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Vision 21: The Good, The Bad, and The Creepy in the DOJ’s New Crime Victim Initiative

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The Office of Justice Programs of the Department of Justice is busy promoting Vision 21 Transforming Victims Services, the DOJ’s sweeping “new” agenda for providing “services” to victims of crime.  I’m using the scare quotes here because I don’t trust Eric Holder to do anything about crime other than politicize it.

OJP masthead
Vision 21 Transforming Victim Services

Vision 21 is certainly a paean to identity group activism and identity group representation and identity group “outreach.”  True to form, the DOJ leaves no stone unturned in their efforts to kick the justice system further down the road of pure identity-based balkanization.

But the most troubling thing I’m seeing at first glance is the emphasis on providing “services” to victims in lieu of getting justice for them.  It looks like Vision 21 is providing multiple opportunities for activist organizations to exploit crime victims for other ends.  The involvement of groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Soros-funded, pro-offender VERA Institute for Justice suggests to me that one of the primary intentions of Vision 21 is to neuter the voices of real crime victims who demand real consequences and real sentences for violent and repeat offenders.  And, sure enough, Holder’s handpicked leaders have been floating anti-incarceration messaging in the endless “stakeholder forums” that inevitably accompany such initiatives.

Expect to hear a lot about how victims “want to be heard and included more than they want prosecutions.”  Expect offenders to be counted as sort of “co-victims” of crime.  Expect a lot of talk about the restorative justice movement, which was long ago hijacked by advocates for criminals and is now used primarily to keep offenders out of prison, rather than making them take responsibility for their crimes.  The “criminals are victims too” activists who hijacked restorative justice and profit from the vast “criminal re-entry” service industry are running the show at the DOJ.

Visin 21 is certainly a full-employment vision for the criminology profession.  And putting criminologists in charge of anything relating to crime victims is like sticking puppies in tiger cages.  But feeding the criminologists has been a primary goal all along.  Laurie Robinson’s tenure at the DOJ was dedicated to systematically subjugating the criminal justice system to the academic criminologists, in order to, of course, take all that vengeful punishment and incarceration stuff out of the equation (except in the cases of so-called hate criminals).

Now Mary Lou Leary is carrying the full-employment-for-criminologists ball.  FYI, “smart on crime” here means hopefully not incarcerating anyone, no matter what they do, unless Eric says it’s a hate crime:

This focus on careful analysis is one of the Justice Department’s top priorities. We are committed to promoting programs and approaches that are “smart on crime.” Under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, I can assure you that this is more than a mere buzzword. For this Department, being smart on crime means resisting knee-jerk reactions, investing in solid research, and ensuring that evidence is translated so it is useful to all of you on the frontlines.

Get it?  This is supposed to be a statement about victim programs, but Leary is talking “knee-jerk reactions.”  They’re helping crime victims avoid “knee-jerk reactions,” like wanting their offenders behind bars.  This will be accomplished with science.

On the positive side, The National Crime Victim Law Institute and other highly credible crime victim advocates are also involved in Vision 21.  And the initiatives to professionalize and expand evidence collection is money well-spent.

While the Experts Fiddle, George Soros Buys the Criminology Profession


This week, the Soros-funded anti-incarceration-criminologists at John Jay College’s The Crime Report excitedly announced a major new initiative: Soros-funded anti-incarceration criminologists are going to pull on their Sherlock Holmes caps and investigate the “causes of incarceration” in America.

Again, because they didn’t find it the last 500 times:

Eighteen of the country’s leading scholars and experts on corrections and related fields have launched a major project to study the “causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration” in the United States.

The panel of scholars, chaired by Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, will examine the reasons for the dramatic increases in U.S. incarceration rates since the 1970s, which have produced one of the world’s highest incarceration levels—with more than 2.3 million people behind bars in U.S. prisons and jails at any time.

The topic has been widely discussed and analyzed for years . . .

I can save them the time, of course, but it’s not an answer they’re going to want to hear.  The reason why we have so many people behind bars is because they committed crimes.  

We could actually use a few more people behind bars:

Gwinnett County police have arrested a man who they suspect broke into a woman’s home and raped her, according to Channel 2 Action News.

The attack happened Monday evening in a neighborhood off Buford Drive, according to Channel 2. Officers and canine units eventually caught Marcus Terrell, of Lawrenceville, and arrested him and charged him with the assault, according to Channel 2.

Terrell has been arrested 16 times in Gwinnett County dating back to 1994, according to Channel 2. He has been arrested on charges of DUI, public indecency, loitering, and child molestation. Records show the child molestation charges were dropped for a guilty plea to sexual battery in 2004. He received a one-year sentence.

Terrell has also been arrested several times in Dekalb County, according to Channel 2. Officials in the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office, told Channel 2 that they can’t discuss Terrell’s criminal history at this point. They said more details may come out at his preliminary hearing . . .

One year for molesting a child.  This type of thing happens every day.  But the public doesn’t hear about it.  Nor will the experts be discussing and analyzing it at this task force.  What they’re going to be talking about is how to get the maximum number of people out of prison for any reason whatsoever no matter what they’ve done, a practice they refer to as “filling in the knowledge gaps”:

The group  will examine a wide range of issues related to U.S. corrections, including the costs and benefits of current sentencing and incarceration policies, and it will explore any evidence  that “alternative punishments might achieve similar public safety benefits and lower financial and social costs,” according to the official announcement of the project.

The panel will also assess existing research on incarceration, identify research gaps and offer policy recommendations.

In its statement announcing the project, the MacArthur Foundation said, “It is evident that there are significant knowledge gaps regarding the causes and consequences of incarceration.”

Knowledge gaps.  Like, how we can live with ourselves while letting people who rape children walk the streets.

Or, how the experts are going to conceal their activities from the public that is paying for their latest silly and deceptive study, as they quietly empty the prisons at the behest of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations:

The new study somewhat parallels ongoing or proposed work, including projects by the Pew Center on the States [Soros-funded] and affiliated organizations on sentencing reform in several states, and a national criminal justice commission proposed by Sen. Jim Webb  (D-VA) that is yet to be approved by Congress.

Members of [Jeremy] Travis’ study panel include some major leaders and researchers in the corrections field.

They are:

  • Michael Tonry, professor of law of the University of Minnesota [Soros funded] 
  • Avelardo Valdez, professor of social work at the University of Southern California [Soros funded]
  • Bruce Western, professor of sociology at Harvard, who wrote a 2006 book on punishment and inequality in America [Soros funded]

The panel already has held one meeting. In the future it may call in experts to make presentations but will not hold public hearings.

So George Soros engineered a complete takeover of every university criminology department in the United States some time around 2004, and now the intellectual minions he spawned are being invested with the power to destroy our criminal  justice system from within, while the same journalists who dampened themselves when the Koch brothers paid for one little economics chair at University of Florida studiously pretend they can’t see this, a disciplinary crime exacerbated by the fact that they are also taking money from Soros through their own professional organization of crime journalists at John Jay College’s Center on Media Crime and Justice, which Soros cleverly bought a couple of years ago.

OK, but what’s my point?   



Chardon High: Why Kids Kill? It’s Not “Bullying.” But Don’t Wait for “Experts” to Admit It


It’s the family, usually:

Parent of Teen Accused of Shootings Faced Charges (, no link)

The father, Thomas Lane Jr., was known to county authorities because of a series of arrests for abusing women in his life, court records show. It’s not clear how much contact the father and son had.
But between 1995 and 1997, the boy’s father and mother, Sara A. Nolan, were each charged with domestic violence against each other.
The father was later charged with assaulting a police officer and served time in prison after trying to suffocate another woman he married several years after his son was born, according to court records.
He held the woman’s head under running water and bashed it into a wall, leaving a dent in the drywall, court records show.
But soon after he went to prison, the woman wrote a letter asking that he be released early.
She had divorced Thomas Lane but said in the letter that he was always a good father to their twin daughters and a son she had before they married.
Some youths who attended a vigil at a church on Chardon’s square Monday evening said that the teen lived with his grandparents and had multiple step- and half-siblings. His grandmother declined to comment.

But you can’t sue school districts that way.

And these bullying industry experts don’t get a payday . . .

if they can’t blame the usual suspects: the victims themselves.

Nor can this one, who was quick to advertise his services. 

Meanwhile, the White House is awaiting news of whether they can exploit the tragedy.



James Alan Fox. Professional.


Surveying the current crop of well-known criminologists is sort of like watching a sack of drowning cats trying to make excuses for the guy who just threw them in a lake.  It didn’t used to be that way.  Once, giants in short-sleeved button-down shirts with clip-on ties labored anonymously in room-sized IBM computers.

Now we have celebrity criminologists like James Alan Fox jealously guarding his speciality of crawling into sex killers’ brains and popping back out to tell the rest of us stuff like: “serial killers are really angry, and they blame other people for their problems.”  That is, when he isn’t seething with thinly-disguised contempt towards crime victims, who seem to bother him by existing.

Last week, Fox summoned all his professional expertise to pen a very nasty little screed decrying ABC news for hiring crime victim Elizabeth Smart to comment on crime.  Here is Fox describing the poised young woman, who survived kidnapping and months of repeated sexual assault:

The 23-year-old college student is well-known, of course, for having been kidnapped from her home at the age of 14 and repeatedly raped by a homeless religious extremist, and lucky enough to live to tell about it. However, ABC is looking for Smart to speak about much more than her own victimization. Apparently, the network believes that her harrowing ordeal qualifies her as an expert on the general topic of kidnapping.  Her name may be smart, but she is hardly an expert.

Does the professor realize that he is projecting all the gravitas of an aggrieved teen?  Yet he also manages to sound like a middle-aged professor trying to kiss up to news executives by pretending that their coverage of topics like “kidnapping” is somehow dependent on dense intellectual inquiry.  Here, by the way, is the cover of one of Dr. Fox’s dense intellectual inquiries:

That’s not lurid and exploitative because the authors are academics.

Fox certainly is an expert at what he does, which, in addition to stating extremely obvious things about serial killers, involves playing down the legal significance of woman-hatred as a motive for sexual crimes against women.  I’ve written here, here, and here about his prominent role in deceiving the public about the ways hate crime laws are subjectively enforced, all in order to serve the demands of activists.  Fox’s particularly low and ugly sub-speciality in this ruse is using his “expertise” on sex killers to distinguish between ‘hate motivations’ and ‘just killing bunches of women because you have low self-esteem, or can’t get a date.’

In other words, whenever some extremely angry guy gets a gun and mows down random women, or goes into a bar and attacks the first woman he sees, or rapes and murders woman after woman, you can count on James Alan Fox to blather on about the guy’s feelings of insecurity while carefully pretending that the question of whether the crime should be prosecuted as “hate” isn’t relevant.  Reporters never interrupt this delicate tap dance with questions as Fox sashays “women killed by gunman looking to kill women” into the “non-hate” column.

So when James Alan Fox complains about the networks hiring “non-experts” like Elizabeth Smart, he isn’t just being offensive on a personal level: he is pretending that he and his credentialed peers aren’t pushing their own agendas when they appear on the evening news.  Although these agendas routinely come with funding from activist groups, the network media never seems to mention that.  Fox’s personal style is misdirection by omission, as when he manages to crawl through lengthy interviews about the causes of inner-city crime without mentioning broken homes or missing fathers.

It would be interesting to ask him why he thinks Elizabeth Smart’s captor wasn’t prosecuted for “gender bias hate” — or to ask that question of any of the academics who pull in big salaries and grants to lecture us about what we should be believing and not believing.

One might occasionally expect a little humility from the academic discipline that brought us whoppers like “unemployment increases crime . . . oh wait, scratch that.” One would be in error.  The outrage expressed by Fox over the Elizabeth Smart hiring isn’t just about her: it is the outrage of a class of people who are used to getting away with promoting their own faux objectivity and controlling the message without being challenged or questioned at all.

But Fox’s outrage is also very much about Smart being a crime victim. Criminologists who tend to see criminals as the only victims of our justice system (in other words, criminologists like Fox who get quoted in the New York Times) are rendered deeply uncomfortable by the presence of actual victims.  Victims, like their equally unreliable sidekick, The Public, often have the temerity to complain about crime, instead of relying on criminologists to tell them how they should feel.  Fox’s meltdown over Elizabeth Smart is awash in the sort of anxieties and antipathies that criminologists reserve for crime victims (and never for criminals).  He slips from fatuousness to outright contempt:

I will resist the temptation to judge whether such a role is healthy for someone who endured nine months of sexual assault and servitude, with the psychological effects lasting well beyond her rescue. More to the point, what insights can Smart bring to the table or the set of Good Morning America? . . . Smart may have had an up close and personal, albeit untrained perspective of her abductor, but most kidnappings are for very different purposes than hers. Wouldn’t viewers learn much more from an analyst who has specialized in the study of kidnapping . . . Obviously, hiring Smart is much more of an attention grabber.  To be fair, ABC’s decision to feature Elizabeth Smart as their kidnapping specialist reflects a fairly common practice in what could be described as the mass media version of “it takes one to know one.”

“It takes one to know one”?  It takes one to know one what?  That saying is a pejorative, as is the entire tone Fox assumes here:

There are countless other examples of activists who turn their victimization into a credential for instant expertise. After surviving a mass shooting at a crowded Texas restaurant, Suzanna Gratia Hupp became the darling of the NRA, was elected to the Texas state legislature and published a book — all on her experience-based advocacy for right-to-carry laws. Closer to home, Donna Cuomo gained the limelight as the aunt of a teenager once murdered by furlough-absconder Willie Horton, and eventually gained a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives predicated largely on her tough-on-criminals agenda.

The darling of the NRA.  Gained the limelight. What did these people ever do to Fox, other than being crime victims and refusing to hide their faces in shame, as he and his peers would prefer?  Note that he describes vicious murderers in neutral terms while lashing out at their victims.  And what, precisely, is “experienced-based advocacy for right-to-carry laws”?  Does Fox know how people become lobbyists?  It’s not by getting a Ph.D. in lobbying.

Here is Suzanna Gratia Hupp’s story.  It is sickening that James Alan Fox would skip these facts in order to enhance his contemptuous dismissal of her:

On Wednesday, October 16, 1991, Hupp and her parents were having lunch at the Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen. She had left her gun in her car to comply with Texas state law at the time, which forbade carrying a concealed weapon. When George Hennard drove his truck into the cafeteria and opened fire on the patrons, Hupp instinctively reached into her purse for her weapon, but it was in her vehicle. Her father, Al Gratia, tried to rush Hennard and was shot in the chest. As the gunman reloaded, Hupp escaped through a broken window and believed that her mother, Ursula Gratia, was behind her. Hennard put a gun to her mother’s head as she cradled her mortally wounded husband. Hupp’s mother and father were killed along with twenty-one other persons. Hennard also wounded some twenty others. As a survivor of the Luby’s massacre, Hupp testified across the country in support of concealed-handgun laws. She said that had there been a second chance to prevent the slaughter, she would have violated the Texas law and carried the handgun inside her purse into the restaurant.

Suzanna Gratia Hupp, with a picture of her murdered parents

It sounds as if the professor doesn’t wish to merely ban non-professors from speaking to the media: he wants to prevent the proles from doing things like running for office in state legislatures.  How dare these women . . . represent people.  What he says about John Walsh is even more shocking:

John Walsh made a career on the shoulders of having been the father of a 6-year-old abduction/murder victim.

Fox is too much of a coward to say “on the shoulders of Walsh’s six-year old abducted and murdered son,” though that’s obviously what he means.  Otherwise, he’d be talking about Walsh standing on his own shoulders, which makes no sense.  What a dishonest little quisling.  Also, what an odd way of arguing that you’re more professional than someone.  Yet, despite all the ill advised things Fox has already said, the professor has even more to say:

Although [Walsh’s] efforts in hostingAmerica’s Most Wanted may have contributed to bringing certain criminals to justice, was he really the best person for the job? What is it about having his son grabbed and killed that qualified him as an expert on law enforcement investigation?

Hmmm.  This begs an academic question, or maybe just a question about academics: did Dr. Fox do a scientific study to back up this assertion that crime victims don’t make the “best” hosts for popular television shows about fugitives from the law?

What’s that?  He didn’t?

OK, is he at least a credentialed expert on casting for television shows?  No?  Then why is he writing authoritatively about a subject firmly outside his area of expertise in an essay arguing that people who lack academic credentials should not voice their opinions on subjects outside their area of expertise?

I guess he’s not an expert in logic, either.

In fact, the most laughable part of Fox’s argument is his insistence that he and his academically credentialled ilk act like professionals when they’re the ones out trolling for headlines.  Here’s my evidence:

Professionalism Exhibit 1:

This is Fox’s own website, from the very classy WOLFMAN PRODUCTIONS, which also represents porn star Ron Jeremy and Daryl Davis, the “Black Klansman.”  In the super-professional world of WOLFMAN PRODUCTIONS, Dr. Fox proudly boasts that he is called THE DEAN OF DEATH. This is itself an exaggeration: Northeastern University confirms that Fox is not actually the Dean of Death but only a regular professor in their criminology department.

Dr. James Alan Fox, Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice and former dean at
Northeastern University in Boston, presents six incredible lectures on criminology, serial killers, and violence…

  • Killing for Pleasure: Serial Killers Among Us
    A chilling examination of the minds, motives and capture of infamous serial killers of
    our time.
  • Overkill: Shooting Rampages in America
    Workplace avengers, family annihilators, and schoolyard snipers–more methodical
    than imagined.
  • Lessons from the Schoolyard: Youth and School Violence
    A look at the causes of youth and school violence, including an assessment of the
    easy solutions that don’t work and the difficult ones that do.
  • Dial M for Media: Violence and Popular Culture
    A critical discussion of violent themes in television, film, and video games and the
    commercialization of killing.
  • Angry and Dangerous: The Do’s and Don’ts of Disgruntlement
    A guide to understanding vengeance in many work settings and how best to identify
    and respond to problem people and places.
  • American Terror: From the Columbine Killers to the DC Snipers
    An analysis of common themes to various home-grown forms of terror. Including serial
    murder, school violence, child abductions, and workplace violence.

James Alan Fox is The Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice and former dean at Northeastern University in Boston. He has published fifteen books, including his two newest, The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder, and Dead Lines: Essays in Murder and Mayhem. As an authority on homicide, he appears regularly on national television and radio programs, including the Today Show, Dateline20/2048 Hours andOprah, and is frequently interviewed by the press. He was also profiled in a two-part cover story in USA Today, which dubbed him “The Dean of Death,” in a Scientific American feature story as well as in other media outlets. He served as a consulting contributor for Fox News following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and as an NBC News Analyst during the D.C. Sniper investigation. Fox often gives lectures and expert testimony, including over one hundred keynote or campus-wide addresses around the country, twelve appearances before the United States Congress, White House meetings with President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Gore on youth violence, private briefings to Attorney General Reno on trends in violence, and a presentation for Princess Anne of Great Britain. Finally, Fox is a visiting fellow with the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

For a fee, you can purchase,”Six Incredible Lectures on Criminology, Serial Killers, and Violence” by The Dean of Death.  And he has had private meetings with both Janet Reno and Princess Anne of Great Britain.  Princess Anne!  Princess Anne?

Princess Anne and Janet Reno, both holding invisible balls

Here are some of the reviews this knowledgeable and credentialed intellectual uses to promote his knowledgeable intellectual lectures on crime:

…incredibly astounding… marvelous…”
– Southwest State University

…a huge success. His thought provoking speech on serial killers was extremely entertaining and captured the audience’s attention. Mr. Fox did a wonderful job; I am still hearing great comments about his presentation.”
– Adams State College

Yeah, there’s just nothing more entertaining than listening to some self-important academic prattle on about people who rape and murder women and little boys. Fox’s choice of promotional  materials begs another academic question: if James Alan Fox considers his serial killer research “entertaining” and “amazing,” and if he sells it as a gruesome sideshow through a company that represent porn actors and other assorted lowlife, then where does he get off scolding Elizabeth Smart and John Walsh for talking publicly about crime after they experienced it as victims?

Ron Jeremy, Porn Star.  Stay classy, Northeastern University

Here’s a mental exercise: picture James Alan Fox hanging at the Wolfman Productions Christmas party, regaling Ron Jeremy with his cool stories about meeting Jeffrey Dahmer.  Now keep that image in your mind as you contemplate the presumption Fox displays in these crude, published musings about Elizabeth Smart’s state of mind:

I will resist the temptation to judge whether such a role is healthy for someone who endured nine months of sexual assault and servitude, with the psychological effects lasting well beyond her rescue.

Servitude!  The Dean of Death is also a word master.  Fox pretends he is not “judging” Elizabeth Smart’s mental state but actually resisting the “temptation” to judge it by yammering on about it in print.

I wonder how he justifies even mentioning her mental state?  Is Dr. Fox a mental health professional?  Is he a psychiatrist?  A psychologist?

Uh, he’s just a sociologist.   He has no relevant degrees, no authority, no certification.  Maybe it’s a hobby.  Or maybe, to paraphrase Fox: he may be a professor, but he’s also the guy being represented by Ron Jeremy’s agent.

{Updated} Aesthetic Tragedy, New York Times Style: Mime Panic Buttons Defunded in California


It’s hard to find anything to say about this story that the New York Times has not trumped simply by writing it:

A Safety Valve for Inmates, the Arts, Fades in California

NORCO, Calif. — Fifteen men darted across the room, their faces slathered in greasepaint, reciting lines from “Tartuffe.” The stage, such as it was, was a low-ceilinged recreation room, and the cast was a troupe of felons who had just stepped in from the dusty yard of the California Rehabilitation Center . . . Two years ago, arts in corrections programs were a mainstay of prisons across the country, embraced by administrators as a way to channel aggression, break down racial barriers, teach social skills and prepare inmates for the outside world.

Or, maybe not.  Though such activities are supposed to reduce recidivism, Times writer Adam Nagourney acknowledges “there is no conclusive research on that.”

No conclusive research.  No conclusive research, not anywhere in the vast offender-validating, crime-denying rabbit warren of California higher education?  Not one, single, believable, peer-reviewed study subsidized by all the drooling millionaires of PEN?

In other words, despite the best efforts by armies of superlatively funded academic researchers, nobody could cook up a justification for spending money on those “arts coordinator[s] in each of the 33 California state prisons, overseeing a rich variety of theater, painting and dance.”

“[The] programs have become a fading memory,” the Times laments.

Once, in the golden age of not long ago, there were mimes teaching Moliere on your dime to child molesters; felons riffing Tartuffe with tax dollars.  Now, no more.

Mime tear.

Tartuffe, incidentally, is a play that happens to be about distrusting expressions of virtue, and authority in general.  So maybe the problem isn’t “the arts.” Maybe the problem is the art being taught, and who is doing the teaching.  The Times story inadvertently serves as Exhibit A for this theme:

Only two prison arts programs are left in California, and both rely on volunteers and private contributions. The one here is run by the Actors’ Gang, whose artistic director is the actor Tim Robbins [who] has become nearly as familiar a figure at the prison as the warden himself.

Of course, that “familiarity” comes with a price tag for the rest of us, though you can bet your last button they’re not including our names on the embossed fundraiser invites.  It costs money for Tim Robbins to prance around maximum security reliving old movie roles.  “The real actors are issued panic buttons to attach to their belts, in case they are cornered,” notes the Times.  Why the “real actors” don’t rely on the curative power of aesthetic accomplishment is not explained. But, enough of that; back to Tim Robbins:

Mr. Robbins instructed the inmates to feel fear . . . “What is Tartuffe afraid of?” he said, wearing a wool skullcap and dressed in black. “Being discovered. Because that would mean jail for him.”

“Something is coming after you!” he said urgently to the inmates as they scampered around. “What is it?”

“Cops!” one inmate yelled.

“Cops!” Mr. Robbins responded, clapping his hands in delight. “Then run!”

How wry, shouting at prisoners to run away from the police.  How, Attica-ey.

Admittedly, Mr. Robbins does have experience successfully encouraging the dreams of aspiring young actors.

Oh, wait, scratch that: Mr. Robbins has experience encouraging the murderers of aspiring young actors who dream of success.

Richard Adan, Murdered by Jack Abbott at 22

Ask the family of Richard Adan.  Adan was a 22-year old aspiring actor and playwright who was brutally stabbed to death in 1981 in his own family’s restaurant by Jack Abbott, a sociopathic killer who was supposed to be in prison but had been freed early because Robbins‘ future wife, Susan Sarandon, and others used their star power to obtain his release {Sarandon, in cahoots with Norman Mailer, helped get Abbott released before she met Robbins; Robbins and Sarandon chose to name their son after Abbott a few years later — the original version of this post was incorrect about Robbins’ attendance at Abbott’s 1982 trial — thanks to Cinesnatch for noting the error}.

Robbins‘s future wife Sarandon said she saw artistic talent in Jack Abbott, so obviously he should go free.  Bolstered by intense lobbying by the New York Times, New York’s literary elite, and PEN, some pathetic, star-struck losers on the New York State parole board agreed to let Abbott go, even though he told his artistic sponsors that he would kill again, which he did, a mere did six weeks after his release.

Jack Abbott, Toast of New York’s Intelligentsia

So, to summarize: in 1981 Tim Robbins‘ future wife Susan Sarandon was among those who helped get murderer Jack Abbott out of prison on the grounds of Abbott’s perceived artistic “talent.”  Abbott immediately satisfied the edgy aesthetics of Susan Sarandon by performing the ultimate act of “outsider” art, stabbing an innocent young man to death outside the man’s family’s restaurant.  The day after the murder, the New York Times ran a glowing review of Jack Abbott’s art (I can’t provide a link: the Times has Stalinistically mopped away this reprehensible little bit of its own history).  Now, in 2011, the Times runs a story about Robbins teaching theater to violent offenders in order to help them gain early release — because participating in programs like this one is all about gaining points towards release, never mind the claptrap about race harmony and self-actualization.

Yet, somehow, the Times doesn’t feel the need to mention Tim Robbins’ previous record with prisoners and arts programs in this story.  Curious choice.

In 1982, Abbott went on trial again. A few of his other supporters, like Norman Mailer, mustered enough big-boy shame this time to cower in the shadows.  But not Susan Sarandon: she continued lobbying for Jack Abbott’s release on the grounds that he was a talented artist.  Robbins’ especially shameless wife showed up daily for the trial in support of her talented murderer.  Later, after she met Tim Robbins, they named their firstborn son after the killer: Jack Henry Robbins.

It is difficult to imagine the degree of callousness it takes to sit in full view of a family mourning for the death of their son while fawning over his killer.  Then, to name your child after the killer?  That should have been the end of those sickos’ careers.  But in Hollywood, Sarandon and Robbins are considered voices of moral authority, not in spite of this heinous inhumanity, but because of it.  Sarandon and Robbins weren’t done torturing and degrading crime victims after the Abbott case, however: they and Sister Helen Prejean made the lives of several other victims hell in the process of making their film, Dead Man Walking.  They grotesquely rewrote and toned down the crimes, wrote the existence of inconvenient survivors out of the story, and invented the killer’s on-screen remorse wholecloth, all under Tim Robbins’ direction.

Robbins chose to disappear victims and crimes.  Why does the corrections system of California permit him to continue using taxpayer resources to perpetuate similar whitewashing today?  The Times‘ story about Tim Robbins’ touching drama academy behind bars carefully avoids mentioning the crimes these sensitive thespians committed.  Reporter Adam Nagourney did not bother to contact the victims of these men, some of them rapists.  He didn’t bother to ask the victims for their point of view on the program.  Isn’t that what reporters are supposed to do?  Instead, we get giggly effervescence (from the slideshow):

The workshops and rehearsals are antic and oddly entertaining: guards can be spotted peering through a window. The inmates, like Matthew O’Day, are animated, campy, energized, liberated and fearlessly engaged, comfortable even playing women in a sea of gang tattoos and muscles.

“Campy, energized, liberated and fearlessly engaged.” “Cops!” cries Tim Robbins, “clapping his hands in delight.”  “[R]un,” he shouts.  What are these inmates supposed to be learning?  What do they learn in other programs, like Changing Lives Through Literature (see here and here), which is taught by anti-incarceration activists who pen long, weepy paeans thanking their offender-students for enriching their pale, law abiding lives?  Check out this particularly troubling story.

I first became interested in prisoner education programs when my own rapist got cut loose early (to commit more heinous rapes of his favorite prey, elderly women) because he allegedly completed “college psychology” courses in prison, a fascinating accomplishment for someone who also got time off the front of his sentence for allegedly being mentally slow.  Too many prison higher educations programs and arts programs are run like this, and by people like Tim Robbins, who see rapists and murderers only as heroes and rebels striking out righteously against America’s “stultifying, capitalist, fascist state.”

And so, unsurprisingly, the material taught is most frequently about crooked justice and wrongful incarceration.  How, again, is this supposed to rehabilitate anyone?  It doesn’t, as respected criminologists have observed.  Vocational training, GED preparation, 12-step programs — those things often help, and contrary to the fabulists at the Times and elsewhere who claim that prisoners today have no access to enrichment or education, they are available to higher numbers of inmates — and also higher percentages of inmates — than ever.

In contrast, all these fantasy workshops on poetry, Restoration drama performances, and college classes about injustice in America do nothing but stroke offenders’ — and their teachers’ — egos.  Reading news stories about such programs, it is impossible not to notice how the teachers pose as acolytes, blaming society for their students’ crimes and praising offenders for their extraordinarily special talents and insights.  In this program funded by crime victims and other Virginia taxpayers, Andrew Kaufman brings his young U.Va. students into prison to read books like The Death of Ivan Illyich with offenders.  Ivan Illyich, remember, is a story about an unethical judge.  The U.Va. students — girls — coo on command over the offenders’ good manners, while judging their own non-felonious classmates harshly.  How early they learn what is wanted from them.  “All four women said the residents were far less superficial and more respectful to them than many male U.Va. students,” the reporter writes.  Really?  Did the girls see the offenders’ records?  Does Kaufman also take them on field trips to visit their victims?

No.  Of course not.  In the moral universe occupied by people like this, the only victims are the men behind bars.  “Cops,” cries Tim Robbins, “run!”  Inmates can still pursue the arts and read books in all of these prisons, of course.  It’s just that taxpayers and crime victims are no longer subsidizing anti-American, anti-incarceration, anti-bourgeoise arts camps for inmates, as they were once forced to do.  “We enjoyed this real lush period when there was this boom in prison growth,” brags Laurie Brooks, speaking of the time in the early 1980’s when then-governor Jerry Brown forced taxpayers to shell out for “lush” prisoner arts programs.

Remember how well that turned out? Crime rates continued their steady climb until sentencing reform took hold, removing prolific offenders from the streets for longer than a semester  or two.  So why is it that Tim Robbins, one of the most troubling figures of the pro-offender cultism that resulted in unmeasurable bloodshed and suffering, even permitted to go into California state prisons to hobnob with violent felons?  Why do taxpayers  and voters allow him to enter correctional institutions and foment his own special brand of resentment towards authority figures and police?  Why aren’t victims’ groups up in arms?

Tim Robbins

Isn’t one Jack Abbott one too many?

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


The Nun:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice work, SNAP.

The Law Professor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expect more Humberto Leals.

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

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

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

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

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

The President and His Newspaper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Murder Bumps to Brain Scans: New Ways to Excuse Crime

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All this week, NPR is reporting on new genetic research to determine if some people have genes that make them kill people.

That is, if by “report” you mean shamelessly advocate and if by “genetic research” you mean paying expert witnesses to misrepresent academic findings in the courtroom.

Bradley Waldroup: Destined to Kill?

In the subtly-titled “Can Your Genes Make You Murder?” reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty answers: Why of course, yes, if it will get that poor man in the trailer park off from shooting his wife’s best friend eight times and then hacking up his wife with a machete, and to heck with him being drunk and just deciding to do it!

When the police arrived at Bradley Waldroup’s trailer home in the mountains of Tennessee, they found a war zone. There was blood on the walls, blood on the carpet, blood on the truck outside, even blood on the Bible that Waldroup had been reading before all hell broke loose.

Note the “all hell broke loose” sentence construction, as if it wasn’t Waldroup doing something, but that something beyond his control was acting on him.  Like genes.  Or hell-ghosts.

Or maybe he became a zombie.

In other words, it took a mere one and a half sentences for Ms. Hagerty to start singing the defense attorney’s refrain of diminished capacity.

Assistant District Attorney Drew Robinson says that on Oct. 16, 2006, Waldroup was waiting for his estranged wife to arrive with their four kids for the weekend. He had been drinking, and when his wife said she was leaving with her friend, Leslie Bradshaw, they began to fight. Soon, Waldroup had shot Bradshaw eight times and sliced her head open with a sharp object. When Waldroup was finished with her, he chased after his wife, Penny, with a machete, chopping off her finger and cutting her over and over.

Ordinarily, this would be a slam-dunk murder conviction.  After all, it takes some time to pump eight bullets into an innocent woman and then tear around chopping up another one.  But then, enter the “experts”:

[Defense attorney Wylie] Richardson says he realized that the testimony at trial would be “very graphic.” The defense team, he says, did not try to dismantle the graphic evidence but rather sought to “give a broader and fuller picture of what that was.”  How to do that? The answer, it turned out, lay in Bradley Waldroup’s genes.

Wouldn’t that be “the defense said the answer lay in Bradley Waldroup’s genes”?  No?

Immediately, Richardson went to forensic psychiatrist William Bernet of Vanderbilt University and asked him to give Waldroup a psychiatric evaluation. Bernet also took a blood sample and brought it to Vanderbilt’s Molecular Genetics Laboratory. Since 2004, Bernet and laboratory director Cindy Vnencak-Jones have been analyzing the DNA of people like Waldroup.  They’ve tested some 30 criminal defendants, most of whom were charged with murder.

They’ve tested a whole 30 defendants since 2004.

They were looking for a particular variant of the MAO-A gene — also known as the warrior gene because it has been associated with violence. Bernet says they found that Waldroup has the high-risk version of the gene.

Oh no.  Not only does the killer have the Warrior Gene, he’s got the High Risk Warrior Gene!  And that’s not all.

“His genetic makeup, combined with his history of child abuse, together created a vulnerability that he would be a violent adult,” Bernet explains.

Remember when this used to be called phrenology?

You know, the discredited science of feeling people’s heads for things like “murder bumps” and promiscuity centers?

Boy, those Victorians sure were crazy.  And prejudiced, because, of course, phrenologists got busy fast dividing mankind into superior and inferior groupings by doing things like measuring people’s foreheads and noses, and you know where that ended up.

Phrenology also made policing easier, because you could simply categorize people by their physical characteristics and not wait for them to actually do anything wrong before sending them to the poorhouse.  Or Australia.

Thank goodness we’re far more advanced than those Victorians. Now we have experts convincing jurors that people can’t be held responsible for murders they actually did commit because their genes made them do it:

[Vanderbilt researcher William] Bernet cited scientific studies over the past decade that found that the combination of the high-risk gene and child abuse increases one’s chances of being convicted of a violent offense by more than 400 percent. He notes that other studies have not found a connection between the MAO-A gene and violence — but he told the jury that he felt the genes and childhood abuse were a dangerous cocktail.  “A person doesn’t choose to have this particular gene or this particular genetic makeup,” Bernet says. “A person doesn’t choose to be abused as a child. So I think that should be taken into consideration when we’re talking about criminal responsibility.”

So, essentially, Bernet “feels” a non-proven connection between violence and a gene that non-murderers also possess ought to mitigate culpability for violent acts.  Enough jurors bought this story:

[Juror] Debbie Beaty, says the science helped persuade her that Waldroup was not entirely in control of his actions.  “Evidently it’s just something that doesn’t tick right,” Beaty says. “Some people without this would react totally different than he would.”  And even though prosecutors tried to play down the genetic evidence, Beaty felt it was a major factor.  “A diagnosis is a diagnosis, it’s there,” she says. “A bad gene is a bad gene.”

Well, thank you, Dr. Beaty.

After 11 hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Waldroup of voluntary manslaughter — not murder — and attempted second-degree murder.  Prosecutor Drew Robinson was stunned.  “I was just flabbergasted. I did not know how to react to it,” Robinson says.  Nor did fellow prosecutor Cynthia Lecroy-Schemel. She worries that this sort of defense is the wave of the future.  “Anything that defense attorneys can have to latch onto to save their client’s life or to lessen their client’s culpability, they will do it,” Lecroy-Schemel says.  Waldroup’s attorney, Wylie Richardson, says she’s right.  “I would use it again” under the right circumstances, he says. “It seemed to work in this case.”

It seemed to work in this case. There’s a scientific standard we can all be proud of.

NPR’s Three-Part Series, Inside the Criminal Brain

Cop-Killers, Neil Boortz, and, Thank God for the Roberts Court

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I get a lot of angry mail from people who are shocked and offended that anybody would deign to advocate for locking criminals up.  You know, using words.

Most of this mail is weirdly personal and tendentiously riffs on a few themes:

  • I’m for enforcing the law, so I must want innocent people to rot in jail.
  • I’m for locking up predators and thugs, so I must be a vengeful person who daydreams of pulling the switch on fuzzy puppies and other living things.
  • I must hate men, or minorities, or human beings in general, or myself in particular.
  • Furthermore, since I was a crime victim once, I cannot be trusted to express any opinion about the justice system, so I should just shut up, or dedicate myself to apologizing for existing, or make amends for existing by pretending to teach pretend literacy at some pretend prisoner education program.

My favorite angry letter was a recent screed from one of the many registered sex offenders who contact me whenever I write about . . . sex offender registration.  They have an on-line club or something, and there’s a big sign nailed to the door with my name crudely painted beneath a skull and crossbones.

So this sex offender guy writes to tell me that he is “ashamed” of me.  He says that I am a symptom of “a broken education system” because I have PhD. but my ideas suck and I should try to think harder (he clearly doesn’t know much about graduate schools).

He gave me a lot of advice about improving myself.  It’s nice to know that people care.

My least favorite letter arrived from a Ron Paul supporter in Colorado who wrote that he loves to hear about police officers getting killed because they don’t deserve to live.  He was writing in response to a post about several officers killed recently in the line of duty, including two young men killed in front of, or near, their own fathers, who are themselves cops.  None of this moved the letter-writer:

Cops ARE assholes, no doubt about it.  And IT IS ALWAYS a good thing when they get blown away. . . I’m fairly certain most assaults are carried out by police officers.  They are scum of the earth not by coincidence . . . only assholes apply to be cops.

And so on.  There was a lot more of it, fringy, pot-addled, paranoid, extremist rantings to be sure.  But far too many non-extreme people also feel far too comfortable treating cops like they are expendable, or inhuman, these days.

I don’t think the average person could endure very much of the crap that police must endure in their daily soak in the waters of whiny –and yet potentially deadly — criminality.  Imagine having to spend ten or twelve hours a day, every workday, stuck with that irritating, whacked out, stinky, unpredictable guy you avoided on the train this morning . . . and twenty more like him . . . all the while being brow-beaten by a bunch of self-important “criminal defenders” who fancy themselves Atticus Finch while playing a rigged system that flushes violent men back out onto the streets the moment you arrest them.


Which brings me to Neil Boortz’s unfortunate column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today. I like Neil Boortz, not sycophantically, but I’ve listened to him on the radio for some twenty years, and he’s one libertarian who doesn’t irritate like most people who subscribe to the weird church of libertarianism (aka — Of course everyone should build their own personal highways to get to work because that’s far better than government taking your money to build highways for everyone).

He, and I, and my sex offender pen pal all feel the same way about the blighted state of education these days, for example.

But today, Boortz published one of those non-argument arguments in defense of the existence of defense attorneys, as if anyone really thinks they shouldn’t exist.  And, quite unfortunately, to illustrate his example of why society (allegedly) doesn’t appreciate defense attorneys enough as they valiantly defend us against the rampant false accusations imposed by the blue meanie police state, he jokingly mentioned the horrific case of Larry Davis (aka Adam Abdul-Hakeem), which ought to instead be remembered as a watershed injustice of the degree of the un-prosecuted murder of Emmett Till or the un-prosecuted murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

Only, it was cops who got shot.  Six cops and at least four other men who Davis likely assassinated.  The police were risking their lives trying to arrest Davis when he shot them.  And then, in just one of the innumerable injustices that made much of the late Sixties to early Nineties such a bloodbath, defense attorney William Kunstler not only got Larry Davis off on multiple murder charges and the shooting of six cops but degraded the victims by making Davis a cultural hero — not using superior wit and legal skills, as Boortz implies, but by exploiting a twisted system of government protection that no libertarian should espouse.

Here is Boortz, describing the trial:

Davis hires William Kunstler who, in his closing argument at trial, tells the jury that if they don’t acquit Davis of these murder charges they will one day wake up at 3 a.m. — screaming. Larry Davis kills [sic] six police officers; Kunstler gets him off. Davis goes on to become known as “Hood Hero,” and later as Adam Abdul-Hakeem. Quite a guy. Eventually, as you would expect, the Hood Hero murdered again, and this time was convicted. The prosecutors got it right the second time.

How does Boortz know the prosecutors “got it wrong” the first time?  He doesn’t even barely get the facts straight.  The police weren’t killed, for instance, though several were badly wounded.  The rest of the editorial is a similar flight of fancy: set up defense attorneys as misunderstood victims of society, then praise them for standing up to a government hell-bent on framing and convicting perfectly innocent people for some unknown reason:

The question is not whether or not you did it; it’s whether or not the government can prove you did it.  Trust me, you don’t want to live in a country where your life, liberty or property can be taken away because of political whim or the passions of the majority.

Never mind that six innocent public servants got shot trying to protect the life, liberty and property of people who went on to make a hero of the unrepentant shooter.

Never mind that Kunstler used both politics and passions — pure mob mentality — to win his cases in the highly politicized courts of his era.

Never mind that he valued some types of people over others.  That he unabashedly celebrated the murder of people who were cops.  That he defended leftist and Muslim terrorists while heaping contempt on the “life, liberty and property” of ordinary citizens.  That he refused to defend people whose politics clashed with his own, while pretending to stand for transcendent legal values.

That’s why people hated him, not because he was a defense attorney.

But here is the part of Boortz’ editorial that really makes no sense, coming from a libertarian: William Kunstler was actually for big government standing between jurors and the facts of any case.  He believed the people could not be trusted with the truth, and he shamelessly used an activist system of technicalities to get brutal killers off free — free to deprive other people of their rights.

Above all else, Kunstler represented a system of increasing bureaucratic intrusion into the justice system, not the defense of the boring little people from state power.


In any case, William Kunstler is dead and buried, and the little people have been winning real victories recently. In a little-noticed trend, the Roberts court has begun to chip away at excessive Kunstler-era exclusionary rules that keep evidence from being heard and considered.  Of course, news organs like the New York Times don’t like this provide jurors and judges with actual evidence and trust their judgment thing, but it is a sign of balance returning to a system in which defense attorneys — you know, those under-appreciated freedom fighters — have managed to tilt the playing field for far too long.

Clockwork Riots, L.A. Lakers Style: These Are Not Sports Fans

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Imagine the crappiest job in the world:

You put on your Men’s Warehouse suit and drive to the office, dreading the inevitable outcome of the day.  Settling into your cubicle, you arrange the day’s work on the chipped laminate desk: a billy club, mace, and a copy of the quarterly budget figures for your division, awaiting approval from above.  In the next cubicle, Joey H. is already rocking back and forth in his mesh swivel knockoff, working the screws on one of the padded armrests.

The word comes from headquarters right before lunch: the budget numbers are good.

Joey lets out a guttural shriek, rips the loosened arm off his chair and kicks the front wall off his cubicle, still howling.  You grab the mace and billyclub and follow him as he tears a path of destruction to the break room, carefully avoiding getting too close, shouting at him to step down.

Joey ignores you and smacks out a fluorescent light fixture with his arm-rest, sending bits of glass and toxic powder all over accounting.  Then he pulls a wad of gasoline-soaked newspaper out of his pocket, lights it with a lighter, and throws the flaming mass in the paper recycling bin by the door.

Mike D. wearily rises from his desk, shouldering his fire extinguisher, and heads for the blaze.

You follow Joey into the break room.  He’s already used a folding chair to demolish the front of the snack machine, filling his pockets with KitKats while chanting “We’re Number One.”  You notice he’s been working out.

“Put the Kit Kats down, Joey,” you say.

“F*** You, Pig-Man,” he screams, winging a full Red Bull can at your face.  Luckily, you thought to wear your plexi face shied to work today.  Now that you’ve cornered him, Joey head-buts your belly.  That hurts.  You smack him a few times with the billy-club, always aware that the altercation is being recorded on security cameras for later review.  Finally, you manage to subdue him with the help of Kathy P., the new associate from sales.  She’s brought her handcuffs, and Joey’s taken off to the bathroom to wash up and get ready for Personnel to review the security tapes.

Later that day, the verdict comes back from Human Resources.  While you should have tried to stop Joey before he broke the front of the snack machine, you’re not going to get docked pay for using excessive force subduing him, like last quarter.  Kathy P. however, is going to have to go before the panel and explain why she bruised Joey H.’s wrist while snapping the handcuffs on.

Cop Injured By Lakers Enthusiasm

Joey H. gets assigned five hours of community service, which immediately gets suspended, as HR is testing a new program which will use positive messaging and self-esteem training to encourage him to stop setting the office on fire.  (Nancy W., still recovering from those lycra burns from the spring quarter numbers, stifles a bitter laugh).  Joey takes the rest of the afternoon off to meet his new esteem coach at the Starbucks.  The rest of the staff gets down to sweeping up broken glass and trying to scrub the scorch marks off the walls while running the numbers on the cost of replacing the carpet.

All except Kathy P., who is hiding in the bathroom to avoid those a-holes from PR who want to snap her picture and use it to illustrate a story they’re writing about the proper way to subdue a co-worker.  You settle into your smoke-fill cubicle and tug your rumpled necktie, wishing you could take it off as you start in on the stack of paperwork explaining your actions.

It’s going to be a long night.  There’s no way you’re going to catch that Lakers game.


That job would really suck.

It’s called “policing.”

I think most police would be grateful if the media and political leaders would just drop the fiction that such premeditated and utterly predictable riots (oh, I’m sorry, University of Santa Cruz: “uprisings”) really have anything to do with uncontrollable fan excitement over sporting events.

For every honest person knows that certain sporting events are just used by criminals and criminal wannabes to justify — to schedule — their own main events: destroying property, setting fires, looting stores, and throwing heavy things at policemen who are damned if they do respond and damned if they don’t respond.  The Los Angeles Times described the mayhem this time as a “a sour note as Los Angeles Police Department officers clashed with rowdy fans.”  Clashed with?

Imagine what a strictly factual report would say:

Police were forced to prepare for weeks in advance, planning and deploying tactical forces at great personal risk, including risk of lawsuits, and all at taxpayer expense, to try to minimize the anticipated violent lawbreaking scheduled for the conclusion of the Lakers game.

Rowdy fans? Do these look like rowdy fans, or do they look like people who showed up knowing they’d have some consequence-free fun breaking things and attacking bystanders and cops?

Alas, there’s always an apologist in academia ready to argue against personal responsibility:

Psychologist and author Robert Cialdini, who has studied the behavior of sports fans, said the seemingly inevitable reaction by fans on the winning side is rooted not only in the emotional connection they build to their teams but in a chemical one as well.  Fans are so heavily invested in their teams that studies have shown that their testosterone levels spike significantly after they watch a major victory, Cialdini said. Elevated levels of the hormone are known to cause increased aggression, especially in young men.

See, they’re not responsible.  They’re just hormonal.

“When the team wins, we win and we feel it in a very personal way,” Cialdini said. “We’re likely to experience a great sense of arousal and joy even though we haven’t done anything.”

OK, why do people riot when their team loses, too?  Shouldn’t they be taking up needlepoint and thinking about changing their hairstyles instead?  And does this really look like joy over a championship season?


How about holding the rioters accountable, instead of the police? L.A.T. columnist Sandy Banks did acknowledge that the police presence was necessary, but even she couldn’t resist minimizing the actions of the criminals and reserving too much irritation for the cops putting their lives on the line . . . to protect people like her.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but why is it so difficult to look at images like this and just blame the guilty parties . . . full stop?

The antics of a bunch of losers shouldn’t obscure the patience, goodwill and high spirits of the thousands of fans who ventured downtown for a communal party and wound up being treated like pariahs. . .  The basketball game had barely begun when LAPD officers were summoned to dispatch growing crowds in the area.  “Keep moving, keep moving.” The command came over the loudspeaker as a phalanx of officers advanced, moving us off the paseo and onto crowded Figueroa Street. They pulled metal gates across the entrance to the complex to keep us out. . . . [The police] deserve a lot of credit for controlling the chaos. Everywhere you looked there were cops: on horseback, scooters, motorcycles and bikes, in buzzing helicopters and siren-blaring black-and-whites. If that set some nerves on edge, it also made clear who was in charge.  But it was hard not to feel unwanted. “If you don’t have a ticket, go home” was the officers’ message — explicitly delivered and universally ignored.

Throwing chunks of concrete at cops’ heads and trying to pull people out of their vehicles aren’t “antics.”  And what Banks labels a police message here is actually a message from the criminals, to people like her: they own the streets, and law abiding people don’t.  The police were merely stuck in the middle, trying to prevent innocent people from being injured by violent, lawless criminals.

I’d like to see Ms. Banks follow up by following the cases of fifty-or-so rioters arrested for violent “antics,” as they get serially dismissed by the courts.

Maybe then she’ll gain a better understanding of why it really is that L.A. — and other cities, like Atlanta — can’t host public events for decent people like her.  And the answer has nothing to do with whether your team wins, or how the police react to it.

Gerardo Regalado — Thank God It Wasn’t A Hate Crime: He Was Just Shooting Women

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. . . walking past the men to shoot them.

Gerardo Regalado

You wouldn’t know it from the non-existent, non-headlines, but the town of Hialeah, Florida suffered its worst mass murder and hate crime on Sunday when Gerardo Regalado shot seven women, killing four.  All the victims were or are mothers.

Regalado now joins the ranks of other woman-killers who curiously avoid the “hate crime” label, such as George Sodini, the Pittsburgh gym killer who wrote rambling anti-female diatribes before murdering three women, and Charles C. Roberts, who sent all the male pupils away from an Amish schoolhouse before binding and shooting 11 little girls, killing five.  Apparently, shooting every single woman in a restaurant while leaving the men unharmed is simply no proof that you harbor some murderous grudge against the female sex, at least according to the hate crime experts, who dread the day when somebody peers up from the statute book and says: “Hey, wait a minute, doesn’t gender mean female sometimes?”

You know, like killing 3,000 Americans on September 11 counts as anti-American nationality bias crime?

Oops, scratch that.

No, you won’t hear a peep from the experts, unless, that is, they feel the need to do damage control by going on record to deny that targeting females is anything like targeting gays, or ethnic minorities, or Hispanics, or the homeless, or any of the other extremely rare victimizations that contribute to their portrait of America as an immigrant-bashing, racist, homophobic place.  Counting women wouldn’t just crowd the picture frame: it would utterly overshadow all other crimes designated “hate,” and you can’t have that when the picture’s the point.

And so, for instance, in the wake of George Sodini’s carefully premeditated, females-only bloodbath, hate crime experts James Allen Fox and Jack Levin trilled shamelessly in the media that “a friendless society,” not the killer’s own clearly stated anti-female motives, was to blame for the women’s deaths.  That was a close one, owing to Sodini’s voluminous scribbling on the subject of hating women, that is, hatred of people who happen to be female and not male, which looks an awful lot like anti-female bias to anyone except the highly trained.  Fox and Levin had to do a real song-and-dance to avoid the subject of anti-female bias crime in that case.  And so they did, frantically pointing fingers at the economy, the internet, distracted parenting, telecommuting, and (quite horrifyingly when you consider how much this sounds like Sodini himself) people who don’t smile at strangers at the gym.

Yes, the nation’s foremost hate crimes experts looked at the mass slaughter of random women in an exercise club, and rather than acknowledge that the killer left behind a giant, pulsating neon arrow pointing at his own irrational loathing of women, they blamed the victims, musing that if only the dead women had previously been nicer to a future killer they never actually met, he might not have needed to mow them down at a later date.

That’s why the experts get the big bucks.  And the media follows in silent lockstep.

Fox and Levin haven’t weighed in on the Gerardo Regalado killings yet (maybe they haven’t heard about them, given the weird dearth of coverage).  Neither have Mark Potok, Brian Levin, the current or past leadership of the N.O.W., Eric Holder, or any other official or unofficial hate crimes activists, but if they do, it will doubtlessly be to deny that singling out female victims and shooting them in the head has anything to do with bias or hate, especially this year, when the official theme of hate crimes activism is the purported “rising tide” of anti-immigrant hate.

It certainly wouldn’t fit the activists’ message to have a Hispanic immigrant accused of committing the worst hate crime since Maj. Hasan shot dozens of innocent Americans, killing 13, and the “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried, but failed, to slaughter hundreds of American citizens by crashing a plane over Detroit.

Oops.  Scratch that.  Those aren’t being counted as hate crimes either.

Actually, if Gerardo Regalado’s murders were recorded as hate crimes, he wouldn’t even officially be counted as “Hispanic” because he’s the offender, not the victim. When Hispanics are the victims of hate crime, they’re designated “Hispanic.”  When they’re the perpetrators, the government counts them only as “white” or “black” (you can guess which one is useful to the activists).  That this is happening is not some paranoid persecution fantasy lurking in the minds of racists, but a mere fact of the hate crime statistics-gathering protocols implemented under Eric Holder’s leadership when Holder was point person on hate crimes in the Clinton Department of Justice.

It only sounds like some paranoid persecution fantasy.

Sort of like, “Singling out females to kill has nothing to do with hating women, even when you leave a note in your gym bag explaining that you are killing women because you hate women.”

George Sodini

Or, “Raping and beating a woman nearly to death because she wouldn’t dance with you does not indicate gender bias.”

Mbarek Lafrem

Or, “killing Americans whilst screaming anti-American slogans is not an anti-American-nationality hate crime.”

Nidal Hasan

You can see why we need experts to explain all this to us.

Here is the Miami Herald’s description of the murdered and wounded women. Remember, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, hate crimes are “far worse” than these crimes:

• Maysel Figueroa, 32, of Hialeah, who lived with her husband and their small son. She started work at Yoyito only a few days ago, after leaving a job at a discount store.  Late Sunday, Figueroa called her husband and said she would be home soon, the neighbor said. She didn’t arrive, so he went to look for her at the restaurant.

• Lavina M. Fonseca, 47, lived with her daughter across the street from Figueroa. She previously lived in Cuba’s Guantánamo province and studied Spanish and Russian literature at the University of Havana. She came to South Florida less than a year ago.  Fonseca’s daughter, Lexania Matos, 18, is a Hialeah High student.

• Zaida Castillo, 56, of Hialeah, followed her only daughter, son-in-law and grandson from the rural Cuban town of Quivicán to the United States about six years ago. In Cuba, Castillo was a vet, treating chickens on a farm. She cooked in Yoyito’s kitchen and tried to support her elderly mother back in Cuba. Castillo planned to visit her mother in November.

Three other victims who remained hospitalized Monday night include:

• Yasmin Dominguez, 38, believed to be Molina’s cousin, who was there to pick her up, or protect her from Regalado. She was the first to encounter Regalado outside. He shot her, then walked into Yoyito. She remains in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

• Ivet Coronado Fernandez, who came from Havana about four months ago, lived with her mother in Hialeah. She was shot twice. Coronado called her brother Felix Fuentes from the restaurant and told him she had been shot. Fuentes said Coronado underwent two operations but may lose her arm.

• Mayra de la Caridad Lopez, 55, of Hialeah Gardens told her husband from her hospital bed Monday night she might have survived the massacre by diving under a metal table. She was washing pots and pans when she heard gunshots and screaming.  As Regalado entered and began shooting, De la Caridad Lopez dove for cover but was shot in the back.  It was supposed to be a happy day for her. After being unemployed for months, Sunday was her first day on the job at Yoyito’s.

Is Texas Incarceration Policy Really Different Now, Or Is That Cowboy Just A Journalist Riding His Hobbyhorse?


With a flick of public relations rhetoric, Texas has suddenly become a media darling to criminal justice journalists who previously viewed the state as mean and bloodthirsty.  The sudden transformation of the Lone Star State into the South Massachusetts of empathetic corrections was accomplished entirely in the media, of course, where gaining good PR is as easy as clicking your heels and saying: “I think it’s time we considered alternatives to incarceration, Joe.  This puttin’ people in jail just ain’t working.”

You don’t have to do it, you just have to say it.  Then you hand out lollypops and watch the great reviews (oops, I mean newspaper stories) roll in.

Articles of this stripe all read the same, which is unsurprising, as they start with pure opinion (incarceration is mean and us reporters believe it doesn’t work), proceed to cherrypick other opinions (some judges are looking at drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration, as if they didn’t already), beat in vague inference (drug treatment works, sometimes), add two cups of accusing the public of inventing the problem of crime in their own overactive imaginations (that’s just a “perception” your car got stolen, Ms. Hysteric), all topped with a dollop of political grandstanding (let’s get us some of that drug treatment and stop being mean, like Bob over there, who says he’s “tough” on crime just to get re-elected . . . hey, you gonna quote me, right?).

The Texas Miracle version of this story has been making the rounds for weeks.  Now it’s surfaced in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in an “analysis” of the “difference” between Georgia and Texas sentencing practices, one that feigns objectivity while ignoring real sentencing practices and hammering away at the notion that crime actually exists and is the — you know — reason we have criminal sentencing.

Note the not-very-objective lead, beneath the not-very-objective headline, beneath the not-very-objective series heading:

Government Waste in Georgia

A billion-dollar burden or justice?

Hmmm, which do you think it’s going to be?

AJC investigation: Georgia leads nation in criminal punishment

By Carrie Teegardin and Bill Rankin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia taxpayers spend $1 billion a year locking up so many criminal offenders that the state has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the nation. When it comes to overall criminal punishment, no state outdoes Georgia.

Well, except for those three other states.  Also, don’t crime rates matter, as in: ‘Georgia also has a higher rate of criminal activity than these states it is being compared to here?’ No?  OK.  Just asking.

Hard-nosed measures approved with wide public support forced a five-fold increase in corrections spending since 1985.  A monumental prison construction campaign that quadrupled space over the last four decades seemed like money well spent as record crime rates in the 1990s left Georgians fearful of becoming the next victims of violence.

Wow.  That’s a lot of vague, condemnatory prose squeezed into a few brief lines.  “Hard-nosed” measures?  “Seemed like money well-spent?”  And you know, “wide public support” is code for “what a bunch of deluded buffoons.”

What was that support for?  For not being victimized by violent repeat offenders, the impetus for Georgia’s excellent two-strike law?  How much did violent crime rise?  What percentage of serious and recidivist crimes resulted in prison sentences, before and after those new prisons were built?  Was that money well spent, looking at the decline in crime rates after two-strikes for violent crime was passed, for example?  Anyone?

One might also ask what the alternative response to those “record crime rates” might have been.  Rolling over and letting criminals destroy even more lives?  Kill more of their peers, who were on the front line of the carnage?  But you can’t talk about the number of lives saved by raising incarceration rates.  Not in the Atlanta Journal Constitution or any other big-city paper.

Reporters simply believe incarceration doesn’t work.  End of story.

The rest of this purported “study” consists largely of quotes from politicians positioning themselves against spending money on incarceration for a variety of vague reasons: you might call it more of a study of politicians’ habits in exploiting the subject of crime than a look at crime itself.  Revelations include the startling fact that some conservatives don’t like paying for new prisons because they don’t like taxes, or “big government.”  Wow, that’s really illuminating:

Mark Earley, a Republican former attorney general in Virginia who is chief executive of the nonprofit Prison Fellowship, agreed.  “When you have in Georgia 1 in every 70 adults [incarcerated] and 1 in every 13 is in some form of correctional control, that’s big government with a big big G, ” he said.

The big “G.”  Usually, reporters mock such language.  But when it’s in the service of advancing their hobbyhorse of empathizing with violent offenders, I guess anti-guvmint claptrap gets a pass.

How unsurprising that Early is also “chief executive of the nonprofit Prison Fellowship.”  Just like Mike Huckabee, who made a very destructive public hobby of sharing Bible passages with rapists and killers before cutting them loose?  Well, that’s a viewpoint you can take to the bank.

Unlike, say, actual recourse to actual crime statistics, which are nowhere to be found.

Shake the bushes and it’s not actually hard to find someone with an -R after their name who gets off on hanging out with prisoners while posturing for the cameras.  Of course politicians will always say they like alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders.  That’s why there are and always have been alternatives, including the much-abused alternative of simply letting the vast majority of offenders plead their sentences down.  Everyone’s always happy to talk about alternative sentencing, but has it worked?  In which cases?  Are violent offenders being permitted to slip through the cracks?

Oh, never mind.

Extraordinarily, the AJC article, which purports to analyze Georgia’s incarceration policy from 1990 to 2010, contains just one mention of an actual crime: stealing baby formula.  Yes, that’s right: stealing baby formula.  Of course, we all remember the bad old days of the baby formula wars, back in old 1-triple9.  Lost a lot of good men that day.

Goodness.  The reporters were obviously so deep in serious analyzing mode that they managed to overlook the 13,000 murders that happened in Georgia over the same time.  Not to mention the 50,000 forcible rapes.  500,000 aggravated assaults . . . and so on.  Nope.  Not a one.  One case of stealing baby formula stands in for all those horrific human losses, just so the reporters can smugly point fingers at the public and scream: Hysterics!  Passing all those hateful laws just to incarcerate poor baby formula thieves!

How intellectually dishonest.

Of course, this type of reporting isn’t really about analyzing the efficacy of incarceration policies.  But when reporters actually go so far as to fluff up some fake Jean Valjean moment (more likely a baby formula theft to procure drugs, not feed babies) instead of actually addressing the tidal wave of violent crimes that took the lives 13,000 Georgia residents, why does nobody call them on it?

Meanwhile, back in reality, there is no simple way to compare Texas’ current shifts in sentencing policy with those in any other state: journalists who feign to do so are mainly extrapolating political speeches and vast budget line-items that bear no conclusive relationship to the actual working of a diverse (in the old fashioned sense of the term) landscape of courts.  At least they don’t need to worry about the vast cheerleading squad we call academia actually pointing out their errors: evaluating sentencing outcomes is a court-by-court task that virtually nobody, including academicians, ever bothers to attempt.  Those who do end up with book-length descriptions of justice systems that fail to address most crimes, out of despair and lack of funding: one illuminating example is Edward Hume’s year-long observation of the Los Angeles juvenile court system: No Matter How Loud I Shout.

For, when there is no such thing as a judicial precinct where every charge is brought against every defendant, and when a large, if not the largest, percentage of charges get abandoned or pled down outside the courtroom, how can any policymaker or academician or reporter or pundit make sweeping claims about statistical outcomes with a straight face?  Judges know this.  Prosecutors know this.  Yet they are never asked by most journalists (who also know this) to simply quantify all decisions, to produce their complete records for the public to scrutinize, a task that would be as easy as hitting a button in the computer age and would tell us a great many thing the public does not know but deserves to know.  We are, after all, footing the bills as well as dealing with the consequences of every decision made in every court.

Actual facts are never demanded, or provided, to support all this nonsense about “finally” offering alternatives to sentencing (there are always alternatives — there always have been alternatives, including just not bothering to act on most crimes).

No, this is all merely grandstanding.  Smoke and mirrors.  But it has passed for public debate about crime for fifty years, and journalists are hardly going to change their game now.

Republican Politics Fuels the Murder Rate. No, Really. The L.A. Times says so.


In an absurd instance of partisanship disguised as criminology, the L.A. Times is laying blame for the future homicide rate on people’s dissatisfaction with President Obama:

The recent spike in violent political rhetoric coupled with last week’s arrest of two men who threatened the lives of two Democratic House members has a lot of commentators worried about a surge in domestic political terrorism.  Those fears are misplaced. Not because there won’t be violence, but because politically inspired violence won’t necessarily be aimed at politicians.

You see, it’s not that “there won’t be violence.”  It’s that people who oppose the Democrats will go on killing sprees against ordinary Americans instead of politicians.  Or maybe in addition to themTimes editorialist Gregory Rodriguez says so.  He read a book about it.  Or, hopefully, he just skimmed it, because then what he writes here isn’t entirely the book author’s fault:

A few months ago, Ohio State University historian Randolph Roth published a groundbreaking book, “American Homicide,” that offers something like a unified theory of why Americans kill each other at such a high rate and what can be done about it.  After meticulously tracing trends in violence and political power in the U.S. from colonial times to the present, Roth concludes that high homicide rates “are not determined by proximate causes such as poverty, drugs, unemployment, alcohol, race, or ethnicity, but by factors … like the feelings that people have toward their government and the opportunities they have to earn respect without resorting to violence.”

All the way from colonial times.

Now, I have little doubt that Rodriguez is offering a less than complete description of the actual theory Roth is positing.  At least, one might hope.  Historians get in so much trouble when they project their political fantasies about things like homicide and gun control back onto the past.

Or worse, when they project those fantasies forward.  If the book is being accurately described in the L.A. Times, it sounds a lot like another classic of historical-criminological projection, All God’s Children, in which New York Times reporter Fox Butterfield blamed the Civil War for things like carjackings in upstate New York during the Carter years.  Any projection will do in the service of projecting blame from the people actually committing crime and onto the rest of us.  Or our great-great-grandparents.  Or children.  If it takes telescoping 250 years of history and as much data on comparative homicide rates as can be massaged from fragmentary sources in order to prove that America is and always has been rotten to the core, then caution be darned:

Roth’s analysis in fact puts politics at the very root of the highest homicide rate of any First World democratic nation. He points to the Civil War as the genesis of even peacetime unrest. It was not simply a case of violence begetting violence. Rather, high homicide rates were the symptom of low overall political confidence. The Civil War, Roth says, was “a catastrophic failure in nation building,” when a large percentage of the population lost faith in government and eyed their countrymen with distrust.  “Our high homicide rate started when we lost faith in ourselves and in each other,” he says.  Conservative writers like to argue that distrust for government is part of our birthright as Americans. And they’re right. It’s built into the system and can be found in the writings of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. But there’s a difference between distrust and disdain. The tradition of truly hating government began with the Civil War and a nation literally torn apart by contrasting visions and mores.

Sigh.  When I see history being slapped around like a bag of cats, it’s my brain that feels disenfranchised.

And then I remember that we are exceptional in America, and if our birthright is to be exceptionally violent because we’re such innate aberrants, then it’s up to us to embrace it.  At least we’re not a bunch of milquetoasts like the French:

Or Stalin:

(of course, the persecution of the Kulaks was difficult but necessary)

I know, I know, it’s not fair to bring this other stuff up (Hitler). Professor Roth says he is looking only at a very specific phenomenon: street crime in relation to political dissent that at the same time is not a direct expression of either organized or unorganized political action and which occurs only in “First World democratic countries” (no Pol Pot)  (No Mao).

Sort of like longitudinally comparing Newark to the Cotswolds and finding us short.  And there might be a lesson in that, but then again, maybe we should just move along from the whole “analyze” thing and start blaming Republicans, because the Times editorialist is chafing at the bit to get there:

Roth essentially believes that that antagonism plays out today when elections leave half the nation feeling empowered and the other half feeling disenfranchised. The more people who feel empowered, the lower the homicide rate.

Ummm, the more which people feel empowered?  One man’s empowerment is another man’s dis-empowerment, but with one of the outcomes, the murder rate goes down?  Let’s just not go there.

So, how does the professor arrive at the far end of this fascinating veiled leap?  Does he have data winnowing the political views held by the murderers themselves?  Has he uncovered some trans-historical political satisfaction scale for the homicidally disaffected?

Of course not.  He has no way of determining the actual politics of actual killers, who make up only the tiniest of fractions in any of the communities being thus tarred with their presence.  And then there’s the sticky wicket of not being able to produce any coherent measure of “empowerment” for large portions of the non-homicidal population throughout most of history.  Women of all races were never, until recently, as empowered as men, but that didn’t drive them to commit enough murders to affect the murder rate.  Likewise, murder rates by slaves and ex-slaves don’t exactly support Roth’s hypothesis.  And over the past fifty years, the political, economic and social power of African American men has increased as the murder rate among them rose precipitously, then fell, then rose again, then recently fell slightly, then even more recently started climbing a bit.

Details, details.  Apparently, it’s not about actual power: it’s about perceptions of power.  Can the homicide rate really be minutely correlated to municipal or national feelings?  Are killers as a group actually (and solely) driven by their sense of representational power?  What happens when the President is a Democrat and the Mayor a Republican?  In New York City, when this was true, there was the most statistically significant decrease in crime in the last half century.  But if Roth is to be believed, the New York miracle had nothing to do with policing or sentencing and everything to do with conscious — if unclear — political choices made by the killers and potential killers themselves.

What do you do with a theory like this when Bill Clinton is “feeling your pain” as Rudy Giuliani offers you a curt “up yours”?

If people feel their government shares their values and acts on their behalf, they have greater trust and confidence in their dealings with others. Conversely, those who feel out of power and mistrustful of government carry those attitudes into everyday relationships with murderous results.  As Roth sees it, even activists and politicians — from the right or the left — who sew [sic] bitter disdain for government are indirectly encouraging the mistrust that breeds violent behavior.  “The extent that people feel dispossessed affects how they deal with other people,” Roth told me. “They carry that anger … to a discussion in a tavern or a property dispute. That anger can cause us to lose our temper more quickly.”

A property dispute?  A tavern?  Remember, Roth is insisting that trans-historical homicide rates “are not determined by proximate causes such as poverty, drugs, unemployment, alcohol, race, or ethnicity.”  So the next time you’re in a tavern, and that really drunk Colonial guy at the end of the bar slits some guy’s throat with a cutlass while screaming about easements and letting the cat go in his yard, remember:

That was really a fight about perceptions of political disenfranchisement.

Now here’s where the story gets really . . . academic.  Roth claims to have discovered what fueled the white homicide rate in 1980: it was losing the Vietnam War (in 1973).  No, busing.  Oh sorry, the Iran Hostage Crisis:

Roth’s research compares the trends in “political trust” and murder statistics. For example, white homicide peaked in 1980, the final year of the Carter administration, when people angry over school busing, the Iran hostage crisis, and the defeat in Vietnam were u[n]happy in large enough numbers to bring white trust in government to its post-war low.

Now, I know the Ford years were not particularly memorable for any of us, but, come on.  What does 1980 have to do with a war that ended in 1973, besides 1980 being the year when the white homicide rate peaked and Reagan entered office?  Is there even one iota of evidence that white men who committed homicide in 1979 were Reagan supporters who would soon start feeling better about things once Carter was gone, and stop the killin’?  Could Roth produce evidence of even one murder related to feelings about the Iran hostage crisis?  But wait, we’re just coming up to the real point:

Does this suggest that Barack Obama’s election will cause a shift in rates of violence? Absolutely. According to Roth, FBI data released in December bear that out. In the first six months of 2009, urban areas that Obama carried saw the steepest drop in the homicide rate since the mid-1990s.

Actually, that drop wasn’t nearly as steep as the one previously mentioned that occurred after Republicans seized control in places like New York City and restored order, following the murderous bloodshed that reigned during Democratic administrations (which were, by the lights of this theory, better received).  Also, there is currently an uptick of violent crime in many urban areas, including Chicago, despite Obama still being president.  Could Republicans be creeping into urban areas and killing people there, just to muddle the theoretical waters?  I wouldn’t put it past them.  Not that there is any evidence of this happening.

But that’s just evidence.  And what, allegedly, is happening on the flip side of the coin?  Roth’s answer delivers far less than it promises:

In the first six months of 2009, urban areas that Obama carried saw the steepest drop in the homicide rate since the mid-1990s.  During that period, the states with the largest percentage of counties that voted more heavily Republican in 2008 than they did in 2004 saw an 11% rise in homicide in cities of over 100,000 residents.

Whoa.  That looks like a lot of work.  States — states, not urban areas, or suburban or rural areas — with “the largest percentage of counties” that “voted more heavily Republican in 2008 than they did in 2004” saw homicide rates climb “in cities of over 100,000.”  I think what Roth is trying to say here is that his argument doesn’t work if you compare Red states and Blue states, or Red counties to Blue counties.  Crime rates actually remain pretty geographically stable, except for the “donut effect’ occurring in some big cities where public housing, and the crime that goes with it, is being pushed outside city limits by gentrification.  But those generally aren’t places that voted more heavily Republican in 2008 than 2004, so he isn’t counting them.

What is he counting?  Not very much, really.  The difference between a tiny number of bizarrely selected places over a tiny period of time.  Sort of like statistical gerrymandering.

But what’s really important is that the Republicans are going to kill everyone:

I asked Roth to speculate on what could happen if the right continued its violent rhetoric and didn’t gain seats in November or 2012. He suggested looking back at the 1960s and 1970s, when left-wing activists were preaching their own disdain for government. As trust of government evaporated, the murder rate doubled.  As my grandmother would say, “God Bless America.”

No, Gregory Rodriguez, bless your heart, as polite folks are wont to say when someone utters something embarrassingly dumb.  More than dumb, actually: the insinuations in this article are offensive, albeit impressively bipartisan in their offense, if you think about it.

Then there’s the untruthiness.  For instance, the murder rate started climbing in the 1960’s long before Bill Ayers and his utterly charming wife began advocating killing cops and extremely pregnant movie stars and other living things.

Frankly, I don’t know who should be more insulted: Republicans who are being accused of responsibility for future acts of street violence because they lost 2009 elections, or Democrats who are being portrayed as being such innately violent people that they must get their way in the voting booth, or else the murder rate will rise again.

I like to think better of all people who choose to express themselves politically.  I don’t presume they’re one chad away from bloodshed, for instance, even when I don’t agree with them.  But maybe that’s just me.

Real Recidivism *Update*

no comments

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Little continues:

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

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

The link to the original full article can be found here:

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

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

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

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

Thirteen Strikes and Still Not Out. The Media Gets Three-Strikes Wrong Again. Robert Ferguson is Not a Victim.


Reporters searching to illustrate the cruel and arbitrary nature of California’s three-strikes law have struck out again.  Their careless advocacy is actually providing opportunities to inform the public about facts that should have been part of the reporting on this subject all along.

Particularly, that the three-strikes law isn’t arbitrary.   Prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing to apply “three-strikes,” or not.  All that hype about an hysterical public forcing prosecutors and judges to send away shoplifters and pot smokers for life sentences?  Not true.  Prosecutors choose to forgo three strikes from 20% to 40% of the time when they could use it.

Petty criminals striking out for a series of minor property crimes?  Not true.  The California law actually requires the first and second “strikes” to be for serious and/or violent crimes.  When the third crime is a lesser offense, that’s when prosecutors often choose not to pursue enhanced sentencing.

Three convictions over a lifetime, even for youthful offenses, and then you’re out?  That’s not the way the law works.  Look at the real records of the people sentenced.  Routinely, only some of their prior “serious and/or violent” offenses are counted as first and second strikes.

Yet the wildly slanted reporting continues.

For years, the media poster boy of three-strikes was Jerry DeWayne Williams, mythically incarcerated for life for stealing a slice of pizza (a story that is not true, no matter how many times it is fervently recounted by overstimulated sociology professors — see my post, here).  In fact, Williams has been arrested three more times with virtually no consequences since that not-actually-serving-life-for-pizza-theft incident.  He threatened to kill someone, in front of a police officer, and got released.  He violated probation — twice — and got released.  Yet the “experts” don’t relay such facts to their students when they rant against three-strikes laws and the cruelty of the American Justice System in the front of the classroom.

Nor do they explain why they have been using such an inane falsehood to illustrate their arguments against this law for more than a decade now.  Have they no better case to make?  Such as, maybe, a real one?

Recently, the activists-cum-academicians-cum-journalists excitedly found another fake “three-strikes victim” to play up.  Robert Ferguson, an ugly piece of work, became an instant hero when he shoplifted a bag of cheese from a grocery store and a prosecutor tried to have him put away for 11 years, prompting wild outcry.  Activist rage ran high against the prosecutor, and the “arbitrary” system, and the cruelty that lies in people’s hearts, etc. etc. etc.

Thanks to another little-contemplated fact of three-strikes laws — that judges also may exercise sentencing discretion — Ferguson will actually be out of prison in about two years.  Yet the newly-minted myth of his oppression will undoubtedly live on in the hearts of sloppy reporters and college professors.

It is now apparently a hanging offense for a prosecutor to so much as request a strict sentence for a career criminal.

And, contrary to newspaper reports, Ferguson did more than steal a bag of cheese.  That was the less serious charge,  not that you would read it in the paper.  Marcos Breton, of the Sacramento Bee, offers a bracing corrective to the hagiography being built up around Robert Ferguson:

Robert Ferguson is the definition of a recidivist criminal, in and out of prison since the early 1980s.  He didn’t just steal a bag of Tillamook shredded cheese worth $3.99 from Woodland’s Nugget Market. He stole the wallet of a mom tending to her sick kid at a 7-11.  He’s broken into people’s homes numerous times. And every time he’s been released from prison, he’s committed new crimes and gone back in.  He could have been sentenced to life in prison long before now. His public defender, Monica Brushia, confirmed he has six strikes against him with all the burglaries and crimes he’s committed over the years.  Ferguson just hasn’t been sentenced that way. . .

Some would argue that 11 years is still too severe for Ferguson’s crimes – and [Yolo County Judge Thomas] Warriner agreed. With time served, Ferguson could be on the street in less than two years, Brushia said.  “He hasn’t gone around hurting people,” said Brushia, who added that Ferguson can’t control his bipolar impulses.  So what happens when he gets out of prison next time? “I told him, ‘You really need to stay medicated and get the psychological help you need,’ ” Brushia said.  Does Brushia think he’ll stay clean? “I’m not a fortune teller,” she said.

How contemptuous of her.  She should have to repeat that to Ferguson’s next victims.  For that matter, does she really think she’s doing her client a favor, getting him released to a situation where, according to her, he is a constant danger to himself and actually innocent people (if this bipolar stuff is true, rather than being the latest excuse reeled out to justify anti-social behavior)?  Ferguson has 13 previous convictions.  He has spent 22 of the last 27 years in prison for other crimes.

13 convictions.  13.  Six separate burglaries.  And it makes the international wire services and shrieking headlines in Europe when some prosecutor asked a judge to do something to protect the public from him?

It’s worth repeating that Ferguson was not only being prosecuted for shoplifting cheese.  He had an additional, more serious crime, for which the prosecutor was seeking the enhanced sentencing.  He thuggishly robbed a woman who was distracted when her sick child vomited in a 7-11.

Imagine if the media had reported truthfully:

Career Criminal With 13 Convictions Tried for Robbing Mother Tending Her Sick Child, Additional Theft

That sounds lots worse than what was reported by the brave truth-tellers of the MSM:

Man Who Put Cheese Down His Pants Faces Life Sentence

Make that “sounds worse” to everyone except the criminal-fetishizing New York Times, which calls the assault on the mother “petty theft,” and CBS News, which calls the robbery of the mother, and I quote, “(extremely) petty theft.”  Nice.

Marcos Breton continues:

The truth is, there is a good chance Ferguson will victimize someone again. He has nearly 30 years’ experience as a career criminal.  What if he breaks into a home, stumbles in on a family and panics?

Good point.  He’s a mentally ill career criminal who has already escalated to breaking into houses and attacking individuals in public spaces.  Who, besides Ms. Brushia, wants to bet that will end well?

The prosecutor in this case, Jeff Reisig, has been demonized. However, as Breton explains, Reisig virtually never uses three-strikes:

[I]n the end, Reisig wasn’t seeking a life sentence. After a psychologist’s report indicated that Ferguson is bipolar, Reisig sought 11 years.  Since 2000, only 12 people – less than 1 percent of Yolo’s felony caseload – have been sentenced to life under the state’s “three strikes” law, Reisig said.

To summarize: for the past ten years, more than 99% of the felons walking into a Yolo County courtroom have not been subjected to three strikes, and 12 were, a little more than one per year.  Yet this is not good enough for the activists: they want 100% of all felons to be given endless second chances.  In their eyes, every criminal is simply a misunderstood saint.  In their eyes, we are the only real criminals, for wanting to be safe.

The dishonesty of the media on three-strikes is impressive. Ferguson’s more serious offense goes largely unreported in the rush to condemn the prosecutor and make up sheer lies about the workings of our justice system.  Fewer than 1% of felons in Yolo county get three-strikes, and yet the New York Times uses the story to groundlessly blame the California budget crisis on the three-strikes law, squeezing in some misinformation about Jerry DeWayne Williams for good measure.  Meanwhile, misrepresentations spreads around the world.  The UK Telegraph gets the sentencing wrong and doesn’t include the wallet theft; the Guardian, likewise, runs multiple, inaccurate stories that neglect the actual charges and misrepresent the law.  What an embarrassment, all around.

This website has real statistics on California’s “three strikes” law.

Three Strikes Laws: The Myth of Jerry DeWayne Williams and His Pizza Slice


As California begins emptying prisons over the protests of voters, a powerful coalition of anti-incarceration activist groups are declaring victory over the quaint notion that people should be punished for crime:

Prison reform advocates such as Jim Lindburg, a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on Legislation, hope that the state’s first significant corrections-policy change in decades ushers in a whole new mind-set on crime.  “There’s really nothing scientific or magical about the length of prison sentences,” Lindburg said. “Those are political calculations made in a political environment. It seems preposterous to me to suggest that letting people out a little bit early is going to have any kind of (negative) impact on crime rates. I think we just need to change the way we think about public safety.”

Well, actually, there’s already been at least one disturbing crime committed by one of the first men released a “bit early,” so scratch the “no negative impact” thing.

Also, there’s nothing “magical” about the length of prison sentences.  To the contrary, imprisonment works in the most mundane and predictable way: it keeps non-reformable offenders away from fresh victims for a set amount of time, and schools others in the consequences of offending again.

What hubris, accusing the public of “magical thinking” because they want offenders off the streets.  Why is it that those who trumpet loudest about their own peace-loving natures and non-hierarchical ways always come off as angry, insufferable elitists?

The Friends Committee on Legislation of California  (FCLCA) , guided by Quaker values, advocates for California state laws that  are just, compassionate and respectful of the inherent worth of every  person.

Make that the inherent worth of offenders, full stop.  Oh please, just do it.  You know you want to.  The Friends do not waste their breath or stationary advocating for the inherent worth of people who aren’t convicts, or ex-cons.  Ditto all those activist nuns getting their jollies on death row.  There’s no thrill in standing alongside ordinary people who fear for their safety — no thrill, and generally no microphones, either.


As the anti-incarceration movement gears up to exploit the financial crisis, expect more mass early releases and the gutting of three-strike and other recidivism laws.  Consequently, alongside all the faux-Buddhist arguments about one hour in prison being the same as 100 or 1,000 days (the real magical thinking), academic cheerleaders have now exhumed that all-time sorriest argument against three strikes laws: the fake-life-for-stealing-a-slice-of-pizza guy.

Why fake?  Because Jerry DeWayne Williams didn’t get life.  He didn’t serve 25 years under three strikes.  His sentence, like the sentences of 25% to 45% of the offenders who qualify for three-strikes, was downgraded to a “second-strike” offense . . . because judges and prosecutors have that discretion and use it every day.

Here is professor Jennifer Walsh, writing in late 2002:

[S]tatistics indicate that discretion in three strike cases is invoked frequently and consistently. A 1998 survey of California District Attorneys revealed that prosecutors in urban jurisdictions use discretion in approximately 20-40 percent of eligible cases [now higher] . . . An evaluation of judicial discretion exercised in San Diego County found that judges exercised discretion in 29 percent of eligible three strike cases. They were also 100 percent more likely to use discretion if the triggering offense was minor. Moreover, judges were more likely to strike a prior strike if the defendant had no history of violence and no history of weapons possession or weapons use.  Perhaps most reassuring is the data that shows that in San Diego County, over half of the initial third strike filings that involved a minor third strike offense were later downgraded to second strike offenses. This exercise of discretion by prosecutors and judges prevented these defendants from receiving the enhanced sentence when they were perceived as undeserving.  Findings like these confirm that the judicious exercise of discretion under the California three strikes law creates a safeguard for defendants who are technically eligible for the mandatory sentence, but whose past and present conduct is considered to be outside the spirit of the law.

Read that paragraph carefully, because you’re not going to see it in the news, where reporters simply cut and paste rhetoric from various activist groups, wildly misrepresenting the law itself.  Professor Walsh notes that those subjected to California’s three-strikes law generally had violent or serious crimes as their third offense:

State statistics indicate that the third strikers in prison include 294 for murder; 34 for manslaughter; 1,408 for robbery; 356 for assault with a deadly weapon; 416 for other assaults or battery; 136 for rape; 241 for lewd act upon a child; 136 for other sex offenses; 83 for kidnapping; 776 for residential burglary; 288 for possession of drugs for sale; 191 for sale of drugs, 28 for manufacturing drugs; 356 for weapons-possession; and 25 for arson.

First and second offenses must be for serious or violent felonies to trigger the enhancement, another little-noted fact.

But facts simply don’t matter to the activists.  If facts mattered to them, they wouldn’t be holding up Jerry DeWayne Williams as an example of a person who was sent away for 25 years for stealing a piece of pizza, because he wasn’t.

And it’s very much worth asking why criminologists and reporters cling so eagerly to this one story, repeating it endlessly when it is not true in the first place and is also decades old now: can’t they produce a better tale of woe?

But it gets worse.

This week, the Los Angeles Times ran a bizarre feature on Jerry DeWayne Williams.  The gist is that Williams is a victim of three-strikes even though he was not subjected to it.  It is apparently enough that the law exists for Williams to continue to feel victimized by it.  The reporter calls this serving a “life sentence” of having to abide by the law:

“I walk on eggshells,” [Williams] said. “Any little thing that I do, I could be back for the rest of my life.”

Strangely, however, not even that claim holds up under scrutiny.  Williams has received lenience repeatedly since the pizza incident, a fact that neither he nor the reporter seem to view as a contradiction of his profound feeling of victimization.  One of his subsequent crimes was even a threat of violence:

in September 2003, his girlfriend called 911 and reported that Williams was verbally abusing her. A police officer arrived to find Williams moving out after a fight and demanding $150 he had paid toward the bills.  As the officer looked on, Williams told his girlfriend: “I’m going to put a bullet in your ass if I don’t get my money.”

A prosecutor and a judge let him off:

Williams, who was unarmed, was arrested and charged with making a criminal threat, a felony that could have landed him back in prison for life. But Kings County prosecutors did not treat the crime as a third strike. Williams pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and was released from jail after 17 days.

And then he immediately broke the terms of his probation upon leaving prison, again with no consequences:

As part of his sentence, he was barred from leaving Kings County without permission. Nevertheless, Williams moved to Moreno Valley to live with another sister. An arrest warrant was issued and remains active.

And then again:

Since landing in Moreno Valley, he has been arrested once — for being drunk in public — but was released without charges being filed.

How on earth does the reporter square such facts with his depiction of Williams as a desperate, haunted man peering nervously over his shoulder, terrified of the slightest slip-up?  He was not afraid to violate his probation.  Twice.  He was not afraid to threaten to murder someone — in front of a policeman.  He doesn’t sound particularly frightened at all.  He sounds as if he knows that he can avail himself of a passel of silk-stockinged civil liberties attorneys any time a knucklehead cop dares to take him in for attacking a woman, or some other offense.

He sounds as if he knows that his notoriety has placed him above the law.

In one of the many courtrooms, Williams has been sentenced in, a prosecutor “unfurled a computer printout of Williams’ criminal history that extended from his outstretched arm to the floor,” and yet Williams is not behind bars.  Considering the gang and drug activities that consumed his earlier years, the threat of three-strikes has probably saved his life, but he is far too busy whining to be grateful.


What the criminologists and the activists will not admit, will not acknowledge, let alone discuss, is this: for every Jerry DeWayne Williams, there is a John Floyd Thomas, arrested repeatedly in California over the span of more than two decades for sex crimes and burglaries but released repeatedly, to rape and (now we know) kill again.

Jerry DeWayne Williams may owe his life to the three strikes law, but it did not arrive in time to save the lives of the thirty women in Los Angeles Thomas is now suspected of raping and strangling.

Thirty murdered women.

Funny, you never hear Quakers (or most criminologists) talking about that.


To read more factual material about California’s three-strikes law, go to the Three Strikes and You’re Out: Stop Repeat Offenders website.  Rather than trumped-up anecdotes and accusations of fascism, you’ll find data on California’s three-strikes offenders, statistics on use of judicial discretion, examples of dangerous offenders who would have been out of prison, but for the law, and studies evaluating the effect of the law on California’s crime rate.

The Guilty Project, Kevin Eugene Peterson and Charles Montgomery: Two Sex Offenders Who Would Have Been Better Off Behind Bars

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Early release is going to be a disaster. It would be less of a disaster if the public had access to the real criminal histories of the people being released.  But we’re being kept in the dark: nobody wants to admit the chaos in criminal record-keeping.

genthumbKevin Eugene Peterson

Already, someone has been cut loose on the pretense that was merely a non-violent offender, when he was not.  He immediately tried to rape a stranger.  How immediately?  A few hours.  Expect more of the same:

Kevin Eugene Peterson, who was released from the Sacramento County Main Jail around 11:30 p.m. Monday, was arrested by Sacramento police around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday after he allegedly attempted to rape a female counselor at Sacramento’s Loaves and Fishes on North C Street.

Peterson qualified for the early-release program, supposedly restricted to non-violent offenders, because his latest arrest was for violating parole on an earlier felony: assault with a deadly weapon.  Get it?  He should have still been in prison for the felony weapon charge, but because they let him go early to save money, once he got sent back to prison for breaking the law again, he was classified non-violent, rather than counting the parole revocation as a reinstatement of his previous sentence.

Most people assume that revoking parole means reinstating the person’s original sentence.  That is, after all, what we are told about the parole process.  We’re not told the truth, apparently.

So by failing to abide by the law the last time he was released, Peterson got himself to the head of the line to be released early a second time.  Now a woman has been abducted and terrorized.  Authorities say their hands are tied, however, because they are bound by the rules that classified Peterson as “non-violent”:

Peterson was one of 121 non-violent inmates released from Sacramento detention Monday and Tuesday after the state penal code was re-written as a cost-saving measure.  About 250 inmates were expected to be let free by week’s end.  While good behavior traditionally could cut up to a third of a California jail inmate’s sentence, the new law passed by the state Legislature last year mandated county jail inmates with good behavior be set free after serving only half of their sentenced term.  While all of the inmates considered for early release are non-violent offenders, Peterson was originally arrested in August 2007 in south Sacramento on a felony assault with a deadly weapon.  However, since Peterson served that sentence and was sent back on a non-violent probation violation in December, he was eligible for early release.  Also, the assault with a deadly weapon charge did not result in great bodily injury to the victim, nor did that attack include the use of a fire arm.

More loopholes: because Peterson failed in his effort to do “great bodily harm” to someone, and the “deadly weapon” he used was something other than a gun, the great whirling roulette wheel of justice eventually slotted him out as a non-violent offender.  There are a million such loopholes in our sentencing laws, not to mention the giant classificatory loophole that is plea bargaining.

Which raises a serious, though entirely neglected question: how many of these other “non-violent” offenders slated for release, or released already, are actually violent felons?

When politicians promise that only non-violent offenders will be allowed to walk free in these cost-cutting schemes, they’re lying.


Speaking of erasing evidence of crime, here is one sadly typical consequence of extreme leniency: subsequent violent death of the offender.  He might have been safer in prison, after all:

charles_montgomery_cousinCharles Montgomery

Charles Montgomery was born in the back room of his grandparents’ house on the 400 block of E. 104th St. in the Green Meadows neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Twenty-four years later he died on that very street, a few houses down, shot on his way home from the store in the early afternoon, his family said. . . Montgomery, a 24-year-old black man, was shot several times in his upper body about 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15 by a man who approached him on foot, police said. Montgomery died at the scene. . . Police said they have no suspects and no witnesses have come forward.  “It was broad daylight — it just don’t get more blatant,” said Kali Kellup, Montgomery’s  cousin. ”Somebody saw something.”

No witnesses have come forward.  Kellup also said that people were shocked because his cousin was shot in a little section of the block that was “considered neutral territory.”  That a war zone with agreed-upon “neutral” spaces is an accepted reality in any corner of America ought to be more shocking.

Raised by his grandparents, who have lived on the block for more than 50 years, Montgomery was known to be “happy go-lucky” and constantly in motion. His family said he had the mental state of a child; he was afflicted with an unknown mental condition that doctors could not diagnose.  “He was always happy, always laughing about something,” Kellup said. “Even if you didn’t know what it was, he was laughing about something.”

He was also charged with attempted forcible rape, and kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon, serious charges that got pleaded down to a non-sexual charge.  I tend not to believe people who claim that a predator isn’t responsible for his crimes because of mental incapacity.  If you’re capable of kidnapping and assaulting someone, you’ve got some competence, not to mention enough to face the consequences.  If there are consequences:

As a teenager, Montgomery spent two years at juvenile hall before being charged as an adult with assault with intent to commit a felony, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, and attempted forcible rape, according to court documents.  In 2003, two years after he was taken into custody, his court-appointed attorney agreed to a plea on his behalf. Montgomery was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, and the other charges were dropped, according to court records. Montgomery was sentenced to two years in state prison; however, he was given over two years of credit for time in custody and good behavior and was released, according to court records.

Two years, and no record as a sex offender, for assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, and attempted forced rape.  That’s what passes for normal these days, but the Justice Department and their Crime Experts keep insisting that we are far too harsh on all offenders, that we need to roll back sentencing even more.  To what, minutes or hours in a cell?  When you already get time served for armed kidnapping and attempted forcible rape, or a slap on the wrist and two-time early release for assault with a deadly weapon, what exactly are we going to cut?  The people controlling this debate are not speaking honestly.

Kellup said he believed his cousin was innocent.  “He was basically a fall guy,” he said. “It was a travesty of justice.”

Just a “fall guy” in a kidnapping and attempted rape?  Hmm, with a deadly weapon involved?  If everyone, from the prosecutor and the defense attorney and the judge, to his own family, had not worked so hard to excuse Montgomery’s prior crime, then he would probably still be alive today.  In prison, but not dead.

“I wish they’d stop the killing,” Montgomery’s grandmother said. “Young people killing one another for no reason at all.”

Julia Tuttle Bridge, Redux: More Made-Up Reporting on the “Sex Offenders Under the Bridge”


Quick, what’s more bathetic than a sack of drowned kittens?

Why, it’s the Sex-Offenders-Under-the-Bridge in Miami.  Again.  In Time this time.  Apparently, it’s just not possible to guilt the fourth estate into covering this issue factually (see here, here, and here for my prior posts).  Is some defense attorney running a tour bus for gullible reporters to guarantee a steady supply of this melodrama?  If so, I wish they’d take a side trip to go shopping for new adjectives:

The Julia Tuttle Causeway is one of Miami’s most beautiful bridge spans, connecting the city to Miami Beach through palm-tree-filled islands fringed with red mangroves. But beneath the tranquil expanse sits one of South Florida’s most contentious social problems: a large colony of convicted sex offenders, thrown into homelessness in recent years by draconian residency restrictions that leave them scant available or affordable housing. They live in tents and shacks built from cast-off supplies, clinging to pylons and embankments, with no running water, electricity or bathrooms.

Draconian . . . clinging to pylons . . . tranquil expanse . . . it’s beginning to sound like a Simpsons episode.  And then, there is the embarrassing failure to fact-check:

Miami is hardly the only place in the U.S. where registered sex offenders can’t find shelter. In Georgia, a group living in tents in the woods near Atlanta was recently ordered out of even that refuge.

Oh, please.  “[O]rdered out of even that refuge.” Cue to violins.  That’s not what happened.  The county spent taxpayer resources arranging housing for them, just as they spend taxpayer money to address all their needs.  Didn’t the Time reporter bother to speak to county officials?

Press releases from activist organizations are not facts.

Here’s a better way to describe the “homeless sex offender” drama in its entirety: inspired by the Miami story, reporters coast to coast set out to comb bridges and underpasses, eagerly seeking encampments of homeless sex offenders.  Lightening their trip by jettisoning the heavy burden of objectivity, they finally stumbled upon a handful of men shacked up in the woods outside Marietta, Georgia — living there for about five minutes while other housing was being found for them.  Included in the group was a particularly violent child abuser who had been booted from his last taxpayer-subsidized dwelling because he couldn’t be bothered to pay a token bit of rent (he, of course, was the one being represented by a “civil rights” group suing the rest of us for failing to provide him with more free housing after he screwed up the last handout).  Plus there were a few other child molesters crying poverty and misrepresenting their convictions to the gullible gal Friday sent to interview them.  Meanwhile, nobody really noticed the hundreds of sex offenders living nearby in perfectly legal housing, just like nobody noticed the thousands of non-homeless sex offenders in Miami.

Other than the Miami encampment and the blink-of-an-eye Atlanta thing, the only other reported sighting of a homeless sex offender was by the New York Times’ Dan Barry, and that was entirely accidental: Barry didn’t realize that the manipulative old coot he was slavishly profiling was actually an absconded child rapist . . . because he didn’t do a simple thirty-second online fact-check to confirm any part of the man’s sob story.  Ouch.

Of course, the media’s failure to actually find more homeless sex offenders (let alone homeless sex offenders whose homelessness can be vaguely attributed to living restriction laws) did nothing to quell their passion for the story.

Anyway, back to the latest breathless confabulation:

But the Miami shantytown, with as many as 70 residents, is the largest of its kind [make that the only one of its kind], thanks to a frenzied wave of local laws passed in Florida after the grisly 2005 rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by a convicted sex offender. The state had already been the first to enact residency rules for convicted predators, barring them in 1995 from living within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and other children’s sites. Municipalities, with questionable authority, then adopted even tougher ordinances — there are 156 of them so far. Miami Beach, for example, bars offenders from living within 2,500 feet of all school-bus stops, effectively precluding them from living anywhere in the city.

Not true, not true, and not true.  Consistency: not always a virtue.  A “frenzied wave of local laws”?  What kind of reporting is that?  Frenzied?  Is the public “frenzied,” or did elected officials pass laws in response to public concerns about child rapists living incognito in homeless shelters and on the streets, in poor neighborhoods, among children who often lack supervision?

Note to self, Reporter Skipp: two courts have ruled that, in fact, the authority of the municipality in question is not “questionable”: that’s your opinion, and your opinion hardly belongs in a purported news story now, does it?  Particularly with no mention of the fact that, when challenged by the well-heeled lawyers from the side you’re on, the county won in court.  Twice.  Who died and made you a judge in Miami-Dade County anyway?  You are supposed to be a journalist.  This is supposed to be a news story.  Go read the court rulings.  Then report them.  Easy, right?

And are these men really homeless because they’re sex offenders?  How many had housing prior to their convictions?  How many assaulted a child in the last place they lived, with relatives or girlfriends, and that’s the real reason they’re on the streets now? “Effectively precluding them from living anywhere in the city”?  Wrong again.  Thousands of other sex offenders are housed throughout the city.  What’s wrong with these particular men?  And what does the ordinance actually say?  Reporting on this story has been shamefully devoid of such facts.

Could it be that the bridge-dwellers are sexually violent drunks and druggies who would be homeless anyway, especially as many of them have long records of other crimes that would make anyone choose to reject them as tenants?  Could it be they’re cleverly playing journalists like violins in the interest of advancing their lawsuit against the city, and busking up the federal handout they’ve been promised?  Do they, like so many homeless we shower with resources, prefer to live rough rather than avail themselves of taxpayer-subsidized housing that comes with some behavioral strings and a move away from their old stomping grounds?

And what happened to all that federal funding (our tax dollars) slated to be thrown at this trumped-up problem six months ago?

This tiny minority of Miami-Dade’s sex offenders who are living under the bridge are the only ones responsible for their own homelessness and the persistence of the encampment.  Some are staying on because they are suing the city, of course.  You know, that “questionable authority” place across the water?

Ah, but who cares? The academics have arrived to assist the lawyers suing the city, armed with their trumped-up research about how living restrictions cause rapists to do more rapin’.  None of this can actually be proven, of course, but that doesn’t stop certain politicians from repeating the claim, over and over and over again:

“The safety of Floridians has suffered as local politicians have tried to one-up each other with policies that have resulted in colonies of homeless sex offenders left to roam our streets,” says state senator Dave Aronberg, a Democrat running for state attorney general.

Has it really?  Are sex offenders really “roaming the streets” more because they’re being watched?  How does that work?  Prior to living restriction and registry laws, all sex offenders were free to “roam the streets” with impunity: to say that more do so now due to rules against such behavior is just intellectually dishonest.

Also intellectually dishonest?  Not getting a quote from someone who disagrees with the claims you’re pushing as fact in what’s supposed to be an objective news story.  You know, reporting both sides of a contentious issue?  Whatever happened to that?

Incidentally, the very last thing Florida needs is an A.C.L.U.-style Attorney General who spouts inane anti-incarceration propaganda at the drop of a hat.

To actually report this story, which not one journalist has done, you have to consider the offense patterns of this small group of men and others offenders like them.  Where did they find their victims?  Should society allow them to go back to identical circumstances?

To make the claim that living restriction laws threaten public safety, you have to compare recidivism rates before and after living restrictions were put in place.  And nobody has done that, either.  In fact, they cannot do it, because child molestation (the law in Florida applies to child molesters, not that you would know that from the news) so rarely gets reported, let alone reported in a timely manner.

Recidivism is nearly impossible to measure in a system where the vast majority of serial offenders, especially those who start as juveniles, are permitted to plead down to single offenses or non-sex crime charges.  So there are many things we cannot know.  Researchers claiming that they can isolate a specific cause-and-effect relationship between criminal behavior and the existence of these laws are just churning out propaganda in the service of activists who are looking for ways to pad their lawsuits.

No matter what David Aronberg claims.

Here’s an example of the type of research claims now being made by activists:

Research by agencies like the Minnesota Department of Corrections has found that a stable home is the strongest guarantor of sound post-incarceration behavior among sex offenders.

Well, of course it is.  It’s also the type of self-selecting factor that makes research conclusions suspect in the first place.  Having a “stable home” to go back to means you’re among the cohort of offenders who haven’t utterly bollocked every aspect of your life, or engaged in such chaotic and violent behavior that you had no stability to begin with and nothing left to lose.  It means you haven’t raped your own kids and thus can’t go home (hopefully, it means that).  It means you aren’t so addicted or psychopathic or mentally disorganized or impulsive or violent or lazy that you won’t follow the rules for the housing you’ve been offered.

By the taxpayers, including rape victims who pay taxes and are thus frequently forced to pay their own rapists’ rent.  A little gratitude would be attractive, instead of all this carping.

Academics take obvious insights like ‘offenders with stable lives are more stable’ and mutate them into policy arguments against monitoring offenders.  This is politics disguised as research.  And don’t think they’ll stop when they overturn living restrictions; the ultimate goal of the pro-sex offender movement is to do away with registration itself, so offenders can slip back into anonymity once they’ve served the six months (or mere probation) that still passes for punishment for many child molestation convictions.

It’s worth asking why reporters continually get so snowed by myths — like the claim that living restriction laws are magically forcing sex offenders to re-offend when they wouldn’t do so otherwise.  I think it’s the consequence of a mindset that refuses to contemplate, or write about, the existence of the crime itself.  They see the criminal, and empathize, but work hard to deny the existence of his victims.  Consequently, the thing that’s missing from all the extensive coverage of the “homeless sex offenders” is their crimes, as if these men are just people who have been randomly and unfairly designated “sex offenders” and sent to live under a bridge.  How can we even begin to have a conversation about the efficacy of these laws when reporters refuse to include any discussion of the types of crimes the men committed, and might commit again, in their stories?  Once we’re done reading about the lean-tos, and the slap of the waves, and the extension cords snaking through the encampment, could we possibly talk about child rape for a moment?

I once had a reporter tell me that he didn’t choose to write about an offender’s crime if he has “paid his debt to society.”  That’s risible.  We don’t write sentencing laws in order to let reporters feel that cinnamonny rush of self-esteem for opposing them; reporters shouldn’t cover crime policy without including the subject of . . . crime.

So, despite all the award-winning coverage of the view of the unjust sunset from under the Julia Tuttle Bridge, we haven’t really begun discussing the real issue, which is this: considering these men’s actual records and our continuing extreme leniency in sentencing, which settings pose the most risk for re-offense?  The last homeless shelter where they stalked vulnerable runaways?  Their ex-girlfriend’s apartment, where they raped their last six-year old victim?  Enough with the drama about pitiful child maulers: what works?

The men under the bridge are neither heroes nor victims; most would probably be homeless anyway, and it is grotesque that activists posing as journalists continue to trumpet their cause in editorials disguised as new stories and devoid of even the most basic facts.

New York City, 1990; Ciudad Juarez, 2009; Justice Reinvestment, Tomorrow

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A shiny new euphemism is bouncing around Washington these days: it’s called Justice Reinvestment.

That sounds nice.  Thrifty.  Far better than the unfortunately named “Prisoner Reentry,” which was former President Bush’s euphemism for his program handing $300 million dollars over to FBCOS (faith and community based organizations, in other words, any darn thing) to provide “services” (“mentoring,” putative job training, free housing and other goodies) to offenders “reentering” their communities.

In other words, getting out of jail.

Of course, Bush was an unrehabilitated knuckle-dragger, so the new administration has announced, to great fanfare, that those dark days of denying offenders services (“mentoring,” putative job training, free housing, and other goodies) have Finally Come To An End, now that they’ve invented an entirely new name for them.

Justice Reinvestment definitely sounds better than Prisoner Reentry, but other than the stationary headings, both programs do precisely the same thing: they pay a whole bunch of pricey advocates to put a good spin on the fact that our streets are crawling with offenders who ought to be in prison but are not.

Like all spin on crime, Justice Reinvestment is an expression of the foundational myth of crime and punishment in America, neatly summarized in this Nation editorial and thousands of identical screeds.  I paraphrase, but not much (* are real quotes):

Once upon a time, during the Golden Age (roughly, 1963 to 1989), we rehabilitated criminals, instead of punishing them.  But then, a vindictive and stupid public woke up one morning and demanded that their leaders become tough on crime.  Spineless politicians, driven by the unslaked blood-thirst of the public, started putting vast numbers of people in prison for no reason whatsoever, and soon we became a prison state where there was no rehabilitation, no parole, and no second chances.  Then we were worse than Iran!  Cruel and irrational new laws “sent young men to prison for life for stealing a slice of pizza,”* when we could have been using all that money to send them to Princeton.  Ivy League, not Central Lockdown!  Except, not the campus where I’m sending my daughter, please.  Everybody knows that prisons don’t prevent crime.  “All prison is likely to teach . . . is how to commit crime again,”* whereas, at Princeton, young offenders could have been taught literary criticism instead.  If there were no prisons, there would be no recidivism.  That’s a fact.  But because we destroyed the consequence-free paradise that was 1974, we are forcing young, one-time offenders to become lifetime criminals.  Now, because we have chosen enforcement over empathy, “half of those released will be convicted for another crime within three years.”* So it’s vital that we admit we were wrong and, from this point forward, avoid holding criminals accountable in any way, lest we turn them into recidivists.  Using laws.   They just need understanding.  And job training.  And mentors.

This myth, exactly none of which is true (except the shocking recidivism stats) has been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans, which doesn’t make it more credible, just more bipartisan.  How wrong-headed is this thinking?  This chart should do the trick:


See 1963ish?  That is the dawning of the Age of Anti-Incarceration, rising to full bloom in the bloodshed-ey Eighties.  See 1990?  That was when three-strikes, enhanced penalties for gun crimes, and broken-windows policing began replacing the leniency of the previous two decades.

See the blank spot on the far right side of the declining ski slope between 1990 and 2000?  Those are the thousands of lives saved in New York City alone, thanks to those terrible Americans who began to demand that the justice system incarcerate offenders instead of automatically cutting them loose.

I saw an interesting statistic in the newspaper.  Ciudad Juarez, where 16 young people were shot to death at a birthday party yesterday, had about as many murders last year as New York City had in 1990.  So if you want to imagine what contemporary New York would look like if only those horrible law-and-order types hadn’t turned America into Iran some time around 1992, think Ciudad Juarez.

In fairness, the murder rate in Ciudad Juarez today is far higher than the 1990 New York City murder rate: there are only 1.5 million people in Juarez, one-fifth the population of NYC three decades ago.  But there were roughly 1.35 million poor living in NYC when the city’s murder rate spiked, and, of course, the vast majority of the killings took place exclusively among the poor.

So it really was that bad.  Sending more people to prison really did save more lives.

And yet, the anti-incarceration activists continue to insist that “fascist” law enforcement, not crime, is the only real problem, and the only real solution to everything is more leniency and more administration.  That is the real intent of the Justice Reinvestment movement, though I dare anyone to read through the Byzantine prose of the official Four-Step Strategy and explain what they are actually saying.

It is, after all, your money they’re throwing at that guy who just stole your lawnmower.

Media Bias in Crime Reporting: Hank Asher, the St. Pete Times, and Journalists’ Favorite Armed Robber (of the Week)


Two stories today underscore the media’s fundamental prejudices — prejudice against those who try to uphold the law, and prejudice for offenders.

In the St. Petersburg Times, there was a follow-up story to Susan Taylor Martin’s highly personal hatchet job on Mark Lunsford, father of murder victim Jessica Lunsford.  Back in November, Martin sneeringly attacked Lunsford for, among other things, having the temerity to earn $40,000 a year working as an advocate for child predator laws although, as she observed, he holds “only” a high school diploma.  She also criticized Lunsford for comping a $73 celebration at Outback Restaurant on the night the man who raped and murdered his daughter was convicted for her death.

You know, comping . . . one . . . meal.  Like journalists like Ms. Martin do when they attend nicely-heeled journalistic ethics conferences, and civil rights banquets, and other activities approved by the Central Committee for the Maintenance of Media Elitism.

See my previous post on the article here.

Now Martin has returned to the subject of Lunsford’s employer again, publishing a less lurid but hardly objective “follow-up report” on Hank Asher, the computer mogul who hired Lunsford as a lobbyist.  The article purports to address Asher’s work in data mining to support anti-terrorist, child predator, and foster care investigations, but Martin cannot seem to resist indulging her weird obsession with the lifestyles of people who advocate for, rather than against, law enforcement.  The photo caption once again mentions the price of Asher’s house and the fact that he owns a jet; the story is largely a re-hash of ground covered in her earlier story.

Maybe someone at the Times decided that Martin’s November slash job on Asher and Lunsford was so far outside the bounds of acceptable reporting that they’re doing a make-over.  If this is it, well, the third time around, they need to send in someone who isn’t so busy examining the silverware:

Data-mining whiz Hank Asher, who has a private jet and a $3 million mansion, rents part of the Boca Raton office park where IBM once made personal computers.

We actually know that already, because such details were prominently featured in the Nov. 11 story.  You don’t see the Times obsessing over the personal income of people with whom they see eye-to-eye, like defense attorneys and prisoner advocates.  You don’t see them questioning the motives of former elected officials who dedicate themselves to the defense bar after retiring from public service.  But anyone who works, instead, to put child predators behind bars — well, surely they must be hiding something.  Read the rest here.

On the flip side, criminologists and journalists are mourning the death of their favorite armed bank robber.  No point in lingering over little details like what it felt like to be his victim when he held the gun to their head, though.  John Irwin, you see, was not only an armed felon who fell into crime for the noble reason that he found it stimulating — he then went on to become a criminologist and anti-incarceration activist, serving on the board of the radical anti-incarceration Sentencing Project, organizing a “prisoner’s union” to hijack more of our tax dollars for frivolous lawsuits, and most recently celebrating his media-approved adventures in anti-victim advocacy with an autobiography titled Rogue.

Of course, the media is reverential towards this type of contemptuous behavior toward the law, and against crime victims.  The innocent person whose brains Irwin threatened to blow out for kicks and giggles was, of course, not consulted:

John Irwin had the usual choice when he got out of Soledad Prison in 1957 after a five-year stretch for armed robbery: Do more crime, or remake his life.  He chose rebirth – with a passion.  Over the next half century, Mr. Irwin became one of the nation’s foremost advocates for compassionate reform of the prison system, the author of six heralded books dissecting criminal justice, and a tenured sociology professor at San Francisco State University. . .”John was fearless about being honest about the realities of crime and justice,” said Naneen Karraker, a national advocate for prison reform. “He had the courage to see things differently from the common way.

That would be “compassion” towards predators, not their victims, and “fearless” and “courageous” as in spewing the journalist-and-academic approved party line opposing incarceration for all offenders, even the most violent and dangerous, no matter the cost to society.

Among other “fearless” acts, Irwin started something called the Convict Criminology Movement, in which inmates and ex-cons got tax dollars to get college degrees, and a leg up in getting hired as college professors — while their victims received nothing, of course, and thus ended up subsidizing their predators’ educations and careers.  Nice.  The man who raped me got one such utterly fake prison-house degree, which helped enable him to get out of prison early (for the third time) and get back to his true calling raping elderly women.

Thanks, John Irwin.

How many people have been raped and murdered by convicts who should have been in prison but were out on the streets because of Irwin’s campaigns?  There’s no way to ever know.

But to call such activism “courageous” in the virulently anti-victim, pro-offender, anti-incarceration circles Irwin moved in is absurd.  Anyone who thinks being an ex-con would in any way be a detriment to the tenure process hasn’t spent much time being “fearless” on college campuses over the last 30 years.  There is nothing courageous about telling the choir exactly what they want to hear.

Tax Breaks for Hiring Ex-Cons. No Tax Breaks for Hiring the Law Abiding.


Back when the economy was flush, President Bush (yes, that President Bush) started the “prisoner re-entry” ball rolling with $330 million dollars in federal funding to go for housing, drug rehab, jobs, and various therapies for ex-cons.  But now that we are a year into record unemployment for non-ex-cons, should the federal government still be offering tax breaks as a reward for hiring people with criminal records?

With one in ten people (probably more) unemployed, should committing a crime give people a leg up over other job applicants?

Consider one state with a (relatively) good financial outlook, Kansas.  24,000 people are on the unemployment roll in Kansas: the unemployment rate, around 6%, is far better than in many other places.  But the state has also lost 60,000 jobs since last November.  Nevertheless, taxpayers in Kansas seeking work are still subsidizing tax breaks for businesses who choose ex-cons over law-abiding job seekers.

Amazingly, the federal program offering tax breaks for hiring offenders even provides employers with “free insurance to protect them against losses including by theft, forgery or embezzlement.”  You know, for when the rehabilitation doesn’t take.

I’m all for offering offenders the chance to clean up in prison: who wouldn’t be?  But A.A. and N.A. programs cost nothing to run or attend, in or out of jail.  There also seems to be no shortage of naive (often religious) volunteers eager to teach offenders how to dress right for a job interview.

But the minute there’s grant money involved, expect wrap-around freebies for “clients” and zero accountability regarding whether a single dime spent does any good at all.  Here is a description of some of Kansas’ federal tax-funded re-entry expenditures, from a March 2009 article in U.S.A. Today:

In a hushed conference room overlooking the town’s main drag, eight convicted felons, including an aspiring amateur fighter, brandish bright Crayola markers.  Their goal is to match their personalities to one of four colors. Tim Witte, 27, on probation for evading arrest, eyes the task as if sizing up a fellow middle-weight on Kansas’ gritty cage-fighting circuit. Witte and two drug offenders settle on orange.  The color, indicative of a restless, risk-taking personality, is the hue of choice for most offenders, says Michelle Stephenson, the corrections officer leading the unusual exercise. . . Probation officers now help offenders find work, health care, housing, counseling, transportation and child care.  During the past several months, for example, the office spent $110 to cover an offender’s utility payments; $500 for a rent payment; $600 for six bikes the office loans to get to job interviews; $77 for a YMCA membership to help an offender improve his physical condition and $320 for eight anger-management counseling sessions.

The coloring class, gym memberships, et. al. are part of a gamble the state is taking with violent felons.  In an effort to cut costs, ex-cons are assigned to community-based “behavior modification” classes rather than being returned to prison for parole violations.  So that guy breaking into your garage might just get sent to art class, instead of back to prison.

Gee, who needs an anger management class now?

Does any of this busywork actually rehabilitate criminals? Or are the few successes held forth for the press just the people who would have gotten their act together anyway?  Even if the overseers of these programs weren’t utterly unreliable reporters, thanks to their nearly universal anti-incarceration ethos, there’s really no way to know.

For when states simultaneously set up crayola workshops for felons and instruct parole officers to send fewer violators back to prison and send the word down to prosecutors that more cases should be pleaded away, there are a million ways to make the results look good.  With layers of politicians and government workers and non-profits, there’s always somebody willing to point at the crayon box and declare (for a fee, of course) that the patient has been cured.

Well, except for this guy.  According to Kansas offender records, he absconded some time after U.S.A. Today introduced us to him in his coloring class.


Not in Kansas anymore?

The Coming Year of Prisoner “Re-Entry”: Attempted Murder in Chicago, Then Back on the Streets in a Fortnight


As the Justice Department and everybody else barrel forward with plans to get as many violent offenders back on the streets as quickly as possible (to save money, you know, and aid those poor benighted, imprisoned souls), here’s a reminder of the inevitable consequences of anti-incarceration-early-re-entry-alternative-sentencing-community-control chic, from the Chicago Sun-Times, via Second-City Cop:

She lost 20 teeth. She suffered a brain injury and seizures. And she struggled to pay her medical bills because she didn’t have insurance.  Jen Hall was the victim of a brutal, disfiguring beating outside a Jewel store in the South Loop in August 2008.

Her attacker, Derrick King, was later sentenced to three years in prison for the crime. King, 48, went into state Department of Corrections custody in early October, but he was paroled only two weeks later under a policy change by Gov. Quinn’s administration. . .

On Aug. 25, 2008, King and Joyce Burgess attacked Hall and her boyfriend, police said. King asked the couple for cigarettes, but when they said they didn’t have any, Burgess knocked down Hall, who was celebrating her 36th birthday.  King, who police say was homeless, kicked Hall in the head and face, knocking out her teeth. King also struggled with Hall’s boyfriend and reached into his pockets to try to rob him, police said.  King was convicted and sent to prison on Oct. 6. He was paroled under the MGT-Push program on Oct. 20, records show.

And then, of course, he not only immediately set out to commit another crime, but he terrorized his next victim by bragging to her that he was the man who had attacked Hall:

Then, on Oct. 21, King was nabbed by Chicago Police in a similar crime. He threatened a 49-year-old woman after asking her for a cigarette in the 500 block of West Roosevelt, not far from where he beat Hall.  When the woman declined, King said: “Remember the couple who got beat up real bad for not giving a cigarette? That was me!” according to a Chicago Police arrest report. King then charged toward her, police said. The woman flagged down a patrol car and the officers arrested King. Police charged King with simple assault, a misdemeanor.

Disturbed yet?  Here’s where it gets even more disturbing. Even after King tried to beat two people to death, then attacked a third victim, the Department of Corrections was not particularly motivated to pull him in.  He was almost on his way out the door again, and it sounds as if only police vigilance actually resulted in Corrections agreeing to issue a warrant:

The Department of Corrections initially declined to issue a warrant to send King back to prison on a parole violation, but eventually a parole supervisor signed off on a warrant, according to the police report.

So if this were not a case of some notoriety, it is likely that no judge or parole official or prosecutor would have bothered to enforce the law regarding King’s parole.  I can’t count the times I’ve looked up an offender’s record, and he has two, or five, or ten additional recorded offenses during the time that he is on parole — that is, during the time that he is supposed to be returned to prison for any additional offense.

And it’s not as if people like this get caught every time they throttle someone.  How many of his fellow homeless has King beaten or threatened?  How many people has he terrorized, people who escaped and decided, reasonably, that there was simply no point in trying to get the authorities to act on a criminal complaint?  Derrick King nearly killed a woman and strolled out of jail fourteen days later.

Fourteen days for what should have been attempted murder.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is now calling his secret early release of violent offenders “a mistake.”  Bunk.  A mistake is when you do something in error: this is both a guiding philosophy and a policy.  The offenders released in two weeks are merely one step further down a deliberative path that has similar offenders released after two months or six months, at most.

Or simply not prosecuted in the first place.

Derrick King’s early release is something that happens with most offenders in every major city in the country, with the exception of those that have reformed the behavior of their courts by adopting “broken windows” policies, most notably, New York City.  A Derrick King probably wouldn’t slip through the cracks in New York City: he slipped through in Chicago.  It’s simple, really.

And yet, in much of the mainstream media, and in the universities, and in courtrooms, and in Eric Holder’s Justice Department, the mantra of “emptying the prisons,” and “prisoner re-entry” is relentless.  The Justice Department is funding (that is, we are funding) scores of programs designed to keep the maximum number of offenders out of prison and in the communities where they victimize others.  These programs go by various names and make various unattainable promises, but they operate on one unifying principle: anything but incarceration as the default response to crime.

And So It Begins: Rhetoric on “Early Release for Non-Violent Offenders Clogging Prisons” is Dangerous Hot Air

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From the Denver Post.  Not exactly Girl and Boy Scouts, these “best of show offenders” chosen as the first early releases in Denver.  Ironically, these records make precisely the opposite point than the one the Justice Department is making, which is that we are too harsh on offenders and “too vindictive” on sentencing.

Expect more of the same as Eric Holder gears up to throw massive amounts of money at anti-incarceration initiatives and activist groups like the Vera Institute, who do “studies” that all end up showing that we need to empty the prisons to save money.

Well, some people’s money, and good luck with that:

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!


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


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.

A Truly Offensive Effort to Whitewash the Crime Problem


What’s the matter with the Atlanta Journal Constitution?

In the last year, the residents of Atlanta stood up and declared that they do not want their city to be a place known for crime, where murders and muggings are taken in stride.  They declared that one murder, one home invasion, is one too many.  They partnered with the police — ignoring the headline-grabbing anti-cop types who perennially try to sow divisiveness.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution stubbornly failed to grasp the significance of these events.  They mocked the anti-crime activists and denied the crime problem with a scorn they would not dream of directing at other types of community leaders or social movements.  They sought out the usual political operatives to feed them quotes denying the seriousness of crime.

They didn’t understand that the public had long-ago grown tired of these condescending tactics.  The newspaper of record especially didn’t understand that the internet gave citizens powerful new ways to see precisely how much their lives and pocketbooks were being affected by crime — whether it was sharing information about the ten-time recidivist standing in their driveway or finding out how many other people got put on hold when calling 911.

Atlantans began to demand a healthier, saner, safer status quo.  They set out to change the culture of the city in ways that will benefit every single person, from the well-off to the poor to criminals themselves (for criminals are not helped by a system that allows them to destroy their own lives).

Now, less than a year later, anti-crime activism has brought about a sea change in the political culture of the city.  Several candidates are running in this election on solid platforms of public safety — notably Adam Brackman, a leader in the volunteer court-watching movement that pressures judges to remove repeat offenders from the streets.

Every politician in this election is on notice that they dismiss public concern about crime at their peril.

And by the time the next election rolls around, I suspect that some of the judges who are failing to uphold the law and siding with offenders rather than law-abiding citizens will be folding up their black robes.  Pressure on the courts, and pressuring the city to end the police furloughs, has already set the city on the path to reducing crime, though it will be a long road.

So why did the AJC choose this moment to retreat to the “crime is a perception thing” debate again?

“People are scared,” said Kyle Keyser, founder of Atlantans Together Against Crime. The group formed in January, in a near-spontaneous reaction to a perceived crime wave that crested with the killing of a restaurant worker near Grant Park.

“Near-spontaneous.”  “Perceived crime wave.”  “Crested.”  Could the reporter wedge in a few more diminutives?  I lived in that neighborhood for decades, and in reality, crime has always been unacceptably high there.  It would be a lot higher if residents weren’t paying through the teeth for security patrols and motion detectors and cameras inside and outside of their homes, a veritable self-imposed police state that reflects the failure of city leaders and especially judges to behave as if all crime matters.

So why is the newspaper still hammering away at the theme that it is the perception of crime that is the problem?  Even when they acknowledge that crime is up alarmingly, from a base rate that is alarming enough, they feel the need to remind people that such things are normal, you know, in urban places:

Residential burglaries are a key component of the property crime category. But while all property crime decreased, reports of residential break-ins grew by 65 percent from 2004 to 2008. This year alone, home burglaries in southeast Atlanta are up 52 percent.

Larcenies have steadily decreased, as well. But thefts from automobiles, a frequent grievance of in-town residents, rose 30 percent in five years.

Criminologists say a high crime rate is inevitable in Atlanta, where widespread poverty and an influx of commuters, conventioneers and tourists create an atmosphere conducive to illicit activity.

Yeah, that pickpocket’s trade show sure brought a bunch of pickpockets to town.  The problem isn’t poverty: it’s profound social dysfunction, and the primary targets of crime are not conventioneers in the security-heavy downtown business district but residents going about their lives.  Some criminologists will say anything, however, in the service of rejecting legitimate worries about criminal behavior:

How well a police department performs its most basic job — preventing crime — can be assessed three ways, said Robert Friedmann, a professor of criminal justice at Georgia State University.

“One is the numbers,” he said. “Two is the numbers. And three is perception.”

Is it?  “Perception” is criminologist-code for “hysteria.”  The argument that Atlanta’s crime problem is merely the “perception” of paranoid whiners was rejected by the public months ago.  Yet here comes the AJC, once again, scolding people for failing to lower their expectations to meet the “inevitable” reality of violent urban crime.

The reporter doesn’t stop there, however.  The end of this article, an article that purports to investigate “dysfunction in the police department,”  is instead dedicated to dismissing the seriousness of John Henderson’s murder and by extension the legitimacy of the entire anti-crime movement.

He does this by claiming, again, that John Henderson’s death was probably just “an accident,” foolishly valued and misapprehended by those who reacted to it:

The case featured many archetypal elements of the high-profile urban crime story: the neighborhood’s historic poverty contrasted against the Standard’s hipster scene; the free-roaming young killers, possibly gang members; the overmatched police force, struggling to keep pace with crime. To many, the case seemed to be a metaphor that captured Atlanta as a growing threat.

Except it wasn’t.

It wasn’t?  It wasn’t what?  The bullet that entered John Henderson’s head was neither an archetype nor a metaphor nor a plot twist: it was a chunk of metal that ended an innocent man’s life, fired from a gun by malicious thugs who displayed murderous contempt for other people’s lives.  To point to the dead body of that young man and say “those who have reacted to this loss are making too much of a big deal about it: it’s just routine, the sort of thing that happens is the big city,” is utterly, starkly, reprehensible.

It smacks of telling people that if they’re “hipsters” who choose to live in-town, they must accept a certain body count among their friends and loved ones, and to complain about that is the real crime.  The reporter backs up this sleazy assertion by insisting that the murder wasn’t as bad as people thought.  Get it?  The murder wasn’t all that bad:

Much of what was reported about Henderson’s killing turned out to be false. He was not shot execution-style. Nor was he wounded four times. He was hit once in the leg during the robbery and once again in the head, maybe by accident, as the robbers fled. One of the bullets came from a handgun the robbers took from Henderson’s co-worker.

“He was hit.”  “Hit,” not shot, a softer word.  “Once in the leg during the robbery.”  Only once, not four times, so why complain about it?  “Once again in the head, maybe by accident.”  Accidentally shooting someone in the head?  What is motivating the AJC to keep bluntly denying the horror of this crime?

I’d interject here that this is not the way the AJC reported on Vernon Forrest’s death.  Forrest chased his robbers with his own gun.  He was no less a victim for it, and the AJC took the right line on that murder, as they did on that family’s demands for justice (as did the Chief and the Mayor, who leaped to action, in stark contrast to their response to Henderson’s murder).  And yet, even after finally doing the right thing, the AJC has now returned to Henderson’s murder to throw a little more dirt.

This is selective policing of the public’s reaction to a cold-blooded murder.  Cold-blooded, no matter where the killer was standing when he fired the bullet.  When you shoot a person through a door, you are as legally and morally as responsible for killing them as you would be if you stood over their body and fired the gun.

The reporter, not the public, is the one wallowing in metaphor and fiction here.  John Henderson is just as dead as he would be if the killing were expertly choreographed.  The public understands this.  They understand that adolescent killers waving guns are just as dangerous as — maybe more dangerous than — seasoned thugs who control their firing range.   Why is the AJC so obsessed with diminishing the responsibility of the killers in this case?  Why do they seem more outraged by the public reacting than by the killing itself?

[T]he area around the Standard was hardly unprotected before the robbery.

From 2:55 to 3:05 a.m., police dispatch records show, the officer assigned to the neighborhood was checking on a gas station at Memorial Drive and Hill Street — 500 feet from the Standard. The officer resumed patrol moments before the robbers smashed the bar’s door.

Short of standing guard at the Standard, it appears the officer could have done little more to prevent the crime.

“There’s a limit to how much officers can impact,” said Friedmann, the Georgia State criminologist. “If someone wants to commit a crime, they’ll commit a crime.”

Well, thank you for clearing that up.  Let’s just forget about it, then.  What’s the big fuss?  The police can’t be everywhere at all times.  This isn’t, like, The Matrix, dude.  So you should forget about complaining when your friends get gunned down.  It’s just life in the big city, after all.

And if it’s the right kind of crime, one involving a victim or location presumed immune from violence, news coverage often implies a broad menace, Friedmann said.

Memorial Drive is presumed immune to violence?  Since when?  Bartenders closing shop are presumed immune to violence?  Sometimes I think criminologists will say absolutely anything to whitewash the reality of crime.  Maybe Fridemann was quoted wildly out of context, because this makes absolutely no sense: he is saying that crime is omnipresent and unavoidable but that a bartender working late at night on Memorial Drive is an utterly unlikely potential victim of crime.  Say anything, in other words, so long as it ineluctably reinforces the conclusion that crime is just a “perception” problem:

“You have a story, people pay attention to it,” he said. “You don’t have a story, people don’t know about it, and it’s as if it didn’t happen.”

I speak fluent Hackademese, so let me try to translate.  Dr. Friedmann is saying that it’s not the murder that is the problem: it’s the fact that people made a big stinking deal about the murder that’s the problem.

Now, to mix things up, back to the reporter denying the severity of Henderson’s murder:

In this case, all that followed — protests over police furloughs, a property tax increase to put officers back to work full time, the “City Under Siege” media frenzy over later crimes — was based on inaccurate information provided by a police detective the day of Henderson’s killing.

Keyser now knows the story was exaggerated.

Does he?  I know Kyle Keyser, and he is committed to ignoring the media’s relentless claims that crime doesn’t matter — the reporter’s insinuation here flies in the face of Keyser’s message and actions.   Playing “gotcha” journalism with a person’s death is pretty ugly stuff.

Sadly, reports of John Henderson’s death were not exaggerated.  Thus, claiming that all that followed — a young man’s funeral, a city coming together to confront the problem of violent crime, more murders, more funerals — hinges on precisely how the gun was held when the bullet entered Henderson’s brain is setting up a straw-man of peculiarly grotesque intent.

The AJC really ought to be ashamed of peddling this type of underhanded opinion-mongering as news.   Nobody in touch with reality cares whether John Henderson was shot by somebody standing over him or shot through a door after being shot once already.  Nobody with a shred of decency would obsess over that distinction and conclude that public outrage over the murder and other crime is just “hype.”  Nor crack a joke about it, as the reporter does:

Pennington has a chance to try to turn the hype to his advantage, to convince Atlantans they’re safer than they think. On Tuesday, the chief is scheduled to address an annual breakfast sponsored by the police foundation.

The event’s theme: “Crime is toast.”

Get it?  Just stop worrying about crime, you ignorant hysterics, and it will all go away.

Domestic Violence And Police Time

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From the always-informative CourtWatchFlorida, a heads-up on the Department of Justice’s new report on domestic violence.

As I was reading through the report, a few facts jumped out:

Domestic violence-related police calls have been found to constitute the single largest category of calls received by police, accounting for 15 to more than 50 percent of all calls.


[W]hether police arrested the suspect or not, their involvement had a strong deterrent effect.

I don’t know where Atlanta falls in the percentage of police calls made due to domestic violence (and that includes calls made by anybody, including third-parties), but it represents a substantial proportion of police resources.

And, even if arrests aren’t made, it is apparently time well-spent, since simply getting the police involved is a deterrent to further violence.  It may not feel that way to the cop who has to come out and deal with a frustrating, unresolved situation, but the research findings are unusually unambiguous on this important point: calling the police is an effective deterrent to escalating violence.

That’s worth considering, too, when you’re trying to decide what to do.

The Genesis of a Lie: How Brutal Killers Become Victims, Part 4

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On September 4, the jury in the Denise Lee murder trial returned a verdict of death for the man who kidnapped, raped, and murdered her, Michael King.  The next day the Sarasota Herald Tribune ran a story detailing the travails King would face on death row, such as limited access to exercise and no air conditioning:

Air conditioning is forbidden on death row, so inmates mostly keep still.  “It’s awful,” said the Rev. Larry Reimer, who has visited for 27 years to minister to a death row inmate. “It is hotter there than you permit animals to be kept.”

Yes, and how was Denise Lee treated?

What on earth would inspire the Tribune to run such a story?  It is advocacy, not news.  It insults the victim’s family to run a puff piece about their daughter’s killer just one day after they endured an horrific trial.  The Tribune waxes poetic about the plight of killers, gawkingly calling death row “still life with concrete.”

King should take note: he would do well to start writing poetry himself, as so many of these thugs do, and thus attract audiences of journalist-groupies, leftist nuns, college presidents, and minister-types who derive self-importance by chattering about the special insights they gain while peering into the souls of men who destroy other people’s lives:

[Rev. Larry] Reimer also has seen the recently arrived death row inmates. He may not know their names, but he knows the look.  “The young men who’ve just come there, they look like they don’t know how they’re going to cope with this.”

In my opinion, if these ministers were really tending to killers’ souls, they wouldn’t grandstand about it.  Wouldn’t the desired ethical response to killing be humility and shame?  This sort of talk isn’t really about killer’s souls, though — or their coping skills.  It is about the speaker positioning himself as morally superior: it is about judging and condemning the rest of us for not seeing the special spark he imagines he sees when he peers into Michael King’s eyes.

The same applies to journalists.  When reporters write about death row, there is often a tone of titillation — porn or fetish — about it.  You sense thrill and self-righteousness, and frissons of identification with powerfully bad men, in all the painstaking descriptions of the walls, the floors, the food, the recounted last meals.  Conditions are pretty crummy for non-violent offenders in prison too — more crummy, because they are targeted by the violent ones — but small-time offenders are small potatoes.  Who wants to identify with a pickpocket?

I remember one particularly disturbing article from some years back, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, in which an activist defense lawyer carried on about how he treasured this little scale-model death row cell one of his clients had crocheted for him — with a little bunk and little slippers, and so on — no mention, of course, of the little lives the man had taken to end up there, or the danger he posed to other inmates and guards.

Sure enough, it doesn’t take long for the Tribune reporter to solemnly invoke Michael King’s dietary restrictions.  It’s intoxicating, a real safari through environs that would doubtlessly improve if inmates were not actually murderous sociopaths:

Their meals are delivered to them, along with the plastic sporks that are the only cutlery they can use.

And this, bizarre, detail:

The ingredients for an inmate’s last meal must cost no more than $40 and be available locally.


Then the reporter turns to Juan Melendez, who was released from death row, to describe his experience on death row.  The message is clear: not only is death row terrible, but the people on it are probably innocent.  To do this in the wake of King’s trial is repugnant.

Nobody thinks Michael King is innocent: it isn’t even an issue.  So why didn’t the reporter interview somebody who is on death row for a crime he did commit?  What happened to Melendez is a tragedy, even if he helped bring it on himself, as most of these men do, by committing other crimes and choosing bad criminal running buddies.  In any case, there is no justification for aggressively bringing Melendez’ activism into a story about this vicious murderer, except that the reporter clearly feels that everyone on death row is a victim of injustice:

Juan Melendez, who was exonerated and released in January 2002 after 17 years, 8 months and one day on death row, remembers the hopelessness and the roaches and rats. He also remembers the camaraderie with other inmates. He got to know them in the exercise yard, and by chatting cell-to-cell.

They taught Melendez how to speak English. They also taught him how to get a plastic trash bag from a trusty and hang yourself with it from the towel rack that is one of a handful of furnishings in a death row cell.

“I had to wet the floor and sleep on the floor. That’s how hot it was,” Melendez said.

At 5 a.m., Melendez said, the trusties put the breakfast trays into metal slots in each cell.

“If you wait five seconds to get the tray, you ran out of luck,” he said. “The roaches beat you to it. They were waiting for breakfast, too.”

How touching: they’re English teachers.  And bathetic references to hanging: one can only presume that these earnest “teachers of English, etc.” were better at killing other people than hanging themselves, because they aren’t dead, right?  I’m sure I will receive angry mail accusing me of lacking empathy for these men.  But why are we hearing about camaraderie among a group of men who have committed heinous crimes, in the wake of what Denise Lee suffered, without also being told about the crimes they committed?

Who cares if they are depressed?  This is sentimentality predicated on disappearing victims from the story.  How could the Tribune publish this one day after King’s conviction?


Well, there is “how,” and there is “why.” The “why ” comes next, with another anecdote about another killer, weirdly cobbled onto an article about Michael King:

After 14 years of legal arguments, attorneys in the south region succeeded in getting a prisoner off of death row last week.

David Lee Thomas, 43, convicted of murder and attempted robbery in Lee County in 1991, is mentally retarded — a “mitigating” fact that his defense attorneys did not raise at his trial. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 ruled it unconstitutional to execute people who are mentally retarded.

The lead defense attorney in the Thomas case, Rachel Day, negotiated a settlement with prosecutors that will move Thomas off death row and into general population. He will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

“He knows that serving a life sentence, the conditions will be considerably better for him than they were on death row,” Day said. “He’ll have a lot more freedom to work, to study, to walk, to exercise, than he would on death row, which is extremely confined.”

The implication is clear: merely one day after the people of Sarasota sentenced Michael King to death for his crimes, the Sarasota Herald Tribune began its campaign to oppose the will of the people and “rescue” King from death row.

Expect more stories linking King to other allegedly retarded offenders, allegedly innocent offenders, and offenders who were allegedly insufficiently represented.  Expect King to join other killers who are promoted as innocent victims of a brutal American system by activists in Canada and Europe — see here for David Lee Thomas’ fan club, which makes no mention of his crime, just as the Tribune avoided all but the briefest mention of it.  He was a repeat felon, of course, released from prison just prior to committing murder.  His victim’s name cannot be found anywhere, but he appears as a victim in several places.

Expect Denise Amber Lee to fade from memory, as Michael King takes her place.

They’ll show us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

the Tribune reporter scolds.

In a news story.

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

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

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

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

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

The Genesis of a Lie: How Brutal Killers Become Victims, Part 2


With so many opportunities to exclude evidence, and so few ways to get it admitted, it is only the most unlucky offenders who ever see the inside of a courtroom.  This terrible reality is what many journalists and defense attorneys call the genius of our system, though, of course, it doesn’t feel that way when it is your daughter or wife begging for her life.


Michael King was on the road to being lucky until his victim, Denise Lee, set out to prove that he was committing a terrible crime.  Lee, a twenty-one year old who had been kidnapped in front of her two infant boys, then brutalized, raped, and informed that she was going to be murdered by King, somehow possessed the composure to hide her ring in his car so that police would find it there.  She also opened King’s cell phone and called 911 while trying to engage him in a conversation that would lead police to his car.

Denise Lee’s father was a police officer, so she probably knew how difficult it would be to get evidence of her own impending murder admitted into a courtroom.  In essence, she spent the last hours of her life trying to overcome the games defense attorneys would later play with her death.

Thanks to Denise Lee’s bravery, Michael King entered the courtroom with virtually no chance of being acquitted.  But in our warped system of criminal justice, the defense attorneys still had games to play and tax dollars to burn — something they seize with impunity whenever a conviction is not really in doubt.  So what should have been a brief and straightforward trial threatened to become a costly spectacle, just as the Brian Nichols trial was a spectacle: an opportunity for defense attorneys to manipulate the system while shrilly claiming to be defending higher principles.

Defense attorneys get away with this behavior largely because they get a free pass from their fans in the press box, who do not even feign objectivity.

During the King trial, a reporter for the Sarasota Herald Tribune stooped to posting mash notes about courthouse “sightings” of his favorite defense attorney on the trial blog, as if he were attending a rock concert, rather than the trial for the rape and murder of a young mother.  That’s simply grotesque.  That undermines the credibility of the newspaper.

But it isn’t unusual.  Defense bias is pervasive in some newsrooms, the Sarasota Herald Tribune being one.  While other local papers stuck to reporting the details of the King trial, the Tribune busied itself manufacturing an ornate case for the defense, presenting their tactics and arguments thinly disguised as news stories.

Thus, jury selection was covered via a series of articles questioning when, or if, jurors can ever possibly be objective.  Before the trial even started, the Trib’s favorite defense experts were already using the paper to paint a picture of King as the victim of an unfair system.

“Attorneys to Look for Internet Bias in Lee Case,” one headline blared:

Community outrage over the abduction, rape and murder of North Port mother Denise Lee simmered for months on online bulletin boards and chatrooms.

Now, attorneys for the man charged with Lee’s murder are going to ask potential jurors if they used the Internet to discuss the crime. . .

“They need to ask if the guy has a Facebook page, if he Twitters, if he has a Web name he uses,” said Art Patterson, a jury consultant and social psychologist based in Sarasota. “We sure want to know, because people say things in there they’d never admit in court.”

The answers could help decide who sits on the jury, and whether the case remains in Sarasota County. . .

In court papers filed this week, King’s attorneys argue that media coverage and strong reaction to the crime online have added to an atmosphere that makes it impossible for him to get a fair trial here.

Well, of course jury consultants for the defense want to know these things.  Their job is to put as many people as possible on the jury who are biased towards the defense.  That type of juror bias is not included in the article.  The reporter only worries about jurors who express pro-conviction sentiments.  He quotes not one, but two experts echoing his worry.

One of the “experts” is the subject of the mash note mentioned above.

The reporter is the mash note’s author.

In another Herald Tribune article about jury selection in the King trial, another defense attorney is given front-page license to scold the public for their presumed inability to be as fair as — say — defense attorneys:

[J]urors already have a hard time with the idea that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, defense attorney Betsy Young said.  “They’re required to walk in saying, there’s an innocent man sitting there,” Young said.

Actually, that is not true.  Jurors are not required to walk into the courtroom believing a defendant is innocent.  Jurors are required to suspend their judgment of the defendant’s innocence or guilt, listen to the evidence, then draw conclusions based only on that evidence.  To allege that jurors must know nothing in order to be fair is to imply that no defendant could possibly get a fair trial. 

The Tribune let this wild misrepresentation stand as “reporting.”


After the trial was over, and the jury took all of half of an afternoon to find Michael King guilty of the crime for which he was obviously guilty, the Trib mounted its soapbox for the defense again.  This time, their goal was to help create the impression that Michael King was incompetent.  They did so with long, drawn-out articles detailing every aspect of the defense’s case for incompetence but barely mentioning the prosecution’s challenges to these claims.

This “evidence” supporting King’s alleged incompetence is bizarre:

Defense attorneys will stress a different side of King that jurors heard all this week during the penalty phase: a man whose childhood sledding injury at age 6 set up a lifetime of diminished mental capacity.  King was described as a good father of a 13-year-old son, a good boyfriend and a good plumber, whose buzzing headaches and “zoning out” increased along with the stress of losing his girlfriend and house. . .

Rodney King said he attributed virtually all of his brother’s problems, including seeing things that were not there, going into a trance-like state, getting lost while driving and hearing buzzing in his head, to a head injury Michael King suffered during a sledding accident as a child. . .

James King said his son had learning problems, especially with spelling and math. He recalled one time when Michael King asked for help in writing out numbers on a check and had to ask his then 11-year-old son for help.

And here:

[M]uch of Tuesday’s testimony came from Dr. Joseph Wu, an expert brought in by the defense who said King’s suffered a brain injury as a child that left him less able to follow society’s rules. People with similar injuries to their frontal lobes have trouble separating fantasy from reality, Wu said, and tend to be paranoid and act out under stress.  King was 6 years old when he was injured. Riding a sled being pulled by a snowmobile, his head slammed into a big wooden beam. His brothers said the snowmobile was going between 40 mph and 80 mph.  In court, Wu suggested a link between the head blow and statements from his brothers about King’s odd behavior.  King once acted out a scene from a Bugs Bunny cartoon with a real bow and arrow, Wu said.  As a teenager, he acted out a scene from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with a real chainsaw, coming within five feet of family members with it.

To summarize: Michael King had ringing in his ears.  He had a weird disorder that enabled him to function well enough to finish school and marry and buy a house and run a business and be “a good father” but also made him snap and rape and torture and kill a total stranger one day, 30 years after falling off a sled.

Curiously, this is the only aspect of the case that the Sarasota Herald Tribune allowed to stand without contradictory input from “experts.”

During the jury selection process, the paper solicited outside defense experts and jury consultants to weigh in on every aspect of the (read: poor) job the court was doing in selecting the jury.  During the trial, reporters let defense experts pose questions regarding the viability of the evidence (prosecution evidence, that is).  During sentencing, they solicited ministers and academicians to weigh in solemnly on everything from the psychological impact of choosing a death sentence to the metaphysical implications of turning one’s back on the religiously ordained quality of mercy (more on that charming theme tomorrow).

All other parts of the trial were subjected to subversive, outsider debate in the news part of the newspaper’s pages, but some sleazy defense witness waving meaningless brain-wave pictures at a disbelieving jury was above reproach?

They couldn’t find a single doctor or shrink or press-hungry tenured faculty member or trial-expert-for-pay-in-the-yellow-pages to similarly question the judgment of Doctor Wu?


Of course, merely reporting defense arguments is reporting, and the articles detailing Michael King’s incompetence defense also include details of what Denise Lee suffered.  But what they exclude is telling: the reporters carefully and selectively skirt the prosecution’s direct refutation of King’s incompetence claim.

Why does this matter?  By choosing to do this, the paper creates an impression of two victims — Lee and King — rather than one victim and one inhumane predator who is entirely responsible for gratuitously destroying her.

It’s a simulacrum of the defense strategy: if you cannot possibly deny that there is one victim in the room, pretend there are two.  It has no place anywhere in a newspaper, except perhaps on the opinion page, where the writer must at least own up to promoting such views.

Tomorrow: The Perils of Being a Sarasota Juror

The Genesis of a Lie: How Brutal Killers Become Victims, Part 1

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This is what Michael King looked like when he was caught in 2008 after abducting, raping and murdering 21-year old mother Denise Amber Lee:

Normal looking guy, right?  King was a husband and father, a home-owner, a businessman who worked as a plumber.  But he’s recently gotten a make-over:

This is King in the courtroom, stumbling around slack-faced, pretending to be incompetent in the interest of setting up a post-conviction defense of mental insufficiency.  He kept this face on for the entire trial.

His attorneys alleged that he had diminished intelligence and capacity from a sledding accident he had at six.

You know, before he went to school, got married, started a business, had a kid. . . and then abducted a beautiful young mother and tortured her in a “rape room” before slaughtering her, while expertly eluding authorities.

Expect the European press to automatically (and mindlessly) add King to their list of “mentally handicapped child-men sitting helplessly on American death row.”

Tomorrow: Two Newspapers, and How They Covered the King Trial