"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

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wisdom From an Unusual Source

From Washington state comes this:

Byron Scherf was serving a life sentence for his third rape conviction. By many board of corrections measures, he was viewed as a model inmate, having completed a slew of typical prison rehabilitation fare, such as the "Peace Between People" workshop, "Advanced Peace Between People" program, "Discipleship seminar," and a "How to be Your Own Best Friend" program. It seems he failed the practice portions of these worthy programs, however, when he strangled to death a female correctional officer in the prison chapel.

Just another example of a violent inmate killing while in prison? Well, yes, but Scherf himself tutors us on exactly why we can never hope to render some offenders harmless short of executing them:

"'I took her life and I think I should forfeit mine,' Scherf told Monroe police investigators earlier this month, according to the documents. 'If I get a life sentence and she's [dead] then there's no punishment attached to it because I already have a life sentence.'"


LWOP simply does not render violent offenders harmless, if anything, it is a blank check to assault or even kill fellow inmates or correctional staff. After all, what punishment can be inflicted worse than LWOP when you're already serving that sentence?

H/T: Crime and Consequences.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Life Informing Art, or The Empire Strikes Out, Part Two

Not even 20 years after the Boer War, during which misuse of Colonial Australian troops (dramatized in episodes such as the 'Breaker' Morant case) began to strain Australian allegiance to the Crown, came the infamous Gallipoli campaign during World War I.

The English, seeking to capture Constantinople, knock the Ottoman Turks out of the war, and open the Dardanelles to Russian shipping, devised a campaign which began with a naval bombardment in February of 1915. The campaign was devised by the same Lord Kitchener who had gained infamy in South Africa for his actions in the Morant case, and by the future Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. The opening naval attack successfully neutralized the Turk forts of Sud El Bar and Kum Kale in the approaches to the Narrows.

But then, on March 18 disaster struck and three British battleships were sunk by mines and shore-battery fire, and three other battleships crippled. The British then decided that in order to clear the waterway to Constantinople, a land assault would be required to silence the shore batteries and allow the Narrows to be swept for mines.

This assault on the narrow penninsula overlooking the strategic Dardanelles, was doomed to failure, through a combination of faulty intelligence and negligent planning, and would result in a bloody 9-month attempt to consolidate a number of beacheads and move inland towards Constantinople. In the event, very little progress was made even where the troops could get off of the beacheads. The extreme terrain and a dogged resistance of the well-entrenched Turks combined to produce a heartbreaking waste of life of the Australian, Irish, and English troops involved. When the plug was finally pulled on the operation in January of 1916, over 200,000 casualties had been suffered by the Allies.

The horrors of the beach assaults, especially those at Sud El Bar and Suvla Bay, and the push inland were vividly remembered by the survivors. Many Australians and Irish were horrified at the senseless loss of life incurred by the inept planning and execution of the campaign. A 1981 Australian movie, "Gallipoli," while taking the usual dramatic license with some details of the campaign, graphically portrays the futility of the conflict. In the ultimate scene, after waves of attacks on the Turks have been bloodily repulsed, the Australians wait to hear from their commanders if yet another wave of men must be thrown at the machine guns of the Turks:

A great anti-war song inspired by Gallipoli was written by a Australian, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda:"

The Irish, who also suffered at Gallipoli serving under the British standard, perpetually chafing against British rule, would end in armed rebellion against what they hoped would be a distracted and weakened enemy within a year of the Gallipoli disaster. A famous folk song composed by Father P. O'Neill in 1919 to honor the men who fought and died at the Easter Rising of 1916 in the attempt to gain Irish independence, specifically recalls Gallipoli with the words, "It was better to die/ 'Neath an Irish sky/ Than at Suvla or Sud El Bar."

It is appropriate, during February and March, to remember the sacrifices made by the brave men during the Gallipoli campaign, and to call to mind the dangers of empire on the one hand, or subjugation to any other nation's agenda on the other.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Empire Strikes Out

I've immensley enjoyed Don McClarey's posts over at American Catholic. He is a great amatuer historian of the Civil War and a fan of military history in general; and a co-laborer in the legal trenches to boot. I thought of him as I prepared this post, because I've always enjoyed the way he weaves history with pertinent film clips.

So after winning a particularly difficult robbery case yesterday, I felt the perverse need to relax by watching "Breaker Morant," a too-little known Australian gem from 1980. I've never found a clean copy of it; I'm happy that Netflix now has it among their titles, and it's a greatly improved version with cuts restored and excellent sound and picture quality.

The movie generally tracks the true story of Australian Breaker Morant and two of his colleagues, members of an elite British unit during the Boer War of 1899-1902 (see here for a quick but fair synopsis of the war). This unit, the Bushveldt Carbineers, was tasked with going out into the bush and fighting the Boers in the same guerilla fashion in which they had begun to fight the English. The three men are put on trial for their actions fighting the Boers, and for the killing of a German "missionary."

The movie is a fascinating and very timely tale of how a civilized army deals with fighting a foe that does not follow the laws of war. It's also a morality tale of the peril of empire, with the Australian defendants being tried for crimes committed while fighting a war of subjugation in South Africa for their "mother country:"

Not only is this an excellent war movie, it is in my view really a great courtroom drama, as the accused contend against an English military court that seems determined to make an example of them:

The Australians' defense counsel is also a "colonial," and despite having little trial experience, is tasked with trying to save the lives of his three clients, who the English want to sacrifice in order to appease the Germans, who are looking for a pretext to enter the war on the side of the Boers. His development as a vigorous advocate for his clients is wonderful to watch.

The Morant case became legendary in Australia, particularly when coupled in the popular imagination with the debacle some ten years or so afterwards at Gallipoli, where Australian and New Zealand units serving under the British were butchered by an ill-conceived offensive during the First World War (Lord Kitchener, ironically, had a hand in both Morant's case and in the Gallipoli campaign). Another Australian film highlights the reckless stupidity of the British in that campaign.

Recent attempts to gain a posthumous pardon for Morant and his comrades have been unsurprisingly rebuffed by the Britain.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Imprisoned Killer Kills Again, Or "The Price of Misguided Compassion"

Yet another example of why incarceration does not "render offenders harmless:

A man who was already serving a life prison term for a 1992 murder in Orange County has been sentenced to 88 years to life for strangling two cellmates.Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus said Tuesday that Kurt Karcher didn't show remorse for killing Scott Manning at a state prison in Lancaster in 2006 and Edgar Jimenez at the Twin Towers jail in downtown Los Angeles in 2007.

Marcus told the 42-year-old defendant that he was "essentially a killing machine."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Uh oh, Dude!

Marijuana use may negatively affect men's sexual function because the penis contains receptors for marijuana's active ingredient, according to a recent study referenced in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

What a shame, since we all know how otherwise attractive potheads are.