Archive for July, 2007


Playing Jesus

July 26, 2007


Boston Globe


Speaking of our court system….

July 12, 2007

This just in from the city where I now live.

A little back story.  Last winter two kids robbed another kid of a new XBox 360.  They caught him getting out of his car and knocked him down and robbed him.  Which sucks.   The police found out who it was, and in the midst of their investigation, they also found some pics of one of the kids online holding a gun.  Which as anyone knows, if you get our picture taken with a gun you’re obviously  a dangerous maniac.

So instead of, I dunno, catching this kid on his way back from class at the local community college where he was enrolled, they assemble the swat team and go in with a friggin battering ram.

Only this rube deputy sheriff, by his own account, mistakes the sound of the battering ram for a gunshot, and proceeds to fire indiscriminately through the closed front door of the kid’s house, killing the kid (who, ironically, was not armed, but was playing his Xbox 360) as well as the kid’s dog.

I’m not saying this deputy sheriff is a murderer.   I do think the victim’s family (and the community) deserved a fair shake in this business, which is doesn’t appear that they received.

You know, it seems to me that the greatest tool law enforcement and the justice system has is the respect of the citizenry.  And I’m willing to accept that fact that there will be a bad apple here or there.  But when a law enforcement official is allowed to shoot a kid through a closed door, and the justice system conspires to ensure that he’s not held accountable on any level, I think it seriously erodes that respect.   And what does law enforcement and the justice system have left?

Battering rams.  Guns.  Fear.

In short, they can end your life with the stroke of a pen or the pulling of a trigger.


Visiting judge helped deputy

It was no surprise that a grand jury refused to indict former New Hanover County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Long in the shooting death, through a closed door, of an unarmed 18-year-old man suspected of armed robbery.

The judge all but assured that result.

Richard Beale, from Richmond County, ignored precedent by allowing Long to plead his case directly before the grand jury – which meant in secret. The public was not allowed to hear what he had to say.

Beale also allowed the father of the victim to testify – an inexplicable decision, because the father wasn’t there. He wasn’t even in Wilmington.

Finally, Beale allowed grand jurors with connections to the New Hanover Sheriff’s Department and UNCW to take part in the decision.

Given Beale’s actions – and the refusal of North Carolina grand juries to indict a single law-enforcement officer in connection with more than 100 deaths in the past seven years or more – it is difficult to argue with cynics who are already saying “the fix was in.”

It will be difficult to argue that North Carolina’s court system holds law-enforcement officers to the same standards as everyone else.

Beale allowed Long to show himself to the grand jurors as a human being who meant well and simply made a tragic mistake. He was allowed to persuade them that a regular jury should not even be allowed to examine the evidence, hear the arguments, and reach a verdict.

We don’t know – we’ll never know – what Long said behind those closed doors. But the gist of it presumably was that he was just trying to do his job in a dangerous, frightening and confusing situation.

And that is true enough. It was his superiors at the Sheriff’s Office who sent Long and his colleagues to that scene, heavily armed. It was his superiors at the Sheriff’s Office who trained and supervised them.

Those superiors have not been called to account. Any more than they have been called to account for the death, in their jail, of Gary Rummer.


Forget Iran, let’s pursue regime change in Jena, Louisiana

July 11, 2007

I heard this story on the Democracy Now podcast. might be the most effed up thing I’ve ever heard of.

Here’s the condensed version: There’s this tree in the schoolyard in Jena, Louisiana, where white kids hang out. Three black boys sit under the tree one day, and then the next day there are three nooses hanging from the tree.

It was in the early morning. I seen them hanging. I’m thinking the KKK, you know, were hanging nooses…I was disappointed, because, you know, we do little pranks — you know, toilet paper, that’s a prank, you know what I’m saying? Paper all over the square, all the pranks they used to do, that’s pranks. Nooses hanging there — nooses ain’t no prank.Robert Bailey, student

So the school finds out who hung the nooses, and suspends three white students for three days. A group of black students stage a protest, in which they all go and sit under the tree. Prompting the local DA to make a visit to the school:

The kids didn’t say anything. They were listening. The kids were quiet. And so, District Attorney Reed Walters, you know, proceeded to tell those kids that “I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” And the kids were just — it was like in awe that the district — you know, Reed Walters would tell these kids that. He held a pen in his hand and told those kids that, “See this pen in my hand? I can end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” — Michelle Rogers, mother

Believe it or not, things escalate from there. A black kid gets beaten up at a party. A white kid pulls a sawed-off shotgun on a group of black boys, presumably in self defense. The black boys take the gun and report the incident to the police, after which they are charged with the theft of the gun.  In November, somebody (justifiably, at this point) tries to burn down the school.  Four days later, there’s a fight.  A white kid is sent to the hospital.  Here’s what happened next, according to Democracy Now:

The victim was taken to hospital and released shortly with a concussion. He attended a school function that evening. Six black students were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, on charges that leave them facing between twenty and one hundred years in jail. The defendants, ranging in age from fifteen to seventeen, had their bonds set at between $70,000 and $138,000. The attack was written up in the local paper as fact, and DA Reed Walters published a statement in which he said, “When you are convicted, I will seek the maximum penalty allowed by law.”

One of these kids has already been convicted and faces 22 years in prison.  His court appointed lawyer called no witnesses in his behalf.  The judge placed this kid’s parents on the witness list, then issued a gag order barring witnesses from entering the courtroom or speaking out on the case.   The parents were never called to testify.

We don’t have a race problem. It’s not black against white. It’s crime. The nooses? I don’t even know why they were there, what they were supposed to mean. There’s pranks all the time, of one type or another, going on. And it just didn’t seem to be racist to me. — Barbara Murphy, Town librarian.

There you go.



Variations on a theme…

July 10, 2007

I’m not going to yell and stomp my feet and proverbially froth at the mouth over the fact that another defender of the sanctity of marriage has been exposed as caring little or nothing for the sanctity of marriage.

The fact that a United States Senator hired a hooker is not surprising to me, and to tell the truth, as character flaws go, I’d say it’s a relatively minor one.

My point, as I’ve tried to make it before, is that the politicians and preachers who make the most noise against gay marriage are almost always protesting hypocritically, and, like Senator Vitter, are motivated not by a concern for the institution of marriage, but by the prospect of garnering easy votes from the sheep who have been taken in by this argument in recent elections.

So don’t be a sheep.