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Parents in Mascoutah are breathing a sigh of relief. Police in the Illinois community had additional officers at the high school Tuesday morning after a 15 year old student, who lives on Scott Air Force Base, made references in text messages to killing everyone he knows, and then killing people at school.
There was no reference of weapons mentioned in the texts.  Police Chief Bruce Fleshren says the student was texting his girlfriend Monday night when the threats were made.
Police received information from Mascoutah High School Principal Sandy Jouglard saying she was getting phone calls because there was supposedly information on Facebook about the threats.   
Officers began investigating and eventually got to the source. Chief Fleshren says contact was made with the juvenile and his parents and there was no indication that any threats could be carried out.  It will be determined by the school if the student returns, and the investigation will be reviewed by the State’s Attorney’s Office after all reports are completed for any possible charges.
The school later released a “robo-call” to advise parents of the situation and that students should attend classes. 
 
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 09:45
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Tuesday, 04 February 2014 08:07
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   There may be an up side to the cold winter St. Louis area residents are enduring this year.  Entomologist Chris Hartley tells Fox 2 News the extreme cold now could mean fewer insect pests come spring.  
   Hartley works at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House at Faust Park. He says some species of flies and ticks have moved north into Missouri because of the mild winters over the past several years. 
   "By creeping north like that, they're entering ranges where they normally wouldn't have been," Hartley said.  "And they are susceptible to maybe getting froze (sic) back some." 
   Hartley says the deep freeze won't affect the mosquito population, since those pests hibernate.  
   He also says it may not be quite cold enough to put a dent in the population of the Emerald Ash Borer, like it probably has in Minnesota.  But, Hartley says, we won't know until spring.
 
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 03:36
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — A nationwide push by prosecutors and police to re-examine possible wrongful convictions contributed to a record number of exonerations in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday.
 
The National Registry of Exonerations says 87 people falsely convicted of crimes were exonerated last year, four more than in 2009, the year with the next highest total. The joint effort by the Northwestern University and University of Michigan law schools has documented more than 1,300 such cases in the U.S. since 1989 while also identifying another 1,100 "group exonerations" involving widespread police misconduct, primarily related to planted drug and gun evidence.
 
The new report shows that nearly 40 percent of exonerations recorded in 2013 were either initiated by law enforcement or included police and prosecutors' cooperation. One year earlier, nearly half of the exonerations involved such reviews.
 
"Police and prosecutors have become more attentive and concerned about the danger of false conviction," said registry editor Samuel Gross, a Michigan law professor. "We are working harder to identify the mistakes we made years ago, and we are catching more of them."
 
Texas topped the state-by-state breakdown with 13 exonerations in 2013, followed by Illinois, New York, Washington, California, Michigan and Missouri.
 
District attorneys in the counties containing Dallas, Chicago, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Santa Clara, Calif., are among those to recently create "conviction integrity" units. The International Association of Chiefs of Police also is pushing to reduce wrongful convictions, joined by the U.S. Justice Department and The Innocence Project, an advocacy group that seeks to overturn wrongful convictions. The association's recommendations to local departments include new guidelines for conducting photo lineups and witness interviews to reduce false confessions.
 
Fifteen of the 87 documented cases in 2013 involved convictions obtained after a defendant pleaded guilty, typically to avoid a longer prison sentence. Forty of the cases involved murder convictions, with another 18 overturned convictions for rape or sexual assault.
 
The number of exonerations based on DNA testing continued to decline, accounting for about one-fifth of the year's total.
 
"It's extremely valuable to use," Gross said. "But most crimes don't involve DNA evidence. ... DNA has taught us a huge amount about the criminal justice system. Biological evidence has forced all of us to realize that we've made a lot of mistakes. But most exonerations involve shoe-leather, not DNA."
 
In Illinois, Nicole Harris and Daniel Taylor each received certificates of innocence from a Cook County judge in January after their respective murder convictions were tossed out in 2013 — a designation that allows both to receive financial compensation from the state. Harris had been convicted in 2005 of strangling her 4-year-old son, who had an elastic band wrapped around his neck. Taylor was released after spending more than 20 years in prison for a fatal robbery that occurred while he was in police custody for an unrelated incident.
 
In Missouri, former death row inmate Reginald Griffin went free in October 2013 after a small-town prosecutor declined to refile murder charges in connection with a 1983 prison stabbing for which Griffin spent nearly three decades behind bars. Griffin denied his involvement but was convicted after two inmates claimed to have seen him stab the prisoner. One of those inmates later recanted, saying he had not seen the attack. An appellate attorney also discovered that prosecutors had withheld a report that guards had confiscated a sharpened screwdriver from another inmate as he was attempting to leave the area where the attack took place.
 
Ryan Ferguson, convicted in 2005 in the beating death of a Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune sports editor, was freed in November 2013 after a state appeals court panel ruled prosecutors had withheld evidence from his attorneys and that he didn't get a fair trial. The state attorney general's office decided not to retry Ferguson, who had received a 25-year prison sentence.
 
Like their counterparts across the country, Missouri prosecutors are reviewing not just questionable individual convictions but also the broader issues that lead to exonerations, from coerced confessions to contaminated crime labs.
 
"It's the duty of police and prosecutors to protect everyone in the community, including victims and defendants," said Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight. "We want the process to be as fair and transparent as possible."
 
___
 
Online: National Registry of Exonerations: http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/about.aspx
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