Saturday, June 6, 2009

Arsonist Raymond Lee Oyler Sentenced to Death

The Los Angeles Times reports on the sentencing of Raymond Lee Oyler, the Esperanza Arsonist.

Raymond Lee Oyler, the Beaumont mechanic convicted of setting the 2006 Esperanza fire that killed five firefighters, was sentenced to death Friday by a judge who said the serial arsonist had set out to "create havoc."

"He became more and more proficient," said Riverside County Superior Court Judge W. Charles Morgan. "He knew young men and women would put their lives on the line to protect people and property, yet he continued anyway."

What kind of fluky laws so they have in California these days. How could this result in the death penalty? I realize everybody is very angry at this guy, but I thought we were moving away from capital punishment, especially for the revenge motive.

Josh McClean , brother of one of the victims had this to say to the judge.

"He stole something from us that he cannot repay," he told the judge in the silent courtroom. "I hope, sir, that you sentence him to die for what he did to my brother because that is justice. There is nothing fair you can do to make this right, but you can give us a little closure."

Is Josh right? Is this justice? What's your opinion?

My opinion is that everyone involved in this case has lost their minds. The very understandable grief and the frightening prospect of what Oyler did has made everybody a little crazy.

Oyler was convicted March 6 of five counts of first-degree murder, 20 counts of arson and 17 counts of using an incendiary device. A jury called for the death penalty.

Prosecutors say he set a string of fires, as many as 25, throughout the San Gorgonio Pass in summer 2006. The fires, sometimes set day after day, steadily grew larger and more difficult to put out.

At about 1 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2006, with Santa Ana winds gusting hard, Oyler used a combination of matches and cigarettes to start a fire in Cabazon at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Have they never heard of pyromania? Do they not acknowledge that a person operating under a sick compulsion, whether that is to shoot heroin or set fires, is not fully in control of himself? Is the need for "closure" and "justice" so great that they have to execute an obviously mentally ill defendant?

What's your opinion?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thoughts on the Second Amendment - Part III

In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.

Those are the words of Justice McReynolds which were part of the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court, dated May 15, 1939. It is known as United States v. Miller.

Am I missing something or is that as clear as a bell? What it means is if the possession of a gun does not have "some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia," then the Justices "cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument."

Please leave a comment to tell me if you agree with my understanding or not. Feel free to elaborate.

Pastor Ken Pagano - Guns and Church

The Louisville, Kentucky site reports on the local pastor who is "basically trying to think a little bit outside the box." (big thanks to Phuck Politics for the tip)

A Valley Station Road church is sponsoring an "Open Carry Church Service" in late June, encouraging people to wear unloaded guns in their holsters, enter a raffle to win a free handgun, hear patriotic music and listen to talks by operators of gun stores and firing ranges.

Pastor Ken Pagano of New Bethel Church said the first-time event is "basically trying to think a little bit outside the box" to promote "responsible gun ownership and 2nd Amendment rights."

The big day is slated for Saturday, June 27th. Online posters use a red font resembling splattered blood with the words: "Open Carry Church Service."

Pagano denied that the poster was intended to glorify bloodshed and that the lettering was just "a font that somebody developed."You can see the poster on Alan Colmes site.

I'm sure Pastor Pagano is popular among the gun enthusiasts in his area, but not everyone is in agreement.

"Even if I were perfectly comfortable with open-carry handguns or gun rights, it seems to me a completely whole other thing to connect those rights to Jesus Christ," said the Rev. Jerry Cappel, president of the Kentuckiana Interfaith Community, a coalition of local leaders from various religions.

Tying in the event "with one who explicitly called us to put down the sword and pick up the cross and love our enemies and turn the other cheek, it just makes no sense," he said.

The Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper of Lexington, who has lobbied against laws such as one allowing citizens with permits to carry concealed weapons, said the event "would nauseate Jesus."

What's your opinion? What about the question of reconciling the non-violent message of Jesus with guns? Does that create a dilemma for the Christian gun owner?

In the video, Pagano said the guns he expects to see in his service are mainly for "sport" and only as a last resort for "self-defense." Does that sound right to you? I had the opposite impression, why do you think the pastor said that?

Over on One Utah, there were a number of references to this story, including this typically insightful comment by Becky.

That may seem perfectly logical to you, but to me it is a most unbelievable thing to imagine a pastor promoting. What is more antithetical to spirituality than guns? Why would a man of God, in a group that believes we should not kill and we should turn the other cheek, and blessed are the peacemakers think this is a good idea? Is there not one place people can go and expect to be free from the threat and negative emotional impact of seeing guns? I know the answer. But it just seems wrong to me.

If a person is seeking peace, calm, spirituality, I would think the appearance of all that cold steel would be a real deterrent. I know it would be for me.

If there is another life and there is a Jesus looking down on his followers, he must feel terribly sad to know this is what it has all come to.

What's your opinion? Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

R.I.P. David Carradine

If my answers frighten you, Vincent, then you should cease asking scary questions.

You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

From the Toronto Sun's Nosey Parker Blog, this was the most-played song of the 20th Century, with well over 8 million performances recorded by BMI.

Performed by the Righteous Brothers, produced by Phil Spector and co-written by Spector and the husband-wife writing team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ was released in December 1964 and was No. 1 on both the U.S. and British pop charts by February 1965.

It is the only song to enter the Top 10 on the British charts three separate times — in 1965, 1969 and again in 1990.

In the decades since its release, everybody from Elvis Presley and Joan Baez to Telly Savalas and David Hasselhoff have recorded the song.

Nosey Parker offers so much on his blog post. Besides the info on the Righteous Brothers, there's good background on Phil Spector and a wonderful list of song titles written by Mann and Weil.

Thanks to Brodie, a Talk Left User, for the teaser. Talking about Phil, Brodie said this:

And it's most unfortunate, even a bit embarrassing, that one of this country's best musical talents ever -- and the guy partly responsible for creating the song most played on radio in the 20th C -- is now officially a convicted killer.

Oklahoma Pharmacist Gives Up His Guns has the story. (h/t to one of the best pro-gun blogs out there, Say Uncle)

Jerome Jay Ersland, whom we've discussed recently, claims that he gave all his guns to his attorney in lieu of payment.

“I gave every weapon of mine to my attorney. I swear to the Lord,” Jerome Jay Ersland said.

Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure last week allowed Ersland, 57, of Chickasha to be released on $100,000 bail but she banned him from any access to weapons. The hearing today was to see if he had complied with her order.

Ersland told the judge he no longer owns the weapons. Defense attorney Irven Box said he took the weapons and other personal property from Ersland as payment of part of the attorney fees in the case.

Box told the judge he has accepted other unusual payments in the past, including comic books.

That final remark by Attorney Box is a real beauty. I wonder if the defendant who paid with comic books had been accused of killing someone with a comic book. I don't imagine the "unusual" payment in that case had anything to do with the charges. In the case of pharmacist Ersland the guns have everything to do with the charges. The extent and specifications of his personal arsenal have everything to do with determining what kind of character he is. Of course, in most states determining that wouldn't be all that difficult. He's accused of shooting a non threatening wounded teenager five times in the torso.

I wondered if he had been able to make bail, which was set at $100,000, why was he unable to pay his lawyer except by transferring his guns. The advantages are obvious. He now cannot be forced to answer how many and what types they were. He wouldn't be able to surrender them to the court, should that be ordered.

If I had to guess, this is a murderer, aided by his lawyer and the general attitudes in Oklahoma, trying to beat the system.

What's your opinion? Is it normal for a 1st degree murder suspect to be released on just $100,000 bail? Do you think the fact that the dead kid had tried to rob the pharmacy should make a difference?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thoughts on the Second Amendment - Part II

From the ACLU.

Given the reference to "a well regulated Militia" and "the security of a free State," the ACLU has long taken the position that the Second Amendment protects a collective right rather than an individual right. For seven decades, the Supreme Court's 1939 decision in United States v. Miller was widely understood to have endorsed that view.

The Supreme Court has now ruled otherwise. In striking down Washington D.C.'s handgun ban by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in D.C. v. Heller held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms, whether or not associated with a state militia.

The ACLU disagrees with the Supreme Court's conclusion about the nature of the right protected by the Second Amendment. We do not, however, take a position on gun control itself. In our view, neither the possession of guns nor the regulation of guns raises a civil liberties issue.

I find it fascinating that the ACLU cites Miller as support for their view. And, I love it when they describe the Heller decision as "a 5-4 vote." That more accurately describes what happened than what you might read in the comments of this blog.

What's your opinion?

Chicago Upholds Gun Ban

The Chicago Tribune reports on the good news for gun control supporters.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld strict gun control ordinances in Chicago and suburban Oak Park, Ill., setting the stage for a Supreme Court battle over whether the 2nd Amendment and its protection for gun owners extends to state and municipal laws.

In a 3-0 decision, the judges said they were bound by legal precedents that held the 2nd Amendment applied only to federal laws. Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, in January joined a three-judge panel in New York that came to the same conclusion. Last week, activists cited that decision in calling her an "anti-gun radical."

Surprisingly, the three judges who made this ruling were not your typical liberals who oppose gun rights.

Tuesday's decision in the Chicago case was written by Judge Frank H. Easterbrook and joined by Judges Richard A. Posner and William J. Bauer. All three were Republican appointees.

What it means is eventually the Supreme Court will have to decide whether the 2nd Amendment and its protection for gun owners extends to cities and states. But meantime, what about Chicago? Does the gun ban help or hurt the situation there? Because Chicago is one of the most violent cities in the country, should guns be made more easily available? Would that help the lawful citizens protect themselves?

My opinion is no, more guns would only make matters worse. Of course there are situations in which a gun could save the day, but the problem is this. Today, criminals in Chicago, gang members and such, have to arrange for their weapons to be brought in from other states, where the gun laws are lax. If Chicago relaxed its gun restrictions, those same criminals would have easier, faster and more economical access to the weapons they need. Violence would increase, far outweighing the benefits of arming the lawful.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thoughts on the Second Amendment - Part I

From the American Bar Association:

On June 26, 2008 the United States Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision upholding an individual’s right to own and use firearms for lawful purposes, such as for self defense in the home. The decision in District of Columbia v. Heller 554 U.S. ___ (2008) is the first ruling on the 2nd amendment in nearly 70 years, and the first ruling by the Supreme Court to uphold a citizen’s individual right to keep and bear arms. While the decision ruled that the ban of handguns in Washington, D.C. is unconstitutional, it stresses that certain regulations are legitimate. In addition to limiting the type of firearms that can be owned, the decision also upholds prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and laws imposing conditions on the commercial sale of firearms.

I repeat, the District of Columbia v. Heller was "the first ruling by the Supreme Court to uphold a citizen’s individual right to keep and bear arms."

What do you think that means? Do you think it means this was the first time the Supreme Court upheld a citizen's individual right to keep and bear arms? I think that's what it means. And I think that's a direct contradiction to what some of our pro-gun commenters have been telling me. What do you think?

Cop Killer Rosenberg Dies in Prison

The Daily News reports on the death of the famous cop killer Jerry Rosenberg.

Rosenberg and a pal killed Detective Luke Fallon, and Detective John Finnegan, in a botched robbery at the Boro Park Tobacco Co. in Brooklyn on May 18, 1962.

It was the first double-slaying of city police officers in more than 30 years. Nearly 1,000 officers hunted for the killers.

The News article centers around Joan Scheibner, the daughter of Luke Fallon, one of the slain officers. She was 28 at the time her father was killed. Sadly, the intervening 47 years were not sufficient to soften her heart.

"He was the scum of the Earth," Scheibner, 75, said of Rosenberg, who died Monday, at 72. He was the longest-serving inmate in the state prison system.

"He killed my father, and another officer, and didn't reform no matter what anyone might say. At least now he will never get out," Scheibner said from her Pennsylvania home.

Scheibner also said that her mother and the wife of officer Finnegan never got over the trauma.

What's your opinion? Is that the normal reaction to something like this? I have no personal experience with this kind of thing, thank goodness. But it seems a shame to me to spend one's entire lifetime immersed in such hatred. Are people like these the exceptions to the rule?

What do you think about his being denied parole every two years since the 80s? Is that because he'd killed cops? If that's the reason, I don't agree with it. How about you?

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Crime Up in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune reports on the bloody weekend which transpired in the Windy City.

7 killed in 6 Chicago shootings

Spate of weekend gun slayings reported across city

The article chronicles the grisly details of the terrible violence that is itself becoming synonymous with Chicago. My pro-gun friends claim this proves gun-control laws do not work, since Chicago has very strict laws. I've always countered that argument with the idea that if Chicago were an inaccessible island, it might hold true, but with Indiana only a short drive away and even states like Virginia and Georgia within reach, claims to the ineffectiveness of gun laws make no sense.

The same folks often refute the famous anti-gun claim that more guns means more gun violence. To that I suggest a little thought experiment. Let's imagine Chicago with extremely lax gun laws, you know the kind where almost anybody can walk into a gun shop and buy a gun. Over the next year or so the sales of firearms would skyrocket in that city, making gun availability far more prevalent than it is today.

Do you think there would be less gun violence or more? To me that's practically a rhetorical question, the answer seems so obvious. I can't imagine how anyone would fail to see the right answer.

What's your opinion? Is the problem with Chicago that there aren't enough guns there? Along with addressing the other factors, social and cultural and economic, do you think something needs to be done about the gun availability in Chicago specifically and in the country generally?

Please tell us what you think.

Crime Down in 2008

CNN reports on the good news from the FBI: violent crime was down in 2008.

Violent crime in the United States declined in 2008, due in part to a significant drop in the number of murders, according to the first available FBI figures covering the entire year.

The preliminary figures for 2008, released Monday, show that overall reported crime dropped 2.5 percent nationally from the previous year, including a 4.4 percent decline in murders.

Overall, the number of aggravated assaults declined 3.2 percent, forcible rape decreased 2.2 percent, and robbery decreased 1.1 percent.

The article explains that over the last two decades there has been a general decline in violent crime with the exception of 2005. With these latest figures the FBI is happy to report that the downward trend has resumed.

What could account for the spike in crime during 2005? How do you explain the general trend regardless of the presumed increase in firearm availability?

What's your opinion? Because these figures come from the FBI, are they trustworthy? Is it very cynical of me to even question numbers like these, from this impeccable source?

It reminds me of that time Marlo was hiding all those bodies in the vacant buildings in Baltimore or Prez learned that it's the same wherever you go.

"Juking the stats.
Makin' robberies into larcenies.
Makin' rapes disappear.
You juke the stats and majors become colonels."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cold Metal

"I'm a product of America."

Dr. George Tiller, Abortion Doctor Killed

CNN reports on the abortion murder.

Dr. George Tiller, whose Kansas women's clinic frequently took center stage in the U.S. debate over abortion, was shot and killed while serving as an usher at his Wichita church Sunday morning, police said.

Wichita police said a 51-year-old man from the Kansas City, Kansas, area was in custody in connection with the slaying of Tiller, who was one of the few U.S. physicians who still performed late-term abortions.

The killing, which came about 16 years after Tiller survived a shooting outside his Wichita clinic, took place shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday at Reformation Lutheran Church. Officers found the 67-year-old dead in the foyer, police said.

I found it fascinating that he was killed in church. Perhaps this is where two of our favorite discussions merge, abortion rights and the right to carry guns in church. I wonder if guns were allowed in this particular church in Wichita. Do you think that would have mattered, one way or the other?

Why do you think some pro-life activists do this? Do you think there is a grassroots support of this kind of thing? Remember when Eric Rudolph was in hiding, supposedly getting assistance from the support base?

If Tiller was killed because of his work, he would be the fourth U.S. physician killed over abortion since 1993.

In 1998, a sniper killed Dr. Barnett Slepian in his Amherst, New York, home. Anti-abortion activist James Kopp was later arrested in France and is serving life in prison.

In 1994, Dr. John Bayard Britton and one of his volunteer escorts were shot and killed outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Paul Hill, a former minister, was convicted of the killings and executed in 2003.

And in 1993, another doctor, David Gunn, was shot to death outside another Pensacola clinic. His killer, Michael Griffin, is serving a life sentence.

My favorite one is the 1994 murder of Dr. Britton in Pensacola Florida. There, deep in the Bible belt, Dr. Britton was performing abortions which some considered murder. Paul Hill, the former minister, murdered Dr. Britton for that. And the State of Florida, what did they do? They murdered Paul Hill.

Has there ever been a better example of the absurdity of using violence as the answer, including state sanctioned violence in the form of capital punishment?

What's your opinion?

Chad Cottrell Sentenced to Life has the story.

A man who killed his wife and her two daughters in 2005 was sentenced Friday to life without parole on each count.

Chad Cottrell pleaded guilty in March to three counts of murder in the October 2005 slayings of Trisha Cottrell, 29, Brittany Williams, 12, and Victoria Williams, 10.

According to the local reports, he's supposed to have molested both step-daughters prior to killing them. One report said he killed his wife with a baseball bat and then molested and shot the girls. At a certain point he was quoted as having said about his wife, "She got what she deserved."

What could make a man that angry? What separates a man like this from other men? I would imagine he's not all that different from the guy who slaps his wife every once in a while, when she asks for it, of course. Those wives usually learn how to survive. Maybe Mrs. Cottrell didn't have those skills.

And let's not fail to mention that he owned a gun. Up until the time of the triple rape-murder when he annihilated his entire family of its female members, he must have been exercising his god-given right to own firearms. Besides being a basic human right, it's in the Constitution, isn't that what I keep hearing?

And, what do you think of the sentencing? There was plenty of talk about the death penalty; some reports even had the killer asking for it.

The victims' family wept openly during the proceedings. Hamilton Superior Court Judge William J. Hughes called Cottrell, who had repeatedly asked to be given the death penalty and had admitted molesting both children, the "worst of the worst."

"Because he himself so thoroughly sees death as the preferred sentence, life imprisonment without parole is, beyond any reasonable doubt, the most appropriate sentence for the worst of the worst defendants," Hughes said.

Since when do judges use this reasoning for deciding the appropriate sentence? It sounds bizarre to me that a Superior Court Judge could say something like this. I can understand the one we discussed the other day where the question was whether the dependent continues to pose a threat even behind bars. Although I oppose capital punishment in any case, at least that reasoning makes sense. But the idea of not giving him the death penalty because that's what he prefers, I don't know. What's your opinion?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Arellano Case

ABC local news in Chicago reports on the arrest of a second gang member accused of the vicious killing of Alex Arellano, whom we discussed at the time of his killing.

Another teenager has been charged in the brutal death of Alex Arellano, 15, whose burned body was found earlier this month.

Arellano was beaten, shot and set on fire on the city's Southwest Side on May 1, 2009. His burned body was found in a gangway. He was not in a gang.

Two people have now been charged in the case. One of them appeared in court on Thursday.

Jovanny Martinez, 15, -- who was arrested on a weapons charge the same night Arellano was murdered-- was denied bail at a court hearing on Thursday. He is accused of shooting Arellano in the head and police say a ballistics test shows Martinez's gun was used in the murder.

The second young man arrested is Edgar Silva, 18, who a faces first-degree murder charges in the case.

The ABC video describes the chilling details of the murder and the senseless violence that is daily fare in the world of urban gangs. It's a sad and complicated business that seems to have no easy answer. The only thing I can think of is less guns and less violence, and that includes the so-called defensive kind. The exploding proliferation of guns in America, legal guns, is directly contributing to this mentality, as well as feeding into the gun flow. The more we increase the one, the more we exacerbate any efforts at curbing this type of behaviour.

What's your opinion? Do you feel that gang violence in Chicago has nothing to do with the rest of us? Is it like that famous line from The Godfather, "They're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls?"

Should these bad boys be tried as adults? Does it sometimes seem like we need a third category, as if the sentencing guidelines for juveniles are too light and those for adults are too heavy?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Little Sisters

Elvis said:

"Little sister don't you do what your big sister done."

Jimi said:

"Cause if my baby don't love me no more
I know here sister will!

Robert Fratta Sentenced to Death - Again

The Houston News reports on the conclusion of the penalty phase of the trial of Robert Fratta.

A jury returned a verdict of death Saturday in the Robert Fratta penalty phase.

Robert Fratta, 52, was convicted of capital murder on May 15. He hired two men from his gym, Howard Guidry and Joseph Prystash, to kill his wife, Farah Fratta, in her garage on Nov. 9, 1994.

He spent a dozen years on death row after being convicted in his first trial.

The jury had to determine if he should go back to death row or if he should spend the rest of his life in prison.

Thanks to an anonymous comment left on my post entitled Robert Fratta Guilty Again, I was alerted to this story. I appreciate that commenter's input, not only because he or she seems to be close to the action and in the know, but because otherwise this story could easily have gone unnoticed. As far as I know, it only made the local news, which to me indicates this is just business as usual down in Texas.

In the first trial, Fratta was convicted and sentenced to death largely due to the confession of one of the hired assassins, who testified in that trial.

Guidry confessed to his role and his confession was a key piece of evidence in Robert Fratta's first trial, but that conviction was thrown out after an appeals court ruled last year that Guidry's claim should not have been admitted.

Guidry and Prystash are on death row. They both refused to testify in Fratta's retrial.

In the new trial, neither Guidry nor Prystash testified, yet the end result was the same. Although the jurors naturally claim to be unbiased, I wonder if they didn't suffer from the same pre-conceived opinion as our commenter: "Everyone who ever knew this scumbag knows he did it."

What's your opinion? Do you think guys like Fratta are a continuing threat to society even behind bars? Do you think if that's true, it's justified to kill them? Doesn't it bother you that by doing that we're treating human beings like animals which are expendable at our convenience?

There's an idea, do you think there are any vegetarian proponents of capital punishment? That must be a rare breed, huh?

Please feel free to leave a comment.