Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Unique Education at Chicago’s Cook County Morgue

The mood was festive as the public viewed the remains of John Dillinger in 1934 
Chicago, IL—In the early 1970’s I was assigned to remove murder suspects from the Cook County Jail and take them to the Cook County Morgue.   The old Morgue seen above in rare photos was located at Polk and Woods Streets on Chicago’s West side.  It was near the Cook County Hospital.  It has since been torn down. 
From 1960 until 1976 the elected Cook County Coroner was the late Andrew J. Toman, MD.  Various forensic pathologists appointed by the Cook County Board have since replaced Dr. Toman.  It is now called the Office of The Cook County Medical Examiner.
In those days Coroner’s Inquests into the manner of death were held.   They were presided over by a Cook County Deputy Coroner and a jury of six men hearing the testimony and reviewing the complicated evidence determined if the death was a crime or from some other means. 
Homicide detectives would provide testimony and the pathology and toxicology reports were also entered into evidence.  Anyone in police custody charged in connection with the death was asked to testify subject to standard Miranda warnings.

The Jury was comprised of men between 75 and 90-years old.  They were professional jurors that used the paltry jury pay to supplement their retirement pensions and Social Security.  They wore old tattered suits and one of the men had a hideous looking fake hand.  It was made out of wood and covered with a black leather glove.  One of the fingers was torn and the wooden index finger was exposed.  They seemed to enjoy their duty and sense of importance.
Often I’d eat my carry out lunch inside of the jury deliberation room while the elderly fellows were deliberating.  The jury members played cards and talked sports rather than the business at hand.  They would soon signal signal that a verdict was reached and the foreman would dutifully recite it on the record.  The reality was a secret hand signal from the Deputy Coroner to the jury foreman determined just what the verdict would be!  It was anything but a dramatic scene like the one in that great film, Twelve Angry Men.
The jury foreman recited the Murder verdicts this way: “We the jury, sworn on the remains of (name of the victim) find this occurrence to have been murder and we recommend that the defendant now in police custody be held on a charge of murder until released by due process of law.”
Coroner’s Inquest verdicts were never binding upon prosecutors and they were considered duplicative and unnecessary.  Prosecutors demanded to have the last word on prosecutions and too often the Coroner’s jury disagreed with them.  The new laws of the Medical Examiner system eliminated the Inquest proceedings altogether, at least in Cook County. 
In the case of police justified killings the cops were required to testify despite their right to claim protection against self-incrimination. 
Laws and attitudes have changed over the years along with the press and public’s right to know exactly what was happening behind the walls of this local government facility.
In 1934 when FBI agents and East Chicago, Indiana cops at Chicago’s Biograph Theater on North Lincoln Avenue gunned down the infamous fugitive gangster, John Dillinger the press and the public had the absolute right to view Dillinger’s remains.  He was put on display for the morbidly curious.  That would not happen today under present laws.
Prior to late 1976, the office of Cook County Coroner existed and operated under laws that have changed considerably. 
As for my exposure to forensic pathology, I sat through hundreds of inquests and during breaks I’d go downstairs and watch the autopsies. I can say that I’ve closely watched between 700 and 800 of them. 
I’ve seen every conceivable kind of death up close and personal.  Unfortunately they included murdered cops, a very pretty friend and neighbor who was stabbed to death along with two friends killed in car accidents.  Then there was a high school acquaintance shotgunned to death by police when he was caught burglarizing a supermarket one night. 
That along with my experience as an Army medical corpsman this was quite an education.   As a police or private investigator understanding related medical documents and testimony is often very important.
The various changes of the law involving the Coroner/Medical Examiner came as the direct result of a Federal Grand Jury probe of the infamous December, 1969 Black Panther Party Raid that resulted in the justifiable deaths of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.  
During the many years of litigation that followed the raid, practices of the Coroner were criticized and some politicians demanded reforms. That's what led to the changes. 
The autopsy protocol I became familiar with was long before the fear of HIV and AIDS.  Rubber gloves were used for the most part, but not mandated.  Masks and eye protection was rarely used unless the remains were really over-ripe. 
The bodies were kept on somewhat clean stainless steel gurneys and the remains were covered with plain brown butcher paper.  Standard autopsy tables with running water were used and above with the lights were microphones for dictation by the attending pathologists.  
The head physician was an elderly man, Jerry J. Kerns, MD who sat at a desk with his back to the autopsy tables.  

The bodies were first measured and weighed with a floor scale.  The weight of the gurney was then deducted from the total weight. 
The autopsy assistants or dieners (their proper title) were all exclusively African-American males.  They were political patronage workers with limited educations including some that were functionally illiterate.  Let me defend these men because they all knew human anatomy really well.  They taught me a lot! 
The dieners could trace bullet wound tracks through organs and tissue better than the pathologists and could easily recognize an internal organ that was in anyway abnormal due to size, shape or color.  They could tell an adrenal gland from a pituitary gland in a split second. 
The pathologist would look at the remains and dictate what he saw and return to his desk.  The dieners would usually open the body, and rib cage.  Ordinary tree pruning shears are the choice tool for quickly and cleanly cutting the rib bones away from the breastbone. 
They then would cut the scalp pulling the forward and anterior flaps down exposing the skull.  They would use a Stryker cast saw to cut the top of the skull so the brain could be easily removed.  It was at that point the pathologist would take a look and either take over or simply tell the dieners what was needed.
The internal organs were all removed one at a time, weighed and sectioned using chef's knives and the samples were preserved in containers for further examination.  What was left including the brain, was placed in a plastic or rubber trash container lined with a large plastic bag. 

The most unpleasant part of the procedure for me followed the opening of the stomach and the examination of its contents.  The pathologists would often sniff the contents trying to determine what and when was the last meal.  It's exactly like examining vomit.  
When the autopsy was concluded the dieners would replace the brain with a large wad of cotton and the scull cap was repositioned.  The scalp was pulled back over and stitched with a large upholstery needle with butcher string.  
That large plastic bag filled with the viscera was stuffed into the open body cavity.  The ribcage was closed and the breastbone laid on top were it belongs.  The Y shaped body cavity incision was closed using the same needle and string as the scalp. 
The pathologist would dictate the rest of the report with incredible speed of a rap artist.  At that point they’d rinse off the table and various tools.  Odors were kept under control with lots of liquid Pine-Sol detergent. 
During obvious homicide related autopsies it was routine for the homicide detectives to watch and actually make the recovery of bullets and other similar projectiles.  They’d transport that evidence to the ballistics examiners at the various crime labs.   They'd also take pictures of the remains and various wounds. 
Today the dieners are now formally educated technicians, the butcher paper has been replaced with heavy duty plastic and everyone wears protective gowns and faceguards.  The physician is present throughout the examination. 
I wish to thank the late, Jerry J. Kerns, MD and Deputy Coroner, Anthony J. Scriaffa along with some very capable dieners for their assistance in this important part of my education.  I also must thank my wagon partners, most notably the late, L.C. Johnson for guarding the prisoners while I was learning one floor below.  I have no university credit hours or diploma to show for this, but what an amazing education.

How’d I Miss Lena Dunham?

New York, NY—Watching Saturday Night Live tonight introduced me to Lena Dunham.  I heard the name before but was not quite sure where. I must have spent too much time in my cave.  Dunham is a tattooed and somewhat pudgy gal that most would dismiss as a potential leading lady of most films. 
I was curious so I investigated to learn why this 27 year-old girl was hosting SNL.  I watched her skits and she seemed somewhat talented.  Where and how did she get her breaks I wondered?  Hell I have socks in my dresser that are older than Dunham! 
It turns out that Dunham took a route to stardom I was taught to avoid like making short films.  I was taught to patiently wait for an agent or manager to discover your acting skills and make you a star.  That is now so “old school” and nearly always leaves the blood of hopefuls on the, Boulevard of Broken Dreams.  Most of the A list actors are not also writers and directors.  They get a lucky break, an agent and some good roles.  
Dunham took another more progressive and productive route.  Among other things apparently the 2012 successful HBO comedy series, Girls which is a creation of this talented lady. 
Dunham obviously learned important writing skills in college.  Afterwards Dunham got involved writing, producing, directing and acting in short films.  Instead of stalking agents for representation she used the power she had over her own projects to cast herself in the lead roles. 
Dunham gathered her mother, sister, friends and associates and moved forward like a speeding freight train making films.  Social media played no small part in her self-promotion.  That effort resulted in the important talent agents stalking her! 
Dunham entered her projects in various film fests.  She won Best Narrative Feature at the SXSW Festival.  She cast herself in her own little projects as she entered her films in numerous competitions.  Later she wound up with two coveted Golden Globe Awards and numerous other honors.
One film schoolteacher of mine never mentioned that Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling succeeded with easy to produce inexpensive short films.  Half-hour shows were really 20 minutes with room for 10 minutes of commercials.  Hour shows simply doubled everything.  You never saw expensive sets, special effects or major film props like you do in feature films.  Great scripts and actors carried everything. 
My acting coaches never expressed value in short films beyond putting clips on your acting reel.  It was more about getting cozy with casting directors and putting on showcases.  Of course that meant paying for the privilege to play. 
Today you can go to the nearest Best Buy and purchase better and substantially cheaper equipment to make and edit full color films for a few thousand dollars.
Last but not least On October 8, 2012, Dunham signed a $3.5 million deal with Random House to publish her first book, an essay collection called Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Learned.
Dunham has taught me that becoming an entertainment mega-star and millionaire is possible if you just believe in yourself.  Is there still hope for an over the hill Hollywood hopeful like me?  The answer is, yes!  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Huge Thank You to All of my Friends from Germany!

Aschaffenburg, Germany—When I was required to serve in the U.S. Army I had the good fortune of serving as a medical corpsman in this lovely town some 30 kilometers South of Frankfurt.
I landed here in December of 1968 somehow escaping a combat assignment in Viet Nam.   I arrived in Germany just 24 years after World War II ended.  Technically I was still part of an occupation army.  Thankfully the deep wounds of war here healing and a real friendship was developing between Germans and Americans. 
This was amazing since Aschaffenburg was the scene of the most aggressive and deadly resistance once the war ended.   Thankfully my predecessors were mush better behaved than the Russian military swine that raped the women and children of Berlin while looting their last few possessions. 
The German people showed me kindness as they welcomed me into their nation, homes and hearts.  Learning about the customs, food and rich culture was a real treat for me.  Learning the language seemed incredibly easy for me but my motivation for that was more about my overactive libido.  There were exceptionally beautiful young women everywhere and fluency in conversation was a big plus in that regard. 
The 18 months I spent in Germany were the best of my entire life.  I only regret returning to Chicago to live.  It would have been better I only visited the USA as an expatriate from time to time. 
I was ignorant of the wonderful educational opportunities that I would have had in Germany.  Back then getting student or worker status would have been a snap.  I did not miss the Army but I really missed Germany. 
My excellent German language proficiency deteriorated because of lack of conversation and I got on with my life as an American.  There were always the doubts that returning the right thing for my future and me.  Hindsight is always so much better and I now see I made the wrong choice.
It was not all bad and I’ve been back several times but now every time I visit I want to stay.  I may yet find a way to visit there more often perhaps working on various film projects and such. 
In more recent years I have met new friends from Germany living, visiting or working in the U.S.  Many are in the film industry.  I cherish these folks too because the have the same elegance and kindness I remember so well.  
To my many wonderful German friends both here in the USA and Germany, I say thank you.  My life is much richer because of you.


A Sad Tale About Chicago’s Assisting the Mentally Ill…

Chicago, IL—In Chicago like most cops I had a part-time security gig.  I handled security for the now long gone Continental Trailways Bus Company located at 20 East Randolph.  
I had to deal with pimps looking for runaway girls needed for their stables.  Pick pockets, purse-snatchers, baggage thieves, drug addicts and sex-perverts all loved bus and train stations.   Dealing with this culture took a lot of tough love.  Yes, I had some epic and unforgettable battles that sent lots business to the local emergency rooms and the old 001 police lockup at 1121 South State street.    
There were times I’d encounter people in real need and helping them was often a challenge.  I sent many people to area shelters and places where they could score a free meal.  I’d find vulnerable and desperate runaway girls in need of social services.  I gave the Salvation Army hundreds of customers over the years. 
One day in about 1971, I came into the depot and saw that officers were dealing with a man found removing a brown paper bag containing his life savings,  $70,000.00 from a rental storage locker.  
The man was on a layover from New York to Los Angeles, CA to take a new job as an aircraft machinist.  
A concerned woman saw his cash bag and called the police.  They arrived and the man was very livid and demanded to be left alone. He said he put the bag in a locker because he wanted to walk around and see some local sights.
A sergeant decided that the man should be sent to the Reed Zone Center to get his clock rewound.  In simple English that simply meant taking him to a mental facility for emergency care and observation.  
The fun began!  These mental health referrals always bring lawyers appointed as guardians, court dates and of course mental health evaluations.  The man’s cash was inventoried and placed into the police evidence and recovered property section. 
The court determined that the man was not indigent so his treatment costs, temporary legal guardian should not burden the taxpayers.  What should have been a three-day event lasted three weeks.  A judge ordered that the man’s money be released to the guardian for proper distribution and safekeeping. 
Finally the man was found to be sane and perfectly able to care for himself and was released.   The poor man came back to Trailways in tears and I had a chat with him.  
The hapless man told me he now needed a ticket to return to New York because the new job he’d found in California had been filled by someone else.  He showed me a check made out to him by his guardian for $2,800.00.  He said that they used nearly all of his money for the “services” that they provided him over his three weeks in Hell. 
The poor fellow needed help because no bank would cash the check from the legal guardian.  He now had no cash to buy a bus ticket.  I sent him off to the Salvation Army for help.  I never saw him again.
This was just one more example of just how helpful a Progressive Nanny Government can be.
Like the old 1950’s TV Show, Naked City’s narrator would say, “There are Eight million stories in the Naked City and this has been one of them”. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It’s Time for German Hero Sophie Scholl’s Story to be Told on Film for an English Speaking Audience

Munich, Germany—One of the more compelling true stories of wartime Germany is that of young Sophie Scholl and the organization known as the White Rose
The White Rose was a small university based peaceful Nazi resistance organization committed to revealing the evil state secrets of the Third Reich.  They exposed the cruel murders of mentally ill children, Jews and prisoners of war.  They did so by writing, printing distributing leaflets exposing the shameful Nazi crimes. 
In 1943 Sophie, her brother Hans Scholl and a friend, Christoph Probst were caught in the act of distributing hundreds of leaflets at the University in Munich.  They were arrested, tried convicted and executed for treason.  Eventually four other members were executed too and others imprisoned. 
What makes Sophie special was that she fought tyranny and demanded that she not be treated better than her brother and friend Christoph.  The young trio were allbeheaded on a guillotine.  
I want this film remade in English.  I’d cast Sebastian Koch as Gestapo Inspector Robert Mohr and Christian Berkel as Judge Roland Frisler. Additionally I'd cast Carice van Houten as Else Gebel, Sophie's cellmate at Stadlehiem.  A casting dragnet should be cast to find a wonderful 21-year-old actress to play Sophie. 
The actors should speak in English with authentic German accents and it should be filmed where it happened.  Needless to say I'd love to personally be involved in this production.
This story is compelling, heartbreaking and a monument to the courage of these youngsters.  

Florida Officials Seek Court Record Expungement of People Acquitted in Self-Defense Cases

My S&W five-shot Bodyguard with Sambar Stagg Grips from Eagle Grips  
Tallahassee, FL—There is a legislative effort here in removing the taint of criminal accusations from people who were arrested but not convicted in self-defense cases.  
We all know some cops and prosecutors are quick to force people to trial that have lawfully and justifiably used deadly force.  The all time Poster Boy for such cases is George Zimmerman
There are cases far less toxic than Zimmerman where people used deadly force in the greatest extreme in self-defense.  These people are arrested, photographed, fingerprinted and they are later cleared by Grand Juries that refuse to indict or trial juries.  
The records of these cases are public and currently accessible by potential employers, financial institutions, the public or the media.  The damage can result in lost opportunities, home or business loans and sometime derogatory news stories. 
The only fair answer is to remove, erase or expunge the records.  Why would we want to make a public pariah of someone that has committed no crime? 
Twenty-five years ago, a drunken white collar criminal, James Robert "Bob" Lyne, Jr.  pistol-whipped me with a .45 semi-automatic handgun after I served an eviction summons.   He lacerated my head in two places and I lost my balance dropping to one knee while bleeding profusely.  Lyne circled around me in the darkness pointing the gun at me. 
I pulled my own five-shot .38 special quickly emptying it into my assailant and ran for my life.  Lyne was critically injured but he in fact survived.
Lyne’s son James Robert "Rob" Lyne, III came out of the house with a shotgun and one neighbor Joseph Hynes came out with a .38 revolver.  Thankfully I was gone before they could kill me. 
A police detective, Brian Douglass McFarland arrested me, falsified evidence, destroyed physical evidence and perjured himself before a Grand Jury and during my trial.  Lyne and his family redundantly lied attempting to cover up their crimes. 
After a six-week trial a jury took only four-minutes to acquit me.  The jury also took the unusual step of demanding my attacker James Robert Lyne, Jr. and his then 19 year-old daughter, Kathleen Lyne, now known as Kathleen Lyne Franklin be charged with Perjury, Evidence Tampering and Witness Tampering.
Afterwards the jury members approached me in court.  Every woman gave me a hug and each man shook my hand.  They all wanted my business card in case they ever found themselves in trouble. 
Soon the Lynes were arrested, indicted and charged with those felony crimes.  They later pled guilty in court. 
There was a conspiracy that involved the later disbarred prosecutor,  Kenneth J. PeasleyJudge Rebecca Albrecht, the cop and the Lynes.  Prosecutors targeted me because of my high-profile advocacy of gun rights in the Arizona Legislature and media.
Initially I asked to have the record expunged but the judge denied my request!  Later because of the passage of time and my being free from any kind of criminal conduct I could have succeeded in obtaining the expungment.  However, ecause I specialize in criminal defense investigation I’ve used my arrest and acquittal like a sword rather than a liability. Frankly it was good for business!
As for the currently proposed Florida legislation the media and gun-rights haters are crying foul.  They want to victimize those that chose not to be victims of deadly assaults. 
Punishing innocent people with criminal records they don’t deserve is both wrong and un-American.   I salute the members of the Florida Legislature for their efforts here.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

We Must End Zero Tolerance Airport Gun Arrests!

Chicago, IL—It happens again and again, a forgetful or preoccupied traveler is found to have a firearm in a carryon bag at Midway or O’Hare Airports.  Zero tolerance kicks in and the hapless traveler is hauled off to jail.  They are forced to miss their flight along with the weddings, funerals and business meetings they planned on attending.
That happened to the late retired Chicago cop and actor Dennis Farina seen in the above photo being handcuffed by police at LAX in 2008.  
Everyday thousands of  travelers are similarly found with lotions, potions, perfume, liquor or various objects that just appear harmful.  Thousands of other forgetful or preoccupied people with the prohibited liquids don’t face arrest, just the confiscation of their sometimes-expensive property. 
The point is that no person with criminal intent would ever knowingly place a bag on a conveyor belt for TSA inspection that contains a gun!  We all know our bags are sniffed, searched and x-rayed! 
Passengers are permitted to transport their firearms unloaded in a hard-sided locking case provided they inform the airline ticketing and checked baggage agents.  There is inspection and tagging the firearm involved.
You’d be surprised to learn that not all airports are the same.  It depends more on local laws, attitudes and their concerns about fundamental fairness. 
If an intended passenger is found with a gun in Phoenix, Denver or Jacksonville chances are they will be told to remove the gun and make proper arrangements for its disposition.  They are allowed to hand over their gun to friends, relatives or place it in their automobile trunks without being arrested or prosecuted. 
The same conduct at most airports brings jail, bail bondsmen, defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges, disgrace and sometimes-horrible publicity.   Even if a passenger were to win in court the over-all financial damage can be staggering to some people. 
Sometimes criminals are forgetful too.  I’m talking about those people that prohibited by law from possessing firearms and those with stolen guns or ones with defaced serial numbers.  When that happens arrests are appropriate and reasonable.
Why would we want to clog our jails and courts with people that are in no way a threat to anyone?  Why would we want to stamp the Mark of Cain (criminal record) on some traveler destroying their current or future business and professional licenses?  Why would we want to criminalize forgetfulness?
This problem of unreasonable arrests can be addressed by either state or federal legislation. 
The federal government currently has the ability to assess a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for violations and that issue also deserves revisiting and review. 
Zero tolerance is more suited for Communist, Nazi or similar Fascist governments, not that of a free nation.  Above all, we have a right to keep and carry firearms that’s spelled out in our Constitution.  

All Americans deserve fairness and the benefit of the doubt when it comes to matters or crime, courts and justice.   Arresting some otherwise law-abiding person simply for pure forgetfulness is nothing short of government tyranny.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Crimefile News Review of, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Los Angeles, CA—Most of my visitors know that I’m an actor, writer, and video producer in addition to being a private investigator.  Along the way I have found some wonderful friends involved in German filmmaking and funding.  I’ve got two film projects of my own in development.  With a lot of luck maybe something will yet see production. 
Let me begin by letting you know a little about Germany’s partnering with American film producers.  Germany is no small player in making top quality English speaking films. 
For well over a year I’ve been hearing buzz about this film produced by the prolific American producer Scott Rudin and Berlin’s Studio Babelsberg.  Germany is dead serious about making terrific and in recent years given generous film grants to producers to make the magic happen.
Some recent past productions funded by the German government are some of my favorites such as Black Book, Valkyrie, Inglorious Bastards and The Book Thief are a few wonderful examples. 
California has chased away filmmakers with excessive taxation right into the loving arms of Canada and Germany.   American filmmakers are finding Germany has so much to offer them in every possible way. 
The German film locations are amazing and different.  Reunified, Eastern Germany has loads of untouched real estate spared from modern development because of long time Communist control.  The more modern metropolis locations are in the Western Cities of Germany.
Now it’s time to talk about this awesome film!
This Wes Anderson film is a real adventure and a wonderful farce.  It has an all-star cast however recognizing these actors will be a challenge because of superb makeup and costumes. 
The cleaver writing was only surpassed by the great delivery of the lines by the cast.  The film is non-stop entertainment revolving around the adventures of a hotel concierge and a lobby boy.   You will find out our concierge goes the extra distance to make sure his elderly, female and rich guests are comfortable.
The stars pop up one at a time and they will keep you guessing and laughing even after you’ve gone home. 
I’ve told you enough and don’t want to spoil the film for you.   Go see it!  I will buy the Blu-Ray DVD when it released for my collection. 
The cast includes:  Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric , Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson. 
I must warn you that the trailer below does not do the film justice!