Monday, October 13, 2008

California Inmate Found Dead in Cell

The Los Angeles Times reports on the apparent suicide of a convicted murderer who was on death row in San Quentin.

Suicide is suspected in the death of Edward Dean Bridges, 55, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Bridges had been on San Quentin State Prison's death row since 1992 for the robbery and murder of William Seiler, an attorney who was kidnapped in Tustin and forced to drive to a remote area in Riverside County.

Whenever I read one of these fairly frequent reports, I wonder if it really was suicide. Prison can be a dangerous place. I'm sure there have been cases where the guards took matters into their own hands, either directly or by turning a blind eye.

As if to add fuel to my fire, the article continues:

In the 30 years since California reinstated capital punishment, 15 condemned inmates have committed suicide, exceeding the 14 who have been executed. Another 41 died from natural causes.

The plight of convicted inmates is certainly a bleak one. If there were no shenanigans taking place and all those suicides were just that, suicide, that's pretty bleak. If what I suspect happened in some cases, it's even worse. And the 41 who died from natural causes probably include some who received inadequate care or none at all.

I realize that each of these people caused damage in the lives of others. I don't for a second discount the plight of the victims of their crimes. But I think it's appalling what prisoners in America have to endure. I say they have not ceased to be human beings by committing crimes however despicable they might have been. As human beings they deserve better.

What do you think?


  1. Mike,

    Why is it that you will believe the best of the convicted criminals but believe the worst in the government and guards in these cases?

    Without any evidence, you've thrown an entire prison system under the bus. Frankly, I can believe that the number of death row prisoners committing suicide is not out of line.

    What really struck me was the low number of executions, 15 in 30 years. Heck, Texas has executed 9 this year, 26 last year. What is comedian Ron White's line, "Texas is putting in an express lane".

    How do you rationalize the apparent distrust in the government and your support of gun control?
    If the government is really an agency out of control, pulling such stunts shouldn't you want to see your fellow citizens with the capability of fighting back, of protecting themselves?
    Remember, court case after court case has found the government does not have a responsibility to protect an individual; not out of prison and according to you not in prison; doesn't it make sense to let people be armred?

  2. Being in prison isn't intended to be pleasant. It's a rough world full of angry and mean people. If you wish to avoid that world, don't get sentenced to one or work in one. Guards may be callous and look the other way but you'd about have to be to deal with that mass of "humans" on a daily basis or you couldn't mentally handle it.

    Back to the Talmudic tradition of death penalty with a fair trial being just but imprisonment is injustice because it allows a person to live without truly letting them "live" in a painful limbo.

  3. Bob, I don't call it thinking "the best" of someone when I say they deserve respect and fair treatment, that they don't stop being human, that's one of us, when they commit inhuman acts. I don't call that the best. I call that the very least.

    But, yes I lean towards the less fortunate ones. I've learned that people like cops and prison guards tend to abuse their power. Do you not agree with that?

  4. Mike,

    Do cops and guard abuse their powers, yes. Does it happen every time a prisoner dies or commits suicide, no.

    When I said that you think the best of the convicted criminals, I meant you often seem to give them the benefit of the doubt as to why they committed the crime. Troubled childhood, victim of abuse, mentally ill, etc. You also seem just as quick to judge those in power or government guilty of miscarriage of justice. The jury pool for O.J.'s last trial, the guards in prison; all accused of misdeeds with no evidence.

    If law enforcement and prison guards can commit cold blooded murder and conspiracy, are they mentally ill, victims of abuse? Or are they just bullies in uniform, or somewhere in between?

    As far as abusing power, think not only the cops, but the criminals. The power of fear, physical intimidation, the power of numbers are abused by thugs multiples of times more often then law enforcement, right?

    So, an answer to both abuses should be an armed and capable citizenry. An armed citizenry is a check on the abuse of power by both parties.

    David Codrea's website "The War on Guns", highlights many of the abuses of those in power. Clayton Cramer Civilian Self defense blog highlights were firearms were used to prevent the abuse by criminals.

    Read those and then tell me if owning and carrying firearms isn't a sensible precaution.

  5. +1, you tend to see the best in convicted criminals with a tangable record of misdeeds....yet you seem to see the worst in Gun owners, even if they have a clean record and have done nothing but good.

    Why is that?

    I agree everybody deserves dignity and respect, from a prisoner one second before the executioner ends their life, to an unborn child months away from their first breath, and everything in between.

    Still to take it to the extream and judge the innocent masses by the bad actions of the few....or the guilty masses from the handfull of mistakes that happen because ALL systems are flawed seems a bit wrong-headed.

  6. Mike,

    Another example of the abuses of power by the this case that combined with gun control may have cost a young lady her life

    DELAND, Fla. -- A Central Florida woman whose 17-year-old daughter was killed in a murder-suicide apparently committed by her ex-boyfriend said the teen was told by police to stop calling for help or she'd be arrested.

    Police said Clay Coffner shot his estranged girlfriend, Natasha Hall, in the head outside her DeLand home Friday before turning the gun on himself.

    Hall's mother, Sherry, said her daughter was concerned about Coffner and informed police.

    In fact, Hall said her daughter called police so much that on Jan. 15 they threatened her.

    "The police officer said if you call us one more time on him, I'm going to arrest you both," Sherry Hall said. "So, the day she died, she knew she couldn't talk to police. So, she handled it herself."

    Michele Karpowicz said everyone noticed the warning signs before the homicide -- except police.

    "I was going crazy," Hall's best friend said. "He was psycho, jealous and abusive."

    Local 6 is trying to obtain a police call log to determine how many times the teen called police.

    DeLand police officials have not responded to the allegations.

    Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

    Think about this, we let 17 year olds loose with dangerous weapons all the time, knives, cars, propane stoves/grills etc; but in many states 17 year olds aren't allowed access to firearms.

    Could she have defended herself; we will never know but we do know she never had a chance to try. Isn't fair to give people a chance to defend themselves?
    This is why I fight against gun control measures, they make it harder for the good guys withouht doing much to stop the criminals.

  7. Weer'd, I really try to use the same measuring stick on everybody. Of course no one elected me judge, but for the sake of our discussions, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

    Criminals who have had a tortured childhood, get my sympathy. The cop who abuses his power, doesn't. To me that makes perfect sense. What I keep noticing in a lot of what I read is when one of these guys does something awful, all empathy, understanding and mitigation goes out the window. That's not justice. All those things would have to be considered. When a cop crosses the line, let's take the well-known Rodney King case as an example, which is not all that rare I don't think, he, the cop, is obviously under stress, he may have marital problems, maybe he's been abused as a boy himself, but I'm less willing to give him the benefit. He abuses the trust of the people. That's worse in my opinion than your average deranged bad boy.

    About the gun owners, I've been asking tough questions, that's all. I want to know how frequent are these incidents like the road rage last week. Someone said it's an aberration. If that's so, I'm happy. If however there's a good 10% or 20% of you guys out there who are really unfit to carry I call that a problem, a serious one.

    I also ask about your attitude of meeting violence with bigger and badder violence. Where is that leading? You all seem to think if only we arm enough of the good guys, the scales will fall to the good side like Thomas says they have in his area of Texas.

    Like Emperor Joseph said to Mozart, "You are passionate, Mozart; but you do not persuade."

    But please don't misunderstand my questions as seeing "the worst in gun owners." I don't.

  8. If however there's a good 10% or 20% of you guys out there who are really unfit to carry I call that a problem, a serious one.

    that would indeed be a serious problem. considering the number of people who carry, it would also be a problem large enough to leave statistically significant, detectable traces in the police blotters and crime reports. can you find such evidence?

  9. +1 to Nomen. Sorry Mike, you're right in theory, there are unfit people with carry permits, but wrong on the numbers...its more to the tune of 0.2% IIRC (I can dig up a few studies if you're interested in reading them)

    10-20% would be a huge problem, 0.2% really isn't. The best that can be done is punish that 0.2% to the full extent of the law...maybe it'll scare that % down to 0.1%

    "I also ask about your attitude of meeting violence with bigger and badder violence. Where is that leading? You all seem to think if only we arm enough of the good guys, the scales will fall to the good side like Thomas says they have in his area of Texas."

    Wrong again. We're not "meeting violence with bigger and badder violence." we are simply stopping the threat in the most effective ways possible. I can be lethal, it is almost always not very pretty, but when under attack by somebody intent on doing you serious harm a personal firearm is the closest thing you can get to a "Sure thing" in this you a 270lb linebacker from a major sports team, an attractive cheerleader, an average joe, an old granny with emphysema, or a cantankerous Texan recovering from Cancer.

    There are other tools that may be more pretty, or less lethal, but the above statement can't apply to them. You either loose effectiveness (like pepper spray that greatly depends on your attackers pain tolerance, how much spicy food they've eaten, how many times they've been sprayed before, and their general will to do harm) Or loose universality, like Martial arts which are VERY effective at neutralizing threats both non-lethally and lethally, but are only best implemented by people in peak physical shape, and places women at firm disadvantages.

    Nope, no "meeting violence with bigger and badder violence", just stopping a threat, and with threats stopped, there is nothing left but peace.

    Mike, while you say you're judging others by the same stick,don't appear to be doing that, and only asking "tough questions", when you ignore real-world facts and data presented to you to repeat the that same falcehoods over-and-over again, no, you aren't seeing the best in us all, nor are you seeing the worst in us all. Instead it appears you like to see the worst in the best of us, and the best in the worst of us.

    That I simply can't understand, and addressed here:

  10. Mike,

    I think that the difference is we aren't planning on meeting violence with bigger and badder violence that is simply a false perception.

    Weer'd has stated repeatedly that most defensive gun uses don't even involve drawing the firearm. It's the awareness and mindset alone that stops much of the crime. The firearm is the last step in the confrontation.

    Another aspect is that it isn't bigger violence but meeting predatory violence with protectionary violence if needed. As Weer'd mentioned a firearm provides the equalizer between physical differences. It isn't greater violence but violence or the threat of violence that stops a rapist/murderer/assault.

    If a person uses pepper spray to stop a beating is that bigger violence? How about the occasions when the sight of a firearm causes the attacker(s) to run off, was there any violence, bigger violence?

    The last thing any responsible person wants to do is commit violence but we have to be ready to do just that. Would you put up a fight if someone started beating on you?
    If you would, how are you any different from us "gunnies"?