Remember Bill Dillon, the convicted killer who has spent the last 27 years (and counting) in prison for a crime he probably didn't commit `see "Free Bill Dillon!," July 31`? On Nov. 14, a circuit court judge vacated Dillon's murder conviction, making him the third Brevard County person the Innocence Project of Florida has exonerated via DNA testing in recent years.
The Dillon case should send chills down the spine of everyone who would like to believe in our criminal justice system. Among the litany of screw-ups: a star witness who was screwing the case's lead detective; an eyewitness identification by a legally blind man; the fraudulent testimony of a dog handler; and the testimony of a jailhouse snitch who got out of a pending rape charge after implicating Dillon. At trial, prosecutors also tried to link Dillon to the crime scene by claiming his blood was on a yellow T-shirt. Recent DNA testing proved it wasn't.
Despite the mounting evidence, state prosecutors dragged their feet, refusing to admit that Dillon wasn't their guy, even after DNA eliminated him as a suspect. Until now.
Finally, prosecutors agreed with Dillon's motion to set aside his conviction. As of now, the state says it's planning on retrying the case — he has a bail hearing scheduled Nov. 18, after this paper has gone to bed — though the likelihood of that actually happening is pretty much nil.
"The whole idea of a retrial is preposterous," says IPF legal director David Menschel. "Look at what they've got. They have an admitted perjurer, a fraud scientist, a snitch and they have a half-blind eyewitness I believe is deceased. And, DNA testing that shows someone else committed the crime."
Prediction: Sometime around Christmas, the state attorney's office will quietly press release that it's dropping all charges.
On Nov. 12, Winter Park's only strip club — the one city officials have been trying for years to run out of town `see "Winter Park's War on sin," Nov. 6` — stuck its proverbial middle finger in the air and told the city to go fornicate with itself.
OK, so actually, Club Harem had its lawyer send the city a polite, one-paragraph letter. But that one paragraph drips with defiance. Better still, it promises snacks and soda pop.
On Aug. 30, city cops and state officials raided Club Harem, which is cleverly designed to look like a pair of big knockers right there on Lee Road. Citing $850 worth of dope dealing during a seven-month investigation, the cops stripped Club Harem of its lifeblood — its booze license, a penalty the club has to endure until at least Jan. 26, when it is scheduled to take its case to court. The club closed.
Now Club Harem is open for business again, whether the city likes it or not. Pole dancing is alive and well in Winter Park. For now, Club Harem will only be open "periodically," whatever that means.
"I am writing to inform the city that Club Harem will be periodically open for business this month and next, commencing today," attorney Steve Mason wrote in the Nov. 12 letter.
Unfortunately, because of the current unpleasantness with the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, you'll have to gaze upon the wiggling, semi-naked ladies sober, or at least get loaded before arriving, because the club won't sell alcohol. It will, however, be offering "prepackaged snacks" and 99 cent sodas. And no cover charge.
And because Club Harem is such a good neighbor, they made sure to invite their friends from the city of Winter Park over for a look-see. "If any members of your staff or city personnel would like to stop by for a snack, soda pop or to enjoy the entertainment, please feel free to do so," Mason graciously offered.
The point, Mason explains to Happytown™ isn't just to rub it in the city's face. It's more practical: Club Harem is allowed to be a strip club because its zoning is grandfathered in. If the club stays closed for too long, it could lose its adult entertainment license, regardless of what happens with the state beverage department. So, the club has to open at least occasionally, which Mason suggests will be a couple times a week.
Of course, it's also "a way to let Winter Park know we're still there," he adds.
If it's the holidays, it must be time once again for The War on Christmas. Or so say our favorite local scolds over at the Liberty Counsel.
Every year they trot out the chestnut (not roasting on an open fire) about Christmas being under attack by godless heathens, liberals, socialists or whatever Democrat happens to be running for and/or in the White House at the time. And every year we write about it because we are suckers for tradition.
This year's opening salvo came from the American Humanist Association which, as the Liberty Counsel points out in an press release, has plastered municipal buses in Washington, D.C. with posters questioning the existence of God. Where, we wonder, do free-speech rights actually end?
The Liberty Counsel asks that all be hyper vigilant about any incursions into your right to plop a manger scene anywhere at any time. If you see some damn liberal uprooting a Christmas tree, or insisting that Wal-Mart call it a "holiday sale" instead of a "Christmas sale," contact the Liberty Counsel immediately. They will parachute in a team of ninja lawyers to banish the filthy atheists to Gitmo, where they will be tried by the secretive Holiday Terrorism Suppression Tribunal, the workings of which are known only to James Dobson and George W. Bush.
Oh, and the Liberty Counsel also has a "Help Save Christmas Action Pack" they'd like you to buy. For $25, you get a bumper sticker and some other useless crap. Ho ho ho hum.
The Tribune Co., parent of our beloved Orlando Sentinel and other papers including The Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun, announced on Nov. 11 the results of another dismal financial quarter. The company lost $121.6 million in the third quarter of 2008. Most of the loss was attributed to falling ad revenue.
Fall has become an especially painful time at the Sentinel in the last few years, as it has become the season for layoffs. But the paper already made deep cuts earlier this year, axing about 20 percent of its editorial staff, possibly sparing the staff another nasty fall season. Or not.