"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

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Whatever It Was, It Worked

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques gained actionable intelligence regarding terrorist activities within the United States, according to a CIA report. This is not the first time these methods have been shown to have been successful.
That doesn’t necessarily close the question on EITs and whether or not they constituted torture [a point I've made before]. However, thanks to the political reality in the Beltway at the moment, the interrogators who employed EITs within the contemporaneous parameters created by the Bush administration won’t get prosecuted in Eric Holder’s investigation. Instead, they will focus on those who violated the boundaries, which leads to some pretty ridiculous outcomes. The DoJ
apparently wants to investigate an interrogator who blew cigar smoke into the faces of terrorists, another who used a drill and a gun to intimidate a detainee, and yet another who threatened to get a terrorist’s family members and kill them.
Are we to believe that the men who killed 3,000 men, women, and children were so sensitive that those threats would leave them psychologically scarred for life — but mass murder didn’t? Will the DoJ now prosecute police officers who blow smoke in subjects’ faces, either inadvertently or deliberately, during interrogations? Isn’t this defining torture down to an absurd level? If anything, it shows that the statutes governing torture are ridiculously vague.

The attempt to define torture down to include some of the relatively innocuous enhanced interrogation methods in my view erodes the moral force of the argument against genuine torture.

If we accept the common international law definition of torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person" (U.N. Convention Against Torture), we have to exclude many of the methods encompassed by the term "enhanced interrogation techniques," and many of the methods used against hardened Jihadists.

The Sound of Silence

Here's a good place for the death penalty abolitionists to turn their attention: A Moslem family in Ohio that has, consistent with the brand of Islam preached by their mosque, put a death sentence out for their young daughter who converted to Christianity.

From the mainstream media, always vigilant for unflattering stories about "Christian fundamentalism"?

[Cue the crickets chirping soundtrack].

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tearing Down Laws

Some zealots wish that the law could just be ignored when it gets in the way of our desire for what we consider to be justice. Here is an example of how that reckless reasoning works and a response by St. Thomas More to the idea:

This is brought to mind because fresh off his recovery from the vapors over the sight of people lawfully carrying firearms during peaceful protest, Papa Shea, relying on the rantings of a leftist blog, has consigned Justice Antonin Scalia to the flames for the offense of not tearing down all the laws in England to get at the Devil.

Shea's drunk the kool aid for a convicted cop-killer by the name of Troy Davis. Troy Davis shot Savannah, Ga. police officer Mark McPhail in the face and torso as McPhail tried to keep Davis from fleeing the scene of a fight. After the killing Davis changed his shirt and fled to Atlanta. The night prior to killing Officer McPhail, Davis shot a man at a party, wounding him in the jaw. Bullet casings from both shootings were recovered and were found to have been fired by the same gun. Nine (yes, nine) eyewitnesses testified that Davis was the shooter in McPhail's murder. Davis himself admitted being present at the scene, while denying shooting McPhail. He claimed at trial that the witnesses were lying about his involvement, the same claim he is still making years later, a claim rejected by the jury and every court which has considered it.

The jury found Davis guilty of the murder and imposed a death sentence.

Years after the fact, as is common in such cases, teams of defense investigators and anti-death penalty activists have obtained affidavits from seven of the nine witnesses back-tracking from their sworn testimony at trial.

Interestingly, none of the recantations state that Davis did not murder Officer MacPhail; they merely claim now that they were not sure of the shooter's identity. All but one of the “recants” state that the original statements they gave were prepared by the police based upon their oral interviews and that they signed them without reading them. However at trial they testified that these statements were true.

And of course, it remains that two of the original witnesses still positively identify Davis as the killer.

Armed with these convenient recantations, Davis began his appeals, first in the Georgia Supreme Court which found "the evidence supports the conviction on all counts." Davis lodged a habeas corpus petition in state court, alleging in part that there was evidence presented at trial that another person shot McPhail. The state court denied the habeas petition, noting that the jury's role was to resolve conflicting evidence and that their verdict was supported by sufficient evidence.

These state courts considered his claims of actual innocence and rejected them.

Davis next turned to federal court and filed a habeas petition there, again alleging his actual innocence, which petition was also denied, the court finding “that because the submitted affidavits are insufficient to raise doubts as to the constitutionality of the result at trial, there is no danger of a miscarriage of justice in declining to consider the claim.” A federal appeals court affirmed this finding.

Now Davis has convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to direct that a federal District Court hold an evidentiary hearing on his innocence claim. It is this extraordinary and unprecedented procedure that led to Scalia's dissent, which states in part:
This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is "actually" innocent.

It is this out-of context phrase, posted on the leftist blog, that made its way to Papa Shea's notice. And without bothering to read the entire dissent (see how easy that was to find!), or to consider the facts and procedural history of this case, Shea's substantial knee proceeded to jerk, and he raged that Scalia
argues that it is more important to execute the innocent than to stop the System from killing somebody the System has found guilty according to the System.
Never mind that the blurb Shea is all upset about does not remotely say that. Never mind that the dissent no where states or implies that. Truth is not so important when you're throwing mud at the two observant Catholics on the Court (Justice Clarence Thomas joined in Scalia's dissent).

Let's keep it simple: There is not "a pretty good chance the guy is, you know, innocent." The state supreme court considered and rejected the possibility, the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board, which actually took testimony from the recanters, rejected the possibility, and a federal Court of Appeals considered and rejected the possibility. This actual innocence claim has been cooked up by Davis' lawyers with lots of help and publicity from the usual suspects in the anti-death penalty movement. It doesn't hold water.

Which is why Scalia is right for observing that this just a plain old state criminal case with no federal issue requiring more litigation. That Scalia objects to an activist majority on the Court finding any straw to grasp to keep this case from ending is hardly to suggest that he elevates the law above man.

It suggests that he, like most, believes that a fair trial, reviewed carefully on appeal and by the Executive branch of state government, and found to be correct, ought to result in the sentence being carried out.

There is no need to go tearing down the laws, as Shea wants Scalia to do, in order to do justice. "The System" is doing just fine.

Davis has had his day (his years, actually) in court and then some. Now let the jury have their say by letting justice be done at last for Officer McPhail's vicious murder.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scary Guns: OK With Police, Secret Service, White House, But Bother Some

Papa Mark Shea is just quivering with fear and outrage because some folks showing up to protest Obama's treasury-draining proposals for "health care reform" have carried big scary guns IN PLAIN VIEW!! Why one even had the nerve to do so while carrying a sign reminding us of Jefferson's maxim that the tree of liberty must from time to time be watered by the blood of patriots and tyrants.

For failing to act like proper Seattle suburbanites would and eschew both firearms and reminders that tyranny may justly be resisted by force at some point (not a popular view in the land that gave us Starbucks), all such protestors have been cast into the outer darkness by Papa Shea. After all, the First and Second Amendments can't really mean literally that people have a right to free speech and to bear arms.

Now this national tragedy is not confined to the example that reduced Papa Shea to quivering .

Here for instance is another, far more dangerously armed guy looking very scary-- and he's black to boot!--at an event in Phoenix Arizona:

Never mind that this dangerous "right-wing nutjob" was yawned at by the police ("What he is doing is perfectly legal," Det. J. Oliver, of the Phoenix Police Department said. "We are here to keep the peace. If we need to intervene, we will intervene at that time.")-- clearly this type of conduct is over the top and would never be tolerated in sane places like Washington state.

And the Secret Service itself apparently needs to start reading Papa Shea's blog right away because they clearly do not understand the dangerous nature of these armed thugs. Why, when "asked whether the individuals carrying weapons jeopardized the safety of the president, [Secret Service spokesman] Donovan said, 'Of course not.'"

Even the White House says they have no problem with lawful gun-toting protestors.

But what do they know?

One does wonder why Papa Shea's outrage is restricted to "right wing fanatics" engaged in such tactics. When organized, armed, militant New Black Panther members engaged in in polling place intimidation in Philadelphia in the last presidential election (Bartle Bull, a veteran activist and civil rights attorney, called it "the most blatant form of voter intimidation I have encountered in my life in political campaigns in many states, going back to the work I did in Mississippi in the 1960s.") Shea was still too busy attacking George Bush to notice, even while Obama's Justice Department winked and nodded at the intimidation.

Friday, August 14, 2009

California's Pot Experiment

This is a typical "doctor's" office where you can get your horrible symptoms treated by Dr. Mary Jane:

Expect to see phenomena like this as a result: