Patterico's Pontifications


The Power of the Jump™: The Overaggressive Cops Who Shot the Handcuffed Guy on the Ground

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 8:04 pm

(Note: “The Power of the Jump”™ is a semi-regular feature of this site, documenting examples of the Los Angeles Times’s use of its back pages to hide information that its editors don’t want you to see.)

I have not written a “The Power of the Jump”™ piece since 2010, but it’s time to resurrect it. The main page of the Los Angeles Times recently featured the following story:

“was shot when officers” . . . dot dot dot. Gee, what comes after that phrase? Here it is, complete with extra space and missing period — and relevant facts:

A man who was fatally shot by a Moreno Valley police officer while lying on the ground handcuffed has been identified as an 18-year-old Ontario resident

Authorities on Saturday said Lamon Khiry Haslip, 18, of Ontario, was shot when officers . . .

Here’s where the story broke on the front page. If you click, through, you see the rest of the sentence:

. . . noticed that he had a handgun.

There’s more:

At the time, Haslip was lying on the ground and handcuffed, but officers said that he had rolled on his side and one “officer backed away from the subject and announced that the subject had a gun,” according to a press release from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

. . .

When the officer attempted to stop the vehicle, Haslip allegedly attempted to flee on foot. The officer captured Haslip and placed him in handcuffs on the ground, police said.

A second officer arrived just before the shooting. The officers reported finding a gun in Haslip’s possession.

Studies show most people don’t click through from the Internet’s front page (or turn to the back pages from the front page of the increasingly irrelevant print edition).

This is how editors gin up outrage where none (or little) would exist — if they told you the whole story up front.

Enjoy . . . the Power of the Jump.™


Convicted Murderer: I’m Too Fat to Be Executed

Filed under: Crime — Patterico @ 6:50 pm

Just when you thought you’d heard every argument against executing someone comes this:

Lawyers for a 480-pound death row inmate in Ohio say their client is too overweight to be put to death.

“Indeed, given his unique physical and medical condition there is a substantial risk that any attempt to execute him will result in serious physical and psychological pain to him, as well as an execution involving a torturous and lingering death,” reads the filing made on behalf of Ronald Post, 53, who was convicted of shooting to death hotel clerk Helen Vantz 29 years ago.

Post, who is set to be executed by lethal injection on January 16, 2013, says that his executioners would encounter several problems, including difficulty finding a viable vein for injection and the likelihood that with his unusual weight he would break any gurney used in the process.

He wasn’t too fat to kill the victim . . .


L.A. Times Uses Classic Liberal Bias Techniques in Article on Death Penalty Initiative

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:28 am

In reporting on an initiative to abolish the death penalty, the L.A. Times tells us about the “[g]rowing numbers” of people — conservatives, even! — who oppose capital punishment:

Growing numbers of conservatives in California have joined the effort to repeal the state’s capital punishment law, expressing frustration with its price tag and the rarity of executions.

The numbers have grown so much, it’s now a “chorus”!

The chorus of criticism has death penalty advocates worried, even though California voters have historically favored capital punishment, passing several measures over the last few decades to toughen criminal penalties and expand the number of crimes punishable by death.

Way back in 2004, I discussed the way this newspaper employs phrases like “growing chorus” to describe public opinions they agree with:

[W]hy another story on this topic? Blame the “growing chorus”:

A growing chorus of Bush critics has emerged in recent weeks, saying his youthful conduct then is freshly relevant today.

I have warned you that such language is a signal that the paper agrees with the criticism. When the paper disagrees with criticism of a candidate, it is portrayed as an attack by political opponents. When the paper agrees with the criticism, the criticism becomes a mysterious and disembodied (but ever-growing) entity. Doubts grow. Criticism emerges.

This doesn’t apply merely to criticism of candidates, but any public controversy that the paper’s editors want to push. The fact is that the way an article is worded can skew the reader’s perceptions markedly even if the facts are correct. Since we’re revisiting old posts, let’s look at another example, this time from 2007:

The article in question begins:

WASHINGTON — The growing controversy over White House recordkeeping and disclosure swirled around presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, as congressional Democrats said they were told some e-mails that Rove sent from a Republican National Committee account are missing.

I have to take my hat off to the reporters for the skill in which they portray the controversy as a ghostly entity with a spirit all its own — rather than as attacks on the Administration by partisan Democrats.

And so it is with the article on the death penalty initiative. We are told about all the public officials who have changed their minds on the death penalty, and told that this represents a growing chorus that has death penalty supporters worried. But just how worried are they? When we hear the actual quote, it doesn’t sound like they are as worried as they were portrayed:

“The people of California have regularly voted for the death penalty by wide margins, but of course it has to be a matter of concern,” said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which advocates for tough criminal penalties. He said fundraising to defeat the November measure would be difficult.

And indeed, when we look at the numbers, support for the death penalty is still strong even in reliably Democratic California. The last time the Field Poll surveyed Californians on this issue, 68% supported the death penalty (.pdf). Although the poll tries to claim that a growing number of people support life without parole for first degree murder, that is misleading, because we don’t impose death in every first degree murder case — by a longshot. Death is reserved for the worst of the worst, and asking people what punishment they prefer for first degree murder in the abstract (as the Field Poll does) does not answer the question whether they want to reserve death as an option for serial murderers, child rapist-murderers, people who murder and continue to kill after being incarcerated, and so forth. Kent Scheidegger addressed this in 2010:

But Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports capital punishment, said the question on death and life without parole was misleading because respondents were asked to choose a uniform punishment for all first-degree murderers.

“The question really is, do you favor the death penalty for the worst murderers?” Scheidegger said. “Very few people want the death penalty for every first-degree murder case.”

Overall, he said, the poll shows that “support for the death penalty is pretty stable.”

As long as the California initiative is described in a fair and non-misleading manner on the ballot, I am not particularly concerned about it.

By the way? One of the big arguments in the article is that the death penalty costs too much. I will never stop being amazed by the gall of those who throw up roadblocks to the implementation of the death penalty, and then argue that we shouldn’t have the death penalty because there are so many roadblocks. But this is what death penalty opponents do.

It’s a “by any means” necessary point of view. And one of the “means” is to take strong public support for the death penalty and portray it as a growing, swelling, ever-increasing opposition. They will suggest, as the article does, that abolishing the death penalty is better for victims:

Most death row inmates would be returned to the general prison population and be expected to work. Their earnings would go to crime victims.

Don’t you care about victims, Californians?

Seen this way, the editors aren’t behaving as journalists here, but as partisans. In that vein, I will note that the article is by Maura Dolan, one of two reporters who screwed up a DNA story to make it sound more favorable to the defense, and refused to admit that she had gotten it wrong.

Nice to see she’s on the death penalty beat. I have a feeling this article will be the first in a growing chorus of articles by her designed to sway Californians to vote for this initiative.

UPDATE: Here’s another one I missed, from April 14: Fight against death penalty gains momentum in states.

The fight against the death penalty is gaining momentum, opponents of the practice say, with Connecticut’s decision this month to abolish capital punishment making it the fifth state in five years to so do.

It’s a growing chorus!


Deport the Criminals First: Two Stories

Filed under: Crime,Deport the Criminals First,General,Immigration — Patterico @ 7:03 am

A triple murderer should have been deported after his previous robbery and assault conviction leading to a prison sentence. Gee, maybe we should Deport the Criminals First:

A day after authorities arrested a suspect in connection with the brutal slayings of five people in a San Francisco home, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the accused killer had eluded deportation and instead had to be released from custody in 2006.

San Francisco police have connected Binh Thai Luc, 35, of San Francisco with the grotesque killings of three men and two women, who were discovered dead about 7:45 a.m. Friday by a woman who had access to the house. Officials arrested Luc on Sunday and alluded to his having a criminal history.

On Monday, officials said Luc had been taken into ICE custody in August 2006 as he was serving a prison sentence at San Quentin State Prison for assault and attempted robbery. Officials say he was ordered to be removed from the country by an immigration judge a month later, but because Vietnamese authorities declined to provide appropriate travel documents, Luc could not be deported and had to be released in December 2006.

Vietnam didn’t want their robber back? Now there’s a shocker.

I think it’s about time we told countries that we don’t care if they don’t want their criminals back. They are their problem, not ours. If they don’t like it, no more American cash.

So that’s one issue. But this one was obvious: of course we should deport robbers. I keep hearing, though, that we are being meanies by wanting to deport illegals who commit minor crimes, like DUIs. OK . . . and when we don’t, here’s what can happen:

Immigration officials confirmed Monday that the suspect in an alleged drunken driving wreck that killed one boy and critically injured another was in the country illegally.

Luis Hector Lopez-Rodriguez, 27, of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, is accused of plowing into the porch of a southwest Houston apartment, where two young boys were playing during a March 17 party, authorities said.

Gregory Palmore, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, said agents have determined that Lopez-Rodriguez was in the country illegally and have filed paperwork to detain him. Palmore said ICE officials had no prior contact with Lopez-Rodriguez, who was convicted of driving while intoxicated in Harris County in January 2008.

. . . .

Jesus Ordonez, 7, was taken to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Christopher Cruz, 4, suffered burns on more than 40 percent of his body after the car slammed into a hot grill, authorities said.

Yeah, they had no contact with him because they didn’t start their program until later in 2008:

Immigration officials launched a jail screening program called Secure Communities in the Harris County Jail in the fall of 2008 . . .

Wish they’d listened to me. In November 2003, I said:

Look, I understand that we don’t have the resources to deport all illegal immigrants. But it seems like a no-brainer to start with the criminals. If a single immigration agent is worrying himself with illegals who have not already been convicted of a crime serious enough to warrant jail time, while illegals are being deliberately released from jail, there is something seriously wrong.

I reiterated the idea in March 2005 and December 2006. And I started a crusade with my multi-part series “Deport the Criminalst First” campaign in May 2007.

It’s sometimes fun on this blog for me to call myself Carnac by talking about the correct predictions I have made and so forth. But it’s actually no fun being Carnac when you realize that actual lives would have been saved — like that of the seven-year-old boy above — if people had just listened to you earlier.

By the way, if you’re still opposing identifying criminal aliens in jail, even those convicted of “minor” crimes like DUI, you’re part of the problem — and the blood of children like Jesus Ordonez is on your hands.


“Racial Justice” Law Could Mean Reduced Sentence for Killer Who Killed Because of Race

Filed under: Crime,Race — Patterico @ 10:54 pm

Welcome to a country where a law called the “Racial Justice Act” is employed to potentially reduce the punishment of someone who killed a man because of his color:

For nearly three weeks, convicted murderer Marcus Reymond Robinson has listened quietly inside a county courtroom here to intricate testimony about statistics — dry statistics that could get him off death row.

Robinson, a black man convicted of killing a white teenager in 1991, is the first inmate to test North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act, the nation’s only law that allows death row prisoners to reduce their sentences to life without parole by proving racial bias in jury selection or sentencing.

The alleged racial bias being discussed, mind you, is not racial bias from Robinson’s trial. It all has to do with other trials. We have to find out if the system is racist, you see, so we can mitigate the punishment of this racist murderer — even if his own trial was fair. Don’t you get it?

The issue of race has dominated Robinson’s hearing before a Superior Court judge here. Prosecutors have pointed out that Robinson said “he was going to get him a whitey” before he killed 17-year-old Erik Tornblom with a shotgun blast to the face and robbed him of $27. An accomplice is serving a life sentence.

So how will this racial bias be proved? By statistics!

Robinson’s case, and possibly those to follow, hinges on a voluminous study of peremptory challenges by prosecutors in 173 death penalty cases in North Carolina between 1990 and 2010.

The courts look at whether prosecutors struck more blacks than whites from death penalty juries. The story does not say whether the courts will be allowed to examine whether there are racially neutral reasons for the strikes.

Let’s say there are six whites and six blacks on your panel. Four of the whites and two of the blacks say they can treat everyone equally, while two of the whites and four of the blacks say they can’t apply the death penalty and that they don’t trust police. You, as the prosecutor, strike the latter six from your panel.

You have just struck twice as many blacks as whites. You racist. And yet, you were doing your job: excusing biased jurors for race-neutral reasons.

So now, under this law, we take the statistics from your case and go study them in a completely different case that has nothing to do with yours. This is all necessary, we are told, in the name of “racial justice.” Meanwhile, what of the white boy who was killed for being white?

The use of statistics from unrelated trials, permitted under the act, has enraged opponents of the law, among them Tornblom’s parents. The couple has attended the trial, quietly fuming as they listened to testimony.

“This whole study is a sham,” Tornblom’s stepmother, Patricia Tornblom, said in a courtroom interview during a break in testimony. “What does all this stuff from other cases have to do with this case?”

Her stepson, not Robinson, was the victim of racism, she said, nodding toward the defendant. Robinson, 38, a broad-faced man with short dreadlocks, sat at the defense table nearby, dressed in a sport shirt and khaki pants.

“He chose a white boy to kill — and he killed him,” Tornblom said.

Ah, racial justice. George Orwell would be so proud!


Another Example of How Lawyers Ignoring the Plain Meaning of Language Go Astray

Filed under: Court Decisions,Crime,General — Patterico @ 12:30 am

Here’s an interesting little legal issue — one that is apparently easier to resolve properly if you have not had legal training.

California Penal Code section 288.7(a) reads as follows:

Any person 18 years of age or older who engages in sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child who is 10 years of age or younger is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 25 years to life.

That simple language in bold is apparently too difficult for some judges to understand.

Our hypothetical defendant is 19 years old. The evidence shows that he met the victim at her 10th birthday party. One week later, he had sex with her. Is he subject to the penalties provided by this law?

As a common sense person, dear reader, you are saying: of course he is! The victim was 10 when he had sex with her. She just had her 10th birthday! And the penalties apply if the victim is 10 or younger. What’s the problem?

It turns out that at least one California court saw a problem. That court said “10 years of age or younger” means “exactly 10 years old, not one day more” . . . or younger. In other words, the day after the victim’s birthday, she is no longer “10 years of age of younger” . . . according to these legal geniuses.

That conclusion is, of course, absurd. If you asked this girl how old she is, she would say: “ten.” If you asked her mother how old she is, she would say: “ten.” If you asked all her friends and relatives how old she is, they would say: “ten.” If the statute says the victim must be “10 years of age OR younger” and she is “10 years of age,” then the statute applies.

I don’t care what the legislative “intent” was. I don’t care about the “rule of lenity” or any other mumbo jumbo. Not in this case. Because here the language is clear. The girl is ten. The statute applies. Next case!

This is what I mean when I stress that “legislative intent” should not matter to the interpretation of a statute. This court actually bemoaned the fact that there was no legislative history available to help out. The court also noted that several other cases in other jurisdictions had resolved similar issues in the same silly way (as well as several that resolved it properly). The court further noted that, in many cases, “courts have been able to resolve the issue on the basis of an illuminating legislative history.”

Legislative history. Aaaaaargh!

So, let’s say a legislator didn’t like the law, and was pushing to make the victim’s age “11 years or younger” before harsher penalties kicked in — but ended up voting for the statute in a pander to the public. He could simply have a staffer slip something into the legislative record talking about how “10 years or age or younger” really excludes anyone who is 10 years and a day. And one suspects certain idiot judges would pay attention to that kind of dishonest crap.

Not me. To me, the words mean what they mean. Trying to divine some “legislative intent” from clues in speeches and notes from committee meetings is a fool’s errand. The plain language should control.

Luckily, sanity may win out. The California Supreme Court has granted review and the case may not be cited. At least one other court has come out with a sensible ruling going the proper way.

But when you throw common sense out the window, the law can take the most obvious, plain meanings of words, and twist them into something that would make the man on the street furrow his brow and say “What now??”

It’s not always lawyers who do this, mind you. But they seem to be mighty good at it.


“Realignment”: California Passes the Buck on Prisoners

Filed under: Crime — Patterico @ 7:33 am

Californians, you thought that the Ninth Circuit order to release state prisoners was going to create danger? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

“Realignment” is a Jerry Brown brainchild that basically mandates that a huge chunk of people sentenced to state prison be housed in the county jails. The counties are initially given a chunk of money to deal with the cost, but there is no guarantee that will continue, meaning that the state is essentially shifting the burden for housing thousands of its inmates to the counties.

Here in Los Angeles, because the jails are already overcrowded, the sheriff is going to have wide discretion to release these prisoners into the community, regardless of the nominal length of their sentences. Thousands will be placed on home detention with electronic monitoring, and thousands more will be simply released.

Even the Los Angeles Times is appalled, characterizing the notion as passing the buck without passing the bucks:

[B]eginning Oct. 1, newly arriving state parolees will be supervised by county probation officers, and new non-serious convicts will go to county jails instead of state prisons. The transfer is forever, but the budget provides funding for only nine months.

After that, who knows? Perhaps Sacramento will have pangs of conscience and allocate more money. Perhaps GOP lawmakers will change their minds on the tax measures, or perhaps they will send voters a constitutional amendment that requires the funding transfer but does not include the taxes. And perhaps not. Counties may find they have no way to pay for job training, mental health, substance abuse or other rehabilitation programs for the ex-offenders who will be coming home. Or even for jail.

There must be something about that first flight to Sacramento that makes newly elected state lawmakers — many of them former county and city officials — forget that their constituents do not distinguish between state and county failures. If realignment is to become more than the latest California exercise in passing the buck (while keeping the bucks), state officials must step up with a constitutional commitment to funding.

Which, of course, means (to the editors’ way of thinking) new taxes.

Well, crime was going down for a while. Don’t expect that to continue.

Hooray for California!


Jerry Brown Slowly Dismantling Death Penalty Apparatus in California

Filed under: Crime — Patterico @ 9:25 pm

In the excitement over bin Laden, Californians may have overlooked Jerry Brown’s stealth moves to do away with the death penalty in California. Last week he announced that he is cancelling the construction of a new death chamber that was being built to respond to bogus constitutional objections by meddlesome judge Jeremy Fogel. [UPDATE: Actually, he did not scrap a new death chamber, just a new Death Row — i.e., new housing for the inmates. See the UPDATE below.] Yesterday the L.A. Times reported that, not surprisingly, Brown’s decision has resulted in the state deciding not to pursue any more executions this year. Yes, we’re only in early May.

The development comes on the heels of Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision last week to scrap construction of a new $356-million death row facility. California faces another potential roadblock from looming legal challenges to the state’s acquisition of sodium thiopental, the key execution drug, which is no longer made in the U.S. and has to be obtained from foreign producers.

Lawyers for the state said it was not feasible to schedule executions this year, according to a transcript of the meeting with Fogel in his chambers Friday. Given the time it will take to put together a new execution team, train the 20-plus members and provide documentation of their qualifications to lawyers for condemned inmates, the execution procedures won’t be ready for review and potential approval until at least January, the judge noted.

Corrections officials have declined to say why Martel wants to change the execution team that was deemed ready in September, when the state was prepared to execute rapist-murderer Albert Greenwood Brown.

This is probably a more personal issue for me since I tried my first death penalty case last year. I won’t go into it in detail, lest this blog post become part of a federal hearing in 30 years, but suffice it to say that my defendant killed two innocent people in different incidents and laughed about it. Numerous witnesses and DNA evidence proved his guilt in an overwhelming fashion and the jury took about four hours to decide he deserved to die. But thanks to people like Jerry Brown, that defendant is more likely to die of natural causes than to suffer the penalty that the jury found appropriate, after hearing from two very experienced defense attorneys and a mitigation expert.

What gets me is how perverse the arguments can be. The death penalty costs too much, we are told by those who seek to make it as expensive as possible. The death penalty takes too long to administer, we are told by those who drag it out as long as possible. And, increasingly, the response from those who support the death penalty is to accept these arguments, rather than to fight them.

The L.A. Times in March proudly printed an op-ed from the famous “hanging judge” of Orange County, who sentenced 10 people to death, including the cretinous Rodney Alcala, who killed five girls, one of them 12 years old. He complained that the death penalty rarely actually results in an execution. Was his solution to streamline the appellate process? Strip away technicalities and focus on true innocence? No. It was simply to shrug his shoulders and give up. Gil Garcetti, my former boss, used to refuse extraditions from Mexico that were conditioned on our not seeking the death penalty. He threw such principles to the wind and agreed with the “hanging judge” that the barriers erected by death penalty opponents are simply too much even to try to overcome.

Why do we accept such ridiculous arguments? Why do we take it seriously when a Death Row inmate delays his execution as long as possible, and then complains that the delay is unconstitutionally cruel? Why do we take it seriously when people who tortured little girls to death complain that a carefully administered drug cocktail is too cruel because it might cause them some pain?

Me, when I hear these arguments, I don’t want to give in to them. I want to fight.

But my position is an increasingly lonely one.

Congratulations, California. You’re getting what you asked for.

UPDATE: With all the delays, I assumed that the decision to scrap a new Death Row carried with it the consequence of scrapping a new death chamber. Brown has scrapped the former but not the latter, as pointed out by commenter aphrael. The new chamber is already complete. Sorry for the mistake.

With this explanation, I am less agitated now that there will be no new Death Row. But I remain irritated at the inexplicable delays, caused by bizarre decisions like the decision to ditch the old execution team in favor of a new one, with no reason given.

Oh — and by the way, I have a bone to pick with Carol J. Williams regarding her description of conditions on Death Row. But that will take another post to address.


How the L.A. Times Slants Crime News

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:28 pm

Another reminder of how the L.A. Times distorts the news.

The story is simple. Woman babysits a newborn baby and physically abuses the child. She fractures the child’s skull, and breaks his ribs and legs. The broken bones have healed but the child still has damage to his optic nerve. The defendant is convicted and sentenced to six years in state prison. State law says she must serve 85% of that time, but prison officials mess up the paperwork and make her serve only 50%. The mistake is discovered after she is released. Although she is now pregnant, holding down two jobs, and has not had problems on parole, she is rearrested and sent back to prison to serve the balance of her term.

I just told the story that I read in the paper, in a fairly straightforward and balanced fashion. That’s one way to tell the story. Not very dramatic or exciting — perhaps because it’s not, really.

There is another way you could tell it, of course. Include a headline about the baby’s injuries; show a picture of the injured child with his parents, together with a caption about their anger at the woman’s early release — why, you could even stick in a snide comment, perhaps couched in a quote from the victim’s family — about the sort of discipline her own child will face.

Or, you could spin everything the other way, to make her seem like a victim.

How do you think the L.A. Times portrays the story? You already know the answer:

Editors know most people will only see the headline and the picture, and maybe read the caption. Hey, all the other stuff is in there, they would defensively insist if you called them on it. They would maintain their story is balanced and fair.

And it’s true, all the facts are seemingly there. But the way it is presented — the headline, choice of photo, and recounting of the tale from her point of view — is designed for drama and sympathy. You have to read the whole thing to get the full picture. You have to get to the seventh paragraph to learn about the fractured skull; the 20th paragraph to learn about the broken legs and ribs; and the 21st paragraph to learn about the child’s continuing problems with his optic nerve. But the fact that the woman is pregnant and a “model parolee” is helpfully crammed into the first two paragraphs.

Much more dramatic that way, you see.

Those few readers who make their way through the whole story will feel that they have been misled regarding the alleged unfairness of the system’s actions. But how many such readers actually bother?

It would be infuriating . . . if this sort of pro-defendant media slant had not occurred so many times before.

Disclaimer: I personally know Oscar Plascencia, the prosecutor quoted in the article. He and I have not spoken about the story or the case.


Obama Administration Deliberately Allows Guns Into Mexico; How Many Have Died As a Result?

Filed under: Crime,General,Immigration — Patterico @ 7:30 am

You know what seems like a good idea? Flooding Mexico with guns!

Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.

He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?

“Yes ma’am,” Dodson told CBS News. “The agency was.”

The idea was some cockamamie scheme to trace guns:

ATF managers allegedly made a controversial decision: allow most of the weapons on the streets. The idea, they said, was to gather intelligence and see where the guns ended up. Insiders say it’s a dangerous tactic called letting the guns, “walk.”

One agent called the strategy “insane.” Another said: “We were fully aware the guns would probably be moved across the border to drug cartels where they could be used to kill.”

. . . .

For months, ATF agents followed 50-caliber Barrett rifles and other guns believed headed for the Mexican border, but were ordered to let them go. One distraught agent was often overheard on ATF radios begging and pleading to be allowed to intercept transports. The answer: “Negative. Stand down.”

It was such a good idea, one of the guns we deliberately allowed into Mexico was found at the scene of a murdered federal agent:

Then, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered. The serial numbers on the two assault rifles found at the scene matched two rifles ATF watched Jaime Avila buy in Phoenix nearly a year before. Officials won’t answer whether the bullet that killed Terry came from one of those rifles. But the nightmare had come true: “walked” guns turned up at a federal agent’s murder.

A perceptive reader who I believe does not wish to be named writes to wonder if Brian Terry was the only one.

Three people suspected of smuggling guns to Mexico were arrested in a Dallas suburb on Monday after federal investigators traced the gun used in the killing of a U.S. agent in Mexico to one of them, officials said.

Agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested the suspected gun smugglers in morning raids in the southern Dallas suburb of Lancaster, Texas, ATF spokesman Tom Crowley said. Crowley referred questions on other details to the U.S. Justice Department in Washington. The agency planned to issue a news release.

The ATF said the gun was used in a Feb. 15 shooting of two federal agents who were driving on a highway near the northern city of San Luis Potosi on Feb. 15. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata was killed and agent Victor Avila was wounded.

How were they tracing the guns across the border? Was this murder also the result of guns that the Obama administration deliberately allowed into Mexico?

Keep a close eye on this one.

Regardless of whether that is the case, it is clear that this was a stupid idea in any event. Who knows how much violence has increased due to the new availability of thousands of assault rifles and other powerful weapons?

But hey, at least our agents are armed and able to fight back. With bean bags.

Border Patrol agents shot beanbags at a group of suspected bandits before the men returned fire during a confrontation in a remote canyon, killing agent Brian Terry with a single gunshot, records show.

So you know the decisionmaking going on here is top notch.

Meanwhile, Obama is praising Mexico for “courage” in the drug war.

As my correspondent says: “They need more than courage given that we’re intentionally flooding Mexico with guns.”

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