I get a lot of angry mail from people who are shocked and offended that anybody would deign to advocate for locking criminals up. You know, using words.
Most of this mail is weirdly personal and tendentiously riffs on a few themes:
- I’m for enforcing the law, so I must want innocent people to rot in jail.
- I’m for locking up predators and thugs, so I must be a vengeful person who daydreams of pulling the switch on fuzzy puppies and other living things.
- I must hate men, or minorities, or human beings in general, or myself in particular.
- Furthermore, since I was a crime victim once, I cannot be trusted to express any opinion about the justice system, so I should just shut up, or dedicate myself to apologizing for existing, or make amends for existing by pretending to teach pretend literacy at some pretend prisoner education program.
My favorite angry letter was a recent screed from one of the many registered sex offenders who contact me whenever I write about . . . sex offender registration. They have an on-line club or something, and there’s a big sign nailed to the door with my name crudely painted beneath a skull and crossbones.
So this sex offender guy writes to tell me that he is “ashamed” of me. He says that I am a symptom of “a broken education system” because I have PhD. but my ideas suck and I should try to think harder (he clearly doesn’t know much about graduate schools).
He gave me a lot of advice about improving myself. It’s nice to know that people care.
My least favorite letter arrived from a Ron Paul supporter in Colorado who wrote that he loves to hear about police officers getting killed because they don’t deserve to live. He was writing in response to a post about several officers killed recently in the line of duty, including two young men killed in front of, or near, their own fathers, who are themselves cops. None of this moved the letter-writer:
Cops ARE assholes, no doubt about it. And IT IS ALWAYS a good thing when they get blown away. . . I’m fairly certain most assaults are carried out by police officers. They are scum of the earth not by coincidence . . . only assholes apply to be cops.
And so on. There was a lot more of it, fringy, pot-addled, paranoid, extremist rantings to be sure. But far too many non-extreme people also feel far too comfortable treating cops like they are expendable, or inhuman, these days.
I don’t think the average person could endure very much of the crap that police must endure in their daily soak in the waters of whiny –and yet potentially deadly — criminality. Imagine having to spend ten or twelve hours a day, every workday, stuck with that irritating, whacked out, stinky, unpredictable guy you avoided on the train this morning . . . and twenty more like him . . . all the while being brow-beaten by a bunch of self-important “criminal defenders” who fancy themselves Atticus Finch while playing a rigged system that flushes violent men back out onto the streets the moment you arrest them.
Which brings me to Neil Boortz’s unfortunate column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today. I like Neil Boortz, not sycophantically, but I’ve listened to him on the radio for some twenty years, and he’s one libertarian who doesn’t irritate like most people who subscribe to the weird church of libertarianism (aka — Of course everyone should build their own personal highways to get to work because that’s far better than government taking your money to build highways for everyone).
He, and I, and my sex offender pen pal all feel the same way about the blighted state of education these days, for example.
But today, Boortz published one of those non-argument arguments in defense of the existence of defense attorneys, as if anyone really thinks they shouldn’t exist. And, quite unfortunately, to illustrate his example of why society (allegedly) doesn’t appreciate defense attorneys enough as they valiantly defend us against the rampant false accusations imposed by the blue meanie police state, he jokingly mentioned the horrific case of Larry Davis (aka Adam Abdul-Hakeem), which ought to instead be remembered as a watershed injustice of the degree of the un-prosecuted murder of Emmett Till or the un-prosecuted murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.
Only, it was cops who got shot. Six cops and at least four other men who Davis likely assassinated. The police were risking their lives trying to arrest Davis when he shot them. And then, in just one of the innumerable injustices that made much of the late Sixties to early Nineties such a bloodbath, defense attorney William Kunstler not only got Larry Davis off on multiple murder charges and the shooting of six cops but degraded the victims by making Davis a cultural hero — not using superior wit and legal skills, as Boortz implies, but by exploiting a twisted system of government protection that no libertarian should espouse.
Here is Boortz, describing the trial:
Davis hires William Kunstler who, in his closing argument at trial, tells the jury that if they don’t acquit Davis of these murder charges they will one day wake up at 3 a.m. — screaming. Larry Davis kills [sic] six police officers; Kunstler gets him off. Davis goes on to become known as “Hood Hero,” and later as Adam Abdul-Hakeem. Quite a guy. Eventually, as you would expect, the Hood Hero murdered again, and this time was convicted. The prosecutors got it right the second time.
How does Boortz know the prosecutors “got it wrong” the first time? He doesn’t even barely get the facts straight. The police weren’t killed, for instance, though several were badly wounded. The rest of the editorial is a similar flight of fancy: set up defense attorneys as misunderstood victims of society, then praise them for standing up to a government hell-bent on framing and convicting perfectly innocent people for some unknown reason:
The question is not whether or not you did it; it’s whether or not the government can prove you did it. Trust me, you don’t want to live in a country where your life, liberty or property can be taken away because of political whim or the passions of the majority.
Never mind that six innocent public servants got shot trying to protect the life, liberty and property of people who went on to make a hero of the unrepentant shooter.
Never mind that Kunstler used both politics and passions — pure mob mentality — to win his cases in the highly politicized courts of his era.
Never mind that he valued some types of people over others. That he unabashedly celebrated the murder of people who were cops. That he defended leftist and Muslim terrorists while heaping contempt on the “life, liberty and property” of ordinary citizens. That he refused to defend people whose politics clashed with his own, while pretending to stand for transcendent legal values.
That’s why people hated him, not because he was a defense attorney.
But here is the part of Boortz’ editorial that really makes no sense, coming from a libertarian: William Kunstler was actually for big government standing between jurors and the facts of any case. He believed the people could not be trusted with the truth, and he shamelessly used an activist system of technicalities to get brutal killers off free — free to deprive other people of their rights.
Above all else, Kunstler represented a system of increasing bureaucratic intrusion into the justice system, not the defense of the boring little people from state power.
In any case, William Kunstler is dead and buried, and the little people have been winning real victories recently. In a little-noticed trend, the Roberts court has begun to chip away at excessive Kunstler-era exclusionary rules that keep evidence from being heard and considered. Of course, news organs like the New York Times don’t like this provide jurors and judges with actual evidence and trust their judgment thing, but it is a sign of balance returning to a system in which defense attorneys — you know, those under-appreciated freedom fighters — have managed to tilt the playing field for far too long.