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Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine Tortured and Killed People: Thank God They’re Not Hate Criminals

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Which in the eyes of our law makes their crimes less horrible, even if you kill dozens of people, piling up so many bodies you have to map out dump sites.

But, it was just women.  And a few little girls and babies.  And some men.  So you won’t hear Eric Holder fulminating about how important it is that we have Removed These Hate Criminals From Society.

Wesley Shermantine

Loren Herzog: Not a Killer Killer, Just a Manslaughterer

Oops, silly me.  We actually let Herzog go free.

Loren Herzog was released after anti-incarceration activists in California got his multiple murder sentence reduced to manslaughter with help from the California Appeals Court.  Score another point for our out-of-control rules of evidence.  Herzog confessed repeatedly and was read his rights repeatedly, but some lawyer colluding with a bunch of self-important judges decided that they would strike a blow for postmodern adjudication and overturned his murder convictions, giving him manslaughter instead.  Herzog then got time off for “good behavior” and walked out of prison in 2010.  The prosecutors had decided to bargain with him, rather than trust a jury to convict him again.  Why?  Probably because it’s California.

No word on why they didn’t even try to pop him for three strikes.  But three-strikes is unfair and has been overturned by the public.  In California.

Pretty sexist term, manslaughter.  Somebody should make a federal case about that.

Maybe then Eric Holder would be interested.

The Sixth Appellate District in California declared that their decision to throw out the multiple confessions in Herzog’s case should not be used to decide other cases.  In other words, they knew they were being grotesquely political in their actions but cut him loose anyway to make themselves feel above politics.  Judges’ self-esteem matters more than justice.

The San Joaquim Record weighed in with a ludicrous editorial about Herzog’s imagined “rehabilitation.”  Journalists like to see themselves as little balloons of righteous sensibility floating above the angry rabble:

[S]ince he could eventually be among us, we hope he succeeds.  We hope he becomes the productive member of society he so utterly failed to become before.

Aww, how touching.  How . . . rational.  But maybe it’s not the smartest Hallmark moment to hope for a serial killer to “succeed.”  That’s about as digestible as the court hemming and hawing about whether they should require Herzog to hold a job.  This is how the black robes spend your money, while money couldn’t be found to dig up and identify all the bodies.  Nobody was ashamed enough to tamp down the parroting rituals of the sacrament of rehabilitation, not even in this case.

The new normal in criminal justice is psychotic.  California is now well into demonstrating the logical endgame of the “root causes” theory of crime, which blames an unfair society, not criminals themselves, for the crimes they commit.  Root causes theory is the prerequisite for dehumanizing victims to the point that their offenders assume their place in the pantheon of sympathy emanating from courtrooms and newsrooms.  A mother can wait decades to get her daughter’s tooth or a bone fragment to bury, but there is a system in place to counsel serial killers on their job prospects when the state cuts them loose.

Michaela Garecht

Cyndi Vanderheiden

Kimberly Billy

Chevelle Wheeler

JoAnn Hobson

Now, if these murders were viewed as hate crimes, federal money would be raining down, and Herzog would have never, ever walked free . . . see how the game works?

Californians just voted to speed-dial their crime sentencing back to the Seventies.  A $2.4 million dollar donation from George Soros, and another cool million from Stanford Professor of Dismissing Murder David Mills greased the skids.  Expect more horrific injustices to pile up, like Herzog and Shermantine’s forgotten victims.

As ordinary criminal law gets gutted financially and ethically, the sanctimonious and prejudiced Hate Crimes enforcers scour the nation to make examples of people who use homophobic slurs while robbing people, or who spray paint ugly words on innocent sidewalks.  This is how we make some people less human than others.  Ironically, George Soros funds the hate crimes movement at the same time he funds movements to excuse other murderers.

The mere existence of hate crime laws makes the justice system deeply . . . unserious.  Maybe we should expect unserious outcomes.  When someone can admit killing a dozen people, and it doesn’t create outrage when he is released from prison, and the courts decide just to not try him for most of his crimes, while at the same time a faked racial slur sparks mass federal investigations and months of headlines, can anyone call that serious?

It’s not justice anymore: it’s a clown show.  Prostitution, not adjudication.  Holder and his peers have sold off pieces of our law enforcement system to the racial, ethnic and gay activists who scream the loudest, while bending over backward to “re-enter” ordinary murderers and rapists back into society.

As Judge Dredd says, there’s no justice, there’s just us.

This is Loren Herzog’s attorney Peter Fox, who crudely suggested that his victims get over their anger at Herzog.  ”It’s not fair to call him a killer.  He is just guilty of having the world’s worst friend,” is how Fox characterized Herzog, who regaled investigators with details of multiple, vicious killings committed with his friend Wesley Shermantine back when they were caught in 1999.  Here is one recent development:

A bag of remains returned by sheriff’s deputies to the mother of one victim was later determined by a forensic anthropologist to contain commingled fragments of at least two other people, one believed to be a long-missing child.

The only tiny silver lining on this fat cloud of horror?  Herzog killed himself last year when Shermantine, who is still on California’s death row, started telling police where to find more of the bodies.  Of course, until Herzog’s death he was using our tax dollars to litigate for himself, the type of litigation that we are required to pay for.  Meanwhile, investigating his murders is something the prosecutor’s office has to hold a bake sale to underwrite.

Prioritizing expenses is the least noticed part of the criminal justice system.  Vicious killers can wake up in the morning and demand a hearing on any frivolous thing, and they are provided with attorneys and court dates and endless bites at the apple to challenge the most absurd non-issues relating to their cases.  This is the world defense attorneys and the ACLU have built.  Meanwhile, their victims have to lobby to have the murder sites excavated so they can have something to bury — a bone or a tooth.

David Mills, “advocate for social justice”

Thanks, George Soros.  Thanks, Eric Holder.  Thanks, David Mills and the rest of the warped Law Professoriate, who can detect teardrops sparkling in the eyes of serial killers while mocking the mothers of murdered girls.  Thanks, especially, ACLU.  And thanks, voters of California.

The horror show you make is the horror show you now have to live with.

 

Tom Robbins and the NYTimes Lie About Judith Clark’s “Rehabilitation”

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What a surprise: the New York Times is lying again.  It must be . . . well, it’s Friday.

The lie starts with a pun.  Because dead cops are always the right occasion for lighthearted humor:

Judith Clark’s Radical Transformation

Judith Clark: a “ray of sunshine” who made some mistakes as a youth

The “radical” in the title refers to participating in the Brinks robbery that left two police and security guard dead.  Wordplay: funny.  The “transformation” is more of the usual claptrap about radical chic criminals — their in-prison AIDS activism that is actually about attacking the government, not a disease, and all the faked MFA degrees handed out like candy by PEN and other cop-hating syndicates and universities to talentless scum, including Clark’s colleagues Marilyn Buck, Laura Whitehorn, Susan Rosenberg, and so on.

The “lie” is that this article is about Judith Clark’s alleged rehabilitation.  In reality, the Times published this sleazy mythopoesis to advance a very specific yet entirely unmentioned goal: to advance a rules change regarding parole for murderers and other offenders serving long sentences — in other words, to make all those knitting classes and fake poetry degrees grounds for release if you helped kill cops — like the sainted Ms. Clark — or raped and killed women, like several other “reformed” poets and knitter-activists eagerly awaiting the rules change.

Anyone care for another Kitty Genovese?

Tom Robbins should apologize for participating in an unusually ornate untruth.  He should apologize to everyone who might see their loved one’s killer released because of his participation in this lie.

He should wear comfortable shoes: it’s going to be a long and extremely angry line.

I wonder why Times readers put up with this sort of manipulation.  It doesn’t reflect well.

And then there’s the other lies within the lie.

An officer carrying a shotgun waved the U-Haul over. Clark drove past the ramp and stopped.

“I was in this terrified, frozen state,” she said. She considered just driving away. “I can’t do that,” she told herself. “I am not supposed to leave people.”

She heard gunfire behind her. Suddenly “two people jump into my car and scream at me to drive.” She quickly drove ahead, up a curving mountain road, no idea where she was headed. When a police car pursued them, she drove faster. “I am so out of my league,” she remembers thinking.

Clark claims she’s rehabilitated based on her ritual performance of several faux social justice causes, but she’s still lying about the gun, the strategy of using stupid white girls like her to lure police to their deaths that day, and everything else she knows and has done.  She’s lying in very specific ways because she needs to say certain things and deny other things in order to meet the guidelines for parole.  Now, that would make an interesting story.  Not nonfiction, though.

Clark’s shoulder popped out of its socket — a chronic ailment since childhood. She was squirming in pain, trying to bang it back into place, when she heard a policeman barking orders to come out. The shouts came from the South Nyack police chief, Alan Colsey, who had chased Clark’s car over the mountain. After Clark and her passengers were taken into custody, a pistol was found behind the front seat and a clip of bullets in Clark’s purse. Colsey thought she was reaching for the gun as she twisted in her seat. Clark said she never knew it was there. “I sort of rolled out,” she said. “I didn’t want to be shot. I was scared but also relieved it was over.”

Yes, we’re supposed to believe she didn’t know about the gun in her purse (that happens to me all the time) and that she was only “squirming” towards the gun because she hurt herself playing volleyball some time back before she became a weaponized hate-moppet trying to off an innocent cop, and we’re supposed to believe that she has achieved some cosmic level of rehabilitative bliss while we’re also supposed to believe that she knew nothing of the purpose of the Brinks robbery, which was to secure funds to buy lots of other guns that Clark apparently knew nothing about — while believing that she is some sort of unique saint among all the other utterly unique saints who coincidentally happened to converge on one little bloody armed robbery in upstate New York.

You’d have to be Eric Holder to believe all that.

Holder, after all, has made it his personal mission to get cop-killers and terrorists like Susan Rosenberg out of prison.  Judith Clark is the next in line for the Holder privilege: thus the Times clockwork encomium.  If Obama loses the election, the grey cloud within the silver lining will be the inevitable pardons of fistfuls of violent thugs like Clark who had the good sense to choose the right types of people to murder.

In jail, all she could think was that she had let down her friends and had to make up for it. “I was not a good freedom fighter,” she told herself, “but I can be a good captivefreedom fighter.” Her role models were Puerto Rican radicals, linked to a group responsible for a string of deadly bombings, who declared themselves prisoners of war after being arrested.

Why does the Times leave out the rest of the story of these hale and hearty freedom fighters — the part about who they killed, and the part about Eric Holder orchestrating their releases?  The part about the judge’s home firebombed while his children slept, about the prison guards tortured to death?  Why does Tom Robbins so carefully choose to focus on Judith Clark’s knitting of baby clothes, clenching and unclenching of fists, etc., while he cannot be bothered to so much as mention the part about an Attorney General who has repeatedly sided with terrorists who blew away cops and judges and prison guards?

Why not tell the story, if you are going to tell it, if you are an “investigative journalist” teaching, of course, journalism, and of course at CUNY?

Here’s a who, what, when, where, why for Journalist Robbins: how inhumanely elitist do you have to be to weigh Judith Clark’s hobbies against the lives she and her fellow revolutionaries gleefully snuffed out?  For this is precisely the goal of the not-reported campaign beneath this story: to make the hobbies trump the crime, to make a twenty-year pile of bad poetry and offensive radical chic win out over dead and buried men.

Inmate 83G0313, as Clark was known, was considered a major security risk, her every step carefully tracked. There was good cause for concern. Clark’s radical crew was known for plots like the 1979 prison breakout of Assata Shakur, a Black Liberation Army leader. At one point, the prison superintendent, Elaine Lord, was assigned a guard. Twice, Lord had to leave prison grounds as a precaution.

As a precaution against what?  If you have room to count the stitches in Clark’s remorseful sweater-weaving, surely you have the column inches to tell the truth about the real threat these people posed, and the real consequences of their long, in-prison campaigns of terror.  That’s part of the story, too.

In reality, people like Judith Clark become what they become because they are sociopaths, or just pure evil.  As Theodore Dalrymple recently observed in the New English Review, privileging your subjective feeling of mercy for murderers over the rule of law is really no different from privileging a mob who wants to bypass justice in the other direction.  The commenters praising Clark’s personality in the Times comment thread really should take a moment to look in that mirror.

How does the Times justify meddling in the justice system this way?

In December 2010, a few days before Governor Paterson’s term ended, he met with a small delegation of Clark’s supporters led by Bennett and Dennison. He told them that his staff advised against her release and that he was in agreement. Paterson wouldn’t talk to me about it, but he recently told Jim Dwyer, a Times columnist, that he feared being “tarred and feathered” if he released Clark.

Last June, I went to meet some of the people whose wrath the governor feared at a fund-raising breakfast in Nyack for a scholarship fund in memory of officers Brown and O’Grady. Most were still bitter over Boudin’s release and felt that Clark deserved to remain in prison. Did they believe such criminals could be rehabilitated? “I know, they’re all wonderful,” Bill Ryan, a former New York City Police lieutenant who lives nearby, responded sarcastically. “They’re teaching little children and working with the handicapped and unwed mothers.” His remarks brought knowing smiles around the table.

It’s a skepticism shared by many. When I first started visiting Clark, I also wondered whether her transformation was a calculated effort to get out of prison. Over time I’ve come to see her differently.

So Tom Robbins writes a long propaganda piece denying Judith Clark’s cruelty, while tarring her victims, who lost loved ones, with the term “wrath.”  That’s an ugly stunt.  Elsewhere, in places where people possess ordinary morals and judgment, it’s called prejudice.  But not in the universe of the Times, where the Judith Clarks of the world are just more human than their victims.

 

 

 

 

Rodney Alcala’s Criminal Appeals: Is Alcala Smart, Or Is The System Stupid?

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Much is being made about Rodney Alcala’s allegedly superior intelligence. I don’t buy it any more than I buy it when defense attorneys wave a piece of paper in the courtroom and claim their client is mentally challenged and thus deserves a break.  It’s just theater.  Alcala’s a haircut with cheekbones: his IQ, whatever it might be, matters far less than the pro-offender sentiments of the era when he was first tried, and re-tried.

It certainly didn’t take a rocket scientist to play the California criminal justice system for a fool back in the 1970′s.  Unfortunately, in many ways, the same is still true.

Here are ten specific breaks the system gave Alcala, breaks that either enabled him to add to his body count or torment the families of his victims.  Such breaks weren’t reserved for serial killers with MENSA memberships, which is why places like L.A. were so fatal for all sorts of women.

How fatal?  Seven, or fifty, or even 100 women and girls, depending on how much evidence Alcala provides and the police uncover with the massive public appeal for assistance now underway.  Again, I have to ask: why weren’t these pictures distributed to the public decades ago?  Why were families forced to sit in limbo while authorities had hundreds of photos linking a known sadistic rapist and murderer to scores of unidentified women and girls?  I’m sure the police, given adequate resources, would have worked these cases.  But we’ve never given police adequate resources.  We still don’t charge even serious offenders with the totality of their known crimes.

Still it’s a tribute to reformers that some (though not all) of these fatal justice system errors would not occur today.

#1: Judicial Leniency, Indeterminate Sentencing Sets a Killer Free, 1971

Rodney Alcala was 25 in 1968, when he was caught in the act of raping and beating an eight-year old child to death.  That’s a chilling number, 25.  Kidnapping from a public place, the brutality of the rape, the extreme violence — all are hallmarks of an experienced, brazen killer who had escalated his behavior long before that crime.  If Alcala conformed to typical patterns (and there’s no reason to believe he did not), he probably started sexually victimizing girls and women around the time he reached puberty, a full decade before he attacked “Tali S.”  That’s potentially a lot of unnoticed crimes:

His first known attack was in 1968, when he abducted a second-grade girl walking to school in Hollywood, using a pipe to badly bash her head and then raping her — only to be caught red-handed because a Good Samaritan spotted him luring the child and called police. When LAPD officers demanded he open the door of his Hollywood apartment on De Longpre Avenue, Alcala fled out the back. Inside, police found the barely-alive, raped little girl on Alcala’s floor. It took LAPD three years to catch the fugitive Alcala, living under the name John Berger in New Hampshire — where the glib and charming child rapist had been hired, disturbingly, as a counselor at an arts-and-drama camp for teenagers.

Attempted murder, plus kidnapping, plus rape of a child, plus absconding.  Seems like he’d never see the light of day again.  Unfortunately, for future victims at least, pro-offender psychologists and other activists had so infiltrated the criminal justice system in California that the horror of Alcala’s crime was ignored by the courts.  From the moment he appeared in some California judge’s courtroom, he ceased to be a (failed) killer and child rapist.  He became a client and recipient of social services, a victim needing guidance, rehabilitation, “education,” and counseling.  It’s a soul-sickening travesty, one that deserves more exposure:

When Alcala was caught hiding out under the assumed name Berger on the East Coast [in 1971], a conviction for brutally raping a child in California was not a guarantee of a long prison sentence. California’s state government of that era had embraced a philosophy that the state could successfully treat rapists and murderers through education and psychotherapy.  The hallmark of the philosophy was “indeterminate sentencing,” under which judges left open the number of prison years to be served by a violent felon, and parole boards later determined when the offender had been reformed. Rapists and murderers — including Alcala — went free after very short stints. He served a scant 34 months for viciously raping the 8-year-old, who is known in official documents only as “Tali” . . . Deeply controversial, “indeterminate sentencing” was ended by then-governor Jerry Brown. But by that time, Alcala was free. . . . Retired LAPD Detective Steve Hodel, who investigated Alcala’s rape of Tali, recalls, “My impression was that it was his first sex crime, and we got him early — and society is relatively safe now. I had no idea in two years [he would be out] and continue his reign of terror and horror. I expected he was put away and society was safe. … It is such a tragedy that so much more came after that.”

“Education and psychotherapy.”  For raping and trying to kill a little girl.  It is important to understand that these highly educated “experts” were not simply trying to grope towards to some psychological discoveries that would only be discovered later.

Knowledge that murder is bad, for example, pre-dates 1971.

As I’ve written previously, I believe Alcala would have received a more severe sentence if he had just bludgeoned the little girl, instead of raping her and bludgeoning her.  I suspect the rape actually acted as a mitigating factor, turning him into a victim in the eyes of the people empowered to run our courts.  For when a prison psychiatrist found him “considerably improved” and ready for release less than three years after being convicted of attempted murder and child rape, that psychiatrist was undoubtedly referring to the fad psycho-sexual therapies in use at the time — and still being promoted by many academicians and practitioners today.  Like Dr. Richard Rappaport, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCSD Medical School, San Diego, who testified in Alcala’s most recent trial that Alcala should not be held responsible for serial sex murder because he just can’t help enjoying . . . sexual murder.

#2: Parole Board Leniency, 1974

It takes two to tango: a judge who refuses to hold a sick predator responsible for his crime by giving him an indeterminate sentence, and then a parole board that decides the “rehabilitation’s taken.”  Who served on that parole board in 1974, the one that decided to cut Alcala loose?  I’d love to see the transcript.  If anyone would send it to me, I’ll post it.  This wasn’t some gray-area first offense.  I wonder why the media hasn’t sought out these people and asked them why they let Alcala go.  As public servants, the parole board members should feel obliged to revisit such a devastating error.  A year’s worth of such decisions would make interesting reading — and yet one more interesting corrective to mythic beliefs that our country is too harsh on criminals.

#3: Prosecutorial/Judicial Leniency, Not Believing a Victim, Failure to Punish Recidivism, 1974

After the parole board cut him loose, it took Alcala two months to get caught with another child.  Two months.  Or, possibly, less:

In 1974, two months after he got out of state prison, Alcala was found at Bolsa Chica State Beach with a 13-year-old girl who claimed he’d kidnapped her. He was convicted only of violating parole and giving pot to a minor, however . . .

A convicted, violent, child rapist is found with a 13-year old girl who tells police she has been kidnapped.  What happens next?  Somebody doesn’t believe the child.  Who?  The judge?  The prosecutor?

#4: Parole Leniency, 1977

Alcala served another short sentence, and was apparently declared “re-reformed.”  Then a parole officer cut him some breaks.  It makes you wonder: was there anyone, anywhere in California’s criminal justice system, outside police themselves, who harbored a negative attitude towards violent offenders?

[T]wo years later, upon his second release from prison, the law went easy on Alcala again. His parole officer in Los Angeles permitted Alcala, though a registered child rapist and known flight risk, to jaunt off to New York City to visit relatives. NYPD cold-case investigators now believe that one week after arriving in Manhattan, Alcala killed the Ciro’s nightclub heiress Ellen Hover, burying her on the vast Rockefeller Estate in ritzy Westchester County.Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, who hopes during the current trial to put Alcala permanently on death row for Samsoe’s 1979 murder and the slayings of four women in the Los Angeles area, says: “The ’70s in California was insane as far as treatment of sexual predators. Rodney Alcala is a poster boy for this. It is a total comedy of outrageous stupidity.”

#5:  Social Leniency, 1977 – 1979: The Polanski Effect

It really does take a village.  Between the time Rodney Alcala was released from prison on his second child offense charge, and when he was captured after the murder of 12-year old Robin Samsoe, it seems that nobody he encountered (outside the police) felt it was right to judge him for — oh, little transgressions like trying to murder a young child he was raping, or being a suspect in several other murders, or being investigated in the Hillside strangler cases, or ending up on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.  Surely, FBI agents and other detectives approached Alcala’s co-workers and employers when he was being investigated for these crimes; surely his family and friends and professional acquaintances knew about the rape and beating of the 8-year old child.

So why did the L.A. Times choose to hire him anyway?  Why didn’t his supervisors there act on the knowledge that he was circulating his home-made child porn to co-workers?  Why did the Dating Game producers allow a child-rapist on their show?  Why did Alcala have such success in high-end social circles, in the art world, and with celebrities such as Roman Polanski?  Well, that one’s pretty easy to answer.

Was Alcala’s social success, in fact, based on his status as a “sexual outlaw,” being “persecuted by the pigs”?  Such was the argot in newsrooms and art circles, after all.  Funny how all the people who knew him then are so tight-lipped now: it sounds as if he really got around, between slaughtering young women:

1977  Ellen Hover, Jill Barcomb (18), Georgia Wixted (27)

1978  Charlotte Lamb (32), Monique H. (15), Jill Parenteau (21).  And more to come.

#6: Yet More Judicial Leniency, and Help From Mom, 1979

Another kidnapping and rape, another lost chance to get Alcala behind bars.  The police catch ‘em and the courts let ‘em go, leaving two more girls dead.  This type of behavior from the bench, sadly, continues today:

Alcala’s alleged reign of terror might have been halted in early 1979, when a 15-year-old hitchhiker called police from a motel in Riverside County to report she had just escaped from a kidnapper and rapist. Although Riverside police quickly charged Alcala with kidnapping and rape, a judge set his bail at just $10,000, paid by his mother. While free, police say, Alcala killed 21-year-old computer keypunch operator [Jill] Parenteau five months later in her Burbank apartment. The killer cut himself climbing through her window, and prosecutors now say Alcala’s rare blood type has been matched to the blood remnants.  Six days after Parenteau’s slaying, Robin Samsoe disappeared, a child-snatching that sent fear rippling through safe, quiet Southern California communities. Samsoe’s friend Bridget told police the two swimsuit-clad girls were approached that day by a photographer who asked if he could take their pictures. The man was scared off by a suspicious neighbor, but shortly after that, Bridget lent Samsoe her yellow bicycle so that Samsoe could make it to ballet class. Samsoe was never seen again.  Detectives circulated a sketch of the mysterious photographer to the media, and a parole officer recognized his parolee Alcala. Twelve days after she vanished, on July 2, 1979, Samsoe’s skeletal remains were found by U.S. Forestry Service rangers. Alcala was arrested on July 24 at his mother’s house in Monterey Park.

#7:  Criminal Appeals, 1984

Alcala was found guilty of murdering Robin Samsoe in 1980 and was sentenced to death.  But that verdict was overturned in 1984 by the California Supreme Court.  The court found that the jury had been “unduly prejudiced” when prosecutors introduced information about about the rape and attempted murder of the 8-year old child in 1968.

Evidence of prior crimes is sometimes admissible at certain times, so long as the priors are materially similar to to crime being tried.  For instance, is raping and trying to murder an 8-year old girl at all similar to raping and murdering a 12-year old girl?  There’s a four-year difference in the ages of the victims there, and a higher success component on the whole “murder” thing.  I’m sure, however, that the California Supreme Court could not have overturned Alcala’s death sentence on such a frivolous distinction.  It must have been some other frivolous distinction.

#8: Criminal Appeals, 2001

This time, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals got a piece of the action.  They decided that, because one witness’ testimony from a previous trial was read from the stand without the witness being in the room, the entire second trial, which doubtlessly cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of taxpayer dollars to re-try, simply had to be tossed out because of this.

What’s the matter with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?  Richard Posner says they’re just too large for their own good, with too many different justices thinking together, and he’s got a well-known large brain that thinks in perfect unison with itself.  Me, with my quotidian little intellect, I think they just never saw a serial killer appeal they couldn’t bleed for, since they don’t have to, like, literally bleed, like the victims.  Not a very elegant argument, I know, but maybe it would pass muster before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

#9: Alcala’s Exclusive Access to the Courts, 1979 – 2010

With his denim pantsuit aesthetic and not-very-bright courtroom performances, Alcala doesn’t really present as a brain trust.  But he doesn’t need to be one.  And defendant can tie up the courts — and further devastate victim’s families — with frivolous lawsuits and endless appeals designed to catch certain activist judges’ eyes:

Alcala has spent his time behind bars penning You, the Jury, a 1994 book in which he claims his innocence and points to a different suspect; suing the California prisons for a slip-and-fall claim and for failing to provide him a low-fat diet; and, according to prosecutors, complaining about a law that required he and other death-row inmates to submit DNA mouth swabs for comparison by police against unsolved crimes. Alcala is still as cocky as ever — bold enough to represent himself in the trial for his life, now unfolding in Orange County. And why not? He has a talent for mining legal technicalities and has repeatedly enjoyed success with appellate judges.

Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy likens Alcala to a video game villain that keeps coming to life and says that the appellate courts have hit restart on this real-life murderous villain’s rampage through the system. The families of the victims as well as those close to the investigation criticize the decisions as misguided political statements by justices who opposed the death penalty and ignored the facts of the case. For Murphy, who tried the latest Samsoe case, each decision to overturn stripped away more evidence from his arsenal against Alcala. And for Robin Samsoe’s family, the legal setbacks have altered the course of their lives, ripping through like aftershock upon aftershock following a devastating earthquake. . . Samsoe’s mother [Maryanne Connelly] spoke eloquently about the hardships she has endured in the 31 years since her daughter’s murder, waiting for justice that never came. . . Meanwhile, her daughter’s killer has spent most of his life in prison, and has perfected the art of working the system to his advantage, filing lawsuit upon lawsuit when he felt his rights were violated while in custody – such as a civil suit against an investigator who did not respond to a request for discovery within 10 days. In fact, a contempt case against the Orange County Jail is still pending. . . Connelly wonders where her rights were, while the man who killed her daughter became comfortably institutionalized. This inequity has become the rallying cry of all the victims’ families, as well as victim’s rights advocates, who say the system has coddled a vicious killer while failing victims’ loved ones.

If the victims’ families had the same rights as Alcala, they could sue him for mental cruelty.  Where such a trial could be held is a difficult question, because his co-defendant would be the justice system itself.

#10: Turning the Courtroom into His Last Killing Field, 2010, and Beyond

“He was blowing kisses at me across the courtroom, and I thought I was going to lose my mind,” Connely said. “And I thought I was going to go crazy, you know. And I reached into my purse and I was going to grab it, you know, and I thought, ‘I can’t do this.’”

That’s Marianne Connelly, speaking recently about Alcala’s 1980 trial for the murder of her daughter: back then, she once brought a gun to the courtroom to shoot Alcala.  I doubt anyone would have blamed her then, and they certainly wouldn’t blame her now, after thirty more years of sitting in courtrooms watching Alcala toy with her, and other victims, for fun.

Where was the judge while Alcala was blowing kisses at his victim’s mother?  Did that judge feel his hands were tied, thanks to our perverse appeals system?  Or did he simply not care?  Why did he allow the defendant to behave that way?

This unique, public humiliation and torture of crime victims is one thing that has not changed in 30 years.  From the most recent trial:

Robin’s brother Tim Samsoe, 44, said the worst thing was watching Alcala perk up in court every time he got the chance to see old photographs of his alleged victims.  “You see the gleam in his eye,” said Samsoe. “He’s enjoying this again.”

According to prosecutors, Alcala always enjoyed torturing his victims:

[Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt] Murphy told the packed courtroom that Alcala took his time terrorizing his victims by choking them with his bare hands, waiting for them to wake up at least once, then strangling them again — sometimes using shoelaces or panty hose. “It is a staggeringly horrific way to die,” exclaimed Murphy. “There is ample evidence the women put up some resistance….He gets off on it. It was fun.”  Once they were dead, Alcala allegedly [he has since been found guilty] would then pose their bodies.

Now the only victims he has access to are the relatives of the women and children he killed:

Robert Samsoe, who was 13 when his little sister was slain, tells L.A. Weekly, “I don’t have any faith in the system. Some people, they are just afforded all the chances in the world. Alcala has cost the state of California more than any other person because of his lawsuits. And they treat him like a king. Everybody is walking on pins and needles around him.

Alcala dragged out his latest trial for weeks, representing himself, attacking victims, rambling on and enjoying himself.  If this judge felt he simply had no power to prevent such behavior, he should now take steps to do something about the warped system of which he is a part.  When is enough enough?

At the trial’s close, Alcala forced family members to listen to a recording of Alice’s Restaurant, a move that nearly drove one columnist to violence.  Frank Mickadeit, of the OC Register, wondered how family members could hold themselves back:

To make the family and jurors listen to somebody, even Guthrie, sing: “I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and guts and veins in my teeth”? I guarantee you, that made nobody in the room think about how horrible Alcala’s death might be, as was apparently his intent. . . In all the years I’ve covered trials, I’ve never once wanted to personally wreak vengeance on a defendant. I can dissociate along with the hardest of professionals. But at Minute 50 on Tuesday, Murphy got me to go to that unprofessional place, where the father, brother and uncle lives.  I think it might have been one young woman’s morgue-photo – a head that was missing a third of its face because Alcala had bashed it away with a rock.  I stared hard at the back of Alcala’s tan sports coat, where the collar met the unruly mass of gray curls that cascades down his back (Arlo-like, if you must know), and I thought hard about that 15 feet between me and that thin neck. A cat-like leap, a bound, a forearm-lock, a snap – he’d never see me coming. The burly deputy sheriff between us would, though, so there was no chance even if I had indulged my momentary fantasy.  I looked to my left. Immediately across the aisle from me was Robert Samsoe, Robin‘s brother – roughly my age and size. He was wearing jeans, penny loafers and white socks, and I could see his right foot tapping nervously during these last 10 minutes of Murphy’s closing. The photo of another victim, her lower lip torn away, flashed up. Murphy hadn’t even begun recounting Robin’s death yet. . . Mercifully, there are no morgue photos of Robin, at least not in the sense that there are of the other murder victims. When they found Robin, just a skull was left – albeit a disfigured one from where Alcala had bashed in her teeth.  Robert Samsoe didn’t leap out of his chair and break Rodney Alcala’s neck, as part of me would have like to have seen.

Of course he didn’t.  The victims figured out long ago that they are not actually people, with human rights, including the right to dignity, in the eyes of the law.  The only person in that courtroom whose rights were being protected was Rodney Alcala.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Real Recidivism *Update*

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I received this interesting note from Dr. Greg Little (see yesterday’s post) explaining his research methods in more detail and discussing his findings:

Overall you present a good summary. But I can answer your questions. The study’s subjects all applied for entry into a drug treatment program (MRT) operated by the Shelby County Correction Center in Memphis, TN from 1986-1991. All were felons serving from 1 to 6 years. The control group was formed from a smaller number of individuals who were randomly excluded because of limited treatment slots. The treated subjects were randomly selected to enter…after all the subjects were placed into a pool of eligibles.

So both the study group and the control group were people who had applied to take part in a drug treatment program.  That solves the problem of self-selection, in a way, making the data on the effect of the treatment more reliable, for the main difference between the two groups would be the treatment program, and only the treatment program.

It makes me wonder about the recidivism rates for offenders who didn’t try to apply for the drug treatment program, though (not that you can get a recidivism rate much higher than 94%).  Were they simply not substance abusers?  Were they excluded because of behavioral issues such as violence?  Additionally, felons serving more than six years were excluded from the study, so we don’t know the recidivism rates for them.  Undoubtedly, members of that group include the sorts of violent criminals whose propensity for recidivism is most worrying.  And offenders serving less than a year weren’t counted either.

None of this is to say that the study isn’t valuable, nor that the researchers here are misrepresenting their findings.  But it’s important to be aware of the difference between what a study proves and what it cannot prove.  Too often, the media ignores this difference.  And when the research is conducted by activist organizations with anti-incarceration agendas (not the case here), like the Pew Foundation, or the Sentencing Project, the claims they make are often extremely unreliable.  At best.

Dr. Little continues:

There were no differences between the treated and control groups. There have been about a dozen prior published studies in peer-reviewed journals on these groups covering their time periods from 1 to 10 years after release. We were interested in what honestly happens to these people after 20 years of release. The local government, which we are not affiliated with, supplied the data.

You are correct that the authors (I am the senior author) are engaged in starting programs that reduce recidivism. We all make our living in criminal justice, we are all long-term professionals, and I have been in the field since 1975. All rearrests, only with minor traffic charges excluded, were collected as were all reincarcerations. The criminal justice system has always supplied misleading statistics, and that’s something we have battled for decades and have included such ethically-challenged issues in our textbooks and articles. There is a difference between what could be called “accurate” and what is “true” or “honest,” and we wanted to present a true and completely honest picture of what happens after 20 years. The data were, quite frankly, highly disappointing, but also somewhat encouraging. The real point is that there is a proportion of offenders that will return after their release no matter what we do. Right now, reducing those rearrested from 94% to 81% after 20 years is the best anyone has found. Reducing the reincarceration rate (which is rearrest, conviction, plus new sentence) is from 82% to 61%, also the best ever found. It means even using the best treatment known currently, 81% will be rearrested and 61% will still be reincarcerated. Without using that method, 94% are rearrested and 81% are reincarcerated.

The link to the original full article can be found here:
http://www.i-newswire.com/what-happens-over-twenty-years/21666

As I wrote yesterday, I don’t oppose realistic rehabilitation efforts (who would, really?).  What I object to is using substance abuse as an excuse for crime, which results in untold numbers of offenders escaping punishment simply because they say they’re helpless addicts.  And that doesn’t do anyone, including them, any good at all.  Nor does it help to romanticize criminals, or encourage them to believe that they are victims of society, as so many rehabilitation programs do.  Changing Lives Through Literature, for example, seems less about “rehabilitating” offenders than convincing them that their own convictions were unjust (see here and here).

Unfortunately, such anti-incarceration activists (who are currently in force in the Justice Department, in academic departments, and, of course, in the rehabilitation industry) never change their tune, no matter the evidence presented about the inevitability of re-offending.  Their first line of defense is claiming that recidivism rates are not nearly as high as many believe.  But hand them a 94% re-arrest rate, and they will say it’s proof that prison doesn’t work.  If we never incarcerate anyone, the line goes, then there will be less crime (thank goodness they’re not in charge of the laws of gravity).

A few years ago, I ran into a former co-worker who attributed his ability to kick a cocaine habit to a long sentence behind bars.  He never would have stuck with drug treatment, he told me, if he had not been incarcerated.  Then he listed other co-workers we knew who died young.  He considered himself lucky.  The so-called drug war, and stiff sentencing, doesn’t get enough credit for saving lives.

What do we do with a 94% re-arrest rate?  There’s no one good answer.  But one thing we definitely should not do is keep pretending that all that crime doesn’t really exist.