"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, September 20, 2012

Rendering Offenders Harmless, Part 38

A Reuters report tells the story:
California prison inmate was shot and wounded and 12 others were sent to the hospital with stab and slash wounds and head trauma on Wednesday after a riot at theCalifornia State Prison-Sacramento in the city of Folsom, prison officials said.
Rioting involving 60 inmates broke out in the late morning, prompting prison officers to fire six shots with a rifle, wounding one of the inmates, officials said.
We're still waiting for the powers to be to tell us what means modern society has for rendering offenders harmless such that resort to the death penalty is no longer necessary.

I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is this the Arab Spring...

or the smart diplomacy? Answer: it's the enemy in action, and it needs killing.

RIP Ambassador Stevens, the civilian victim, and the two brave Marines who died at the hands of these barbarian thugs.

Update: the Ambassador in more optimistic days:

When will his murder be avenged?

(H/T: photo courtesy of JihadWatch)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Watch it, Spicoli

Bad news for the doper crowd as they continue to try to paint marijuana as a harmless recreational substance or even a beneficial medicine: 

Young men who had smoked marijuana recreationally were twice as likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer than men who have never used marijuana, according to a U.S. study.

Sorry to ruin the party, dudes.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Rendering Offenders Harmless, Part 37

Convicted gang boss murderer attacks two prison guards on San Quentin's death row.
A former Los Angeles area gang boss who’s on San Quentin’s death row is accused of using a shank to slash two prison guards while returning to his cell from a shower in the Northern California lockup, prison officials said on Friday.
Timothy McGhee, 39, who was the former leader of a Northeast L.A. area gang called Toonerville, is accused in the Thursday attack at 7 a.m. when the guards opened the shower door in the prison’s Adjustment Center, which houses male inmates on California’s death row.
McGhee slashed and stabbed the guards with an improvised weapon -- a shank, officials said.
The guards suffered injuries to their head, neck and arms.
Thornton said prison officials could recommend criminal charges be filed with the Marin County District Attorney Office, but prosecutors would then have to decide whether it would be worth taxpayers dollars to pay for a new trial for a man already on death row. He's considered a Grade B prisoner, the most violent, with few privileges, Thornton said.
McGhee, once listed among the United States Marshals Service’s Top 15 Most Wanted Fugitives, was sentenced to death in L.A. County in January 2009 after being convicted of first-degree murder for the slayings of three people between 1997 and 2001. He also was sentenced for the attempted murder of four other people, including two L.A. police officers.
Incarceration cannot adequately protect society from some violent offenders.  The only way to ensure the public safety is the execution of the most violent offenders, such as McGhee.  Unfortunately, California's bloated criminal justice system leaves men like this lingering for years on death row, with absolutely no incentive not to lash out violently at prison staff and fellow inmates.

Friday, August 24, 2012

He is Getting What He Deserves...?

Europe is so enlightened.

They do not cruelly execute criminals, depriving them of their chance for redemption.

Norway, for instance, has shown remarkable compassion to Anders Behring Breivik.

You don't know him?

He only killed 77, yes 77 people in a slaughterfest last year in Norway.
"He is getting what he deserves," said Alexandra Peltre, 18, whom Breivik shot in the thigh on Utoeya. "This is karma striking back at him. I do not care if he is insane or not, as long as he gets the punishment that he deserves."
Breivik, who had surrendered to police on the island without a fight, admitted blowing up the Oslo government headquarters with a fertilizer bomb, killing eight, on Friday, July 22, 2011, then shooting 69 at the ruling party's summer youth camp.

What is it that he "deserves," according to compassionate Norway, for snuffing out the lives and futures of 77 mostly teenaged kids, some as young as 14?

The max of course!

21 years in a comfy, humanely-appointed Norwegian prison.

This despite his unrepentant claim:  "I stand by what I have done and I would still do it again." \

Ah, but fear not, noble Norway, your country is good hands, compassionate hands, and this result is not only NOT a mistake, it's a feature of Norwegian society:  
 "This attack has not in any way succeeded in redefining our liberal democracy," said Oslo University philosophy professor Lars Fredrik Svendsen. "The Norwegian judicial system has shown itself as rock solid during this trial."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rendering Offenders Harmless, Part 36

By way of Crimes and Consequences we learn that the death sentence handed down to Eric Robert by a South Dakota judge has been upheld.

It seems that Robert was in prison serving an 80 year sentence in maximum security prison for kidnapping  "a young woman.  At the time of the kidnapping, Robert’s vehicle contained rope, a shovel, and pornographic material."  While in prison for this, Robert:
assaulted [prison guard Ronald] Johnson by striking him with a lead pipe which they had acquired earlier specifically for that purpose. Johnson was repeatedly struck on the face and head with the lead pipe. An expert testified that the blows to the head continued after Johnson was on the ground. The attack fractured Johnson’s skull in at least three locations and exposed a portion of his brain. He also suffered defensive wounds to his hands and arms. After immobilizing Johnson with the pipe, Robert and Berget wrapped Johnson’s head in plastic wrap which prevented him from crying out and also from breathing.
Robert then dressed himself in Johnson’s uniform and Berget climbed into a box placed on a four-wheel cart.  Robert, dressed as Johnson, pushed the cart toward the west gate of the penitentiary.  After observing that Robert did not swipe an ID badge, Correctional Officer Jodi Hall confronted Robert about his identity.  When Robert’s explanation did not satisfy her, Hall notified Officer Matt Freeburg.  Freeburg told Hall to call the Officer in Charge.  At this time, Berget sprang from the box and he and Robert began assaulting Freeburg.  The inmates used Johnson’s radio to beat Freeburg.  Hall issued a distress call “Code Red – Code 3” on her radio.  While Berget continued the assault on Freeburg, Robert attempted to scale the exterior gate of the penitentiary but became entangled in razor wire.  Robert then attempted to grab a gun from the responding officers.
Manifestly, the "non-lethal means" used by South Dakota to render Robert harmless failed miserably, to the detriment of Officer Johnson and his loved ones.

Again, one must ask the Catholic abolitionist establishment, given this and many other like cases, just what "non-lethal means" we have at our disposal to render such offenders harmless, so that recourse to capital punishment is unnecessary or unjust in this country.

I won't hold my breath.

Nullification Thoughts

Yeah, I understand the whole libertarian, government-is-the-enemy thing, so I'm not surprised they are happy that New Hampshire governor John Lynch has signed a law allowing for so-called "jury nullification."

The gist of the libertarian complaint is that currently, juries decide what the facts of a given case are, and "the jury must accept the law as explained to them by the judge, whatever their own view of that law might be."

In other words, juries, in this view, ought to be able to decide not only facts, but whether a state's law ought to apply to these facts.  The problem with this, in my view, is at least two-fold:  the first problem is informational; juries are uniquely unequipped to figure out what the law is without direction from the Court, much less to place the law into context with other related laws, and to discern reasons for the law that may not appear obvious on the hasty examination a jury could make.

 Second, the jury nullifcation is, contrary to libertarian claims, anti-democratic.  The jury is not the legislature.  The democratic complaint that a tyrannical government can only be checked by jury nullification ignores the more compelling point that it is precisely the people who enacted the laws in question through their representatives.  Essentially, nullification is the argument that twelve jurors (or really even one, if one wanted to hold out) can unilaterally overturn the legitimate legislative decisions of their fellow citizens.  

This anti-democratic element of nullification is what separates the contemporary nullification situation from the oft-repeated assertions of the libertarians that our founders supported nullification.  If they did, they did so in a different situation,  when the issue was trial of colonials under imperial laws in the enactment of which the colonies had no democratic part.

Sorry, but the fact that libertarians don't like drug laws or certain traffic laws, and cannot persuade their fellow citizens to change those laws in the accustomed manner, is not reason enough to turn the courtrooms into policy debating salons.  With the amount of obfuscation and hindrance in fact-finding that already exists in the criminal trial process (exclusionary rule, anyone?) it is difficult enough for juries to be fact finders.  Asking them to be lawmakers unto themselves is asking too much.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paul Ryan, Thomist

Contrary to National Public Radio's assertion in its early reporting of Paul Ryan's selection as GOP vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan is not a Randian after all:
"I reject her philosophy," Ryan says firmly. "It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas," who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. "Don't give me Ayn Rand," he says.
I am shocked, shocked, that NPR got it so wrong.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Silent Majority...

...eats at Chick-Fil-A and opposes efforts to silence and marginalize traditional morality and the constitution of the family as understood in the West for the past 6,000 years.
Lines to and from Chester, Virginia Chick-Fil-A, 1:30 pm

Backed-up traffic the other direction

Backed-up traffic one direction
And it was like this the three or four times I drove by during the day.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Delay, Delay, Delay

Yesterday in court a weather-beaten older female defendant was on my docket charged with "defrauding an innkeeper;" or simply put, getting pizzas and not paying for them.

She was very loud, argumentative, and assertive with the judge, who was patiently trying to assess her need for an attorney.  It quickly became clear to the judge that the woman might have mental issues.  So in a little bench-side competency analysis, the judge asked her if she knew what day it was, where she was, and what the judge's role was.  After answering all these questions correctly, the judge asked what the woman thought a defense attorney's role in the process is.

Our learned defendant boomed out, "delay, delay, delay, that's all they're good for!"

The judge had no other questions about the woman's understanding of the criminal process after that astute answer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

South Dakota Justice

Donald Moeller was convicted based on these facts:
Nine-year-old Rebecca O'Connell (Becky) of Sioux Falls was last seen on the evening of May 8, 1990.   The next day, two men found her body in a wooded area in Lincoln County, South Dakota.   An autopsy revealed that she had been vaginally and anally raped, and had sustained knife wounds to her neck, back, shoulder, chest, hip, arms and hands.   A pathologist concluded that she died as a result of a cut to her jugular vein.
Moeller's DNA at the crime scene conclusively demonstrated his guilt for the crime.

It appears that Moeller had previously been convicted of attempted rape, during which he threatened to stab the intended victim's infant if she did not stop resisting his advances. He had also been convicted of grand larceny, escape, burglary, grand theft, aggravated assault and another grand theft.

A violent offender with an escape on his record, brutally and unnaturally rapes a child and kills her in a torturous fashion. 

I can imagine no scenario under which an offender like this could be effectively rendered harmless, short of the death sentence he so rightly received from a jury of South Dakota citizens. I can imagine no sentence other sentence which would adequately redress the moral harm done by the crime.

Colorado, simply considered

There will ALWAYS be SOME cases for which the only punishment that makes any sense from the viewpoint of justice is death.

God grant rest to the innocent victims of this evil man.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

When "Life" Does Not Always Mean "Life"

Among other reasons why "life imprisonment" is not a sure way to "render offenders harmless" is that there is no way to control for a future legislature modifying life imprisonment.

Case in point:  Louisiana is considering a law to permit parole in certain life imprisonment situations. While ostensibly targeted at non-violent lifers, the stated rationale, "The cost of incarceration is killing us" could just as easily apply to long-term incarceration of violent offenders.

"Life imprisonment" is always subject to the whim of executive pardon or future legislative modification.  Thus, even if it could safeguard society (including other inmates and prison staff), it is not a sure way to render offenders harmless.

H/T: Crime and Consequences.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rendering Offenders Harmless Failure, Part 35

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2267)
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."
Meanwhile, back in 2012 Mississippi, United States of America:
A gang fight in a prison for illegal immigrants quickly escalated into a riot involving as many as 300 inmates, some lashing out with sticks or homemade knives as the uprising spread through the sprawling prison, a sheriff said.
A guard was beaten to death and at least 20 other people were injured. The riot began Sunday afternoon and lasted into the night, with inmates dragging mattresses and wood to an outdoor recreation yard to set ablaze, Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said.
Whatever it may be that the Catechism has in mind, incarceration certainly ain't the thing that is able to render offenders incapable of harm.

Still waiting for an explanation from the Catholic abolitionists as to what these wondrous means are which they allege make use of the death penalty in the US contrary to the Catechism.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sun Rises Today, Politics at General Assembly.

Hmmm, interesting dust-up over at the Virginia House of Delegates, which just denied a judgeship to a deputy prosecutor in Richmond.

Story goes like this:  Dems and liberals propose an open homosexual with an aggressively activist past for a judgeship for which literally dozens of non-controversial candidates abound.  Conservatives decline invitation to annoint the guy. 

Dems and libs profess outrage and shock that conservatives would deny, for political and policy reasons, the candidate they pushed for political and policy reasons.

That's it in a nutshell.  Judicial candidates get axed all the time for political reasons.  

Nothing to see here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Life Imprisonment Fails to Render Offender Harmless, Part 34

From Long Beach, California:
A man already on death row for killing two Marymount College students in a San Pedro supermarket parking lot was sentenced to death again today for killing a fellow jail inmate while awaiting trial in the double slaying.... Jurors recommended Feb. 6 that Coen sentence [Raymond] Butler to death for the March 26, 1995, jailhouse stabbing death of Tyrone Flemming....
Butler was already on death row for the March 25, 1994, shooting deaths of Takuma Ito, a Japanese citizen, and Go Matsuura, a U.S. citizen who grew up primarily in Japan -- a crime that made headlines in both countries.
Once executed, triple-murderer Butler will be rendered harmless.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Legal Drama

I watched a movie last night that shared the fate of many historically-based movies, i.e., it did not do well in the theaters. "The Conspirator" tells the story of the trial by military tribunal of Mary Surratt, a Catholic woman from Maryland who was educated by the Sisters of Charity at the St. Mary's parish school in Alexandria, Va.   

Arrested without charge, she was accused of aiding the conspiracy that assassinated Lincoln and rapidly tried in a military court despite her civilian status. During this trial she was deprived of the right to testify on her own behalf and was afforded no right to an appeal.  As the Daily Beast review summarized it:
The nation had never executed a woman, and until Surratt heads to the gallows, Aiken [the protagonist Union army veteran-turned-defense-attorney] thought he could save her. But the heavily bearded Civil War generals who acted as judge and jury never had any intention of sparing her. And even though Aiken succeeds in getting her a writ of habeas corpus, insuring a new trial by her peers, President Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor, overturns it, and she dies along with the other conspirators.
“What is happening to Mary Surratt is an abomination. You have predetermined her fate,” Aiken tells Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline). “Fine words for rallying a nation,” Stanton replies, “not for governing and keeping a nation together. Someone must be held accountable.”
While the frequent disregard for the rule of law and the Constitution practiced by federal authorities during the War Between the States is fairly well known, this particular example of essentially post-war extra-Constitutional tyranny is not so well known.  Ex-parte Miligan later ruled, too late for Mrs. Surratt, that these kind of military trials for civilians are unconstitutional when civilian courts are open, as they were in D.C. in 1865.
The film, and the incident it describes, immediately reminded me of another great war-related legal drama, "Breaker Morant."  This movie depicts the generally true story of Harry "Breaker" Morant, an Anglo-Australian drover, horseman, poet, soldier and convicted war criminal whose skill with horses earned him the nickname "The Breaker." The bulk of his published work appeard in The Bulletin magazine.

While serving in the Boer War in South Africa, Morant likely summarily executed several Boer prisoners in retaliation for the killing of one of his comrades in the elite Bushveldt Carbineers, an irregular unit tasked with countering the guerilla tactics being used by the Boers.

The movie, one of the best courtroom dramas in my opinion, recounts the machinations of the British command to ensure that Morant and his comrades in the Bushveldt Carabineers were executed in order to conceal the fact that the British commander in South Africa, Lord Kitchener, had himself issued a "take no prisoners" order, and to appease the Germans with whom the English were hoping to reach a peace settlement.

The case is still very much in the Australian consciousness, especially in light of a recent discovery that appears to prove that British commander did in fact issue a "take no prisoners" order, which would undermine the entire basis of the Morant prosecution;  the English, unsurprisingly, are unmoved by the new evidence:
Both "Breaker Morant" and "The Conspirator" feature despised defendants being tried in the chaos of wartime, by governments who had little interest in providing fair trials, but great self-interests in convicting the accused for supposed greater policy or political reasons.  In both situations, the defense is waged by inexperienced counsel, who come to appreciate if not the innocence of their clients, the injustice of their military trials.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Texas Justice

Responding to claims that there is a wave of prosecutorial misconduct in Texas,
this prosecutor makes the point that while we seek perfection, a misconduct "rate" of 1/10th of one percent is not an epidemic.
even under the most pessimistic of assumptions, Texas appellate courts reversed a conviction because of a prosecutor's error only 19 times in four years, or less than once out of every 3,600 criminal appeals. (During that same four-year stretch, Texas prosecutors processed more than 4.3 million criminal cases!) Every unnecessary reversal is regrettable, but prosecutors' low error rate is something that most government employees can only dream of.
Not only are verified acts of prosecutorial misconduct rare, but even those that are confirmed by the courts are often misleading because the term is frequently used to describe situations that involve neither. In other words, the legal concept of prosecutorial misconduct may not involve a prosecutor, and it may not involve purposeful misconduct — at least not in the common understanding of that word.
That sounds about right.  Given the volume of cases, the occasional  Mike Nifong is the exceedingly rare exception in a system that convicts the guilty while it guards the rights of accused with multiple layers of protection.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A Tale of Two Lives

Cases like this underscore that the death penalty is not needed merely as a tool of social control when incarceration alone won't work;  it's needed sometimes simply to redress the heinousness of the crime, and will be the only penalty sufficient to address the social and moral evil of the offense:

In Oklahoma, a decorated D-Day paratrooper was murdered, and his 85 year-old wife murdered after being sexually assualted:
An Oklahoma man suspected in a brutal home invasion -- already facing a murder charge for allegedly killing an elderly woman -- could face additional charges after the death last week of her husband, a D-Day veteran.
Bob Strait, a 90-year-old Tulsa resident, died on Friday, and a medical examiner is determining his cause of death, News On 6 reports.
He was injured March 13 when, police say, Tyrone Woodfork, 20, entered the house and attacked, allegedly beating and sexually assaulted Strait's 85-year-old wife, Nancy Strait, who died two days later. The couple had been married for 65 years.
Woodfork was arrested a day after the incident when he was spotted driving around in Strait’s vehicle, a Tulsa Police Department spokesman told FoxNews.com.
Bob Strait was a World War II paratrooper who took part in the D-Day invasion as part of the 101st Airborne Division, where he was awarded a Bronze Star, News On 6 reports.
Yet some would perversely suggest that justice requires that such an offender NOT be executed.

Consider the difference between Bob Strait, who, when he was about 22 years old, earned a Bronze Star for parachuting into Nazi-occupied France in a bloody invasion, and Tyrone Woodfork, who, if convicted, has earned his fame at age 20 by sexual assault, murder, and robbery.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Consider the Source

Sigh. Much as I hate to do it, I've been asked about it, so here it is. Pope Shea again pontificates about the death penalty, this time using this graphic put out by that reliable source of capital punishment information, Amnesty International. (Yes, the same AI that sponsors "solidarity with Iran" rallies, scandal-ridden secret buyouts of their leadership, supports "gay marriage" as a fundamental human right, just to name a very few of the many interesting positions of this advocacy group). Now, the purpose of this graphic is to argue thusly: since other countries that are "bad" resort to capital punishment, and the United States resorts to capital punishment, the United States' use of capital punishment is bad.

I had attempted to make the following comment over at Shea's, including some reference to other comments in the combox, but apparently the vitriol and hate of the following comment (as closely as I can reconstruct it) led to its blocking:

A few comments are in order. First, the death penalty in the US is resorted to in about 0.5% of murder cases. Not exactly an orgy of bloodlust. It actually seems like the death penalty is almost "rare, if not non-existent" to echo a certain well-repeated phrase.

Second, the Catholic Church has always and everywhere Magisterially taught that resort to the death penalty is a vindication of the 5th Commandment's prohibition against murder, and is a requirement of the natural virtue of justice. That certain contemporary sources emphasize a purely practical resort to the death penalty does not and cannot alter fundamental Church teaching on a matter of morality such as this ancient teaching on the death penalty.

Last, the resort to graphic above is simply a logical fallacy of association, and
as such, needs no refutation beyond pointing out its utter illogic.
That was the substantial gist of my comment over at Papa Shea's. One wonders why he's afraid of reasoned critique of his material. After all, it's not as if I added that engaging in the type of cheap dishonest rhetoric represented by his post shows Shea for the blustering, lying, ill-educated phony he is.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Killer kills in prison

California inmate serving a life sentence kills fellow inmate.

The indictment alleges that [Samuel] Stone murdered Michael Anita on July 30, 2003, while they were housed in a segregation unit at the U.S. penitentiary in Atwater. At the time, Stone was serving a life sentence for two separate homicides in 1999, according to a joint news release from the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento.Stone, 32, "from at least age 15 and continuing into his adult life, engaged in a continuing pattern of violent criminal conduct," the notice of intent states.The Anita murder "involved serious physical abuse to the victim," and was committed "after substantial planning and premeditation," the notice says.Further, it says, Stone "has displayed no remorse for the murder," and he "poses a continuing danger" to inmates, prison guards and other officials "at correctional institutions where he is or will be incarcerated."
Life imprisonment does not render offenders harmless; it simply shifts the risk of re-offense from the general public to inmates and prison staff.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Law and Economics

Nancy Pelosi is having hearings about the woes inflicted on women who work for Catholic institutions and therefore suffer the intense scourge of unsubsidized birth control. At one such hearing, we learned that we should be paying for Georgetown law coeds' contraceptives, according to law student Sandra Fluke's testimony before the committee.

This guy does the math:

It costs a female student $3,000 to have protected sex over the course of her three-year stint in law school, according to her calculations.
"Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school," Fluke told the hearing.
$3,000 for birth control in three years? That’s a thousand dollars a year of sex – and, she wants us to pay for it.
Yes, us. Where do you think the insurance companies forced to cover this cost get the money to pay for these co-eds to have sex? It comes from the health care insurance premiums you and I pay.
But, back to this woman’s complaint that she’s spending $3,000 for birth control during her time in college....
At a dollar a condom if she shops at CVS pharmacy’s website, that $3,000 would buy her 3,000 condoms – or, 1,000 a year.... Assuming it’s not a leap year, that’s 1,000 divided by 365 – or having sex 2.74 times a day, every day, for three straight years. And, I thought Georgetown was a Catholic university where women might be prone to shun casual, unmarried sex. At least its health insurance doesn't cover contraception (that which you subsidize, you get more of, you know). And, that’s not even considering that there are Planned Parenthood clinics in her neighborhood that give condoms away and sell them at a discount, which could help make her sexual zeal more economical.
Besides, maybe, these female law students could cut back on some other expenses to make room for more birth control in their budgets, instead of making us pick up the tab. With classes and studying and all that sex, who's got time for cable?
And, let's not forget about these deadbeat boyfriends (or random hook-ups?) who are having sex 2.74 times a day. If Fluke's going to ask the government to force anyone to foot the bill for her friends' birth control, shouldn't it be these guys?
Hmm, and I always did wonder why Bill Clinton chose to go to grad school at Georgetown.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A New Focus for Criminals

Well, I still get amazed every now and then at the ingenuity of the criminal classes. A case came across my desk recently involving a very sophisticated interstate burglary/theft operation. What was unusual was what these thieves were stealing:

Contact lenses.

Just contact lenses. As in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of them, apparently destined for ultimate sale overseas.

I can just imagine the prison conversation:
"Whatcha in for?"
"Contact lenses."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Who Would You Rather Believe?

Listening to an Evangelical preacher, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas on my way to work this morning, I was a little surprised to hear him talking about Joseph Story, he of the famous Constitutional commentary and an early Supreme Court Justice.

I only caught the tail end of Jeffress' talk, which was apparently an argument that the First Amendment has been twisted beyond recognition, and that in fact the US is a Christian nation. Jeffress cited Story as holding that

The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations] and to prevent any national ecclesiastical patronage of the national government.
What I found interesting was not so much the obvious fact that the founders considered this a Christian nation, and in no way intended the First Amendment to become a weapon against public, even government-sponsored expressions in favor of Christianity, forbidding only the "establishment" of any particular denomination.

No, what made my Catholic ears perk up was Jeffress' argument to his congregation, which was (in close paraphrase): who would you rather accept as an authority in figuring out what the Constitution means, and what its framers intended--a Supreme Court Justice and scholar who was only twenty years out from the passage of the Bill of Rights, and personally knew the Framers of the First Amendment; or the ACLU?

Now the answer to that question is self-evident.

But the mode of argumentation directly echoes St. Thomas More in his writings against the heretics of his day, which was (again paraphrasing):

who should one accept as a sure authority in controversies about doctrinal matters and the deposit of the Faith-- the Holy Fathers who were living and writing in first years after Christ, some of whom knew the Apostles themselves; or Martin Luther and his like, who after 1500 years now purport to have discovered "true Christianity"?
Justice Story, of course, is a more authoritative voice for discerning the view and intent of the drafters of the Bill of Rights, than the ACLU (who, in addition to being 200 years after the event have an ideological ax to grind) for the exact same reason the Church Fathers are more authoritative sources for the meaning and understanding of Christian doctrine and practice than a Luther and other "reformers" (who, in addition to being 1500 years after the event had personal, moral, or intellectual axes to grind).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Independence Day, Mississippi-style

Outgoing Dem Republican governor of Mississippi pardons four, yes four, murderers on way out of office.

The inmates are David Gatlin, convicted of killing his estranged wife in 1993; Joseph Ozment, convicted in 1994 of killing a man during a robbery; Anthony McCray, convicted in 2001 of killing his wife; Charles Hooker, sentenced to life in 1992 for murder; and Nathan Kern, sentenced to life in 1982 for burglary after at least two prior convictions.

Mark McAbee said Barbour pardoned the man who killed his uncle, Ricky Montgomery. McAbee said Ozment was sentenced to life in 1994 after robbing the store with several other men.
"One of the other ones shot my uncle three times. He was crawling toward Joseph Ozment for help. He didn't know Joseph Ozment was involved. He was crawling to him for help. Joseph Ozment put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger twice," McAbee said.
He called the pardon "a slap in the face."

Executive clemency: an often under-appreciated aspect over the debate as to whether imprisonment ultimately renders offenders harmless.