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March 03, 2005

Comments

I oppose the death penalty on the most abstract of grounds, in that I don't like giving the state/majority that power. It is not a passionate opposition, and I too could pull the switch in these cases.

One of the things that bothers me most about Iraq is the constant stories of political murder and assassination. The recent examples of the judge, the anchorwoman, the Shia cleric. I really fear that the delay in creating a secure environment is decapitating Iraqi civil society of its most talented in a way that will weaken the country for several generations.

libertarian socialist?

Isn't that like a libertarian hawk?

Good one, Charles, I had just come back from cruising the blogosphere looking for comments on the Lefkow murders - and voila!, here's a post on ObWings (yeah, I know, why go anywhere else....;).
What I found, by the way, outside of David Niewert, was a post by InstaPundit, which (except for, to give Glenn his due, a link to Orcinus) was mostly links to bloggers criticising the New York Times for publicizing the name of Judge Lefkow's daughter. Typical.
While there may be some slight chance that Mr. Lefkow and Mrs. Humphrey were offed by a couple of random burglars, there is WAY too much connection with the Matthew Hale case - and its overt incitements to murder and violence - for these terrible crimes to be mere coincidence.
One can hope that the Authorities (who sadly, are usually never as efficient as they are shown on TV) will be able to track down and nab the criminal terrorist scumbags (for that IS what they are) who did this; the implication for our country are too dire for them not to pull out EVERY stop in their efforts.

I assume that by the use of the term "libertarian socialist", the intention is to translate the term "anarchist" into something more comprehendable to those unversed in the various political movements in the last century.

Why would that indicate that they're confused?

"...for these terrible crimes to be mere coincidence."

I really hope you're never on a jury. Although I'd love that were I a prosecutor.

d-p-u:
I think the InstaProf's link to a Noam Chomsky page was intended to be a sort of joke (who knows with him?): the really "confused" one, I think, was one Bill White, whose interview in IP's link (on Pravda Online of all places) reveals him to be, uhh, well,.... if you can unravel his knotty skein of "thoughts" to come up with some sort of coherent name for his nonsense, you're well up on me: "loony-tunes anarchist" is close enough, IMO.

On an emotional level, Charles,I agree with you. I live out here, too, and I remember the Campbell murders. Absolute evil. But...the fact remains that in an imperfect world the price of a death penalty is the execution of innocents. Campbell wasn't innocent, but, in order to execute him, the death penalty has to exist, and that means sooner or later an innocent person would be executed.
We don't need a death penalty. We need a life without parole that really means life eithout parole.

Two thoughts spring to mind for me about this (as an opponent of capital punishment)...

One, the death penalty for the scumbag who committed the murder you referenced, is most likely letting him off "easy". I think a life sentence in a PMITA federal prison would be much more satisfying punishment(...yes, crude, but that's how I feel). If you want to criticize something specific regarding that case, criticize the idiots who put a violent criminal offender on a "work program".

Two, the people who posted the diatribes against the judge (I also recall reading that they posted contact information on her) should have some culpability in this matter. Inciting to violence or some sort of offence.

Also, I don't see how this is significantly different from the hate spewing rants you tend to see on some of the more extremist political sites (thinking specifically of the Rachel Corrie incident here). There's a big difference between political snark and encouraging/cheering acts of violence (not to be interpreted as a smear of the right-leaning posters who write for this site).

I also remember the case and agree that if you were looking for a poster boy for capital punishment, Campbell would be your guy. And Washington's use of the death penalty is a whole lot more judicious and defensible than some other states (*cough*Texas*cough*). But I've come to be an opponent over the years, mostly for the reasons cited by Bob McManus and by Lily. I'm glad to be living now in a state that doesn't have the death penalty.

"should have some culpability in this matter. Inciting to violence or some sort of offence."

Not certain as to the current state-of-law, but here is a link to a Slate article by Dahlia Lithwick from 2002 about the abortion opponents who published addresses of providers:

Poster Children

My opposition to the death penalty isn't based on moral or philosphical grounds but practical ones. I actually have no moral objection to the death penalty for monsters like Campbell or McVeigh or Gacy or Bundy.

But experience shows us that, if a state has an active and employed death penalty law, i.e. they actually put people to death on a regular basis, then death sentences are generally going to fall mostly on the poor, indigent and mentally impaired who are least able to defend themselves.

Not to mention that very few of them will be for monstrous crimes like the ones mentioned in Charles' post.

My general opposition to the death penalty aside, I've always felt that the penalty for rape (especially rape preceded by B&E) should be the same as that for murder one: life w/o parole. 30 years with release after 8 is a laughably low penalty for a rapist. And no violent criminal of any kind ever should be allowed on an unsupervised work release program. Ever.

But experience shows us that, if a state has an active and employed death penalty law, i.e. they actually put people to death on a regular basis, then death sentences are generally going to fall mostly on the poor, indigent and mentally impaired who are least able to defend themselves.

Not to mention innocent people like Rolando Cruz. I personally applaud former governor Ryan for having the courage to realize that the system was rotten -- he had to have known that some people would mistake it for a lack of "moxie."

It should probably be noted by someone (so I will) that the media concentrates on the lurid cases of parole violation, and so our thoughts on the matter are often that it's a failure. I don't know what the sats are in the US, but here in Canada, there is an extremely low incidence of repeat offenders, so by and large, it's a success. But successes of judicial systems don't sell media advertising, so the public's opinion of the programs are negative.

Violent offenders can and are often rehabiliated. It would be unjust and unwise to never allow violent offenders parole simply because a few newsworthy and admittedly horrific cases where it has failed. You may as well ban airline travel because occasionally planes crash.

>When a death penalty case comes along, I ask myself this question: Is the crime so egregious that I would be willing to pull the switch myself?

The problem with basing this on the nature of the crime is that it just makes it more likely that we want someone, anyone, to fill that chair.

I like an alternative question, "Is the crime so egregious and the guilt so clear that I would be willing to track the person down and kill them myself?" If so... there is really no need for the state to do it.

Pyrrho touches on the disturbing feeling I have that, if someone killed my wife or kids, he had better hope he remains safely incarcerated for a long time. Part of me hopes I wouldn't try to get revenge; part of me wonders how I couldn't?

Which I guess is why I'm not against the death penalty in theory, though in practice it should probably be suspended immediately in the U.S. until we get (1) an "innocent beyond a believable doubt" standard and (2) a Federal Court of Capital Appeals, reviewing *every* death sentence by the same standards. (This would also, I hope, cut out the years of habeas appeals.)

Violent offenders can and are often rehabiliated. It would be unjust and unwise to never allow violent offenders parole simply because a few newsworthy and admittedly horrific cases where it has failed.

For me, I'm distinguishing between the general class "violent offenders" and the subclasses "first degree murderers" and "violent or serial rapists." AFAIC, those two crimes are heinous enough, and enough of a violation of the social contract, to preclude ever being released from prison.

As a Wisconsinite, I'm pleased that we haven't had a state sponsored execution for over a century and a half and I hope it continues for a few more centuries, but I still had a hard time feeling any righteous indignation when Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison. Some people have put themselves outside the protection of the law (in an informal or emotional sense).

For me, I'm distinguishing between the general class "violent offenders" and the subclasses "first degree murderers" and "violent or serial rapists." AFAIC, those two crimes are heinous enough, and enough of a violation of the social contract, to preclude ever being released from prison.

Again, this presupposes that these kinds of criminals cannot be rehabilited, which is false. Additionally, management of felons who are incarcerated for life without hope of release or redemption is difficult, as they don't have a lot to lose, and will probably endanger other inmates or prison guards. It will make things like plea-bargaining on capital cases difficult or impossible, thereby further choking the judicial system, and will also require far more checks and balances in the system to prevent lifelong imprisonment of guilty parties.

Seems like an awfully big price to pay for a system that may be working fairly well (I still haven't heard the re-offending rate of parolees in the US. Anyone know?)

Make that ... to prevent lifelong imprisonment of innocent parties.

Duh.

While not directly on topic, this article is food for thought. While I agree in varying degrees to many of the points made, simply focussing on reforming the death penalty rather than on the larger and more amorphous problem of prison reform creates further problems, I think as d+u suggests.

"My general opposition to the death penalty aside, I've always felt that the penalty for rape (especially rape preceded by B&E) should be the same as that for murder one: life w/o parole. 30 years with release after 8 is a laughably low penalty for a rapist."

Never one to avoid opening a can of worms, this is exactly what I found wrong about the case which said that the death penalty for rape was "cruel and unusual" because it was an excessive penalty considering the crime. It seems to me that punishments for rape could be considered in the same category as murder for the purposes of determining what is excessive.

Me: I still haven't heard the re-offending rate of parolees in the US. Anyone know?)

Why yes. Wikipedia knows: The US Department of Justice stated in 2002 that about 45% of parolees completed their sentences successfully, while 41% were returned to prison, and 9% absconded. These statistics, the DOJ says, are relatively unchanged since 1995; even so, some states (including New York) have abolished parole altogether for violent felons, and the federal government has abolished it for all offenders convicted of a federal crime, whether the crime was violent or not.

45% is an extremely low success rate, in my opinion. Rather than simply ban paroles, why not fix the parole process? That would seem to be cheaper than the alternative. Wikipedia, again, provides a clue:

Parole is a controversial political topic in the United States; during elections, politicians whose administrations parole any large number of prisoners (or, perhaps, one notorious criminal) are typically attacked by their opponents as being "soft on crime".

Aha. Tail wagging the dog, I'd say.

I wouldn't regard completion of a parole as "success", necessarily. I'd want to see the recidivism rates on those who've completed their paroles. Let's not mistake patience for rehabilitation.

Sure, good point, but often a completion of parole without offense is generally a good sign. A lot of crime is either due to poor impulse control, mental problems, or substance addiction. If any of those are still present, the parolee is unlikely to be able to make it through without reoffending.

I also think there is a clear demographic variable to recidivism.

1st time burglar...2 yrs...gets out at 20 repeats crime
2nd offense...5 yrs...gets out at 25 repeats
3rd offense...10 yrs...gets out at 35 and gets clean

I think this is a very common pattern, tho I am pulling numbers out of thin air. That is a 67% percent recidivism, but the number really doesn't tell the story.

Never one to avoid opening a can of worms, this is exactly what I found wrong about the case which said that the death penalty for rape was "cruel and unusual" because it was an excessive penalty considering the crime. It seems to me that punishments for rape could be considered in the same category as murder for the purposes of determining what is excessive.

If I weren't opposed to capital punishment, I would probably agree, except for one huge problem: racism. The application of the death penalty was extremely biased in these cases, more biased even than in capital murder cases, which are also notably biased against minorities (and men).

Looking at this from a bit of a distance, it seems to me that the problem is that the foundation of a legal/justice system is to maintain social control, which leads to the implicit assumption that it is the lower classes that are primarily the problem. As we move to a system that aims (or at least gives lip service) to egalitarism, the legal system has also to punish those who take advantage of their position, yet the weight of the system is tilted towards punishing those who threaten the system and often exempts those who have the ability and connections to postpone/avoid judgement. (I am particularly interested, living near Minamata, in this aspect) Not only is it that the present system gives much more weight to those with money, but the overwhelming presumption is not that with power comes responsibility, but that those lower on hierarchy have to overwhelmingly prove that power was used unfairly. It leads me to wonder if we can clarify the debate by positing two meta classes of crime, ones that should be punished to maintain social control and those that should be punished to mete out justice.

Seems to me some people are bent on punishing prisoners to the exclusion of trying to improve their chances when they return to the world.

Phil,

For me, I'm distinguishing between the general class "violent offenders" and the subclasses "first degree murderers" and "violent or serial rapists." AFAIC, those two crimes are heinous enough, and enough of a violation of the social contract, to preclude ever being released from prison.

What about attempted murder?

Funny how folks ganged up on Charles Bird for jumping to a conclusion (re killers) in that post, but not on this one. Hm.

Usually I avoid death penalty threads, but I have a couple of things I want to say here.

Bobzilla- I disagree that life in prison without possibility of parole would be tougher on the convict than the death penalty. The fact is that as a multiple murderer/rapist Campbell and those like him do very well for themselves in prison. They have to settle for male bitches of course, but otherwise their material conditions and status are both better in prison than they could be in the outside world.

Keeping people like that out of the general prison population has a lot of merit even if you don't like the death penalty.

(Yes innocent people get executed, yes the criminal justice system is systematicly racist at every level.)

I think we may just have to settle for a system thats less perfect than we want it to be. Not that I endorse ignoring problems, but I wish people who object to capital punishment would put their efforts into things like the innocence project instead of trying to prevent executions.

Funny how folks ganged up on Charles Bird for jumping to a conclusion (re killers) in that post, but not on this one. Hm.

Actually, I made a mistake, I wasn't planning on posting on any of Bird Dog's threads, but got confused between this thread and the death penalty one. As for that other thread, it's already clear that BD was letting his own prejudices run away, as this story proves. Of course, to get a retraction, I'd have to put my 401k up, I suppose. As for this post, basic SOP for Bird, using someone else's suffering to make an argument.

Again, this presupposes that these kinds of criminals cannot be rehabilited, which is false.

At the risk of losing any goodwill I might have accrued amongst the politically liberal, I don't really care. And, as it stands, many of them [criminals, not liberals] cannot be rehabilitated, particularly serial killers and serial rapists. Or the chances of rehabilitation are so vanishingly small, and the potential suffering that would be caused by reoffense so great, that it doesn't matter.

What's more, given that I do opposed capital punishment on principle, I consider life w/o parole a fair tradeoff for the most violent of criminals. And I suspect that most other people do as well. To put it in your own backyard, do you think Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka should ever be paroled?

Additionally, management of felons who are incarcerated for life without hope of release or redemption is difficult, as they don't have a lot to lose, and will probably endanger other inmates or prison guards.

Hmmm . . . I guess I shouldn't bring up 23-hour solitary lockdown in those cases.

It will make things like plea-bargaining on capital cases difficult or impossible, thereby further choking the judicial system, and will also require far more checks and balances in the system to prevent lifelong imprisonment of guilty parties.

So? Then make sure they're in place. I mean, if you're going to tout prison reform even though you admit up front that it's difficult and costly, you can't turn around and argue against an improved court system, fairer application of the laws and better standards of evidence to prevent unjust imprisonments because it's difficult and costly.

Hey, let's improve both those things and the parole system, to help keep the people who are let out from reoffending. But I see no moral problem and no injustice in keeping the Bundys and the Specks and the Bernardos and the Rodriguezes and the Mansons in jail forever and ever.

But I see no moral problem and no injustice in keeping the Bundys and the Specks and the Bernardos and the Rodriguezes and the Mansons in jail forever and ever.

Nope. Nor do I.

My feeling is that if you are in principle opposed to the death penalty - as I am - it is necessary to accept that there are offenders for whom life must mean life.

Stunningly, I agree. Although where I'm coming from is: in favor of the death sentence in principle, but opposed in practice. Ideally, the death penalty would look like this: incontrovertible evidence of vile crime, trial, march the prisoner outside and put a bullet in his head. Or the like. Unfortunately, this ideal of bulletproof (so to speak) evidence is rarely if ever met, hence our current system of interminable waits, endless appeal on procedure, etc. It just doesn't work.

And as much as I understand the families of the victims desiring or even needing closure, you can't always get what you want. Sometimes all you can expect and demand is the best the system can give you, and I think guaranteed life imprisonment is that thing.

As for that other thread, it's already clear that BD was letting his own prejudices run away, as this story proves.

The story proves that the murderers were trying to make some easy cash. It does not prove what prompted them to quadruple-murder this family of fairly modest means. I will post an update to the Armanious murders when something concrete actually happens. If it turns out that they were not murdered by jihadists who were offended by Armanious' Christian evangelism, then I will humbly apologize and retract. Try not to let your own prejudices get in the way, LJ.

As for this post, basic SOP for Bird, using someone else's suffering to make an argument.

That was a cheap shot and a posting rules violation, once again attacking the intent of the writer, as if somehow the poster's motivations are somehow more important than the substance of the issue brought forth.

The story proves that the murderers were trying to make some easy cash.

Um, it proves no such thing actually -- as the article makes explicit, the police have no knowledge whatsoever that whoever has been using the ATM card is, in fact, the same person or persons who murdered the family:

We have ascertained, by surveillance, time and observation, that the vehicle was apparently used at the drive-in by a person who was using the ATM card of Mr. Armanious," DeFazio said yesterday, referring to 47-year-old Hossam Armanious, who was killed along with his wife and two children in their Oakland Avenue home.

"The car is somewhat distinctive. We are working on locating it with the Jersey City Police Department and the FBI.

"It is more information that will hopefully lead us to the persons involved with the murder of the family," DeFazio added.

"We are not discounting anything at this point. Just to make it clear: There are no suspects at this point and we can't say yes or no at this point that the guy using the card is one of the murderers."

Read that last quote again, and then explain just what you mean by using the word "proves" in this context. Are you using it in some strange colloquial manner with which the rest of us aren't familiar? If that's your standard for "proves," I think I join Gary Farber in hoping you are never called to serve on a jury.

The story proves that the murderers were trying to make some easy cash. It does not prove what prompted them to quadruple-murder this family of fairly modest means.

The notion that these Islamic radicals, amply funded by the Saudis, need to hit an ATM to find some easy cash is laughable. It is not altogether clear if they were just a 'family of modest means', and they have not been able to find any corroboration of the father receiving death threats via the internet (as one of the links you provide notes, there was only one computer in the house, in the daughters' bedroom)

That was a cheap shot and a posting rules violation, once again attacking the intent of the writer
I don't think it is. I have no idea what your intent is (and I have no idea what you mean by 'once again'), but the fact is that you have posted on Rachel Corrie to make a point about Wash state voter rolls (calling her a 'historic figure'), the Armanios family (once as the main topic of a post and second as corroboration of Saudi influence), and now using the Lefkow killing to leap into your notions of crime and punishment. A possible fourth is your reliance on one right wing dutch blog to paint a picture of Dutch society on the verge of collapse and a fifth being the post utilizing the asassination of Hariri could be counted as well. The only saving grace of your Nepal post is that it doesn't focus on a single incident, but it certainly seems of a piece.

as if somehow the poster's motivations are somehow more important than the substance of the issue brought forth.

it is precisely because these issues are ones of substance that I resist the notion of trying to use people's suffering to forward your view. My posts on the subject of the death penalty have pretty much set out that I can see points on both sides of the discussion. If you wanted to make this a discussion of white extremists rather than why you support the death penalty, I suggest that you wouldn't have added the Renae Wicklund story.

Phil, while I think that BD's ability to leap to conclusions is evident, my point is that BD has already decided that the killers were Islamic radicals. I should also add that the police have a suspect in custody. This passage is of note.

Someone using Hossam Armanious' debit card drained thousands of dollars from several of his accounts during a string of ATM visits in the days following the murders, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said.

The suspect used the Bank of America card at ATMs in the Heights section of Jersey City and in midtown Manhattan for five days after the murders, DeFazio said.

The withdrawals, during which Armanious' personal identification number was entered, bolster the theory that the killings occurred during a robbery.

"It's a significant first step in the course of the investigation," DeFazio said Monday. "We believe that the person who was using the ATM card is at least associated with the killers."

When the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox family members were found slain, each was bound with duct tape and stabbed to death.

Initial reports speculated about a possible landlord-tenant dispute, but the theory quickly dissipated as more attention was paid to the possibility the killings were the result of religious violence.

Frontpage mag, Michelle Malkin, and Daniel Pipes are still holding that it was done by Islamic radicals. And BD.

A very nice post and equally cogent comments above, except for this throw-in at the end:

The question is, given the State of Illinois' 2003 actions on death row inmates, will the government have the moxie to do so.

The Illinois dilemma exemplified what several above have noted -- the problem between the death penalty in theory and in practice. There are always indivudal cases when it makes sense to apply the death penalty, but in practice it ends up being applied in many questionable circumstances.

Only BD would use the term "lack of moxie" to refer to a decision to set aside the death penalty for a system that was running around a 50% error rate in sentencing innocent people to death. Simply typing those words shows a serious lack of moral judgment.

I see no reason not to believe that Bird Dog means exactly what it looks like : will the government have the "moxie" to kill people even when there's a 50% chance they're innocent.

Slarti: "Stunningly, I agree. Although where I'm coming from is: in favor of the death sentence in principle, but opposed in practice. Ideally, the death penalty would look like this: incontrovertible evidence of vile crime, trial, march the prisoner outside and put a bullet in his head. Or the like. Unfortunately, this ideal of bulletproof (so to speak) evidence is rarely if ever met, hence our current system of interminable waits, endless appeal on procedure, etc. It just doesn't work."

I don't agree with you on much politically (judging from most of your posts), but we're in exact alignment here. And you put it far more eloquently than I did.

Cheers,
Bob

Oh, goosh, Jes, it's been two whole years since the Ryan-imposed moratorium. I'm sure they've solved all those problems by now.

Phil: To put it in your own backyard, do you think Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka should ever be paroled?

I'd have thought that Clifford Olsen would have made a better boogyman, but I suppose the Bernardo/Homolka case is equally lurid.

At any rate, I seriously doubt that given the nature of those two crimes, it's unlikely that either Olsen or Bernardo will ever be free again. Homolka will be freed in July of this year. As I know few details of her involvement in the Bernardo slayings, her subsequent treatment, or her state of rehabilitation, I don't know whether her release is a risk to anyone or not. Hopefully not.

But this invokes the boogyman principle. Serial killers like these are the exceptions, not the rule, and it's a mistake (IMO) to base your assessment of the chances of rehabilitation on boogymen. Or, in Homolka's case, boogywomen.

Perhaps. It's also a mistake to craft a sentencing and parole policy that's loose enough to run a real risk of letting some of these "boogymen" out. How do you craft a policy that says, "'Boogymen' stay in forever, everyone else gets a chance at parole and rehabilitation?" If we have to err on the side of keeping some murderers and rapists in jail longer, I'm comfortable with that. Again, I am restricting it to the class of first-degree murderers and violent/serial rapists. Neither of those two kinds of crimes tend to be borne of "poor impulse control" as you alluded to above. Indeed, the definition of first-degree murder precludes it from having been impulsive.

As I know few details of her involvement in the Bernardo slayings, her subsequent treatment, or her state of rehabilitation, I don't know whether her release is a risk to anyone or not. Hopefully not.

Gosh, I hope not, too.

Phil: How do you craft a policy that says, "'Boogymen' stay in forever, everyone else gets a chance at parole and rehabilitation?" If we have to err on the side of keeping some murderers and rapists in jail longer, I'm comfortable with that.

I should probably point out that I'm quite comfortable with people like Bernardo and Olsen remaining in prison forever, but for many offenders I think that the concept of rehabilitation, redemption, and forgiveness are important concepts for society, the victim, and the criminal. Simply classifying these people as animals or monsters and shutting them away doesn't serve society's interests in the long term. Having said that, public safety is more important than the rights of the offenders. It's important to balance the two.

Regarding how to craft a policy that keeps the boogymen out of society: in the Canadian legal system, there is a special classification of criminal known as a "dangerous offender." Prisoners with this status have almost no chance of applying for parole ever, and are literally locked up for life. About 25 or so dangerous offenders are admitted to Canadian prisons each year.

Homolka wasn't declared a dangerous offender, and plea bargained to testify against Bernardo. I'd suspect that she might have been beetr off asking for a life sentence, as she's never going to be able to reintegrate into society, given the horrific nature of the crimes she participated in, and the general revulsion toward her exhibited by society.

And now, they have charged the suspect in the killing. Regardless of the intent, not only has law enforcement efforts been misdirected, I feel certain that people like Pipes and Malkin are not going to make any retraction. (Malkin posted a screed on _Friday_ berating the MSM for hyping the Right Wing connection in the Lefkow case but ignoring the Islamist connection in this case)

Well, before this thread expires, I just thought I would add a coda to my post above (3/3, 12:52pm) - and say that Charles' classy "apology" for his posts re the Armanious Family slayings has prompted me to re-think my assertions.
Just to note, the parallels in the Armanious and Lefkow cases are striking: both sets of victims had (in one way or another) connections antagonistic to violent extremist groups: that these killings might fall into a simple category of "victim of [whatever] political violence" is a easy judgement to make: but, as the outcome of the former shows, life doesn't always fall out in simple patterns.
Anyway, if CB can put "Crow on the Menu" a couple of wings in Buffalo sauce won't kill me.

Read that last quote again, and then explain just what you mean by using the word "proves" in this context.

LJ was trying to claim that the story proved that I let my prejudices run away. The story nothing proved of the sort, Phil, since no motive for the crime was put forward.

The notion that these Islamic radicals, amply funded by the Saudis, need to hit an ATM to find some easy cash is laughable.

We disagree. There is plenty of extremist literature out there that calls for Muslims to spill the blood and take the money of infidel proselytizers. Also, from the Bergen Record:

"Just because somebody took money does not mean it is a robbery-based killing," said Louis B. Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. "Taking money after some sort of ritualistic killing is not unusual."
I don't see relying on experts in the field is laughable.

I have no idea what your intent is (and I have no idea what you mean by 'once again')...

Try here at 10:51pm, or at 11:44am. Or here at 8:08pm.

...but the fact is that you have posted on Rachel Corrie to make a point about Wash state voter rolls (calling her a 'historic figure'), the Armanios family (once as the main topic of a post and second as corroboration of Saudi influence), and now using the Lefkow killing to leap into your notions of crime and punishment. A possible fourth is your reliance on one right wing dutch blog to paint a picture of Dutch society on the verge of collapse and a fifth being the post utilizing the asassination of Hariri could be counted as well. The only saving grace of your Nepal post is that it doesn't focus on a single incident, but it certainly seems of a piece.

Well, excuse me for offering opinions. If your measure of criticism for weblog entries is the inclusion of "single incidents" that occur, then I suggest you're applying one standard to me and another for writers whom you agree with. Where's the criticism of the single incident in this post?

Phil, while I think that BD's ability to leap to conclusions is evident, my point is that BD has already decided that the killers were Islamic radicals.

Mindreading once again.

Only BD would use the term "lack of moxie" to refer to a decision to set aside the death penalty for a system that was running around a 50% error rate in sentencing innocent people to death.

I have no idea where that 50% comes from, dm. The fact is, when those killers are caught and convicted, the issue of their punishment is going to come up and it's going to be debated.

Chas
I have been careful not to kick you, but instead praise you while you were down, but after posting your "Crow on the Menu" piece, you really have some chutzpah coming back after me again, especially on this point. As for those comments that you claim have me divining your intent, not only don't I see it, but you may want to go to this one which come after the ones you list above or this one which again comes after the one you cite. I have honestly tried to point out the effect of your rhetoric rather than suggest your intent, but to quote selectively as you do seems to suggest that you enjoy subsisting on a steady diet of crow. I guess that I have to again foreswear commenting on your posts because I respect the other front page posters here enough to try and avoid a food fight. Sayonara.

LJ was trying to claim that the story proved that I let my prejudices run away. The story nothing proved of the sort, Phil, since no motive for the crime was put forward.

And yet you ascribed a motive nonetheless. Do you see the point?

LJ was trying to claim that the story proved that I let my prejudices run away. The story nothing proved of the sort, Phil, since no motive for the crime was put forward.

We're not talking about LJ, Charles, we're talking about you. So pay attention. I know you can do this.

At the time the article was linked, which had the FBI and prosecutors stating nothing more than 1) someone had been using the Armanious's ATM card, 2) they had an ATM photo of the car they were using, and 3) authorities were trying to find the car and the people using the card, you claimed that "The story proves that the murderers were trying to make some easy cash."

You can do this, Charles. Be strong. I know you took the SATs at some point in your life. So, for me, and for everyone, try to understand how the linked article didn't prove that the murderers were trying to get some easy cash, since the article didn't even prove that the people using the card were the murderers. Try, please.

I have no idea where that 50% comes from, dm.

It's the number of people on Illinois' death row that apparently didn't commit the crimes they were going to be executed for, Charles. So, if you think the only thing that might make the Illinois justice system hesitant about continuing to apply the death penalty is a "lack of moxie," rather than only a 50-50 chance of getting it right, it might indicate that you are a profoundly immoral person.

LJ, I appreciate the sincere apologies you've made on more than occasion, so don't get me wrong on that. That does not mean that I will abdicate defending myself on criticisms that I consider unfair, before or after consuming a steaming plate of crow. I don't know what you mean by "quoting selectively". You couldn't recall something, and I gave you three references.

Phil, you're just not making sense on the allegations of my so-called prejudices. The link didn't demonstrate that I let my alleged prejudices run away. And you're similarly as unenlightening as dm at showing where the 50% number comes from.

The 50% number is a reference to the statement by then-Governor of Illinois, George Ryan, announcing the suspension of the death penalty in Illinois in 2000. He said to CNN, in part, "We have now freed more people than we have put to death under our system -- 13 people have been exonerated and 12 have been put to death."

As it turns out, Illinois is about average for death penalty states. A study commissioned by the Senate Judicary Committee, during a 23 year period reached found the following:

Nationally, during the 23-year study period, the overall rate of prejudicial error in the American capital punishment system was 68%. In other words, courts found serious, reversible error in nearly seven of every 10 of the thousands of capital sentences that were fully reviewed during the period.

High error rates put many individuals at risk of wrongful execution: 82% of the people whose capital judgments were overturned by state post-conviction courts due to serious error were found to deserve a sentence less than death when the errors were cured on retrial; 7% were found to be innocent of the capital crime.

It's a pretty depressing report.

Phil, you're just not making sense on the allegations of my so-called prejudices. The link didn't demonstrate that I let my alleged prejudices run away.

I didn't say it did. I said it didn't prove what you claimed it proved. I don't care about your so-called prejudices. I care that, at the time that link was posted, you made a conclusion about its content -- "The murderers were trying to get some quick cash" -- that was unwarranted given the facts in evidence. That later facts caused the statement to be true doesn't mitigate the fact that you had no way of knowing whether the people using the ATM card were the murderers.

And you know, Charles, if you were going to talk smack about former Gov. Ryan's moratorium on the death penalty and commutation of sentences, it might have behooved you to know a little about the circumstances under which it was occurring. Then you might have known all by yourself where the 50% number came from.

I've been debating whether to respond, because it is quite possible that I reacted a little too harshly, probably because I thought (unfairly) that you had to be dragged to make the post you did. Hey, I'm human too.

One reason I reacted/will react so strongly is that the point of using specific incidents to make a general argument really gets under my skin. This is why your example of the post on the SCOTUS decision isn't equivalent to me: no one is directly dead or hurt because of the SCOTUS decision. Certainly there may be people who feel that the inability of the justice system to mete out the death penalty prevents closure, but that is different than particularlizing a case so that someone's parents/spouse/children have to consider who is lost. Human suffering is far too common and I think that making rhetorical points off of it has us devalue it. Both hilzoy and edward have specifically declined to post about the Lefkow murders until more information is known, even though they could easily score points off it. For the Armanious case, the news stories said that the suspects had been withdrawing money from ATMs for a few weeks after the murders. I have to wonder if the focus on the Islamic hatred angle meant that investigative resources that might have noticed the ATM withdrawals were otherwise engaged in a wild goose chase. To delay justice is to weaken it.

A few points about the rhetoric of thread commenting. First of all, I try (not always successfully) to deal with each topic separately. Given that people have different talents and experiences, it is inappropriate to do anything less. so if you felt that I was attacking your intent in any of those threads, you really should have pointed it out at the time.

Second, if you quote someone saying 'you're a [insert pejorative here]' and overlook the fact that later they clarified or apologized, that is selectively quoting. Perhaps you only remembered those quotes and not the apologies, but how would you feel if someone, 3 or 4 months down the line, references your sharia post with no reference to the fact of your crow post. It would not be a defense to say 'hey, I'm just providing a reference'. Unfortunately, a lot of peole think that parsing (things like 'I wasn't being personal, I merely made the observation that you appear to be incapable of understanding simple thoughts') substitute for straightfoward apologies. So let me say again, I apologize if I made you feel that your intent was the issue. It is not. Unfortunately, complaints about sources that a person uses or ignores often seem to speak to intent, and some people try to imply that connection. But the alternative is to not speak about the sources at all and end up with endless threads arguing about what other posters say.

I think this notion applies in a more general sense to front page posts. We have bumped heads several times on how you source things in your posts. While I am sure that I am being anal about how much one should do, I would appreciate it if you would at least try and meet me a bit of the way and try and provide more varied sources, at least on the front page.

As I said before, I realize that these posts do not write themselves, so I appreciate the effort that you and the others make here.

Visit this thread for the most informative Lefkow news-
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Wow, serious mistake to look at the above site. Powers-that-be, good candidate for deletion. Take my word for it if you are offendable. Off to wretch.

...if you were going to talk smack about former Gov. Ryan's moratorium on the death penalty and commutation of sentences, it might have behooved you to know a little about the circumstances under which it was occurring.

I think you're stretching to say that I was talking smack, Phil, and the issue isn't whether the numbers are 50% or 2% or 80%. The fact is, it is likely that these murderers will get caught. At that point, the issue of the death penalty will come up. It's going to be a high-profile case and if they're convicted beyond reasonable doubt, the penalty phase will loom.

LJ, I appreciate your comments and your challenges. For my part, I shall continually strive to improve both front page and comment section commentary.

I think you're stretching to say that I was talking smack, Phil, and the issue isn't whether the numbers are 50% or 2% or 80%.

Well, then, we disagree. I think that implying that the only thing that might keep a prosecutor from seeking the death penalty is a "lack of moxie," rather than serious reservations about the capital punishment system in the state, is talking smack. It's little more than playground taunting: "What are you, afraid? Don't you have any guts?" Silliness, and below you.

And I, for one, think the percentage of people exonerated of the crimes for which they were sent to death row is an extremely important issue. Perhaps more important than any other in the realm of criminal justice.

Not sure where this should go, but I should point out that Malkin has retracted. This link goes to Eric Muller's Is that Legal? blog that puts the Malkin retraction in perspective.

Also, there is this Star-Ledger article that makes some of the same points I do concerning that Armanious slaying.

Investigators did not learn of the ATM transactions until they intercepted a letter from the bank indicating Armanious' account had been shut down. That letter arrived the week of Jan. 24, DeFazio said.

DeFazio said obtaining court orders and getting the records of Armanious' bank account took weeks. "It does take time, this is not stuff you get in 72 hours," he said.

Others questioned the delay. Augustine Papay, a retired homicide detective with the New York City Police Department, said a victim's financial records are the first thing investigators should obtain and that should take only hours, not days.

"I'm not trying to Monday morning quarterback, but this guy was able to run around (withdrawing money) for five days and then the bank had to send a letter?" Papay said. "Somebody wasn't paying attention to the financial part of the investigation."

Once they learned of the withdrawals, detectives obtained bank security videos, and in one they recognized McDonald.

DeFazio said his investigators were looking into financial motives from the start. But he also said rumors that Armanious, a devout Coptic Christian, had received death threats from Muslims in a religious chat room proved a "hindrance" to the investigation.

"It had to be looked into, we had no choice," he said. "But certainly there were resources dedicated to that which maybe could have been used for other purposes."

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