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

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. ... 

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

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

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

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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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Is Solitary Confinement The Really Expensive Part?

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

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

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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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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. ... 

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Riots and Reporters

Recently, the death of former L.A.P.D. chief Daryl Gates inspired a smattering of recollections of the Rodney King riots, in which 53 people died.  That loss of life, which included horrific murders of good samaritans trying to save others, is largely forgotten in favor of a narrative that exculpates — even celebrates — the rioters, while blaming police for both causing the violence and failing to quell it once it started.

In other words, the police were guilty because they used too much force against King after he weaponized his car, but they were also guilty because they didn’t use enough force against the rioters, though they would have been just as guilty had they used more force to stop the rioters.  The police are guilty no matter what they do, not just in America, but everywhere.  And in this strange rubric of culpability, they are deemed more guilty when the crime rate increases but also more guilty when the crime rate decreases. ... 

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Benjamin LaGuer. Brutal Rapist Identified by DNA. His Famous Friends are Still Trying to Blame the Victim.

Benjamin LaGuer, who became a cause celeb among the media and academic demigods of Boston until it turned out his DNA matched the crime scene(after faking his first DNA test by substituting another prisoner’s DNA), wants out of prison again (see here and here for earlier posts).

He has fewer supporters this time, but Noam Chomsky and John Silber are still ponying up.  Most of his fan club went into hiding or mourning when it turned out that LaGuer’s DNA was indeed in the rape kit — rather than grope towards ethical consistency by apologizing to a rape victim they had viciously dragged through the mud. ... 

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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. ... 

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Thanks to Modern Sex Offender Registries and DNA Databases, A Rodney Alcala Would Not Succeed Today

Today, the lead story on all my local news stations was about a Schizu named Tuchi who saved his family from a house fire by barking incessantly at the flames.  Dog-saves-family-from-fire stories are always popular.

Not so popular, at least to the media?  Stories about how registering sex offenders saves lives.  There is only one story to be told about sex offender registries, according to the fourth estate, and that story is how registries viciously destroy men’s lives when all they did was commit one little sex crime and must now live forever under the cold eye of the state. ... 

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

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

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

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Admissability of Evidence, Assignment of Blame: The Paterson, NJ Rape Case

Man rapes, tortures five daughters, impregnates them repeatedly, forces them to deliver babies at home.

Administers beatings with steel-toe boots, wooden boards.  Withholds food, doles out extreme psychological torture. ... 

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Media (Un)Ethics: Using the Anniversary of Jessica Lunsford’s Murder to Advocate For Sex Offenders

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of Jessica Lunsford’s murder. Nine-year old Lunsford was kidnapped, raped, and buried alive by her neighbor, a convicted sex offender.

You would think the anniversary of Lunsford’s horrific murder would give rise to thoughts about our failure to protect her and other victims of violent recidivists.  You would think reporters would cover stories about early release of sexual predators, lax sentencing of sexual predators, and failure to punish sexual predators.  You would think that, but you would be wrong.  In Florida’s “prestige” media, the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald,  Lunsford’s death is treated as a cautionary tale — not cautioning against the fatal practice of going easy on child rapists, mind you, but scorning those who are trying to prevent similar crimes from happening again. ... 

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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. ... 

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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.” ... 

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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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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: ... 

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Georgia’s Sex Offender Registry Works. Why Don’t Newspapers Report That?

A convicted child rapist is suing the state of Georgia to keep his name off the sex offender registry.  I wonder who’s paying his legal fees for this foolishness?  Jim Phillip Hollie was actually convicted of three separate sex offenses in Gwinnett County: one count of child molestation (5 yrs.), one count of aggravated sexual battery (10yrs.), and one count of aggravated child molestation (10yrs.).

He’s already being given the concurrent-sentencing free-pass: his 25-year sentence is already reduced to 15 to serve, ten on probation.  But apparently that’s not lenient enough: he wants more leniency.  Hollie is claiming that being placed on a registry is like extending his “sentence” beyond the maximum allowable 30 years. ... 

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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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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. ... 

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Getting Away With Everything Except Murder in Philadelphia: Another Argument for the “Broken Windows” Theory

Disorder in the courts. It is the main reason violent offenders and repeat offenders are still on the streets.  Why is our court system falling apart?

The Philadelphia Inquirer has some of the best crime journalism in the country.  They understand that covering the justice system doesn’t just mean hounding the cops and covering big trials: it means investigating the courts, particularly courts’ systematic failures to enforce the law.  Why this fact continues to elude nearly every other big-city newspaper eludes me.  If you read nothing else this week, take a look at this... 

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What Does Mike Huckabee Have in Common With The Activists Who Supported Lovelle Mixon?

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In March, four police officers in Oakland California were gunned down while trying to bring child rapist Lovelle Mixon to justice.  On Sunday, four police officers in Parkland, Washington were gunned down by another child rapist eluding the law.

Here are the officers killed by Maurice Clemmons in Parkland, Washington on Sunday: ... 

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Journalistic Ethics Fortnight, Part 5: Vanity Fair’s “Up With Pedophilia!” Issue

Imagine if reporters actually behaved neutrally when approaching subjects like the government’s efforts to stop child predators.  Imagine if they sat themselves down and said: I am going to suspend my natural tendency to side with the accused and control my adolescent rebelliousness towards all authority.  I am going to behave as if I am the blank slate I am supposed to be, suspending judgment as I gather and report facts.

No?  I didn’t think so. ... 

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Journalistic Ethics Fortnight, Part 4: Vanity Fair’s Pedophilia Problem

Graydon Carter has a problem. How do you pose as a moralist while excusing your own history of peddling young flesh — and justifying the child-rape committed by your friend?

It’s a tall order.  Under Carter’s tutelage, Vanity Fair has acquired a strange fixation on certain types of photos of nude young women.  It’s simply weird how often the editor feels compelled to litter his pages with shot after shot of extremely youthful actresses in the buff surrounded by other people in clothes — also weird how vehemently and frequently he defends this basement-porn aesthetic in the magazine’s pages.  This tightrope act occasionally threatens to unravel beneath the weight of one too many coy verbal gestures toward the breasts of girls who could be one’s daughter, or rather grand-daughter.  But Carter just can’t seem to help himself. ... 

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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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Journalistic Ethics Week, Part 1: Nausea, or the (Attempted) Rehabilitation of Anthony Sowell

Stop the presses! It’s journalistic ethics week, and so perhaps it’s fitting that this first story plopped down in a big steaming mess on the pages of every newspaper that carries the AP.

Anthony Sowell, who was recently found knee-deep in the decaying bodies of his victims, doesn’t deserve to be labeled a rapist, according to the AP. ... 

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NPR Wallows in Sympathy for Mass Murderer. It Must be Saturday.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that Saturdays seem to be the day when NPR reporters take a deep breath from the toils of the week, settle down with a steaming cup o’ joe, and recharge their batteries by indulging in a little calisthenic empathy for the pointedly unsympathetic: child killers on death row, for example, or gang members terrorizing neighborhoods full of innocent people they don’t bother to interview (because it would just be perplexing to listen to the grandmas explain that what they really need is more police protection from gangs).

There is a frisson of self-righteousness in such behavior, and a bonus frisson of danger, imagined, not real, of course, because no child killer or gang member worth his salt would bother to shank the PR machine.  So, through their empathetic identification with vicious sociopaths, the reporters get to feel simultaneously superior to everyone else and victimized by society. ... 

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