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Friday, September 28, 2012

Camille...a True Crime Hottie????!!!

Burl Barer is a scary outlaw who wields a wicked...keyboard.  An acclaimed writer whose life veers dizzyingly between fiction and non-fiction, mashing the two together with his use of real and non-real names in the opposite genres like literary bumper cars, Burl has dared me to come on his radio show!

Burl Barer, ImaginePublicity

Let's hope I can hold my own as I am now officially designated a True Crime Hottie!  Holy smokes, did I just say that? I promise, I'm just quoting Burl! My debut is tomorrow (Sat. Sep 29th, 2012) at 2 pm Pacific, 5 pm Eastern.  Here's the link with the details...and the spot to listen in. http://outlawcrime.com/

Burl and I are officially colleagues by both appearing in the true crime anthology Masters of True Crime. 

I've read Burl's story in this collection. His is #7, The Alaska Mail-Bomb conspiracy. Boy, can this guy write. I dare you to read the first paragraph (his story starts on page 97) and not be hooked.

You might be so in the mood for true crime by the time he's done with you, you'll just be swept along into reading story #8, The Trophy Wife, right after. **darts eyes around slyly**   Hey, Burl, does that make you my opening act?!

I can't believe I said that, either!  Burl just brings out the ornery in me. See, I can't match the guy in wit, I'm gettin' all jittery, what to do???!!!

In all seriousness, I am very honored to be included in the same collection as this very fine and highly accomplished writer. I am thrilled that he has invited me on his show. And I'm definitely quaking at the knees to face him on the radio!

Will he ask me about the no-body case that I wrote about in Masters of True Crime? 

 Or will he hit me up on the trial I'm currently attending (also a no-body case--see posts on #ElizabethJohnson #BabyGabriel)? 

Or will he take me down the trail of Hollywood, screenplays, and the nitty-gritty of Writing For a Living?

Hey, why not download a kindle copy of Masters of True Crime and have questions ready for us?


Hope to hear from you...on Outlaw Crime Radio!

For your convenience, a sampling of other books by Burl Barer. Click to buy:

A Bit More About the Shock Belt - Elizabeth Johnson Case

P.S. Twitter hasn't worked for me all day. If yours is working, feel free to tweet these shock belt posts for me!

Please visit the Bookstore tab above to browse
Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you!

My, how the rumors do fly. The shock belt is commonly worn in Maricopa County (Arizona) courtrooms by defendants, which is why I was looking for it at the beginning of Elizabeth Johnson's Kidnapping trial. But it certainly can vary from case to case, which is why it was not a huge surprise that she was not wearing it.

To be very clear, though, the shock belt is operated by trained professionals from the jail staff, the guards who are charged with her security during the trial. The purpose of the belt is to control the inmate in the case of an attempt at escape or assault. It is never, ever used to "punish" an inmate for crying in court or smiling flirtatiously or coughing or anything else not related to an outright eruption of violence or flight. These are not, after all, the neck rings from the thrall episode of Star Trek, where nuances of behavior are controlled by remotely controlled pain devices.

  • Some belts give the guard the option of avoiding the pain altogether. If an inmate is hiding, the guard can activate an alarm that will shrill out from the the prisoner's waist rather than shock him. This could even be useful in a non-violent emergency, such as a power outage, an earthquake or other natural disaster. I was present in one trial, that of serial killer Dale Hausner, where such a power outage occurred. All went dark. Hausner actually called out his whereabouts so the guard's flashlight beam could find him (so helpful, that Dale **insert sarcasm emoticon here**).  Other inmates might be less ingratiating, and activating an alarm could be very useful.

    I really can't answer for other states, but I can't imagine any American courtroom would permit a judge to hold the controls of an electronic shock belt. Judges, imperfectly or not, are supposed to stay impartial. They are there to protect the rights of the defendant more than any other thing. Our justice system is weighted in that direction. To turn the judge into an instrument of daily physical torture would turn the whole system on its head.  

    The guards, who are charged with keeping everyone safe, including the inmate, are to use the shock belt only in the case of a direct physical threat. The guards have no role in the legal proceedings, such as whether or not Elizabeth Johnson, or any other defendant in custody, can be allowed to cry in front of a jury.

    Defense attorneys are expected to constrain their clients courtroom behavior through advice and instruction. Lawyers can be admonished by judges to become more assertive with their clients if behavior fails to improve.  So the court has other ways of controlling defendant behavior. Physical force is left strictly to the security detail. 

    Our courts can be very confusing and mysterious. I hope this little tidbit helps out some avid trial watchers who are trying to understand what is currently happening on the 6th floor of the new court tower in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. 

    For more on the shock belt, please visit this post 

    Missing court action? Why not spend the time sampling 17 authors with more amazing true stories?


    This prisoner would have loved to have her shock belt removed...get to know her, for just 99 cents!


    Thursday, September 27, 2012

    Elizabeth Johnson's Shock Belt - Or Not?

    Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you!
    An example of an "inmate control" shock belt -- can deliver 50,000 volts
    Trial watchers focused on the #ElizabethJohnson #BabyGabriel case have wondered about the mention of a "shock belt" the defendant may or may not be wearing. I did some scouting around dusty little corners of downtown to find some answers for you.

    I'd like to mention that when I first started attending the trial, I looked for signs of such a belt around Elizabeth Johnson's waist because I rather expected to see one. Under the bulky and shapeless jail stripes, though, it was hard to discern. When she started wearing civvies (after the jury appeared), I could see that she was not. 

    Then a Minute Entry surfaced referencing her wearing or not wearing the belt. People (aka Twittles!) started asking about it.

    As I could see for myself, the court had ordered that Elizabeth Johnson be allowed to attend court without the shock belt. 

    What I discovered during the lunch break is the original Motion to Remove Defendant's Shock Belt filed by defense attorney Marc Victor. 

    In this document, Victor states forcing her to wear the shock belt is "unnecessary, painful, and prejudicial."  He goes on to describe the device, "The shock belt has two metal pieces which dig into Ms. Johnson's back causing her a great deal of pain and discomfort." Using language that deftly distances himself from the veracity of the next statement, he writes: "Undersigned Counsel has been informed that Ms. Johnson suffers from scoliosis, an abnormal curving of the spine, which is irritated by the use of the shock belt."

    He has another reason for having it removed: "...the shock belt is difficult to conceal and could prejudice the jury by allowing them to realize she is in custody." 

    Victor offers the court the alternative of having the Sheriff's office increase the presence of guards. He describes her as "a small girl who could easily be contained in the event of an emergency."

    Sample 17 crime writers...and help support the live tweeting you love!
    What may not be visible to trial watchers using streaming video are the two guards, one near the defense table and one on the far side of the room behind the view of the camera, who are always present when she is. Other guards are also involved in her detail but they are less visible to those of us inside the courtroom. These guards rotate positions. Indeed, in a bit of jail guard humor, these guards have a running "bet" with their colleagues that if any of them end up in TV footage, that person has to bring donuts for the entire rest of the staff.  A too friendly TV camera can make a real dent in a guard's lunch budget!

    In addition to the guards, Elizabeth Johnson is, in fact, wearing a restraining device. It is a leg brace, concealed under her slacks, that "prevents her from walking or running without releasing the brace at each step, effectively stopping any attempts at flight."

    While Marc Victor successfully got her shock belt removed, from what we're seeing at court Elizabeth Johnson does have a history of attempting to look less threatening than she really is. We see that in the texts, the stories to police, the claims to the custody judge, and so on.  Just one day before the shock belt motion was filed, lawyers for the sheriff had to get Judge Kreamer to put in effect a permanent order that Elizabeth Johnson "be transported by any means necessary for trial."  

    Will you do me a favor, my friends? Will you retweet this and/or link to it? This saves me so much time! Twittles often ask the same question and I hate for anyone to go unanswered but do find it impossible to respond to every tweet or message. Thanks for getting the word out for me!

    Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    Reporter's Notebook on Elizabeth Johnson Case

    Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you!

    Quick thoughts and tidbits from the #ElizabethJohnson #BabyGabriel trial....

    In December 2009, young mother Elizabeth Johnson made her baby boy disappear in a cloud of deceit and spite. This isn't really in dispute as her own defense attorney, Marc Victor, told the jury his team accepted most of the evidence against her.

    A good view of the "peekaboo" style shoulder cutaways Elizabeth Johnson wore to court.

    What Victor's strategy is instead is to make jurors question whether her conduct, while distasteful and "unlikeable," actually constitutes the crimes with which she is charged. These crimes are Count 1 Kidnapping, Count 2 Custodial Interference, Count 3 Conspiracy to Commit Custodial Interference.

    It is not known whether baby Gabriel, who would now be 3 years old, is alive or dead. Therefore, no murder charge. Yet.

    But the jury is not allowed to know that Gabriel's "current status" or whereabouts are unknown. They are strictly to decide whether certain incidents --without knowing these incidents resulted in the baby's permanent disappearance-- fit the legal definitions of those three charges.

    When your client is caught on tape saying, "I killed him, yes, I did, I did" and in text you'll never find "his little blue dead body," a defense attorney has few options left.

    Victor has let quite a few witnesses waltz away from the witness stand without a single objection or cross examination.

    I can't get inside his mind but my experience tells me he does this because he feels he cannot win his client any Juror Goodwill points by appearing to badger a grieving father and other sympathetic witnesses. Better to just take the hit and then get them off the stand as quickly as possible.

    But this afternoon, Victor did start cross-examining a tiny bit. When he did, he showed that his strategy is to use their testimony to draw ire and blame away from his client and onto the almost cartoonish character of Tammi Smith, who has already been convicted in a separate trial for the same incidents.

    Victor gets each witness he speaks to to admit, in certain circumstances, that specific actions that served to deprive Logan McQueary of his custody of his baby were performed by Tammi Smith and that the witness had no knowledge of Elizabeth even knowing about that particular action.

    It's a valiant effort. But easily pierced when the prosecutor stands up on re-direct and uses the same witness to re-emphasize seemingly unassailable evidence that Elizabeth did participate in Tammi's scheme.

    Another prong to Victor's strategy is to claim that Elizabeth cannot be guilty of kidnapping or custodial interference because, basically, she was the baby's mother and she can take him wherever she wants. He is disputing that Elizabeth understood that a family court judge had made an "official" order awarding joint custody to both parents.  I put the word in quote marks because a document was introduced this afternoon allegedly in Elizabeth's words, that on December 20th 2009 she did not understand that Logan McQueary's right to take his son for half the week was "an official order." She goes on to say, in this 2009 document, that she is only handing over the baby because Logan is otherwise threatening to "file something official" against her if she doesn't. The document, with signature lines for both young parents, is signed by neither.

    Victor got the witness on the stand, a police detective, to admit he had no evidence that Elizabeth had actually prepared that document, hinting that perhaps Tammi had drawn it up. It's a shame the detective never found the computer upon which this document was written, it would have shored things up a little.

    Nevertheless, Victor's strategy immediately took a hit when the prosecutor responded by re-presenting a forged paternity affidavit claiming complete stranger Craig Cherry was the baby's father with Elizabeth's signature right on it. Elizabeth had to know that she had never so much as met Craig Cherry, let alone shared a child with him. Cherry, by the way, is no stranger to Tammi Smith. He is her cousin and an unwitting pawn in the scheme. He has been cleared of knowing what they were up to.
    Have a taste for trials? Get this book of crime stories from Camille & 16 other authors!  (click to buy)

    Some Twittles who joined me late in the day may have wondered what a video tape of a custody hearing was doing right in the middle of this criminal trial? Well, it was shooting serious blasts at Victor's defense strategy, that's what. Elizabeth is seen in the video clearly stating to the judge that she agrees to joint custody and that she understands and supports the idea that this mean both parents fully participate in all important decisions regarding baby Gabriel. These decisions, the judge lists off, include things like where he goes to school and what religion he'll be raised in. It would be hard to conceive that anyone at that hearing could reasonably conclude the judge was excepting adopting out the baby to brand new parents from that list of things that had to be decided jointly.

    The judge gave the young couple such a vigorous "talking-to" and lecture on what his order meant that Victor will have to be very creative to convince jurors she A) really didn't understand it or B) it wasn't in reality in effect or did not somehow affect her hiding the baby with the Smiths, obfuscating paternity, and taking the baby out of state.

    What Victor may be banking on is the ace up his sleeve, that jurors really don't know where baby Gabriel is right now. Perhaps one or more of them will speculate that the baby is now happily enjoying pre-school fingerpaints and graham cracker snacks while the young father is vindictively pursuing revenge for things that happened in the past. If so, they may be moved to sympathy for the young woman who sobs loudly at the defense table from time to time. They may not want to convict her and deprive her little tyke of his mother any further.

    This has to be the reason Elizabeth Johnson's attorneys have fought to keep the jury in the dark about the baby's "current status." It's possible it could be a winning strategy.

    By the way, for those of you who were diligently following today, there were fewer tweets in the late afternoon because so much of the testimony was administrative in nature, setting up the introduction of the video and audio recordings, which you then mostly heard for yourselves.

    Also, the witnesses have their backs to us when they tell the court clerk what their names are, so it's VERY difficult to hear them. I make my best guess and sometimes get it wrong. Bear with me! And lastly, I did one of my own personal worst peeves late in the afternoon when fingers were losing their contact with the brain. I typed "their" when I meant "there!" Dang! Fifty lashes with a wet Fifth Grade Primer for me!  Mea culpa! Mea culpa! I do beg all of you to have mercy on a tired tweeter, straining to hear, trying to keep up with a fast moving trial at the same time trying to keep an eye on your questions and responses.  I appreciate your patience.

    A question I do frequently get is "are you watching on the internet?"  The answer is NO!  I drive downtown every day, schlep through parking lots (and pay for them) and then security, claim-squat a power outlet, and sit within a few feet of Elizabeth Johnson herself.  If anyone wants to retweet that from now and then, it would certainly save me some time!

    You are welcome to follow me  @CamilleKimball
    or to discuss the case in comments here below. I allow far more characters than twitter does!

    Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you!

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012

    Baby Gabriel - Elizabeth Johnson, I'm at the trial

    Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you!

    ADD: Follow me on Twitter @CamilleKimball   I'm tweeting this trial live inside the courtroom.
    Logan McQueary, Gabriel's daddy, will testify today (Monday Sep 24-2012) I am in the courtroom. He will not be allowed to talk about Elizabeth Johnson's mothering skills; incidents where she trashed their apartment, broke windows and ended up in jail for criminal mischief; or that she did not want the baby. Follow me on Twitter to hear about it as it happens.

    Elizabeth Johnson
    No matter what the verdict is at the end of her trial, young Elizabeth Johnson will go down in history as one of those most spiteful mothers in history.  She thought her baby's father, a man to whom she was not married and was battling for custody, was "talking" to girls. So she skipped town with their 8 month old son and told the father, "I suffocated him and he turned blue." Then she stuffed him in his diaper bag, she continued, and tossed him a trash can.

    She was leaving the country now, she said.  "When im safe ill email u the exact location of dead gabriels little blue body. if the garbage dont come first."

    She repeated this story to a detective but later recanted and said the baby had been "given" to a strange couple she met in a park.

    The couple has never been found.

    The baby has never been found.

    The baby's father, Logan McQueary, called police as soon as he realized she was not joking and could not be found. 

    Tomorrow (Thurs Sep 20) Elizabeth who, one way or another, made her baby vanish in order to spite her ex-boyfriend, goes on trial. I'm in the courtroom starting today for a hearing on motions in her case.  

    Follow me on Twitter as I tweet from inside the courtroom. @CamilleKimball

    Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you!

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

    MIke Murdaugh Update -- Love Me Tenderizer

    Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you! 

    Inmate 162753 M MURDAUGH Image
    Inmate 162753

    This is the real Mike Murdaugh of Wittman, Arizona. If you werent' terrified by Mike on Wicked Attraction's Love Me Tenderizer episode, you should be.  This hideous specimen delighted in beating and terrorizing and psychologically battering everyone he could, human or otherwise. He had the entire town of Wittman in his hip pocket, thanks to his brutalizing ways. Mike also used a "carrot" along with all his great big sticks: he provided drugs to people he wanted to control. 

    Inmate 162546 R ROHRS Image
    As for Becky, it's important to point out that at the gas station where she first met the 2nd victim, not only did the man give her his number, she gave him hers.  Becky could hardly have been offended by his interest in her or in the slightest bit frightened of him.  Too bad the man, given the state name of Miller in the show, could not foresee that he should be afraid of her. 

    There is no question that Becky deliberately lured the man to his awful death. Although she told police over and over that she told Mike about the incident at the gas station out of fear that he would find out from witnesses (such as the cashier, since everyone in Wittman really was in Murdaugh's pocket) anyway and she would be punished if she did not disclose it first, during the days that followed, Becky had a romantic encounter with another stranger from a bar. She seemed to have lost all her fear of him when she went home with the second guy. 

    For all his brawn and bluster, once apprehended Mike Murdaugh started confessing right away. To both murders. After all the horrible wounds he had inflicted on others, what drove Murdaugh into the arms of authorities? He cut himself pretty bad during the dismemberment of the plumber and sought medical help.  

    After a few years rotting in an Arizona jail while lawyers dickered, Murdaugh told the court we wanted to "spare the victim's families and his own family" the trauma of a trial. So out of this great well of compassion in his heart, Mike Murdaugh pled guilty. I guess he left that compassion under the bunk the day he threw his own feces at prison guards during that time. 

    Murdaugh is now on Death Row. 

    Becky also pled out. She will be released in 2017.   She does not face execution.

    Inmate 164447 J DEZARN Image
    "Woody" Dezarn held the other firearm on a night of terror
    The other accomplices, who go by pseudonyms in the show, entered Guilty please as well. The man who helped Murdaugh hold the plumber at gunpoint all night is serving a sentence in excess of 15 years but was released in summer of 2011. 

    Inmate 133865 B GROSS Image
    Betty Gross helped entice a plumber to his death, robbed his van
    The other woman, who actively helped entice the plumber to Murdaugh's home (more so than was shown in the episode due to time constraints) pled guilty and received the lightest sentence of the four. She left prison in late 2003. 

    To see behind the scenes the day we shot this episode of Wicked Attraction about Mike Murdaugh, please click here <<-- a="">

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