Recently in Notorious Cases Category

The WSJ discusses the prosecution of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, illustrating why the pardon I predict (at a politically convenient moment for the Commander-in-Chief) will be a betrayal of duty and honor by the President even more stunning than Bergdahl's embrace of Jihad:

[T]he bigger story [in the Bergdahl case] is the extravagant price the U.S. has paid because President Obama wanted to score political points.

Readers will recall that then-Private First Class Bergdahl went missing from his post in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009. Fellow soldiers suspected desertion, though the Army conducted a risky manhunt to recover him...

The Associated Press has reported that an internal Pentagon investigation in 2010 found "incontrovertible" evidence that he had walked away from his post. Journalists also uncovered an exchange of letters in which the soldier wrote to his father "the title of U.S. soldier is just the lie of fools," that he was "ashamed to even be american," and that "the future is too good to waste on lies." Replied father Robert: "OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE!"

All of this would have been known to President Obama and National Security AdviserSusan Rice when the Administration decided to swap Sgt. Bergdahl for five Guantanamo Bay detainees--all top Taliban leaders--in May 2014. Mr. Obama even invited Sgt. Bergdahl's parents to a [chipper  --  ed. addition] Rose Garden ceremony to announce the swap, while Ms. Rice declared on a Sunday talk show that the soldier had served his country with "honor and distinction."



It Was Murder

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The most shocking news this morning is reported by the Wall Street Journal:

The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 appears to have deliberately crashed the plane after he was left alone in the cockpit, according to a French prosecutor.

The captain was intentionally locked outside minutes before the A320 crashed into an alpine mountain ridge, French Prosecutor Brice Robin said Thursday. Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a 28-year-old German national, was silent throughout the plane's descent and was alive at the point of impact, according to the prosecutor.

Mr. Robin's conclusions are drawn from the plane's cockpit voice recorder, recovered at the crash site in the French Alps late Tuesday and analyzed by French accident investigators on Wednesday.

The recording contains screams believed to be from passengers, once they recognized the plane was crashing.

As with ISIS's burning to death a caged Jordanian pilot, the mind-bending horror of a mass murder undertaken like this causes me to wonder how any principled person can woodenly oppose capital punishment.  It took eight to ten minutes for the plane to hit the ground, after a steep, controlled dive that those on board could not have helped knowing was their last time on this earth. The horror and panic of it, multiplied for 150 passengers, is something I cannot put into words.

The co-pilot who engineered this horror died in it.  But he might have survived  -- it happens every now and again.  Had that happened, it's beyond my comprehension that a jury of fair-minded people, after hearing all the evidence, should be absolutely barred from having at least the chance to consider a death sentence.

The idea that a term of years is fitting punishment for the horror-laden, violent murders of dozens of helpless men, women and children  --  people subjected to a grotesque mental torture incapable of description (before being smashed to death)  -- is incoherent in any system I could recognize as civilized.



Serving with "Honor and Distinction"

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Those are the words the President's National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, used to characterize Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  It was politically necessary for Ms. Rice to praise Bergdahl in order to defend her boss from criticism that he had swapped five high value Taliban commanders for one traitor.

Today, Mr. Honor and Distinction was formally charged with desertion in battle and (in effect) cooperating with the enemy.

Confession #1:  I previously, and it now turns out wrongly, predicted that the Administration would just let the whole mess disappear into the fog, because it has no heart for prosecuting a "misguided youth."

Confession #2:  I also predicted, also wrongly, that if perchance the Administration allowed the Army's investigation to proceed at all, it would be cut short by a preemptive pardon, which I wrote here.

Prediction:  In light of my record of fumbling, I could scarcely blame readers for discounting my next prediction, but here it is anyway.  There won't be a Bergdahl pardon until roughly 21 months from now, after the 2016 election, and "in the spirit of Christmas."  Marc Rich, call your office.

A Culture of Rape or a Culture of Lies?

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According to multiple sources, including this ABC News piece, the sensational story of a sadistic gang rape by (white, let's not forget that) frat boys is unsupported by any substantive evidence.  In other words, after searching for months, the police couldn't find a single witness or a single piece of forensic evidence to support the story.  Zip. The ABC article begins (emphasis added);

A five-month police investigation into an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, described in graphic detail in a Rolling Stone article, showed no evidence the attack took place and was stymied by the accuser's unwillingness to cooperate, authorities said Monday.

The article entitled "A rape on campus" traced the story from a student identified only as "Jackie," who said she was raped at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on September, 28, 2012. Police said there were numerous discrepancies between the article and what they found in their investigation.

"All I can tell you is that there is no substantive basis to conclude that what was reported in that article happened," Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said.

Longo said Jackie first described a sexual assault in May 2013 when she met with a dean about an academic issue, but "the sexual act was not consistent with what was described" in the Rolling Stone article. When she met with police, she didn't want them to investigate the alleged assault.

She also refused to talk to police after the article was printed in November and ignited the national conversation about sexual assaults on college campuses. 

Ah, yes, our old friend the "national conversation."
The fact-checkers at the WaPo award their maximum falsehood rating.
Heather MacDonald has this article in the Weekly Standard on the two USDoJ reports on Ferguson, Missouri.  She notes, as has previously been noted elsewhere, that the report on Officer Wilson's shooting of Michael Brown is much more than a "not enough evidence to prosecute" finding.  It is a clear exoneration of Wilson and a repudiation of the fabricated story that led to the protests and the riots.

The mainstream media, however, have now turned their attention exclusively to the second Justice Department report, the one on Ferguson's police department. The Brown report and its implications for the anticop crusade are out of sight and out of mind. The two reports were produced by different sections of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and it shows. The Brown report, written by the Criminal Section, in conjunction with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, displays a striking understanding of police work. It respects longstanding legal presumptions protecting police discretion from unjustified second-guessing. The Ferguson Police Department report came out of the Special Litigation Section, known for its hostility to the police and staffed almost exclusively by graduates of left-wing advocacy groups, as Hans von Spakovsky noted in the National Interest. No wonder that it strains so hard to cobble together a case of systemic intentional discrimination out of data that show only that law enforcement has a disparate impact on blacks.
Why were the two reports released on the same day?  The diminished media interest in the Wilson/Brown report may have been a completely intended consequence.
Bill noted earlier the case of the State Bar of Texas pressing charges against the former prosecutor in the Willingham matter, and the Washington Post's astonishing publication of an article written by a partisan in the case without identifying him as such.

Now we have this article in the Corsicana Daily Sun.  This is the local paper for the scene of the crime (Navarro County, on I-45, the second county south of Dallas) and the most reliable source of objective reporting in the matter.  This article says it is "from staff and wire reports."

Evidently in Texas bar discipline cases are referred to county courts. 

The case has been assigned to Judge David A. Farr, a family court judge in Houston, but is expected to be heard in Navarro County. Jackson's attorney said he has requested a jury trial.

"We're very confident that when a jury sees this evidence, they will find that John Jackson has not done anything wrong," Byrne said.

Jury trial in a bar discipline matter?  Things are different in Texas.

Anyway, I am glad to see an aspect of the Willingham matter assigned to a tribunal where there is a shot at a fair hearing.  Previously, the Innocence Project tried to steer the matter to a judge leaning heavily in their favor, a proceeding I dubbed Charlie Baird's Circus.  Here is a post with links to a number of earlier posts on the subject.

Willingham's actual guilt is not the subject of the bar discipline matter, but perhaps will we get a useful airing and some factual findings out of it.

Prof. Richard Epstein on Ferguson

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To follow up on Kent's post, it's not just the Lt. Gov. of Missouri who sees the disgraceful, race huckstering role played by the Department of Justice in the Ferguson shooting.  There is also the brilliant Prof. Richard Epstein of NYU Law School, who writes:

The DOJ must acknowledge that the killing of Michael Brown was a justifiable homicide. It must abandon its contrived legalisms and defend Wilson, by condemning unequivocally the entire misguided campaign against him, which resulted in threats against his life and forced his resignation from the police force. Eric Holder owes Wilson an apology for the unnecessary anguish that Wilson has suffered. As the Attorney General for all Americans, he must tell the protestors once and for all that their campaign has been thoroughly misguided from start to finish, and that their continued protests should stop in the interests of civic peace and racial harmony. In light of the past vilification of Wilson, it is not enough for the DOJ to publish the report, and not trumpet its conclusions. It is necessary to put that report front and center in the public debate so that everyone now understands that Wilson behaved properly throughout the entire incident...
David Lieb reports for AP:

Missouri's lieutenant governor is accusing Justice Department officials of "fanning the flames of racial division," as the federal agency is criticizing Ferguson police for alleged racial biases following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder on Tuesday also asserted that the department was "staffed with Marxists and black radicals" and defended statements he had made a day earlier accusing agency officials of racism.
*                                                *                                               *
During an interview Monday on the conservative news outlet Newsmax TV, host Steve Malzberg suggested to Kinder that the sometimes-violent protests that followed Brown's death were in response to a false premise of "Hands up, don't shoot" that he said was promoted by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.
There are some articles that are more important for who says it than for what is said.  The caption of this post is the headline of this column by WaPo columnist Jonathan Capehart. We have known the truth of that statement for some time, but it is significant that Capehart is saying it.  Here are a couple of excerpts:

But this month, the Justice Department released two must-read investigations connected to the killing of Brown that filled in blanks, corrected the record and brought sunlight to dark places by revealing ugly practices that institutionalized racism and hardship. They have also forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown.
*                                                     *                                              *
Now that black lives matter to everyone, it is imperative that we continue marching for and giving voice to those killed in racially charged incidents at the hands of police and others. But we must never allow ourselves to march under the banner of a false narrative on behalf of someone who would otherwise offend our sense of right and wrong. And when we discover that we have, we must acknowledge it, admit our error and keep on marching. That's what I've done here.

I don't often agree with Capehart.  I don't even agree with all that he says in this article.  But I commend him for his candor.  That is certainly a step in the right direction toward an "honest conversation."

Hot Mic

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It's amazing how people continue to get themselves in trouble by failure to obey elementary safety rules.  One such rule is that firearms, microphones, and naked babies should be handled as if loaded at all times.

The microphone failures tend to make the news most often.  Remember President Obama telling the puppet President of Russia that he would have "more flexibility" in his second term, when he didn't have to worry about those pesky voters any more?

California millionaire Robert Durst, long a suspect in two murders, was confronted with tough questioning during an interview for a documentary after foolishly ignoring his lawyer's advice not to give the interview.  Melanie Gracie West has this story in the WSJ.

In Sunday's episode, after filming had stopped, but before Mr. Durst's microphone had been turned off, he was recorded saying in private: "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."
The WSJ story begins,

Robert A. Durst was charged with first-degree murder on Monday as legal experts debated whether the alleged confession of the real-estate millionaire and TV documentary subject would be admissible in court.
Really?  What debate?  What grounds for exclusion?

Police Officers Shot in Ferguson

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Two police officers from other jurisdictions were shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri police station yesterday.  Ben Kesling reports in the WSJ:

Two police officers were shot early Thursday morning outside the Ferguson, Mo., police department, according to a police spokesman.

A 32-year-old officer from nearby Webster Groves was shot in the face and a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County was shot in the shoulder, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference early Thursday.

"The night was fairly uneventful until about midnight," Chief Belmar told reporters, adding that some officers had begun to leave the area. Then at least three shots were fired, hitting the policemen. The officers were taken to a nearby hospital. "They are conscious, however those are very serious gunshot injuries," Chief Belmar said.

"The police officers were standing there and they were shot, just because they're police officers," he said.

Police officers from adjacent cities and jurisdictions were in front of the Ferguson police headquarters at the time of the shooting, which occurred just after midnight, police said.

Ferguson, Lies and Statistics

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Bret Stephens has this column in the WSJ with the above headline, a variation on the old joke that there are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics.  The subhead is, "Here's a story for the media: a community in which honest people are afraid to tell the truth."

There are two parts to the column, as there are two reports out of Ferguson.  The first part is the exoneration of Officer Wilson and the discrediting of the reports that were so widely reported and believed.  He notes that some witnesses were afraid the tell the truth and contradict "the narrative reported by the media" for fear of reprisal in the neighborhood.

Now there's a story for the media: A community in which honest people can't tell the truth for fear of running afoul local thugs enforcing "the narrative reported by the media." Or is that more of a story about the media?
The second part has to do with the second report about the larger picture in Ferguson, and particularly that report's use of statistics.  Here we run into our old adversary, the fallacy that I call The Fallacy of the Irrelevant Denominator.

Abolitionists Change the Subject

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Boston Marathon multiple killer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now on trial in federal court in Massachusetts. There is an illuminating article (again, courtesy of Doug Berman) about the chances that Tsarnaev will get the death penalty. The article concentrates on the historical odds that capital punishment will be imposed and, if so, whether it will be carried out.  It's mostly a survey of statistics.

The most noteworthy feature of the piece is what it does not talk about.  One might think that, in assaying the prospects that the jury will choose the ultimate punishment, the author would at least mention, somewhere (1) what exactly Tsarnaev did, and (2) whether, under commonly accepted principles of proportionality and justice, the death penalty might be warranted as a response.

Nope. None of that stuff.  Instead, the piece discusses solely what has happened in other cases bearing little to no factual resemblance to this one.  Factual specifics and just desserts never make an appearance.

This is a wonderfully typical abolitionist approach.  It amounts to walking past the carnage while cackling that, because obstructionist tactics so often work, they'll probably (as a statistical matter) work again!  So there!!  

For those interested in something other than thinly disguised (and, I should add, premature) snickering, there is another story today about the Tsarnaev trial.


The uninhibited Investors Business Daily has this editorial with the above title regarding the USDoJ report on the Ferguson, MO PD, not to be confused with the report the same day on the Brown shooting, which we noted here.

I have not had time to review this report in detail myself, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of the editorial, but I link it for those readers who are interested, and I have pasted part of it after the break.

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