Christopher Valen's Blog (45)

Ten Notable Crimes In 2010

The notable crime stories of 2010 include foreign and American-born terrorists, collegiate and professional athletes, a college professor, the disturbing and ever-increasing problem of bullying, and the satisfying arrest of the man long suspected of having committed a similar murder. I’ve limited my selections to those crimes that actually occurred in 2010, but as always, there are far more notable crimes than there is space to list them.

 

On January 14, 15-year-old Phoebe…

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Added by Christopher Valen on December 18, 2010 at 1:14am — No Comments

Cover-Up at Guantánamo

Late in the evening on June 9, 2006, three prisoners at Guantánamo Bay reportedly committed suicide. A fascinating article written by Scott Horton that will appear in the March 2009 edition of Harper’s Magazine, questions the government’s account of what actually occurred that night, and has the makings of a blockbuster Hollywood movie similar to “A Few Good Men.”



According to Horton, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which has primary investigative jurisdiction within… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on February 3, 2010 at 8:08am — No Comments

Officer Down

140 police officers in the United States died in the line of duty in 2008, a 14% decrease from 2007 when 181 officers died, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The 181 deaths in 2007 temporarily reversed a downward trend that had begun in 1980 when a record 205 officers died in the line of duty. Law enforcement officials attribute the decrease to better training, bulletproof vests and the use of tasers. But better training and equipment has not prevented a 20% jump… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on September 10, 2009 at 12:48am — 5 Comments

CSI Myths

The use of forensics in television dramas has created a legal phenomenon known as the “CSI effect.” Jurors today often view forensics as gospel based on what they see on their favorite shows. The August issue of Popular Mechanics magazine attempts to dispel some myths in a cover story entitled, “The Truth About Forensics”.



In real life, many forensic labs are understaffed and have a huge backlog of requests for services. Some state and city forensic departments have mishandled… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on August 10, 2009 at 8:31am — No Comments

Sick Child or Sick Parent

When a child is very sick, most parents never hesitate to take the child to a doctor for treatment. But what if your 13-year-old Daniel Hauser, who is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and your mother decides, based on her religious beliefs, that alternative medicines would be better than chemotherapy for treating your life threatening condition?



Fortunately for Daniel Hauser, a Minnesota judge saw the issue differently. He ruled that Daniel was "medically neglected" and… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on May 23, 2009 at 10:00am — No Comments

Snipers

While writing my latest police procedural, “The Black Minute”, which will be released in September, I did quite a bit of research on snipers. I recalled some of that research after hearing the remarkable account of the three Navy Seal snipers who simultaneously fired three shots, killing the three pirates who were holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage off the coast of Somalia.



Probably the most famous sniper in United States history was Carlos Hathcock. During the Vietnam War… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on April 15, 2009 at 12:59am — No Comments

Throw-Down Guns

You’ve seen it in the movies and on television; you’ve read about it in numerous crime novels. A cop mistakenly kills a suspect he or she thought was armed. It’s a cop’s worse nightmare. Then, to cover their mistake, the cop plants a throw-down gun on or near the suspect.



In a case of life imitating art, Officer Jason Andersen, a Minneapolis police officer, is facing a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that he deliberately planted a gun on 19 year-old Fong Lee after fatally shooting… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on April 4, 2009 at 4:20am — 2 Comments

Cold Case Cards

In April 2003 the Pentagon created decks of playing cards featuring wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle. The Pentagon gave the cards to soldiers and we often saw the cards displayed on television, particularly after one of the wanted men were captured or killed.



Two years later, a state law officer in Polk County, Florida made his own deck of cards, each bearing information about a different local criminal case that had gone cold. He distributed the decks in the Polk… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on March 23, 2009 at 3:25am — 1 Comment

In The Electric Mist

I’ve been a James Lee Burke fan for a number of years and always look forward to his next novel. Two of his books, “Heaven’s Prisoners” and “In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead”, have been made into movies. Heaven’s Prisoners, released in 1996, starred Alec Baldwin as Dave Robicheaux and featured a terrific supporting cast including Kelly Lynch, Mary Stuart Masterson, Eric Roberts and Teri Hatcher. I really enjoyed the movie and especially Baldwin’s performance.



So, I was… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on March 14, 2009 at 9:48am — 6 Comments

Unusual Homicides

Minnesota has been in the national news recently because of two unrelated but atypical deaths. The first involves former professional wrestler, Verne Gagne. Gagne wrestled for the University of Minnesota and was an NCAA champion before he began wrestling professionally in 1949. The Twin Cites soon became the center of professional wrestling thanks to Gagne’s leadership of the American Wrestling Association.



Gagne now resides in a nursing home in Bloomington, Minnesota. He is accused… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on March 3, 2009 at 7:02am — 9 Comments

Three Strikes

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez. Three gifted players thought to be locks for baseball’s Hall of Fame have been accused of taking steroids or performance enhancing drugs.



On Monday, after word leaked out about a 2003 positive test, Rodriguez, the New York Yankees third baseman, admitted that he used steroids for a three-year stretch from 2001-2003. Rodriguez hit 156 home runs during that period, including 57 in 2002, the most he’s ever hit in one… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on February 12, 2009 at 7:06am — 3 Comments

Athletes and Crime

Several months after he was charged with raping a South Carolina woman, former NFL running back David Meggett is in jail again, charged the other day with raping a 21-year-old woman in her North Charleston home. Meggett had been out on bond in connection with another sexual assault charge. Both South Carolina arrests occurred while Meggett was serving out two years probation for a 2006 sexual battery charge in North Carolina.



The running back played for the New York Giants, the New… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on January 17, 2009 at 5:34am — 8 Comments

Favorite Detective Movies

I happened to catch a television rerun the other day of the terrific 1967 movie “In The Heat of the Night” starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. The film won five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Actor (Steiger). Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs, a black Homicide Detective from Philadelphia who becomes involved in a murder investigation in a racist small town in Mississippi. It got me thinking about other outstanding detective movies I’ve seen (as opposed to crime or mystery… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on December 18, 2008 at 9:36am — 4 Comments

Blackwater

Monday’s indictment charging five Blackwater “security guards” with voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of 14 unarmed Baghdad civilians on September 16, 2007, reminded me of investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill’s excellent exposé of Blackwater USA, the private army of mercenaries hired and funded by the U.S. government.



In his 2007 book, Scahill pointed out that during the Gulf War in 1991, only 10% of people deployed in the war zone were private contractors. However, when George… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on December 11, 2008 at 11:00am — No Comments

Top Ten Crime Stories of 2008

While a month still remains before 2008 mercifully comes to an end, I’m offering one blogger’s list of this year’s noteworthy crimes and criminals. The list is chronological and certainly not all-inclusive.



On Jan. 19, 2008, Santa Barbara City College student Brianna Denison disappeared from a friend’s home in Reno, Nevada, while on winter break. Her body was found Feb. 15 in a field in south Reno. James Michael Biela has been arrested for her murder.



On March 5, Eve Marie… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on December 4, 2008 at 12:20am — 2 Comments

Civil Rights

In June of 1958, in the District of Columbia, Mildred Loving, a woman of African and Native American descent, married Richard Loving, a Caucasian. On their return to their home in Virginia, they were charged under Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, which banned marriages between any white person and any non-white person. The Lovings pled guilty and were convicted and sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended for 25 years on condition that the couple leave the state of… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on November 12, 2008 at 11:39am — 1 Comment

An Orwellian World

Our privacy rights are protected in the Fourth Amendment's ban on "unreasonable search and seizure." Any good police detective will tell you how important it is to establish the chain of evidence, and how easily a mistake can get the evidence thrown out of court.



The Communications Act of 1934 expanded and clarified Fourth Amendment rights when it banned recording or intercepting communications without the consent of at least one party. The Federal Wiretap Act of 1968 made electronic… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on October 22, 2008 at 9:56am — No Comments

Drugs and Capitalism

One of the unfortunate consequences of the war in Afghanistan is the near doubling of global opium production in less than two decades. According to the United Nations, opium production had declined by more than 90% under the hard-line rule of the Taliban. Today, UN data estimates that Afghanistan produces over 90% of the global supply of heroin.



Heroin now represents a large share of the global narcotics’ market, estimated to be between $400-500 billion. According to some accounts,… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on October 10, 2008 at 12:57pm — No Comments

Crime Pays

If you asked Americans about the societal costs of crime, most would immediately think of street crimes like burglary and robbery. The FBI estimates that those two crimes alone cost the country $3.8 billion a year. And while the costs are substantial, they absolutely pale in comparison to the costs inflicted on society due to corporate crimes.



Health Care fraud costs taxpayers $100 billion to $400 billion a year. Auto repair fraud costs $40 billion a year, securities fraud, $15… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on September 26, 2008 at 7:47am — 6 Comments

Infanticide

Like the infamous Andrea Yates who drowned her five children in the bathtub in 2001, and Susan Smith who strapped her two toddler sons in a car and then drove it into a lake in 1994, Casey Anthony, the mother of three-year-old Caylee Anthony of Orlando, Florida, may soon join the list of American women who kill their children.



Data suggests that at least once every three days, somewhere in America, a mother kills her children. Postpartum psychosis, impulse killings brought on by rage… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on September 10, 2008 at 1:07am — No Comments

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