Saturday, November 8, 2008

Another Death Penalty Case

An 8-year-old is being charged with first degree murder. Do you think that finally even the most adamant capital punishment proponents will admit to mitigating circumstances? Where the mental insanity of the criminal doesn't budge, where the abusive childhood doesn't phase, can we expect the age of this defendant to finally soften those hard hearts?

CNN reports on this horrible incident which took place in Arizona.

It's a crime that police officers in a small eastern Arizona community can hardly fathom yet have to deal with: an 8-year-old charged in the fatal shootings of his father and another man.

On Friday, a judge determined there was probable cause to show that the boy fatally shot his father, Vincent Romero, 29, and Timothy Romans, 39, of San Carlos with a .22-caliber rifle. The boy faces two counts of premeditated murder.

FBI statistics show instances of children younger than 11 committing homicides are very rare. According to recent FBI supplementary homicide reports, there were at least three such cases each year in 2003, 2004 and 2005; there were at least 15 in 2002. More recent statistics weren't available, nor were details of the cases.

On The Gun Guys blog, which I'm going to have to visit more often since they seem to share some of my own feelings, there's this comment which I might have written myself.

Unfortunately, the AP story did not give any details about the rifle itself, who owned it, what make and model, and more importantly, how an 8-year-old boy was able to gain access to it.

The availability of guns, once again seems to be an issue here. In spite of the passionate denials on the part of some of our commenters, I continue to be unconvinced. What is their defense, that there are a million gazillion guns out there and the tragic incidents are rare? Is it that guns in the hands of responsible people do more good than the harm done by the irresponsible? Or have I missed something?

The other issue in this story is, of course, the death penalty. I don't imagine that the blood thirstiest of capital punishment lovers would want the death penalty in a case like this. But what about the 12-year-old? Where do we draw the line with age? I admit it's a tough call. And what about the abusive childhood like Skyler had and so many others? Does that count for nothing?

What's your opinion? About gun availability, I honestly don't know. About capital punishment, I'm against it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

ex-FBI Agent Connolly Guilty of Murder

I loved this complicated case when we discussed it before, but in today's report on CNN I learned that the movie The Departed was based upon it. I shouldn't be surprised because that was one complex screenplay.

The story that unfolded over the past two months in a Miami courtroom spanned more than two decades of Boston's underworld, a tale that has already spawned several books and was the basis for the 2006 Martin Scorcese film "The Departed." Matt Damon played a crooked Connolly-like law enforcement officer and Jack Nicholson was the Bulger-esque Irish-American mobster.

John Connolly has already been serving a 10-year sentence for racketeering because of his relationship with Bulger, including a 1995 tip that enabled Bulger to escape arrest and begin a life on the run that continues to this day. Bulger is one of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" fugitives.

Today's conviction is for Second-degree murder because Connolly supplied confidential information to the Boston mob that led to the assassination of World Jai-Alai owner John Callahan in 1982. The trigger man in that incident John Martorano testified against Connolly.

"John Connolly swore an oath to the FBI and the United States of America," said prosecutor Michael Von Zamft. "He gave up that public trust because he decided he would rather be a gangster than an FBI agent."

Martorano cut a deal with prosecutors by agreeing to testify against Connolly, and spent 12 years in prison after admitting to 20 murders, including the killings of Wheeler and Callahan. Martorano is now a free man.

In my opinion, these men are the worst of the worst. Cold blooded killers who do their murders for profit should be considered far worse than the violent deranged men who so often make the headlines.

What do you think? Isn't there something wrong with giving Skyler Deleon and Joseph Edward Duncan III the death penalty and letting Martorano out after 12 years?

Nevertheless, these gangsters sure do make for some good movies.

"When you decide to be something you can be it. That's what they don't tell you in the Church. When I was your age they would say we could become cops or criminals. Today what I'm saying to you is this, when you're facing a loaded gun, what difference does it make?"

Skyler Deleon - Jury Recommends Death

It seems the people of California aren't very conflicted about the death penalty. CNN reports today that the jury in the Yacht Killings Case has decided to recommend the Death Penalty.

Skylar Deleon, 29, sat motionless as the jury announced its decision following nearly two days of deliberation in Orange County Superior Court.

"He was disappointed," Deleon's attorney Gary Pohlson said afterward. "He was very hopeful he wouldn't get the death penalty."

This was the case, you may remember, in which the defense attorney made an unusual attempt to avoid the death penalty by admitting his client did the crime and then by presenting the mitigating circumstances of his abusive childhood.

I suppose it was a good gamble; the evidence was probably overwhelming. But it makes you wonder, is there no mercy for those who show no mercy? Is that the rule? A damaged individual, one whom I'd call mentally ill, shows no mercy, so the State, which purports to be healthy and just, shows no mercy in return. That's a sick vicious cycle. In my opinion, capital punishment should be abolished if we want to call ourselves a healthy and just society.

What's your opinion? Is the new president-elect for or against capital punishment? Was that one of those hot potatoes they avoided during the campaign?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Those Conflicted Californians

CNN reports that the vote in California included several referenda which yielded surprising results. The biggest surprise and disappointment for me was the ban on gay marriage. I always thought California led the nation and the world in progressive thought, but then again it is the state of Reagan and Schwarzenegger.

The Los Angeles County Registrar's Office stopped issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the apparent passage of a ballot measure to eliminate the right of gay couples to marry, the agency said Wednesday.

As of 11:30 p.m. ET, 52 percent of voters had approved California's Proposition 8, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

Talk Left has an informative article about the criminal justice decisions.

In addition to the disappointing outcome of California's Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, the state's voters made mistakes in rejecting Proposition 5, which would have shifted the state's response to drug crimes from incarceration to treatment, and approving Proposition 9, which purports to give new "rights" to crime victims.

It seems clear what Proposition 5 is all about, which leaves me in agreement with the Talk Left analysis. Proposition 9, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. It's also referred to as Marsy's Law. The main argument against it I could find is that it changes nothing. I guess that's what they meant by putting rights in quotation marks.

It all strikes me as odd that the liberal progressive State of California could be so conflicted on these issues. Voting for Obama and against gay marriage seems totally incongruous to me. This is the State that gave us Haight-Ashbury and the Grateful Dead for crying out loud. Just ask Daisy.

What's your opinion? Do you find some of these laws odd? Are the people so divided on gay marriage that it keeps bouncing back and forth?

Michael Crichton 1942 - 2008 R.I.P.

CNN reports today on the death from cancer of Michael Crichton.

Michael Crichton, who helped create the TV show "ER" and wrote the best-sellers "Jurassic Park," "The Andromeda Strain," "Sphere" and "Rising Sun," has died in Los Angeles, his public relations firm said in a news release.

Crichton died unexpectedly Tuesday "after a courageous and private battle against cancer," the release said.

He was 66.

Crichton, a medical doctor, was attracted to cautionary science tales.

Not only was he a medical doctor and author, he also directed a number of films. I will always associate him with the Jurassic Park dinosaurs. I loved the movie and loved the book even more.

In the CNN obituary, I found it interesting that he apparently opposed the theory of Global Warming. Isn't that what everybody made fun of Sarah Palin about?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Love It When I'm Right

I predicted a landslide and tonight I read the headline in CNN "World Cheers Obama Landslide." I'm enjoying watching and listening to the different reactions.

On Weer'd Beard's site I read a wonderful post which should be a lesson to all those who did not vote for Obama. This post was as gracious as McCain's speech last night.

Now that the election is over I can only hope for the best. I knew this day might come so I've been thinking about this post for a little while. So here are Weer'ds Ground Rules for President Obama.

Precedent-Elect Obama has earned his title, and shall wear here, and hopefully everywhere. There will be no-more "Senator Obama" or "Mr. Obama", on January 20th he will officially be President Obama, until then it shall be "President-Elect Obama", and I might just shorten it for brevity.

Right on, Weer'd. Let's hope for the best.

I came across this story about an Obama supporter who got carried away with himself and then carried away by the police.

A Burlington man was so happy at the news that Barack Obama will be the next president that he fired a gun inside his home some 18 times, sending a hail of bullets into neighboring homes, according to the Burlington Police Department.

James G. Dewalt, 34, faces three counts of reckless endangerment in connection with the Tuesday night shooting.

There are lots of interesting angles on this one. I'll leave them to the readers to sort out.

Irish Hitman Case

The Irish Times reported this complicated hitman case which went to trial last June.

The trial of a Clare woman and a Las Vegas poker dealer accused of hiring a conspiring to kill her partner and his two sons has entered its closing stages.

The jury in the trial of Ms Sharon Collins (45), with an address at Ballybeg House, Kildysart Road Ennis and Mr Essam Eid (52), an Egyptian man with a Las Vegas address have heard the prosecution closing speech and that of Ms Collins defence.

This story has just about everything, a hitman from Las Vegas, a disgruntled millionaire's wife who resorts to murder. And just when we thought it couldn't get more interesting, CNN reports what happened at the sentencing.
A wealthy Irish businessman has pleaded with a judge not to jail his partner -- a woman who hired a hitman to kill him and his two sons for his $76 million fortune.

P.J. Howard's impassioned request to Dublin's Central Criminal Court is the latest twist in a case that has grabbed headlines in the Republic of Ireland and sparked comparisons with the plot of a crime novel.

Heedless of the husband's pleading, the judge sentenced Sharon Collins to 6 years. But, wait a minute. Does that sound right to you? Is this some kind of Irish leniency which would be difficult for Americans to understand? Or is this the enlightened approach to crime management that I'm often championing?

Often, my complaint is when a mentally impaired individual receives an extremely harsh sentence. Also, I usually feel white collar criminals should not go to jail at all. But, when someone is cool and calculating enough to hire a hitman, I wonder if it's safe to put that person away for just a few years, just long enough to nurture the resentment and make proper contacts for doing it better upon release. It seems her big mistake was trying to hire that guy from Vegas at a bargain.

The fact that P. J. Howard was pleading for her freedom is too bizarre to even comment on. Was that true love?

What do you think about this fascinating case from Ireland?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Barack Obama by a Landslide

I just wanted to say it once more. I was already saying it in June. Today's the day. I think it's happening right now. The number of whites who just can't bring themselves to vote for Obama will be offset by the number of Republicans who just can't bring themselves to vote for McCain. The rest'll be history by tonight.

Mixing Religion and Politics

On the blog Bad Astronomy, there's an article called When is Human Human? In this wonderful essay about the problems with Colorado's Proposition 48, Dr. Phil boils it down to a single simple truth.

Proposition 48 is religion trying to create legislation, pure and simple.

The numerous comments that follow his post cover every angle of the debate. There's the timeless question, when does life begin, which some people say cannot be determined by science. Does that mean religious beliefs, by constraint, must be involved in politics? What about the famous separation of Church and State?

What's the point of Proposition 48 anyway? Here's the text:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution defining the term “person” to include any human being from the moment of fertilization as “person” is used in those provisions of the Colorado constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law?

Isn't it a thinly disguised attempt to outlaw abortion? What's wrong with giving women a choice of what to do with their own bodies? Where in the world do legislators, many of whom are men, get the idea that they should control this issue? From their religion, that's where. And that's the problem.

What's your opinion? Is the abortion issue an instance where church and state are intertwined? Is that a bad thing?

No Murders in October in Miami

CBS News reports that for the first time since 1966, the city of Miami Florida had no murders for an entire month. But why? That's what I want to know.

Mayor Manny Diaz says zero murders in October is partly a result of good leadership at the police department and dedicated officers. "Here we are in a major city in America in a very difficult economic period and we were able to go over a month--my hats off to the men and women who risk their lives every day."

The Miami Herald reports it like this, with a different explanation.

Homicide detectives credit ever-improving emergency care with saving people who, perhaps 20 years ago, might have met their demise.

''It helps us tremendously,'' said Miami Cmdr. Delrish Moss, a spokesman and former homicide investigator.

"They don't become murder victim, they become witnesses and help us get the offenders off the streets.''

Bob S. in commenting on another thread pointed out that in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, there have been hundreds of murders this year compared to only 87 in Miami. He had this to suggest as an explanation:

Is the gun control laws in Chicago the only reason, probably not but Miami has Concealed Carry laws and Chicago doesn't.

What's your opinion? Why has Miami been able to do what seems inconceivable in the larger cities? None of the above explanations really works for me. The mayor says it's good leadership and dedicated officers. The former homicide investigator says it's the improved emergency medical treatment. Bob says it has at least partly to do with the fact that in Miami concealed carry is legal.

What do you think? Does the fact that ordinary citizens might be carrying guns legally, deter crime?

Further Diversification and Lightening Up of the Blog

In a continuing effort to keep the blog interesting and diverse, to lighten up a bit from the never-ending gun and capital punishment discussions, which I personally never tire of, I want to share this fantastic article I found on

I didn't know you could say "a shrewdness of apes," or "a covert of coots," "a drift of hogs," or "a kindle of kittens," or "a sloth of bears," or my favorite, "a skulk of thieves."

I don't know about you, but I'm determined to begin immediately using these new vocabulary words in my political blogging.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Anonymous Anger over the Internet

CNN reports on a phenomenon we're all familiar with: venting over the internet. Whether it's commenting on someone's blog about something you're passionate about, or writing a post in which you express yourself freely, many of us have done it in one way or another.

On political blogs, the invective flies. Posters respond to the latest celebrity gossip with mockery or worse. Sports fans set up Web sites with names that begin with "fire," hoping coaches, athletic directors and sportscasters lose their jobs.

And though there are any number of bloggers and commenters who attempt to keep their postings and responses on a civil level, all too often interactive Web sites descend into ad hominem attacks, insults and plain old name-calling. Indeed, there are even whole sites devoted to venting, such as (one screed there was titled, "I don't give a flying f***, so f*** you") and

My own blogging style, which is still evolving, is one in which I use much less profanity than I do in everyday life. I think the reason for this is twofold; first because I feel the written word carries more weight than the spoken, and second because this is an open forum and I want to be sensitive to the feelings of the readers, some of whom might be turned off by profanity.

What about you? Do you write on blogs exactly the way you speak in face to face conversation? Are you offended by frequent use of profanity? Does using strong language sometimes make it more difficult to hear the message?

You Think It's Bad in America?

On the Notion's Capital site I read this fascinating article about Iceland. It makes what's happening in the US and Europe seem mild in comparison.

If you haven’t been paying attention, Iceland is the worst-case scenario for financial deregulation; its financial services companies borrowed ten or twelve times the value the country’s entire money supply. The notes are due, the banks are closed, the currency is worthless, and the island nation cannot import goods.

The Icelandic singer Bjork is quoted in the article. Her description of the crisis is interesting to say the least.

Young families are threatened with losing their houses and elderly people their pensions. This is catastrophic. There is also a lot of anger. The six biggest venture capitalists in Iceland are being booed in public places and on TV and radio shows; furious voices insist that they sell all their belongings and give the proceeds to the nation.

I'm sure Bjork is not trying to act as global financial advisor, although maybe she has something there. Here's what she does best:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trick-or-Treater Shot Dead

CNN reports on the tragic shooting of a 12-year-old trick-or-treater.

An ex-convict who said he thought he was being robbed gunned down a 12-year-old trick-or-treater, spraying nearly 30 rounds with an assault rifle from inside his home after hearing a knock on the door, police said Saturday.

Quentin Patrick, 22, is accused of killing 12-year-old T.J. Darrisaw on Friday night. T.J.'s 9-year-old brother, Ahmadre Darrisaw, and their father, Freddie Grinnell, were injured but were released after being treated at a hospital.

What should we take from this sad story? Is this just another case of there being 100 gazillion guns out there and rare occasional incidents that always receive national attention in the liberal press? Is this similar to the case last week of Christopher Bizilj, who was killed in a tragic shooting range accident? Even I agreed that the percentage of such incidents is so low that no gun control proponent should use it in his argument.

This time we've got an assault weapon, and AK-47, in the hands of a 22-year-old ex-convict, supposedly for the purpose of self-defense and home protection.

I have several questions which in all our discussions have not been sufficiently answered:

Is an AK-47 really necessary for home defense? Did young Quentin have a reasonable fear of a small army storming his house? Or was he coked up and so paranoid that, as soon as someone knocked, he fired the weapon through the door until it was empty?

Who's to blame for the fact that a weapon like that was in the hands of someone who probably had lost the right to own any guns and who obviously was not psychologically fit to do so? Do gun rights activists bear some of this responsibility? How can people who insist on the widest interpretation possible of the 2nd Amendment divorce themselves from people like this one? We've seen it time and again that from the large group of legitimate gun owners, there a seepage of weapons and individuals towards the "dark side" as I call it. Just like the road rage guy, Quentin Patrick was one of your number until he transferred over. Is that really so rare?

And what about compassion, what about empathy? I'm overflowing. I can only guess at the wonderful life Quentin Patrick has enjoyed up until this Halloween. I'm sure there are mitigating circumstances enough to choke a horse. I'm into all that, which is why I'd like to take the gun advocates to task on this one.

The victims include a 12-year-old dead, his brother and father wounded, a family destroyed, in other words. What a waste.