Recently in Notorious Cases Category

The Black Lives That Didn't Matter

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The National Association of Assistant US Attorneys has produced a short video (a little over a minute) about the murders of three African Americans, a mother and her two daughters, by Wendell Callahan.  Callahan had a violent past, and had been sentenced to federal prison for trafficking in hard drugs (crack cocaine). Nonetheless, he was released early courtesy of Congress's 2010 version of "sentencing reform." But for his early release, his three victims would be alive today.

When one black man, Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO  --  a fellow who was 6'4" and weighed 292 pounds  --  was shot by a policeman in legal self-defense, the story was the subject of hundreds of outraged national headlines.  When the three defenseless black people in Columbus, OH got their throats slit by a man who earned his way to prison, but then was released early as a "low level, low-risk" prospect, not a single component of the national media has written a news story about it.

Lesson of the day:  Black lives matter plenty when they service the liberal criminal justice narrative that Amerika stinks. Otherwise...well, hey, look, chill out.

The video is here.

Jailbreak: A Love Story?

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The search is over.  Three California inmates who managed to escape a Santa Ana jail are back in custody.  The prison teacher arrested last Thursday for allegedly aiding in their escape, however, is being released due to insufficient evidence, for now at least.

Since the daring January 22 escape, word has circulated that the English-as-a-second-language teacher, Nooshafarin Ravaghi, and one of the escapees, Hossein Nayeri, had a relationship that was "close" and "personal," highly atypical for a prison teacher and an inmate, not to mention inappropriate and completely banned.  It is believed that Ravaghi provided Nayeri and two other inmates, Bac Duong and Jonathan Tieu, with a printed photograph from Google Earth to help them escape from the maximum-security facility.  Authorities believe she may have helped them on the outside as well.
Every now and again, a single case crystalizes an argument so powerfully that there's not much left to say.  Recently, I wrote about one such case, the triple murder (of a mother and her two daughters, aged 10 and 7) by a crack dealer with a violent history who was out on early release because of Congress's 2010 version of "sentencing reform."  Had he remained in jail for his original sentence, the mother and the two kids would be alive today.

We all know that errors in sentencing are inevitable, because errors in human judgment are inevitable.  Accordingly, we know that some inmates will be incarcerated too long, and others, not long enough.  

The only adult question, then, is this:  Who should bear the risks and costs of inevitable error  --  the criminal, who made his own choice and assumed his own risks, or the future victim, who never had a chance?

The question answers itself.

So does the question posed by Judge Jack Weinstein's most recent adventure in judicial defiance:  Does a felony-level child pornographer deserve a prison sentence of zero?

The Oregon Occupiers

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The WaPo has several articles on the Oregon wildlife refuge occupiers:  Sarah Larimer and Niraj Chokski on the eight in custody, Michael Miller on LaVoy Finicum, who was killed, and Sarah Kaplan, Adam Goldman, and Mark Berman on efforts to recover the refuge from the remaining occupiers.  In the WSJ, Jim Carlton and Devlin Barrett also cover the latter point.

Personally, I have little use for people who protest by occupying property that is not theirs and has nothing to do with the dispute.  That goes for the Occupy movement of a few years ago, the current protest, and all the way back to the Vietnam War when protesting students staged sit-ins at campus facilities that had nothing to do with the war.

The sit-ins at segregated lunch counters during the civil rights movement were different.  The lunch counter operators were perpetrators of the injustice at issue.

The main beef of the current occupiers is the violation of their constitutional right to graze cattle on land that does not belong to them without paying fees to the owner of the land, i.e., the federal government.  I don't recall reading that in the Constitution, but maybe it's part of the "living document."

The Defense Bar, At It Again

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To clear out the underbrush at the outset:  No, I do not think defendants should go without counsel.  Yes, I think counsel should be zealous.  But no, being zealous does not include disrespecting the considered wishes of the client, or misleading the court or jury about the client's mental state.  

On Wednesday, Robert Dear, who murdered three people including a police officer at an abortion clinic in Colorado, "blurted out," as the press likes to put these things, the truth:  ""I am guilty, [I want] no trial. I am a warrior for the babies!"

The Denver Post story goes on to recount that Dear is a "deeply religious man" and "conflicted."  I have no doubt of this, although I wish he had been "conflicted" enough to stand down from murder and try some different "remedy," such as, for example, explaining to abortion providers why he believes they are horribly wrong and should stop.

My focus, however, is not on Dear, but on his defense lawyers, including lead public defender Daniel King.  Public defenders, like all other defense counsel, are employed to advance the interests of the client as the client sees them, not as the lawyer sees them.  Apparently this does not apply in Colorado.

The San Bernardino Massacre

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I have held off commenting on the San Bernardino massacre until more was known.  Today's WSJ has a number of articles on the emerging picture and the policy dilemmas we faced as we decide what to do to reduce the risk of such horrors.
Former USAO appellate chief turned National Review analyst Andy McCarthy uses the curious Dennis Hastert case to pull back the curtain on what is really going on with "sentencing reform."  He notes:

Mandatory minimum sentences and strict sentencing guidelines for serious offenses were enacted precisely because judges, often in collusion with prosecutors [Ed. note: and virtually always at the urging of defense counsel], were systematically releasing serious offenders, allowing them to continue preying on society. While the "man-mins" and guidelines helped dramatically reduce crime, the left-leaning legal profession agitated against them. One result is "fact" pleading -- the sort of shenanigans that we see in the Hastert case: a willfully false rendition of the facts in order to sidestep sentencing enhancements required by law.

That is what sentencing "reform" has in store for us. The proposals may call for careful judicial fact finding before a felon is released. But the law already calls for careful judicial fact finding when the felon is sentenced. What we frequently get, instead, is careful judicial evasion -- often aided and abetted, it must be noted, by the Justice Department. It may be that careful fact finding would result in the release of some prisoners who should be released; but the breed of "fact" finding we are apt to get from sentencing "reform" will result in the mass release of incorrigible, violent criminals.

McCarthy's article is a goldmine about how the federal criminal justice system works on the inside, and well worth your read.  Sentencing reform is getting as far as it is only because the public has no idea about how many breaks for criminals are already built into the system, though hidden from view.
Tyrone Howard, arrested for the murder of NYPD officer Randolph Holder, is described as a "career criminal" in this report by the NY CBS affiliate and Associated Press.

Police said Howard's arrest record goes back to when he was 13. In sum, the allegations included assault, robbery and a total of nine for the criminal sale of a controlled substance. Howard also had a record of two arrests for the criminal possession of marijuana, and others for public lewdness, criminal trespass and conspiracy.

Last year, Howard was placed in a drug diversion program meant to spare jail time for drug offenders to ease jail overcrowding. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that move was an incredibly bad idea.

"If ever there was a candidate for someone not to be diverted, it's this guy," Bratton said. "He's the poster boy for not being diverted."
Easy enough to say after the fact, but did he meet the criteria for these programs as they are actually administered?

Baltimore Protesters Demand Due Process

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There was a hearing today in Baltimore in the Freddie Gray homicide case.  The court refused defense requests to dismiss the charges or remove States Attorney Marilyn Mosby.  It did, however, grant separate trials to the defendants.

Outside the courthouse, protesters demanded due process for the accused, who are all police officers.  They carried signs with slogans, "No Case Should Be a Circus," "Honor the Presumption of Innocence," and "No Trial in the Streets."  

Members of the media interviewed a number of protesters, who were quoted as saying such things as, "We'll accept an acquittal peacefully if that's what happens," and, "All defendants should have a chance to make their case before people condemn them."

The article covering it states............ummmm............well................maybe I'm getting this wrong.  The reaction I described is only what we'd see from academia or the ACLU for an axe murderer or child rapist.  Or maybe Mumia Abu Jamal.  The actual protest today  --  which wasn't much compared to the arson and riots we saw earlier  --  was, well, different from my description, and was covered in this local CBS News story.

If there was even a slight mention of Due Process, I missed it.

A Stay for Virginia Ex-Governor

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Jess Bravin reports for the WSJ:

WASHINGTON--The Supreme Court Monday granted former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's plea to avoid prison while he pursues a last-ditch appeal of his convictions on federal corruption charges.

Mr. McDonnell was sentenced to two years' imprisonment following his January conviction on what federal prosecutors characterized as a "quid pro quo bribery scheme" with a Virginia businessman seeking to promote a dietary supplement product.

In an unsigned order, the justices said Mr. McDonnell need not report to prison while he prepares his Supreme Court appeal, which the justices will then consider whether to hear.
Chief Justice Roberts issued a stay pending consideration of the government's response last Monday.  He then referred the stay application to the full court, which granted it today.

This post back in 2012 discusses the quirks of the jurisdiction of individual Justices and the full Court to issue stays.
Mixing politics and the power to prosecute is the fast road to tyranny.  That is one reason I have been unstinting in my criticism both of Eric Holder's politicization of DOJ and of the reckless grandstanding by Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the Freddie Gray case, see here, here, and here.

Even Ms. Mosby, however, looks good by comparison to the federal prosecutors whose jaw-dropping unethical behavior resulted in well deserved judicial rebukes from both the federal district court and, now, the Fifth Circuit (opinion here).

It's impossible to summarize in a single sentence the extent or the sleaze of the prosecutors' stunts, but let me start by saying that they essentially tried a prominent federal case against seven New Orleans police officers  --  four of them black or Hispanic  --  by tweet, then repeatedly lied about it.

Sal Perricone, a high-ranking prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office, using a fake name, posted commentary on Nola.com, the website of the Times-Picayune, that (in the words of the Court of Appeals) "castigated the defendants and their lawyers and repeatedly chastised the New Orleans Police Department as a fish 'rotten from the head down.'"

Perricone was joined in this outrageous misconduct by Jan Mann, the first assistant to the U.S. attorney.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Karla Dobinski, a veteran of Holder's Civil Rights Division, also posted inflammatory commentary under at least one assumed name. Ironically -- appallingly -- Dobinsky was part of the DOJ "taint team" in this case. As such, she was assigned to protect the civil rights of the indicted defendants. 

The whole appalling story is here.



On the evening of June 17 of this year, white supremacist Dylann Roof, after sitting in a black church for about an hour, pulled out a Glock .41 handgun with hollow-point bullets and murdered nine black people who had been in a prayer and Bible study group. No sane person doubts either that he did it, that he knew what he was doing, that he thought about his actions, or that the motive was anything other than racial hate. It was a 21st Century mass lynching, there is no other honest name for it.

South Carolina, like the great majority of states, has the death penalty.  Even if it should be abolished in the future because of the risk of executing the innocent, or because it is (or is said to be) employed  discriminatorily against African Americans, or because it takes a long time and costs a lot, will any abolitionists come off their "facts-never-matter" stance to support its use in this utterly clear and grotesque case?

They've done it before.  In the Oklahoma City bombing, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found that a majority of those typically against capital punishment on principle supported it for Timothy McVeigh.  The crime was just too much of an assault on the basics of civilized life.

Isn't that also true here?  Have we not reached the point in America where we are going to say no to lynching  --  to say no and mean it? To understand that the country has passed a turning point toward ensuring dignity regardless of race? To understand that even if in the case of the "ordinary" mass murder we should accept a prison term, we have come too far and paid too much to do that here?

As a general matter, tolerance, understood as a generous turn of mind, is a good thing. But it depends on what we are being asked to tolerate.  There should be no tolerance for Dylann Roof's attempt to drag America back to a hideous past.  I will be looking for abolitionists to do some of the critical, reflective thinking they say they value and, in this case, support the death penalty.


The Lies at the Base of "Black Lives Matter"

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The "Black Lives Matter" Movement took root a little more than a year ago in Ferguson, Mo.  A white policeman, Darren Wilson, shot a blameless and unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, as Brown had his hands up, trying to surrender (hence the Movement's first slogan, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot").  Thereafter, Wilson walked up to Brown, now prone, and, as noted in stories briefly recounted in this New Yorker article, shot him in the back.

Or so is the fable.  It's a pack of lies, and was from the day it started. The point of BLM was never to tell the truth, so when the truth came out  --  as it did in two grand jury investigations, including one by Eric Holder's Justice Department  --  it was dismissed. The point was always something different:  To intimidate the police and thus benefit criminals.

There's evidence that it's worked.  Police work has become more fraught.  Some cops say they're pulling back.  When the State's Attorney indicts the police and the city's mayor says rioters must be given "space to destroy," what were we expecting?  We should have been expecting, e.g., Baltimore, and a spike in murders coast-to-coast, which is what we got and are getting.

The wretched irony in this is, of course, that black lives do matter, and that blacks, who disproportionately bear the brunt of poverty, depend more than better-off whites for the basic protection policing provides.  In part for that reason, I repeat the following entry on PowerLine, a bitterly humorous tribute to the insidious deceit and tragic carnage of "Black Lives Matter."
Sadie Gurman reports for AP:

Colorado theater shooter James Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury failed to agree Friday on whether he should get the death penalty for his murderous attack on a packed movie premiere.

The nine women and three men said they could not reach a unanimous verdict on each of the murder counts. That automatically eliminates the death penalty for the failed neuroscientist, who blamed his calculated murders of 12 people on mental illness.

A rule of law that says the opinion of one juror can trump the opinion of the other eleven borders on insane.  We would never consent to such a rule for the guilt verdict.  In no state of the union does a jury hung 11-1 for conviction produce an acquittal.  Why does any state have such a rule for the penalty phase?

States that have this crazy rule need to get rid of it.  A hung jury on penalty should trigger a retrial with a new jury, as it does in California and Arizona.

Last Wednesday was the 20th anniversary of the murders of two toddlers, Michael and Alex Smith, by their mother, Susan Smith.  Ms. Smith was having an affair and hoped to run off with a man who didn't want to be burdened with kids  --  who can, after all, be quite a load at that age.  She dealt with this by strapping them in seat belts in her car, which she then rolled into a lake.  

In one of the more spectacular miscarriages of justice I can remember, the jury rejected a death sentence and gave her life.

She is taking full advantage.  This story, from ABC news, is chock full of lessons for those of us interested in criminal law, and capital cases in particular. 

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