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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte: Twice Deported Cop Killer

     In 1996, police in Arizona arrested an illegal alien from Mexico named Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte on charges of narcotics possession with the intent to sell. Following the 18-year-old's conviction in the drug case, immigration authorities sent him back to Mexico. Federal narcotics agents arrested Monroy-Brackamonte again in 2001, and again the authorities deported him to Mexico. This drug criminal, however, had no intention of living in his home country. The people who had money to buy drugs lived in the U.S. Shortly after being thrown out of America in 2001, Monroy-Bracamonte was back, this time living in Salt Lake City, Utah.

     On Friday October 24, 2014, Monroy-Brackamonte, 34, and his 38-year-old wife Janelle Marquez Monroy, were sitting in a car in a Motel 6 parking lot in the Arden Way section of Sacramento, California. At ten-thirty that morning, the couple encountered Sacramento County sheriff's deputy Danny Oliver, a 47-year-old veteran of the department who approached the suspicious couple.

     Monroy-Bracamonte responded to the deputy sheriff's investigative inquiry by shooting him in the forehead at close range with an AR-15 assault rifle. Deputy Oliver died on the spot. He left behind a wife and two daughters.

     Eager to flee the murder scene in another vehicle, the cop killer and his wife tried to commandeer a car driven by 38-year-old Anthony Holmes. When Mr. Holmes tried to fight off the car thief, the Mexican shot him in the head. (This victim survived the attempted murder.)

     Monroy-Bracamonte next carjacked a red 2002 Ford F-150 cab pickup truck with an ice chest in the back. He and his wife drove the stolen vehicle 30 miles northwest into northern California's Placer County. At this point, law enforcement officers in Sacramento and Placer counties were on the lookout for a cop killing Hispanic man in his thirties with buzz-cut hair who was in a red, stolen pickup truck with a Hispanic woman about his age.

     Later in the day of the Sacramento County shootings, two Placer County deputies spotted the red Ford and its occupants sitting on the side of a rural road. They decided to approach the suspicious vehicle.

     Once again Monroy-Bracamonte greeted the approaching police officers with deadly force. Using his AR-15 assault rifle, he shot 42-year-old homicide detective Michael D. Davis in the head. (The deputy died a short time later in a nearby hospital.) The armed and dangerous Mexican then shot the other Placer County officer, Jeff Davis, in the arm.

     A couple of hours after the shooting of the Placer County deputies, in the Carmichael, California area of Sacramento County a few miles northeast of where Monroy-Bracamonte shot Deputy Danny Oliver and Anthony Holmes, a park ranger saw the Hispanic couple and the stolen red Ford Pickup. Monroy-Bracamonte and his wife were changing clothes next to the parked vehicle.

     Not long after being spotted in Sacramento County by the park ranger, deputies arrested Janelle Marquez Monroy. When taken into custody she possessed, in her purse, a handgun. Police officers, shortly thereafter, took Monroy-Bracamonte into custody at a house in Auburn, California.

     Questioned by detectives, the cop killer identified himself as Marcelo Marquez. However, when his fingerprints were run through the national fingerprint databank, the authorities learned of his true identify. A check of Monroy-Bracamonte's arrest record in Utah revealed that, between 2003 and 2009,  he had been issued ten traffic tickets for speeding and other violations. (Did he have a valid driver's license?)

     Prosecutors in Sacramento and Placer Counties charged Monroy-Brackamonte with two counts of murder, attempted murder, and two counts of carjacking. The judge denied him bail.

     The suspected cop killer's wife, Janelle Marquez Monroy, was charged with attempted murder and carjacking. 

     In January 2017, Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte, after a judge ruled that the defendant could not fire his attorneys and represent himself, threatened to kill the lawyers. Monroy-Bracamonte also told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White that he wanted to plead guilty and be sentenced to death. The judge informed the cop killer that he could not do that.

     During his February 2018 murder trial, after the judge denied Monroy-Bracamonte's not guilty by reason of insanity plea, the defendant laughed, shouted profanities, and threatened to kill police officers and members of the jury. His attorney explained that his client's behavior stemmed from his insane belief that he could not be physically killed. After the jury found Monroy-Bracamonte guilty as charged, the judge sentenced him to death.

Forensic Non-Science

The public holds exaggerated views of the quality of the scientific foundations of a surprising number of forensic sciences, as well as of the courts' scrutiny of that evidence...In a number of forensic science disciplines, forensic science professionals have yet to establish either the validity of their approach or the accuracy of their conclusions. Much forensic evidence including, for example, bite marks and firearm and tool mark identifications is introduced in criminal trials without any meaningful scientific validation, determination of error rates, or reliability testing. Studies of wrongful convictions based on DNA exonerations have found forensic errors and exaggerations to be second only to eyewitness errors.

Dr. Michael J. Saks, December 2016

Prison as a Lifestyle Choice

Often I meet prisoners who have committed the most terrible crimes, but repentance is rare, except in front of the parole board where it is quite common. Of course, the majority of prisoners have committed only petty offenses, small (but repeated) crimes against property, or rather against the people who own the property. They are often pathetic and inadequate individuals, thoroughly accustomed to prison life; the warmth and three square meals a day provided unconditionally in prison are for them an incitement for further crime. As for the loss of freedom, they welcome it: being told what to do all their waking hours obviates the need for thought and decision, processes which are infinitely painful for them.

Theodore Dalrymple in Crime and Criminals, 1995 edited by David Bender and Bruno Leone

From C-List Celebrity to Writer

      In 2013, John Cochran, a recent graduate of Harvard Law School, won the TV reality show Survivor: Caramoan (Philippines). The previous year, the  self-described nerd came up short as a contestant on Survivor: South Pacific. As a result of his extended media exposure, he qualified as a C-list television celebrity. This meant he would probably spend the rest of his life trying to maintain that status. For most people, the taste of even minor fame ends up being a life-long curse.

     Survivor host Jeff Probst, after announcing the winner of the million dollars that came with the title "sole survivor", asked Mr. Cochran if he intended to practice law now that season 26 had come to an end. In other words, was he returning to a real-life existence. Cochran, a fan of the show since he was thirteen, answered that he was not entering the field of law. In response to Probst's inquiry regarding his plans, Cochran said he'd like to write. The man who  had "outplayed, outwitted, and outlasted" his reality TV competitors, in explaining why he thought he had the talent to write, said, "I have the gift of gab." Well there you go. If you can talk you can write. But what would a person who had spent his entire life in a classroom write about?

     The vast majority of real writers--people who can write and have acquired expertise in a subject or field they can write about--are not famous. Because publishers don't have the money to turn them into celebrities through advertising, book-tours, and publicists, few people know about their books. Most writers need day jobs to survive and support their writing.

     Publishers love celebrities because they don't have to spend money to make them famous. Celebrity worshipers will come to their book-signing events for photo-ops and autographs. The book on sale is nothing more than a souvenir. Celebrity journalists will invite them to appear on TV shows to talk about and promote their work. And of course, celebrities don't even have to write their books. Ghosts writers do that for them.
     For a celebrity to become a writer is easy. For a writer to become a celebrity is not. The hard part for the celebrity is to remain a celebrity, and to remain an author.

Monday, November 29, 2021

The Lauren Harrington-Cooper Student Sex Case

     In 2013, 31-year-old Lauren Harrington-Cooper earned $45,075 a year as an English teacher and lunch room monitor at Wyoming Valley West High School in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. She and her husband Raphael resided in nearby Kingston, a suburban community across the Susquehanna River from Wiles-Barre in the northeastern part of the state.

     In August 2012, Harrington-Cooper and Raphael started the Cooper Dance Academy that offered instruction in ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, ballroom and Zumba dancing. She also held a position as adjunct professor at Misericordia University, a four-year Catholic school in the town of Dallas not far from Wilkes-Barre.

     On December 12, 2013, the parents of an 18-year-old Wyoming Valley West senior informed the school's principal of sexually explicit text messages sent by Harrington-Cooper to their son. When questioned by his parents and the police, the student said his English teacher, during the past week, had performed oral sex on him three times. He also claimed to have engaged in sexual intercourse with her twice.

     Harrington-Cooper, when interviewed by detectives, admitted picking up the student and driving around with him before they had sex in her vehicle.

     Plymouth police officers and Luzerne County detectives booked Harrington-Cooper into the county jail on December 18, 2013 on the charge of institutional sexual assault. (In Pennsylvania, a teacher who has sex with a student over 18 can be charged with this third-degree felony. A teacher who has sex with a student younger than 16 can be charged with statutory rape. If the victim is between 16 and 18, the appropriate charge is corrupting a minor.) If convicted of institutional sexual assault, Harrington-Cooper could be imprisoned up to seven years. Shortly after her arrest, the judge released the suspect on $25,000 bond.

     Police arrested the English teacher again on January 9, 2014 on charges of corrupting a minor. According to the criminal complaint, Harrington-Cooper, in October and November of 2013, had performed oral sex on a 17-year-old student. The relationship had allegedly started after Harrington-Cooper told one of her female students that she thought the boy was good looking. The male student responded by leaving the teacher a note that included his cell phone number. Following her arrest on this charge, the judge released the suspect on another $25,000.

     On January 22, 2014, Lauren Harrington-Cooper resigned from her Wyoming Valley West teaching job. Six days later, police officers took her into custody again. This time the criminal allegations involved two boys, one 16 and the other 17. The teacher, in October, November, and December 2013, after meeting the 16-year-old boy at a shopping center, allegedly kissed and rubbed against him in her car. She also showed him the butterfly tattoo on her breast.

     The 16-year-old told detectives that he had taken English from Harrington-Cooper in seventh grade then had her again when he was a junior. Because they were carrying on in a public place, he felt uncomfortable. She allegedly informed him that she was having trouble in her marriage.

     Later on, the teacher asked both boys to delete the sexually explicit text messages she had sent them, noting that they would soon be questioned by the police.

     In the case involving the 16-year-old, the Luzerne County prosecutor charged Harrington-Cooper with unlawful sexual contact. The judge released her on $50,000 bail. She pleaded not guilty to all charges.

     On March 21, 2014, an attorney from Scranton, Pennsylvania named Susan L. Luckenell informed the Wyoming Valley West School District of her intent, on behalf of the 16-year-old boy, to sue the district and the former English teacher for allowing the teen to become a "victim of sexual abuse." According to the attorney, her client had been damaged and injured as a result of the sexual experience with the adult teacher.

     In response to Luckenell's expression of intent to sue, the school district solicitor said, "I don't see where the district was negligent in any way."

     Lauren Harrington-Cooper, free on bail, awaited her trial on the sex offense charges. According to reports, following her first arrest, she tried to kill herself. There were no reports regarding the status of her marriage.

     In November 2014, Harrington-Cooper pleaded guilty to two felony counts of sexual contact with students, and two counts of corrupting minors. The judge sentenced the former teacher to 23 months in prison.

     In August 2015, after serving eleven months of her sentence, Harrington-Cooper was released from prison. The law required that she register as a sex offender.

Clowns in the Courtroom

Attorney: She had three children, right?
Witness: Yes.
Attorney: How many were boys?
Witness: None.
Attorney: Were there any girls?
Witness: Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?

Attorney: How was your first marriage terminated?
Witness: By death.
Attorney: And by whose death was it terminated?
Witness: Take a guess.

Attorney: Can you describe the individual?
Witness: He was about medium height and had a beard.
Attorney: Was this a male or female?
Witness: Unless the circus was in town I'm going with male.

Michelle Boren, Disorder in the American Courts, 2014 

An Eye For An Eye

The biblical precept, "An eye for any eye and a tooth for a tooth" belongs to an era that predates courts. It enjoins the injured party not to wreak vengeance beyond the injury he has suffered. In this sense it is the beginning of the idea of justice.

Ronald Irving, The Law Is An Ass, 2011 

Journalists: Interview Subjects at Home

When I do interviews, I never take my subjects to a restaurant for lunch. It's one of the worst things a journalist can do. Stay on their turf. Interview them in their world. If they say, "Now I've got to go and pick up my kids from day care and go to the grocery store," you say, "Great. I can write while we're on the bus." I'm not just hearing their stories. I'm watching them live. I find my truth in what they say and how they live.

Katherine Boo in Telling True Stories, edited by Wendy Call, 2007 

Breaking the Conventions of Genre

All writers must confront the tricky problem of how much to abide by the conventions of their genre. Hew too closely and you'll bore readers; deviate too far and you risk baffling and frustrating them. Literary books take the risk; the successful ones venture into new territory and persuade readers to come along.

Melanie Thernstrom, The New York Times Book Review, April 5, 2020

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Confessions of Reverend Juan D. McFarland

     The Reverend Juan D. McFarland became pastor of the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in 1990. Three years later, he oversaw the construction of a new church complex near Alabama State University in Montgomery. While the 47-year-old minister was still behind the Shiloh Missionary pulpit in 2014, he was no longer married. He had married twice, but both of his wives had divorced him.

     On August 31, 2014, while delivering a Sunday morning sermon, Reverend McFarland told the congregation that God had directed him to reveal a secret. He said he suffered from full-blown AIDS. Two weeks later, on Sunday September 14, 2014, the Baptist pastor confessed to having had adulterous sexual encounters with female members of the congregation. The trysts, he said, took place in the church. He also informed those seated before him that he had used illicit drugs and had misappropriated church funds.

     The confessing minister dropped the big bombshell on Sunday September 21, 2014 when he revealed that he had not told his sexual partners that he had AIDS. (In Alabama, knowingly spreading a sexually transmitted disease is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.)

     The Shiloh Missionary Baptist Board of Deacons, on October 5, 2014, voted 80 to 1 to fire Pastor McFarland. The embattled preacher, however, made it clear that notwithstanding the deacons' desire to remove him from his position, he was not leaving his flock. He and a church member changed the locks on the church building to keep the deacons and other intruders out. Reverend McFarland also altered the number of the church's bank account. The church had $56,000 in the Wells Fargo bank.

     On Sunday October 12, 2014, Pastor McFarland was again standing behind the pulpit preaching to his most loyal parishioners. He had posted guards at the church's doors to keep out detractors. To the fifty or so seated in the pews, the preacher said, "Sometimes the worst times in our lives are when we have a midnight situation. When you pray, you've got to forgive. You can't go down on your knees hating somebody, wishing something bad will happen to somebody."

     The deacons of the church, obviously not in a forgiving mood, filed a court petition on October 14, 2014 asking the judge to order Reverend McFarland to return control of the church building as well as the bank account. The deacons also wanted the judge to force McFarland to give up his church-owned Mercedes Benz.

     In support of the motion to remove this pastor from the church, the deacons accused him of "debauchery, sinfulness, hedonism, sexual misconduct, dishonesty, thievery, and rejection of the Ten Commandments."

     According to the deacons' petition, the pastor and church member Marc Anthoni Peacock had changed the church locks. Mr. Peacock had allegedly threatened to use "castle law" (deadly force in defense of one's home) to keep intruders out of the building. Julian McPhillips, an attorney for the church, wrote, "McFarland needs to get the message that he needs to be gone."

     On October 16, 2014, at a hearing on the deacons' petition attended by Reverend McFarland, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Charles Price ruled against the preacher requiring him to turn over the keys to the church, give back the Mercedes, and release information regarding the bank account. The judge also banned McFarland from the church property.