Marvell Locke’s Death

Marvell Locke (59) died at the hands of Circle K store clerk Nicholas Vitatoe, on May 19th, 2020.

Marvell Locke

As reported by Action News 5 later in 2020, Marvell Locke is seen on security video as he approached a clerk at the Circle K located at 8971 US 64 on May 19th, around 1:30 AM. He asked the clerk, Nicholas Vitatoe, if he could clean the lot. Marvell Locke occasionally made a few bucks from local businesses doing odd jobs.

Mr Vitatoe tells Mr. Locke to leave, then calls the police and texts his manager. At some point, Mr Locke exits to the parking lot. Mr Vitatoe then says he will not wait for police and will take care of this himself. Mr Vitatoe exits the store and out of camera view. A shot is heard, and Mr. Vitatoe re-enters the store and places a black handgun on the counter.

Nicholas Vitatoe

Responding police found Mr Locke’s body DOA in the parking lot and arrested Nicholas Vitatoe, charging him initially with involuntary manslaughter. He was taken to 201 Poplar and immediately released on his own recognisance.

Mr Vitatoe was indicted on June 3, 2021 for second degree murder, and, on March 22, 2022, he entered a guilty plea to that charge. He has not yet been sentenced as of June 7 2022.

Family sues

On September 3, 2020, the estate of Marvell Locke filed a wrongful death suit (PDF) against Nicholas Vitatoe, Circle K and others seeking damages. This case is still in progress, and attorney Howard Manis of the Cochran firm declined to comment on June 7 2022.

Authorization of Agency

Excerpt from the MPD affidavit of complaint for Nicholas Vitatoe.

The above is the affidavit of complaint filed against Vitatoe by MPD on May 19th 2020, showing the original involuntary manslaughter charge.
The affidavit mentions that there was an Authorization of Agency (AoA) in force for Marvell Locke at the Circle K premises. The AoA was also mentioned in this News 3 article which was likely informed by the affidavit.
In fact, there is no AoA filed against Marvell Locke for the Circle K.

Our AoA database.

We have created an Authorization of Agency database. This spreadsheet (XLSX) contains indexed AoAs from late 2016 to July 2019. This Zip file has the raw AoA data from July 2019 to February 2020, and this Zip file has the raw AoA data from February to August 2020, as received from MPD via FOIA.
The AoA for Circle K mentioned in the Nicholas Vitatoe affidavit of complaint does not exist in the FOIA data.

Marvell Locke’s Only AoA

Marvell Locke’s only Authorization of Agency

The above is Marvell’s only AoA in the database. It was created in March, 2019 for the Best Western Hotel in the same area as the Circle K and other businesses mentioned. The misspelling of Marvell’s given name as Marvel is common in the police and court documents.

Marvell Locke’s record.

.Police allege in sworn court affidavits and an arrest citation that Marvell Locke had AoAs at Kroger Gas, 9027 US 64, Kroger store at 9025 US 64 and Pizza Hut 8979 US 64. The only AoA on file is for the Best Western Hotel at 8635 US 64. Incidentally, the Pizza Hut is in the same block as the Circle K.

It is easy for police to commit this type of AoA fraud. When the DA’s office sends supporting documents to a Public Defender, they are reduced in size and presented four to a page. With the handwritten scrawl that AoAs are rendered with, it is impossible to make out the detail on an AoA. We have other examples of police substituting AoAs for defendants.

This can be a critical factor in obtaining a trespass conviction and getting longer sentences. For many, an AoA is an entry point to the criminal justice system.

Why did cops target Locke?

While being arrested on 11/14/2019 police allege in yet another affidavit of complaint that Marvell Lock, from the back of Adam Durham’s cruiser, spat in the cop’s eye. Police have a HIV protocol when that happens.

This article, from Law Enforcement Today gives the police viewpoint. They list dozens of Marvell Locke’s infractions and seem to imply that Mr Locke is a career criminal and a fair target for summary execution. It is clear that the police had spoken with local business owners about Mr Locke, including a visit to the Circle K a few days previously. It is easy to think that Nicholas Vitatoe had imagined that the police would not care if he slaughtered Marvell Locke. The police undercharge and his release with no bond did show extreme leniency by the police, and if George Floyd had not been murdered that summer, Mr Vitatoe might be a free man today.

MPD AoA regulations/UPSSOP

We obtained MPD’s Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure via FOIA and analyzed those regulations in our blog.

AoA (the police version, there’s also a separate version of AoA at the DA’s office) purports to authorize police to arrest a specified person for trespass without the due process of the Tennessee trespass law, that requires a defendant to be informed he is trespassing and given an opportunity to depart. As such, it is a fast-track to a trespass conviction. Read more about AoA.

The master database is filed in each precinct in its original handwritten form. The procedure is that the property representative informs the subject that she is barred from the premises and will be arrested for trespass on sight. The complainant and the police go to the station where the cop signs to assert that the subject has been informed and that he is witnessing the complainant’s signature.

We audited over 2300 AoA forms and found that 93% of them were invalid because this procedure and other UPSSOP requirements were not followed.

AoA abuses

  • We have seen where MPD substituted the single Best Western AoA against Marvell Locke in three other cases. We have seen other cases like this.
  • In our recent FOIAs, we found three AoAs on file at Appling station, the precinct covering Marvell Locke’s various police dramas. These AoAs were signed by police and the defendant was left blank. Presumably these were intended to be distributed to business owners, who could sign over the existing police witness’ signature. This would be a clear case of fraud. Incidentally, we have a proven case where this writer’s name was added to an AoA at the Zoo over a several months old police signature. The lack of a proper system, controls and auditing of the AoA apparatus and its previous secrecy makes it prime for abuse.
  • We have an eyewitness account from an employee at the now-closed Cordova Animal Clinic, formerly at Fischer Steele Rd in the Appling precinct. When the owner complained to the police about a person of concern (not Marvell Locke), a police came, signed an AoA form and told the veterinarian to hang it in the office. This was not a valid AoA because the offender was not notified, the vet did not come to the station, and our database shows that no AoA was filed for the clinic. It is possible that this deficient procedure was used for the missing Marvell Locke AoAs.

Marvell Locke police victim.

Marvell was a poor Black man who was, according to his attorney Howard Manis and his relatives, mentally ill. He had certainly been a problem for local police and business owners, and is easily cast in the role of usual suspect.
Above all, he was the victim of evidence tampering by the police, in his previous prosecutions. He did time as a result of several November 2019 prosecutions. He was often a rambunctious presence in many local businesses.

Above all, the tragic case of Marvell Locke shows that the police are not equipped to deal with severely mentally ill people.

Tennessee Prisoner Rendition: Jason White

In April 2019, we wrote about Jason White, who was framed for a pound of meth by Bartlett detectives and ADA Chris Scruggs, recipient of our first Hammer Award for over-zealous prosecution.  White was, until recently, serving 60 years at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Lauderdale County.

White was spirited out of state Monday May 20th in a carefully planned operation.

Continue reading “Tennessee Prisoner Rendition: Jason White”

Bazelon’s book “Charged”: Call to Action

Updated 5/17/2019:  We took the appendix of this book and showed how it could be a questionnaire that a hypothetical selection committee could put to candidates to gauge how committed they are to prosecutorial reform. 

Prosecutors wield extraordinary power in the criminal legal system. How they exercise their power can be the difference between fairness and inequality, justice and corruption, and a community with faith in its justice system or one that feels betrayed by it.”

Emily-Bazelon.jpg
Emily Bazelon photo – Nina Subin

We don’t usually do book reviews, but Emily Bazelon’s book “Charged.  The new movement to transform American prosecution and end mass incarceration” is a phenomenon we can’t ignore.   It is a textbook and a case study of how to replace Amy Weirich.

Local DAs are the officials with the most influence over mass incarceration.

We previously reported on the Fair Punishment Project’s report “The Recidivists: New Report on Rates of Prosecutorial Misconduct“.   One of the four DAs profiled in the book was Amy Weirich, with an account of six of her cases which had been reversed by appeals courts.   Weirich was nailed for repeat Brady violations and due process violations.    Amy Weirich was, in 2017, fast becoming the poster child for prosecutorial misconduct.

weirich_testifies“Charged” confirms Amy Weirich as the most corrupt champion of mass incarceration in the country.   The book is structured as two case histories, one of Amy’s persecution of Nuora Jackson for murdering her mother, and the other following a young Black man, pseudonymously named Kevin, as he wends its way through a diversion program in the Brooklyn office of DA Eric Gonzales, who has slashed mass incarceration since his election.

nuora
Nuora Jackson

This is the most complete account of the Nuora Jackson case, and Weirich doubles down on vicious and illegal tactics throughout the case.   Jackson eventually took an alford plea after the Tennessee Supreme Court vacated her conviction.   Weirich did not have the grace to release Nuora on bail, and, rather than releasing her after ten years, forced her to accept a plea deal to avoid further incarceration.   Bazelon forged a close relationship with Nuora Jackson and paints an intimate portrait of a soul in Amy’s hell.

In the midst of alternating through six chapters each on Kevin and Nuora’s cases, Bazelon adds organizational chapters.

KimFoxx
Kim Foxx, Chicago DA

Chapter 5 is an account of a national movement to replace bad prosecutors with reformist DAs.   Groups such as the Illinois Safety and Justice PAC, funded by George Soros, helped Kim Foxx get elected in Chicago.  The Civic Participation Action Fund, the ACLU campaign for Smart Justice, the Open Society Foundation, Texas Organizing Project and others supported fourteen DA reform candidates in 2016-2018.   Most of them won. Even the Koch brothers supported DA reform on the basis of waste.  It is a bipartisan issue.

Chapter 8 is a survey of the new reformist DAs, including Kim Foxx in Chicago, Eric Gonzales in Brooklyn, Mark Dupree in Kansas City, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Tori Verber Salazar in San Joaquin Co, CA, Aramis Ayala in Orlando and many others.   Organizations like NYC Court Watch and Fair and Just Prosecution weighed in.   We have a court watch in Memphis now.

The final chapter is a survey of the issues faced by some of the new reform prosecutors and how they were tackled.   It’s a troubleshooting guide for reform DAs.

Possibly the most valuable resource in the book is the appendix, a list of 21 principles for Twenty First Century Prosecutors, grouped under the objectives of reducing mass incarceration and increasing fairness in the system.  This is a great starting point for a questionnaire for new DA candidates.

charged-book-emily-bazelon-1This book is a gift to criminal justice advocated in Memphis.   It contains a motivational story, potential national sources of support, accounts of the pioneer reform DAs who are already elected and helpful organizational principles.

Amy Weirich is the Public Enemy Number One for national reform advocates, who are well funded.

— concluded —

Earley Story gets NPDF and Steve Cohen support.

Earley_Story_H&S
Earley Story

Jailer Deputy Earley Story, who is fighting in court to overturn his twenty-year-old fraudulent conviction for concocted pot sales, appeared in court today, March 21st 2019.   His motion for summary judgement was rejected.

We covered his previous court appearance at the end of this post, which detailed the arguments on this motion.

Mr. Story’s next court date is April 5th, when his motion for judge Chris Craft to recuse himself will be heard.

National Police Defense Foundation support

The NPDF, which has supported Earley Story since 1997 when he was first prosecuted, has asked Congressman Steve Cohen to request an FBI investigation, on the basis that Mr. Story’s civil rights have been violated.   Read more in Sharon Rondeau’s The Post and Email blog.   An FBI inquiry is needed.

Support Group

MemphisTruth.org is sponsoring a new group, for victims of prosecutorial misconduct.   The first meeting is scheduled for Saturday 23rd.   Contact us for details.   This is an activist group which seeks to document abuses in the criminal justice system.   These are people who know, at first hand, how corruption operates in our courts.

Authorization of Agency: Initial analysis

In our most recent post, we revealed the extent of MPD’s Authorization of Agency (AoA) program, inspired by Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission (MSCCC).

We did some preliminary analysis of the data and there are updated spreadsheets (CSV, ODS, XLSX).  The update includes some address corrections and the addition of a business category field.

AOA_bar_chart
Analysis of AoAs by race

We saw the racial disparity in the initial AoA post.  The profiling nature of the scheme, with seven times (84.9% vs 12.3%) the number of Black versus white victims of AoA is confirmed.

 

 

AoA_by_year
Analysis of AoAs by year

We broke down AoAs by the year the initial AoA was signed.   2018 is low because only half a year of data was collected.   Years 211 through 2016 are incomplete because we asked in our FOIA for all AoAs between December 1st 216 and July 9th 2018.  All precincts but one simply sent all their AoA data rather than selecting the data range we asked for.   In addition, we noted many AoAs which were signed on a given date and had additional lines added over the same signature and date later.  We have not quantified this factor as of yet but we think it will skew a couple of percent of the dates earlier.

Adj_AoA_year
AoAs by year adjusted for undercount in 2016 and earlier, and for the 2018 half year

We adjusted the yearly graph by doubling up the 2018 number to estimate a full year, and we added 15% to 2016 and earlier to account for the number of AoAs missing in our sample.

The graphs look similar.  From small beginnings in 2011, the scheme grew to about 240 in 2014, then took a big jump to 665 in 2016 and plateaued out to around 600 each in 2017-2018.

We need to look for the impetus behind the 2014 and 2016 bumps.   Most likely, some form of marketing or promotional assets were assigned to the program to cause these bumps.  We’ll also submit another ORR to obtain the missing data.

AoA_by_cat

We created a new field in the spreadsheet for business category and ran this report.  The biggest category is apartment, which also includes mobile home parks, condos, retirement communities and townhouses.

The dominance of this sector may be the result of “Operation Safeway” which had a focus on apartment managers.   The majority of these had a just a few AoAs, but complexes like Greenbrier with 48 AoAs and a dozen or so with double digits stand out.    Clearly a number of apartment managements embraced the scheme enthusiastically.

The retail sector is largely a handful of AoAs in each store.   All branches of chain stores are included.   Three chains of dollar stores (Family Dollar, Dollar General, and Dollar Tree) had a total of 38 AoAs, which probably reflects the dollar stores’ well known skimping on security staff.   Other chains with large numbers includes Walgreens with 24 and Kroger with 17.   Otherwise, few retailers had more than three or four per location.

We think that, like with the apartment sector, that the heavy retail users had an internal policy to use AoA while the light users were probably recruited by police.

The food sector includes all vendors of prepared food and alcohol by the drink.   The chains with most branches are the biggest offenders, and CiCi’s Pizza in Poplar Plaza’s 17 AoAs were associated with a well-publicized disturbance at the venue.    We know that Operation Safeway targeted food establishments in certain areas, but we think that most of the rest may have been instigated by MPD, including the CiCi’s incident.

The hotel/motel sector includes hotels, motels and boarding houses, has a few stand-outs, probably related to prostitution.  The manufacturing sector, though small, is dominated by Smith and Nephew who initiated 85 of the 100 AoAs.  This is an anomaly which probably reflects a decision in management to use MPD as part of its security apparatus.

The gas sector looks very much like retail, and when you eliminate the effect of supplier chains like Shell or Exxon, not much stands out.

Public facilities include the downtown MATA terminus, with 24 AoAs and three at the Zoo.   We talked about the Zoo political blacklist in the original AoA post.  We dispute the legality of public entities barring members of the public.

Churches banned 37 people.  It sounds unchristian to us to put people in the system.   Even worse, schools had 35 AoAs, and we cannot envision a world where young people can be legally barred from education, or even where a school would involve the police in its disciplinary process.

Summary

We see some high-frequency users of AoA.  These AoAs are probably due to business policy and may have been influenced by Operation Safeway in some way.   The vast majority of AoAs have the potential of being instigated by police, including a handful where we know the case history.

We will follow up with additional analysis, including enriching the data and sampling some case histories to determine the marketing initiatives that shape the AoA usage curves.

–concluded–