Giovanni Ramirez has been arrested for inflicting permanent brain damage in the April near-death beating of Giants fan Bryan Stowe. Some non-news regarding the arrest:
- Ramirez is “at least” a three-time convict and a felon.
- Ramirez is a convicted gun criminal.
- Ramirez is a “documented gang member.”
- Ramirez was not serving time at the time of the beating. He was out on parole despite prior convictions for attempted robbery, robbery, and firing a weapon in a public place . . . at least.
Well, who could be surprised? The headlines this week are about the Supreme Court decision forcing California to release 46,000 inmates on the grounds that their civil rights are violated by prison overcrowding. Bad enough, but those 46,000 soon-to-be wrongfully freed offenders are only a fraction of the problem. They, at least, ended up in prison for some portion of their sentences.
In addition to the 46,000, how many Giovanni Ramirezes are “wrongfully freed” by other means in California every year? Why was Ramirez on parole, instead of being in prison? Here’s another interesting, unasked question: did some prosecutor and/or judge allow him to plead down to “firing a weapon in a public place” in 2005 to make it easier to avoid applying California’s “three-strikes” law? Did the prosecutor find some other excuse to avoid seeking three-strikes? This type of thing happens every day.
In 2005, what were the real charges against Ramirez? What sentences did he receive for attempted robbery in 1998 and robbery in 1999? How much time did he serve, and how much time did he get off?
There’s no way to learn the answer to questions like this until somebody in Los Angeles unearths Ramirez’ entire criminal record, from arrests to final dispositions. And reporters virtually never bother to do that. The courts and the media collude to conceal basic information about criminal cases from the public. Journalists don’t like risking their special access by embarrassing judges or prosecutors, so nobody asks the hard questions, such as this one:
Would Bryan Stow be at home playing with his children instead of hovering near death with profound brain damage if some L.A. judge had not granted Giovanni Ramirez an entirely unearned “third chance” in 2005?
When you start looking at complete criminal histories — pleas, dropped charges, nolle prosequi, et. al. — the justice system starts looking more and more like the hat check in a social club for unrepentant thugs. I started this blog in 2009 when I learned of a judge in my old neighborhood who suffered no consequences (still hasn’t) for wrongfully releasing a serial offender who went on to kill a female cancer researcher. Rather than spending her time in court examining the offender’s record and assigning the correct statutory punishment, the judge spent her time oohing and ahhing over a wedding dress website with the offender and praising him for “rehabilitating” himself so creatively.
The prosecutor also dropped the ball, but if judges don’t accept responsibility for what happens in their courtrooms, why bother calling them judges?
This terrible dereliction of duty went to the heart of the problem: the judge treated the predator like a victim and also as a sort of Oprah-esque hero of his own life. She used our resources and her authority to inflate his self-esteem and her own sense of magnanimity, instead of punishing him and protecting us. And an innocent woman died a horrible death because of it.
Unsurprisingly, the wedding dress website was a scam. That tacky aside illustrates an important fact:
The only real rehabilitation is consequences.
Judicial rulings like this are frighteningly routine: judges on ego trips walk into courtrooms and see, in prisoners, a reward-rich private constituency. Grandstand on their behalf, and you win approval from all the places where approval matters to any ambitious judge: law faculty, the ABA, the academic research class, liberal activists, and huge swaths of the federal judiciary positioned between your bench and the Supreme Court. Also, during administrations like this one, the Justice Department.
I see the Supreme Court decision as the culmination of seventeen years of radical opposition to California’s extremely successful and life-saving three-strikes law. How successful? You won’t find many people asking that question in the universities, or the press, but on his well-documented website, Mike Reynolds asserts that three-strikes has had a profound effect on public safety:
[A]n average of 1,000,000 serious or violent crimes are prevented every 5 years and 10,000 Californians spared from becoming murder victims since its passage in 1994.
Yet the public debate continues to revolve around myths of people being sent up for shoplifting cheese or a pizza slice.
Here, if you can stomach it, is a celebratory roadmap to the anti-three-strikes movement by Bill Boyarsky, who presents himself as a loner bemoaning what he (astonishingly) sees as the failure of the media to cover the “neglected evil” of racism in the criminal justice system and specifically California’s three-strikes law. Now there’s something you never read about in the mainstream press. Neglected, you know, like Boyarsky was neglected as he was forced to toil in barren fields like . . . the City Editor’s position at the L.A. Times, the Annenberg School for Communications, presiding officer on the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, Northwestern University, and Berkeley.
It really is all about them. Damn the cost to the rest of us.