A case of “OMG, the cops shot another unarmed man” is in trial as I write this, and new evidence is coming out that seems to favor the officer. It’s a classic example of why a recurring theme in this blog has been to avoid the rush to judgment and wait until all the facts are in before a one-sided accusation convinces us of someone’s guilt.
Unmeritorious cases can be brought against citizens as well as cops. My friend and student Ken Ewing recently lent me an instructive book: “Drawn to Injustice: the Wrongful Conviction of Timothy Masters,” written by Masters with law professor Steve Lehto. Masters was a 15-year- old boy who collected knives and, like many of his demographic, had a morbid interest in violent fiction. When a 37-year-old woman was stabbed to death near his home, detectives – one in particular – fixated on him as the suspect. Several years later they arrested him for it, overlooking more likely suspects, and a perfect storm of misinterpreted circumstantial evidence, exculpatory evidence withheld from the defense, a couple of overzealous prosecutors, and a psychologist who testified for the prosecution without examining the defendant or having full knowledge of the evidence, resulted in a conviction and a sentence of life without parole.
A decade later, DNA evidence conclusively proved that Tim Masters could not have been the killer.
“Though the wheels of God grind slowly, they grind exceeding small.” That’s sometimes true of the wheels of Justice, too. Masters was compensated by settlements that added up to roughly a million dollars per year of his imprisonment. The two prosecutors, who in the interim had been elected to judgeships, were censured by the state bar association and largely as a result of this, were booted off their benches by voters in the next election. The lead investigator was indicted on multiple counts of perjury, which were dismissed due to the statute of limitations. He remained suspended pending internal affairs investigation in spite of that, and resigned, ending a 33-year police career under an ugly cloud. A brave cop who stepped forward, and a new prosecutor who understood his obligations as a minister of justice, had a lot to do with the outcome, too.
Read the book. It’s so important to wait for ALL the evidence. Despite clear proof otherwise, there are still people who think Masters is a murderer, and are even confused enough to believe he was 37 and killed a 15-year-old, getting the ages backwards. For that matter, there are still people who think poor George Zimmerman is guilty of murder.
It’s a sad thing, and the kind of injustice we all have to work to keep from repeating.
Does the other side really want “reasonable, common sense gun control”?
Remember Nancy Pelosi saying that if she could have, she would have said “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ‘em all in,” or words to that effect? That intent still exists beneath the relatively transparent surface of the usually more disingenuous gun prohibitionist movement.
We offer as evidence, Professor Alan Dershowitz.
Now, “to give the devil his due,” I’ve had some good things to say about Professor Dershowitz in public, and I’m happy to repeat them here. I’ve heard lawyers criticize him for using his law students to do his research for cases he was getting paid for, and I defended him for that: he was giving those students priceless real-world on-the-job training in high profile cases, and reducing the legal research costs for the defendants in the bargain. His comments why the prosecution of George Zimmerman, and the manner thereof, constituted an outrage were outrage were in my opinion spot on, and I said so…in this space, and elsewhere.
However, there are some points where I profoundly and vehemently disagree with the professor. One of those was his assertion that police are taught to lie on the witness stand – to “testi-lie” – in the police academy. Having more time by far in police training than he has, I call BS on that.
And then, of course, there is Dershowitz’ radical position on “gun control.”
On the opposing side is an old friend of mine, Richard Feldman, Esq. Watch it yourself. Feel free to comment here as to who won the “reality check.”
The Hard Line | Alan Dershowitz and Richard Feldman discuss proposed gun-free zones
After the atrocious mass murder at the recruiting office in Chattanooga, some civilians who support their military have showed up conspicuously armed to perform volunteer guard duty at other recruiting centers. Some of them are military vets. I totally sympathize with their wish to protect the people who protect their nation.
However, it has not worked out as well as some might have hoped. In one incident, a volunteer was “showing” his AR15 to a passerby – something not normally compatible with “guard duty” – and an unintended discharge occurred.
Here, a volunteer guard was authoritatively requested to leave.
And here, we find the military itself less than thrilled with the idea.
As one observer noted, most of us would be leery of a volunteer unknown to us who showed up on our roof fixing the shingles, let alone standing outside our house with a military rifle to guard us, uninvited. Moreover, if strangers with visible rifles become the norm outside recruiting stations, it will allow the next jihadi to make a closer approach and not trigger alert status until he starts shooting.
What’s that saying about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions? I appreciate Americans who care about the safety of their soldiers and Marines. It seems, however, that political activism to get trained, armed military personnel distributed on base and in recruiting stations is going to be the best support we can offer in this vein to our service men and women.
There has been a lot of talk lately about self-defense shootings of black suspects by white people being treated differently than if it had been a white person harmed by an African-American. The perception is nothing new. I recently had occasion, for another reason, to review a story about one of my cases that I had written in the late 1990s. The following is an excerpt from my assessment of a trial I had participated in a year before.
The quote: Johnny Cochran, NAACP-coordinated picketing, a white versus black thing. I hate it when that happens. I worry about it sometimes, but probably more than I should.
Cross-racial shootings bring the same concerns whether I’m speaking for white good guy who shot black bad guy, or vice versa, both of which I’ve done several times.
A little more than six months before this trial, I testified for a black man charged with first degree murder and standing before an all-white jury after he had shot a white man in self-defense. That jury found him not guilty, and did so during the O.J. Simpson civil trial in the courtroom next door to where the Simpson case was being adjudicated. Justice was served.
This time, I spoke for a white man charged with first degree murder and standing before a largely black jury after he had shot a black man in self-defense. I knew how much pressure there had to be on the black jurors, and knew what they’d face if they acquitted and went home to a community that had heard Johnny Cochran and the media say that (defendant) Hubbard had killed a black man for no good reason.
The jury was out for about an hour and 40 minutes before they returned their verdict and found Blake Hubbard not guilty. One juror said later that they’d reached the acquittal verdict unanimously during their first five minutes of deliberation.
Call me a starry-eyed optimist if you will, but my opinion hasn’t changed in the 17 years since I wrote that. I’ve learned to trust the jury. Get the facts in front of them, and they’ll do the right thing, the forces of media bias and hate-mongering notwithstanding.
Asa Hutchinson, we recall, was the man named to head the NRA School Shield program to put armed security in our nation’s schools in the wake of the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. He is a man who understands the logical truth: the only way to stop mad dog mass killers is to do what we would do with any other mad dog.
According to the Associated Press, “A day after a gunman shot and killed four Marines and wounded three other people in Chattanooga, Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, told reporters that arming troops in those offices could cause more problems than it might solve. ‘I think we have to be careful about over-arming ourselves, and I’m not talking about where you end up attacking each other,’ Odierno said during a morning breakfast. Instead, he said, it’s more about “accidental discharges and everything else that goes along with having weapons that are loaded that causes injuries.”
“We’re always going to be somewhat vulnerable to a lone wolf, or whatever you want to call it, a surprise shooter, because we are out there with the population and that’s where we have to be,” added the Chief of Staff.
Kudos to Governor Hutchinson for decisively doing what is obviously the right thing. I sincerely hope it starts a trend.
In the meantime, that picture of the bullet-riddled window of the recruiting office in Chattanooga – replete with its “no guns” sign – stands as stark proof of the fact that “gun free zones” are simply hunting preserves for mass murderers.