On Adria Sauceda’s Murder

Thanks to a commenter for saying what needs to be said about Adria’s murder:

“I’m Mexican, I live in Mexico and I don’t understand why the inmates’ families want mercy when they didn’t show any with their victims. They took away their lives, they took away all their dreams and hopes. They should be grateful they are going to die via lethal injection, not in a bizarre way their victims did.” ... 

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

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

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

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

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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.

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. ... 

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Insult to Injury: Feds Say Family of Murdered Border Agent Brian Terry “Not Victims”

It’s a little known irony that crime victims often have to fight for the “right” merely to be considered victims in the eyes of the court.

It’s different for criminals.  When someone commits a crime, their rights expand exponentially.  The worse the crime, the more legal protection the offender receives.  Foremost among the special rights granted only to offenders is the right to relentlessly appeal one’s case, a right that swells to parodic dimensions, subsidized in nearly every case by the taxpayers.  If the victim or their survivors are taxpayers, they pay for it, too. ... 

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Splitting (Other People’s) Hairs (Or Their Throats): David Oshinski, Amy Bach, Jimmy Carter, and Terry Gross Whitewash Wilbert Rideau’s Crimes

This is Wilbert Rideau, Academy Award nominee, George Polk award winner, George Soros grant recipient, Jimmy Carter Center honoree, American Bar Association Silver Gavel winner, Grand Jury prize winner at Sundance, NPR commentator, journalist, Random House author, Terry Gross pal, friend of the famous and the rich . . . you get the picture.

Oh yeah, he also kidnapped three innocent people during a bank robbery in 1961, shot them all, and then stabbed the one young woman who couldn’t escape him after he “ran out of bullets,” as the second victim played dead and the third hid in a swamp.  He plunged a butcher knife into Julia Ferguson’s throat as she begged for her life.  Rideau later went on to claim that she wasn’t technically begging for her life, as part of Johnny Cochran’s successful 2005 bid to get him out of prison, but in this conveniently forgotten video, he tells a very different — and shocking — story about the crime. ... 

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

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

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

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

Much is being made about Rodney Alcala’s allegedly superior intelligence. I don’t buy it any more than I buy it when defense attorneys wave a piece of paper in the courtroom and claim their client is mentally challenged and thus deserves a break.  It’s just theater.  Alcala’s a haircut with cheekbones: his IQ, whatever it might be, matters far less than the pro-offender sentiments of the era when he was first tried, and re-tried.

It certainly didn’t take a rocket scientist to play the California criminal justice system for a fool back in the 1970’s.  Unfortunately, in many ways, the same is still true. ... 

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Rwanda and Columbine: The Politics of Forced Reconciliation

Occasionally, in response to something I write, I receive an e-mail advising me that, for the good of my soul, I had better stop judging criminals (or criticizing, or even joking about them) and train myself to vigilantly “forgive” them instead.  For example:

Life is too short to walk around with this kind of hate inside. Anger and bitterness is a poison that destroys the pot it is kept in. ... 

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Outrage: How, Precisely, Did Delmer Smith “try to go straight”?

The Sarasota Herald Tribune, a newspaper with an addiction to excusing, or at least minimizing, the behavior of the most violent criminals, just did it again.

In a front-page story on Delmer Smith, the brutal South Florida serial killer and rapist charged with yet another woman’s death last week, the paper boldly asserts that Smith “tried to go straight” after his release from prison.  Did he, really?  Is there proof for this fascinating claim?  They don’t offer any: they just say it’s so. ... 

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The Guilty Project, Wayne Williams: Still Guilty. And the Role of Child Prostitution in his Murders.

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To name all defendants Innocent Until Proven Guilty is a beloved tradition, and an ethical one, at least so long as the pontificating guardians of the reputations and feelings of criminals are willing to let it go once their clients have, in fact, been proven guilty.

Yet this is almost never the case.  Defense attorneys express a touching faith in the wisdom of the public and juries . . . until precisely the moment a guilty verdict is reached.  Then, like lovers scorned, they denounce everything about their former paramours: their intelligence, their morals, their identities, their actions, their collective and individual races.  All are fodder for the endless second act of criminal justice: the post-conviction appeal. ... 

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Trials Without Truth: The Library Rapist

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Defense attorneys in Tampa Bay are attempting to derail the trial of accused two-time rapist Kendrick Morris.  They are demanding that DNA evidence identifying Morris as the rapist in two extremely violent sexual assaults be thrown out because, they allege, police collected it improperly.

Of course, there is no other way for them to defend their client: his DNA matches the two rapes.  So Morris’ lawyers are treating the courtroom like a casino craps table, not a serious truth-finding forum, a sadly reasonable presumption on their part, in fact.  Warped rules of evidence, piled one upon the other, create countless opportunities for keeping important facts from being considered by judges and juries. ... 

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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. ... 

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East Coast Rapist, DeKalb County Rapist: Serial Rapists and DNA. It Works. If You Bother to Use It.

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(Hat tip to Pat)

In 2007, I stood by the mailbox of the house I once briefly rented in Sarasota, Florida, contemplating the short distance between my house and the house where my rapist grew up, less than a mile, and a strikingly direct path over a well-worn shortcut across the train tracks. ... 

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Martez McKibben, Young Working Man Murdered in Another Robbery Turned Violent

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    Martez McKibben
I received the following notice from several people in Atlanta:

    21-year-old Kavader [Martez] McKibben was murdered Friday night while working at the Moreland Package store.  He was killed while two men committed an armed robbery – they shot him even though he’d already given them the money they asked for.  It all sounds too similar to the way John Henderson was murdered not even one year ago.McKibben  was known by many in our community and has been described as the guy who was  never in a bad mood and was always nice to everyone; was a pleasure to talk – had a good heart and a warm smile. ... 

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

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

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

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Journalistic Ethics Week, Part 3: Mark Lunsford, Class Warfare, and Victims’ Rights at the St. Pete Times

When the A.C.L.U. manufactures an utterly frivolous legal issue that costs the state millions of dollars to litigate, the St. Petersburg Times views that as money well-spent in the interest of “ensuring the health of our democracy.”  When A.C.L.U.-associated lawyers profit from lawsuits arising from the group’s activism, the St. Petersburg Times doesn’t complain.  It’s all in the interest of ensuring the health of our democracy, you see, and if lawyers turn a few million dimes “keeping the system honest,” well, power to the people.

When health-care non-profits accept funding from hospitals and medical and drug companies that stand to profit from their activism, the St. Petersburg Times doesn’t smell a rat: they smell roses.  As they should.  Actually, they usually don’t even notice such transactions, since this is the way non-profits simply do business. ... 

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DNA Could Have Stopped Delmer Smith Before He Killed, But Nobody Cared Enough To Update the Federal Database

This is Delmer Smith, who is responsible for a recent reign of terror on Florida’s Gulf Coast that left women from Venice to Bradenton terrified of violent home invasions, murder and rape:

 ... 

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How Many Women do You Need to Slaughter Before it Becomes a Hate Crime?

Let’s see. According the the silence of the “experts” in the face of Walter E. Ellis’ crimes, apparently it’s some number higher than seven.  And counting.

So what constitutes a hate crime against women?  Nothing, in practice.  Not selecting and slaughtering woman after woman after woman.  Not scrawling hate words across a murdered woman’s body.  Not ritualistically destroying a woman’s breasts or sex organs.  Not spreading fear among other women through your attacks.  Not inflicting “excessive” violence, “overkill,” whatever that means. ... 

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The Good Kids in the Crossfire

A street memorial for Samuel Leonard, a 22-year-old black man. Leonard was shot while getting into his car at the intersection of West Century Boulevard and Hobart Boulevard in Gramercy Park. Credit: Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times

I was going to write about good kids getting killed in the crossfire when I got up this morning.  Then I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution and realized there was nothing to add:

One person was in custody Thursday in connection with the early morning shooting death of a Spelman College student hit by a stray bullet on the campus of nearby Clark Atlanta University. . . The victim, Jasmine Lynn, of Kansas City, Mo., was “walking southbound on James P. Brawley when she was struck in the chest by a stray round from a group of individuals involved in a physical altercation on Mitchell Street,” Atlanta police Lt. Keith Meadows said. . . ... 

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A True Friend To Crime Victims

Dominick Dunne died today at 83.  Dunne became a vocal critic of the justice system after his daughter’s killer was sentenced to a mere six and a half years for her murder — and served less than five.  Dunne’s daughter, Dominique, was only 22 years old when she was killed.

After burying his only daughter, Dunne lived another 26 years.  He used those years to expose the ways crime victims are denied justice in America.  In doing so, he was considered a traitor or hysteric by many in the elite circles he moved in, where killers are showered with PEN grants and praise, and victims are considered bourgeois, vengeful, and, worst of all, déclassé. ... 

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Strategies to Disappear Crimes: Rape in New Orleans

Hat tip to Lou: an article that examines the New Orleans Police Department’s strategy for cutting the official number of rapes they report to the FBI: they do not investigate 60% of reported rapes:

More than half the time New Orleans police receive reports of rape or other sexual assaults against women, officers classify the matter as a noncriminal “complaint.” ... 

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Crime Denial at the New York Times, Part 1: Regarding the Torture of (Some) Others

The New York Times is the most important newspaper in America, and that is unfortunate, for in their pages, ordinary criminals are frequently treated with extreme deference and sympathy, even respect.  Some types of criminals are excluded from this kid-glove treatment, but that is a subject for another day.  For the most part, ordinary (property, drug, violent, sexual) criminals comprise a protected class in the Times.  Even when it must be acknowledged that someone has, in fact, committed a crime, the newsroom’s mission merely shifts to minimizing the culpability of the offender by other means.

There are various ways of doing this.  Some have to do with selectively criticizing the justice system: for example, the Times reports criminal appeals in detail without bothering to acknowledge congruent facts that support the prosecution and conviction.  They misrepresent the circumstances that lead to (sometimes, sometimes not) wrongful convictions while showing no curiosity about the exponentially higher rate of non-prosecution of crimes. ... 

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The New Normal: Detroit

Seven teens were shot last week outside a school offering summer classes in Detroit.  Three were in critical condition.  A week earlier, another girl was shot in the chest outside another school.

Now the police are having trouble getting anyone to cooperate with them.  “The taboo against snitching is worse than the taboo against shooting,” the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday. ... 

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An Important Law Georgia Still Does Not Have: Arrestee DNA Databasing

Back in the 1990’s, Georgia Lt. Governor Mark Taylor made it a priority to build the state’s DNA crime database.  He did this long before other states got on board, and for many years Georgia was rightly viewed as a leader in using DNA to solve violent crimes.  Taylor was driven by his strong commitment to victims of rape and child molestation who had been denied justice.  He did not heed the civil rights and convict rights lobbies who tried to stir up hysteria over using DNA to solve crimes (ironically, these same activists are howling over the Supreme Court’s utterly reasonable decision last week not to enshrine post-conviction DNA as a blanket, federal right, when 46 states already guarantee it, as even Barry Scheck admits: don’t believe virtually anything you read about this case on the editorial pages).

Taylor’s leadership on DNA databasing yielded an extraordinary number of database “hits” long before other states got their databases up and running.  In 1998, only convicted and incarcerated sex offenders were required to submit DNA samples in Georgia, yet 13 repeat-offender rapists were immediately linked to other sexual assaults, and scores of “unidentified offender” profiles were readied to be used if those offenders were finally caught and tested. ... 

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That Perception of Crime Thing

I stop by the convenience store near my house a few times a week. It is the only store for a few miles in either direction, on a rural stretch of highway.  There’s a stop light, the divided highway, a single train track, the convenience store, and then 55+ trailer parks, tomato fields, and cow pastures leading out to the bay.  If you drive south on the highway, you hit the county line.

In other words, it is a perfect target for crime.  Easy-in, easy-out, with little traffic and a good view of the people coming and going.  The women who work as cashiers there are world-weary.  They are bitter and fatalistic about the fact that they keep getting robbed.  When I spoke with one of them a few weeks ago, she seemed a little embarrassed that she was even upset about the latest armed robbery.  She looks like somebody who has had few breaks in life and has learned not to complain.  She stands less than five feet tall and might weigh 100 pounds soaking wet, as they say.  Like most of the store’s employees, including the security guard they have hired, she is a senior citizen.  Once you get to be in your sixties, it’s hard enough to find work. ... 

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Five Ugly Pieces, Part 5: Around Atlanta

Some mop-up for the week:

The Silver Comet Trail murder case is moving along despite efforts by the defense to derail it.  Tragically, Michael Ledford’s mother had tried to get her son put back in jail before Jennifer Ewing was killed: ... 

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Five Ugly Pieces, Part 4: Britteny Turman, Grace Dixon, and Frank Rashad Johnson Denied Justice in Atlanta

On Sunday, May 10, the Atlanta Journal Constitution published an article by Bill Torpy that raises troubling questions about what is going on in Atlanta’s courtrooms.  Like this April 10 story by Steve Visser, Torpy’s story focuses on an element of the justice system that receives less attention than policing but is arguably far more responsible for the presence of dangerous felons on Atlanta’s streets: the choices, both legal and administrative, made by Atlanta’s judges.

We invest judges with extraordinary power.  We allow judicial discretion in all sorts of sentencing and administrative decisions.  Legislators have tried to limit judges’ discretion in recent years by imposing minimum mandatory sentence guidelines and repeat offender laws.  But Georgia’s sentencing guidelines still give judges far too much latitude to let criminals go free.  Also, far too many judges have responded to this legislative oversight (aka, the will of the people) by simply ignoring the intent, and even the letter, of those laws. ... 

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The Right Rat: Groundless Accusations Towards Victims of Crime

Yesterday, I wrote about the hysteria that arises when crime victims seek modest rights, such as the right to know when their offender will be cut loose from prison (a shifting proposition — never shifting further ahead, either), or the right to offer a victim-impact statement at the same time the convicted offender is permitted to parade his supporters before the sentencing judge.

It is a measure of society’s disdain for the rights of victims that, even when such laws are on the books, they are spottily enforced and treated like an afterthought, not a rule of law. Our courts are in far worse shape than most people realize, as evinced by my earlier post today. The first causalities of this chaos, inevitably, are crime victims. ... 

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Bloody Outrage: Another Murder That Could Have Been Prevented — Updated

CORRECTION TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE:  A reader informed me that the names of judges currently presiding over a court division in Florida attach to previous cases from that division — therefore, the judge listed online may not be the same judge who meted out a previous sentence in that division.  I have corrected the following story to reflect this.

Why this happens is another issue.  There ought to be real transparency in court proceedings, and it shouldn’t require a trip to the courthouse or a phone call to sometimes-unresponsive clerks to discover how a particular judge ruled on a particular case — who let a sex assailant and child abuser go free, to kill another victim, for instance. ... 

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“Defendants Have the Right to Remain Silent. . . Victims Have the Right to be Heard”

I found this quote on the website for the Larimer County, Colorado District Attorney’s office. It is a neat sentiment: well-intentioned, not overly ambitious. It is, in other words, a fitting description of the aims of victims’ rights laws.

It is also utterly untrue. ... 

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