Archive for the ·

Death Penalty

· Category...

Gun Control is a Distraction: the President is Sending Grief Counselors.

3 comments

 . . . And, Lester Jackson on Benny Lee Hodge, Sonia Sotomayor, and Apologies for Mass Murderers

Great Leader chatter about Obama healing the nation is engulfing every network news station — including Fox — following the mass killing in Connecticut.  Was it always this way?  I’m thinking back on Columbine, David Koresh, Oklahoma City — is anyone else getting nostalgic for mere partisan political jabs in the wake of grim and senseless violence?  There is something profoundly creepy about the bureaucratic/therapeutic/paternalistic vibe emanating from Washington.  Of course, this is part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing efforts to expand their mission beyond crime control . . . to social control.  Flying under the flag of “anti-bullying,” “hate hurts,” “restorative justice,” and “prisoner re-entry,” the Department of Justice continues its Great March behind the Great Leader into people’s lives, this time using the excuse of a nut with a gun.

The goal isn’t merely gun control.  Gun control is a speed bump on the way to social control.

In order to align law enforcement’s activities with the agenda of collectivism, it is necessary to either therapeuticize or politicize every crime.  One or the other: a school shooter is generally therapeuticized.  He falls into the category of “victim,” probably of bullying, so long as he didn’t express any of the select group of “hatreds” that are deemed atrocities and thus politicized.  Luckily for school shooters who target females, that particular preference has been slotted back into the inconsequential category, and as it is the only category of shooter choice that has manifested in recent school shootings, school shooters generally just get counted as victims of social suffering — the therapeutic slot.  The Department of Justice is making noises about social bullying today, for example — it’s the stuff on which they can build expensive and intrusive bureaucracies without violating Eric Holder’s allergy to incarceration and law enforcement itself.

So, expect a lot of talk about bullying from the nation’s federal law enforcement agency — and everyone else — in coming weeks.  Ironically, early reports suggest that the killer in this case may have been systematically encouraged to see himself as a victim of “bullying” and social maladjustment.  There’s something to contemplate as the experts descend on schools throughout the nation to cash in on the actions of one unstable individual: might we produce fewer school shooters if we had fewer school professionals encouraging children to see themselves as victims — of garden-variety bullying, social slights, and social exclusion?

For if there’s one common thread that ties together otherwise diverse killers, bank robbers, terrorists, street thugs, and assorted psychopaths, it’s self-pity.  So as the armies of school psychologists and grief counselors and other soft-soap contract-remunerated social engineers fan out across the land, think about both intended and unintended consequences.  It’s bad enough that the federal government is using a tragedy to grow the bureaucratic-therapeutic federal government machinery, but is it even worse than that?  Are we growing future criminals in the process of therapeuticizing violence?

I was driving through South Georgia when the news reports of the Connecticut shootings broke.  It may be Terrific in Tifton but it’s darn hard to get A.M. radio reception from the highway there, so we had to listen to public radio.  “Obama Will Save Us” positive visualizations popped up immediately, with NPR devoting its earliest hours to Dear Leader chatter and gushing praise for the FBI.  Why the FBI?  Because the federal government was on the way to save the day.  Not that they actually did anything.  But the purpose of NPR is to justify federal powers and federal funding — for themselves and for actual government officials.  So they talked obsessively about how wonderful it was that the FBI was doing this and that for local law enforcement, even though local law enforcement was doing the actual work.

The therapeuticization of justice dictates two responses to crime.  Offenders are transformed into victims of society, and victims are transformed into suspects, at least until they demonstrate that they are also willing to blame society and not the individual offender for victimizing them.  Once everyone agrees that society is at fault, the experts can step in to dictate the cure, which involves creating more therapeutic non-incarcertive responses to crime.  Response is an artful term: it expresses the bureaucratic view that we are one enormous sensate organism reacting with animal reflexes to pain or shock.  If criminals are simply part of the sensate whole, how can we blame them for their actions?  It’s like blaming us . . . well, we are blaming us.  We are all responsible: nobody is responsible.

The alternative view is to accept the existence of moral choice and individual responsibility for crime, followed by judgment and consequences.  As readers of this blog have learned from the anonymous Professor Dunderpants of CUNY’s Media Studies Department, merely believing in such things is considered terribly primitive these days, and not the sort of good primitive that stimulates the anthropology department.  It is bad primitive to  harbor a secret belief in free will these days, let alone express it publicly.

The power to transform criminals into victims and victims into suspects — to dictate not just the administration of justice to the guilty but the emotional responses of everyone to crime — is a tremendous, intrusive power cupped in the hands of the bureaucrats calling the shots.  Fascist power, one might say.  Soft fascism.  The creepy kind.

Therapeuticizing criminals is the end-game of the social roots-theory of crime.  Roots theory was invented by sociologists in the 1960’s who wished to displace responsibility for criminal actions away from the criminal himself and onto society — onto injustice arising from poverty and prejudice in particular.  Poor and minority offenders, the story goes, are not responsible for their actions: they are merely reacting to injustice directed at them when they steal your car or mug your husband or rape your sister.  And social engineering is, of course, the only known cure.  Forty years later, the roots-theory movement has expanded to the point that it may even be applied to a young white male from an upper-class suburb who just slaughtered 20 innocent schoolchildren.  In coming days, even the most rational expressions of anger at the shooter will be quickly smothered by ministrations of therapeuticized justice in the government and the media.

Let the intensive policing of the innocents begin.

          ~~~~~

Related:  Lester Jackson has a compelling article about Justice Sotomayor and judicial sympathy for repeat killers in American Thinker today.  It’s a timely read:

 As detailed elsewhere, pro-murderer media suppression of the truth has played a major role in enabling a wholesale evisceration of capital punishment. Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently provided a graphic example, one that would be excruciatingly painful to survivors of murder victims if they knew about it. Many people unfamiliar with the practices and philosophy of the current Supreme Court would very likely be shocked to learn just what values some justices hold. . .

When pro-murderer justices seek — often successfully — to focus upon criminals rather than crimes, the result is to grant certain perpetrators greater protection against punishment for their brutality than others who commit identical or less serious acts without Supreme Court succor. The reductio ad absurdum, of course, is the Court’s fiat proclaiming a Constitutional right, nowhere to be found in the real document, for the most depraved and vicious barbarians . . .

Read the rest here.

And see also:   Rwanda and Columbine: The Politics of Forced Reconciliation

The New York Times Lies About Another Cop-Killer: Sheriff Barrett Hill Was Murdered by Rob Will

no comments

It’s Sunday.  That must mean the New York Times is lying about a murder case.  This time, reporter Brandy Grissom has slapped together an especially incredible whopper:

Appeal of Death Row Case Is More Than a Matter of Guilt or Innocence

Rob Will, Cop-Killer

The headline is the only factual part of the story.  Will’s latest appeal certainly is, as the headline writers put it, “more than a matter of guilt or innocence.”  It’s a demonstration of the lengths to which the New York Times and their hand-in-glove activists will go in order to mislead the public about our criminal justice system . . . particularly when the killer in question murdered a cop.

Deputy Sheriff Barrett Travis Hill

Robert Will killed Deputy Sheriff Barrett Travis Hill on December 4, 2000.  Hill was shot multiple times: his murder was gruesomely audible over police radio.  Chest, hand, face.  Will could have disabled the officer and fled, but once Barrett Hill was on the ground, he chose to kill him instead.  He then carjacked a woman, told her he killed a cop, forced her out at gunpoint, and fled.  He was caught with the murder weapon.

Ever since Robert Will was convicted, various attorneys have tried to pin the blame for DS Hill’s murder on Will’s criminal accomplice, Michael Rosario.  They’re not doing this because they care about Will, or care to capture Rosario: they do it because it’s the one argument they’ve got.  Every few years, advocates for Robert Will (paid for by us) produce additional “witnesses,” virtually all jailhouse snitches who (temporarily or transiently) claim that Rosario confessed to the crime, a claim Michael Rosario, of course, denies.  The real story of these witnesses is complicated, so the Times keeps their reporting on them very, very vague.  At different times, most of them actually refused to commit to testifying in court.  Nevertheless, the media myth keeps building, as in the Troy Davis case, that all of these “witnesses” were somehow blocked by court procedures from “telling the truth.”  Oddly, the Times story tells us nothing about Rosario’s current status or his response to the latest round of allegations against him: they work very hard to avoid looking too closely at him, because doing so wouldn’t suit their desired narrative.

With every “new witness,” an expensive legal game reboots.  In response, the state has repeatedly clarified the record by re-investigating and systematically ruling that each of these belated witnesses either had their chance to testify and refused, or that the defense themselves wouldn’t use them because they were hostile, or that they were, in fact, researched thoroughly despite allegations otherwise, or that they are so unbelievable that the court need not revisit the issue of Will’s guilt because they’ve come forward with unbelievable new stories.  Nevertheless, the games plays on, shifting only slightly over time.

Robert Will has had his day — his decade of days — in court.  The court has considered and rejected every new and unabashedly contradictory effort to invent or re-tread witnesses.  Robert Will himself is stuck with a particularly hard set of facts to transform into lies.  Yet this hasn’t slowed the liars, who call what they do “advocating” and sleep well at night because there are no consequences when defense attorneys make things up out of thin air . . . as admiring reporters pile on.

~~~

Also helping Will’s case is the theological realpolitik of death penalty reporting.  There are no atheists in Times’ newsrooms: they all believe deeply in the myth of their own infallibility.

For the Times, article of faith #1 is that being convicted of a crime means you’re the victim, doubly so if you have killed a police officer.  Dead cops whet their appetites.  The fact that Rosario — the supposed “real murderer” — is the son of a cop further whets appetites.  The Times mentions this twice in one article.  The editors didn’t have room to address the actual facts of the case, but readers certainly come away knowing that Michael Rosario’s dad once wore blue.

Now that Robert Will has burned through another round of habeas corpus, the Times is focusing its attention on sloppily retreading all of his previous failed appeals in an effort to promote their utterly risible default argument: that the system is stacked against him.  What really happened is that Robert Will lost his trial and was found guilty based on a very strong case, then lost multiple appeals based on a series of rejected claims about bias (policemen wearing their uniforms in the courtroom) and his pop-up alleged witnesses.  But everything old is new again in newsrooms and courtrooms.  Except evidence, of course.

The Times can’t explain away the facts, so they hide some of it and lie about the rest.  They hint at the discredited claim that Mr. Rosario shot the handcuffs off his colleague’s hands to free him.  They’re coy about it because they don’t want to acknowledge that this theory is a proven lie.  Here is the Times’ intentionally vague description:

At Mr. Will’s 2002 trial, his lawyers argued that after losing the other officer, Mr. Rosario found Deputy Hill and Mr. Will, shot the deputy, freed his friend and took off.

But there’s a problem: the handcuffs weren’t shot off anyone.  To say only that Mr. Rosario “freed his friend,” is to endorse a flimsy and laughable lie.  But who would know, unless they read the transcripts from all the appeals Will lost?

The whack-a-mole witnesses are grounds for a few more bald-faced deceptions.  Here is the Times, breaking all sorts of rules about objective reporting in their effort to make something out of the latest rejected “witness”:

Another key piece of testimony came from Mr. Will’s ex-girlfriend. At a 2011 hearing, she testified that Mr. Rosario had come to her apartment with blood on his pants and on one of his shoes. He told her that he had shot the deputy and then tried to shoot the handcuffs off Mr. Will.

This girlfriend has said, and not said, a lot of things over the years, while bouncing in and out of prison herself.  Not that you’d know this from reading the Times’ description of her latest version of events.  The girlfriend said nothing at all about this alleged conversation for years and just recently remembered it for a lawyer.  Now she says she did tell people, once, but that nobody asked her any follow-up questions, so she let the subject drop as her boyfriend got sent up for capital murder.  In a 2012 denial of one appeal, Judge Keith P. Ellison destroyed the girlfriend’s testimony, but the Times doesn’t mention that.  In 2012 and also in 2010, Judge Ellison similarly eviscerated the testimonies of the other belated, alleged, witnesses, along with all of the excuses Will’s lawyers made regarding admissibility of the same.  And, all the arguments about bias.  And, all the arguments about inadequate counsel.

The Times ignores all of this and insinuates that Judge Ellison is, instead, merely “agonized” over having to reaffirm Robert Will’s sentence.  Here is the Times’ summary of Judge Ellison’s decisions, which amounts to one quote plucked from an otherwise consistent repudiation of all of the claims Will’s lawyers have brought before the court over the years:

In his ruling denying a new trial, Judge Ellison said that the lack of physical evidence linking Mr. Will to the crime and the reports that Mr. Rosario had confessed gave him pause, but that he could not simply overturn the conviction. Judge Ellison wrote that Mr. Will had not presented enough evidence to show that Mr. Will’s claims of innocence and shoddy lawyering warranted a new trial. “The court laments the strict limitations placed upon it,” Judge Ellison wrote.

Here’s something Judge Ellison really wrote about that evidence, that the Times chose to ignore:

After hearing the gunshots, Deputy Kelly saw Will run from the area. As Deputy Kelly began looking for his partner, Will fled to a nearby apartment complex. Cassandra Simmons was dozing in her parked vehicle when Will opened her car door. Will ordered her outside and pulled at her arm. Ms. Simmons screamed as Will put a pistol to her neck. Will exclaimed that he had “just shot a policeman.” [Tr. Vol. 21 at 74]. Will stole Ms. Simmons’ car and drove away.

About a half hour later, searchers found the body of Deputy Hill approximately 470 feet from where Deputy Kelley had lost Rosario. The police conducted a thorough investigation of forensic evidence at the crime scene. The police recovered seven spent shell casings and two projectile fragments from the area near the body. Deputy Hill’s gun was in his holster, though it was not snapped shut. An investigator found Deputy Hill’s handcuffs on the ground, but later he could not remember whether they were in an opened or closed position. An autopsy revealed that Deputy Hill suffered gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest, and wrist. Will’s blood was found on Deputy Hill’s shoe.

Will drove west after visiting his apartment. Will replaced the licence plates on Ms. Simmons’ car with ones that he stole from a parked vehicle. When the Washington County police took Will into custody around three-and-a-half hours later, he had a .40 caliber Sig Sauer pistol in his belt. Will’s handgun had three rounds left from a ten-bullet magazine. Will had a full gun magazine in his pocket. Will was bleeding from a wound on his left hand. The police found bloody gloves and bleached-out dark clothing in the car. Also, Will carried $2,300 cash in $100 bills. No gunshot residue was found on Will’s hands, though traces of gunshot residue were discovered in the paper bags the police placed over his hands. A later police search of the apartment of Will’s girlfriend turned up several guns and some stolen property.

The prosecution tied witness testimony and forensic evidence together into a coherent version of the events leading to Deputy Hill’s death.

~~~

Sins of omission + sins of commission = NYT reporting.

Here’s the opening lines of the Times article about Robert Will:

No one saw Rob Will shoot and kill Harris County Deputy Sheriff Barrett Hill in the still-black morning hours in a Houston bayou on Dec. 4, 2000. No physical evidence linked him to the murder.

Except the gun, and the fact that, as the judge points out, “Will’s blood was found on Deputy Hill’s shoe.”

The article ends with another particularly ugly dissimulation, this from one of those pathetic women who attach themselves to murderers.  She snapped at me that it was only one very teensy-weensy drop of Will’s blood on the dead deputy:

Dawn Bremer drives 90 miles from her Spring home to the state prison in Livingston to visit Mr. Will. She is among a cadre of advocates who believe [Rob Will] is innocent and fear he will be executed because of a legal technicality.

A legal technicality.  That’s what they call “losing your trial and ten years of appeals because you’re guilty as sin,” in Times argot.

Actually, the only technicality involved is the one that might save Will’s life.  If the courts allow for yet another expansion of activists’ ability to eternally retry settled cases, which is what is really at stake here, Will’s supporters might triumph over the facts of the case.  If that happens, it will be memorialized, not as a technicality slam-dunk, but as “proof of innocence.”  And the public will be instructed to believe, again, by the criminal fetishists embedded in the New York Times, that no conviction is legitimate.  More killers will go free, laughing, with their advocates, at the people who happen to believe that it matters when you kill a cop.

Robert Will is not innocent.  He has been convicted of murder.  His conviction has been upheld through ten years of appeals.  He is also not an innocent: he is a murderous gang-banger who attracts stupid or unhinged advocates with his “poetry” and scribblings as leader of the pseudo-revolutionary DRIVE movement (Death Row Inter-Communialist Vanguard Engagement).  He has his groupies and his poetry and scores of activist law students.  He has the criminal fetishists lobby of the Times, people who couldn’t locate a journalistic scruple if it bit them on the tush as they perched in the visitor’s room on death row, getting off on their own inflated roles in the fictions they’re creating.

Barrett Hill’s family have their memories of a good man who didn’t come home one day because he was brutally assassinated by a heartless thug.

~~~

If you want to read the real story of Robert Will’s appeals, you’ll have to do a little searching on the web: I can’t link them here.

Here, I think, is the 2010 Will vs. Quarterman (aka Will vs. Thaler):

http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/texas/txsdce/4:2007cv01000/498690/44

And here is the 2012 decision:

http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/texas/txsdce/4:2007cv01000/498690/88/0.pdf?ts=1326894861

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maureen Faulkner is Right: The Fight Against Mumia Will Never Be Over, as Amnesty International Proves with Their Holiday Catalogue

7 comments

Maureen Faulkner, widow of Daniel Faulkner, the officer killed by Mumia Abu Jamal 30 years ago tomorrow, has issued a statement about the decision to forego a re-sentencing hearing for Abu Jamal.  Her statement is reproduced below: contrary to some media coverage, she did not agree quietly to the decision to release her husband’s killer from his death sentence.  Instead, she has understandably lost all faith in the justice system, and she does not believe “Mumia” would ever really be executed.

 Maureen Faulkner, 30 years ago.  Still fighting Mumia Abu Jamal and his supporters today.

The Faulkner family has been under continuous attack for three decades by an astonishing cabal of the malicious and the misinformed.  Most in the media are assuming, wrongly, that Mumia’s followers will now drift off to other causes.  There’s no chance of that happening.  Amnesty International announced that appeals were continuing for Mumia.  When Amnesty mentions “international fair trial standards” below, what they mean is that they will continue to try to impose United Nations laws on our country to aid cop-killers.  From the AP:

Amnesty International, which maintains that Abu-Jamal’s trial was “manifestly unfair and failed to meet international fair trial standards,” said the district attorney’s decision [to remove Abu Jamal from death row] does not go far enough. Abu-Jamal still has an appeal pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over the validity of ballistics evidence.

“Amnesty International continues to believe that justice would best be served by granting Mumia Abu-Jamal a new trial,” said Laura Moye, director of the human rights group’s Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty.

It’s not really about the death penalty.  Once that is abolished, not a single activist will go home.  What do you think they’re going to do: announce that America is now a fair place and quit their jobs?  No, they’ll continue to bleed our justice system dry until they overturn life-without-parole, and then move on every other sentencing rule that keeps killers and rapists off the streets.  We’re in an arms race, and the anti-incarceration activists are winning, not least because we have to subsidize their activism in addition to defending against it.

Meanwhile, the Mumia cultists at Amnesty International issued a press release that calls law enforcement’s support for their fallen colleague “unseemly.”  You’d think they could have been a bit more sensitive on the 30th anniversary of Daniel Faulkner’s murder.  For the holidays, Amnesty’s also selling baby onesies, in case you want to turn your toddler into an advertisement for people who murder police:

 “All Rights for All People.”  How cute.  Except cops, of course.

Here’s a whimsical poster from their gift catalog depicting a police officer clubbing a kid, $8:

And in case your adolescents are feeling too much pride over being American, here’s a tee-shirt for them, and a map that “turns the world upside down to challenge North-South perceptions”:

 Don’t you feel less better now?
~~~

To get a taste of what Maureen Faulkner has gone through, there is a 1999 article written by her posted on the very interesting website, Pro-Death Penalty.  Today, Faulkner posted the following statement on her own website.  It’s damning.  Too bad the media wasn’t interested in giving her space to say it, considering all the space they lavish on Abu Jamal’s claims:

Statement from Maureen Faulkner

After enduring 30 years of emotional and physical hell as I’ve suffered through the appeals process, I am now convinced that when a death sentence is at issue, the judges of the Federal District Courts and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals simply do as they want, not as the law dictates. Judges Yohn, Scirica, Cowen and Ambro oppose the death penalty, so they shape the law to suit their personal needs. This isn’t just me venting. It’s a fact that’s supported by the numbers. The dirty little secret about the death penalty in Pennsylvania that nobody wants to come to grips with is that since the death penalty was re-instated by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1976, there have been hundreds of death sentences imposed by Pennsylvania juries. Yet, after three decades of trying, not a single one of them– including my husband’s case — has managed to successfully make it through the Federal appeals gauntlet. How is it possible that over the course of three decades all District Attorneys combined have gone 0 for several hundred on their appeals?

The disgusting reality with the death penalty in Pennsylvania is that the fix is in before the hearings even begin, and federal judges, including the 4 dishonest cowards who presided over my husband’s case, are the fixers.

My family and I have endured a three-decade ordeal at the hands of Mumia Abu-Jamal, his attorneys and his supporters; who in many cases never even took the time to educate themselves about the case before lending their names, giving their support and advocating for his freedom. All of this has taken an unimaginable physical, emotional and financial toll on each of us. Over the past few months, we have anguished over the two terrible options we are presented with. Should we choose a new sentencing hearing, it would undoubtedly take months to complete and come at an extreme cost to the citizens of Philadelphia. It will undoubtedly be a venue for every fringe group imaginable. Droves of sleazy Human Rights lawyers will want to weigh in with amicus briefs. The list of character witnesses for Abu-Jamal would be a rouges gallery of the Hate America First crowd, and unlike he did at the 1982 sentencing hearing, this time around he will undoubtedly keep his vile mouth shut and portray the image of “a man filled with soulful humanity” as his former attorney once described him and not the seething animal he was at the 1982 hearing. The damning testimony of several key eyewitness who are now deceased will have to be read to the jury without emotion and the District Attorney will have the unenviable challenge of seating an impartial jury without being duped by even a single person who intends to nullify the death sentence. Should the jury decide on a death sentence again as they should, we would then start the whole decades-long appeals process over again, and we will be forced to repeat the past 30 years as if they never happened.

Given that we would be forced back into the same foul legal system that has failed us for so long and the morally dishonest judges we would undoubtedly be confronted with if there were a new sentencing hearing, we have asked Seth Williams to deny such a hearing and agree to have Mumia Abu-Jamal’s sentence be reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

This decision certainly does not mark the end of my journey, nor will I stop fighting to see justice done for my husband. Rest assured I will now fight with every ounce of energy I have to see that Mumia Abu-Jamal receives absolutely no special treatment when he is removed from death row. I will not stand by and see him coddled — as he has been in the past — and I am heartened by the thought that he will finally be taken from the protected cloister he has been living in all these years and begin living among his own kind; the thugs and common criminals that infest our prisons. I will hold any official who attempts to help Abu-Jamal improve his situation publicly and legally accountable for as long as I live.

In closing, I’d like to say that I believe the lowest dimension of hell has been reserved for child molesters and unrepentant murderers like Mumia Abu-Jamal. After 30 years of waiting, the time remaining before Abu-Jamal stands before his ultimate judge doesn’t seem quite so far off as it once did when I was younger. I look forward to that day, so I can finally close the book on this chapter of my life and live with the gratification and assurance that Mumia Abu-Jamal has finally received the punishment he deserves for all eternity.

Thank you.

Maureen Faulkner

Deputy Chief of Police (Ret.) Lou Arcangeli on the Troy Davis Case

2 comments

Lou Arcangeli is the rare cop (he’s retired now) who’s earned kudos from people both sides of the political aisle.  Atlanta journalist John Sugg calls him a “cop’s cop” in this 2003 profile.

Lou Arcangeli

Lou weighed in on the Troy Davis case today: the editorial ran in the Savannah Morning News (http://savannahnow.com/column/2011-09-22/arcangeli-no-injustice-davis-case#.Tntcz831aqm).  He writes:

I wish that [Troy] Davis’ supporters had met Davis years earlier and worked as hard to connect with and help the troubled young man before he started carrying guns and killed a policeman. I think they enjoy the camaraderie of their tweeting and demonstrations much more than the work and commitment it would take to make a safer society.

I second that.  The more years I spent in Atlanta, the more I despaired of helping kids emerge from bad environments unscathed . . . and the less I trusted the loud “social justice” activists who preferred the easy self-aggrandizement of valorizing murderers over the work of keeping children from wasting their lives in violence.

The activists below will drift to other causes (or continue collecting big checks from foundations) while kids keep killing kids, and police keep trying to save them, despite being pilloried by  . . . activists like the people below:

I am Troy Davis: I am a cop killer.

I am Troy Davis: I killed another man in an utterly senseless murder.

Our teacher says we’re Troy Davis: we pistol-whipped a homeless guy and

threatened to kill him because he wouldn’t give us a beer.

I am Troy Davis: I’m really excited to be holding this sign.

Arcangeli links to a good website debunking the activists’ lies about this case, and I’ve added a few more.  The performance of the media, particularly the New York Times, has been disgraceful throughout:

Support Mark MacPhail: Debunking the Myths

A Useful Chart Debunking the “Recanting Witness” Claims (see also: http://legalcases.info/troydavis/)

Text of the Denial of Davis’ 2010 Appeal: Why the Judge Rejected the “Recanting” Claims (part 2)

D.A. Spencer Lawton on Davis guilt.  In other words, the prosecutor’s and appeals courts’ position, which was carefully suppressed in coverage of the execution by the New York Times, CNN, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and most other news sources.

Educate yourselves: the media isn’t going to tell you the truth about this case.

And thanks to Lou for quoting me.

Troy Davis is Guilty, but the Mainstream Media Doesn’t Trust You With the Facts.

1 comment

And with the parole board once again affirming his guilt, the Atlanta Journal Constitution continues its tradition of leaving out all the relevant facts when reporting on the Troy Davis case.

At least they can’t be accused of inconsistency.  Here’s my previous post, with relevant links (near the end).

A Great Article About Life Without Parole and the Death Penalty

no comments

Hat tip to Alfonso: Deborah J. Saunders on the role the death penalty plays in Life-Without-Parole cases.

Disappearing Adria Sauceda: The Nun, The SNAP, The Law Professor, The President, His Newspaper and the U.N. Defend Torture-Killer Humberto Leal

63 comments

The Nun:

This is rapist and murderer Humberto Leal, mugging for the camera beside one of his many supporters, Sister Germaine Corbin.  Not included in the picture?  Sixteen-year old Adria Sauceda.

Adria can’t mug for cameras with nuns because she’s dead.  Not just dead — gang-raped, then kidnapped, tortured, raped, and beaten to death in the desert, her skull crushed with repeated blows from a 40 pound slab of asphalt, her body violated by a fifteen inch broken stick.

But he looks like such a nice boy.  Look at the nun’s smile.

Nuns minister to murderers and Catholics oppose the death penalty.  And so it should be.

But photos like this have nothing to do with ministering to a soul: this is public relations calculatedly erasing the memory of another soul — Adria Sauceda — disappearing her and placing Leal in her place.  Humberto Leal’s supporters — who include the President — want to turn Leal into a mere victim of America’s “vicious and unfair” justice system.  The only way to do this is to lie about the legal record and erase the evidence of his crime, namely an innocent sixteen-year old girl named Adria.  A shopworn way of scrubbing such human evidence is to plaster airwaves with photos of the killers looking shy and boyish in the presence of beaming nuns.

I have a modest suggestion for avoiding such deceptions in the future: the next time Sister Corbin wants to play Helen Prejean by clasping hands for the cameras with someone like this, she should use her other hand to hold up a picture of the victim.  Then things like facts and what is really at stake will not be buried behind the smiles.

A picture of murder victim Adria Sauceda, held in her parents’ hands

The SNAP:

Shamefully, SNAP, the Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests, has also come out in Humberto Leal’s defense, because, they claim, he was molested by a priest.  But they don’t stop there: in their eagerness to climb into bed with Leal’s Bernadine Dohrn-connected defense team (see below), SNAP is actually promoting the defense’s risible claims of Leal’s innocence.  Their statement of support completely whitewashes Garcia’s crimes, a stunningly cynical act by a group that claims to exist in order to . . . oh, oppose the official whitewashing of sexual crimes:

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, National Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests [contact info deleted].  We wholeheartedly support efforts to postpone the execution of Humberto Leal, and to try and protect kids from Fr. Federico Fernandez, through both secular and church channels.  We believe it is possible, even likely, that Fernandez could be criminally prosecuted, but only if Catholic and Texas authorities aggressively seek out others who saw, suspected or suffered the priest’s crimes. Delaying Mr. Leal’s execution is just and fair and would help this outreach process.

The whitewashing doesn’t end there.  SNAP uses their website to promote a discredited version of Leal’s “innocence.”  This version has been rejected repeatedly by the courts.  Worse, it intentionally minimizes the circumstances of the murdered girl’s suffering.  Here is SNAP’s version, quoting a wildly inaccurate article by someone named Brandi Grissom, who happens to be an anti-death penalty activist writing as a journalist for an online paper.  I’m quoting extensively here to offer some background, but the last paragraph’s the kicker:

One of [a priest’s] alleged victims is Humberto Leal, a death row inmate who in 1995 was convicted of raping and bludgeoning to death a 16-year-old girl. His attorneys this week filed a clemency petition on his behalf. They asked Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to stay his execution and allow him to testify both as a victim and a witness of abuses allegedly perpetrated decades ago by Father Federico Fernandez, who served at St. Clare’s from 1983 to 1988.

Now, others who attended St. Clare’s have been spurred by Mr. Leal’s recent revelations to come forward and report similar abuse. They hope that by telling their stories they can stop the July 7 execution of Mr. Leal, and spur law enforcement to investigate and prosecute Father Fernandez.

The priest, who currently works in a church in Bogotá, Colombia, denies ever abusing anyone.

Church authorities in San Antonio removed him from the parish and sent him to New Mexico for treatment in 1988 after a grand jury indicted him for sexually abusing two other boys. In statements to police, the boys described multiple occasions when Father Fernandez schemed to get them alone and groped them. After the indictment, the boys’ family reached a settlement with the church, and the young men decided not to testify. Charges against Father Fernandez were dropped, and terms of the settlement were sealed.

Even before Father Fernandez arrived at St. Clare’s, he had been accused of sexual misconduct. In 1983, San Antonio police charged him with exposing himself in public, though the charges were eventually dropped. And since Mr. Leal’s revelation, others who attended St. Clare’s have reported similar abuse. . .

As is usually the case in a criminal matter, the facts of what led to Mr. Leal facing execution next month are in dispute — all, that is, except that Adria Sauceda was raped and murdered. Mr. Leal maintains he did not rape the girl and witnesses testified at his trial that she had been gang raped at a party. Witnesses told the authorities that Mr. Leal arrived at the scene and, outraged at what had happened to her, took her away from the party. He admitted that he and Ms. Sauceda physically fought after they left, and that she could have died after he pushed her and she hit her head on a rock. The police found her body about 100 yards from the location of the party.

Hit her head on a rock  . . . as he was rescuing her!  Gee, this Leal guy sounds like he might be innocent, doesn’t he?  And this is SNAP, after all, and they stand beside victims who have had their sexual assaults pushed under rocks, as it were.

Let’s be very, very clear about what SNAP is doing.  They are attempting to deny that Adria Sauceda was raped — again — by Leal as he bludgeoned her to death.  They are using their credibility as a rape victims’ rights organization to say that Leal’s kidnapping and rape of Sauceda may not have occurred.

And this is a rape victims’ rights organization.  Jesus wept, though not just this one time: I’ve seen similar ugliness in other victims’ rights groups hijacked by advocates for offenders.

Regarding the rape, SNAP forgot something.  They forgot the stick.  After the child was taken from the party by Leal, she was raped with a stick.  A jagged stick with screws sticking out of it, to be precise, which, to be even more precise — let’s say discerning — was used on Adria Sauceda while she was still alive.  That’s rape, and SNAP, of all bloody organizations, should know that, rather than quibbling over the number of times a dead girl was violated.  What, are they the only victims who ever matter?  Where is their membership regarding this obscenity?

With this decision to publicly support Leal, and to support him in the way they have chosen, SNAP’s leadership has made itself vulnerable to a common accusation — that they are just left-wing activists using the molestation crisis to attack the growing sexual conservatism of the Catholic Church.  I discount these accusations when they come from people who are themselves busy downplaying the reach of the molestation issue (particularly the cover-ups).  The absurd John Jay “hippies made us do it” “study” is one example of cover-up that discredits its advocates, for example.

But with this swift move by SNAP, such exploitation of victims is full circle now.  As usual, the people left out in the cold are the ones unfortunate enough to have been raped or murdered by one politically protected group or another.

What we’re actually witnessing here is the mundane drumbeat of insinuation, as yet another victims-rights group centrifuges its values and joins its opponents in picking and choosing among victims to support.  In a broader sense, I blame this sort of ethical slippage on the many political satisfactions of “hate crimes” laws, which codify and reward the act of valuing some victims over others.  Once identity politics is larded into sentencing, and activism, it’s easy to throw less politically useful crime victims out with the trash.

Here is the real record of the evidence, from Pro-Death Penalty a serious website that deserves serious attention, especially from those who hold that the death penalty itself is universally insupportable on religious or ethical grounds.  It is especially important for these types of death penalty opponents (I count myself one) to witness the whole truth, to not push away facts, or fall for outrageous claims of innocence, or pose for color glossies with sick sadists, or violate one’s mission statement to defend certain victims by helping bury others.

I encourage you to read the entire story at Pro-Death Penalty, because it catalogs the disturbing censorship by virtually every news agency — and activists at SNAP, among others.  Pro-Death Penalty quotes Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbot.  This passage is long, and painful to read: please remember it as you see the whitewashing of this crime in every media source over the next week:

[A] witness testified that an unidentified male invited him to have intercourse with Adria. The same witness testified that he later observed another man carrying a disoriented Adria to a truck, where he “had his way with her.” Twenty-three-year-old Humberto Leal was also at the party. At some point the intoxicated but conscious victim was placed in Leal’s car. Leal and Adria left together in Leal’s car. About thirty minutes later, Leal’s brother arrived at the party in a car which came to a screeching halt. Leal’s brother was very excited or hysterical. Leal’s brother started yelling to the people left at the party, “What the hell happened!” Leal’s brother was yelling that Leal came home with blood on him saying he had killed a girl. Two of the trial witnesses were present when Leal’s brother made these statements. Shortly thereafter Leal’s brother left in a rush. Several of the party members went looking for Adria in the same area where the party was. They found her nude body lying face-up on a dirt road. They noticed Adria’s head had been bashed in and it was bleeding. Her head was flinching or jerking. These party members called the police. When the police arrived, they saw the nude victim lying on her back. There was a 30 to 40 pound asphalt rock roughly twice the size of Adria’s skull lying partially on Adria’s left arm. Blood was underneath this rock. A smaller rock with blood on it was located near Adria’s right thigh. There was a gaping hole from the corner of Adria’s right eye extending to the center of her head from which blood was oozing. Adria’s head was splattered with blood. There was a bloody and broken stick approximately 14 to 16 inches long with a screw at the end of it protruding from [her body]. Another 4 to 5 inch piece of the stick was lying to the left side of Adria’s skull. The police made a videotape of the crime scene portions of which were admitted into evidence. Later that day, the police questioned Leal. Leal gave two voluntary statements.

Remember this part: it is important, in the context of President Obama’s defense of Leal.  Yes, that President Obama.

In Leal’s first statement he said he was with Adria in his car when she began hitting him and the steering wheel causing him to hit a curb. Leal attempted to calm her down but Adria leaped from Leal’s car and ran away. Leal claimed he sat in his car and waited about ten or fifteen minutes to see if Adria would return and when she did not he went home. After giving this statement, Leal was informed that his brother had also given a statement. Leal then gave another statement. In this statement, Leal claimed he followed Adria when she got out of his car and ran away. Leal claimed Adria attacked him. Leal pushed her and she fell to the ground. When she did not get up Leal attempted to wake her but could not. He then looked at her nose and saw bubbles. Leal stated he got scared, went home, prayed on the side of his mom’s bed and told family members what had happened, claiming it was just an accident. After giving this statement an officer gave Leal a ride home. The police searched Leal’s house. The police seized a blouse which contained several blood stains, hair and fibers. This blouse was later identified as belonging to Adria. The police also seized Leal’s clothing from the night before. Leal was arrested later that afternoon at his home. Leal’s car was also impounded. The police conducted Luminol tests of the passenger door to determine whether any blood was evident. Blood stains were discovered on the passenger door and seat. Detectives testified that the blood stains were streaked in a downward motion, indicating that the blood had been wiped off.  There was insufficient residue to conduct a blood typing of the stains on the vehicle. Other DNA evidence was found on the underwear Leal was wearing that night. That evidence consisted of blood as well as bodily fluid. The DNA test did not preclude Adria’s blood type from the evidence tested. Dr. DiMaio, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, testified about Adria’s injuries and cause of death. DiMaio testified that even though Adria was intoxicated when she received her injuries, she would have been aware of what was happening to her. In addition to Adria’s massive head injuries, DiMaio testified about injuries Adria received to her chest and shoulder which were consistent with having been inflicted by the stick found in Adria’s vagina. DiMaio also testified about the defensive wounds Adria received to her hands trying to protect herself from some object. DiMaio also testified Adria was alive when the stick was placed in her vagina. Adria’s neck also contained injuries consistent with manual strangulation. DiMaio testified Adria received some of her injuries while standing up. Adria received her head injuries while lying flat. The injuries to Adria’s head were due to blows from the front. These injuries were inconsistent with a fall. Adria’s head injuries were consistent with Adria lying on the ground with somebody standing over her striking her. DiMaio testified the large rock could have delivered the injuries to Adria’s head. Based on the injuries to Adria’s head, DiMaio testified Adria would had to have been struck with the rock two or three times. DiMaio testified Adria died from blunt force trauma injuries to the head. DiMaio could not say for certain that the rock caused the injuries. He testified Adria was beaten about the face with a blunt object or more than one object which could have been the rock or something else. On cross-examination, DiMaio testified that one blow from the rock could have caused Adria’s death. DiMaio also testified about bite marks he found on Adria’s left cheek, the right side of her neck and the left side of her chest. Another witness compared the bite marks on Adria’s chest and neck with dental impressions of Leal’s teeth. They matched. The State’s indictment charged that Leal killed Sauceda while in the course of and attempting either to kidnap her or to commit aggravated sexual assault. Leal was convicted and, after a separate punishment phase, sentenced to death.

Nice work, SNAP.

The Law Professor:

Meanwhile, in the courts, the whitewashing of Adria Sauceda’s murder continues, cradled in the hands of experts trained in such ugly arts.

Humberto Leal’s defense attorney, Sandra L. Babcock, of the terrorist-sheltering law school at Northwestern University, has an interesting vitae.  Ms. Babcock’s research interest is imposing international law on the American justice system, a hobby she practices with her colleague, terrorist-cum-law-professor Bernadine Dohrn.  In 2008, Babcock and Dohrn worked “tirelessly” together to get Chicago’s city council to pass a resolution signing on to the U.N. Convention for the Rights of the Child.  Of course, such things always sound nice.

In 2003, along with the A.C.L.U., The Jimmy Carter Center, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Open Society Institute, Sandra Babcock, Bernadine Dorhn, and Van Jones (he’s listed as “invited”) participated in an A.C.L.U. sponsored conference called Human Rights at Home: International Law in U.S. Courts (program here). The purpose of the conference was to find ways to insinuate international (read: United Nations) laws and resolutions in American legal arenas, as Sandra Babcock is attempting to do to free her client, Humberto Leal.  From the conference program:

The conference will familiarize lawyers and advocates with international human rights treaties, laws and organizing strategies that can strengthen domestic social justice work by:
* Ensuring U.S. accountability for violating international human rights principles in additional to domestic constitutional ones
* Providing new, affirmative protections for workers, poor people, immigrants, and victims of discrimination
* Linking multiple issues to address problems that intersect race, gender, and poverty
* Connecting local advocacy to global struggles

As per her academic research and this movement, Babcock is now claiming that the police failed to inform Leal of his right to Mexican consular support when he was arrested.  Allegedly, this failure violated the rules of the International Court of Justice at the Hague: Leal, as a “Mexican national,” should have simply been able to call “his” embassy and the entire mess — the body, the rock, the stick, the bloody clothes, et. al. could be whisked away like some New Guinean ambassador’s parking tickets.

But there’s one little problem: Humberto Leal has lived in the United States, apparently illegally, since he was two.  Talk about wanting it both ways: Leal was an American until the moment he murdered Adria Sauceda.  That changed in the brief space between bashing in a young girl’s head and wiping down the doors of his car.  Now he’s a “Mexican national,” a term everyone from the President to the New York Times to “human rights” organizations (Leal’s rights, not Sauceda’s) is using with no irony and no explanation, as they lobby to cloak a killer in layers of special privileges while simultaneously lobbying to prevent police from inquiring about immigration status.

Get it?  The police will have to determine if someone is a foreign citizen in order to offer them consular rights, but they’ll also be forbidden to ask if someone is a foreign citizen in the interest of not discriminating against illegal immigrants, a lovely Catch 22 dreamed up by academics.  This cliff we’re careening towards is permanent demotion of Americans’ legal rights on their own soil.  If President Obama, his friend Bernadine Dohrn, and Jimmy Carter get their way, the police are going to find their hands tied in ten different ways, and our criminal justice system will soon be utterly subservient to whatever the hell they dream up at the U.N.

Expect more Humberto Leals.

Why isn’t the president of Mexico (or, say, America) calling for justice for Adria Sauceda?  Is that so difficult to conceive?

In an excellent article in American Thinker, David Paulin writes:

In Mexico, ordinary citizens can expect little from their country’s criminal justice system; it’s not a place where they can count on receiving justice.  So it is surprising that Mexicans on death row in the U.S. can expect so much from their government.  Americans, moreover, have always fared badly when caught in Mexico’s criminal justice system; it’s one of the risks of going to Mexico, and international law does not seem to offer additional guarantees of safety to visitors going there.  Yet in this case and others, Mexico presents itself as a paragon of virtue, committed to the lofty ideals of international law that Texas and other U.S. states are ignoring.

In 2004, Mexico sent its top legal talent to the International Court of Justice in The Hague — and complained about 51 of its citizens being on death rows in various U.S. states; none, they complained, had been advised that their government was prepared to offer them top lawyers for their defense.

That Hague court ruled that the U.S. was indeed bound by the treaty — prompting President George W. Bush to ask the states to apply it and review cases involving Mexican citizens awaiting death sentences.  However, Gov. Perry was unimpressed.  He refused to grant a stay-of-execution for Jose Medellin, 33, an illegal immigrant from Mexico found guilty in the 1993 rape-strangulation of two teenage Houston girls, Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Peña.  Instead, Medellin was executed, despite having never been informed that Mexico was ready to provide him with a great lawyer.

The President and His Newspaper

In order to really disappear Adria Sauceda, fully and truly, you need more than bunches of law professors and activists: you need the media.  The New York Times does not disappoint.  The Times gawkingly refers to Humberto Leal merely as a “Mexican citizen,” as if he wandered over the border one day and ended up smashing a girl’s head in with a rock, his decades of residency in the U.S. tacitly denied.  As they put it:

Mr. Leal, a Mexican citizen, was not immediately informed of his right, under an international treaty signed by the United States, to seek assistance “without delay” from Mexican consular officials in navigating a confusing foreign legal system.  Such help might have been crucial for someone like Mr. Leal who, his lawyers say, had few resources and a limited understanding of his plight.

Poor guy: maybe he didn’t speak English and got lost looking for directions back to the embassy.

Or, maybe people like Northwestern University Law Professor Sandra Babcock have just gotten so used to lying, of not being challenged by the paper of record that they simply don’t expect to be called on even the most astonishing deceptions.  Babcock’s statement is a cringing embarrassment for the Times and Northwestern Law School (which, as Bernadine Dohrn’s employer, admittedly short circuited their ability to blush decades ago).

But Babcock’s Times quote goes beyond lying.  It is direct, false accusation of everyone involved in the Leal conviction, from the police who arrived at the murderer’s house to the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 5th Circuit, which, David Paulin writes, strongly affirmed Leal’s guilt.

Luckily for Ms. Babcock, her accommodating and incurious pals at the Times do not cite the appeals record.  Nor do they interview anyone who might disagree with her fable of “foreigner” Leal’s Bread-and-Chocolate disorientation with the country where he has lived since he was in diapers.  The word of one academician who grotesquely fibbed her way through two previous paragraphs apparently trumps our entire appellate legal system:

“This was an eminently defendable case, and I don’t think it would have been a capital case if he’d had decent trial counsel” from the start, said Sandra L. Babcock, a Northwestern University law professor representing Mr. Leal on behalf of the Mexican government.

Contrast this with the brief summary of Leal’s appeals compiled by John G. Winder.  Brief, but too long to list here.  Would it be too much for the Times to acknowledge that Leal has had at least 45 different hearings and appeals?

Maybe the Times is just practicing for the time when decisions about American justice are being made in the Netherlands, or 760 United Nations Plaza. In any case, reporter Brian Knowlton blithely allows a passel of activists to insist, one after the other, that Leal’s defense was insufficient, without once mentioning those 45 hearings.

Reading Times articles like this one does have its advantages.  It is amazing, the things you can learn when observing activists in their own natural surroundings.  Mexico’s justice system may be incapable of staunching the flow of blood on their own streets, but they’re spending millions of dollars defending outsourced child rapists and murderers from the vagaries of American jurisprudence:

Early assistance in murder cases also matters, said Noah Feldman [continuing the ‘poor Humberto’ meme], a Harvard law professor: [sic] Prosecutors know that seeking the death penalty is a long, difficult, expensive process, and they carefully weigh their chances. Knowing that the accused will be well represented could tip the balance away from seeking death, he said.

With that sort of idea in mind, Mexico in 1999 created an ambitious legal assistance program to aid its citizens in capital cases. The program’s director, Gregory Kuykendall, now heads a team of 32 lawyers; in the year ending in May, Mexico spent $3.5 million on the program, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which focuses on government accountability.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the private Death Penalty Information Center, said Mexico’s active legal support had probably contributed to a decline in death penalty cases in Texas. “I think part of it is just better representation,” he said. “Mexico gives advice to other countries about how to do this.”

So if you want to come to America to rape and murder young women, either tomorrow or some time in 2028, it’s best to get Mexican citizenship first.

However, also according to the Times, the U.S. is not far behind Mexico in preparing the ground, as it were, for the future transition to governance by the United Federation of Planets:

The State Department has held hundreds of training sessions across the country to familiarize federal, state and local law-enforcement officials with the Vienna treaty and has issued a 144-page booklet outlining the requirements, with translations in 20 languages, including Creole and Cambodian.

Written, of course, by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the same “private” organization paid a pretty taxpayer dime to decide and then tell us stuff like why it is that some crimes are called hate crimes and some crimes are just bashing in a young girl’s head while raping her with a stick.  It’s not how laws are written and passed by elected legislative bodies, you see.  What really matters is the opinion of experts like law professors, Eric Holder, the IACP, the United Nations, and the Hague.

At the end of this dark, long road to dismantling the American Justice System, there lies — what?  The District Court of the United Nations Human Rights Council?  The fact that President Obama has joined forces with the United Nations to side with Humberto Leal and against our own courts is terrifying. In the wake of the Casey Anthony verdict, it has also gone unnoticed.  Justice for Adria Sauceda and Caylee Anthony?  Not in this America.

The Green Mile Syndrome: David Lee Powell Was Not Innocent. His Victims Are Not Hateful.

no comments

Someone claiming to be cop-killer David Powell’s cousin has written me, accusing Powell’s victims and the justice system of various sins.  Unsupported allegations like these too often pass for debate over the death penalty in the mainstream media.  Therefore, it’s worth a look, though the slurs Powell’s cousin tosses at the victims ought to just be trash canned.  See here and here for my previous posts on Powell.

The writer, John Struve, makes several assertions about minutiae of the appeals process — assertions that should be taken with a very large grain of salt, for he offers no proof.  It’s not as if the courts didn’t revisit these cases in detail: that is why it took 30 years to execute Powell.  It’s not as if Struve lacks access to the court documents.  But he feels no need to back up his claims, and in this, the media has unfortunately trained him to need no proof as he says everything and anything about the case against Powell.

For, while a technical error or defense-biased evidentiary rules can blow a strong case for the prosecution, the defense suffers no consequences for repetitively and flagrantly lying.  Many activists and defense lawyers feel that such lies are an honorable act — a sort of noble rot that produces the always-desired outcome of avoiding consequences for crime.

If Mr. Struve would like to send actual documentation backing up any of his assertions here, I’ll post it.  But his claims sound like the type made loudly and repetitively — in cases like Troy Davis’ in Georgia — that lazy reporters reprint without looking into the original court records, or the prosecution arguments, or the trail of appeals.

John Struve’s letter:

You are all so short sighted. The fact still remains that the dying Ralph Ablanedo, when asked who did this, said, ” a girl” and “That damn girl.”

Powell’s female accomplice was the driver.  Powell opened fire not once, but twice on officers.  Ablenado’s dying words are being misrepresented, which is an awful thing to do.

Several officers testified at Sheila’s parole hearing in 1982 stating that she was a future danger to society and that she did all the shooting and threw the grenade. Unfortunately, this information was not released to us, the family, until 2002, and the prosecutors at that time thought it would be easier to get the death penalty for a man than a woman. He had already exhausted all of his appeals by this time.

Actually, the female accomplice testified that Powell thrust a grenade at her, but she wasn’t able to deploy it right.  I’m sure the officers testified that the she should never get out of prison.  I would be very surprised if they testified that she “did all the shooting.”  Struve appears to be accusing these police of lying in their original testimony in the Powell trial — a serious allegation.  Defamation of character is actionable.

Incidentally, if this case were tried today, changes in the law would make it easier to hold all offenders responsible for a crime in which someone is murdered.

Now a human being that had definite reasonable doubt of guilt has been murdered.

Not true.

Just like Cameron Todd Willingham.

The Powell case has nothing to do with the Willingham case.  The Willingham case, in which a man was executed for setting the fire which killed his three small children, is another cause celebré, thanks to wildly biased and strangely querulous reporting in the New Yorker.

Why is it that New Yorker editors seem to thrill at watching predators prey on the great unwashed?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, forensic scientists are revisiting the Willingham case.  But cherry-picked claims about the fire itself, which constitutes the much-publicized defense, ignores other forensic evidence and the actual testimony that put Willingham behind bars (and you can buy expert witnesses to say anything — they charge by the act, as do many professionals).

I’m not going to bother to link to anything regarding Willingham.  The local news reporting, read in total, explains the controversy.  Virtually everything else should be read with a highly critical eye.  Embarrassingly, even Wikipedia places the word “alleged” before prosecution testimony that passed courtroom muster while allowing defense testimony which failed to pass muster to be stated as fact.  Pretty unprofessional of them, but that’s typical of reporting in these cases.

It’s death by a thousand cuts for the truth. Back to John Struve:

I am 33 years old, so my cousin David had been in jail my entire life.

Officer Ablenado has been dead for the last 33 years of his sons’ lives.  Shame on Struve for attempting to insert himself into that tragedy.

Once it came to a point where justice had failed due to officer and political vengeance

Again, defamation?

that caused the truth to be buried, we realized that we needed to embrace that David was guilty of this single act.

And then there was the auto theft, petty theft, stockpiling weapons, drug dealing, over 100 bad checks — yeah, he was a boy scout carrying hand grenades and automatic rifles around in a car, serially ripping off innocent people by the scores.  Come on.

Maybe not the one who pulled the trigger, but definitely responsible as the law of parties would suggest. He took that responsibility, although up to his murder, always stated that he has no recollection of what happened that dreadfully fateful night. All we wanted was for his life to be spared. Please read his story at letdavidlive.org before jumping on the “eye for an eye” human written testament of justice bandwagon dated over 2000 years ago.

Crying “vengeance” is offensive.  Struve doesn’t know these people.

If killing 100 evil people means that even 1 is innocent, then that indicates that the entire system is dysfunctional. Just think if it were you or someone you loved that was truly innocent. Now, my only hope is that the Willingham and David’s cases serve as martyrs to help us move from the 18th century into the new world where people actually think instead of seek blood for blood. Since David was put to death, then you should

See, we are all vengeful.  Bloodthirsty.  If I had a dime for every time some bloated defense attorney wannabe accused me of wanting innocent people to suffer . . . I still wouldn’t have enough money to buy enough earplugs.

all believe that Officer Leonardo Quintana should be held to the same standards. [?]   The unredacted Key Point report specifically states that his reckless tactics were what caused the police sanctioned murder of a defenseless individual, Nathaniel Sanders III. And unlike David, he had a history of reported violations prior to committing his murder. I used to be a huge proponent of the death penalty, but as I go through life, as I probably would have felt during the Spanish Inquisition, I question the tactics that we, as a society, use to punish individuals for acts of behavior “outside” that of what is considered the norm.

Behavior “outside” that of what is considered to norm? Is Struve equating blowing away an innocent public servant and trying to murder several others (whom Powell shot at, and missed) with, say, changing radio stations or hairstyles?

My brother is a Texas State Trooper. If he were killed in the line of duty or otherwise, I would not want the death penalty for the accused. If he were to murder someone on the taxpayer’s dime or not, I would not want him to receive the death penalty. Now we mourn. Next we move forward with our efforts to abolish the death penalty 1st in Texas, then in the entire United States. NOTE: What do you do when it is later found out that someone WE executed is found to be innocent? Go to their grave and pour some Mickey’s on it?

Nice.  Struve places his feelings above the officer’s family’s, makes himself the center of attention, accuses the real victims of heinous, animalistic rage, defames scores of police officers, and then accuses society of failing to live up to his standards of morality.  So much of this activism is a sickness, parading around as morality.

I wonder if this John Struve is the same person who sent me an anonymous e-mail celebrating the recent murder of Chicago Officer Thomas Wortham?  The sentiment sounds similar.

I welcome any suggestions for identifying anonymous e-mails.

~~~

You don’t have to support the death penalty (I don’t) to be disgusted by what passes for activism and reporting on death row cases.  An enormous, fact-free myth system has been built up around allegations that innocent men fill our prisons and molder nobly on death row.  This “Green Mile” syndrome, indulged by politicians and priests and professors — and more journalists than you could shake a forest of redwoods at — well, it has consequences.  It abuses the real victims, because they are falsely accused of everything from ransacking the justice system to being simply evil.

Careless reporting gives careless people free reign.

Consider the Troy Davis case. It has also become a cause celebré.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported ceaselessly on the activism for Davis and editorially advocated for him.  Yet, nowhere in their reporting (unless there are articles that have never appeared on-line) have they bothered to mention the subject of forensic evidence withheld by the original trial court on a technicality, evidence that strongly supports Davis’ guilt.  Nor have they addressed the case made by prosecutors who were (quite unusually) freed up to discuss evidence against Davis after the Supreme Court made an unusual decision to revisit that evidence.

Nor have they mentioned efforts by Davis’ lawyers to keep physical evidence from being considered as the case gets revisited, thanks to the Supreme Court’s actions.  No, you couldn’t possibly trust the public with information about the real issues at stake in the Davis case, and other death row appeals.  Atlanta readers — by far the largest audience of Davis supporters — know nothing of any of this, unless they read Savannah papers:

Black shorts evidence:  After months of wrangling over evidence and legal issues, attorneys for the state’s attorney general’s office last week asked permission to submit Georgia Bureau of Investigation reports concerning “blood examination on pair of black shorts recovered from (Davis’) mother’s home on Aug. 19, 1989.”  They also asked to submit a report of DNA typing of the item.  Davis’ lawyers cried foul, urging Moore not to allow the evidence which they called “untimely” and “of questionable probative value.”  They argued it would “clearly prejudice” (Davis’) ability to rebut the contents of the report.  The jury hearing Davis’ 1991 trial never heard about the shorts after Chatham County Superior Court Judge James W. Head barred them from evidence because of what he found was police coercion of Davis’ mother, Virginia Davis, when she arrived near her Sylvester Drive home Aug. 19, 1989.  Police seized the shorts from a dryer while searching for the murder weapon.

And this must-read from the Chatham County D.A., published last year in the Savannah Morning News:

Chatham County’s district attorney explains why he’s not concerned that an innocent man may be put to death.

Many people are concerned that an innocent man is about to be put to death. I know this, and I understand it. I am not likewise concerned, however, and I want to explain why.

The only information the public has had in the 17 years since Troy Davis’ conviction has been generated by people ideologically opposed to the death penalty, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused.

While they have shouted, we have been silent. The canons of legal ethics prohibit a lawyer – prosecutor and defense counsel alike – from commenting publicly, or engineering public comments, on the issue of guilt or innocence in a pending criminal case.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, the case is over, and I can try to tell our side.

First , Davis’ advocates have insisted that there was no physical evidence in the case. This is not true.

Crime lab tests proved that the shell casings recovered from the shooting of Michael Cooper at a party earlier in the evening were fired from the same weapon as the casings recovered from the scene of Officer Mark MacPhail’s murder. Davis was convicted of shooting Cooper.

And, while it isn’t physical evidence, consider the “testimony” of Officer MacPhail himself: When he comes to the rescue of a homeless man being harassed and pistol-whipped, the officer ran past Sylvester Coles on his way to catch Davis. This makes Davis the only one of those two with a motive to shoot Officer MacPhail. Yet Davis’ lawyers argue to condemn Coles for shooting MacPhail. Why would he?

In fact, Davis’ advocates are eager to condemn Coles based on evidence far weaker than their characterization of the evidence against Davis. Where is their sense of fairness? This is the same Sylvester Coles who promptly presented himself to police, and who was advised by counsel to tell all that he knew – with his lawyer not even present. Which he did. No lawyer who even faintly suspects a client of criminal conduct would let him talk to the police without counsel.

Second , they claim that seven of nine witnesses have recanted their trial testimony. This is not believable.

To be sure, they’ve produced affidavits; a few handwritten and apparently voluntarily and spontaneous, except for concluding with “further the affiant sayeth not.” Who wrote that stuff? The lawyers, perhaps?

The law is understandably skeptical of post-trial “newly-discovered evidence.”

Such evidence as these affidavits might, for example, be paid for, or coerced, or the product of fading memory.

If every verdict could be set aside by the casual acceptance of a witness’s changing his mind or suggesting uncertainty, decades after the event, it is easy to see how many cases would have to be tried at least twice (perhaps ad infinitum).

Thus the law sets strict standards for such “newly discovered” evidence.

For example, it cannot be for a lack of diligence that the new evidence was not discovered sooner, and the defendant is expected to present that evidence at the earliest possible time.

Yet these affidavits were not offered in a motion for new trial until eight days before the first scheduled execution in 2008 seventeen years after Davis’ conviction. If this affidavit evidence was so compelling, why didn’t they rush to seek a new trial in 2003 when they had most of the affidavits they now rely upon? Or collect those affidavits earlier?

Each of the now-“recanting” witnesses was closely questioned at trial by lawyers representing Davis, specifically on the question whether they were in any way pressured or coerced by police in giving their statements or testimony. All denied it.

And while an 80 percent recantation rate – the first in the history of the world ? – may seem to some as overwhelmingly persuasive, to others of us it invites a suggestion of uncanny coincidence, making it very difficult to believe.

Third , they claim that their “newly discovered evidence” (i.e., the recantations) hasn’t been adequately considered by the courts. This is not true.

The affidavits, in various combinations, had already been reviewed by 29 judges in seven different types of review, over the course of 17 years, before Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state Parole Board halted the execution in 2007, saying they wouldn’t allow a possibly innocent man to be executed. Then, after more than a year of reviewing all of the evidence on both sides, and hearing from every witness Davis’ lawyers presented – including Davis – they refused to grant clemency.

The trial was fair. Davis was represented by superbly skilled criminal defense lawyers. He was convicted by a fair jury (seven black and five white). The post conviction stridency we’ve seen has been much about the death penalty and little about Troy Davis.

The jury found that Davis, after shooting another man earlier in the evening, murdered a police officer who came to the rescue of a homeless man Davis had beaten. Mark MacPhail had never even drawn his weapon.

A more complete discussion of these – and other – points can be found at Chathamcounty.org/vwap/html [link gone]
Spencer Lawton Jr. is Chatham County District Attorney.

Why would the AJC be so coy, essentially misleading an audience of millions on crucial elements of physical evidence in a controversial case?  Because what they are doing is not reporting: it is advocating for Davis.  Ditto Davis supporters like the Pope, Bob Barr, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu — none of whom, I’m sure, bothered to reach out to Officer MacPhail’s family.

As I’ve said before, oppose the death penalty on grounds of universal ethics, or opposition to state-administered death, but when you make a faux hero out of a murderous, worthless criminal like Troy Davis, you are doing so at the cost of the humanity and dignity of the real victims.

Slain Officer Mark Allen MacPhail’s Children

Officer Mark Allen MacPhail’s Website

David Lee Powell Executed: “Restorative Justice” Activist Sissy Farenthold Blames The Victims for Not Appreciating Him Enough

3 comments

Texas executed David Lee Powell yesterday for the murder of police officer Ralph Ablanedo.

Ablanedo’s family has been waiting for Powell’s appeals to end for 32 years.  They have endured a lifetime of watching Powell be cast as some type of especially sensitive, peace-loving man as he manipulated the legal system — a spectacle they were forced to subsidize with their taxes.

David Lee Powell

They have also endured a lifetime of name-calling, rage, and accusation directed at them by Powell’s “peace-loving” supporters, including the editorial staff at the Austin Statesman, which disgraced itself last week by misrepresenting the family’s public statements in an editorial.

The Statesman was a little more careful in its news coverage of the execution.  For instance, they quoted entire sentences from the victims:

Afterward, Bruce Mills, a former Austin officer who was Ablanedo’s friend and later married his widow, said it felt as if a weight had been lifted.  “Relief would be the word to describe it,” Mills said. “No more hearings. No more appeals.”

But then the Statesman ran another editorial accusing the Mills/Ablenado family of “rage and revenge.”  The author of that op-ed, Francis “Sissy” Tarlton Farenthold, claims to represent the “Restorative Justice” movement — one presumes that is why she feels entitled to levy hateful, false accusations against crime victims.

You know, in the name of dignity and love.

Actually, she probably is speaking for the RJ movement: Restorative Justice was long ago hijacked by criminal’s rights activists who have taken resources, including federal tax dollars, designated for victim services and directed them against victims who believe the proper outcome for crimes like murder is incarceration.  It’s a shameful legacy, one that the original founders of Restorative Justice should be a whole lot more forthcoming about opposing.

Sissy Farenthold, who says Powell “brought the world to her”

Because what the movement has become is a parody, a cruel parody in which victims are scolded, bullied, and policed by “spiritual counselors” (many just academicians and activists) whose allegiance lies with the people who have victimized them — when the victims aren’t simply being ignored.  Ms. Farenthold, for one example, is associated with the anti-victim, pro-offender ACLU.  Now she claims to be speaking for crime victims?  In many places, Restorative Justice is just a front-name used by other activists groups to gain federal grant money they then use to attack the criminal justice system in general and incarceration in particular.

Although the movement was started by a group of well-intentioned pastoral workers, Restorative Justice is currently just another arm of the radical prisoner’s rights movement, fronted by useful idiots on and off the federal payroll.

“Useful idiot” is a good term to describe Farenthold’s op-ed. Like so much of this type of thing, she seems more interested in promoting herself as a special observer than actually practicing the virtues she loudly trumpets.  What sort of person feels comfortable imposing herself into a strangers’ intense pain at the loss of a loved one and claiming to know what they are thinking?  What sort of person claims such insight into other people’s souls, leveling ugly words at them like “rage” and “revenge” and “retribution”?

Even worse, Farenthold actually scolds the Ablanedo/Mills family for not being welcoming enough of David Lee Powell’s magical efforts at healing them.  I can’t believe the Statesman felt that this was appropriate for publication:

Restorative justice calls for Powell to be spared so that he can continue to address the needs and concerns of the Ablanedo family . . .

Address the needs and concerns of the Ablanedo family?  What is this, The Green Mile?  For the record, Powell didn’t apologize to his victims until his legal team decided it would be a good step . . . very recently.  Yet Ms. Sissy (her nickname, not mine), the ACLU activist, has a different story (she also downplays the “throwing a live hand grenade at officers” thing, observing that the pin wasn’t pulled):

Powell has demonstrated his remorse and humanity by living a redemptive life for three decades. He has taught illiterate inmates how to read, write and improve their lives. He had no history of violence before his crime and none in his 32 years on death row. And he has expressed his deep remorse to Ablanedo’s family.

Well, actually not.  And there are plenty of grade school teachers who teach people how to read without, you know, blowing them away with machine guns.

If you oppose the death penalty, oppose the death penalty, but stop pretending manipulative thugs like David Lee Powell are special humanity mascots.  Because taking an innocent man’s life should not be weighed against (allegedly) prepping people for the SATs.

Because it’s degrading. And “degrading” isn’t the same thing as “restorative,” unless what you’re seeking to restore is the special hell Powell and his supporters put the Ablenado/Mills family through with their three decades of legal antics.

The editorial is really just sick stuff, coming from an attention-seeking old woman:

Why do I want this convicted killer not to be put to death? As a legislator, lawyer and human rights campaigner, I have been opposed to capital punishment all my life. For decades, I fought without knowing anyone on death row. Then, 20 years ago, I met Powell.

I, I, I, me, me, me.  Like so much death row activism, attention-seekers glom onto other people’s tragedies to make themselves feel important.  They claim to have superior knowledge of murderers’ souls to enhance their own sense of superiority.  That pretty well describes the motley anti-death penalty activists you see publicly protesting.  And that would be just their own character burdens, until the media gives them a platform to lash out at the victims, and lash out they do, despite all their high-and-mighty rhetoric about love and respect and valuing life.

Which one of these photographs really reeks of “vengefulness”:

This one?

Officers gathering to support the Ablenado/Mills Family

Or this one?

Anti-Death Penalty Activist Frances Morey Crudely Attacking Powell’s Victims

Is Solitary Confinement The Really Expensive Part?

no comments

Ah yes, the silly season. Reporter claiming to be writing about solitary confinement jumps right into equating solitary confinement with “hard-line criminal justice polic[y]” instead.  According to this view, solitary confinement is not, as one might think, a rational response to the dangers created by extremely violent offenders.  Nor is it a way to protect prisoners who might be vulnerable to harm because of their appearance, orientation, or gang status.  Nor even a response (one that ought to be appreciated) to the endless lawsuits filed against corrections facilities demanding protections for prisoners — protection from themselves, or others.

Nope, in the eyes of the media, every issue relating to incarceration and crime is just another opportunity to lash out at allegedly “draconian” sentencing policies.  In this view, using less solitary confinement to address budget constraints isn’t a sign that prisons are having to deal with the financial downturn like everyone else.  Using less solitary confinement is:

a dramatic acknowledgement, analysts say, that states can no longer sustain the costs of hard-line criminal justice policies.

Hmmm, which analysts?  And what’s so “hard-line” about using solitary?  Don’t prisoner activists want maximum safety for inmates?  If corrections officers didn’t care about prisoner safety, they wouldn’t bother spending more of their budgets to separate prisoners from each other, right?

What’s really being protested (I mean reported) here is incarceration itself.  What the activists want is nobody going to prison, ever.  Thus, this even more incoherent comment on the use of solitary confinement, dialed in to fill the article’s next slot:

“The whole philosophy of being just tough — locking people up and throwing away the key — has not solved the problem,” said Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, Democratic chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Well, luckily, nobody does that key thing.  And “solved” which “problem”?  The problem of crime?  According to Sen. Whitmire, incarceration doesn’t solve the problem of crime.  So . . . what does this have to do with solitary confinement?  Are we supposed to stop putting criminals in solitary confinement or stop putting them in prison?  Or are we just supposed to sit here listening to meaningless claptrap, nodding our heads?

Unsurprisingly, unlike Whitmire, corrections spokespeople aren’t in the mood to play politics with what is, for them, a life-or-death issue:

Decisions to return dangerous inmates to the general prison population anger some prison officials, who say the changes could threaten the safety of corrections officers and other inmates.  “The departments of correction are rolling the dice with public safety. … This is going to blow up,” said Brian Dawe of the American Correctional Officer Intelligence Network, an association of officers.

Elsewhere, here’s the guy whose picture appears in the yellow pages under “Solitary Confinement: Arguments For”

Robert Gleason

For seven days, Robert Gleason Jr. begged correctional officers and counselors at Wallens Ridge State Prison to move his new cellmate. The constant singing, screaming and obnoxious behavior were too much, and Gleason knew he was ready to snap.  On the eighth day — May 8, 2009 — correctional officers found 63-year-old Harvey Gray Watson Jr. bound, gagged, beaten and strangled. His death went unnoticed for 15 hours because correctional officers had not followed proper procedure for inmate head counts at the high-security prison in southwestern Virginia.  Now, Gleason says he’ll kill again if he isn’t put to death for killing Watson, who had a history of mental illness. And he says his next victim won’t be an inmate.  “I murdered that man cold-bloodedly. I planned it, and I’m gonna do it again,” the 40-year-old Gleason told The Associated Press. “Someone needs to stop it. The only way to stop me is put me on death row.”

This is a much more direct discussion of solitary confinement.

Gleason already is serving a life sentence for killing another man. He fired his lawyers last month — they were trying to work out a deal to keep him from getting the death penalty — so he could plead guilty to capital murder. He’s vowed not to appeal his sentence if the judge sentences him to death Aug. 31.  “I did this. I deserve it,” he said. “That man, he didn’t deserve to die.”

There are no innocents here.  The victim had a pretty ugly record, too:

Watson was serving a 100-year sentence for killing a man and wounding two others in 1983 when he shot into his neighbor’s house in Lynchburg with a 10-gauge shotgun. According to prison records, Watson suffered from “mild” mental impairment and was frequently cited for his disruptive and combative behavior.  Watson was sent to Wallens Ridge on April 23, 2009, a day after he set fire to his cell at Sussex II State Prison. Gleason and Watson became cellmates on May 1, 2009.

This is the reality of prison — scores of violent men locked up for our safety, and their safety, while activists circle outside, trying to come up with any reason whatsoever to get them free again, as we foot the bill.

In the days the two spent locked in an 8-by-10-foot cell, Watson would talk about how he had “drowned” two television sets because they “had voodoo in them,” Gleason said.  He would also belt out “I wish I was in the land of cotton” from the song “Dixie” and other songs at all hours, scream profanities and masturbate. In the chow hall and in the recreation yard, Watson would get inmates to give him cigarettes for drinking his urine and clabbered milk.  “You can’t be upset with someone like that,” Gleason said. “He needed help.”  Gleason said his requests to separate the two were met with mockery and indifference by correctional officers and prison counselors. He said he knew what he’d do once officials refused to put Watson in protective custody.  “That day I knew I was going to kill him,” he said. “Wallens Ridge [prison] forced my hand.”  It was after midnight when Gleason used slivers of bed sheets to tie Watson’s hands and arms to his body and fashioned a gag out of two socks. He later removed the gag and gave Watson a cigarette, telling him it would be his last. Gleason said Watson spit in his face when he went to take the cigarette out of Watson’s mouth, so he jumped on his cellmate’s back and beat and strangled the man.

Interestingly, the D.A. immediately offered Robert Gleason a plea deal in Watson’s murder.  Gleason demanded death row instead:

[Attorney Ron] Elkins had offered to let Gleason plead to second-degree murder. He also offered to drop the capital murder charges and come back with a charge that didn’t carry a death sentence. Elkins wouldn’t say why he made those offers.  However, capital murder cases are typically lengthy and expensive, especially as appeals wind through the courts. Even though Gleason confessed, Elkins said he proceeded cautiously to ensure the case couldn’t be overturned on appeal.

Here is the real financial crisis in the justice system: a defense bar that has undermined our ability to afford prosecutions to such an extreme degree that prosecutors actually have second thoughts about trying a murder case . . . when they’re not busy being worried about affording the endless, frivolous appeals that will inevitably follow.

Just think about how many thousands of lesser crimes get dismissed every day because it “costs too much” to try them.

Think about how many prosecutions never go forward because of the high price of endlessly re-trying every conviction.

But that — that’s not the type of thing you read about in the paper.

Executing David Lee Powell: The Austin Statesman Hearts a Cop-Killer

10 comments

Media coverage of executions used to be shameless.  Reporters played advocate, inserting themselves and their inflamed sensibilities into the story, while victims’ families were ignored or accused of being “vengeful,” a crime apparently worse than murder itself.

Only victims’ families were thus demeaned: offenders, no matter the horror of their actual crimes, were depicted in only the most positive light.  They were deemed specially sensitive, or dignified, or talented, or at least pitiful, as if playing up to (or merely embodying) the reporter’s sensibilities magically erased the profound harm these men had visited on others.

Reporters filed bathetic stories detailing this killer’s last meal or that prisoner’s hobbies without mentioning the behavior that had placed the men on death row in the first place, unless, that is, extremely prurient details or a high body count made for interesting reading.

Victims were either ignored, or criticized, or their suffering was objectified.

Such overt expressions of contempt aimed at victims are no longer the status quo. But I don’t believe that what has replaced them in reporting is better.  Now, in the interest of allegedly telling “both sides of the story,” journalists dutifully mention the offender’s crime and say a few nice things about the victim’s life.  They let the victim’s family have their say — something that rarely happened in the past, though they’re often angling for the victims to say something angry, so they can make them sound “vengeful.”

Judith and Bruce Mills hold a picture of Officer Ralph Ablanedo

Then, “balance” accomplished, the reporters get back to the business of valorizing murderers.

David Lee Powell, who slaughtered Officer Ablanedo in 1978

This type of reporting depicts victims and killers as moral equals.  It denies that there is any difference between being an innocent murdered horribly by some sociopath thug or being the murdering sociopath thug (cleaned up for the cameras, of course, via years of taxpayer-subsidized advice from their lawyers).

When both victim and killer are presented as victims, then who, exactly, is the victimizer?

Obviously, the state, or “society,” or “all of us,” which is the reporter’s real point.

Ultimately, in journalism like this, the victim’s suffering, and the family’s expressions of pain, are merely put through the grinder in the service of the offender in a new way.  It’s just a different flavor of dehumanization.  And if this disturbing article and video and even more disturbing editorial in the Austin Statesman are any indication of what can be done to crime victims in the name of such moral leveling, family members of should probably just go back to refusing to speak to reporters at all.

David Lee Powell today, in the Austin Statesman’s Story Detailing His Good Qualities

In a long feature story this week, the Austin Statesman commits the act of moral equivalency in order to advocate against the execution of David Lee Powell.  I say “advocate” here because the reporters are clearly pleading Powell’s case.  How clearly?  The story is actually accompanied by an emotive video of Powell, his voice cracking and wavering, bestowing his jailhouse wisdom to the article’s reporters, who appear on the screen swaying like awed schoolboys to the rhythm of his words.

link to video through article here

The video is a perversion.  It’s porn, a pornographic display of Powell’s feigned remorse, which he utters in the carefully parsed syntax of legal dissembling.  In the video and on the page, the reporters allow Powell to explain away his failure to apologize to the family of his victim for nearly 30 years.  They don’t happen to mention that he spent those years denying responsibility throughout several appeals and re-trials, which is the real reason why he never previously expressed remorse, also why the remorse so exhibitionistically flashed here is unlikely to actually exist:

Saying he is horrified to have caused Ablanedo’s murder, Powell has tried to apologize to the officer’s family and to express regret for the pain he caused by “an act that was a betrayal of everything I believed in and aspired to be.”  “I had wanted to do it for decades,” Powell said of his December 2009 letter to Ablanedo’s family. “Although it was obviously too little too late, it seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed like a small, tentative first step towards healing the tear in the social fabric that was caused” by the murder.

He “tried,” you know.  Just never got around to doing it until the appeals ran out.  It’s clear that Powell doesn’t feel remorse.  He doesn’t even really speak of remorse — instead, he starts rambling about being a victim of a justice system that “humbled” and “bruised” him.  Throughout this performance, the camera pans to the reporters, making them part of Powell’s jailhouse drama.  If their article is any measure of the interactions in that room, it’s an exciting role for them.

The video is clearly edited to convey Powell’s humanity and fragility, and yet it fails to achieve that goal.  Raw contempt shines through his lawyerly demurrals despite all the close-ups of his shaking hands and a soundtrack featuring his breathing sounds, amplified for effect.

Powell spends more time talking about SAT scores and high school grades than the officer’s murder.  So, for that matter, do the reporters.  According to the killer, he “scored the highest score that had ever been scored” on the SAT, and this should define him, not the officer’s murder.  In other words, doing well on the SAT should excuse the killing of a human being.

The rest of the article is the usual jumble of schlock, lies, and omissions.  Impressively, reporters, Chuck Lindell and Tony Plohetski completely paper over Powell’s long history of appeals, quite an accomplishment in a long article about the long time it has taken to execute Powell because of his long history of appeals.

The result is an awful lot like watching a fixed dog hump the air.

Not that any of this is actually funny. It’s grotesque.  It’s grotesque that the Austin Statesman would demean the victims by weighing Powell’s high school grades against the brutal murder of a young cop and father.  It’s grotesque that they pose the pseudo-metaphysical question: Has Powell’s Execution Lost Its Meaning? and then paddle around haplessly answering “yes” for five pages, yet pretend that what they are doing is reporting on Powell’s impending execution.

It’s grotesque that they ambush the victims and exploit their losses, both in the article and in a Statesman editorial which intentionally misrepresents statements by the victim’s family (the family did an amazing job responding to the media).

I had trouble embedding the Powell video in the blog today.  But please go to the newspaper’s website and take a look.  The editorial is here, and the interview with Bruce and Judy Mills, from which their quotes are ripped out of context, is here.

That the editors would behave this way really does speak to a mindset in which victims’ deaths are deemed less significant than their killers’ report cards, or the hobbies they take up on death row, or the fact that they have lots of pen pals . . . all arguments promoted by the fine journalists at the Austin Statesman.  If this is what happens when reporters imagine they are inserting “balance” into their death row reporting, I’ll take the bad old days when they just pointed fingers and screamed “vigilante” at people who had lost their loved ones to violence.  It was a less dirty fight that way.

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

1 comment

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.

Rodney Alcala: The Forrest Gump of Sex Murder. And What That Says About the Rest of Us.

8 comments

Yesterday, serial killer Rodney Alcala was sentenced to death for the third time for the 1979 murder of 12-year old Robin Samsoe.  He was also sentenced for the torture-killings of four other women.

Today, the media is reporting brief, painful snippets about the five victims.  Many other victims are believed to exist.

Tomorrow, Alcala will undoubtedly begin appealing the sentence again.  Why not?  The taxpayers of California pay his legal bills: his lawyers have grown fat over the past three decades, helping a serial killer play games with the appeals process.   The victims have spent lifetimes sitting in courtrooms watching him toy with their loved ones’ memories.

Perhaps the worst part of this story is the role played by certain culturally powerful people who knew about some of Alcala’s most vicious crimes but still allowed him get out of prison or provided him with the cover of social credibility.

Had Alcala been put away for life after he was caught, in 1968, in the act of raping and beating an 8-year old girl, his later victims — Georgia Wixted, Jill Parenteau, Charlotte Lamb, Jill Barcomb, Robin Samsoe, and others — would be alive today.  But in 1971, at his sentencing, the state of California decided that Alcala deserved another chance.  They gave him to just a handful of months for the crime, practically letting him walk free for the near-murder of an 8-year old.  The child survived only because police broke into Alcala’s house while he was beating her head in with a steel pipe.

This sentence is a perfect illustration of the theory that, until recently, predators actually received lesser sentences when they sexually violated their victims.  I believe Alcala would have gotten a much longer sentence if he had merely tried to kill the child, without raping her, too.  In the therapeutic environment of the 1970’s justice system, being a sexual offender was literally an excuse for lawbreaking.  Sex offenders were to be pitied, if not slyly admired.

Anybody care to challenge that?

Rodney Alcala

Now for the weighty hangover of such indulgences. Investigators are asking anyone missing loved ones to look at this gallery of photographs that were in Alcala’s possession.  It’s not known how many women and girls he killed, so the photos may lead police to more victims.

You have to wonder why this wasn’t done decades ago.  The photographs have been in the possession of authorities since around 1979.  Perhaps if the state were not so strapped from subsidizing Alcala’s relentless manipulation of the courts, they would have a little more cash on hand to look for more of his victims:

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. . . He has a talent for mining legal technicalities and has repeatedly enjoyed success with appellate judges.

Astonishingly, after being convicted of the vicious rape and attempted murder of an 8-year old, making the FBI’s ten most wanted list, absconding, being sent to  prison, being released, then getting packed off to prison again for abducting a 13-year old girl, Alcala landed a job at the Los Angeles Times.  The newspaper is being quite circumspect on the whole serial killer recruitment snafu thing, but it was reported in L.A. Weekly.

You might think a whole building full of investigative reporters would have betrayed a little curiosity when a two-time convicted child rapist started flashing home-made child porn around their water cooler, particularly considering the fact that he was also under investigation for the Hillside Strangler killings at the same time.

You’d think so, but you would be wrong.  From the L.A. Weekly:

Even as the L.A. Times was publishing sensational articles in the late 1970s about the mysterious Hillside Strangler, who terrorized much of L.A. at that time, Alcala, who worked typesetting articles for that paper, was being questioned by the LAPD in relation to those very murders.  In an interview with the [L.A.] Weekly, Alcala’s former Times colleague Sharon Gonzalez remembers: “He would talk about going to parties in Hollywood. It seemed like he knew famous people. He kept his body in great shape. He was very open about his sexuality. It was all new to me.”  He brought his photography portfolio to show his Times workmates, she says, and the photos were “of young girls. I thought it was weird, but I was young, I didn’t know anything. When I asked why he took the photos, he said their moms asked him to. I remember the girls were naked.”

You don’t want to seem like you’re judging the man.

Gonzalez adds that she wasn’t “smart enough or mature enough to know” that she was looking at child porn. Yet incredibly, she describes how L.A. Times‘ management in the 1970s had a golden opportunity to turn Alcala in, but did nothing: “There were other people in the department who were in their 40s and 50s. The [Times] supervisor at the time — she saw it.” Instead, the reaction at the newspaper was, “We thought he was a little different. Strange about sex.”

Which L.A. Times managers knew about Alcala’s record? His impromptu workplace polaroid shows?  Good for Gonzalez for coming forward: does anyone else have a conscience?  Considering the paper’s current editorial stance opposing sentencing enhancements and measures to monitor sex offenders, it would be illuminating to know if any current editorial board members were among those who knew him back then.

Of course, doing nothing to stop child rape was in at the time.

It is actually hard to believe that Alcala was given a job at the Times despite his heinous record.  Was he given the job because of it?  There is no way they couldn’t know about his past: he was a registered sex offender, had made a daring escape and had been, you know, in the papers.  Were journalists actually so besotted with ideas about the illegitimacy of incarceration that they bought the idea that he had been . . . rehabilitated?

Had Maileresque outlaw mentality really eroded such giant chunks of the ethical hive?

Alcala studied film-making under Roman Polanski, too. I wonder what other passions they shared.

Hollywood pedophiles, media crusaders, rapist-loving parole boards, lenient judges, hip defense attorneys, art-world glitterati, The Dating Game (also post-child rape): this guy was the Forrest Gump of sexual torturers.

The most painfully comprehensive coverage of the Alcala saga is Christine Pelisek’s excellent series of articles in L.A.Weekly.  Read them and weep:

Dating Game Serial Killer Suspect Cross-Examines Himself Over His Hair

Orange County Prosecutor: Suspected Serial Killer and Dating Game Contestant Rodney Alcala Savagely Killed His Victims Because “He Enjoyed It.”

Rodney Alcala’s Final Revenge: Begged to Spare Victims’ Families At Trial, The Alleged Serial Killer Ratchets Up The Suffering

Rodney Alcala: The Fine Art of Killing: One Man’s Murderous Romp Through Polite Society

Orange County Judge Sentences Serial Killer and Dating Game Winner Rodney Alcala to Death

~~~

Tomorrow: Rodney Alcala’s Criminal Appeals

Marcus Wellons’ Criminal Appeals

4 comments

Most people, even those generally opposed to incarceration, would agree that raping and killing the 15-year old girl who lives next door is the type of crime that ought to land a perpetrator behind bars for life.  Add to that crime the complications of torture, and a demonstrable lack of remorse, and the best outcome would seem to be literal banishment from the public mind.

But Marcus Wellons was all over the news this week.  The killer is “elated” that the Supreme Court agreed with him that the behavior of jurors after the trial merits even more scrutiny — that is, scrutiny yet again, for Wellons has levied accusations against them many times in the past, and other courts already rejected those other claims.

This time, Wellons, sinking what could easily be be his hundreth quarter into the one-armed bandit of capital appeals, has hit a little jackpot.  The victim is still dead.  She has been dead for 20 years.  Nobody doubts that it was Wellons who raped and killed her.  None of this is about the crime itself: none of those nine judges sitting on the highest court spent one moment considering the rape and murder of India Roberts.  Her death is besides the point.

It is the process that is obscene.

~~~

So the jurors, who were dragged from their ordinary lives to perform the task of judging Wellons’ heinous crimes seventeen years ago, will now be dragged from their lives and scrutinized once again.  A majority in the Supreme Court agreed that (extremely tasteless) gag gifts given by the jurors to the judge after the trial and sentencing concluded somehow derailed the “dignity and respect” of the judicial process to such a degree that action must be taken.

Since the Supreme Court has now placed itself in the business of micromanaging the free speech of former jurors, it’s worth asking: how dignified is the judicial process, anyway?

Where is the dignity in a system that allows the defense to block and withhold evidence, treating jurors like children, ostensibly because they can’t be trusted to evaluate the quality of evidence on their own?  What is so “respectful” about a system in which a dead victim and the entire matter of innocence or guilt may be reduced to a footnote throughout a mind-bogglingly expensive, twenty-year rehashing of minutiae from the trial?

~~~

The post-trial candy controversy is only the latest of Wellons’ appeals.  I encourage you to read through this 1995 disposition of other appeals.  It includes 37 separate claims.  None have anything much to do with the rape and murder, except to dispute that Wellons tortured his victim in the act of raping and strangling her.  Several of the arguments for overturning Wellons’ sentence are based merely on words used by the prosecutor to describe the victim.  Wellons appealed on the grounds that the prosecutor referred to his dead victim as a “little girl.”  He also objected to the act of mentioning of the victim’s lost life opportunities; to the prosecutor saying that the young woman did not deserve to die, and to stating the victim’s age in court.

Again, what, precisely, is “dignified and respectful” about a system that permits a convicted murderer to spend taxpayer dollars to object to someone saying his victim didn’t deserve to die?

Here are a few more of Wellons’ failed, taxpayer-subsidized appeals:

  • Objection to the state cross-examining character witnesses Wellons placed on the stand.
  • Objection to presenting evidence seized at the scene of the crime, though probable cause was established, and the actual tenant of the apartment gave police written and verbal permission to search it.
  • Objection to permitting the trial court to let jurors see a videotape of the crime scene.

And so on.  See a lengthy description of the crime and the appeal court’s findings here.

~~~

For the past twenty years, Marcus Wellons has apparently not deviated from his belief that he is the victim of an unfair system that should have “understood” him, not punished him.  He expresses these beliefs in his writing and in the singles ads he places with a ministry group that posts such ads on the internet.

“Be a good listener,” In His Grip Ministry counsels potential prisoner pen-pals, “keep confidential what you are told . . . be prepared for romantic overtures.”  Also, “don’t ask why an inmate is incarcerated” or “send photos except for group photos,” the latter, presumably, because some of the people you meet when you start sending mash notes to murderers might not be as taken with the spirit as IHGM might wish.

And may be released again.

Here is Wellons’ IHMG ad:

Favorite Verse:  Isaiah 40:28-29, 31

I am Marcus Wellons, 50 years old (at this writing) a Christian.  I love to read the Bible, history, & autobiographies.  I’m very open and honest, sincere, loyal and a good listener.  I studied business administration and counseling in college and graduate school.  I have a 26 year old daughter, Tynecia.  We are very close.  I have been blessed with a ministry inside called “Life Row Ministries.”  I like helping and serving others.  I’m from Miami, FL where I grew up.  Then I spent 3 years in the military – two of those years were in Germany.  I am bi-lingual in Spanish.  I love literature.  Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are two favorites.  I love sports, to exercise, and to meet new friends.  If you are interested in sharing life’s experiences and supporting each other through  good and bad times, please contact me.

In another ad, by another ministry called Lamp of Hope, Wellons describes his crime only as his “first time in prison.”  “I can assure you I’ll be just as much a blessing to your life as you can be to mine,” he writes.  There is nothing illegal about trolling for extremely disturbed women on the internet, of course.  Lamp of Hope claims to be in the business of “supporting victims’ families by promoting healing and reconciliation.”  They also offer hot chats about sunsets and kittens with men who raped and murdered multiple victims, if that’s your thing.

Interestingly, Wells claims to be concerned for the victims of other offenders, just not his own.  His own victim, apparently, is far too valuable to his efforts to be removed from death row to dignify her with some of his cell block-renowned empathy:

I forgo all table games, yard call, and frivolous conversations such as joking, playing, and laughing. My conversations are more of a serious nature. I send back all my food trays instead of giving them away to comrades. When the officers ask why, I politely remind them, “I don’t eat on execution days.”  I explain respectfully that when their comrades pass on, they observe it by attending the funeral and wearing black tapes on their badges. Since I can’t attend the funeral of those who were executed, this is my way of showing respect.  I spend the time praying not only for my comrade, but also for the victim’s family and friends and the powers that be. The reason I observe executions in this way is that I’m grieving. . .

Extraordinary, isn’t it? The highest court in the land sat around last week trying to decide if a convicted rapist and murderer should get another chance at freedom because innocent jurors made a tasteless joke two decades ago.  Meanwhile, the killer is permitted to impugn the innocence of his victim in order to try to get free, and we have to pay for the lawyers to argue such a heinous untruth and the judges to hear it in a court of law.

Courts in Crisis? Thank a Defense Attorney.

1 comment

So suddenly the Fulton County Courts cannot function, thanks to a huge planned budget cut.  But how were they functioning before, with violent felons and repeat offenders getting a free stroll out the door for a variety of reasons?  This is a scene playing out across the country:

Georgia’s biggest court system warned Wednesday that a 2010 Fulton County proposal that cuts $53 million from the judicial budget could force them to shut down the courthouse, jeopardize death penalty cases and slash as many as 1,000 jobs.

Fulton County’s judicial leaders declared an “economic state of emergency” and warned that the cuts, which amount to about a fourth of Fulton County’s judicial budget, would lead to drastic changes at the Fulton County Jail, the sheriff’s office along with prosecutors, judges and public defenders.

“This is not something you can adjust to,” said Doris Downs, the county’s chief superior court judge. “This is going to dismantle the justice system.”

The proposed cuts, which were released last week, are part of a spending plan that would slash the county’s funding by $148.2 million in 2010. Downs and other judicial leaders said the cuts came as a surprise to them and urged commissioners to rethink the spending plan before it plunges the legal system into a “crisis.” . . .

Among the possible aftershocks, said Downs, is a more aggressive early release program to lower jail expenses.

Not so fast.

If judges feel they must circumvent justice for even more victims, they had better allow the public to see precisely how many victims are being denied justice already, through failures to prosecute offenders or sentence them properly, and then let the public decide where resources should be cut.  It’s their money.  And their safety.

If the courts want the public to support their efforts to prevent these budget cuts, they must start having a conversation with the public.

The sanctimonious anti-incarceration activists who call themselves journalists are howling that the real emergency is that we must find more more money to spend on death penalty defendants.  Or else the most horrible thing will happen: murderers won’t get phalanxes of silk stocking lawyers jetted in, all expenses paid, to bloviate about nothing for months on end while making a mockery of the notion of truth in justice.

This is a crisis manufactured by the defense bar.  This is about defense lawyers taking away the public’s right to decide whether or not to try people for death by spending all their money on the defense of one man, then crying poor, stomping their feet, and demanding that all defendants get as many lawyers as the last defendant.

They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this anymore.  Where does it say that defendants deserve teams of expensive private lawyers, rather than public defenders?  The public gets public prosecutors on a shoestring: why do certain criminals fly first class on our dime?  None of this has anything to do with “fair trials” or “the right to a defense”: it is the defense bar pillaging the system to force legislation by other means — the destruction of death penalty trials.

And no matter what you think of the death penalty, don’t think they’ll stop there: life without parole is the next thing in their sights, once death penalty trials are priced out of existence.

Why have we permitted jury selection to bloat into weeks-long parades of experts?  Why has the right to an attorney morphed into the right to six private activist lawyers jetted in to game the system with frivolous inanities as earnest journalists fancying themselves “speaking truth to power” lovingly cover the spectacle?

And, meanwhile, how many cases end up not being prosecuted at all because of such charades?

Before the courts simply inform the public that they will have to accept more violent criminals walking because the defense bar went on a bender, they must speak up about the real costs and pressures on the system.  They must open their books.  And they must finally stand up to the dysfunction they know is ruling the Clerk of Court’s Office and other parts of the system.

Everybody knows which things waste money and which people have no business representing the justice system.  If the public is going to be asked to take yet another hit, they at least deserve an honest conversation in the process.

Contretempestuousness or Tempestucontretemps in Marvin Arrington’s Courtroom

1 comment

Pardon the brief hiatus from journalistic ethics week, which I’ll just roll over into journalist ethics fortnight, Jane Austen style.

Everybody was behaving so ethically out there, I just lost steam.  Nobody ran headlines falsely accusing the families of the D.C. sniper victims of being “vengeful” for saying things like: “It helped to see the completion.  It helped to a degree,” upon witnessing John Muhammad’s execution.  Nobody made utterly false allegations of prosecutorial malfeasance, claiming, “[t]here are several documented cases where DNA testing showed that innocent people were put to death by the government,” then refused to correct the record when it was brought to his attention that there are actually no documented cases where DNA testing showed that innocent people were put to death by the government (and that’s according to death penalty opponents).

~~~

Nope, everybody in the fourth estate is just behaving so well, there’s no point in blogging about such things, especially when another outburst of crazy in the Fulton County Superior Court is raising troubling questions, again:

A disagreement between a judge and a senior assistant prosecutor last month erupted on Thursday into a heated confrontation in a back hallway of the Fulton County Courthouse between the judge and the district attorney. . . The fracas is rooted in an Oct. 6 murder trial of Randy Murray, charged with killing a man in a dispute in order to steal some marijuana.

In a nutshell (you can read the details here), Judge Marvin Arrington lashed out at a Senior ADA during a murder trial and ordered her to pay a fine for “trying to be smart” with him.  District Attorney Paul Howard told his ADA not to pay the fine, and Arrington subsequently had the attorney taken into police custody when she showed up in court on a different case.  Howard and Arrington then had a “ruckus in the back hallway,” as Arrington put it, in his inimitable legalese; Arrington filed a contempt order against Howard and his ADA; the Georgia Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of the order, and now everyone’s waiting to see what happens when the second shoe drops, joining a growing pile of other second shoes littering the hallways of the Fulton County Superior Court.

Paul Howard denies behaving threateningly to Arrington.  Here is what he had to say (Arrington, in contrast, had his say by throwing an lawyer into jail for allegedly dissing him, remember):

Howard issued a statement on Thursday saying, “The Contempt Order issued by Judge Arrington in this case is just plain wrong. It sullies the reputation of one of the finest, most honorable and ethical lawyers in this country.

“The transcript of the October 6th case shows clearly that [Senior ADA Linda] Dunikoski was courteous and professional at all times while standing up for her right to cross-examine a defendant charged with murder. Judge Arrington, for some unknown reason, did not allow her to complete her cross-examination after only 45-minutes of questioning.”

He continued, “As is my right as District Attorney, I orally objected to the wrongful and illegal incarceration of Ms. Dunikoski. Her incarceration was demeaning, inappropriate and injudicious. My office disagrees with Judge Arrington’s characterization of my actions and welcomes further examination of this matter.”

I’ve had my own strange run-in with Arrington, which I’ll detail next week.  So have many others.  Arrington is a lightning rod, but there are more important issues that, I hope, won’t be subsumed by the Sturm und Drang of personality conflict and fist-cuffies:

  • Was Arrington wrong to shut down ADA Dunikowski’s cross-examination of a defendant in a murder case?  Did his attitude, or judgment (or judicial philosophy) stand in the way of doing his job, which is to ensure that jurors receive all appropriate information about a defendant in order to make an informed decision about his guilt?
  • If so, is anybody going to actually do something about it?  When is the state going to acknowledge that it can’t run a judicial oversight board on the pocket change collected from redeeming soda cans in each courthouse?  Or is everyone going to keep behaving as if judges are simply above scrutiny, no matter the consequences of their carelessness, inattention, or sheer violation of the Georgia Code?
  • Likewise, are there going to be any consequences for Arrington’s rash act of interrupting another court proceeding to have an ADA arrested?  Is anybody in the media going to ask him, point-blank, whether he thinks he did the right thing in interrupting the people’s business and using the power of the bench that way?  Or is this headline just going to fade away, like all the rest?

I wish the media would be more forthcoming and inquisitive about the operations of the courts.  The public is denied access to virtually every important aspect of the functioning of our court system, and they can only gain partial access to what is going on if enough of them actually skip work to go sit in every courtroom, every day, observing all the proceedings, because the powers-that-be in the justice system deem their own actions above public scrutiny.  Spend a week or two reading this blog from the Orlando courts, and you’ll get an idea of what you’re missing.

When things erupt in soap opera fashion, it’s all good fun, or not (until somebody loses an eye, of course), but we need to be more than entertained (or horrified).

It is unacceptable that the judiciary chooses to keep their actions cloaked in darkness, rather than making the effort to make every case disposition available to the public (not to mention their dockets, so we can see who is getting what done, or not).  It is a disgrace that we cannot log onto the internet and see the outcome of every criminal case.  These records are, of course, being recorded electronically behind closed doors.  It would take about two lunch breaks for some Georgia Tech student to install a system to share this data with the public, along with court transcripts detailing the real goings-on in our courtrooms.

I had several people ask me questions about the judges up for election this time, and I couldn’t offer any information.  The fact that there is no way to evaluate the performance of any individual sitting judge is a situation that desperately needs to change before the next election.  If somebody decided to run for Judge (and let’s not forget Clerk of Court, still firmly in the grip of the machine-politics-patronage-cabal) on a platform of bringing total transparency to his or her courtroom, imagine the difference that simple, ethical, democratic gesture would make.

The Genesis of a Lie: How Brutal Killers Become Victims, Part 3

no comments

On August 28, jurors in the Michael King trial in Sarasota, Florida found King guilty of raping and killing 21-year old mother, Denise Amber Lee.  Here is a photo of Lee’s father, Rick Goff, listening to the last 911 call Denise managed to make, in which she was recorded begging for her life.  It’s worth remembering that the families were forced to sit through all the courtroom games the defense played while trying to get King off on a technicality.  Which technicality?  Any and all of them, of course.

Immediately following the jury’s conviction, the sentencing hearings began.  King’s lawyers set out to argue that a childhood sledding accident rendered him incompetent, a mitigating factor the jurors would have to weight against his crimes — if it was true.

Before the trial, King’s lawyers had attempted to have King declared incompetent.  Then, during the trial, he stumbled around acting catatonic, putting on a show.  At one point, the judge stopped the trial and ordered him evaluated — again.  The judge was probably trying to prevent grounds for later appeals, and King was found to be competent.

But here is a troubling thing: even though King was found competent, the fact that the judge requested the test, instead of King’s own attorneys requesting it, is also grounds for appeal.  His lawyers didn’t request the test themselves, at that very moment, though they made the case for incompetence at other moments, so King can claim that he had insufficient counsel.

Get it?  If the judge hadn’t ordered the test, the absence of the test could trigger an appeal, and because the judge did order the test, then that’s grounds for appeal.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: the justice system is crippled by the power of the defense bar.

Likewise, one of the arguments they were allowed to make against a death sentence is the fact that King wasn’t drinking or using drugs.  But if he had been drinking or using drugs, that could be a mitigating factor, too.

So the man in the picture above is not done re-living his daughter’s horrific death: he is now facing ten or twenty more years of sitting in courtrooms, watching the lawyers play games on behalf of her killer.

~~~

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune slipped into advocacy for the killer at several points in their coverage of the King trial, but it was their story choice during the sentencing phase that really crosses a line.

Two days after the jury returned a guilty verdict, when they were about to begin deliberating sentencing, the Trib published an article implying that the jurors might have nightmares and psychological problems if they voted for death.  Of course, the reporter quoted so-called academic experts (actually, academic anti-death penalty activists), who claimed to have conducted objective research:

Studies by professors and other death penalty experts suggest that some jurors lose sleep, some have nightmares and many keep the experience shielded from their closest family and friends.

Well, of course they do.  Being forced to confront a murderer’s actions and autopsy photos is also disturbing.  Knowing that the man you have just sentenced to death is about to become a media darling and cause célébre for the next twenty years probably causes some compunction, as does being accused of everything from bad faith to bloodthirstiness to vengefulness to racism, which are things that get said every day in courtrooms and classrooms and the news about jurors who vote for death.  Oh, and religious impropriety, also:

One lesson central to the many faiths is to hate the sin but forgive the sinner.  So even if jurors find the defendant a monster, it can be difficult to choose death.

the Tribune reporter scolds.

In a news story.

Is it the death penalty, or the murder, or the false accusations of bias that actually keep jurors awake at night?  Is there “research” measuring that?  You certainly won’t get a straight answer from the Capitol Jury Project, consulted here and described as an objective research group studying “why people make the decision they make, how they interact with other people making the same decision and whether it affects their lives.”

Actually, the Capitol Jury Project is one of many anti-death penalty groups that use public tax dollars to manufacture research designed exclusively to overturn death penalty laws.  The project’s director, William J. Bowers, is indeed an academician, but he calls the death penalty “Legal Homicide,” works as an “activist in the trenches,” and testifies in courtrooms that jurors are incapable of comprehending or fairly applying the law.  If I was a juror, I would not let them interview me for one of their many studies seeking (and inevitably, finding) bias or incompetence or heartlessness in jurors.

Or post-traumatic stress disorder, as the Tribune implies.   Of course, the reporter didn’t seek the otherwise journalistically de rigeur “opposing view” offered by death penalty supporters, who observe that jurors often experience pride and satisfaction in helping see justice done by sending killers to death row.

That viewpoint just isn’t newsworthy, you see.  And wouldn’t it be inappropriate to raise such a subject on the eve of the sentencing deliberations?

Tomorrow: Coming Down on the Jurors, and Turning Michael Smith into Society’s Victim

A Fall From A Tree, And Then Rape

1 comment

Michael Ledford’s attorneys want the jury to believe that Ledford is not responsible for murder and rape — is not responsible for any of the rapes he committed — because he once fell out of a tree.

If they believe that he is utterly incapable of controlling himself, and that he must rape and kill, then where were they when he was released from prison?  Why didn’t these experts — or rather their peers, somebody from the cohort of prison psychiatrists — make the case that Ledford should have been committed to an institution upon release from prison?  For surely he has not fallen out of another tree since his release: he has not changed.  If he was that dangerous and that crazy a few years ago, why did nobody do anything then?

They did nothing, the prison psychiatrists, the parole officers, the lawyers, because they do not believe in incarceration.  They did nothing, the forensic psychiatrists, because too many of them view their role as freeing people from prison, not keeping them there.

The only time these people hoist themselves out of their own self-righteous fogs of misplaced empathy and acknowledge that their “clientele” are, indeed, dangerous and prone to rape and kill again, is after one of them has been caught raping and killing and thus faces the chair.

Then they admit what they have know all along: the people they force on the rest of us, through a catalog of defense tricks, including the mess they’ve made of determining culpability at sentencing — are very, very dangerous.

I admit I have a difficult time writing about this.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll calm down.  It reminds me too much of the psychiatric passes given to my own rapist, a violent, terrifying, serial predator who, I was told, got time knocked off one sentence for being mentally slow, then somehow miraculously stopped being slow in prison and obtained — of all things — a “psychology degree,” which got more time knocked off his sentence.  Many are the hands that contributed to that release.

Which enabled him to go back to sexually torturing elderly women all the sooner, and if there was any real content to his prison “degree” (which I doubt), it merely provided him with pointers for busking up the horror-show.  Frankly, I didn’t find him slow at all.  I found him methodical and very good at his craft.  I found him impulsive — and details of his prior record bore this out — but also perfectly capable of exercising control.  Crazy?  Sure.  As crazy as he wanted to be.

Then again, I don’t have one of those psychology degrees.

So it is difficult for me to watch a spectacle like the Ledford sentencing without wishing to track down the cawling idiot — a graduate student or a professor, no doubt, in need of a beard trim and some source of self-esteem not connected to identifying with society’s predators — who got all titillated trotting over to the prison and pretending to teach my rapist “psychology,” so he could get out of prison early.

This leaves me wondering what pointers Ledford picked up on his own journey through the system.  What did he learn to say, to position himself as a victim in the eyes of the parole officers and psychiatrists and defense lawyers who helped him minimize his last sentence and avoid re-incarceration while he violated parole repeatedly, all the while gaining confidence that no consequence would accrue because no consequence did accrue.

And then he killed Jennifer Ewing.

Silver Comet Trail Killer’s Sentencing: Our Twisted System for Excusing Killers

no comments

The sentencing phase has begun in the Silver Comet Trail case, and this is a good opportunity to see the types of things that keep or get a killer off death row — not just now, during sentencing, but later, during the endless appeals that will inevitably follow.

Anti-death penalty activists always use the “evidence” presented during the sentencing phase to try to get their clients off death row, “evidence” in quotes because the types of things that get presented in court during sentencing are wildly subjective.  Nevertheless, if the defense says later that jurors did not consider these factors appropriately, there’s an appeal.  And if one defense lawyer says later that the defense lawyer at trial did not present this subjective “evidence” appropriately, there’s another appeal.

And this is how most convicts get off death row — not because they’re innocent, as activists would have you believe, but because the subjective story being told about their intentions, and feelings, and childhoods (not their actions) is being re-scrutinized at the behest of defense attorneys who have turned this process into a sickening series of extra bites at the apple — and an excruciating, decades-long ordeal for the victim’s family.

Do defense lawyers sometimes intentionally “mess up” during sentencing in order to lay the groundwork for future appeals?  Well, according to some who have chosen to brag about their trial techniques, they do.

But resorting to conspiratorial behavior is hardly necessary in the system we have now.  Convicts can appeal over the craziest things, and during sentencing itself, many crazy things are permitted to be called mitigating factors — factors, that is, that excuse the killer and keep him off death row.  Decades of pro-criminal jurisprudence has manufactured a system of allowable grounds for appeal that is so excessive it is a wonder that anyone goes to jail for anything at all.

Mitigating factors in Ledford’s case include arguments that he is less responsible for murdering Jennifer Ewing because he was drinking, and drinking makes him want to sexually assault women, so he’s less responsible for what he did to Ewing if he was drunk around the time that he did it.  Get it?

In other words, Jennifer Ewing’s suffering, her death, and the meaning of the loss of her life to those who loved her is being measured against a can of beer in Michael Ledford’s fist.

And remember, you’re paying for this.

I encourage you to watch the arguments for mitigating and aggravating factors in the Ledford sentencing very closely.  More tomorrow.

And So It Begins. . . The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council Strikes Again (With Your Money)

1 comment

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Jury selection in Silver Comet case may be delayed

Prosecutors and defense attorneys Monday discussed delaying for a week jury selection in the capital case against a man accused of killing a woman on the Silver Comet Trail.

The talks began after Michael William Ledford’s attorneys told Paulding County Superior Court Judge James Osborne they may try to withdraw from the death-penalty case because they are not being paid.

Of course, it is the capitol defense bar that bankrupted the defense system in the first place.  Nothing is too good for a capitol defendant — they get multiple, silk-stocking lawyers on the public dime.  Ordinary people waiting for a divorce to work its way through the courts can pay their own way and cool their taxpaying-heels doing so.  You’ve got to kill someone to get access to a support staff like this.

Last month, Osborne ordered the cash-strapped [hmmm] Georgia Public Defender Standards Council to pay bills submitted by defense lawyers Tom West and Jimmy Berry. Those bills now total more than $60,000, West said.

Osborne interrupted the first day of jury selection to consider a motion to hold the council in contempt for not paying the fees. Osborne expressed frustration that the local public defender’s office has money to defend shoplifting cases while the council cannot pay lawyers defending a man whose life is at stake.

Osborne suggested he could order the defender’s office be shut down so Ledford’s lawyers would get paid. But he rejected the contempt motion because Ledford’s lawyers failed to properly serve the council with their motion.

These crack lawyers spent 60K of the public’s money before the trial even started, and yet they somehow bungled an invoice, so consequently an entire courtroom staff — judge, secretaries, guards, transcriptionists — have to stop proceedings and reschedule work, and scores of citizen jurors facing profound disruptions to their lives and jobs are now facing even more uncertainty in this difficult job market?

Does anybody really believe that, after months of alleged non-payment, West and Berry suddenly had to file a motion demanding their fees on the first day potential jurors had to disrupt their own lives to appear in court?  Besides, isn’t invoice-bungling just defense-attorney-tactic #1009 designed to intentionally drive up the costs of trying capitol cases?  Having failed to win their battle with the public or in the legislature, the defense bar has taken this fight to the courtroom, intent on bankrupting public coffers in order to get what they could not get through legitimate means — an end to capitol punishment.

When I see a clearly orchestrated delay like this one, I have to ask: who’s in on it?  Clearly, West and Berry.  What about the local public defender’s office, the highly politicized Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, and the even more highly politicized Georgia Capitol Defenders?  Are they really “dragging their heels,” or are they grandstanding along with Berry and West as part of their stated mission to end capitol cases in Georgia?

Even though they clearly don’t view themselves this way, the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council and Georgia Capitol Defenders are taxpayer-funded agencies.   So here’s the civics lesson for the day: go to the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council website.  It’s your website, after all, part of the executive branch of Georgia. Now click on “Death Penalty” to get to the Georgia Capitol Defenders homepage.  You pay for this, too.  Funny, though, it doesn’t look like a government agency website: it looks like the personal homepage for some steroid-addled professional wrestler.

It’s your money, as the McClatchy New Service (motto: “truth to power”) explains in the interestingly titled article: “In Georgia, Group of State-Funded Lawyers Does Whatever is Necessary.”

Apparently, one of the things necessary to a good capitol defense in Georgia is Michael Mears selling his book, or, rather, using taxpayer funds to sell his book.  Click on the “clock” icon on the Georgia Capitol Defenders website.  This is all that comes up:

History of the Death Penalty in Georgia
The Death Penalty in Georgia – A Modern History 1970-2000
Hardback edition includes information such as complete statistics: death sentence, inmate lists.
Author, B Michael Mears, Multi-County Defender, Copyright 1999
Price: $10.00 inclusive of postage
To purchase hardback copy, mail request with check or money order made payable to “GIDC” to:

Att: Robin Fisher
Georgia Indigent Defense Council
104 Marietta Street, Suite 200
Atlanta, GA 30303

Aren’t you glad we’re using our tax dollars for this?  I’m going to stick my copy right next to the History of the Fulton County Superior Court Clerk of Court’s Office that we also paid for, just as soon as disgraced former Fulton County Superior Court Clerk of Court Juanita Hicks gets around to actually writing it (see this marveolusly bracing editorial by Maureen Downey on the subject).

Of course, shilling a book using taxpayer funds is small, though pricey, potatoes.  The real problem is the vast network of taxpayer-funded employees embedded in the Georgia Capitol Defender’s office who are using our money to lobby against the laws we have passed, instead of representing defendants in capitol cases, which is what we are paying them to do.  Take a good look at their staff.  No fiscal recession in here, Bob.

Meanwhile, district attorneys throughout the state are being forced to send prosecutors home on furloughs, resulting in huge backlogs of criminal cases (many of which will never be tried because of budget-cutting).  See this eye-opening article by Houston County DA Kelly R. Burke, which refutes the claims by the defense bar about the purportedly unilateral effects of budget cuts on defendants (incidentally, Burke manages to provide his constituents with excellent, easily accessed information about what is going on in the courts — while Fulton County and the City of Atlanta spend astronomically higher amounts of money on “public information” without providing any).

So why aren’t any of the dozen or so attorneys from the stretch-limousine staff of the Georgia Capitol Defenders’ office actually sitting at the defendant’s table alongside Michael Ledford in the Silver Comet murder trial?  Those dozen staff attorneys are busy with other things, you see:

The office provides assistance in death penalty cases by: (1) providing training and assistance to attorneys who have been appointed to defend defendants charged with a capitol offense; (2) serving as co-counsel to assist local appointed lead counsel in trial and direct appeal of cases involving defendants facing the death penalty; (3) accepting appointments to provide direct representation as lead counsel in death penalty cases based upon the circumstances of each individual case.

Let me translate: first we pay for the Georgia Capitol Defenders’ staff, then we pay a second time for so-called “local” counsel (which isn’t always local to Georgia because they’re local to other places, like Washington and New York).

How many capitol cases are being tried in Georgia at any given time, anyway?  How much “training and assistance” do public defenders need?

Of course, the public servants at the Georgia Capitol Defenders’ office are busy, spending much of their time filing appeals, premised on the notion — manufactured by the public servants at the Georgia Capitol Defenders’ office — that the good work they do is never good so long as even one blood-soaked psychopath gets the chair.

Talk about job security.  All we have to do in order to reign in their outrageous “training and assistance” budget is let all murderers go free.  Or, conversely, we could ask legislators to audit Georgia Capitol Defenders.  Taxpayers are already funding much of the ideological anti-death penalty movement through university and law school budgets.  Isn’t that enough advocacy on the public dime?

Or we could give in and allow a bunch of activists-cum-advocates derail the democratic process “by any means necessary.”  Then they’ll doubtlessly move on to overturning Georgia’s new Life Without Parole law.  The anti-death penalty movement is already laying the groundwork for this transition.

Expect that bill in the mail, too.

***

The hot air that keeps legal Zeppelins like Georgia Capitol Defenders afloat is serial claims that innocent men are continually being discovered on death row.  It’s not true, despite much careless press to the contrary, but that is a subject for another day.  Tomorrow, I will offer a closer look at the horrific consequences of one life sentence overturned on a technicality — the case of a violent recidivist transplanted to Georgia by a criminally lenient California judge — a favor we returned to the Golden State, in spades.

Meanwhile, the judge in the Silver Comet case should prevent the process from being derailed by naked political maneuvering by the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, or the Georgia Capitol Defender’s office, or whichever branch of the defense bar is responsible for this particular pricey delay.  Tom West and Jimmy Berry misfiled an invoice?  Tough luck: take it off the 60K they’ve already manufactured in pre-trial fees.

They’re supposed to be smart, competent lawyers supported by all the collective wisdom and guidance the taxpayer-subsidized Georgia Capitol Defenders has to offer, right?  Enough is enough.

Why Crime Victims Media Report? [Updated below, 3/11/09]

1 comment

Because of this.  Why does the media report so obsessively on the last meals of convicted murderers?  This man sexually attacked a woman, stabbed her, slit her throat, and then left her to die, which took 20 hours. 22 years later, he is scheduled to die, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports — on his last meal.  

Does the reporter also tell us anything so personal about the victim?  No, he defines her, briefly, as a “former amateur diving champion,” then gets to the real point of the article: fomenting sympathy for rapist/killer Robert Newland by recounting the pathos of his prison diet.  Seasoned collard greens?  Bread pudding?  

The victim takes up less space than the description of her killer’s dinner tray.  

How about telling us how much it cost us to keep this man alive through twenty years of appeals?  You don’t need to support the death penalty to abhor the casual sentimentality piled onto predators (in fact, death penalty opponents would get a lot further with the public if they cut this stuff out).  Why do we need to know how his collard greens were prepared, but we don’t need to know what was spent on his lawyers?  

Why a pity party instead of facts, except that this is what the media has done for so long that it seems natural that death row cases are reported this way.  But it isn’t natural.  It may be “traditional” to cover last meals, but this is a sick tradition, merely a last effort to bump up the compassion factor for a man who showed no compassion.  Newspapers should save descriptions of “last meals” for editorials because they are an editorial statement: feel pity for this man.     

And why an exclusive pity party for the perpetrator alone, and not his victim?  Was Carol Sanders Beatty awake during those 20 hours?  Did she know what was happening?  Did she die alone?  Did she have loved ones? 

What was her last meal?

————————————————————————————–

[Update #1, 3/11/09]

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story today, “Georgia Man Executed for Murdering Woman in ’86,” with more information about Robert Newland’s crime:

Newland went to Beatty’s duplex on May 30, 1986, after a drinking binge and tried to kiss her, authorities said. When she refused his advances, scratching and slapping him, he drew a knife and slashed her neck and stabbed her repeatedly.                                                                         

They also reported on the victim’s last hours.  Carol Sanders Beatty did not die alone: with a detective’s help, she managed to spell out her assailant’s name:

Police found Beatty lying in her garden and rushed her to the hospital. A doctor noticed she was moving her lips to try to say something, but couldn’t pronounce the words.

He summoned a detective, who asked her if she was saying “Bob.” She nodded her head. When asked the last name of her assailant, the detective ticked through the alphabet. When he reached “N” she “nodded her head vigorously,” and squeezed his hand, court documents say.

She ended up spelling out “N-E-W-L-A” and when the detective asked if the last name was Newland, she nodded again and squeezed his hand. She died hours later.

Carol Sanders Beatty was executed by Robert Newland in 1986; Robert Newland was executed by the State in 2009, nearly 23 years later.  Here are people protesting the latter execution.  Note the sign that says, “Kill Fascism Now.”  Robert Newland’s defense attorney mounted a similar protest before the Georgia Supreme Court earlier this week, arguing that death was an arbitrary and disproportionate punishment for Newland — not disproportionate to what Beatty suffered, but disproportionate to the punishment (some) other murderers received in Georgia.  The argument for proportionality goes something like this: if I can come up with a list of murderers who received lesser sentences for similar crimes, then my client should receive a lesser sentence too.  Of course, you cannot go back to a conviction and find that the defendant actually deserved death, not life, or life without parole instead of life with parole.  The justice system, far from being fascist, is designed largely around this pursuit of “lesser sentencing.”  

The Georgia Supreme Court denied the request to commute Newland’s sentence to life without parole on the grounds of disproportionality.  They also rejected arguments that Newland should be held less responsible for his crime because, according to his defense attorney, he had been sexually and physically molested as a child, and because the murder was directly related to his alcohol and drug addictions.