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Monday, September 30, 2019

The Des Moines Register And The Journalism Of Personal Destruction

     Carson King, a 24-year-old resident of Altoona, Iowa, a town located in the Des Moines metropolitan area, was a big fan of University of Iowa football. He had attended the university but did not graduate. He and his father worked at the Prairie Meadows Casino not far from his home.

     On Saturday, September 14, 2019, Carson King arrived early for the University of Iowa versus Iowa State University football game. Viewers of ESPN's television program, "College GameDay," saw Mr. King, among a group of fans, holding up a homemade sign that read: "Busch Light supply needs replenished." The tongue-in-cheek request for beer money donations included King's Venmo username. (Venmo is a payment service owned by PayPal. Account holders can transfer funds to others via a mobile phone app.)

     When donations started rolling in, the surprised football fan used the money to buy a case of beer. But as more people and companies sent money, Carson King announced that he was giving the money to the University Of Iowa Family Children's Hospital. When his generosity came to the attention of the Anheuser-Busch Company, the corporation promised to match the hospital donations made through Mr. King. Several other companies, seeing a good public relations opportunity, followed suit.

     By mid-September, Carson King had raised more than a million dollars for the children's hospital. The Anheuser-Busch Company called King an "Iowa Legend" and promised him a one-year supply of beer in cans bearing his name and likeness.

     Suddenly enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame, Carson King traveled to New York City where he appeared on television shows broadcast on CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News.

     Aaron Calvin, a 24-year-old reporter with the Des Moines Register, while putting together a profile piece about the local media sensation, came across tweets King had posted in 2012 when he was sixteen. The tweets, written for his friends, made fun of black women. They were no doubt racist in nature.

     When interviewing Carson King for the article on September 24, the reporter showed him the 8-year-old racist tweets. When King admitted they were his, Aaron Calvin informed him they would be included in the Des Moines Register article scheduled to be published online that evening.

     Carson King, confronted with the fact his embarrassing tweets were being made public by the Des Moines Register, attempted to get ahead of the story by calling a press conference at which time he said, "Obviously I've made mistakes in my past, everyone has. And I really hope people see at this point in my life, I'm grown, I'm caring, I'm generous. I hope that is what people focus on."

     On September 25, a spokesperson for Anheuser-Busch, without mentioning Carson King's tweets, announced that the company would not produce the beer cans bearing his name and face. While the corporation would honor its promise to match the money King had already raised for the children's hospital, it had cut ties with him.

     After the Register published the King profile and the offensive tweets, it soon became apparent that the pubic did not take kindly to the paper's decision to publish this embarrassing and humiliating information. There were calls for Carol Hunter, the paper's executive editor, to publicly apologize to Carson King.

     In response to the negative backlash, Carol Hunter published an op-ed defending her decision to include Carson King's tweets in the profile. She wrote: "Our initial stories [about Carson King] drew so much interest that we decided to write a profile of King, to help readers understand the young man behind the homemade sign and the outpouring of donations to the children's hospital. The Register had no intention to disparage or otherwise cast a negative light on King. In doing background for such a story, reporters talk to family, friends, colleagues, and professors. We check out court and arrest records as well as other pertinent [italics mine] records, including social media activity. The process helps us to understand the whole person. As journalists, we have the obligation to look into matters completely, to aid the public in understanding the people we write about and in some cases to whom money is donated."

     Carol Hunter's op-ed brings to mind Janet Malcolm's famous quote about the dirty business of journalism: "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse."

     In the executive editor's op-ed, she claimed that the Register's hit-piece on Carson King had nothing to do with the beer company's pullout.

     Hunter's op-ed did not produce the result the editor had hoped for. In fact, it made matters worse for her and the paper because the public saw it for what it was--a load of crap.

     If matters weren't bad enough for the editor and the Des Moines Register, it got even worse. On September 26, 2019, the paper reported that Aaron Calvin, the author of the Carson King profile, had posted his own racist tweets. As a result, the paper had fired Mr. Calvin.

     The embattled executive editor, in explaining Calvin's dismissal, wrote that the newspaper's employees "must review and agree to a company-wide social media policy that includes a statement that employees do not post comments that make discriminatory remarks, harassment, threats of violence, or similar content. We took the action because there is nothing more important in journalism than having readers' trust."

     Aaron Calvin, the now ex-reporter who, by exposing Carson King, had opened himself up to scrutiny, said, "I have deleted previous tweets that have been inappropriate or insensitive. I apologize for not holding myself to the same standards the Register holds others."

     The day after Calvin made that statement, BuzzFeed.News came out with a story in which Calvin took back his apology. He said he had been directed by the Register to apologize, and did so in hopes of saving his job. He now felt abandoned and betrayed by his former employer. "I never was trying to hold Carson to any kind of 'high standard' or any kind of standard at all," he said. "I was trying to do my job as a reporter and I think I did so to the best of my ability."

     In the BuzzFeed piece, Aaron Calvin accused "right wing ideologues" of discovering and publishing his offensive tweets, some of them going back to 2010. "This event," he said, "has set my entire life on fire." (Not to worry Aaron, in a month you will be forgotten.)

     Mr. Calvin was right about one thing; there were no so-called "high standards" at play here. If the Des Moines Register had high standards, Carson King's high school tweets would not have been included in his profile.  Mr. King was not a celebrity, or someone running for political office. He was a regular guy trying to do something good for his community. That is more than what can be said about Carol Hunter and the Des Moines Register.

     Fortunately for Carson King, even in the era of intense political correctness, public opinion landed in his favor. Carol Hunter, feeling the public's wrath over the paper's gratuitous cruelty, in a note to the paper's readers, wrote: "We hear you. You're angry, you're disappointed, and you want us to understand that."

     It's probably too optimistic to hope that the journalistic malpractice by the Des Moines Register will at least embolden more people to stand up to hack journalists and the self-righteous Twitter mobs who have been sucking the life out of fee speech, and human decency.

     As of this writing, Carson King has raised another million dollars for the children's hospital.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Tim Lambesis Murder-For-Hire Case

     In 2000, 19-year-old guitarist Tim Lambesis, a graduate of a San Diego area Christian high school, formed a heavy metal band called "As I Lay Dying" (the title of a William Faulkner novel). The group's sixth album came out in the fall of 2012 prior to a tour of Asia. The band was scheduled to kick-off a U.S. tour from Oklahoma City on May 30, 2013. Many of the band's songs included Christian themes of forgiveness and struggle.

     In 2011, Lambesis and his wife Megan separated. According to divorce papers, she accused him of becoming emotionally distant from her and the three children they adopted from Ethiopia. She complained that he had become obsessed with bodybuilding and touring. Megan also accused her estranged husband of having a "string of women."

     In April 2013, the 32-year-old rock star, on two occasions, confided to a man who worked out at his gym that he wanted to have his wife killed. Lambesis told this man his wife made it difficult for him to visit his children. The man in the gym Lambesis reached out to reported Lambesis' homicidal wishes to the San Diego County Sheriff's Office. Shortly thereafter, Lambesis met with an undercover police officer posing as a hit man named "Red".

     In the recorded murder-for-hire meeting, the heavy metal rocker handed Red an envelope containing $1,000 in cash, a photograph of his wife, the security gate code to the Encinitas, California estate, and a list of dates in which Lambesis would have an alibi. According to court documents, the murder-for-hire mastermind also gave the undercover sheriff's department officer instructions on how to kill Megan Lambesis.

    At two in the afternoon of Tuesday, May 7, 2013, San Diego sheriff's deputies arrested Lambesis as he shopped at a mall in Oceanside. The officers booked him into the Vista Jail on the charge of solicitation of murder.

     The day after his arrest, at his arraignment, Lambeis pleaded not guilty to the murder solicitation charge. The judge set his bail at $3 million. Forty-eight days later, Lambesis posted his bond. The judge required him to wear a GPS device.

     The murder-for-hire suspect's attorney told reporters that his client had been set up by the man in the gym. If convicted as charged Lambesis faced up to nine years in prison. His fans and people who know the entertainer expressed shock over the murder-for-hire accusation.

     On September 16, 2013, the Superior Court Judge, after hearing preliminary hearing testimony from the undercover officer and other prosecution witnesses, bound the murder-for-hire case over for trial.

     In February 2014, Lambesis pleaded guilty in a Vista, California courtroom of soliciting an undercover officer to murder his wife. At his sentencing hearing on May 16, 2014, the former rock star's attorney said his client suffered brain damage as a result of using steroids. The deputy district attorney dismissed the claim. She called it a flimsy, illogical excuse for what in reality was a calculated plan to have a person murdered.

     The judge sentenced Lambesis to six years in prison.

     In December 2017, after serving just three years of his sentence, Tim Lambesis was released from prison. Six months later, in San Diego, California, the singer reunited with his band. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Handling Hecklers

A famous criminal defense attorney of the 1970s represented a lot of very bad clients, and as a result was regularly heckled on the streets of New York City. Passing motorists would roll down their windows and yell things like: "You asshole!" The tall, lanky lawyer, without looking up or breaking stride, would wave an arm and yell back, "Thanks! Have a nice day!" That's how to do it.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, September 28, 2019

New York's Speech Police: Identity Law Enforcement In A Lawless City

     On September 26, 2019, New York City's City Hall Commission on Human Rights (all rights except free speech) in a 29-page directive, made it unlawful to threaten a noncitizen illegally in the country with a call to the immigration authorities, or refer to this person, hatefully, as an "illegal" or "illegal alien." In the exercise of what would be free speech anywhere else in America, violators of the city ban could be fined up to $250,000.

     The framers of this fascist-like ordinance said it is a rebuke of the federal government's so-called "crackdown" on illegal immigration. So what is next in New York: a law making it a crime to refer to the city's homeless as "vagrants" if the police ever start arresting people for camping, crapping, and shooting heroin on the city's sidewalks. In other words, "cracking down" on people making the city less healthy and livable.

     It is beyond absurd when municipal officials, while encouraging lawlessness, make it unlawful to exercise something as sacred as free speech.

     According to the Commission of Human Rights directive, "The use of certain language, including 'illegal alien,' and 'illegals' with the intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person or persons constitutes discrimination." So, it is okay in New York City to demean, humiliate, or offend a U.S. citizen, but not people here illegally.

     Let's say a television commentator in New York City, in discussing this speech ban, says something like this: "Making it a crime to call a person in the country illegally an 'illegal alien', and threatening to report this illegal to ICE, is in itself a human rights violation.  I am extremely angry at the fascist idiots who promulgated this unconstitutional ordinance." Would that commentator, just having demeaned, offended and humiliated illegal aliens in the city, be charged with violating the city's new hate speech law? How much would this violator be fined? Would the network also be fined for airing these forbidden words?

     How will New York City's hate speech suspects be processed? Will there be some kind of hearing or criminal trial? And what if the convicted hate speech defendant refuses to pay the fine? Will he or she go to jail? And finally, does the ordinance apply to visitors to the city? If so, tourists better watch their mouths. With 500,000 illegals in the city, the walls have ears.

     In the 1970s, some comedian, I believe Larry David, asked the following hypothetical question: Who is freer, a single man in China or a married man in the U.S.? Now the question could be: Who is freer, a resident of New York City, or an American who lives anywhere in the country but New York City?

     The U.S. Constitution was written to restrain the government's natural inclination toward fascism. We can only hope that justices on the U.S. Supreme Court keep this in mind when cases like this come before them.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Arsonist Torches Sleeping Homeless Man's Cardboard Shelter

     During the early morning hours of September 12, 2019, in Glendale, California, a suburban community ten miles north of downtown Los Angeles, 32-year-old Richard Smallets was recorded on a business' surveillance video camera setting fire to cardboard boxes providing shelter to a sleeping homeless man. After igniting the fire, Smallets hung around taking photographs of the blaze. The street shelter fire was set not far from Glendale's Museum of Neon Art.

     The unnamed homeless man woke up before being burned, and with Smallets taking pictures of him, tried putting out the fire with bottled water. The Glendale Fire Department quickly responded to the scene and put out the dwindling blaze.

     Glendale police officers took Smallets into custody later that day and booked him into the Los Angeles County Jail on the charge of arson. The next day, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged Smallet with attempted murder. A magistrate set his bail at $1 million.

     At his arraignment, Richard Smallets pleaded not guilty to arson and attempted murder.

Dead Battery Takes Tesla Patrol Car Out Of Chase

     In March 2018, Freemont, California, a city of 214,000 in the Bay Area southeast of San Francisco, purchased a 2014 Tesla Model S-85 for $61,000. The electric powered patrol car replaced a 2007 Dodge Charger.

     The Tesla purchase was part of a pilot program to save the police department gas expenses, and to help facilitate Freemont's goal of cutting greenhouse emissions 25 percent by 2020.

     On Friday, September 20, 2019, Freemont officer Jesse Hartman began his two in the afternoon shift in the Tesla patrol car. At eleven o'clock that night, in the course of a vehicular police pursuit, the low battery warning indicated that the vehicle, due to its dying power source, had a range of six miles. Officer Hartman radioed the department's dispatcher that he was pulling the electric car to the side of the road. The other police vehicles participating in the chase continued the pursuit.

     Sometime later that night, officers came upon the suspect's vehicle. It had been abandoned in San Jose, California.

     The Tesla had run out of juice because the officer assigned to the vehicle on the previous shift had forgotten to plug it into the battery charger. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Living In The Moment

A psychologist colleague once told me I'd be happier if I lived in the moment. I'm never in the moment. I don't know where I live, but it's not there. I'm not even sure what living in the moment means. I'd ask the psychologist, but at the moment, he's dead. I'd finish this thought, but at the moment, my mind is elsewhere.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Shane M. Piche: The Bus Driver From Hell And The Judge Who Gave Him A Break

     In 2018, Shane M. Piche drove a school bus for the Watertown City School District in upstate New York. For a year, the 25-year-old driver had his eye on one of his passengers, a 14-year-girl he had been communicating with on social media. In June 2018, Piche invited the girl and her friends to his house outside of Watertown. It was there he provided his bus riders with alcohol, and it was there he and the 14-year-old engaged in sex. In New York, a girl under 17 is incapable, by law, of consenting to sexual intercourse. In the eyes of the law, and anyone with a sense of decency, Shane M. Piche had raped that 14-year-old girl.

     In September 2018, Watertown police officers took Shane Piche into custody and booked him into the Jefferson County Jail on charges of second-degree rape. He also faced the charge of endangering the welfare of a child. Second-degree rape in New York carried a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The school district also fired him.

     In February 2019, pursuant to a plea agreement between Jefferson County Chief Assistant District Attorney Patricia Dzuiba and defense attorney Eric Swartz, Shane Piche was allowed to plead guilty to third-degree rape, an offense that could result in a sentence of four years in prison. The prosecutor, in justifying her decision to let Piche plea bargain down to the lesser felony, said she wanted to spare the victim the ordeal of testifying before a grand jury and a rape trial.

     Two months after Piche's guilty plea, Judge James P. McClusky sentenced the former school bus driver to ten years probation. In addition, the judge fined him $1,375. As a Level One sex offender, Piche would not be added to the Department of Criminal Justice Service's online sex offender registry. That meant when someone looked him up on the computer, his name wouldn't show up on the site. Had Piche been convicted of second-degree rape as initially charged, his name would have been included on the sex offender registry.

     The 14-year-old rape victim's mother, in a victim impact statement she did not read in court, wrote: "I hope Shane Piche spends time in prison for the harm he caused my child. He took everything from my daughter... and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety."

     In responding to public outrage over the light sentence, Judge McClusky said that because Shane Piche had no other known rape victims, he did not believe there was a high risk that this rapist would re-offend. The judge, elected to a 14-year-term on the bench in 2011, insisted that his sentence was well within the guidelines for third-degree rape.

     Amid the public outrage over the outcome of this case, Assistant District Attorney Patricia Dziuba came to judge McClusky's defense with this statement: "The sexual contact occurred between the defendant and the victim was away from school property and a good point in time after they met on the school bus..." (How does any of that mitigate Piche's crime?)

     Not long after Shane Piche's sentencing, offended residents of Jefferson County circulated a petition calling for Judge McClusky's removal from the bench.

     Advocates for harsher sentences in rape cases make the argument that rapists should not be given one "free" rape before they become serial offenders. The Piche case is an example of how practitioners in our criminal justice are more concerned about the welfare of the criminal than the victim. Most people would agree that a 25-year-old school bus driver who takes sexual advantage of a 14-year-old student deserves a stretch in prison. This is a crime that should not go essentially unpunished.

Novelist John Fante

I went to the library, I looked at magazines, at the pictures in them. One day I went to the bookshelves, and pulled out a book. It was Winesburg, Ohio [by Sherwood Anderson]. I sat at a long mahogany table and began to read. All at once my world turned over. The sky fell in. The book held me. The tears came. My heart beat fast. I read until my eyes burned. I took the book home. I read another Anderson. I read and I read, and I was heartsick and lonely and in love with a book, many books, until it came naturally, and I sat there with a pencil and a long tablet, and tried to write, until I felt I could not go on because the words would not come as they had in Anderson, they only came like drops of blood from my heart.

John Fante, Bunker Hill

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The David Pichosky/Rochelle Wise Murder Case

     In 2008, a year after his wife died of breast cancer, David "Donny" Pichosky, on a blind date arranged by his children, met Rochelle Wise. Donny, an active member of Toronto, Canada's Shaarei Shomayin Synagogue, a modern Jewish Orthodox congregation, retired after selling his office-carpet business in the North York section of the city. Rochelle, a divorcee, had retired in 2005 as a teacher and vice principal of the Bialik Hebrew Day School just outside of Toronto. She was also the founding director of the Crestwood Valley Day Camp. Shortly after their blind date, the couple were married.

     In 2013, the 71-year-old Pichosky and his 66-year-old wife were wintering in Venetian Park, an affluent island neighborhood in Hallandale Beach, Florida, a town of 38,000 located between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Surrounded by canals and waterways, the snowbirds resided in a stucco townhouse amid palm trees and the other pastel-colored dwellings. Donny and Rochelle must have felt safe living in this gated, security guard patrolled retirement enclave. (In 2012, there had been four criminal homicides in Hallandale Beach.)

     On Wednesday, January 9, 2013, Danny and Rochelle failed to show-up for a lunch date with a neighbor. The friend made several calls to the couple that were not returned. The next day, at six-thirty in the evening, a friend with a spare key entered the townhouse to check on the couple. The neighbor found Donny and Rochelle dead. Shortly after the discovery, a spokesperson with the Hallandale Beach Police Department announced that the Canadian retirees had been murdered.

     According to the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office, the Canadian Couple had been murdered in their home. The cause of their deaths: asphyxiation either by hand or by ligature.

     In April 2013, Hallandale Chief of Police Dwayne Flourney told a reporter with the Miami Herald that detectives were looking for an intruder or intruders who had been motivated by robbery. Rochelle Wise's wedding band--valued at $16,000--was missing from the dwelling. Investigators asked local pawn shop operators to report anyone coming to their places of business with the platinum, five half-carat white diamond ring. (I presume the ring and it's description has been entered into the National Crime Information Center database.)

     A month before publicizing the missing ring, the police released a video taken from a neighbor's surveillance camera that showed a woman walking toward the rear of the murdered couple's home. That person remained unidentified. Detectives believed the murders were committed by two people.

     Cases involving home invasion criminal homicides in places once considered relatively safe from crime make residents of that community fearful. The double-murder in Venetian Park put a lot of pressure on the local police to identify and catch the perpetrators.

     On January 8, 2014, a spokesperson for the Hallandale Beach Department held a press conference on the Pichosky murder case. It had been almost a year since the double murder. According to the spokesperson, crime scene investigators recovered DNA profiles of two women from the murder site. This DNA evidence did not match anyone who had access to the Pichosky home.

     In addition to the DNA, a partial shoe print left at the murder scene was identified as an Adidas model shoe that had been out of production since 2000. Over the past year, detectives had questioned more than fifty people in the investigation of the case. A $57,000 reward had been posted for information leading to the identify of the killer or killers.

     This is one of those frustrating cases where the police  have physical evidence but no suspects to match it to. Eventually someone will identify a suspect. Once that happens, the resolution of the case will be in the hands of the forensic scientists. It's just a matter of time.

     In January 2015, Jamie Wise, Rochell's son, wrote a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott requesting the appointment of another law enforcement agency to take over the unsolved murder case. "What is desperately needed," he wrote, "is a fresh set of eyes, an independent investigation by an experienced entity capable of cultivating new leads through diligence, openness and the willingness to collaborate more purposely with agencies throughout the state."

     The Hallandale Beach Police Department remained in charge of the still unsolved double-murder.

     In April 2016, Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy told reporters that the best lead in the case involved crime scene DNA phenotyping that pointed to a pair of unidentified females. Flourney said that the constant running the DNA profile through CODUS, the U.S. DNA database, had to date failed to identify the killers. (As of September 2019, the Wise/Pichosky murder case remained unsolved.)

A Short History of the FBI Crime Laboratory

     Shortly after becoming the FBI's fourth director in 1924, J. Edgar Hoover envisioned a national crime laboratory under the auspicies of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hoover had been influenced by August Vollmer, the innovative chief of the Berkeley, California Police Department and John H. Wigmore, author and professor at Northwestern University Law School.

     August Vollmer and Wigmore had pioneered the formation of the Scientific Crime Detection Lab formed in Chicago in the wake of the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre. These practitioner scholars believed that the developing fields within forensic science, coupled with highly trained criminal investigators, would someday bring victory over crime. Hoover had already made the image of the latent fingerprint the unofficial logo of the FBI. A FBI crime laboratory would advance Hoover's goal to create the ideal crime fighter--an highly educated, well-trained scientific crime detection professional.

     In April 1931, Hoover sent Special Agent Charles A. Appel, Jr. to Chicago to enroll in a short course sponsored by the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory that at the time was a private, fee-charging lab partially funded by the university. Most of the lab's cases consisted of forensic document examination, firearm identification (then called forensic ballistics), and research and development in the polygraph, a newly developing field of scientific lie detection. (In 1938 the Scientific Crime Detection Lab would be taken over by the Chicago Police Department.) Hoover also sent agent Appel to police departments in St. Louis (in 1906 the first police department to establish a fingerprint identification bureau), New Orleans, and Detroit, the only law enforcement agencies besides Berkeley and Los Angeles that operated crime labs.

     The FBI Technical Laboratory, with Charles Appel as its head, opened its doors on November 24, 1932 (in 1942 it was renamed the FBI Laboratory) in a nine-by-nine foot room in the Southern Railway Building at Thirteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. Special Agent Appel, its director and only employee, performed firearm identification work. Appel used the newly invented comparison microscope and a device designed for the examination of gun barrel interiors. To produce forensic exhibits of bullets, Appel utilized basic photographic equipment. The FBI Lab, as advertised by Hoover, provided evidence analysis and testimony for the bureau as well as for any local law enforcement agency that requested forensic analysis. Hoover also promised research and development in the various forensic science fields. Hoover's ambitious undertaking eventually made the FBI an indispensable and highly visible cog in the nation's crime fighting machine.

     By 1940, the laboratory, now located at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC, employed firearm identificaton experts, questioned document examiners, forensic chemists, physicists, metallurgists specializing in tool mark identification, forensic geologists (soil examinations), hair and fiber analysts, forensic serologists (blood and bodily fluids examinations), and latent fingerprint identification experts. The laboratory, employing over a hundred people, had gotten so large Hoover divided the lab into three sections: questioned documents; physics and chemistry; and latent fingerprint identification. At this time, only fifteen police departments and sixteen states operated crime labs. The FBI Lab continued to grow. By 1958, it employed two hundred scientific, clerical and administrative personnel.

     The FBI Laboratory, by the end of the 1980's, had grown into the busiest and most famous crime lab in the world. It had also become one of the top tourist attractions in Washington, DC. But even in its heyday, because of the quantity of forensic examinations and laboratory hiring criteria, there were problems with the quality of some of the work. The FBI Lab was the biggest and the most famous, but not the best. Overwhelmed by a staggering caseload, Hoover did not hire top-rate scientists. Moreover, there was not time for research and development. This led to some bad science and a problem with scientific objectivity.

     The FBI lab had to compete for personnel with a growing number of city, county, and state crime labs.  Because the FBI only hired lab employees who also met the criteria for the position of special agent, not all of the lab personnel had sufficient scientific backgrounds.  All FBI Lab personnel (except clerical employees) were first sent into the field to work as agents for three years. Many of these agents  had to be dragged kicking and screaming back to DC to work inside the lab. some of these agents had used their degrees in science to get into the FBI to become investigators, not bureau crime lab criminalists. Moreover, the close identification with law enforcement created by three years in the field worked against scientific objectivity. (The FBI has since changed its crime lab hiring criteria.)

     J. Edgar Hoover died in office in May 1972. By 1990, there was nothing left of his reputation and status as an American law enforcement pioneer. The mere mention of his name on a TV sitcom or a late night talk show brought instant laughter. Once a powerful and innovative man, Hoover, like so many other American historical figures--Charles Lindbergh for one--had been reduced by a tabloid culture and hack journalism into a character you might find in an underground comic book. The post-Hoover image of the FBI agent, while having lost some of its luster, did not go down with the Hoover ship. Notwithstanding his fall from grace, Hoover's most profound contribution to the art and science of criminal investigation, the FBI Crime Laboratory, is still considered the gold standard of forensic science in America.

Sherlock Holmes on Vigilantism

I think that there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge.

Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" 

Children's Books Are Not Watered Down Adult Literature

Children's books are not watered down adult books. They demand certain abilities of their authors, not the least of which is that of being able to tap into the minds and souls of young people and to project the voice of those people to the reader. You, as an experienced adult, have to see things objectively and yet have the ability to recall feelings and attitudes and viewpoints of your early years to the point that you can write about children convincingly.

Barbara Seuling, How to Write a Children's Book and Get It Published, 1991

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Criminalization Of Classroom Misbehavior

     In 2018, officer Dennis Turner retired from the Orlando Police Department. Upon retirement, as part of the Reserve Officer Program, Mr. Turner took a job as a School Resource Officer (SRO) at the Lucious and Emma Nixon Charter School in Orlando, Florida.

     On September 19. 2019, SRO Turner responded to a first grade classroom where a 6-year-old girl, in the course of throwing a tantrum, either kicked the teacher, a student, or the officer. When the girl wouldn't calm down, officer Turner arrested the kid for battery, placed her into handcuffs (unless they make handcuffs for kids, now, I imagine she was restrained by plastic ties), and drove off with the tiny suspect in the backseat of his patrol car.

     At the Orange County Regional Juvenile Center in Orlando, officials fingerprinted and photographed the tiny arrestee. After being so processed into the criminal justice system, the 6-year-old battery suspect was released to her family.

     SRO Turner had arrested, earlier that day, an unruly 8-year-old boy at the same school. This kid had also been hauled off to the juvenile detention center and processed into the system before being picked up by family members.

     As one might expect, when these kiddy-busts were publicized, the public reacted in disbelief and outrage. What in the hell was going on in that charter school, some kind of miniature crime wave? Orlando Police Chief, Orlando (that's right) Rolon immediately suspended SRO Turner pending the results of an internal inquiry.

     Pursuant to departmental regulations, a SRO cannot arrest a student under the age of 12 without the approval of a watch commander. It appeared that SRO Turner had not complied with that policy.

     According to the the 6-year-old battery suspect's grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, the girl suffered from sleep apnea. It was lack of sleep that caused her to melt down. (Perhaps this will be her defense at trial.)

     Handcuffing misbehaving elementary school children and hauling them off in police cars, over the past ten years or so, has been taking place all over the country. (I've written about dozens of these cases on this blog.) In the past, teachers had the authority to maintain order in their classrooms. Kids that could not be controlled by teachers were much easier to expel. But with the increased militarization of American policing as well as institutional restrictions on teachers' abilities to physically restrain disruptive kids, educators have lost control of their classrooms. As a last resort, they have no choice but to call a cop.

     In the Orlando case, and cases like it, the officers involved did not use good judgment in handcuffing and frogmarching kids out of class like adult criminals. It might be a good idea to allow teachers more authority to maintain order in their classrooms. It is only fair to the other students.

     On September 23, 2019, Chief Rolon fired Dennis Turner.

When An Editor Murders Your Manuscript

Authors always take rejection badly. They equate it with infanticide.

P. D. James

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Khaseen Morris Murder Case: Bleeding To Death On Social Media

     In 2019, Tyler Flach, a graduate of Long Beach High School on the south shore of Long Island, New York, attended Nassau County Community College where he majored in business and music sound engineering. He lived with his mother in Lido Beach, Long Island. She and Flach's father had divorced.

     An aspiring hip-hop artist, Tyler Flach had caught the attention of a notable music producer who considered taking the 18-year-old on as a client.

     In May 2019, Nassau County police officers arrested Flach for assault in connection with a road-rage incident, and on September 8, 2019, for  possession of a controlled substance. He had recently split up with his girlfriend, a 10th grader at Long Island's Oceanside High School.

     In the summer of 2019, Khaseen Morris and his family moved to Oceanside, Long Island from the neighboring town of Freeport. The 16-year-old skateboarder wore his hair in dreadlocks and had dyed half of it orange. He planned to study photography.

     On Sunday, September 15, 2019, the 10th grade girl who had dated Tyler Flach asked Khaseen Morris to walk her home from an event. He obliged, apparently unaware that she wanted to make her ex-boyfriend jealous.

     When Tyler Flach learned that Khaseen Morris had been with the 10th grader, he made threats against him on social media. At some point, the two young men agreed to fight in the parking lot of a pizzeria on Brower Avenue in Oceanside. The spot they picked was a popular hangout for local high school students.

     Word quickly spread on social media that the fight would take place on Tuesday afternoon, September 17. Each combatant would show up with a half dozen friends who would participate in the brawl.

     At three in the afternoon that Tuesday, the rival groups faced off in the pizzeria parking lot. They were surrounded by 50 to 70 high school kids who had gathered to watch the fight.

     Shortly into the fray, Tyler Flach allegedly pulled a knife and stabbed Khaseen Morris in the chest. The young man collapsed to the pavement, and while he lay bleeding, everyone in the crowd continued filming the scene with their cellphones, uploading the videos onto social media sites. The spectators were so busy recording the assault and its aftermath, no one bothered to call for an ambulance.

     Finally, after the passage of ten to fifteen minutes, perhaps more, someone called 911 to report a young man bleeding to death in the parking lot of the Brower Avenue strip mall.

     Paramedics rushed Khaseen Morris to the South Nassau Communities Hospital where later that night, he died. Another participant in the fight was treated for a broken arm and swollen head.

     A Nassau County prosecutor charged Tyler Flach with second-degree murder. On Thursday, September 19, 2019, at the suspect's arraignment at the First District Court in Hempstead, he pleaded not guilty to the charge. Flach, accompanied by his attorney, had turned himself in earlier that day.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Infamous Boston Strangler Case

     Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1931, Albert Henry DeSalvo grew up in a family defined by his alcoholic father's abuse. Mr. DeSalvo, who had knocked out all of his wife's teeth, forced young Albert and his siblings to watch him engage in sex with prostitutes in their home.

     As a child, Albert tortured animals and stole from local merchants. In 1943, the twelve-year-old was sent to the Lyman School for Boys after being arrested for battery and robbery. Shortly after his release from reform school, DeSalvo stole a car which put him back into the institution. When he turned eighteen, DeSalvo joined the Army. Two years later, he was honorably discharged from the service.

     In June 1962, when Albert DeSalvo was thirty-one, women in Boston began turning up dead in their apartments. Because there were no signs of forced entry at the murder scenes, investigators theorized that the victims either knew the rapist/killer or he had gained entry by posing as a salesman or perhaps as a detective. The serial killer's last known victim, nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan, had been raped and strangled to death on January 4, 1964. Like all but two of the other twelve murder victims, Mary Sullivan had been strangled with a piece of her own clothing. The unidentified serial killer had stabbed two of his victims to death. All of the murder victims had been raped, and eight out of his thirteen victims were women over the age of fifty-five.

     In October 1964, ten months following Mary Sullivan's murder, a young woman in Cambridge, Massachusetts allowed a man into her apartment who identified himself as a police detective. That man tied the victim to her bed and began raping her. Suddenly, in the middle of the assault, the assailant stopped, said he was sorry, and walked out of the apartment. The victim gave a detailed description of her attacker to detectives who, independent of the ongoing serial murder investigation, were trying to identify the Boston serial rapist.

     The rape victim's description of her assailant led to Albert DeSalvo's arrest. In the course of his confession to a series of rapes, DeSalvo identified himself as the so-called Boston Strangler.

     In 1967, pursuant to a plea bargain negotiated by his attorney F. Lee Bailey, Albert DeSalvo pleaded guilty to the Boston murders. In return for his guilty plea, the 36-year-old avoided the death sentence.

     Not long after being sent to the state prison in Walpole, Massachusetts, DeSalvo took back his murder confessions. In 1973, six years after he had confessed to being the notorious Boston Strangler, one of DeSalvo's fellow inmates at Walpole stabbed him to death.

     Because of the guilty pleas, prosecutors in Boston had not been put to the test of proving the murder cases against Albert DeSalvo. This fact encouraged true crime revisionists to question whether DeSalvo was really the Boston Strangler. Perhaps he was simply a false confessor drawn to the limelight of a celebrated serial murder case. These doubts over DeSalvo's guilt made recent developments pertaining to the old case all the more newsworthy.

     In July 2013, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced that forensic scientists, using advanced, cutting edge technology, had linked Albert DeSalvo to the January 4, 1964 rape and murder of Mary Sullivan. The district attorney told reporters that he planned to ask a superior court judge for an order to exhume DeSalvo's remains for further forensic testing.

     Gerard Frank's The Boston Strangler (New American Library, 1966) is considered the definitive book on the Albert DeSalvo serial murder case. The author leaves no doubt in the reader's mind that Albert DeSalvo was in fact the Boston Strangler. 

The Restaurant Tip Forger

     A former waitress has been charged with forgery and other crimes for allegedly adding $10 or $20 to tips that customers of a western Pennsylvania restaurant left when they paid with credit cards. Police in Penn Township say 30-year-old Gina Haney of North Huntingdon put the number "1" or "2" in front of single digit tips customers had scrawled on receipts. As a result, she received $10 or $20 more than those customers intended.

     Haney allegedly fudged tips on 20 one-dollar tickets at Lucci's Pizza and Pasta between September and December 2014. The restaurant's manager alerted authorities after two customers called to complain about the overcharges on the same day. He pulled other receipts from her customers that revealed more overcharges.

     Haney denied knowing anything about the inflated tips.

"Ex-Waitress Charged With Padding Customers' Tips," Associated Press, February 15, 2015 

The Pretentious Writer: Style Over Substance

     As a reader, I'm put off when I suspect that a writer is too aware of his own style, or is more concerned with style than communication. It's a lot like a politician who takes on a speaker's voice when talking publicly. I consider this, in writers and politicians, pretentious and phony. I prefer to read authors who don't recognize their own literary voices, or if they do, are clever enough to make their writing style appear naturally interesting and unique.

     There is a dreadful style of writing, prose intended to sound lofty and important, found in the promotional literature put out by colleges and universities. The thoughts and messages conveyed in this form are usually quite simple. An example of this style can be found in many college mission statements. In straightforward prose, a university public relations person might write: "The goal of our institution involves providing our students with a quality education at a reasonable price." Because this is so obvious, to say it directly and plainly makes it sound kind of stupid. But when a mission statement is puffed up with carefully selected words and high-minded phrases, the simplicity of the message is replaced by syntax intended to make it sound profound. This style is pompous and false, and represents writing at its worst. Here is an example of highly pretentious writing taken from a pamphlet published by a relatively prestigious liberal arts college:

     "The mission of ________College is to help young men and women develop competencies, commitments and characteristics that have distinguished human beings at their best. All of us who are affiliated with the College are working toward that end each day in as many different ways as their are students on this campus. (Wow, 1,400 different ways.) Our students have unique talents and new insights that are being developed during each interaction with faculty, staff, alumni and other students. (I taught at the college level for 32 years. Where I worked, very few students had unique talent and new insights. In fact, some of them were uniquely untalented and completely without insight. So in my opinion, the talent/insight stuff is a load of stylistic crap.) For each student, those interactions become building blocks in their foundation for living." (Yeah, sure.)

     Ignore, if you can, the lack of substance, unadulterated puffing, and pandering in this mission statement and look at the style. Note the lofty and, to my mind, cheesy alliteration that starts off with the words--competencies, commitments and characteristics--and the use of the buzz words distinguished, affiliated, insights, interaction, and foundation, typical university-speak wordage comparable to university-speak favorites such as outcomes, challenges, and impact (instead of affect) not used in this passage.

     If I were a creative writing teacher, I would use passages like the above to show writing students how not to write. It's a bit ironic that so much heavy-handed, dead prose is produced by colleges and universities. Professors, notorious for being writers of unreadable fiction and highly pompous and dense nonfiction, also contribute to the style over substance problem. If you don't believe me, look through any university press book catalogue. The book titles themselves are beyond comprehension, and the catalogue descriptions of these works are so badly written it's no wonder no one buys this stuff.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Ed Buck Scandal: The Fall Of A Wealthy, Politically Connected Sexual Predator

     In the mid-1970s, 21-year-old Ed Buck left his home state of Arizona for Europe where he began his career as a fashion model. After returning to the U.S. in 1980, he bought a courier company that turned him into a millionaire.

     In 2007, Ed Buck, while residing in West Hollywood, California, became a prominent donor to democrat politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. About this time, the high profile political activist in the LGBTQ community ran for city council and lost. He continued, however, to line the pockets of his favorite democrat politicians.

     On July 27, 2017, police were called to Ed Buck's West Hollywood apartment in the 1200 block of Laurel Avenue. The officers found, lying dead on a mattress in the 63-year-old's living room, a 26-year-old black escort named Gemmel Moore. The apartment was littered with 24 hypodermic needles, five meth pipes, and a variety of sex toys. A porn video was playing on the television.

     The forensic pathologist who conducted Mr. Moore's autopsy found that he had died from a crystal methamphetamine overdose. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled that Gemmel Moore's death had been an accident caused by a self-administered overdose. As a result, Ed Buck was not investigated to determine what role he may have played in Mr. Moore's death, or if he was operating some kind of drug den for gay, homeless men.

     Gemmel Moore's mother, LaTisha Nixon, as well as others, voiced their outrage over the Los Angeles coroner's accidental death finding. The district attorney's office, aware of writings in Gemmel Moore's journal detailing how Ed Buck had injected him and other gay men with methamphetamine in order to facilitate his sexual fetishes, apparently ignored this evidence in deciding not to authorize an investigation. One of Buck's sexual fetishes involved photographing men wearing tight underwear.

     LaTisha Nixon accused the Los Angeles District Attorneys Office and the coroner of protecting the wealthy political donor. By some accounts, Ed Buck had given the Hillary Clinton campaign $500,000. He had also given money to Barak Obama.

     On January 12, 2019, the police were again summoned to Ed Buck's West Hollywood apartment. This time they found 55-year-old Timothy Dean dead from a methamphetamine overdose.

     Mr. Dean, a six-foot-five black man, had worked at Bloomingdale's and SAKS Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles as a fashion consultant. He had also worked on and off as an actor in gay adult films. As a younger man, Timothy Dean had been active in the Lambada (gay) Basketball League. He had once participated in the Gay Games in Paris, France. At age 52, Mr. Dean earned an associates degree from Santa Monica Community College.

     According to Mr. Dean's family and friends, it had been years since he had used drugs. Nevertheless, as in the Gemmel Moore case, the Los Angeles Coroner ruled his death accidental due to a self-administered methamphetamine overdose. Once again, in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office decided not to file criminal charges against Ed Buck. This decision outraged Timothy Dean's family and friends who considered him a victim of sexual foul play.

     In February 2019, LaTisha Nixon, emboldened by the second overdose fatality in Ed Buck's apartment, filed a wrongful death suit against the wealthy political donor. The plaintiff alleged that Mr. Buck was a drug dealer who had injected her son with a fatal dose of crystal meth. According to Jasmyne Cannick, a political consultant and spokesperson for the Nixon family, Ed Buck had received special treatment from the prosecutor's office because of his political connections and wealth. This was a view shared by many in Los Angeles's gay community.

     In June 2019, Ed Buck met a black, 37-year-old homeless man later referred to in court documents as "Joe Doe." Following a brief exchange on Adam4Adam, a web site designed for men to meet other men "for friendship, romance, or a hot hookup," Buck drove to LA's skid row, picked up the homeless man, and brought him back to his apartment in West Hollywood.

     In Buck's apartment, before he had sex with Joe Doe, Buck injected him with crystal methamphetamine, something he did every day up to September 4, 2019. On that day, when Joe Doe left the apartment, he sought medical help on the belief Ed Buck had overdosed him.

     A week after receiving medical treatment for an overdose, Joe Doe returned to Ed Buck's apartment. On that occasion, Buck injected him with a double dose of the drug. Thinking that he might die from that shot, the homeless man asked Buck to call an ambulance. When Buck refused, Doe asked for a Klonopin pill, medication for seizure disorders and panic attacks. Ed Buck refused that request, and when the heavily drugged man tried to leave the apartment, Mr. Buck stopped him.

     Notwithstanding Ed Buck's efforts to restrain him, Joe Doe managed to escape from the apartment that day. At a nearby gas station, Doe asked a passerby to call 911 on his behalf. As he was being treated at a local hospital, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies responded to Ed Buck's apartment. It was there officers discovered, in addition to drug paraphernalia, hundreds of photographs of men in tight underwear in various sexual poses.

     On September 17, 2019, officers booked Ed Buck into the Los Angeles County Jail on one count each of battery causing serious injury, the administering of methamphetamine, and maintaining a drug house. If convicted of all three counts, the suspect faced no more than five years, eight months in state prison. The prosecutor in charge of the case asked the judge to set Ed Buck's bail at $4 million.

     At a press conference, the Los Angeles District Attorney told reporters that Ed Buck used drugs to lure gay men to his apartment where he manipulated them into participating in his sexual fetishes. The D.A. painted Mr. Buck as a depraved, hedonistic sexual predator.

     Two days after Ed Buck's arrest on the Joe Doe related charges, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles, in connection with the July 27, 2017 death of Gemmel Moore, charged the suspect with the federal offense of drug distribution resulting in death. This offense carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.

     The United States Attorney, in speaking to reporters, said FBI agents had identified nine more gay men Ed Buck had lured to his apartment for the purpose of injecting them with methamphetamine.

     Gemmel Moore's mother, LaTisha Nixon, praised  the United States Attorney who, unlike the Los Angeles Coroner, didn't believe that Mr. Moore had injected himself with the deadly dose of methamphetamine. Others who had been seeking justice for Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean were also pleased with the federal charge against Ed Buck.

Is Abolishing Academic Freedom The Future Of Academia?

     A Harvard University feminist student writing in the campus newspaper The Crimson posited this: "If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with [italics mine] research that counters our goals simply in the name of "academic freedom"?…

     Senior Sandra Y.L. Korn, a studies of women, gender and sexuality major, called for the end of academic freedom and in its place "a more rigorous standard: one of 'academic justice.'"

     "When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue….The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to."…

"Harvard Feminist Says Academic Freedom Should Be Abolished," The College Fix, February 21, 2014

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Infamous "The Dingo Ate My Baby" Case

     According to Lindy Chamberlain, on August 17, 1980, while she, her husband Michael, and their three children were camping near Ayer's Rock in Australia's outback, she saw a dingo (a wild dog) come out of the family's tent with her 9-week-old baby in it's mouth. "The dingo's got my baby!" she screamed. The infant, named Azaria, was never found. The incident grabbed headlines around the world. In Australia, the media portrayed Lindy Chamberlain as a remorseless killer.

     In Darwin, at the Magistrates Court, a coroner's inquest jury found no cause to charge the parents with criminal homicide. This was not a popular verdict, and in 1981, a second coroner's jury heard evidence in the case. This time, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain were ordered to stand trial for the murder of Azaria.

     Although the prosecutor lacked evidence of a crime--he didn't even have a body--the trial jury found Lindy guilty of first-degree murder. The media applauded the verdict, and the judge, bending to public opinion, sentenced her to life in prison. Michael Chamberlain, found guilty of accessory after the fact, received a suspended sentence.

     In 1985, a hiker found a piece of the baby's clothing in a dingo's den near Ayer's Rock. Presented with this new, exonerating evidence, an appellate court, in 1987, overturned the convictions. Lindy Chamberlain was released from prison. Many Australians were not happy with this decision. The following year, a movie came out about the case called "A Cry in the Dark" starring Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain.

     Because many people in Australia believed that Lindy Chamberlain had murdered her baby, the authorities, in anticipation of a retrial, convened a third coroner's inquest in Darwin's Magistrates Court. The jury in the 1995 inquiry returned an open verdict, declaring the cause and manner of the baby's death unknown.

     On February 24, 2012, the Magistrates Court in Darwin was, for the fourth time, the site of a coroner's inquest into the death of the Chamberlain baby. Lindy Chamberlain had asked for the hearing to clear her name. Specifically, she wanted the coroner's jurors to change Azaria's manner of death from "unknown" to "accidental death by animal attack." Both parents, now divorced, were in the courtroom to hear testimony bearing on the case.

     According to an expert on such matters, from 1990 to 2011, there have been 239 dingo attacks in Queensland, Australia. Since 1982, at least three children have been killed by these wild dogs. These statistics were presented to make Lindy Chamberlain's account of her baby's death seem less farfetched. While public opinion had already shifted in her favor, she wanted to make it official.

     The coroner's verdict exonerated the Chamberlains of any wrongdoing in the death of their child. While there has never been any evidence of foul play in this case, there will always be, notwithstanding the coroner's verdict, doubters. And a lot of this doubt can be traced back to the irresponsible journalism in this case. In this regard, the case is not unlike the JonBenet Ramsey case in the United States.

     As late as 2016, Lindy Chamberlain was still speaking publicly about her ordeal. Surprisingly, she held no grudge against those responsible for her wrongful imprisonment.

The Krystal Marie Barrows Police-Involved-Shooting Case

     Eleven people were inside a mobile home near Chillicothe, Ohio when, at 10:30 PM on December 11, 2013, a dozen or so members of a local drug task force unit rolled up to the dwelling with a no-knock warrant to search for guns and drugs. One of the occupants of the trailer house was a teenage girl.

     Just before breaking into the home, one of the heavily armed U.S. 23 Task Force officers tossed a flash bang grenade through a window. At the moment the device detonated officers forced their way into the house.

     Following the initial chaos created by the SWAT-like raid, officers found Krystal Marie Barrows slumped on the living room couch. The 35-year-old mother of three had been shot in the head. She died shortly after being flown by helicopter to the Wexner Medical Center in Columblus.

     The raiding police officers arrested two women and four men for illegally possessing pistols, assault rifles, and heroin. The task force cops also recovered stolen goods and a significant amount of cash. During the raid, none of the mobile home occupants pulled a gun or fired a shot. This meant that Krystal Barrows had been shot by one of the task force officers.

     According to the results of a preliminary police inquiry into Barrows' death, she had been shot by Ross County sergeant Brett McKnight. The eleven-year veteran of the Ross County Sheriff's Office had accidentally discharged his sidearm outside the trailer when the flash bang grenade went off. The bullet pierced the trailer home's exterior wall and hit Barrows in the head.

      Other than a misdemeanor drunk and disorderly conviction, Krystal Barrows did not have a criminal record. Her sons were aged 19, 14, and 9. Detectives with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation looked into the case to determine if Sergeant McKnight had fired his gun recklessly.

     In March 2015, after a Ross County grand jury declined to indict Office McKnight for criminal homicide or lesser charges, the officer returned to work without any disciplinary action.

     Two years after the grand jury refused to indict the officer, the Ross County Sheriff's Office and other wrongful death defendants settled a lawsuit filed by Krystal Barrows' family for $156,000.

The Writer's Fear of Criticism

     Are writers more concerned with others' opinions of them, more given to depression, and more reluctant to share their work, especially work they consider risky, than other creative types? In my experience, yes, yes, and yes. While the painters and other visual artists I know are surely sensitive people, they also seem enviably oblivious to what others think of their work. Musicians and actors, too, have hefty egos and tend to be more obsessed with what they do than what others think about what they do….Regardless of talent, it's almost impossible to get new writers to stand up and read from their work. [Maybe it's because they think this kind of exercise is self-important and boring to others.]

     Yes, writers' temperaments are unique. I have watched the most talented writers compare themselves to their favorite authors--to dead authors, especially--and grow encyclopedia-sized [writer's] blocks because they believe they'll never be as good. [They are probably right.]

     Talent seems to be inverse to confidence. Some of the most talented writers I know are reluctant to send out their work, so convinced are they that no will will ever publish it.

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Pen on Fire, 2004 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Minneapolis Mobs Rob And Beat Citizens While Politicians Look The Other Way

     Minneapolis, Minnesota, a midwestern city of about 425,000, has an overall crime rate higher than 97 percent of other cities in the United States. In 2017, crime in Minneapolis was up 5 percent from the year before. And in 2018, while property crime rates in the city fell slightly, the rates of violent offenses--murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery, and rape--went up.

     Minneapolis Chief of Police Medaria Arradondo, in 2018, asked the 13-member city council to approve funding for an additional 100 officers. The department's 880 sworn officers were unable to maintain an adequate level of order maintenance in the growing city. Council members, preferring to spend taxpayer money on social programs, declined.

     In late 2018 and early 2019, the violent crime problem in Minneapolis continued to get worse, overwhelming the understaffed police department. Still, local politicians did nothing to protect the city's residents and visitors.

     A report by a criminal justice research group regarding the degree to which the Minneapolis Police Department was unable to enforce the law in the city, stunned concerned citizens. In 2018, due to the police manpower shortage, police officers were not available to respond to 6, 776 high priority 911calls that included shots being fired, officer down, sexual assaults, and stabbings.

     In August 2019, the uncontrolled lawlessness in Minneapolis brought national attention to the city following the publication of three videos that depicted, in gruesome detail, mobs of black teenagers and young adults beating and robbing physically impaired young white men. All of the unprovoked attacks took place during the day, in public, and in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

     Brandon O'Brien was out celebrating his birthday not far from the Minneapolis Twins baseball stadium when he was suddenly surrounded by a mob of joyful robbers who punched him to the ground, stripped him of his trousers, beat him with his belt, kicked him in the face, jumped on his body, and rode over him with a bike. His attackers took his cellphone and left the battered and bleeding victim lying unconscious on the pavement.

     The 24-year-old victim of this brutal and gratuitous violence, among other injuries, suffered a serious concussion that left him with memory loss and the inability to sleep. As a result of being viciously assaulted by a mob of strangers in public, Brandon O' Brien now lives in fear. He may never fully recover from his trauma.

     Outside a steakhouse not far from where the robbery mob accosted Brandon O' Brien, a gang of criminals set upon two young men whom they beat by repeatedly punching and kicking them until both victims ended up unconscious on the ground.

     The third incident of mob violence in Minneapolis involved another street robbery and another young man left laid out cold on his back.

     In response to these roving criminal mobs in search of vulnerable victims to viciously assault in broad daylight, Chief of Police Arradonda requested adding 400 sworn officers to the department by 2025.

     Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey responded to his city's lawlessness by proposing 14 additional police officers. A few members of the city council said they would be willing to support an additional 30 officers.

     From their ridiculously weak responses to what most reasonable people would consider a public safety crisis, the city's politicians, not vulnerable themselves to street crime, revealed just how unconcerned they were about the dangers of living in Minneapolis.

     On September 17, 2019, thanks to a team of Hennepin County Sheriff's Office investigators and detectives from the city, officers arrested 20 black males between the ages 15 to 27 believed by investigators to have been involved in the mob-style assaults.

     A spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department told reporters that the mob suspects were not charged with hate crimes because they did not target their victims because they were white. These young men were singled out for assault because they were physically impaired.

     If these atrocious assaults were not hate crimes, what in the hell were they?

The Media Coverage of White on Black Crime

A white man shooting a black man is presumed racist. A black man shooting a white man is described as an indictment of society as a whole. A white man shooting a black man is put down to individual racism, but a black man shooting a white man is written off as a response to white racism....These assumptions are part of the unwritten stylebook of modern media coverage....Racism, like any form of xenophobia, is unfortunately indigenous to the human character. To privilege one form of racism over another is to justify and dehumanize its victims as deserving of abuse.

Daniel Greenfield, "The Racist Liberal System," Frontpage Mag. com, August 30, 2013

The Historic Jukes Family

Sociologist Richard Dugdale made a study of a family called the Jukes and wrote a book about them, The Jukes (1877). In attempting to prove that criminal characteristics are inherited, Dugdale studied the entire Jukes clan descended from the original sire in New York in the early nineteenth century. Two of his sons married their illegitimate sisters, and Dugdale traced the entire seven hundred descendants. All were either prostitutes or criminals, save for a half a dozen.

Brian Marriner, On Death's Bloody Trail, 1991

What is Literary Success?

     It is important to establish your own definition of success. Is it one story? A completed manuscript? One appreciative reader? Publication? A bestseller? A number-one bestseller? Ten number-one bestsellers?…

     [According to writer Irvine Walsh]: "I'll just write until I can't write anymore. If my next book was my last book, I wouldn't care at all. If my next book was my two hundredth from last, it wouldn't bother me. You can only write so long as you've got something to say. I don't think there's any particular virtue in being a writer."

In Ian Jackman, editor, The Writer's Mentor, 2004 

Categories Within The Mystery Genre

The term mystery, as in mystery novel, is an umbrella that shelters a variety of subgenres: the traditional whodunit, the private eye, the classic puzzle, the police procedural, action/adventure, thriller, espionage, the novels of psychological and romantic suspense.

Sue Grafton, Writing Mysteries, 1992 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Nalani Johnson Kidnap-Murder Case

     Twenty-one-year old Paul D. Johnson resided in the Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania borough of Delmont located along Route 22 on the eastern edge of suburban Pittsburgh. He was the father of a 23-month-old girl named Nalani. During the summer of 2019, he began an intermittent romantic relationship with 25-year-old Sharena Islam Nancy, a woman he had met through social media.

     On Saturday, August 31, 2019, Paul Johnson and his daughter were in Sharena Nancy's black, 2017 Toyota Yaris. Nalani was in the back of the car strapped into a car seat. At five o'clock that Saturday, an argument broke out between Johnson and Nancy. At the intersection of Bryant Street and Clay Drive in the Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills, Mr. Johnson told Sharena Nancy to stop the car so he and his daughter could get out.

    When Mr. Johnson got out of the Toyota, and was about to remove his daughter from the car, Nancy drove off with the child. In a state of panic, Mr. Johnson called Nancy's cellphone several times without getting a response. He then called 911 and reported that his daughter had been kidnapped by Sharena Nancy in a black Toyota Yaris with Lyft and Uber stickers on the front passenger side of the vehicle.

     The authorities, based upon Mr. Johnson's kidnapping report, put out a regional Amber Alert requesting information regarding the whereabouts of the Toyota driven by Sharena Nancy with Nalani Johnson in the back seat.

     The Amber Alert quickly brought responses from witnessed who had spotted Nancy's car. She was also captured on a surveillance camera at a Sheetz service plaza in Murrysville, a nearby Allegheny County borough. From the service plaza, Nancy, according to witnesses, traveled east on Route 22. About an hour after the abduction, a witness saw Nancy's car in the Indiana County town of Blairsville.

     Just before 7:30 that Saturday evening, back in Allegheny County, an officer with the suburban Penn Hills Police Department spotted the black Toyota Yaris and pulled it over. Sharena Nancy was behind the wheel, but Nalani Johnson and her car seat were not in the vehicle. The officer took Nancy into custody on suspicion of kidnapping.

     Questioned by Allegheny County detectives and FBI agents, Sharena Nancy had quite a story, one that accused Nalani Johnson's father of enlisting her help in selling his daughter to an unidentified woman for $10,000.

     According to the kidnapping suspect, Paul Johnson instructed her that Saturday to drive her car, with Nalani in it, eastward toward a service station on Route 22 in Monroeville, a town located in Westmoreland County. Nancy claimed that Johnson assured her that along the way, about 20 minutes into the trip, a woman standing along the side of the highway would flag her over.

     In telling this outlandish tale, Sharena Nancy said that she came upon a woman along Route 22 standing near a silver colored SUV with out of state plates. The woman waived her to a stop. It was at that time Nancy handed over Nalani along with the child's car seat.

     After passing off Nalani as instructed by her father, Nancy said she continued driving east to Indiana County's Blairsville where she turned around and headed back to Penn Hills where she was stopped by the police officer and taken into custody.

     Officers booked Sharena Nancy into the Allegheny County jail on charges of kidnapping a minor, interference with the custody of a child, and concealing the whereabouts of a child. The magistrate denied her bail.

     On September 3, 2019, law enforcement authorities in Indiana County announced that Nalani Johnson's body had been found by a person or persons they did not identify. The corpse was discovered in Pine Ridge Park near Blairsville, about 37 miles east of Penn Hills where she had been abducted. The body was not far from the Chestnut Ridge Golf Course. Witnesses had reported seeing Sharena Nancy's black Toyota near the course on Saturday, August 31.

     A private forensic pathology group, under the auspices of the Indiana County Coroner's Office, would perform the autopsy and determine Nalani Johnson's manner and cause of death.

     On September 5, 2019, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala told reporters that "there is no evidence that anyone other than Sharena Nancy was responsible for the child's being taken from Penn Hills and ultimately being placed in that field or in the woods in Indiana County." The prosecutor indicated that the autopsy results may not be available for five to six week.

      Regarding the condition of the girl's body, District Attorney Zappala said the child had been fully clothed and had not died from the elements. Because the body showed no signs of physical trauma such as a blunt force blow to the head, a knife or gunshot wound, or a ligature mark from manual strangulation, investigators theorized that her cause of death was suffocation.

The News Media In The Era Of The Hate Crime Hoax

     Jason R. Riley, in a June 25, 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal about fake hate crimes, cites Kentucky State political science professor Wilfred Reilly. Dr. Reilly, who happens to be black, is an expert on hate crime hoaxes.

     Professor Reilly has identified 400 fake hate crimes between 2010 and 2017. In studying hate crime reports, Dr. Reilly determined that less than a third of these cases turned out to be genuine. Statistically, reports of hate crime should therefore be met with a certain degree of skepticism, particularly by journalists. But that is not the case. According to the professor, "In the mainstream media we hear scary new fears of racism: 'white privilege,' 'cultural appropriation,' 'subtle bigotry.' "

     Regarding hate crimes, Wall Street Journal author Jason R. Riley writes: "These alleged incidents are invariably seized upon by politicians and activists looking to feed a sacrosanct belief by liberals that discrimination and oppression are the main drivers of inequality."

     It's no wonder Americans are disgusted with politicians, and don't trust what they read and hear in the news media.

The Media's Role in American Violence

     ….The validity of the copycat effect is undeniable. This human phenomenon, which is hundreds if not thousands of years old, is being accelerated by our brave new world of in-your-face, wall-to-wall news coverage. The media's graphic coverage of rampage shootings, celebrity suicides, bridge jumpers, school shootings, and the like is triggering vulnerable and angry people to take their own lives and that of others.

     This is not a statement the media wants to hear. Instead of facing up to their role in these events, the media, after a shooting rampage, a school shooting, or a famous suicide, engages in the "blame game." Are guns to blame? Is it Satan? Are parents, friends, schools, and drugs to blame? Or is the general public itself, conditioned now on a high protein diet of increasingly violent fare, to blame for wanting more and more? Of course, asking the question Who is responsible? deflects the attention away from the major socially reinforcing element in the mix: the media itself. Denying the clear evidence of the copycat effect is foolhardy.

Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect, 2004 

Jack Abbott's Prison Cell

     In the cell, there is a barred window with an ancient, heavy mesh-steel screen. It is level with the ground outside. The existing windowpanes are caked with decades of soil, and the screen prevents cleaning them.

     A sheet of thick plywood, on iron legs bolted to the floor, is my bed. An old-fashioned toilet bowl is in the corner, beside a sink with cold running water. A dim light burns in a dull yellow glow behind the thick iron screening attached to the wall.

     The walls are covered with names and dates--some of the dates go back twenty years. They were scratched into the wall. There are ragged hearts pieced with arrows and crosses everywhere. Everywhere are the words: "mom," "love," "god"--the walls sweat and are clammy and cold.

Jack Henry Abbott (1944-2002), In The Belly of the Beast, 1982

Not Everyone Is a Fan of Russian Literature

The one genre I absolutely cannot stand is Russian literature. You need genealogy charts to just figure out the characters, every novel is a thousand pages and pretty much everyone dies.

Jodi Picoult, The New York Times Book Review, October 12, 2014 

The Pompous Writer

     Sometimes it takes courage to drop our pretensions, to choose use instead of utilize, rain instead of precipitation, arithmetic instead of computational skills. An idea expressed in simple English has to stand on its own, naked and unadorned, while ostentatious words sound impressive even when they mean nothing.

     Not all pompous writers are showing off or covering up their ignorance. Some are just timid, imagining that their ideas are flimsy or flawed or silly, even when they aren't. If you've done your homework, you shouldn't have to disguise your ideas with showy language. Be brave. Write plainly.

     The truth about big, ostentatious words is that they don't work as well as simple ones.

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Abortion Doctor Ulrich Klopfer And His Dead Fetuses

     In 1974, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer opened an abortion clinic in South Bend, Indiana. In June 2014, a prosecutor in St. Joseph County, Indiana charged him with the misdemeanor offense of failing to file a timely report with the state regarding an abortion he had performed on a 13-year-old girl in South Bend. (Indiana state law requires doctors to report every abortion within six months of the procedure.) After Dr. Klopfer agreed to complete a re-education program, the prosecution dropped the charge.

     Also in 2014, Dr. Klopfer performed an abortion on a 10-year-old girl who had been raped by her uncle. After the procedure, she went home with her parents who obviously knew she had been sexually assaulted. Neither Dr. Klopfer nor the girl's parents reported the rape to the police.

     The Indiana State Department of Health, in 2015, revoked the abortion clinic's license for violating the state's regulation regarding the registry of patients, and for failing to provide documentation that the clinic provided patients with state-mandated patient counseling at least 18 hours before an abortion.

     In November 2016, the Indiana Medical Licensing Board revoked Dr. Klopfer's medical license for failing to ensure that qualified staff was present when patients received or recovered from medications given before and during abortion procedures. By then, Dr. Klopfer was no longer practicing. He informed the medical licensing panel that during his 43 years of performing abortions, he had terminated 30,000 pregnancies without losing a patient.

     On September 3, 2019, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer died at the age of 75. Members of his family, on September 12, called the local authorities after finding, in his Crete Township, Illinois home, 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains. The dead fetuses were turned over to the Will County, Illinois Coroner's Office for proper handling.  There was no evidence that Dr. Klopfer had performed abortions at his home.

     In May 2016, Indiana enacted a law that required the burial or cremation of fetal remains produced by abortions. Prior to that law, abortion clinics in Indiana turned the dead fetuses over to processors who disposed of human tissues and other medical byproducts.

     The Will County Sheriff's Office, on September 14, 2019, opened an investigation into Dr. Klopfer's possession of the fetal remains. 

The Criminal's Fate

Vice may triumph for a time, crime may flaunt its victories in the face of honest toilers, but in the end the law will follow the wrongdoer to a bitter fate, and dishonor and punishment will be the portion of those who sin.

Allan Pinkerton

A Prison Memoir

You will notice that I have not written about the horrors of prison life, or the conditions, hardships, treatment and so forth, because men reading this book who have been to jail will be bored to tears and people who haven't been to jail can bloody well come in here and find out for themselves.

Mark Brandon Read, From the Inside

The Un-compromised Novelist

I don't give a damn if my work is commercial or not. I'm the writer. If what I write is good, then people will read it. That's why literature exists. An author puts his heart and guts on the page. For your information, a good novel can change the world. Keep that in mind before you attempt to sit down at a typewriter. Never waste time on something you don't believe in yourself.

John Fante, Ask the Dust

Cop Humor

I received a t-shirt from my best friend at my police academy graduation. It reads: "Throw your donut in the opposite direction and the cops won't get you." I love wearing that t-shirt.

Suzie Ivy, Bad Luck Officer

Bernard Shaw on Literary Critics

I have never been able to see how the duties of a critic, which consists largely in making painful remarks in public about the most sensitive of his fellow creatures, can be reconciled with the manners of a gentleman. But gentleman or no, a critic is most certainly not bound to perjure himself to shield the reputation of the profession he criticizes.

Bernard Shaw in Never in Doubt by Peter S. Prescott, 1986 

The Benefits of Writing

We [women] have come to think that duty should come first. I disagree. Duty should be a by-product. Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first--at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, light-hearted and generous to everybody else. Even your health will improve. Colds will disappear and all the other ailments of discouragement and boredom.

Brenda Uleland, If You Want to Write, originally published in 1938 

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Edawn Coughman Hate Crime Hoax

     In 2012, 23-year-old offensive tackle Edawn Coughman, out of Shaw University, a historically black Baptist liberal arts school in Raleigh, North Carolina, made the Seattle Seahawks practice squad. During the next four years, Coughman was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins without making the active rosters of any of these teams.

     In 2016, Edawn Coughman was out of football and living in Buford, Georgia. He started two businesses, Create and Bake Pizza and an ice cream shop called Coughman's Creamery in a shopping plaza on Duluth Highway in unincorporated Lawrenceville, a community 25 miles northeast of Atlanta.

     In 2019, Mr. Coughman, as a businessman, was struggling.

     At nine-thirty on the night of September 11, 2019, a maintenance worker at the Lawrenceville shopping plaza saw someone inside Create and Bake Pizza and Coughman's Creamery destroying the interiors of these establishments. The plaza worker called 911.

     When deputies with the Gwinett County Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene, they saw a black man behind the wheel of a Chevrolet pickup truck without license plates. When officers pulled the truck over, they noticed several flat-screen television sets in the cab and truck bed.

     The driver of the pickup turned out to be Edawn Coughman. The television screens had mounting brackets with pieces of drywall attached. The sets had obviously been recently ripped from their places on walls.

     Inside Mr. Coughman's businesses, officers discovered, besides evidence that several television sets had been pulled off the walls,  graffiti in still tacky black spray paint. The booth cushions in both establishments had also been so defaced. On the walls, the vandal had drawn swastikas and written the words "monkey," and "MAGA" (Make America Great Again) as well as the n-word.

     In Coughman's truck, officers found a crowbar believed to have been used to pry open the back doors to his businesses. Deputies also discovered several recently used black spray cans. The owner of the burglarized businesses was further incriminated by fresh stains of black paint on his hands.

     In the course of their investigation, officers learned that while Mr. Coughman did not report the burglary/hate crime to the police, he had filed a report with his insurance company. This suggested that Coughman had not only created a racial hate crime hoax, he had intended to defraud his insurance company.

     On September 12, 2019, a Gwinett County prosecutor charged Edawn Coughman with falsely reporting a burglary and insurance fraud. Shortly after being booked into the Gwinett County Jail on those charges, the 30-year-old posted his $8,300 bail and was released.

     It's bad enough to defraud an insurance company, but a lot worse to stoke racial tensions by staging a fake hate crime.

The Professional Criminal

While the [amateur crook] sees an opportunity and takes it, the professional criminal through the use of deceit and treachery, is able to create opportunities. This individual not only actively searches for crime to commit, the professional assembles teams of similar people and generates situations in which crime can be safely perpetrated in a controlled environment for maximum profit.

Gary "Gunz" Govich, My Life in The Russian Mob Until the Day I Died

The Realities Of Police Work

I used to want to be a cop for a brief time, a detective, solving crimes and upholding the law, ever since I started watching crime shows in junior high. But being a cop, contrary to what many believe, isn't like the films or television shows that we see every day. If you're a cop who has to have the grim duty of telling a parent that their child was killed, or who loses a friend in a dangerous case, or who has to interview victims of horrible crimes, somehow I imagine you just want to quit forever on some days.

Rebecca McNutt

The Stupid House Burglar

Most criminals are stupid. They creep into $500,000 homes, load up two dozen bottles of gin, whiskey, Vermouth, and Collins mix in a $2,000 Irish linen tablecloth and later drink the booze and throw the tablecloth away.

James Lee Burke, Heaven's Prisoners

Thornton P. Knowles On The Life Of A Writer

I enjoy thinking about what I'm going to write. I like thinking about what I've written. But actually doing it is exhausting, and until I get it right, stressful. And when I fail it's humiliating. Who in their right mind wants to be a writer?

Thornton P. Knowles

The Sins of Book Reviewers

There is the critical sin of covetousness, which may cause the book critic to seek fame at the expense of the author whose work he exploits. The closely associated sin of envy leads to the denigration of the work of others for the hidden purpose of self-aggrandizement. To indulge the sin of gluttony is to bite off more than one is prepared to digest, denying others the right to partake. To be lustful is to indulge an inordinate desire for the gratification of one's sense of power. The deadly sin of anger leads to the loss of one's composure and sense of balance during the inevitable exchanges of differing opinion. The deadly sin of sloth is to repeat accepted lies about an author or body of work because the critic is too lazy to dig out the truth.

Carlos Baker in Opinions and Perspectives From "The New York Times Book Review," edited by Francis Brown, 1964 

Stephen King on Moral Fiction

I've written a lot of stories about desperate people in desperate situations, and it gets to the point where you say to yourself: Here's a guy who's building something in his garage. He's all by himself, and he's hammering a nail into the board and hits his thumb instead, and blood spurts out. Now, does this guy say, "Oh, pickles"? Use your imagination. In other words, what I'm talking about is telling the truth. Frank Norris, who wrote The Pit, McTeague, and other naturalistic novels that were banned said: "I don't fear; I don't apologize because I know in my heart that I never lied. I told the truth." And I think the real truth of fiction is that fiction is the truth; moral fiction is the truth inside the lie. And if you lie in your fiction, you are immoral and have no business writing at all.

Stephen King, Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing, 2000

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Dominance Of Celebrity Journalism Over Hard News

I'm overwhelmed by the magnitude of the celebrity culture in American. My background is as a news journalist, and newsrooms in the U.S. are being terminated or shrunk on newspapers all around the country. The one aspect that's expanded is coverage of celebrity culture. [For example: The recent cable news over-coverage of a television actress sentenced to 14 days behind bars in a college admissions scandal.]

Carl Hiaasen, crime novelist

A Libertarian's View Of American Jurisprudence

There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Ayn Rand

Poverty And Crime

The Common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor.

H. L. Mencken

Writing as a Process of Discovery

Many people think that writers are wise men who can impart to them the truth or some profound philosophy of life. It is not so. A writer is a skilled craftsman who discovers things along with the reader, and what you do with a good writer is you share the search; you are not being imparted wisdom, or if you are being imparted wisdom, it's a wisdom that came to him just as it came to you reading it.

Shelby Foote in Conversations with Shelby Foote (1989) by William C. Carter 

Good Interview Subjects

I hate writing about anyone who is familiar with the press or has a "story." I like to write about people who don't necessarily see what their story is, or what my interest might be. I like subjects who really know how to enjoy life or are immersed in whatever they are doing fully.

Adrian Nicole Leblanc in Robert S. Boynton's The New Journalism, 2005

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ronnie Lee Gardner: The Last Man To Die By Firing Squad

     On the night of October 9, 1984, in Salt Lake City, 24-year-old Ronnie Lee Gardner was under the influence of cocaine when he held up a bar and killed the bartender, Melvyn Otterstrom, by shooting him point blank in the face. The twice-convicted robber netted $100 from the deadly hold up.

     Three weeks after shooting the bartender to death, police officers arrested Gardner at his cousin's house in Salt Lake City. Officers booked him into jail on the charge of capital murder. The judge set Gardner's bail at $1.5 million.

     On April 2, 1985, as Gardner was being escorted through the underground garage on his way to an upstairs courtroom, he managed to get his hands on a firearm someone had left hidden in the garage for him. The moment he displayed the gun in the courtroom, a guard shot him in the chest. Although wounded, Gardner shot a bailiff in the stomach.

     As the armed and wounded Gardner tried to flee the building, he encountered two attorneys and shot one of them in the eye. A dozen police officers surrounded the armed prisoner before he left the courthouse. When he dropped the gun, officers took him into custody. The lawyer he shot died a little later in the hospital. The bailiff survived.

     Ronnie Gardner was himself rushed to a local hospital where he recovered from his gunshot wound.

     In October 1985, Gardner pleaded guilty to both murders and was sentenced to death.

     Two years later, inmate Gardner broke a glass partition in the prison's visiting area and had sex with a woman who was visiting him. The other prisoners barricaded the doors and cheered Gardner and his partner on.

     In 1994, while still housed at the state prison in Draper, Utah, Gardner got drunk on alcohol he had fermented in his cell and stabbed a fellow prisoner named Richard "Fats" Thomas. Thomas survived the attack.

     Gardner's death house attorneys, citing their client's troubled upbringing, petitioned to have his death sentence reduced to life in prison. In 2010, the governor of Utah denied the commutation request. Gardner's lawyers appealed that decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They lost.

     Out of legal remedies, Ronnie Gardner requested that he be executed by firing squad. He said he sought this method of execution because of his Morman background. It had been 14 years since anyone in the country had been executed this way.

     On June 18, 2010, the state of Utah, pursuant to Ronnie Gardner's request, executed the 49-year-old by firing squad. He was the last condemned prisoner in the United States to be executed by bullet.