More than 4,605,000 pageviews from 160 countries

Friday, January 31, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Suicide and Alleged Rape of a University of Missouri Student

     The University of Missouri is launching an independent investigation into allegations that several football players raped a MU swimmer. That swimmer, 20-year-old Sasha Menue Courey, killed herself three years ago, but a recent report airing on ESPN initiated new calls for an investigation. MU officials are upset with ESPN's report which suggests the University should have done more to investigate these allegations of rape….

     Courey went to the MU psychiatric ward in the spring of 2011 and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, She told the counselor a football player raped her in February of 2010. And a football friend of hers says he saw video of at least three football players assaulting her….

     Sasha's parents told ESPN they didn't trust MU officials since the university was slow to react to their request for information after their daughter's death.

Matt Stewart, "University of Missouri on the Defense After ESPN Reports Swimmer's Alleged Rape, Suicide," Fox News, January 27, 2014


Criminal Justice Quote: Catholic School Alumni Turned Porn Star Goes to Jail

     In a gross and shocking miscarriage of justice, a Nebraska county judge handed down a harsh 45-day sentence to Catholic school-girl-turned-porn-actress Valerie Dodd, the Rosa Parks of the publicly nude. One evening some months ago, 19-year-old Dodd took her one-woman act to Lincoln Pius X High School in Lincoln, Nebraska. A former student of the Catholic school, Dodd--who now goes by the stage name "Val Midwest'--wanted revenge on teachers and ex-classmates who had said mean things about her new career, so she took pictures of herself in the buff on school grounds….

     Police ticketed her for trespassing and public nudity. Undeterred, this modern-day civil rights hero returned to the school wearing only pasties and panties--an act of sexy civil disobedience, if ever there was one.

     The court did not take kindly to Dodd's subversive art and activism….

Robby Soave, "Teen Porn Star Who Got Nude on Catholic School Grounds Gets 45 Days in Jail," The Daily Caller, December 27, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Stephen Glass' Shattered Dream of Practicing Law

     Disgraced ex-journalist Stephen Glass' dream of becoming a California lawyer has been shattered, at least for the foreseeable future. The California Supreme Court on January 27, 2014 rejected Glass' bid to secure a state bar license, concluding that he had not overcome the stain of his tarnished and infamous past as a journalist who fabricated stories for prominent publications in the late 1990s.

     Glass has been pursuing a law license for years, arguing that he deserves a second chance in a new profession after his much-pulicized fall for concocting bogus accounts for magazines such as the New Republic and Rolling Stone. Glass' journalistic exploits led to a book and a movie, "Shattered Glass."…

Howard Mintz, "Disgraced Ex-Journalist Stephen Glass Loses Bid to be California Lawyer," San Jose Mercury News, January 17, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Airport Drug Cash

     It started when police found $7.2 million stuffed in eight suitcases at a Panama airport. Investigators say they suspect the cash, which had been concealed in hidden compartments in luggage on a flight from Honduras, was being moved for a powerful cartel, but they haven't said which one. The money was mostly in U.S. $100 bills….

     In a case that highlights the regional impacts of the drug trade, now Honduran investigators are trying to figure out how the suitcases slipped by airport authorities, drug police and special investigators at the Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. [Let me guess: police payoffs.]

Catherine E. Shoichet, "Police Find $7.2 Million Cash Stashed in Suitcases at Airport," CNN, January 15, 2014 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Whackademia Quote: Who Can Afford College?

     The average cost of tuition, room and board at private four-year colleges and universities has increased 27.89 percent--from $31,993 during the 2008-2009 academic year to $40,917 this year [2014]. At public four-year colleges and universities, the average cost has risen 27.96 percent--from $14, 372 in 2008-2009 to $18,391 this year.

     According to the inflation calculator provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the $31,993 total price tag for a private school in 2008 would be equal to just $34,616 at the end of 2013 if college costs rose at the rate of inflation--a far cry from the $40,917 an average student is paying this year. Similarly, the $14,372 total price tag for a public school in 2008 would be equal to just $15,550 at the end of 2013--substantially less than the $18,391 an average student at a taxpayer-funded public school is paying this year.

Eric Owens, The Daily Caller, January 22, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Prison Rape by Guards

     New data suggests that inmates have just as much to fear from their guards as they do from each other: Nearly half of all sexual assaults in U.S. jails and prisons are committed by corrections officers and staff. That statistic actually represents an uptick in reported cases of sexual assault. Accusations of rape against prison guards and staff rose 18 percent between 2006 and 2011--the most recent year for which data is available--according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics….

     According to the statistics, in cases where the accusation was found credible, 77.1 percent of the victims--and 80 percent of the perpetrators--were male. More than a third of the victims were 24-years-old or younger….

     Some experts think rape between guards and prisoners is actually occurring at an even higher frequency than the number of accusations suggest….

Robby Soave, "The Horrible Truth: Half of All Prison Rape is Committed by Guards," The Daily Caller, January 24, 2014


Monday, January 27, 2014

Sex Trafficking at the Super Bowl

     Big public events that attract tens of thousands of people also draw criminals such as thieves, drug dealers, and prostitutes. Many of the hookers are teenage women, runaways forced into the sex trade. For police administrators big events are law enforcement and security headaches. If crime is prevented, no big deal. If something goes wrong, there's hell to pay. For law enforcement, events like the Super Bowl are no-win propositions.

     The Super Bowl presents an enormous challenge to law enforcement practitioners. While the first concern is terrorism, there is also the problem of crime. On February 2, 2014, the annual Super Bowl extravaganza will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the home of the NFL's New Jersey Giants. The proximity of this venue to New York City will make it an attractive base of operation for a small army of flesh traffickers.

     Danielle Douglas, an anti-prostitution activist has said that the "Super Bowl is a huge arena for sex trafficking--men are coming to the event to have sex with women, men and/or children." For the past several years in New Jersey, police agencies have been waging a losing battle against pimps who keep young prostitutes on drugs and in conditions of involuntary servitude.

      Early in 2013, the New Jersey legislature strengthened the state's human trafficking law. But in August of that year, a federal judge struck down the portion of the legislation that applied to criminalizing the placing of commercial sex ads online. According to the judge, that section of New Jersey's law conflicted with federal sex trafficking legislation. New Jersey's attorney general has appealed the federal ruling.

     In anticipation of this year's big game, New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman created a Super Bowl task force to deal with the expected wave of pimps and their sex slaves. Police officers assigned to Super Bowl detail are being trained to look for young women who seem frightened, or bear signs of physical abuse. Also receiving this training are hospitality workers and airport employees.

     The state is publishing public information ads profiling exploited sex trade victims, and law enforcement hotlines have been put into operation. It's doubtful, however, than these measures will make much of a dent in the annual Super Bowl sex business.


Whackademia Quote: Elementary School Teacher Brought Pot-Laced Food to Employee Dinner

     Police in northern California have arrested an elementary school teacher after she allegedly brought marijuana-laced food to an after-hours employee pot-luck dinner. Teresa Gilmete Badger, a 47-year-old teacher at Matthew Turner Elementary School in Benicia, was arrested on January 24, 2014 on suspicion of poisoning after a six-week-long investigation….

     After the late-November 2013 get-together in the bay area town, several people reported feeling ill…At least one of the women tested positive for THC, the principal intoxicant in marijuana….A 15-year-old got sick after someone at the party brought leftovers home….

Ed Payne and Greg Morrison, "Police: Teacher Brought Marijuana-Laced Food to After Work Pot Luck," CNN, January 25, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Let Them Eat Bread

     Dozens of inmates in Arizona jails run by a sheriff who has been a controversial figure in the national immigration debate have been put on a diet of bread and water for desecrating U.S. flags that hang in each cell….Maricopa County lawman Joe Arpaio, who has been called "America's toughest sheriff," said 38 inmates were currently getting these meals twice a day as punishment for destroying government property while in custody at six jails.

     "These inmates have destroyed the American flag that was placed in their cells. Tearing them, writing on them, stepping on them, throwing them in the toilet, trash or wherever they feel," Arpaio said in a statement. "It's a disgrace to those who have fought for our country." The punishment will last for seven days, he said, and a second offense could bring 10 more days of the sparse diet.

     A sheriff's spokesman said the bread provides the daily requirement of calories and nutrients that is necessary….

David Schwartz, "Arizona Sheriff Puts Inmates on Bread and Water for Desecrating U.S. Flag," Reuters, January 24, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Berthoud Police Department: One of the Worst

     The police department in Berthoud, Colorado is so dysfunctional and mismanaged that town leaders are considering disbanding it, according to an in-depth article in the Fort Collins Colaradoan….The paper reported terrible morale, poorly secured assault rifles that aren't necessary for routine police work, and broken or poorly maintained equipment at the eight-officer department. [Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith] submitted a confidential report to the Berthoud town board detailing the department's myriad problems…"It has been reported that Chief Glenn Johnson was most often found in his office focused on computer work, or was absent much of the time he was scheduled to be at work," Sheriff Smith reported.

     "As a matter of fact," Smith wrote,  the evidence suggests a serious lack of control existed. The examples of outdated reference materials, clutter, disorganization, and the poor state of the evidence room and failed evidence procedures indicate that the chief did no walking around his department facility, or if he did, he ignored obvious inefficiency and problems."

     The Sheriff's office also found Chief Johnson hired officers who were unqualified and who displayed "warning signs of inappropriate and sometimes illegal behavior." He also found squad cars with bald tires, oil leaks and broken laptops. And he found that Johnson purchased several fully automatic "machine guns" from the military that are typically only used by SWAT units. Berthoud, with a population of about 5,000, does not have a SWAT unit….[Thank heavens.]

Greg Campbell, "Report: Scandal-Plagued Colorado Police Department is a Disaster," The Daily Caller, January 22, 2014

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What Happened to the New Jersey Couple Jorge Rodriguez and Melissa Pereira?

     Jorge Rodriguez, 24, and his girlfriend Melissa Pereira, one year older, had been in a relationship for more than two years. She worked as a production assistant with Fox News in New York City and was also the assistant director of the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson (New Jersey). Melissa resided with her mother at the Wayne Village apartment complex in Wayne, New Jersey. Jorge, the manager of a photography studio, lived in Garfield, New Jersey.

     On Friday night, December 27, 2013, the couple told Melissa's mother they were taking a short drive in Jorge's white Honda Prelude. She left the apartment with her cellphone but left behind her jacket and wallet. People saw the couple that night buying candles at a local K-Mart store.

     The next morning, Melissa was not back in her apartment and Jorge did not show up for work at the photography studio. On Monday, December 30, family members reported Jorge and Melissa missing. The couple had made New Year's Eve reservations at the Cherry Valley Manor in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. They did not show up at the bed and breakfast, and had not called for a refund of their reservation deposit.

     At 10:30 on the morning of January 19, 2014, after a wireless company determined the location of Melissa Pereira's cellphone, police officers entered the Pereira rented garage behind the Wayne Village apartment complex. Inside the garage officers found the white Honda with the frozen couple inside the car. They had been dead for some time.

     According to a police spokesperson, the bodies did not show outward signs of trauma. The Honda's fuel tank was bone-dry, and the car battery was dead.

     While detectives waited for the autopsy results to know the estimated times of death, a resident of the apartment complex provided information that suggested the couple had died the night they left the Wayne Village apartment in Rodriguez's car.

     The apartment resident told investigators she had seen a young couple in a white Honda pull up to the garage at eleven o'clock on the night of December 27. The man got out of the car, unlocked the door, and backed the vehicle into the garage. The witness said the young man and his companion were smiling and appeared to be happy. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Rape Victim Media Anonymity

     Rape is dealt with differently under the Scottish legal system from the way it is treated in England, particularly in how the crime is reported in the media. Up here, we are extremely careful about preserving the anonymity of the victim--another example of the superiority of Scots Law over the English version.

     Anonymity is vital--rape often results in victims of the crime being mentally scarred for life and the last thing they need is the added distress of having their names appear in the media. Even the successful conviction of an offender can be of little consolation to a woman violated in this manner, something that the psychologists have been examining for years. In some respects, being a rape victim is like no other type of victim: the ramifications run deep into the subconscious for years, perhaps for a lifetime. It can not be shrugged off in the way some other crimes are ultimately forgotten, buried under the pressure of getting on with life. For the victim and the family concerned, the anguish is horrific.

Les Brown and Robert Jeffery, Real Hard Cases, 2006

Friday, January 24, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Pot Dealers: Bust Them or Tax Them?

     Two states--Colorado and Washington--have completely legalized pot for recreational use….It is estimated that $7.6 billion is spent annually by state and local justice systems on marijuana arrests….Advocates of reforms say instead of spending this money on enforcement, the government could spend it elsewhere and tax marijuana to reap even more for its coffers. Indeed, taxing pot could raise hundreds of millions of dollars, but there is no guarantee that it would be a moneymaker for states.
     The financial gains in Washington and Colorado, the two states that have legalized marijuana, have not been as great as some expected. Washington had projected up to $450 million in added annual tax revenue, but the state's new pot consultant figures it could be little more than half that. In Colorado, the Colorado Futures Center think tank forecasts $130 million in new tax revenue but thinks that won't even cover the cost of regulating the new industry.

Mariano Costillo, CNN June 23, 3013 

Criminal Justice Quote: Actress Witnesses a Knockout Game Crime

Actress Rose McGowan said on Twitter that she witnessed a knockout game attack [in Los Angeles] on a 65-year-old man. McGowan, who is most famous for her roles in "Scream" and for dating goth rocker Marilyn Manson, sent several tweets detailing the incident. McGowan said that a young man on a skateboard struck the man who was accompanied by his dog. The man was bleeding after the attack, she claimed.

Chuck Ross, The Daily Caller, January 2, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Australia's "Incest Town"

A shocking incest "cult" has been discovered nestled in the hills near Sydney, Australia, and the sickening details have disturbed the entire country. At least 40 adults and children were discovered living in squalid conditions and suffering from a wide array of health issues and deformities as a result of massive inbreeding. The "family," all of the descendants of a brother and sister who had 13 children four generations ago, were discovered after people in a nearby town called authorities to say that children in the hills were not going to school. Authorities describe the shanty incest town as one of the worst cases of incest ever made public.

Kiri Blakeley, "40 Adults and Children Discovered Living in Squalid 'Incest Town' ," Articles in the News, December 11, 2013

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: NYC Cops Rough-up 84-Year-Old Jaywalker

     The New York Police Department is receiving widespread criticism after officers injured an 84-year-old man--who doesn't speak English and didn't understand police orders--for the crime of jaywalking. Kang Wong committed jaywalking at an Upper West Side [Manhattan] intersection in New York City around 5 PM on Sunday, January 19, 2014….He is a resident of the area.

     An officer soon approached him and tried to write him a ticket. But Wong, who speaks only broken English, didn't understand what was happening, and continued walking away from the officer. When the officer tried to grab him, he pushed back….Several cops descended on Wong and threw him against a wall. The elderly man came away from the encounter with a bloodied face.

     Wong was handcuffed and taken to the hospital and then to the police station….Later that night, Wong was released, but will face charges of jaywalking, resisting arrest, obstructing government administration, and disorderly conduct.

Robby Soave, The Daily Caller, January 20, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Punishing Heroin Traffickers in Vietnam

     A Vietnamese court has sentenced 30 people to death for trafficking in heroin at the conclusion of a mass trial. State media reported the 21 men and 9 women were convicted [on January 19, 2014] of being part of a ring that smuggled nearly 2 tons of heroin from Laos into Vietnam and then on to China. The trial lasted 20 days and was held in the northern province of Quang Ninh.

     Vietnam has tough drug laws and possessing or trafficking 600 grams (21.16 ounces) of heroin can result in a death sentence. There are currently 700 people on death row [in Vietnam]. In 2011 the country switched from firing squads to lethal injection on humanitarian grounds.

Associated Press, January 20, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Monsignor Nunzio Scarano: The Money-Laundering Priest

     A Vatican monsignor on trial for allegedly plotting to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) from Switzerland to Italy was arrested on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in a separate case for allegedly using his Vatican bank accounts to launder money. Financial police in the southern Italian city of Salerno said Monsignor Nunzio Scarano had transferred millions of euros in fictitious donations from offshore companies through his accounts at the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works. Police said millions have been seized and that other arrest warrants were also issued….

     The Salerno investigation was already underway when Scarano, dubbed "Monsignor 500" for his purported favored banknotes, was arrested in June in Rome on the smuggling accusations. Prosecutors say he, a financier and a carabinieri officer devised an elaborate plot to transport 20 million euros in a private jet from Switzerland to Italy to avoid paying customs duties. The plot fell apart because the financier reneged at the last minute….Scarano was fired from his job as an accountant in the Vatican's main financial office and his accounts at the Vatican bank were frozen by Vatican authorities after his arrest.

Nicole Winfield, "Vatican Monsignor Arrested for Money Laundering," Bloomberg Businessweek, January 21, 2014 

Writing Quote: Write What You Know

     Before you write about a subject, make sure you know it inside and out. If there are questions in your mind, don't skip them or cover them up. Do your best to find the answers. Then, if questions remain, you can always be honest and say so; the reader will forgive you.

     Whenever there's something wrong with your writing, suspect that there's something wrong with your thinking. Perhaps your writing is unclear because your ideas are unclear. Think, read, learn some more….

     The old admonition to "write about what you know" is a cliche, but it's still good advice. No matter how vivid and fertile your imagination, you'll write best what you know best.

Patricia T. O'Conner, Words Fail Me, 1999

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: President Obama on Pot

As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol. [But Mr. President, pot smoking is a crime in all but a few states. It's also a federal offense.]

President Obama in an interview with a New Yorker editor, January 2014

Whackademia Quote: Sex Education: Grade School Through College

     Next month [February 2014] Montana State University will hold a Latex and Lace Condom Fashion Show in which about 30 students will strut down a T-shaped runway--in front of more than 1,300 MSU students and staff--dressed in outfits comprised of condoms….This will be the fifth year the school holds the condom fashion show event.

     [According to Ashlyn Alsberg], a MSU student who works at MSU Health Promotion as a sexual health educator…the show is meant to be an education opportunity for students to learn about sexual health. [Are MSU students stupid? Where were they when their middle school teachers were putting condoms on bananas? Good heavens, how much sex education is enough?]

Caroline May, The Daily Caller, January 20, 2014

Don't Create a Protagonist Who is Happy

I'm aware that for a starving writer, a happy man is neither the best nor the most lucrative theme. Most readers do not know that happy people are the worst subjects to write about. They are dull because nothing exciting happens around them. Writers thrive on unhappiness and crime. The well-known slogan that crime doesn't pay is true for general consumption, but not for writers.

Lajos Egri, The Art of Creative Writing, 1990      

Monday, January 20, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Crime-Fighting, Las Vegas Style

     A Las Vegas police captain who helped a rock star pull off an elaborate wedding proposal by arranging a flight on a department helicopter has retired rather than face demotion, and the pilot's flying wings have been clipped….

     Captain David O'Leary faced demotion to lieutenant for helping arrange the August 7 [2013] private flights for Gun N' Roses guitarist Daren Jay Ashba and his then-girlfriend Columbian actress Nathalia Henao….

     O'Leary, a 25-year veteran who oversaw the Financial Crimes Bureau, instead retired on December 20. Officer Ray Horsley who piloted the helicopter, is being transferred out of the Air Support Detail as of January 11 [2014] and will no longer be allowed to fly for the department….

Associated Press, January 3, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: In-House Police Involved Shooting Investigations

     After a [police-involved] shooting, [The Santa Barbara Police Department] policy states that the officer must request a supervisor, additional units and medical personnel, handcuff the suspect [presuming he is not dead], preserve the scene and identify witnesses. Officers cannot discuss the shooting with one another or write about the incident. Instead, the supervisor asks the officer for a description of the outstanding suspects, where the evidence is and what direction shots were fired. Among other duties, the supervisor is there to secure the crime scene and determine whether other suspects are at large and witnesses are being interviewed. He or she is not authorized to inquire about the involved officer's tactics and state of mind, according to the [police] manual. The police chief is the only one authorized to release the officer's identify.

     To the question of who holds police accountable, in Santa Barbara, California, an officer-involved investigation is done internally….

     An administrative investigation follows the [internal] investigation to ensure all department policies were met and to evaluate the officer's civil liability and examine training procedures. At this point, the investigation becomes a human resources issue with information gathered not permissible in court. The administrative investigation is considered a "confidential peace officer personnel file," according to the manual….

     Some bigger cities do have independent [police-involved shooting] oversight. Los Angeles, Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco have implemented police commissions that include citizen oversight of police matters, especially deadly force issues. Smaller cities with fewer officer-involved incidents, such as Santa Barbara, generally don't….

Alex Kacik, "Overseeing the Overseers,", January 8, 2014  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Blue Meth Scam

Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Mexico, says drug distributors are selling methamphetamine tinted blue in the Four Corners region. That mirrors AKMC's hit drama "Breaking Bad," which depicted an Albuquerque-based meth operation that cooked up the drug with a blue hue. Abar says tinting meth blue is a way for distributors to advertise and brand their product. But he says the blue meth being sold makes people sick. He says it has been cut with chemicals to make it blue and is not the "pure" product portrayed in "Breaking Bad."

Associated Press, January 14, 2014 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Problem of Rape in India

     The gang-rape of a Danish woman in one of New Delhi's most popular tourist districts is prompting concern for the safety of foreign travelers and raising questions over how much progress has been made in India after a year in which considerable attention has been focused on the prevalence of rape.

     Indian police said that a 51-year-old Danish tourist was gang-raped [on January 14, 2014] in the popular paharganj district after asking a group of men for directions to her hotel. Police have arrested two people in connection with the rape….

     The incident comes a year after the rape and death of a 23-year-old student in a bus in New Delhi that sparked mass protests across the country and a national dialogue on the position of women in society and the pervasiveness of rape.

Chelesa Sheasley, The Christian Science Monitor, January 15, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Political Correctness Over National Security and Common Sense

     The U.S. Justice Department will significantly expand its definition of racial profiling to prohibit federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation in their investigations….The move addresses a decade of criticism from civil rights groups that say federal authorities have in particular singled out Muslims in counterterrorism investigations and Latinos for immigration investigations.

     The Bush administration banned profiling in 2003, but with two caveats: It did not apply to national security cases, and it covered only race, not religion, ancestry or other factors.

Matt Apuzzo, "U.S. to Expand Rules Limiting Use of Profiling by Federal Agents," The New York Times, January 15, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Say Goodbye Rape Murderer Dennis McGuire

     Dennis McGuire, 53, whose arguments that the new lethal injection protocol could cause terror and agony [like that of his victim] were rejected by a federal judge, was pronounced dead at 10:53 AM on January 14, 2014. Ohio adopted the new protocol--a combination of the sedative midozolam and the painkiller hydropmorphone--after the manufacturer of the old drug, pentobarbital, stopped selling it for lethal injections.

     McGuire was convicted of raping, sodomizing and slashing the throat of an acquaintance Joy Stewart, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her murder in 1989….

     McGuire was…given a last meal of roast beef, toasted bagel with cream cheese and onion, butter pecan ice cream, fried chicken, potato salad, fried potatoes with onion an Coco-Cola.

     [Because it took the executioner 25 minutes to kill McGuire, his family has filed as unusual punishment lawsuit against the state of Ohio. At least Mr. McGuire was sent off with a full stomach.]

Tracy Connor, "Ohio Killer Executed With Untested Two-Drug Cocktail," NBC News, January 16, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Saving Sean Penn

Three armed sheriff deputies were called to safely escort actor Sean Penn out of a West Hollywood restaurant and into his car. The star was dining at Craig's when deputies got a call around 11:08 PM Sunday [January 5, 2014] from restaurant staff that paparazzi were blocking the entrance to the restaurant and preventing patrons from leaving. That's when deputies arrived to clear a path. [Penn walked ten steps to his car without incident. Police officers shouldn't act as private bodyguards or restaurant security.]

Jessica Chasmar, The Washington Times, January 9, 2014 

Writers Quote: Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

     At writers' conferences and book signings, authors are almost always asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" This fascinates fledgling writers, especially those who feel they haven't done enough with their lives that's the least bit interesting.

     Yet, ideas abound. From where you are sitting at this very moment, you can generate more ideas than you will ever use. Scan a newspaper or magazine. Do any of the stories pique your interest? There may be another slant the writer neglected to explore or you may read a local story that is perfect for a national market. And don't forget your early life as a rich source of ideas--remember the high points and low points, the traumas and joys. [My advice: if you want to get published,  forget your early life. The coming of age book is an overworked genre.]

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Pen on Fire, 2004

Criminal Justice Quote: "Ghost Gun" Legislation

A California lawmaker proposed legislation [on January 13, 2014] to make background checks and gun registration requirements for anyone who builds plastic firearms on a 3-D printer at home….It's part of a growing effort across the country to pre-empt the spread of these undetectable guns. State Senator Kevin de Leon said he is trying to address a twin threat from what he called "ghost guns"--plastic guns that can evade metal detectors and unregistered weapons that can fall into the hands of people who are legally prohibited from owning firearms under state law. "Currently, no one knows they exist until after a crime has been committed," said de Leon.

Associated Press, January 14, 2014 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Case For Firing Squads

 A lawmaker in Wyoming says the state ought to take action now to avoid a constitutional crisis if lethal injection for convicts is ever outlawed and pass a bill to allow for the return of firing squads…. Senator Bruce Burns said that Wyoming state law only allows for a gas chamber to be used in place of a lethal injection….But that causes a dilemma in his mind. "The state of Wyoming doesn't have a gas chamber…so the procedure and expense to build one would be impractical. I consider the gas chamber to be cruel and unusual, so I want the firing squad because they also have it in Utah."

Cheryl K. Chumley, The Washington Times, January 14, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Juries Don't LIke to Convict Cops

A jury has acquitted two former Fullerton, California police officers on trial in the beating death [July 5, 2011] of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill and homeless man…."I'm just horrified. They got away with murdering my son," Cathy Thomas, the victim's mother, told reporters….The victim's father, Ron Thomas, said that everyone now needs to be afraid. "This is carte blanche to police officers to do whatever they want."…Surveillance camera footage shows Thomas being beaten, clubbed and stunned with a Taser by police. The video sparked a nationwide outcry.

Chuck Conder, CNN, January 13, 2014 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hellementary Education Quote: Kids Rule Until the Cops Come

     Something's amiss when a girl in kindergarten, all of forty pounds, is led away in handcuffs by police. That's what happened in the spring of 2005 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Equally strange, the whole episode was taped and shown on national television. There's the little girl, hair neatly braided, going from desk to desk, throwing books and pencils on the floor, tearing papers off the bulletin board, and methodically destroying her classroom. The assistant principal circles her, arms outstretched as if in a linebacker drill, but assiduously avoiding contact. (Why not just hold on to her? You wonder, watching…Is the child a hemophiliac?) The little girl is eventually steered into the principal's office, where she continues to wreak havoc on the orderly piles of paper and announcements tacked to the wall. Eventually the police arrive and handcuff the five-year-old. She screams. The tape ends.

     For as long as there have been schools, teachers have had to deal with unreasonable five-year-olds. Calling the cops isn't the time-tested solution. Let's rewind the tape and handle this sensibly. Problem: temper tantrum in kindergarten classroom. Solution: Ask the girl to stop. When she refuses, hold her by the arm, preventing more destruction. If necessary, take her to another room until she calms down. Doing what's right here isn't rocket science.

     But teachers in America can't do this. Taking hold of a child's arm is verboten--touching is taboo, except to prevent harm to others. So a five-year-old ends up in handcuffs.

Philip K. Howard, Life Without Lawyers, 2009

Monday, January 13, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Growing Problem of Drug Abuse

     A governor broke with tradition [on January 8, 2014] and devoted his entire state of the state address to drug addiction. Peter Shumlin, the governor of Vermont, urged residents to open their eyes to the growing problem in their front yards, rather than leaving it only to law enforcement, medical personnel and addiction treatment providers. Shumlin argued the facts speak for themselves.

     In Vermont, since 2000, there has been a 770 per cent increase in treatment for all opiates. He stated, "What started out as an OxyContin and prescription drug addiction problem in this state has now grown into a full-blown heroin crisis. And last year we had nearly double the number of deaths in Vermont from heroin overdose as the previous year."

   In turns out Vermont is not the only state facing this crisis. According to the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, the number of deaths involving heroin surged 45 percent between 1999 and 2010.

Judy Woodruff, PBS News Hour, January 9, 2014 

Hellementary Education Quote: Decriminalizing Noncriminal School Behavior

     Schoolchildren in Oklahoma could not be punished for chewing their breakfast pastries into the shape of a gun under a bill introduced [in January 2014] by a Republican legislator. Representative Sally Kern said that her measure dubbed the Common Sense Zero Tolerant Act was in response to school districts having policies that are too struck or inflexible. Kern cited a recent Maryland case that gained national media attention where a boy was suspended after his teacher accused him of chewing his Pot Tart into the shape of a gun….

     Under Kern's bill, students couldn't be punished for possessing small toy weapons or using writing utensils, fingers, or their hands to simulate a weapon. Students also couldn't be punished for drawing pictures of weapons or wearing clothes that "support or advance Second Amendment rights or organizations."

Fox News, January 10, 2014


Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Case Of The Dead Mental Patient Brains

     While most collectors acquire everyday objects such as coins, stamps, and books, a few collectors specialize in things that are odd and to most people disgusting. There was even a reality television series devoted to the acquisition of bizarre objects. The show was called "Oddities" and was presented on the Discovery Channel. Viewers followed the operation of a retail shop in Manhattan, New York called Obscura Antiques and Oddities. Items bought and sold on the show included a mummified cat, various animal teeth, a dead four-legged chicken, and a shrunken head.

     The "Oddities" television series helped establish a market for unusual items and "conversation pieces" most of us would consider too disgusting to possess. It also created an opportunity for thieves who specialized in these collectibles.

     In early October 2013, a thief in Indianapolis, Indiana walked off with sixty jars of brain and other tissue from dead mental patients. The specimens were kept, among thousands of other such containers, in warehouse space on the campus of the Indiana Medical History Museum. The brains and other specimens had come from clinical autopsies performed at the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane, an institution that opened its doors in 1848 and closed in 1994. According to the director of the museum, the stolen jars were valued at $4,800. (Is there a bluebook for the pickled brains of dead mental patients?)

     In early December 2013, the director of the Indiana Medical History Museum received a call from a collector in California who said he had purchased, through an eBay auction site, six jars of brain matter. He had paid $600 for the specimens. According to the oddities buyer, he became suspicious when the jars he acquired appeared similar to the ones pictured on the museum's website.

     The tip from the California collector led to the identification of David Charles as the seller of the stolen brains.

     On December 16, 2013, an undercover Indianapolis police officer posing as an oddities collector interested in jarred brains met Mr. Charles in the parking lot of a Dairy Queen. When the 21-year-old suspected thief offered to sell the officer the stolen property, the cop took him into custody.

     A Marion County prosecutor has charged David Charles with felony theft.

     In November 2015, after pleaded guilty to stealing the museum brains, the judge sentenced David Charles to four years in prison. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Civilized Societies Execute Some of Their Criminals

There is an old joke…about a shipwrecked sailor. Adrift for days, he is washed ashore on an uncharted island. He looks about apprehensively. Presently his gaze falls on a gallows, whereupon he is visibly relieved. "At last," he sighs, "I've reached civilization!" The point of the joke is that only a comparatively settled, and hence civilized, society has the need for a permanent gallows and possesses the means, including skilled labor, to construct one. There is truth in that observation, though the earliest form of death penalty involved stoning, which did not require a gallows or any other man-made instrument of execution.

Robert Johnson, Death Work, 1998 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Deadly "Wedgie"

     Police in Oklahoma say that a 33-year-old man allegedly killed his stepfather after a fight last month [December 2013] by yanking the older man's underwear up his back and over his head so that the waistband was around his neck. Brad Davis, of McLoud, was arrested [on January 7, 2014] and booked into the Pottawatomie County Jail on a first-degree murder complaint….

     An argument that escalated into a fight that broke out on the evening of December 21, 2013 between Davis and Denver St. Clair. St. Clair had made disparaging comments about the younger man's mother related to the couple's pending divorce…. Davis tackled St. Clair in the kitchen then punched him in the face several times before he could make it back to his feet….Davis told police that he pulled St. Clair's underwear up over St. Clair's head, and later noticed that St. Clair was unconscious and called the police….When detectives arrived, Davis was standing over St. Clair smoking a cigarette.

     The state's medical examiner said that St. Clair's cause of death was either blunt force trauma to the head or asphyxia. [Both men had been drinking that night. Davis is a former Marine.]

Fox News and the Associated Press, January 9, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Crime of "Emotional Abuse"

     Within weeks, the United Kingdom Parliament is set to consider a bill criminalizing "emotional blackmail" and related forms of emotional abuse. The bill would forbid persons to "make contact with a victim in an aggressive way" or to "intend to control or coerce" a partner, with penalties of up to 14 years in prison.

     "Control" and "coercion" are to be interpreted widely, covering such actions as using the family finances to manipulate one's partner or deploying psychological tactics to keep a partner fearful and in line. Proponents of this legislation, who span the three major parties, claim that it will give emotional abuse victims more confidence in coming forward regarding their circumstances, and that it will help keep emotional abuse victims safe.

     We have plenty of reason to want confidence and safety for victims of emotional abuse. But can legislation of this kind deliver it, in Britain or anywhere else? And if so, at what cost? Anti-emotional abuse legislation is at best redundant, and at worst fraught with unintended consequences.

Pamela Stubbart, The Daily Caller, January 2, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Heather Elvis: Missing and Presumed Murdered by Sidney and Tammy Moorer

     Heather Elvis, a 20-year-old employee of a bar and restaurant in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, lived with a female roommate at the River Oaks Apartments in the city. Her parents, Terry and Debbie Elvis, lived nearby. At three in the morning of Wednesday, December 18, 2013, Heather called her roommate from her cellphone about 45 minutes after being dropped off at River Oaks by her date. She called to report how the evening with the young man had worked out.

     On December 19, 2013, Heather's abandoned 2001 Dodge Intrepid was found parked at the Peachtree Landing along the Waccamaw River in the town of Socastee just outside of Myrtle Beach. The dark green vehicle had not been involved in an accident. Parked about nine miles from the River Oak Apartments, the car did not contain Heather's purse or her cellphone.

     On Friday, December 20, after Heather failed to show up for her scheduled shift at the Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery, her parents, Terry and Debbi Elvis, reported their 5-foot-1 inch, 118-pound daughter missing.

     The next day, under the supervision of the Horry County Police Department, 300 people spent ten hours combing the woods and ponds in the vicinity of the abandoned car.

     On January 3, 2014 another search party made up of law enforcement officers and volunteers, aided by several K-9 units and searchers riding horses and ATVs, continued the hunt for the missing young woman.

     Lieutenant Robert Kegler with the Horry County Police Department, on January 6, told a Fox News reporter that detectives had questioned several people in connection with the disappearance. While the young man who had dropped Heather off at her apartment after the date in the early morning hours of December 18 was not a suspect, some of the uncooperative men interviewed by detectives were being scrutinized.

     At 8 PM on Monday, January 6, 2014, television crime host Nancy Grace devoted a segment of her show to the Heather Elvis missing persons case. A $25,000 reward was posted for information leading to the discovery of the missing young woman.

     At seven o'clock on the morning of Friday, February 21, 2014, officers with the Horry County Police Department, South Carolina State Police, and U.S. Marshal's Office, executed a search warrant at a house in Myrtle Beach occupied by 37-year-old Sidney Moorer and his 41-year-old wife Tammy. Officers spent eleven hours at the dwelling. Cadaver dogs searched the property without result. Two pickup trucks were taken away from the house and officers were seen placing several boxes into a white police van.

     A prosecutor, following the search of the Moorer house, charged Sidney and Tammy with indecent exposure and obstruction of justice. (It has been reported that Tammy, angry at Heather because she and Sidney had been involved in a sexual relationship, sent her nude pictures of herself and Sidney. In January 2014, Tammy told a reporter that Sidney had sex with Heather Elvis in his car "a total of three times." According to Tammy, Sidney ended the relationship when he realized that "something wasn't right about her.")

     On February 24, 2014, a Horry County prosecutor charged the couple with Heather Elvis' kidnapping and murder. They are being held without bail. Elvis' body has not been found,


Criminal Justice Quote: Cleaning Homes Contaminated by Meth

     Tens of thousands of houses have been used as meth labs the last decade and a cottage industry is developing around cleaning them up. Many Americans are more aware of the production of the highly addictive drug thanks to AMC's hit show "Breaking Bad" which featured a high school chemistry teacher who turned into a meth cooker and dealer. In real life, cleanup contractors are the ones who deal with a property when a batch explodes or police raid an operation and shut it down.

     However, there is little oversight of the growing industry in most states, opening the door for potential malfeasance…

     To make a meth home safe, a certified contractor must remove and replace all contaminated materials, from walls to carpet to air conditioning vents. Next, a certified "industrial hygienist" tests the home to gauge whether it can be lived in or needs more cleaning.

     Hygienists and contractors find homes in different states of repair. Homes with no fires or explosions are easier to clean, but there is often a pungent odor, contaminated cooktops, carpets and walls, leaky roofs and dirty furniture.

Adrian Sainz, Associated Press, December 27, 2013 

Writing Quote: Literary Award Complaints

Literary prizes sometimes seem to function like parents whose approval we crave as well as spurn. The complaints are as common as they are contradictory: Prizes are awarded to tepid, undemanding best sellers everyone reads; prizes are awarded to obscure, abstruse books no one reads. They are awarded to the right authors, but for the wrong work (Hemingway for "The Old Man and the Sea," Faulkner for "A Fable"). They are awarded to the wrong authors for the wrong work (Margaret Mitchell for "Gone With the Wind"). They are withheld from the right authors for the right work (Gravity's Rainbow," by Thomas Pynchon, won jury approval for the Pulitzer Price in 1974 but was overruled by a board that deemed the novel "turgid," and "obscene"). Sometimes the grousing has the whiff of sour grapes. "Prize X has never been awarded to Philip Roth." Prize Y has never been awarded to me."

Jennifer Szalai, "Bookends," The New York Times Book Review, November 24, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Ex-New York City Cops on the Dole

    More than 100 former New York City workers [72 of them ex-cops] were charged on January 7, 2014 with faking psychological problems for insurance benefits. Prosecutors say the total amount bilked from Social Security disability insurance could reach $400 million, dating back to 1988….

     More than  half of these cases came from those claiming the events of 9/11 left them unfit to work. Prosecutors say the ringleaders coached them on how to act when examined by doctors, like how to fail memory tests and how to apply for benefits.

     The operation was [headed] by ex-cops Joseph Esposito and John Minerva, as well as former FBI Agent Raymond Lavalee and Thomas Hale, a prison consultant.

Jeff Clor, CBS News, January 7, 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: How to Deal With the Police in Routine Traffic Stops

     According to Regent University Law Professor James Duane, answering questions asked by the police can never help you. Even if you are innocent, your statements can lead to self-incrimination; anything you might say that would actually help your side can simply be discarded by the authorities.

     Online Paralegal Programs recommends that you respectfully decline to answer questions, even if the encounter is nothing more than a routine traffic stop. Stress that you politely decline to answer questions or permit searches, and ask frequently whether you are free to go.

     Police questions such as, "Have you had anything to drink?" or "Do you know how fast you were going?" are trick questions. Do not answer them.

Robby Soave, The Daily Caller, January 5, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Male Arrest Rates in U.S.

A study [published in the Journal of Crime and Delinquency on January 5, 2014] found that nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males are arrested by the time they are 23-years-old. The analysis of national data from 1997 to 2008 of teenagers and young adults' arrest histories excludes traffic violations.

Caroline May, The Daily Caller, January 6, 2014 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Police Officer Kills Unthreatening 18-Year-Old Schizophrenic

     Keith Vidal, a senior at South Brunswick High School, lived with his parents in Boiling Springs Lakes, North Carolina, a town of 3,000 in the southeastern part of the state. Although the 90-pound 18-year-old suffered from schizophrenia, he was not a violent person.

     On Sunday, January 5, 2014, Keith's father, Mark Wilsey, called 911 for help. His disoriented son was experiencing a psychotic episode and required emergency medical treatment. Mr. Wilsey did not report that he or other members of the family were in any kind of danger.

     Officers from three law enforcement agencies--the Boiling Springs Police Department, the Southport PD, and the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office--responded to Mr. Wilsey's call. The first two officers who arrived at the house tried, without success, to calm Keith down by talking to him. The boy held a small screwdriver in his hand, but was not threatening anyone with the tool.

     When the third police officer arrived at the scene he told the other two officers to use their stun guns on the distraught boy. When the taser devices didn't subdue the mentally ill youth, two of the officers rushed the boy and pinned  him to the floor.

     What allegedly happened next doesn't make any sense. While the two police officers held Keith Vidal down, the third officer allegedly said, "We don't have time for this." Following that statement, this police officer shot the boy in the chest, killing him on the spot.

     The sudden shooting of her helpless son in his own home caused the boy's mother to experience a mental breakdown that required medical intervention at the scene.

     The next day, Keith's father, in speaking to a reporter, said, "There was no reason to shoot the kid. They killed my son in cold blood. We called for help and they killed my son."

     The district attorney of New Brunswick County has asked detectives with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to look into the fatal police involved shooting.

     Less than a week into 2014, Keith Vidal was the ninth person killed by American police. Before the end of the year, if recent history is a guide, U.S. police officers will shoot at least another thousand citizens, killing more than half of them. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Iceland Police Use Deadly Force--For the First Time

Iceland police [in Reykjavik] have used deadly force for the first time ever, shooting and killing a man in an event which Icelandic officials are saying "is without precedent."…Officials say the victim, a 59-year-old man who had been threatening neighbors, forced police to evacuate the building. Shortly after the evacuation the man began firing at officers with a shotgun. The police fired tear gas canisters through the windows….After some time, officers entered the building and were fired upon, forcing them to shoot back. [This police involved shooting took place on December l, 2013.]

John Amaruso, Liberty Voice, December 2, 2013 

Writing Quote: Getting Started

     Multiple bestseller [crime novelist] Mary Higgins Clark worked as a flight attendant for Pan Am, got married, had five children, and was widowed in her thirties. She had always wanted to write and had taken writing courses at New York University. Before she hit pay dirt, Clark worked in radio, getting up at five A.M. to write before getting her kids ready for school.

     "I knew I had the talent. When I was fifteen I was picking out clothes that I would wear when I became a successful writer. I was sure I'd make it, but you have to learn the craft, how to tell the story."

Ian Jackman, The Writer's Mentor, 2004

Criminal Justice Quote: Knockout Game Arrest

The New York City Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force arrested a Brooklyn man on January 3, 2014 for at least seven "knockout" assaults. Barry Baldwin, 35, punched out the victims between November 9 and Christmas Eve in [Brooklyn neighborhoods] Canarsie and Midwood. The victims were white women and most were Jewish….On November 9 Baldwin allegedly socked a 78-year-old Midwood woman while she pushed her great-grandaughter's stroller….Nearly a month later the suspect punched a 20-year-old in the head….Baldwin's next target was a 33-year-old mother walking with her 7-year-old daughter in Midwood. The victim fell into the child before crashing to the ground. She suffered cuts and bruises to her hands and knees….

New York Post, January 4, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Execution North Korea Style

The execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's uncle was more brutal than initially reported, according to a Beijing-controled newspaper….The paper cited a report…that said that Jang Song Thaek and five close associates were stripped and fed to 120 dogs that had not eaten for three days. The entire process, witnessed by 300 senior officials, lasted about an hour…Most political prisoners in North Korea are killed by a firing squad….North Korea accused Jang, 67, of corruption, womanizing, gambling and taking drugs. [Kim Jong Un is friends with the American former basketball star Dennis Rodman who played N.B.A. games while drunk. Rodman's estranged wife once doused him with gasoline and tried to set him on fire.]

Edmund DeMarche, Fox News, January 3, 2014 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: So Much For Brotherly Love

An Iowa man was arrested after he pulled a knife on his brother during a fight over peanut butter jelly sandwiches. Jerome Davis was arrested on January 3, 2014 after the confrontation with his brother in their Des Moines home. Both men are in their 50s. Davis was angry because his brother was eating too many sandwiches. Davis made three sandwiches and ate them in their living room then made another an hour later. The brothers began to argue about laziness and overeating. Davis allegedly pulled out a folding knife and held it against his brother's face. He has been charged with domestic abuse with a weapon.

Associated Press, January 4, 2014 

Hellementary Education Quote: Police Take Down 9-year-old

     [On September 26, 2013] at Baldwin South Intermediate School in Quincy, Illinois, a school official called the police to deal with a "meltdown" by an autistic 9-year-old boy named Roger Parker, Jr. Roger was sent to a specific area to calm down by school officials. When Roger decided to climb a dividing wall, instead of calling a parent to come and pick up the child, the school officials made the decision to call the police. Calling the police almost always makes situations worse.

     The officer who arrived, Officer Bill Calkins, pulled Roger by his arms and legs in an attempt to physically remove him from the wall. The officer pulled him in a manner that caused Roger to hit his eye against the divider.

     After causing injury to Roger's eye, the officer tried to restrain him. In response to the natural instinct to get away from an attacker, or someone inflicting harm, "Roger swung around and kicked the officer in his nose," according to the boy's mother.

     Roger was pulled to the floor, handcuffed, and taken to the police station where his mother was told that he was being fingerprinted, photographed, and booked for aggravated battery to a police officer.

Copblock, September 27, 2012 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Perils of Prostitution in China

     In China, prostitutes work out of "hair salons" with secret  sex rooms in the back. They also ply their trade in upscale karoake parlors. Except during periodic government "vice sweep" campaigns, corrupt police officers look the other way.

     Rounded-up prostitutes are sent to "custody and education" detention centers where they are forced to work in one of 200 prison sweatshops. Without the benefit of trials, legal representation, or any form of due process, prostitutes caught in the net spend six months to two years in these forced labor jails.

     Inmates at custody and education prisons manufacture products for export such as ornamental paper flowers, disposable chopsticks, toys, and dog diapers. Relatives who visit incarcerated prostitutes have to pay a fee for the opportunity. Abuse by prison personnel is commonplace within this correctional system.

     When released from custody, prostitutes are told they owe the government for expenses related to food, medical exams, bedding, soap, and other personal items. The cost of a six-month stay in one of these hell-holes amounts to the equivalent of $400. Most of the released prisoners go right back to selling their bodies.

     To make certain the prison factories are supplied with a steady flow of workers, cities and counties impose annual hooker arrest quotas. Each year in China the police arrest 18,000 to 28,000 prostitutes.


Writing Quote: Autobiographical Fiction Writers

     Not everything that happens to you can or needs to be fictionalized. It's unhealthy and a little creepy for one to think of everything that happens as possible fodder for one's fiction. That kind of attitude can lead to some pretty serious self-absorption. Unfortunately, we've met writers or artists who seem to view themselves as little gods who breathe more rarefied air than the rest of us mortals. After a traumatic event, the last thing one should be thinking about is one's fiction.

     Some people think of writing as therapeutic. Maybe on some level it is, but if you need therapy, see a therapist. Writing, if anything, will make you more neurotic.

Robin Hemley, Turning Life into Fiction, 1994 

Criminal Justice Quote: Large Burglar Carries Off Big Safe

Police in Weymouth, Massachusetts are looking for a strong thief who managed to carry a 250-pound safe out of a restaurant….The burglar walked out of the restaurant on Sunday [December 29, 2013] night, lugging the vault that was wrapped in a trash bag. Images from a security camera showed the man entering a side door at the rear of the restaurant, heading down the stairs, and then back up the stairs hauling the safe.

KWTX, January 1, 2014

Mexican Citizens Can Practice Law in California

     An undocumented immigrant who has met the requirements to practice law in California must be given a legal license, the state's Supreme Court ruled Thursday [January 2, 2014] in a landmark case that could set a national precedent.

     The California Supreme Court ruled that Sergio Garcia, who first came to the United States from Mexico unlawfully as a child, must receive his license--the first decision of its kind in the U.S. that could affect other undocumented immigrants who hope to follow in his footsteps. Two similar cases are pending in Florida and New York.

Miranda Leitsinger and Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News, January 2, 2014 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Cops Protecting Cops

      The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office is creating a new policy that will require the agency's background investigators to report job applicants who admit to potential criminal misconduct during the hiring process.

     The reform comes in response to inquiries from The Los Angeles Times about a mass hiring the sheriff conducted in 2010 after taking over the jurisdiction of the county's smaller police force, the Office of Public Safety.

     According to internal records reviewed by The Times, many of the county officers who then applied for jobs with the Sheriff's Department admitted during the screening process that they had committed misconduct for which they had never been caught. Officers acknowledged misdeeds such as stealing county property and falsifying reports. Once officer said he "confiscated" steaks from people having a barbecue, then cooked them and ate them on duty.

     No action was taken against any of the county officers who admitted apparent wrongdoing….

     According to legal experts, admissions made during law enforcement job interviews can be used in court, even if the disclosures are made during the polygraph portion of the screening process.

Robert Faturechi and Ben Poston, The Los Angeles Times, December 27, 2013 

Criminal Justice Quote: Accused Killer Incompetent to Stand Trial But Competent Enough to Escape Custody

     A man accused of killing his mother and stepfather, whose plastic-wrapped bodies police found inside a locked basement room in South Carolina in 2006, escaped on Thursday [January 2, 2014] from a psychiatric hospital….Police were unsure how 39-year-old Jason Carter escaped from the Columbia hospital where he was committed after being found incompetent to stand trial in the killings….Carter was working at a supply business on the hospital's campus some 115 miles northwest of Charleston….[The day after his escape, Carter was arrested by officers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. He was driving a stolen vehicle.]

Eric M. Johnson, Reuters, January 3, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Poor Man's Punishment

The death penalty has been and remains a poor man's punishment. As an old saying puts it, "only those without capital get capital punishment." There are no rich men or women on death row, and no rich person has ever been executed in America. The reasons are many. The rich can avail themselves of good lawyers who help their privileged clients avoid death sentences by artful plea bargaining or skillful courtroom tactics. [After their attorneys are done with them, these defendants are no longer rich.] The poor often get shoddy legal defense.

Robert Johnson, Death Work, Second Edition, 1998 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Smash and Grab Burglars Steal $120,000 to $230,000 From Department Store

     Police responding to a pre-dawn alarm December 31, 2013 at the Nordstroms at the Westfield Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia [California] found a smashed window outside and broken jewelry cases inside. Jewelry and designer women's handbags were missing, and the store's surveillance video showed three men wearing dark clothes filling bags with items from the shattered cases.

     The three fled through an emergency exit, setting off the alarm shortly after 4 AM….Store officials estimated that $100,000 to $200,000 worth of jewelry had been stolen along with purses worth between $20,000 and $30,000.

Bettina Boxall, The Los Angeles Times, December 31, 2013 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Bingo Streaker

A drunk man in Louisville, Kentucky was arrested after running through a bingo hall with his pants down screaming "bingo". The suspect was held for "inappropriately disrupting a Bingo game". The man had a YOLO (you only live once) tattoo on his knuckles, an attitude seemingly apparent in his carefree approach to playing bingo.

Metro News, December 31, 2013

Writing Quote: A Good Dust Jacket

     The great book designer George Salter once said that a good dust jacket "must be in perfect accord with the literary quality of the book. It must be even more if it is to function as an important sales factor, if it is to 'stop' the eye of the person passing by." …

     According to many book designers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to put together a good dust jacket. Each one needs to be approved by sales representatives, editors, art buyers and authors before it wins approval. "It is getting tougher and tougher to do good work these days," said Oliver Munday, a designer for Knopf….And Matt Dorfman, freelance book designer, admitted, "It was a pretty abysmal year for me approval-wise."

Nicholas Blechman, "The Best Book Covers of 2013," The New York Times Book Review, December 15, 1013

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Politicians Brag That Only 413 People Were Murdered in Chicago Last Year

     In 2012, Chicago witnessed more than 500 killing, many of them shootings tied to gang rivalries in some of the toughest, struggling neighborhoods. As of December 30 [2013], Chicago had reported 413 homicides, a 17 percent drop from the same period a year before and the fewest killings to date since 1965.

     Shootings were also down by 24 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, and reports of crimes over all had dropped by about 16 percent. Still, Chicago's death toll remained higher than those in the nation's more populous cities, New York and Los Angeles, both of which reported a decrease in killings as the end of 2013 approached.

Monica Davey, "Chicago Killings Fall, As Officials Praise Progress," The New York Times, December 31, 2013

Writing Quote: The Armchair Traveler

My first writing mentor, Annie Dillard, once told our college class that if you ever have the choice between visiting a far-flung place or reading about it, choose the book. [As a nonfiction writer, if I had a mentor, which I didn't, the advice would have been just the opposite.]

Virginia Pye, "Opinionator" The New York Times, December 29, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Hired Unfit Officers

     The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department hired dozens of officers even though background investigators found they had committed serious misconduct on or off duty…The department made the hires in 2010 after taking over patrols of parks and government buildings from a little-known LA County police force. Officers from that agency were given first shot at new jobs with the Sheriff's Department. Investigators gave them lie detector tests and delved into their employment records and personal lives…

     Ultimately, about 280 county officers were given jobs, including applicants who had accidentally fired their weapons, had sex at work, and solicited prostitutes…

     For nearly 100 hires, [background] investigators discovered evidence of dishonesty, such as making untrue statements or falsifying police records. At least 15 were caught cheating on the department's own polygraph exams.

     Twenty-nine of those given jobs had previously been fired or presumed to resign from other law enforcement agencies over concerns about misconduct or workplace performance problems. Nearly 200 had been rejected from other agencies because of past misdeeds, failed entrance exams or other issues. [So much for hiring the best and the brightest in law enforcement. The fact that governmental agencies conduct job candidate background investigations means nothing if they hire the losers anyway.]

Robert Faturechi and Ben Poston, The Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2013


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Fewer Police Officers Are Killed on Duty

     The number of law enforcement deaths dropped to its lowest level in 54 years in 2013…One hundred and eleven officers died on duty this year…The figure marks a decrease from 120 deaths in 2012 and 169 in 2011, and its the lowest number of law enforcement fatalities since 1959 when 110 officers died on the job.

     The preliminary data shows that traffic accidents were the leading cause of officer death, with 46 killed. The second leading cause of death was firearms, which accounted for 33 officer fatalities….

     Changes as simple as asking officers to wear body armor and fasten their seat belts have made a difference….

Adam Gabbatt, Reuters, December 30, 2013 

Writing Quote: Sherlock Holmes No Longer Protected by Copyright

     A federal judge has ruled that Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. John H. Watson, are no longer protected by copyright, and that all elements of the famous sleuth's stories by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle before 1923 are now in the public domain.

     The court case required U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo to become something of a Sherlock Homes expert, and in a 22-page ruling issued last week [December 2013] in Chicago, he began by summarizing the four novels and 56 short stories Conan Doyle wrote about the fictional detective. The character first appeared in 1887. The final 10 Holmes stories appeared in the U.S. in 1923.

     Before Castillo's ruling, only the final ten stories retained their copyright in the United States. The rest of the Holmes "cannon" was in the public domain, though Conan Doyle's estate claimed that those 10 copyrighted stories were enough to prevent anyone from using the Homes character in new works. Many book publishers and movie studios thus entered into licensing agreements with the estate.

     Castillo's ruling allows anyone to use the Holmes character as long as they don't use elements from the 1923 stories, which include details about Holmes' and Dr. Watson's past.

Hector Tobar, The Los Angeles Times, December 30, 2013