Two Monsters

June 5, 2016 at 11:34 am | Posted in Crime and punishment | Leave a comment
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Photo in 1887 of the actor Richard Mansfield, by Henry Van der Weyde (1838-1924; London,

Photo in 1887 of the actor Richard Mansfield, by Henry Van der Weyde (1838-1924; London,

A previous posting on this blog tried to make sense of the murderer of a sweet, trusting, in-love teen age girl by a high-achieving college student, who was both a good student and an althlete.

The only picture that seemed plausible at the the time was that the murderer was ordinarily a decent human being, but had been scared into becoming a murderer. His accomplice was hardly discussed in that posting, because she seemed to be a cipher. But it was implicitly assumed that she, too, was ordinarily a decent person, who had been driven by friendship to commit evil.

I was wrong.

A recent article by T. Rees Shapiro, Moriah Balangit in the Washington Post shows that David Eisenhauer and Natalie Keeper were pysochopathic monsters. They each really are both Jekyll and Hyde.

Indeed, the incident that begins the plot line in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel bears an eerie resemblance to the sequence of events that unfolded from Nicole Lovell’s natural search for romantic love, a search whose natural strength would have been intensified by the self-doubt and desire for vindication that resulted from the ‘mean girl’ bullying she had endured at her middle school.

David Eisenhauer and Natalie Keeper constitute potentially instructive examples of how two people, well-raised in presumably loving families, could become like the SS troopers in Nazi concentration camps, and like the ‘guards’ in the present day concentration camps in North Korea.

We need a detailed understanding of how that happens.

Humane Executions

July 29, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Brain and mind, Crime and punishment, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment, Terrorism | 1 Comment
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A woodcut showing a rabid dog in the Middle Ages. "Middle Ages rabid dog" by Unknown - Scanned from Dobson, Mary J. (2008) Disease, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Quercus, p. 157 ISBN: 1-84724-399-1.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg

A woodcut showing a rabid dog in the Middle Ages. “Middle Ages rabid dog” by Unknown – Scanned from Dobson, Mary J. (2008) Disease, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Quercus, p. 157 ISBN: 1-84724-399-1.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg

 

Execution by lethal chemical cocktails has recently become more difficult.  Some of the makers of the required chemicals refuse to sell them for that purpose.  The remaining makers desire anonymity, to avoid becoming the target of protests.  Worse, some of the recent chemical executions have been botched, and seem to have produced drawn-out painful deaths.

All of these problems could be eliminated by returning to an older technique: death by bullet.

But the shooting should not be performed by a firing squad.  Too many things can go wrong with a firing squad.

Instead, use a device that softly but firmly holds fixed the head and chest of the condemned.  A commercially available cervical collar might be one part of the device.  The condemned should be lying horizontally, face up, unable to move, on a special table having a soft surface.

The execution would be carried out by one or more gunshots from behind the head.

The gun could be fired by either a person or a computer.  Computer-controlled firing would be less subject to mistakes.  Sensors viewing the vicinity of the condemned could provide signals to the the computer so that the gun could fire only when no other person was in the line of fire.

Note: The general design described above is hereby released into the public domain by thepoliblog.WordPress.com.  It is not patentable.

That covers the how.  What about the why?

As long as the death penalty is imposed fairly, its morality is clear.  We kill mad dogs, attacking wild animals, and armed enemy soldiers.  We kill terrorists.  We kill madmen and criminals who try to kill the police, and madmen who attack the public.  We kill cancers.  No matter how morally advanced we become, we will always regard such killing as justified.

But can the death penalty be imposed fairly?

Some claim that the death penalty can never be imposed fairly on an individual who is now under our control.  Why not treat such a person as a prisoner of war?  Why not restrain them instead of killing them?  Why not try to rehabilitate them?  These are difficult questions which I hope to address in a later posting.  But for the present, recall that we do not use these alternatives for mad dogs.  Recall that the intrinsic dignity of human beings may be a too-sweeping and vaguely founded concept, and likewise for the concept of free will.  And recall that many innocents have been killed by seemingly reformed but unreformed parolees: different person’s brains are wired differently.

On these matters I have to agree with Charles Lane, and have to disagree with Eugene Robinson, who is usually one of the most insightful analyzers of public issues, and with the Editors of the Washington Post.

 

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It Was Legal to Kill al-Awlaki

June 27, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Posted in Crime and punishment, Enemies of Freedom, Terrorism | Leave a comment
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Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, a lightened version (by Greg A L) of a photo taken by Muhammad ud-Deen.

Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, a lightened version (by Greg A L) of a photo taken by Muhammad ud-Deen.

On September 30, 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a Hellfire missile fired by the US government, even though al-Awlaki was nominally a U.S. citizen at the time.  (See here.)

Absurdly, the legality of this act is controversial in the most idealogically blinkered circles.

Think back to the Civil War in the U.S. If it was legal for Union soldiers to shoot Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, then it was legal for the US Government to kill al-Awlaki.

Wikipedia states that ‘The “targeted killing” of an American citizen was unprecedented.’ It is impossible to believe that during the Civil War soldiers were not particularly enouraged to kill named generals and high-ranking officers. So there are actually many precedents.

Killing al-Awlaki was prudent and just, as well as legal.

 

If we do not punish al-Assad

September 3, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Crime and punishment, Enemies of Freedom, Terrorism | 1 Comment
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A 1939 Second World War-era baby's gas mask in Monmouth Regimental Museum. This design covered the whole of the baby except for its legs. (The caption was obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_mask).  Photo taken by Rock Drum on 19 May 2012, at the Monmouth Regimental Museum.

A 1939 Second World War-era baby’s gas mask in Monmouth Regimental Museum. This design covered the whole of the baby except for its legs. (The caption was obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_mask). Photo taken by Rock Drum on 19 May 2012, at the Monmouth Regimental Museum.

If we do not physically punish the al-Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons:
=> All treaties on the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, on the use of torture, on terrorism, on the treatment of civilians, and on the treatment of captured enemy soldiers, become meaningless.
=> The U.S. and others should immediately begin stockpiling chemical and biological weapons, and radioactive contaminants, and methods for delivering them, because others will do so.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.  We must physically punish the al-Assad regime.

As for the vote in the British Parliament, those who voted against action have learned nothing from Chamberlain’s mistake in Munich.

For background, see here, here, and here.

 

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Drug-fueled Murder

August 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Posted in Crime and punishment | Leave a comment
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Ingredients and equipment for making crack cocaine.  Photo by Psychonaught.

Ingredients and equipment for making crack cocaine. Photo by Psychonaught.

Yet another innocent was horrifically murdered by someone under the influence of PCP.

In this particular case, we have an unusual amount of detail about what was going through the murderer’s mind at the time.  He has admitted guilt, and has told us.  (See Justin Juvanal’s article in the Washington Post.)

But he apparently hasn’t been asked one of the most important questions in situations like these: Where did the killer get the drugs?  Who sold them to him?

Given the killer’s present state of remorse, he would probably answer truthfully.

If we knew who sold him the drugs, the drug seller could be be taken out of circulation.

Surely the drug seller should be charged as an accessory to the crime.  The drug seller was a knowing enabler.  In this case and in so many like it, if the killer had not been able to obtain PCP or crack cocaine, the killing would not have occurred.

In all such cases, the murderer’s willingness to identify the seller should play a huge role when sentencing the murderer.

PCP (Phencyclidine), also known as angel dust.  Photo by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

PCP (Phencyclidine), also known as angel dust. Photo by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin

March 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Crime and punishment | 1 Comment
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Mug Shot of George Zimmerman, 11  April 2012, from Seminole County, Florida Sheriff's Office.

Mug Shot of George Zimmerman, 11 April 2012, from Seminole County, Florida Sheriff’s Office.

A handgun, not necessarily the one used by George Zimmerman. Walther P99 chambered for 9x19mm round. The photo was apparently taken by Sirimiri, on or about Feb 11, 2007.

A handgun, not necessarily the one used by George Zimmerman. Walther P99 chambered for 9x19mm round. The photo was apparently taken by Sirimiri, on or about Feb 11, 2007.

Anonymous.1

BloodSplat.1001avatars.net.137

 

 

 

 

 

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This is a follow-up of a previous blog posting on George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

In my opinion, George Zimmerman is guilty of the exultant manslaughter of an opportunistically chosen victim.

Let me explain what exultant manslaughter is.

Like many of us, George Zimmerman’s personality includes a streak of vigilantism.  (The popularity of the YouTube video of a vigilante bus driver in Russia confirms that the vigilante urge is widespread.)

George Zimmerman was – probably only semi-conciously – looking for an opportunity that would provide a rationalization, an excuse, a cover, that would permit him to experience the thrill of power and accomplishment and of virtue from having blown away a bad person.  Any instance of the types of persons we all hate would do: the types of persons who cause us to gnash our teeth in frustration when we learn of their acts.

He had no particular person in mind.  The person was to be selected by fate.  George Zimmerman prowled the streets in his vehicle at night, because the history of nightime property crimes in his neighborhood favored stumbling upon a malefactor that way.

That is what is meant by exultant manslaughter.

I know this because of something in my own history.  When I was a graduate student I would work on my thesis until late at night, and then walk home through the empty and mostly dark campus.  One day there was news that over several nights lone students had been beaten up by a small roving band of rogue students.  Instead of changing my schedule, I went to a store that sold outdoor gear, and bought a blackened commando knife in a sheath.  Each night I strapped it on before leaving the office.  I walked home with my hand on the knife’s handle, scanning for lurking threats, and thinking of the satisfaction there would be in sinking the blade into astonished attackers.  Stupid but lucky, I never had the occasion to experience what the consequences would have been.

A dagger, roughly similar to the one I bought.

A dagger, roughly similar to the one I bought.

Village Elders’ Upside Down View of Rape

February 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Posted in Crime and punishment, Fairness | Leave a comment
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Population density in Pakistan.  Figure created by nomi887 .

Population density in Pakistan. Figure created by nomi887 .

When a 13 year old girl was gang raped in a village in Pakistan, she filed charges against her attackers.  That violated tribal tradition.  The village elders sentenced her to death for bringing disgrace to the village.

(I learned all this from a fine article by Michele Langevine Leiby in the Washington Post.)

The village elders need to understand that it is they, the elders, who disgraced their village.  They did so in three ways:
– they failed to punish the rapists
– they failed to comfort and heal the innocent victim
– by those two errors, they failed to protect the village’s children.

The girl is Kainat Soomro.  She is still alive, protected by the police, and she is still seeking justice.
Michele Langevine Leiby’s article notes that Soomro’s story, and that of her rapists, is the subject of a documentary film, Outlawed in Pakistan, by Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann, and that an expanded version of the film will be shown on TV this spring, in PBS’ Frontline series.

Ask George Zimmerman

June 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Crime and punishment | 2 Comments
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Here are questions that George Zimmerman must be asked, so that we can get a clear picture of what led to his killing of Trayvon Martin on the evening of February 26, 2012.

George Zimmerman got out of his truck because Trayvon Martin, alarmed by the truck that was stalking him, began to run.  Why didn’t George Zimmerman get back into his truck after the police dispatcher, having been informed of that, told him “We don’t need you to do that.”?

If George Zimmerman had returned to his vehicle, there would have been no confrontation.  In fact, the Miami Herald quotes the Police Department’s coordinator of volunteers as saying that she had warned volunteers – including George Zimmerman – against doing anything more than observing and reporting, and had told them never to act as vigilantes.  (http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/17/v-print/2700249/trayvon-martin-shooter-a-habitual.html,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Trayvon_Martin)

If the police had been alarmed by what Zimmerman was describing in his calls, they would have intercepted Trayvon Martin and questioned him.  If the police had questioned him, Trayvon Martin would have been annoyed, but would not have felt threatened, as he did feel when confronted by the  person who seemed to be stalking him.
That George Zimmerman got out of his truck and initiated contact with Trayvon Martin refutes the assertion by the police that they had not found evidence to contradict his assertion of self-defense.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Trayvon_Martin)

Now put yourself in Trayvon Martin’s shoes.  You had done nothing wrong, and were just walking along in the pleasant cool of the evening, looking about at the interestingly unfamiliar but pleasant suburb that you were visiting.  Gradually you become aware that, incredibly, you are being stalked by a stranger in a truck.  The driver must be a criminal or crazy person, and must be be sizing you up to rob or abduct you.  You start to run.  The stalker then gets out of his truck and corners you.  Worse,  this stalker has a gun.  You try to fend him off, to avoid being forced into a situation where you would become unable to defend yourself.  Wouldn’t you reach for the gun, out of desperation?  How can punching and a gun-grab by a stalked person be called “an unprovoked attack”, as George Zimmerman asserts? Travon Martin’s actions were all in self defense.  Trayvon Martin was the one who “stood his ground”.  And he did so only because he had no choice.

Blaming Trayvon is like blaming the victim of a bully for defending himself.

I have a guess as to why George Zimmerman got out of his truck to chase Trayvon Martin.  George Zimmerman’s patrolling was obsessive, according to the police department.  Its obsessiveness suggests that he had fantasies of becoming regarded as a hero.  Those fantasies are probably why he chased his suspect on foot.  Also, he was emboldened by having a gun.

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