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Tom Walker, Malcolm Bernarde Taylor, Alicia Martinez, Jeffrey John Wallace: Murdered By Judicial Lenience in Colorado

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All sorts of uninformed people, like governors and editorial writers, complain that we put people away for far too long. Judges whine that their hands are tied because of the horrors of minimum mandatory sentencing.  Even conservative anti-government types, often egged on by the statistical fibs and confabulations of the pro-pot-libertatian-wing of their movement, see the prison system as a bloated bureaucracy ripe for slashing.

They don’t know what they’re talking about.  They have no idea what it takes to end up in state prison, and what types of animals will be released by their careless demands for “reform.”  Chatter about emptying the prisons and creating even more (yes, we have plenty already) “alternatives to incarceration” leave the defense bar giggling into their thinning ponytails in anticipation of all the serial sex offenders and vicious adolescent gunmen, and murderers they’re going to be getting off in the next few years.

Let’s meet a few:

Lonnie Hyram Johnson, Utah

Lonnie Hyram Johnson won a sort of trifecta from judges who seem only to have been merely amused by his propensity to rape children.  First, in 2006, some judge in Washington State gave him less than a year to serve for raping a teenage girl.  After that, other child victims — his niece and her cousin — came forward to report that Johnson raped, sodomized and molested them repeatedly between 2001 and 2006.  He faces 20 felony counts, with lifetime sentences.  But despite the fact that he served time in Washington, apparently without any problems, Utah has declared him too competent for civil commitment but too incompetent to stand trial due to a “cognitive disorder.”  What’s that?  A cognitive disorder could be, say, fear of spiders.  Or mild depression.  So Lonnie Johnson might be slightly depressed at the thought that there could be spiders in prison.  And no little girls to rape.  So he’s being released.  Next stop: Salt Lake City.

Onto Denver:

Edward Romero, Colorado

Ah, the joys of alternatives-to-incarceration. States like Colorado save big bucks on their prison budgets.  Plus, with all those tax dollars being shoveled through Eric Holder’s “Prisoner Reentry” cult, there’s lots of money in not putting people into prison these days, lots of loud activist groups on the ground drawing those federal dollars to “educate” and “rehabilitate” and “job train” these offenders back into states of goodness and light (and then, of course, to report back to the in-house bean-counters that their rehabilitation programs are roaring successes).  Everybody wins, sort of.  All these guys needed was a hand up, right?

Edward Romero, for instance, got a hand.  In fact, thanks to the good state of Colorado, he got an entire body, Alicia Martinez, a sixteen-year old girl he kidnapped and mutilated.  The authorities asked the media to not report the details of the crime because the young woman had to be identified through dental records.  Romero was under “intensive supervised probation” for a serious previous crime when he killed Martinez.  What’s one young girl’s life really worth?  After all, the state saved some $30,000 a year by not putting Romero away.  And isn’t that what really matters?

Is it unfair to paint the whole system red because of one rogue mutilator? But wait, there’s more.  The Denver Post compiled a list of ten probationers who committed murder or attempted murder while living the dream of alternatives-to-incarceration.

David Thomas Orton

David Thomas Orton.  Nice guy.  Beat his wife, terrorized his children, got probation, then shot at the cops.  Charged with ten counts of attempted murder.  It’s nice to see prosecutors using the attempted murder charge: there’s no point in awarding leniency just because you have bad aim.

Christopher Rodney . . . no, wait, Denver Judge Edward Bronfin

Heck, let’s just show the judge’s face.  Judge Edward Bronfin apparently decided to believe that four months in prison was adequate punishment for Christopher Rodney after Rodney nearly beat a man to death:

Denver Police arrested Rodney in 2009, charging him with a vicious, random beating and robbery. It was a crime that landed him a 6 year prison term but a Denver judge released him in just 4 months.  Rodney confessed to the Nov. 8, 2009, assault on a man who had just gotten off an RTD bus at a downtown bus stop.  A videotape obtained by CBS4 shows Rodney and a second suspect attacking their victim from behind at the Denver bus stop, pummeling him with fists and feet until the man lost consciousness. Rodney stole the man’s cell phone.

On June 1, 2010, court records show Rodney pleaded guilty to robbery and assault for the 2009 case. Citing the extreme violence and the random nature of the crime, Denver prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Rodney to 8 years in prison.  Denver District Court Judge Edward Bronfin sentenced Rodney to 6 years in prison and agreed to allow him to return to court in 4 months for a sentence reconsideration hearing.  Rodney was back in Bronfin’s courtroom Oct. 15, 2010. He had been imprisoned for 4 months of a 6 year prison term. Bronfin decided Rodney had served enough time. The judge cut the inmate’s sentence from 6 years behind bars to 3 years probation and Rodney was freed.

Now that’s the kind of judicial performance that wins brownie points with Eric Holder’s Justice Department.  After all, Christopher Rodney was only 19 when he got himself caught up in this “attack an innocent person getting off a bus and beat them into unconsciousness” thing, and Holder is hellbent on making sure young men don’t get “caught up” in the criminal justice system.

But it looks like Rodney would have better off in prison:

The next time the judge and prosecutors heard from Rodney was this week when he was arrested for the murder of Jeffrey John Wallace, 4 months after Judge Bronfin ordered Rodney be placed on intensive supervised probation and released from prison.  “I don’t know what the judge’s reasoning or thinking was behind the sentence reconsideration. And we’re horrified when we see previous defendants come back around under these kinds of circumstances. It’s a bad day,” said [Denver DA Spokesman Lynn] Kimbrough.

Judge Bronfin is refusing to explain his sentencing decision.

And how does the judge get away with not explaining himself?  A life was lost because he indulged in some fantasy that he was saving poor, misunderstood Christopher Rodney.  Rodney apparently wrote a long, plaintive letter to the judge, talking about his dreams and plans and saying he needed a second chance to make his life better:

“I would really like a second chance to live in the society like a regular person,” wrote Rodney. “I want to be a regular upstanding citizen in the society that takes care of real responsibilities . . . I am sincerely sorry for all the trouble and problems I caused. So in saying all that I would really appreciate a chance to do what’s necessary to change my life and be successful,” wrote Rodney.

When judges indulge themselves by imagining that they are heroes, rescuing the downtrodden, and something of course goes horribly wrong, there are only two possible  choices.  They can acknowledge that their narcissism cost someone a life, or they can hide and pretend it didn’t happen, denying the value of all victims’ lives.  Any judge who chooses the latter should be forcibly removed from the bench.  Are victims worth so little?

Apparently so.

What really happens is that judges whose self-indulgence cost lives often end up becoming more and more radicalized, deifying defendants in order to legitimate and cover up their own fatal mistakes.  There’s a huge reward system in this choice — honors from the offender-centric law school world, kudos and election support from well-heeled anti-incarceration activists, affection and free passes from many in the media, and thanks from the radical budget-cutters and sundry reformed former felons on the Right.

Plus, you get to feel persecuted: “They’ve got it in for me, you know” you can whisper over the rim of your chardonnay glass at the next A.C.L.U. Awards Banquet.

It’s a nice life.  Nicer than being strangled to death by Christopher Rodney, for sure.

But there’s more wrong with the system than judges who look in the mirror and thinks they’re seeing Gregory Peck.  When we talk about “alternatives to prison,” we’re frequently talking about parole and probation systems that are nothing more than a colossal joke.  Everyone knows this, but nobody does anything.  Given his magic candy-bar second chance, Christopher Rodney immediately capitalized on it by embarking on a consequence-free course of complete disregard for the terms of his parole:

He missed mandatory treatment, tested positive for marijuana, got into a car wreck while fighting with his brother and punched a wall during an argument with his girlfriend. All the incidents were known to his probation officer; none was enough to get that officer to seek revocation.

Yadda yadda yadda.  The system was teaching Christopher Rodney to assume that authority is illegitimate.  Good thing he didn’t end up shooting a cop.

Like Aaron Davon Williams did:

Aaron Davon Williams, 20, was convicted of burglary for breaking into a Denver home in 2009 and sentenced to two years of probation. A judge revoked his probation Jan. 14, after a probation officer reported that he found guns in Williams’ home and that Williams shoved a probation officer during a home visit.  Police say Williams shot an Aurora police officer in the leg after a traffic stop March 17. Williams then fled to an apartment building, where he held a family of four hostage.  He was shot after he exited the apartment through a window. Police say he was holding a handgun when several officers fired.

At least that cop survived. Deputy Sam Brownlee, shot by yet another special parolee, Ruben Reyes, did not.

Ruben Reyes

Reyes was granted mere parole after trying to kill a passerby in a road rage incident.  He beat the man and tried to run him over.  What does it take to receive a prison sentence?  Apparently more than that.  He was a known gang member with a long criminal history:

Reyes has a criminal history, including July convictions for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and underage drinking in Morgan County, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records. He was convicted of felony menacing with a real or simulated weapon in February.  Reyes, who went by the street names, “Demon” and “Smiley,” also had previous arrests for assault causing serious bodily injury and driving under the influence of drugs, according to CBI records.

So none of these things landed him behind bars, and now an innocent police officer is dead.  Reyes is the type of offender whose record gets erased over the course of multiple decisions to drop charges.  This behavior enables academicians to make claims that X% of young men are behind bars for “only burglary,” or “only fighting,” or “only drugs” and should be freed, and people (and politicians) believe them.  This thug seriously wounded at least two people and tried to kill one of them before murdering a cop.  Still his family got together with anti-incarceration activist Denver Attorney Michael Evans and tried to sue the city for “causing” Reyes death.  It’s worth reading this exchange, if only to let the sheer perversity wash over you:

The attorney for the family of a man who shot and killed a Weld County Sheriff’s deputy demanded an apology from Sheriff John Cooke for the killing of the gunman . . .Denver attorney Michael Evans sent a notice early this week to Cooke and to the Greeley and Evans police departments warning that Rueben Reyes’ family could file a civil lawsuit for $250,000 plus punitive damages unless they could reach a settlement.. .  .After Cooke said the notice was an attempt to make money, attorney Evans sent the e-mail letter to the sheriff, stating: “This case is not about the money. Its (sic) about the value of human life, or the complete disregard for it.”

The attorney then told Cooke the Reyes family has agreed to release the sheriff’s office from any civil lawsuit if the sheriff takes the following actions:

1. You will write a personal letter to the family apologizing for the loss of Mr. Reyes;

2. Promise to correct your agencies (sic) policies and procedures (which even your own investigative review panel agrees are faulty);

3. Discipline or terminate those individuals who are responsible choosing not to act to save Mr. Reyes’ life at the scene.

Cooke said of the letter written to him: “It’s very unethical to send me an e-mail like that. He knows I have an attorney, and they know they should deal with my attorney and not directly with me.” . . . Attorney Evans set a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday for Cooke to take action on the demands, and “If you don’t accept, then I guess you would have to agree that its (sic) really not about the money after all.”

What a tool.  But I digress.

Among the ten Denver parolees re-arrested for murder or attempted murder, five of them took innocent lives.  Kevin McGregor shot football player Tom Walker during a robbery in Boulder.  McGregor had been released early from prison by yet another Denver judge:

More than two years before Kevin Michael McGregor was accused of fatally shooting a University of New Hampshire football player during a botched robbery on University Hill, he helped rob a man in south Boulder by stabbing the victim in the head, police reported.  He was convicted by a jury in that case of charges including second-degree assault and third-degree assault, and he was sentenced May 22, 2009, to five years in prison. But he asked for a sentence reconsideration 120 days later, and on Jan. 11, 2010, Boulder County District Court Judge Gwyneth Whalen agreed to allow McGregor to leave prison and instead serve a three-year probation sentence.

Kevin McGregor

McGregor took an innocent life, that of a brave young man who tried to rescue a young woman who was being robbed at gunpoint by McGregor.  He’d previously stabbed a victim in the head during an armed robbery.  What is the matter with judges in Colorado?

New Hampshire football player Tom Walker, slain by paroled felon Kevin McGregor

Judge Whalen isn’t talking, either.  McGregor’s attorney argued that he had learned his lesson, that he was improving himself, and that, if he stayed in prison, he might be the victim of violence.  The judge believed him, and Tom Walker died:

[Attorney Keith] Pope . . . argued that his client should be let out of prison because the Boulder County Probation Department recommended McGregor be sentenced to community corrections based on his minimal criminal history, stable employment history and need for substance-abuse treatment.  “The Probation Department further noted that Mr. McGregor had been compliant with the conditions of his bond prior to trial, had been attending community college and had expressed remorse for his involvement in this matter,” according to a motion filed for McGregor’s sentence reconsideration.  McGregor, who was 19 at the time, had not been a problem while in jail and prison, suggesting “amenability to community-based sentencing,” according to the motion. And if McGregor stayed in prison, Pope argued, he would be “prone to victimization” because of his youth.

You see, he was young, which worked in his favor.  And a drug addict, which worked in his favor.  And a potential community college student, which worked in his favor.  In the sickening world of mitigation, absolutely everything works in defendants’ favor.  Even the fact that they committed an horrific crime is transformed into a learning experience:

[A]unt, Sue Petracek, wrote in an e-mail that she believed McGregor’s eyes had been opened “to the pitfalls of some kinds of loyalty” through his recent experiences, and he was ready “to take responsibility for what he makes of his life going forward.”

How nice.  Another relative shamelessly made up stories about McGregor’s kindness to animals (you know, except the human animal into whose skull he drove a knife):

Family members supportive of McGregor’s release wrote letters for the court at the time of his sentence reconsideration, saying he was a man with “very strong core values.”  “His compassionate nature is really expressed when he deals with children and animals,” McGregor’s aunt Sandy McCallister wrote in an e-mail. “I know Kevin to be very responsible and trustworthy. Kevin understands the value of family and good friends and has always had a respectful, sensitive, happy nature.”

~~~

So how much did this orgy of judicial lenience end up costing Colorado taxpayers? That’s ten crime scenes; five murders; five death investigations; four potential death penalty trials (one killer was shot by police).  Plus life behind bars for the surviving four killers; medical bills for one suspect; medical bills for two police and two victims wounded by gunshots, including a severely wounded cab drive shot in the chest; medical and counseling bills for several other surviving victims, including child hostages; two attempted murder trials, and long (hopefully life-long) incarcerations for the two surviving attempted murderers.

Plus, defense lawyers for the six surviving defendants, whose lives are over, for those who care.  The other four defendants’ lives are literally over.

Not to mention the pain and suffering of the survivors, and the hell the murder victims’ families will now endure as they spend the rest of their lives sitting like ghosts in courtrooms watching the legal system enact its criminal-centric charade.

Let’s see the savings in that.

Al Franken’s Latest Rape Joke: Chatigny Advances

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Robert Chatigny, whose controversial advocacy for serial killer Michael Ross may have inspired Obama to nominate him to the Circuit Court, advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote.  I wrote here about the reasons why I think Obama would nominate someone like Chatigny:

Obama Shows Contempt for Victims

Chatigny’s supporters, especially Senator Amy Klobuchar, have argued that singling out the Michael Ross case misrepresents the judge’s overall record.  To the contrary, I think his treatment of Ross typifies his approach to criminal law.  Chatigny opposes minimum mandatory sentencing and registration for sex offenders.  He repeatedly delivered minimum or less-than-minimum sentences to men convicted of various sex crimes.  In opinions, he expressed sympathy for all sorts of excuses made by offenders.  He is a judge who has gone out of his way to practice leniency for sex offenders throughout his career.

And before he was a judge, he represented Woody Allen.  You can’t make this stuff up.  So why would the president choose Chatigny over other candidates?  From the Washington Times:

Judge Chatigny has a weird record of empathy for those accused of sexual crimes involving children. It started when he served as co-counsel for director Woody Allen in 1993-94 when Mr. Allen filed a complaint against a prosecutor for discussing in public the potential charges against the moviemaker for reportedly abusing a minor stepchild. Mr. Allen and Mr. Chatigny lost both administrative proceedings in the case.  In another case, the U.S. Supreme Court eventually reversed Judge Chatigny, unanimously, when the judge tried to rule against one aspect of his state’s version of a Megan’s Law sex-offender registry. In 12 child-pornography cases, Judge Chatigny imposed a sentence either at or more lenient than the recommended minimum – with most downward departures involving sentences less than half as long. And in an outrageous case of judicial abuse, Judge Chatigny threatened to take away an attorney’s law license if the lawyer failed to appeal the death sentence of an eight-time murderer of girls and young women. The judge claimed the killer’s “sexual sadism” was a mental disorder that made the murderer himself a victim.

This and other defense attorney ilk is thick on the ground in Washington these days.  During the Chatigny hearings, Sen. Patrick Leahy incontinently ranted about innocent men (purportedly) being rescued from near-death on death row.  Not only is this subject irrelevant to the Michael Ross case, but anti-incarceration activists have wildly exaggerated the prevalence of actual wrongful conviction and misrepresented the majority of cases in which convicts are released from death row.  It may be surprising to hear it, given the strong presumptions to the contrary by people like senators and anchormen and pretty much everyone else, but activists have not, to date, produce evidence that even one person has been wrongfully executed in the U.S. since 1972 (some would set the date far earlier, but the possibility of evaluating the two dozen cases identified by activists spanning 1900 – 1972 are slim).

Between 1972 and 2010, however, there were 700,000  murders in the U.S.

Virtually no one is released from death row because anyone thought they were innocent; they are re-sentenced to serve life or other prison terms because of clemency or reversals in some element of their convictions (disputes over mitigating factors, technicalities, court errors).  These cases then get cynically misrepresented by activists as innocence cases.  Wrongful conviction for capitol crime, while of course tragic, is nearly non-existent, and when it happens, the system works.

By carelessly repeating utter lies about our prisons being stuffed with innocent men, Leahy contributes to an atmosphere in which judges like Chatigny justify their dangerous biases against incarceration for anyone, no matter their crime.  To talk about wrongful convictions in a hearing that is supposed to be addressing the refusal to enforce unambiguously rightful conviction is just exploitative.  But nobody dares to call upon people like Leahy to provide facts.

Just to be clear about what happened: the Democrats, who claim the mantle of women’s rights, voted for a judge with a reputation for going particularly easy on sex criminals, a man who called a serial killer’s sexual compulsions a “mitigating factor” for the murders of young girls, and who now calls his advocacy for this killer “a learning experience” but also says he’d do it again.  The Republicans, who stand accused of neglecting women’s rights, all voted against Chatigny (Feinstein, in a real show of courage, simply declined to vote).

Voting For Chatigny:

  • Patrick Leahy
  • Russ Feingold
  • Arlen Spector
  • Chuck Schumer
  • Dick Durbin
  • Benjamin L. Cardin
  • Sheldon Whitehouse
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Ted Kaufman
  • Al Franken

Voting Against:

  • Jeff Sessions
  • Orrin Hatch
  • Chuck Grassley
  • Jon Kyl
  • Lindsey Graham
  • John Cornyn
  • Tom Coburn

Remember Al Franken’s first rape joke, in this never-run skit about Andy Rooney for Saturday Night Live?

“And ‘I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then when Lesley’s passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her.’ Or ‘That’s why you never see Lesley until February.’ Or, ‘When she passes out I put her in various positions and take pictures of her.”

Here is the N.O.W.’s response to the controversy over that one:

[T]he Franken campaign distributed a statement in his defense from Shannon Drury, president of Minnesota’s chapter of the National Organization of Women.  “Now [the skit] is being used as an excuse to label him a misogynist. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Drury wrote Tuesday. “In fact, Al Franken will be a senator who will work tirelessly in support of women’s issues. After meeting with Al personally, I find his honesty and openness refreshing, his intelligence and perseverance inspiring.”

Who says feminists can’t take a joke? Or make one?  The N.O.W. is staying silent on the Chatigny nomination, of course.   Thank goodness we have principled feminists like Tom Coburn, Jeff Sessions, Orrin Hatch, and Lindsey Graham to speak for women in the Senate.  I really mean that.

Meanwhile, the conservative Concerned Women for America are protesting Chatigny’s nomination.  Click on the link in the Penny Nance article below for troubling footage of the Senate nomination hearings:

Brutal Rapists and Serial Killers Find an Advocate in Obama’s Latest Pick

Do you ever wonder WHO those insane judges are that believe sexual predators are only sick and should thus not be given maximum sentences?  I think those judges are unfit to rule.  However, President Obama apparently wants to give one a promotion.

Michael Ross, in a documentary on serial killers, describes how he tied up 14-year-old Leslie Shelley, put her in the trunk of his car, and “took the other girl, April Bernaise [also 14] out and I raped her, and killed her, and I put her in the front seat.”  He said he killed eight girls, ages 14-25, and if he wasn’t caught, he’d still be killing.

It was of this man that Robert Chatigny, a U.S. District Judge in Connecticut, said: “[Michael Ross] never should have been convicted.  Or if convicted, he never should have been sentenced to death.”  Then Chatigny fought to stop Mr. Ross’ execution — twice — and was both times overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Robert Chatigny is President Obama’s latest nominee to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, a lifetime appointment spot and can be a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. . .

Chatigny was grilled by Republican Senators recently in his Judiciary Committee hearing.  Only one Democrat Senator showed up, and she asked no hard questions of the rapist defender.  Here’s a shocking video from the hearing, interspersed with an interview from Michael Ross himself on how he killed and raped his victims.

June 1st, 2010 by Penny Nance

The Guilty Project: Who Let Child Rapist John Speights Escape on Bond? And What About Those Other 30 Arrests?

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This is John Speights. He strolled out of a Tampa courthouse last week during his trial for raping a 12-year old child and disappeared.  The sheriff couldn’t stop him because a judge had let him bond out back in 2008, when he was originally charged with ten counts of child rape.  And, oh yeah, he’s been arrested at least 30 other times in Tampa alone for charges including battery, bigamy, aggravated assault, cruelty to a child and domestic violence, yet he has no state prison record, which means that prosecutors had to drop some or all of those charges, or other judges cut him serial breaks for multiple violent crimes . . . or all of these things happened, enabling him to remain free to rape children.

The police catch ’em and the courts let ’em go:

John Speights, aka “Poppa Love”

Oh and, by the way, Speights impregnated his child victim, yet the judge granted bond anyway, even, apparently, after the results of the DNA test were known.  The child victim gave birth two years ago, and Speights was unambiguously identified as the father.

If ten counts of child rape affirmed by DNA doesn’t count as a no-bond situation, what does count?

Was the judge who let him go in 2008 (despite knowing about the DNA) the same judge who presided over Speight’s trial last week, or did two entirely different Tampa judges independently make the same troubling call: that a man who impregnated a little girl should be permitted to remain free while being tried for an offense that would put him behind bars for life?

And if there were two judges involved, why didn’t the trial judge withdraw Speight’s bond?  Is this another case of one judge not wishing to “second guess” the decision of another (see here, here, and here)?

The judge who let Speights bond out in 2008 put his child victim, a relative, in grave danger, but she’s hardly the only child who was endangered by Speight’s bond.  Speights has fathered 32 children of his own, and he raped his victim in a household where 12 of his children were also living.  So he was committing child rape in a house with 12 other potential victims, and he even committed child rapes in a room where his infant was sleeping, and yet, some judge looked at this evidence and let him go back to that household and those children to await trial?

That betrays a profound lack of seriousness in the court’s approach to this crime.

For, does anybody actually believe Speights only raped one little girl?  Besides the judge, that is?  Thanks to DNA, prosecutors and police were able to build the current case against him, but detectives told America’s Most Wanted that they had tried to build sexual assault cases against Speights in the past, only to have the victims withdraw out of fear.  Given that, and his prior arrests for acts of violence against women and children, and the fact that his relatives are defending him and have turned on the current victim, there is no way this man should have been permitted to see the light of day since his first appearance in the courtroom two years ago.

Not only is Speights a violent child sexual predator who tried to flee the police when they went to arrest him for child rape, but he is an extremely dangerous type of violent child sexual predator: one who has groomed a cabal of accessories among his own family.  The family is so well-trained that they left the courtroom when he waved his hand, marching out as he absconded.

It takes a village to rape a child.

In this case, the “village” includes Speights’ family, the Hillsborough County Courts, and twisted exclusionary rules that make it nigh-on impossible to mount a successful prosecution of even the worst offenders.  Not a very nice place to live, this village.  How many other children are in danger from Speights at this very minute?

It utterly defies comprehension how some judge could sit in a courtroom, look at Speights’ 30 prior arrests, his prior history of absconding, the intimidation of the victim, the age of the victim, the impregnation of the victim, the evidence of rapes committed in the presence of an infant and multiple other children, the record of violence, the family members supporting the rapist, and still say: “Hey, here’s a guy who deserves to be released on his own recognizance.”

And why isn’t anyone in the media asking the right questions? Instead of asking the court why a dangerous child rapist with a history of fleeing police was granted bond in the first place and then had that bond upheld by the trial judge, reporters asked the sheriff why he couldn’t keep Speights from leaving the courthouse.  The answer, of course, was simple: the law wouldn’t allow them to stop him, once the judge granted bond:

Speights had been free on $60,000 bond since 2008. According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Larry McKinnon . . . when a person has been released on bond, it is not the responsibility of the bailiffs to monitor them when they are in court. They are allowed to go as they please, although they have been entrusted to show up for all court matters.  “The bailiff’s responsibility is to monitor the proceedings of the court and not to guard or supervise those out on bond. That’s why they’re out on bond,” McKinnon said.

Reporters have carefully avoided naming any of the judges involved.  I imagine that’s because they know that if any judges get criticized, they will lose valuable media access to all judges.  That’s how the game gets played, after all.  I’ve had more than one reporter tell me so.  Easier to point fingers at the nearest cop and call it a day.

And God forbid if Bill O’Reilly comes knocking on the courtroom doors about another Tampa rapist inappropriately cut loose by a judge.

~~~

America’s Most Wanted featured Speights on their show and have offered something nobody in the local press seemed to think important: a detailed description of the man, and his tattoos.  They’re hard to miss:

5 feet 10 inches tall and 205 pounds — and he’s covered with tattoos, including: praying hands and Playboy bunny on his right arm; snowman and tiger on right shoulder; cross with a rose on his left arm; a rose with the name “Twandra” on his chest; “Pop” on the left side of his chest; “$$$” on the inside of his left thigh; and the word “Psych” tattooed on the left side of his neck.  Catch this convict before he hurts someone else. Call us right now at 1-800-CRIME-TV if you’ve seen him.

Rapists, Child Molesters Treated With Most Lenience: Washington Examiner

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Why does it seem like the people who commit the most heinous sex crimes are the ones getting multiple breaks from the courts?  Apparently, I’m not the only person wondering.  I certainly hope the Washington Examiner doesn’t mind that I’m copying their article in its entirety.  It’s so staggeringly rare to find stories outside the “Hooray, We’re Emptying the Prisons” media drumbeat these days:

Freed criminals prey on public

By: Scott McCabe
Examiner Staff Writer
March 21, 2010

From left: Darryl Hazel, Robert Joseph Williams and Virgilio Nunez

Cops hunt felons turned loose by system

A high percentage of the top fugitives sought by U.S. marshals in the region had been in the hands of authorities only to slip away through cracks in the legal system or questionable judicial decisions.
Of the criminals designated “Most Wanted” by the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force, more than 70 percent had been released from custody for various reasons, requiring marshals’ deputies to track them down again.

Imagine the cost of tracking these felons down, not once, but twice, and sometimes more than that.

Some presented a clear danger to area residents:

» Two-time convicted killer Darryl Hazel was two months out of prison when he was arrested on drug charges, released on his own recognizance and went into hiding.

» After Virgilio Nunez was charged with 15 counts of child sex abuse involving multiple children, the El Salvador native was allowed to post $10,000 bail. He remains on the loose, authorities said.

» Robert Joseph Williams was out on supervised parole after serving 20 years of a 35-year prison sentence for raping his adoptive mother. He was put on supervised probation. But during that time he was charged again with drug distribution. He violated the conditions of his probation and disappeared.

» D.C. Jail inmate William Brice, awaiting trial in a near-fatal shooting, was allowed to be released into the custody of his defense attorney and attend his father’s funeral. The inmate fled the funeral, his lawyer failed to notify the court and Brice has the been on the run for more than two years.

William Chambliss, a criminologist at American University, said the biggest mistake when talking about the law or the courts is to think the system is rational, organized and precisely managed.

“It’s fundamentally flawed,” Chamblis said. “It’s impossible to create a large bureaucracy that is not going to make a lot of stupid mistakes.”

Hazel, 33, already had two murder convictions under his belt when he was re-arrested in D.C. for misdemeanor marijuana and heroin charges last year. At age 15 he pleaded to the shotgun death of a Capitol Hills store clerk. At age 22, Hazel killed again, this time in Northern Virginia. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in federal court, served eight years hard time and was placed on probation.

So this guy killed two people.  He served something less than 15 years for two murders.  The D.C. court simply decided to stop monitoring him, and once they got around to picking him up again, he’d been involved in another shooting:

According to records, after his drug arrest, D.C. court officials attempted to call Hazel’s probation officer but the officer had been transferred and the replacement was unavailable. Five days later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office withdrew its request to keep him behind bars.

Hazel was set free and told to return to court in four weeks. He didn’t.

Seven months later, on the day he was featured as a Most Wanted fugitive in The Examiner, U.S. marshals said they got a tip from a reader who reported that Hazel was living under the name of a dead relative. Marshals arrested him.

During their investigation, detectives discovered that Hazel was involved in a shooting three months earlier while using his alias. Hazel has not been charged in connection with the shooting.

Hey, why bother charging him?  It’s just his third known violent crime.  And the other two were just murders.  Yet what you read in virtually every newspaper, day after day, is overstimulated, breathless reporting on “alternative sentencing,” emptying the prisons, and the newest pro-offender cash-cow, “prisoner re-entry.”

None of these initiatives, they tell, us, will apply to violent offenders, of course.

They’re lying:

The most lenient cases, said one Maryland prosecutor, seem to fall on people accused of sex, child abuse or domestic violence crimes, especially if the supsect “doesn’t look like central casting with the knuckles dragging to the floor.” One violent sex offender had to be picked up three times for violating his parole.

Virgilio Nunez, 44, was indicted on 15 counts of child sex abuse in February 2009 when a Montgomery County court commissioner allowed him to post a $10,000 bond, authorities said. Nunez, who was born in El Salvador, hasn’t been seen since. Nunez’s court records were sealed under adoption privacy laws.

State’s attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy’s office said he could not comment.

Valencia Mohammed, a victim’s rights advocate who lost two sons in separate killings, said she’s amazed that Nunez was allowed to post bail.

“Immigrants seem to be let off on things that I know that we would be held on,” Mohammed said. “Why give them the opportunity flee? Why put the bail so low or make the sentence so lenient that you let the person out to commit so harm? It makes no sense.”

Joe diGenova, former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said these incidents are inevitable in a system that handles huge numbers of cases.

It happens all the time,” said diGenova. He said sanctions should be considered against judicial officials whose mistakes endanger the public. “This is important stuff,” he said. “The public relies on the function of the system.”

Good luck with that “judicial sanction” fantasy.  Judges are above the law: there are barely any mechanisms by which they censure each other, and forget about the rest of us weighing in.  What of that defense attorney who helped his client escape?  Were there even consequences?

Duplicative, hyper-vigilant review boards monitor every move the police make; civil rights organizations scream endlessly over every defendant’s rights and privileges; prosecutors face a rising tide of disruptive legal actions to keep them from doing their jobs.  But defense attorneys can do virtually anything in court with no fear of censure, and judges who fail to enforce sentencing law or make appalling errors that result in wrongful releases are never held responsible.  Not even when someone gets murdered as a consequence of their carelessness.

No, consequences are for the little people.  The non-lawyers, non-judges, non-criminals.

~~~

Here is a very interesting post from Britain by a cop who sees the same thing, day in and day out.  The cops pick them up, and the courts cut them loose, says PCBloggs:

[I]t disturbs me that the courts seem to operate in a world apart from the rest of us, with no accountability whatsoever when flagrantly ludicrous decisions are made and a nonsense made of facts. I have sat in court and heard a defence solicitor telling a magistrate that his client had not been in trouble with the police since the incident in question, with no recourse whatsoever for me to leap to my feet clutching the defendant’s police print screaming “Damned lies!” If a police officer falsely presented facts in court, regardless of whether through ignorance or malice, they would be rightly investigated and potentially prosecuted.

Likewise, if a police officer attended a report of child rape and decided to leave the offender wandering free to attack his next victim, he would probably be jailed for neglect. This judge remains free to continue unchecked. It appears that in the interests of a fair trial, anything goes.
So should the Yorkshire Ripper achieve his parole and go onto offend days, weeks or months later, the judge who frees him would at the worst face removal from office via an internal process. More likely, they would merely be villified in the press but no actual sanctions brought, largely because there are no serious disciplinary or criminal measures that can be brought. I am not suggesting we can or should realistically prosecute masses of judges for manslaughter or neglect for every offender who reoffends under their grammercy. But why should those options be ruled out when they weigh on the minds of every other member of the criminal justice process? Why should accountability fall at the last hurdle?
Why should accountability fall at the last hurdle?  Indeed.

Robert Chatigny: By Nominating Him, Obama Shows Extreme Contempt For Victims

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Barack Obama is arguably the most offender-friendly, victim-loathing president the country has ever seen.  His judicial and political philosophies are reflexively anti-incarceration.  His political career suggests a particularly disturbing pattern of disrespect for victims of sex crime.

In the Illinois state senate, Obama was the only senator who refused to support a bill allowing victims of sexual assault to have certain court records sealed.  The bill was intended to protect victims from having their sex lives and other extremely personal information (medical and gynecological records) splayed out in the public record for all to see after a trial had ended.  The legislation was written to protect the dignity of women who had been victimized by rapists, and then re-victimized in the courtroom at the hands of sleazy defense attorneys.

The vote for the bill was 58 – 0.  Obama alone abstained from voting, though he was present.

So, while Obama was far from the only liberal in the Illinois state senate, he was the only liberal in the Illinois state senate who believed that a victim of rape has no right to conceal from the public, for example, the fact that she contracted a venereal disease or was impregnated by her attacker.

And, as he had done so many times before, Obama didn’t even display the courage of his convictions by openly voting against the bill.  He voted, merely, “present,” so his opposition to the law would be easier to conceal in subsequent elections.

It would have been far less contemptuous to simply vote “no.”  Then, at least, victims would know precisely what the young senator and constitutional law professor thought of their dignity.  Abstaining from voting sent a stone-cold message — that Obama considered any consideration of the privacy rights of raped women to be quite a few rungs lower than his future political ambition.

It is important to understand that this vote against victims’ rights was no isolated case in the president’s history, as we are reminded today, when news broke that Obama was nominating U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny for the Court of Appeals.

Chatigny is far from the only liberal judge sitting on the bench, but he is the only liberal sitting judge who became so enamored of a sexual serial killer that he denounced the state for deigning to prosecute, let alone convict, the killer.

Michael Ross started raping at an early age, and he had raped and murdered at least eight young women by the time he was caught.  Although there was no question of his guilt, from the moment Ross entered the legal system, he attracted vocal, activist supporters.  This is, sadly, not unusual: raping and slaughtering eight innocent women is, in some circles, quite a draw.  Records from Ross’ trial and appeal barely focus on the young women: they are the usual intricate inquiry into Ross’ feelings, Ross’ rights, Ross’ mood on death row, Ross’ childhood, Ross’ dating disappointments, ad infinitum.

Oh, and the hurt feelings of one hired defense psychologist, who believed he was being dissed by a trial judge.

The system disappears the victims, then the courtroom disappears the victims, then the appeals process disappears the victims, so by the time activists like Robert Chatigny set out to rehabilitate vicious torturers like Michael Ross, there’s no need to haul out metaphysical barrels of lye to dissolve what’s left of his crimes.  That had already been done, with an efficiency that would make an Argentinian death squad spill tears of shame all over the helicopter tarmac.

Judge Chatigny looked at Michael Ross and saw, not a killer, but someone who was suffering from “sexual sadism” and thus should not be held responsible for his actions.  The judge presented a sort of a twinkie defense on Ross’ behalf, the twinkie being Ross’ compulsive inability to stop torturing women.  Ross had been posturing the same defense from death row for two decades: in the killer’s mind, and the judge’s mind, he was the victim of a cruel mother, world, impulse disorder, judiciary, counsel, jury, and insufficiently plumped procedural protections.  But especially, he was a victim of this faux sadism syndrome, the existence of which, in Chatigny’s mind, supercedes the fatal outcome of Ross’ crimes and delegitimates the state’s prosecution of him.

Fox News reports:

[Chatigny] repeatedly stuck up for Ross, saying he suffered from “this affliction, this terrible disease” and suggesting Ross “may be the least culpable, the least, of the people on death row.”  “Looking at the record in a light most favorable to Mr. Ross, he never should have been convicted,” Chatigny said [emphasis added].  “Or if convicted, he never should have been sentenced to death because his sexual sadism, which was found by every single person who looked at him, is clearly a mitigating factor.”

He never should have been convicted?  Really, really enjoying torturing and killing women is a mitigating factor?  This is the mindset Obama chooses to elevate?

Michael Ross: Not a Victim

The legal strategy crafted by Michael Ross and his supporters was to present Ross as a helpless victim deserving of empathy, instead of a vicious killer meriting punishment.  This is not merely a favored strategy of anti-incarceration activism: it is perhaps the most cherished “ethical practice” of the Left.

It is also only effective if the victims’ lives and suffering are simultaneously erased — buried, and forgotten.  Killers can only be elevated if the memory of their victims is systematically denied.  That is what Judge Robert Chatigny did to Ross’ victims in 2005 and what Obama is doing to them now.

I don’t believe for a moment that Obama nominated Chatigny to the higher bench despite the judge’s horrific transgressions in the Michael Ross case: I believe he nominated Chatigny because of those transgressions.  That would be entirely in keeping with the legal and political worldview Obama has endorsed throughout his career.  And, yes, this is extremely disturbing.

Chatigny’s other claim to fame is opposing sex offender registries.  If this administration gets its way, will sex offender registries become a thing of the past?

Here are the names of Ross’ known victims (their photos are here). Little girls, some of them.  All dead, now.  Too bad Eric Holder doesn’t call them victims of hate crime.  If he did, the president would not have nominated the man who set out to liberate, and valorize, their killer:

Dzung Ngoc Tu, 25, a Cornell University student, killed May 12, 1981. Paula Perrera, 16, of Wallkill, N.Y., killed in March, 1982. Tammy Williams, 17, of Brooklyn, killed Jan. 5, 1982. Debra Smith Taylor, 23, of Griswold, killed June 15, 1982. Robin Stavinksy, 19, of Norwich, killed November, 1983. April Brunias, 14, of Griswold, killed April 22, 1984. Leslie Shelley, 14, of Griswold, killed April 22, 1984. Wendy Baribeault, 17, of Griswold, killed June 13, 1984.

Barack Obama should reach out to every one of these families and apologize.

~~~

Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman are supporting Judge Chatigny’s appointment.  Call the Senators’ offices and urge them to withdraw their support.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy suspended hearings on Chatigny’s appointment when prosecutors from Connecticut sent him a letter outlining the Ross scandal.  Call and encourage Leahy to take the prosecutor’s concerns seriously.

Senator Jeff Sessions is vocally opposing the nomination.  Thank the Senator for taking a stand.

You Have The Right to Commit Crime. Nothing You Say or Do Will be Used Against You in a Court of Law.

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Yesterday, I linked to one section of an interesting Philadelphia Inquirer series on chaos in the courts.  The entire series is worth reading, but you have to download a flash player to view it all (pathetically, that’s onerous for me): here’s the link.

Anyone who believes the problems described by the Inquirer are limited to the City of Brotherly Love has not visited a courtroom in their own jurisdiction lately.

Such problems are not even limited to our country, though the panoply of indulgences we shower on criminal defendants used to be the envy of criminals throughout the world.  As in so many other endeavors, the rest of the world is catching up with us.  Britain may be even more lenient than we are on serial recidivists, and simultaneously hard on ordinary people who break the law, a phenomenon crying out for a name.

See, for example, this from the U.K. Telegraph:

Businessman Jailed For Attacking Intruder, Who Goes Free

Munir Hussain, who was threatened at knifepoint and tied up by a gang of masked men in his living room last year, was told he must go to prison for 30 months to preserve “civilised society”.

But Walid Salem, a criminal with more than 50 convictions, was handed a two-year supervision order for his role in the break-in at an earlier hearing.

He was one of three men who ambushed Mr Hussain, his wife and children . . . Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were forced to crawl from room to room before being forced to lie down in the living room . . . when Hussain’s teenage son managed to escape and raise the alarm, he seized his chance and turned on his captors. While two of them got away, Salem was cornered in a neighbour’s front garden. With the help of his brother, Tokeer, 35, who lived nearby, Hussain set upon him with a metal pole and a cricket bat, the court heard.

Hussain and his brother got long prison sentences: 30 and 39 months, for retaliating in the heat of the moment against a man who was terrorizing their community and had tied up and threatened — in a word, tortured — Hussain’s wife and children.  Walid Salem, he of the torture and 50 priors, got no jail time.  No matter what you think of the Hussain brothers’ actions, it is hard to read the words of their sentencing judge without simply recoiling:

“[I]f persons were permitted to take the law into their own hands and inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.”

Whatever part of walking free after 50 prior crimes and a current crime of such severity does not indicate the collapse of both civilization and the British system of criminal justice, eludes me.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia:

Just 23 years old, John Gassew has been arrested 44 times, mostly on charges of sticking a gun in people’s faces and robbing them.

But in the eyes of the law, Gassew isn’t an armed robber.

He’s never been convicted.

Gassew has only been sent to jail once, for a drug charge.  So on the books, he looks just like all those imaginary people locked away for no reason other than that they once took a toke of pot.  Remember that the next time some activist starts ranting about the unfairness of our “barbaric” justice system.  It’s unfair, allright:

Despite being called one of the city’s more prolific, and sometimes violent, stickup men by police – they say he bashed a delivery man over the head with a bat, shot at a 13-year-old neighbor, and smashed in the face of a robbery victim – Gassew has been sentenced to jail only once, for a drug charge.

The Northeast Philadelphia man has become so confident in his ability to beat charges, police say, that he openly scoffs at the system. In December 2007, officers arrested him as he ran down a street, leaving behind a car that police said was filled with the loot from 21 robberies he committed in just one weekend.

“It looked like a store in there,” said Detective Bob Kane.

As Kane and Detective Robert Conn of the Northeast Detective Division tell it, when they confronted Gassew with four trash bags of evidence, he leaned back in his chair and told them he’d take his chances in court.

“The bad guys know that if they come in the front door, the back door is usually open,” Conn said.

That back door being the courts, where some bloviating magistrate listens hard to the sound of his own voice as he ushers felons back onto the streets.  It’s the same story everywhere:

A small-time criminal emboldened by a system that fails time and again to put him away graduates to more violent acts and, eventually, a standoff with police.

Gassew has beaten cases in almost every way – including three trials in which he was found not guilty after witnesses changed their story on the stand or were found not credible.

“Twenty-three years old and 44 priors. There’s no excuse for that,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

“A second chance? OK. A third chance? OK. But how about a 30th? At some point, you have to realize this guy’s a menace to society. You can’t keep cranking him out,” said Ramsey.

After a decade of attempts to crack down on gun crime, the streets of Philadelphia are still awash with armed robbers, and the courts are unable to put them away even when they are caught red-handed.

And why is that?  Because those “decades of attempts” coincided with and were not nearly as powerful as the vast and systematic dismantling of consequences for criminal actions enacted by an unholy cabal of activists, attorneys, academicians, all abetted by cherished public fantasies about our prisons being stuffed full of innocent men, and felons being misunderstood innocents crying out for help.

One of the most effective ways of keeping people out of prison is to de-fund the courts by creating unnecessary, virtually unenforceable sets of hoops to be jumped through in order to achieve a prosecution.  Philadelphia is the poster child for such legal shenanigans, but it’s bad everywhere, and behind every legal loophole, there’s some self-satisfied appellate judge telling his grandchildren how gramps bravely protected the poor and weak — criminals, that is.

That’s how streets ended up “awash” with crime.  Fitting adjective, awash:

Of the 9,850 gunpoint robberies reported in the city in 2006 and 2007, only a quarter were brought to court, according to an Inquirer analysis. In the end, only two in 10 accused armed robbers were found guilty of armed robbery.”There’s a law on the books that enhances the penalty when you commit a crime with a gun. It’s not enforced,” noted [Police Commissioner] Ramsey, referring to the state’s mandatory minimum five-year sentence for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a felony.

I would love to hear an explanation from any judge — or law professor — regarding the state of affairs that exists today, in Atlanta, Philadelphia, every major city, wherein judges and prosecutors simply disregard the laws they are required (you know, by law) to enforce.  I’ve never heard an explanation, nor have I heard one peep about censure of the many judges whose careless abdication of their responsibilities have most recently resulted in horrific subsequent crimes:

A 13-year-old girl who lived next door said Gassew pointed a sawed-off shotgun at her and asked, “Do you all want to die?”, before firing at her. A judge found the story credible enough to allow Gassew to be tried as an adult. But a different judge found him not guilty.

In May 2004, Gassew was charged with clubbing a pizza-delivery man over the head with a baseball bat and stealing about $100. The victim, who spoke only Spanish, identified Gassew at the scene and later in court. But Gassew was found not guilty after a witness changed her story on the stand.

Prosecutors said she was scared. Another neighbor, who also identified Gassew, failed to appear. Even a codefendant in one of Gassew’s robbery cases said he was scared of him.

Police say they had reason to be frightened. His own aunt, Neilene Calloway, took out an emergency restraining order on him in April 2005 after several armed men came looking for him at the house.

It appears that court authorities in Philadelphia were content to wait for Gassew to murder someone before they acted.  We are all responsible for letting such things go on.  We sacrifice victim after victim and do nothing:

Jennifer Mulholland, who was a bartender at Brian’s Sports Bar in Frankford, got a taste of [Gassew’s threat].

Gassew drank there often, she said in an interview, and befriended her.

One night in May 2006, Gassew said good night and left. A short time later, a man wearing a mask burst into the bar with a gun in his hand and demanded that she empty the register.

Mulholland thought it was Gassew. “Quit playing,” she told him.

“It’s not a joke,” the robber replied, pointing the silver gun at her head.

“I knew it was him,” she recalled.

He grabbed her by the neck and told her to open the register.

She gave him the money.

Mulholland, whose father is a police sergeant, said she was prepared to testify.

“I never got a court notice,” she said.

There are millions of Jennifer Mulhollands in this country (and elsewhere), victims whose lives were treated like garbage, and then “the system” decided they had no rights, who could have died and then were told that their right to even be heard in court was irrelevant because the rights of criminals are the only rights that matter at all.

I’m one of those people; my husband is another.  We were both merely lucky to survive.  So were the cops who ended up getting shot at by John Gassew, in the utterly inevitable, thankfully non-fatal, denouement of a decade of criminal negligence on the part of the Philadelphia court system issuing from the end of Gassew’s semiautomatic handgun.

The law comes down hard on decent people, while prolific thugs are literally groomed in-court by irresponsible judges and lawyers to escalate their violence to the tipping point.

At what point do people like us get some answers from those responsible?

The Guilty Project: Patrick Hampton

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From the Bradenton (FL) Herald:

Repeated Judicial Leniency, Misuse of Mental Incompetence Status, Parole Board Leniency, Repeated Failure of “Community Control”

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This is Patrick Hampton. In 2003, he tried to kill a man by stabbing him “several times” with a steak knife.  Instead of sending him to prison, Judge Peter Dubensky sent him to a mental institution.  Some six months later, Dubensky ruled that Hampton was competent for trial.  Then he sentenced him to four years in prison.

Four years for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.  Why?  Hampton walked into prison in March of 2005.   Two and a half years later, August 2007, he walked out.

So, between Judge Dubensky’s inane sentencing and the equally inane actions of Florida’s parole board, which persists in letting violent felons walk early despite the trail of broken bodies that ensue (like, mine), Hampton was free to kill his stepmother last Friday.

There is nothing wrong with judges finding people mentally unfit to stand trial, of course.  But once they are deemed fit, they need to actually be held responsible for their crimes, or they need to be kept incarcerated if they’re so dangerous that they’re not responsible.  One or the other, right?  Mental illness combined with criminal acts shouldn’t be treated like some sentencing version of an early-bird two-for-one.

Did Dubensky go easy on Hampton because he decided that his mental illness excused his attempt to murder someone?

Or does Dubensky just go easy on extremely violent, recidivist felons?

Or did he go easy on Hampton for some other reason, some dangerously misguided paternalistic impulse for a man he’d seen in his courtroom before?

According to Manatee County’s criminal records, the 2003 stabbing was not the first time Judge Dubensky encountered Patrick Hampton in court.  That would be way back in 1997:

ADJUDGED GUILTY SENTENCED TO 6 MONTHS COUNTY JAIL WITH CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED CONCURRENT WITH 93-3601F $261.00 COURT COSTS BY JUDGMENT THIRTY DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL-JUDGE PETER DUBENSKY PLEA SHEET FROM 07/07/97.

From what I can tell from the on-line sources, that incarceration appears to have resulted from the last time someone went easy on Hampton because he was mentally ill.  After he attacked his father, he was given outpatient therapy and probation instead of a prison sentence, then he violated the terms of probation:

REPRESENTED BY PATRICK FORD, ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER STATE REPRESENTED BY IRENE PLANK WITHDREW DENIAL ACKNOWLEDGE & WAIVER OF RIGHTS FILED IN OPEN COURT COUNT I ADMITTED VIOLATION OF PROBATION. PROBATION REVOKED ADJUGED GUILTY ON ORIGINAL OFFENSE PLACED ON 2 YEARS COMMUNITY CONTROL, CONTINUE AND COMPLETE OUTPATIENT PROGRAM AT MANATEE GLENS. CONTINUE TAKING MEDICATION. ORIGINAL CONDITIONS TO APPLY. COST OF SUPERVISION WAIVED. COUNT II ADMITTED VIOLATION OF PROBATION. PROBATION REVOKED CREDIT OF TIME SERVICE IN THE COUNTY JAIL 30 DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL-JUDGE ROBERT J BOYLSTON VIOLATION OF PROBATION DOCKET FROM 4/3/96

So, let’s get this straight: Hampton violated probation, so he was placed on outpatient community control?  What the heck is probation anyway?

Note, too, the “cost of supervision waived.”  It and other waivers appear throughout his lengthy trips through the Manatee County Courts.  Between that freebie, and the price of giving him multiple public defenders, and dozens of separate court hearings, and the cost of hospitalization for his victims, and the cost of some court shrink evaluating him every time he decided to stop taking his medication and went on another tear, and the cost of the police catching him and delivering him to one courtroom or another, where yet another well-paid judge let him go on “community control” again and an admonishment to take his meds, can you imagine how much it has cost the taxpayers of Florida to allow this violent, recidivist felon to walk the streets?

Think about that the next time some liberal state politician screams that alternatives to incarceration cost less than incarceration.  Also think about it the next time some conservative state politician screams that we’re spending too much on the state prison budget and quietly betrays his own “tough on crime” stance by colluding with the liberals to let offenders out early to save a dime (thus displacing costs to the counties, where they’re harder to track).

And then there’s that other cost: one human life, Maxine Hampton, 83. Evidence of her murder includes a broken glass, a knife, and a frying pan.  Imagine that.  Who could have possibly predicted that a mentally unstable, non-medically compliant, violent recidivist who had stabbed at least one person in the past and had a history of violence towards his parents would do the same again?

1994:

REPRESENTED BY DAVID EHLERS, ASST PUBLIC DEFENDER STATE REPRESENTED BY IRENE PLANK COUNTS 1 & 2: PLEAD NOLO CONTENDERE, ADJUDICATION WITHHELD COUNT I- WITHDREW PREVIOUS PLEA ACKNOWLEDGE & WAIVER OF RIGHTS FILED IN OPEN COURT PLACED ON 5 YEARS PROBATION. ENTER AND COMPLETE THE OUT PATIENT PROGRAM THROUGH GLEN OAKS OR MANATEE GLENS. TIME SERVED COUNTY JAIL WITH CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED. WAIVE COS. WAIVER OF PRIVILEDGED COMMUNICATION SIGNED AND FILED WITH PROBATION. $250.00 COURT COSTS BY JUDGMENT.COUNT II-PLACED ON 12 MONTHS PROBATION CONCURRENT WITH COUNT I. COS WAIVED. TIME SERVED COUNTY JAIL WITH CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED. THIRTY DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL (PAUL E. LOGAN) PRE TRIAL CONFERENCE DOCKET FROM 3/24/94

1995:

NOTICE OF CASE ACTION FILED CRIMINAL CHARGES WILL NOT BE FILED AS TO AGGRAVATED BATTERY & 2 COUNTS OF CRIMINAL MISCHIEF CHARGES WILL BE FILED AS BATTERY & 2 COUNTS OF CRIMINAL MISCHIEF UNDER MISDEMEANOR CASE #95-5668M

1996:

PROBATION REVOKED ADJUGED GUILTY ON ORIGINAL OFFENSE PLACED ON 2 YEARS COMMUNITY CONTROL, CONTINUE AND COMPLETE OUTPATIENT PROGRAM AT MANATEE GLENS. CONTINUE TAKING MEDICATION. ORIGINAL CONDITIONS TO APPLY. COST OF SUPERVISION WAIVED. COUNT II ADMITTED VIOLATION OF PROBATION. PROBATION REVOKED CREDIT OF TIME SERVICE IN THE COUNTY JAIL 30 DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL-JUDGE ROBERT J BOYLSTON VIOLATION OF PROBATION DOCKET FROM 4/3/96

1997:

REPRESENTED BY ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER CYNDEE NEWTON STATE REPRESENTED BY CYNTHIA EVERS WITHDREW PREVIOUS PLEA ACKNOWLEDGE & WAIVER OF RIGHTS FILED IN OPEN COURT PLEAD NOLO CONTENDERE, ADJUDGED GUILTY SENTENCED TO 6 MONTHS COUNTY JAIL WITH CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED CONCURRENT WITH 93-3601F $261.00 COURT COSTS BY JUDGMENT THIRTY DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL-JUDGE PETER DUBENSKY PLEA SHEET FROM 07/07/97

2003:

REPRESENTED BY DAVID EHLERS, ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER STATE REPRESENTED BY DAWN BUFF WITHDREW PREVIOUS PLEA ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND WAIVER OF RIGHTS FILED IN OPEN COURT PLED /NOLO CONTENDERE, ADJUDGED GUILTY PLACED ON PROBATION FOR 3 YEARS COST OF SUPERVISION WAIVED 100 HOURS PUBLIC SERVICE HOURS IN EQUAL MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS WITHIN 34 MONTHS COURT IMPOSE COURT COSTS OF $261.00 BY JUDGMENT $150.00 COURT FACILITY FEE PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 5 TRUST FUND BY JUDGMENT $40.00 PUBLIC DEFENDER APPLICATIONS FEES, REDUCED TO JUDGMENT $150.00 ATTORNEY’S FEES BY JUDGMENT . . . TAKE ALL MEDICATIONS AS PRESCRIBED DEFENDANT SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER SENTENCING GUIDELINES FILED IN OPEN COURT THIRTY DAYS TO APPEAL – JUDGE MARC B. GILNER FROM 02/12/03 PLEA SHEET

The on-line records from Manatee County indicate at least five separate felonies against Hampton, along with either three or four other cases prior to 1993 that cannot be viewed on-line.  Some are serious felonies, some minor felonies, but in each case the result appears the same: the judge ignores Hampton’s mounting record of recidivism and sends him for more therapy.  The dockets for each viewable case involve multiple court hearings, multiple lawyers, multiple instances of judicial leniency.

One of Hampton’s many defense attorneys blamed a lack of mental health resources in the wake of his client’s latest attack:

[David] Ehlers on Monday recalled his former client as a man with obvious mental illness and needing more treatment.  “He was clearly someone who was mentally ill,” said Ehlers. “But the situation is that the demand for mental health services is overwhelming, and the state probably doesn’t keep everyone in as long as they should.”

So what did Ehlers do about his client’s obvious inability to live safely in society, which he says was clear to him?  He cut a deal with a judge for a pittance of prison time and got Hampton back on the streets as fast as he could.

In hindsight, was that really in “the best interest of his client”?

And did the state really fail to provide Patrick Hampton with mental health resources?  Since at least 1994, he has been ordered to receive, and provided with, state-provided in-patient and out-patient mental health care.  Over the last 15 years, he repeatedly rejected the outpatient treatment, but instead of protecting the public from an unstable man with a proven record of violence, judges kept sending him back for more “community control.”

What’s that saying about the definition of crazy?

The Possibilities of Realpolitick: Now That Kasim Reed or Mary Norwood Have Won the Atlanta Mayoral Election, What Will They Do?

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Regardless of who wins, they will have to address the betrayal of the public that marked Shirley Franklin and Richard Pennington’s last years.

Choosing a new police chief will be part of that.  But there are deeper problems.  Most, if not all of the people pictured below would be alive today if not for the radical leniency shown to repeat offenders in Atlanta’s courts.

A new mayor is limited in his or her power to directly impact the justice system.  But they control some purse strings, and as representatives of the city to the Georgia legislature, they can make it a legislative priorities to change the sentencing loopholes that still enable judges to go easy on recidivists and first-time offenders guilty of violent crimes.

People are dying because of this leniency.  What’s more important?

And as a prominent voice in politics, the new mayor can promote an ethic of selecting judges who view the courts as a place where everyone comes for justice, not a place where offenders go to be showered with attention, or just let go.

At the end of the day, 90% of the problems in our justice system boil down to resources and priorities.  What will the next mayor prioritize?  Or will he or she do nothing, as Franklin and Pennington did?

Look at these beautiful, kind faces.*  Pray for their families.

*I am sorry this gallery is far from complete.  These are pictures I have been keeping of murder victims killed in Atlanta since I started this blog.  There are others.

Pre-Holiday Mop-Up: Marvin Arrington and Georgia Juvenile Justice Take Me To School

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I wrote this a few weeks back and never posted it: I was waiting for a confirmation of some details.  In December, Crime Victims Media Report will be re-launching with more emphasis on The Guilty Project, an effort to document the ways prolific and violent offenders avoid justice.

I have been hearing recently from crime victims, their families, and other people who personally knew offenders before they were caught: their stories are compelling, and they have a lot to say about the justice system that needs to be heard by wider audiences.

There are millions of Americans who aren’t criminals but have been denied justice because some criminal got away with murder thanks to a lenient judge, or because the system is simply hard-wired to let offenders go.  These stories need to be told, and they are not being told in newspapers.  Meanwhile, as the following illustrates, too many of our courtrooms have become therapeutic entities for the benefit of even the most violent offenders.  If you know of a case or a court ruling that deserves notice, please contact me, either on the website or at my e-mail, tinatrent2@yahoo.com.

~~~

Over at Georgia Juvenile Justice, somebody’s rather upset that, way back in an editorial published in early September, I called Judge Marvin Arrington the “host” of a graduation party held from some violent inmate, rather than the “invited guest speaker.”  Here is their complaint, which got cc’d to a bunch of state employees and then mailed to Sunday Paper a mere six weeks after my editorial ran:

Permit me to respond to your editorial entitled “Judge Marvin Arrington’s Criminal Court” in the September 2, 2009 issue of The Sunday Paper.  This editorial unwittingly perpetrates a myth concerning Judge Arrington’s role at the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center’s (Metro RYDC) graduation last May.  You should be aware of the following facts.

Judge Arrington did not hold a “graduation party” for a convicted felon at the Metro RYDC.  This graduation was arranged by the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) Education Department.  This graduation ceremony was one of several held at DJJ facilities during the 2008 – 2009 DJJ school year.

Judge Arrington was simply invited as a speaker for the occasion. . .

Well, excusez-moi for not getting the table settings right.  Arrington was, in fact, the graduation speaker, though in the writer’s quest to minimize the judge’s role, he slides past that point for a few sentences.

Anyway, what I actually wrote was this:

Last spring, Arrington also held a “graduation party” for a convicted felon awaiting new charges at the Atlanta Metro Youth Detention Center.

So the Juvenile Justice official is right that Arrington didn’t “throw” the party for a convicted felon awaiting new charges but was merely the “honored guest” at the party for a convicted felon awaiting new charges.  It’s a tiny point, and, of course, not the point of my editorial.  My point was that Arrington, like many judges, behaves as if his role is to boost the self-esteem of violent young convicts rather than doing the things that are supposed to be his job: holding offenders responsible for their actions, protecting the public, and enforcing the law through appropriate sentencing.

Unfortunately, the courts are awash with ceremonies and celebrations for offenders.  In the trendy rush to treat offenders like “clients” and practice a therapeutic jurisprudence that wins praise from the academic/media/defense bar cabal, judges are too often tempted to abandon their role as enforcers of the law.  Sometimes they do this in the courtroom itself.  Sometimes they go off-site to other places to do it, but the effect is the same: they are carrying their title as judge with them.  They are speaking for the court and getting paid by the very same taxpayers who are being victimized by these offenders’ crimes.

And meanwhile, while they’re busy doing these other things, they’re also using the excuse that there aren’t enough resources to address all crimes, so most cases get pleaded away or postponed into perpetuity.  The prisons are full, they tell us, when what they really mean is that they philosophically oppose incarceration as deterrence.  The courts are suddenly broke, they’re telling us now, as if routinely pleading out 90% of all cases because they lacked the resources to try them in the past, right up until yesterday, wasn’t proof that they were broke before.

Back to my schooling.  I didn’t, incidentally, get the party’s location wrong, nor did I allege that Arrington presided over this particular offender’s trial, nor did I mention (let alone misrepresent) any of the other programs the Justice Department official reeled off in his demand that I stop “perpetrating myths” — I wasn’t even writing about those things.  This complaint letter by a state official is sadly dishonest throughout, both accusing me of misrepresenting facts I did not misrepresent and reeling off a list of corrections to the record about subjects I did not mention.

I suggest they get busy over at Juvenile Justice working on a retraction of the things of which they falsely accused me — or I might just sit myself down and write a firm letter to the editor complaining about them, by, say, January or February.

~~~

In the real world, where I was busy making the argument I was actually making, here is what I actually wrote about Marvin Arrington:

Last spring, Arrington also held a “graduation party” for a convicted felon awaiting new charges at the Atlanta Metro Youth Detention Center.

Robert Harris, 17, finished high school while incarcerated for a home invasion and armed robbery that sent three people to the hospital–two with head injuries from being pistol-whipped, one beaten so badly he had to have a testicle removed. Terrorized residents of the neighborhood where the crime occurred went to the courthouse and demanded that Harris not be released before trial (as he likely would have been).

Arrington’s response to the community’s outrage? He threw Harris a party, a two-hour ceremony with cake, balloons, cameramen and newspaper reporters, and Arrington as “graduation speaker” for the class of one graduating senior.

“You are as good as anybody,” Arrington told him.

Is he? That’s quite a message to send to the thousands of Atlanta students who graduated from high school last year without any detours for pistol-whipping or testicle-crushing.

Ah yes, the testicle-crushing.  Now that is quite a bit close to my actual point.  But, amazingly, Juvenile Justice felt the need to correct one point about that point, too.  They write:

[Arrington] told all of the students they are as good as anybody, not just the graduate.

That is one fascinatingly pointillistic complaint.  Let me see if I can paraphrase: I criticized Arrington for telling a violent, repeat offender who has mutilated and pistol-whipped people that he is “as good as” non-violent, non-repeat-offender, non-testicle-crushing, non-pistol-whipping youths, and Juvenile Justice retorts that my criticism is out of line because the judge was including other offenders in his Hallmark moment.

Somebody over at JJ needs to take a walk.  Or a pill.

Of course he was addressing the whole room, which doubtlessly contained other youths who are also not as good as youths who do not break laws and torture people.  I, at least, wouldn’t say that all the kids in that room are as bad as the ones who have, say, tried to beat people to death.

Are we now not even allowed to say that it’s “bad” to try to kill people by crushing their testicles and beating their heads in?  All things considered, if one young man spends his spare time delivering Meals on Wheels and the other spends his spare time beating rival gang members into the ICU, are we not allowed to distinguish between them in any way?  Does time in the can for aggravated assault equal one Boy Scout Merit Badge in the cosmic college application that is life?

More to the point, don’t the people at Juvenile Justice have better things to do with their time than make inane arguments like this in print?  For that matter, don’t they have anything at all to say about my editorial’s actual subject: serial leniency towards extremely violent offenders?  No?  Not one peep?  Try engaging the subject next time.  The public deserves better.  You are public servants: these are serious issues.  That letter was a joke and an embarrassment.

~~~

And it was more than that.  Did someone in Marvin Arrington’s office demand that Juvenile Justice take some action on my editorial?  It certainly looks that way.  Was this letter, correcting a tiny point weeks after the fact, and neglecting the editorial itself, actually a nervous capitulation to Arrington’s apparent anger at being challenged — challenged?!!

~~~

What’s sad about all of this, besides the apparent sense of entitlement and possible misuse of power, is that Arrington and I share a deep concern for the futures of the young men who go through his court.

I think I’m alone among people I know in not being bothered by the highly-publicized incident in which Arrington threw all the white people out of his court-room in order to talk tough with the young defendants there, all, apparently, African-Americans. (I would feel differently if non-black defendants were present and were subsequently treated differently).

This is what I think about what Arrington did that day: he was treating the young men’s behavior like the emergency that it is, for a change.

I used to let a group of extremely high-risk children into my home so I could feed them and help them with their homework, until one too many of them stole one too many things from me.  First, I stopped letting them come in the door, and then I had to even stop letting them up on my porch.

It was a worthless intervention anyway: all but one of them is either in prison or would be in prison if running up a long rap sheet got you incarcerated these days.

This is what that experience taught me: for a lot of the kids in juvenile facilities, incarceration is probably not only far safer than what passes for their home life, but a lot more productive in terms of securing them some type of decent future.  For virtually all of the young men who commit crimes bad enough to land them in a juvenile facility, being there is probably their best chance to try to finish school and avoid getting shot before they’re 25.  Consequences for committing crimes saves lives.

And don’t forget deterrence, because it’s not all about the offenders, no matter what many seem to think.  I can’t believe this must be said out loud, but it is hardly taken for granted in the current climate: incarcerating young offenders protects other people, especially their peers, from the dangers they pose.

However, we’re hardly allowed to talk about “deterrence” these days, let alone “punishment.”  Such words have become taboo in the therapeutic courtroom, where judges are far too eager to “relate” to offenders, instead of holding them accountable.

And so I committed a sin apparently more notable than pistol-whipping, stomping, torturing, shooting, or even killing someone: I slightly misrepresented Marvin Arrington’s table-place at a party for a violent serial offender.  Good thing the Juvenile Justice Department and the Fulton Superior Court jumped eagerly to make sure this terrible transgression, unlike so many others on their plate, did not pass unnoticed.

The Guilty Project: The First Rape is a Freebie, then Loc Buu Tran Slaughters A Young Woman

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Courtwatcher Orlando’s Laura Williams brings attention to the case of Loc Buu Tran:

2006-CF-014820-O In custody since 10/19/06 ~ Trial now scheduled for 11/16/09 with Judge John Adams.  1st Degree Murder. Allegedly stabbed a UCF student to death 10/06 when she tried to break up with him. Also was convicted 8 years ago in Clearwater for rape. Mistrial was declared 8/12/09 after Judge Jenifer Davis realized during the first witness’ testimony that she had worked on the case when in the PD’s office.
Why can’t we seem to get this guy tried?

Good question.  The judge, who rose to the bench after working as a defense attorney, claims that she “didn’t remember” that she had previously represented Tran.  How, exactly, does that happen in an extremely well-publicized murder case of a college student?

Judge Jennifer M. Davis was presiding over the case until she officially disqualified herself this morning on the grounds that she previously had worked in the public defender’s office as an attorney. Davis said she was part of Loc Tran’s defense.

“I’ve had this case for awhile,” Davis said. “It had not occurred to me I had worked in the office that initially represented this case, so legally I have no choice but to disqualify myself.”

Davis apologized to the jury and said she had worked as a supervisor with the attorneys defending the case. She said she didn’t realize until she heard the witness testimony from Nhat-Anh’s sister.

Here’s another question: why did Tran get probation from a judge in Clearwater, Florida in 1998 for the crime of burglary, sexual battery and kidnapping?

Probation for sexual assault.  Pinellas County’s on-line records are sketchy, but it appears that some judge in Clearwater, Florida gave Tran mere probation in December of 1998 for several serious crimes including sexual assault.  Think about that.  Rape a woman, get probation.  “First” offense, a freebie (though it appears it isn’t his first offense — a previous case is listed but there are no extant records).  In other words, nobody bothered to prosecute him that time, so the rape became a second first offense.  That makes the murder a fourth eighth offense.

There is a “sentencing guideline departure” page listed on the County website, but I can’t open that either.  No kidding they departed.

I would love to hear the justification for granting probation for rape.  Especially because Tran went on to take another woman’s life.

From what I can tell, and I’ll check on this after the holiday, after Loc Tran received probation for the 1998 rape, he went on to violate his probation with a fistful of credit card fraud charges which led to his finally being sentenced to prison in 2002.

Rape a woman, walk.  Steal a credit card, and you’re going to the big house, buddy.

But not for very long.  In July, 2002, Tran was sentenced to serve seven concurrent sentences of 3 years, two months each.  Take a good look at the offenses, all telescoped down to one concurrent prison term.  This is how crimes are disappeared by the courts every day, and victims are denied even the semblance of justice.  Or safety.

Current Prison Sentence History:
Offense Date Offense Sentence Date County Case No. Prison Sentence Length
04/27/1998 BURGLARY ASSAULT ANY PERSON 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
04/27/1998 SEX BAT/INJURY NOT LIKELY 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
04/27/1998 KIDNAP;COMM.OR FAC.FELONY 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
04/27/1998 OBSTRUCT CRIME INVESTIGATION 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
12/22/2001 FRAUD-CREDIT-CARD 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 0120895 3Y 2M 0D
12/22/2001 FRAUD-CREDIT-CARD 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 0120895 3Y 2M 0D
12/22/2001 FRAUD-CREDIT-CARD 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 0120895 3Y 2M 0D

Then, of course, after letting Tran get away with a known rape for four years, then catching him violating his probation with several other charges, then sentencing him to an absurdly short prison term . . . well, why break a perfect record of sheer contempt for victims of crime, not to mention the safety of women?  The State of Florida let him go early, after serving only 26 months of a 38 month sentence.

They also apparently trash-canned the rest of his probation, for good measure.  It’s all about prisoner “re-entry,” you know.  Probation’s a drag.  How dare we ask judges to enforce the law when rapists need to be rehabilitated back into society and given job training and that all-important-help getting their voting rights reinstated (Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s weird hobbyhorse)?

As we know now, Tran “re-entered” society with a bang.  A slash, really, stabbing a young woman to death when she tried to break up with him.   Given the court’s repeated bungling of his case this time, you have to wonder if he’ll ever really be off the streets.

Take a good look at his face.

This is a man who knows there are no consequences for the crimes he commits against women.  Expect endless, expensive appeals for him, and more of the same when he walks out of prison a second time.

Contretempestuousness or Tempestucontretemps in Marvin Arrington’s Courtroom

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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.

James Ferrell: A Rap Sheet Too Long to Repeat, Shoots A Cop Now

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DeKalb Officers blog pulled up James Ferrell’s arrest record after Ferrell shot a cop last week, an attempted murder already reduced to an aggravated assault charge.

How is shooting an officer, even if you only hit him in the leg, not attempted murder?  If the sentencing code of Georgia is so incoherent that it is better to charge someone with a lesser crime in order to circumvent the possibility of a shorter sentence, why doesn’t the legislature fix that terrible problem?  Or is it the District Attorney’s office that is being incoherent on the “shooting a cop isn’t attempted murder” thing?  Would Ferrell be charged with attempted murder if he had shot a cop in some other county?

Of course, this latest spree is not Ferrell’s first, or fifth, or even tenth run-in with the law. His first adult arrest, in DeKalb County, at least, came in 1986, 33 days after his 18th birthday, a real efficiency record.  Candles still warm on the plate.  So one must presume a sealed juvenile record.

Fast-forward 23 years. Here is the story, reported in the AJC:

Ferrell was as passenger in a car stopped shortly before noon Thursday. The officer was running a license check when he spotted Ferrell climb out of the car and run . . . The officer chased the passenger and got into a struggle with him. During the struggle the suspect grabbed for the officer’s gun . . . He was unsuccessful but later produced his own gun, which he used to fire at least one shot. A bullet grazed the officer’s knee.  As the officer was recovering, Ferrell carjacked a nearby motorist and drove off in a Ford F-150 . . .

In September, Ferrell skipped out on his parole and had a warrant issued for his arrest, according to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.  DeKalb court records show Ferrell is also wanted on a warrant for failure to appear in court.  That warrant stems from a 2008 arrest where Ferrell was charged with hit and run, fleeing, obstruction and impersonating an officer, according to records. He was released on bond, but failed to return to court in April.

So last April, Ferrell, while on parole, committed a serious crime, including impersonating an officer.  Even though this violated his parole, some judge let him bond out of jail anyway.  And, of course, he didn’t show up back in court.  Inexplicably, it took until September before the state parole board noticed and issued a warrant for his arrest.  Meanwhile, DeKalb was busy sending him certified letters that he cleverly avoided answering.

Hey, DeKalb County, he’s just not that into you.

What does it take to not be let out on bond? Bear in mind, this is a guy with a twenty-year history of serious, violent crime.  In 1990, he was sentenced to 20 years to serve for multiple armed robberies and aggravated assault.  That was some sentence to get back then — it must have been one heck of a serious aggravated assault.

Serious, like shooting a police officer, which will now also show as only another “aggravated assault” on the new page of his rap sheet, if it doesn’t get pled down, too.

I’m at a loss.

Of course, Ferrell didn’t serve even a third of that 1990 sentence: he was back out on the streets by 1996, and then he was arrested again and returned to prison briefly and released and arrested again, this time for rape, all the while when he could have been cooling his heels in a prison cell.

By 2003, when Atlanta police arrested him for rape, Ferrell had served only nine of the 20 years to which he’d been sentenced in 1990.  And somehow, despite repeated parole violations, nobody bothered to make him finish the sentence.  So what is the point of parole again?

It is not clear what happened with the Fulton County rape charge: it seems to have disappeared.  That would be a nice question to ask someone: what happened to the rape arrest?  It looks like nothing happened.  Why?

And now a cop is shot.  “Grazed,” some say.

Well, thank goodness it wasn’t something serious.  Just another day in our absurdist criminal courts.

Redding Trial Update; Expose on Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission

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From reader Chris Murphy, who attended the Jonathan Redding hearing to determine if Redding will be required to provide information to a Grand Jury about his partners in the murder of John Henderson:  

I was at that last hearing. The judge, Kimberly Esmond Adams, was looking for any excuse to allow his attorney into the grand jury, which goes against the rules. She delayed the decision, and it never was publicized what she ruled. That’s the kind of s**t that passes for justice: make a ruling, but do it when no one is around, if possible.

Does anybody know what happened?  Will Redding be required to appear before the Grand Jury?  The trial has already been delayed by a motion by Redding’s defense attorney in which she argued that her client didn’t understand the fact that he was being charged with murder.

~~~

Such are the criminal courts these days. They are our courts, but judges pretend as if the public has no right to know what they are doing.

And in Georgia, judges are abetted in secrecy by a judicial performance review system that is the weakest, most toothless, in the nation.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution published a good article on the subject — I would only disagree with their description of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission as “one of the slimmest in the nation.”  I think it’s probably the weakest.  The state spends more money every year on a hundred utterly unnecessary things.  Yet, curiously, nobody in the legal community makes a peep.

So what can be done?  It will require legislation to grow the commission to a reasonable size and legislation to require these people to behave as if they are operating in America, not some Soviet-style, untouchable, secret bureau.

It’s your money, and it’s your court, folks.  You’re not going to be able to get the Bar Association, or any other legal group to do this: lawyers know better than to challenge judges.  And judges are shamefully silent on even the worst abuses and incompetence perpetrated by their peers.

Legislators didn’t “accidentally” forget to fund the Commission tasked with overseeing judges’ actions, you see.  Look at the names in this usual-suspects list, and you begin to see how lawyers and politicians are the same animal in this state — an animal that feels really comfortable telling you to butt out if you have concerns about the way things are being run in the courts.

No, this is a good old-fashioned conspiracy, and it starts at the Capitol, and it involves both parties — Democrats and Republicans may not agree on much, but they agree that they don’t want nosy non-lawyers demanding accountability from them and the friends they put on the bench.

There are people sitting on those benches all over the state who have utterly no business being in a courtroom.  Somebody outside the system is going to have to demand change and wrest some power away from the cozy cabal that protects judges — from the legislative hearing rooms at the State Capitol to the powerless Commission.

(How do you prevent real reform?  Create a powerless reform board and declare victory.)

It is a disgrace that Mike Bowers had to step in to take on the investigation of Kenneth E. Fowler, but the bigger disgrace lies in all the other incompetent judges who don’t have anybody taking a stand against them.  So I would ask: why isn’t Bowers, not to mention other well-connected lawyers, doing more to change the state’s absence of a real Judicial Qualifications Commission?  Where is the ever-so-principled Roy Barnes, who sees a white suit in every mirror he passes?  The ersatz-populist Sonny Perdue, our own chubby Jacksonian?  Has anybody even seen Thurbert Baker recently?  Did he move?

(Well, but, it’s their friends on the bench.)

Why isn’t the A.C.L.U. screaming bloody murder about the secrecy of these reviews?

(Answer: they love incompetent judges.  Incompetent judges often cover their tracks by grandstanding on behalf of “poor victimized defendants” and other claptrap that plays well in the press.  And the defense bar sticks some of the worst judges on the bench in the first place: when it’s pro-defendant judges doing wrong, especially letting offenders off in violation of state law, don’t expect the A.C.L.U. to complain.)

But the prosecutors don’t show much backbone, either.

Until people start demanding that their elected officials actually fund the Commission and demanding disclosure of their activities, judges in Georgia will remain firmly above the law.

Jonathan Redding, 30 Deep, the Blue Jeans Burglaries, the Standard Bar Murder, and Disorder in Atlanta’s Courts

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Jonathan Redding, suspect in the murder of Grant Park bartender John Henderson, suspected of firing a gun in an earlier armed robbery outside the Standard (Why isn’t it attempted murder when you fire a gun during a robbery?  Are we rewarding lack of aim?), suspect in a “home invasion gun battle” in which Redding shot at people, and was shot himself (Two more attempted murders, at least, if sanity existed in the prosecutor’s office), suspected member of the “30-Deep Gang,” one of those pathetic, illiterate, quasi-street gangs composed of children imitating their older relatives, middle-schoolers waving wads of cash and firearms on YouTube: Jonathan Redding is 17.

How many chances did the justice system have to stop Johnathan Redding before he murdered an innocent man?  How many chances did they squander?

In May, Fox 5 ran a chilling story about the 30 Deep Gang.  Deidra Dukes reported:

Police say 30 Deep is based in Atlanta’s Mechanicsville community. The gang reportedly popped up on their radar about three years ago, and recruits members as young as in middle school.

“They know that the juvenile laws are a little more lax than they are when they are adults so they get them to do so they get them to do more serious crimes between the ages of 14 and 16, they won’t get into as much trouble,” said Harper.

Everybody knows this.  Everybody knows that there are 14-year olds waving guns on the streets and 16-year olds committing murder.  How can they not know, when there is video evidence of it, not to mention the bodies?  Spend a few minutes on YouTube watching the videos in which young men identify themselves by their housing project, some by the names of housing projects that were torn down but have managed to survive in the imaginations of eighth-graders as places where life was good in direct, not inverse, proportion to violence and chaos.

Look at the apartments these kids live in, that appear in the videos: they have little cathedral ceilings and nice fixtures, but nothing else — no beds, just mattresses, no pictures on the walls.  Nobody is starving: this is cultural poverty.  These are children: they take pictures of themselves in their classrooms, pictures of the school bus, then, inevitably, pictures of wads of cash and guns and little groups of kids who would have a hard time reading Goodnight Moon throwing gang signs with their hands.

What never ceases to amaze me is that I went to college with people who looked upon this stuff as romantic, not tragically stunted.  From the first time I walked into an apartment like the ones on these videos, I could see that what we were doing wasn’t working, if this was the result.  And yet people still debate this, as if there is anything left to say in the face of such colossal ignorance, and violence, and wasted lives, subsidized by us.

For the last year, the Mayor, the Police Chief, the usual editorialists and academicians, have all been denying that any of this is a problem.  One Jonathan Redding is one too many, but the powers-that-be, even at this late and tragic date, want to punish the public for daring to say this out loud.  If voters don’t reject this status quo next week, it will be a shame.

~~~

Jonathan Redding’s defense attorney is laying the groundwork to claim that her client’s profound ignorance is some type of defense — that he “doesn’t understand” the charges against him.  His life was empty, nihilistic, wasted, violent: this is an argument in favor of him.  Such routine suspension of disbelief in favor of defendants, and the rules of evidence that block the search for truth at every turn, are in Redding’s favor from now on.

It is not believable that Jonathan Redding is such a naif in the courtroom.  Some prosecutor or judge let him go, over and over — first as a truant, then as a juvenile, then as “just a robber” or “just a kid breaking into cars,” or “just a member of the gang stealing blue jeans.”  Now he is lucky to be alive, having been shot, and he is facing a lifetime in prison, and John Henderson is dead.

“They know that the juvenile laws are a little more lax.”  Our justice system has tied its own hands in a thousand different ways, and the judge wants Redding to testify before a Grand Jury, to give up names.

Who are we kidding?  Nobody in the juvenile justice system, nobody on the police force, knows who Redding was running with?  How many bites at the apple did they have with this kid?

Sure, put him in front of the Grand Jury; however, the Grand Jury is too little too late: plenty of people with authority to stop him knew precisely what Johnathan Redding was doing and who he was doing it with, but they didn’t take it seriously, and two more lives are over.  When will this price finally seem too high?

Ash Joshi: “But Being a Quisling Apologist for Murderers is my Job”

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Another great in-depth story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about chaos in the courts.  Note that Metro Atlanta courts other than Fulton County aren’t catch-and-releasing murder defendants like muddy-tasting catfish, like Fulton does.

Volume is no excuse: volume of cases means that judges and prosecutors should be appealing to the public for support and banging down doors at the Georgia General Assembly for more resources, not lowering standards.

Note, too, the line-up of apologists who try to explain away the problem rather than admitting that the D.A.’s office needs more and more-experienced prosecutors, and the Fulton Superior Court desperately needs an intervention.

I’m glad to see Fulton D.A. Paul Howard taking a stand:

“I, like law enforcement officials and 99 percent of the citizens I meet, believe such releases should rarely happen.”

In a statement, Howard said judges are blaming police and prosecutors for their own “seemingly poor judgment.”

Atlanta police Lt. Keith Meadows, head of homicide, was similarly annoyed. “To say we’re presenting weak cases, that’s just disingenuous,” he said.

The homicide unit has a 92 percent conviction rate, Meadows said in an interview Friday.

But if things are so bad that murder defendants are getting released because a hearing isn’t held within the required time-period, doesn’t the prosecutor’s office need more manpower?  Howard said recently that he does not need more prosecutors, but evidence suggests otherwise.  Paul Howard would have a very receptive audience if he went to the people of Atlanta and said: “I need 20 more prosecutors to actually put a dent in violent and property crime.”

Meanwhile, spokespeople for the Fulton County Superior Court seem to be arguing that because some people are acquitted of murder charges, it’s OK to routinely release remorseless predators onto the streets before trial:

Downs’ office pointed out several murder cases since 2007 in which charges were either dismissed, reduced or the defendant was acquitted.

This is an argument for releasing dozens of murder defendants on bond?  Well, heck, since some people are acquitted (no proof of innocence, in many cases), why don’t we just do away with the courts?  Why arrest anyone?

Creepy quisling of the week award, however, must go to Ash Joshi, who continues to believe that it was, as Martha Stewart would say, a “Good Thing” that his client, Antoine Wimes (see here and here), managed to bond out on the undisputed and cold-blooded murder of an innocent African immigrant, a gift of trust that Wimes cashed in by battering a woman into a coma and using an infant as a baseball bat:

Ash Joshi, a former Fulton prosecutor who represents Wimes in the murder case, said at first blush, the number of released murder suspects is “staggering.” But “as you have a greater volume of cases, there will be a number of weak cases. What is frustrating to a prosecutor is you believe a person is guilty but don’t have the evidence. A judge has to act on the evidence.”

Joshi said there were several factors in Wimes achieving bond: “His age, there was not a great deal of evidence and he had good ties to the community.” About 20 relatives attended the hearing. Joshi argued Wimes would not be a threat to the community.

Prosecutor Jack Barrs disagreed. “This was just a person who shot and killed somebody for no reason that’s apparent to the state or anyone else,” Barrs said at a pretrial hearing. “It indicates that there is great concern that he is a danger to the community at large.”

Last week, Joshi was unapologetic, saying he did everything he could to get his client a bond, just as prosecutors fought to oppose it.

“They did their job, and I did mine,” he said.

Hollywood and Grisham-esque fantasies aside, Joshi’s job actually is to act in the best interest of his client.  It’s a measure of how grotesque and degraded the defense bar has become that Joshi cannot conceptualize that “best interest” for a trigger-happy, sociopathic adolescent might be restraining him from taking more innocent lives until a judge manages to squeeze his murder trial in between all the other important things they’re busy doing at the Fulton County Superior Court.

Remember Mark Barton, the day-trader killer who gunned down 22 people, killing nine of them, in Atlanta in 1999?  Clever defense tactics protected him from paying the price for murdering his first wife and mother-in-law in cold blood, and so Barton went on to bludgeon his second wife and two young children in a similar fashion, before ripping nine additional, innocent families apart.

Was that in Mark Barton’s best interest?

Remember when the murder rate dropped through the floor in New York City?  That happened because judges, prosecutors, social service agencies, police, council-people, and the mayor (yes, the loud-mouthed, choleric, cross-dressing, adulterous-yet-oddly-effective Giuliani) teamed up to take responsibility for crime, to stop pointing fingers, and to stop defending the lumbering, crumbling behemoth that was the New York State justice system.

Atlanta can’t hope for a loud-mouthed, choleric, cross-dressing, adulterous-yet-oddly-effective mayor in this election season, I think.  But we can still dream.  Imagine the sea change if the people we entrust to enforce public safety actually stood up together and said: “Yes, the system is broken.  We really need to fix it.”

Judge Arrington Responds to Sunday Paper: I respond to Judge Arrington, The Beat Goes On

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Read it in Sunday Paper (the page is slow to load).

Here is a link to my article about him.  In fairness (boy, I’ve been using that phrase a lot lately), I don’t think Arrington was responding to my article so much as he was responding to this feature story by Stephanie Ramage.  And here is Stephanie’s response to Arrington’s response.

Whew.

Why Police Morale Stays Low: Cop Killer Gregory Lance Henderson was Supposed to be in Prison. Twice Over. And, a Judge Responds.

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From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

Gregory Lance Henderson’s adult life is on the record.

Police and court records. . .

The 31-year-old Columbus man is accused of striking with his car and killing James Anderson, a Lee County, Ala., sheriff’s deputy . . . Henderson was sentenced to 15 years and three to serve for a drug conviction in 2007.  If he had served the full three years, he would still be in a Georgia prison today.

Despite an extensive criminal record (16 bookings in Georgia alone, a felony conviction for aggravated assault, drug convictions), Henderson faced no consequences for most of his arrests.  He drew a 24 months to serve/10 years parole sentence for a violent felony in 2006 and yet somehow didn’t serve that time.  His next arrest came five months later — and even though he’d violated parole (if we can call it parole, since he was actually supposed to be in jail), someone let him walk again.  A few arrests later, he was in front of another judge who apparently did not consider the fact that he was still supposed to be in prison for the last offense and had also been arrested additional times since that conviction.

So, 11 months after he was sentenced to ten years, 24 months to serve, he was sentenced anew on other charges and given 15 years, three years to serve.

Why didn’t the judge revoke the parole, send him off for ten years, and then slap on the additional charges?

Of course, Henderson didn’t serve those three years, either.  He was released 15 months later, and now a Sheriff’s deputy over the Alabama border has been murdered.

Thank you, Muscogee County Superior Court.  Thank you, Georgia Pardons and Paroles.  Hope you send flowers:

Randy Robertson, vice president of the local Georgia Fraternal Order of Police chapter and a Columbus law enforcement officer, said this case illustrates the need for tougher mandatory sentencing laws from the Georgia General Assembly.

“The state of Georgia needs to write an apology to the Anderson family because this guy was not where he was supposed to be, which is incarcerated,” Robertson said Saturday.

Georgia’s recidivism laws are too narrow and its mandatory sentencing laws are utterly meaningless.  The recidivism law excludes all but a few crimes, and defendants can still plead out of the ones that count as “strikes.” (This, as I keep saying, is why we have so many people in prison for “just drug charges” that aren’t really just drug charges.) The mandatory sentencing laws create guidelines and then undermine them by allowing judges to suspend part or all of any sentence (then the Parole Board chops off the other end).  What’s mandatory about that?

Did legislators not read these bills before they passed them?  Were defense attorneys still in charge of the House Judiciary Committee when these bills were drafted with little poison pills attached?  Were publicly law-and-order types privately fudging the legislative intent in order to save the state some money?

Why does nobody ask questions like this?

~~~

Any road, the consequences remain the same: a police officer dead, his family mourning.

Remember this: when cops are dealing with out-of-control recidivists, every arrest, even for minor crimes, puts their lives in danger.  According to comments in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Henderson has a teardrop-tattoo on his face, universal nomenclature advertising intent of and propensity for unpredictable and extreme violence:

So even when he was just getting popped for traffic offenses, he was announcing to the world that it could end very badly for someone.  And finally, tragically, it did.  Nobody should deign to express surprise.

Here are merely the last four years of Henderson’s journey through  — or, mostly, not through — Georgia courts.  Between the rat tangle of lax prosecution protocols, plea deals, judicial discretion and parole, his feet barely touched the courthouse floor, let alone the jailhouse door:

Oct. 14, 2005: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on aggravated assault and armed robbery charges.

Oct. 6, 2006: Pleaded guilty to aggravated assault charges in Superior Court; Judge Robert Johnston sentenced him to 10 years in prison, 24 months to serve.

March 1, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on possession of methamphetamine and traffic charges.

April 8, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on misdemeanor battery charges.

May 3, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on probation violation and aggravated assault charges.

Sept. 7, 2007: Pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine charge in Superior Court. Judge Bobby Peters sentenced him to 15 years, three years to serve.

Oct. 23, 2007: Began prison sentence.

Dec. 29, 2008: Released on parole from Hays State prison by Georgia Department of Corrections.

To revisit the math: while on probation (?) for an aggravated assault for which Henderson is actually supposed to be in prison, he’s busted in March, busted in April, busted in May, pleads to “just drug” charges for the March 1 charge in September and gets out of jail, early, 15 months later.  Then, this:

Sept. 24, 2009: Arrested in Lee County, Ala., on capital murder charges in connection with the death of Sheriff’s deputy James Anderson.

Someone claiming to be Judge Peters responds to criticisms in this comments thread.  Of course, there’s no way to know if it really is the judge, but he says the D.A. didn’t bring charges for the second aggravated assault before him, only a drugs charge.  He also seems to have not looked at Henderson’s prior record, because he apparently did not notice that Henderson was supposed to be in jail when he was in his courtroom.  If any of this is true, it simply means that the courts are in even more disarray, not less, frankly.

Scratch the surface of most “just drugs” cases, and you get someone with an arrest record like Henderson’s.  Judges should know that and want full disclosure of prior records, right?

My name is Judge Peters and I am posting this to correct the article. James Henderson did not come before me for aggravated assault. He was arrested for a possession of residue of meth in a straw when he was stopped for improper tag lights. A plea bargain agreement with the DA and his lawyer was an agreement where he pleaded guilty, gave up his 4th amendment rights, sentenced to 15 years, three in jail and 12 on supervised probation with drug testing and drug treatment.

OK, fine.  Blame the D.A. too.  But why would any judge allow a 15-year sentence for, as he modestly puts it, “residue in a straw” without asking why the D.A. wanted to throw the book?  Why would any judge not wish to ascertain the defendants’ criminal history to consider in sentencing, for that matter?

Why didn’t the judge revoke his parole, or whatever it was Henderson was serving or not serving for the 2006 aggravated assault charge?

Why didn’t the judge also see that Henderson had another outstanding aggravated assault charge, which would qualify him for recidivism status?  I’m willing to believe there are more people responsible than just Judge Peters.  But it is his courtroom, his responsibility.  The buck stops with him, and if all this is the prosecutor’s fault, then the judge has a serious responsibility to do something about such costly lack of communication.  Peters (if it his him) continues:

[Henderson] was paroled by the Pardon and Parole Board prior to his 2010 release date. Deputy [Anderson] was a fine man, all jurisdictions mourn his passing and pray for his family. No one could predict this would happen. the sentence received was a tough sentence for possession of residue of meth. the article was wrong when it listed the crime of aggravated assault as an additional charge at that time. Thank you. — Bobby Peters.

Nobody could predict this would happen?  Well, not if you don’t look at the guy’s record.  Or his face.  The writer claiming to be Judge Peters continues:

[O]nce an individual is sentenced, his fate rests with the Pardon and Parole Board. Victims or family members, DA, may appear before the board or send a letter. I dont contact the board to get a person out or to keep them in. The aggravated assault was a plea bargain in front of another judge in 06. I have asked for a transcript of both cases. The case I heard was a residue meth case where Henderson was on drugs and stopped for no tag light. 15 years with 3 years in prison,12 years on probation, drug treatment, drug testing, random searches, and 12 years to serve if he got in trouble again. No one can ever predict what a defendant will do down the road. This case is really a tragedy for the Anderson family. I dont know why Henderson got out early but the main one to blame is Henderson himself. I, like everyone, am so sorry this happened. Note says no more space. You can call me if you have more questions. — Bobby Peters.

“I have asked for a transcript of both cases”?  Now?  After a cop gets killed?  Why would any judge sentence somebody without knowing their record of violent crime, recidivism, prior leniency shown by the courts, and prior conduct during prior early releases, particularly parole violations?

“No one can ever predict what a defendant will do down the road”?

This one did precisely what he did the last time: got another drug charge, another aggravated assault charge, and then another free pass from another prosecutor, another judge and another pushover at Pardons and Paroles.  No mystery there.

~~~

Every police officer in the state should descend on the Georgia General Assembly this year in memory of Officer James Anderson, demanding real sentencing reform and judicial accountability.  This time.

Not So Funny: Project Turn Around

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So Al Sharpton, Andrew Young, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, and Fulton Superior Judge Marvin Arrington walk into a courtroom. . .

There is no punchline.  They walked into a courtroom to hold yet another courthouse special event for yet another group of criminal defendants who were having their crimes excused, who then failed to avail themselves of all the special tutoring and counseling and mentoring provided to them in lieu of sentencing, all paid for by us, the taxpayers.  What is going on in the courts?  Here is the press release from Paul Howard’s office:

On May 22, 2008, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office joined by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington unveiled a pilot program designed to clean our streets of rampant, unchecked illegal drug activity. With its innovative programming, this endeavor entitled Project Turn Around . . . [will] provide an opportunity for young drug dealers, with limited criminal histories, a chance to remove themselves from illegal drug activity . . . Project Turn Around is an intensive 12-month program that will provide these young men with drug counseling, G.E.D. classes, job training, family counseling, enrichment courses, life skills training and other social services. . . Fourteen young men, between the ages of 17-25 years old, were officially entered into the program on May 22 with an additional six more program participants enrolling within that same week.

To say that they did not change the landscape of Fulton County is apparently an understatement, according to this comment by a community member who volunteered to mentor the youths assigned to Project Turn Around.  In fact, the post by this person, who goes by “Nich,” challenges pretty much everything the D.A. said about the Project.  The comment appeared in an interesting Atlanta Journal Constitution discussion about crime:

I joined a group called “Project Turnaround” as a council member. (volunteer PO, basically.) This was a program to help these participants/offenders get back on track monitored by the DA’s office. Most every offender was recommended by the council members to be exempted from the program/put back in jail, for repeat offenses. Nothing was done. My participant, for example, never went to the classes, continued to sell drugs and was shot in during a drug deal gone bad. Why was he not thrown out of the program and into jail? The DA’s office eventually just walked away from the program, but the kicker…NONE, NADA, 0% of the participants were put into jail. They basically were given “get out of jail free cards!” They are roaming the streets worse off today, because they don’t believe they will ever receive consequences. Sadly, all evidence supports that theory.

So the D.A. failed to prosecute — how many?  20 repeat offenders?  “Nich” also reports an extremely troubling exchange with another D.A.:

The courts are a very big problem, especially with regard to minors. A lot of the offenders are young. Evidently, there is a 12-step program (you get 12 strikes before you are out) that applies to all minors, per Zone 3 DA. So if a 16 year old boy walks into my home, slays my husband and robs us, is that strike 7?

The public deserves some answers from Paul Howard (not to mention Arrington):

  • How many of the 20 enrolled youths failed to complete Project Turn Around?
  • How many were then prosecuted for the crimes that brought them to your attention in the first place, as you pledged to do?  As is your job, for that matter?
  • How many of these youths were arrested for additional crimes while “enrolled” in Project Turn Around?
  • How many of those crimes have been prosecuted?
  • What were the actual arrest records for the 20 participants prior to their enrollment in Project Turn Around: what constitutes a “limited criminal history”?
  • Is it true that your office has a policy of giving minors multiple passes — 2 or 5 or 12 “get out of jail free” cards — before you actually bother to prosecute them?

And don’t forget these easily-overlooked questions:

  • Who got paid for this?  Where did the money come from?
  • Is this failed attempt at rehabilitation going to be evaluated and dutifully entered into the academic literature on the efficacy of alternative sentencing programs, or is the whole mess just going to be swept under the rug?

~~~

It isn’t just the Fulton County D.A. who stands accused of failing to bother to prosecute serious crimes: over at the blog Dekalb Officers, cops and others are weighing in about multiple failures to prosecute violent offenders in DeKalb County, too.  The pattern of complaints about Dekalb D.A. Gwen Keyes resembles the complaints about Paul Howard, and both are extremely troubling.  Here are just a few:

Thank Gwen for taking years to indict!! When you don’t even get an indictment within a year or two of the crime, what chance does the state have at trial?? Remember, it is the STATE who was to bring in all of the witnesses and evidence. Try finding reports, evidence, and witnesses years after a crime took place. The more time that passes, the easier it is to get a not guilty verdict. Why do you think defense attorneys in DeKalb rarely demand a speedy trial?? It only happens if their client is unable to make bond. If their client is out, they know every day that goes by is to the defense’s advantage. But our DA’s and Judges don’t care.  The dirtbag who dumped his baby son in the sewer committed an armed robbery and kidnapping at a business over a year ago. He STILL hasn’t been indicted!! Defense attorneys like to say, “Indictments don’t mean anything. You can get an indictment against a sandwich.” Apparently, not with our DA’s office!! They can’t be bothered to bring violent criminals up for indictment within a reasonable amount of time!

And:

Most cases are pending for years. They usually get NOLLE PROSCESS.

And:

Take a look at the recent arrest in DeKalb County of a worthless coward who killed three people, including a three year old child. The perp has 5 different felony arrests in his past. Some have multiple felony charges. Guess how many indictments he has? ZERO!! Way to go Gwen!! Maybe if you indicted him on ONE or TWO cases, that three year old child might be alive today!

And this comment, which makes the important point that police officers’ lives are particularly endangered when offenders face no consequences in the courts:

Detectives have a good phrase for the D.A. Office and the Judges…..they plead guilty and guess what ……..TIME SERVE AND PROBATION. They get a second chance to steal again or rob you with a gun.

~~~

There are many reasons why programs like Project Turn Around fail. One of them, surely, is the confidence offenders must feel in knowing that they won’t face real consequences if they don’t bother to follow the rules.  Every young man who entered that program apparently failed to complete it.  Did anything get accomplished, other than reinforcing the participants’ sense of invulnerability?

In the current courtroom culture, any program like Project Turn Around is just one more free ride.

But this particular initiative is even more troubling.  It appears to have encouraged offenders to view themselves as victims of the justice system:

During the unveiling of the program, Judge Arrington told the young men, “I want to make sure before I send somebody to jail for an extended period of time that I’ve done everything I can do to make them a better person.” In addition to hearing from the judge, the young men were addressed by the Honorable Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton.

First of all, it’s not Arrington’s job to “make people into better people.”  That’s a nice sentiment, one we can all agree with, but Marvin Arrington’s job is to enforce the law.

Second, what, precisely, was Al Sharpton doing there?  He has committed anti-Semitic and unapologetically racist acts, and his followers, encouraged by his rhetoric, have burned down businesses, threatened witnesses, rioted, and committed murders.  He is anti-cop, and his appearance at the side of Fulton County’s District Attorney sends a disturbing message to every police officer on Atlanta’s streets.

What’s the matter with Howard, in his position, agreeing to associate with the likes of Sharpton?

More mundanely, Al Sharpton has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for the justice system in cases filed against him.  After being found guilty of slander and defamatory statements in his false accusations of rape against a Dutchess County prosecutor, Sharpton disgracefully refused to pay the damages the court ordered him to pay.  The Federal Elections Commission found that he broke election finance laws — apparently with few consequences for him.

Most recently, he shockingly advocated for the release of four men who raped, sodomized and beat a Haitian immigrant in Miami, forced the woman to perform sex acts on her 12-year old son, and then doused them both with household cleansers and tried to set them on fire.

He went from that performance to Marvin Arrington’s courtroom a few months later, ostensibly to encourage young offenders to become better people.  What message did that appearance really send?  Something like this:

Don’t worry about following the law, because if you don’t, nothing will happen to you.  Look at me: I have no respect for the law and I’m rich and famous and on TV.  I hang out with your judge and your prosecutor, who admire me, even though I side with violent rapists and murderers and against the innocent people they torment.  You are the victims of an unjust system and deserve to be set free.

Is it any wonder that the young defendants did not bother to take Project Turn Around seriously?  No courtroom program featuring Al Sharpton should be taken seriously.  Of course everyone wants young offenders to be rehabilitated.  But the public deserves safety, and this is just craziness.

Marvin Arrington and Paul Howard are up for re-election in 2010.

The Real Perception Problem is the Perception of the Courts

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The comments thread in response to this article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution contain a lot more insight than the article itself, which morphed from the purported subject of policing into another attack on the public for caring about crime.*  No surprise there.  While the criminologists try to minimize crime using formulas measuring relative cultural pathology and other number dances, the public hones in on the courts:

It is time that we stop protecting the young criminals – Start publishing names, parents names and city – Might just be that some parents will be so embarrassed that they will take control of these young people – Start publishing names of judges that continually grant bail bonds or m notes for “REPEAT” offenders. — “D.L.”

[T]he court systems are a huge part of the problem…. i am shocked how many repeat offenders of street crimes are released on a “signature bond” …basically they sign their name and promise to come back to court and walk out….below is the legal definition.  “A signature bond, or recognizance bond, is a promissory that is signed by the individual who was arrested in order to be released on bond. Though no monetary transaction takes place when the promissory is signed, a signature bond contends that the arrested individual will pay an agreed upon amount if he fails to appear in court on the given date and time.”” — “Too Many Signature Bonds”

There’s one important part of the equation left out – the court system. Many of these offenders have arrest histories of multiple felonies but are still out on the street. The police can lock people up, but they can’t keep them in jail…how about an expose on the criminal history of these high profile offenders and why they are out on the streets? I’d really be interested in seeing that article. it seems the heat always comes down on the police, but not the courts who let offenders out while they have two or three armed robbery charges. — “Georgia Dawwg”

One major problem is that the Fulton County Courts dead docket over half of the cases that they could prosecute. Also, the judges are too lenient on young offenders. This is destroying our city. — “S.M.”

Most seem to be saying the same thing: the police can only do so much, then the judges and the prosecutors let offenders go free.

Why, for example, has there been no follow-up on the 43 murder defendants walking the streets?

When people start picketing the D.A.’s office and the Fulton County Superior Court to demand full public disclosure of case dispositions and sentencing so they can make informed decisions about electing judges, things will change.

But meanwhile, we’re utterly in the dark, and while the Atlanta Journal Constitution is beginning to respond with more reporting on these issues, for a very long time the newsroom status quo was a sort of mushy empathy for offenders and reflexive anti-incarceration biases, with some color coverage of victims from time to time — while the justice system went quietly to hell.

There’s no other way to put it.  Many scores of people in Atlanta say the same thing — this offender or that offender isn’t being put away — and the newspaper essentially ignores them.  Judges react with petulant anger when challenged.  Academicians cook up wild excuses for criminality.  Journalists point fingers at the public.

The new mantra is “re-entry” and claims that we “don’t do enough to rehabilitate youths.”  Same as the old mantra — we’re “not doing enough for the kids.”  “We’re denying them job opportunities / education / empathy.”

People who say these things are willfully blind to the fact that billions have been spent and will continue to be spent on all sorts of rehabilitation.  The fact that these efforts fail doesn’t mean we aren’t paying for them.  It isn’t lack of effort: it’s the extreme degree to which the underclass is mired in dysfunction — and the ugly fact that many in the establishment are endlessly willing to deny and excuse that behavior, right up until somebody gets killed (and even after that).

Spend some time with a 14-year old kid whose dad and mom doesn’t parent him, whose head is filled with violent and sexualized videos and rap songs and shockingly little else, who goes to school in Atlanta and gets told that he is a victim of the system instead of actually being taught anything useful.  Then try to change that child’s mindset when there are so many forces working to sustain it: the victim culture and some very questionable “educating” in the public schools, the parents who still aren’t parenting, the pop culture violence: it’s too late for that kid if he stays in that environment.  It really is too late, and I don’t say that because I would give up on him; I’m just trying to inject some reality.

The people who go on endlessly about needing to give juveniles more chances are the people who have never gotten involved at all, who blame the police and society but do little other than complain.  People who actually make the commitment to help learn three things very quickly:

  • there are already scores of intervention and rehabilitation and jobs and education programs
  • the programs don’t tackle the real problems, not because we “don’t care enough” but because they wrong-headed
  • kids in the justice system get a “second chance” already: they get serial second chances, no matter what they have done and even as their crimes escalate

I found the following comment especially interesting: “Nich,” whoever she is, from Grant Park, took the time to get involved in a rehabilitation program.  Her experience reflects my own:

The courts are a very big problem, especially with regard to minors. A lot of the offenders are young. Evidently, there is a 12-step program (you get 12 strikes before you are out) that applies to all minors, per Zone 3 DA. So if a 16 year old boy walks into my home, slays my husband and robs us, is that strike 7? Also, I joined a group called “Project Turnaround” as a council member. (volunteer PO, basically.) This was a program to help these participants/offenders get back on track monitored by the DA’s office. Most every offender was recommended by the council members to be exempted from the program/put back in jail, for repeat offenses. Nothing was done. My participant, for example, never went to the classes, continued to sell drugs and was shot in during a drug deal gone bad. Why was he not thrown out of the program and into jail? The DA’s office eventually just walked away from the program, but the kicker…NONE, NADA, 0% of the participants were put into jail. They basically were given “get out of jail free cards!” They are roaming the streets worse off today, because they don’t believe they will ever receive consequences. Sadly, all evidence supports that theory. — Nich

“Most every offender was recommended by the council members to be exempted from the program/put back in jail, for repeat offenses. Nothing was done.”

This person has a story to tell — a shocking, disturbing story about scores of recidivist offenders — given rehabilitation, given help — let out of jail over and over and over by irresponsible judges and prosecutors despite victimizing more people (and ending up, seemingly inevitably, shot).  Why is the AJC retreading the offensive and inane “perception of crime” theme when there are real stories to be reported?  When you can learn more from the comments threads than the article itself, well, maybe the death of journalism isn’t going to hurt all that much.

*Thomas D. Boston’s research on public housing patterns and crime rates, also discussed in the original article, is a different subject.


DeKalb Officers Site Raises Issue of Burglars Let Loose, Homicide Cops Playing Daycare Daddies?

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The terrific website DeKalb Officers raises questions about DeKalb D.A. Gwen Keyes:

It appears the District Attorney has taken a page from terminated police chief Terrell Bolton. Ms. Keyes now has a driver permanently assigned to her. Some of the driver’s duties include getting her children to and from daycare.

DeKalb County has the second highest homicide rate in the state (2nd to the City of Atlanta). The driver is one of 3 homicide investigators in D.A. Fleming’s office. Now her office has 2. Her driver is no longer assigned cases or carry case load. The case load has to be spread among the other 2 investigators.

It’s utterly shocking to take any investigator off the job to act as driver — and isn’t it illegal to have them ferry the kids around?

Someone in the comments thread adds the following about a recent deal to let gang members walk free:

Anonymous said…
Well what about the gang out of Clarkston that were arrested for burglary, only to be sentenced to 5years probation then released with time served. Was this a plea deal or what. The citizens should take note of this in the up coming elections for DA and Judges. I mean these punks were breaking into everything. Heck even Fox 5 did a story on them and their outrageous criminal past. But what do our ellected officials do in Dekalb County (time served) the citizens should revolt. Both the DA and the Judge should be invited to attend every community meeting in all of the neighborhoods who were victimized by these punks and made to explain why they were not sent to prison.

It’s too bad Atlanta doesn’t have a website like this run by cops.  They see what is going on in the criminal courts, and they know the judges and cases start to finish.

Judicial Outrage in Burke County(GA), and a Judicial “Oversight” Problem

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I received the following e-mail last week from a woman named Jessica Brantley.  This is yet another outrageous story of judicial leniency — involving Jack Bailey, the man who killed Jessica’s father while high on drugs.  Judge Carl Overstreet gave the killer probation for vehicular homicide despite his previous record of DUIs.  Then he let him go on an out-of-state hunting trip (!) before the probation started.  Then he let him out of the probation early.  Then Bailey got nailed for DUI again.

What can we do to hold judges responsible when they act in this manner?

Well, the governing body overseeing judges in Georgia is the Council of Superior Court Judges.  Maybe we could contact them and ask them to look into Judge Carl Overstreet’s actions in and after 2002.

There’s just one problem.  In 2002, Judge Carl Overstreet was the president of the Georgia Council of Superior Court Judges.

So we’d have to ask him to investigate himself.

I’m really at a loss.  Does anybody have any suggestions to help Jessica and her family?  Are there people in Augusta who could attend Jack Bailey’s next hearing and send a message that the community is watching?  I wish the judge would explain his motives.  I hope the media picks up this story, and I’ll have more on this later.  Here is Jessica’s letter:

Folks say that I should contact you with this information regarding a DUI arrest that was made on William Jack Bailey. I’ll try to make a long story short, but about [seven years] ago Jack Bailey killed my father in a motor vehicle accident. Some background: We all live in Burke County… On the date of the wreck, Oct. 5th 2002, Jack Bailey had MDMA & crystal meth in his system and was speeding around 80-90 mph when he hit my dad. He says my dad ran a stop sign, but I don’t really believe that. Anyway, we found out that Jack Bailey has been arrested twice before for DUI, but pled guilty to reckless driving w/o consequence. When his trial came up in Burke County, Judge Carl Overstreet let him plead guilty to a felony vehicular homicide. Knowing Jack’s record, Overstreet gave Jack 10 years probation…. BUT Jack didn’t have to start it until he got back from his HUNTING TRIP IN NEVADA. He violated his probation repeatedly & we reported it, but nothing happened. In Feb. ’08 he asked to be released from his probation (btw he retained his license and he shouldn’t have). At this hearing, my family showed up and testified how we & friends witnessed Jack violate probation. He said he would take the matter under advisement & let us know if anything changed (this was only 2 years into his probation). Sometime around May “09 Overstreet filed a change that terminated Jack’s probation… w/o notifying us. July 3rd “09 Jack Bailey was again arrested for a DUI. He had a truckload of passengers, some minors. All but one girl had been drinking & Jack was driving. He spent the night in jail… bailed out the next morning. Now, Captain Paquette has had to fight w/ Jack’s fancy attorney b/c he wants to plead reckless driving again (like the two of the 4 he has).
To make things even more stinky…. when the arresting officer looked up Jack’s driving record, it was clean…. which obviously it shouldn’t be. He had to do a criminal investigation to uncover everything I just told you.

**This case reeks of judicial corruption. Captain Patrick Paquette is really fired up about it, and for the first time I feel like someone actually cares besides my family. I would really like for you to investigate this, b/c now I hear Jack Bailey has been telling all his friends that his lawyer is going to get him out of this one too. That scares me, but I’m trying to keep faith that this time he will be put in prison.

Please consider reporting on this. If you want to see how this case has charged our community, you should friend my brother on Facebook. Read his note “Bad Judges, Bad People.” We’ve had to erase a lot of posts that reference Mr. Bailey’s children, but it shows how tired Burke County is of the Good Ole Boy System.

http://forum.gon.com/showthread.php?p=3971756

I have documents also, if this is something you’re interested in investigating let me know and I’ll get them to you.

Thank you,
Jessica Brantley

What can we do to help?  This family deserves justice!

Some Preliminary Observations About Walter Ellis, the Milwaukee Serial Killer

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The Walter Ellis case is still unfolding, but there are already lessons to be learned.

One of those lessons is that police agencies around the country are on the verge of connecting serial rapists and killers to many unsolved crimes, thanks to DNA and re-opening cold cases.  The picture that is emerging of these men will change what we know about serial offenders.

It will also, hopefully, change some assumptions about what goes on in our justice system.  Many people believe that we are too harsh on offenders, that people deserve one or two or five “second chances,” that rehabilitation works, and that minimum mandatory sentencing and “three-strikes” laws are too harsh.

The Walter Ellises of the world pretty much drive a stake into such preconceptions:

AP — MILWAUKEE — Walter Ellis was anything but unknown in his north side neighborhood in Milwaukee — a mix of condemned and run-down houses with some nicer, newer homes.  Even as the bodies of suspected prostitutes began turning up in garbage bins and abandoned buildings near his home, the stocky Ellis had regular — sometimes violent, often friendly — interaction with neighbors and family, and more than a dozen run-ins with police.

If those run-ins were scrutinized, what would they tell us?  How many times did some judge let him walk?  How many times did a prosecutor decided it wasn’t worth sending him away for a few months?

Ellis was not a stranger to law enforcement, with 15 arrests since 1978.

How many times did he get first-offender status?  Time served?  Community counseling?  Simply no prosecution at all?  Would minimum mandatory laws or three-strikes laws have kept him off the streets?

He’s received probation or fines for burglary . . .

Probation for burglary.  Nice.  The DNA database “hit” lists are littered with rapists whose only prior convictions were for burglary, or drugs.  Sometimes rapists were allowed to plead down to burglary when there was a rape but prosecutors didn’t feel the victim would be believed.  Sometimes these men were caught entering or hiding in a house before they committed a planned sexual assault.  For many decades, burglary was a commonly-known get-out-of-jail-fairly-free card for rapists.

So when a judge gives a burglar probation because “burglary isn’t a serious crime,” he or she may very well be letting a sex offender walk free.  All residential burglars should be required to provide DNA samples.  Too bad that didn’t happen before Walter Ellis murdered this woman, in 2007.  Her murder, and others, could have easily been prevented:

Ouithreaun Stokes

[Ellis has] received probation or fines for . . . delivery of a controlled substance and retail theft. He also has faced charges of soliciting prostitutes, battery, robbery and recklessly endangering safety, all of which were later dismissed. He received a 3-year prison sentence for drug possession in 1981.

When you see a drug possession conviction, think about this: often offenders will agree to plead to drug offenses if other charges are dropped.  Often, the drug charge is the one most easily proved, even though the offender is known to be responsible for other crimes.  So when people claim that we live in a prison state because “X% of offenders are in prison for non-violent drug charges,” realize that a substantial percentage of these people committed other crimes.  They just weren’t prosecuted for them.

It was in 1988 that [Walter Ellis] pleaded no contest to second-degree reckless injury. According to the criminal complaint, he hit his ex-girlfriend in the head several times with a claw hammer, causing her to get 30 staples and more than 22 stitches. The complaint said the woman woke and found him standing over her, smelling of alcohol and accusing her of cheating. She got out of bed, they struggled, and he hit her with the hammer, it said.

It looks like the AP got it wrong: it was 1998, not 1988.  Attempted murder with severe physical injury.  Good thing it was just a domestic, or else he might have gotten life in prison, you know?  Ah, the magic of plea bargaining: attempted murder – domestic violence = second degree reckless injury = five years.

Police have said Ellis’ DNA matches that found on nine women ages 16 to 41 who were killed in a three-square-mile area from 1986 to 2007.

Wow.  Too bad nobody in the courts took that claw-hammer-to-the-brain-thing very seriously.

Here is an excellent blog-post tracing Ellis’ crimes and incarcerations.  The blogger, Kathee Baird, gets the offense dates right, unlike the AP.  She observes:

Online court records show Ellis has been busted at least twelve times for crimes against people as well as property crimes and that he once lived near the area where many of the homicides occurred.  It appears that every time that Ellis was incarcerated the strangulation killings on the north side subsided. Between 1987 and 1994 there were no homicides that fit the North Side Stranglers m.o. . . .

Back to the AP:

Ellis, sentenced to prison, was supposed to have DNA taken before he was released in 2001 under a state law that mandated taking samples from people convicted of a felony.  The state Department of Corrections said it did take the sample, but the state Justice Department said it has no records showing they ever got it. On Wednesday, legislators demanded to know why the DNA sample never made it to crime analysts. If it had, police say, the case might have been solved before the last of the slayings occurred in 2007.

Our justice system is criminally lenient.  We have a pathological contempt for rape victims: we still utterly lack the public will to put rapists away.  What, you say?  This must be an isolated case?

50,000 Felons Released Without Submitting DNA

CHICAGO – About 50,000 felons have been released from Illinois prisons and county probation systems without submitting DNA samples.  Under Illinois law, every felon sentenced on or after Aug. 22, 2002, must provide DNA. The samples are stored in databases that can be used to link suspects to other cases.  A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections says nearly 10,000 felons were released from state prisons without providing DNA. And Attorney General Lisa Madigan‘s office estimates county probation departments didn’t get samples from 40,000 additional felons due to delays in implementing the law.  DuPage County State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett helped push for collecting DNA from felons. And he says the failure to get samples from all felons means “serial murderers and rapists have probably remained on the loose.”

Back to Milwaukee:

In 2006, Ellis pleaded guilty in a hit-and-run involving Carolyn S. Prophet, 57, of Milwaukee. Prophet, who is disabled and has problems walking, said Ellis hit her car repeatedly and then swore and threatened her.  “The man is a psycho,” she said. “He kept ramming me.”  Bystanders stepped in when he got out of the car, she said. Ellis told them he was going to call police at a pay phone but never returned. She said the police who investigated the crash told her they knew Ellis from prior run-ins.

And then what happened?  Did anything happen?  Didn’t his other violent crimes lead to a long prison sentence?  Didn’t his 12 crimes against persons matter?  Doesn’t ramming a disabled, elderly person with a car count for anything?

The following comments by Ellis’ neighbor are chilling.  The woman says that Ellis is a good guy and yet that he is unpredictably violent and dangerous.  She doesn’t blame him for any of this, or even for threatening her repeatedly: she blames other people for “not helping him.”  This is what happens when people convince themselves that prior criminal acts should be overlooked, and the courts reflect that belief:

[Ellis’] neighbor[] said that as a child she tried to avoid walking past Ellis’ house — “He would come and just hit you out of nowhere,” she said.  But Jordan said Ellis seemed to have changed when she saw him about a year ago at a birthday party. She described him as pleasant and intelligent. She said she was shocked to hear of his arrest, but wishes someone would have helped Ellis early in his life.  “When I look back at it, all the indicators were there,” she said. “That behavior, the violent nature in him was already embedded.”

Maybe something will be learned this time.  Maybe nothing at all.

This Week, I am in Sunday Paper

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See my article on leniency in Atlanta’s courts here.

Judges Are Not Reclusive Woodland Creatures, Shy, Moss-Tripping Fauns

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When are judges who let murderers out on bond and release other violent offenders going to stop hiding from the public and start answering some questions?  From today’s (on-line only?)  AJC:

District Attorney Paul Howard . . . wants to determine why indicted murder defendants in Fulton County are being released on bond and why non-elected magistrate judges have been the ones granting bond.  Howard said 43 indicted murder defendants are out on bond. . . Fulton County magistrate Judge Karen Woodson granted [Antoine] Wimes $250,000 bond in March, even though the District Attorney’s Office and Pretrial Services officers opposed it.  Wimes was charged with murder in the July 2008 shooting death of a convenience store clerk.

Judge Woodson has had nothing to say about her decision to let Wimes go, after which he shot a young Atlanta mother and viciously beat her one-year old infant.

How about the judges in the other 42 bonded-out murder cases?  43 accused murderers are out on bond in Fulton County alone.  How many in Dekalb County?  Are they all accounted for?  Have any of them been brought in on other charges?  What happened then?  Cut loose a second time?

That must be one astonishingly well-behaved cohort of accused murderers.  No wonder it’s so hard to get witnesses to cooperate: when the D.A. can’t even guarantee that he can keep the murder defendant off the streets because the judge may let him walk, over the D.A.’s objections, the system is broken.

Meanwhile, the DeKalb Superior Court must be hoping the public has forgotten about Judge Cynthia Becker, whose courtroom errors resulted in the inappropriate release of soon-to-be killer Shamal Thompson.  Becker has neither apologized nor admitted responsibility, and there have apparently been no efforts on the part of the Council of Superior Court Judges to investigate the practices that led to not one, but two different judges reducing charges against Thompson that should not have been treated that way — you know, by the sentencing guidelines of Georgia they’re supposed to uphold.

Are there no consequences if you are a judge?  I’m almost tempted to say that they might identify less with offenders if they didn’t see themselves as above the law.

Hopefully the media will stay on this story (and one way, in these times, to keep the focus on stories like this is to subscribe to the newspaper and inform the subscription department that you’re paying for investigations like this one).

Paul Howard is right to publicize the problem of murderers and other violent offenders out on bond: he deserves vocal public support for his position here.

And if this isn’t an argument for demanding full, on-line disclosure of all ongoing and completed criminal case dispositions, I don’t know a better one.  Smaller counties are already doing it: a technology capital like Atlanta has no excuses except this one:

They don’t want you to know what’s going on in the courts.

Not One More: Judge Cut Killer Loose, Then He Used Infant “as a Bat”

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Atlanta Fox 5’s Mark Teichner is reporting that it was Fulton Magistrate Judge Karen Smith Woodson who released Antoine Wimes on bond instead of holding him in the 2008 murder of Nigerian immigrant Etus Obi Onyemaechi.  Wimes shot a young mother and either beat or “used her infant as a bat” during a home invasion Monday night.

Atlanta reader Paul Kersey has this to say:

So at least now we know DeKalb wasn’t doing any special favors by letting Sheriff’s Deputy Derrick Yancey out on bail after he allegedly killed two people last year. Fulton County will even let an ordinary street thug out after he allegedly killed someone.

And doesn’t everyone feel safe and happy knowing how well those electronic ankle monitors work? Allowing accused killers like Yancey and Wimes to have at least a 12 hour head start on law enforcement isn’t a problem, right? If that’s how DeKalb and Fulton handle the worst of the worst, then God help us all!

According to Fox 5, both the D.A.’s office and the county’s pretrial services office opposed Judge Woodson’s decision to bond Wimes out.  She did it anyway.  I don’t see how anyone could hear the details of Onyemaechi’s murder and decide that Wimes belonged on the streets.

There was one person who agreed with Woodson’s decision.  “I own this world, like Scarface,” Antoine Weems yelled to reporters when he was taken into custody.  Thank God no officers were killed bringing “Scarface” back to the jail cell he never should have left.  A cop in Tampa wasn’t so lucky last night.

~~~

It’s time to send a strong message to Metro Atlanta judges:

Not One More.

Not one more violent offender released before trial.

Not one more armed criminal freed back onto the streets of Atlanta.

Not because he’s 15; not because his mommy says he’s a good boy; not because he’s a college student and you want him to “stay in school”; not because you want to play Lady Bountiful and send him to drug rehab; not because you think he has great potential as a wedding dress designer.

Not one more killer out on the streets because you’re not keeping up with your calendars.  Not one more released because the defense attorney is whining that his client is languishing in a cell.  Not one more pity party for some thug with a ten-page record.  You are turning these children into killers by pandering to them.

No more ignoring sentencing laws that had to be passed in the first place because you were letting murderers and rapists walk with slaps on the wrist.  No more screwing up and giving first-time offender status to some eight-time offender because you refuse to bother making a phone call.  No more hiding behind a dysfunctional Clerk of Court’s office as an excuse.  No more treating victims as if they don’t exist.  No more knee-jerk siding with the defense.

Not One More:

Eugenia Calle

Etus Obi Onyemaechi

Linda Yancey

Marcial Cax-Puluc

Jennifer Ewing

Vernon Forrest

Nikki and Defante Neely

Blog Post from Nigeria on Antoine Wimes’ Earlier Victim

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Interesting post on Wimes’ February victim by Mista Jay, a Nigerian-based blogger:

Sunday, February 15, 2009
Whose gun killed him?

Who’s the real killer? Antoine Wimes or Sani Abacha

Imagine being an academic and educator possesing two masters degrees. Imagine being a useful and productive member of society. Imagine having to leave that society in search of greener pastures because said society doesn’t reward true productivity.

Imagine arriving in a strange land where your skin color is already a liability and your foreign accent compunds matters by further separating you from your own kind. Imagine now having to take on part-time menial jobs to survive and care for your wife who is sufffering from kidney related problems.

Now imagine all of this ending in a burst of gunfire because some punk kid decides that your life is the obstacle to him getting a $5 tshirt! WTH?

This is the sad story of Etus Obi Onyemaechi, a 48year old Nigerian living in the US. . .

continue here

Here is the latest on Wimes, from WSB:

Neely’s son was badly beaten during the robbery.

Investigators said Wimes and McCoy may have swung the 1-year-old like a baseball bat.  “It appears as though he was struck with either a very hard object or — as hard as it sounds — he was…his body was actually struck against a hard object,” said Jones.  Wimes was out on bond after being charged in the July 2008 killing of a convenience store clerk.

Here is the original WSB report on the July 2008 murder of Onyemaechi.  Apparently Wimes tried to kill more than one person but ran out of bullets:

Atlanta Store Clerk Gunned Down Over $5 T-Shirt

Gunman Wanted White T-Shirt Size 5X

Atlanta police said a convenience store clerk was shot and killed Sunday morning by a man not demanding money, but an extra large T-shirt. . .  Elliott Glass, an eyewitness, said he was mopping the floor inside the convenience store when a young man entered and told the clerk he wanted a white T-shirt size 5X.

“These guys wear those baggy pants, and big long T-shirts,” said Glass.

Glass said when the clerk turned to give the young man the shirt, the man started shooting, then calmly walked out of the store.

“He shot him like five times, four or five times, at point-blank range for no apparent reason,” said Glass.

The store clerk is identified as Obi E. Onyemaechi, 48, of College Park, according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“I was afraid he was going to shoot me, but I guess he must have run out of bullets because he was steadily clicking the gun as he walked out the door,” said Glass.

Glass said he called 911, but claimed the operator put him on hold, so he ran out onto Cascade and flagged down the first police officer he saw.

That’s just great.  The operator puts him on hold.  Glass continues, heart-breakingly:

“The guy was my friend you know. He was a good guy. He helped everybody around here. Senseless killing, he killed the man for no reason, you know,” said Glass.

Now we learn Onyemaechi was an educator with two master’s degrees, supporting an ailing wife.  He travels half-way around the world to support his family and some kid kills him for a five-dollar t-shirt.

Does anybody know the name of the judge who let him bond out?

I would add, to Mista Jay, that he can add another picture next to those of Antoine Wimes and Sani Abacha:

It’s the Fulton County Superior Court (Atlanta, Georgia)

Who Let Antoine Wimes Out of Jail???

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Beat a one-year old infant.  Shot the baby’s mother.  Endangered a bunch of other innocent people, including neighbors and cops, while being taken into custody.

Fulton County jail authorities said Wimes was out of jail on $250,000 bond for February murder and assault charges. His family said he had cut off his ankle monitor.

Bond for murder?  Why, because he’s a juvenile?

Which metro judge let this sack of dirt out on bond for a February murder?  I hope the media finds out soon.

Leniency Lunacy: Atlanta’s CBS News Tackles Recidivism, Judicial “Discretion,” and Fulton County Prosecutors Going Easy on Repeat Offenders

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Hat tip to Paul Kersey:

Atlanta CBS News Investigative Reporter Joanna Massey dissects the problems in the courts.  This is thoughtful reporting (here is part 2), and hopefully there will be follow-up on points raised by the story, such as:

  • Why is it that county prosecutors do not so much as try to enforce Georgia’s recidivism laws?  The prosecutor in the story tells the reporter that she uses her discretion in every case.  Well, if discretion means someone who has been arrested 69 times and accused of multiple violent crimes gets released back onto the streets again, then maybe discretion needs to be taken out of the hands of the Fulton County D.A.’s office in the form of a real recidivism law for Georgia.
  • Why, for that matter, don’t prosecutors have the mindset of seeking to impose the recidivism law in every possible case?  All victims deserve to be treated equally.  The law should be applied evenly.  Allowing criminals to get away with crimes inevitably tells them — especially impressionable juveniles and the mentally ill — that there will be no consequences for their actions.  Anybody who has lived with a three-year old knows the consequences of that.  The ethical culture of the D.A.’s office needs to change.
  • We’re not doing criminals any favors by letting them get away with — well, escalating patterns of violence until they get sent away for life.  Ricky Love, the offender profiled in the news story, does not appear to have a state prison record.  If that is true, it means that exactly none of his 69 arrests or multiple convictions got him state time — not robbery, not assault.  In other words, somebody in the D.A.’s office, the courts, or both, dropped the ball 69 times in a row.
  • What political motive lies behind Paul Howard continually insisting that his office does not need more resources?  Who is he trying to appease by saying that, when it is so obviously false?  The prosecutor in the news story appears to have been told not to acknowledge that her caseload prevents her from examining every defendant’s full record.  She sure looks caught out when she says:  “You deal with the facts that you have on that day, on that case, and you make a judgment call.”  The city needs more prosecutors, of course, if prosecutors don’t even have the resources to know who they are convicting.
  • Why did Judge Craig Schwall agree to release this offender?  He can pass the ball to the prosecutors, but he has discretion, too.  Every time I watch a judge suddenly getting tough on an offender, it reminds me of all the times they didn’t do it when nobody was watching.  There needs to be new standards for judging judges at election time, something a little more judgmental than “check incumbent box.”
  • And that will require information.  Data.  A new transparency at the Fulton County Clerk of Court’s office.  Why has nobody filed impeachment papers on Fulton Clerk Cathelene Robinson?  She is standing in the way of the residents of Atlanta gaining access to the records of criminal convictions, pleas, and non-prosecutions, records they will need to see in order to understand what is happening in the courts.  How to reform the dysfunctional Fulton Clerk of Court’s office?  The state body overseeing them is the Georgia Superior Court Clerk’s Cooperative Authority (GSCCCA).  More on this later…
  • Atlanta could easily take a page from Houston County, located in the center of the state.  The Houston County District Attorney provides immediate web access to all case events and sentencing outcomes, so people there can see precisely what the DA’s office is doing at every phase of a prosecution.  What would it cost to post these records in Fulton?  They must be databasing them internally, right?  People have a right to know what their prosecutor’s office is doing.
  • The Court Watch volunteers are heroes.  The Court Watch program in Atlanta needs to grow.  And while Paul Howard deserves a lot of credit for creating a court-watching program in conjunction with his office, I hope the Atlanta Court Watchers will also branch out and grow into an independent organization.  It is important to witness those cases where the nobody invites you to watch, too.

Murder by Anti-Incerceration Activism

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From a City Journal article by Heather Mac Donald.  How the murder of 17-year old Lily Burk could have been prevented:

The recent arrest of a vicious murderer in Los Angeles vindicates—tragically, only after-the-fact—several policing and sentencing policies that anti-law-enforcement advocates have fought for years. . .

On July 24 at around 3 pm., 17-year-old Lily Burk was walking down a midtown Los Angeles street on an errand for her mother. A 50-year-old homeless parolee with a three-decade-long rap sheet confronted the high school senior as she approached her Volvo. . .

At 4.52 pm, Samuel pulled the Volvo into a Skid Row parking lot at Alameda and 5th Street and abandoned it. Burk had already been murdered, her head beaten and throat slashed open with a broken bottle; her body was left in her car. . .

Samuel then walked nearly a mile through Skid Row, drinking beer from a paper bag in violation of L.A.’s open container law. Two LAPD officers on horseback stopped him for the public-drinking offense and questioned him. He told them that he was on parole and agreed to be searched, according to the police. They found a crack pipe in his pocket and arrested him. The post-arrest search of Samuel turned up a Volvo key and a cell phone. The next morning, a worker from a Skid Row business discovered Burk’s car with her body in it. Samuel’s prints were in the car; his clothes had blood on them.

Samuel’s apprehension shows the enormous power of broken-windows policing, which the American Civil Liberties Union has fought against on L.A.’s Skid Row and throughout the country.. . . When officers question people in high-crime areas for misdemeanor offenses, they regularly find warrant absconders and parole violators. In 1996, a New York police officer nabbed a young man jumping a subway turnstile, a crime that a decade earlier had been regarded as simply an inevitable response to poverty and too trivial for the police to worry about. The turnstile-jumper, John Royster, turned out to be wanted for an ongoing campaign of terror against women in New York that included murder, rape, and a nearly lethal beating; had he not been picked up for the subway offense, he undoubtedly would have gone on to assault more women.

Of course, the effectiveness of broken-windows policing in capturing Charles Samuel is only half of the story.  The other half is the story of how anti-incarceration activists, and their allies in the judiciary, kept Samuel out of prison in the first place, despite his brutal, violent, recidivist record of crime:

California’s “three strikes and you’re out” law is the most reviled sentencing policy in the country—reviled, that is, by the anti-incarceration lobby. It allows prosecutors to seek a sentence of 25 years to life against an offender who has already served time for two violent or serious felonies when he is convicted of a third felony.

Anti-law-enforcement advocates fancifully charge that the law’s main effect is to send away hapless sad sacks whose only misstep was to succumb to the urge for a pizza when they didn’t have enough change in their pockets to buy a slice. These advocates regularly lobby Sacramento to loosen or repeal the law.

Mac Donald is right: the only time the media writes about three-strikes, it is to push a questionable sob story.  There is no discussion of these laws when they are used to finally get a violent recidivist off the streets.  The media will bang the drums when some offender with a long rap sheet finally kills someone.  But then they go back to playing amnesiac and reflexively opposing the laws that could have prevented the crime in the first place.

In Atlanta, for example, it appears that everybody has forgotten about the various sentencing and judgment errors that ended in Eugenia Calle’s murder.  Apparently, there will be no professional consequences for the judge and prosecutor who let Shamal Thompson walk as a “first offender” (for the third time), rather than enforcing Georgia’s minimum mandatory law, as they were required to do by law.  Are we all just going to collectively forget what happened, until the next time the next recidivist captures our attention by killing someone?  No consequences for offenders and no consequences for the prosecutors and judges who fail to do their jobs and put them away: a perfect circle.  No wonder judges so frequently identify with offenders, and not with the rest of us.

Heather Mac Donald:

Samuel was a good candidate for a third-strike sentence, thanks to an earlier attack that foreshadowed Burk’s murder. In 1986, he walked up to an elderly man sitting on his porch in San Bernardino (in the so-called Inland Empire east of Los Angeles), grabbed the man’s cane and beat him with it, then forced him inside his home and demanded money. When the old man could only come up with ten dollars, Samuel commandeered the man’s car and drove the owner to an ATM. The terrified senior citizen was unable to withdraw any money, however, whereupon Samuel struck him with his cane again, punched him in the stomach, and threatened to kill him if he called the police, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Samuel pled guilty in 1987 to robbery, residential burglary, and car theft and was sentenced to six years. He became eligible for a three-strikes sentence in 1997, following a conviction for another San Bernardino burglary (the 1986 robbery and burglary charges counted as his first two felonies). But his rap sheet failed to note that the 1986 burglary was a residential burglary, as opposed to a non-residential break-in. Only residential burglaries count as “serious” felonies for three-strikes purposes; breaking into a store, office building, or commercial space is regarded as “non-serious” and can be repeated indefinitely without triggering a three-strike step-up in sentencing. (So much for the idea that the three-strikes law is blindly draconian; in fact, it makes careful—perhaps overly careful—distinctions between felonies.)

To make a long story short (I am quoting too much already: read the article, it’s good), Samuel managed to avoid three-strikes in 1997 because somebody did not accurately record his prior record, and no prosecutor caught the error (sound familiar?), and he avoided three-strikes again in 2006 because another prosecutor, bowing to anti-incarceration activism, did not request the sentence (sound familiar?).  Over the years, he got other breaks as well and was most recently sentenced to a “community drug treatment program” despite the routine insistence that violent offenders are not permitted to take advantage of such options.   Now a 17-year old girl is dead, brutally murdered.  How many other people did he get away with killing?

Much misinformation about three-strikes laws circulates in the media:

  • When activists say three-strikes laws offer no room for the get-out-of-jail card that is judicial (in)discretion, don’t believe them.  Even California, with by far the strictest three-strikes law in the country, still allows judges and prosecutors discretion to release violent, repeat offenders to the streets.  Georgia’s law is utterly toothless, with judicial discretion over-ruling virtually any consequences for crime by allowing judges to suspend all time to be served at the times of sentencing.
  • When district attorneys tell you they don’t need addition resources, they are playing politics with your safety.  Nobody seriously believes that any district attorney’s office has the resources to actually enforce the law.  The law has not really been enforced in this country for decades.  Every district attorney’s office is so short-staffed, in comparison to the real quantity of crime, that virtually every offense gets brief consideration by some harried prosecutor and then a generous plea deal.  Criminals know this and act accordingly.  Until that changes, no district attorney should go around claiming that he doesn’t need resources.  Paul Howard.
  • It is 2009.  Even I have learned to use computers, and I am a recalcitrant luddite.  The average computer tech could design a system during his lunch break that would record and database all prosecution, sentencing and incarceration outcomes.  By suppertime, the data could be available to the public on the internet.

However, if people really knew what was happening in the criminal courts, a lot of heads would roll.  Judges and prosecutors would find themselves answering for the leniency so ingrained at every level of the system that it seems natural — so long as you don’t look too hard, and it is not your daughter they are burying this week.

Some Other Elected Officials Who Should Be Shown the Door

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Amazing, the amount of work it takes to get our leaders to the point of appearing to do their jobs.  But the job of getting elected officials to do their jobs, alas, is never done.  The mayor and chief of police have promised more police on the streets by next summer (and if this promise is not kept, they will be long gone anyway, so accountability is moot).  A weekend crime sweep netted 159 arrests, including many for outstanding warrants, which means that enough manpower was deployed to do what is supposed to be done all the time: pick up people with outstanding warrants.

In other words, in the last five days, the mayor briefly did her job by addressing the crime problem while only slightly denying it; the chief of police was spotted in the same zip code as his office, and law enforcement officers were given enough resources for all of 48 hours.

So far, so good.  But now those 159 arrestees are in the hands of the District Attorney and the Court.  And that, my friends, is where everything falls down.

~~~

There are two compelling crime stories in Sunday Paper this week.  “Back on the Streets Again: Midtown Battles the Same Offenders Over and Over” addresses the problem of the courts.  Patrick Bray and Stephanie Ramage profile just a few of the repeat offenders emboldened by the justice system’s inability to hold them accountable for their actions:

Midtown resident Kim Bannerman was attacked in her minivan while stopped at a traffic light at the corner of 5th Street and Peachtree Street one day in June.

Her attacker, Kim Paige, a Midtown vagrant with mental issues, stood in the street obstructing traffic and then climbed on the hood of Bannerman’s van, maneuvering around to the driver’s side window and attempting to pull Bannerman out of the van by her hair.

How many times has Kim Paige attacked strangers on Atlanta’s streets?  Well, that’s hard to figure.  The Clerk of Superior Court, Cathelene Robinson, does not post criminal records on the Clerk of Court’s website.  She does, however, dedicate a portion of the website to a yearbook-like photo collage of her own life.  The website also weirdly features a “History of Fulton County” cribbed from someplace else, in which we learn:

North of the Chattahoochee River what is now Fulton County is quite different than Atlanta and its environs. Although rapid growth is battling history in an oft repeated scenario, the quiet, aged roads of Milton County sing a song of a different era, when horseless carriages were preceded by horsedrawn ones and you would see your next door neighbor every other week.

What, one might ask, is this corn-pone blathering doing on the Clerk of Court’s website, instead of access to the criminal records that comprise the office’s actual business?  Perhaps it has to do with pretending (pretending badly) to proffer the never-delivered “History of the Fulton County Court,” for which Ms. Robinson’s impressively corrupt mentor and predecessor, Juanita Hicks, was handsomely paid (hit the link for some good advice from Maureen Downey about recalling Robinson).

Taxpayers may not be able to look up Kim Paige’s criminal record to determine precisely how worried they need to be the next time she mounts a car hood and starts trying to pull the occupants out by their hair,   but they can learn that Clerk of Court Cathelene Robinson’s motto is: “Whatever you chose to be, strive to be the best.”

And that is just one sign of the chaos in judiciary.  But it is an important one, and the first that should be fixed.  Without systematic access to the outcomes of criminal cases, there is no way to know if the courts are functioning at all.  There is no way to know which judges are enforcing sentencing and recidivism laws, or which violent offenders are being allowed to walk by the district attorney — no way to make informed decisions at election time or evaluate the “alternative sentencing” programs being forced down people’s throats.  Why are the courts permitted to operate in secrecy?

From the Sunday Paper article:

Besides [Kim] Paige, the [Midtown Ponce Security Alliance] MPSA is keeping an eye out for several other vagrants they don’t want to come back. One is Kenneth Lamb. Known as the “barefoot panhandler,” Lamb has spent most of his adult life in prison for rape, aggravated assault and robbery. . . Yet another concern is Ricky Love, who is currently in jail after years of terrorizing people in Midtown. The Fulton County Superior Court convicted him in September 2008 for aggravated assault. Love was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment but credited with two years already served in pre-trial detention. The judge suspended the remainder under two conditions:  Love must undergo treatment for mental health issues and banishment from Fulton County. . .

“Unless they are caught with a gun or drugs on them, the judges are not going to do anything and the suspects know that,” says one policeman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

~~~

So how many of those 159 defendants arrested in the weekend sting are already out on the streets again?

How many mentally incompetent or young offenders among them are learning the lesson — right now — that they can get away with attacking someone or stealing something?

Below is the record for Kenneth Lamb’s state incarceration history — in other words, for those crimes deemed serious enough to bump him up to state prison, not just arrest-and-release or a stint in county jail.  I’m hypothesizing, because I don’t have the records in front of me, and Cathelene Robinson is busy scrapbooking on the Fulton County Superior Court website, but it looks to me that case #127823, for aggravated assault, robbery, motor vehicle theft, armed robbery, rape, and conversion, netted Lamb four seven-year sentences in 1980, and he walked out of prison 3 years, 8 months later.  Two months after that (at the most), he raped again, and then again, and there is little reason to doubt that he committed other rapes for which he was not caught or convicted.

Because studies claiming that sex offenders are not prone to recidivism are bunk.  And the police routinely close several rape cases when a serial offender gets sent down for one or two.

So the next time your neighbor chews you out for not expressing proper empathy for the “harmless” homeless person breaking into your basement or grabbing strangers by the hair on the street, tell them to contemplate Kenneth Lamb’s record, or any one of the thousand of others that illustrate the failure of our justice system to protect the public (including, for that matter, the actually harmless homeless, who are the easiest prey).

LAMB, KENNETH C

GDC ID: 0000220527

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION
YOB: 1962 RACE: WHITE GENDER: MALE
HEIGHT: 5’09” WEIGHT: 162 EYE COLOR: HAZEL HAIR COLOR: BROWN
SCARS, MARKS, TATTOOS
TATTOO/MEDIUM BODY
INCARCERATION DETAILS
MAJOR OFFENSE: POSS OF COCAINE
MOST RECENT INSTITUTION: BALDWIN STATE PRISON
MAX POSSIBLE RELEASE DATE: 09/30/2006
TENTATIVE PAROLE MONTH: NOT ALLOWED IN THIS CASE
ACTUAL RELEASE DATE: 09/30/2006
CURRENT STATUS: INACTIVE
KNOWN ALIASES
A.K.A. LAMB,KENNETH
A.K.A. LAMB,KENNETH CHARLES
A.K.A. LAMB,KENNETH L
STATE OF GEORGIA – CURRENT SENTENCES
CASE NO: 608522
OFFENSE: POSS OF COCAINE
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 01/03/2006
SENTENCE LENGTH: 0 YEARS, 4 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
STATE OF GEORGIA – PRIOR SENTENCES
CASE NO: 177743
OFFENSE: poss of marijuana
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 01/08/1985
SENTENCE LENGTH: 0 YEARS, 12 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
CASE NO: 177743
OFFENSE: AGG ASLT W INTNT TO RAPE
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 01/08/1985
SENTENCE LENGTH: 20 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
CASE NO: 177743
OFFENSE: RAPE
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 05/03/1984
SENTENCE LENGTH: 5 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
CASE NO: 127823
OFFENSE: NOT AVAILABLE
CONVICTION COUNTY: CONVERSION
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: NOT AVAILABLE
CASE NO: 127823
OFFENSE: RAPE
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: 7 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
CASE NO: 127823
OFFENSE: ARMED ROBBERY
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: 7 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
CASE NO: 127823
OFFENSE: ROBBERY
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: 7 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
CASE NO: 127823
OFFENSE: THEFT MOTORVEH OR PART
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: NOT AVAILABLE
CASE NO: 127823
OFFENSE: ROBBERY
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: 7 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
CASE NO: 127823
OFFENSE: AGGRAV ASSAULT
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: NOT AVAILABLE
STATE OF GEORGIA – INCARCERATION HISTORY
INCARCERATION BEGIN INCARCERATION END
07/20/2006 09/30/2006
03/14/1985 02/20/2005
07/11/1980 03/04/1984