jury that prosecutors could not prove was true.

That wasn’t the first time Hulshof had been reprimanded by a judge for his actions in a murder case. In 2009 Missouri Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan declared Joshua Kezer innocent of the 1992 murder of college student Angela Mischelle Lawless, criticizing Hulshof for withholding exculpatory evidence and embellishing facts in his closing argument to jurors.

In 2008 an Associated Press investigation found five other cases in which Hulshof was accused of significant misconduct. And in November 2010, the Missouri Supreme Court ordered a new hearing for Mark Woodworth, whom Hulshof convicted of murder in 1995, again finding evidence that should have been turned over to defense attorneys, including a letter from another prosecutor recommending that Woodworth be released due to a lack of evidence.

Hulshof rode his tough-on-crime credentials to six terms in Congress (1997–2009) and ran as the GOP nominee for governor in 2008, losing in the general election. Today he works as a lobbyist for Polsinelli Shughart, a white-shoe law firm with offices in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C.

Three Prosecutors Worth Praising

Many prosecutors, of course, understand that their job is to seek justice, as opposed to convictions by any means. Here are three particularly praiseworthy examples:

The Exculpator

Craig Watkins, district attorney, Dallas County, Texas

With his election in 2006, Watkins, a former defense attorney, became the first African-American D.A. in Texas history. He inherited the office long held by legendary law-and-order prosecutor Henry Wade (the respondent in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion case), who was rumored to boast of his ability to convict innocent men.

Upon taking office, Watkins set up what he called the Conviction Integrity Unit, a team of lawyers that works with the Texas Innocence Project to seek out and reopen cases of possibly wrongful convictions. Since 2001, 21 men convicted in Dallas County have been exonerated by DNA evidence—more than any county in the country and more than in all but a handful of states. Watkins’ staff also has helped free prisoners in cases where non-DNA evidence has emerged that points to their innocence. There is now a remarkable tradition in Dallas in which former exonerees attend the final hearing of the latest exoneree and welcome him to life on the outside.

In 2010 Watkins was narrowly re-elected, defeating his challenger by a little over one percentage point.

The Snitch Snitcher

Earle Mobley, commonwealth’s attorney, Portsmouth, Virginia

In 2009, 28-year-old Ryan Frederick was put on trial for the murder of Chesapeake, Virginia, police Det. Jarrod Shivers, who had been part of a team that broke into Frederick’s home during a marijuana raid. Frederick, who had no prior record and who later said he thought he was being robbed, shot and killed Shivers during the raid. Frederick’s case turned on whether the jury believed him when he said he feared for his life and had no idea that the men raiding his home were police. During the trial, Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert called a jailhouse snitch named Jamaal Skeeter to the witness stand. Skeeter claimed that Frederick had confessed to him in jail that he knew Shivers was a cop and that Frederick had boasted about killing him.

Skeeter was well-known to prosecutors as an opportunist who would say anything to get a break on his own (long) rap sheet. Mobley, a prosecutor, brought this information to Ebert’s attention. When Ebert didn’t call Mobley as a witness, Mobley reached out to the defense. It was an extraordinary move. It’s one thing for a prosecutor to have the integrity to not use unreliable jailhouse informants himself. It’s quite another to call out another prosecutor for doing so in the midst of a high-profile trial.
Mobley had warned other prosecutors about Skeeter in the past. He also has filed motions against police officers who miss hearings and publicly reprimanded cops and prosecutors who take shortcuts. “We have a sworn duty as prosecutors to make sure there’s a fair proceeding,” Mobley told The Virginian-Pilot. “You have to disclose everything under the rules.”

Mobley’s name also came up in Gene Weingarten’s “Fatal Distraction,” a moving (and Pulitzer-winning) 2009 Washington Post article about parents who had incomprehensibly but mistakenly killed their young children by leaving them alone in a hot car. While other prosecutors in similar cases had prosecuted the devastated parent, Mobley declined to charge Portsmouth electrician Andrew Culpepper in the death of his two-year-old son. Mobley said police found no evidence that Culpepper intended to kill the boy. He had simply made a crushing mistake. “The easy thing in a case like this is to dump it on a jury, but that is not the right thing to do,” Mobley told Weingarten. “I’m not pretty sure I made the right decision. I’m positive I made the right decision.” Mobley added that “a prosecutor’s responsibility is to achieve justice, not to settle some sort of score.”

The Unlikely Reformer

Pat Lykos, district attorney, Harris County, Texas

In 2008 Pat Lykos, a self-described Goldwater-Reagan Republican who supports the death penalty, was elected as chief law enforcement officer of Harris County, Texas, the county that has executed more people than any other, in a state that has executed more people than any other. In fact, under the leadership of former D.A. Johnny B. Holmes—a handlebar-mustached, lock-’em-up tough guy whom the Los Angeles Times once called “the killingest prosecutor” in the country—Harris County by itself sent more people to death row than the 49 states that aren’t Texas.

So Lykos would seem to be an unlikely criminal justice reformer. But upon taking office she set up her own team to review prior convictions for mistakes, similar to Craig Watkins’ unit in Dallas. Watkins has been aided by a fortuitous historical accident in which Dallas County routinely sent crime scene evidence to a private lab for safekeeping. That means some biological evidence from cases dating back to the 1980s can still be tested. Lykos not only does not have that advantage, but the crime lab in Harris County’s largest city, Houston, has a history of mishandling and even destroying evidence.

Nevertheless, Lykos has initiated three exonerations so far. In 2010 the Innocence Project of Texas gave Lykos its Honesty and Integrity in Prosecution Award. The organization’s spokesman, Jeff Blackburn, told The Daily Beast earlier this year that “Harris County was the standard bearer of everything bad in criminal justice” until Lykos came along. Under her leadership, Blackburn said, the county “is becoming the single most powerful example of how to change this system and make it work right.”

Radley Balko ([email protected]) is a senior editor at reason.
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The 10 Most Common Holiday Crimes

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 18, 2011

Article Courtesy of Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

The holidays are a joyful time of the year, but it is also a peak time for criminal activity. Criminals take advantage of the seasonal chaos and people’s giving nature by committing some of the worst crimes imaginable. Even though police are out in droves this time of year, criminals always find a way to ruin the holidays for somebody. Here are the 10 most common holiday crimes:

1. Identity Theft

Identity theft is a risk for virtually everyone during the holidays. Thieves are online and offline, waiting to steal your personal information, credit card number, and Social Security number, and use it to commit crimes. Thieves can steal your identity in various ways, such as skimming, phishing, pretexting, and old-fashioned stealing. As common as identity theft is during the holidays, there are many ways to protect yourself and your finances from being compromised, such as reviewing your monthly statements, balancing your checkbook, reviewing your credit reports, and securing your personal information.

2. Shoplifting

Shoplifting is one of the most common crimes committed during the holidays. With shopping at an all-time high during Christmas, shoplifters have more opportunities to take advantage of the large crowds and distracted workers. According to Adweek, one in every 11 people engages in shoplifting and with the recession still in full swing, that number could be much higher.

3. Robbery

The holidays are a hot time for robberies because of the increased cash volume and the distractions of crowds. Robbers are well aware of the fact that people carry more money on them during the holidays and they will go to great lengths to try to steal from people on the street, in parking lots, and other public places. People have turned to crime to solve their financial problems and see robbery as one of the quickest ways to do that.

4. Drunk Driving

The holidays are a time for fun and celebration, but they are unfortunately one of most dangerous times to be on the road. Drunk driving is extremely common this time of year and fatalities related to alcohol-impaired driving has risen since 2005. In December 2008, 520 people died from alcohol- or drug-related crashes.

5. Vehicle Theft

Vehicle burglaries are a problem all year long, but it is far worse around the holidays. Thieves know that shoppers leave expensive gifts in the car and that they could be gone for hours. It doesn’t take much for criminals to see what’s inside your car and figure out a way to steal your valuables. The good news is drivers can prevent auto burglaries by taking some simple, but effective preventative steps, such as locking the doors, hiding your valuables, and taking the keys with you.

6. Rape and Sexual Assault

Reports of rape and sexual assault have increased around Christmastime. This is most likely due to the increase of parties and alcohol consumption that takes place during this time of year. Women who engage in heavy drinking have a greater risk of becoming a victim of rape or sexual assault. When alcohol or drugs are involved, people’s judgment becomes impaired and they may find themselves in more dangerous situations than when they are sober.

7. Home Burglary

Home burglary is a concern any time of the year, but it’s especially bad during the holidays. Burglars tend to break into homes that are easy to access and they usually steal items that they can quickly and inconspicuously carry, such as laptops, electronics, jewelry, and cash. The risk of being burglarized is always there, but homeowners can take effective measures to protect their house and belongings.

8. Counterfeiting

Every year, unsuspecting shoppers get duped into buying counterfeit merchandise that they think are genuine. Counterfeiters profit from tricking consumers into buying knock-off items and illegally downloading music, movies, and television shows. Not only do these criminals steal from consumers, but they also cost legitimate companies a great deal of money. Counterfeiters often use these profits to fund other illegal activities.

9. Scams

Scams are very common during the holidays, when unsuspecting shoppers give money to a phony charity or enter a bogus sweepstakes. Scammers will tug at your heart strings and take advantage of your giving mood. They also prey on naïve and desperate people who are easily lured by deals that seem too good to be true. Shoppers can protect themselves from these sneaky scams by doing thorough research on a particular deal or offer before giving any money or personal information to anyone or any site.

10. Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a growing problem during the holidays, and experts believe it increased with the stress of gift giving, celebrations, and the close proximity to family. Alcohol and drugs only add to the problem and put more people in danger. The holidays have a tendency to exacerbate family tension, drug use, and financial woes, causing people to act out in violent and destructive ways.
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

If you have been considering a career as a crime scene investigator but have found that the blood, guts and carrying a weapon are not your cup of tea, however, you are still interested in crime-solving, perhaps becoming a criminologist would be more suitable for you.

Criminologists study crime and criminal law. They analyze criminal behavior patterns and criminal laws, and provide theoretical explanations for criminal and delinquent behavior.

You don’t need to have a degree in criminology to want to know more about it. It can be found in both fictional and reality programming on television, as well as in books and even everyday activity. Those who want to learn more about it, no matter what the level of criminology, can find loads more about the field with a simple search of the web.

To help bring you the best, CriminoBlogica has collected 30 excellent online criminology tutorials. They can help give you an introduction, the same courses as Ivy league students, and even one that can help you detect criminal behavior on sight. For more information check out 30 Excellent Online Criminology Tutorials
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Tens of Millions of Smartphones Come With Spyware Preinstalled, Security Analyst Says

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Published December 01, 2011 FoxNews.com

Over 100 million smartphones are tracking their owners’ every step, Android developer Trevor Eckhart claimed, thanks to software that comes preinstalled on phones from most major carriers.

During a security demonstration revealed on Monday, Eckhart showed how software developed by Carrier IQ tracks virtually everything a user does -- going as far as logging individual keystrokes and button presses. The company claims it helps its customers improve quality and performance “by counting and measuring operational information in mobile devices.” Security experts call it spyware.

"I assume that when I SMS my wife on the phone, no one is intercepting that message," Chet Wisniewski of security firm Sophos told FoxNews.com. He called the whole ordeal is a "serious invasion of privacy."

"Why do they need to know when I'm logging into Bank of America, when I'm accessing my password? It's a different level of snooping," he said.

Developed as a mobile analytics platform, Carrier IQ's software can be found on most Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones -- over 140 million phones in total, the company's website boasts. Some reports suggest Apple iPhones may carry the software as well.

The company has flat out denied that its software records keystrokes, a claim Eckhart’s latest video seems to refute.

“Every button you press in the dialer before you call,” Eckhart says in his latest video, “it already gets sent off to the IQ application.”

Carrier IQ: Spyware or Handy Tool? What You Need to Know

Eckhart did not return FoxNews.com phone calls, and Carrier IQ declined to comment on his claims. A statement on the company's website reiterates the company's claims that its software does not track customers or record keystrokes.

“This information is used by our customers as a mission critical tool to improve the quality of the network, understand device uses and ultimately improve the user experience,” the company said. By evaluating these metrics, Carrier IQ aims to help with issues such as “dropped calls and battery drain.”

In videos showing Carrier IQ at work, Eckhart showed it going beyond such utilitarian monitoring. He showed Carrier IQ’s software monitoring entire text messages, a Google search, and his location, even during sessions protected by HTTPS, a security protocol that encrypts communications for sensitive transactions like online banking.

Sprint has acknowledged using Carrier IQ's software, but denies having access to personal data.

"Carrier IQ provides information that allows Sprint, and other carriers that use it, to analyze our network performance and identify where we should be improving service," Sprint told CNET earlier this month. "We collect enough information to understand the customer experience with devices on our network and how to address any connection problems, but we do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc., using this tool," Sprint continued.

While Wisniewski understands the needs for data and metrics, he believes carriers must be more forthcoming about how they are monitoring their users, what data they are collecting, and how they are protect that data.
"If you're going to collect that kind of information from people, you have to meet a different standard," Wisniewski told FoxNews.com.

But for now, most users are stuck, unable to even turn off or uninstall the program.

"The Carrier IQ application is embedded so deeply in the device that it can't be fully removed without rebuilding the phone from source code," Eckhart wrote on his website.

"Even where a device is out of contract, there is no off switch to stop the application from gathering data."

Read more: Is Your Smartphone Secretly Spying on You?

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