"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, February 26, 2009

States Look to Save $$ on Back of Potential Victims

Some states considering abolition of death penalty -- and many ask whether abolition might not just be a money saver in these hard times, since your usual death penalty opponent is a fiscal conservative, of course.

Not so much, according the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation study just released. The cost will merely shift to conducting a lot more LWOP trials.

Of course, sometimes you shouldn't even bring money into the equation when it's a question of the life-saving practice of executing the worst of our murderers.

Tidewater Toker Provokes Police, Potheads

A blogging police officer complains of a manslaughter conviction for a dope dealer who killed a police officer attempting to serve a search warrant at his Chesapeake, Virginia house. (lots of the backstory here). Now, this pot head, Ryan Frederick, has been written up cloyingly in Reason and has become somewhat of a poster child for the 420-loving crowd, who see this drug bust gone awry as more evidence of the failure of the drug war and the evils of the supposedly gestapo-like tactics used by police to persecute these peace-loving pot smokers. Example: Windypundit in turn getting upset with the blogging officer, says this:

Alright Scott, here's something for you to think about: All this happened because Ryan Frederick was suspected of growing marijuana, a crime which has no victims. The next time you or your police buddies decide to do an armed home invasion because you think there might be evil plants inside, remember that there are hundreds of thousands of potential jurors out here who won't mind too much if you get your ass killed. Maybe that will make you stop and think about what you're doing.
Right. So on one side we have an angry officer, upset that a jury in Chesapeake, Va. (a very conservative community) did not find Frederick guilty of murder. On the other side, we have the dope heads and their ideological friends trying to make a Joan of Arc out of this Tidewater Toker.

While it appears that the police might have been more cautious about using the particular informant in this case, there was evidence presented that Frederick, despite denials, knew the police were coming to his house, and indeed had been operating a grow room in the preceding weeks (not to mention the trivial fact that police knocked and yelled "Chesapeake police--search warrant" five times before having to force entry). And the bottom line is that the jury clearly rejected his claim that he was acting in self-defense from an unknown intruder-- self-defense is an absolute defense, if believed, to the offense they convicted him of, manslaughter. They likely concluded he was lying about at least part of what happened. By the same token, the jury apparently was hesitant to condone the way the police investigated this case and chose to execute the search warrant.

A modest suggestion: if the police work in the case was less than optimal, it can hardly excuse the Tidewater Toker, who had no justification to fire a shotgun pistol at a Chesapeake police officer.

That neither "side" is entirely happy probably means the jury got it just about right.

By the way, the fascist Nazi drug cop who "got his ass killed" was Jerrod Shivers, a Navy vet and a decorated police officer with a wife and three children.
May he rest in peace.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Politics Over Principle, Part 9

Kaine punts again, lets execution of cop-killer proceed.

That's nine times violating his "deeply held religious convictions" and one time following them.

May Ricky Timbrook and his killer both find eternal rest.

May Tim Kaine find a backbone and his principles.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Principles of a Politician

Edward Bell is scheduled to be executed tonight for the murder of Winchester, Va. police sergeant Ricky Timbrook. Bell shot Sgt. Timbrook at close range in the face as Timbrook attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.

Bell previously had his execution stayed while gov. Tim Kaine hoped and prayed the federal courts would find lethal injection to be unconstitutional. Kaine believes the death penalty is immoral and opposes it on religious grounds.

Now that the injection issue is off the table, Kaine will have to man up and decide if he will act according to his principles which view the death penalty as little more than state murder, and commute Bell's sentence to life imprisonment, or cynically sign the death warrant and remove the final barrier to the carrying out of Bell's sentence.

So far, Kaine's record: eight death warrants signed, to only one commutation. According to his own beliefs, Kaine has violated his own deeply held personal convictions eight times and been directly responsible for what he views as the immoral killings of eight men. Yet in each case, he could have commuted the sentence, an absolute and unfettered privilege of the executive in Virginia.

Wow, there's principles for you!

Nevertheless, for the sake of justice and to punish the horrific murder of Sgt. Timbrook, who left behind a pregnant wife when he was killed, I hope Kaine stays true to form and forsakes his own conscience for the public good.

Friday, February 13, 2009

President's Day Thoughts

There's alot of Lincolnmania this year, with Obama invoking his legacy as a beacon for his own presidency, recent books being published about him, and even the Catholic blogosphere is canonizing the "Great Emancipator."

For a less hagiographic view, we turn to a Joe Sobran classic:

Lincoln and His Legacy

by Joe Sobran

At this point it is probably futile to try to reverse the deification of Abraham Lincoln. Next year, if I know my countrymen, the bicentennial of his birth will be marked by stupendously cloying anniversary observances, all of them affirming, if not his literal divinity, at least something mighty close to it.
No doubt we will hear from the high priests and priestesses of the Lincoln cult: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Garry Wills, Harry V. Jaffa, and all the rest of the tireless hagiographers of academia, who regularly rate Honest Abe one of our two greatest presidents, right up there with Stalin’s buddy Franklin D. Roosevelt, father of the nuclear age and defiler of the U.S. Constitution. Such, we are told, is the Verdict of History.
But if Lincoln was so great, we must ask why nobody seems to have realized it while he was still alive. The abolitionists considered him unprincipled, Southerners hated him, and most Northerners opposed his war on the South. Only when the war ended and he was shot did people begin to transform him into a hero and martyr of the Union cause. But that cause was badly flawed.
The Declaration of Independence, which Lincoln always quoted selectively, says that the American colonies of Great Britain had become "free and independent states" - separate states, mind you, not the monolithic "new nation" he proclaimed at Gettysburg. The U.S. Constitution refers constantly to the states, but never to a "nation"; and this is a fact we should ponder.
Alas, it appears that Lincoln seldom thought about it. For him the Union was somehow prior to its members, except in his younger days, when, oddly enough, he had been a passionate advocate of the "most sacred right" of secession - in other countries. When and why he changed his mind, or the reason he never applied this principle to his native country, we do not know; but Gore Vidal, among other keen observers, has called attention to this most striking inconsistency of his career. What he called "saving the Union" simply meant the denial of this most sacred right, and he was willing to pay any price in blood to achieve it.
No wonder his favourite play was Macbeth. He may have seen himself in the tyrant who had waded too far into a river of gore to turn back. Far more Americans died in his war than in any other in our history.
A few books have told the dark story of Lincoln’s suppression of liberty in the North,
including the thousands of arbitrary arrests and hundreds of closings of newspapers; his war on the South required a war on the Bill of Rights in the North as well. All in the name of freedom, of course.
Despite his symbolic importance, most Americans know little about Lincoln. He was very secretive about himself and his family, and he remains something of an enigma to his biographers. One fact is clear, though: he was poorly educated. He made up for
this with his rare rhetorical and political genius; his eloquence continues to create the illusion of greatness.
Maybe it would have happened anyway, but since Lincoln the Constitution has meant not what it says, but whatever the U.S. Government decides it shall mean. The very meaning of constitutionality has become entirely fluid, so that the law itself has become exactly what law should never be: unpredictable.
Think of the U.S. Supreme Court’s notorious 1973 abortion ruling. Nobody before then had ever suggested that abortion was a constitutional right, but the Court suddenly discovered that it was, protected somehow by the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. The laws of all 50 states were struck down at a blow, but thanks to Lincoln the remedy of secession was no longer available to them.
Today’s United States of America would be constitutionally unrecognisable to the authors of the original Constitution, because today the government has become the wolf at the door. Do I exaggerate? A television commercial asks, "Is the IRS ruining your life?" Imagine what Washington and Jefferson would have said about that question! They never dreamed that their countrymen would live in dread of the government created to secure their liberty. But that is what has happened to this country, and much of this is Abraham Lincoln’s legacy.

To this I would only add: no Lincoln forcing a union on people who did not want it, and no 14th Amendment.

No 14th Amendment, no binding of the states to the policies formulated by the Nine in Washington.

No binding of the states to the Will of the Nine, no abortion on demand (Roe v. Wade), no constitutional right to homosexual sodomy (Lawrence v. Georgia), no centralized micro-managing of states' criminal justice systems.

As Sobran says, it may have all happened anyway, but Lincoln certainly killed federalism as the Founders intended it.

Sadly, I suppose it's necessary to issue the disclaimer that the ending of slavery was an unqualified good for this country. Opposition to Lincoln is not an endorsement of slavery, much as some Lincolnists want to insinuate the contrary.

My own view is that the South was exactly right on the issue of secession and Union, and monstrously wrong on the issue of slavery. I believe everything that happened to the South during and after the war can be seen as an expiation for the sin of slavery, and in that sense, the tyranny we now endure is thus traceable to the sin of slavery (no slavery-no secession-no secession-no war on the states-no war on the states-no stripping of their powers-no stripping of their powers-no federal Leviathan).

Thus endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Next on the Agenda for the Crim Lobby

It's no secret that a concerted war has been waged against the death penalty in this country for the past 30-plus years. A prominent argument in that war routinely used by the criminals' lobby (that odd mix of political leftists, libertarians, the media, and religious leftists) has been that death is unecessary since the option exists of life without parole (LWOP) in most states. We need not execute the perpetrators of the most heinous murders, when we can effectively incapacitate them with LWOP (an argument these examples debunks).

I've mentioned before that the next frontier for the criminal lobby now that extremely few executions occur is to characterize LWOP itself as cruel and unusual. This is the way it works: take the worst examples you can find of LWOP sentences, such as this one detailed at Sentencing Law and Policy (13-year old sentenced to LWOP for raping elderly victim), appeal to public sympathy and/or sense of moral offense (usually detached from any mention of the offender's actual crimes) and use it as a cudgel with which to assault the entire notion of LWOP. You can fill in the rest: "LWOP is too indiscrimate; LWOP doesn't allow for rewarding rehabilitation; LWOP is racist; LWOP is imposed unevenly in jurisdictions within a state; judges should be allowed to use their discretion, which LWOP negates;" and so forth.

And so, that very sentencing choice the criminal lobby used to argue that the death penalty is unecessary itself will be the next thing to fall, but of course there will be no revisiting of the death penalty should LWOP go by the wayside as "cruel and unusual."

The goal of many among the anti-death penalty folks can be seen, then, as not so much to stop executions (though they surely seek these intermediate goals); it's to ensure that criminals are incarcerated for as little time as possible.