HELENA — A Billings police officer on trial in Helena for driving with an elevated alcohol level attacked the breath-testing technology used by the state, and emerged without a conviction on the charge after her trial ended Friday with a hung jury.
The four-man, two-woman jury convicted Samantha Puckett of speeding but failed to reach agreement on the DUI per se charge. Municipal Judge Bob Wood declared a mistrial and Deputy City Attorney Thomas Jodoin said it was too early to decide whether the city would retry the case.
Puckett’s attorney, Bradley Finn, said Puckett has been working at her job as a police officer since a brief period of administrative leave after her arrest in the early hours of Dec. 10.
Billings Police officials did not return calls inquiring about Puckett’s employment status, and a person at the city’s Human Resources Department said that department would not comment.
Helena police say they measured Samantha Puckett’s breath-alcohol content above .10 percent that night, exceeding the legal limit for driving of .08 percent.
But Paul Miranda, an expert witness for Puckett, testified that the analysis could be flawed.
Miranda, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Montana and works as a senior metallurgist for Idaho-based Thompson Creek Mining Co., has had some training related to breath-testing and has previously testified as an expert witness about eight or 10 times, he said.
He argued that the test results could vary due to elevation, the body temperature of the person blowing, and other factors. Based on those variables, and after viewing police video of Puckett performing well in two of the three field sobriety tests, Miranda said he believed Puckett was below the legal maximum.
Jodoin questioned whether the chemist had any training in analysis of field sobriety tests. Miranda said he hadn’t, but he’s previously had a few beers with buddies and knows when they’re intoxicated. As an example, he said his sister-in-law, once at a bachelorette party, fell off a stage while singing after drinking all night, and hit her head. “I’m pretty sure she’s above a .08,” he said.
The incident began when Helena Police Department Cpl. Jason Zander, on patrol by the intersection of North Montana Avenue and Cedar Street, saw and heard Puckett’s SUV speeding southbound, according to his testimony Thursday. By driving his patrol car at about the same speed as the SUV, Zander estimated the car was driving about 45 mph in a 30 mph speed zone, and he pulled it over.
Zander, a nine-year Helena Police veteran who trains other officers on conducting field sobriety testing, testified that he smelled alcohol in the car. Puckett performed well on two of the field sobriety tests and initially said she had two beers that evening. Later, she said she had consumed four beers in three different bars, and only eaten beef jerky and a protein bar that evening.
During the required 20-minute period between the traffic stop and the breath analysis (to ensure that any alcohol left in the mouth is able to dissipate), Zander and Puckett chatted about police officers they both knew and other police-related matters including the funeral a few days earlier of David DeLaittre, the Montana Highway Patrolman who was killed during a traffic stop.
“It’s a bad situation for me, too,” Zander said on the video just before arresting Puckett. “This is the last thing I want to do.”
After viewing the results of a second breath test at the detention center, she was asked on video whether she was under the influence of alcohol.
“Obviously, yes,” she said.
Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/article_897c390b-334f-5a93-bc9c-cf8ae948f016.html#ixzz1TjkxtB6G
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Volunteered by Aaron Kinney at 7:42 PM
Using his law enforcement experience and data drawn from the FBI's behavioral analysis unit, Jim Kouri has collected a series of personality traits common to a couple of professions.
Kouri, who's a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.
These traits, Kouri points out in his analysis, are common to psychopathic serial killers.
But -- and here's the part that may spark some controversy and defensive discussion -- these traits are also common to American politicians. (Maybe you already suspected.)
Yup. Violent homicide aside, our elected officials often show many of the exact same character traits as criminal nut-jobs, who run from police but not for office.
Kouri notes that these criminals are psychologically capable of committing their dirty deeds free of any concern for social, moral or legal consequences and with absolutely no remorse.
"This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want," he wrote. "Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders."
Good grief! And we not only voted for these people, we're paying their salaries and entrusting them to spend our national treasure in wise ways.
We don't know Kouri that well. He may be trying to manipulate all of us with his glib provocative pronouncements. On the other hand ...
"While many political leaders will deny the assessment regarding their similarities with serial killers and other career criminals, it is part of a psychopathic profile that may be used in assessing the behaviors of many officials and lawmakers at all levels of government."
-- Andrew Malcolm
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Volunteered by Aaron Kinney at 12:31 PM
A court has rejected a 60-year-old man’s attempt to invoke the ancient right to trial by combat, rather than pay a £25 fine for a minor motoring offence.
Leon Humphreys remained adamant yesterday that his right to fight a champion nominated by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) was still valid under European human rights legislation. He said it would have been a “reasonable” way to settle the matter.
Magistrates sitting at Bury St Edmunds on Friday had disagreed and instead of accepting his offer to take on a clerk from Swansea with “samurai swords, Ghurka knives or heavy hammers”, fined him £200 with £100 costs.
Humphreys, an unemployed mechanic, was taken to court after refusing to pay the original £25 fixed penalty for failing to notify the DVLA that his Suzuki motorcycle was off the road.
After entering a not guilty plea, he threw down his unconventional challenge. Humphreys, from Bury St Edmunds, said: “I was willing to fight a champion put up by the DVLA, but it would have been a fight to the death.”