Patterico's Pontifications


Winners on Quote Quiz #1

Filed under: General,Music — Patterico @ 10:29 pm

This post provides the answers to my recent Quote Quiz #1.

In a controversial and admittedly last-minute addition to the rules, I hereby dictate that only the first person to get an answer right without cheating is entitled to any points.

Here are the answers:


Unbiased Reuters Photo of Cheney

Filed under: Media Bias — Patterico @ 5:00 pm

You have almost certainly already seen the Reuters picture of Dick Cheney, but in case you’re one of those people who reads no blog but Patterico (they exist! I’ve talked to them!), you really need to see it:


Fun Passage

Filed under: Court Decisions,Humor — Patterico @ 4:45 pm

I just like this opinion because it contains the following passage:

As the Supreme Court of the United States has noted, “ ‘[t]here are few activities in our society more personal or private than the passing of urine.’ “

It’s really an opinion about whether it’s illegal to urinate in public in California (it is, but the analysis is more complex than you would expect). But if you just read the quote above, out of context, it sounds like the Supreme Court constitutionalizing the right to make water.

(Via How Appealing.)

Arnie Paroles Murderer

Filed under: Crime — Patterico @ 7:14 am

Gov. Schwarzenegger is paroling a murderer:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided to parole James Tramel, a convicted murderer who was ordained an Episcopal priest in prison, a spokeswoman for the governor said Thursday.

In declining to review Tramel’s case, the governor is letting stand an October 2005 decision by the state parole board to free the 38-year-old inmate, said Julie Soderlund, a Schwarzenegger aide.

There is absolutely nothing sympathetic about the man’s crime:

In 1985, Tramel was one of two 17-year-old private school students in Santa Barbara arrested in the unprovoked stabbing death of a 29-year-old transient as he lay in his sleeping bag in a city park.

Yet the D.A.’s office that prosecuted him supports his release:

Tramel has drawn the support of hundreds of Episcopal Church members throughout the state, who see his ordination as a powerful example of personal redemption. Church officials believe he is the only U.S. inmate ever to become an Episcopal priest, an accomplishment requiring years of study, psychological evaluations, and approval by committees at various levels of the church’s hierarchy.

. . . .

Tramel’s release was supported by the Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office, which had prosecuted him, and by top-ranking members of the Episcopal clergy.

I think it presents an interesting case: a despicable and unprovoked crime that victimized one of society’s least privileged people, committed by someone who may have genuinely turned his life around.

I’m not insensitive to the possibility of redemption. But based on what I read in this story, I’d let him stay in prison. He’s only 38, and he killed a man. I don’t know if he should ever be released, but now seems too early.

UPDATE: A commenter notes that Tramel did not wield the knife; his companion did. I noticed that today’s story quotes Tramel making that claim. But I initially didn’t give that claim much weight because it’s a self-serving statement. However, a closer look reveals that Tramel’s claim appears to be an accepted fact, and I agree that it’s relevant. The full circumstances of the murder are set forth in a separate Times article, here:

One August night, members of a Latino gang had gotten into a confrontation with some of their classmates. The next night, Tramel and Kurtzman led a group that went out looking for the gang. According to his own account, Tramel egged on his friends, instructing them in martial arts moves. When Kurtzman wanted to bring along the 6-inch folding military knife he would sharpen during idle moments in the dorm, Tramel readily agreed.

After hours on the prowl, the band of avenging angels came down to just Tramel and Kurtzman, clad all in black.

They found no gang members, but returning to school for their 1 a.m. curfew, they cut through Alameda Park, where music wafted from a radio beside a man bunking down in the gazebo.

For a brief time, the pair chatted with him. The homeless man was Michael Stephenson, 29. He was not Latino. Tucked inside his sleeping bag, he was anything but hostile. As Tramel leaned against a railing with his back to Stephenson, they talked about the cold weather.

“Several seconds later, I heard Michael say, ‘No, my friend,’ and then I heard what sounded like coughing,” Tramel wrote in an account for his 2005 parole hearing.

“When I turned around, Michael was on his hands and knees, and Kurtzman was leaning over him. Then Michael suddenly collapsed onto his side, I saw the knife in Kurtzman’s hand, and before I could say or do anything, I saw Kurtzman cut Michael’s throat. My body froze in horror, and I gasped, ‘Dave, stop!’ Kurtzman looked up at me with a crazed look in his eyes, and he was trembling.”

Under this version, it’s hard to see how Tramel was even convicted of murder to begin with. But if it’s true, I agree with the commenter that there is a much, much stronger case for paroling him. As I said, my initial opinion was based on today’s story only. Now that I know more of the facts, I think Arnold’s decision seems reasonable.

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