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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writing Quote: What is Setting?

Many novelists avoid laying out the setting because they fear boring their readers, but the lack of vivid setting may in turn cause boredom. Without a strong sense of place, it's hard to achieve suspense and excitement--which depend on the reader's sensation of being right there, where the action takes place. When descriptions of places drag, the problem usually lies not in the setting, but in presenting the setting too slowly. Make your descriptions dynamic and quick; give bits of setting concurrently with character and action.

Josip Novakovich, Fiction Writer's Workshop, 1995

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Shawn Ryan Thomas: The Would-Be Rapist Killer

     On June 12, 2014, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Officers arrested 29-year-old Shawn Ryan Thomas on charges of premeditated attempted homicide, attempted sexual assault, and ten counts of possession of child pornography. According to a confidential informant, Thomas planned to lure two parents and a juvenile female to a vacant house in Orlando under the charade of producing a television show. Investigators believed that Thomas intended to murder the parents with a knife then rape and kill the girl. He also planned to film the rape for a DVD he could sell.

     Police officers reported that Thomas lured a father, grandfather and child to a vacant house on June 7, 2014 but the family became suspicious and left.

     At the time of his arrest, Thomas possessed a bag containing a knife, sexual lubricant, a camera and tripod, and plastic sheets. The judge denied Thomas bail.

     

Writing Quote: Horror Fiction: When to Introduce Your Monster

     In a story or novel, when should your monster be introduced? Should you have him, her, or it attack your  protagonist in the beginning, perhaps on the opening page?

     There is no set rule as to how soon you should bring your monster center-stage front, but in nearly all of the best horror fiction, an aura of menace and potential danger is established right away; the monster is not introduced until much later, allowing you to provide tension and suspense for your readers as they nervously await meeting your menace at full force. The actions of the monster can and should be dramatized early; a murder, or a scene during which the effect of the monster is shown without a full revelation of the creature itself.

William F. Nolan, How to Writ e Horror Fiction, 1990

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Football Player Cold-Cocked His Girlfriend and Got Away With It

     In 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice lived in Reistertown, Maryland with his fiancee, Janay Palmer. At three in the morning on Saturday, February 15, 2014, while Rice and Palmer were staying at the Revel Casino-Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, he punched her unconscious in a hotel elevator.

     According to the police report, in the midst of an argument, Palmer slapped the football player in the face. He responded with a punch that knocked her out. When she came to on the carpet near the elevator door, she refused to receive medical attention. She and Rice checked out of the hotel and went home.

     Jim McClain, an Atlantic County prosecutor, decided not to charge the 27-year-old Rice with assault.

     On February 19, 2014, TMZ Sports aired a videotape that showed Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of the elevator. She was seen lying facedown on the hotel floor.

     Officials with the National Football League (NFL) reviewed the incident pursuant to the league's personal conduct policy. Under that clause, the NFL had the authority to suspend Rice for the season or banishing him from the league. On July 24, 2014, Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the three-time Pro Bowler from playing in the first two games of the upcoming season.

     Reporters covering the case for ESPN, USA Today, and other media outlets criticized Goodell and the NFL for not taking domestic abuse in the league seriously.

     After being knocked cold in the hotel elevator, Janay Palmer married the man who dropped her to the floor with one punch.  

Criminal Justice Quote: Hit And Run Murders in Philadelphia

     Three children helping their mother operate a fruit stand were killed on Friday, July 25, 2014 when a stolen SUV plowed into a small crowd on a Philadelphia street corner. Killed were 10-year-old Tomas Reed, 7-year-old Terrence Moore and 15-year-old Keiearra Williams. Their mother, 34-year-old  Keisha Williams remained in critical condition at Temple University Hospital…

     Two men, one black, one Hispanic, carjacked a real estate agent showing a house. They pushed the victim into the backseat of her Toyota SUV. The men drove around Philadelphia at high speeds while holding the real estate agent at gunpoint…When the SUV rounded a corner it slammed into the family raising money for their church. Another person at the fruit stand was injured by the carjacked vehicle.  Shortly thereafter the stolen car crashed in a wooded area. The two carjackers fled the scene and have not been apprehended.

"Carjackers Run Over, Kill 3 Siblings in Philadelphia," CNN, July 26, 2014


      

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Writing Quote: The Book Tour

You're lucky to go on tour. You're lucky to meet readers who prize your work and who seem as though they might be honored to meet you. You're lucky to eat the pretzels in the minibar. You're lucky to see cities you have never seen. These things are indisputable. Anyone will tell you.

Rick Moody in Mortification, Robin Robertson, editor, 2004 

Spider-Man Punched NYC Cop

     Junior Bishop, dressed as Spider-Man, told a woman who took his photograph on July 27, 2014 in Times Square that he only accepted $5, $10 or $20 bills. As the two argued, a New York City Police officer intervened. The 25-year-old Spider-Man impersonator cursed at the police officer then punched the cop when the officer tried to take him into custody. This was, of course, very unSpider-Man-like conduct. 

     After assaulting the police officer, Spider-Man fled the scene on foot. Had he been the real thing, his escape would have been more dramatic, and successful. A group of police officers, a few blocks away, took Bishop into custody.

     A Manhattan prosecutor charged Bishop with assault, resisting arrest, criminal mischief, and disorderly conduct. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Writing Quote: Flawed Characters

I'm fascinated by characters who are completely flawed personalities, driven by anguish and doubt, and are psychologically suspect. Wait a minute--basically that's everybody, isn't it, in life and on the page? As a writer, I'm drawn to characters who, for one reason or another, seem to find themselves desperately out of joint, alienated but not wanting to be, and ever yearning to understand the rules of the game.

Chang-rae Lee, The New York Times Book Review, January 26, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: The SWAT War on Family Dogs Continues

     Instead of leaving with drugs and weapons they were sent to find, a Minnesota SWAT team executing a no-knock drug raid left with the bodies of a family's two dead dogs. "The first thing I heard was "boom," Larry Lee Arman told a reporter in recalling the raid in St. Paul at seven in the morning, July 9, 2014…

     Armed with a warrant for drugs and weapons, the SWAT unit barged into the house while Arman slept on a mattress with his two children. The officers shot Mello and Laylo, the family's two pit bulls. "One was running for her life, and they murdered her right here," Arman said. His sneakers were still stained with his dogs' blood. "I was laying right here and I thought I was being murdered."

     Camille Perry, Arman's girlfriend and the mother of the two children, was in the bathroom when the SWAT team broke down the front door. She expressed anger that the children could have been injured.  "The only thing I was thinking was my kids were going to get hit by bullets," she said…

     After the shooting and a search of the house, the SWAT unit failed to find any weapons. They recovered marijuana residue, some clothing, and a bong…Neighbors were not pleased by the incident. "All of a sudden, we see the dogs thrown out like pieces of meat, like they were nothing," said a neighbor. "We teared up because those dogs were real good dogs."

Chuck Ross, "SWAT Unit Kills Two Dogs," The Daily Caller, July 9, 2014 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Prison Violence in Georgia

     Thirty-three prisoners and one officer have been killed in Georgia since 2010, according to a report released on July 2, 2014 by the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta…"People are supposed to be running our prisons have lost control," said Sarah Geraghty, senior attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights. "It appears they either cannot or will not  take appropriate steps to address the level of violence."…

     In January 2014, a prisoner at Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls, Georgia, suffered third-degree burns after another inmate poured boiling water on his face and genitals. The attacker also poured bleach into the victim's eyes. In February 2014, a prisoner had three fingers severed by a man with a 19-inch knife. The assault occurred at the Wilcox State Prison in Abbeville, Georgia. And in June 2014, an inmate at Augusta State Medical Prison in  Grovetown, Georgia died after being stabbed…

     The report highlighted three Georgia prisons as particularly dangerous: Baldwin State Prison, Hays State Prison and Smith State Prison. Twenty-one percent of the 33 homicides of Georgia prisoners since 2010 took place at Smith State Prison located in  Glennville, Georgia…

Dana Ford, "Scathing Report Shines Spotlight on Violent Attacks in Georgia Prisons," CNN, July 2, 2014 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Teens Murder Homeless Men

     In July 2014, Albuquerque police were investigating whether three teenagers suspected of beating two homeless men to death with cinderblocks, bricks and a metal fence pole were responsible for dozens of other attacks on transients during the past few months. Alex Rios, 18, and two boys, ages 16 and 15, were held in Bernalillo County detention facilities a day after allegedly killing two sleeping men in a open field in an attack so violent it left the victims unrecognizable…A third man said he was able to escape.

     The teens said they wanted to look for someone to beat up and possibly rob. One teen told the authorities the other was "very angry" over a breakup with his longtime girlfriend. [Longtime?] A criminal complaint said one of the teens told police they had attacked more than 50 people in recent months…

     Officers responded Saturday, July 19, 2014 around eight in the morning to a 911 call reporting two bodies in a field. Officers found one victim lying on a mattress and another on the ground. Jerome Eskeets, a third victim, who said he was able to flee, was hospitalized for his injuries.

     Eskeets told police that he recognized one of the "kids" hitting and kicking him as someone who lived in a house nearby. Police found the trio of suspects in that house. The homeowner said the 15 and 16-year-old were his sons and Rios was a friend who had spent the night…

     A local prosecutor charged Rios with two counts of murder. The younger boys will be charged with murder as adults…Rios told investigators he acted as a lookout while the other boys attacked both men with bricks, sticks, and a mental fence pole. The younger suspects, however, told police that Rios also took part in the attacks. All three had covered their faces with black T-shirts before approaching the victims. According to the 15-year-old, they all took turns picking up cinderblocks and repeatedly smashing them into the men's faces.

     The suspects said that after the attacks, they took one of the victim's driver's license and debit card. Police found the driver's license in the teen's home…

"Police: Teens in Homeless Beating Deaths May Have Attacked 50 Others in Recent Months," Associated Press, July 21, 2014  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Father Beats Up His Son's Abuser

     In Daytona Beach, Florida, a father punched and kicked an 18-year-old man unconscious after finding him sexually abusing his 11-year-old son early Friday, July 18, 2014. The father called 911 at one in the morning after he walked in on the abuse. When the officers arrived, they found Raymond Frolander motionless on the living room floor. He had several knots on his face and was bleeding from the mouth.

     "He is nice and knocked out on the floor for you," the father told the 911 dispatcher. "I drug him out  to the living room."… When asked if any weapons were in involved, the father said, "my foot and my fist."

     Daytona Beach Chief of Police Mike Chitwood, in speaking to reporters said, "Dad was acting like a dad. I don't see anything we should charge him with. You have an 18-year-old who had clearly picked his target, groomed his target and had sex with the victim multiple times."

     Frolander was charged with sexual battery on a child under 12. He was being held without bail. According to the arrest affidavit, Frolander admitted the abuse.

Associated Press, July 21, 2014


Writing Quote: Promoting One's Book

     Authors have to promote their books, and they have to be flashy about it. Especially these days. You can't imagine anything less frivolous, and more painted in grim necessity, than an average mid-list bookstore signing in 2014. The audience is hushed and minuscule, the shattered-looking author can't believe he's there--the whole thing has the last-ditch solemnity of a persecuted religious rite. Oh sure, there have been good reviews; there have been polite acclaim. Fellow authors have kicked in with the blurbs and the boosts. A prize might have been won. But as regards this book, and this writer, the great sleep of the culture is unbroken

     So: You find new formats, new ways to perforate the oblivious disregard in which America holds you, the dark night of your unfamousness. The problem of course is that it's all so, you know, unliterary. Anti-literary, really. In the promotional moment, what has hitherto been an inward enterprise (the writing of the book) is turned outward overnight; the author is all of a sudden on display.

James Parker, The New York Times Book Review, May 25, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Silicon Valley Sex Trade

     The arrest in July 2014 of alleged prostitute Alix Tichelman in connection with the death of Google executive Forrest Timothy Hayes has prostitutes worried about the impact on business [The authorities in Santa Cruz, California charged Tichelman with manslaughter in connection with Hayes' heroin overdose death on his luxury boat in November 2013.] "I do worry that people are going to think that this is something that's normal and happens, but it really doesn't," said Maxine Holloway, a high-end prostitute working in Silicon Valley. Other sex workers expressed worry as well--though none said they had experienced cancellations...

     A second issue affecting business was the shut down of MyRedbook, a website that allowed escorts to advertise their services and negotiate with clients. Women in the industry relied heavily on MyRedbook to do background checks on their clients. Sex workers would post about instances of violence or  circumstances in which they felt unsafe. Without MrRedbook, prostitutes were having a difficult time vetting their clients…

     Male clients also used the site to review and discuss their experiences…Call girls say that the further underground sex work goes, the more dangerous it is for everyone involved…

     Another prostitute said she has a roster of regular clients from major tech companies. She is a high-end prostitute and estimates she's made nearly $ million over the ten years she's been working in the area. She says that her clients [I guess they don't call them Johns in the high-end prostitution prostitution  business.] are increasingly worried about their own security, which is one of the reasons they come back to her. They know what they are getting.

Laurie Segall and Erica Fink, "Sex Valley: Tech's Booming Prostitution Trade," CNN, July 11, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Federal Judge Kills California's Death Penalty

     Since 1979, 900 inmates in California have been sentenced to death. But only thirteen have been executed. One of those unexecuted death row prisoners, Ernest Dewayne Jones, murdered and raped his girlfriend's mother in 1993. In 2011, Jones filed a petition with the federal court for the abolishment of the death penalty in the state. The lawyers filing the motion petitioned the judge to replace executions with life without parole sentences.

     In 2006, another federal judge in California placed the state's death penalty on hold until corrections officials overhauled their lethal injections procedures and protocol. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in an effort to comply with this judge's mandate, built a new execution chamber on the grounds of San Quentin in northern California.

     On July 16, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney declared California's death penalty unconstitutional. The judge wrote that "arbitrary factors" such as the manner in which corrections bureaucrats determined who would be executed and who wouldn't, made the process unfair and unpredictable. Moreover, the state's lethal injection procedures, according to the judge, created a risk an inmate might suffer pain during the execution.

     In concluding that California's execution law and procedures violated the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment, Judge Carney wrote: "As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they have languished so long on death row that their executions serve no retributive or deterrent purpose." [No retributive purpose? Tell that the the families of the people these cold-blooded killers had murdered without regard for the pain and suffering of their victims.]

     Since most of California's death row inmates die of old age before their dates with the executioner, the federal judge's ruling will have little practical affect on the state's criminal justice system.

     The improvement of the state's execution facility in response to the 2006 federal ruling turned out to be another example of California tax money poured down the drain. 

Writing Quote: Is Promoting Your Book an Exercise in Futility?

     Writers are prone to take themselves very seriously, which is fine, except it also means they sometimes find the self-promotional aspects of their craft distasteful, if not downright excruciating. Writing is about the journey, not the destination, right? And book selling is such an inexact science, it would be near impossible to prove that more publicity necessarily translates into more sales.

     Except it often does. Sure, there are veteran authors who have to do nothing than hit "send" on a manuscript before the Time magazine cover gets scheduled and the royalty checks start pouring in; others, thanks to whatever particular combination of timing and talent, seem to skyrocket into the public consciousness out of nowhere. But they are the exception, not the rule

     Then there are the rest of us. As the editor of two well-publiczed but by no means best-selling books, it would make sense for me to deem aspects of book promotion frivolous--sales of my first book were proof that multiple appearances on high-profile public radio and morning news shows don't always move the needle--but I do believe promotion is a necessary, if often exhausting endeavor.

     [Hillary Clinton's dishonest and boring memoir, Hard Choices, 2014, provides a excellent example of a book failing despite an extreme amount of publicity. In the end, all the promotion in the world won't help a truly dreadful book.]

Anna Holmes, The New York Times Review of Books, May 25, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Writing Quote: You Want to be a Writer?

You can't envy writers who were persecuted, imprisoned or put to death for their writing. You can't envy writers whose greatness went unacknowledged in their lifetimes. The careers of alcoholic writers and writers who ended up committing suicide are also hard to covet in any wholehearted way. Even the steadiest-seeming, most successful writers tend, on close examination, to have suffered significant and distinctly unenviable episodes of professional misery at some point in their careers. Self-doubt and self-loathing are occupational hazards of a writing life, and no writer--with the exception of the awesomely sanguine John Updike--ever escapes them altogether.

Zoe Heller, The New York Times Book Review, June 8, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Writing Quote: The Impostor Syndrome

Feeling like a fraud or con artist can be a hazard of the writing profession; there's a fine line, Balzac wrote, between the artist and the criminal.

Adam Langer, The New York Times Book Review, January 19, 2014

Writing Quote: The Shared Interests of Truman Capote and John O'Hara

It would be hard to think of two novelists less alike--stylistically and, for that matter, personally--than Truman Capote and John O'Hara, yet they shared many preoccupations. Both were fascinated by society high and low, by how people climbed or toppled from one rank to the other, and by how sex and money underpinned the entire system.

Charles McGrath, The New York Times Book Review, May 18, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Power of Journalism

News carries with it a promise of transparency, a light that can be shined into previously dark corners. It is far from a coincidence that the rise of the popular press spelled eventual doom for monarchs of all types. Once the news becomes democratized, governance is sure to follow. [It's no secret that in America, modern bureaucrats and politicians loath the idea of a free press and free speech. Those in power do not like transparency. Government is all about dark corners, and secrets. Some in America believe that members of the so-called mainstream media are nothing more than propagandists for people in power. Instead of journalistic watchdogs they have become establishment lapdogs.]

David Carr, The New York Times Book Review, June 8, 2014 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Serial Rapist on the Loose in Tulsa

     He breaks into homes from the back, either through a window or door. He tends to be covered, and attacks when it's dark. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma know that much about the man they say could be behind a string of recent sexual assaults…They have no name and no photograph of the rapist. Victims have provided diverse descriptions of the rapist, ranging from a light-skinned black or Hispanic man to a tan white man…

     According to police, there have been eight connected cases of sexual assault in the city in June 2014. Investigators have linked these cases because of specific actions and statements the rapist made during the attacks. The victims were between 56 to 78-years-old. One of the victims was 29…

Dana Ford, "Facts are Short, Fear is Long in Tulsa as Cops Search for Serial Sex Attacker," CNN, July 1, 2014

Setting the Mood

     The beginning mood in a piece of writing could be compared with the background music you hear at the start of a movie. That music--whether ominous, offbeat, or cheerful--gives you a pretty accurate idea of what kind of movie you'll be watching.

     Many books begin with a description of a place that sets the mood for what is to follow. A lead like this can be a sly way of introducing one of the themes in a book. [Truman Capote opens In Cold Blood by describing rural Kansas, the site of the Clutter family murders.]

Ralph Fletcher, Live Writing, 1999

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: What Kind of Community Pays Tribute to a Cop Killer?

     The "cop killer memorial" that disgusted the nation has been torn down. The candles lit to memorialize Lawrence Campbell, the accused killer of officer Melvin Santiago, as well as the empty bottles of liquor, the balloons, and the t-shirts inscribed with messages of love to Campbell, are gone…
   
    The shrine went up on Sunday, July 13 in Jersey City, New Jersey at Orient Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive. It appeared on the side of a red brick building that houses a mini-mart, a bar and residential housing. Lawrence Campbell ambushed the police officer that morning at the Walgreens drug store killing Santiago before officers shot him dead. Campbell lived in the neighborhood.

     News of the shrine caused a furor when The New Jersey Journal first reported it…Mayor Steve Fulop called the memorial "disgusting."…In a statement released by his spokeswoman, Mayor Fulop took credit for having the memorial torn down…"I am not going to let a few residents pretend like they express the views of a great city like Jersey city," he said.

     But residents who live near the shrine defended it. "There's two lives lost," said one man inside the Columbia Tavern. Another said it "bothered" him that the police took away the shrine. "Even though it was the wrong thing to do, there were two lives lost," he said.

"Jersey City Tears Down 'Cop Killer' Shrine," Associated Press, July 15, 2014

Writing Quote: Writing in the Active Voice

     Verbs come in two types, active and passive. With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something. With a passive verb, something is being done to the subject of the sentence. The subject is just letting it happen. You should avoid the passive tense

     The timid fellow writes, "The meeting will be held at seven o'clock" because that somehow says to him, "Put it this way and people will believe you really know." Purge this thought! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put the meeting in charge! Write, "The meeting's at seven." There, by God! Don't you feel better?

     I won't say there's no place for the passive tense. Suppose, for instance, a fellow dies in the kitchen but ends up somewhere else. The body was carried from the kitchen and placed on the parlor sofa is a fair way to put this, although "was carried" and "was placed" still irk me. I accept them but I don't embrace them. What I would embrace is, "Freddy and Myra carried the body out of the kitchen and laid it on the parlor sofa." Why does the body have to be the subject of the sentence, anyway? It's dead…

Stephen King, On Writing, 2000

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Writing Quote: Movies, TV, and the Novel

     Movies have always seemed to me a much tighter form of storytelling than novels, requiring greater compression, and in that sense falling somewhere between the short story and the novel in scale. To watch a feature film is to be immersed in its world for an hour and a half, or maybe two, or exceptionally three. A novel that takes only three hours to read would be a short novel indeed, and novels that last five times as long are commonplace.

     Television is more capacious. Episode after episode, and season after season, a serial drama can uncoil for dozens of hours before reaching its end. Along the way, its characters and plot have room to develop, to change course, to congeal. In its near limitlessness, TV rivals the novel…

Mohsin Hamid, The New York Times Book Review, March 2, 2014

Writing Quote: Book Clubs

I love book clubs. I love reading for them, I love talking to them, and if I had my choice I'd probably do nothing but visit them to promote my books. Where else do you find people who have already made a commitment to read your book, and to read it closely enough to discuss it in a knowledgeable fashion with their friends? The best insights I've ever been offered about my work have come from book club members. In a world full of readings attended by the inevitable, random 5 to10 bookstore browsers and 20-year-old assistant night managers who consistently mangle the title of your book, book clubs are an oasis of intelligent thought and discussion.

Kevin Baker, The New York Times Book Review, January 12, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Deputy Kills 13-Year-Old Boy Carrying Replica AK-47

     On the afternoon of Tuesday, October 22, 2013, in Santa Rosa, a city of 170,000 in California's wine country fifty miles northwest of San Francisco, 13-year-old Andy Lopez walked to his friend's house. The popular boy, dressed in a blue hooded sweatshirt, carried a brown plastic pellet gun with a black banana magazine that looked like an AK-47 assault rifle. The replica weapon did not come equipped with the required orange-tipped barrel. Tucked into his waistband, the boy also carried a toy handgun that did feature the orange tip.

    At three in the afternoon that day, two Sonoma County sheriff's deputies in a marked patrol car spotted Andy Lopez walking in the field not far from his house. The officer behind the wheel, a sheriff's office trainee, pulled the cruiser to the curb, turned on the emergency lights, and chirped the siren. The other officer, deputy Erick Gelhaus, radioed in a suspicious person report.

     Positioned behind an open car door, deputy Gelhaus shouted to the boy faced away from him. Twice the officer yelled, "Drop the gun!" As the Andy Lopez turned, the barrel of his pellet gun rose up. That's when Gelhaus, a 24-year veteran of the force who had served with the Army in Iraq, fired eight shots. Seven of the bullets entered the boy who died on the spot.

     The shooting occurred just ten seconds after officer Gelhaus called in the suspicious person report. Sixteen seconds after the boy went down the trainee called for medical assistance.

     The next day, a hundred or so people marched on city hall in protest of the shooting of "an innocent boy."

     Across the country, over the past few years, more than a dozen people armed with BB, pellet, and replica guns have been shot by the police. In a few places realistic toy guns have been banned by law. In several jurisdictions laws of this nature is moving though the legislative pipeline.

     On Friday, October 25, 2013, the sheriff of Sonoma County announced that his office would probe  the shooting. The county district attorney said her office had opened an investigation of the incident. In the meantime, the sheriff placed the the two deputies on paid administrative leave. Deputy Gelhaus, a certified training officer, had been mentoring the other officer in the car.

     On October 30, 2013, Santa Rosa resident Jeffrey Westbrook told a local television correspondent that on August 21, at eight-thirty in the morning, deputy Gelhaus had stopped him on Highway 101 for failing to use his blinker. Westbrook pulled his black BMW onto a narrow shoulder above a steep hillside. As the deputy approached the car, Westbrook moved the vehicle toward a wider spot on the shoulder. Officer Gelhaus yelled, "Turn off the car!" then pulled his gun and pointed it the weapon Westbrook.
.
     Deputy Gelhaus, his gun still aimed at Westbrook, ordered the motorist out of the vehicle. The deputy asked the motorist if he possessed a weapon. Westbrook did not have a gun in the car. Deputy Gelhaus did not issue a ticket to the upset motorist. Mr. Westbook said he intended to file a formal complaint against the deputy.

     In defending the officer, a sheriff's office spokesperson pointed out that Westbrook's car matched the description of a vehicle that was on the "be on the lookout" sheet.

     In July 2014, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced that her officer would not file criminal charges against Deputy Gelhaus in connection with the Lopez shooting. A member of the community protesting this decision, in speaking to a local newspaper reporter, said, "The district attorney is giving permission to the deputies to kill our children. They get a paid vacation and there are no repercussions."  

Criminal Justice Quote: Target Shoppers: Leave Your Guns at Home

     Target is "respectfully" requesting that shoppers not bring guns into its store. [If you're a robber it's okay.] The retailer posted a notice on its website on July 2, 2014…"Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course we will continue to do so," the notice says. "But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests do not bring firearms to Target--even in communities where it is permitted by law. We've listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members. [When did they start calling store clerks "team members?" What team? Target may be creating an "inviting atmosphere" for robbers who can now enter the store knowing that no one in the place is armed.]…

     The Minneapolis-based retailer says guns in its stores are "at odds" with the family atmosphere it champions. Gun rights advocates made headlines in 2014 by openly bringing weapons into some Target stores, a demonstration of their rights to openly carry firearms in public. Chipotle restaurants made a similar decision in May 2014, days after gun rights advocates made national headlines by bringing assault-style weapons into a downtown Dallas restaurant. [A really stupid move by gun rights activists.] Chipotle said in its statement that "the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers."

John Bacon, "Target 'Respectfully Requests' Shoppers Don't Pack Heat," USA Today, July 2, 2014



      

Criminal Justice Quote: The Boy in the Cage

     In Anaheim, California, on July 1, 2014 , police arrested the parents of a severely autistic boy after investigators determined that the 11-year-old had been kept in a large metal cage, possibly to control his violent outbursts…Police found the cage--one similar to an extra-large dog kennel--in the home with a mattress and other bedding inside. It was roughly 6 feet tall, 5 feet long, and 4 feet wide with room to stand. The police did not find the boy in the cage. Family members gave officers varying accounts of how long the parents incarcerated the boy. Some said hours, others indicated periods of days…

     After an anonymous tipster called Orange County Child Protective Services, officers went to the house, arrested the parents and booked them into jail on suspicion of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment. The child looked well-nourished and appeared otherwise healthy. His two siblings also looked in good shape. All of the children have been placed into protective custody…

     The parents speak limited English, and investigators were using translators to sort out details in the case. Other relatives lived in the house and one room was rented to another family with children…

Gillian Flaccus, "Police: Autistic Boy, 11, Kept in Cage," Associated Press, July 2, 2014




Saturday, July 12, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Cop Beats Up Homeless Woman in Los Angeles

     In Los Angeles on July 1, 2014, a video shot from a car showed California Highway Patrol officer chasing a woman on foot through traffic. In the video, the officer catches up to the woman, spins her around and takes her to the ground. The pair struggled, but the officer ends up on top. From that position he repeatedly punched the woman in the head.

     "He's beating her up," said the man filming the incident. "Oh my gosh, why?" a woman asks. As the officer punched the woman, another man rushed to the help the officer subdue the woman. The CHP officer then handcuffed her…

   Another witness told a TV reporter that the woman "did not look well, mentally." According to this witness, as the officer punched her, "she looked terrified. She just looked gone." The witness said the woman was not wearing shoes and carried several bags indicating that she was homeless.

     A CHP spokesperson said the agency was aware of the video and was investigating the incident…

Chuck Ross, "California Highway Patrol Beats Barefoot Bag Lady," The Daily Caller, July 4, 2014


Friday, July 11, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Burning Up in a Texas Prison

     Claiming that even the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is air conditioned, prisoners in Texas have filed a lawsuit over soaring temperatures in state prisons they say have killed at least 12 prisoners in the last three years. The suit, filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project and the University of Texas School of Law Civil Rights clinic on behalf of the prisoners, isn't seeking monetary damages. It seeks cooler temperatures for the prisoners. Eighty-eight degrees to be exact.

     The lawsuit, broadly concerned about the lack of air conditioning across state facilities, centers on a facility in Navasota, Texas known as the Wallace Park Unit. Located about 70 miles northwest of Houston, the facility houses about 1,400 men. As of January 2014, 114 men over the age of 70 were housed there. They have no air conditioning, and the windows that do not open provide little relief,  the suit claims, leading to temperatures inside that often exceed those outside. And outside it's hot.

     The suit  cites internal data from The Texas Department of Criminal Justice that found that over the past three years the mercury topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the complain,"Stainless steel tables in the inmate dormitories become so hot to the touch prisoners have to lay towels down on the table to rest their elbows while sitting."

     In addition to the older inmates, the complaint said a number of men have various underlying medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to heat stroke…The lawsuit alleges some 20 deaths since 1998 and details names, ages and internal body temperatures of victims, including cases where the body temperature recorded was well over 100 degrees. One man, 45-year-old Rodney Adams, died one day after his arrival. His internal temperature registered 109.9.

     There is air conditioning in some parts of the facility. The law library, education building and visitation center all are equipped with air conditioning…but the inmates are rarely allowed in these areas. The complaint says that the warden's office and other administrative buildings have air conditioning…

Emma Lacy-Bordeaux, "Texas Inmates Sue Over Lack of Air Conditioning," CNN, June 20, 2014

Writing Quote: The Romantic Heroine

The romantic heroine emerged in the late eighteenth century as the archetypal female figure in modern European culture. Romantic writers like Rousseau and Coleridge made the female heroine's sexual powers both dangerous and unpredictable, mirroring the spontaneity of nature. But they also made her essentially passive, someone acted upon rather that her own agent. As an erotic being whose sensuality was very much of this world, and whose intellect was of minor importance, she stood in sharp contrast to the medieval and early modern woman spiritual figure, who sublimated her sexuality in the search for a closer union with God and was capable of learned comment on theology.

Jill Ker Conway, When Memory Speaks, 1998

Criminal Justice Quote: Homeowner in Wheelchair Kills Intruder

     A South Carolina homeowner would have been at a distinct disadvantage to a man who invaded his home early Thursday, July 5, 2014. Oriandous Brown, 33, suffers from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. But the Easley, South Carolina man had a gun and used it to defend himself against 26-year-old Atlanta native Darin Lowe…

     Both exchanged gunfire in Brown's living room. The wheelchair-bound man prevailed, however, shooting Lowe several times, killing him. Brown was shot as well but suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Latisha Vernon, a friend of Brown's, and her 17-year-old daughter were in the house during the shootout and called police. Anderson County sheriff John Skipper said that Brown and Lowe knew each other…

Chuck Ross, "Wheelchair-Bound Man Kills Home Invader," The Daily Caller, July 5, 2014 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Writing Quote: The One-Off Novelist

     There will always be that flash in the pan, that one-off novel that strikes the fancy of publishers, sells a few million copies, and gets made into a successful--or unsuccessful--film before the person who wrote it fades into permanent obscurity, laughing, as they say, all the way to the bank. These types of writers have always existed.

     The creators of those largely forgettable and sometimes laughable pieces of prose bang them out, often with nothing more to recommend their work than a fairly decent idea badly realized, a fairly bad idea decently realized, or a schtick of some sort--author as former policewoman, forensic pathologist, weight lifter, beauty queen, seriously abused child, seriously abusive adult come to the Lord or an excellent publicity campaign that worked like a charm.

     What these creators of fiction have in common tends to be that they got lucky. They wrote their novels without an idea in the world what they were doing and the managed to pull it off. Problem was, though, they could not do it again.

Elizabeth George in Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks, 2005 

Criminal Justice Quote: Heavy-Handed Cop Gets Off Light

     A Lafayette, Indiana police officer who shoved a wheelchair-bound man so hard that he toppled over onto the road received a 30-day suspension, though many in his department and the town's mayor wanted to see him fired. Released video from the incident, that occurred in October 2013, showed Lafayette officer Tom Davidson giving a two-handed push to Nicholas Kincade, a 25-year-old man confined to a motorized wheelchair…The authorities released the video on July 1, 2014 in response to a public records request.

     The scene unfolded after Davidson and other police officers were called to a charter school after employees there claimed that Kincade told them he had a gun. Police searched Kincade, but only found a knife that the man said he carried for protection. Kincade left the premises after being told that he could be charged with trespassing…But as Kincade was leaving, he accidentally drove his wheelchair over Davidson's foot. Kincade later said he did not see the officer…

     The video shows Davidson giving an aggressive two-handed shove to an area between Kincade's upper shoulder and head. Trapped in his chair, Kincade simply tipped over and spilled into the road. Davidson moved toward Kincade seemingly unhampered from Kincade's chair driving over his foot. Two of the officers immediately handcuffed Kincade as he was on the ground saying, "now you're going to jail."

     Kincade suffered abrasions to his head and was charged with battery of a a law enforcement officer, though a prosecutor dropped the charge five months later.

     Some officers in the Lafayette Police Department felt that Davidson should have been terminated…Lafayette mayor Tony Roswarski said at a press conference that he agreed that Davidson should have been fired. [Firing a cop is like firing a public schoolteacher. It is almost impossible. Perhaps that's why there are so many bad cops and teachers.]

Chuck Ross, "Video Shows Police Officer Shoving Wheelchair-Bound Man," The Daily Caller, July 3, 2014      

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

CJ Quote: Locked Up in America

     Life behind bars is invisible to most of us, but if one bothers to look, it's unremittingly grim. About one of every nine American prisoners are serving a life sentence, many of them without the chance of parole, some 10,000 of them for wholly nonviolent offenses.

     More than 50,000 prisoners are held in long-term solitary confinement, even though the United Nations special rapporteur [a person assigned to prepare reports] on torture has determined that solitary confinement for longer than 15 days amounts to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." [That may be true, but there is usually good reason these extremely violent men are isolated from other inmates.]

     Prisons offer little in the way of rehabilitation or training for life after incarceration. And even after release, many ex-convicts are barred from public housing, food stamps, certain kinds of jobs and voting. [If I own a plumbing company, I'm not sending a convicted rapist or pedophile into your home to fix your sink.] Should we be surprised that the recidivism rate is 67.5 percent?

     Our proclivity for incarceration costs American taxpayers about $80 billion a year. And that doesn't count the vast indirect costs visited upon the incarcerated, their families and communities. In 2007, there were 1.7 million children in the United States with a parent in prison. [How many of these kids were better off with the parent behind bars? And what would the cost to society be if these criminals were out on the street committing crimes? This is not a simple problem.]

David Cole, "Punitive Damage," The New York Times Book Review, May 18, 2014


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Writing Quote: The Happy Novelist

It may be that writers are actually happier living in their books than they are in the real world. There is evidence of this in the way writers immerse themselves in their fiction. How many times have you heard it said about someone that they are happiest at their work? Writers are like that, whether they admit it or not. But while most jobs fall into the nine-to-five category, fiction writing is a twenty-four-hours-a-day occupation. You never leave your work behind. It is always with you, and to some extent, you are always thinking about it. You don't take your work home; your work never leaves home. It lives inside you. It resides and grows and comes alive in your mind.

Terry Brooks, Sometimes the Magic Works, 2005

Monday, July 7, 2014

Writing Quote: Creating Suspense

Old-fashioned suspense is more engaging than immediate violence. A great thriller is more about creating a sense of unease, a queasiness that comes with knowing something is not quite right. It's why I love unreliable narrators--there's something so wonderfully unnerving about realizing midway through a book that you've put yourself in the hands of someone who is not to be trusted.

Gillian Flynn, The New York Times Book Review, May 11, 2014

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Writing Quote: Characters in Fiction Must Be Consistent

The very first rule of writing fiction rejects the basic truth of life: Characters must be consistent. If the matriarch of a powerful family of soda pop manufacturers has been established through three hundred pages as obsessively well organized, she cannot meet her end by getting her feet tangled on one of her own discarded sweaters and falling out her bedroom window. This kind of thing happens to people every day in the world we inhabit, despite evidence of past behavior, but we have left that world for a better one. If it happens here, we will throw the novel or short story out the window after the old lady, and good riddance to them both. In a pilotless universe, we accept confusion because there is no place to file a complaint. In a story, plotted and executed by an individual or individuals in collaboration, we know whom to blame.

Loren D. Estleman, Writing the Popular Novel, 2004

Criminal Justice Quote: Branding Your Kids Like Cattle

     Kayla Oxenham told her children she "forgot how much she loved fire" as she branded them with a stick. A 7-year-old told police officers in Port Charlotte, Florida that her mom also cracked her sisters' heads against a wall after she became angry over a cat being locked in a bathroom.

     Deputies say the abuse took place in March 2014, but the arrest wasn't made until June when daycare workers noticed scars on the children…Oxenham told police she branded the kids so she could recognize them. She added that she did it so the children could have ice cream. The authorities charged Oxenhamis with felony child abuse.

Rick Couri, "Mom Arrested on Suspicion of Branding Kids So she Could Identify Them," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 23, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Prosecutor Comes Down Hard on Fire Starter

     Police arrested a Kansas woman who was severely lacking in common sense on Friday, June 27, 2014. She had set a fire in her duplex to kill a spider. Around 1:36 AM Friday morning, the Hutchinson Fire Department received a call about the fire. Firefighters arrived to find smoke coming from 34-year-old Ginny M. Griffith's half of the duplex…

     Griffith started the fire by igniting towels with a cigarette lighter in a haphazard attempt to kill the spider. The fire caused minor damage to the dwelling and caused no injuries. A local prosecutor charged Griffith with aggravated arson because there were people on the other side of the duplex. [If convicted of this charge the judge could sentence this woman up to twenty years in prison.]…

Julian Kimble, "Woman Ends Up With Arson Charge After Trying to Kill Spider With Fire," complex.com/tv, June 29, 2014  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Writing Quote: The Mystery Novel Protagonist

The nature of the mystery novel is such that your protagonist will be tested. He'll be insulted, lied to, bullied, humiliated, cheated, threatened, and injured. He'll see other people duped, scapegoated, and hurt. Characters, like real people, show their mettle in the do-or-die situations.

Hallie Ephron, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, 2005

Criminal Justice Quote: A Revenge Murder Near Detroit

     A man accused of killing a 2-year-old Detroit area girl shot her in front of her father to torture him, state police said Thursday, July 3, 2014…Raymone Jackson, 24, of Inkster, Michigan, appeared in court on a first-degree murder charge and was sent back to jail with no bond. The girl was shot in the head Tuesday, July 1 while on the porch of her home. Inkster police believe it was retaliation for a shooting in April 2014.

     Besides murder, Jackson is also charged with attempted murder, torture and other crimes. The girl's father, Ken French, 34, and a family friend, 12-year-old Chelsea Lancaster, were also shot and are in a hospital…

"Police: Man Shot Toddler to Torture Her Dad," Associated Press, July 3, 2014. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hellementary Education Quote: Pop-Tart Case Suspension Upheld

     On June 26, 2014, a hearing examiner in Annapolis, Maryland affirmed the suspension of the boy who chewed his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun…The examiner, Andrew Nussbaum, supported the principal's assertion that the suspension was based on a history of problems, not the pastry episode…

   The incident took place in 2013 when the Anne Arundel County boy was 7-years-old. The case happened during a time of increased sensitivity to guns after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. [Some would exchange the word "sensitivity" with "hysteria."] The boy's punishment was one of several area suspensions involving imaginary or toy guns. [The imaginary ones are the most dangerous because you can't see them.]

"Ruling Goes Against Maryland Boy in the 'Pop-Tart Case,' " Associated Press, July 1, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: A Deadly Soccer Field Assault

     A Michigan adult soccer league referee died Tuesday morning, July 1, 2014 after a player allegedly punched him in the head during a soccer match in Livonia. The referee, John Bieniewicz, 44, was reportedly struck by Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, after the former had ejected him during the game on June 29, 2014.

     Livonia police chief Curtis Caid said that the victim was rushed to the Detroit Receiving Hospital in critical condition after he was rendered unconscious and discovered to have not been breathing from the blow. Saad had reportedly raised his middle finger to the crowd after the incident.

     Local authorities detained Saad under a $500,000 bail. He pleaded not guilty to assault that caused bodily harm. Investigations are still underway but authorities expect the charges against Saad to change to criminal homicide after the death of the victim…

Christi Leong, "Soccer Play Charged for Deadly Punch to Michigan Referee," chinatopic.com, July 2, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Whackademia Quote: Raise Tuition to Pay For Hillary Clinton's Speaker Fee

     Students at the University of Nevada were making some uncomfortable headlines for Hillary Clinton. The school planned to pay the former secretary of state $225,000 to speak at a university fundraiser in October 2014. That didn't sit well with student leaders.

     Daniel Waqar, the student body president suggested that Hillary Clinton donate some of the fee to the university. [If college kids followed the news they would know that Mrs. Clinton isn't really rich. Still, it seems odd that the university would subject its students to a boring talk given by a humorless sociopath. I guess that's more humane than making them read her dreadful ghost written memoir.]

     According to Waqar, "You could give scholarships to thousands of students, benefit research on campus, give more students grants for research and studying"...

Zach Toombs, "Hillary Clinton's $225 K College Speaking Fee Draws Fire," The Atlanta Journal-Constituion, June 26, 2014 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Writing Quote: Feminists Don't Like Romance Novelists

Feminism is not keen on romance fiction, but sometimes its modern offspring, chick-lit, passes muster. This is a rapidly aging but still contemporary kind of romance that is more complex than the conventional romance. [Chick-lit] entails family and other woman friends with whom the protagonist shares experiences. [This stuff can be brutal to read.] The term was first used in publishing in 1995 and it has stuck, though claims that chick-lit is postfeminist are exaggerated. The sex in chick-lit books is more frank, sometimes comical, and generally more nuanced that in the traditional romance, where it can be peremptory and usually out of sight.

Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Is America Becoming a Police State?

     An Ohio man says he lost his job and was arrested all because his young son wanted to go out and play rather than go to church. [Play versus church: hardly a difficult decision.] Worse, Jeffrey Williamson says he faces up to six months on a "ridiculous" charge.

     Williams said that his children, including 8-year-old Justin, were outside of their Blanchester, Ohio home when their Woodville Baptist Church van pulled up…The kids got onto the bus, save for Justin who, unbeknownst to Williamson, had other plans. The boy ended up at a Family Dollar store half a mile away from home. "He just wanted to play in the neighborhood," Williamson said.

     Police went to the store. When they asked Justin where he lived, he said he did not know. But an employee at the store told authorities where he lived…When police showed up at the Williamson house with the boy, Williamson told the officers that his son plays outside all the time with other kids in the neighborhood. [Kids playing outside without their parents hovering over them has almost become unAmerican.]…

     "The next thing I know," Williamson said, "is that a cop comes up to me and says, 'You're under arrest.'" His children started crying at the scene. "It's ridiculous to me that I was arrested for this," Williamson said.

     Being cast as negligent parent had negative effects for the father. He lost his job at McDonald's after the story of the incident was published on the front page of the newspaper….

Chuck Ross, "Man Arrested After Son Skips Church," The Daily Caller, June 27, 2014