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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Justice in Injustice?




Something is very wrong with the justice system in this country, especially here in Missouri. Ryan Ferguson and Michael Amick have both been found guilty for murder in crimes that contained no evidence whatsoever to convict them. In the case of Ryan Ferguson, he was convicted based on a "dream" that his high school friend Chuck Erikson had. Mr. Erikson was questioned by the police and although Mr. Erikson had no real information as to what happened to Mr. Heinholt the night of the murder, and stated that he could be fabricating the whole thing, the police supplied him with information to create a confession and led him to believe that Ryan had pinpointed him as the murderer and was going to make a statement against him. Despite the interrogation techniques being exposed and the fact that Chuck and the other witness who testified have since both recanted their statements saying due to police pressure and coercion forced them to point out Ryan, he still sits in prison awaiting a new the police pressure and coercion forced them to point out Ryan, he still sits in prison awaiting a new trial.
The case of Michael Amick is full of holes, tangles, and lies told by the police department in Myrtle, MO. The trial consisted of unreliable eyewitness testimony and a lot of covering up of the corruption that grips the town. Without a shred of evidence against Michael he was convicted and left to sit in prison. Mr. Amick was accused of killing his grandmother-in-law and burning her house down. There is nothing linking him to the crime but against all reason and logic he was sentenced to life without parole. Their families can do nothing but stand by and watch this nightmare play out over and over again while their loved ones are locked away. There are so many heart wrenching points to both of these cases and I could type them out here, but they both have Facebook groups with documents and resources of facts that would tell their stories better than I could here.
My purpose in this blog is to enlighten my fellow Missourians that there is a huge problem here. At this rate anybody could spend their life in prison just because someone else said you did something wrong. Evidence? What evidence? Apparently, here in Missouri they don't need any stinking evidence to convict you...your fate is sealed when you are handcuffed by the police. Somebody has to take the fall, right? Might as well be you. I have gone over Mr. Amick's and Mr. Ferguson's cases for hours, days, etcetera. These cases are all over the country but especially here in Missouri. I took a special interest in them when I found out because my uncle, Mark McCord, is also in prison here in Missouri for a murder in which he has always maintained his innocence. There wasn't any proof and I do not believe that he is capable or murdering someone and then burning down their house. Sure, like many people he has made some mistakes in his life, some of which were due to drinking, but a murderer he is not!
You want to know what really bites my ass about these cases? Casey Anthony! Here is a woman that by most public opinion, if not all public opinion, is guilty as sin and yet she is free to live her life. Her two year old daughter disappears and it isn't report for months! There was enough evidence there to convict Casey Anthony on at least some aspects of the case, but not a shred of evidence to convict Ryan or Michael in their cases. I just don't understand how these things happen. Let's say Casey Anthony didn't kill her daughter, let's say that someone else did it...either way she could've at least been an accessory to murder. She knew about it, she lied. She said that it was an accident. I'm sorry, if it were an accident I would've done everything in my power to call emergency personnel and try to bring life back into my baby the best I could. CPR or whatever.
Troy Davis in Georgia was given the death penalty and has an execution date set for a murder conviction. Seven of the nine eyewitness statements have been recanted and yet he sits on death row with just over a week left to live. They said that he failed to prove his innocence?! How do you prove that you are innocent when they can't even prove you are guilty? In a court of law where you are supposed to be deemed innocent until proven guilty you shouldn't have to prove your innocence. After all, it is your word against theirs, right? So if neither side can prove anything then let sleeping dogs lie. For the sake of being unbiased, let's say that any of these men had committed a crime. I understand the need and the desire to keep our communities safe. However, if you can't prove their guilt then you aren't keeping your communities safe at all, because the chances that the real criminals are out there among you right now.
These cases affect each and every one of us as it could be any of us or any of loved ones in this position. I urge you to look into what is going on with our justice system, I urge you to take a stand for the wrongly convicted, and I urge you to show your support to the families of these men. It is with a heavy heart that I tried to tackle this assignment. I will admit that my personal feelings completely took over on the subject of injustice as I too have experienced this.
When a woman such as Casey Anthony is free to walk away from a court, smiling and feeling good about herself though we all know she has nothing to feel good about, there is something tragically wrong. I would've cried for my baby every day and not even wanted to live when I've lost my only child. I want to be around to see Ryan Ferguson, Michael Amick, Troy Davis, Mark McCord, and the many others fighting for their lives to be with their families again, to walk free in the sunlight, holding the hands of their children, sisters, brothers, parents, or whomever their families may be. To see them walk away unscarred and able to put this nightmare behind them. I want the courts to change and uphold what they claim to be, JUST. If you are just then things like this do not happen. You continue to build a case and find the real criminal or at least prove that the suspect did it. If you can't do that then it's a cold case until you get a break. Unfortunate for those who have been victimized, but feeling justified doesn't mean just labeling someone and slapping him behind bars so that you can feel better about what happened.
Nothing takes the pain of the victims away and convicting the wrong person is far worse than convicting nobody at the time. You are taking away their lives which on this earth are short enough. So please think and consider what I have said here today. If you would like to show your support you can find their groups on Facebook which will lead you to other groups and other families in the same situation. The great late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."





Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview with John Pertzborn of Fox 2 News

Fox 2 News in the morning is compiled of several great personalities that mesh so well together, which is why it is my preferred news station. However, out of all of the personalities on the program the one that stands out to me the most is that of John Pertzborn. A native of Wisconsin he has been in Saint Louis since 1986 and happy to be here. On a whim and not actually expecting him to agree I asked if he would be willing to let me interview him for my blog. Being the kind person that he is, agreed and was more than hospitable when Clayton (my new editor) and I arrived. Mr. Pertzborn took us around the studio and offices. I was in pure amazement. I had been interviewed once on the news a very long time ago, I didn't get the chance to really see much. It was great experience for me being a journalism student.
I got to sit behind the desk with John and Clayton commented that it seemed I fit there and that it seemed natural and comfortable to me. I will admit that I was up very late last night filled with excitement, waiting in anticipation for this interview. It was all that I had hoped for and so much more. I will say that John is as friendly, funny, and as real in person as he is on the air. I figured that he was, but you can never be too sure. Clayton and I stood with him as we watched a segment that was being taped with Tim Ezell and milkshakes from Fountain at Locust, which we got to partake in. They were delicious!
After today I can truly say that not only has he furthered my aspirations, but I can say wholeheartedly that he is one of the most fantastic and admirable people that I have had the pleasure of meeting. A gentleman and a scholar, Mr. Pertzborn provided me with a wealth of information and kept his opinions honest. He stated that journalism is not a glamorous job and you have to be sure that you really want to do it. I've never been so sure of anything my whole life. I could turn my life alone into a novel, but I prefer to look at the lives of others. Maybe one day I will have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Pertzborn's acquaintance again, but it will be memory that I forever cherish!

I want to personally thank Mr. Pertzborn and the entire Fox 2 news staff for their time and allowing me to come in today. Oh, and John Pertzborn is the authority on bow ties, expect them on Tuesdays. Hear the interview below and enjoy!

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Trautwein Elementary Remembers 9-11

I had the pleasure of visiting the 9-11 commemorative ceremony at Trautwein Elementary in Mehlville, MO on Friday afternoon. After raining the weather cleared enough for the ceremony to commence and was held under gray skies.  The focus was not as much on the horrible events that took place, but rather a celebration of the heroism from the men and women that pulled together to find survivors.
The principal, Dr. Wagener, stood at the microphone to explain to the children that they were placing flags in the yard to honor those who lost their lives that day. The children placed their flags into the mulch covered area as instructed, but you could tell that they didn't fully understand the significance of what happened on September 11, 2001.
It is just as well seeing as though they are elementary school students. However, to participate in such an event is momentous as hopefully it will be something that they will remember throughout their lives. One day they can understand what truly happened that day.
Some of our local police, fireman, and servicemen were honored at the ceremony. I spoke to Dr. Wagener about the event and asked if she felt that children that were born around that time or after could ever truly grasp what we went through that day. She responded, "No. Absolutely not. I still don't grasp it myself." I also asked what the school had done to prepare or inform the children ahead of time to explain why they were holding the ceremony.
The school was sent a video to show the classes that focused on the nation pulling together and not of the terrorism that forever changes our lives. When I asked her how she would suggest that parents broach the subject with their children she said, "Well, that is why we held this ceremony and placed the flags. We wanted a place for parents to go with their children and talk to them about their stories of that day."
I felt the tears begin to flood my eyes when I saw only one man in his military garb, the father of one of the students, salute as they sang "God Bless America." You could tell that he had a personal understanding of what 9-11 meant for so many Americans throughout the country. I thank Dr. Wagener and the students for having me there to be a part of it and to the military men and women for their service.





Wednesday, September 7, 2011

FREE RODNEY LINCOLN

Kay Lincoln was 13 years old when her father, Rodney Lincoln was arrested for a murder that he did not commit. He has now been in prison for going on 30 years of his life and all the while maintaining that he is innocent. This story unfolded in April of 1982 when JoAnn Clenney Tate was brutally murdered and her children brutally assaulted. The police said that because there was no sign of forced entry that it was suggested that JoAnn Tate knew the man that entered her apartment between midnight at 4:00 A.M. Kay Lincoln suggested today when I met with her this morning that perhaps she was simply sitting outside and left her door unlocked when the perp entered her apartment. Perhaps he forced Ms. Tate inside where the crimes were committed.

There are tons of possibilities as to what happened that horribly memorable night, but nothing to truly suggest that Rodney Lincoln committed these crimes. My heart goes out to Ms. Tate's children and family, but the evidence does not suggest that the man who ended JoAnn Tate's life and permanently scarred her children was Mr. Lincoln. Melissa Davis was a mere 7 years old when the event occured and her sister Renee only 4. Melissa had many inconsistencies to her story which is typical when interviewing a traumatized child. After what had been done to Melissa she was in no shape able to recount details of that night, and at best lucky to have survived the ordeal. She never mentioned Rodney Lincoln during the first whole month of questioning and eventually said that she knew the man who had committed the crimes drove a taxi, and mentioned the name, "Bill." Melissa stated that she heard her mother call out this name though she later recanted that statement saying that she felt pressured to provide a name and made it up.

The homicide detective that was investigating the case became very close to the girls and questions have been raised in regard to how Joseph Burgoon pinpointed Mr. Lincoln. These were two scared little girls who had something horrific happen to them in the middle of the night. If JoAnn Tate was having a man over to visit that late a mother would suspect that only one or two lights would be on and away from the bedrooms as to not wake the children. This could suggest that perhaps it was dark enough that the girls had never really seen the man. Yet, this question wasn't to my knowledge raised. Also, the sexual nature of the crime would suggest that perhaps this man had committed sexually driven crimes in the past. A murderer who is out to kill someone does just that...they kill. They may do it brutally but the sexual nature brings into light a different kind of criminal. Mr. Lincoln and Ms. Tate briefly dated almost a year prior to the crime and it was never serious, they simply went their seperate ways.

Rodney Lincoln was an easy target as he had gone to prison before for killing a man in 1972 in self-defense. He readily admitted to the crime and excepted the consequences.. Kay Lincoln stated that she knows her father is an innocent man that made a mistake in the past, but had since earned an honest living, settled down with the woman he had been seeing, and taking care of his children. He had changed his life and was moving on. The prosecution however wasn't moving on and that stigma made him an easy suspect. Mr. Lincoln was with his girlfriend the night of the assault. She had spent the night with him at his mother's house and the three of them were at home until Mr. Lincoln took her home prior to going to work at 8:00 A.M., but the jury seemed to dismiss this fact.
Since DNA evidence couldn't be tested at the time of the trial it was not entered in and when it was available there was a refusal to submit it as evidence. It wasn't until Kay Lincoln got more involved as an adult that more questions were raised. The Innocense Project became involved with the situation and the pressure was on. The next step is an evidentiary hearing of the DNA evidence and whether or not it would be admitted if perhaps there was another appeal. The evidence has been tested and it was confirmed that the hairs there were found were not those of Rodney Lincoln. There were two strands of hair that were from two different men, neither of them Mr. Lincoln. Was there an accomplice that night, and why did they target JoAnn Tate and her children? Nobody can answer that question until the real criminal is found, but instead of looking for the real criminal the prosecution was satisfied that they had someone in prison for the crimes committed, whether he was guilty or innocent.

When I visited Kay it was Labor Day morning and although she had family over and was preparing to visit her mother's house for a BBQ she allowed me to come over. It was during a BBQ when he was arrested in front of his family. I looked at the stacks of paperwork that she has collected and even the letter that Melissa Davis wrote to him in prison. Now an adult she still believes that he was the man that killed her mother. Kay remains positive that not only is her father innocent but that there is enough evidence if the courts take a deeper look that he should be a free man. She wears her Free Rodney Lincoln bracelet and a button with his picture on it proudly. She hopes that this nightmare will come to an end and hopes that they find the real criminal(s) so that everyone can find peace. Kay told me that her father had stopped smoking and his reason why; he said to her, "So that I can stay alive longer than they can fight." This is a man that has missed out on so much of his life. Even Kay's mother and step-father believe in Rodney's innocense even though the relationship wasn't the best. It says a whole lot to have so many people fighting for a man and not giving up after almost 30 years.

Kay Lincoln has become an advocate for other prisoners and their families going through the same fate as her father. She keeps in contact with them on the Free Rodney Lincoln group on facebook which is gaining more members constantly. The justice system is obviously flawed and people automatically assume that if a person is in prison they must be guilty, Kay asks that people just, "Listen." Like most human beings it is easy to make up our minds about something without having all the facts. This is why it was so easy to send Mr. Lincoln to prison. There is so much information about this case on the internet and it is hard to put yourself on that jury in your mind and say that Rodney Lincoln even had a shred of involvement into what happened that night, but yet the jurors sent him to prison for life.

This is a part of the letter that Kay Lincoln wrote to the parole board back in 2006:

"I wish to offer my deepest and most sincere sympathy to Miss Davis and her family for the loss they have suffered and the terrible ordeal she and the rest of her family have endured. I have become intimately familiar with the details of that ordeal over the last three years and it is an unspeakable tragedy no one should have to suffer.
                I realize this is not the proper platform for this argument to be made, but I would be remiss in not mentioning the fact that my father is totally and completely innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted.  I hope that will be proven sometime in the future and I realize that fact has no bearing on the decision to grant or not grant parole.
                It does however, have bearing on one thing that will, and should be, considered here today. My father is not now, and never has been a threat to society. I realize he was convicted of second-degree murder in 1972 and I am not discounting that fact. In that incident, he was engaged in a physical fight with a much bigger man. In self-defense he picked up a rock and hit the man in the head. That was the action of a young and foolish man who was being influenced by alcohol. He readily admitted his crime and he served his time for it. That was the one and only act of violence ever committed by Rodney Lee Lincoln.  I am not excusing or dismissing his behavior on that night but it was 34 years ago. He is still suffering the consequences, however indirectly. Because he committed that one terrible act he was labeled a violent murderer, which made convicting him for these horrible crimes just that much easier."

His parole was subsequently denied. So where do we find justice? Should this man stay in prison for the rest of his life because of a mistake in 1972, a death of a person that was unintentional that he paid his dues for and is remorseful to this very day? His punishment for that crime was served and over back in 1975. Anyone is capable of murder if that is the case. If I am driving down a dark road and someone in dark clothing is crossing the street and neither of us see each other until it is too late, I could go to prison for ending his/her life. Or like another story on the news where a woman shot an intruder in her own home and was arrested. Really, where does it end? Kay Lincoln and I definitely agree on one thing for sure; This country is led to believe that you are innocent until proven guilty however, this is not the case. People in this justice system are indeed guilty until proven innocent. There was no evidence that Mr. Lincoln had anything to do with what happened that night and had absolutely no motive to do it, but even without a shred of evidence he was guilty according to the court. Please show your support for the family. You can post comments here, you can join their facebook group, or contact me and I can forward any information to them.



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Friday, September 2, 2011

Interview with Margaret Dilloway

I want to introduce you all to Margaret Dilloway. She is the fabulous new author of: How to Be An American Housewife. It is a captivating story of A Japanese woman that has gone from riches to rags and lost two men early in her life leading her to marry an American Navy corpsman after the war. This marriage leads her to her future in America and with a weakened heart yearns to return to her home country to make amends.

Ultimately her poor health keeps her from the trip she wished for and she sends her daughter in her place. This is an amazing read and I have personally felt touched by the characters in the book. I felt close to them, I cried for them, they truly were imprinted into my heart. Please be a supporter of Mrs. Dilloway so that we can see many more works from her in the years to come. Her writing style is structured, yet very unique in it’s own right.

I would like to share the interview here and a personal, “Thank you,” for her time. Enjoy!

ME: How to Be An American Housewife is truly a deep and touching account. How much of the novel was based on personal experiences?

MD: My mother told me stories about what it was like growing up in WWII Japan. I included several of these accounts in the book. The plot is fiction. My mother passed away when I was 20, so we never had the type of relationship that Sue and Shoko ultimately arrived at. I never traveled to Japan. My mother's relatives accept us Americans.


ME: Something that I found to be really fascinating about this book, and a touch I personally loved, were the quotes throughout the book. One of my favorites; “It is true that the Marriage is a difficult path for some people to stay on. As years pass, however, the proposition becomes easier. The husband grows accustomed to the company of his Wife, and vice versa. This is how families attain the permanence to which we all aspire. Do you think with America’s high divorce rate that if couples tried harder to work on their relationship and just stay together that eventually most small problems will resolve themselves in time?

MD: Perhaps. My husband and I have been married for nearly 14 years, and I think many small things that used to bother us just don't anymore. That's also because we've had periods of significant hardship, which makes the small things just that-- small.


ME: How long did it take you to write, How to Be an American Housewife, and are you  completely happy with the way it turned out? If you could do it all over again, would you change anything?

MD: I began writing this book when I was on bedrest with my last pregnancy, and when that baby started kindergarten, the book came out. It took about three years to write and sell it, one year of editing with my Putnam editor, and another year before it came out.

Sometimes when I read passages, I'll see words I want to change, but not really. You'd drive yourself crazy if you did, because you have to read it so often to the public.


ME: This particular novel seems to be quite a success. Has this changed anything about your life, and how has your family (I.E. children and husband) reacted to it?

MD: Nothing has really changed in my life. I did get to do a tour, which was only for a few days, and sometimes people ask me for interviews or to give talks.  My husband is super proud of me, because he's always encouraged me. The other night he said he has always seen my talent and it makes him happy that others now see it, too.  My kids are pleased to see the book, but I don't think it's terribly impressive to kids because it's not a kid's book. Now if I were JK Rowling, that would impress my kids.


ME: Who are your favorite authors?

MD: That is a difficult question, because it depends on what I'm in the mood for.  I really enjoy Sarah Addison Allen, Anne Tyler, and Pers Petterson.  If I'm reading before bed, I have to read a sort of more optimistic book, because otherwise I'll have disturbing dreams about the characters!

About my formative years: When I was in my early teens, my brother made me read a lot of sci fi and fantasy from his collections, so I loved Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Terry Brooks, and Piers Anthony. I also read Sweet Valley High and those VC Andrews books. And then I read all of F. Scott Fitzgerald (THE GREAT GATSBY still a fave) and Hemingway. None of it was for school. I think we just read abridged excerpts in school.


ME: Are you currently working on another novel, and if so can you tell us anything about it?

MD: I have a novel coming out in the spring called QUEEN OF SHOW. Let me cut & paste the catalog copy:

Thirty-six year old Gal Garner lives a regimented life. Her job teaching biology and her struggle with kidney disease keep her toggling between the high school, the hospital, and home on a strict schedule. Only at home, in her gardens, does Gal come alive. But even her passion, rose breeding, has a tangible and highly structured goal: Gal wants to create a new breed of rose, win Queen of Show in a major competition, and bring that rose to market…

Then one afternoon Gal's niece Riley, the daughter of her estranged sister, arrives.

Unannounced. And their lives will never be the same.


ME: Do you Google yourself?

MD: Heck yeah. I have a Google alert for myself and my book.


ME: I’ve read so many reviews for the book, which is what really pushed me to read it, but how do you react to any negative criticism?

MD: It honestly no longer affects me. After all, I don't enjoy every single book I read, so I don't expect everyone in the world to like my books.  I figure some bad reviews means it's getting more widely read.  People whom I really respect love the book; their opinions mean more than an anonymous critic.


ME: You touch base on stereotypes and prejudice. Is this something that you experienced as a child and  did you have a strong Japanese influence growing up?

MD: My family was its own culture, picking and choosing practices and customs from American and Japanese cultures.  It was only through my mother that I experienced Japanese cultures, because we didn't socialize with Japanese people, or with anyone, really.

I don't think I experienced discrimination for being half-Japanese, except in sort of positive ways, like people assuming I was really smart, or telling me I was attractive because of it. If I got teased, it was for things like being super shy or wearing glasses or having a crooked mouth, not for my race. I did get teased a lot when I was a kid.  People apologized at my reunion!


ME: Where would you like to see your career in the next five to ten years?

MD: I would like to establish an empire, with books, T-shirts, perfumes, films, a reality show, and lines of shoes and home products.  I'm only kidding.  Kind of.  I would be really happy just making a living as a writer.



This was a fantastic interview and you can read more about Margaret on her website at http://www.margaretdilloway.com

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Interview with Steve Ewing of The Urge

Steve Ewing is a musical icon of Saint Louis. We were with The Urge during their reign on MTV, and many of us have been avid followers of Steve's career after the temporary disbandment of The Urge. However, Steve has a lot more going on in his life than just the shows that he plays. Aside from being an entertainer he is a father, a husband, and an entrepreneur.

ME: Steve, you have started up a new restaurant, Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill. What inspired you to open a hot dog restaurant, and what can people expect as far as the menu?

SE: The restaurant is an extension of the mobile hot dog business I've been running for a little while. I wanted to have a place to go to all year long in a foodie kinda neighborhood. The menu will have classic All Beef dogs from New York and Chicago, 8 different sausages from around the world and fresh chili too!

ME:  During one of your shows at Luna Lounge, you talked about how much you loved having a daughter. What do you really enjoy doing with your family during your down-time? Also, do you see anymore children in the future?

SE:  Yeah, It's sweet being a dad. You never know about having more kids. Seems like we don't have a lot of downtime, but we love getting outside as much as possible. Camping, floating, swimming...

ME: You have a beautiful wife and daughter, but tell us about the woman behind the man? How did you two meet?

SE: Thank you! Beth and I met in the early 90's in St. Louis. She was a grad student and I was on a break from touring. We started dating a year later and stayed at it-

ME: We have all heard that the Urge is playing at Pointfest, which is completely exciting! Do you think that the Urge will ever get back together or do you think you are happier having your life here in St. Louis and doing your own thing?

SE: The Urge is back together. So we will have more shows and music for sure. But I'll be able to still do my own projects here. I couldn't imagine NOT doing the Steve Ewing shows. Last year we did almost 200!

ME: So, Steve…You just had a birthday recently. How did you celebrate?

SE: I celebrated my birthday by playing a show! I always do! Ha!

ME:  When you aren’t playing or making music, what are you listening to currently?

SE: Lately, I have been listening to AWOL Nation, The Dead Weather, The Gorge, Death Cab. I'm also having a Peter Tosh Renaissance.

ME:  What is the greatest song of all time?

SE: There is no way I can answer the "Greatest Song" Question. I've tried and failed too many times!

ME:  Final question: Where do you see yourself and your life in the next five years?

SE: It's funny, but I can't see five years ahead. I'm able to stay happy by pushing buttons right now and waiting to see what happens. I do know that I'll still be performing and writing and recording. And I'll always be a champion for St. Louis musicians- cause there are a lot of sick ass cats playing out!

HYAAAH!