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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Recreational Murder: Killing For Fun

     No society has been free of criminal homicide. People have always murdered for sex, money, and revenge. While deviant and unlawful, this form of homicidal behavior is at least human. However, murdering a total stranger for the thrill and power of taking a life reflects a form of moral depravity that borders on inhuman. In the United States recently, in three separate cases, three white people have been murdered in cold blood by black teenage boys who didn't know their victims and had no reason whatsoever to kill them. If these senseless, random black on white killings mark the beginning of a criminal trend, America is in trouble. No one will be safe, and race relations will deteriorate.

The Murder of Christopher Lane

     On Friday, August 16, 2013, Christopher Lane, an Australian who attended Oklahoma's East Central University, was in the town of Duncan visiting his girlfriend. That afternoon, while jogging along Country Club Road, Lane caught the attention of three black teenagers as he ran passed the place where they were hanging out. One of the boys said, "There's our target."

     The trio piled into a black vehicle with 17-year-old Michael Dewayne Jones behind the wheel. James Francis Edwards, Jr., 15, climbed into the front passenger seat. Chancy Luna, a 16-year-old, sat in the back of the car armed with a .22-caliber handgun. As the vehicle pulled up behind the college baseball player, Luna shot him in the back. As the car sped off, Lane staggered then collapsed on the side of the road.

     Witnesses who heard the gunshot saw a black vehicle drive away as Lane staggered and collapsed. Several people ran to Lane's aid. As a woman called 911, another bystander performed CPR on the fallen student. Christopher Lane died on the side of the road.

     A few hours after the shooting, detectives, while reviewing surveillance camera footage, noticed a black vehicle pull in behind a hotel shortly after the murder. Eleven minutes later the car drove off. Three hours after the murder, a police officer spotted the car in front of a house on Country Club Road. This led to the arrests of Jones, Edwards, and Luna.

     According to reports, Edward and Luna, when questioned by detectives, denied any knowledge of the murder. Michael Jones, the 17-year-old driver, confessed. "We were bored," he said, "and didn't have anything to do so we decided to kill somebody."

     Prosecutor Jason Hicks charged Edwards and Luna with first-degree murder. Michael Jones has been charged as an accessory to the murder. On August 20, a judge denied Edwards and Luna bail. Jones is being held on $1 million bond. At the arraignment, prosecutor Hicks said, "I'm appalled. This is not supposed to happen in this community."

     Earlier in the year, James Edwards tweeted that "90 % of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM." A few days after the George Zimmerman acquittal, the 15-year-old tweeted, "Ayeee I knocced out 5 woods" (a derogatory word for white people).

The Murder of Baby West

     On Thursday morning, March 21, 2013, in the small southeastern Georgia coastal town of Brunswick, Sherry West pushed her 13-month-old son in a stroller not far from her house in the Old Town historic district. Two young black males approached the 41-year-old mother and her child a quarter after nine that morning. The older kid, described by Sherry West as between 13 and 15-years-old, pulled a handgun and demanded money. The robber's companion, as described by the victim, looked to be between 10 and 12-years old. The older boy, who was wearing a red shirt, when told by the mother that she didn't have any money, said, "Well, I'm going to kill your baby."

     The terrified mother tried to use her body to protect her son. "Please don't kill my baby," she pleaded.

     The  young robber, after pushing the mother aside, shot the sleeping child in the face. Before fleeing on foot, the gunman shot Sherry West in the leg. A second bullet grazed her head. As the boys ran off, the wounded mother called 911, and tried in vain to save her baby by administering CPR.

     The next day, police arrested 17-year-old DeMarquis Elkins on charges of aggravated assault, robbery, and murder. The prosecutor charged his 15-year-old friend, Dominique Lang, with felony-murder.

     Following a change of venue, DeMarquis Elkins is currently on trial for murder in Cobb County north of Atlanta. Dominique Lang is the state's star witness.

The Murder of Delbert Belton

     On Wednesday evening, August 21, 2013, 88-year-old World War II veteran Delbert Belton was waiting for a friend in the parking lot outside of the Eagles Lodge in Spokane, Washington. Two black teenagers approached the elderly man and began hitting him in the head with heavy flashlights. The young men, both dressed entirely in black, fled the scene with the old man dying on the lot. Mr. Belton, who had been shot on the beaches of Okinawa in 1945, died later that night. His friends had called him "Shorty."

     The next day police officers arrested a juvenile who turned himself in. On August 26, the police arrested 16-year-old Kenan D. Adams-Kinard. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Discovery ID's "Murder in Amish County" to be Rebroadcast

     On Sunday, August 18 at 11:00PM, the Discovery ID channel is rebroadcasting, as part of their Deadly Devotions series, Murder in Amish County. The episode features scenes from my book, Crimson Stain. The new, expanded edition of Crimson Stain is available from:

1. CreateSpace, and

2. Amazon.com.

A Kindle edition of the book will also be available soon.

Crimson Stain tells the true story of a tragic and brutal murder in an Old-Order Amish community in rural Pennsylvania.

The new edition of Crimson Stain includes an extensive epilogue featuring developments in this true-life Amish murder drama to the present time. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lethal Injections: The History of Death House Pharmacology

     By 2010, 35 states still impose the death penalty in cases involving inmates who have committed the most heinous murders. Not all of these states, however, actually carry out the executions. In the states that do, the mode of execution is lethal injection. The electric chair has been replaced by chemicals. Inmates are no longer electrocuted, they are poisoned to death.

     Death house executioners, in dispatching the condemned, administer a lethal cocktail comprised of three drugs. The first drug to go in--sodium thiopental--renders the recipient unconscious. The second chemical paralyzes the inmate while the third stops his heart. The key ingredient in the cocktail, the vodka in the screwdriver as it were, is the sodium thiopental, a drug used by all of the states where death row prisoners are actually executed.

     Late in 2010, the only company that manufactured sodium thiopental--mainly used as an anesthesia, and to induce medical comas--announced a shortage of the drug. A spokesperson for the Hospira company blamed the scarcity on a problem with the manufacturer's raw material suppliers. Cut off from the drug, executions in California, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Maryland were delayed.

     In December 2010, the executioner in Oklahoma who sent 58-year-old John David Duty to his grave for killing a cellmate, substituted sodium thiopental with a sedative used to treat severe epilepsy. The drug, pentobarbital, sold under the brand name Nembutal, was manufactured by a Danish company called Lundbeck. The pharmaceutical was also used to put down animals.

     In August 2011, an executioner in Virginia used pentobarbital as part of the lethal mix to kill a 30-year-old inmate named Jerry Jackson. Jackson had been convicted in 2002 for breaking into 88-year-old Ruth Phillips' house where he raped and murdered the woman. Phillips woke up to find him burglarizing the place. When she confronted the intruder, he sexually assaulted, then killed her. Following the Jackson execution, the Lundbeck company, objecting to one of its products being used to kill inmates, restricted the drug's distribution in an effort to keep it out of America's execution chambers.

     In 2011, 23 death row prisoners in the United States were either buried or cremated with pentobarbital in their blood. In Ohio that year, for the first time in the nation, an executioner dispatched a prisoner by using pentobarbital only. Death penalty opponents, claiming that the one-drug method caused inmates to die more slowly, objected to the procedure.

     In March 2012, with the cost of pentobarbital going through the roof, the state of Texas spent $1,200 on the deadly cocktail used to kill 52-year-old Keith Thurmond. The condemned man had been convicted in 2002 of murdering his estranged wife and her lover during an argument over child custody.

     Texas prison administrators, in July 2012, adopted Ohio's one-drug policy in an effort to save taxpayers' money. The executioner injected pentobarbital into 33-year-old Yokamon Hearn fourteen years after he had murdered a Dallas stockbroker. A death chamber physician pronounced the prisoner dead 25 minutes following his lethal injection.

     In 2012, the states of Arizona, Washington, Idaho, and Georgia also began executing inmates with pentobarbital only.

     Correction officials in Texas, in July 2013, announced that they were running out of pentobarbital. Because the European Commission, in December 2011, had ordered companies in the European Union to stop exporting the drug to the United States for execution, states had no way of replenishing their supply of the drug. Because several prisoners were scheduled to die during the second half of 2013, this was a problem for the people tasked to kill them.

     Execution states will either have to find another lethal drug that's available on the market, dust off their old electric chairs, or stop executing prisoners. I'm sure they'll find another drug. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Investigative Journalism: A Dying Profession

     With the weak economy, and competition from cable TV, news bloggers and other forms of online reporting, only a handful of newspapers can afford the costly services of highly trained and experienced investigative reporters. Investigative journalism has been in decline since the Watergate days of Woodward and Bernstein. Today, some of the biggest news scoops (EG John Edward's love child) are scored by reporters with the grocery store tabloids. In terms of political reporting, the fourth estate, as a journalistic check on governmental power, is not holding up its end of the bargain. This is particularly true with regard to the print media. In the world of cable TV investigative reporting, the U. S. Department of Justice recently charged Fox News reporter James Rosen with being an accomplice to espionage for merely talking to a government leaker.

     Today, what passes for investigative reporting is often hack journalism that reflects the reality that just because a story is based on facts doesn't make it true. For example, it may be a fact that some drunken yahoo filed a police report claiming that space aliens gave him a saucer ride from Parkersburg, West Virginia to Washington, D. C. But just because the story involves a first-hand account backed up by a police document, doesn't make it true.

     The following are quotes by investigative reporters on the stature and nature of this fading profession:

We really didn't define reporting as investigative until 1964. That's when the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting went to the old Philadelphia Bulletin for an expose on how police officers were running a numbers racket out of the station house. Before then, that category had been called "Local Reporting."

Mike McQueen

General reporters [as opposed to investigative reporters] usually lack detailed knowledge of the subject they are reporting on. They are in a hurry. They work on stories chosen by their news desks from an agenda set by major news sources and media (local or national). They seek quotes from spokesmen: managing directors, police superintendents, public relations officers, secretaries of organizations and pressure groups.

David Spark

One good reason many good reporters stay away from [investigative reporting] is they don't like hassling people nor do they want to be hassled. That's part of the job I don't like either, but I'm willing to put up with it because I believe such work is important. I don't like confronting government figures with the fact they have lied about something or that they have done something irregular or illegal. It's an unpleasant experience. I don't particularly like the sneers I get back from such people.

Jack Nelson

An investigative reporter must have brass, for once it is discovered what he is up to, he is bound to be confronted with solid opposition. Furthermore, even after having developed a substantial product, he must be willing to fight to have it published....Then he's got to defend it when it's attacked by those who may suffer by the exposures contained in the story or series.

Peter Bridge

I think investigative journalism has become a lot rarer because it takes time and it takes a lot of resources and it's just harder to do. It's a lot easier to do these quick easy stories.

Russ Kirk

Investigative reporting is a money-loser for journalistic corporations. It's expensive, stories my not pan out, and you make a lot of enemies.

Burt Glass

You might start a story thinking you are going to look at how the city health department administers vaccines but...find that the story's really about the city's mismanagement in general.

Bob Woodward

I tell them [story sources] how I work. I tell them they have to go on record. I tell them I am going to be asking other people about them, that even though I find them really nice people, I am going to have to check them out....I say to them, "Once you agree to talk to me, that's it. You don't really have control, but you do have control to the degree you want to participate. And once you are on the record, if there's something you don't want me to know, then don't tell me because its going to be on the record."

Susan Kelleher

Secondary sources are most useful when they lead to primary documents. The legislative hearing transcript would be a primary document, as would be a real estate deed, political candidate's campaign finance report, lawsuit, insurance policy, discharge certificate from the military. Documents can be just like human sources can be, because, after all, documents are prepared by humans. However, unlike humans, documents do not talk back, do not claim to have been misquoted.

Steve Weinberg