Recently in Notorious Cases Category

Still Guilty, After All These Years

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Here's a red-hot news flash.  Sirhan Sirhan is guilty of the murder of Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.

In 1996, Congress clamped a one-year statute of limitations on petitions for writs of habeas corpus when used as collateral attacks on criminal judgments.  In 2013, the Supreme Court held in McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S. Ct. 1924, 1928 that actual innocence is, in effect, an exception.  (I have no quarrel with that holding as a matter of policy and did not file a brief in that case to oppose making the exception, but as a matter of statutory interpretation I don't think the opinion holds water.)  But look who crawls out of the woodwork claiming innocence.  Later in 2013, the federal magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation rejecting Sirhan's claim.  It begins,

This case may be the final chapter in an American tragedy. On June 5, 1968, moments after declaring victory in the California Democratic primary, Senator Robert F. Kennedy walked through the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel, where petitioner was waiting.  As Senator Kennedy stopped to shake hands with hotel employees, petitioner walked toward him, extending his arm. Instead of shaking Senator Kennedy's hand, petitioner shot him. Petitioner continued to fire his gun even as bystanders wrestled him onto a table. Senator Kennedy died of his wounds.

The Number One News Story of 2014

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My friend John Hinderaker has a fascinating post up showing the most tweeted-about news stories of 2014.  In second place is the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.  First place is held by the December decision of the grand jury not to indict the shooter, Officer Darren Wilson.  It's reasonably clear that the grand jury declined to bring charges because it believed Wilson acted in self-defense, an account supported by both forensic and eye-witness testimony.

What's unusual is that a crime story gets ranked first when crime is relatively low, as it is now.  Crime barely got a mention as an issue when pollsters were asking, in the run-up to the midterm elections, what the public was most concerned about. Indeed, crime, violence, drugs, law and the judicial system together barely scratched the surface, as Gallup reports

So why is a crime story Number One in a year that saw a partisan wave in the elections, the outbreak of Ebola, the (still) mysterious and spooky disappearance of a commercial airliner, the horrifying beheading of a captive journalist, Russian military aggression in Europe, and a cyberattack within the United States sponsored by a foreign country?

The Ferguson Protesters Got What They Wanted

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The narrative has already begun that the assassination of two NYC police officers had nothing to do with the hatred of the police that Leftists (and not a few libertarians) have been fanning at least since the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson.  A related narrative is that the assassin was simply a deranged man bent on violence, see, e.g., this just-published NYT story.

I guess we're supposed to forget this demonstration, staged in New York City a very few days before yesterday's assassination.  For those who have trouble with the audio portion, let me spell it out.  What the demonstrators are chanting is, "What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!"

As the title of this entry says, they got what they wanted.
In a scene full of sadness, anger and portent, police officers in complete silence turned their backs to Mayor Bill De Blasio as he entered a room to hold a press conference.  The scene, from CBS News in New York, is here.  You can only grasp its power by watching it.

A NYT story contains this interesting note:

For weeks, ever since a grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the death of Mr. Garner, many police officers have talked about feeling as if they are under siege.

Former Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, speaking on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, said that the antipathy stretches back to the campaign, after Mr. de Blasio ran on what Mr. Kelly called an "anti-cop" platform.

I might add that the Times's story contains pictures of Mr. De Blasio, the assassin (Ismaaiyl Brinsley), and  --  ready?  --  Al Sharpton, but none of the murdered policemen.

Being Believed and the Virginia Rape Hoax

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University of Virginia Professor and Hoover Institution Fellow James Ceaser has an insightful piece in the Weekly Standard on the disgraceful "journalism" and  -- let's face it  --  copious lying that went on in the Rolling Stone's reporting of a gang rape. It's a rape that, I have come to believe from the available evidence, is a 100% hoax. It is, in that respect, like the Duke lacrosse rape hoax of a few years back: It's not just that the rape did not occur as reported; it's that it never occurred, period.  

Kent noted in this post that rape is a serious, ugly crime, and that its victims deserve justice.  I could scarcely agree more.  

What has happened in this episode shows at least two things are needed to start down the path to justice:  Go to the police instead of Rolling Stone, and tell the truth.

And one more thing.  Going on a date is not rape, getting offended is not rape, and being groped is not rape (although it is a battery).  Intercourse without consent is rape.  Words have meanings, and credibility depends upon respecting this fact.
Kent noted, here and here, the pendency in the en banc First Circuit of a case in which a district court ordered the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pay the massive costs of sex re-assignment surgery for a convicted murder in its custody. The lower court had ordered Massachusetts to foot the bill, and a divided panel of the appellate court affirmed.

Today, the en banc court reversed, 3-2.  Its opinion, which I just found and have not yet read, is here.

With all the modesty due from someone in my unschooled position, I must say I'm relieved. We hear again and again that prison costs are out of control.  If the Eighth Amendment requires the taxpayers to foot the bill for exotic procedures like this, then the idea of getting them under control has all but vanished. 

I don't doubt, or at least I will assume arguendo, that a person who feels he or she was born into the "wrong" sex has a medically serious problem.  But there has to be some rational limit on what the taxpayers are required to do for a person whose own violent criminal choices have put him in the state's custody, 
In a free country, peaceful protesters get to say what they want, see Snyder v. Phelps.*  While I think people who wallow in belligerent grievance are all wrong, in both doctrine and temperament, they have the right to speak what is in their minds and hearts.  Indeed, sometimes, I'm grateful they do, so that the rest of us can hear it without a filter.

This is one of those times.  Listen for yourself.

*  N.B.  This does not apply on college campuses.

"Hands Up," for Real This Time

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Those eager to tar the police as racist thugs made full use of the "Hands Up" meme in the Ferguson episode, pushing the idea that Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown as Brown had his hands up in submission, trying to surrender.

Forensic and credible eyewitness accounts showed this story was fabricated. Brown, who moments earlier had undertaken the strong-arm robbery of a convenience store, did not have his hands up.  Instead, after having scuffled with the officer and attempting to wrest control of his revolver, Brown came at the officer again.  It was at that point that Wilson shot him.

The truth most fortunately persuaded the grand jury, but is simply irrelevant to the race hustlers and police haters who have never given up their fake slogan and, indeed, used it all over the country in demonstrations this weekend

George Will's Arrant Nonsense

George Will is a brilliant man and a superb writer.  He is in many respects a conservative hero.  Yesterday, however, he published an overwrought piece in the Washington Post, "Eric Garner, Criminalized to Death."  The piece is illogical to the point of absurdity.  It also has some startling omissions.

That's quite a claim against someone with Will's reputation.  Bear with me.
...because the alternatives, Yale and Harvard, have come out with this nonsense op-ed. Stanford has least not yet.

The Yale and Harvard piece, penned by the deans of each school, is so fatuous it's hard to know where to start.  

It begins with this:

In the wake of the recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island, outrage and despair are reverberating across the nation, including at the law schools where we teach. Many of our students are struggling to reconcile their ideals of justice with what they perceive as manifest injustices in the criminal law system.

What is the documentation for the claim that "outrage and despair are reverberating across the nation?"  That Mother Jones is beside itself?  And are Yale and Harvard students so out of it that they discovered just this week that there are "manifest injustices in the criminal law system?"  Did they miss the OJ acquittal?  Were they underground when a jury let Casey Anthony get away with offing her daughter? Were they studying abroad when one state or another abandoned the death penalty for even the most grotesque crimes, and against the wishes of the voters?

The Garner No-Bill

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A commenter (paul, I believe) asked me a while back what I thought of the grand jury's declining to return an indictment in the Staten Island episode in which a policeman apparently choked (or otherwise pretty much directly caused the death of) Eric Garner.

I am reluctant to second-guess the work of the grand jurors, who had the opportunity to examine directly more evidence more closely than I have had.  In this instance, however, I will make an exception.  It seems to me, from the most important piece of evidence  --  the tape of the take-down  --  that there was probable cause to believe that the officer committed some degree of criminal homicide, and that he should have been indicted.

The differences between this case and Ferguson are legion.  The suspect offered no visible resistance, never punched the officer, never went for his gun, and never bull rushed him.  Most importantly, within seconds of the take-down, at least four other officers were on the scene, two of them sitting or kneeling on Garner.  At that point, the threat of physical harm to the officer (if there ever was one) had abated. The officer thus was required to have the self-control to release the hold.  He didn't.  That is at the minimum probable cause to believe that the officer committed criminal homicide.

If there was any racial animus here, it hasn't been proved.  And no serious person thinks the officer started the day intending to kill Garner or anyone else. But the tape shows what it shows.

See also the analysis here.  

Banned in Lexington

It seems that the Commonwealth's Attorney in Fayette County, Kentucky, Ray Larson, has taken some heat for posting some of our stuff and has taken the repost down.

A Tale of Two Grand Juries

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Aaron Blake notes at the Fix, WaPo's political blog, that views about the "no bill" in the New York case of Eric Garner are less favorable to the police and less polarized by race than in the Ferguson case. 
Kent noted that Truth Matters in debates both about specific cases and the overall theories we employ to construct the criminal justice system.

In the short run, of course, telling the truth can be, uh, inconvenient, because it might mean that your larger plans will be stillborn.  (Hence, e.g., the critical mendacity that, "If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance").

The reason that Ferguson escalated from an incident into The Cause was quite specific:  Michael Brown was shot even though he wasn't resisting the officer.  He was, to the contrary, trying to surrender, using the classic gesture of hands up. That's why the original (and continuing) rallying cry is, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot."

Only mounting evidence shows that Brown's hands were not up and that, instead, he was bull-rushing the cop after having tried moments earlier to wrestle away his gun. See this essay and this one.

Q:  So what do the protesters have to say now about "hands up"?

A:  Never mind, you have to buy our agenda anyway.

The country, and individual citizens, face a choice about what should be done now in Ferguson.  I see two directions.

One is to fan the ideological slapstick that claims to support "healing" while actually supporting riots.  We'd do that by seeking what will be called a "national conversation" about police bigotry and violence.  Of course it won't directly be called "police bigotry and violence;" it will be put in code, but we'll all understand it. The people dominating this one-way "conversation" will have only one outlook, to wit, grievance and entitlement. It's already started, today, at the White House.

I suggest a different direction, and I want to make a specific proposal for action:

People of all races should organize, go to Ferguson, and help the victims of that city's lawlessness rebuild.  Stores, some owned and run by blacks and others by whites, were torched and looted.  There have been many scenes of this; one of them is here, picturing, ironically, the looting and arson of the convenience store from which Michael Brown stole cigarettes moments before his fatal encounter with Officer Darren Wilson.

We don't have to lie down for a phony, guilt-stoking "national conversation" about how rotten the country is.  Instead, we can do something, as we have so often in the past, to show its hallmark generosity.

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