The Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating how a police security video that captured a young man’s suicide ended up on a Web site devoted to violence and pornography, a department spokesman said yesterday.
The young man, Paris Lane, 22, of Harlem, used a 9-millimeter handgun to kill himself on March 16 in a lobby at the Morris Houses project in the Bronx, where he had been visiting his girlfriend.
His foster mother said yesterday that she had notified the police when she learned the video had been posted on the site.
The 45-second video, which is no longer displayed there, shows Mr. Lane and his girlfriend standing near an open elevator door. She pulls her hands across her face as if wiping away tears and kisses him briefly, then they hug for a long moment, until she gently pulls away and steps into the elevator.
Mr. Lane waits for the elevator door to close, stares at it for a second, then pulls out the gun, puts it in his mouth and fires once, falling to the ground.
The site, Consumption Junction, describes itself this way: ”Sociopathic surfers have declared this free site the best place to get their fix of sick free adult humor, tasteless (but way funny) dirty jokes, and free video clips that include shocking moments, brutal stupidity, and a healthy dose of hardcore sex.”
It says it does not pay for the materials, which are sent in by its users, but it gives an award for one submission each month. The more printable video titles were, ”The Beer Helps You Lower Your Standards a Little” and ”His Air Bags Didn’t Inflate.”
The video of Mr. Lane’s death was labeled ”Introducing: The Self-Cleansing Housing Projects.”
Mr. Lane’s foster mother, Martha Williams, 56, called the Web site racist. She said she began receiving calls on Sunday from people telling her that the video, which does not identify him, was on the Internet. She said she had looked to confirm it was true, but could not watch it.
She went to C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president, for help. A spokeswoman for Ms. Fields said Ms. Williams had previously asked the police if she could view the video, but had been denied.
Ms. Williams said the video’s appearance on the site ”desecrated” the memory of her son.
”I just started back to work. I started healing, and this kicked me backwards. My whole body was shaking,” she said.
The camera that captured the suicide was part of an extensive police surveillance system that had been installed in 15 of the city’s housing projects, said Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman. It records digital images, which means they could have been easily sent by e-mail, he said. He said the department still had the original compact disk containing the video.
The police were investigating whether someone could have hacked into the system. ”But we’ve never had it happen,” Mr. Browne said.
The department has obtained a subpoena to learn who owns the Web site and will try to learn how the video was obtained. Mr. Browne said he did not know why the video had been removed from the site. It disappeared on Tuesday, a day after Ms. Williams notified Ms. Fields and the police.
In a chat area on the site, members debated whether the video was genuine or staged. ”It’s 100 percent real,” wrote one member, smitty4699. ”I submitted it, I know the cop who was at the scene.”
Mr. Lane had apparently killed himself because he was despondent over his relationship with his girlfriend, Mr. Browne said. He had prior arrests, including one on domestic violence charges, Mr. Browne said.
Ms. Williams had cared for him since he was 11, when his father died of AIDS and his mother entered a drug rehabilitation program. His mother died about six years later, also of AIDS.
In an article about World AIDS Day in 1999, Mr. Lane, then 17, told The Times-Union of Albany that when his mother died, ”That’s when I lost all faith in everything.”
He continued, ”I couldn’t understand why God would take away someone who was trying to make right from wrong.”
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO
Lane was an aspiring rapper who used the name Paradice. He hugged a friend goodbye, she gets on an elevator, and he shoots himself. It just happened that it was being captured on video.
There were three closed-circuit cameras in the lobby of 1358 Washington Ave. in the Gouverneur Morris Houses that captured Lane’s final moments. The shocking footage, recorded March 16, shows Paris Lane, 22, embracing a teenage girl as she gets into an elevator, then shoving a gun in his mouth and firing.
The girl, Krystin Simmons, 16, was stunned when her phone began ringing with friends telling her that footage of the tragic last goodbye was being played on the Web. “I gave him a hug and got into the elevator. When the elevator got to the second floor, I heard the shot,” Krystin said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that suspects must tell police explicitly that they want to be silent to invoke Miranda protections during criminal interrogations, a decision one dissenting justice said turns defendants’ rights “upside down.”
A right to remain silent and a right to a lawyer are the first of the Miranda rights warnings, which police recite to suspects during arrests and interrogations. But the justices said in a 5-4 decision that suspects must tell police they are going to remain silent to stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer.
The ruling comes in a case in which a suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, remained mostly silent for a three-hour police interrogation before implicating himself in a Jan. 10, 2000, murder in Southfield, Mich. He appealed his conviction, saying that he invoked his Miranda right to remain silent by remaining silent.
But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the decision for the court’s conservatives, said that wasn’t enough.
“Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to police,” Justice Kennedy said. “Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his ‘right to cut off questioning.’ Here he did neither, so he did not invoke his right to remain silent.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s newest member, wrote a strongly worded dissent for the court’s liberals, saying the majority’s decision “turns Miranda upside down.”
“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counterintuitively, requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”
Thompkins was arrested for murder in 2001 and interrogated by police for three hours. At the beginning, Thompkins was read his Miranda rights and said he understood.
The officers in the room said Thompkins said little during the interrogation, occasionally answering “yes,” ”no,” ”I don’t know,” nodding his head and making eye contact as his responses. But when one of the officers asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for “shooting that boy down,” Thompkins said, “Yes.”
He was convicted, but on appeal he wanted that statement thrown out because he said he invoked his Miranda rights by being uncommunicative with the interrogating officers.
The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and threw out his confession and conviction. The high court reversed that decision.
The case is Berghuis v. Thompkins, 08-1470.
By Jesse J. Holland
Associated Press JUNE 2010
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