Tuesday, March 18, 2014

USA Today exposes major problems with extradition among states, allowing criminals to go free; perhaps significant for Alexandria and even 2008 Prince Georges County murder cases

Brad Heath has a major story in US Today on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, “The Ones that Got Away: 186,000 Fugitives Escape by Crossing State Lines” with a subtitle “More than 3300 accused of sexual assaults, robberies, and even murder aren’t pursued”, with main link here.  The report appeared on the first several pages of the print version of the Gannett paper Wednesday.  It was divided into six chapters as if it were intended to be published and sold as a book or at least made available on Kindle.  I seriously considered placing this post on the “book review” blog. 
The basic reason that this happens is that extradition even among states is time consuming and costly.  Prosecutors often hope that another jurisdiction will pick up the cost.  They are unwilling to chase if there is any question that they can convict, for political reasons.  They say the whole process needs major reforms from Congress, and this would sound like a bipartisan issue. 
One city among the worst hit by the extradition crisis is Philadelphia, which sometimes doesn’t chase fugitives living across the river in Camden NJ.  That would not have been funny for me, as at one time I worked in Cherry Hill (on my first job with RCA) and lived not so far away, up the Turnpike near Hightstown and Cranbury.
Extradition among states usually requires approval of both governors involved and special hearings, a cumbersome process.   In the Washington DC area, cooperation among the District, Virginia and Maryland seems better than it is among other states. The legal idea of "state sovereignty" in our federal system seems to be a stumbling block, just as it is for elections -- although it isn't for other laws (like drinking age), it seems. 

The extradition “crisis” will come into play in the recent arrest on a weapons charge of Charles Severance in Wheeling W Va (near the Ohio line) at a public library on Thursday afternoon.  He had left northern VA Sunday March 9, and stated in Wheeling Wednesday night at a motel.  He is apparently wanted by Loudoun County authorities on charges relating to a felon possessing a weapon.  He was apparently in the library to use the “it’s free” Internet access.  Prosecutors might have difficulty holding him forever or getting extradition unless Alexandria police can find enough hard evidence to charge him with any of the three execution-style murders in that city on Dec. 5, 2003, Nov. 11, 2013 and Feb. 6, 1014. Matt Zapotosky and Rachel Weiner have a detailed story in the Washington Post today here.  The media has noted that Severance's pro bono laywers will fight extradition, which will take 45-60 days under the best circumstances.  
There has been some attention to Severance’s website, which apparently is this. Note that it is possible that it might not be available indefinitely if he is indeed prosecuted.  It seems to be a card or board game for simulating or diagnosing mental illnesses. He uses the word “Lunticks”.   It seems to provide a crude resemblance to the real world game playing at NIH during my stay in the fall of 1962, as I have written about here before. 

There does not appear to be a connection between Alexandria and two baffling murders of defense workers in Prince Georges County MD (Kanika Powell and Sean Green) in late 2008, reported in the Washington Post at the time by Aaron C. Davis.   There is a lot of “conspiracy theory” material about these two cases on the Internet.  If you read the stories carefully, the details are perplexing and sometimes contradictory (how many different people actually came to Powell’s apartment?)  Recently there has been some attention to bizarre clues that may have been left in social media in the later summer of 2008, especially Myspace and some nonsensical blogs, as well as to the contents of some of her emails.  Mining social media (archives of companies for material taken down) can provide new clues to cases that seem to go cold, and provides some counterweight in the debate over surveillance and the NSA.

In sum, the extradition issue pointed out by Gannett newspapers is serious.  It is a major homeland security issue.  

(Related: "BillBoushka" blog, March 9, 2014, link to "Behind the Blue Wall" blog.)  

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