'They Had Done Their Homework': Meet Victor Kovner, Attorney for The Jinx Filmmakers

Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office
Sometimes life imitates art. Other times art intimidates life. That seemed to be the case with the HBO documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which, over the course of a decade, tracked the shady past of the New York City real estate scion, in particular the trail of deaths that seemed to follow him. The final episode of The Jinx contained a shocking revelation: Durst, after an on-camera interview with filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, wandered into a hotel bathroom still wearing his microphone and made what sounded like a full confession. The shock was compounded by real-life events. The day before the finale was set to air, the FBI arrested Durst in New Orleans for the murder of Susan Berman, a friend of his who was killed in Los Angeles in 2000.

In a media landscape transfixed by artfully told true-crime stories (The Jinx comes on the heels of NPR's wildly popular Serial podcast), the show's presentation of its case against Durst — not to mention the timing of Durst's arrest — raised a host of questions regarding the lines between entertainment and jurisprudence, chain of custody, and the legal responsibilities of documentary journalists. The Jinx navigated this thicket with the help of Victor A. Kovner, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine with a long history of providing pre-print or pre-broadcast review to media outlets (including, from the mid-1960s until the mid-2000s, the Village Voice).

More »

Let's Not Forget Michael Alig Brutally Murdered and Dismembered Angel Melendez, Then Bragged About It For Months

Categories: Murder

Michael Alig was released from prison last week. In the months leading up to his release, and the days since, Alig has been interviewed by Vanity Fair.com, People.com, Huffington Post Live, Inside Edition, Rolling Stone, Deadspin and The Daily Beast. He's scored writing gigs for the New York Post, World of Wonder, and the UK's Gay Times too.

He's been received as a celebrity, while the young man he robbed, murdered, dismembered, and, for months, bragged about killing, has been reduced to a mere footnote.

More »

Last Year, the Number of NYC Women Killed in Domestic Violence Increased by 15 Percent

At the end of last year, city officials announced that New York saw the lowest number of murder victims in 2012 in over 50 years. A new report by the NYPD provides the data behind those rates and a visual analysis of the 419 victims, as well as the 290 suspects identified in their murders. Among the report's more startling results are the homicide statistics relating to women.

One in six homicide victims were women, and 68 percent of those murders were incidents of domestic violence. Meanwhile, just seven percent of murder suspects were women.

More »

Etan Patz Disappearance: Pedro Hernandez Charged With Murder

Categories: Etan Patz, Murder
Pedro Hernandez
The man authorities believe is responsible for the 1979 kidnapping and death of 6-year-old Etan Patz was indicted on murder charges this afternoon -- five months after confessing to killing the boy.

Pedro Hernandez has been charged with two counts of second degree murder and one count of kidnapping for Patz's high-profile disappearance, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office confirms to the Voice.

Hernandez confessed in May to the decades-old murder after Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's decision to reopen the case uncovered new leads.

One of those leads prompted authorities to tear up a SoHo basement in April looking for the boy's remains.

Authorities found nothing when they tore up the basement, which was used at the time of Patz's disappearance as a workshop for neighborhood handyman Othneil Miller, 75, who police said at the time was the new "target" of their investigation. Miller was never charged and it was determined he had no connection to Patz's disappearance.

But the media attention the case received put Patz's disappearance back in the spotlight, which spawned even more leads for investigators, including the one that led to Hernandez's arrest.

More »

Simeonette Mapes Murder: Husband Busted in Slaying of Staten Island Teacher

Categories: Murder
Simeonette Mapes and husband Jonathan Crupi, who now is charged with her murder.
Over the summer, we reported that a Staten Island woman survived a shootout near the Brooklyn school where she and her husband taught, only to get fatally stabbed the following week.

"The Cypress Hill[s] projects are no joke," 29-year-old Simeonette Mapes posted on her Facebook page following the shootout.

Turns out, her husband is no joke, either -- he was arrested this morning and charged with her murder.

Jonathan Crupi was arrested this morning at his mother's home, where he has been staying since his wife was brutally murdered on July 5, in the home the couple shared.

At the time of the murder, Crupi told police he'd left the home that morning to run some errands. He returned about 2 p.m. to find his wife dead on the floor in the entry way to the apartment, he said. She'd been stabbed 15 times.

More »

Levi Aron Sentenced To 40 Years To Life In Leiby Kletzky Killing

levi aron .jpeg
Levi Aron was sentenced today in the killing of eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky.
Levi Aron, the former hardware store clerk who pleaded guilty earlier this month to kidnapping and killing eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky last July, was sentenced today in Brooklyn court to a sentence of 40 years to life in prison.

The sentence was in keeping with a plea deal Aron's lawyers had worked out with prosecutors earlier this month. Under the terms of the deal, Aron, 36, avoids more severe charges and leaves open the possibility, however unlikely, that he could some day be paroled.

Asked today if he wanted to say anything before sentencing, Aron, who was monosyllabic and all but inaudible at his plea hearing earlier this month, simply shook his head.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who has acted as a spokesman and representative for the Kletzky family since the first days of his disappearance, said the family agreed to the terms of the plea in order to avoid a painful trial.

More »

Levi Aron Pleads Guilty To Kidnapping And Murder Of Leiby Kletzky

Leiby Kletzky, the eight-year-old boy whose murder Levi Aron pleaded guilty to in court today.
Levi Aron, the Borough Park man in custody since last summer after confessing to police that he abducted and dismembered eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky, pleaded guilty today to second-degree murder and kidnapping in a plea deal that will carry a sentence of 40 years to life.

Aron's lawyers said one of the reasons for the plea was that while Aron's mental health "isn't the same as yours or mine," psychiatric evaluations suggested that his mental health issues didn't interfere with his ability to understand the consequences of his actions.

Even so, Aron had to be cajoled and prodded through his guilty plea with leading questions from State Supreme Court Justice Neil Firetog.

More »

Questions Raised About NYPD's Claims Linking Occupy Wall Street To Murder

Unnamed sources sparked a media furor -- now being questioned -- linking DNA from an Occupy-Wall-Street-affiliated protest to an eight-year-old murder.
The story was so peculiar that you knew there had to be at least one more shoe poised to drop.

Last night, the local NBC affiliate ran a story based on an unnamed source leaking the following information: There had been a break in the eight-years-cold investigation of the murder of Sarah Fox in Inwood. DNA evidence recovered from her CD player, found near her corpse, matched DNA taken from a chain used to hold open a subway door in the fare strike conducted by wildcat transit union members and Occupy Wall Street affiliated activists.

The appeared to be based on a single unnamed source, seemingly speaking from within the NYPD investigation, though the NBC story didn't so much as identify the basis of the source's expertise.

More »

More Cracks and Confusion in the Etan Patz Suspect's Confession

A confession is not an end goal so let's not jump to any conclusions yet. Because there's still plenty to discuss in these recent developments in the Etan Patz story.

On Friday, fellow Voice writer Graham Rayman speculated on the aftermath of Pedro Hernandez's confession to killing the young Etan Patz all those years ago in SoHo. The headline wrote, "Etan Patz Arrest: Is It Really an Open and Shut Case?" and referenced the Times writer Jim Dwyer's skepticism toward the suspect who has mysteriously popped up 34 years later.

It looks like FBI agents are asking the same question to themselves as Hernandez's testimony continues to baffle authorities for its lack of consistency and logical nexuses. Now, throw in the headache: according to the Post, Hernandez shared "intimate details" with NYPD officials that apparently tie him to the case. And the cops believe these details are enough to make this an open and shut case.

Let's try to make some sense of this.

More »

Etan Patz Murder Suspect On Suicide Watch; Says He Had "Urge" To Kill

Categories: Murder
Pedro Hernandez (left) confessed yesterday to murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz more than 30 years ago.
Exactly 33 years to the day after 6-year-old Etan Patz allegedly was murdered in the basement of a SoHo bodega, the suspect in the murder, 51-year-old Pedro Hernandez, has been placed on suicide watch at Bellevue Hospital.

Police say placing Hernandez on suicide watch is precautionary, but that the suspect has a history of unspecified mental health problems.

Hernandez says he'd never seen Patz prior to the day he allegedly murdered him, but reportedly told police that he "knew [Patz] was the one . . . [I] just felt the urge to kill."

Hernandez denies sexually abusing the boy prior to murdering him.

More »