"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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Patron Saint of Cop Killers?

As I mentioned over at over at Ken's:

According to this blog, Jacques Fesch, a 27-years-old playboy, who was beheaded in 1954 in France for the murder of a police officer following a bungled robbery, is being considered for Catholic sainthood. Apparently, "many Catholics in France now believe that the killer died a saint. Thirty years after his execution, the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, signed a decree that may one day see him beatified."He admitted to shooting a police officer in an attempt to flee a robbery. After his conviction and death sentence, he underwent a profound conversion. Not profound enough, however, to convince him of the justice of his sentence, which he believed to be excessive since he did not premeditate the murder.

Some folks in the Catholic Church have gone truly batty. We do indeed believe and hope for the repentance and salvation of all, even the worst criminals. But formal recognition of sainthood is reserved for those who constitute a pattern for all Christians on their road to perfection. The Church in her prudence has always hesitated to beatify (see this explanation) people, who while they may in fact have attained great sanctity and gone to heaven, have other aspects of their lives and conduct that are not worthy of imitation.

Hence, in the Western Church, Constantine has never been canonized, despite the common belief that he is a saint in heaven. Why not? Because he waited until his deathbed to become baptized despite his much earlier conversion to the Faith, a practice the Church frowns upon, since it tempts fate, so to speak, to delay something as important as baptism hoping to "slip in through the door" at the last moment.

So with this French cop-killer. I have no reason to doubt that he became a personally holy man before his execution. I hope and pray he did, and is in heaven now. I hope and pray that all who face death will end up in heaven, even Ricky Gray and William Morva.

But to propose him as a model of sanctity? He was a spoiled man who killed another human being while trying to escape robbing a bank. Although he repented, he resisted the eminently just judgment of death handed down in his case. Not a shining example of humble acceptance of responsibility, punishment, and atonement. A truly heroic saint would acknowledge that what he had done deserved this punishment, and been at peace with it.

No, it seems what may really be going on here is the liberal clergy in France trying to make of this guy a backdoor "martyr" to the unjust use of the death penalty. In any event, the wisdom of making a Catholic hero out of a cop-killer in this day and age of incredible violence and lawlessness escapes me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

DP Story III: Living Example of Why We Need the Death Penalty

William Charles Morva was captured yesterday in Blacksburg, after a manhunt which closed down Virginia Tech found him hiding in a briar patch. Morva is charged with fatally shooting
Montgomery Regional Hospital guard Derrick McFarland, who had come to the aid of the deputy who had escorted Morva from the county jail to the hospital after Morva complained of injuries. Morva overpowered the deputy and allegedly used his gun to kill McFarland before fleeing on foot. He was recaptured at 3:30 p.m yesterday, hiding in a briar patch near the Huckleberry Trail where Blacksburg police allege he hours earlier fatally shot deputy Eric Sutphin, 40. Sutphin had been taking part in the townwide manhunt to capture Morva yesterday when he was shot to death at 7 a.m.

Got that? The man was a prisoner in jail and despite that managed to kill a hospital guard and a sheriff's deputy. Obviously, incarceration is not a guarantee that someone who is violent enough and determined enough, will not kill. Some people who can't get it just need to be executed so we can sleep safely at night.
By the way, the slain deputy was no stranger to violence, despite Montgomery County being a fairly safe place: he was the recipient of the Governor's Medal of Valor award and a sheriffs association Valor Award for the following:
[Cpl.]Sutphin responded May 9, 2003, to a convenience store in Christiansburg, where a shoplifting suspect had assaulted officer Scott Hylton, seized his service weapon and fatally shot the officer. When Sutphin arrived at the store, the suspect was trying to drive away. Sutphin rammed the getaway car, striking the driver's side door with his car. Sutphin exchanged gunfire with the suspect and was wounded in the exchange.Sutphin was among three officers who eventually cornered the suspect, killing him after he pointed his weapon at the officers.

He had thought about hanging up the Sam Browne belt after that, but after working in sales for a while, returned to the Sheriff's Office. He leaves behind a wife and two eight year-old twin girls. The slain hospital guard leaves behind a wife and two children also.
May they rest in peace and may God bless their grieving families.

DP Story II: Monster Gets His Wish

"For God's sake, you give him death for killing those two children,'cause that's what this is all about."

The Richmond jury, while making us wait a suspensefully long time for the decision, agreed with prosecutor Learned Barry, who argued for Ricky Gray's death for the gruesome murders of the Harvey family recounted here.

If there were ever a case justifying the ultimate penalty, it was this one: a quadruple murder-robbery-home invasion with two child victims by a pair that slaughtered another family of three within days, robbed and almost killed another victim, and one of whom, Gray, had murdered his wife by beating her to death with a pipe.

May the Harvey and Tucker/Baskerville families find some small peace and solace at this conclusion.

DP Story I: Prejean Rebuffed

Lots of death penalty related news going on. First, and least important, is this story from Duluth which concerns Sister Helen Prejean, of Dead Man Walking fame, a nun who believes, with the Waldensian heretics, that all bloodshed for whatever reason is immoral, and who therefore is a strident anti-DP abolitionist. We've written about her brand of advocacy before.

It seems the Catholic diocese of Duluth has un-invited her as a speaker in the diocese, because the bishop there apparently takes seriously his duty not to engage in partisan politics. Sr. Prejean is a rabid anti-Bush agitator, who has signed onto public statements calling for his removal from office. Why?
On her Web site, [Prejean] said, "There is... one issue addressed in the ad that I cannot endorse, which if I had seen the final version of the ad would have led me to withhold my signature. My stance on abortion is a matter of public record. I stand morally opposed to killing: war, executions, killing of the old and demented, the killing of children, unborn and born." But Prejean offered no apologies for her direct criticism of the Bush administration, saying her faith demands action against Bush."I signed the ad because as a follower of the way of Jesus and a U.S. citizen, I cannot stand by passively and silently as I witness my government wage such grievous oppression and violence," Prejean wrote on her Web site. "For me, personally, it would be sinful not to raise my voice publicly in opposition to the life-destructive policies and practices of the Bush administration."

One assumes she is refering to the war against militant Islam. While I would have preferred that the bishop banned her from the diocese because of her heretical position on the death penalty and the just and proportionate use of force, it certainly is a sufficient reason that she is also a partisan hack.

HT: Jay at Pro Ecclesia

Friday, August 18, 2006

"I Just Want to Die"

So said Ricky Gray to a police detective during an interview about his involvement in the slaughter of the Harvey family in Richmond: Bryan, 49, Kathryn, 39, Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4.

Hopefully a Richmond jury will grant him his wish. Yesterday they convicted him of five counts of capital murder and today his sentencing hearing continues.

On New Years' Day, 2006 Gray and an accomplice entered the Harvey home and attacked the dad, Bryan Harvey, bound him with electrical cords and gagged him, then struck his head six times with a claw hammer.

Kathryn, the mom, was bound with clear packing tape. Her neck had been cut three times, but not fatally. She had been stabbed once in the back, and she had been struck at least a dozen times on the head.

Ruby, who was 4 years old and 36 pounds, had been bound. She had pink and green nail polish on her fingers. She had been stabbed through the throat and in the back, and died of a combination of those wounds and blunt force trauma to the head.

Stella, 9, had also been bound and gagged. She had six cuts to her neck and one severe stab wound that went through her throat to her esophagus. She had also been severely beaten on her head. She died of a combination of the blunt-force injury to her head and smoke inhalation from the fire that had been set in the house.

If this were all not enough to merit the death sentence, there's the fact that Gray also beat his wife to death in November of 2005; then on January 6, a few days after snuffing out the Harvey family, Gray and his buddy killed another Richmond family: Ashley Baskerville, 21, her mother, Mary Baskerville Tucker, 47, and Tucker's husband, Percyell Tucker, 57. And to top it all off, the night before killing the Harveys, the two robbed, beat and stabbed a man in Arlington County. He is the only survivor of this pair's campaign of terror. The motive in all cases was simply money.

His defense, apparently entirely geared to avoiding the death penalty? His attorney in the penalty phase has argued that "Gray was on PCP the day of the Harvey killings. He also said that Gray had suffered sexual abuse, was hyperactive, wet the bed, and was repeatedly beaten by his father with a horse strap."

Bed wetting and a bad childhood. If a jury finds that to be an adequate reason not to kill this monster, God help us all, because every bed-wetting victim of a bad childhood is then given a pass that the rest of us do not have for our conduct. This type of cheap, deterministic, devil-made-me-do-it defense is an insult to every one who has suffered just as much or more than Gray and somehow controlled their impulses and not killed eight people.

Here's hoping the jury values the lives of those poor eight victims enough to vindicate them by sentencing Gray to die.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Real American Hero

We interrupt the boring legal stuff for a really cool story. The link is down where Catholic Caveman picked it up, but here's his summary:

There's a mantra for Marines... "One Shot, One Kill". I don't think anyone will be upset with young L/Cpl. Wilson for crankin' off 20 rounds. After all, he has 20 kills.

Here's some background on this young Leatherneck ---During a large-scale attack on Easter Sunday, Wilson says, he spotted six gunmen on a rooftop about 400 yards away. In about 8 seconds he squeezed off five rounds — hitting five gunmen in the head. The sixth man dived off a 3-story building just as Wilson got him in his sights, and counts as a probable death. (note from the Caveman; 5 head shots in 8 seconds at a range of 400 yards. You'd be stunned to find out just how many Marines can shoot at that level of expertise.)

"You could tell he didn't know where it was coming from. He just wanted to get away," Wilson said. Later that day, he said, he killed another insurgent.Wilson says his skill helps save American troops and Iraqi civilians."It doesn't bother me. Obviously, me being a devout Catholic, it's a conflict of interest. Then again, God supported David when he killed Goliath," Wilson said. "I believe God supports what we do and I've never killed anyone who wasn't carrying a weapon."When asked rhetorically how can he sleep at night, L/Cpl. Wilson said that insurgents "have killed good Marines I've served with. That's how I sleep at night. Though I've killed over 20 people, how many lives would those 20 people have taken?"

By the way... anyone notice the type of weapon he has in the photo? It ain't one of the high speed, low drag Scout-Sniper weapons... it's just your average, every day M-16 A2 Marine Corps bang stick. Sheesh, and the Army still doesn't understand why we rifle qualify every Marine every year from the 200, 300 and 500 yard line.Hey.... Every Marine A Marksman. We've been living that for over 200 years.

Semper Fi... and by the way, do you see these feel good stories on the nightly news?

CrimPro for Dummies

Check out this lengthy letter Ken sends to all his clients explaining the basic elements of a criminal proceding in Virginia. Despite re-hashing his oft-repeated sermonizing about the evils of jury sentencing, it's a good summary of how we do it here in the Old Dominion.

Dopey Americans?

Americans can apparently more readily identify the seven dwarves than the members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

[Insert your own punch line here.]

Monday, August 14, 2006

Check out an interesting take on the DEA's travelling museum exhibit by a slightly skeptical Windy Pundit. As always, his site has his own photography which is often quite excellent.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ex-prosecutrix Blog

She's left the trenches for the glitz and glamor of being a MSM personality, but check out ex-prosecutor Sarena Straus' blog. She comments on pending notorious cases, and lets us know when she will be appearing on various programs like (horrors!) Nancy Grace's show, which program, although I have only seen snippets, I understand sends the defense bar into fits of apoplexy, so it must be doing something right.

HT: Ken.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Next Study: Excessive Drinking Causes Drunkeness

Here's a big shocker:
Songs depicting men as "sex-driven studs," women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.
Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.
Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music. Exposure to lots of sexually degrading music "gives them a specific message about sex," said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh. Boys learn they should be relentless in pursuit of women and girls learn to view themselves as sex objects, he said.
"We think that really lowers kids' inhibitions and makes them less thoughtful" about sexual decisions and may influence them to make decisions they regret, he said.
Music sends messages which can influence actions: the same premise that causes companies to spend millions on advertising.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Feige: Justice System 99.5% Accurate

In a Boston Globe piece, the seemingly ubiqitous David Feige of Indefensible fame, a death penalty abolitionist and all-around apologist for the criminal class, took Josh Marquis, a prosecutor from Oregon, to task for writing an article, later cited by Justice Scalia in Kansas v. Marsh, wherein Marquis argues that claims of wrongful convictions of actually innocent defendants are grossly exagerrated.

Although Marquis' article is much broader than the statistical argument that bothers Feige, Marquis' basic point on the numbers is this: a study on exonerations claimed to find 340 exonerations nationwide druing a 15-year period. Marquis grants that and raises the number by a factor of 10 for purposes of argument: hence, he assumes the real number of wrongful convictions of actually innocent defendants is 4,000. Given the 15 million convictions obtained during the time frame of the study, the resulting error rate is 0.027%, or stated differently, the percentage of correct convictions is 99.973%

Feige claims that Marquis is disingenous because he uses the incorrect comparison. According to Feige, what Marquis should compare is the number of exonerations to the number of cases where guilt was actually contested. In the other cases, guilt was not at issue, so those cases should be excluded from the analysis. Feige goes on to argue that of the 15 million cases referenced by Marquis, 14.25 million were pleas, not contested trials.

Using the 750,000 figure (contested trials where guilt was at issue), instead of the 15 million figure of all convictions, Feige reasons that the error rate becomes not 3 in 10,000, but 50 in 10,000.

Feige also complains that the exonerations usually only come in murder or rape cases, not in the far more routine cases of drug possession or distribution, bad check cases, or the like.

A couple of things jump out immediately: first, the exoneration study cited by Marquis found exoneration for all types of felonies, not just murder and rape. Secondly, Marquis quite generously inflated the number of exonerations by a factor of ten to account for this potential problem, even though there is really no empirical evidence whatsoever that the rate of exoneration would even come close to Marquis' assumed level. So Marquis' generous assumptions about the true rate of exoneration (a number, after all, that can never be known with precision) bolster the strength of his argument.

Moreover, Feige's complaint that the total number of 15 million convictions is not the correct figure to use for comparison is faulty. If the question at hand is: "how well does the justice system identify and hold accountable the guilty," then in fact we want to know of all convictions, how many are untrustworthy. The guilty pleas are relevent to answering that question, because they tell us that the system has correctly identified and held accountable the guilty party.

If however the question is "how often do factually innocent people who contest their guilt or innocence get convicted," then Feige's adjusted numbers are the relevant ones.

So what do we conclude from this exercize? Even if we accept Feige's numbers as he posits them, here is the percentage of wrongful convictions:

50 in 10,000, or 1 of every 200, or 0.5%
So where Marquis and Scalia come up with an error rate of 0.027%, Feige, asking a different question, by his own reckoning places the rate at more like one half of one percent, or, put differently, Marquis finds the system to work in 99.973% of the cases, Feige finds it accurate in "only" 99.5% of the cases.
Of course, what Marquis, Feige, the readers of this blog, and all people agree about is that "imprisoning citizens for crimes they didn't commit is a tragic injustice whether it is freakishly improbable or terrifyingly commonplace." Feige should know, since he tells in his book of representing people he thinks were innocent who he helped plead guilty notwithstanding their purported innocence.
Our system, moreover, is not, despite the popular myth to the contrary, built on the premise of "better that 10 go free than convict the one innocent" (an error rate of 10%, by the way, much higher than anyone posits for our system). The burden on the government is not that they prove guilt beyond any doubt, but only beyond a reasonable doubt. Like it or not, our system does, and always has, allowed for the possibility of error, while taking every reasonable precaution to minimize it. If the standard were proof beyond any doubt, many guilty criminals would go free, a trade off society has never been interested in making.
Given this inherent possibilty of error allowed by our system, a rate such as Feige's 0.5% is remarkable. It certainly does not suggest Feige's dour picture of a system in collapse and in need of drastic reform, which one suspects in Feige's vocabulary means more protections for criminals
and an easier job for criminal defense lawyers like himself; or, in simpler terms, more criminals on the streets.
[Sorry, there's some type of format error affecting my "return" function to separate paragraphs]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lammers Converts

I have to interupt our previously scheduled posting to announce that Ken Lammers of Crim Law fame and a frequent courtroom opponent of mine, is trading in this:

for this---->

Yes, that's right.... Ken is leaving the dark side and joining the forces of goodness, justice, and order. In fact, he's taking a job with another prominent blogger as a Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney.

In all seriousness, Ken will be a great prosecutor, because he is a fine lawyer, and has the prime requisite for being a great prosecutor: a good amount of common sense. I suspect that with his defense experience, he will have an excellent grasp on the worth of a case, and also an understanding for what the defense attorneys he faces deal with, whether it's unreasonable clients, nutty client relatives, etc.

We'll miss him around here; I think I've tried more juries with him than with any other single defense attorney. But our loss is definitely Wise County, Virginia's gain.