Another couple of months…another pretrial conference and another twist in the case involving Andrew Compton. Andrew is presumed to have been murdered in Louisville, Kentucky by Gregory O’Bryan in the fall of 2010. O’Bryan has confessed to killing Compton…the young mans body has never been found. Now we are learning that a small amount of hair and human DNA was found in a Southern Indiana landfill where police searched for Compton’s body according to recently released court records.
For those of you new to this story 40-year old Gregory O’Bryan is charged with Compton’s murder, sodomy, two counts of tampering with physical evidence and three counts of abuse of a corpse. He has pleaded not guilty and could face the death penalty if convicted. Prosecutors will ask a judge next Thursday to authorize the Kentucky State Police laboratory to test the clump of hair found in a landfill near Medora, Ind., shortly after Compton, 18, disappeared in late 2010. But the “quantity and/or quality of human DNA” found was insufficient “to obtain a profile,” according to the report of a forensic laboratory examination of a tissue-like sample taken from the landfill.
Jefferson County (Kentucky) prosecutor Tom Van De Rostyne had said in February that authorities were testing what they believe to be three pieces of flesh found. No human DNA was found in any other samples tested, according to the court documents, filed last week. No blood was found. Van De Rostyne said in an interview that the hair may be destroyed during the testing, prompting the request for the judge’s permission. He said he could not comment on the human DNA found — or tell exactly what it was — and whether there was any way it could be tested against a DNA profile of Compton.
In an interview, defense attorney Amy Hannah said, “It shouldn’t be a surprise that a small amount of human DNA was located in a landfill” with tons of trash. And she noted that most of the samples tested didn’t contain any DNA. Compton, who attended Sullivan University at Louisville, Ky., has not been seen since Oct. 28, 2010. O’Bryan admitted the teen had died, saying it happened during consensual sex between the two. He also admitted he had sex with Compton’s body after the teen died, and then put the body in a garbage bin at Our Lady of Peace psychiatric hospital along Newburg Road in Louisville. Police tracked the contents of the garbage bin to the landfill and searched unsuccessfully for the body for 10 days. Samples of possible tissue, hair and fragments of dried skin found during the search in November 2010 were all tested to determine if they were human, according to the court documents. O’Bryan is due in court next week for a hearing on his competency, which was requested by prosecutors.
The Courier-Journal contributed to this report.
Senior pranks are as much a right of passage as getting your driver’s license or becoming eligible to vote and enlist in the military. When I was in High School, toilet papering the trees in front of the school was a favorite past-time. Now days, what once passed for immature fun and a time-honored prank has turned into something more sinister for some school officials. Parents in Clayton, Indiana are still steamed nearly a month after dozens of students were suspended and a custodian fired over a senior prank that involved posting thousands of press-and-stick notes inside Cascade High School.
The Indianapolis Star reports that students are no longer suspended. In fact, the school district lifted the punishment a few days after the prank, and the suspension will not be reflected on the students’ records. Custodian Kim Rouse also recently got her job back. Still, parents are calling for the resignation of Mill Creek Community School Superintendent Patrick Spray and Cascade High School Principal Cathy Tooley. Parents showed up at the school board meeting Wednesday evening with a signed petition calling for a change in leadership. Robert Canaday, whose son was one of the first who got suspended, said there were about 15 to 20 pages of signatures. “What parents are dedicated to do is to establish the right type of leadership,” Canaday said. “And right now, that doesn’t appear to include the principal and the superintendent.”
Parents said school administrators overreacted when they suspended six high school students after they posted 11,000 sticky notes last month in various places inside the school building as part of their traditional senior prank. They said the school went overboard after they fired Rouse the next day and suspended about 60 more students who protested in front of the school. A total of 68 students were suspended, Canaday said. He added that they still have concerns about Rouse, who lost 11 days of pay. And although she has her job back, the district’s punishment will be on her record permanently, Rouse said. “Financially, it hurt me pretty bad. I’m a month behind on my bills, and it minimized the food we could’ve had,” said Rouse, who was reinstated at Cascade Middle School. “I don’t feel like I was rightly punished for what they wanted to punish me for. I couldn’t understand why I got in trouble.”
In an earlier interview with The Star, Spray said it was “completely inappropriate” for Rouse to let students in to the building outside school hours. But students and Rouse said that wasn’t the case. A school board member, they said, gave them the key and authorization to get inside the building. At the school board meeting, Canaday said parents tried to discuss their concerns with Spray and the board members. But he said that effort was “by far, unsuccessful.” “The board did a stellar job ensuring that they did not receive any feedback, any input from the community,” Canaday said. “They would not entertain the discussion around the petition.”
This contradicts with what Assistant Superintendent Jill Jay said in an earlier interview with The Star. Last month, she said the district’s decision to lift the suspension on all students is the “first step in the healing process.” “I think what we want to do is move forward,” Jay said. “And in order to do that, there has to be listening on both sides.” But parents at the school board meeting feel differently. “They skirted the issue completely,” Canaday said.
I’m not sure removing the school’s administration is the answer, after all, it is incumbent upon those entrusted with the education of children to keep them safe and keep the learning environment safe. Having said that, the administration in this case clearly lacked any semblance of common sense. What the kids did was actually kind of clever, as far as senior pranks go, and despite having to clean up some paper…no damage was done. If the issue was letting students into a building after hours for purposes other than school-related, that may be a legitimate issue but the students were not at fault here and neither was the custodian. Kids will be kids and in this situation the administration in this school district made matters much worse than they ever needed to be.
The Indianapolis Star and WISH-TV contributed to this report.
After having it’s application to “adopt a highway” denied by the State of Georgia, a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan is asking the American Civil Liberties Union for help. “We are considering next steps and whether or not we will support the group,” said Debbie Seagraves, executive director for the ACLU of Georgia. “We know this is unpopular,” she admits, but if her organization helps the International Keystone Knights of the KKK, it is not because it agrees with their beliefs. It will be based on legal precedent and a legal view of whether the KKK’s freedom of speech has been violated.
The Klan chapter in Union County, Georgia, had asked to clean a part of Georgia State Route 515 in the far northern part of the state near the North Carolina state line. The application was rejected on Tuesday. Keith Golden, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, wrote the chapter’s secretary that officials determined the mountain roadway, with a speed limit of 65 mph, was not a safe place for cleanup volunteers to work. CNN reports that Golden’s letter to April Chambers cited other concerns. “The impact of erecting a sign naming an organization which has a long-rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern,” he wrote. “Impacts include safety of the traveling public, potential social unrest, driver distraction or interference with the flow of traffic.”
Klan members march in a parade in Washington in 1927.
Seagraves said that the ACLU has to gather facts about the case before deciding whether to become involved, but she nonetheless pointed out a pair or rebuttals to the arguments made in the letter. If the speed limit on the highway is too fast, the program is supposed to find another, suitable place to adopt for cleanup, she said. Also, she said, the state cannot constitutionally deny speech because others may behave badly. If the ACLU chooses to represent the KKK chapter, the next step would be for the ACLU to contact the state to talk about the relevant laws, Seagraves said. A lawsuit could follow. “We try to avoid litigation, but we don’t mind litigating if necessary,” she said.
In a nearly identical case in Missouri in 2005, a court ruled that the state discriminated against the KKK by denying it participation in a program open to all organizations. It’s a difficult subject in Union County, where two residents — who asked not to be identified for safety reasons — said they’re concerned about the area’s reputation. “It makes people here look like they’re a bunch of stuck-in-the-past mountain folk,” said a woman who has lived in Blairsville for four years. “They don’t have a presence here. At least, they don’t make themselves visible.”
A local man who was born and raised in the area said he was worried that if people saw the Klan’s name on an adopt-a-highway sign, they would associate the county with the Klan. “I guess you’ve got the freedom to go out and hate people if you want, but I don’t want them here,” he said. “It gives us a bad name.” He said he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable driving through the area himself, but was concerned that others would be. “I’m white,” he said. “So I’m not the one they’re targeting. But I would feel bad if an African-American drove by and saw that.”
Ku Klux Klan members chant “white power” during a rally to recruit members on the steps of the Defiance, Ohio, courthouse in 1999.
Legally speaking, the Klan has every right to exist and to express its views, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh said. However, he said that doesn’t necessarily mean it has the right to participate in this government program. The question is whether or not displaying the Klan’s name on an adopt-a-highway government sign is a form of government speech. He said that legally, the government has a right to pick and choose what it says, just like anyone else. If displaying an organization’s name on an adopt-a-highway sign is considered an endorsement of that group, he said, the government has a right to deny participation to the Klan. But if the state does not consider displaying the name any indication of its relationship with the group, then all people and organizations have an equal right to participate, Volokh said. “Personally, I’m inclined to say that probably this should be seen as a government speech program because allowing such a sign is likely to be seen as some level of endorsement,” he said. But history shows that a legal ruling would not necessarily end the controversy.
In the Missouri case, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it wasn’t until November 30, 1999, that the state installed a sign noting that the KKK adopted a stretch of highway. Someone sawed the sign down that same night. When the sign was placed back up several months later, it was sawed off again, the newspaper reported. The state never replaced the sign and later named that stretch of highway for civil rights icon Rosa Parks. A sign in rural Delaware declaring that a neo-Nazi splinter group adopted a stretch of road was allowed by the state, but only after the wording of the group was changed from “Nazi Party” to “Freedom Party,” the Washington Times reported. In 2008, the California Department of Transportation was forced to pay a $157,500 legal settlement relating to a lawsuit by the San Diego Minutemen, an anti-illegal immigration group. According to the Orange County Register, the group had adopted a piece of a highway near a Border Patrol checkpoint. Immigrant groups were angered, and state officials moved the Minutemen’s stretch of highway to another, more remote location. The group sued, arguing that its freedom of speech was violated.
In reality, it’s likely to come down to an issue of freedom of speech. Unless the Klan is engaged in some type of unlawful activity, it’s hard to see how the government can deny them the opportunity to participate in the program, on the other hand, having an avowed racist organization recognized by the State as a civic organization is unimaginable. Since the Klan has a storied history of terrorism and civil rights violations, it would seem simple enough…just deny them on that basis.
HOUSTON, Texas — (DMN) – R. Allen Stanford, the 62-year old Texas man convicted in federal court earlier this year of bilking investors of $7 billion dollars has been sentenced to 110 years in prison without parole. U.S. District Judge David Hitner pronounced the sentence this morning in Houston. Stanford had faced a maximum of 230 years on his 13-count conviction. During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Stanford gave rambling statement to the court in which he denied he did anything wrong. Speaking for more than 40 minutes, Stanford said he was a scapegoat and blamed the federal government and a U.S. appointed receiver who took over his companies for tearing down his business empire and preventing his investors from getting any of their money back. “I’m not here to ask for sympathy or forgiveness or to throw myself at your mercy,” Stanford told Hittner. “I did not run a Ponzi scheme. I didn’t defraud anybody.”
Prosecutors had asked that Stanford be sentenced to 230 years in prison, the maximum sentence possible after a jury convicted the one-time billionaire in March on 13 of 14 fraud-related counts. Stanford’s convictions on conspiracy, wire and mail fraud charges followed a seven-week trial. Stanford’s attorneys had asked for a maximum of 44 months, a sentence he could have completed within about eight months because he has been jailed since his arrest in June 2009.
As a Congressman and throughout his political career, Mike Pence has been a far-right social conservative. The Indiana Republican voted to put a ban into the U.S. Constitution as Indiana’s Sixth-District U.S. Representative. Since at least 2006, the Indiana Republican Party’s state platform emphasized that marriage is between a man and a woman but this year, the party’s platform has no mention of same-sex marriage. Is the Republican Party evolving or is this political expediency?
Indiana Democrats have remained silent on the issue in their party’s platform until this year. Democrats will vote on a platform during their state convention that for the first time says the party “opposes amending the Indiana Constitution to define marriage.” The Indianapolis Star is reporting that the reversal has surprised advocates in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community who see the change as a signal that attitudes are evolving and that same-sex marriage isn’t the wedge issue it had been in past elections. But the move also has disappointed social conservatives who do not want Indiana to sideline this issue.
Republicans say their platform is simply a change in focus in an election that is all about jobs. Democrats say their platform reflects both their long-standing commitment to equality and the changing attitudes among voters. A recent Gallup Poll indicated that half of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage, while 48 percent opposed it. Those in favor included 65 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of independents and 22 percent of Republicans. Still, no state’s electorate has rejected the ban when given the chance to vote on it.
Micah Clark, leader of the American Family Association of Indiana, which wants Indiana to have some type of ban in the constitution, said he was disappointed by the GOP silence this year. “That kind of caught me off guard,” he said. He said he was surprised by both parties in an election year. It’s important to note that both Democrats and Republicans in Indiana have opposed same-sex marriage. Democratic nominee for Governor John Gregg voted to put a ban into state law when he was Indiana House speaker. “It’s unusual for a party to contradict their candidates at the top of the ticket,” Clark said.
Pete Seat, press secretary for the Indiana Republican Party, brushed off questions about the change in the GOP platform. “A lot of issues are covered; a lot weren’t,” he said. “This platform reflects the broader priorities of the Indiana Republican Party.” Kathy Saris, an Indianapolis restaurant owner and lesbian who was on the GOP platform committee, said the platform change was “a big step” for her party. She said the silence on same-sex marriage — coupled with the inclusion of a statement saying Republicans “embrace, encourage and will work to ensure the opportunity for full participation of ALL citizens in government” — will help the party reach out to younger Republicans. “They view marriage as something that should be open to everybody, ” Saris said. She credited Mary Stump, who testified at one of the committee’s hearings, with helping to persuade Republicans not to put the issue in their platform this year.
Stump, 50, Indianapolis, said she is an independent voter but went to the hearing because she wanted the GOP to see the human face of the issue. Her partner of 25 years, Beth Hardy, is seriously ill with muscular sclerosis, she said. They worry about the legal rights that they cannot enjoy because they cannot marry. Because Stump would be saddled with estate taxes on their home if Hardy dies, the couple moved everything to Stump’s name. But, Stump said, if she suddenly and unexpectedly died, that would mean Hardy would be the one suffering financial penalties that other couples don’t face. “I literally carry an extra insurance policy just for the estate taxes so Beth will be OK if I die,” Stump said.
The issue clearly divides the parties nationally. President Barack Obama, who previously had opposed same-sex marriage, this year said he supports it, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who will be the Republican nominee for president, has reaffirmed his opposition. In the past, Indiana’s Democrats, who tend to be more conservative than Democrats nationally, have distanced themselves from their national party on such issues. But Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said: “Opinion on this has dramatically changed since the Republican Party in Indiana started pushing for an amendment in 2004. We are taking a stand for the first time saying that the party is in opposition to amending the Indiana constitution. We do not think that it’s necessary.”
Some were disappointed that Indiana’s Democrats didn’t go further. But Aaron Schaler, leader of the Indiana Stonewall Democrats, an organization for gay Democrats, said it was a victory just to get opposition to the constitutional amendment in the platform. “We’re ecstatic that we’re getting a stance against the amendment,” he said. “We’ve never had that before.” Still, putting the issue in the state platform puts the Democratic Party at odds with some of its own members in the Indiana General Assembly. In 2011, when the legislature voted for an amendment banning same-sex marriage, 11 Democrats voted with 59 Republicans to approve it in the House, while three Democrats joined 37 Republicans to support it in the Senate.
The amendment must be approved again by the legislature elected in November and then be approved by voters in the 2014 general election before it becomes part of the state constitution. Leaders of gay organizations in both parties nationally said that what happened in Indiana sends an important signal. Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, the national organization of gay Republicans, called the Indiana platform’s silence “a positive step forward and one that will remind voters that the Republican Party is committed to keeping a focus on jobs and the economy because that’s an issue that Republicans can win on.”
Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats and a former Hoosier, said he still expects Indiana to be the last state to put the same-sex marriage ban into the constitution. But he applauded the change in both platforms. “With the president coming out for marriage equality and seeing literally no change in the polls, and seeing so many other Democrats running for election coming out for marriage equality and going quite well, it proves that point,” he said. “This is really a dying vocal minority that is dwindling.” Having been a student of politics for more than 30 years, I wish I could say that the political landscape in Indiana is evolving and perhaps, to an extent, it is but these platform decisions in 2012 reflect a deeper desire to by Republicans to beat President Obama and Democrats in general than anything else. Keeping the issue out of the party’s platform does not keep it from the floor of the General Assembly.