Half a Life in Solitary: How Colorado Made a Young Man Insane
By Andrew Cohen
The story of Sam Mandez is appalling on so many different levels it’s hard to know where to begin. Convicted for a murder no one has ever proven he committed, sentenced to life without parole at the age of 18 because the judge and jury had no other choice, confined for 16 years in solitary for petty offenses in prison, made severely mentally ill by prison policies and practices, left untreated in that condition year after year by state officials, Mandez personifies the self-defeating cruelty of America’s prisons today.
And yet Mandez is not alone in his predicament. All over the nation, in state prisons and federal penitentiaries, officials are failing or refusing to adequately diagnose and treat inmates who are or who are made mentally ill by their confinements. The dire conditions in which these men and women are held, the deliberate indifference with which they are treated, do not meet constitutional standards. And yet there are thousands like Mandez, symbols of one of the most shameful episodes in American legal history.
On July 26, 1992, an elderly woman named Frida Winter was murdered in her home in Greeley, Colorado. The police recovered fingerprints from the scene and later found some of Winter’s things in a culvert near her home. But for years the investigation went nowhere in large part because it was flawed in nearly every way. Other fingerprints from Winter’s home were not recovered. Leads were not adequately pursued. Logical suspects were not properly questioned. At the time of Winter’s death, Sam Mandez was 14 years old.
Four years later, the police caught what they considered a break. Fingerprints from Winter’s home finally found a match in a police database—and the match was Sam Mandez, who had just turned 18. They brought him in for intense questioning. But Mandez had a strong alibi. He and his grandfather had painted part of Winter’s home in 1991, a year before her death. There was good reason for his prints to have been on the window that was broken on the night of Winter’s death. Mandez had been in trouble with the law before—but never for a violent crime.
There were no eyewitnesses. There was no confession. There was no evidence of any kind that Mandez had murdered Winter. But there was one other link between them. Among the items recovered from that culvert after Winter’s death was a matchbook from a business in Henderson, Nevada. The Mandez family had relatives there. The cops said this proved that Mandez had been inside Winter’s house on the night of her death: He had burglarized her home, and thus, under a dubious extension of Colorado law, he was necessarily guilty of first-degree murder….
- Half A Life In Solitary (theatlantic.com)
- Half a Life in Solitary: How Colorado Made a Young Man Insane (amadmanspathtoreason.com)
- Half a Life in Solitary: How Colorado Made a Young Man Insane (asolitarytorture.wordpress.com)
- How Colorado Prisons Made A Young Man Insane (businessinsider.com)
- Wyoming town says murder sentencing a step toward healing (trib.com)
- Interim parole chief to head Colorado prison system (denverpost.com)
- Lawmaker will seek to abolish solitary confinement for mentally ill prisoners (coloradoindependent.com)
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
By Barbara Listo
ORLANDO, April 29 (Reuters) – Prosecutors in Florida want George Zimmerman to state publicly at a court hearing on Tuesday whether he will pursue his immunity defense in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin on the basis of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, or waive his right to use it.
Prosecutors asked Judge Debra Nelson in a motion to remind Zimmerman “that should defendant in fact wish to waive any pre-trial immunity challenge under this statute, he may not attempt to do so later, particularly once trial has commenced.”
Zimmerman will attend Tuesday’s hearing, according to his lawyer, Mark O’Mara. However, O’Mara told Reuters he hadn’t decided what he will do if the judge tries to question his client.
“I know the state would like to have that information, it seems. I don’t feel compelled to advise anybody of my strategy in this case,” O’Mara said.
Zimmerman goes on trial June 10 on a second-degree murder charge for shooting Martin after prosecutors say he profiled and confronted the unarmed black teenager, despite a police dispatcher instructing him not to do so.
- Zimmerman’s Defense Deadline Looming (huffingtonpost.com)
- Hoodies Up 4 Trayvon: Jury Selection Begins June 10th, 2013 (theobamacrat.com)
- State Prosecutors want to question Zimmerman in using SYG (3chicspolitico.com)
- Prosecutor: Zimmerman needs to state immunity plan (news4jax.com)
- Social Media’s Impact On Trayvon Martin Case (miami.cbslocal.com)
- Is George Zimmerman Seeking an Immunity Hearing? (wtvy.com)
- Lawyer: Zimmerman needs to make decision (wptv.com)
- Lawyer: Zimmerman needs to make decision (abcactionnews.com)
Zimmerman’s Mother Open Letter Lashes Out At Media
One year after her son was arrested for the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman’s mother has penned an open letter to the public thanking the family’s supporters and chastising the media for it’s treatment of her son’s case.
George Zimmerman’s brother, Robert Zimmerman, tweeted the two-page letter in which his mother calls today the anniversary of “the day the justice system failed us as Americans.”
5 Times Police Killed People with Mental Disabilities
The case of a young man with Down syndrome who was asphyxiated while in police custody last week has spiraled into a shocking national news story –yet another police scandal coming just on the heels of suspicions that LAPD plotted to burn Dorner alive. The tragedy began when 26-year-old Minnesota resident Robert Saylor was reluctant to leave a movie theater, prompting employees to call the police. Without stopping to learn from Saylor’s aide that he had Down syndrome, the police handcuffed him and restrained him on the ground until he died of asphyxiation .
The case, which has been ruled a homicide, has sparked outrage and fear among parents and allies of those with developmental disabilities, as well as those with mental illness. Yet, this is far from the first time that the police of state officials have mishandled interactions with those with disabilities, with tragic results. As the Center for Public Representation writes , there are “significant patterns in police killings of people with psychiatric disabilities.”
Below are only a few of the recent cases. An investigative article in the Portland Press Herald put it even more bluntly, writing , “A few times each week, across the United States, police shoot and kill mentally ill people in complicated, often incredible circumstances.”
1. 15-year-old autistic child tasered by police in Iowa
In Johnston, Iowa, police used a stun gun  multiple times against a 15-year-old autistic teenager last spring. While this story made headlines because of the child’s age, the use of tasers against developmentally disabled or mentally ill people is quite common. A year-long investigation of the police department in Portland found that tasers are often used and abused–particularly against people with developmental disabilities or mental illnesses. As the Seattle Times writes , “The investigation singled out stun-gun use, saying officers frequently discharged them without justification or used them too many times on a given suspect.”
2. Mute man beaten to death by police in Toronto
In 2011 in Toronto, the police killed a 45-year-old mute man for not answering their questions. Charlie McGillivary had sustained brain injuries that left him unable to speak, but the police didn’t take the time to listen to the protests of his mother before tackling the man on the streets of Toronto. The two officers held him down and beat him until McGillivary went into distress. He died shortly afterward being transported to the hospital, and doctors suspected that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage from being beaten by a police officer’s baton.
3. Double amputee shot in the head by police in Texas
In Houston, Texas, the police responded to a call at a mental hospital that a man was acting aggressively last September. The man, Brian Claunch, was both mentally and physically disabled: he’d lost both an arm and a leg in a train accident and battled bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Wheelchair-bound and medicated, the man simply couldn’t have posed too imminent a threat for trained police officers, but that didn’t stop one from shooting Claunch in the head , killing him instantly. When pressed about the deadly use of force, the officer explained that Claunch was clutching something in his hands. The object, they learned after the fatal shooting, was a pen.
4. Schizophrenic murdered during police gang beating in California
People with developmental or mental disabilities are often doubly targeted by police violence because of high rates of homelessness and poverty among the population. The brutal murder of a schizophrenic and homeless man in Fullerton, California, last May demonstrates the fatal intersection of homelessness, mental illness and police brutality. Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic man who was also sleeping one the streets at the time of his murder, was approached by a gang of six police officers in May 2012. Homeless people frequently face police harassment and unwarranted arrests, but when Thomas allegedly refused to comply with his arrest, two of the officers held him down, while the other four took turns beating him with batons and stunning him with tasers for a full eight minutes . The beating left him comatose and entirely disfigured . He died less than a week later.
5. Autistic man shot and killed for carrying a toy gun in Miami
In September 2011, the Miami police murdered Ernest Vassell, a 57-year-old man, for refusing to relinquish his toy gun. Vassell was autistic and lived with his family in the neighborhood. But when the police saw Vassell walking down the street carrying a toy rifle, they began shouting at him to put down the weapon. Confused and scared by the officers, Vassell hesitated just long enough for the police to open fire,killing the man. 
- 5 Times Police Killed People with Mental Disabilities (alternet.org)
|Ronald L Sanford|
Marion County, Indiana. 1987. The two elderly sisters had made it clear that they did not want their lawn mowed. But the sisters’ refusal didn’t stop Ronald Sanford and his friend entering the house with intent to steal. If the two criminals couldn’t make money honestly, they’d make it anyway they could. During the course of the burglary, the elderly sisters were murdered.
On the 14th April, 1989, in Marion County, Ronald Sanford was convicted and sentenced to 50 years for the murder of one sister, 50 years for the murder of the other sister, 50 years for Robbery involving serious bodily injury and 20 years for Burglary. The judge stated that all sentences would run consecutively, meaning a total jail time of 170 years. To date (2013) Ronald Sanford has served 24 years and is due a parole hearing in the year 2070.
At this point you may think he deserved everything he got. In fact, some may feel that he should have faced the death penalty for murdering two elderly women, and under normal circumstances, not too many people would disagree with that – but these are not normal circumstances.
No. These are a long way from being normal circumstances.
Ronald L. Sanford was born February 12th, 1974, making him 13 years old when he entered the sisters house. Two years later, he stood in front of a judge in an adult courtroom at the age of just 15. Found guilty on all counts, he was sent to Indiana State Prison to spend his formative years in the company of hardened criminals.
The treatment of Ronald Sanford at the hands of Marion County raises several questions.
Firstly, how does the American justice system equate a 170 year jail term to the actions of a 13 year old boy? Yes, at 13 years of age most boys know right from wrong, and they certainly understand murder. But can a boy of that age truly understand consequences and match them to his actions like a responsible adult would? It’s unlikely, because he doesn’t have the experience or knowledge of life to do so. At 13, life is lived in a blur of new experiences and highly charged emotions.
What does responsibility mean to a 13 year old boy? Not much. He’s just discovered girls, emotions are kicking in, testosterone is rising; responsibility and consequences are just words that adults use to dampen any fun he is having.
I think back to when I was in my early teens, 13, 14, 15. I didn’t murder anybody, (luck or judgement, who knows?) but there’s plenty of things I regret doing and would do differently, given the chance. They were mostly stupid things I would never contemplate doing as an adult. And yet we all do stupid things at 13, because we are just children learning the ways of the world.
I suspect Ronald Sanford would certainly do things differently, but he’s never been given the chance of redemption and never will be. Is 24 years locked in a cage enough punishment? 34, 44, 170 years – how long is enough?
The sign outside Indiana State prison says that even in 1897 they didn’t accept anybody under 16 years of age. Nearly one hundred years later in 1989 that seems to have changed when the prison accepted 15 year old Ronald Sanford as an inmate. Enlightened times in Marion County.
Secondly, how is it possible to place a 15 year old minor in an adult jail without hearing a single protest from anywhere? Quite easily, it would seem. Everybody, including the establishment and the justice department, simply looked the other way. A poor black kid. Who cares? In Marion County, nobody cared.
However, after 24 years, the protests are getting louder, not because Ronald Sanford did not deserve to be punished, because he did and he, himself, accepts that. But I say again – he was just 13 when he committed the crime. What is the point of keeping him locked up for so long? Retribution? Rehabilitation? Has the man not been punished enough for what the child did? Apparently not.
Amazingly, after two and a half decades incarcerated Ronald Sanford is an intelligent, articulate, well adjusted man. Despite living a childhood surrounded by murderers, rapists and rabid gang members he bears no grudges.
He accepts what he did, he accepts his punishment. “We pushed into the home of the sisters and it ended in a double homicide,” he says, making no excuses. “It was that simple. And I got 170 years. I’m eligible for parole when I turn 100. My crime is tragic, unspeakable. It will stay with me for the rest of my life and be an albatross around my neck.”
Ronald Sanford has never been to a school prom, never driven a car or travelled abroad. He reads books about eugenics and metaphysics, a way of escape for a man who has none.
That’s the reality of life lived in lockdown 23 hours a day. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way for the child that became the man. Is it unconstitutional in the United States to sentence a minor to life without the possibility of parole? If it isn’t, it should be. Open that blind eye, Marion County, it is never too late to review a case.
Especially one that has stretched to 24 years…
- My nightmare on Death Row: IN a gribbing dispace from Indiana State Prison, veteran broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald is shocked (thisismoney.co.uk)
- Rob Hamilton wrote about Ronald L. Sanford (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
Can Murder Be Tracked Like An Infectious Disease?
If I asked you to think of a murderer, what’s the image that springs to mind?
If you’re like most people, you’ll probably think of an evil psychopath, or someone bent on revenge. Perhaps you’ll see a criminal mastermind, who eliminates rivals on his way to riches. Or a strung-out drug addict, who kills because she needs money to get high.
All of these images have something in common: As a rule, we tend to associate murder with the behavior of individuals who behave in aberrational ways.
“We think of individuals who commit homicide as being unlike the rest of us,” said April Zeoli, a public health researcher at Michigan State University‘s School of Criminal Justice. “They are crazy, or substance users, or had a bad childhood. There is some reason specific to the individual that they are committing homicide.”
Zeoli recently decided to test that theory using the lens of public health research: When scientists study the outbreak of an infectious disease like AIDS or the flu, they don’t ask what it is about specific individuals that made them sick. They look for broader patterns, knowing that illness in any individual stems from a process of contagion.
Along with colleagues Jesenia M. Pizarro, Sue C. Grady and Christopher Melde, Zeoli asked whether homicide might follow the same principles of contagion.
“We looked at homicide as an infectious disease,” Zeoli said in an interview. “To spread, an infectious disease needs three things: a source of the infection; a mode of transmission; and we need a susceptible population.”
The researchers studied every homicide that occurred in the city of Newark, N.J., over a period of a quarter century, from January 1982 to September 2007. In all, Newark had seen 2,366 murders in that period, a rate of homicide some three times as high as that of the general U.S. population.
The researchers tracked down the time and location of every single murder. They plugged the data into a software program that has previously been used to track infectious diseases: When you put in the geographical location and the time of infection of each victim of the infectious disease, the program creates a model that shows how the epidemic is spreading — and where it might go next.
“We hypothesized that the distribution of this crime was not random, but that it moved in a process similar to an infectious disease, with firearms and gangs operating as the infectious agents,” the researchers wrote in a paper they published in the journal Justice Quarterly.
The analysis showed that homicide spread through Newark very much like an infectious disease. The value of tracking murder in this fashion, Zeoli said, was not just to let police know where murder was happening — police already track hot spots and direct resources to those areas — but to make predictions about where homicide might spread next, based on the path of the epidemic.
Zeoli said that the model could make specific predictions about how and where homicide would spread in the future — information that could prove very valuable to police and other city officials.
Studying homicide via a broad public health lens, Zeoli added, also allowed researchers to identify positive outliers: “We actually had some areas within Newark that were resistant to homicide, despite being surrounded by areas with high homicide rates. So we need to investigate why those little islands exist.”
To use the language of infectious disease research, Zeoli said, once researchers figure out what makes some neighborhoods “resistant” to homicide, despite having the same risk factors as areas with high homicide rates, policymakers could apply those insights to “inoculate” other areas in order to prevent homicide from spreading.
- Can Murder Be Tracked Like An Infectious Disease? (wnyc.org)
- Homicide spreads like infectious disease (eurekalert.org)
- They knew the Aurora shooter was in trouble (prairieweather.typepad.com)
- Murder May Spread Like a Disease (livescience.com)
- Using Analytic Software From The Field Of Medical Geography To Track Long-Term Homicide Trends (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Homicide spreads like infectious disease (oddonion.com)
In my opinion NO, human behaviour is more directed by COPYING the behaviour of parents, teachers, peer-groups…there is a psychological but a socological aspect to see!
- US executes man for 90s murder of girl (nzherald.co.nz)
- South Dakota executes man for rape, death of 9-year-old girl in 1990 (foxnews.com)
- SD executes man for murder of 9-year-old girl (cbsnews.com)
- Moeller executed for 1990 rape and murder of 9-year-old Sioux Falls girl (rapidcityjournal.com)
- Mother: Execution brings relief, not closure (seattletimes.com)
- Death row inmate eats last meal of eggs, sausage (rapidcityjournal.com)
- Mother: Execution brings relief, not closure (gazette.com)
- SD executes man for rape, death of 9-year-old girl (news.yahoo.com)
- South Dakota executes man for rape, death of 9-year-old girl (sott.net)
- South Dakota executes man for murder of girl – Zee News (zeenews.india.com)
Enclosed please find Sworn Deposition Pages, Letters, etc. that could point to the worst serial killers in modern history.
They are proof that the police did find:
3 bodies in NYC in 1980 in a 6 week period
5 bodies in Denver in 1999 in a 6 week period and
3 bodies in Denver in 1996 in a 6 week period for a total of
11 bodies Found In 18 weeks
These Deposition pages also speak of other bodies in other places and rumors of still more all found dead lying by the Ringling Brothers train!
If these murders have occurred for 25 years (1,300 weeks) as the Depositions prove, the math could point to a traveling graveyard the likes of which America has never seen.
But at the very least it is proof of 11 murders and others in other places, more than have been killed by the Unibomber and the Washington DC sniper. Enough to warrant an investigation and consideration in the media. At some point society must be worried because it is not just 11 bodies; it is more! The authorities failed, so the media mustn’t!
Here is Paul’s letter and more informations regarding a justifiable homicide because it was self defense. No date appeared on the letter, just his return address which has since changed. Please read the whole report here: http://www.truedemocracy.net/circus/
Paul is serving a life sentence at
Zephyrhills Correctional Institution
2739 Gall Boulevard
Zephyrhills, FL 33541-9701
for a crime he did not commit. If there is a person in the world who can help Paul, please contact him. It’s a tragedy that should have never happened. Paul’s fiancee, Susan, wishes he was free.
- Letter: Circus tactic are barbaric (columbian.com)
- Ringling Brothers And Barnum & Bailey Dragons! (now100fm.cbslocal.com)
- Circus elephants enjoy Lehigh Valley produce at Stabler Arena (wfmz.com)
- Ringling Bros.& Barnum Bailey Circus Animals to Walk Through Downtown Cleveland! (wzakcleveland.com)
- Buckley brothers await Ringling Bros. (toledoblade.com)