Patterico's Pontifications

2/2/2011

Some LAPD Gang Units Disbanded; Will Higher Crime Follow?

Filed under: Crime — Jack Dunphy @ 6:52 pm

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday on the impact felt in the LAPD from one of the last vestiges of the federal consent decree that resulted from the Rampart scandal. Officers working gang and narcotics units are now required to disclose their personal finances to department auditors in an effort – a misguided one, in my opinion – to detect and deter corruption in those units. Many officers, particularly those assigned to gang units, have exercised their option to accept reassignment to other duties rather than disclose this information, resulting in vacancies in every gang unit in the city and the complete shutdown of some, including those in Southeast, 77th Street, and Northeast Divisions, three areas that see some of the city’s worst gang violence.

I discussed this issue in my most recent piece on Pajamas Media, which you can read here.

–Jack Dunphy

1/3/2011

Ahhnold Reduces Sentence of Fabian Nunez’s Son

Filed under: Crime,General,Morons — Patterico @ 6:49 pm

Without even consulting the D.A.:

San Diego County District Atty. Bonnie Dumanis said Monday she was shocked to learn that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had reduced the prison sentence of the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

The decision “greatly diminishes justice for victim Luis Santos and re-victimizes his family and friends,” Dumanis said in a prepared statement. “The district attorney’s office was not consulted, and the decision comes as the appeals process was continuing.”

I am currently preparing an opposition to a clemency request. It is standard procedure to consult the District Attorney’s Office before considering such a request. I have heard a top trial lawyer in our office talk about presenting the case against Tookie Williams’s commutation to Ahhnold, and guess what? he told the Governator a few things he hadn’t known.

But apparently close analysis of the case was not an important part of this particular process:

Like Dumanis, Fred Santos [the victim’s father] said he had no warning that the decision was imminent or even under discussion at the governor’s office. “We’re just little people,” he said. “I guess we don’t count.”

Charles Sevilla, the San Diego attorney who prepared the commutation request for Esteban Nuñez, said he is “surprised and gratified” that it was accepted by the governor.

. . . .

Sevilla said his role was limited to filling out the paperwork — “sort of a fill in the blanks.” He said he was never quizzed by the governor or his staff, never asked to be part of an oral presentation and never asked for additional documentation.

Gee. If it wasn’t a close look at the facts of the case that persuaded Ahhnold, what could it possibly have been? An L.A. Times editorial has a hint:

Nuñez, who is now a business partner with Schwarzenegger’s chief political advisor, worked closely with the governor during his term as speaker.

Ah, I see now.

Ahhnold’s decision mocks the justice system. His handling of the clemency process in this case reeks of disinterest for the facts, and concern for a crony. Even the L.A. Times editorial writer — who is a sucker for the pathetic claims of innocence of a Death Row inmate who is guilty as sin (more in an upcoming post) — is skeptical of Ahhnold’s decision:

The younger Nuñez is no prince. He and his friends went looking for a fight after being kicked out of a campus frat party, and according to prosecutors, Nuñez stabbed two other victims, who survived. He also allegedly destroyed evidence by burning clothing worn on the night of the fight and throwing knives into the Sacramento River.

When you can’t even convince the editors of the L.A. Times to be lenient with a violent criminal, you’ve really gone off the rails. Ahhnold.

Thanks to Bradley J. Fikes.

12/2/2010

Los Angeles Times (Possibly) Errs in Describing Third Striker’s Record; UPDATE: And Possibly Not; NEW UPDATE: Definitely Not

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 8:14 pm

I am going to refrain from commenting on the following case except for noting evidence of a possible error by the Los Angeles Times. Here is the Times report:

To hear him tell his story, John Wesley Ewell was the victim of an overly harsh criminal justice system.

The South Los Angeles hairstylist complained to journalists over the last decade about the unfairness of the state’s tough three-strikes law, saying he lived in fear that even a small offense would land him back in prison for life.

He even appeared on the “The Montel Williams Show” to argue the case against three strikes. A caption that flashed on the screen when Ewell spoke read: “Afraid to leave his house because he has 2 ‘Strikes.'”

But Ewell is now charged with murdering four people in a series of home invasion robberies that terrorized the South Bay this fall. On Tuesday, he pleaded not guilty during a brief appearance at the Airport Courthouse.

Far from embodying the severity of the justice system, Ewell benefited from its lenience over the last 16 years, according to a Times review of court records and interviews.

Ewell has a lengthy criminal history that includes two robbery convictions from the 1980s.

Meanwhile, Larry Altman at the Daily Breeze reports:

Records show Ewell has an extensive criminal history dating to the 1980s that includes grand theft, robbery, burglary and forgery.

The complaint shows him with two prior “strikes” for robbery convictions in 1988 and 2005.

Frankly, between the L.A. Times and Larry Altman at the Daily Breeze — a reporter I respect quite a bit — I’m going with the Daily Breeze on this one.

If he’s right, the Los Angeles Times owes its readers a correction.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

UPDATE: Poking around some more, there are other stories whose facts suggest that Altman got it wrong. A Press-Telegram editorial says:

From a prosecutor’s viewpoint, Ewell didn’t seem violent. As the LA Times reported, his most recent arrest was for petty thievery at a Huntington Park Home Depot. He had been out of prison since 2002 . . .

If he had a robbery conviction in 2005, he would not have been out of prison since 2002. Similarly, the New York Times implies that he already had the two strikes on his record in the 1990s:

Judges convicted him of forcing a woman to withdraw money at an A.T.M. in 1985 and pulling a man from a parked truck, binding his arms and driving off with the man’s wallet. He became an advocate of repealing the three-strikes law, which allows for life sentences on a third conviction, appearing at events and on the “The Montel Williams Show” and saying he feared being thrown in prison for good.

Under the law, a person with two felony convictions is eligible for a sentence of 25 years to life on any third offense. In most California counties, that law is applied as written, Mr. Grace said. But in Los Angeles, he said, public outcry against life imprisonment for third offenses as minor as “stealing a piece of pizza” led the current district attorney, Steve Cooley, to win his post in 2000 on a platform of reforming the law. Mr. Grace said Mr. Cooley’s “office policy is to treat as a second-strike case” a third offense that is not violent. In the late 1990s, when Mr. Ewell was convicted of forging a check, prosecutors did not pursue a life sentence.

So perhaps the L.A. Times got it right after all. It will be interesting to see whether they run any editorials about the case — given that their editorials have for years called for precisely the sort of treatment this individual received from the system.

UPDATE 12-11-10: Turns out the reporters got it right after all. Ewell had robbery convictions in 1985 and 1989. Details and proof here. My apologies for suggesting the paper got it wrong.

9/29/2010

Needed: An Initiative to Get the Death Penalty Working Again

Filed under: Court Decisions,Crime,General — Patterico @ 7:24 am

As I noted last night, a Clinton-appointed judge named Jeremy Fogel has granted a stay of execution in the case of a man convicted of raping and killing a 15-year-old child in 1980.  There is no denying he is guilty.  Yet his execution will be held up until at least next year so that the judge can “conduct an orderly review” of a new execution protocol that the judge admits has not been shown to be deficient — and that the judge admits is superior in several demonstrable ways to a Kentucky protocol found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision points up the need to have different methods of execution available to a condemned man in California, so that illusory deficiencies in one method will not hold up the execution of a clearly guilty man who has committed a monstrous crime.

As I see it, realistic possibilities include:

  • Firing squad.  To my knowledge, the firing squad has never been held unconstitutional anywhere.  Several bullets to the head should produce a rapid and certain death.
  • Gas chamber retrofitted with carbon monoxide.  As far as I know, California’s gas chamber, which formerly used cyanide, is still around and functioning.  Death by cyanide was improbably ruled unconstitutional by Carter appointee Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in the 1990s.  Her decision was affirmed by the Ninth Circus in a decision written by Carter appointee Harry Pregerson, and not appealed. But there is absolutely no reason we can’t retofit the chamber to use a non-painful gas such as carbon monoxide.
  • Overdose of barbiturates.  Even our friend the liberal judge Fogel claims that this would be constitutional. Of course, there are issues: there is currently a nationwide shortage of the drug we used to sedate prisoners, and it could be discontinued almost entirely. Furthermore, the method found hunky-dory today will be declared horribly cruel tomorrow. Best to have several alternatives on the table.

This will have to be done by initiative.  Our Democrat legislature will not vote to authorize new methods of capital punishment.  Nor would any any such law be signed by Jerry Brown if were to be elected Governor.  (I will have more to say about the conduct of the Attorney General in this case in a future post.  Suffice it to say that he has not defended capital punishment in California as he claims he has.)

What we need is someone to bankroll an initiative authorizing these alternatives. Commenter Dana notes that a poll conducted this summer (.pdf) found that 7 in 10 Californians continue to support capital punishment. Citizens don’t want to see it used in every case, but they want it available for the worst of the worst. Over 700 such people currently sit on Death Row. If we don’t fix the situation they will all die of old age.

Albert Greenwood Brown raped 15-year-old Susan Jordan and strangled her to death with one of her shoelaces. The courts say he can’t suffer too much pain when he dies. That’s outrageous enough — but letting him live is more ridiculous. Let’s do what it takes to dispatch this fellow to the fate he deserves.

9/23/2010

Injustice in Dallas

Filed under: Crime,Race — Jack Dunphy @ 10:43 am

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

The police department in Dallas is being turned upside down over an alleged case of police brutality. On Sept. 5, two police officers chased a man on a motorcycle and had an altercation with him at the end of the pursuit, an altercation in which the force used appeared, at least to me, to be measured and appropriate. Racial politics in the city caused a complete inversion of the outcome, with the charges against the black suspect dismissed and the white cops who arrested him in all kinds of hot water.

I have a column on Pajamas Media in which I discuss the incident, complete with links to the dash-cam footage of the pursuit and the so-called “beating.” An excerpt:

As is unfortunately required in these cases, the facts of the incident must be viewed through race-colored glasses. Andrew Collins is black while the officers who arrested him are white, a set of facts that has prompted Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Mayor Tom Leppert to trip over each other while engaging in a pathetic orgy of apologies to “the community.”

Ah yes, The Community. When mayors and police chiefs use the term, it’s almost always a euphemism for “minorities,” more particularly, “minorities who make trouble.” None of them would ever dare admit it publicly, but mayors and police chiefs in cities across the country live in constant, almost paralyzing fear of getting that phone call, the one that informs them of some incident that may, if things are not quickly and deftly handled, lead to rioting in the streets. Officers Bauer and Randolph of course didn’t know it at the time, but when they first put the spotlight on Andrew Collins as he rode down the sidewalk on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., it was destined to be one of those incidents.

Read the whole thing.

–Jack Dunphy

9/16/2010

Come at a Cop With a Knife, Expect to Be Shot

Filed under: Crime,General,Immigration — Jack Dunphy @ 2:09 am

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

I have a new column up today at Pajamas Media dealing with the recent police shooting of a knife-wielding man near downtown Los Angeles. It begins as follows:

Everyone knows there are few certainties in life. Yes, you always hear about death and taxes, but recent events here in Los Angeles have revealed other certainties which are, perhaps not coincidentally, related to the first two.

The first is this: If it is your custom to spend your afternoons getting drunk, wielding knives, and menacing passers-by on busy street corners, and if, after the police have arrived as they must when this behavior has been brought to their attention, you fail to drop your knife when ordered to do so, and if then you further tempt fate by advancing toward a police officer with the knife raised in such a way that the officer reasonably believes his life is imperiled, it is as close to a certainty as this world can produce that you will be shot and maybe even killed.

So discovered — too late — one Manuel Jamines (a.k.a. Manuel Ramirez, a.k.a. Gregorio Luis Perez, a.k.a. heaven knows what else) on the afternoon of September 5 at the corner of 6th Street and Union Avenue, just west of downtown Los Angeles.

We are now facing the odd spectacle of illegal immigrants trying to dictate how the police department in America’s second largest city should conduct its affairs. What’s especially odd is that if some of the people protesting the shooting engaged in similar conduct in their home countries, they’d probably be put up against a wall and shot.

Read the whole thing.

–Jack Dunphy

8/31/2010

L.A. Times Misrepresents Holding of Federal Decision in California Murder Case

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 8:23 am

A front-page story in the L.A. Times this morning is titled She killed her husband — or did she?

Police got a confession from Kristi Lyn Bateson nine years after her husband was found shot to death while she was shopping. Tests showing her emotional vulnerability helped overturn the verdict.

No, they didn’t.

The story is certainly set up to suggest otherwise. The story is by Carol J. Williams, a name that will be familiar to Patterico readers from her 2009 article mischaracterizing the holding of a court decision concerning the war on terror. (We used to have one.) My refutation of her errors was vindicated in a remarkably lengthy and detailed correction that noted the mistakes that I had pointed out on my blog.

Today, Williams again misleads readers — including her own headline writer — concerning the real reason that Kristi Bateson’s murder verdict was overturned.

Bateson’s husband was shot to death at his home in 1992, while Bateson was ostensibly shopping with the kids. Cold case detectives interviewed Bateson in 2001 and obtained a confession from her that she had murdered her husband because he was controlling. A friend testified that she and Bateson had a running joke about whether they could murder their husbands and get away with it. A rifle that her husband owned, which had been seen in her husband’s truck a week before the murder, was never found.

Still, the key evidence showing her guilt was her confession. Regarding that, reporter Williams writes:

Word of the case reached UC Berkeley sociologist Richard Ofshe, an expert on false confessions. He suggested that Kristi be subjected to psychological screening for vulnerability to stress-compliant confession.

“False confession comes about almost all the time due to police misconduct, but there are a small number of people so stress-sensitive that they can’t withstand the pressure of even a legitimate interrogation,” Ofshe said recently. “In Kristi Lunbery’s case, it appeared she was one of those people so unable to deal with stress that she would comply as a way of escaping the stress without thinking about the consequences.”

Ofshe, who has testified in more than 300 trials, described Kristi as “one of the most easily dominated people I’ve ever met.”

Williams spends several paragraphs discussing Ofshe’s testing and proposed testimony. The reader is left with the impression that the defense failure to present this testimony was central to the court’s decision.

Late in the article, Williams writes:

On May 25, the panel overturned Kristi’s conviction.

Judge John T. Noonan Jr., a tough-on-crime conservative, shot holes in the prosecution’s theory. Kristi had spent a third of Charlie’s life insurance on his funeral. Troy Lunbery “was not on the scene in 1992.” Kristi’s claim that Charlie was “controlling” was an idea suggested by the detectives.

Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wrote that the “only evidence linking Kristi to the murder was her own statement, which she claimed was false. She had confessed, and it is hard to imagine anything more difficult to explain to a lay jury. After all, people do not just confess to crimes they did not commit, do they? Well, it turns out they sometimes do.”

Neither the state nor Shasta County appealed the 9th Circuit ruling. That left the county with a Sept. 1 deadline to set a retrial date or free Kristi.

Given the focus of Williams’s story on Ofshe and his testing, you can hardly blame the headline writer for concluding that “[t]ests showing her emotional vulnerability helped overturn the verdict.” After all, that is what Williams’s story seems to imply was the central finding of the Ninth Circuit.

But it wasn’t.

It doesn’t take specialized legal knowledge to see that tests showing Bateson’s emotional vulnerability had nothing to do with overturning the verdict. Here is the court’s key passage on Ofshe’s testimony:

Petitioner presses her claim that counsel was ineffective because they failed to call Professor Ofshe and failed to investigate further the validity of Kristi’s confession. These failures, if established, constitute errors requiring the grant of the petition. . . .

Failure has yet to be established. As evidence so far, we have only a memorandum in trial counsel’s file stating why counsel decided not to call Ofshe and an affidavit of federal habeas counsel stating that she had interviewed Kristi’s two defense counsel on the subject and that each had put responsibility on the other for not putting on expert evidence. To decide petitioner’s claim we need the live testimony of her
trial attorneys. . . .

We do not, however, need to delay our decision on her other contention.

Her other contention is that the California state courts improperly ruled inadmissible evidence that the murder had been a mistake by a drug dealer who had targeted a previous occupant of the home.

The exclusion of that evidence was the sole basis of the reversal. Judge Hawkins’s quote above is from a concurrence that has no legal effect.

It’s a dramatic quote, though — so why not make it sound like it was central to the decision? After all, in a contest between drama and truth, which is likely to win out?

This is the L.A. Times we’re talking about.

8/4/2010

Racism Made Him Steal, and Kill

Filed under: Crime,Race — Jack Dunphy @ 11:19 am

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

Only the naïve among us failed to expect this. From MSNBC:

MANCHESTER, Connecticut — Omar Thornton sat calmly in a meeting with union representative and his supervisors as they showed a video of him stealing beer from the distributor where he worked.

Busted, he didn’t put up a fight, company officials said. He quietly signed a letter of resignation and was headed for the door when he pulled out a gun and started firing — “cold as ice,” as one survivor described it.

In the end, Thornton killed eight people, injured two, then turned the gun on himself in a rampage Tuesday at Hartford Distributors that union and company officials said they would not have anticipated from someone with no history of complaints or disciplinary problems.

Yet relatives say Thornton, 34, finally cracked after suffering racial harassment in a company where he said he was singled out for being black in a predominantly white work force.

Pathetic. Expected, but still pathetic.

–Jack Dunphy

7/31/2010

What’s Wrong with Chicago?

Filed under: Crime — Jack Dunphy @ 1:16 pm

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

I have a new piece up over at Pajamas Media in which I look at the sorry state of affairs in Chicago, home to some of the country’s best people but worst politicians. The Chicago Sun-Times took a look at a particularly violent weekend in 2008, during which forty people were shot, seven of them fatally. The Sun-Times discovered that, even two years later, no one had been convicted in any of those crimes, and that only one accused murderer was awaiting trial. None of the other six murders had been solved, nor had most of the non-fatal shootings.

Read the whole thing.

–Jack Dunphy

New Shoes for the Cause of Justice

Filed under: Crime,General — Jack Dunphy @ 12:19 pm

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

Perhaps it’s a result of all the miles they walk on picket lines and in protest marches, but I find it odd that whenever the perpetually aggrieved take it upon themselves to vent their anger over some perceived injustice, said venting almost invariably includes the looting of a shoe store.

Two weeks ago, the Oakland Police Department released photographs taken during the riot that followed the involuntary manslaughter verdict in the death of Oscar Grant. One can’t help but notice that, for people outraged to the point of violence, some of them appear to be having a pretty good time as they help themselves to other people’s property.

–Jack Dunphy

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