The most high-profile murder case at the beginning of 2011 in Britain was that of the landscape architect Joanna Yeates, whose body was found on Christmas Day, 2010; her killer, Vincent Tabak
, was brought to book in a reasonably short time due partly to the intensity of the search, though not without a false lead or two, one of which proved extremely expensive
for the tabloid press.
The most high profile murder trial in the United States if not the world, and one of the most high profile and controversial in history, was the trial of Florida mother Casey Anthony for the murder of her daughter, Caylee. This trial - which was covered in considerable depth
by Digital Journal
, resulted in arguably the most bellicose lawyer in America securing an acquittal on all the major charges thanks to arguably the dumbest jury
ever empanelled by the State of Florida.
While Casey Anthony walked back to freedom, can anyone remember the name of the British woman who was convicted of murdering her young daughter and
her son? More to the point, has anyone even heard of Fiona Donnison
Jon Venables committed a murder in 1993 when he was 10 years old. Detained for a mere 8 years and given a new identity, he was back in the news
for a lesser if sordid crime, and there can be little doubt that if he had not been arrested he could have been in far more serious trouble further down the line, and would quite likely have had blood on his hands again. He has now been recalled to prison until the authorities consider him safe to release, which almost certainly won't be for many years yet.
Another far from recent murder was also back in the news when the killer of schoolgirl Amanda Dowler was finally brought to book. Levi Bellfield
had already been convicted of two later murders, and the police had spent years patiently building a case against him for the March 2002 vanishing, a case that was mired in controversy for other, ghoulish reasons, when it was claimed the victim's mobile phone had been hacked by an investigator working for the News Of The World
This led to the closure of the paper
, and a personal apology to her parents by Rupert Murdoch
. This and other cases of alleged phone hacking have still not been resolved, and they will doubtless cause more ink to flow when the Leveson Inquiry
resumes in the New Year.
Another Amanda - Foxy Knoxy - was finally cleared
of any involvement in the murder of her flatmate Meredith Kercher when an Italian appeal court decided that her signed statement and the forensic evidence were worth less than a confession allegedly shouted through a prison wall. The only person who isn't laughing here is Britain's longest serving miscarriage of justice prisoner, Michael Stone
Across the Pond, two murder trials relating to a terrible crime from 2007 were resolved this year when Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky
were both sentenced to die.
The gruesome details can be found here
; no one will lose any sleep if either of these two are executed at some point down the line, no one except Clive Stafford Smith and his gang at Reprieve, who have already gone on record for Komisarjevsky saying what a nice boy he is, and by the same token Linda Carty
is a wonderful, cuddly grandmother.
Carty has been on death row since 2002; in 2009, Reprieve took up her case in a big way, and this year they were harping on about her again as a British documentary maker who had visited Texas to make a pro-Carty film produced a final product that didn't quite make the grade because unlike Stafford Smith, the man who made it, Steve Humphries
, is not prepared to go the whole hog and lie until he is blue in the face. If anyone thinks that claim is either defamatory or simply unfair, let him consult this document
and ask how many of these claims would pass even a cursory examination by any jurist of reason with an IQ over 90.
The fates of two American convicted murderers were resolved this year when Troy Davis
was executed and Mumia Abu-Jamal was not
. Both men had languished on death row for so long because their braindead supporters had succeeded in engineering on each of their behalfs a series of totally spurious appeals. Although this raises serious issues with the application of the death penalty to the two bit punk who loses it in a moment of madness - like Mumia - or the thug who shoots a man to death for the hell of it in front of numerous witnesses - like Davis did - it does not raise issues relating to the use of the ultimate sanction against those who truly deserve it, the Ted Bundys
of this world, and the likes of Steven Hayes.
The year also saw two of America's longest standing miscarriages of justice resolved when Dewey Bozella
and Thomas Haynesworth
were released, each after spending more than two decades of their lives behind bars. It has to be said that the case against Haynesworth was absolutely overwhelming when it was prosecuted; like Adolf Beck
nearly a century before, he was both totally innocent and extremely unlucky to be identified by victims who were both utterly sincere and completely wrong.
Iran has also been in the news for controversial criminal cases, including one dating back to November 2004 when a young female engineer Ameneh Bahrami
, was attacked by a former suitor who wouldn't take no for an answer, and whose passion had turned to rage. Majid Movahedi commmitted a crime of unspeakable horror, blinding her with acid. Although he was arrested at the time, the authorities sat on the fence about his punishment for as long as they could, because under Iran's retributive justice the victim had the right to demand a similar punishment, and she did.
Earlier this year, Miss Bahrami agreed - probably under a certain amount of psychological pressure - to forgo this terrible but fitting punishment. Now, the supposedly barbaric Iranian criminal justice system has swung to the other end of the pendulum, because the courts have commuted his sentence
to a mere 10 years imprisonment and
cancelled the monetary compensation she had agreed to accept in lieu of exacting an eye for an eye.
It remains to be seen if all the money in the world could compensate a young woman for the loss of her sight, but she had hoped to undergo plastic surgery so that others might not see the scars she can't.
There have been a number of spree killings this year, none quite so bizarre as the carnage caused by one man, Anders Breivik
, who has now been ruled insane by a Norwegian court.
Breivik's short but horrific acts of terror, coupled with his bizarre motives and twisted logic, have led to wild speculation and opportunism at both ends of the political spectrum with the likes of Gerry Gable
and his Searchlight Organisation
attempting to forge links - his favourite word - with Nick Griffin
, the EDL and everyone on the far right in Britain, and with Searchlight's enemies seeking in turn to portray him as some sort of Zionist stooge. It remains to be seen if there is any truth in any of these speculations, however well or ill-informed, but as long as he never sees daylight again, the motivation of this particularly twisted individual should cause none of us any concern.
Two high profile crimes remain unsolved in the UK; the maniac(s) who have so far avoided killing drivers by good luck rather than by good judgment after heaving bricks
onto a busy road from a bridge, and the person(s) who may have killed three and possibly more people at a Lancashire hospital.
The only good suspect to date, Staff Nurse Rebecca Leighton
, was cleared of any involvement in a case the authorities have been extremely coy about, though she has now been sacked
for a disciplinary offence, a crime for which at a push probably half the hospital staff in Britain if not the world could be sacked or worse.
To sacking of a different kind, with arson, violence, and murder; at the beginning of August, an unarmed man was shot dead by police who were, well, armed, in Tottenham, and this became the catalyst for some of the worst riots ever seen in this country. The most severe sentence to date was handed out just before Christmas
. In spite of apologetics galore
dispensed to PressTV by the usual suspects, there was no excusing or mitigating this madness, which at times manifested as simple barbarism, like the treatment meted out to one hapless Malaysian student
Finally, sometimes theft can be capital; the rising prices of commodities has led to a spate of thefts of semi-precious and even non-precious metals on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of these thefts have been simply despicable, like the plaques that have been stolen from cemeteries, but others, like stealing copper from electricity sub-stations, have been stupid beyond belief. Small time criminal Matthew Ward is only one of a number of people who have paid the ultimate price