Monthly Archives: November 2011

Tire Slasher Convicts Himself – News – The Austin Chronicle

This situation is a prime example of why it is NEVER a good idea to represent yourself if you are accused of a crime.


Tire Slasher Convicts Himself – News – The Austin Chronicle.

Determined to defend himself, the Hyde Park tire slasher gets 10 years


Tommy Joe Kelley

Tommy Joe Kelley

Seventeen long years after the legendary Hyde Park tire slasher first began wreaking his peculiar brand of havoc in Central Austin, it took less than half an hour for a Travis County jury to decide last Wednesday, Nov. 9, that behind the madness was Tommy Joe Kelley, a 56-year-old homeless man with a rap sheet the length of a Russian novel. For citizens of Hyde Park, it was the end of a long neighborhood nightmare that included hundreds of instances of tire-directed criminal mischief, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in damage and an unquantifiable amount of irritation and angst. For Kelley, it was the beginning of a new private nightmare: 10 years in prison, with the very real possibility that more court cases, and more years, could be on the way.

Kelley’s two-day trial – held last week in Judge Julie Kocurek‘s 390th Crim­inal District Court – was, if nothing else, proof of the old saw that a man who defends himself has a fool for a client. Deemed competent to stand trial by a court-appointed psychiatrist following his February arrest, Kelley opted to defend himself, a decision that resulted in several key legal missteps that any first-year trial lawyer might have readily avoided. Kelley’s inexperience turned what should have been a straightforward, winnable case dealing with one count of unlawful use of a criminal instrument and circumstantial evidence (Kelley was spotted by a police officer sharpening a thin, long piece of metal on the ground into a fine point on Dec. 31, 2010) into a sprawling saga about an angry man with a long criminal record and a history of drunken violence, the neighbors he tormented, the police officers he battled nearly every day of his life, and – most damning of all – the Homeric, near-mythic collection of automobile-directed crimes he allegedly perpetrated over the course of almost two decades.

It didn’t have to be that way. At the close of the first day, prosecutors Jason English and Rob Drummond had failed to convince Kocurek to allow the testimony of the case’s lead detective, Eric Hoduski, and Hyde Park Neighborhood Association Tire Slash­er Task Force leader Heather Freeman (testimony the prosecutors said would introduce Kelley’s history of tire assaults, establish a pattern of criminal behavior identical to that of the slasher, and show an uptick in incidents when Kelley was out of jail) on the grounds that it would be speculative, “extremely prejudicial,” and based on hearsay. With that decision, it looked like Kelley had a real chance – that the county’s case was too circumstantial to convince a jury of criminal intent. Things looked so bad for the district attorney’s case, in fact, that Freeman (who had methodically amassed evidence against Kelley for months) admitted to this reporter outside the courtroom, “We’re losing.”

But on the second day, Kelley began presenting his case, and almost immediately the wheels came off. He called several police officers to the stand whose testimony opened the door for the prosecution to talk about his criminal record, his long and hostile history with the Austin Police Department, and the whole legend of the Hyde Park tire slasher, a story that otherwise would have remained unknown to the jury. Then Kelley let HPNA President* Lisa Harris explain to the jury how slashing incidents waned during periods when Kelley was in jail and jumped again when he was free. You could almost feel the noose tightening in the courtroom.

Finally, waiving his constitutional right not to incriminate himself, Kelley withered under cross-examination by English, admitting to having slashed tires in the past, to holding a grudge against APD and the people of Hyde Park, and even to lying on the stand under oath. From there, all the prosecution had to do was take what Kelley had given them and tie it all into a single narrative, stacking up circumstantial evidence until it added up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Kelley wasn’t just a persecuted homeless man with a homemade knife, but the one and only tire slasher.

Drummond persuaded the jury to sentence Kelley to 10 years by saying the defendant had “violated the community and the people he lived among. … He tears at the fabric of this community.” That may have been Kelley’s crime on the streets of Hyde Park, but his sin in the courtroom was summed up best by something Drummond said earlier to a colleague, while the jury was deliberating: “Cross-examinations are usually more suicidal than homicidal.”

Pending any prosecution on the related charges, Kelley has 10 years to think about what might have been.

*Due to an editing error, this passage originally identified HPNA President Lisa Harris incorrectly.

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Jackson’s doctor found guilty of manslaughter – Entertainment – Celebrities –

Jackson’s doctor found guilty of manslaughter – Entertainment – Celebrities – 

Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of singer Michael Jackson on Monday.

The seven-man, five-woman panel had to be unanimous on their decision to either convict or acquit Dr. Conrad Murray of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s June 2009 death. They began deliberating Friday and did not meet over the weekend. Overall they deliberated for about nine hours.

After hearing the news that a decision had been reached, Jackson’s sister La Toya tweeted “Verdict is FINALLY IN!!! I’m on my way! I’m shaking uncontrollably!”

Jackson died from a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol; Murray has acknowledged giving Jackson propofol to help him sleep.

During closing arguments of the six-week trial, attorneys for the Houston-based cardiologist attacked prosecutors and their witnesses, saying they had over time developed stories and theories that placed the blame for Jackson’s death squarely on Murray.

Prosecutors countered that Murray was an opportunistic and inept doctor who left Jackson’s three children without a father. They said that Murray giving Jackson propofol as a sleep aid violated standards of care and amounted to a secret experiment in which the doctor kept no records.

Jurors heard from 49 witnesses and had more than 300 pieces of evidence to consider. They were given lengthy instructions by the judge about how to deliberate.

Murray faces a sentence ranging from probation to four years behind bars, and he would lose his medical license. The sentence will be decided by Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor after receiving input from attorneys for both sides and probation officials, if necessary.

A recent change in California law means that Murray, 58, might serve time in a county jail rather than a state prison. A prison term could be shortened by overcrowding.

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Lohan sentenced to 30 days, won’t serve it all – Entertainment – Celebrities –









Lohan sentenced to 30 days, won’t serve it all – Entertainment – Celebrities –

Oh celebrity justice strikes again . . .

A judge on Wednesday sentenced Lindsay Lohan to serve 30 days in jail for a probation violation, but due to jail overcrowding, she will only serve a portion of that time. is reporting the actress will serve just six days of the sentence due to California’s jail overcrowding issues. She cannot serve those six days under house arrest or electronic monitoring.

Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner sentenced the actress for violating the terms of her release by being terminated from a community service assignment at a women’s shelter.

The actress acknowledged she violated her probation.Sautner imposed a complicated sentence on the actress, telling her that she will now have to perform all of her community service at the county morgue or risk serving an additional 270 days in jail.

“The sentence I’m going to impose is known in our circles as putting the keys to the jail in the defendant’s hands,” the judge said.

The judge also ordered Lohan to continue undergoing counseling sessions and kept the actress on a short leash. The judge told Lohan she must report back to court in December, January, February and March for updates.

Lohan’s Twitter habit was also mentioned by the judge, who said that the morgue staff “seemed to have issues with you tweeting.” Sautner did not prohibit Lohan from using Twitter but suggested she not tweet about her morgue work, adding “I ordered them not to hold press conferences [about Lohan].”

Lohan will also get a new probation officer, characterized as “no nonsense” by Sautner, and Sautner said she has ordered the new officer to report any violations directly to the court. If Lohan fails to comply with the new sentence, Sautner said she would immediately send the actress to jail for the remaining 270 days of her sentence.

It will Lohan’s fifth jail sentence since being arrested twice for drunken driving in 2007. The 25-year-old last served 35 days on house arrest on a four month jail sentence.

Sautner revoked Lohan’s probation at a hearing nearly two weeks ago.

The “Mean Girls” star has been reporting to the Los Angeles morgue regularly, which Sautner ordered her to do at the last court appearance on Oct. 19. The judge had sentenced Lohan to serve 120 hours doing janitorial work at coroner’s office in April, but expressed hope that the actress would benefit from working three times that amount of hours at a women’s shelter.

Lohan was terminated from the shelter program after failing to show up nine times at the center. She told her probation officer the assignment was not fulfilling, according to the actress’ probation report.

The actress’ morgue service has not been without drama — she was turned away the first day after showing up 40 minutes late. She has shown up early several times since then. Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter declined to characterize how Lohan’s service was progressing Tuesday.

The former Disney star has been sent to jail, rehab, counseling and community service numerous times since being arrested twice for drunken driving in 2007. Her probation on that case is nearly over, but her release remains supervised after Lohan in May pleaded no contest to misdemeanor theft for taking a $2,500 necklace without permission in January.

Once a headlining actress, Lohan’s court and personal troubles have overshadowed her career for years.

© 2011 MSNBC Interactive