August 2016 Archives

Results of the ABC News/Washington Post Poll are available here.  The polling agency's report is titled, Clinton Hits a New High in Unpopularity; On Par with Trump Among Reg. Voters.

Specifically, that is 38-59 for Clinton and 37-60 for Trump in a poll with a sampling error of 3.5%.

Clinton does a little better and Trump does a little worse when the mix is not limited to registered voters.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department released a report accusing the Baltimore Police Department of racism, making particular note of the police practice of clearing corners of loiterers and trespassers in high-crimes areas.  This practice of enforcement, said federal lawyers, is oppressive to minority communities, a stance echoed by Black Livers Matter activists, academics and the press.  But what about the law-abiding people that actually live in such areas?  What do they want police to do in their communities?  As a matter of fact, they are begging the police to enforce trespassing and loitering laws.  In this article in the National Review, Heather Mac Donald writes

This critique of public-order enforcement ignores a fundamental truth: It's the people who live in high-crime areas who petition for "corner-clearing." The police are simply obeying their will. And when the police back off of such order-maintenance strategies under the accusation of racism, it is the law-abiding poor who pay the price.

Community members are not only frustrated, they are scared.  A gas station owner in West Baltimore, whose business became overrun by loiterers following the release of the DOJ report, begged the police to "[p]lease help me."  A grandmother worries about groups of teens hanging out around her steps because she wants her "grandkids to be in a safe environment."  A copy store owner, who noticed a worsening of loiterers following the Freddie Gray riots in April 2015, says he calls the police whenever people gather in front of his store because their presence "scares people away.  Legitimate people, honest people," which affects his ability to make money and pay his bills.  Another woman wonders, "What ever happened to loitering laws?"

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Abducted PA Woman Found Dead:  A Pennsylvania woman abducted Tuesday by her estranged husband, who was released on bond for charges of domestic abuse against her, has been found dead.  Lisa Washington of CBS reports that Tierne Ewing, 48, was abducted from a home at gunpoint by Kevin Ewing, 47, and taken to a wooded area.  Police eventually tracked the couple to a barn and, upon approach, heard gunshots.  Tierne was discovered inside with a fatal gunshot wound to the head while Kevin was rushed to the hospital with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  Kevin was arrested in July for holding Tierne hostage for nearly two weeks, abusing and threatening her after finding text messages on her phone.  He was released on bond and fitted with a monitoring device that had no GPS, which he cut off Monday.  After being cut off, the device did not send a signal or alarm.  "My daughter's dead and he's sick and the damn judges let him go," said Tierne's father, Richard Kopko.  "There's something wrong with the judging system in this country," he added.

TX Death Row Inmate May Have Faked Mental Illness:  A Texas death row inmate is one step closer to execution after an appeals court ruled Monday that he may have faked mental illness to avoid execution for the fatal shooting of his ex-girlfriend and her young daughter 23 years ago.  The AP reports that the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals made a ruling in the case of Gerald Eldridge, 52, agreeing with a lower court that ruled three years ago that while there was evidence in favor of Eldridge's mental illness claims, there was also extensive evidence of inconsistencies, particularly that he faked symptoms.  Eldridge is on death row for the January 1993 slayings of his former girlfriend and her nine-year-old daughter in a shooting attack that also wounded his then-seven-year-old son and the woman's boyfriend.  Years earlier, in 1985, Eldridge was sentenced to eight years in prison for an earlier shooting that wounded three men, but was released three years later.  He then returned to prison in 1990 for beating his son and was paroled after four months.  His initial execution date was in 2009.

Stanford Swimmer Goes Free on Friday:  The former Stanford University swimmer convicted in a sexual assault case that sparked public uproar after he was given a sentence that was said to be too lenient, is scheduled to be released from jail Friday after serving three months, just half of his sentence.  Andrea Noble of the Washington Times reports that Brock Turner, 20, was convicted in March of three felony counts of assault with intent to commit rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person for the January 2015 attack of a woman at a fraternity party.  He faced up to 14 years in prison if convicted, but prosecutors recommended a six-year sentence.  Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, however, handed down a sentence of just six-months in jail.  Persky, who faced a recall effort for his sentencing decision, announced last week that he would be transferring from criminal to civil court.

Trump, His Critics, and Law and Order

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Donald Trump's recent comments on law and order have been a mixed bag.  He has said some things that are obviously wrong.  No, violence in our cities is not record levels.  Surely a New Yorker of Mr. Trump's age remembers how bad things were back in the day when the subway was so crime-infested and so dangerous that people felt they were taking their lives in their hands just to get to work.  Today is not that bad, not even close.

Even so, Trump is more right than his critics on the major issues.  Heather MacDonald has this article in the WSJ.  She quotes the usual suspects spewing the usual garbage, such as a historian reciting the very old and very wrong line that "the term law and order" is "racially tinged."  The fact that the anti-law enforcement side chooses to view "law and order" through a tinted glass does not tinge the object itself.

As over-the-top as Trump can be at times, his opponent and his critics comparing him to the likes of Adolf Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan are even more so.  See also this article by William McGurn, also in the WSJ.  MacDonald offers this explanation:

Why this frenzied effort to demonize Mr. Trump for addressing the heightened violence in inner cities? Because the Republican nominee has also correctly identified its cause: the false "narrative of cops as a racist force in our society," as he put it in Wisconsin.

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Man out on Bond for Beating Wife has Kidnapped her:  A Pennsylvania man out on bond for beating his wife has reportedly abducted her at gunpoint and abandoned the car they were believed to be traveling in near a wooded area, prompting a massive search.  Lisa Washington of CBS reports that Kevin Ewing, 47, took Tierne Ewing, 48, from a home at gunpoint on Tuesday, which comes nearly two months after he was arrested for holding her hostage, abusing her and threatening her.  Following Kevin's arrest in July, Tierne told police that Kevin had pistol-whipped her, spit on her, tied her hands, branded her with a metal hot dog stick, locked her in a closet and threatened her with a gun to her head while they were camping in the woods.  Soon after, he was released on bond and fitted with an electronic ankle monitor and ordered to remain in his home.  The ankle monitor was not programmed with GPS.

CA Lawmakers Pass Rape Bill Inspired by Stanford Case: 
California lawmakers passed legislation Monday that would close a loophole that allowed the lenient sentence given to a Standford University swimmer two months ago following his conviction for sexual assault of an unconscious woman.  Dan Whitcomb of Reuters reports that public outrage ensued in June after Brock Turner, 20, was sentenced to six months in jail by a judge after being convicted of assault with intent to commit rape, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person for attacking a woman at a party in January 2015.  Prosecutors had asked that Turner be sentenced to six years in state prison.  Under current state law, the charges against Turner are not considered rape because they did not involve penile penetration and, furthermore, only in cases of rape or sexual assault where force is used, but not when the victim is unconscious or intoxicated and unable to resist, results in a mandatory prison term.  The new law, AB 2888, would change the definition and also eliminate the discretion of judges to sentence defendants convicted of crimes like those committed by Turner to probation.  The bill is now headed to Gov. Brown desk.

Chicago on Track to Break Shooting & Homicide Records:  As August comes to a close, Chicago is on pace to surpass the number of shootings and homicides for the entirety of 2015.  Madison Park and Thom Patterson of CNN report that over the past weekend, from Friday through Sunday, eight people died and another 64 were wounded in shootings across the city, with a total of 459 people killed and 2,818 injured in shooting incidents by Sunday's end.  By this time last year, 331 people had been killed and by the end of the year, 2,988 had been injured in shootings.  The city currently averages about 82 shootings per week.  Some blame the violence on illegal guns from out of state while others attribute the increased bloodshed on more impudent gang violence.
Hedge fund billionaire George Soros, who has spent millions of dollars to weaken sentencing laws nationally, is now focusing on replacing District Attorneys who do not subscribe to his progressive social justice agenda.   Scott Bland of Politco reports that through a network of super PACS and and 527 non-profits Soros has funneled roughly $3 million into seven local district attorney races in six states over the past year, with victories in all but one.  The Soros-supported candidates share the view that  prosecutors routinely make racially-biased charging decisions and that drug offenders should be diverted to programs rather than face trial.  In one Louisiana race, Soros-backed groups gave $930,000 to elect his chosen candidate, an enormous amount for a district attorney campaign.  The influence of Soros money on law enforcement policy has been dramatic over the past several years.  Through his Open Society Foundations in New York (there are three), the San Francisco based Tides Foundation, Advocacy Fund and Tides Center, money flows through 527 groups scattered around the county, each named with a variation of "Safety and Justice," Soros provided major funding to California  Proposition 36, a 2012 initiative that shortened the sentences of thousands of third strikers, and Proposition  47, a 2014 initiative that converted thousands of annual theft and drug related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.  The Proposition 47 campaign received big contributions from the Open Society Policy Center, and the California-based 527 groups Crime Victims for Safety and Justice and Californians For Safety and Justice.  Days after Proposition 47 passed, Soros gave $50 million to the national ACLU, to push for adoption of similar sentencing reduction laws in other states and advocate for reduced sentences for federal crimes.  While his effort to elect social activists as District Attorneys is only a year old, its initial success guarantees that Soros will expand his spending over the years ahead, to put more District Attorneys like Baltimore's Marilyn Mosby and San Francisco's George Gascon in office.  Be afraid. 
 

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Death Penalty Sought in PA Cookout Ambush:  Prosecutors in Pennsylvania announced Friday that they plan to seek the death penalty against two men charged in an ambush at a cookout five months ago that killed five adults, one of whom was pregnant.  The AP reports that Cheron Shelton, 29, and Robert Thomas, 27, will face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder for the March 9 shooting in suburban Pittsburgh that left five adults and an unborn child dead, and three others wounded.  Thomas allegedly fired 18 shots from a pistol into a group of 15 partygoers, who then ran toward the rear porch of the house.  Shelton was hiding behind a fence nearby and fired 30 shots from an AK-47-style rifle.  Prosecutors say the men's motive stems from the murder of Shelton's best friend in 2013, who is believed to have be killed by one of the wounded partygoers.  Shelton and Thomas both face six counts each of criminal homicide, as well as charges of criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

Illegal Immigrant Bus Driver Kills 2 in Crash:  A bus operated by an unlicensed illegal immigrant driver carrying flood recovery volunteers crashed into several vehicles, including a fire truck, on a Louisiana interstate Sunday morning, killing two people and injuring 36.  Fox News reports that the driver of the bus, Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez, 37, of Honduras, hit the fire truck and then a car, veering behind the fire truck and into a pickup truck.  Three firefighters, who were there responding to an earlier crash, were knocked into the water below the interstate.  The two fatalities include Jermaine Star, 21, who was in the backseat of the car that was struck, and St. John the Baptist Parish district Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin.  Two other firefighters, 24 bus passengers and nine people in other vehicles were injured.  Rodriguez sustained minor injuries.  He faces two counts of negligent homicide, reckless operation and driving without a driver's license.  Police say there will be additional charges.

Man Faces 2 Capital Murder Charges in MS Nun Deaths:  A man suspected of murdering two Mississippi nuns last week has been arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder.  Emily Wagster Pettus of the AP reports that Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, is charged in the deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68, whose bodies were discovered inside a residence Thursday after they failed to show up for work at a health clinic.  The home showed signs of a break-in and their stolen car was discovered a mile away.  Police haven't disclosed a motive for the slayings or the women's cause of death.  Sisters Held and Merrill were both nurse practitioners who worked at a clinic administering flu shots, dispensing insulin and providing other medical care for children and adults who couldn't afford it. 
Jeff Jacoby has this article in the Boston Globe with the above title. The article is also available (with less hoop jumping) own Jacoby's own site.

It doesn't take a social-science degree to grasp the real-world difference between facing vs. not facing a potential death sentence. Criminals grasp it too.

Dmitry Smirnov did. A resident of British Columbia, Smirnov was smitten with Jitka Vesel, a pretty Chicago woman he'd met online playing "World of Warcraft" in 2008 and then dated for several weeks. When Vesel ended the brief relationship, Smirnov took it badly. He returned to Canada, but kept pursuing Vesel by phone and online. When she broke off communication with him, he began plotting to kill her.

Smirnov returned to the United States in 2011, bought a gun and ammunition, and drove back to Chicago. He attached a GPS device to Vesel's car so he could track her movements. On the evening of April 13, he tailed her to the Czechoslovak Heritage Museum in Oak Park, Ill., where she was a curator and board member. When she came out after a meeting, Smirnov ambushed her. He shot her repeatedly, firing multiple rounds into the back of her head even after she had crumpled to the ground.

A deranged suitor? Maybe -- but Smirnov wasn't too deranged to first check out whether Illinois was a death penalty state. He headed back to Chicago to murder Vesel only after learning that Illinois had recently abolished capital punishment. When he was questioned afterward by police, according to prosecutors, he told them he had confirmed Illinois' no-death-penalty status "as recently as the morning of the murder." In an e-mail sent to a friend after the fact, Smirnov -- who voluntarily surrendered to the police -- made clear that he knew what to expect. "Illinois doesn't have the death penalty, so I'll spend the rest of my life in prison," he wrote.


Notes on the Jailbreak Initiative

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Some notes on California Proposition 57, Governor Jerry Brown's Jailbreak Initiative:

Michele Hanisee has this post, titled Proposition 57 Unmasked, on the blog of the (LA) Association of Deputy District Attorneys.  The ADDA also has this detailed analysis.

At the blog of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, George Hofstetter has a post titled Proposition 57 promises to increase the Proposition 47 crime wave.
The title of this post is taken from today's article in National Review by David French. The subtitle is, "The facts are a mere inconvenience for progressives stoking racial conflict."

It's hard to recall a political movement built on more verifiable lies and misinformation than Black Lives Matter, which exists to advance that notion that America is in the midst of a race-motivated epidemic of police shootings. From "hands up, don't shoot" to the extraordinary claim that it's "open season" on young black men, America is awash in rhetoric and fury that is already proving to be deadly to police and deadly to black communities across the United States.


I think the article is at some points overstated, but it is nonetheless a telling expose' of how the Left, and in particular the outlet Vox, is fanning racial animosity and unhinged condemnation of the police.  The piece is short and very much worth the read.


Normal People vs. DOJ Elites

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The Washington Post carries a story today about black people wanting only to live in peace and safety huddling together in one room of a Baltimore church, at the very moment a group of We-Know-Better DOJ lawyers (presumably with Harvard and Stanford degrees in hand) were in the room across the hall undermining their hopes.

The irony is more tragic than delicious, but plenty of both.

The picture would be bleak enough if the citizens of Baltimore were able to decide for themselves what kind of policing suits their needs.  It's that much worse when DOJ decides the question for them, never having to live with the bloody consequences once they drive their BMW's 35 miles back to Bethesda.

I would give a good deal if black lives actually mattered to DOJ in any operational sense, but it's not going to happen.  The on-the-ground reality black citizens are stuck living with is certain to take a back seat to the anti-police ethos now ruling the roost at the Department.
Not satisfied with the reduced consequences for thousands of criminals benefiting from his 2011 Realignment law and Proposition 47, Governor Brown is promoting and financing Proposition 57 which will appear on the state's November 8th ballot.  The initiative, which is called "The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2015", will bestow parole eligibility to habitual felons, whose most recent conviction is for a crime defined as "non-violent" after the criminal serves the base term for the primary offense.  In English, this means that a gang member with priors for rape and armed robbery, who is convicted of residential burglary, auto theft and possession of a firearm, will only serve the burglary sentence before he can be released on parole.  Current law would consider the residential burglary a third strike and give this criminal 25-to-life, with extra time for the gun and the stolen car.  In addition, if the criminal signs up for a program while in prison, under the Brown's Jailbreak initiative the Department of Corrections will have unlimited authority to award him "good time" credits to further reduce his sentence.  Not surprisingly, almost everybody in law enforcement opposes this initiative and supports the campaign to defeat it.  As reported by David Siders in today's Sacramento Bee, when the  Governor saw a mailer from the opposition which described how a habitual criminal with murder and rape priors would be eligible for release under his initiative, he called one of the campaign's co-chairs, Fresno Police Chief Margaret Mims, leaving a voice mail calling the mailer "completely false" and "malicious."   Responding to the voice mail, Chief Mims said "It is troublesome that the Governor is not aware of the details of his own initiative."  Apparently we need to pass it to find out what's in it.  

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Man who Massacred Family Will Face Death Penalty:  A man charged with the execution-style shooting deaths of six members of a Texas family two years ago will face the death penalty at his trial next year.  Brian Rodgers of the Houston Chronicle reports that Utah-native Ronald Haskell, 36, is accused of killing Steven and Katie Stay and four of their children, ranging in age from four to 13, and shooting their 15-year-old daughter, who survived.  The murders occurred in early July 2014 when Haskell disguised himself as a FedEx worker and pushed his way into the Stay residence and bound the 15-year-old, who was home alone at the time.  He bound the other members of the family as they arrived home.  Haskell demanded to know the location of his estranged ex-wife, Kathy Stay's sister, who left him following numerous incidents of domestic violence, before shooting all members of the Stay family in the head.  Haskell's defense attorney argues that he suffers from mental health issues.  His trial is set to begin in the fall of 2017.

Murder Suspect's Tweet Could Elevate Charges Against Him:  A Twitter posting made by an Arizona man who was arrested on suspicion of murdering his roommate over the weekend could make him eligible for the death penalty.  The AP reports that Zachary Dale Penton, 21, is accused of fatally shooting Daniel Garofalo, 41, who owned the house Penton had lived in for two months.  Penton alleges a struggle broke out on Sunday after Garofalo came into his bedroom to demand he move out, tackling him and taking his phone.  Penton says he fired his weapon when Garofalo frightened him after "speaking irrationally."  However, two days before the shooting, Penton posted a comment on Twitter saying he needed to move out of the home where he was living before he killed him roommates.  Prosecutors can use the comment to argue that Garofalo's murder was premeditated, elevating the charges against Penton to first-degree murder which allows them to pursue the death penalty.  Penton was booked on second-degree murder and has yet to be formally charged.  The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has not commented on whether first-degree murder charges will be sought.

TN Officer Killed, Suspect in Custody: 
A Tennessee police officer was shot and killed Thursday while answering a domestic violence call hours after sheriff's responded to a separate call at the same address.  The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Kenny Moats, 32, a nine-year veteran of the Maryville Police Department, died of a single gunshot wound to the neck after Brian Keith Stalans, 44, opened fire on officers responding to reports of a domestic incident between him and his father, which "involved a gun."  After officer exchanged gunfire with Stalans, he was taken into custody.  Charges are currently pending.  Sheriff's deputies had responded to an earlier domestic disturbance at the home but lacked probable cause to arrest Stalans.  Moats was the first Maryville police officer killed in the line of duty since 1981.  Nationally, 75 officers have died on duty so far this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Foundation.
In a news release yesterday the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced that the recidivism rate for offenders released from state prison has declined steadily over the past five years and is now down to 44.6%.  Responding to these numbers CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan said, "The latest recidivism rate shows that we're helping more inmates learn how to live a law-abiding, productive life."  This statement is easily worthy of ten Pinocchios.  As the report notes the CDCR bases recidivism rates on how many criminals return to state prison for a new felony conviction or a parole violation within three years of their release.  Secretary Kernan must assume that everybody forgot that five years ago his boss (the Governor) signed AB109 (aka Public Safety Realignment)  into law.  Realignment prohibits prison sentences for virtually all property felonies, parole violations and even crimes like assault.  The most severe sentence a car thief, commercial burglar, or wife beater can receive under Realignment is time in county jail, and guess what?  As the state's inmate population had gone down, county jails have been filled to overflowing forcing the early release of thousands of habitual felons every week.  It may also be news to Secretary Kernan that crime has increased virtually everywhere in California, and not just property crimes.  FBI numbers released in January showed an increase in violent crime of 12.9% in the state's 67 largest cities last year.  A more recent report released by California Police Chiefs found that last year violent crime increased by 15.4% in cities with populations of less than 100,000.   

New Study Shows ...

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The Onion reports:

Highlighting the gaping security holes that continue to persist 15 years after the attacks, an encouraging report released Thursday by radical extremist think tank the Caliphate Institute determined that the United States is no safer than it was before 9/11. "Despite efforts to expand digital surveillance and coordinate information-sharing among intelligence agencies, we discovered that the ability of the U.S. government to assess and eliminate potential terrorist threats has not substantively improved since September 11, 2001, which came as a shocking and welcome finding," said Selim Amir, chairman of the fundamentalist K Street research institute, which is staffed by prominent jihadist thinkers, visiting Sharia law scholars, and retired senior members of al-Qaeda.
The Onion is, of course, a satire publication.  The kernel of truth beneath the satire is how studies by organizations with agendas are so often uncritically reported as if they were done by neutral seekers of truth and as if they are the definitive word on the subject.

Accepting the Preposterous as the Premise

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SL&P has an entry introducing a paper that argues for legalizing dope.  The paper begins as follows:

Many who argue against the legalization of marijuana suggest that while its consumption may not be very harmful, marijuana indirectly causes significant social harm by acting as a "gateway drug," a drug whose consumption facilitates the use of other, more harmful, drugs.  This article presents a theory of "gateway crimes", which, perhaps counterintuitively, implies that there are social gains to decriminalizing offenses that cause minor harms, including marijuana-related offenses.

A typical gateway crime is an act which is punished lightly, but, because it is designated as a crime, being convicted for committing it leads one to be severely stigmatized.

I stopped reading there, because, having been around for a few decades, I understand (as does every other more-or-less rational person) that the notion that being convicted of smoking a joint "leads one to be severely stigmatized" is preposterous. Pot smoking, whether or not one got caught at it, was very widely accepted in my Baby Boomer generation, and is even more widely accepted now. You're more likely to be stigmatized (as a Puritanical nerd) if, by the time you're 25, you haven't smoked a joint.

The stuff that gets put for as "scholarship" in legal academia continues to amaze.

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Potent Heroin Mix Hits the Streets:  The dangerous heroin epidemic has amplified with reports of heroin laced with elephant tranquilizer hitting the streets.  Nadia Kounang and Tony Marco of CNN report that at 10,000 times stronger than morphine, carfentanil, a version of fentanyl, is the most potent opioid in commercial use and not approved for human use.  It is used to sedate large animals, such an elephants; a 2,000-pound elephant can be knocked out with just two milligrams of carfentanil.  Recent overdose outbreaks in Ohio, Indiana and Florida have sparked major concern after being linked to the drug.  Police believe more than one dealer was involved in distributing the potent mix, which is often cut with dangerous substances to stretch the supply and then taken without the user's knowledge.  Carfentanil cases are not tracked separately and are instead flagged by state authorities a handful at a time after postmortem testing.  Very few labs are neither equipped to test for it nor have the ability to identify it.  The University of Florida is in the process of developing a new test to identify the drug, which the DEA says is being manufactured in China and transported through Mexico.

OH Murderer's Death Sentence Affirmed:  The Ohio Supreme Court upheld on Wednesday the death sentence of a man convicted of murder over a decade ago.  WKBN reports that the state high court voted 6-1 to affirm the death penalty case of Nathaniel Jackson for murdering Robert Fingerhut in 2001.  The Eleventh District Court of Appeals had vacated the sentence after finding that an assistant prosecutor improperly assisted the trial judge in preparing the sentence opinion.  Jackson conspired behind bars to murder Fingerhut after starting an affair with his wife, Donna Roberts, who was the sole beneficiary of two life insurance policies totaling $550,000.  While Jackson was locked up, the two exchanged letters and phone calls plotting Fingerhut's murder.  Roberts purchased a ski mask and gloves, picked Jackson up when he was released from prison and Fingerhut was found shot to death two days later.  Jackson was found guilty of two counts of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery in 2002 and sentenced to death.  Roberts was found guilty of aggravated murder and other offenses and also given a death sentence.  Both continue to sit on Ohio's death row.
I'm having trouble recalling the exact date, but it was around 1998 when President Dole announced that, in view of the tidal wave of crime against which the country had made decent, but still insufficient, progress, he was proud to announce that his administration had secured more prison terms exceeding 20 years than his nine predecessors combined.  Mr. Dole acknowledged that so many long sentences might be viewed by some as extremism.  His reply was that, given the burdens the threat of ubiquitous crime impose on the practical liberty of our citizens, "extremism in the defense of liberty was no vice."

The New York Times was having none of it.  Its editorial was unambiguous:

We had thought that breast-beating exhortations like "extremism in the defense of liberty" had seen their last when Barry Goldwater's landslide loss put extremism in the cold light of a sober nation's reflection.  

It is true that crime had risen to unacceptable levels during the George H.W. Bush Administration, but we have made six years of progress in scaling it back without President Dole's resort to criminal justice extremism.  

A balanced and mature approach to justice requires that a President show at least a modicum of respect to a consensus that has lasted for more than 50 years, through prior administrations and political climates of all stripes. When, to the contrary, a chief executive's sentencing outcomes push past those of his nine predecessors combined, he has simply gone off the deep end, there's no other honest way to put it. This is not a defense of liberty. It's a defense of the President's out-of-the-mainstream ideas, a sop to the most extreme elements of his base, and it has to stop.


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Chicago: Murders Increase as Detectives Decrease:  The city with up to 90 shootings a week and a murder rate on track to hit the highest level in nineteen years is losing detectives.  Since 2008, the number of detectives in the Chicago Police Department has dropped from 1,252 to 922 according to this story by Flona Ortiz and Justice Madden of Reuters.  The clearance rate seems to have suffered, with just 46% of last years 480 murders solved, while other large cities solve an average of 68%.  Contributing to the difficulty in clearing murder cases is the fact that 61% of homicides are gang related and witnesses are afraid to get involved for fear of retaliation.   This story from CBS Chicago indicates what police are dealing with.  Appearing in court on a charge of attempted murder of a police officer, Kentrell Pledger, a 29 year-old gang member, told the judge "I should have smoked his ass.  He shot at me first, so get your story straight, dog."  Then he told the African American judge, "You ain't black, you're white, bitch."    Also, ABC7 in Chicago has this video report of the defendant's Facebook posting just an hour before.

Divided Eleventh Circuit Rejects Murderer's Appeal:  In a 6-5 decision that some claim will reduce federal court review of death penalty cases, the Eleventh Circuit denied the claim of a man convicted of the shotgun murder of a prison guard who offered him a ride.  The Court's holding deferred to the summary denial of murderer's appeal by the Georgia Supreme Court.  Bill Rankin of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the dissenters worry that precedent set by the court will deprive death-row inmates chance to get relief with filing appeals-writs of habeas corpus- in federal court that challenge their convcitions and sentences.  But the decision in Wilson v. Georgia does not break new ground.  On more than one occasion, the Supreme Court  has affirmed that a State Supreme Court's summary denial of a death penalty appeal is entitled to deference by the federal courts.

Selling Access

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The AP reports that President Obama today met with the family of Alton Sterling, a black man shot last month by Baton Rouge police.  The story mentions (in one sentence) that he also met with the families of the three policemen ambushed in "response" to that killing.

Because I do not adequately know the circumstances of the Sterling shooting, I'm not going to comment on the prudence of the President's meeting with his relatives.  The nearly simultaneous meeting with the officers' families implies a moral equivalence of which I am skeptical, but, again, not in a position to say much more than that.

I do have a question, however:  Where is Obama's meeting with the families of Erveena Hammonds and her daughters, aged seven and ten?  They were knifed to death in January by Wendell Callahan, who had been in federal prison but was released early under the Fair Sentencing Act, gushingly supported and signed by Mr. Obama on August 3, 2010. But for Callahan's early release under that bill, Ms. Hammonds and her little girls would be alive today.

Their murder scene was so gruesome that responding police had to be given counseling afterward.  Apart from the FSA, Callahan's windfall early release was facilitated by the false representation from Obama's US Attorney's Office in Columbus, Ohio that Callahan did not present a danger to the community. 

As we have seen before, Mr. Obama is happy to blame local police, but takes not a shred of responsibility for grotesque child murders his Presidential signature, and the lies from his Justice Department, facilitated.

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Seattle May Open Homeless Housing Allowing Heroin Use:  The creation of a safe-consumption site for addicts -- a supervised facility where an addict could obtain clean needles, anti-overdose medication, medical attention and treatment opportunities -- has been endorsed by Seattle's Heroin Task Force.  Bob Young and Vernal Coleman of the Seattle Times report that the task force, formed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine, has proposed a dormitory-style homeless shelter that would welcome pets, partners, storage for personal belongings and intoxicated residents in an effort to coax residents out of encampments, such as the the city's infamous Jungle.  "But you need to allow people to use on-site, so they don't in an alley or back in The Jungle," said Kris Nyrop, an outreach worker and drug-policy researcher in the city.  However, the idea, which would be funded by taxpayers, is controversial and the limited data available on similar models has policymakers moving "slowly and cautiously."  The task force is expected to announce formal recommendations next month.  If the idea comes to fruition, it will be the first in the U.S.

CA High Court Overturns Death Penalty Conviction:  In a 4-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of murdering an elderly Shasta County woman over two decades ago.  Damon Arthur of the Redding Record Searchlight reports that Gary Grimes was sentenced to death in 1999 for the 1995 stabbing and strangling of Betty Elizabeth Bone, 98, during a home invasion robbery he committed with two other men, John William Morris and Patrick James Wilson.  Shortly after their arrests, Morris killed himself while in custody but allegedly had told a witness that he killed Bone, not Grimes or Wilson, and stated to another that Grimes and Wilson were present in Bone's home during the murder but didn't participate.  Another witness said Grimes played a leadership role in the slaying.  The former statements were not allowed at Grimes' trial, but the latter was.  Justices ruled that Morris' statements to witnesses should have been allowed at Grimes' trial because it could have swayed the jury.  Though Grimes' death sentence was overturned, his murder conviction was not.

Stockton Cop Killed in Hit-and-Run Crash:  An off-duty Stockton police officer was fatally struck by a car operated by an unlicensed driver in a hit-and-run crash over the weekend.  KCRA reports that Officer Justin Kepler, who had been with the Stockton Police Department since 2012, was riding his motorcycle Saturday evening when Isidro Urista-Meza, 27, turned into hit path and collided with him, throwing him from his motorcycle.  Kepler was pronounced dead at the scene.  Urista-Meza fled the scene on foot but was arrested a short time later.  He faces charges of driving unlicensed, felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.  Officials say alcohol and drugs were not a factor in the crash.

FBI Investigating Whether VA Stabbings were ISIS-inspired: 
Dual stabbings in Virginia over the weekend are being investigated by federal authorities to determine whether the attack was inspired by the Islamic State terror group.  Fox News reports that Wasil Farooqui, 20, faces two counts of aggravated malicious wounding after stabbing and seriously wounding a man and woman at a Roanoke apartment complex on Saturday while yelling "Allah Akbar."  Authorities believe he may have been attempting to behead the male victim.  He had no connection to either victim.  Farooqui had traveled to Turkey within the last year, leading investigators to believe he may have sneaked into Syria to meet with ISIS militants.  The FBI is working with the Roanoke County Police Department on the case and have declined to provide any further details.

News Scan

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Arrests Plunge in CA, Lowest on Record due to Prop 47:  California has just revealed its lowest arrest rate in state history and experts say it is the result of Proposition 47, the 2014 voter-approved initiative that reduced penalties for certain drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.  CBS reports that according to state Department of Justice statistics, the number of felony arrests plunged 28.5% last year and misdemeanor arrests rose 9%, resulting in 52,000 fewer arrests overall and the fewest felony arrests since 1969.  Law enforcement officials believe the "de facto decriminalization of drugs" under Prop. 47 may be having a serious impact, noting that there were about 22,000 fewer drug arrests last year.  Other figures found by the state Department of Justice include a 10% jump in violent crime last year over 2014 and increases in property crime, namely a 12% increase in shoplifting and an 11% spike in thefts.  Mangus Lofstron, a researcher with the Public Policy Institute of California, acknowledged that "it's quite clear that Prop. 47 is the major contributor to the changes we've seen," but also said the plummeting arrests are part of a long-term decline that dates back to the 1980s which stems from the law, crowded jails and fewer police.

VA Gov. Announces Restoration of 13,000 Felons Voting Rights:  Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Monday that he has restored the rights of over 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis, an order which is complicated by a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned his original order to restore the rights of hundreds of thousands of felons.  Michael Martz of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that McAuliffe's executive order was announced on April 22 and outlined a plan to restore voting and other civil rights to 206,000 felons with completed terms.  However, the Supreme Court of Virginia struck it down in a 4-3 ruling as unconstitutional on July 22 and ordered the Virginia Department of Elections to cancel the registration of the roughly 13,000 "invalidly registered" felons under the now-overturned order.  McAuliffe's promise to restore the rights of the 13,000 felons who registered to vote prior to the high court's ruling -- part of his announcement today -- further complicates the already-problematic rights restoration dispute.  Since his initial order four months ago, felons have run for office, voted in Richmond's mayoral race and purchased firearms.

Man who Killed GA Teens Could Face Death Penalty:  The man who fatally shot two Georgia teens behind a grocery store earlier this months could face the death penalty, says legal analysts.  Christopher Hopper of WXIA reports that Jeffrey Hazelwood, 20, has admitted to killing teenagers Natalie Henderson and Carter Davis on Aug. 1.  He allegedly followed the two behind the grocery store, watched them for some time and moved in to attack them.  He admitted to pistol-whipping Davis before shooting him in the head and sexually battering Henderson before killing her.  Writings discovered by detectives indicate that Hazelwood wanted to be an assassin.  Since the crime involved two victims that died horrific, torturous deaths, 11Alive News legal analyst Phil Holloway says the case is eligible for the death penalty.  The case is headed to the grand jury and a decision is expected in September.  More chilling details about the crime can be read here.

The Racial Bias Lie

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Too many otherwise rational people share the opinion that the American Criminal Justice System is racially biased.   This group includes the Koch Brothers, Newt Gingrich, B.Wayne Hughes and other influential people who for some reason, have chosen not to evaluate these claims for themselves rather than taking the word of known liars like Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, the ACLU and policy-driven liberal think tanks like the Marshal Project and the Sentencing Project. There has been no legitimate excuse for this for at least the last 25 years, but for some it is simply easier and less judgemental to believe the lie.   While numerous scholars have debunked the narrative of racial bias in modern law enforcement, Professor Barry Latzer's new book  "The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America" is the most exhaustively researched work on this subject.  It thoroughly disproves the assertions of social reformers on crime policy going back to the 1960s.  That book is available here:  www.amazon.com/Rise-Fall-Violent-Crime-America/dp/159403835X

Don't have time to read it, then click on the link below to hear Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald's brief but excellent comparison of the lies and the truth.  

https://www.prageru.com/courses/political-science/are-police-racist
Thursday I noted a paper by Ernest Goss, et al. with a quotation that was purportedly from me but was completely false. I did not write those words, and the words report my study as finding the opposite of what I actually found.

If I received notice that a paper with my name on it contained a gross error, I would make the correction with scrupulous care and go over the correction with a fine tooth comb -- myself, not delegated -- to be very certain that the corrected paper was unimpeachably correct.  Evidently, Professor Goss does not share this view.  The "corrected" version remains a serious misrepresentation, either deliberately deceptive or with reckless disregard of the truth, which are morally about the same thing.

Just say no to marijuana, kids

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Now this is interesting....finally a scientifically backed article on the realities of marijuana use among adolescents.  

Bill noted earlier today the poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  Let's look a little more at these data.

Four years ago, we defeated a death penalty repeal initiative, but the opponents got closer than they should have.  I believed at the time that the reason was not opposition to the death penalty as such but rather the success of the opponents in blocking enforcement of the death penalty and the absence of a reform alternative on the same ballot.

The topline results of the new poll tend to confirm this hypothesis.  For the repeal initiative, the poll found 45.1% in favor and 54.9% opposed.  For the reform initiative, the poll found 75.7% in favor and 24.3% opposed.  At a minimum, then, one fifth of the people of California intend to vote for both initiatives.  That is, if all of the 24.3% who intend to vote no on reform vote in favor of repeal, then 20.8% who intend to vote for reform also intend to vote for repeal.  If anyone intends to vote no on both, though I'm not sure why anyone would, then the "yes on both" vote is that much larger.  A large segment of the population of California is so fed up with the status quo that, although they would like to see the system fixed, they would rather scrap it than go on as we are.

The "crosstabs" are also interesting.  What would happen if California Democrats decided this issue by themselves?
In comments to Bill's post on incarceration rates there is discussion of the issue of whether the higher (although shrinking) incarceration rate for African Americans is due to higher offending rates or discriminatory enforcement.  I did a quick search for research on this subject.

News Scan

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CA Probationer, Parolee Lead Cops on Chase, Nearly Striking One:  Two California men, one a probationer and another a parolee, were taken into custody Wednesday night after leading Hemet police on a chase that ended in a crash.  Patch reports that a patrol officer observed an SUV make a traffic violation and attempted to stop it, but the driver, Justin Manuel Leon, 30, refused to pull over and sped off with his passenger, Michael Ray Kaphan, 24.  When a second patrol unit joined the pursuit, Leon attempted to ram the vehicle.  The suspects' car plowed through a gate and several fences before becoming disabled, at which point the men took off on foot, though they were quickly apprehended.  No one sustained any injuries.  Kaphan, who has prior theft-related convictions, was booked on suspicion of parole violations.  Leon, who was sentenced to 36 months of probation in April after pleading guilty to auto theft, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, felony evading, reckless driving, vandalism and probation violations.

Suspect in FL Face-Biting Attack May Face Death Penalty: 
The Florida teen who was found biting the face of a man after fatally stabbing him and his wife outside their home could face the death penalty, says the Martin County Sheriff's office.  CBS reports that Austin Harrouff, a 19-year-old college student, will be formally charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of John Stevens, 59, and his wife, Michelle Mishcon, 53, once he is released from the hospital.  He will also face an additional charge of attempted first-degree murder for stabbing the couple's neighbor who tried to intervene.  Investigators believe a synthetic drug like Flakka or bath salts contributed to the attack, which was random.  Authorities are still waiting for results of a lab test to confirm suspicions.

Judges Allow Nearly 100,000 Illegals Remain in the U.S.:  Immigration judges have gone against the Department of Homeland Security's attempts to deport some 96,223 illegal immigrants, including criminals, over the last 10 months, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a Syracuse-University based nonprofit.  Malia Zimmerman of Fox News reports that TRAC's report cites several reasons why a judge may allow an individual to remain in the county, such as finding that the government failed to meet its burden to show the individual is deportable; finding the individual eligible for asylum; or simply granting relief under alternative legal provisions.  The government can also request that a particular case be administratively closed through ICE's prosecutorial discretion, or other reasons.  There is currently a backlog of approximately 500,000 pending cases in immigration courts, causing judges becoming more lenient as it continues to grow.  Records were shattered last year when judges allowed 106,676 illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. despite DHS's efforts to remove them, but TRAC estimates that this year's numbers are on track to surpass that staggering amount.

CO Man who Stabbed Son to Death Could Face Death Penalty:  Arapahoe County prosecutors are considering seeking the death penalty against a Colorado man who fatally stabbed his six-year-old son earlier this year.  Noelle Phillips of the Denver Post reports that Brandon Johnson, 27, had a new arraignment set Thursday for Oct. 25, after which prosecutors have 60 days to decide whether to pursue the death penalty against him.  Colorado law allows the death penalty in this case because it involves the death of a victim younger than 12.  On Feb. 10, a woman called the police to report that she had been sexually assaulted by Johnson at knifepoint.  Upon deputies' arrival, they discovered Riley Johnson dead from stab wounds and Brandon Johnson bleeding from self-inflicted stab wounds.  A two-year-old boy, the son of the woman who called police, was present but unharmed and the woman was hospitalized and treated for her injuries.  Johnson faces eight charges, including first-degree murder.
A report out today from the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley states:

California voters oppose an effort to abolish the death penalty and strongly support a competing measure that would streamline procedures in capital cases, according to a new poll released today by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Respondents opposed the abolition measure 55.1 percent to 44.9 percent, while three out of four respondents supported the streamlining proposition, the survey found. Since the two measures conflict, if both should pass, the measure receiving more votes would take effect.

The poll used online English-language questionnaires to survey respondents from June 29 to July 18. All respondents were registered California voters, and the responses were then weighted to reflect the statewide distribution of the California population by gender, race/ethnicity, education and age. The sample size for the questions on the two death penalty initiatives was 1,506 respondents for one question and 1,512 for the other.

The chances that a UC Berkeley poll would overstate support for the death penalty are the same as the chances that I'll be giving $10,000 to Black Lives Matter.


News Scan

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Death Penalty Sought Against CA Woman:  Monterey County prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will seek the death penalty for a woman responsible for the deaths of her young niece and nephew, as well as the severe abuse of their sister.  Tommy Wright of the Monterey Herald reports that Tami Huntsman faces multiple charges of murder, torture, child abuse and conspiracy in the deaths of Shaun Tara, 6, and Delylah Tara, 3, who were discovered in a Redding storage unit in December along with their nine-year-old sister, found severely abused but alive.  Huntsman's boyfriend, Gonzalo Curiel, 18, received similar charges but faces a life sentence instead of capital punishment because he was a minor at the time of the offenses.  Huntsman and Curiel both pleaded not guilty to the charges in January and received a trial date of Feb. 6, 2017 in April.  The last time the Monterey County DA's Office proceeded with a death penalty case was in 2000.

Illegal Immigrant Felon Arrested for Carjacking:
  An illegal immigrant with a violent felony record was arrested in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday after carjacking two women, one of whom was 91-years old.  Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller reports that Eduardo Irhneis Escobar, 25, approached the vehicle in a Walgreen's parking lot and demanded that the driver, a 63-year-old woman, get out of the car.  He proceeded to drive off with the elderly woman still inside and then pushed her out of the car while it was moving.  He was apprehended following a high-speed pursuit and charged with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action.  Fortunately, neither woman sustained injuries.  Court records show Escobar was first held on bond for a May 2009 incident, for which he plead guilty in January 2010.  He was sentenced to six years in prison and three years of probation.  A police report also indicates he has a conviction for first-degree felony assault.  It's unclear if he has ever been deported or when he first entered the U.S.

WV City has 27 Heroin Overdoses in Four Hours:  Huntington, West Virginia, saw 27 heroin overdoses, one of them fatal, in four hours on Monday in what officials are equating to "a mass casualty event."  Tony Marco of CNN reports that all of the overdoses occurred within a mile and a half radius, leading officials to believe that they all stem from the same batch of heroin that was likely laced with something to make it dangerous.  Huntington, a city of approximately 50,000 people, typically sees 18 to 20 overdoses in a week, proving this short span of hours to be "catastrophic," according to Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry.  So far this year, there have been 440 overdoses in Cabell County, 26 of them fatal.  Merry believes a third of the overdoses are related to fentanyl.

NM Gov. Backs Restoring Death Penalty:  New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will pursue the death penalty as part of her legislative agenda in January, an announcement that comes on the heels of the senseless killing of a police officer last Friday.  KVIA reports that Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez, a two-year veteran of the department, was killed during a traffic stop by Jesse Denver Hanes, an Ohio man who is suspected of another murder in his home state.  Hanes faces a first-degree murder charge in Chavez's death, but cannot receive the death penalty because it was abolished in New Mexico in 2009.  Gov. Martinez stated that she believes cop killers deserve the ultimate penalty, concluding that "a society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe."  Lawmakers in the state have begun discussing drafting a bill that would to reintroduce capital punishment next legislative session.
Update:  See follow-up post.

I have been battling the opponents of the death penalty for a very long time.  In that time, I have found that the intentionally misleading half-truth is their weapon of choice, and I spend a lot of time correcting the mistaken impressions they intentionally create.

However, the opponents are not above outright lying when they think they can get away with it.  A whopper has just come to my attention from the state of Nebraska, where the people are going to vote on whether to abolish or retain the death penalty.

Ernest Goss, Scott Strain, and Jackson Blalock have released a paper titled The Economic Impact of the Death Penalty on the State of Nebraska: a Taxpayer Burden?  The paper is sponsored by the anti-death-penalty campaign.  On page 23 we find this:

According to Scheidegger,48 "There is no credible evidence that replacing the DP with LWOP will result in significant added trial costs to the state due to defendants refusing to plead guilty and forcing prosecutors to meet their burdens at trial. The few studies that have been completed support the proposition that the threat of the DP does not increase plea bargain rates."

48Kent S. Scheidegger, The DP and Plea Bargaining to Life Sentences, Criminal Justice Legal Foundations, Feb. 2009, p. 10.
Note the quotation marks.  The authors are not saying that this is their interpretation of my results.  They are saying that these are my exact words and my interpretation.  This is a bald-faced lie.

Misreporting Science

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Robert Gebelhoff has this article in the WaPo on the misreporting of research.

One of the main problems is an effect that I have called "big story bias."  Journalists have an incentive to shade their reports in the direction of making the event more newsworthy.  This effect is not limited to stories about research.  We see it across the board. 

Researchers and their institutions, also, have an incentive to produce research that makes news.  Gebelhoff notes, "At the same time, researchers have become very good at playing with data -- such as shifting the length of their experiments or picking and choosing which variables to control for -- in order to come out with the results they want." 

Once more, with feeling, what "studies show" ain't necessarily so, and no, that is not an "anti-science" position.

News Scan

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OH Man to Face Death Penalty:  Prosecutors announced Tuesday that they are seeking the death penalty against an Ohio man accused of abducting and killing a young woman last month.  Ryan Dunn of the Toledo Blade reports that a grand jury returned a 19-count indictment against James Worley, who faces an array of charges in the death of Sierah Joughin, 20. Joughin disappeared while riding her bike down a rural road and her remains were found three days later; she was handcuffed and had died of asphyxiation.  An autopsy found no evidence of sexual assault.  A search of Worley's property yielded a secret room in his barn, where authorities discovered restraints and a freezer with blood in it.  He is charged with two counts each of aggravated murder, murder, abduction, felonious assault, aggravated robbery.  The grand jury added four charges of kidnapping and single counts of possessing criminal tools, gross abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.  Prosecutors explained that although the indictment alleges multiple counts of several individual crimes, each is based on a different section of Ohio law.  Worley previously served three years in prison after being convicted of abducting a 26-year-old woman in 1990.

AL Inmate who Shot at Cops Escapes from Jail:  An Alabama man who was convicted last week of shooting at a sheriff's deputy escaped from jail Tuesday night.  Fox News reports that Eric Washington, 23, overpowered staff members and stole a pair of keys before fleeing on foot.  Authorities believe he may be armed with a shank.  Washington was days away from being transferred to a state prison to serve a 30-year sentence for shooting at a sheriff's deputy during a police pursuit last year.  He was initially charged with attempted murder but found guilty of second-degree assault and discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle.  A manhunt for him is underway.

Two SC Teens Arrested for Fatal Shooting of Good Samaritan:  Two teens are facing murder charges after one of them fatally shot a man who had just helped them pull an SUV from a ditch on a North Charleston road Monday night.  Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post reports that Chadwick Garrett, 45, agreed to help Michael Odell Anthony Dupree-Tyler, 19, and Deon Antonio Frasier, 17, pull their SUV from a roadside ditch for a $20 fee, and was shot in the chest by Frasier when he was finished.  Dupree-Tyler then drove he and Frasier away from the scene in the vehicle back to their apartment.  Shortly after the shooting, a woman called the police to report that two teens had taken her SUV without permission, and provided the teens' description.  Police responded, and the teens were taken into custody after a brief standoff and admitted to their respective roles in the crime.  Both face a charge of murder, while Frasier faces an additional charge of possession of a firearm during a violent crime.

Trump Speech on Law and Order

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A script of Donald Trump's speech on law and order is available on his site.  There are many good points there.  He is clearly listening to Rudy Giuliani, which is good.

Can he stay on message, and, if so, can he regain the 10% he has foolishly handed to Hillary Clinton on a silver platter since the convention?  We shall see. 
Amy Wang reports in the WaPo:

Kathleen Kane, once a rising star in Pennsylvania politics, said Tuesday that she will resign as the state's attorney general after she was found guilty of nine criminal charges, including two felony perjury counts.

"I have been honored to serve the people of Pennsylvania and I wish them health and safety in all their days," the first-term Democrat said in a statement the afternoon after her conviction.

Kane, who was elected in 2012, was accused of leaking information to the media about a 2009 grand jury probe as a way to get back at Frank Fina, a political rival and former state prosecutor.

Prosecutors said Kane masterminded the leak and a subsequent coverup -- and then lied to a grand jury about it.
Politicians never seem to learn that the cover-up gets you in more trouble than the original transgression.
To listen to BLM and its allies, Amerika is hellbent to imprison those it "dislikes," with African Americans heading the list.

Like so much the Left says, it's simply false.  As the Washington Post writes in an article by Stanford Professor Keith Humphreys, "Black incarceration hasn't been this low in a generation."

Th[e] heated debate about whether the 1994 [Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act] is responsible for African Americans increasingly being behind bars can never be resolved, for a reason that may surprise many observers: The African American imprisonment rate has been declining for many years. Indeed, the likelihood of African American men and women being in prison today is lower than it was a generation ago when the law was passed...

I would love to think (but don't) that the Left is merely behind the times rather than deceitful.  Unfortunately, since it has spent years falsely claiming that more incarceration doesn't contribute significantly to decreasing crime, and months falsely claiming that violent crime is at "historic lows" (it's been rising since 2014), belief in its mere failure to keep up has become impossible.

I should note that the decrease in the rate of black incarceration began on approximately the day George W. Bush became President, and has continued under his successor.  In addition, the amount of the decrease in the incarceration rate for black males over that time is an amazingly large 23%, and the decrease for black females more than twice that much.


News Scan

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No Need to Police SF Prosecutors:  A San Francisco prosecutor in a robbery case is accused of prosecutorial overreach for charging a defendant with kidnapping after she and two other men stole her supervisor's cell phone and accompanied him to an ATM to swap it for cash.  Debra J. Saunders has this article in the SF Chronicle noting that LaSonya Wells, 40, could have spent the rest of her life behind bards if found guilty of the kidnapping charge; and while Saunders agreed that the kidnapping charge "goes too far," she says Wells,who has a lengthy criminal history that includes three stints in state prison, "is a great example of an offender who deserves to have the book thrown at her."  CJLF President Michael Rushford concurs that the case doesn't amount to kidnapping but is troubled that prosecutors would be accused of being too tough on repeat offenders like Wells.  The kidnapping charge against Wells was dropped, though she and her co-defendant son, Damian Wells, 20 still face charges for robbery, extortion and grand theft.

CA High Court Overturns Death Sentence:  In a unanimous decision on Monday, the California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of the 1993 murders of two former co-workers, who he ambushed and killed after being passed over for a promotion.  Maura Dolan of the LA Times reports that Sergio Dujuan Nelson was 19-years-old and had no criminal history when he fatally shot Robin Shirley and Lee Thompson while they sat in a vehicle in the parking lot of the Target where he used to work.  Nelson confessed to the killing but argued that they were brought on by depression.  At his trial, two juries failed to reach a decision whether to sentence Nelson to life in prison without parole or death.  After the second deadlocked jury, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Clarence Stromwall allowed the jurors to be questioned about their deliberations, and removed one of the holdouts.  The state high court determined this week that the death verdict in Nelson's trial had been "tainted" by the "intrusive influence" of the trial court's questions and comments, and granted him a new trial on his sentence.  Nelson's special circumstance conviction of lying in wait was also overturned in a 5-2 decision.

CA Lawsuit Leads to Reduced Cellphone Prison Penalties:
  A California lawsuit filed by an inmate over legislation passed five years ago imposing new penalties on inmates for using cellphones has prompted a reduction in some of the penalties under the legislation.  Jim Miller of the Sac Bee reports that SB 26 was passed in 2011 following years of warnings that inmates were using contraband phones to commit crimes from prison, but a lawsuit arguing that lawmakers were unclear about who the maximum penalties applied to lead state prison officials to downgrade some of the law's rules.  The measure initially called for the loss of 90 days of good time credit if an inmate was found in possession of cellphones and cellphone accessories such as SIM cards and charges, but now an inmate will only face the loss of 30 days of good time credit.  Officials say the reduced penalties will not impede efforts to prevent inmates from obtaining cellphones.  The changes will go into effect later this month.  In 2010, a year before SB 26 was enacted, about 11,000 cellphones were confiscated in California prisons.

In Milwaukee over the weekend, yet another black man with most of his life ahead of him was gunned down by the police.  This has sparked calls for peace, and for a renewed national conversation about police misconduct and community trust.

I thought it would be useful to see what the conversation looks like.

News Scan

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Milwaukee Endures Two Nights of Unrest after Police Shooting:  Two nights of violent protests in Milwaukee, following the fatal shooting of an armed black man by a police officer on Saturday, has resulted in 11 wounded officers, a teen seriously injured by gunfire, 14 arrests for disorderly conduct and significant damage to the city.  Fox News reports that nearly a dozen officers were wounded after demonstrators turned violent, hurling chunks of concrete and rocks at them and shattering squad car windows.  The city's ShotSpotter system recorded 48 instances of gunfire on Saturday and 30 on Sunday, with one of those instances injuring an 18-year-old man who had to be retrieved by an armored vehicle.  Businesses were looted and burned on Saturday and on Sunday, three squad cars were damaged, a police BearCat was struck by two bullets, a car and several dumpsters were set on fire and a store's window was smashed.  The violence erupted following the death of Sylville Smith, who was shot by an officer during a traffic stop on Saturday after he refused to drop his gun when the officer ordered him to.  Police Chief Edward Flynn declined to identify the officer but said he is black, and his body camera footage clearly shows a gun in Smith's hand and he "was raising up with it.  The officer "certainly appeared to be within lawful bounds," said Flynn.  An investigation into the shooting is still ongoing.

GA Officer Fatally Shot, Suspect on the Loose:  A Georgia police officer was fatally shot over the weekend by a suspect who is still at large.  The AP reports that Eastman Patrol Officer Tim Smith, 31, was shot and killed Saturday evening while responding to a call of a suspicious person and encountering Royheem Delshawn Deeds, 24, who then fled the scene.  Smith was a father of three children and had been with the Eastman Police Department since 2011.  His death came just hours before two teenage suspects were arrested after opening fire at three officers outside Atlanta.  Officer Scott Davis, a 10-year veteran, was shot in the leg and is recovering in the hospital.  A manhunt is underway for Deeds.

Audit of CA Gang Database Finds Numerous Errors:  An audit of California's gang database, CalGang, found several problems regarding privacy issues, transparency and control.  CBS reports that the state began compiling a database of known gangsters and gang affiliates in 2003 so law enforcement agencies could access it for the purpose of adding people to gang injunctions, supporting arguments for sentencing enhancements in court and even disqualifying families from living in public housing.  The recent audit, conducted by State Auditor Elaine M. Howle, found numerous issues with CalGang, the most egregious of which was 42 individuals added to the list "whose birthdates indicated that they were less than one year old at the time their information was entered, 28 of whom were entered into the system in part because they admitted to being gang members."  Other problems included:  adding individuals without sufficient evidence, difficulty removing individuals despite sufficient evidence, the illegal use of the database for employment screening and inadequate parental notification for juveniles put on the list, violating a 2013 law.  CalGang is state-funded and overseen by an executive board and advisory committee comprised of local law enforcement with no statutory authority.

News Scan

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AL Man's Death Penalty Trial to Begin:  The capital murder trial is set to begin this month for an Alabama man accused of killing a manager two years ago during a robbery at a Taco Bell where he was employed.  Erin Edgemon of AL reports that Renauldous Chisholm, 22, faces the death penalty for killing Vettia Roche, 43, who was shot twice, kicked in the abdomen and beaten in the head with a carjack during a robbery gone awry.  Chisholm and two other men, Kenneth Temple and Gacolby Green, plotted to rob Roche of the night deposit in March 2014, but the plot took a deadly turn when Roche recognized Chisholm and Temple as two of her employees.  The state is seeking the death penalty against Chisholm due to "aggravating circumstances," citing that the murder was committed during a robbery and was "especially heinous, atrocious and cruel."  Chisholm's trial begins on Aug. 22, Temple's capital murder trial is set to begin on Jan. 23 and Green's murder trial is scheduled to start Sept. 26.

Two CA Death Sentences Overturned, One Upheld:  Three decades-old California capital murder cases received rulings  Thursday by appellate courts, with two death sentences tossed out and a third affirmed.  Erica Evans of the LA Times reports that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and death sentence of James Edward Hardy, who was on death row for the 1981 stabbing deaths of a mother and her son.  The Federal court agreed with a previous court ruling that Hardy's defense attorney failed to investigate and present evidence that the prosecution's key witness may have been the actual killer, and called for a new trial.  The California Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction and death sentence of Craigen Lewis Armstrong, who was convicted in 2004 of the 2001 triple homicide of three brothers.  The state high court found that a juror was discharged by the judge during the guilt phase of Armstrong's trial without a demonstrable reason to indicate the juror was unable to complete her duty.  Then in a separate ruling, the state high court affirmed the conviction and death sentence of Michael Ray Burgener, who was condemned to die for murdering a man during a convenience store robbery in 1981.  There are now 746 inmates on California's death row.

Two with Long Criminal Histories Arrested, One on AB109:  Two people with extensive criminal histories, including one who was free under AB109, were arrested last week in Murrieta, Calif., on numerous charges after being found with a stolen vehicle.  Trevor Montgomery of My Valley News reports that Lauren Taylor James, 28, was found Aug. 8 passed out in a stolen vehicle and determined to have a misdemeanor warrant for her arrest and a lengthy history for narcotics, burglary and stolen property.  Her passenger, Tarren Rippel, 30, had two felony warrants for carjacking and PRCS violation, and a misdemeanor warrant for theft.  Rippel was free on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) under AB109 (the so called Public Safety Realignment).  The 2011 law that allows "less serious" offenders to remain free on probation rather than behind bars, where they would have been prior to the law's implementation.  James was booked on suspicious of possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of narcotics paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance, as well as her warrant for possession of a controlled substance.  Rippel was booked for his felony warrants and misdemeanor warrant.  His criminal history includes charges of vehicle theft, carjacking, two counts of false imprisonment, two counts of spousal abuse, two counts of grand theft, providing a false identity to a peace officer and disobeying a court order.

Bill to Increase Penalty for Fentanyl Trafficking Shelved:  A committee of the California Legislature has blocked passage of SB1323, a bill to increase the penalty for trafficking the deadly drug fentanyl to match penalties for dealers of heroin and cocaine.  The drug, which is several times more powerful than heroin has caused a spike in fatal drug overdoses, including 10 in Sacramento, California's state capital, so far this year.  Sacramento Bee writer Anshu Siripurapu reports that the bill was opposed by the ACLU which argued that tougher penalties would not deter trafficking of the drug.  The Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez, has become the gatekeeper for crime legislation in that house, held the bill without a vote Thursday.    

Another Phony DOJ Report

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A 161-page U.S. Department of Justice report on the Baltimore Police Department released yesterday concluded that the city's police intentionally target African Americans for stops and arrests, violating their civil rights.  Not unlike a similar report tarring the Ferguson Police Department, the DOJ found that police contacts with minorities, and particularly blacks, were disproportionate compared with other races, evidencing racially biased policing practices.  While drawing such conclusions by comparing the ratio of members a particular race stopped or arrested with their ratio of the population is thoroughly bogus, the national media swallowed it whole, as usual.  Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald dismantles the report with this piece in today's National Review.           

Pot Classification

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Alicia Caldwell reports for AP:

The Obama administration has decided marijuana will remain on the list of most-dangerous drugs, fully rebuffing growing support across the country for broad legalization, but said it will allow more research into its medical uses.

The decision to expand research into marijuana's medical potential could pave the way for the drug to be moved to a lesser category. Heroin, peyote and marijuana, among others, are considered Schedule I drugs because they have no medical application; cocaine and opiates, for example, have medical uses and, while still illegal for recreational use, are designated Schedule II drugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said the agency's decision came after a lengthy review and consultation with the Health and Human Services Department, which said marijuana "has a high potential for abuse" and "no accepted medical use." The decision means that pot will remain illegal for any purpose under federal law, despite laws in 25 states and District of Columbia that have legalized pot for either medicinal or recreational use.

News Scan

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FL Appeals Court Clears Way for 4 Death Penalty Cases:  A Florida appeals court Wednesday cleared the way for four death penalty cases to proceed with trials, countering rulings by lower courts that recent changes to state law only allow sentences of life in prison.  Arek Sarkissian of Naples Daily News reports that circuit judges in two Florida counties had used the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Hurst v. Florida to bar prosecutors from seeking capital punishment, but the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that "trial courts simply have no authority to determine the applicability of the death penalty to defendants who have not been convicted of capital felonies."  The court also states that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling "has no impact on the state's executive decision to prosecute capital offenses."  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that Florida's death penalty sentencing process violated the Sixth Amendment by giving too much power to judges rather than juries in deciding whether to issue a death sentence.  The Florida Legislature introduced an alternative policy that requires 10 of 12 jurors to agree on a death sentence.  The state high court has not yet ruled on how to apply to federal ruling.

New CA Bill Challenges Brown's Ballot Measure: 
A California bill on rape introduced recently conflicts with Gov. Jerry Brown's November ballot measure that would grant inmates convicted of a "nonviolent felony offense" parole eligibility after completion of the full term of his or her primary offense, as well as shaving time off their sentences for good behavior. In this Sac Bee piece, Dan Walters says that while Brown's measure, Proposition 57, does not define "nonviolent" crime, his campaign said it would apply to any felony not listed specifically in Penal Code Section 667.5.  That means that offenses such as assault with a deadly weapon, soliciting murder, intimidating a crime victim or witness, resisting arrest that injures a police officer, violent elder or child abuse, arson with injury, human trafficking and several forms of manslaughter and rape, including the rape of an unconscious person, will all be classified as a "nonviolent felony offense."  The bill, Assembly Bill 29, carried by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, for a bipartisan group of female legislators, would require any person convicted of raping an unconscious person or spouse to serve a full sentence with no time off for good behavior.  The bill came on the heels of widespread outrage after Standford University swimmer Brock Turner, who faced up to 14 years in prison, received a six-month jail sentence for three counts of sexual assault on an unconscious woman.  If the bill reaches Brown's desk, he will have to decide whether to sign itl, going against his own ballot measure, or vetoing the bill, essentially implying that raping an unconscious person in not a violent crime.

Colorado U Rape Case Echoes Stanford Case:  A rape case in Colorado strongly resembles the Brock Turner case at Stanford in both the crime and the light sentence the defendant received.  Rob Quinn of Newser reports that Austin James Wilkerson, 22, a former University of Colorado student, skirted a prison sentence on Wednesday after being found guilty of the 2014 sexual assault of an intoxicated female student.  Prosecutors sought a state prison sentence of four to 12 years, but the judge used his discretion to give Wilkerson a much lighter sentence consisting of probation for 20 years to life and two years in county jail under a work-release program that will allow him to leave jail daily for work or school.  The assault occurred after a St. Patrick's Day party two years ago when Wilkerson told a heavily intoxicated freshman student's friends that he was going to take care of her.

Marijuana to Remain Classified as Dangerous Drug:  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said it will not reclassify marijuana and remove it from the list of most dangerous drugs.  CBS New York reports that the DEA made the announcement in a notice in the Federal Register after consulting with the Heath and Human Services Department, stating that while marijuana will remain classified as a drug that has "no accepted medical use in the United States," the agency will pursue plans to make marijuana more available to researchers by expanding the number of agencies allowed to grow marijuana legally for the purpose of research.  Marijuana is classified as a "Schedule 1" drug, the same as heroin.
Shane Newell has this article with the above title in the LA Times.

Top Los Angeles County officials including Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey have joined a November election battle, announcing support for preserving California's death penalty and reforming the state's appeals process.

The death penalty should be "for the worst of the worst," McDonnell said Monday night at an event dubbed, "Mend, Don't End California's Death Penalty."

"We want to be in a position to be able to say that there is a disincentive for the most horrific of murders," McDonnell said.

Also speaking out at the event was Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. The goal: opposing Proposition 62, which would abolish executions and replace them with life without parole, and supporting Proposition 66, which aims to speed up executions in California.

News Scan

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Two AR Cops Shot, Suspect in Custody:  Two Arkansas police officers were shot and wounded on Wednesday by a suspect who was taken into custody following an hours-long standoff.  Fox News reports that Sebastian County Deputy Bill Cooper is in an intensive care unit in extremely critical condition and Hackett Chief of Police Darrell Spells was treated and released from the hospital after being grazed in the head by a bullet.  Cooper and Spells were shot by accused gunman Billy Jones when they were at Jones' house after responding to a call from his father asking officers to check on him.  Jones has an extensive criminal history, including a 2007 conviction for manufacture and possession of a controlled substance and a 2011 conviction for theft of property, as well as a February 2016 charge of possession of firearms and possession of a controlled substance.  "It's a shame the price that law enforcement officers are paying right now," said U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, who represents Sebastian County.  Update:  Deputy Bill Cooper died from his injuries.  He was a 15-year veteran and a former Marine.

Grim Sleeper Sentenced to Death:  The serial killer known as the "Grim Sleeper," who terrorized the streets of South Los Angeles for over two decades, was sentenced to death on Wednesday.  Marisa Gerber and James Queally of the LA Times reports that Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, was convicted in May of 10 counts of murder for killing nine women and a teenage girl, as well as the attempted murder of another woman.  The women, most of whom were shot to death, were drug addicts and prostitutes killed between 1985 and 2007 and dumped along roadsides or in the trash.  The slayings were linked to a single killer through ballistic and genetic evidence found at the crime scenes, and eventually matched to Franklin in 2010.  Franklin was dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" because of a gap in the killings between 1988 and 2001, suggesting he had gone dormant.  However, it is now believed that he continued to kill during that period.  Prosecutors connected him to five other murder during the penalty phase of his trial, but detectives think that he is responsible for up to 25 murders.

Be Careful What You Ask For

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When a defendant has gotten off with less than he or she deserves with a plea bargain, it is not a good idea to have the entire judgment vacated and go back to square one.  From the Ninth Circuit's decision yesterday in Fox v. Johnson, No. 13-56704:

Candace Lee Fox pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1984 in California Superior Court and, pursuant to a plea agreement, was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of fifteen years to life. Approximately five years later, Fox successfully petitioned to withdraw her guilty plea after establishing that the sentencing court failed to inform her that she would receive a mandatory term of lifetime parole as a direct consequence of her plea. At her subsequent trial, Fox was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, and the special circumstance that the murder was committed in the course of a burglary. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In this 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254 habeas proceeding, Fox now argues that the State originally promised her a term of imprisonment no greater than seven and one-half years in exchange for her plea, and asks for specific performance of that purported agreement.

We refuse Fox's request and affirm the district court, because Fox chose in the state habeas proceedings to seek vacation of her conviction, rather than specific performance of the purported plea agreement. She therefore has no due process right to specific performance of the rescinded agreement.

Back from AGACL

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Some readers may have noticed I have not blogged much in the last week.  I was in New Orleans at the annual convention of the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation.  (I am not, of course, a government attorney, but they tolerate me there anyway.)  I will have more to say on this conference later in the week.

News Scan

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Chicago Gangs Allegedly Plot to Shoot Cops:  An alleged meeting last week between leaders of three Chicago gangs was reportedly held to discuss plans to kill police officers in response to the officer-involved shooting death of an 18-year-old last month.  Fox News reports that the Thursday meeting involved the gangs Vice Lords, Black Disciples and Four Corner Hustlers.  According to the Chicago Sun-Times, which issued an alert to Chicago officers on Monday, the Four Corner Hustlers have "provided guns" and pinpointed a "sniper in place," and is funneling weapons to the two other gangs.  The threats follow the July 28 death of Paul O'Neal, who was fatally shot by officers after stealing a car and engaging officers in a chase.  The O'Neal family attorney and the Independent Police Review Authority then spouted "inflammatory and false rhetoric" that fueled the current threats, says Dean Angelo, the president of Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police.  Superintendent Eddie Johnson has stripped the involved officers of police powers, but has not yet disclosed the policies that were violated.

Sentence Tossed for PA's last Female Death Row Inmate:  Pennsylvania's sole female death row inmate had her sentence vacated last month by a judge, who cited inadequate representation at her 2005 trial.  The AP reports that Shonda Walter, 37, had her death sentence thrown out on July 26 and received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in the 2003 hatchet killing of her neighbor and World War II veteran James Sementelli, 83.  Walter killed Sementelli in order to steal his car and sell it to pay off court debts and gain entry into a street gang.  Authorities said Sementelli sustained over 60 stab wounds, 18 fractures and 45 bruises during the attack, several of which were on his head, face and neck.  Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a temporary moratorium on executions in February 2015.  The state has a total of 176 inmates on death row, all of them men.  Since capital punishment's reinstatement in the mid-1970s, only three inmates have been executed in the state.

Previously Deported Illegal Immigrant Charged with Child Rape: 
A previously deported illegal immigrant who was released from custody last year after officials refused to honor a federal immigration request to hold him is now facing charges of raping a child under the age of 13.  Caroline May of Breitbart reports that Ramon Aguirre-Ochoa, 45, a Mexican national previously deported in 2009 only to return to the U.S., had a detainer request placed on him in 2015 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but Philadelphia officials ignored the request and released him.  Philadelphia is a sanctuary city, where local officials incorporate policies that bar law enforcement from honoring federal detainers or notifying immigration officials of upcoming released of criminal aliens.  ICE has filed yet another detainer against Aguirre-Ochoa, who is facing charges of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, indecent assault on a person less than 13, indecent exposure and simple assault.

News Scan

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Over 30 Drug Citations and No Felonies, Thanks to Prop 47:  A Redlands, Calif, man has been cited by police nearly three dozen times, almost all of them drug offenses, since the November 2014 passage of Proposition 47, which reclassified several felonies to misdemeanors.  Brian Rokos of the Press-Enterprise reports that Frankie Alvin Capetillo, 27, is what police describe as a prime example of someone who is "gaming the system," racking up citations and failing to show up for arraignments because he knows he won't face any consequences.  Twelve of Capetillo's citations were for reclassified offenses, and he failed to show up for court in 11 of those cases.  Warrants out on him still only resulted in citations from officers rather than jail time.  San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Simon Umscheid says that cases like Capetillo's are "an absolute waste of resources" and would like to see Prop. 47 modified so that habitual offenders receive tougher penalties.

Eight Killed, 39 Wounded in Chicago Weekend Violence: 
Rampant violence continued in Chicago over the weekend, with eight people dead and at least 39 wounded in shootings across the city.  The Chicago Sun-Times reports that between Friday evening and Monday morning, dozens of people were shot, many of them killed or injured in drive-by shootings while several others were approached by gunmen and shot at close range as they walked on the sidewalk.  Two of the deceased victims were teenagers, just 17- and 18-years-old.
It's often said that race tells the tale about how you'll be treated by the criminal justice system and, in particular, about how harsh your sentence will be.

If that were true, one would expect to find at least a modest statistical correlation between race and sentencing outcomes.  There was a recent study of that question, noted by Doug Berman in this entry on Sentencing Law and Policy.  The last paragraph, with emphasis by Doug, is this:

A justice system reasonably aspires to be consistent in the application of law across cases and to account for the particulars of a case. Our goal was to create a prediction model of criminal sentence lengths that accounts for non-judicial factors such as weather and sports events among the feature set. The feature weights offer a natural metric to evaluate the importance of these features unrelated to crime relative to case-specific factors. Using a Random Forest, we found several expected crime related features appearing within the top 10% most important features. However, we also found defendant characteristics (unrelated to the crime), sport game outcomes, weather, and location features all predictive of sentence length as well, and these features were, surprisingly, more predictive than the defendant's race. Further investigating this predictive ability would be of interest to those studying the criminal justice system.



NeverJohnson

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Some libertarian-leaning and independent voters have been taking a look at Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, as an alternative to the vulgar, reckless Trump and the mendacious, hard-Left Clinton.  I understand their angst, but Johnson disqualified himself in my view by recently embracing Black Lives Matter.

The conservative journal RedState understands what's wrong with BLM, but, oddly, says it's "not worried" about Johnson's warmth toward it.  The magazine correctly describes BLM thusly:

Black Lives Matter is more concerned with retaliation for any wrongdoing, than it is solving the problem. It continuously uses intimidation, lawlessness, violence, and story fabrication to push its brand of racism as the result of being a victim. Like any other social justice group, the solution to the problem isn't as important as maintaining that victimhood. Any elements that are seeking peaceful solutions, or even achieve them, are soon disavowed by BLM.

Why then is RedState unconcerned with Johnson's alliance with BLM?

News Scan

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New Orleans has its Deadliest Stretch in Six Years:  With 19 murders over the past 18 days, New Orleans is experiencing what crime analysts describe as the city's bloodiest stretch of time since 2010.  Paul Murphy of WWL reports that there were 25 killings last month, the most the city has had since January 2012, and dating all the way back to 2008, "it's amongst the top 5 most violent months in terms of murders."  So far this year, 96 people have been murdered in the city, a slight decrease from the same point last year, when 114 had been killed.  Even still, residents are fearful; one man says he's moving out the state where he feels safer.  Hopefully NOPD Deputy Chief Paul Noel is right when he says the bloodshed is a spike in violent crime, not a long term trend.

Victims' Families Oppose DE Death Penalty Ruling:  Following the Delaware Supreme Court's Tuesday ruling that the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional, the fate of the state's 13 death row inmates is uncertain, leaving the victims' families mournful.  Brittany Horn of the News Journal reports that Ruth Ann Spicer, mother of Chad Spicer, a Georgetown police officer shot in the line of duty in 2009 by Derrick Powell, doesn't believe her son's killer should have his sentence changed.  "I feel that those people that went through a trial and their sentences were given to them, that is the sentence they were given," she says.  "That is the sentence they deserve."  Royce Seifert, son of Phillip Siefert, who was killed in 1991 by Jermaine Wright, agrees.   "This decision is just the continued trend in our nation of departures from sound, judicial foundations," he says.  "Life imprisonment, well, that's not equal."  Wright has been granted a retrial after the court overturned his conviction, surrounding his case with even more uncertainty.  The state high court concluded that by giving judges rather than juries the final say when imposing a death sentence, the state violates the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It's not clear if the state Attorney General's office will appeal the ruling, and passing a new law to change the language and existing statute is unlikely.  The last person executed in Delaware was Shannon Johnson in 2012.

You Only Have to Connect Two Dots

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Let's see if liberals who would end "criminalization" of what they call "minor" offenses can see any relationship between these two stories.  The first is from May 27:

New York City formally passed legislation this week that steers punishment for offenses such as public urination, littering, and drinking in public away from criminal court....[The bill's main sponsor] said on Wednesday that the reform "is going to change trajectories for countless New Yorkers," according to an [AP] report.


The second, from yesterday, is titled, "Crackheads, Bums and Hookers Rule Washington Square Park":


Just three weeks before NYU's newest class moves into the area, a group of junkies and crackheads has turned a leafy pathway in Washington Square Park into an open-air drug den -- and the NYPD is doing nothing about it.

As many as 20 strung-out vagrants have taken over several benches in the park's northwest corner, where they openly consume hard drugs just steps from the children's playground, outraged neighbors said.


Those who forget the past, etc.





President Obama and those taking the side of the criminal continue to be delighted with the more than 200 commutations handed out Wednesday.  The sheer number produces glee; the White House proudly points out that it's the most granted in a single day since at least 1900.

But not everyone is on the radical pro-criminal side.  Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, tends toward a more sensible view.  Goodlatte favors some aspects of sentencing reform  --  and his support will be essential should the reform movement revive itself in the next Congress  --  but he's no one's version of an extremist.  And he's more than a little concerned about both the number of clemencies and the broad-brush approach the Left has taken toward using the clemency power. Hence, as noted in this news report from Goodlatte's congressional district:

Rep. Bob Goodlatte said he is "deeply concerned" about the size and scope of those commutations -- including the 214 approved Wednesday -- saying the president's actions are a "blatant usurpation" of Congress's authority....


Answer:  When Barack Obama is handing out clemency to drug felons.  If they were packin' heat on the street corner, well, look, boys will be boys.  

The important thing is to shimmy down the prison population.  If the federal recidivism rate is half (49.3%, exactly), and crime across America is skyrocketing, please, get over it.  We need to "rebuild our communities"  --  with drug pushers.

Heather MacDonald lays it out in her telling piece in the National Review.

President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 214 federal prisoners yesterday, part of his ongoing crusade against a criminal-justice system he regularly declares racist and draconian. The White House trumpeted the fact that this was the largest one-day grant of clemency since 1900....

Many of the commuttees possessed stolen firearms or firearms with their serial numbers obliterated. Some were in violation of National Firearms Registration, which can mean possession of a federally prohibited weapon, such as a machine gun, silencer, or sawed-off shotgun. We don't know how many guns the offenders actually had; a commuttee during a previous batch of commutations had 40. 

Nor does the Justice Department's press release disclose the actual incidence of firearm possession by these federal convicts. Gun possession can be used to increase a federal sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines without a prosecutor's actually bringing a formal charge. A gun charge can also be plea-bargained away. Many advocates of criminal-justice reform believe in maximum gun control, yet White House press releases on the president's commutations have been silent on the widespread incidence of illegal gun possession.


In my last post, I quoted an AP story in which the co-organizer of a BLM chapter stated that the group "rejects using violence."

But some of our friends in the criminal defense bar are more discerning.  A criminal defense attorney from Knoxville, TN, Chris Seaton, wrote an article on the legal blog Mimesis titled, "Debate: Violence Against Cops Is Inevitable and Justifiable."  It was one of two pieces set forth in a point-counterpoint style in the wake of the police murders in Dallas and Baton Rouge. (The companion piece takes the opposing view, though in significant measure on prudential rather than moral grounds).

The article starts with a fair summary of its thesis (emphasis added):

In response to yesterday's shooting in Baton Rouge that as of 2 p..m. Sunday had three police officers dead, I was charged to debate whether violence against police is inevitable, wise or justifiable for African-Americans?  After consideration, I take the side that in our current climate, violence against police is not wise for African-Americans.  However, it is the inevitable and justifiable conclusion of militarizing police forces, lack of officer accountability following shootings of African-Americans, and silencing protests with ridiculous arrests.

I encourage readers to survey Mr. Seaton's article so that they can see for themselves the full case, larded though it wisely is with lots of wiggle room, for gunning down random police officers 

BLM may (when convenient) disclaim violence, but it should know, and very likely does know, that the case it's actually interested in has already been made..


The Black Lives Matter message is all about "building trust with the police"  --  at least with such of the police as are left after getting shot at by the people inspired by Black Lives Matter.


Mother of Police Shooting Suspect Blames Black Lives Matter

The mother of one of two central Pennsylvania teenagers charged with shooting at police officers last week contends the Black Lives Matter movement is to blame for his actions.

"They are in jail for doing what Black Lives Matter wanted them to do: shoot at cops," Luz Rentas wrote in a statement given to a number of news organizations over the weekend. "The truth is that these are two punk kids following the orders of an irresponsible organization and now they're gonna pay for it."

The co-organizer of a Black Lives Matter chapter in Lancaster said the group rejects using violence to solve societal problems.

Well, yes, BLM rejects using violence after the attempted murders fail and the would-be killers are caught.



News Scan

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Ninth Incident Tied to Phoenix Serial Shooter:  Phoenix, Ariz., police on Wednesday confirmed a ninth incident connected to a "serial street shooter" who has been terrorizing the city since March.  Megan Cassidy of the Arizona Republic reports that the latest incident happened on July 11 when shots were fired into a vehicle in which a 21-year-old man and four-year-old boy were sitting, but neither was injured.  The last known fatal attack was a triple homicide on June 12.  Witness statements indicate that the shooter has access to multiple vehicles, and police released a composite sketch to the public last month.  The victims of the shootings range in age from four to 55.  Seven people, including a 12-year-old, have been fatally shot.

Two Killed, Nine Wounded in One Day Across Chicago:  Two people died and nine were injured in shootings across Chicago on Wednesday.  CBS Chicago reports that in the last shooting of the day, a man and woman were shot when caught in the crossfire of a gang-related shooting, in an area residents say is a hot spot for gang members to sell and stash drugs.  Other victims of Wednesday's violence include a man fatally shot in an apparent road rage attack, a woman shot by one of the two men with whom she was engaged in a verbal argument, a 15-year-old boy standing on a sidewalk, a man who was opened fire on while walking and a 51-year-old man who was shot after he was robbed by two men.  Last month, the city experienced its deadliest July in five years, with 65 killed in shootings.  So far this year, 381 people were killed and 2,394 shot through July.  Wednesday's victims will add to the carnage.

American Arrested for Trying to Recruit for Terror Attack: 
A North Carolina man was arrested Thursday following a years-long attempt to recruit people and carry out a terror attack in the U.S. on behalf of the Islamic State.  Maria Biery of the Washington Examiner reports that Erick Jamal Hendricks contacted in the spring of 2015, unbeknownst to him, an undercover FBI agent and told him that he "needed people" and had several "brothers in Texas and Mexico," and asked him his willingness to commit "jihad" and die as a "martyr."  In conversations with other individuals online, Hendricks said his goal was the creation of a sleeper cell where recruits would be trained and housed at secure compounds.  Attacks would then be carried out against U.S. targets, potentially military members.  The undercover agent believed Hendricks' "brothers in Texas and Mexico" were Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, the two men responsible for the foiled terror attack in Garland, Tex., in May 2015.  Both men were fatally shot outside the "First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" after opening fire and wounding a security guard.  The agent also believed Hendricks, who was in contact with Simpson and Soofi on social media, was involved in the unsuccessful attack.  Hendricks is facing a maximum of 15 years in prison.

How BLM-style Hate Killed Korryn Gaines

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I blogged yesterday about the police shooting of Korryn Gaines, a black woman and mother of two small children. Gaines' killing is already being touted by the anti-American academic Left as the new Ferguson (see this story)  --  which I suppose is appropriate, giving the rampant deceit and ginned-up outrage from which the Ferguson fable was woven.

The point I'll make now is that, in all likelihood, Ms.Gaines would be alive today but for the kind of whipped-up hatred the Black Lives Matter movement, with its abettors, is spewing across this country. 

The backstory of Korryn Gaines is fascinating, tragic, and most of all, revealing.  It's provided by the Washington Post's excellent crime reporter, Tom Jackman.

Back to the Future

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To follow up on Michael's post about the departure of NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, it's useful to remember, in the struggle against crime, where we came from  -- because with the current retreat from policies that work, we're headed right back there.

From the jacket of The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America by Prof. Barry Latzer:

A compelling case can be made that violent crime, especially in the period after the late 1960s, was one of the most significant domestic issues in the United States, and perhaps in the nations of the West generally. Aside from the movement for black civil rights, it is hard to think of a phenomenon that had as profound effect on American life in the last third of the 20th century. After 1965, crime rose to such levels that it frightened virtually all Americans and prompted significant alterations in everyday behaviors and even in lifestyles. The risk of being "mugged" became an issue when Americans chose places to live as well as schools for their children, when they selected commuter routes to work, and when they planned their leisure activities. In some locales, people were fearful of leaving their dwellings at any time, day or night, even to go to market. In the worst of the post-1960s crime wave, Americans spent part of each day literally looking back over their shoulders.

Bratton's Legacy

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From roughly 1994 to 2014, America experienced the most dramatic drop in crime in modern history.  Many academics and criminologists were at a loss to explain it, primarily because none of their long identified  "root causes" seemed to be in play during this period.   But two things did change: prison sentences for repeat felons got longer and policing became proactive.  In places where both of these factors were instituted, crime dropped the most.  One of those places was New York City, and as Heather MacDonald noted in yesterday's Daily News, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was the innovator who made proactive, data driven policing the gold standard.    

The Jailbreak Accelerates

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President Obama is often accused by conservatives of being a failure.  I respectfully dissent. The President is actually a remarkable success  --  at what he wants to do.  

One of those things is abrogate hundreds, if not in the end thousands, of legal sentences for trafficking very dangerous drugs.  Hence today's latest installment of the mass jailbreak:

President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 people serving federal sentences on Wednesday -- the most commutations issued by a president in a single day since at least 1900 -- White House officials told BuzzFeed News.

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Including Wednesday's commutations, Obama has granted a total of 562 commutations -- a number that the White House says is more than the previous nine presidents combined but that has been questioned by some advocates...

Now, when a President commutes more sentences than his nine predecessors combined  --  that would be going back more than 50 years  --  some might say that this reflects an extremist view of clemency. But no!  Barack Obama is the only one marching in step!  Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush II were all out of step.

Now I understand.


News Scan

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WA Shooter could Face Death Penalty in Deaths of 3 Teens:  A Washington state teen accused of gunning down three other teens last week was charged Tuesday with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder, charges that could result in a death sentence if convicted.  KOMO reports that Allen Ivanov shot and killed his former girlfriend and two men, all 19, at a house party Friday night with an AR-15 rifle he had purchased a week prior.  He told police that he was angry with his former girlfriend, with whom he had broken up with two months earlier, had moved on with her life and was dating other men.  Ivanov faces additional charges of attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault.  Prosecutors have not said whether the death penalty will be sought against Ivanov if he is convicted.  Capital punishment was suspended in the state two years ago by Gov. Jay Inslee.

TN man to Face Death Penalty in Deaths of 2 Young Sisters:  A Tennessee man will face the death penalty at his trial next year in the 2014 deaths of two baby sisters who were just two-months and 13-months old.  Allie Hinds of WJHL reports that Erick Eugene Jones Jr., who was on probation at the time of Kynsleigh Easterly and Trinity Tweed's deaths, faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect, and two felony murder charges.  Jones claims that on Dec. 16, 2014 after smoking marijuana and selling some cocaine he discoveried that Kynsleigh had no pulse.  The police were not called until the following morning, and the girls were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.  Their autopsies showed blunt force trauma led to their deaths.  Jones' trial is set to begin May 22, 2017.  The girls' mother, Kendra Tweed, is also charged with first-degree murder in the case.

Parents of Police Shooting Suspects Call Out BLM:  The parents of two Pennsylvania teenagers charged with shooting at police officers last week believe they were motivated by the Black Lives Matter movement.  The AP reports that Marquell Rentas, 17, and Trenton Nace, 18, fired several shots at police officers last Friday as the officers approached in their vehicles while responding to a report of shots fired at a cemetery.  During his arrest, Rentas told officers, "I was shooting at you" and cursed at them.  Lancaster County's district attorney said that the shooting does not appear to be racially motivated but believes it stems from anti-police rhetoric, which "creates a greater chance that to have individuals emboldened to take violent actions out on police."  Rentas' mother and Nace's father made statements this week contending that the "irresponsible" Black Lives Matter movement influenced their sons' actions.  The young men, who are cousins, face several charges, including attempted homicide of a law enforcement officer.

How to Lie While Telling the Truth

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The Washington Post features a story today that reflects on policing and African Americans.

The nub of it is this:  Police in Baltimore County arrived at the home of a young woman, Korryn Gaines, to serve a warrant that arose from an April traffic stop.  Ms. Gaines was a black mother of two small children, one of whom was nearby as the police arrived.  The police did not succeed in serving the warrant, and instead killed Ms. Gaines in a hail of gunfire.  Her five year-old son was injured.  Some of the episode was recorded with live-streaming.  Thus far, no criminal charges have been lodged, or are known to be under consideration, for the police who did the shooting.

Now, everything I have written in that paragraph is true.  And false.

Black Lives Matter Comes Clean

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Black Lives Matter got traction from a concocted account of the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri  --  that a white policeman, Darren Wilson, shot a black teenager, Michael Brown, even though Brown had his hands up in surrender.

This was shown to be false.  Wilson's hands weren't up, and he was not trying to surrender.  Instead, the credible evidence showed that, shortly after he robbed a convenience store of practically worthless items, Brown, 6'4" and 292 pounds, had scuffled with Wilson, had tried to wrestle away Wilson's service revolver, and was coming back for more.  Wilson fired in self defense.

As one might expect of a movement whose signature grievance is fabricated, Black Lives Matter has had more than its share of toxicity, particularly as respects its view of law enforcement.

Now, however, BLM has made clear its true political roots:  It's a Communist front with a racial makeover.

Yes, I know that sounds so Fifties.  But the list of demands BLM just released leaves no doubt.  Paul Mirengoff has the story.  The first name that came to my mind was Herbert Aptheker.


When Hurst v. Florida was decided earlier this year, I wrote a post titled Dangerously Sloppy Language in the Hurst v. Florida Opinion.  Sure enough, four of the five justices of the Delaware Supreme Court have now decided that the state's long-established and thoroughly vetted death penalty statute is unconstitutional.  That would be true only if one sloppy piece of obiter dictum wipes out the distinction between the eligibility decision and the selection decision crafted over decades and clearly set forth in numerous U.S. Supreme Court opinions.

The case is Rauf v. State.  See Justice Vaughn's dissent for the correct answers.

Does Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn have the requisite vertebrae to petition for certiorari?  Let's hope so.

News Scan

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CA Murderer's Death Sentence Upheld:  On Monday, the California Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of a Riverside man convicted in the abduction and murder of an elderly woman and the torture and rape of another 15 years ago.  Ali Tadayon the the Press-Enterprise reports that Bailey Lamar Jackson, 45, has been on death row since 2005 for first-degree murder, and is also serving 212 years to life for charges of attempted murder, torture, rape, burglary and robbery.  On Mother's Day 2001, Geraldine Myers, 81, disappeared and her car was later found containing a bag with her blood on it.  A month after Myers' disappearance, an 84-year-old woman in the same neighborhood was robbed, tortured, raped and left for dead, but managed to call 911.  Jackson was arrested when her stolen television was found in his room.  A few days after his arrest, Jackson was linked to Myers' disappearance when a bloodhound led her handler to to him after sniffing a crumbled envelope Myers kept money in.  Myers' body has never been found.  California has not executed any of its 747 death row inmates in 10 years.

Chicago has Deadliest July in 5 Years:  The Chicago Police Department's new crime numbers show that last month was the city's deadliest July in at least five years.  Diane Pathieu and Laura Podesta of ABC 7 report that last month, 65 people were killed, down from 72 killed in the month of June, and 441 people were injured in shooting incidents.  Murders have increased compared to July 2015, when 53 people were murdered.  Superintendent Eddie Johnson says most of the violence is coming from two or three police districts, with nearly 85% of the shooting victims appearing on the department's Strategic Subjects List, which consists of people who have had prior contact with law enforcement.  So far this year, 381 people have been killed and 2,394 people have been shot across the city.  Additionally, more than 120 gang members have been taken down and 5,000 illegal guns seized.

Border Patrol Website Offers Advice on Eluding Border Patrol:  An advisory on the Border Patrol's website is offering advice to immigrants who want to enter the U.S. illegally and avoid capture.  Fox News reports that under a "sensitive locations policy," safety and sanctuary for illegal immigrants can be found at schools, churches, hospitals and protests, where Customs and Border Protection are barred from enforcing border security.  Media Research Center, one of the many critics of the publicized policy, says that "almost any illegal alien can escape arrest by either walking with a second person (a march), attending some type of class, or finding a nearby church, medical facility or school bus stop."  Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, took aim at the Obama administration, which he says has "systematically and maliciously attacked and deconstructed all phases of border enforcement."

Texas Gov Proposes Making Attacks on Police a Hate Crime:  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week proposed the Police Protection Act that will change assaults on peace officers to hate crimes.  Emily Blatter of CNS News reports that under the new law, attacking and causing injury to a police officer will change from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.  Texas state legislature will vote on the bill in their 2017 session.

Mr. Second Chance

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Those favoring reduced sentences emphasize the moral imperative of giving second chances.  It's "who we are."  We can't judge a person by the worst moment of his life. America has 5% of the world's population but 493% of the world's prisoners. 

Heard this before?

Here's something you won't hear from the groups that specialize in promoting softer sentencing: We're already soft, right here in the nation's capital. We've been soft for years. We know what it produces  --  violent crime.

Who are the victims, the ones you also won't hear about from those groups?

It's not the lobbyists and ideologues hanging out at their Georgetown and Bethesda parties.  It's overwhelmingly the African American working class, consigned to neighborhoods the lobbyists wouldn't be caught dead in (or would only be caught dead in, I'm not sure which).

How do we know this?  Not from Fox News.  Not from Breitbart.  From the Washington Post.  The opening paragraphs from its superb and shocking article, the second of a continuing series, follow.

Pick Your Spin

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I often find amusing the various spins those favoring the interests of criminals will put on the same event.  Hence, you can take your pick between these assessments of the Democratic National Convention:  (A) From Sentencing Law and Policy, "Is it lack of conviction, lack of courage, or just lack of cleverness that leads Dems to be so weak on criminal justice reform advocacy?" or (B), From the Huffington Post, "The Criminal Justice System Was a Huge Focus at the DNC. But It Can't Stop There."

Since I didn't watch either Convention except for snippets, I am in no position to say who's right. I have my own assessment, however, based on years of following politics.

News Scan

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Former KKK Member Convicted of Murder Up for Parole:  One of the three men responsible for killing four black girls in a church bomb blast during the civil rights movement in Alabama is up for parole this week.  Jay Reeves of the AP reports that as a young Ku Klux Klansman in 1963, Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., now 78, planted a dynamite bomb that exploded outside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing an 11-year-old and three 14-year-old black girls.  He was convicted of murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in 2001 after the FBI reopened its investigation and obtained recorded evidence by planting FBI bugs in Blanton's home and in the car of a former Klansman turned informant.  Two other men were convicted in the bombing, Robert Chambliss in 1977 and Bobby Frank Cherry in 2002, who both died in prison.  The three-person parole board has scheduled Blanton's hearing on Wednesday.  Blanton will not be permitted to attend, but several opponents of his release are expected to be there to address the board.  The former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Blanton on the state charge, Doug Jones, says Blanton neither accepted responsibility for the crime nor showed any remorse and should not be released.  Update:  The parole board denied the release of Blanton on Wednesday.

IL Officer Shot, Seriously Wounded:  A Carbondale, Ill., police officer was shot and seriously injured late Sunday during a police chase.  Kim Bell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Carbondale officers drove toward the sound of gunfire at 11:38 p.m. and, after spotting a vehicle speeding off, a chase ensued.  The fleeing vehicle refused to pull over and someone in the vehicle then fired several shots at the officers, hitting one police car and striking the officer.  Police did not return fire.  The officer, whose name has not yet been released, remained in serious condition Monday morning.  The gunman is still at large.

Black Lives Matter Release List of Demands:  For the first time since its emergence, the Black Lives Matter organization released its policy agenda Monday, outlining six demands and 40 recommendations on how to address them.  Errin Haines Whack of the AP reports that in seeking "radical transformation," BLM organizers stipulated that there be an end to militarized police presence at protests; that drug, sex work-related and youth offenses be retroactively decriminalized and all people convicted of those offenses be released immediately; and that federal legislation be passed creating a commission to study reparations for descendants of slaves.  The BLM movements spawned in 2012, but exploded in 2014 following the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who was later found to have rightly defended himself against an aggressive Brown.  Since then, BLM has been heavily criticized by groups who say the organization is "unfairly critical of -- an even endangers -- law enforcement."

The Case for Disbarment Just Got Stronger

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I have discussed before (e.g., here and here) the question whether State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby should be disbarred.  I oppose disbarment simply because she failed to win a conviction; acquittals are contemplated by any system that interposes a neutral trier of fact between the prosecutor and the accused.  I have also opposed disbarment simply because of Ms. Mosby's partisan and grandstanding behavior; the remedy is too potent for the offense (and comes from the wrong source).

Today, however, I saw a story that makes the case for disbarment considerably stronger:

Leaked text messages between one of Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby's deputies and the lead investigator in the Freddie Gray case are raising new concerns about whether politics played a role in the decision to charge six officers with his death.

Fox News' Trace Gallagher reported that the leaked messages suggest that the prosecutors planned to charge the officers, regardless of what the evidence showed.


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