"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Presumption of Guilt

Lynching in America
Lynching in America
People of color in the United States, particularly young black men, are often assumed to be guilty and dangerous. In too many situations, black men are considered offenders incapable of being victims themselves. As a consequence of this country’s failure to address effectively its legacy of racial inequality, this presumption of guilt and the history that created it have significantly shaped every institution in American society, especially our criminal justice system.

Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African-Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were brutal public murders that were tolerated by state and federal officials. These racially motivated acts, meant to bypass legal institutions in order to intimidate entire populations, became a form of terrorism. Lynching had a profound effect on race relations in the United States and defined the geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African-Americans in ways that are still evident today.

Many African-Americans were lynched not because they had been accused of committing a crime or social infraction, but simply because they were black and present when the preferred party could not be located. In 1901, Ballie Crutchfield’s brother allegedly found a lost wallet containing $120 and kept the money. He was arrested and about to be lynched by a mob in Smith County, Tennessee, when, at the last moment, he was able to break free and escape. Thwarted in their attempt to kill him, the mob turned their attention to his sister and lynched her instead, though she was not even alleged to have been involved in the theft.

Records show that racial terror lynchings from Reconstruction until World War II had six particularly common motivations: (1) a wildly distorted fear of interracial sex; (2) as a response to casual social transgressions; (3) after allegations of serious violent crime; (4) as public spectacle, which could be precipitated by any of the allegations named above; (5) as terroristic violence against the African-American population as a whole; and (6) as retribution for sharecroppers, ministers, and other community leaders who resisted mistreatment—the last becoming common between 1915 and 1945.

Our research confirmed that many victims of terror lynchings were murdered without being accused of any crime; they were killed for minor social transgressions or for asserting basic rights. Our conversations with survivors of lynchings also confirmed how directly lynching and racial terror motivated the forced migration of millions of black Americans out of the South. Thousands of people fled north for fear that a social misstep in an encounter with a white person might provoke a mob to show up and take their lives. Parents and spouses suffered what they characterized as “near-lynchings” and sent their loved ones away in frantic, desperate acts of protection.

The decline of lynching in America coincided with the increased use of capital punishment often following accelerated, unreliable legal processes in state courts. By the end of the 1930s, court-ordered executions outpaced lynchings in the former slave states for the first time. Two thirds of those executed that decade were black, and the trend continued: as African-Americans fell to just 22 percent of the southern population between 1910 and 1950, they constituted 75 percent of those executed.

Probably the most famous attempted “legal lynching” is the case of the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine young African-Americans charged with raping two white women in Alabama in 1931. During the trial, white mobs outside the courtroom demanded the teens’ executions. Represented by incompetent lawyers, the nine were convicted by all-white, all-male juries within two days, and all but the youngest were sentenced to death. When the NAACP and others launched a national movement to challenge the cursory proceedings, the legal scholar Stephen Bright has written, “the [white] people of Scottsboro did not understand the reaction. After all, they did not lynch the accused; they gave them a trial.” In reality, many defendants of the era learned that the prospect of being executed rather than lynched did little to introduce fairness into the outcome.

Today, large racial disparities continue in capital sentencing. African-Americans make up less than 13 percent of the national population, but nearly 42 percent of those currently on death row and 34 percent of those executed since 1976. In 96 percent of states where researchers have examined the relationship between race and the death penalty, results reveal a pattern of discrimination based on the race of the victim, the race of the defendant, or both. Meanwhile, in capital trials today the accused is often the only person of color in the courtroom and illegal racial discrimination in jury selection continues to be widespread. In Houston County, Alabama, prosecutors have excluded 80 percent of qualified African-Americans from serving as jurors in death penalty cases.

The crucial question concerning capital punishment is not whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit but rather whether we deserve to kill. Given the racial disparities that still exist in this country, we should eliminate the death penalty and expressly identify our history of lynching as a basis for its abolition. Confronting implicit bias in police departments should be seen as essential in twenty-first-century policing.

Source: The New York Review of Books, Bryan Stevenson, July 13, 2017 Issue

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13 Chinese sentenced to death for drugs offences as thousands look on in public trial

"13 people were sentenced to death for producing and selling drugs."
Eight executed immediately after open hearing in a stadium in notorious drug producing area of Guangdong province

Two courts in southern China’s Guangdong province sentenced 13 people to death for producing and selling drugs at a public trial in a stadium in the city of Shanwei watched by some 10,000 people, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The Shanwei Intermediate People’s Court and the Lufeng People’s Court handed out sentences on Saturday for 18 people, the report said, without giving the names of the accused or details of the charges.

Five were given suspended sentences. Of the 13 sentenced to death, eight were executed immediately after the trial.

The city of Lufeng, which is administered by Shanwei, is notorious for making and trafficking drugs. 

In 2014 more than 3,000 paramilitary personnel, police and border guards from Guangdong raided a village near Lufeng and seized three tonnes of crystal meth. 

Nearly 200 people from the village, which has a population of 14,000, were detained at the time.

The Lufeng court heard 234 cases involving drugs last year and sentenced 107 people to prison terms of at least five years.

A similar public trial was held in 2015 in Lufeng, with five people sentenced to death and executed immediately and another eight given suspended death penalties. 

A further 25 people were sentenced to at least 10 years in jail each.

Source: South China Morning Post, Zhuang Pinghui, June 27, 2017

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The Death Penalty and Mental Illness: An Evolving Standard?

The use of the death penalty in the Americas dates to the 15th century when European settlers brought with them the practice of capital punishment. Because nowhere in the US Constitution is capital punishment explicitly addressed, the death penalty was imbued with intrinsic constitutionality by the Founding Fathers. The Fifth Amendment, Eighth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment (due process clause) of the Bill of Rights have attempted to provide guidelines on how capital punishment should be handled. The Fifth Amendment states that "no person shall be held to answer for a capital [crime], unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury," while the Eighth Amendment states that "nor cruel and unusual punishments [be] inflicted."

Although the death penalty was viewed as an acceptable form of punishment at the time the US Constitution was created, it did not take long for various states to begin to limit or even ban such practices. The 1st state to do so was Michigan in 1846. 

Today, 31 states still permit capital punishment. Although this number may represent a majority of the states, it may not represent the true national mood regarding capital punishment because many of these states have not had an execution in more than 10 years.

Evolving standards

Over the years, the US Supreme Court has ruled on many cases that have addressed the topic of evolving standards of decency in regards to the Eighth Amendment. The 1910 Supreme Court case Weems v US helped define the notion of evolving standards as a basis to view historically accepted punishments as no longer acceptable in modern society. In the Weems case, a man was sentenced to multiple years of "hard and painful labor [in chains]" for the crime of falsifying documents.

Although the use of "irons" was common in the 1700s, the Court found that its use was not appropriate for a sentence in the 1900s. The term "evolving standards of decency" was coined by Chief Justice Earl Warren in Trop v Dulles (1958) when he noted that, when determining what punishment the Eighth Amendment prohibits, "evolving standards of decency . . . mark the progress of a maturing society."

The 1972 case of Furman v Georgia (1972) resulted in a brief national moratorium on the death penalty because of a 5 to 4 ruling that "[the death penalty] could not be imposed under sentencing procedures that created a substantial risk that it would be inflicted in an arbitrary and capricious manner." In an unusual scenario, each justice wrote his own opinion, with Justices Brennan and Marshall citing evolving standards of decency to explain why they believed the death penalty was unconstitutional.

The landmark cases of Atkins v Virginia (2002) and Roper v Simmons (2005) determined that because of evolving standards of decency, certain definable groups such as individuals with intellectual disability and minors could not be sentenced to death. In both instances, the Court, within a relatively short period, revisited the issue of an evolving standard after already having ruled on the issue, ie, execution of people with intellectual deficiencies previously addressed in Penry v Lynaugh (1989) and certain youths in Stanford v Kentucky (1989). The majority opinion for Atkins v Virginia, written by Justice Stevens, noted that the "consistency of the direction of change," but "not so much the number of these States [prohibiting the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities]," was important in determining an evolving standard.

The cases of Atkins v Virginia and Roper v Simmons are particularly interesting because the opinions were based on legal as well as scientific and medical principles. The legal principles that were discussed included whether the death penalty had a deterrent effect for these populations and whether these populations were at a fundamental disadvantage in defending themselves in the court system against the ultimate irreversible punishment. In Atkins v Virginia, Justice Stevens wrote, ". . . frequently [individuals with intellectual disability] know the difference between right and wrong and are competent to stand trial . . . [but] because of their impairments . . . by definition they have diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others."

Source: Psychiatric Times, June 22, 2017

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The Supreme Court's Mixed Year on Capital Punishment

The U.S. Supreme Court's latest term, which ended this week as the justices began their summer recess, saw death-penalty opponents achieve some notable victories even as the Court moved further away from abolishing capital punishment.

In one of those wins Monday, the justices vacated an Alabama death-row inmate's sentence after ruling the state had not given him adequate professional assistance to evaluate his mental health during his trial more than 3 decades ago. The Court said the state's failure to provide James McWilliams with the experts required under one of its 1985 rulings made his sentence unconstitutional.

"Since Alabama's provision of mental-health assistance fell so dramatically short of what Ake [v. Oklahoma] requires," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority, "we must conclude that the Alabama court decision affirming McWilliams's conviction and sentence was 'contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law.'" He quoted from a federal statute governing certain appeals from state courts.

In Ake, the Court ruled that states must provide impoverished defendants with access to "sufficiently independent" mental-health experts for help during trials. Shortly after that ruling came down, McWilliams was charged with the rape and murder of a convenience-store clerk. The trial court appointed John Goff, a neuropsychologist who worked for the state's Department of Mental Health, to evaluate McWilliams as a neutral party. After he filed his report, the court denied the defense's request for an independent expert to help them understand the report and its implications.

The ruling fell along the traditional ideological divide, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the Court's liberal wing. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for himself and 3 conservative colleagues, sharply criticized the majority for disregarding the question the justices had been asked to resolve when they took the case. Instead of deciding whether Ake required a mental-health expert for the defense, and not simply a neutral one for both sides, the majority held that Alabama's assistance to McWilliams fell short of the Court's current standards for indigent defendants with signs of mental-health issues.

"Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense evaluate Goff's report or McWilliams' extensive medical records and translate these data into a legal strategy," Breyer wrote. "Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense prepare direct or cross-examination of any witnesses, or testified at the judicial sentencing hearing himself."

Monday's ruling was the 3rd of 4 capital-punishment cases the Court heard this term. Their ruling on one final case could come as soon as Thursday morning. In February, the justices vacated the death sentence of Texas inmate Duane Buck in a long-running racial-bias case. At the center of the dispute was testimony from psychologist Walter Quijano, who was called to the stand by Buck's lawyer during the sentencing phase of his trial in 1995. Quijano told the jury about his statistical model for evaluating "future dangerousness," one of the thresholds Texas uses to determine whether a defendant receives life imprisonment without parole or a death sentence. One of the factors in Quijano's model was race.

"It's a sad commentary that minorities, Hispanics, and black people, are over-represented in the criminal-justice system," Quijano told jurors at one point. When Buck appealed his sentence, Texas countered that the statements were only a minor part of days of testimony. But Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court in a 6-2 majority, said it was enough to toss out the sentence. "Some toxins are deadly in small doses," he wrote.

"What does this case tell us about a capital-punishment system that, in my view, works in random, virtually arbitrary ways?"

Kennedy and the Court's liberal justices also sided with the inmate in Moore v. Texas, an intellectual-disability case, in March. A Texas jury gave Bobby Moore a death sentence in 1980 for killing a convenience-store clerk during an armed robbery. After the Court banned the execution of people with intellectual disabilities in 2002's Atkins v. Virginia, Moore appealed his sentence on those grounds. A state court gathered a wealth of evidence from doctors and psychologists, concluding Moore should receive life imprisonment without parole and be retried.

But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the lower court's decision and instead relied upon an outdated set of seven factors from one of its earlier cases to make its decision. The factors were not grounded in medical authority. Instead, they focused on the subjective perceptions of laypersons and family members to determine a defendant's mental disability. All 8 justices agreed the factors were unacceptable for capital cases, but Roberts, Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissented from the means by which the majority reached its decision.

The Court has yet to hand down a ruling in its fourth death-penalty case, Davila v. Davis. At issue in that dispute is an arcane but important procedural question about when a death-row inmate can claim his or her lawyer was unconstitutionally ineffective during the appeals process. At oral arguments in April, the justices appeared to be leaning toward a ruling in favor of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

But this term the justices did not take up any cases on a question frequently pushed by one of their colleagues: whether the death penalty itself violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In 2015, Breyer dissented from a major case on botched lethal injections and said it was time for the Court to reconsider the constitutionality of capital punishment. His dissent, which was joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reopened a battle over the death penalty that had once faded from the court.

Some observers - myself included - speculated at the time that Breyer's dissent signaled the justices could actually abolish the practice for a second and likely final time. (The Court struck down all death-penalty statutes nationwide in 1972, then approved a raft of revised state laws 4 years later.) Assuming all four justices on the Court's liberal wing would agree to strike down the death penalty, only the vote of Kennedy - an intermittent voice in reducing the punishment's scope - and the proper case would be needed.

After 2 years, the Court has yet to consider the question despite multiple petitions asking the justices to do so. Kennedy's opinions on capital punishment have not noticeably changed in tone or tenor since Breyer's dissent in the lethal-injection ruling. And Donald Trump's electoral victory in November increased the likelihood that Kennedy or 1 of the 4 liberals could be replaced by a conservative stalwart, which would likely foreclose abolition for a generation.

Breyer has still continued to urge his colleagues to take up the issue. When Arkansas attempted to execute 8 inmates in 10 days in April, he sharply criticized the state for putting them to death only because its lethal-injection drug supply was about to expire. "In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random," he wrote when his colleagues denied a request from 1 of the inmates for a stay of execution.

A few days later, when the Court rejected the petition of an Arizona prisoner who had spent almost 4 decades in solitary confinement awaiting execution, Breyer said it underscored the need for the Court to revisit the death penalty. "What legitimate purpose does it serve to hold any human being in solitary confinement for 40 years awaiting execution?" he asked. "What does this case tell us about a capital-punishment system that, in my view, works in random, virtually arbitrary ways?" None of his colleagues joined either of his writings.

Source: theatlantic.com, Matt Ford, June 22, 2017

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Koh Tao murders: “Should the co-defendants have received separate legal representation?”

Burmese migrant workers Wai Phyo (left) and Zaw Lin
Burmese migrant workers Wai Phyo (left) and Zaw Lin
On the morning of 15 September 2014 the battered bodies of two British backpackers, David Miller (24) and Hannah Witheridge (23) were found on Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand. Earlier that night they had been drinking at the AC Bar.

It is widely accepted that what followed was a bungled police investigation. Initially, police Lieutenant-General Panya Mamen said that CCTV footage implicated two local Thai men, Montriwat Toowichian (“Mon”) and Warut “Nomsod” Toowichian. Mon is the manager of the AC Bar and Nomsod is the son of Woraphan Toowichian who is the owner of the AC Bar and the powerful village headman of Koh Tao.

Panya had also insisted that there would be no scapegoating in this case. He was promptly promoted and transferred and the Thai men were cleared by Panya’s seniors. In particular, Nomsod’s lawyer provided a dubious alibi that Nomsod had been in Bangkok at the time of the murders and showed CCTV footage of what he claims was Nomsod at university. In addition, the CCTV footage to which Panya had referred was never shown to the public.

However, some amateur sleuths quickly pointed out that the “university footage” was not from the university but from a building next door and that the footage appeared photo-shopped. In addition, it was said that the placement of furniture in the footage was inconsistent with the placement on the relevant day.

Once Mon and Nomsod were “cleared” the Thai police faced the task of “solving” the crimes and were ordered to do so promptly by Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha. This can reasonably be interpreted as code for: “Find a foreign scapegoat quickly in order to safeguard our lucrative tourism industry.” I refer to “foreign scapegoats” as the Prime Minister and other senior figures had publicly issued some ludicrous statements to the effect that no Thai person would commit such crimes.

Police attention had been briefly directed to one of David’s friends from Jersey but he was also cleared.

The police did obtain CCTV footage of three very small Burmese workers who were in and around Sairee Beach on the evening of 14 September 2014, namely: Maung Maung, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo.

The police then concocted a story which they announced to the media. According to the story, Hannah had been raped and murdered by two Burmese workers who also murdered David while a third Burmese worker watched on.

It then emerged that Maung Maung had left the other two on the beach early in the evening and had gone to his girlfriend’s place and therefore had a strong alibi.

The police now concocted yet another story. They claimed that Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo had seen the tourists walk past them and snuck up on David while he was forcing Hannah to have sex and struck him on the back of the head with a hoe in order to save Hannah but then decided to rape her themselves. (The police seemed to have a few variations of this story but the variations changed too)

Inconsistent Physical Evidence

That story not only seems utterly implausible, it is completely inconsistent with the physical evidence. It is also worth noting that, although we all make mistakes from time to time, people who constantly change their stories tend to be lying.

The inconsistent physical evidence was not dealt with by the police spokesmen in their various statements to the media and it also seems that it was not dealt with properly at trial.

David had suffered multiple wounds and injuries. He had cuts around his face, neck and collar bone consistent with those that would be made by a knife or punch-knife and not a hoe. Clearly, more than one weapon was used to inflict his injuries but the police stories made little mention of other weapons and certainly did not establish that the defendants ever had such weapons. However, there is a YouTube video clip from 16 October 2014 in which the following statement appears: ‘ “There’s a mark on his face which could be from other types of weapon, meanwhile, the marks on his hand are similar to the injuries that could be from fighting,” police general Champumporn Suramanee said at a news briefing.’ 

Various pictures of David’s near naked (not naked) body appeared on the internet shortly after the murders. In some pictures a sock can be seen on his left foot. The sock is half on and half off. It seems implausible that David would be having consensual sex with Hannah on the beach with one sock half off.

Although I disagree with almost everything that David’s brother, Michael Miller said to the media outside the Samui Provincial Court one cannot fault his comments to the effect that we would have liked “Dave” and that David stood up for justice.

The physical evidence suggests that David died as a hero protecting Hannah and himself from a group of determined thugs. It does not suggest that he died at the hands of two tiny Burmese men who snuck up on him.

Various pictures of Hannah’s body also appeared on the internet. Bright red blood can be seen on her face. In contrast, there are also some dark stains on her face and upper body that do not seem consistent with blood but possibly consistent with residue from fireworks or the equipment of one of the Thai beach fire dancers. I am unaware of any explanation the police provided for the dark stains or how the defendants were supposed to have left such stains.

I suggest that the killers staged David’s body by taking his clothes off after they killed him but that in the darkness they failed to see that the left sock was not completely removed.

Thai Police DNA Evidence Discredited

Police did extract confessions from the defendants, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo allegedly under torture. However, once the confessions were retracted and the DNA evidence discredited there was nothing to link the defendant Zaw Lin to the crimes.

It is true that the defendant Wai Phyo said that he found a mobile phone on the beach on the morning of the murders when Zaw Lin was in bed. The police claim that the mobile phone Wai Phyo found belonged to David. There are some issues regarding the chain of custody and hearsay evidence in this regard but, for the sake of this article, I am willing to accept that Wai Phyo possibly had David’s mobile phone in his possession on the morning of the murders. If so, then this represents some circumstantial evidence that Wai Phyo MIGHT have committed - or aided the commission of - some criminal offence(s) AND/OR he might have witnessed the commission of some offence(s).

Should Co-Defendants Have Had Separate Lawyers?

In my view, Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin should have had separate lawyers.

Lawyers should strive to avoid situations where they have a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest. In some situations in the West it can be appropriate for co-accused or co-defendants to have the same lawyer(s) but this should only occur where the co-defendants have given their informed consent to such an arrangement after having the possible pitfalls properly explained to them.

According to Westerners who have met the defendants, neither of them are particularly bright and given that they grew up in relatively humble villages they appear very naïve and would probably struggle to understand some fairly simple concepts. In the circumstances, they probably present as viable scapegoats but it also suggests that they might not be able to give informed consent to having lawyers act with a real or a potential conflict of interest.

Zaw Lin seems to be the defendant facing the greater risk by sharing defence lawyers. One reason is that it was Wai Phyo who was the first to “confess” under interrogation (or torture) and his “confession” implicated Zaw Lin. The police then allowed the co-defendants to talk to each other whereupon Zaw Lin concluded that rather than go through any further interrogation or torture he might as well “confess” in light of Wai Phyo’s “confession” that had already sealed both their fates.

The second reason is that, according to both defendants, they were not together on Sairee Beach for the whole morning. Zaw Lin says he went to sleep at Maung Maung’s hut and Wai Phyo says that he (Wai Phyo) returned to Sairee Beach to look for Maung Maung’s work shirt. Maung Maung had stated that when he returned to his hut he found Zaw Lin fast asleep, which would seem unusual if Zaw Lin had just been involved in a double murder.

If Wai Phyo was on Sairee Beach longer than Zaw Lin was, then it casts greater suspicion on him (rightly or wrongly) as he had greater opportunity to see more, hear more and/or do more.

The third reason is that Wai Phyo “obtained” a mobile phone on the morning of the murders. I use the non-specific term “obtained” as I do not know whether he actually found it, or was given it (by a killer or someone else), or stole it, or committed a robbery (stealing with violence).

In any event, it looks suspicious for Wai Phyo to have obtained a mobile phone that morning and it is a suspicion that can be cast upon Zaw Lin by association. It is also suspicious (even if understandable) that Wai Phyo did not hand the mobile phone into police. Therefore, it is in Zaw Lin’s best interests to distance himself from the mobile phone and the activities of Wai Phyo during the period they were not together.

David’s mother, Mrs Sue Miller was often criticised on social media for her comments about the convictions of Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin but I think that her comment that Wai Phyo “has some explaining to do” seems perfectly reasonable in relation to the mobile phone issue.

A further reason for saying that Zaw Lin is at greater risk is that some of the defendants’ statements seem plausible but not that likely. They said they hid the guitar, went swimming, lost their clothes, lost their guitar and then Wai Phyo says he went back to the beach later and found a mobile phone but did not see Hannah or David.

I was not there so I have no first-hand knowledge of what actually happened but I think that a reasonable judge could harbour some doubts that all the statements were completely accurate.

I have had experience with my own clients where they make a small, honest mistake in what they tell me or, they might not tell me the complete truth without appreciating how a small detail can later create major headaches for them and their lawyers.

In this case, we have already seen that Zaw Lin followed Wai Phyo in making an apparently false confession once he learned that Wai Phyo had made a “confession” implicating both of them.

I think many people would understand that a guitar should be much more valuable than Maung Maung’s T-shirt with the letters words “AC TWO” (for AC TWO Bar) yet Wai Phyo said he returned to the beach to look for the T-shirt, not the guitar.

There is a possibility that not everything Wai Phyo said is completely true. Surprise, surprise! There are a multitude of possible explanations for how he lost a T-shirt and a guitar and obtained a mobile phone all on the one morning. I don’t believe Wai Phyo killed anyone but he might have run into some bad company that morning.

Earlier in the evening (according to the three Burmese men) Maung Maung and Wai Phyo exchanged shirts because of their different warmth. Maung Maung left Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo and rode Zaw Lin’s motorbike to his (Maung Maung’s) girlfriend’s place.

It is easy to imagine that Zaw Lin got tired after a while and just left Wai Phyo on the beach with the guitar. Like the whole Thai defence team and Andy Hall I was not on Sairee Beach at the material time so I have no direct knowledge of what transpired but we should all be alive to the distinct possibility that Wai Phyo’s explanations for the loss of his shirt and guitar and the finding of a mobile phone might not be 100% accurate.

Wai Phyo is under 5’ in height. If approached by a group of Thai thugs (whether clean or covered in blood) who demanded his guitar and T-shirt in return for a mobile phone then Wai Phyo would have few options. If the thugs told him that they would kill him if he told anyone who they were then Wai Phyo would have to take them seriously.

Wai Phyo might then have difficulty explaining how he lost a guitar and T-shirt. It is easy to say that a mobile phone was found on the beach but he might have required Zaw Lin to tell a little “white lie” by agreeing to say that they both went for a swim to then discover that their clothes and the guitar had been stolen.

Zaw Lin would probably not appreciate the difficulties he might make for himself by agreeing to help his friend. In contrast, if Zaw Lin had a lawyer who was acting solely for him then he would be advised to tell the truth whatever that might be ie: “I got tired so I left Wai Phyo on the beach with the guitar and I do not know about anything that happened on the beach after that.”

If Wai Phyo (and Zaw Lin) proceeded to tell some little “white lies” in Court (because it would be unsafe to identify the true killers) and if their explanations and demeanour were not compelling it would be easy for observers (such as the Miller family) to form the view that they were lying in relation to the “white lies.” It could also seem reasonable for the Miller family (and perhaps the Court) to form the view that if the defendants lied about a mobile phone, the shirt and the guitar then maybe they are lying about the murders too.

In contrast, if the Court found that Zaw Lin had, in fact, just left Wai Phyo on the beach with the guitar and T-shirt then it would become somewhat difficult for the Thai police to convince the Court and the world that Wai Phyo acting alone could have committed the crimes that morning.

Significance Of The Identity Of “Running Man”

The Thai police did release some CCTV footage of an individual dubbed “Running Man” who was in the general vicinity of the location of bodies. The police asserted that this was Wai Phyo. People on social media have claimed it looks like either Nomsod or Mon.

The images are very low resolution. My untrained eye tells me that the hair looks like Wai Phyo’s but the gait is consistent with Nomsod.

In my opinion, the Thai police and local mafia are only releasing those images that support their case and I would not be at all surprised if they have supressed or destroyed CCTV footage that would implicate any Thais.

Based on that opinion, I would not be surprised if it transpired that Running Man is Wai Phyo. In my opinion if Running Man was Nomsod the images would probably have been destroyed. However, I also think that the absence of footage showing Zaw Lin near the location of the bodies at the material time indicates that he had no direct knowledge of the murders.

This is a submission that a lawyer dedicated solely to Zaw Lin’s defence could have made. However, a lawyer acting for both defendants would find himself with a conflict of interest, which as previously mentioned, is a situation lawyers in the West strive to avoid.

Defendants’ Unusual Behaviour in Prison

There are several Westerners who were fellow prisoners in the Samui Prison with Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin and who were released as part of a large amnesty granted by the new King, Rama X. They report that, unlike other prisoners who would discuss their respective cases, the defendants did not discuss the events of 14/15 September 2014 with fellow prisoners. One obvious explanation is that they might have followed the advice of their lawyers to keep silent and another explanation is that the Thai police and/or some Thai thugs might have intimidated them. It should be noted that there would have been a brief period after being charged when the defendants had no lawyers.

More importantly, since his conviction and transfer to Bangkwang Central Prison, Zaw Lin has told several supporters that he and Wai Phyo have never discussed the mobile phone that Wai Phyo said he found.

These snippets of information are not conclusive of anything but it is open to draw the inference that the defendants have been prevailed upon to remain silent.

Is It Possible The Convictions Might Be Quashed Or A Retrial Ordered?

Unfortunately, I do not know enough about the Thai legal system to offer much insight.

If the Supreme Court agrees that the police DNA evidence should not have been accepted then the initial judgment should be set aside but I do not know what would be likely to happen after that.

The Thai defence team might have had their reasons for not calling the DNA expert, Jane Taupin to give evidence (ie keep the case as simple as possible and concentrate on the absence of the defendants’ DNA on the hoe) but, with respect, on reflection they might now feel that their decision backfired.

The Thai defence team also elected to refrain from cross-examining prosecution witnesses who presented the police DNA evidence. This is consistent with Thai culture of avoiding conflict however, with respect, the team might now consider that the avoidance of conflict in this situation was conducted at the defendants’ peril.

Given that Zaw Lin did not have independent counsel there might be further reason to respectfully suggest that he, at least, did not receive a fair trial without a more robust defence dedicated to his interests.

Source: Ian Yarwood, June 2017. Mr. Yarwood is a barrister and a solicitor in Perth, Australia. He can be contacted at: @IanYarwood_Law.

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Alabama Enacts New Law to Speed Death Penalty Appeals

The Alabama Senate gave final passage on May 18th to the "Fair Justice Act" (Senate bill 187), a measure designed to speed up state appeals in death penalty cases, and on May 26th, Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law.

That was also the day that Alabama carried out its long-delayed execution of Tommy Arthur, a 75-year-old inmate who had been convicted of a murder committed in 1982. Over the last 16 years, his execution had been scheduled on seven different dates, but each time was postponed by a series of legal appeals. The widely-publicized case highlighted how inmates in the state sometimes can remain on death row for decades.

The new bill, which will cover sentencing from July 1, sets new deadlines for filing appeals under state law, as well as how long state courts can take in deciding on those appeals. It would, for capital cases, amend Alabama's Rule 32 on post-conviction appeals based on trial defects, such as jury misconduct or ineffective assistance of counsel, by requiring that such appeals be brought at the same time as any other appeals the defendant may make.

Without this change, inmates facing death sentences can wait up to a full year after a direct appeal of their conviction before filing a Rule 32 appeal and beginning what can be a lengthy appeals process. The new law affects only appeals based on state law, so does not have any effect on appeals based on federal legal or constitutional claims.

State Attorney General Steve Marshall, a supporter of the bill, said it will allow death penalty appeals to "proceed in a fair and efficient manner," providing justice to all parties and avoiding prolonging the suffering of victims' families. He estimates the new state law could bring an average 5 to 6-year reduction in the time it takes the state to carry out death sentences, which would save the state more than $100,000 in total incarceration costs per condemned inmate. As of mid-June, Alabama had 182 inmates with death penalty convictions.

Marshall also claims that even with the sped-up timeline for appeals, the new law will not reduce inmates' opportunities for appeal, and will bring them better legal representation by requiring that they be appointed counsel for Rule 32 post-conviction appeals within 30 days of receiving a death sentence.

But opponents of the measure, including the American Bar Association, disagree. ABA president Linda A. Klein wrote legislators saying the bill would be "unlikely to achieve its intended goal of streamlining justice," since it might "unduly limit counsel's ability" to investigate potential issues for post-conviction appeals. Although the group takes no position on the death penalty itself, the ABA said the Alabama law runs counter to guidelines it has adopted for how appeals for such cases, including post-conviction appeals, should be handled.

Streamlining appeals procedures is not the only capital case topic on which Alabama has legislated recently. In April, Gov. Ivey signed into law a bill passed by wide margins in the legislature to end the state's unique law allowing judges to impose the death penalty even when a jury has recommended life imprisonment instead.

Source: Huffington Post, Christopher Zoukis, June 26, 2017. Mr. Zoukis is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons, College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014) and Prison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016)

Alabama Supreme Court Rejects Death Penalty Appeal

Alabama Supreme Court turns down death penalty appeal of man convicted of killing his girlfriend's toddler son.

The Alabama Supreme Court won't reconsider the sentence of a death row inmate who argued a judge had too much power in handing down the death penalty.

Justices on Friday turned down the appeal from Ronnie Lynn Kirksey, who was sentenced to death in 2010 after being convicted of killing his girlfriend's 23-month-old son.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 ordered a review of Kirksey's sentence after that court struck down Florida's similar death penalty sentencing statute.

Kirksey argued his sentence was also unconstitutional because the jury, which suggested a death sentence, was told its decision was merely a recommendation.

The Court of Criminal Appeals upheld his sentence. Judges said there are key differences that make Alabama's statute constitutional. The state Supreme Court rejected his latest appeal with 1 dissent.

Source: Associated Press, June 26, 2017

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90-year-old triple murderer, reportedly Japan's oldest on death row, dies of suffocation

TOKYO - A 90-year-old triple murderer, reportedly Japan's oldest death row prisoner, has died from suffocation at a prison in Fukuoka Prefecture, the government said Monday.

Takeshige Hamada was convicted of killing three people in the prefecture for insurance money over a two-year period from 1978.

According to the government, he was not breathing when found lying on the floor of his cell around 12:50 a.m., and showed signs of vomiting.

He was taken to hospital but pronounced dead around 2 a.m.

Accused 'black widow' serial killer claims innocence

A 70-year-old woman, dubbed the "black widow" after she was accused of murdering her husband and common law partners with cyanide, claimed her innocence Monday at the first hearing of her trial at the Kyoto District Court.

"I entirely entrust the matter to my lawyers," Chisako Kakehi told the court. The defense team denied the charges of murder and attempted murder-robbery involving four elderly men, adding that she is currently suffering from dementia and cannot defend herself.

Prosecutors aim to use circumstantial evidence to prove Kakehi's guilty amid a dearth of physical evidence and more than 50 people are expected to be summoned as witnesses during the trial, which is likely to last until Nov 7.

Kakehi admitted during investigations to having used cyanide capsules to poison the four victims, but her defense team later withdrew the admission in order that she could plead not guilty.

More than 10 men romantically involved with or associated with Kakehi are known to have died, enabling her to inherit an estimated 1 billion yen ($8.98 million) in total, investigative sources said.

According to the indictment, Kakehi murdered her 75-year-old husband Isao as well as common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75, and tried to kill acquaintance Toshiaki Suehiro, 79, by having them drink cyanide between 2007 and 2013.

At the hearing presided by Judge Ayako Nakagawa, prosecutors claimed that she committed the crimes for the purpose of inheriting the victims' wealth, saying she had once called a business to open a victim's coffin the day after his death.

"The victims in the four cases are all elderly men and died from potassium cyanide poisoning. Their conditions and cause of deaths are so similar," the prosecutors said.

The prosecutors did not clarify how she obtained the cyanide.

Kakehi was first arrested in November 2014 and indicted the following month on a charge of killing Isao, who died at the couple's home in Muko, Kyoto Prefecture, in December 2013. They had married the previous month. She was later indicated in connection with the deaths of the three other men.

Kakehi, a native of Fukuoka Prefecture, married first at the age of 24 and launched a fabric printing factory in Osaka Prefecture with her first husband. But following his death in around 1994, the factory went bankrupt and her house was put up for auction forcing her to tearfully ask neighbors for a loan.

She later registered with a matchmaking service, specifically asking to meet wealthy men with an annual income of more than 10 million yen.

Despite her assets being worth over 1 billion yen, she later ended up in debt following her attempts to speculate in stocks and futures trading.

Major points of contention in the trial are whether the victims' deaths were caused by ingesting a cyanide compound, the credibility of Kakehi's confession, and whether she was mentally competent to be held responsible for her suspected crimes.

"Since she is suffering from dementia, she barely remembers things that happened recently let alone the incidents," her defense team said at the hearing, adding that it will fight all charges against her.

Kakehi listened to the proceedings with headphones apparently due to hearing difficulties.

The case is set to be the second longest trial held under the lay judge system involving citizen judges, lasting for an expected 135 days.

More than 600 people lined up on the morning of the first day to get a ticket to observe the high-profile trial.

Man gets life in prison for murdering mistress, baby

A court sentenced a 48-year-old man to life in prison Monday for murdering his mistress and their baby boy born outside of marriage in Fukuoka Prefecture in 2004.

In handing down the sentence as sought by prosecutors, the Fukuoka District Court said that Kazuhiko Yoshidomi stabbed Katsumi Shiga, 28, and strangled their son Kazuto, about seven months old, describing the crime as "brutal with no room for sympathy."

Yoshidomi, who was already married to another woman, "took the two precious lives including the baby in a grave case" as he was angry at being blamed by Shiga for not marrying her while living together, Presiding Judge Akira Maruta said.

In the trial by three professional judges and six citizen judges, Yoshidomi's defense team had sought 13 to 15 years in prison, saying the defendant admits to the charges and repents for what he has done.

According to the ruling, Yoshidomi stabbed Shiga in the chest with a knife and strangled Kazuto with a cord at their apartment in Kurume around December 2004.

Source: Japan Today, June 26/27, 2017

A look at life on death row in Japan

Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center
Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center
TOKYO -- From 1967 to 1994, novelist and nonfiction author Toshio Sakamoto worked as a guard, supervisor and warden in seven of Japan's penal institutions. Since retiring, he has served as an advisor to TV dramas and film makers, and recently published a book titled "Order to Proceed with an Execution" (Nihon Bungeisha).

In Shukan Taishu (June 9), Sakamoto talks about what an average day is like for a condemned prisoner on Japan's death row. The article was inspired in part by the release last March 27 of 78-year-old convicted killer Iwao Hakamada, who had been incarcerated for 48 years -- the last 34 of which had been spent after his having exhausted all appeals. Hakamada was released after the Shizuoka District Court ordered a retrial on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct -- a rare but not unprecedented event in Japan.

"While serving as a Ministry of Justice official from 1979 to 1984, I was engaged in a study of conditions for dealing with death row convicts, and met with Mr Hakamada on numerous occasions," says Sakamoto. "Likewise from autumn of 1988, when I served as warden.

"My first impression upon meeting him was that he was a 'good kid.' He seemed determined to prove his innocence and I had doubts that he was the type of person who could have slain a family of four."

Japan currently [as of June 1, 2014] has 130 prisoners awaiting the Minister of Justice's signoff for their execution. They are incarcerated at seven prisons: Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka, with about half the total in Tokyo's Kosuge Prison.

Shukan Taishu provides an illustration of a typical prisoner's solitary cell, which measures slightly less than 4 tatami mats (about 6 square meters), and includes a sink, commode, bedding and a small desk. Prisoners are entitled to a limited number of personal possessions, including items of food they can purchase on their own.

"It might seem like a paradox, but we have to ensure the physical and mental health of death row prisoners, up to the time they are executed," says Sakamoto. "To prevent attempts at suicide, self injury or escape, they are subjected to round-the-clock monitoring by a camera on the ceiling of each cell."

From the time they arise at 7 a.m. until lights go out at 9 p.m., prisoners are obliged to adhere to a rigid schedule that includes three daily meals and morning and evening cell inspections.

Thirty minutes of exercise, such as skipping rope or running in place, is permitted several times a week. The prisoners bathe twice a week (increased to three times during the summer months), with the total allotted time, including shaving, limited to 15 minutes.

"While in their cells they are required to remain seated, and free movement is not allowed," says Sakamoto. "Conversation with prisoners in adjacent cells is strictly prohibited.

"While they can't perform labor in the prison workshop, they can, upon request, seek permission to perform contracted light jobs while seated in their cells, like pasting together department store shopping bags, which might earn them a few thousand yen a month."

Sakamoto says performing work is beneficial in taking their minds off their impending executions, and has a "stabilizing" effect.

"In Kosuge there's nothing for them to see out their window except the corridor. They're not permitted to speak to anyone, and about the only day-to-day variations they encounter are differences in the contents of their meals," he notes.

The length of incarceration before an execution is carried out can be as brief as one to two years, but the average runs from 7 to 8 years. In cases like Hakamada's, where questions were raised over his guilty verdict, some prisoners may spend 30 years or longer on death row.

Sakamoto notes that many new prison guards undergo "culture shock" at the beginning of their careers, and sometimes endure psychological torment at the inflexible rules they are required to enforce. He is also struck by the fact that in Japan, as other countries with the death penalty, such sentences are far more likely to fall upon those who lack power, influence and the economic means to mount a solid legal defense. "The difference is evident to anyone," he remarks.

Source: Japan Today, June 1, 2014

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UN Chief Calls for Preventive Measures, Treatment to Address Global Drug Problem

António Guterres
António Guterres
Jakarta. United Nations secretary general António Guterres urged the international community on Monday (26/06) to adopt an approach based on prevention and treatment to address drug abuse and drug trafficking.

In a statement coinciding with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, observed on June 26 every year, Guterres cited his experience as prime minister of Portugal and said allocating more resources to prevention, treatment and social reintegration programs contributed to a reduction in drug-related deaths and overall drug use rates in the country.

"I know from personal experience how an approach based on prevention and treatment can yield positive results [...] [I] hope this experience will contribute to the discussion and encourage member states to continue exploring comprehensive and evidence-based solutions," Guterres said in the statement.

The UN General Assembly decided in 1987 to observe this day as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to create an international society free of drug abuse.

A report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) last Thursday revealed that a quarter of a billion people used drugs in 2015.

Three decades after the UN's declaration to address drug abuse, 29.5 million people are engaged in problematic use and suffer from drug-related disorders.

The 2017 World Drug Report also said the spectrum of substances available on the drug market has considerably expanded, with the number of new psychoactive substances having nearly doubled to 483 in 2015 from 260 in 2012.

Furthermore, the report highlights that access and availability to scientific, evidence-based intervention for treatment of drug use disorders is still limited in many countries. UNODC recommends integration within existing health-care systems in countries, to ensure the implementation of effective interventions and preventive measures.

The international community set a milestone in April 2016 when it declared a commitment and plan of action to counter the global drug problem – to be achieved by 2019. Despite the progress, the 2017 report reveals the extent to which recent trends pose new challenges to the eradication of the problem of drug use and trade.

UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov acknowledged that much more needs to be done to combat drug-related issues.

"There is much work to be done to confront the many harms inflicted by drugs to health, development, peace and security in all regions of the world," he said in the statement.

Listen First

The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking adopts a theme to mark the event every year. This year's theme builds on a campaign established last year, called "Listen First."

The initiative focuses on increasing support for preventive measures based on science, with the idea that an effective investment relies on firstly listening to children and the youth as part of an effort to ensure their present and future wellbeing, which translates into the wellbeing of families and communities.

Spearheaded by the French and Swedish governments, along with the World Health Organization and UNODC, the campaign targets parents, teachers, policy makers and health and prevention workers by highlighting the skills needed to recognize and prevent risky behavior and drug use.

"Despite the risks and challenges inherent in tackling this global problem, I hope and believe we are on the right path, and that together we can implement a coordinated, balanced and comprehensive approach that leads to sustainable solutions," Guterres said.

Source: The Jakarta Globe, June 27, 2017

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Six Nazi spies were executed in D.C. White supremacists gave them a memorial - on federal land.

Nazi spies memorial stone Washington DC
A team of power company workers was trudging through a seldom-visited thicket in Southwest Washington when they spotted something odd in a ditch.

Protruding from the grass was a rectangular slab of granite.

They looked closer, and an inscription on the surface came into focus. What they saw astonished them.

It was a memorial. In honor of Nazi spies. On U.S. government property.

"In memory of agents of the German Abwehr," the engraving began, "executed August 8, 1942."

Below that were 6 names, and below those was another cryptic line: "Donated by the N.S.W.P.P."

News of the unsettling discovery soon reached Jim Rosenstock, who worked in resource management for the National Park Service and also happened to be a local history buff. He was curious, but also skeptical. How could someone have planted such an item there? And why? And - above all - who?

Rosenstock needed to see it for himself, so he, too, made the hike into Blue Plains, a woody area known best for a wastewater treatment plant and an abundance of mosquitoes. And that's when he saw the stone.

"I kind of started doing a little bit of my own research," Rosenstock recalled of that day in 2006 when he began to help unravel an only-in-Washington mystery, complete with World War II espionage, nationwide panic, a mass electrocution, J. Edgar Hoover chicanery, white supremacists, classic federal bureaucracy and a U.S. Supreme Court case that played a significant role in America's modern war on terror.

For decades, very few people in Washington, or elsewhere, knew of the stone's existence. It wasn't a secret so much as something that just never got out - remarkable in a town famous for its leaks.

Only when a former Park Police detective mentioned it in passing to a Washington Post reporter, then provided photographic evidence, did anyone ask the Park Service about it.

A spokeswoman referred the Post to the now-retired Rosenstock, because perhaps no one has thought more about the 31-by-26-by-8-inch object than he has.

At the start of World War II, Rosenstock discovered when he began his research, Adolf Hitler had been determined to show the world just how susceptible America was to a Nazi attack, so he ordered his military to devise a plan.

The high command, according to a 2002 Post story, recruited 8 Germans for the mission. In teams of 4, the men were loaded onto a pair of U-boats, 1 destined for Jacksonville, Fla., and the other for a beach near the tip of Long Island.

On June 13, 1942, the New York group reached shore - and was almost immediately discovered by an unarmed Coast Guards member on foot patrol. The men escaped, but by morning, the Coast Guard had unearthed the Germans' buried supplies: fuses, pre-made bombs and 4 crates of TNT. That wouldn't have mattered to their leader, George John Dasch, who hadn't intended to wreak devastation on Hitler's behalf anyway. When the group reached New York City, he and a comrade decided to turn the others in, so Dasch phoned the FBI.

4 days later, he took the $82,000 he'd been given for the operation - more than $1 million in today's money - and boarded a train for Washington. There, he met with FBI agents, whom he expected to welcome him as a hero.

They didn't.

J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous head of the bureau, recognized an opportunity. In late June, with all 8 men caught, Hoover announced their capture in New York - and claimed credit for his agency.

He made no mention of Dasch.

"The country went wild," Francis Biddle, then attorney general, later wrote in a memoir.

Hundreds of German aliens were rounded up and others, suspected of spying, were arrested. The Justice Department banned German and Italian barbers, servers and busboys from Washington's hotels and restaurants because 3 of the would-be saboteurs had worked as waiters in America.

Ignoring due process, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered that the men be tried in secret before a military commission - a tactic, then backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, that President George W. Bush would replicate 59 years later in his directive that Guantanamo Bay detainees be judged in a similar fashion.

In mid-summer 1942, 7 U.S. Army generals found all 8 men guilty but left their punishment to the president. He sentenced 6 to death and 2, including Dasch, to lengthy prison terms (both were deported after the war).

The electrocutions began at 12:01 p.m. on Aug. 8. By 1:04, all 6 were dead.

American Nazi Party members
3 days later, they were secretly buried amid a seldom-visited thicket of Southwest Washington known as Blue Plains.

Rosenstock quickly learned the backstory of the 6 Nazi spies listed on the stone, but another question remained: Who had placed it there?

The line at the bottom - referencing the "N.S.W.P.P." - offered a clue.

Until the mid-1960s, the National Socialist White People's Party had gone by a more familiar name: the American Nazi Party. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group's founder, George Lincoln Rockwell, had given it the new title shortly before his assassination in 1967.

By the 1970s, though, the group had begun to split apart and had lost much of its relevance, leading Rosenstock to believe the Nazi memorial dates back to that time.

The party didn't entirely cease to exist until 1983, the law center said, so the stone may had been carved more recently - though that still means it likely sat on Park Service land for more than 2 decades before the power company's discovery.

For Rosenstock and his colleagues, the memorial presented a conundrum. It was deplorable, and certainly not something that belonged on public property, but none of their handbooks suggested how to deal with a 200-plus pound monument to Nazis installed on public land by white supremacists.

Plus, the Park Service couldn't do anything until they were sure it hadn't been placed atop someone's bones.

What if, they wondered, the Nazis were buried beneath it?

The Park Service scoured World War II-era records for details on their bodies, but researchers could find nothing that provided a definitive answer. Old maps showed conflicting spots, including 1 beneath a building.

"The location is a little bit confusing," he said, "and I think deliberately so."

Rosenstock suspected that whoever disposed of the spies' bodies didn't want them found.

What he did learn, though, is that no one was buried beneath the stone because a creek had run through that area in the 1940s.

Still, the Park Service hadn't decided what should be done.

"It was an illegal monument," Rosenstock said. "And we certainly did not want to be hosting a site for midnight rituals on Hitler's birthday."

That was a legitimate concern. Rosenstock once found deer bones arranged atop the memorial. Others had found candles around it and noticed that it was regularly cleaned.

"At least 1 fellow in the Park Service suggested breaking it up with sledge hammers and throwing it in the river," he recalled. "It's not the argument that historic preservationists make."

The memorial remained intact.

In 2010, under the direction of a museum curator, a forklift exhumed the granite block and lowered it into a truck.

The stone, tagged OXCO-475, now spends its days beneath a protective blanket on a shelf at a storage facility in suburban Maryland. Park Service staff asked that The Post be no more specific than that because, though they didn't mind its long-unknown story being told, they'd prefer that its exact location remain a secret.

Source: The Washington Post, John Woodrow Cox, June 23, 2017

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