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Friday, May 30, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Pundits Blame Guns and Society for Elliott Rodger's Murder Spree

     First Elliott Rodger murdered his three roommates with a knife, hammer and machete. Then he shot eight people, three of them fatally, and tried to run over several others in his car. After the bodies were taken away, everyone on television agreed that it was the fault of the guns.

     Rodger had been in therapy since he was eight and was seeing therapists every day in high school. He had a history of violent threats and physical assaults and the police had already gotten involved. He was on multiple prescription medications and had therapists whom he alerted to his plans by sending them his manifesto….

     In a country where a little boy with a pop tart chewed in the shape of a gun triggers immediate action, the professionals who cashed in on the killer's wealthy family were in no hurry to call the police. One even reassured his mother while the shootings were going on that it wasn't him.

     So it was obviously the fault of the guns which he bought with $5,000 from his family. The BMW he used to commit some of the attacks was given to him by his mother. Jenni Rodger, his British aunt, blamed America and guns for her nephew's massacre. "What kind of society allows this? How can this be allowed to happen? I want to appeal to Americans to do something about this horrific problem."

     Somehow a parenting failure is now the fault of an entire... country….

     Rodger's father issued a statement through his lawyer in support of gun control….It might have been more useful if instead of opposing [guns]; Peter Rodger had spent more time dealing with his son's problems.

     Guns did not kill six people. His son did….

Daniel Greenfield, "The 'You Didn't Do That' Society," frontpagemag.com, May 28, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Most Erudite Cities

  For the third straight year, Alexandria, Virginia has topped Amazon.com's list of the best-read cities. The online retailer announced that Alexandria, where many government workers from nearby Washington reside, ranks Number 1 for sales of books, newspapers and magazines in cities of 100,000 or more. Miami was second, with residents there eager for books and magazines on self-help, health and mind, and body topics. Knoxville, Tennessee, was third; followed by Amazon's home city, Seattle; and Orlando, Florida. Rounding out the top 10 were many college towns: Ann Arbor, Michigan; Berkeley, California; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Cincinnati; and Columbia, South Carolina.

"Alexandria, Virginia Tops Best-Read Cities List," Associated Press, May 25, 2014 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Whackademia Quote: Parents Clueless Regarding College Debt

     Figuring out the best way to pay for college can be overwhelming even for the savviest families. A new survey suggests that many people have no idea where to start. Almost half of the people surveyed by the Credit Union National Association, a trade group, said they don't know how many loans their children will need to pay for college. About one-quarter of parents said they were also clueless on the total dollar amount their children would need to borrow to pay for their college….

     Here's the reality: The average college student graduating this year will walk away with $26,500 in student lean debt….The debt load averaged $25,500 for someone earning a bachelor's degree from a public four-year college; at private, for-profit colleges, it was $39, 950….Several reports suggest that college graduates are bogged down by their debt. People with student loan debt are less likely to own homes than those without college debt….

Jonnelle Marte, "Many Blind to College Loan Needs," The Boston Globe, May 25, 2014


State Trooper Pulls Gun on Speeder

     With tensions apparently high following the fatal shooting of a state trooper, Michigan State Police Trooper Timothy Wagner claims he was being extra cautious when he drew his firearm and pointed it an a 18-year-old woman during a traffic stop in April 2014. The incident, caught on Wagner's dash cam, sparked allegations of excessive force and a formal investigation. Though no criminal charges were filed, even St. Joseph County prosecutor John McDonough said in a statement that what he heard come out of the trooper's mouth made him "sick to my stomach."

     The incident began after Wagner says he clocked the woman's red Pontiac going 77 mph in a 55 mph zone. The dash cam video shows the trooper activating his lights and siren before pulling a quick U-turn to pull over the driver. About 45 seconds after the U-turn, the woman pulled over to the side of the road.

     Wagner is seen getting out of his car with his handgun already drawn and pointed at the car. He slowly approaches the vehicle and orders the woman to get out. The trooper than handcuffs the woman and takes her back to his cruiser. [Welcome to the future of routine policing.]

     "I chased you for two miles doing almost 80 mph after I went right by you and turned around, that's the problem," the trooper can be heard telling the woman. "You really have to pay attention to what's going on."

     The woman apologizes and tells the trooper she didn't see him immediately. She does not deny she was driving too fast….The woman claimed there was a report of a burglary at her residence and she was in a hurry to get home. Wagner confirmed the burglary report and eventually let the woman go without a ticket, though he said he "probably should take her to jail."

     After reviewing the case, prosecutor McDonough decided there was not enough evidence to warrant criminal charges against the officer. However, he made his disapproval of the trooper's actions known. [The trooper made inappropriate comments to the woman, statements that have not been reported. It is these comments that caused the prosecutor to feel sick to his stomach.]

Jason Howerton, "After Hearing State Trooper's Comments to 18-Year-Old Woman, Even the County Prosecutor Said He 'Became Sick to My Stomach'," theblaze.com, May 20, 2014 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Judge Orders Serial Rapist Christopher Evans Hubbart to Live in Palmdale, California

     A man who raped and assaulted at least 40 women has been ordered to live in a remote California community, despite objections from residents there. Christopher Evans Hubbart, who police believe may have had as many as 100 victims, will rent a small house in a rural area near the city of Palmdale. [To the owner of this house, I recommend a good fire insurance policy.] A Santa Clara judge heard objections at an all-day hearing on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 but issued his order two days later.

     Hubbart, 63, will have to wear a GPS ankle bracelet when released on July 7, 2014. [Recently in California, a woman was raped and murdered by a couple of paroles wearing GPS bracelets.] Hubbart has admitted raping and assaulting about 40 women between 1971 and 1982. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Police believe the number of victims to be closer to 100. [That's about one month of prison time for each rape. Welcome to the great state of California where rapists and pedophiles run free.]

     Released on parole in 1990, he was arrested two months later for a new attack and returned to prison. In 1996, corrections officials transferred him to a state mental hospital. Doctors there recently concluded that he was fit for release…[Perhaps Mr. Hubbart should live next door to one of these shrinks.]

     Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey spent months fighting the decision to release Hubbart…..Judge Gilbert Brown would only say that the court had reviewed all of the emails, petitions, cards and letters submitted in protest before he had reached his decision. [How about this: if Mr. Hubbart rapes another woman, this judge goes to prison as an accomplice.]

"Judge in California Orders Serial Rapist's Release," BBC News, May 23, 2014 

Hellementary Education Quote: Kiddie Poisoners Target Teacher

     Two Brooklyn, New York elementary school students have been arrested on suspicion of putting rat poison in a teacher's water bottle….The children, who are 9 and 12 and attend Public School 315 on Glenwood Road in Flatbush, were charged with reckless endangerment and assault. The teacher, who drank from the poisoned water bottle, is recovering….

     The incident occurred on Monday, May 19, 2014 and was brought to light by a parent whose child reported witnessing other students putting something in the teacher's drink. The mother called the school and reported the episode. But by then, the teacher had already ingested the tainted water.

     After being alerted, the teacher took the water bottle to the principal's office and went to see a private doctor, reporting mild nausea….

Marc Santora and Al Baker, "2 Brooklyn Pupil's Accused of Putting Rat Poison in Teacher's Water," The New York Times, May 21, 2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Baytown, Texas Police Accused of Excessive Force

     After receiving a noise complaint, Texas police raided a Baytown house…where family members were celebrating a birthday….The partygoers--a Mexican family and friends--were apparently playing music too loudly. When the police showed up, they decided to enter the premises through a back gate and storm the house.

     Video footage of the raid shows officers…tackling several people, punching and kicking them, and repeatedly using tasers….The family claimed that a 54-year-old woman was shot with a taser five times as she sat in a chair doing nothing wrong. The woman does not speak English, and did not understand what police wanted from her….

     Ten small children were playing inside the house at the time of the raid, and some complained of pepper spray in their eyes….Police eventually arrested seven people for interfering with a public servant….

Robby Soave, "Police Attack Family Party, Taser Grandma, Use Pepper Spray Around Kids," The Daily Caller, May 12, 2014

     

Writing Quote: Adjectives and Adverbs: Manuscript Killers

     ….The overall effect of a manuscript encumbered with adjectives, adverbs and the inevitable commas in between makes for slow, awkward reading--which these writers would find out for themselves if they only took the time to read their own work aloud.

     Manuscripts heavy on adjectives and adverbs can be spotted by an agent or editor immediately--sometimes even in the first few sentences--by looking for a plethora of commas (which inevitably separate a string of adjectives), or in the case of a writer who doesn't even know how to use commas, by looking to the nouns and verbs and then looking to see if adjectives or adverbs precede (or succeed) them.

Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages, 2000

Friday, May 23, 2014

Whackademia Quote: Overpaid University Presidents

     At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies…a Washington, D.C. research group.

     The study, "The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor," examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities. The co-authors, Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, found that administrative expenditures at the highest-paying universities outpaced spending on scholarships by more than two to one. And while adjunct faculty members became more numerous at the 25 universities, the share of permanent faculty declined drastically….

     Since the 2008 financial crisis, the report found, the leaders of the highest-paying universities fared well, largely at the expense of students and faculty….While the average executive compensation at public research universities increased 14 percent from 2009 to 2012, to an average of $544,554, compensation for the presidents of the highest-paying universities increased by a third, to $974,006, during that period.

     The Chronicle of Higher Education's annual survey of public university presidents' compensation, also released Sunday [May 18, 2014], found that nine chief executives earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2012-13, up from four the previous year, and three in 2010-11….But, the Chronicle found, chief executives were hardly alone among the highest-paid university officials. Athletic coaches made up 70 percent of the public university employees earning more than $1 million last year….

     As in several past years, the highest-compensated president, at $6,057,615 in this period, was E. Gordon Gee, who resigned from Ohio State last summer amid trustee complains about frequent gaffes. He has since become the president of West Virginia University….

     Others on the "most unequal" list were Pennsylvania State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan and the University of Washington.

Tamar Lewin, "Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds," The New York Times, May 18, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Drunk and Disorderly in Tennessee

     A man was arrested after he tried to take advantage of an ATM and a picnic table at a local bar, according to the police. Murfreesboro, Tennessee police arrested Lonnie J. Hutton, 49 on the charge of public intoxication Friday, May 16, 2014 at the Boro Bar & Grille. "Mr. Hutton entered the bar and walked to the ATM," said officer Michael Rickland. "Once at the ATM Mr. Hutton pulled down his pants and underwear exposing his genitals. Mr. Hutton then attempted to have sexual intercourse with the ATM."

     The suspect then walked around the bar wearing no pants while he thrust his hips in the air, witnesses told the officer. Bar staff escorted Hutton outside…."Once outside," according to the officer, "Mr. Hutton exposed himself and engaged in same activity with a wooden picnic table."…The officer said Hutton appeared intoxicated and smelled of alcohol. He was transported to the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center where he is being held on $250 bond….[Next time you withdrawal cash from a ATM, try not to think of this case.]

"Man Held After Attempting Sex With ATM, Picnic Table," The (Murfreesboro) Daily News Journal, May 20, 2014 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Writing Quote: Novels Should Be About People, Not Ideas

You're writing a novel, and a novel is about people. It's not about ideas, or it's not only, or not principally about ideas. Don't start your writing with an idea or an emotion if you can help it, no matter how important that idea may be to you. If the idea is so urgent, and you have something to say about that idea that you think we need to hear, then write an essay. Or write an editorial, write a manifesto, write an ad, write a poem, write anything but a novel. We read novels for the people in them, not for the ideas, although we do expect that these people will have ideas. When we remember our favorite novels we remember the character who won our hearts.

John Dufresne, Is Life Like This? 2010

Criminal Justice Quote: John Hytrek: Another Victim of SWAT Excessive Force

     A rural northwest Iowa man who suffers from Parkinson's disease has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that he was brutally pummeled by a SWAT team after a relative made false harassment allegations against him. The events giving rise to the excessive force lawsuit occurred in August 2012….Instead of speaking with the retaliatory relative, the sheriff's department in Pottowattamie County, Iowa…sent close to a dozen members of its SWAT team to the home of John Hytrek.

     Hytrek, 52, was working on a tractor in his driveway when the heavily armed cops jumped out of a van. Hytrek had previously warned the relative, who has a prior conviction for uttering false statements, to leave his property. "They ran for me with machine guns," Hytrek [told a local TV reporter]. "And I look at them, and I'm like, 'What?'"

     According to the lawsuit, the horde of SWAT members tackled the 52-year-old Parkinson's sufferer. His face slammed on a tire machine. The police officers punched him in the head at least five times. "I did not resist them, nothing," Hytrek told the TV station. "They could've come up to me and asked me what was going on, and they didn't."

     The lawsuit also alleges that the SWAT team positioned a sniper across the street to monitor the situation in case [the 52-year-old] with a degenerative disorder…tried anything.... Hytrek suffered serious injuries as a result of the melee--so serious that the SWAT team had to send him to the hospital before he could go to jail. He had a fractured eye socket. He also received a concussion and multiple cuts….

     A judge dismissed the false charges against Hytrek for harassment and assault in November 2012….

Eric Owens, "Machine Gun-Toting SWAT Team Blindsides Man, Pummels Him," The Daily Caller, May 19, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Child Prostitution Pimp Gets 17 to Life

     Prosecutors say an Orange County, California man has been sentenced to 17 years to life in state prison for luring a teenager into prostitution. Chuncey Tarae Garcia received the sentence Friday, May 16, 2014 under a state law that increases penalties for human trafficking, especially the sex trafficking of children.,

     The 34-year-old was convicted in March 2014 of one count of human trafficking and one count of pimping a minor under 16, both felonies. Garcia was previously convicted of cocaine possession. Authorities say Garcia met the girl, a 14-year-old runaway identified as Jane Doe, last year through one of his prostitutes who recruited women for him.

     Garcia was arrested during a routine traffic stop for a broken headlight. The officer became suspicious when he saw the girl in the car.

"Man Sentenced Under State's Human Trafficking Law," Associated Press, May 17, 2014 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hellementary Education Quote: School's Failure to Protect Student Leads to Restraining Order Against Kindergarten Kid

     A father in Kenosha, Wisconsin has taken out a restraining order against his daughter's bully after the 6-year-old received death threats from a 5-year-ood boy in her kindergarten class. Brian Metzger says the boy has been bulling his daughter all year, kicking her, throwing rocks and sand in her face and making similar threats to other children at Prairie Land Elementary School.

     "She came home and said a student threatened her by saying, 'I want to slit your throat and watch you bleed,'" Metzger said….He took out the restraining order in a final attempt to protect his daughter when school officials failed to take the boy out of class. The school finally took the boy out of Metzger's daughter's class when he brought the restraining order to school on Tuesday night, May 13, 2014.

     When asked why they didn't act before, school spokesperson Tanya Ruder said, "There's always two sides to every story." [Tanya, what elementary education professor told you that? Here's an idea, why don't you make the little guy take a polygraph test? Good heavens, where are we getting these teachers?]

Ashley Collman, "Death Threats Caused Father to Take Out Restraining Order," MailOnline, May 16, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Nutcase Plows Into TV Station, Holds Out Five Hours

     Authorities say a man claiming to be God slammed a stolen landscaping truck into a Baltimore area television station, then spent hours watching live TV news coverage of the scene before he was arrested by local police. Baltimore County law enforcement officials say the 29-year-old man was taken into custody at 4 PM on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. He had spent nearly five hours barricaded inside the WMAR-TV station in Townson, watching journalists deliver live reports from just outside the building.

     No one, including the suspect, was injured….Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said the man was "ranting and raving," and was "incoherent." [Maybe he should be on TV professionally--he'd fit in nicely with the other "journalists."]…

     The suspect was taken to a hospital where he would be evaluated before facing possible criminal charges.

"Man Crashed Into Maryland TV Station," Associated Press, May 14, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

True Crime Book Review: "The Executioner's Toll, 2010" by Matthew T. Mangino

     Matt Mangino's new book, published in softcover by McFarland, a publisher of academic and nonfiction works, contains a detailed account of the murders, trials, appeals, and drama behind every execution that took place in 2010. The book includes gripping narratives of 63 murders, countless appeals and stays of execution, two suicide attempts, 41 last meals, 33 final statements, and 46 executions in states that include Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio, and Missouri.

     The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is a unique, skillfully written, tightly organized, and thoroughly researched collection of fascinating cases featuring an extremely important and controversial subject in American life.

     Mangino, a former prosecutor and an active columnist and blogger, is not only a criminal justice expert, he is a talented nonfiction author. His new book is highly recommended. 

Whackademia Quote: The Student-ATHLETE at Duke University

For years, professors had been sending distress signals to the Duke University administration involving the increasing surliness of many of their student-athletes. These were young people forced to miss multiple classes because of game schedules, to travel with their teams even when they were injured, to understand that their sports came before their studies, and who had thus become dismissive of the academic enterprise. One shocking report by a deeply concerned history professor characterized some of the athletes as "openly hostile" to intellectual endeavor. [So are their coaches and all of the school's rabid sports fans. Most fans would prefer that schools pay these kids and forget the pretense of giving them an education.]

Caitlin Flanagan, "Nothing to Cheer About," The New York Times Book Review, April 27, 2014 (a review of The Price of Silence by William D. Cohan)

Writing Quote: Novels Aren't About Happy People

It's more interesting to read about something being wrong than everything being right. Happiness threatens the things that every writing workshop demands: suspense, conflict, desire. It also threatens particularity. Happiness collapses characters into people who look just like everyone else, without the sharper contours of pathos to mark their edges and render them distinct. As Tolstoy famously tells us at the beginning of Anna Karenia: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Leslie Jamison, "Bookends," The New York Times Book Review, March 16, 2014

The Internet "Right-To-Be-Forgotten Rule" Versus Free Speech

     Google has received fresh takedown requests after a European court ruled that an individual could force it to remove "irrelevant and outdated" search results….An ex-politician seeking re-election has asked to have links to an article about his behavior in office removed. A man convicted of possessing child abuse images has requested links to his pages about his conviction to be wiped. And a doctor wants negative reviews from patients removed….

     Google itself has not commented on the so-called right-to-be-forgotten ruling since it described the European Court of Justice judgement as being "disappointing." Nor has it released any figures about the number of takedown requests received since Tuesday, May 13, 2014….

     European Union (EU) Commissioner Viviane Reding described the decision as a "clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans" but others are concerned about the consequences that it will have for free speech.

     Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has criticized the ruling, calling it "astonishing" while free speech advocates at The Index on Censorship said the court's ruling "should send chills down the spine of everyone in the European Union who believes in the crucial importance of free expression and freedom of information."…

Jane Wakefield, "Politician and Pedophile Ask Google to 'Be Forgotten'," BBC, May 15, 2014 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Huntsville Mother Sues Over Son's Fatal Drug Arrest

     At eleven-thirty on the morning of June 13, 2013, Huntsville, Alabama drug officers in plainclothes ran toward a 17-year-old suspect immediately after he was handed two zip-lock bags of Ecstasy by an 18-year-old police informant. (No doubt the young snitch had been arrested and turned into an informant. Putting young drug arrestees into danger by flipping them into drug snitches is not, in my opinion, good police practice.) The recipient of the Ecstasy, only identified by his last name, Smith, saw the men approaching and walked off in the other direction. (The undercover officers are accused of not identifying themselves prior to Smith's arrest.)

     One of the drug officers grabbed the 130 pound, unarmed boy and threw him to the ground. Another officer pepper sprayed Smith in the face, handcuffed him, and kept him pressed to the ground with a knee in his back. With an officer's arm around his neck, the boy began to choke and struggle for air. 

     When the suspect lost consciousness, one of the arresting officers called for an ambulance. While awaiting for the arrival of the emergency crew, one of the cops, thinking that Smith had swallowed the bags of Ecstasy, inserted an oblong metal tool into his throat to retrieve the evidence. This tactic failed to locate the drugs. 

     Paramedics arrived at the scene at eleven-forty-five and spent the next twenty-two minutes trying to revive the boy. When they couldn't get Smith to  respond, the paramedics rushed him to a nearby emergency room. 

     At the hospital, doctors found no drug bag blockage in the boy's throat or airway. The teenager did have several broken ribs and contusions on his arms and face. On June 18, 2013, five days after the drug arrest, the Smith boy died. 

     In the autopsy report, a forensic pathologist with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, wrote: "Because of the circumstances of this event, it is difficult to discern if the decedent died from a drug overdose or an asphyxia event exacerbated by either occlusion of the airway by the foreign object, or possible vascular occlusion associated with the neck restraint, [This is a bureaucratic, mealy mouthed way of raising the possibility that one of the arresting officers had strangled the boy to death.] or from a combination of all the events that transpired during the arrest." [What a load of crap.] 

     The Madison County Coroner, based on the autopsy results, ruled the boy's death "undetermined." One of the reasons the coroner could get away with this ridiculous ruling involved the fact that Smith's blood samples had been "discarded" before they could be tested for drugs. The coroner also sealed the autopsy report, a public document, for almost a year, denying the boy's parents key information related to his violent death. [This is a typical tactic in excessive force police cases.] 

     On March 27, 2014, the dead teenager's mother, Nancy Smith, sued the city of Huntsville, the police department, the chief of police, and four individual police officers. In this civil action, brought in federal court for unspecified damages, the plaintiff accuses these Huntsville officers of causing her son's death through a combination of excessive force and the insertion of the metal object into his throat to retrieve the bags of drugs he had supposedly swallowed. The chief of police stands accused of failing to provide adequate police training in the use of force. The department and the city of Huntsville are being sued for orchestrating a cover-up to protect the officers involved. 

     In my view, if the defendants in this wrongful death suit are smart, they will settle out of court. A trial might reveal an example of drug enforcement overkill at its worst. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Another Hair-Trigger Cop Shoots Unarmed Man

     An Alabama police chief has determined that one of his officers used "appropriate force" when the he arrived at the scene of a traffic accident and immediately shot an apparently unarmed Air Force airman. The airman, 20-year-old Michael Davidson, was shot in the chest and nearly bled out before receiving medical aid….Davidson was driving to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He may have been driving erratically….

     After clipping another vehicle, Davidson pulled over to exchange insurance information with the other driver. Eventually, officer Phillip Hancock arrived on the scene. Accounts differ as to what happened next. Davidson's father claimed that Hancock shot his son almost immediately. "They couldn't have been there three or four seconds when I was shot," said Davidson, according to his father's account.

     Police Chief John McEachern, on the other hand, said that Hancock did not fire until coming to the erroneous conclusion that Davidson was a threat. Hancock ordered Davidson to put his hands on his head, and then fired, according McEachern….

     One shot hit Davidson, severely injuring his stomach and colon. He may have permanent damage, and it is likely that he will be physically unable to serve in the Air Force. The accounts agree that Davidson was unarmed when shot. He may have been holding his wallet, however. It's not clear whether officer Hancock mistook the wallet for a weapon. [When encountering police officers, even in traffic related situations, be very careful. Too many cops today are on the edge and have hair trigger mentalities. One wrong move, and they might shoot you.]

Robby Soave, "Cop Arrives at Traffic Accident, Shoots Air Force Airman, Chief Calls it 'Appropriate Force', " The Daily Caller, March 14, 2014 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Robert Campbell: Court Spares Life of Condemned Killer

     In 1991, 19-year-old Robert Campbell and another violent criminal abducted a 20-year-old bank clerk as she filled her car with gas at a Houston service station. The victim, Angela Rendon, had just purchased a bridal gown for her upcoming wedding.

     The two criminal degenerates drove Campbell to a field where they robbed, raped, and beat her. After the vicious assaults, Campbell ordered the terrified victim to run for her life. As she fled her captors, he calmly shot her in the back.

     A year after this senseless, cold-blooded murder, a jury found Campbell guilty of capital murder. The judge sentenced him to death. In this depressing case, there has never been a question of Campbell's murderous intent or guilt.

     After living twenty-two years as a Texas death row inmate, Robert Campbell was finally scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday night, May 13, 2014. University of Texas law professor Laurie Levin, one of Campbell's death house attorneys working feverishly to save his life, filed a last-minute motion for a stay of execution with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Levin based the federal petition on the fact the Texas Department of Corrections had not revealed the manufacturing source of the pentobarbital purchased for the execution. (If it hadn't been for this issue, there would have been something else for Levin to base an appeal on.)

     According to this eleventh-hour plea, prisoners have a right to know whether or not the pentobarbital has been manufactured under "pristine conditions" that would assure that the drug was safe. (What in the hell is a safe execution drug? Pentobarbital is not supposed to be safe--it's used to kill cold-blooded murders. We're not talking about medicine here.)

     According to Professor Levin, if Campbell's execution was not blocked, the results could be "disastrous." (Again, from the executioner's point of view, the results are supposed to be disastrous.)

     On another save-the-killer front, death house lawyers claimed that Campbell, with an I.Q. of 69, was too stupid to execute pursuant to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that forbids states from executing criminal dimwits. (People with low I.Q.s can go to community college, teach school, drive cars, and vote. When they murder innocent victims in cold blood, why can't they be executed?)

     Robert Campbell's energetic and devoted legal team also asked Texas Governor Rick Perry to grant an executive stay of execution on Campbell's behalf.

     On May 13, 2014, the day he was scheduled to die by lethal injection, the federal court of appeals stayed Campbell's execution. Had the executioner dispatched him to hell, Campbell would have been the first condemned man to be put to death since the executioner in Oklahoma ran into trouble disposing of another sadistic cold-blooded killer, Clayton Lockett. Had Campbell been executed as scheduled according to the wishes of the jury that had found him guilty, he would have been the eighth death row inmate killed that year by the state of Texas.

     In 2017, Robert Campbell was re-sentenced to life in prison. This meant that he was eligible for parole.  

Criminal Justice Quote: Driving While Stupid

     State police in Louisiana say a 31-year-old Gonzales man is accused of driving to Troop A headquarters while drunk to file an accident report. Online booking records indicate that Patrick Ruffner remains in the East Baton Rouge Parish jail Monday, May 12, 2014, his bond set at $1,000….

     Trooper Jared Sandler says Ruffner called state police Saturday, May 10, 2014 to report that he had been in a hit-and-run accident on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge. He was told to come to Troop A to fill out a crash report. When Ruffner got out of his SUV, a trooper smelled alcohol and gave him a field sobriety test and a breath test. Ruffner was booked with driving on a suspended license and with first-offense DWI.

"Man Allegedly Drove to Police Station While Drunk to File Accident Report," Associated Press, May 12, 2014 

Writing Quote: Reading J. D. Salinger As An Adult

     When I flick through my old copies of J. D. Salinger's stories, I see that all the passages my teenage self has identified as especially moving and wonderful are precisely those that now make me frown and recoil. Where once the angst and alienation of Salinger's heroes--their hypersensitivity to "phoniness"--filled me with awe and some sheepishness about my own capacity for compromise, I am now inclined to feel that phoniness, as much as any other human weakness, deserves a bit of sympathy. I can still enjoy the Catcher in the Rye if I read it with a sort of squint, maintaining the illusion of some separation between Holden's disaffected worldview and Salinger's. But by the time I get to the Glass stories, wherein the preternaturally brilliant and morally fine Glass children struggle to bear a world filled with second-rate English professors and inadequately nuanced productions of Chekhov, I have to give up. [When I discovered Catcher in the Rye as a seventh grader, I felt I was reading the best novel ever written. This book, among others, inspired me to be a writer. Last year, when I reread Catcher in the Rye for the first time, I found the novel a bit puerile, and forced.]

Zoe Heller, "Bookends," The New York Times Book Review, April 30, 2014  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: California Town Criminalizing School Yard Bullying

     Kindergarteners to students 18 years old could soon be charged with a misdemeanor offense in Carson City, California for bullying. The Carson City Council has given initial approval for a new law that would prosecute students who make another person feel "terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested." [So, if a kid looks the wrong way at an overly sensitive, anxious classmate, he could end up wearing handcuffs. Only in California.]

     A final vote on the ordinance will happen on May 20, 2014. The law could go into effect the following month. First-time offenders would be fined $100, a second offense would cost $200, and a third citation would be $300, and could include a misdemeanor charge….

     How police will enforce this law is not clear as infractions and misdemeanors normally have to be witnessed by law enforcement. [This is called the misdemeanor-arrest rule.] Also not clear is why current laws against harassment are not being enforced in bullying cases. [These offenses are not enforced because it's often difficult to establish criminal intent in these cases. And that's the way it should be. The proposed bullying ordinance is sheer idiocy.]

Michael Allen, "Kindergarteners Could Be Charged with Misdemeanor Under Proposed Law," Opposingviews.com, May 9, 2014


Criminal Justice Quote: Bad Boy Bieber in Trouble Again

     Pop star Justin Bieber has been accused of attempted robbery, Los Angeles police said Tuesday night, May 13, 2014. TMZ reports that the incident allegedly took place Monday night at Sherman Oaks Castle Park, a complex in the San Fernando Valley with miniature golf and a batting cage.

     The alleged female victim claims Bieber demanded to see her phone so he could erase any photos taken of his entourage, according to the report. The singer grabbed the woman's phone when she refused to give it to him. The woman claims that after taking the phone, Bieber demanded that she unlock the device to see if she had taken any photos….She eventually proved no photographs had been taken.

     The alleged victim said the singer screamed at her and her 13-year-old daughter, saying, "You're humiliating yourself in front of your daughter. Why don't you just get out of here?" The woman's daughter then started crying….

     LAPD officer Rosario Herrera told The Los Angeles Times that detectives were interviewing the victim of the alleged attempted robbery. Detectives have not questioned Bieber.

"Justin Bieber Accused in Attempted Robbery, Police Say," Fox News, May 14, 2014 

Writing Quote: Different Novels For Different Readers

Any novelist who's ever stood in a bookstore, watching as someone picks up a copy of their book and pauses before returning it to the shelf, knows there's no logical explanation for why particular books appeal to particular people. Over time, though, readers do tend to make intuitive decisions. Someone who wants a fast-moving story may seek out what she imagines is a plot-driven novel. Someone who wants to spend time in close quarters, getting to know a person like herself, or perhaps like no one she's ever met, may choose what appears to be a character-driven novel. And someone who tends to pepper margins with exclamation points, who calls a friend to shout, "Listen to this line!," may gravitate to a book preoccupied with language.

Meg Wolitzer, "Life Intervened," (a review of Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley), The New York Times Book Review, March 16, 2014 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

True Crime Book Review: The Yoga Store Murder by Dan Morse

     Published in mass market paperback in 2014 by Berkley, Dan Morse's 359-page book presents a detailed and chilling account of 28-year-old Brittany Norwood's brutal murder of a fellow Lululemon Athletica store employee. The grisly killing took place on March 12, 2011 in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. The author, a reporter with the Washington Post, covered this case from the beginning to its dramatic resolution.

     The Yoga Store Murder is a beautifully crafted, engrossing narrative of a fascinating and highly unusual murder case. Although I wrote a blog on this story, I learned a lot about the crime, the investigation, and the people involved from Dan Morse's account. The Yoga Store Murder is a gripping true crime book worthy of your attention. It will be the definitive book on the case, and is highly recommended. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Media Inspired Mass Murder: The Barry Loukaitis Case

     Suicide clusters of the 1980s would be replaced by the school shootings of the 1990s, almost all conducted by suicidal male youth. The Copycat effect had merely shifted its target as the media had shifted its focus. School violence has been around for a long time, but the media-driven contagion of modern school shootings dates back to February 2, 1996, when Barry Loukaitis, a 14-year-old boy in Moses Lake, Washington, killed two students and a math teacher. He ended his rampage by saying, "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?"

     Loukaitis had taken that expression directly from the Stephen King novel, Rage, which he had really liked and which was about a school killing. Loukaitis said his murderous loss of control was inspired by Rage, Pearl Jam's music video Jeremy, and the movies Natural Born Killers and The Basketball Diaries. Unfortunately, the explosive media attention to Loukaitis's school shooting triggered a series of similar events. Today, Stephen King says he wishes he had never written Rage. 

Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect, 2004 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Whackademia Quote: Improper Relationship With a Student Leads to a Teacher's Suicide

     The Texas high school made famous in the book Friday Night Lights says a longtime teacher who was among five former staffers accused of having improper relationships with students committed suicide a day after the allegations surfaced. Mark Lampman taught government and coached girls' golf at Permian High School in Odessa for 17 years. School officials didn't detail his alleged relationship with a female student, but called it improper.

     School district spokesperson Mike Adkins says the school learned of the accusation on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, and that Lampman resigned after being questioned. The Ector County sheriff says the 47-year-old died on Wednesday, May 7 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound….The accused former staffers are awaiting trial, and police are investigating allegations against two others.

"Texas Teacher Accused in Student Relationship Kills Self," Associated Press, May 8, 1014

Criminal Justice Quote: It's a Felony in Massachusetts to Record a Cop in Action

     A Massachusetts woman with the good sense to audio record her cop encounter on her cell phone is now facing felony wiretapping charges because she did not inform the officers that they were being recorded--something state law requires. Karen Dziewit was drinking outside an apartment building in Springfield, Massachusetts on Saturday night, May 10, 2014. Residents complained that she was yelling at them and refused to calm down. They called the police….

     The responding officers decided to arrest the 24-year-old Dziewit for causing a disturbance. Just before she was taken into custody, however, she activated the recording feature on her phone. Eventually, police searched her purse and discovered that the phone was recording. Dziewit will now be charged with felony wiretapping….

     While it may seem absurd that a person could be prosecuted for recording the police--something that civil libertarians encourage responsible citizens to do when they are confronted by law enforcement--Massachusetts is among the least friendly states for citizens recording cops. In most states, it is either always legal to record another person, or at least always legal to record the police, who don't have an expectation of privacy when serving in an official capacity.

     Massachusetts and Illinois, however, have laws on the books requiring both parties to consent to be recorded--even if one of the parties is a cop. Indeed, Massachusetts courts have upheld convictions against citizens who did not inform cops that they were being recorded….

Robby Soave, "Woman Charged With Wiretapping Because She Dared to Record The Cops," The Daily Caller, May 11, 2014

Writing Quote: The Newspaper Copy Editor

     When a copy editor gets to work on an article for The New York Times, it doesn't matter what section its for, the guiding principal is the same one that doctors embrace when they take the Hipocratic Oath: First do no harm.

     If I were an editor looking at the opening sentence of this piece,…I'd start with the glaring factual mistake: "First do no harm" is nowhere to be found in the oath. The ancient Greek physician may have written those words, or something like them, but he did not put them in the oath, despite what is commonly believed.

     And while we're at it, that "its" should be "it's." That "principal" should be "principle." And it should be "Hippocratic," with two "Ps." And isn't the whole thing a little long? And maybe a cliche? And--sorry to be a stickler--but isn't the reference to "ancient Greek physician" in the second paragraph an example of what The New York Times stylebook frowns on as indirection ("sidling into facts as if the reader already knew them")?…

     Fortunately, most of the stories that have come across my desk in my 15 years at The Times are in a lot better shape than that.

     Copy editors are basically one of the last lines of defense before articles are posted on the web or put in the paper. We try to make sure that a story is factually accurate, balanced, and grammatical. We're also responsible for making sure it complies with The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. And we write headlines and captions….

Eric Nagourney, "The Copy Desk: The End of the Gauntlet (or Is It 'Gantlet'?)," The New York Times, May 12, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Looking For a Post-Terrorism Career? Look No Further Than The University of Illinois

     In Illinois, the two largest taxpayer-funded universities have now boasted bona fide American terrorists on their faculties. The University of Illinois at Chicago, a dismal and endless slab of concrete that is easily one of the ugliest campuses in America, was the well-known professional home of unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers from 1987 to his retirement in 2010.

     Until just recently, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the semi-presigious flagship school of the state's college system, employed James Kilgore, an adjunct instructor of global studies and urban planning, a felon and former member of the infamous Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). The SLA was the notorious terrorist organization that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. The group also attempted two bank robberies. Kilgore participated in a 1975 bank robbery during which bank customer Myna Opsahl was murdered.

     Much later, after a nearly three-decade life on the lam spent largely in South Africa under the alias John Pape, Kilgore served six years in prison in the U.S. for second-degree murder. While on the run, he got a Ph.D. and wrote articles, novels, and a textbook….

     Kilgore noted that he hinted at his terrorist past when he was hired by saying, "I hope that you've Googled me."…[Of course they had, that's why he got the job.] After the local press printed an expose about Kilgore's radical, murderous youth, University of Illinois officials initially defended him, telling the Chicago Sun-Times he "is a good example of someone who has been rehabilitated," and "is well-respected among students."

     The backlash proved too much, however, and Kilgore, only an adjunct, was not given any courses to teach this year….[I'm sure he'll be back in academia. Where else does he belong?]

Eric Owens, "Terrorist University: The University of Illinois System Keeps Hiring Terrorists," The Daily Caller, May 10, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Gang Members Kill One and Shoot Six Others at Birthday Party

     Police say gunmen opened fire at a baby's birthday party in a Sacramento park, killing one man and injuring six other people, including a child. It happened at 5 PM on Saturday, May 10, 2014, at Peregrine Park in northern Sacramento. Officer Doug Morse told the Sacramento Bee that the attackers walked up and opened fire, then fled in a car.

     A man in his 20s died at the scene. Police say he's believed to be a gang member but his name hasn't been released. Morse says six other people--including a 7-year-old child--received non-life threatening injuries. The group had gathered to celebrate the birthday of an one-year-old child. Police say the attack appears to be gang-related. [Currently, there are 150,000 gang members in the U.S. A large number of these violent criminals are in the country illegally.]

"One Dead, Six Hurt in Sacramento Park Shooting," Associated Press, May 11, 2014 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Whackademia Quote: Bullets Fly at Paine College

    On May 6, 2014, officials were assuring students at Paine College that it was safe to attend classes after the small Augusta, Georgia school was rattled by two campus shootings in two days. The more serious of the two shootings occurred on May 5 when a student was shot in the head inside an administration building. The student shot was on the third floor of Haygood Hall and taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries….Authorities put the college on lockdown for five hours and began a search of the dorms.

     Two hours later, they had their suspect: a 21-year-old student. Charges against him are pending. Officials said the suspect and the victim had an altercation earlier.

     On Sunday, May 4, a student was injured when someone fired into a dorm, Gray Hall. The student was injured by flying debris from the blast through the wall. The shooter was not a college student….Authorities don't think the two incidents are related….

     Paine College is a private, liberal arts college with an enrollment of about 900 students.

Saeed Ahmed, "Students Told It's Safe to Come to Class After Two Shootings in Two Days on Campus," CNN, May 6, 2014

     

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Ex-NYPD Cop Charged With Painting Anti-Semitic Graffiti

    A former NYPD officer has been arrested after allegedly spray-painting anti-Semitic graffiti all over one Brooklyn neighborhood. Michael Setiawan was arrested Sunday, May 4, 2014 after Swastikas and hate messages were found on 15 cars and four buildings in Borough Park, including the front doors of an elementary school….Most of the graffiti was…near a Jewish synagogue.

     Setiawan, 36, was an officer with the NYPD for two years. According to police, he "separated with the department" in 2007. He is being charged with criminal mischief and aggravated harassment, both as hate crimes….

    Setiawan and his parents, who emigrated from Indonesia in 1989, share a home in Queens. His father, Thomas Setiawan, told the Associated Press that the family did not know why Michael was no longer a police officer but said his son has had mental health issues and that he was depressed and suicidal after leaving the police force….

"Former NYPD Officer Arrested for Anti-Semitic Graffiti in Brooklyn," NBC New York, May 5, 2014 

Whackademia Quote: Let's Face It--Ignorance is Bliss

     If a college degree is supposed to be the ticket to a better life, most schools have room to improve, suggests a national survey of more than 30,000 graduates. About four in ten respondents reported feeling intellectually and emotionally connected in their workplace. Just 11 percent reported high levels of personal well-being, defined as "how people think about and experience their lives." [What does a college education have to do with "personal well-being? I can't imagine a liberal arts major being happy about what he is learning about life and mankind. How are colleges supposed to make students happy in their future jobs?]….

     "When college is done right, it has a profound effect on your life and your career," says Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education [The outfit that conducted the survey.] "But that's not happening for the majority of college graduates." [Perhaps colleges and universities would make students happier if they lowered their costs and taught them a few things they can use in the real world. Instead, they'll take the Mister Rogers approach which, while useless and silly, will raise the cost of higher education.]...

"College Grads Grade Their Higher Education," USA Today, May 6, 2014

Friday, May 9, 2014

Will Sharia Religious Police Cane an Indonesian Woman Gang-Raped By Eight Vigilantes?

     Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Sharia law is widely and strictly enforced in Aceh Province in the northern tip of Sumatra, one of the country's highest concentration of Muslims. Under Sharia law, Muslim women are subjected to a dress code that requires them to cover their hair and forbids them from wearing tight pants. Females are also not allowed to dance in public. Premarital sex as well as extramarital sexual relations are serious violations of Sharia law.

     On May 1, 2014, in the city of Lhokbani in Aceh Province, eight male vigilantes broke into the home of a 25-year-old widow. Once inside the dwelling, the men found the young woman having sex with a 40-year-old married man.

     The mob, which included a 13-year-old boy, gang-raped the woman and severely beat her sexual partner. The vigilantes also doused the couple with raw sewerage, then hauled them to the Sharia police. Under Sharia law, the punishment for a woman who commits extramarital sex involves receiving nine strokes with a cane, a sentence carried out in public.

     While a reasonable person would expect that under these circumstances this woman would be spared the rod and public humiliation, Lbrahim Latief, head of Islamic Sharia in the district, said this to reporters a week after the gang-rape: "We want the couple caned because they violated the religious bylaw on sexual relations."

     The public caning of the raped woman and her sexual partner has been endorsed by Teungku Faisai, the head of Nahdiatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Islamic organization. According to Faisai, the secular police have arrested three of the eight rapists. Police officers are hunting down the others. Under Indonesia's secular criminal code, these rapists could be sentenced up to fifteen years in prison. (I would  imagine that prison life in Indonesia, compared to incarceration in the U.S., is brutal. Regular viewers of the television series "Locked Up Abroad" have some idea of the horrors of third world prison life.)

     Teungku Faisai, in speaking to the news media, said, "The punishment for the mob that raped the victim must be harsher than the woman's because they have set back efforts to uphold Sharia law in Aceh." Really? What about the fact these men committed gang rape, and the woman they assaulted in her own home didn't hurt anyone? What kind of society punishes victims? 

Criminal Justice Quote:The Murder Trial as Drama

 For sheer human interest, the ability to catch public attention and cleave to it from start to finish, nothing else in real life equals a good murder trial. A prominent victim, or, even better, a prominent defendant; a bit of mystery surrounding the facts of the case; two teams of high-powered attorneys facing each other across the courtroom; a cluster of witnesses, each contributing a few tantalizing facts to a tale of human fallibility; a battery of expert witnesses to explain the unexplainable; a man's or woman's life or freedom hanging in the balance--these are the makings of high drama. As Shakespeare taught us, good drama is an intimate mixture of both tragedy and farce.

Michael Kurland, How to Try a Murder, 2002 

Criminal Justice Quote: The World's Oldest Profession Favors the Youngest Practitioners

For prostitutes, the ages of 16 to 22 are the most sexually attractive ages, and precocious 14-year-olds can readily look 17 or 18. The value of prostitutes for attracting customers declines quickly into the late twenties. Many prostitutes do not yet show the effects of drug abuse and a fast life by 21, but then the tendency to show their age accelerates….The younger ones attract more pickups, leaving the older ones to linger and to act more overtly to attract customers. Indeed, many younger prostitutes can do business simply by sitting on a bench acting unpretentious….

Marcus Felson, Crime and Everyday Life, Second Edition, 1998

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: A Mass Murderer Pleads Guilty

     A man accused of committing the worst mass killing in the history of Orange County, California pleaded guilty to eight counts of murder Friday, May 2, 2014….Forty-four-year-old Scott Dekraai, from Huntington Beach, was charged in the fatal shooting of eight people--including his ex-wife Michelle Fournier--at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach in 2011….

     Dekaai had been in a custody dispute with Fournier over the couple's then 8-year-old son before he strapped on a bulletproof vest, took three handguns and shot up the salon where she worked as a hairdresser. When police apprehended Dekraai, he allegedly told an officer, "I know what I did."

     During an earlier hearing on Monday, April 28, 2014, the former tugboat operator's defense lawyer told an Orange County court that his client intended to plead guilty to spare victims' families a painful trial…."That is a selfish move," Bethany Webb, whose sister Laura was one of the shooting victims…."I don't think there's any kindness in pleading guilty."...

     The plea clears the way for the defense attorney to focus on an evidence hearing. Dekaai's defense team claim there was widespread governmental misconduct in the way investigators collected evidence with the compliance of jail house informants. With the guilty plea, a jury will decide at a later date whether to sentence the killer to death or life in prison. Dekraai's trial was supposed to start June 9, 2014. [With the guilty plea, I don't see the relevance of how the police gathered evidence in the case. This man has confessed to murdering eight innocent victims. Guilt or innocence and due process should no longer be issues. The question is, does he deserve to be executed? Of course he does, but this mass murder took place in California, so that is unlikely.]

"California Salon Shooter Pleads Guilty to Killing 8 in 2011," CBS Los Angeles, May 2, 2014 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Officer Causes Vehicle Accident, Wrongfully Arrested Woman He Injured

     A sheriff's deputy rolled though a stop sign and crashed into another driver--25 year-old Tanya Weyker--breaking her neck in four places. Unbelievably, police arrested Weyker for drunk driving, even though she was sober, and even though they soon obtained surveillance video proving the deputy was at fault.

     It took a year for Weyker to definitively clear her name, and she still hasn't been reimbursed by the county for damages to her vehicle and medical expenses….Joseph Quiles, a Milwaukee County sheriff's deputy, caused the accident at night in February 2013, when he rolled through the stop sign, T-boning Weyker.

     Quiles was soon joined by another officer at the crash scene. Weyker was injured so badly that it was impossible for officers to administer a field sobriety test. She told officers that she had consumed a few sips of alcohol from a friend's cup, and was previously taking medication after having her wisdom teeth removed. The officers considered this enough information to charge her with drunk driving. In Quiles' report, he claimed that he stopped at the sign, and the accident was Weyker's fault.

     Within two days, authorities received video proof that the crash had been Quiles fault. They did not drop the charges, however. The county even wrote letters to Weyker demanding that she pay for the damages to both cars.

     Five months later, test results proved that Weyker was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the arrest. Still, it took another five months for prosecutors to drop the charges against her….

Robby Soave, "Cop Crashed Into Sober Woman, Broke Her Neck, Arrested Her For Drunk Driving," The Daily Caller, May 3, 2014 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Columbine Effect: The SWAT Explosion

     SWAT team use is no longer a backup, last resort law enforcement measure. Since the mid-1990's, police administrators have significantly increased the number of paramilitary units, and have incorporated SWAT-like methods and a militaristic philosophy into routine patrol duty, order maintenance, and crowd control. The expanding role of SWAT team policing parallels the history of American spree killing. For example, after a deranged shooter masssacred 21 people inside a San Diego McDonald's in July 1984, the San Diego police department began putting more SWAT-trained officers on routine patrol. (The mass murderer was killed by a SWAT team sniper.) A pair of heavily armed men, during a February 1997 bank robbery and shootout, wounded ten Los Angeles police officers and seven civilians before they were killed by SWAT bullets. Following this event in North Hollywood, the police department issued 600 high-powered rifles to officers on regular patol.

     The Columbine High School killing spree on April 20, 1999 has been the single greatest catalyst to the militarization of routine policing in America. The Littleton, Colorado killing of 12 and wounding of 24 other students by a pair of their bullied schoolmates has provided the rationale for arming and training "front line" patrol officers for SWAT operations. Critics of the police response to the mass murder point out that SWAT teams didn't enter the school until 1:09 P.M., almost 30 minutes after the killers had taken their own lives, and almost two hours after the shooting had started. Had the first responders been trained in SWAT policing techniques and appropriately armed, they wouldn't have waited for the SWAT units while people inside the building were being shot.

     Prior to the Columbine shootings, law enforcement's approach to killing sprees of this nature involved a contain-and-wait strategy designed to prevent officers and bystanders from being killed and wounded in the crossfire. Under this policy, responding patrol officers set up perimeters to contain the situation until the arrival of SWAT teams. Following the Columbine tragedy, police agencies across the country developed "active shooter" programs in which responding patrol officers are trained to rush toward the gunfire. Rather than wait for a paramilitary unit, many police departments now employ "contact teams" comprising heavily armed patrol officers who band together to enter the buildings and confront the shooter or shooters as soon as possible.

     Notwithstanding police assault training, more police officers in the schools, metal detectors, and the like, there have been, since Columbine, one-hundred school-site shootings. High-powered weapons and SWAT team tactics have not kept young psychopaths and lone-wolf depressives from unleashing their fury on vulnerable students and teachers.   

Criminal Justice Quote: Woman Stopped by Loss Prevention Officers Blames Store For Miscarriage

     ….Juweria Khalid admits she put the earrings in her purse, but claimed that "she was planning to pay for them." And now she has found a lawyer to sue Macy's over it….Once you put store property in your purse, you've stolen it. Especially a pair of $100 earrings. Certainly at that point you lose any and all presumption of innocence.

     Khalid's only trump card is that she had a miscarriage later, which she blames on Macy's for stopping her after they caught her. The moral of the story is probably that you shouldn't do stressful things like shoplifting jewelry while eight months pregnant….

     On what planet is a woman who admits she put $100 earrings into her purse, innocent?…The most innocent people in our society don't walk around with store property in their purse. Juweria Khalid isn't Forrest Gump. She knew you don't do that. Not if you're planning on paying for them. And if the loss prevention officers stopped her, it was because they saw her do it….

Daniel Greenfield, "Lawyer Sues Macy's For Detaining Muslim Who Stole Earrings," The Daily Caller, May 4, 2014 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Prison Guard Postauntaramin Walker and Ex-Con Rasul Abernathy Pimped Out a 16-Year-Old Prostitute

     On February 5, 2003, a judge sentenced 20-year-old Rasul Abernathy, a resident of Coatesville, a Philadelphia suburb in eastern Pennsylvania, to three to ten years for selling drugs. He began serving his time at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) in nearby Chester, Pennsylvania. Two months later, prison authorities transferred Abernathy to SCI-Greenburg, a Westmoreland County facility east of Pittsburgh in the southwestern part of the state.

     On March 28, 2005, after serving slightly more than two years behind bars, Abernathy was granted parole. He returned to the Philadelphia area. After twenty months of freedom, Abernathy violated the conditions of his parole and landed back at SCI-Chester. Prison administrators, on February 6, 2007, transferred Abernathy back to the state prison in Greensburg.

     On January 28, 2008, 29-year-old Postauntaramin Walker, a resident of North Versailles, a community outside of Pittsburgh, began working as a corrections officer at SCI-Greensburg. That's where she met inmate Rasul Abernathy. Upon his parole on September 24, 2008, Abernathy moved in with the prison guard.

     Abernathy, in June 2012, encountered a 16-year-old girl who had run away from a western Pennsylvania juvenile facility. The girl accepted his invitation to live with him and Walker. Walker was still employed as a prison guard at SCI-Greensburg. She knew the girl was wanted by the authorities.

     A month after taking the runaway in, Abernathy and Walker turned the juvenile out as a teen prostitute. The pimps posted online ads featuring provocative photographs of the young sex worker. To ease the girls's anxiety over turning tricks, her ex-con and corrections officer handlers kept her supplied with marijuana, alcohol, and pain pills. Abernathy set the young prostitute's fees and took care of the business end of the vice operation. When the girl refused to cooperate, the pimps beat her.

     In October 2012, the girl reached out to a counselor she knew from before and liked. She told the counselor about her life as an involuntary prostitute, but out of fear, did not identify her pimps. The counselor notified the authorities. A short time later, the police picked the girl up and placed her back into the juvenile facility.

     Five months after re-entering the juvenile detention center, the girl escaped. She called Walker who welcomed her back into the sex trade. A few weeks after the young prostitute and her pimps were re-united in North Versailles, prison authorities transferred Walker across the state to SCI-Chester. Abernathy, Walker, and their young sex worker moved into an apartment in Coatesville outside of Philadelphia.

     In March 2013, one of Abernathy's ex-con acquaintances raped the girl. Instead of punishing the rapist, Abernathy shrugged off the assault by calling it a "learning experience." The incident motivated the teen prostitute to run off and return to the Pittsburgh area. A few weeks later, she was back in the juvenile facility where she spilled the beans, this time identifying her pimps.

     Back in the Philadelphia area, Abernathy and Walker were pimping out a 17-year-old male prostitute.

     In November 2013, realizing that her career as a Pennsylvania corrections officer was about to end, Walker quit showing up for work at SCI-Chester.

     In January 2014, a federal grand jury sitting in Philadelphia indicted Abernathy and Walker on charges of child sex trafficking and conspiring to engage in sex trafficking. The indictment pertained to the exploitation of the runaway girl. (The defendants' use of the internet to promote their sex trade made the offense federal.)

     FBI agents arrested Abernathy and the former state corrections officer in Philadelphia shortly after the indictment came down. Two months later, the same grand jury charged Abernathy, 32, and walker, 34, with forcing the 17-year-boy into the sex trade. The defendants also face state charges of kidnapping, promoting prostitution, assault, and other offenses related to the corruption of minors.

     

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Writing Quote: Screenwriting: There's No Market for The Good Stuff

 If you are one of the possessed writers whose life's dream is to write movies, then, yes, you should be writing screenplays….But most of what Hollywood is producing these days is not very impressive; in fact, it seems as if the occasional well-written Hollywood film is more of a fluke that a commonplace occurrence. However, we must never forget that Hollywood's purpose is not and never will be to produce edifying pieces of art. Hence, it is called show business, not show art. If you want beauty, go to cosmetology school.

Richard Krevolin, Screenwriting in the Land of Oz, 2011 

Orlando Police Dog Bites Innocent Person

     An Orlando, Florida K-9 police officer knocked a biker to the ground and allowed a police dog to maul the innocent teenager who the cop has mistaken for a suspect. A year later, the victim, 19-year-old Isaiah Montanez, is suing the Orlando Police Department for his treatment at the hands of officer James Parker.

     Montanez was biking home in Easter Sunday in 2013 when a cop pulled him off his bicycle. The officer later claimed in a report that Montanez had ignored his orders to stop. Parker believed Montanez was a robbery suspect….Once Montanez was on the ground, the officer's K-9 dog attacked him. He received several bites.

     "There was no warning--he didn't ask me to stop or anything of that nature," said Bradley Laurent, Montanez's lawyer….He hit the ground and the dog attacked him." Luarent said his client looked nothing like the robbery suspect….

     After being mauled by the dog, Montanez was arrested and charged with resisting arrest. The district attorney declined to prosecute, however, and the charge was dropped….

Robby Soave, "Cop Sics K-9 on Wrong Person, Innocent Teen Biten," The Daily Caller, April 26, 2014 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Couple Intentionally Step Into Path of Freight Train

     New York State Police say the deaths of a couple standing together in front of a freight train was murder-suicide, but investigators can't say when Earl Myatt Jr. decided to drive his beloved wife of 42 years to the railroad crossing.

     Relatives have said Myatt became despondent after his wife, Mary, suffered a brain aneurism in January 2014 that left her with the mental capacity of a toddler. Troopers said Earl Myatt called one of his sons and apologized two minutes before stepping with his wife onto the tracks into the path of an oncoming CSX Railroad freight train on Sunday, April 26, 2014.

     Police said video showed them waiting on the tracks before they were hit and killed. A suicide note was found in Myatt's car.

"Couple Killed by Train Ruled Murder-Suicide," endofamerica.com, April 30, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Wrong House Drug Raid in Virginia

     A Virginia grandmother still has nightmares of the wrongful police raid conducted on her apartment on the morning of April 10, 2014, at which time she was tied up and questioned in connection with an ongoing drug investigation. No drugs were recovered from the premises….Police raided the wrong residence, mistaking the elderly woman's apartment letter "E" for a "G."

     Ruth Hunter, a 75-year-old who lives in Henrico, Virginia, claims she has never done anything illegal in her life….But that morning, officers with the Virginia State Police kicked in her door and tied her up with cable ties. At first she thought she was being robbed. After the officers identified themselves, they began aggressively questioning her and demanded to know where she was hiding the drugs….

     "I thought it was just someone breaking in to rob me and kill me," she said. "They asked me had I ever stored drugs"….

     Police eventually arrested someone else--at an apartment two doors from Hunter's home. This apartment was "G."…[Due to militarized law enforcement and sloppy policing, it's dangerous to live close to people associated with illegal drugs.]

     Hunter was so disturbed by the incident she has decided to move out. [Good idea.] She has not gotten so much as an apology from the police department. Her door is still broken. [There is nothing rarer than a police apology. Cops surely consider this woman nothing more than collateral damage in the never ending drug war.]…

Robby Soave, "Cops Raid the Wrong Apartment, Tie Down Innocent 75-Year-Old Woman," The Daily Caller, April 23, 2014  

Criminal Justice Quote: "Swatting": A Dangerous Hoax

     If you can't beat them, call in the SWAT team? The SWAT team responded to a call from a teenager saying he had just killed his mom….When police arrived, the only guns around 17-year-old Rafael Castillo were of the video game variety….The video game was "Call of Duty."…Castillo, of Long Beach, New York, was playing the video game with an online opponent who called the SWAT team to his house after losing the game….

     Police say the vengeful player uncovered Castillo's address by tracking his IP and placing the fake call….The Long Beach police commissioner says this kind of prank call is becoming "a nationwide epidemic."…In the bizarre world of Swatting, the hoaxer earns points for the helicopter, for the police cars, for the SWAT team, and for the type of entry…..

     After the SWAT team charged the home, it didn't take long for the officers to realize it was a hoax. Castillo's mother told the officers, "My kid is home, he's on the computer. He doesn't know what happened."

     If investigators identify and track down the prankster, he or she could end up paying $100,000 for the emergency response….

Mikah Sargent, "'Call of Duty' Loser Calls SWAT Team on Opponent," acj.com, April 23, 2014

     

     

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Shoot Rampaging Man Rejected for Law Enforcement Job

     A man suspected of wounding an officer while shooting up a Los Angeles police station died Thursday, April 24, 2014 at a hospital more than two weeks after the attack….Daniel Christoph Yealu, 29…was wounded in the April 7 shootout with two officers at the West Traffic Division. He had been charged with attempted murder.

     Yealu, a onetime security guard, had applied to join the Los Angeles Police Department in 2009 but was rejected. Police said he walked into the station, told the desk officer, "I have a complaint," and opened fire with a handgun. The wounded officer has been released from the hospital. The other officer in the shootout wasn't hurt.

     Yealu left an AK-47 rifle in his car when he entered the police station….Officers serving a search warrant at his West Los Angeles home turned up several more guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

"Man Dies After Los Angeles Police Station Shooting," The Associated Press, April 24, 2014