Home' Greymouth Star : February 20th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Monday, February 20, 2017
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uLetters to the editor
1809 - The US Supreme Court rules the
power of the Federal government is greater
than that of any individual state.
1933 - US House of Representatives
completes congressional action on an
amendment to repeal Prohibition,
the prevention of the manufacture,
sale, or transportation of alcoholic
1962 - Astronaut John Glenn,
aboard the Friendship 7 Mercury
capsule, becomes the first American
to orbit the Earth.
1975 - Greek Cypriot government calls on
the United Nations to fix the deadline for the
withdrawal of 40,000 Turkish troops from that
1986 - Russia launches the Mir space station.
1988 - Rainstorm triggers floods and
mudslides in Rio de Janeiro that kill 65 people
and leave up to 100 elderly hospital patients
missing and feared dead.
1998 - The last power cable supplying
downtown Auckland, New Zealand, fails,
leaving 100 blocks dark for weeks.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Sir William Cornwallis, English admiral
(1744-1819); Honore Daumier, French artist
(1808-1879); Lucien Pissarro,
French artist (1863-1944); Robert
Altman, US director (1925-2006);
Sidney Poitier, Bahamian-US actor
(1927-); Peter Strauss, US actor
(1947-); Cindy Crawford, US model
(1966-); Kurt Cobain, lead singer
and guitarist of Nirvana (1967-
1994); Lili Taylor, US actress (1967-); Miles
Teller, US actor (1987-); Rihanna, Barbadian
“The life of the nation is secure only while the
nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.”
— Frederick Douglass (1817-1895).
bridges can pose
their problems! And
one who is never
likely to forget this is Ashton Circus’s largest
performer, Jumbo. For Jumbo is an elephant
of considerable height and poundage. His
mammoth frame could not fit underneath the
12ft 5in iron girders of the Taramakau Bridge
yesterday afternoon — at least not while he
was perched on the deck of a truck.
To solve the problem, circus workmen had to
saw through the steel bars mounting the truck
to allow Jumbo to alight from the deck and
persuade him to walk across the bridge.
A family reunion to celebrate the 88th
birthday of a mother in Greymouth has
brought together brothers from Greymouth,
Hokitika, Reefton, Nelson — and
Southampton in England. Mrs Margaret King,
of Greymouth is 88 today, and for her birthday
five of her six sons will be here. Another son in
Christchurch and a daughter in Gisborne were
unable to be here.
The son in England, Russell, is a BOAC pilot.
He has been living away from Greymouth for
about 20 years. Mr King was an RNZAF pilot
duiring the war and stayed on in England as
a pilot for BOAC. Jack King has come down
from Nelson, Bill from Reefton, Charlie from
Hokitika, and all join Arthur at his Lydia
A 12-year-old girl broke her arm when she
fell from a horse yesterday and was admitted
to the Greymouth Hospital. She is Barbara
Cuttance of Hohonu.
Also in a satisfactory condition in hospital is
eight-year-old Gary Griggs who was admitted
with an injured hand.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His
mighty power..” — (Ephesians 6:10).
uFood for thought
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hristopher Scott looked at
the man who turned his
life upside down. He did
not blink. He sat there
and stared him in the eye.
The figure opposite him
returned the favour, unblinking.
“I’m not mad. I forgive you, but I can
never forget,” Scott told the man in front
It was February 2014. Scott was staring
down the man whose crime had put him
in prison for 13 years.
Five years after being exonerated for the
murder of Alfonzo Aguilar and the sexual
assault of his wife, Celia Escobedo, Scott
was meeting the man who, by a stroke
of extraordinary luck, confessed to the
crime: Alonzo Hardy.
“ You just put yourself in my shoes in a
situation like that,” Hardy told Scott.
“I mean, I can understand how hurt
you is, and I can understand the part of
your life that you lost because I had went
through the same thing.”
Through tears, Scott lamented about all
the years he had lost; the years away from
his children and his wife, who was now
married to another man.
He remembered surviving America’s
largest prison population and escaping its
most active death chamber — just.
Hardy told him he would never recover.
That he wished he had received the
life sentence that Scott had, instead of
signing a deal that only added five years
to his sentence.
Hardy never apologised. He just said, “I
Scott spent 13 years in a Texas prison
as an innocent man. His capital murder
trial lasted just eight hours. He never
“It’s horrible, it’s a horrible feeling being
in prison and it’s even more horrible
being in prison for something you didn’t
do,” Scott told news.com .au.
Backtrack to April 6, 1997, Alonzo
Hardy and another man robbed and
murdered a crack dealer in a drug deal
They took off with $180. While Scott
was being charged for the crime, Hardy
and his accomplice — Don Michael
Anderson — skipped town.
In a strange series of events, Scott had
driven past the scene on the night of the
murder. Police followed him home, where
they escorted him to the police station,
cuffed him to a bench, and brought in the
murdered man’s widow. She identified
Scott as the killer.
At trial, the widow ’s identification
was the only evidence brought against
Scott. Despite no DNA evidence, he was
sentenced to life in prison, escaping the
“They would have given me death row, I
might have been dead before I was even
His lawyer, who saw him only once
prior to trial, told him after the trial: “You
have a million in one chance to make it
because you have no DNA in your case.
There’s no way in the world that a guy is
going to come back and confess to this
It was the first time Scott had cried.
It was not until Hardy was in prison,
serving a 30-year sentence for a robbery
he committed after Aguilar was murdered
and Ms Escobedo was assaulted, when he
got a little too cocky and began to brag
about the crime he had gotten away with
at the prison barber shop.
But in an ironic twist, the barber was
Scott ’s brother. To save his skin in prison,
Hardy confessed to the crime and after
passing a polygraph test, retrial and two-
day jury deliberation, Scott was found
not guilty. He was exonerated, along with
his co-defendant, Claude Simmons, on
October 21, 2009.
“He told my brother about the case and
didn’t even know he was my brother. My
brother was like, ‘That sounds kind of
familiar, what ’s the guy ’s name?’
“He told him my name.”
Scott received compensation the form
of a lump sum of $886,666, along with a
monthly check of $4915.
Ms Escobedo, who appeared at the
wrongful conviction hearing, looked at
Scott and cried.
“I didn’t know if she felt like I did it,”
But Scott ’s story of wrongful conviction
echoes hundreds of others coming
out of the United States in particular,
where shady investigations and corrupt
authorities sent innocent men to prison
for decades, sometimes life.
But for more than a decade, Scott sat in
a confined cell, fighting to survive.
“Being young, going to prison is
just about learning the rules and the
regulations that goes with being an
inmate,” Scott said.
“First thing you learn is to stay out
of other people’s business, number one.
Number two, don’t be a snitch. Number
three, be able to protect yourself because
you can fall victim to gang members who
try to recruit you.
“You want to try to stay away from
them as much as you can.”
For Scott, the moment came three
weeks into prison; he was challenged
by an inmate almost double his size.
Weighing in at just 59 kilograms, Scott
had an uphill battle ahead of him as he
fought his almost 100kg opponent.
“I grew up in a rough neighbourhood,”
“ We grew up fighting, the best thing to
surprise a person is don’t let them know
what you can do. He got surprised when
I hit the hell out of him. From that point
on people know you know how to fight
and protect yourself, they kind of leave
Scott quickly learned how to survive
prison after the incident.
He got a job in the kitchen, which
allowed him to eat the necessary protein
he needed to bulk up. He’d put peanut
butter in everything — and soon, he was
gaining the weight.
But others were not so lucky.
“ When they (inmates) see you can fight,
they pretty much leave you alone, but if
not you’re open to be getting raped, you
never know, it all depends on the type of
individual who wants to have something
to do with you.
“I’ve seen it happen. I witnessed it, it
was something I’ll never forget. I never
think I’d see it in prison but it happens.
Times get hard and guys get desperate,
they feel like, they wanna do that to
another man and that ’s exactly what
“ You open game, open prey for those
guys to come at ya, and when they
coming at ya they ’re not gonna be
coming at ya nice, there may be two or
three of them, there may be one, but
you can’t show yourself, you can’t show
any weakness in prison. They take full
advantage of that.”
Scott said he was in the shower with
more than 100 other men when the
“I was like, ‘man, I can’t believe they ’re
being this wide open, doing what they ’re
doing ’, but you gotta mind your own
business. If it’s not concerning you don’t
worry about it. You don’t want to have
nothing to do with it. You don’t want
people to say you snitched.”
Scott said there were two or three
guards in the shower at the time, but with
“100 men in the shower and 50 more
waiting to have one, it’s like mad chaos”.
So, the weak paid for protection.
“They probably got with a gang member
so they wouldn’t be terrorised. Payment
included money or food. I was one of the
fortunate ones who knew how to protect
In 2014, The Los Angeles Times
reported the state of Texas had paid more
than $65 million to 96 exonerees. More
than a third of those were in Dallas, the
same city Scott spent his time in prison.
But there is a bittersweet, silver lining
to this story.
When Scott approached Hardy, he said
he was “ looking for some kind of closure,
that ’s why I went to see him. But he was
too cowardly. I didn’t get an apology. I
just wanted to let him know how I felt
about the situation”.
“I had to thank him in a way. Because
one time, he took my freedom, but then
years later, he gave it back to me, because
he confessed and gave me my life back.
I was very appreciative when he did that
“He had cancer, so he made a confession
and did the right thing. As soon as he
wrote the affidavit and got me freed, he
went into full remission. He’s cured of
cancer. I think God put it on his heart.”
Christopher Scott runs an amateur
detective agency that helps innocent
prisoners get out of jail. For more
information, visit houseofrenewedhope.
org or follow Christopher on Twitter @
— New Zealand Herald
Innocent man imprisoned
Christopher Scott, left, meets the man who committed the crime, Alonzo Hardy.
In Romania, after
five straight nights of
in Bucharest ’s main
square, the government
agreed to withdraw an
emergency decree that
abuses of political
power (on the grounds
that the jails were too
crowded). If you defrauded the State of
less than $47,500, under the new rules,
you might have to pay it back, but you
would not go to jail.
More to the point, those already ser ving
sentences or facing charges for stealing,
say, $47,499 would be released from jail or
see the charges dismissed — including the
leader of the governing Social Democratic
Party, Liviu Dragnea, who was convicted
of stealing only $27,000. (That is not
necessarily how much he stole; just how
much they could prove he stole).
Romania used to be one of the most
corrupt countries in Europe, but since
it joined the European Union in 2007
it has been under great pressure from
Brussels to clean up its act. There was also
huge domestic pressure from ordinary
Romanians who are sick of their venal
politicians, and the anti-corruption drive
was making real progress.
Then recently Prime Minister Sorin
Grindeanu’s government issued its decree
freeing hundreds of jailed politicians,
officials and even judges. It was due to go
into effect last Friday, but right away the
crowd came pouring out into the streets in
Bucharest and all the other big cities.
After five nights of mass demonstrations,
the government cancelled its decree on
Saturday. The crowd won, and both justice
and democracy were well ser ved.
The other very dodgy decree of recent
days was in Washington, where President
Trump signed an “executive order”
imposing a 90-day ban on citizens of
seven Muslim-majority countries seeking
to enter the United States (even if they
were legal US residents or had been
issued visas after vetting by US embassies)
and an indefinite ban on Syrian
Like the Romanian decree, its legality
was doubtful. As in Romania, the
protesting crowds came out in large
numbers in the US (though proportionally
in much smaller numbers, and certainly
not for five successive nights). But what
really brought Trump’s plan grinding to a
halt, at least for the moment, was a judge.
United States District senior judge
James Robart of Seattle issued an order
suspending the Trump ban — and even
President Trump obeyed it (although
he did refer to Robart, with typical
graciousness, as a “so-called judge”). The
whole machinery of government went
into reverse, entry visas are being re-
validated, and even Syrian immigrants are
being admitted again. The rule of law has
Two crises in two democratic countries,
and two reasonably satisfactory
resolutions. It was the crowd
that did the heavy lifting in
Romania, and the law that did
the crucial work in the US.
But they should not be seen as
alternatives; sometimes you need
Robart was not required
to make a full legal case for
his action at this stage in the
proceedings; he simply ordered
the ban suspended to avoid
serious harm being done to
individuals by an executive
order that may contravene the
First Amendment to the US
When the case goes to the
appeals court, and possibly
then to the Supreme Court, the
argument of those opposing
the ban will doubtless be that
it flouts the First Amendment
requirement that one religious
denomination cannot be
officially preferred over another.
This may persuade the Ninth Circuit
Appeals Court in San Francisco, which is
relatively liberal, and even the Supreme
Court, which will continue to be split
evenly between liberals and conservatives
until Trump’s nominee for the ninth seat
on the court is approved by Congress. Or
it may not.
Even if the appeal courts ultimately
rejects Robart ’s argument and reimposes
the ban, the law will have successfully
curbed the abuse of executive power. It
always has to be curbed, because even
with the best of intentions those who hold
power will inevitably try to expand it —
and sometimes they do not have the best
The US Constitution has won the
first round of the battle against Trump’s
authoritarian tendencies. Full marks to
James Robart (who was nominated, by
the way, by George W Bush’s Republican
But four years is a long time, and there
will be occasions when lawyers will not be
enough. The crowd will be needed as well:
demonstrations as large, as disciplined
and as patient as those in Romania, and
as suspicious of being betrayed once they
have gone home.
The night after the Romanian
government cancelled its “emergency
decree”, there was the biggest
demonstration of all: half a million people
in Victory Square in Bucharest. Why?
Because the government had muttered
something about addressing the same
“ issue” of allegedly crowded jails through
normal legislation in parliament, which
would still really be about getting crooked
politicians out of jail.
So they will not go home until Prime
Minister Grindeanu promises not to bring
the subject up again.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
The crowd and the law
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
A protester waves a Romanian flag during a protest against the emergency decree.
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