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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Nitrogen Gas Chambers: Send Them Off Laughing

     [A] new method of execution being proposed…is known as nitrogen asphyxiation, it seals the condemned in an airtight chamber pumped full of nitrogen gas, causing a lack of oxygen….Nitrogen gas has yet to be put to the test as a method of capital punishment--no country currently uses it for state-sanctioned executions. But people do die accidentally of nitrogen asphyxiation, and usually never know what hit them. (It's even possible that death by nitrogen gas is mildly euphoric. Deep-sea divers exposed to an excess of nitrogen develop a narcosis, colorfully known as "raptures of the deep, " similar to drunkenness or nitrous oxide inhalation.)…

     In late April 2014, Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc suggested to a state legislative committee that Louisiana should look into using nitrogen gas as a new method of execution, since lethal injection has become so contentious. "It's become almost impossible to execute someone," LeBlanc complained….

     "Nitrogen is the big thing," LeBlanc told the legislative committee. "It's a painless way to go. But more time needs to be spent studying that." The committee instructed LeBlanc to do some research on the subject and report back. In the meantime, Louisiana has delayed a pending execution….[In May 2014, Ohio delayed four executions due to the controversy over killing death row inmates with the single drug pentobarbital.]

Matt Mangino, "New Execution Method on the Horizon--Nitrogen Gas Asphyxiation,", May 26, 2014


Friday, May 30, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: What is Trace Evidence?

     Trace evidence analysis is the section of the crime lab where, if they don't know where to send it, they send it to us. We get all kinds of oddball things in here. Feathers. We've had feathers come into the crime lab. Bird feathers.

     One case: A person was shot and killed outdoors, near a garage. The bullet went through the victim's down jacket. And then it hit a garage door and deflected off. In that garage door, in the bullet hole, there was a little feather. I think the defense's story was that the shooting was accidental, that the defendant had aimed at the garage, and the bullet deflected off it, and then it went into the victim.  We couldn't say for sure that the bullet hole feather was from the victim's jacket, but finding it on the garage door corresponds more to the person being shot and then the slug entering the door. The victim was hit first.

Trace evidence analyst in Crime Scene by Connie Fletcher, 2006 

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,", May 28, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Most Erudite Cities

  For the third straight year, Alexandria, Virginia has topped'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',", May 20, 2014 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Dino Gugglielmelli Murder-For-Hire Case

     In 2001, Dino Gugglielmelli, the owner of Creations Garden, a $48 million natural cream and nutritional supplement business, met Monica Olsen, a Romanian-born model twenty years younger than him. The 39-year-old tycoon had been married twice before. Both of those marriages had been brief.

     Not long after the two met, Monica moved into Gugglielmelli's six-bedroom, 7,000-square foot mansion on three acres north of Los Angeles. The couple married in April 2003, and by 2008, had two daughters. They also possessed a Maserati, a Porsche, and a BMW.

     The Food and Drug Administration, in 2009, tightened the federal regulations regarding the manufacture and marketing of nutritional supplements. This, along with the economic recession, took its toll on Gugglielmelli's business. By 2011, the company, along with his marriage, had collapsed.

     Dino Gugglielmelli, in October 2012, in filing for divorce, described Monica as a bad mother who "never made dinner for the children." According to court documents, Guggliemelli complained that nannies had raised the children, and domestic employees cleaned the house.

     In January 2013, after Mr. Gugglielmelli accused Monica of attacking him with a kitchen knife, she lost custody of the children and moved out of the mansion. Shortly after her departure, Gugglielmelli acquired a young girlfriend. Although he was facing bankruptcy, he lavished this woman with $200.000 in gifts. He used other people's money to impress his young squeeze.

     In the spring of 2013, the justice system exonerated Monica in the domestic knife assault case. A family court judge, in August of that year, was about to award her $300,000 in back alimony payments. The federal government, the economy, and his pending divorce was putting an end to Gugglielmelli's lavish style of living. He did not like what the future held for him.

     On October 1, 2013, Gugglielmelli met 47-year-old Richard Euhrmann in a Los Angeles restaurant. Euhrmann, a short time before this meeting, had gone to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office with information that Gugglielmelli had asked him to murder his estranged wife, Monica. For that reason, Euhrmann showed up at the restaurant wired for sound.

     During the meeting, Gugglielmelli allegedly offered his friend $80,000 to pull off the hit. "I'll be happy when it's over," he reportedly said. As the two men walked out of the restaurant, deputies took Gugglielmelli into custody.

     A Los Angeles County prosecutor charged the former millionaire with attempted murder and solicitation of murder. After being booked into the county's Men's Central Jail, the judge set Gugglielmelli's bond at $10 million.

     At a pre-trial hearing in late 2013, Gugglielmelli's attorney, Anthony Brooklier, described Richard Euhrmann, the man Guggliemelli had allegedly asked to kill Monica, as an opportunist and liar who had set up his client. (If this is true, I don't know what Euhrmann had gained from setting up his friend.)

     With her estranged husband behind bars for plotting to kill her, Monica moved back into the Gugglielmelli mansion.

     In May 2014, county jail officials moved the high-profile inmate into solitary confinement at the notorious Twin Towers correctional facility. The 9,500-prisiner complex, in 2011, was named one of the ten worst jails in the world. (I'm sure it's not a nice place, but this is hard to believe. I base this opinion on the fact I've watched a lot of "Locked Up Abroad" TV episodes.)

     After receiving word that several of Gugglielmell's fellow inmates had approached him with offers to kill Richard Euhrmann, the principal witness against Gugglielmelli, corrections officials had decided to isolate him from the jail population. Gugglielmelli was also denied the privilege of seeing visitors. Richard Euhrmann, fearing for his life, went into hiding.

     Monica, the alleged target of the murder-for-hire plot, said she also worried about being killed by a hit man. Traumatized by the case, she has put the mansion up for sale. She asked $3.5 million for the house. Monica was also trying to breathe new life back into her beauty cream and baby skin care business.

    On June 13, 2014 in San Fernando Superior Court, Gugglielmelli pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder. The judge sentenced him to nine years in prison.

Criminal Justice Quote: The Effects of Drug Enforcement

     Given large numbers of addicts, we start with a high level of demand. The effectiveness of law enforcement measures lowers the supply. The selling price, and hence the potential level of profit that accompanies the successful evasion or corruption of law enforcement efforts, rises. To the unprincipled traffickers in narcotics, this counterbalances the increased risk and justifies an increased counter-mobilization effort to evade and corrupt the law enforcement efforts and to increase the market by expanding the number of addicts. The investment in law enforcement then rises, the counter-investment goes up, and the vicious cycle rolls merrily along….

     The suppression approach is, of course, not simply one of increasing the number of police officers devoted to catching offenders. It also includes a demand for increasing police powers (which always carries with it increased infringement of the guaranteed constitutional liberties) and increasingly severe penalties….

     There is another aspect of the law enforcement approach to narcotics which tends to be self-defeating. The structure of the illegal narcotics business is that of a pyramid, or a series of interlocking pyramids resting on the same base. At the bottom of this structure and constituting the vast majority of individuals involved in the business are the addict-pushers. These are usually people impelled to narcotics by their own uncontrollable cravings who would otherwise be unable to support their habit. Consider an enforcement unit which has to justify its existence in the results it can show. Going after higher levels of the narcotics business pyramid, to say nothing of the apex or apexes, is a long, hazardous, and at best uncertain affair….

     By contrast, the addict-pusher is a sure bet. All that is needed is to keep an eye on him once he has been released from serving his sentence and, sooner or later, usually sooner, he will be caught selling or at least in possession. This poor wretch does not command the services of high-priced legal talent, and the case is quickly processed through the courts with a minimum of waste of police time. The result is an impressively large record of arrests and convictions for the individual officer and for the enforcement unit as a whole.

Isidor Cheim, Donald C. Gerard, and Robert S. Lee, "Drugs and Social Policy," in The Criminal in Society, Leon Radzinowicz and Marvin Wolfgang, Editors, 1994  

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

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The New York City Bread Truck Heist

     The act of taking something that isn't yours, while against the law and anti-social, is not highly deviant behavior, nor is it commonly driven by mental illness. (For years psychologists and criminologists have been debating among themselves over whether so-called kleptomaniacs are sick or simply criminal. I'm in the simply criminal camp.) Theft is a specific intent crime committed in cold-blood, as it were. Schizophrenics don't go around swindling people, or stealing cars for chop shops. In court, accused thieves don't plead not guilty by reason of insanity. But in the case of a 30-year-old New York City man named David Bastar, that could change.

     On Monday, May 19, 2014, at three in the morning on Second Avenue near East 99th Street on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the driver of a Grimaldi's Home of Bread truck left the vehicle running in front of a pizzeria. When the delivery man exited the pizza joint, his truck was gone.

     David Bastar, dressed only in a pair of briefs, had jumped into the $60,000 truck and drove off with $8,000 worth of baguettes, whole wheat rolls, loaves of sourdough, and other baked products. Instead of meeting up with a baked goods fence, Bastar, working off a set of instructions and a map left on the truck's front seat, delivered product to at least three restaurants.

     Later that morning, while driving the bread truck south on Lexington Avenue, Bastar began throwing loaves of bread out the window. As he crossed the 59th Street Bridge into Queens, Bastar became fixated on a Cadillac Escalade limousine driven by 43-year-old Armondo Sigcha. Sigcha was headed to La Guardia Airport to pick up customers.

     Once the stolen bread truck and the limo crossed the bridge, Sigcha realized that some nut in a delivery truck was following him too closely. The limo driver made several quick, evasive turns but couldn't get the truck off his tail. At this point, Sagcha asked his dispatcher to arrange to have an officer with the Port Authority meet him at the airport.

     When Bastar pulled the bread truck to a stop behind the limousine near La Guardia's Central Terminal, he was greeted by a Port Authority officer. The cop took one look at the underwear-clad bread truck driver and called for an ambulance to deliver him to a mental ward.

     After being evaluated at Elmhurst Hospital's Psychiatric Ward, officers escorted Mr. Bastar to the Queens Criminal Court where he was charged with criminal possession of a stolen vehicle, and driving without a license. The judge released the suspect to the custody of his baffled parents.

     Diana Bastar's, the accused truck thief's mother, told a reporter with The New York Post that she had no idea why her son had been bent on delivering bread. "I'm speechless," she said. "He's been estranged from us, so I really can't tell you want's going on."

     Following his arrest, Bastar told police officers that he had tailed the limousine into Queens because, "I thought I had to follow him to make the deliveries." 

Criminal Justice Quote: Crime Scene Fiber Evidence

     Fiber evidence can be horrendously confusing. There's probably about seven thousand dyes and pigments that are used in textiles. Any one of those requires about eight to ten unit processes to turn it into a usable chemical for dyeing. There are about twelve different ways to get dyes into textiles. There's about twenty-nine different dye categories. Any one color that you see in a garment rarely is the result of one dye. And there's all types of finishes, both chemical and physical, that change the final properties of the dye.

     And that's just color. That's not talking about the categories of polymer….

Fiber specialist in Crime Scene by Connie Fletcher, 2006 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Who Shot Blake Wardell To Death And Why?

     Blake Randell Wardell resided in Honea Path, South Carolina, a town in the northeast part of the state. In the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 14, 2014, the 26-year-old Wardell, a man his age named Timothy Fisher, Taylor Ann Kelly, and eight or nine others, were hanging out at a house in Honea Path. (The reporting on this case has been so weak there is no information regarding who owns or lives in this house.)

     At 2:45 that morning, someone in the group (presumably) called 911 to report a shooting. Deputies with the Anderson County Sheriff's office, upon arrival at the house, found Wardell unresponsive and bleeding from the chest as he lay in a pool of blood on the garage floor. Paramedics arrived but were unable to revive Wardell who they pronounced dead at the scene.

     According to those questioned at the death site, Wardell had found, in the house, an old bullet-proof Kevlar flak-jacket. He put on the vest and asked someone to test it out by shooting him. (That is such a stupid thing to do, it's hard to believe.)

     Taylor Ann Kelly, a recent graduate of Belton-Honea Path High School, took responsibility for the shooting death. She told the police that she had fired the small-caliber bullet that passed through the lining on the edge of the bullet-proof vest into Wardell's heart. (This doesn't make any sense. I presume detectives questioned the others at the scene who confirmed that Kelly was the one who had fired the fatal bullet.)

     Officers took the 18-year-girl into custody and booked her into the Anderson County Detention Center on the charge of involuntary manslaughter.

     In South Carolina, as in most states, the homicide offense of involuntary manslaughter involves, as criminal intent, the reckless disregard for human life. The fact the victim in this case had supposedly consented to being recklessly shot, would not comprise a legal defense to this charge. According to the law, there are certain things people cannot legally consent to. Being shot is one of them. In this state, involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The judge set the 18-year-old suspect's bail at $10,000.

     On May 16, 2014, an Anderson County prosecutor reduced the charge against Taylor Kelly to accessory after the fact of a felony. According to investigators, she had lied to police officers about shooting the victim. She had apparently confessed to protect the real shooter in the case--25-year-old Timothy Fisher.

     The Anderson County prosecutor charged Fisher with involuntary manslaughter. Officers booked him into the county detention center. The authorities have not revealed exactly why the girl had lied for this man. Did she do it voluntarily? Are Kelly and Fisher in some kind of relationship? Does Fisher have a criminal record? What was his relationship to Blake Wardell? The police did say that neither alcohol nor drugs played a role in the shooting. (That's a surprise.)

     This is a case that calls for a careful and professional investigation to uncover possible motives for murder. The criminal investigation should also include a thorough forensic ballistics analysis which would include determining if the fatal bullet had actually passed through a bullet-proof vest. And finally, all witnesses to the shooting should be asked to take polygraph tests.


Criminal Justice Quote: What Men and Women Shoplift

For much of its six-century history, shoplifting--whether defined as disease or crime--was considered something women did. But since the 1980s, men have caught up. While men shoplift more, there are more female kleptomaniacs….In 2005, the Centre for Retail Research in the United Kingdom measured what men and women shoplift: Women steal cosmetics, clothes, jewelry, and perfume; men steal electronics, televisions, and hand-held power tools. Women shoplift from department and discount stores; men from home centers and hardware stores. Although 80 percent of all readers are women, the Centre discovered, most book shoplifters are men.

Rachel Shteir, The Steal, 2011

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


Criminal Justice Quote: The Locard Exchange Principle in Action

We had a guy in the lab at the FBI who'd always send his teenage daughter out on dates wearing a big fuzzy acrylic sweater. He knew the sweater would transfer like crazy, and if her date brought her home later with a bunch of sweater fibers on him, he and the date were going to have a serious talk.

Max Houck, former FBI trace analyst in Crime Scene by Connie Fletcher, 2006 

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: Legalese

     In 2001, the Economist magazine reported on a "worrying gap" between the language of the public and that of the legal profession. That gap grows wider every day, as legal English staunchly resists the changes rippling through everyday English. On the brighter side, this means that the law is less susceptible to silly fads…but it also means that the law is less and less accessible to each new generation.

     Legalese could even evolve into a foreign language in the not-too-distant future. Already, many linguists refer to the language of law as a "sublanguage," meaning that it's more than just a collection of jargon, but also has its own specialized rules of grammar and syntax [word order].

Adam Freedman, The Party of the First Part, 2007

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 

Hellementary Education Quote: Kids, Don't Take Grandma's Smack to School

     ….A Pennsylvania first-grader brought bags of heroin into school--giving some to at least one classmate before teachers caught him with a pocket full of drugs….Two days later, the boy's 56-year-old grandmother was arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of children and drug offenses for allegedly losing track of the heroin while babysitting….

     Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan expressed outrage over any child bringing a drug as potent as heroin into an elementary school. He also lashed out at the boy's school district for not doing more to inform parents as well as the authorities, including his office….

     According to a criminal complaint detailed by Hogan's office, Pauline Bilinski-Munion was babysitting her grandson and a 1-year-old baby on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at a residence in Modena, Pennsylvania. Bilinski-Munion had "brought heroin into the house and lost track of it," according to the district attorney's office, which referred to her as "a known heroin user."

     The next day, the 7-year-old brought several bags with him into Caln Elementary School. Teachers overheard the child talking about the bags, and later found nine bags of what proved to be heroin--with each bag stamped, "Victoria's Secret"--in the boy's pants pocket….The child initially claimed he found the heroin in the school yard, only to later admit he'd gotten them from home. The drugs were handed over to the Coatesville Area School District Police. 

     Another child's mother later claimed that she'd found an additional bag of heroin, with the same "Victoria's Secret" wording, on her 7-year-old as they were walking in a nearby mall….District Attorney Hogan faulted the school system for what he characterized as its "late and vague notification to parents about a dangerous and illegal substance," and failing to alert his office, which didn't start investigating until hearing about the story in the media on Saturday, May 7, 2014. 

     "The school district didn't call 911, didn't call the DA's office, did not freeze all the kids in one place, they did not call in emergency personnel to check all the kids to make sure they were OK," he told a local CNN affiliate.

     Following her arrest on Saturday, May 7, 2014, Bilinski-Munion was charged and held with bail set at $25,000….

Kevin Conlon and Greg Botelho, "DA: First-Grader Brings His Grandmother's Heroin to School," CNN, May 7, 2014 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: On the Stand: The Forensic Expert

     One of the dangers I see in forensic science is that people sometimes start to believe their own hype. [Dr. Henry Lee is a good example of this.] Because you go to court, you're recognized as an expert; detectives and prosecutors pick you out because you're in the know, so they come to you and they want to know what's really going on. It does start to work on you after a while. And you [the expert] have to be very careful because sometimes it's easy to start to fall into that slot where you start to believe that you're really as good as the defense attorney or prosecutor says you are.

     This can affect your testimony.... I think we all go through it a little bit, but you can learn to deal with it. You recognize that this is not a good place to be, and so you back off, and you go back to doing what you do, and that is science, real science.

     But sometimes experts, in an effort to be the hero, or in an effort to be recognized as the best, start to overemphasize things, or to over-testify, or even to lie.

Latent Fingerprint Specialist, in Connie Fletcher, Crime Scene, 2006

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

Writing Quote: Movies About Writers Are Not About Writing

      Early in "Limitless" (2011), moviegoers see Bradley Cooper leaning over a keyboard, hands pressed prayerfully to face, waiting in agony for the words. Salvation arrives in the form of a pill that allows Cooper's character, the writer Eddie Morra, to use 100 percent of his brain instead of just 20. The words start coming, clear and fast; indeed, Eddie becomes so lucid that he gives up authorship for day-trading.

     Because no one wants to watch somebody typing, Hollywood often makes movies about writers who stop writing. It's easier, and more entertaining, to show them being…destroyed by fame or drink or premature success….

     On film, authorship is mostly a matter of occupational hazard. Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" (1997) offers a…look at a novelist who writes from his own life, infuriating lovers and family members…."Wonder Boys"(2000), made from Michael Chabon's novel, combines New York trade publishing…with the provincial world of a M.F.A. [Masters of Fine Arts] workshops….

     The hard part is always trying to show writers doing what they actually do. The Michael Douglas character occasionally sits at his Selectric wearing a woman's bathrobe, like a pitcher's lucky underwear, trying to summon more phrases for his already overlong, inert manuscript….

     Martin Amis once observed that "a writer is, on the whole, most alive when alone." That's when he gets "on with the business of imagining other people." And that's why movies do a much better job of admiring authorship rather than conveying it….

Thomas Mallon, "Why Is It So Hard to Capture the Writer on Film?" The New York Times Book Review, May 4, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Can You Sue a Police Dog?

     At 2:30 AM on March 22, 1997, a convicted felon named Anthony Dye was racing his Corvette through the streets of Elkhart, Indiana. The police were in hot pursuit. Dye pulled into his mother's driveway, got out of the car, and made a run for it. When the police caught up with him, Dye took a semiautomatic pistol from his waistband and opened fire. At that critical moment, a valiant police dog named Frei leapt into action, fastening onto Dye's leg, and, as it were, took a bite out of crime. Dye was arrested.

     Having been injured in the course of his arrest, Dye did what any red-blooded American would do. He brought a lawsuit--against Frei the police dog. [If Dye had a lawyer, that ambulance chaser should have been disbarred for filing such an action.] Dye argued that dogs are "persons" who can be sued, at least when they work for the police. Dye fought his way to the second highest court in the land, the United States Court of Appeals, which dismissed his claim.

     Dye's theory that a dog is a person [under the law] is not as far-fetched as you might think. In fact, he wasn't even the first person to sue a police dog. And some very respectable lawyers have argued that the legal definition of a person ought to be expanded, at least to include other primates. Laurence Tribe, Harvard's leading constitutional scholar, has maintained for years that chimpanzees should be considered persons under the constitution. [Does that mean they can't be illegally searched, or caged without a trial? Good heavens.]

Adam Freedman, The Party of the First Part, 2007

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 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Power of DNA

     Scientists first identified DNA in 1944. Much more recently, early in the twenty-first century, scientists successfully mapped the entire human genome, the sequence of genes on each DNA strand. DNA is found in skin cells, hair, blood, semen, saliva, even teeth and bone, and analysis of it is carried out by using a computer to compare and attempt to match two samples.

     We shed old skin cells and hair constantly, which is why DNA is so often found at the scene of a crime, and DNA samples can be obtained by swabbing inside the cheek or from an unwitting suspect's cigarette butt, coffee cup, or toothbrush.

     Only identical twins and clones have identical DNA. For anyone not a twin, finding a match between one's DNA and a specimen found at a crime site is as close as one can get to proof that the person was involved in the crime. [More accurately, it's concrete proof the DNA donor was there.] It's still circumstantial evidence, but juries tend to find it sufficient to convict a defendant. In the last few years, hundreds of convicted but innocent felons have been pardoned on the strength of DNA analysis.

Robert Mann, Ph.D. and Miryam Ehrlich Williamson, Forensic Detective, 2004 

Writing Quote: The Allure of Evil Characters

     It's a daring thing [for a "literary" novelist] to write about an evil person, especially in this day of autobiographical fiction, when readers assume most characters are thinly veiled self-portraits. And yet evil characters are usually dynamic and fascinating, upstaging all the goodie-goodies. [Crime novels are popular because the good guy is after the bad guy. Moreover, evil characters is one of the reasons behind the popularity of the true crime genre. For me, real villains are even more fascinating than fictitious ones.]

     Despite the allure of such characters, writers today usually avoid them, maybe because the whole category of Evil seems too theological or because modern psychology assumes that every bad act can be traced to childhood neglect or abuse and thus be explained away. [Novelists should familiarize themselves with the concept of sociopathy. Besides, who cares if a serial killer had a bad childhood?]

Edmund White, "Divine Decadence," The New York Times Book Review, April 30, 2014 (Review of Lovers at the Chameleon by Francine Prose)


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Whackademia Quote: How Sex With Your Teacher Can Improve Your Grammar

     Hey kids! You want great grades, right? Well, a high school student in rural Oklahoma has figured out a surefire way to make it happen: just have sex with your English teacher. First-year English teacher Kalyn Thompson has been charged with second-degree rape for allegedly having a series of sexual escapades with one of her male students….

     Police say the Kellyville High School teacher gave the unidentified student a stellar 98-percent, straight A grade after their relationship took off. He had been flunking English just the semester before. The teenager was 18 at the time of the hanky-panky. Investigators know of at least two sexual encounters between the young lovers--one beside a lake and the other at the Renaissance Hotel in Tulsa… [An excellent hotel name for a young lad's sexual enlightenment.]

     The age of sexual consent in Oklahoma is 16. However, a separate state law forbids teachers from having sex with current or former students until the students have reached the ripe, old age of 21….As all teacher-sex relationships start these days, this one allegedly began through flirtatious text messages. The student was 17 at the time….

     A couple of Kellyville students saw Thompson siting in the student's truck around town. They snapped photos and took the images to school officers, who contacted the police. Thompson turned herself in to the authorities on Monday morning, May 12, 2014. She was released on bond….

Eric Owens, "Cops Say Rural Oklahoma Teacher Gave Flunking Student 98 Percent After Having Sex With Him," The Daily Caller, May 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 this year by the state of Texas. 

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

The Humiliation of a Working-Class Student in a Prestigious College or University

     Authors Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton, along with a team of researchers helping them produce a book that came out in 2014 called Paying For The Party: How College Maintains Inequality, embedded themselves in a freshman dormitory at an unnamed high-profile midwestern state school. The authors and their researchers kept up with a group of female students through college.

     While according to the conventional wisdom that higher education is a form of upward mobility that is an economic and social equalizer, the authors of this book found otherwise. They believe that a college education from a prestigious, expensive school rewards upper-middle class and rich students while treating their working-class counterparts more cruelly, often leaving these students isolated and adrift.

     The inequality manifests itself in the campus party/sorority scene referred to by the authors as the "Party Pathway" through the university experience. Many kids from well-to-do families select a college or university because of its rich party/social environment. (So, when a university is labeled "a party school," that's good for recruiters.)

     Rich kids, while not necessarily academically prepared for college, get accepted into these expensive schools because the institutions need their parents' money. Many of these less than academically gifted students navigate the university experience by taking bonehead majors like speech communication, criminal justice, elementary education, broadcasting, and women's studies. They don't learn anything useful, but they get their degrees, have a good time, and establish important social relationships. Because their families have connections, they also acquire good jobs.

     The poorer, more academically prepared students struggle to afford sorority fees, clothing costs, spring break trips, and bar tabs. These students are referred to by the rich kids as "wannabes." Students who can't keep up socially end up humiliated and unhappy. According to the authors of Paying For The Party, the most successful working-class students end up transferring to less prestigious, expensive institutions where they are happier and get a better education.


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,", 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 

Writing Quote: Journalists as Privacy Invaders

     Securing a subject's permission and cooperation, if that subject isn't a public figure, is one of the trickiest things I have to do as a nonfiction writer. It is a matter of both law and ethics. I try to make sure that private individuals understand what I'm doing, and I try to give them some sense of what the consequences might be. It's a sort of Miranda warning: Anything you say may be used against you in my book….

     These days, publishers often require authors to get signed releases from their subjects. Lawyers tell me these sorts of releases are of limited use in cases of invasion of privacy, a very vague area of the law, and of even less use in libel cases. The releases generally say something like this: I can write anything I want to about you. I can steal your good name. And I'll give you a free copy of the book in which I do these things. From what I understand, most courts don't think that's a valid contract. For those reasons I've stopped getting releases from the people who appear in my books. Nonetheless, releases can be a tool to help subjects truly consider what they are doing.

Tracy Kidder, "Security Consent," in Telling True Stores, Mark Kramer and Wendy Call, Editors, 2007

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

Criminal Justice Quote: The Presumption of Guilt

     Anastasio Prieto was driving his truck toward home along US Route 54, just north of El Paso, Texas on a late night in August 2007. While enjoying the beautiful countryside passing him by, he noticed a weigh station and pulled over to have his truck inspected. A state trooper approached him and asked whether he could search Anastasio's truck for contraband. Not protective of his own privacy, Anastasio said, "Of course," knowing  that no contraband would be found. During his conversation, Anastasio did mention that he happened to be carrying $23,700, his life savings, used to pay bills and maintain the truck, which he carried with him because he did not trust banks. What he did not realize was that his opinion of banks would be his undoing.

     The money was confiscated, and Anastasio was detained, photographed, and fingerprinted while canine dogs sniffed his truck. The state police, who believed that Anastasio must be guilty of something, turned the cash they seized from him over to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Though no evidence of illegal substances was found, the DEA explained to Anastasio that they would be keeping the money, and that in thirty days he would receive notice of federal proceedings to forfeit the money permanently to the government. Anastasio was told that if he wanted to get the money back, he would have to petition a court and prove that the money was legally obtained by him and not the product of criminal conduct.

     That's right; even though not a single shred of evidence of any illegal activity was found in his truck, Anastasio was considered guilty and would have to prove his innocence. Thankfully, the ACLU stepped in and sued the DEA on behalf of Anastasio. With the lawsuit looming, and fearing a more public revelation of its Gestapo tactics at a trial, the DEA returned the money months later.

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, Lies the Government Tells You, 2010

Writing Quote: The Long, Slow Death of the Literary Novel

     The novel has always had enemies, but they have not always been the same enemies. Its earliest enemies condemned the novel as a frivolous waste of time….Scorn for the triviality of the novel persisted among many American people throughout the nineteenth century. And it still persists in some quarters: not long ago [1955] an advertisement for the Reporter boasted that the readers of that magazine, among many other virtues, "prefer non-fiction over fiction by a 10 to 1 vote."

     Of course, most novels published in the nineteenth century were, and most novels published today [1957] are, a waste of time, but now no moderately well informed person damns the novel on that account. Those who insist that the novel is dead are most emphatic in proclaiming the greatness of novels written in the good days before the fatal seizure. The talk about the death of the novel is, if one chooses to look at it that way, proof that at least the novel is taken seriously. [Today, except in academic literary circles, the "serious" novel is not taken very seriously. Genre fiction and nonfiction have taken over. And that is good news.]

Granville Hicks, "The Enemies of the Novel," in The Living Novel, Granville Hicks, Editor, 1957


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

Nickie Circelli and Gary Crockett: Drug-Ruined Lives, A Senseless Murder, And a Double Suicide

     Nickie Ann Circelli and her husband Sal were divorced in 2010. Due to years of drug abuse, the 36-year-old lifelong resident of Suffern, New York, lost custody of her four children. That year, police in the town of 12,000 in the foothills of Ramapo Mountains, arrested Nickie and a man named Michael Chase in connection with the theft of $4,800 worth of power tools from trucks in a Home Depot parking lot. She pleaded guilty and spent a few months in jail.

     Nickie Circelli, a former employee of a local insurance company, moved in with her mother when she got out of jail.  But when her mother died in 2013, Nickie took up residence with her 70-year-old uncle, William Valenti. Mr. Valenti owned a house in Suffern.

     Another local drug addict, 40-year-old Gary Crockett, had also moved in to "Uncle Bill's" house. For 19 years, Gary had worked at the Mahwah Warehouse and Delivery Company in Mahwah, New Jersey. But a year earlier he quit his job after having an argument with the co-owner. Crockett didn't like being criticized for "moving too slowly." At the time, Crockett was living downtown in a apartment above the Suffern Furniture Gallery.

     Circelli and Crockett, while residing under Mr. Valenti's roof, had been passing forged checks to withdraw small sums of money from his bank account. Mr. Valenti gave the couple a deadline to pay back the $1,500 they had stolen. If they didn't return his money, he threatened to report them to the police.

     On Monday morning, April 28, 2014, during an argument over the stolen money, Crockett murdered William Valenti. (The Rockland County Medical Examiner determined that the victim had died of suffocation. His body was discovered in his bed.)

     Following the murder, the couple took dead man's Chevrolet Malibu and drove it to the Bronx, New York. They parked the vehicle and walked to the George Washington Bridge. Just before noon, about half way across the span, Circelli and Crockett jumped to their deaths.

     At the Suffern murder scene, investigators found two suicide notes signed by Circelli under her maiden name, Hunt. In the note addressed to her family, Circelli wrote: "To the four most amazing kids who the world has ever seen and ever will. I beg you to remember the Nickie that I used to be, before I was introduced to heroin."

     The second suicide note read: "I know that I'm taking the cowardly way out. I just don't want to hurt people anymore. Anything that goes into the paper, please make sure my last name is Hunt; I don't want to hurt my kids anymore than I already have." 

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?