"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, 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.