Saturday, November 22, 2008

8-Year-Old's Charges to be Dropped

CNN reports today that the prosecutor in the case of the Arizona boy accused of killing his father and another man has recommended that one of the murder charges be dropped. In discussing this case before here and here, we seemed to be facing a number of mysterious elements that remained obscure. Unfortunately, although this sounds like good news, mysteries in this perplexing case continue.

Apache County Attorney Criss Candelaria filed a one-paragraph motion in juvenile court to drop the murder charge accusing the boy of killing his father.

The motion gave no reason for the request, saying only that "the state believes the interest of justice will be served by such a dismissal."

On the Preaching to the Choir blog, Sarah says that a radical change has taken place in the way the prosecution is viewing the homicides. Yet, questions remain as to why both charges are not being dropped.

What I do know is we are getting a good lesson in why we all should not rush to judgment within hours of an investigation beginning.

Amen to that, Sarah.

What do you think happened? Why would they drop only the one charge and not the other? What ever happened to the boy's mother and step-mother? Have they been mentioned again?

About the cops questioning the boy without a lawyer or parent present, could that be partly justified by the video taping? By filming the proceedings were they demonstrating proper intentions? And where's that cop who spoke on the video last week saying the boy planned and executed a double homicide? I think he said it was pre-meditated and planned.

Did we ever agree on what age a person can be held responsible for their actions? We've executed a number of young men who committed their crimes as teenagers. Where do we draw the line? What's your opinion?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gun Control Laws Under the New Regime

The Brady Blog published an article the other day that really caught my attention.

Even before the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Second Amendment in late June, we predicted that most law-abiding citizens would realize that the Court wouldn't let their guns be "taken away," regardless of who was victorious on Election Day. At the same time, we thought that voters now would be more likely cast their ballots for candidates willing to do something to reduce the 100,000 deaths and injuries from guns which occur every year in America, and make it harder for dangerous people to get guns.

The article goes on to describe the terrific trouncing the NRA supported candidates took. The winners of those races are described as "moderate candidates who favor common sense gun laws."

My question is, exactly what would those gun laws be and how would they "make it harder for dangerous people to get guns?" Also, I couldn't help but notice that 100,000 figure. Reading the comments on this blog, you might think the number would be much lower. The way some people talk you'd think the number would be negligible.

And what about that slippery slope? Do increases in gun laws, even "common sense" ones, mean that eventually guns will be "taken away" from people? The Brady Blog says the voters thought not. What do you think?

John McCain vs. Jackson Browne

The Huffington Post reports that John McCain is now claiming Jackson Browne used him by bringing a lawsuit last summer in order to increase sales for his latest release.

John McCain is returning Jackson Browne's August lawsuit complaining about McCain using his song "Running on Empty" during his campaign by claiming Browne is just trying drum up publicity for his own album, reports TMZ.

At the time of Browne's lawsuit, it was revealed that it wasn't the McCain campaign per se, but rather the Ohio Republican Party that wrongly appropriated the song for a TV spot.

The music icon also claims that in doing so, the false perception is created that he is endorsing McCain's candidacy.

It seems to me awfully shabby to disclaim responsibility for this because it was done on the local level, but even pettier to now claim that Jackson Browne did the whole thing for purposes of lucre.

What do you think? Wouldn't it be reasonable to disapprove of your music being used in an ad campaign that you don't support? Isn't it great that we don't have a man like John McCain as the next president?

And, how about that Jackson Browne? That's one talented guy, huh?

Military Death Sentence to be Carried Out

CNN reports on the upcoming military execution, the first to take place since 1961. We discussed this before.

A U.S. soldier convicted of rape and murder two decades ago will be executed December 10 in the nation's first military execution since 1961, the Army said Thursday.

Pvt. Ronald Gray has been on the military's death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, since 1988. A court-martial panel sitting at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, unanimously convicted him of committing two murders and other crimes in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, area, and sentenced him to death.

Gray pleaded guilty in civilian court to the crimes and was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences. In his military court martial he was sentenced to death.

It brings up the question that often arises, is sentencing a man to slow death in prison even worse than a quick death by injection? Could that be used as a defense of capital punishment?

Of course my answer is no. Even if spending fifty years in prison is crueler than the death sentence, it may be our only option. If the man cannot be trusted in society, what else can we do? He was a young soldier when he committed the crimes. There may have been mitigating circumstances such as childhood abuse. There may be reason to conclude that anyone who does such acts is not of sound mind, a theory which I subscribe to. But regardless, the image of strapping Pvt. Ronald Gray to a gurney and pushing a needle into his vein with the intention of extinguishing his life, is so barbaric that I want nothing to do with it. In my opinion it puts the proponents of such barbarism on the same level as the rapists and murderers they are so quick to kill.

What's your opinion?

The last U.S. military execution was in 1961, when Army Pvt. John Bennett was hanged for raping and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl. Bennett was sentenced in 1955.

The U.S. military hasn't actively pursued an execution for a military prisoner since President John F. Kennedy commuted a death sentence in 1962. Nine men are on military death row.

How about that? The last military execution was for rape and attempted murder. I know the capital punishment believers would say that Pvt. Bennett has not hurt any more 11-year olds. This is supposed to be one of the reasons for exterminating these sick men. I say there are other ways of protecting society. What do you think?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

N.J. Man Sentenced to Life for Murder

The Star-Ledger reports on the life sentence meted out to a New Jersey man who killed his girlfriend more than ten years ago.

George Jenewicz has been behind bars since he was arrested days after the Oct. 22, 1998, killing of Eunice "Nadine" Gillens-Joseph in the house they shared. Convicted of murder, he won a second trial and was found guilty again in September.

The sentencing judge called this one of the most gruesome crimes he'd ever heard of because, after Jenewicz shot his wife he dismembered her body and boiled her head in a pot, planning on using the skull for Halloween.

"I've been a judge for many, many years and I suspect this is one of the most gruesome and horrible crimes I've ever seen," DeVesa said. The judge said he expected any effort by Jenewicz to win parole would be rejected so "you spend the rest of your life in prison.

I noticed that Mr. Jenewicz was a "research biologist and an avid hunter." I don't think that could have anything to do with it. He was from Jersey. No, that probably didn't enter into it either. His girlfriend had an "expensive cocaine habit," which means he probably did too and there were guns all over the place. Now, those things must have had something to do with it.

What's your opinion? Should cocaine addicts be allowed to have guns? Oh, that's right, they're not allowed to have them. But is there nothing that can be done? I know the gun enthusiasts who comment here have made it very clear that they are not to blame for this kind of thing. Fine, but who is then?

What about the fact that he was a "research biologist and an avid hunter?" That sounds like he was, at least at some point in the past, a fairly responsible person. Is he one of the ones I keep talking about who went from being a good guy with guns to being a bad guy with guns? Are they really in such a small minority that we can write them off? (If you've already answered that, please don't feel you have to repeat yourself.)

By the way, when I came across this article, I was scouring the internet for positive gun stories. I was honestly trying to do what I've been asked to do. But this story was too good to pass up. And besides, I do post positive gun stories when I see them, like this one.

Other questions come to mind, like, did he merit the death penalty? Is New Jersey getting soft on the sentencing?

What do you think?

Israel's Mob Wars

CNN reports on a fascinating situation in Israel. It seems that while the Israeli police and indeed the world have been focusing on Palestinian terrorism, mafia-like business has been thriving. Head of a powerful underworld family, Yaakov Alperon was killed instantly in a bomb blast, which in spite of the official family statement that those responsible will have to answer to God, will probably be followed by additional violence.

What do you think? Is it surprising that in Tel Aviv there are a number of organized crime families? How does this fit with what Bob S. has pointed out to us a number of times, that armed teachers in Israeli schools are responsible for the fact that they don't have school shootings? I had pictured Israel as an organized and apart from the Palestinian threat, fairly peaceful place, but this mob hit on Alperon makes me wonder. What's your opinion?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

8-Year-Old Gives Video Account of Shooting

CNN reports on the release of a video-taped interview with the 8-year-old shooter we talked about the other day. As a follow-up to the initial story which came out at the time of the shooting, this one does allow for some speculation as to exactly what happened.

He said he was about two houses down from his home when he saw a white car "driving pretty fast" in front of his house. Then, he said, he saw Romans lying on the ground. The boy said he ran over to Romans, then ran inside the house calling for his father.

"I said, 'Dad, Dad,' " the boy said. "And then I went upstairs, and then I saw him, and there was blood all over his face, and I think I touched it ... and I didn't hear anything, and I just saw blood and I cried for about 30 minutes, just crying right next to him." Video Watch police interrogate the boy »

On there's a clear interpretation of these facts: the boy just didn't do it.

An Phoenix boy is shown on video telling authorities how he "discovered" the men lying in his home the day of the killings.

Well, I certainly hope Mom is right about that. It would mean a lot to me to know that this 8-year-old didn't do any such thing. In that case we can talk about those arresting officers and some of the comments they reportedly made.

What do you think? Is it possible for a little kid to have done this? In today's report we learn that it was a .22 handgun not a rifle like we'd heard initially, making it even more unlikely that he did it. At least that's my take on it. What do you think? Are the cops so anxious to explain away these crimes that they'd wrongly blame a kid?

Leaving Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Sun reports on a bizarre crime spree that miraculously resulted in only one death, the suicide of the perpetrator. The man was identified Tuesday afternoon as Jeffrey J. Hull, 42, of Las Vegas.

According to Metro Police, the acts committed by Hull, who drove a black Volkswagen Beetle, included attempted kidnapping, attempted robbery and discharging a firearm in public.

What began on Applecrest Street near Jones Boulevard and Rancho Drive — where the man is suspected of groping a woman — ended 17 miles south on Grand Canyon Avenue, where he crashed his car and shot himself as police approached the vehicle.

In between, police say the man tried to kidnap a 3-year-old girl — firing shots at her as she escaped with her mother — and also fired shots at a boy on a bicycle.

According to the police, this unusual crime spree was fuelled by alcohol and pills. I guess the death toll could easily have been much worse.

Metro said Hull was carrying two guns in his vehicle — one handgun and one rifle.

I know I've been presented with many convincing arguments about the benefits of gun ownership. But, what I keep wondering is what is the connection between that attitude and guys like poor Mr. Hull? Is there none? Is he a renegade criminal who wants to own guns and the others are law abiding citizens who want to own guns? Is that it, one has nothing to do with the other?

Why do these news stories, which, by the way, are much more frequent than the ones in which a good guy saves the day by being armed and intervening, why do these stories almost never mention the provenance of the weapons? It would be interesting to know if up until the incident in question, the guns were legally owned. Some of these guys, I suppose, were on the good team and something went wrong. Others, perhaps the majority, were criminals all along and procured the weapons illegally. I'm just guessing and theorizing because I don't think there are facts and statistics about all these questions. What do you think? What's your opinion?

I leave you with Nicholas. Do you think he's a great actor, by the way? Or is he just being himself?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sopranos' Actor Goes on Trial

CNN reports on the trial of Lillo Brancato Jr., who played a wannabe gangster in the hit HBO series the Sopranos. Lillo played Matt Bevilaque in five or six episodes but years before that he starred with Robert De Niro in A Bronx Tale.

Brancato's real-life troubles began not long after he befriended Steven Armento, a reputed low-level Genovese crime family associate banished for drug addiction, prosecutors say. Then his life went into a tailspin with a pair of drug-related arrests and the death of Enchautegui.

Brancato drove himself and Armento to the home of Enchautegui's next-door neighbor and the pair broke in to steal prescription drugs, prosecutors said. When they were confronted by Enchautegui, who was off duty, Armento shot the officer. Brancato and Armento were both wounded.

In statements to the press, the defense attorney has indicated he plans to show that his client didn't have a gun, didn't know anyone else did, and is only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My thoughts are the he was guilty of a bit more than that, but certainly not murder. What's your opinion? And what's your opinion of his acting? I love these characters, but I often wonder if they can demonstrate the versatility of a Robert De Niro or a Dustin Hoffman. Sometimes I think they're just being themselves.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Teen-age Female Shooter Arrested on First Degree Murder

The Miami Herald reports on the tragic high-school shooting that took the life of one student and put the other behind bars.

15-year-old Amanda Collette was gunned down by a classmate in a school hallway Wednesday.

Teah Wimberly, 15, who is accused of killing Collette, sat Sunday in the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center. She is charged with first-degree murder.

Friends of the girls say Wimberly and Collette exchanged a series of emotional text messages Tuesday in which Wimberly said she loved Collette, but Collette rejected the advances.

Where does a 15-year-old with a grudge get a gun? Where does a 15-year-old with a grudge get the idea that shooting is the answer? This is exactly where I stand against the idea of arming the good guys in order to combat violent offenders. The pervasive message that shooting is the answer would only be perpetuated by arming teachers and arming law-abiding citizens. This mistaken philosophy is already too prevalent in our society. We need to teach negotiating skills, the art of compromise, love and peace, if you can stand that cliché.

Why is the female shooter so rare? Is it a question of testosterone and estrogen? Is it a learned behavior, boys learn it girls usually don't? What do you think about that?

Is a female offender more likely to receive leniency? Those who rely on statistics should say yes. Being female she's much less likely to repeat. And isn't that the whole point, to protect society? On the other hand, perhaps she should be tried as an adult, held accountable for her actions and sentenced to death? What do you think?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Hampshire Man Convicted of Capital Murder

This report comes to us from our frequent contributor, Weer'd Beard. Indeed it has many of the elements I like to write about, not the least of which is the way so-called cop killers are dealt with.

A New Hampshire jury has convicted a man of murdering a police officer in a case that could result in the state's first execution in nearly 70 years.

Michael Addison, 28, showed no emotion as he was convicted Thursday of capital murder in the 2006 death of 35-year-old Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs, whose wife and two young sons were in the courtroom. The verdict came after 12 1/2 hours of deliberations spread over three days.

Even in peace-loving New Hampshire, the message is clear. Don't go around shooting cops. But in all fairness, could it be right and good to treat criminals more harshly who attack the sworn upholders of law and order? Maybe this isn't to say that cops are worth more than ordinary people or that the State is somehow disparaging the regular citizens by doing this. What do you think?

Another interesting element of this case is the attitude of the survivors and colleagues of the victim. I'm always fascinated by what appears to be a desire for revenge.

Many police officers who were present burst into tears or let out a sigh of relief when they heard the verdict. Briggs' wife, Laura Briggs, smiled after the jurors left and hugged the prosecutors.

I don't know what the proper behaviour would be in this situation, thank goodness, since I've never had to be there. But this reaction always strikes me as inappropriate. I could see a grim nodding of approval on the part of the fellow officers. I could see something tearful and similar on the part of the widow, but this rejoicing and, I suppose desperately hoping for the death penalty strikes me as an awful viscious cycle that brings nothing but more misery on all. What's your opinion?