"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A blessed Christmas...

to all who read these pages. I hope yours is filled with family, faith, and joy. Christmas truce is declared; back to the trenches afterwards.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I thought nuns knew that part about not bearing false witness...

For a view on why Sr. Helen "Dead Man Walking" Prejean's new book, Death of Innocents, constitutes imposition of the death penalty on the truth, see my review of it over at New Oxford Review.

Sr. Helen and the late Dobie Williams

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

PP: Covering Up for Rapists

"I was raped at 11, by my 17 year old boyfriend. I chose not to tell my parents because I didn't think their involvement would help, that was the right choice for me. Planned Parethood helped me deal with the aftermath of the rape allowing me to deal and cope as best as I could in my own way."

Planned Parenthood: more concerned about doling out abortions than in reporting crimes against women and minors. They won't call the police, they won't tell an 11-year old's parents that she's been raped. No, they respect the "judgment" of an 11-year old child!

I don't know if California, where this child was victimized, has reporting laws for health-care providers who become aware of crimes committed against children, but if CA doesn't, it should, and if they do, PP employees should be prosecuted.

Hat tip: Feddie at Southern Appeal.

Fatal Justice?

Lest any readers here think that I never side with a defendant and am reflexively pro-prosecution, let me introduce you to Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, who, despite an acquittal in military court, was convicted in federal court in 1979 for killing his wife and children at Fort Bragg in 1970. Go here for an overview of the facts and proceedings in the case.

I've followed the MacDonald case with some interest for years, ever since my father showed me an appellate brief he'd been asked to comment on by one of MacDonald's lawyers back in the '80s.

That brief revealed a clear pattern of the prosecution suppressing exculpatory evidence that would have corroborated MacDonald's claim that drug-crazed hippies invaded his home and committed the crimes. This prosecutorial misconduct was the subject of a popular book, Fatal Justice, the title of which is a play on the book Fatal Vision by Joe McGinnis, upon which a movie was based, both of which portray MacDonald as a lying murderer. That the prosecutors were less than ethical is not surprising given later events, such as the lead prosecutor going to prison for embezzlement after entering private practice.

The case is entering another round of appeals in the Fourth Circuit here in Richmond, because new evidence has been uncovered that the woman who ultimately confessed to the crime, Helena Stoeckley, told prosecutors before trial that she was in the MacDonald house the night of the murders, and they covered this information up. The convicted thief-prosecutor denies this; the other prosecutor, now a ranking Justice Department attorney, would not comment. Hmmm.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Semper Fi

Last weekend, I took my boy scout troop down to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, otherwise known as Parris Island, S.C. to observe how the Marines make new Marines. Very enlightening: we stayed in recruits' barracks, ate at the mess and had an actual D.I. escorting us, and yelling at the boys as they cleaned the "head" on the last day of our trip. The best part was observing the pugil stick course, where two recruits run down opposing narrow walled-in paths, coming out into a small open-air room where they commence to pounding each other with padded sticks to simulate hand-to-hand rifle combat. Their DIs stand around, yelling and cajoling them, and one DI calls out hits and declares a winner. The recruits really go at it, and a couple had to be helped out of the room.

A very rewarding trip which increased my already great respect for the USMC and how well they train their basic recruits. Of course, I may be a little biased, since my eldest wants to join next summer.

RIP, Tookie

Well, they finally ended it. The State of California executed the judgment rendered by a jury against Stanley Williams, the infamous thug who murdered Yen-I Yang, 76, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, 63, and the couple's daughter Yu-Chin Yang Lin, 43, while robbing their motel.

Needless to say, since this was a high-profile convict, the usual suspects were out in force, lamenting his execution and pleading for clemency because Williams was supposedly a changed man, who had turned to writing children's books in his latter years.

The Governor of California did not find his redemption claims credible, but let's assume Williams was really a changed man. Should he have been spared?

No. Why? Because the point of capital punishment is not solely to execute unrepetant killers; it is to restore to the greatest degree possible the moral equilibrium which has been upset by the killer's conduct.

Thus, in Williams' case, he ruthlessly snuffed out the lives of three innocent victims. The only way such a crime can remotely be paid for is by the killer forfeiting his own life. Now this rationale remains regardless of the personal virtue of the killer. This is why Karla Faye Tucker was justly executed despite her conversion to Evangelical Christianity and against the wishes of Jerry Falwell and others. It is simply beside the point that someone has become a saint in prison. Because even if we could gauge the sincerity of such conversions (an inherently implausible task given the built-in motivation to feign such conversion in order to garner clemency) the fact remains that the crime must be atoned for. Premeditated, deliberate murder can only be adequately atoned for by death: it is the only penalty for that crime that comes close to approximating a congruent satisfaction for the ultimate crime.

May Williams, and his victims, rest in peace, and may their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Magic Number

What gives with the numerical obsession of the media? First it was the tizzy over the 1,000th Iraq military death; now it's the 1,000th execution since restoration of the death penalty in 1976.

The 1,000th criminal executed was a fellow named Kenneth Boyd, who has never denied that he went to his estranged wife's house and gunned down both her and her father. Oh, and it didn't bother him that their children were watching this go down, and in fact, "Boyd's son Christopher was pinned under his mother's body as Boyd unloaded a .357-caliber Magnum into her. The boy pushed his way under a bed to escape the barrage. Another son grabbed the pistol while Boyd tried to reload."

Nevertheless, somehow Boyd's lawyer managed to utter this whopper with a straight face: the "execution of Kenneth Boyd has not made this a better or safer world." Boyd certainly will do no more killing, and his loss certainly gives a sense of satisfaction of justice that makes me conclude the world is better than it would be if he were still breathing our air while that poor woman and her father are not.

Anyway, he was an appropriate 1,000th, since the media has made such a deal out of this number. Not even abolitionists can claim the guy didn't do it. Virginia almost had number 1,000, but Governor Warner commuted a death row inmate's sentence to life imprisonment. It seems the court clerk in that case disposed of the murder weapon depriving the defendant of the opportunity of having new DNA tests run on it. There was no real doubt about the guy's guilt (he was identified as the perpetrator by a witness and he was found in possession of a cash drawer stolen from the business), but Warner probably wisely decided not to make the guy the poster child for the 1,000th execution, given the media obsession and his own political ambitions.

In other developments, in the case I've mentioned before, here, Joseph Smith, who raped and stangled 11 year-old Carlie Brucia in Florida, has been recommended for a death sentence by a jury.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Don't tell the ACLU

"The first Thanksgiving occurred on the 4th of December 1619, at present-day Berkeley Hundred Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia, when Captain John Woodlief led the newly arrived English colonists to a grassy slope along the James River and instructed them to drop to their knees and pray in thanks for a safe arrival to the New World. Thirty-eight men from Berkeley Parish in England were given the instructions:

‘Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.’ "

A happy Thanksgiving to all.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Death Penalty Poster Boy

At the risk of sounding like a one-tune juke box, this is a story that cries out for the ultimate punishment:

A mechanic with a long criminal record was convicted Thursday of kidnapping, raping and strangling an 11-year-old girl whose abduction was captured by a car-wash security camera. Joseph Smith, 39, could get the death penalty. The jury took about five hours to find him guilty in the slaying of Carlie Brucia, whose half-naked body was found outside a church more than four days after the sixth-grader disappeared in February 2004 while walking home from a friend's house.
When asked if she was satisfied with the verdict, [the victim's mother] responded: "When he's dead. When he meets his maker."

Amen. It's a real shame this animal was out and about to commit this crime, given his criminal record and the fact that "[a]t the time of the slaying, Smith was in violation of the terms of his probation on a cocaine charge because he failed to pay $411 in fines and court costs. But a judge declined to put him in jail, saying Florida does not have a 'debtor's prison.'" Memo to judge: you're not putting him in jail for a debt, you're putting him in because he disobeyed a court order and because probation is a privilege, not a right. Nice work, your honor.

The monster

US Bishops Challenge Catholic Moral Tradition

Just a note of thanks... now that our Bishops have removed homosexual priests from the seminaries and the ranks of the clergy; have eradicated the problem of homosexual clergy abusing young boys; have stemmed rampant doctrinal dissent in our colleges and universities; have by their voice and example led a massive Catholic resistance to abortion on demand; have brought Catholics to accept the Church's teaching on the illicitness of contraception; have stifled liturgical abuses and restored reverence to the Mass; have made the priesthood attractive to normal Catholic young men.....Now that these feats have been accomplished, our good shepherds can finally tackle that ancient moral evil, capital punishment.

Since the bishops say they want to "encourage engagement and dialogue, which we hope may lead to re-examination and conversion," I've decided to accept the invitation and offer the following in the hopes that the bishops may indeed convert to the Roman Catholic religion.

In their new anti-DP offensive, the good bishops make several interesting assertions (note to bishops: find a good proof-reader-- maybe one of those nuns there are so few of now-- your document has a large portion of text repeated on the same page):

"The sanction of death violates respect for human life and dignity."

"State-sanctioned killing in our names diminishes all of us."

"The Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty is part of the Church’s broad commitment to defend human life from conception to natural death whenever and wherever it is threatened."

The problem with statements of this sort is that they are contrary to Catholic teaching. The Church in fact teaches that
Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.
(Cathechism of the Council of Trent). The Church thus does not limit the use of the DP to only those cases where it is the only way to debilitate the offender. The DP may morally be used in order to address the outrage of murder, to avenge the crime, and to restore the disruption caused to the moral order of society by the crime, by a just and proportionate penalty. Where murder is concerned, the proportionate penalty is ordinarily death. This is not my teaching, it is the teaching of 2,000 years of the Church's magisterium, or teaching authority. See another summary of this teaching here and a more comprehensive review here. A persuasive argument holds that this traditional teaching is of such antiquity, has been reiterated so often, and finds support in Scripture, the Church Fathers, the theologians of the Middle Ages, and in modern (i.e., up to the eve of Vatican II) papal teaching, that it is in fact a teaching of the Church belonging to the Ordinary Infallible Magisterium.

Of course, these facts are highly inconvenient to the American bishops, and consequently they ignore them utterly in their document, even though they devote a whole section to "Catholic Teaching and the Death Penalty." They pretend that the current Catechism, with its practical suggestions for when the DP should be inflicted, is the only source Catholics need consult to inform their consciences about this issue. Worse, the bishop's document actually makes a lame effort to garner Scriptural support for their abolitionist position, citing Genesis 2:7, 21-23, while ignoring Genesis 9:6:

“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed for in the image of God made He man."

This passage was used by most subsequent theologians and magisterial documents to support the use of the DP. Since man is made in God's image, the crime of murder is viewed as almost an attack on God Himself, and a crime so horrible that death is an appropriate punishment for it.

These are my initial thoughts on reading the bishop's document. It is very sloppy intellectually, mixing outright denial of Catholic teaching with a host of pragmatic observations adduced to convince us the DP is too fraught with error to be reliable. One wonders though why this last point is relevant to them: if the DP is such a moral evil, because it "violates respect for human life and dignity" then that should be the end of the story, and whether it operates well or poorly is immaterial from a Catholic point of view. Perhaps the bishops realize what shaky ground they are on theologically, so they argue more like sociologists or politicians than pastors of souls who are supposedly safeguarding Catholic teaching as they received it, not changing it to suit their personal policy preferences.

Are Capital Punishment's Days Numbered?

Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy believes that there is a shift occuring in public perceptions and the politics of the death penalty. He bases this belief in part on this op-ed piece in The Hill. The Hill piece acknowledges that the DP was not an issue in the recent NJ governor's race, but points to the Virginia election where, as I commented upon several times, Tim Kaine was cloaking his anti-DP stance with his professed Catholic religion (a position I argued does not square with Church teaching). The Hill claims that Kilgore was punished for being pro-DP. The problem with seeing some kind of shift on the DP by looking at the Virginia results is that Kaine was running as the next Mark Warner, the current Virginia governor, who has not hesitated to carry out executions. Kaine went to great lengths to try to convince voters that he also would not hesitate to sign death warrants. He did not run on an anti-DP position, to the contrary, he tried (and apparently succeeded) to paint himself as someone who would in fact support the death penalty despite his private convictions. What the voters punished Kilgore for was an unfocused campaign that concedely relied overmuch on so-called negative ads, only some of which dealt with Kaine's personal opposition to the DP.

Seen in this light, it is wrong to conclude that the Virginia election was some type of bellwether for support of the DP. Prof. Berman's other piece of evidence to demonstrate "that the American culture of the death penalty is in the midst of significant transformation" is the fact that the American Catholic Bishops are waging a new anti-DP campaign. That's akin to suggesting that abortion views are changing because Planned Parenthood is launching a new pro-abortion campaign. We expect partisan political players like the U.S. Bishops to walk the road they've been walking for the past thirty years. It's old news that they oppose the DP in principle; they have, as I say, for the past thirty years, despite the fact that abolition is not the authentic position of the universal Church.

What further undercuts Berman's wishful prognosis is the remarkable fact that despite the onslaught of the MSM, the entertainment industry, most of academe, and Church liberals, support for the DP remains high:
An October 2005 Gallup Poll found that only 64% of Americans favored the death penalty for those convicted of murder. The last time the poll found a lower support was in 1978 when 62% favored the death penalty. The high point for public endorsement of the death penalty came in 1994 when 80% supported capital punishment. This most recent poll result is consistent with Gallup Polls taken in October 2004 and 2003, both registering a 64% support of the death penalty.
Of course, only a true believer like the DPIC (the source of this quotation) could modify 64% with the adjective "only." Given the incessant anti-DP campaign being waged in the media 64% might as well be 90%. That the left has failed to make a significant dent in support for the DP must be one of their greatest disappointments, but no doubt their attempts to separate the public from their common sense will continue.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Next for Kilgore?

How bout Jerry Kilgore for United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, now that current U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty has been tapped for the number two spot at Justice?

Gilbert Wins

One bright spot in yesterday's results: My friend Todd Gilbert handily won his race for the 15th House district in Shenandoah County. He will be a solid law and order voice in Richmond, and I think we'll be seeing more from him in the years to come.

Time Will Tell

Well, Virginians, hold on to your wallets. Tim Kaine is Governor-elect and you can bet he's gonna go after your money. His mentor Mark Warner promised NOT to raise taxes and gave us the biggest hike in state history. Kaine has refused to rule out taxes, so one can only imagine the flood of tax and spending he has in mind. Time will tell.

Will Kaine continue the precedent set by Warner in handing out restoration of felons' voting rights like they were candy? Time will tell.

Time will tell also if he will be a man of his word about signing death warrants. Given that Warner's signature achievement, the historic tax increase, was predicated on a broken promise, I don't hold out great hope that Kaine can be trusted to abide by his promises.

On other social issues, will the Catholic bishop of Richmond clearly and forcefully lay out the duties of a Catholic statesman in the areas of protection of innocent life and fostering a culture that favors that basic social unit, the family consisting of mother, father, and children? Will he take Kaine to the mat when Kaine violates these principles to pander to the Democratic base? Or will he allow Kaine to violate them and still claim to be a Catholic?

Time will tell.

Friday, November 04, 2005

"outrage, horror and outright panic"

as the left continues to deal with the prospect of the relatively conservative Samuel Alito becoming the next Associate Justice of the SCOTUS. Why? Because as an appellate judge he has ruled against criminal defendants in some cases-- why this is remarkable is unclear, since most appellate judges, even liberal ones, routinely find no error in lower court convictions. It's inherent in the posture of an appellate case, where the lower court action is usually reviewed on a standard of abuse of discretion or some like standard depending on the issue involved, which makes the bar much higher for a appellant, be they a criminal defendant or the government.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Prosecutors are from Neptune, defense attorneys are from Pluto?

Rod Smolla, the dean of U of Richmond School of Law (thanks to Jaded JD for the correction), has penned a very interesting article on the psychological and world-view differences between defense lawyers and prosecutors. He makes several interesting comments, but one I think is a misrepresentation. He takes Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore to the woodshed for trying to make hay out of the fact that his opponent, Democrat Tim Kaine, worked on a death row inmate's appeal. Smolla very piously recites the boilerplate about how everyone is entitled to a defense, blah, blah, blah.

Yes, but the point is that Tim Kaine sought out and volunteered to represent a death row inmate, something he did not have to do, something he was doing pro bono, something he was doing despite the fact that his practice area was not criminal law. The implication Kilgore is making is that Kaine is an anti-death penalty activist; someone who sought out death cases. Kaine was not simply the next defense lawyer schlub on the court-appointed list who simply drew the case and had to do his best professional job. No, he was an activist seeking to vindicate his anti-death penalty philosophy by taking a case outside of his firm's practice area. To point this out is not to criticize defense attorneys for representing criminals. It is to point out that Kaine is an ideologue on this issue to such an extent that he would go to extraordinary means to take a case to further his personal ideological agenda of death penalty opposition.

The other very interesting item in Smolla's article is his unabashed apologia for defense attorneys acting in ways they personally know are contrary to the truth in order to advance their client's defense. For example, they will not hesitate to make a victim or witness appear untruthful even if they know the witness is not being untruthful:

defense counsel has no comparable obligation to ascertain or present the truth. If he can confuse a witness, even a truthful one, or make him appear at a disadvantage, unsure or indecisive, that will be his normal course. More often than not, defense counsel will cross-examine a prosecution witness, and impeach him if he can, even if he thinks the witness is telling the truth, just as he will attempt to destroy a witness who he thinks is lying. As part of the duty imposed on the most honorable defense counsel, we countenance or require conduct which in many instances has little, if any, relation to the search for truth.

And quoting Lord Brougham, obviously the Johnnie Cochran of his day, describing his perceived duty to his client:

To save that client by all means and expedients, and at all hazards and costs to other persons. And in performing this duty he must not regard the alarm, the torments, the destruction which he may bring upon others. Separating the duty of a patriot from that of an advocate, he must go on reckless of consequences, though it should be his unhappy fate to involve his country in confusion.

Uhh, right.

Little wonder that "non-legal" "laymen" view this aspect of lawyering as downright slimy. No wonder people question a person's moral compass when they can twist the truth to make it look like deceit. In every other context, this is dishonorable. The notion that an honest witness should be subjected to such effectual defamation of character is indeed a troubling one, and the defense bar has yet to convincingly explain why this aspect of their work is valuable, since indeed, it distorts the search for the truth not by appeal to facts and evidence, but by attacking the personal character of a witness. It makes me squirm to see how the personally decent defense attorneys themselves squirm when they feel they have to go after a witness in this fashion, or suggest police misconduct at their client's insistence when they know the officer in question is honest. Worse is watching the attorneys who relish this type of tar-slinging.

UPDATE: Comments to this post have challenged the assertion that Kaine volunteered to represent DP inmates. Although his firm may have been court appointed, Kaine personally got involved in these cases even when they were being handled already by other lawyers. For example, in the Whitley case, Kaine actually sought the case out and agreed to handle it even though it was not in his field of practice:

Kaine researched death penalty cases as a law intern, but he wasn’t prepared for the telephone call asking him to handle Whitley’s appeal. He initially refused, pleading that he had been practicing law for only five months.
“But then it kind of worked on me that I had said no because my feeling is, well, I say I’m against the death penalty,” Kaine said. “ If I say that’s my belief but I say, ‘Nah, I’m not going to do it,’ then I’m a hypocrite.”

The RTD put it ths way: “Instead of assisting, however, Kaine at first became [Richard Lee] Whitley’s only lawyer… Although he normally handles civil cases, he volunteered his services because of his opposition to the death penalty.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/12/87).

Kaine himself has said (in an interview with Tim Kaine for WAVY-TV cited here): “I handled hundreds if not thousands of cases. Three times, I did accept appointments, um, to work with folks on death row. Now, voluntarily? They couldn’t have forced me to do it. I could have turned the court down and said ‘no.’”

Clearly Kaine was very comfortable seeking out appointment to such cases, and the fact that his firm made itself available to the courts for such appointments itself shows his activism, since as I understand it, Kaine was a partner in the firm. He and his firm could have chosen not to involve themselves in these cases. That they appeared eager to do so is just stating the obvious: Kaine is an anti-death penalty activist. What's so difficult about admitting it?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Catholicism and the Death Penalty, Part One

Ken Lammers over at CrimLaw has put up a podcast wherein he argues against my position that the DP as used in Virginia is in accord with Catholic principles. For the non-religious, this issue may not be that interesting, but even to a religious non-Catholic, the principles involved should be of some interest.

I propose a two-part response. First, I will show that the teaching Ken cites, while accurate as far as it goes, short-changes the perennial Catholic teaching on the DP, which is far more expansive than the one document cited by Ken. In the second part, I will argue that even accepting the narrow view currently in vogue, our DP system adequately meets the criteria proposed by the Catechism.

Ken begins by reciting the pertinent sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church pertaining to the DP. Of course he acknowledges, as does the Catechism, that the Catholic position even now is not that the DP is inherently immoral or can never legitimately be used. This first point is the most important, since the catalyst of my comments here and here was Tim Kaine's claim that his opposition to the death penalty is "faith based" because of his Catholicism. So Ken's comments certainly support my position that Kaine is falsely using Catholicism as a shield for what would otherwise be just an unpopular liberal policy preference against the DP. Kaine is clearly hoping that by invoking religion, and hiding as it were behind the Pope's cassock, he will be innoculated politically against the expected public disapproval of his abolitionist stand.

With that being understood, let's look at the Catholic teaching about the DP. First, it has to be noted, and Ken does not even acknowledge this, that the historic teaching of the Church is far deeper than the Catechism passages he cites. It is, in sum:
Justice demands that the offended moral order be repaired and restored by a congruent satisfaction; and therefore the duty devolves upon the leaders of the Republic to take care that grave crimes are punished by proportionate penalties; for otherwise the moral order is disturbed and endangered. Certainly there are crimes of such gravity committed which, in the general estimation, will only be able to be expiated by means of the death penalty; of such a kind especially is murder cruelly committed after mature deliberation; for crimes which are the greatest affront to the moral order, and encompass the greatest harm, require of their nature the greatest punishment, that is, capital punishment. And therefore this rule is established by common sense: ‘Whoso sheds the blood of man, shall by man have his blood shed.’[Gen 9:6]

I could replicate this encapsulated statement of the Church's traditional teaching by citing Scripture, by citing the Church Fathers, by citing the medieval schoolmen such as St. Thomas Aquinas, by citing Papal writings and standard theology manuals (and I have such a compendium of these sources at hand), all of which strongly concur with the exemplary passage just cited.

It cannot be denied that the Church has consistently through the ages taught that use of the DP is justified not simply under a "self-defense" or utilitarian view, but rather it is seen in the traditional thinking as deeply rooted in a vindication of the sanctity of life and in the requirements of justice. The Catechism of the Council of Trent puts it this way:

The murderer is the worst enemy of his species, and consequently of nature. To the utmost of his power he destroys the universal work of God by the destruction of man, since God declares that He created all things for man’s sake. Nay, as it is forbidden in Genesis to take human life, because God created man to his own image and likeness, he who makes away with God’s image offers great injury to God, and almost seems to lay violent hands on God Himself.t is, since God is the creator of life, and human life is his most precious creation, the violation of that life by a murder is seen as akin to an attack on God Himself.

This underlying view of the evil of murder is what informs the teaching that justice requires congruent satisfaction for this crime, a satisfaction that the Church has always taught includes the use of the DP, regardless of whether it is necessary to defend society from the further harm posed by the culprit.

Thus, the first interesting thing to note is that up until the pontificate of John Paul II, the teaching on the DP was that it was NOT restricted solely to cases where it was necessary for society's physical self defense. The traditional teaching is predicated upon consideration of what is just with respect to punishment. The new teaching is strictly utilitarian, holding that we should only execute when it's the only way to defend against a criminal who might re-offend. Moreover, it is by no means clear that the new teaching, couched in utilitarian language, should be read to overrule the traditional teaching. As a perennial teaching touching on a matter of morals, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Church’s traditional teaching on the death penalty belongs to the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. It is a teaching to which the following statement of the Fathers of Vatican I applies:

[T]he Church would lose its immutability and dignity and it would cease being a life-giving society and a necessary means of salvation if it could wander from the safe path of truth in matters of faith and morals, and if, in preaching and explaining these matters, it could deceive or be deceived.

In other words, if the Church had been so wrong about the rightness of the DP, it would have failed in its Divinely constituted mission to lead men to heaven. Such a state of affairs is impossible, so the conclusion follows that the traditional teaching must belong to the infallible set of truths constituting the Ordinary Magisterium or body of fundamental Church teachings. This conclusion is not just mine, it is shared by other commentators (e.g., Rev. Thomas Williams, L.C., “Capital Punishment and the Just Society” in Catholic Dossier, Vol. 4, No. 5 (Sept./Oct. 1998). Even those who think it is not an infallible teaching acknowledge the longevity of this teaching. (see, E. Christian Brugger’s recent book, “Capital Punishment: Roman Catholic Moral Tradition.”).

So much for Part One. In sum, the Church's teaching on the death penalty is much broader than a reading of one source (the latest Catechism) would suggest.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"fear and loathing "

That's how the ever-compassionate, diverse, and rainbow-coalition left describes their feelings about Judge Samuel Alito, the new nominee for Supreme Court Justice. Why this "fear and loathing" from the birkenstock crowd?

"Guess how he spent his entire pre-judicial career? You got it, as a prosecutor."

Heavens. Can't get much lower than that form of life.

I'll be loving every minute of watching these warmed-over 60's types get apoplectic as Alito ascends to the high Court.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Libby Indictment: not Perjury

With regard to the whole Libby indictment brouhaha, I find it of little interest; but I did wonder if the fed statutes under which he was indicted require materiality of the false statement. Under Virginia law, perjury is a crime only if the statement is "material" to an issue in the case. So I wondered how, if there were no underlying offense found by the grand jury (that is, they apparently found no violation of the law with respect to the revelation of Plame's name), there could have been a "material" falsehood about that (non-existent) offense.

The folks over at White Collar Crime Prof Blog have clarified that the statute used was not perjury but a narrower offense of "false declarations." It seems that this statute, which apparently requires only a showing of two inconsistent statements, but does not require a showing of the falsity of either statement, is a much lower bar for the prosecutor to get over than perjury.

It seems a stretch to charge this conduct when it is clear there was no underlying violation of the law. If I charged everyone who made inconsistent statements under oath during a case, I would be doing pretty much just those cases for a long time. But then, I don't have the "vast resources" of the federal government behind me.
I had my 10,000th visitor to Seeking Justice (which began in late March) over the weekend. Thanks to all my visitors, yes, even to the obnoxious ones.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More on Kaine

Some comments to my posting on Tim Kaine's misleading religious claims (positing a religious scruple for his anti-death penalty stance by pretending that the Catholic Church's teaching opposes all capital punishment) indicate that perhaps the point I was trying to make is not well enough understood.

"The death penalty is not intrinsically evil. Both Scripture and long Christian tradition acknowledge the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances. The Church cannot repudiate that without repudiating her own identity."

That is how the Archbishop of Denver summarized the Church's position on the death penalty. Of course, he also states the latest position of the Vatican, which is:
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” explains it in these words: If “non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor [i.e., the convicted murderer], authority [should] limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person” (2267).

But nowhere does he suggest, nor can Tim Kaine or his apologists show, that the DP is intrinisically immoral, or that it can never be legitimately used.

Thus, Kaine is simply not being truthful when he states that his Catholic religion prevents him from supporting the death penalty. If he were a true Catholic and held such an absolutist view, he would be a heretic. He should stop advertising himself as a Catholic therefore, and consider converting to the Amish or Mennonite faiths, perhaps. Those religions (as I understand it) consider the death penalty inherently immoral. But Catholicism? No.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Fairfax DUI impasse revisited

An anonymous poster responding to this old posting has tried to set me straight on how to look at a Fairfax County General District Judge's ruling that Virginia's so-called "per se" DUI statute is unconstitutional because it improperly shifts the burden of proof to the defendant. Mr. Anon writes:

What are the essential elements of the statute at issue in the State of Virginia? The essential elements are gleaned from the statute itself:§ 18.2-266.

"Driving motor vehicle, engine, etc., while intoxicated, etc. It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine or train (i) while such person has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more . . . as indicated by a chemical test administered as provided in this article, (ii) . . . (iii) . . . (iv) . . . , or (v) . . . A charge alleging a violation of this section shall support a conviction under clauses (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), or (v). A conviction under § 18.2-266 can be supported under any clause (i) through (v)."

The legislature has broad discretion in defining crimes. The heading of the statute plays no part in determining the elements. Therefore, the fact that the statute is headed, "Driving motor vehicle . . . while intoxicated," means nothing when one interprets the statute. Under clause (i), the only element that the state must prove to obtain a conviction for unlawful conduct is that the driver had a BAC of .08 or more as indicated by a chemical test.The defendant may challenge the accuracy of the chemical test in order to create a reasonable doubt, but it was certainly within the power of the legislature to make it unlawful to drive with a BAC of .08 or more as indicated by a chemical test. The violation of the law does not require actual intoxication.The judge made an error in his interpretation of the statute because "intoxication" is not an essential element of the crime charged. Driving with a BAC of .08 or more as indicated by a chemical test is the only ELEMENT of unlawful driving under clause (i) of the statute that the state is required to prove.

Sounds convincing to me. I think everyone is following the judge down the rabbit trail of permissive inferences and burden-shifting, when the answer is a simple as the legislature created a simple offense of operation of vehicle + .08 BAC. Intoxication is not part of the elements of that offense and therefore so long as the Commonwealth proceeds under only clause (i), they should prevail against a challenge such as the one sustained by the Fairfax judge.

Now, off to traffic court!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

For Shame

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is publishing an insert produced by the state's child support enforcement agency, complete with pictures of delinquent child support obligors. Apparently just the threat of appearing in the paper caused several deadbeat parents to cough up the money, with the result that their picture was removed from the ad.

This tactic has raised the ire of at least one commentator, who protests that "the driving force behind child support arrearages is not bad parents, but instead rigid child support systems which are mulishly impervious to the economic realities noncustodial parents face, such as layoffs, wage cuts, and work-related injuries. "

Prosecutor's Worst Nightmare

Imagine you're a prosecutor, maybe prosecuting a sex offense. How would you like this guy to show up on day one for jury duty?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

False Advertising

I don't often post about specific political issues or topics, but given that the death penalty in Catholic teaching is of great interest to me (as a prosecutor and a Catholic), I've taken note of our Virginia gubernatorial race, where the Democrat, Tim Kaine, is running in a very pro-death penalty state on a position of religion-based opposition to the death penalty, stating: “God grants life, God should take it away.” Kaine takes great public pains to emphasize his Catholic religious beliefs.

Kaine is a death penalty abolitionist. For instance, he has also stated, "Murder is wrong in the gulag, in Afghanistan, in Soweto, in the mountains of Guatemala, in Fairfax County . . . and even the Spring Street Penitentiary.” (Washington Post, 7-7-87)--referring to the former site of Virginia's death row. He claims that as governor he will not grant clemency to death row inmates at any greater rate than past governors.

I really don’t mind Kaine being a principled opponent of the DP… it's part of being a modern Democrat. But what bothers me is how he dishonestly uses the cloak of Catholicism to dress up this opposition. Little noted in all the back and forth about this issue is the fact that the Catholic Church DOES NOT categorically oppose use of the DP, as Kaine's statements imply. Specifically, the teaching is that because of advances in the justice system and the ability to render criminals harmless short of executing them, that the DP should be used “rarely.” Now since only .01% to at most 1% of homicides in this country are punished by imposition of death, we do in fact only use that ultimate punishment “rarely.” In fact, the number of executions continues to decline.

Kaine is a smart man and an involved Catholic at some level, having been to the mission fields. He surely must be aware that the Church is not opposed to the death penalty per se. Thus, Kaine is simply a liar for suggesting his religion requires him to be categorically opposed to the DP in principle. If anything, his religion indicates that he should be fully in favor of the reasonable, rare, use of the DP we have in Virginia.

Also playing out against this supposed religious objection to the death penalty is the fact that Kaine freely ignores the Church on other social issues, like abortion and preferential treatment for homosexuals to wit: Kaine has said he
opposes abortion on moral grounds, adding, "I want to reduce abortions, and there are proven ways to do it -- better education, better access to health care and contraception; enforce the restrictions we have. But I will veto legislation that criminalizes women or doctors for their health care decisions"
He also said in a recent debate that if the abortion landscape changed, the practice should not be criminalized. Now this is contrary to Catholic teaching, which (in very brief summary) is that 1) a politician cannot materially cooperate in procurement of abortions, which a Catholic governor certainly would be doing by not signing a ban on abortion; and 2) likewise one may never materially cooperate in the use of artificial contraception, especially since most of the non-barrier methods are potentially abortifacient. Summary of bishops' statements here.

On homosexual rights, Kaine has said he supports civil protections akin to marriage, but apparently not so called "civil unions." He does support adoption rights for homosexual couples. See a summary of his often contradictory statements on these issues here.

Kaine apparently is trying to suggest that his personal beliefs on the death penalty and abortion will in no way influence his governance. But if you have the ability to shape policy according to your beliefs, why would you not do it? He certainly does want to enact his personal, ethical beliefs that the tax structure should favor the poor, and that education should receive larger quantities of tax funds. Why not apply his personal beliefs to abortion and the death penalty? No, the real answer here is that Kaine does not really follow the Church on abortion any more than he does on the death penalty. In both cases, he is trying to assume a veneer of Catholicism to cloak his thoroughly secular ideology of pro-choice and anti-death penalty activism.

Again, I have no issue with someone honestly holding these positions, wrong as they are. What makes Kaine a scoundrel is this attempt to hijack the moniker of "Catholic" as a shield to hide behind.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Todd Gilbert in the 15th House District

I was sad to see that my friend, Todd Gilbert, a prosecutor in rural Shenandoah County, has decided to resign from the Commonwealth's Attorney's office in order to run full time for the Virginia House of Delegates. It would have been a true first to have an active prosecutor serving in the General Assembly. Nevertheless, he will still clean his liberal opponent's clock, and will be a rock-ribbed conservative lion in the House of Delegates.

Todd's the one on the right

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I hope the fears expressed in various quarters are wrong... but of course we shouldn't have to rely on hope nor trust anyone with respect to this selection. Richmond's own Michael Luttig would have been my preference. A crime victim on the SCOTUS... now that would be some diversity.

Slippery Slope

It seems that the storied "slippery slope" is not always just a rhetorical device used to gin up opposition to a change in the law. Take for instance Roper v. Simmons. In this infamous case which invalidated a death sentence for a defendant who threw his victim off a bridge, Justice Kennedy decided that notwithstanding the continued use of the death penalty for defendants who were juveniles at the time of their crimes in several states, that "in the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment." Thus, the so-called "evolving standards of decency" are no longer discerned by what is happening in society or in the states, but is entirely a matter of what 5 Justices personally believe. So even though fewer than 50% of death penalty states could be viewed as opposing executing juveniles, Kennedy sees an evolution against the practice sufficient to thwart the majority of death penalty states who approve of the practice.

Kennedy also predicates his opposition to the death penalty in this case on the perceived "immaturity" and "vulnerability" of such offenders. Never mind that the Court hypocritically believes in its abortion jurisprudence that the same minors are deemed so mature that parental notification laws are an unconstitutional burden on their highly developed moral lives.

At any rate, the silly, feel-good, extra-legal "reasoning" of this case is now being invoked to make the point that if these minors-at-the-time-of-the-crime should not be executed, then why should they be sentenced to terms of life imprisonment? As Doug Berman frames it over at Sentencing Law and Policy,
if the Constitution now demands a categorical bar on the death penalty for crimes committed before 18 because of some offenders' "immaturity" and "vulnerability" and the general "mitigating force of youth," shouldn't these same realities and concerns come to bear in at least some non-capital sentencing cases?

If Berman's reasoning is adopted by some such majority of five, then vicious murderers, whom the state can no longer execute, will not even be removed from society for life. And why stop there? If you can't punish the little darlings by death, nor by life imprisonment, then why should the state be allowed to incarcerate them for even twenty or even ten years?

Certainly, once the sloppy reasoning of Roper is applied to its logical conclusion, the SCOTUS must ultimately tell us what so called "standards of decency" "in [their] own judgment" is constitutionally permissible for these "children." And by the way, this "reasoning" does not apply only to otherwise death penalty-eligible cases, but to any criminal offense, since the Eighth Amendment applies to all punishment in every criminal case.

If Berman's right, the SCOTUS will be a busy bunch, telling us what the maximum allowable sentence is for every crime committed by a juvenile.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Up Next: Lavender Inquisition

In Canada, the authorities have taken to dragging priests in front of a liberal, homosexualist Inquisition called, ironically, the Human Rights Commission, for the grave offense of pointing out that homosexuality is contrary to Christian moral principles:
An Alberta pastor now being dragged before the Human Rights Commission for speaking out against the "homosexual machine" is simply speaking the truth, says the bishop of Calgary. "Pastor (Stephen) Boissoin is not a bigot or a hatemonger; he is very much concerned about the word of God and the teaching of the morality of homosexual activity,"Bishop Fred Henry said....

You can bet top dollar this is the direction the homosexual lobby is trying to take this country, so they can silence any opposition against their agenda.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in a press release has blamed Christians for what he alleges is a "spike" in "hate crimes" against homosexuals in late 2003 and early 2004:
The leaders of America's anti-gay industry are directly responsible for the continuing surge in hate violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. ... The right went into demonic, anti-gay hyperdrive following the Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision in July of 2003. Since then, church pews have been awash in ugly, anti-gay rhetoric and fear-mongering. ... The literal blood of thousands of gay people physically wounded by hatred during 2004 is on the hands of Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Tony Perkins and so many others who spew hate for partisan gain and personal enrichment.
I wonder where our liberal ACLU types will be when the government starts arresting pastors for preaching their religion's views about homosexuality?

"you should take that badge off your shirt and throw it in the garbage,"

That was the tape-recorded response of Passaic County, NJ, Sheriff Jerry Speziale to a Virginia deputy doing his duty. New York and New Jersey police officials are miffed that Virginia officers stopped a convoy of their officers doing 95 mph through Virginia on their way home north from duty after Hurricane Katrina:
A speeding New Jersey police convoy should not have been warned to slow down here, its superiors say, despite numerous 911 calls from motorists claiming they were forced off Interstate 81. An incensed New Jersey sheriff called an Augusta County deputy a "disgrace" for pulling over officers returning home from a Hurricane Katrina relief mission Sept. 18. Augusta (Va) Sheriff Randy Fisher and the Virginia State Police defend the stop because the New Jersey officers were traveling 95 mph with their lights flashing.
In Virginia, such speed is reckless driving, and officers cannot drive that fast unless responding to an emergency. Those typically rude yankees ought to thank the deputy and a Virginia trooper for not writing all the violators up. Instead, under some bizzare theory of "professional courtesy" they apparently think our officers should have stood by, ignored the citizens complaints, and let these yahoos endanger everyone on the highway for no legitimate reason.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hail to the Chief

Unlike Orin Kerr over at Volokh, I am delighted to see that our new Chief Justice of SCOTUS drives.... a minivan! Talk about counter-cultural. Finally, a legal elite who seems to be a normal guy. What next? Does he mow the grass in his front yard?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home"-- Confucius

One reason to oppose efforts of the left to redefine or weaken the family and marriage is that the intact family consisting of a father and a mother is the foundation for stable society. This is true in the area of future economic and educational success, but also in the area of crime:
Recent research strongly suggests that family structure is an important predictor of crime and delinquency. Teens and adults raised in single-parent families are at increased risk of committing crimes. Teens in communities with many single parents appear to be at increased risk for crime or delinquency, regardless of their own family structure. Communities with higher rates of single-parent families face higher rates of crime.
See the whole summary of the data here. It is of great importance to social stability to encourage 1) parentage attached to marriage, and 2) stability in marriage. Some concrete ways to do this would be to continue welfare reform efforts aimed at "disincentivising" out of wedlock births and perhaps even providing means-restricted monetary incentives for married people who have children; marriage needs to be stabilized by (as a start): 1) opposition to redefining marriage to accomodate the 1-5% homosexual population; and 2) re-considering no-fault divorce (which rewards behavior destructive of marriage by allowing a unilateral divorce decision by the spouse who's done something to hurt the marriage, unlike a fault-based system which would put this important decision in the hands of the wronged party: the person who most respects the marriage would decide whether it is dissolved).

Friday, September 23, 2005

The ACLU and Their Friends

Sen. Linsey Graham has been criticized for pointing out during the Roberts' hearings that Justice Ginsburg advocated lowering the age of consent to 12 and recognizing a constitutional privacy right to engage in prostitution. Volokh defends the accusation here and here:

Justice Ginsburg is indeed on the record as having endorsed lowering the age of consent to 12. When she was a law professor at Columbia, she, Brenda Feigen-Fasteau, former director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, and 15 law students put together a report for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Volokh also offers up the quotations to show that Ginsburg believed the "right of privacy" "arguably" extends to prostitution.

Needless to say, ole' Ruth was a Columbia law prof and general counsel for the ACLU before being thrust upon us in the SCOTUS.

Ya'll know how fond I am of the ACLU. They hate the Boy Scouts for not being a homosexual-friendly spot for their NAMBLA clients to score dates, and they recently teamed up with a "gay" group which made this announcement about their partnership:

ACLU releases marriage CD
If you plan on marrying your partner anytime soon, here's good news: In an effort to secure the rights of same sex marriage, the American Civil Liberties Union has just released ‘Marry Me,’ a double CD of love songs performed by over 20 gay, lesbian, straight and transgender artists.
The set contains two CDs: ‘Ceremony,’ which features mellow tracks geared toward commitment ceremonies, and ‘Reception,’ which has more of a party flare.
The idea for the compilation was the brainchild of drag queen Hedda Lettuce and Figjam Records executive Jack Chen, who approached as many queer artists as possible to participate in the project.

ACLU collaborator Hedda Lettuce

So basically, this is an extremist group which attacks the traditional institutions not only of this nation (Scouts), but of mankind in general (the family, Ten Commandments, sexual normativity). But they want us to believe that Roberts and whatever less-than-Scalia is nominated next are the end of liberty.

It's Orwellian.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

New Study: Race of Defendants no Factor in Death Penalty

A new study which criticizes California for imposing death more often in cases with white victims, nevertheless concludes: "When it came to the race of the defendant, the study concluded race did not contribute significantly to whether prosecutors sought the death penalty or jurors recommended death."

So now we are to believe that even though the defendant's race is no longer a factor in death sentences, the death penalty is somehow unfair because death is imposed more when the victim is white than when the victim is black? I can't imagine how this factor renders the DP unfair. If the defendant gets a fair trial and is not singled out because of his race, that's the end of the story.

Besides, what accounts for the disparity in the racial composition of the victims is that prosecutors in large urban areas do not tend to seek the death penalty, while prosecutors in suburban/rural areas do tend to seek it. Victims in urban areas are more often black, in rural/suburban areas more often white. There is therefore nothing nefarious about the disparity. The government is not cackling, rubbing its hands together and saying: "now if we can only figure out a way to ignore all those black victims. Bwahahahahaha."

It will be interesting to see if the study attempts to control for factors such as what relative percentages of the murders were "death eligible" to begin with, since this victim's race "disparity" may be accounted for by factors wholly independent of race. I suspect that even if the disparity is unaccountable for on grounds other than race, in point of fact it is prosecutors creating the disparity by bending to their constituents' wishes (constituents who are often largely minority) that the DP not be sought in their jurisdiction. The study itself points out that in San Francisco, the DP is never sought. So this "disparity" of victims is caused because the minority communities do not support the death penalty. The legal/political left can hardly complain, then, when minority groups' own abstention from use of a lawful penalty is the cause of the effect they bemoan.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Justice in the Mother Country

From The Policeman's Blog, by a British Bobby, comes this reminder that things aren't so different across the pond after all:

Why can't people understand the system at our local magistrates courts? Lots of people devote lots of time (and taxpayers money) to the administration of justice and despite all the publicity, people still do not understand how it works. For those of you thinking of attending court, here is a summary of how it's supposed to work:

1. You make a statment to the police saying you've been hit.

2. You retract that statment and say you want to forget the whole thing.

3. A court date is arranged and police and prosecutor turn up at 09.30.

4. You don't turn up.

5. The prosecutor says to the police officer, "Can you wait till 11.00. I'll try and [insert legal ploy here]."

6. The police officer waits, then says, "Can I go now?"

7. At 11.30 all parties depart.

This ensures that the police officer can have a quiet morning and a long lunch, Witness Care volunteers get to roll their eyes and say, "I can't believe it, you must be really fed up." And the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] get to say, "Well, at least we tried." Please remember steps 1 to 7 and don't upset the system by actually turning up and giving evidence, it sets the whole thing back hours and can cause real inconvenience.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Negligent Mayor/ Governor?

If it's true that:

The city of New Orleans followed virtually no aspect of its own emergency management plan in the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans officials also failed to implement most federal guidelines, which stated that
the Superdome was not a safe shelter for thousands of residents.
The official "City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan" states that the mayor can call for a mandatory citywide evacuation, but the Louisiana governor alone is given the power to carry out the evacuation, which Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has yet to do. She "begged" people to leave before the storm and is still asking the few thousand holdouts to evacuate the flooded city.
Red Cross officials say the organization was well positioned to provide food, water and hygiene products to the thousands stranded in New Orleans. But the state refused to let them deliver the aid.
And if it's further true that:

The husband-and-wife owners of a nursing home were charged with homicide because they did not evacuate 34 elderly patients who died after Hurricane Katrina
struck, the first major criminal case related to the storm's still-rising death toll.

Then why are the mayor of New Orleans and perhaps the governor of Louisiana not charged with violating this statute in those cases where deaths occurred due to a failure to evacuate or because of poor conditions at the Superdome:

Louisiana Negligent Homicide LA R.S. 14:32
A. Negligent homicide is the killing of a human being by criminal negligence.
B. The violation of a statute or ordinance shall be considered only as presumptive evidence of such negligence.
C. Whoever commits the crime of negligent homicide shall be imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than five years, fined not more than five thousand dollars, or both. However, if the victim was killed as a result of receiving a battery and was under the age of ten years, the offender shall be imprisoned at hard labor, without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence, for not less than two nor more than five years.

Just asking.

Doing the Right Thing

It's refreshing to see that sometimes conscience and doing the right thing are not dead in our society:

A woman accused in a multimillion-dollar armored car heist on the Las Vegas Strip surrendered to federal authorities Thursday, saying she was tired of more than a decade on the run and wanted her son to have a normal life. "I truly feel this is the right thing to do," Heather Catherine Tallchief, 33, said minutes before turning herself in at a federal courthouse.
She had participated in the robbery at the instigation of her then-boyfriend, who is still on the run. I know she'll serve some time for her crime, but she'll undoubtedly get some consideration for turning herself in. And she should be applauded for obeying her conscience. Would that more criminals take responsibility for their actions like she has!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Roberts: Griswold holding correct

Judge Roberts just stated in response to a question from Sen. Herb Kohl on Griswold v. Connecticut that he accepts the holding that the 14th amendment guarantees a right to privacy for a married couple to buy and possess contraception.

Bad tidings for those of us who hoped for an originalist Justice. If you buy penumbras formed by emenations creating new, hitherto unknown rights never acknowledged by the customs and traditions of our people, you can hardly then apply originalist thinking in other areas of constitutional adjudication.

Is this Souter II? Or will he "clarify" his answer to minimize its implications?

Mr. Justice Do Right?

With all due respect, is it just me or does John Roberts look an awful lot like Dudley Do Right? Not that it bothers me in the slightest... I hope Roberts is another Clarence Thomas or at least a Scalia. I pray that he does in fact bring the worst fears of the leftists to fruition.


It's worth the price of admission just to see signs of distress like this:

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Necessities

Check out Cerberus, a police officer from another jurisdiction who's on volunteer assignment in Louisiana keeping order. Among the interesting stories: 19 guys caught driving this stolen Heineken truck with loads of looted goods on their persons and in the truck and a convoy of stolen trucks stopped just over the N.O. city limits, also laden with stolen booty.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Revolution Reconsidered

Did Washington, Jefferson, and the rest of the Founders of our Republic really take up arms against the Brits because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery? That's the bombshell question Simon Schama is throwing out in his new book, "Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution"(in print in the mother country, but not here until May, 2006).

The Economist, in reviewing the British edition of the book, explains that Schama argues that:
At the height of the conflict, Britain guaranteed freedom to any slave who fought for the king against George Washington's slave-owning rebels. And in 1772, in London, Lord Mansfield, nudged by the advocacy of Granville Sharp, an abolitionist, judged that Africans could not be transported against their will. It sounded good. Thousands of slaves, lacking a better offer, joined the king's cause.

Schama apparently believes that it was fear of losing their slaves that in good part motivated the Founders to take up arms against England. Thus, the argument goes, our nation was founded less on the ideal of freedom from English oppression than on desire to protect the institution of slavery.

Strong stuff to swallow....

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Betrayal, not Bullets

"Jack Dunphy" (a nom-de-plume of an LAPD police officer) writes that political correctness and cowering to radical special interest groups has resulted in a loss of confidence among officers in the LAPD in their leaders. He cites as an example the case of "Officer Steven Garcia, who last February shot and killed 13-year-old Devin Brown at the end of another high-speed chase. Brown was driving a stolen car when he attempted to evade arrest... Brown elected to ram a police car." For saving probably his own life and the life of others by shooting this reckless criminal, in other words, for doing the job he was sworn to do, Officer Garcia finds himself grounded with his job at risk and the subject of a law suit after protests by the usual criminal-coddling suspects.

The citizens of LA should not wonder if their officers will now minimally enforce the law (a "drive and wave" policy as Dunphy terms it), when their every decision is hyper-analyzed and no quarter is given for good-faith decisions made in the heat of a combat situation.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Making Them Think Twice

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans police say they shot and killed some gunmen who had fired upon a group of contractors traveling across a city bridge while on their way to make repairs. New Orleans Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley says police shot at eight people, killing five or six of them. A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers says there were 14 contractors on their way to repair a canal. They were
traveling across a bridge under police escort when they were fired upon. The contractors were on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain to fix the 17th Street Canal. The shootings took place on the Danziger Bridge, which spans a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.

Mission Impossible?

Via In Toon With The World.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Louisiana Governor Takes Control

Finally, the Democrat Governor of Louisiana is taking action to restore order in New Orleans:

New Orleans was primed for all-out combat, as Iraq-tested troops with shoot-to-kill orders moved into the hurricane-devasted city to quell rioters and looters...Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said the guardsmen had been authorized to open fire on "hoodlums" profiteering from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which is believed to have left thousands dead."These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle tested and under my orders to restore order in the streets," Blanco said."They have M-16s and they are locked and loaded."These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will," she said.
Not a moment too soon. If these orders had been given 48 hours ago as I suggested here, we might not have seen armed thugs shooting at rescue vehicles and hijacking nursing home buses. When people think there is no order and they can steal TVs, clothing, electronics, and guns in broad daylight in front of the cameras, the signal is clear: the thugs and criminals are in charge. The government must stop this chaos in the most forceful manner possible.

<--Stealing the necessities

<--More vultures in Biloxi, Miss.

Looting a Walgreens

Divine Retribution?

From Father Jim Tucker at Dappled Things (who's got a great mix of posts today), comes a timely response to those of left and right who find some kind of Divine judgment in the events on the Gulf coast:
I agree with Jesus Christ that God sends rain upon the just and the unjust alike. People who sit around talking about divine punishment during natural disasters are like the ones who saw the blind man sitting in the street and asked Christ whether he was blind because of his own sins, or because of the sins of his parents. Neither, according to Christ.
Check out the post for the whole explanation according to the Christian worldview.

Someone Call the ACLU

Via The Star Tribune:
The state of Minnesota is quietly getting out of the business of paying for three controversial treatments that affect the sex lives or sex organs of low-income patients. Starting today, the state will no longer cover routine circumcisions, unless "required by religious practice," under its insurance plans for 670,000 low-income Minnesotans, according to the Department of Human Services. It's also dropping coverage of Viagra and other impotence drugs. And last month, it completely stopped paying for sex-change operations.

I don't understand how Minnesota could be so heartless to these poor, sexually disfunctional persons. I want the ACLU to sue immediately to vindicate the fundamental constitutional right of poor people to receive taxpayer-funded sex change operations.

No justice, no peace! Hat tip to Dappled Things.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

that's EVERYBODY'S store

I hope the left in this country is happy that after many years of telling people how oppressed they are by "the system," some folks are acting to alleviate their oppression. How? By looting stores in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:
One man, who had about 10 pairs of jeans draped over his left arm, was asked if he was salvaging things from his store."No," the man shouted, "that's EVERYBODY'S store."Looters filled industrial-sized garbage cans with clothing and jewelry and floated them down the street on bits of plywood and insulation as National Guard lumbered by. Mike Franklin stood on the trolley tracks and watched the spectacle unfold." To be honest with you, people who are oppressed all their lives, man, it's an opportunity to get back at society," he said.
Oh yes, that store owner who has been oppressing this bum, and the customers who will pay higher prices to make up for his theft... he's gotten back at them alright.

Hopefully the rumors I've heard are true and martial law will be imposed to protect the lives and property of the victims of this tragic storm until civil order can be fully restored. As for the jackals who are using this opportunity to ransack their city, I hope the National Guard receives orders allowing them to shoot looters, like they were authorized to do after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

UPDATE: According to this story, "Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said looting will not be tolerated in his state. 'I have instructed the highway patrol and the National Guard to treat looters ruthlessly,' Barbour said. 'Looting will not be not be tolerated and rules of engagement will be as aggressive as the law allows.'" According to WDSU in New Orleans, martial law has in fact been declared in part to control looting.

Friday, August 26, 2005

It's so unfair, dude!

Seems that some folk are upset that the 8th U.S. Circuit affirmed a sentence for a convicted marijuana dealer to 100 months in prison. "Talk Left" and commentators to his post assert that the defendant in the case, Robert Chauncey, was victimized by "reefer madness" on the part of the court, and Doug Berman insinuates that the Court was high when they railroaded this poor miscreant. Mr. Berman, Talk Left and Injustice Anywhere claim that all poor ole Robert was doing was scoring some dope for his friend who has MS. And the big bad meanies in the DOJ put him away for 8 years just for a couple of ounces of weed!

As is usually the case with the hysterical fringe, the facts get in the way so they don't mention them. Seems ole Chauncey drove his girl friend (the one with MS) to a house where she scored $240 worth of dope, with the intent that she would keep some, he would keep some, and he would sell the remaining ounce later that day to some third person. The two dopers were driving down the highway (no doubt listening to the Grateful Dead on the radio) when they're stopped by a South Dakota Highway Patrol officer for expired tags. Bummer!

In the car, the trooper finds inicia of drug distribution: a set of scales and plastic baggies. In an interview, Chauncey admitted that he and his girl friend had previously sold marijuana bought with proceeds of her welfare check.

At trial, a jury which had the option of convicting of lesser included offenses of aiding and abetting distribution or even simple possession, convicted him of distribution of marijuana. At sentencing, Chauncey's record was found to consist of prior convictions for distribution of marijuana and involuntary manslaughter. He also had "three prior convictions for driving while under the influence, a conviction for failure to appear, a revocation of probation in 2002 '[d]ue to a plethora of noncompliance,' and commission of the instant offense within two years following his most recent release from custody."

The court denied Chauncey’s motion for downward departure and sentenced him to a term of 100 months’ imprisonment, the low end of the guidelines for this career criminal.

Eight years for a multiple-convicted drug dealer with a conviction for a crime of violence on his record? Sounds to me like the Court's critics are the ones who have been firing up their bongs: since the judge had to consider the guidelines, and sentenced at the low end, it's hard to see how the sentence can be characterized as unreasonable, much less "cruel and unusual" (since it was below the ten year statutory maximum).

Now you know the "rest of the story." The case is here if you want to see for yourself.

POST SCRIPT: Check out the comments to Berman's post for an interesting give and take on the propriety of the sentence in this case.


Many thanks to Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia*Pro Familia* Pro Civitate for the Scriptural reference now added to the masthead... it gives a better idea of the type of Justice I'm concerned with-- not the mechanistic view of justice which I'm pretty sure is the ABA's-- that justice means following certain rules of procedure and if that's done, then even if the guilty go free, justice has been accomplished. No, I am more interested in Justice as defined by Aristotle as "a virtue which assigns to each man his due in conformity with the law.”

This larger view of Justice as rendering to each his due means that when the drug dealer goes free because evidence is suppressed, for instance, we of course recognize that the law has been followed, but Justice has not occurred since the wrongdoer has avoided receiving "his due." Those who want to be lenient to criminals or who think the "establishment" is largely corrupt want to push the idea of justice as following technical rules of procedure or evidence and hailing whatever comes out at the other end as justice. We acknowledge that such rules and procedures are important, but we also refuse to limit the concept of Justice to a mere legalistic ritual.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

New Study Undercuts Claim of "DWB"

From the DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics comes a new study on traffic stops by police which concludes:

"The likelihood of being stopped by police in 2002 did not differ significantly between white (8.7%), black (9.1%), and Hispanic (8.6%) drivers."

Also of note: "In 2002 the vast majority of the 45.3 million persons who had a contact with police felt the officer(s) acted properly(90.1%)."

Those are the seminal finding of the study. What caught some media coverage was the study's finding that "Black (10.2%) and Hispanic (11.4%) motorists stopped by police were more likely than whites (3.5%) to be physically searched or have their vehicle searched."

But the survey's authors concede that:
while the survey data can reveal these racial disparities, they cannot answer the question of whether the driver's race, rather than the driver's conduct or other specific circumstances surrounding the stop, was the reason for the search. The survey asked few questions about circumstances or driver conduct. For example, having drugs in plain view of police is a circumstance that would normally warrant a legal search of the vehicle. But since the survey did not ask drivers whether any drugs within plain view were in the vehicle, the analysis is necessarily limited.
Thus it seems that race is not really a factor in whether a vehicle gets pulled over by police. This is further supported by the very high percentage of people reporting that the police acted properly in stopping the vehicle.

I'm sure this will be disappointing news for some who constantly suggest that racial bias is pervasive in American policing.