Monday, December 12, 2011

Two States, But The Same Travesty

Justice delayed is justice denied. That is a thought which most Americans support. But usually, we think in terms of a criminal defendant or an aggrieved civil litigant when citing that dictum. On far too many occasions, the justice is denied to the victims of a violent crime and the people of the state in which the crime occurred. So it is with a pair of unrelated prosecutions--one in California, the other in Pennsylvania.

In California, the system-gamer is one Michael Morales. In 1981, Morales was convicted of murdering seventeen year old Terri Winchell. It was a particularly brutal and vile murder. Morales bludgeoned, knifed, strangled, raped, then finally snuffed out the life of a young woman. The evidence was clear. The conviction was quick and firm. The case was appealed on procedural grounds twice through 2005. Each time, after considerable legal maneuvering, rescheduling and unnecessarily lengthy deliberation, the appeals were denied at both the state and federal levels.

After twenty-four years of delay, none of which involved a scintilla of argument that Morales was innocent, a date was set for execution of the death sentence he had so richly earned. Not so fast, said Federal Judge Jeremy Fogel. With the needle of justice in preparation for insertion into Morales's worthless hide, a last-ditch appeal was filed in 2006. The latest fad among opponents of the death penalty was to challenge the ultimate penalty as "cruel and unusual" because it is "so painful." Nobody really believes that. But liberal federal judges are able to suspend disbelief with alacrity. Fogel found that there was (get this) less than a .001 percent chance that Morales might feel some pain as he shuffled off this mortal coil. But that was enough for Fogel to order a stay of execution.

Anyone who has had major surgery and undergone general anesthesia can tell you that the doctors could have cut them in half and sewed them back together backwards, and they wouldn't have felt a thing. The same type of general anesthesia is the first injection which a condemned prisoner is given. For the patient, any possible pain would be felt after coming out of the anesthesia. In Morales's case, there was no intention that he wake up. That's why it's called the death penalty.

God forbid that the man who tortured and raped his victim before killing her should feel the slightest bit of ephemeral pain before expiring. Yes, I know, we're supposed to be "better than the violent criminal." But for crying out loud, .001 percent chance that he might, possibly, maybe feel something for a brief and fleeting moment?

Problem solved in 2008 (or is it?). Taking up the identical issue from a Kentucky case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state's three-drug execution protocol. Lest there be any doubt, in 2009 the ultraliberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes California) upheld the protocol of the state of Arizona, which is identical to that of Kentucky's. So let's get on with the California execution, right? California's protocol has been scientifically proven to be as effective or more effective than that of Kentucky's or Arizona's. Nevertheless, the case will now be heard no earlier than September of this year. Thirty years of delayed justice and counting.

A new and different federal judge has gotten into the case. He wants to review the new, improved California protocols which are designed to be even more humane than the previous protocol. Of that, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation says: "California's execution protocol is equal to or better than those already approved by the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit. There is no legitimate bases for further delay. If the judges wanted these cases to go forward, they would go forward."

About the caption photo: The case in Pennsylvania is so horrific that it has taken me some time to compose myself before writing about it. You may remember my having written previously about the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (real name, Wesley Cook). Coincidentally, Abu-Jamal also commited his heinous murder in 1981. He was on the street watching as his brother was pulled over for a traffic violation. Waiting for the police officer to write a ticket while facing away from him, this son-of-a-b***h pulled out a concealed gun and shot the officer nearly point blank in the back, execution style. The officer managed to turn and return fire and shoot Abu-Jamal four times before dying. There were multiple witnesses. His own brother (William Cook) refused to testify for or against his brother.

Investigators found Abu-Jamal and his .38 in different locations, but matched the gun and bullets to the round pumped into Officer Daniel Faulkner, and established his ownership of the weapon. Eyewitnesses and later two hospital workers where Abu-Jamal was treated for the bullet wounds matched to Officer Faulkner's gun testified tht Abu-Jamal kept repeating "I shot the motherf****r, and I hope the motherf****r dies."

His guilt and the police/prosecution actions have been upheld on multiple occasions on appeal, only to have a new round of appeals start up, time and again. The last round, thirty years after conviction and sentencing, was aimed at the death penalty itself. By now even his cheering-section had given up on claiming he is entirely innocent, and instead claim he is the victim of a racist society which caused him to shoot the police officer.

Abu-Jamal was just too perfect a model of what limousine liberals, armchair revolutionaries and Hollywood perverts love to hold up as role models for the people. They just couldn't help loving that man of theirs. So he got plenty of legal and financial support to move his frivolous appeals along. He is a self-proclaimed Marxist, revolutionary, and former Black Panther defender of the poor and downtrodden black folks.

College students wear "Free Mumia" tee-shirts almost as often as they wear the one with their other murdering icon, Che Guevara. Among his better-known megafans are Hollywood folks like Danny Glover, Mike Ferrell, Sean Penn and Johnny Depp. That is not even close to being an exhaustive list. Of course the ACLU, the NAACP, and the Socialist Workers of America also yearn for the sight of the dreadlocked murderer outside a prison.

But here's why it took me awhile to calm down enough to write this article. Awhile back, after years on death row (often within days of execution), the appeals process had finally worn down the prosecution and the family of the slain police officer. The prosecution, along with the bereft widow and children, finally announced that they would no longer pursue the death penalty for Abu-Jamal. They just couldn't go through another decades-long appellate process that would affirm the death penalty he has dodged on appeal three times before.

In the Morales case, justice has been denied by delay. In the Abu-Jamal case it has been denied permanently. While this is truly an example of the legal dictum, there is one additional point that turns my stomach. American society has a large, depraved, and amoral segment that has no shame whatsoever. As soon as the prosecution announced its decision not to proceed with the death penalty, the murder fans cheered wildly and prepared for their next move. Not satisfied with having spared this scum's life, they are planning a rally and fundraisers to keep the process going until this lowlife walks out of prison a free man.

Their rallying cry has always been "Free Mumia." But they tie that to claiming a black man was convicted solely because of racism. Abu-Jamal himself hates mightily, and blames all of society's ills on racism. But here's the important part that makes this whole carnival freakshow so disgusting. Abu-Jamal's sentence was reversed multiple times, but always on procedure or the death penalty, never on guilt or innocence. Racism was involved, all right. It was nothing short of a racist execution of a white cop, a fact which Abu-Jamal himself has never denied in court. He has never said he was innocent, but has maintained all along that "they never proved it."

42 comments:

StanH said...

When you hear and read about “crap” like this, it makes one yearn for old west justice, perhaps even Judge Roy Bean. As we force this country back to the right, it is imperative to once again restore justice to the victims, and the bereaved, not the murderous scum elevated to star status by our useful idiots on the left.

Tennessee Jed said...

The race card is alive and well . . . Wesley Cook has played it to a T. I know that case well. Up to a point, I am resolved that in death penalty cases, there will always be opposition. I cannot fault those that do oppose for using all legal means at their disposal. What I cannot stand is how we can have people sitting on the bench who went to law school (supposedly) so blatantly put their particular biases on display. Jeremy Fogel does not merit the title of "the honorable" unless one considers him as an honorable piece of crap.

We have a horrible situation playing out in Knoxville. Three men and a womam carjacked a young couple, kidnapped, tortured, repeatedly raped both (in every imaginable way.) The young man was shot in the spine and head, set on fire and left burning on r.r. tracks while they went back to spend the rest of the evening with his girlfriend. The next morning, after suffering every indignity imaginable, she was strangled and left to suffocate in a big plastic trash can. Only the ringleader was given the death penalty because the others testified about how hard their childhood was. This from jurors who swore they could uphold the death penalty.

It turns out the case must now be retried because the judge was found to have been addicted to prescription medicines and was using someone he had sentenced to procure them for him. The families have to go through another trial and the possibility these bastards can walk.

Patti said...

i'll NEVER understand how people can dismiss evidence and the victim's suffering when they support violent criminals. i hold those people as accomplices to the pain of the remaining family. They should be ashamed, but we all know it's about a popular cause and nothing more. God-forbid they *think*.

tryanmax said...

Once again, the people choose Barabbas.

TJ said...

Honestly Lawhawk, I don't know how you were able to compose yourself enough to write about this at all. It is truly sickening.

LawHawkRFD said...

Stan: It will take decades of hard work and dedication to fix our broken justice system. I don't think it can happen in my lifetime. One good start would be to educate people who might someday be jurors that the nonsense they see on TV shows like CSI doesn't really happen. Then we have to educate future judges on the fundamental concept that citizens are guaranteed a fair trial, not a perfect trial. Then we finally have to get courts out of the social engineering realm and back into the legal realm.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

This triggered a memory of the ending of "THX1138", where the android cops gave up on capturing THX1138 (Robert Duvall) because their chase exceeded their budget. Other than being extremely tired with faux appeals by dubious characters, I think budget concerns were the real factor in giving up on ultimate justice for Daniel Faulkner's murderer.

What really is galling is the chutzpah of the idiots attempting to free this bastard.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: I've been following that case in the news. Sadly, it's one of those horrible examples of how occasionally the appellate process gets it right. A tainted judge with a drug habit interferes with the orderly process of the law. It's difficult to accept that the defendants got a fair trial under those circumstances. Let's just hope that they are retried, and this time a judge doesn't take the sob stories as any kind of justification or meaningful mitigation at sentencing. As much as I hate saying it, unlike the two cases I cited, in your example the appeal wasn't frivolous. Given a fair trial, all three of them deserve the death penalty and their miserable childhood be damned.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: There is a whole sick subculture that has grown up around the "poor, suffering prison population." I can respect (if not agree with) genuine conscientious opposition to the death penalty. But most of these supporters of scum like Abu-Jamal have become a rooting section for murderers. They are having so much fun being wildly indignant about the "cruel treatment" of the perpetrators that they simply ignore reality, the facts, and the suffering of the innocent victims.

On the left, this is a great opportunity to derail our entire justice system. For the crowds that support the murderers, it's an opportunity to demonstrate about something they know nothing about (but claim to), much like the Occupy movement. For the Hollywood nutcases, it's a chance to get free publicity while salving their consciences for being paid so well for making a living at something so trivial. And perhaps worst of all, its' an opportunity for judges who care not a wit for the Constitution to get their names in the history books.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: That's a pretty good way of looking at it. The problem with so many of these sick, depraved murder fans is that they see Abu-Jamal as Jesus, an innocent victim of an oppressive system, who was only trying to help the downtrodden masses. It's nothing short of a psychosis.

LawHawkRFD said...

TJ: It wasn't easy. The lawyer in me kept giving way to the human being in me. The most recent time that Abu-Jamal's death sentence was affirmed, I thought it was over and he would actually be executed in due course. I should have known better.

The demonstrations that purport to be anti-death penalty are rarely that anymore. They are circuses, with the killer taking the center ring as their star performer. I wouldn't want to see that kind of circus on the pro-death penalty side either. As the Sam Waterston character said in an episode of Law and Order, one can be in favor of the death penalty without being sanguine about it.

AndrewPrice said...

Definitely an outrage.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: At least one anonymous source for the prosecution said that was part of the decision to give up on the death penalty for Abu-Jamal. "We can't keep spending the public's money to obtain the same result we've achieved three times before, only to have it go to hell." Simply put, the murder fans won by attrition. Faulkner's wife agreed with the decision not to press for the death penalty again simply because the emotional toll of going through another round of appeals was too much for her to bear.

But it's not over by any means. Now the murder fans and the Constitution-shredders will go back to prove that Abu-Jamal was innocent in the first place. Such a terrible result could happen. After thirty years, witnesses' memories have faded, evidence has been lost or misplaced, under pressure some witnesses have changed their testimony, and those who investigated and tried the original case have retired, died or simply disappeared. Where there was more than abundant proof during the original trial, there might not be sufficient proof today to sustain a conviction. This has happened in other cases--too many other cases.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: We've both had to learn from our own experience that we have to accept what has been done and move on. But once in awhile, the injustice of what our profession has done just can't be allowed to happen without protest. As you said, this is nothing less than an outrage.

Individualist said...

How exactly did they calculate the pain felt was .001 percent.

Just for laughs the prosecutor should pull the "expert" onto the stand and grill him intensely challenging every single fact and explanation made to come to that conclusion.

He should then require the "expert" top demand the outlawing of anestesia for all surgeries based on the experts claims.

It is a nonsense statement to make.

Writer X said...

This makes me sick. Lawhawk, what are the rights of the victim's family? I can't imagine this happening to my sister/aunt/friend and then watching this circus play out. What can they do?

It's always a brain-dead sheep idiot wearing a "Free the Idiot/Murderer" t-shirt. I wonder how their view would change if their sister/child had been raped, brutalized and then murdered. Or if they even have the brain cells to comprehend that.

T-Rav said...

This is really sickening stuff. Mentioning Johnny Depp brings to mind his work on behalf of the "West Memphis Three," which has been all the rage in these parts for the past couple years. Apparently Depp and others have suddenly become experts in these cases, more so than the actual trained specialists, because they're celebrities and they "care."

Personally, I hope the next murderer they get released from jail has his head blown off by some vigilante on the courthouse steps, right in front of his famous defenders.

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: They asked the previously-executed souls. "On a scale of one to ten, ten being worst, how much did your execution hurt?" LOL I had the same question myself. That was just a silly exercise in imaginative mathematics to justify the desired end result--stop the execution. It was (and is) nonsense indeed.

tryanmax said...

"one can be in favor of the death penalty without being sanguine about it."

That is true of so much that is necessary to keep a society orderly, not just the death penalty. Oddly, the leftist fans of nuance can't seem to grasp it where it legitimately belongs. They seem to believe that supporters of capital punishment--or punishment of any kind--revel in rendering it as much as they revel in enervating it.

LawHawkRFD said...

WriterX: There's little the victims' families can do except stay the course. In the case of Faulkner's widow, she just couldn't take it anymore. When I first went into practice, the victims and their families had no voice at all. At least they now allow them to speak at sentencing in most states. But on appeal, their misery is not even considered.

As for the idiots who don't consider it might happen to them, they will always be idiots until it does happen to them. Hence the expression, "a liberal is just a conservative who hasn't been mugged yet."

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: The West Memphis Three is another horrific example. Thanks for bringing it up. For those not familiar with it, in that case, the murder fans include Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong). Jackson is obsessed with the main child murderer, Damien Echols. Echols was the leader of the gang of three that tortured and murdered an innocent child. After joining Echols in making a documentary about Echols's "innocence," Jackson and Echols got matching tattoos. All three of the defendants were released with help from Hollywood (including Depp). The documentary didn't bother to mention that Echols was a subhuman violent offender, starting with his convictions for torturing animals to death and attempting to gouge out the eyes of a man who dated Echols's ex when he was younger. He was institutionalized three times prior to the murder trial for psychotic behavior.

Yet rather than argue that Echols was insane, the murder fans argued that he was innocent. Records show that Echols is delusional, believing that he was evolving into a super-being. He was himself abused as a child, has a chronic drug problem, fetishized blood rituals, and was occasionally suicidal. Now isn't that just the perfect hero for a Hollywood film?

tryanmax said...

LawHawk, an addition to your education proposal: Somehow we must reinstate a proper sense of what "fair" means in regards to the legal system. And it has nothing to do with evening out whatever discrepancies exist between the perpetrator and the victim.

Without trying to sound to conspiratorial, the liberal influences on and in the courts are shaping a justice system that will one day be able to justify wholly the literal destruction of the "1%".

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: It's also the reason we're supposed to be a nation of laws, not of men. A jury is required to be impartial, and the first questions asked of them at voir dire revolve around whether or not they know the defendants, the police officers, or anyone else involved with the case. That's designed to keep personal feelings from being part of the determination of guilt or innocence. It's also supposed to be true of jurists, but as we have seen in the two cases (plus the one T-Rav mentioned), the judges (particularly the appellate judges) are making decisions based on their own personal beliefs rather than following the law.

The process is supposed to be about the impersonal majesty of the law. Instead, it has come to look like a college football game, with crooked referees.

tryanmax said...

I wish this stuff about Hollywood elites' fetishistic enchantment with the worst, most violent rapists and murderers was more widely known. In certain ways, I don't think that it was all bad that, in a time gone by, a whiff of scandal could taint or ruin a movie career.

I really do think that if more people were simply aware of these snobs' predilections, they would find themselves far less bankable. Much as I enjoy Depp's work, with this in the back of my head, I will have a much harder time parting with my hard-earned cash to watch it.

Individualist said...

Writer X and LAwhawk

Here in Jacksonville Florida the owner of teh Sonny's BBQ franchise was so fed up with criminals getting off scott free when they robbed his establishments that he started the "Victim's Rights Coalition".

I think an employee was hurt or killed and the perpetrator got a light sentence.

Essentially his organization has a newspaper they produce locally that details the crimes individuals commit and focuses on the aftermath it has taken its toll on the families. Representatives sometimes with the families show up in court to ensure the judge knows they are there and work with the prosecutor to ensure that the families get an opportunity to speak out at the trial.

They rate the judges based upon the sentencing that they deal to perpetrators and make the information public in their newspaper. They avoid the usual liberal assualts by stating they are for Victims Rights and focuising on how unfoar the justice system is to those who are victims of crimes. It has worked very well I think and the approach is good because they state they are a Victim's Rights Advocacy group so if you criticize them you are criticizing the victims of crimes. It also tends to deflate the RAce Card because many of the victims of the crimes that they publicize happen to be minorities as well.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: Here is the oath taken by federal judges and justices (with emphasis added): “I, XXX XXX, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as XXX under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.” Each state has its own version of the oath, but they all contain those highlighted portions. Liberal, "living Constitution" judges simply ignore their oath as if they had never taken it. It became particularly apparent when wise Latina and [then] future Justice Sotomayor announced that she could more fairly judge a case which involved another Latino.

tryanmax said...

"Four legs good. Two legs be-e-etter!"

Writer X said...

LawHawk, that expression is priceless. I may have to borrow that. :)

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: Much the same thing happened in my old home jurisdiction of Ventura County in California. But it happened back in the late 50s and early 60s. By the time I started practicing there, a defense attorney knew he had better have sound law on his side because phony sympathy and bad rulings by liberal judges were simply not going to be tolerated. For a very bad period in California jurisprudence in the late 70s and early 80s, our Supreme Court went in the opposite direction. Our lower court judges had to abide by the higher court decisions, but were not hesitant to include in their opinions that they thought the Supreme Court under Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown's Chief Justice Rose Bird was slightly nuts. It culminated with Bird and two other leftist justices being recalled and replaced with strict constitutionalists. Unfortunately, that had little effect on the Ninth Circuit federal bench.

Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that the Christian/Newsom case was improperly ordered to be retried. Technically, I don't think it was as a result of the normal appellate process getting it right per se. A special judge was brought in to review all of the evidence against Judge Richard Baumgartner including all his cases during this period. You are absolutely correct, he had no choice but to order a retrial under the circumstances. Better now when the evidence is still fresh.

The irony is I happen to be good friends with the defense council (one of the top defense counselors in Knoxville who was assigned by the judge) for Lamericus Davidson, the so called "ring leader" and the only one to be given the death penalty. According to him, this judge bent over backwards to give the defendants a fair trial. There remains mixed accounts of whether the death penalty is back on the table for the others or not in the new trials.

What I was ACTUALLY trying to point to (and not doing a very good job of it) was how this case is yet another example of justice delayed for the poor families of the victims. Davidson has shown zero remorse, and makes me yearn for the methods of execution favored in Tudor England. So yes, we can blame the judge in this case, but it is Justice Baumgartner, the original trial judge. And I blame the jurors for saying they were willing and able to apply the death penalty for a conviction. If not for this one, when???

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: I'm convinced that a large proportion of the Hollywood crowd is so drug-addled and guilt-ridden that they have to support the least sensible "causes."

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I really don't know much more about them than what I've heard on the news (which is of course totally impartial and everything), but I always hate when stuff like this comes up. Suddenly the convicts are the victims; the drama is their fight against injustice, and when they get released, it's suddenly a happy ending for anyone and everyone--except the families of those who were actually killed. They get ignored, or get obliquely painted as a cog in the horrible system that put these dear angels in prison. I cannot put into words how much I hate the way these cretins get celebrated.

LawHawkRFD said...

WriterX: I heard that expression many years ago, and over the intervening period I've seen it in action. Liberals are simply incapable of drawing logical inferences from events that don't affect them directly. But once it happens to them, the rules change. Reality replaces dogma pretty quickly.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: I knew what you meant all along, including understanding you weren't criticizing the decision. Your description of the process that brought on the reversal is spot-on. It's simply impossible for a decent human being not to be outraged by many of these appellate court decisions, but as you said, that doesn't apply to the case you discussed. Sometimes, and not often enough, the judges clean up their own judicial houses. It was just sad in this case that in order to do justice, justice must necessarily be delayed.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: It's hard enough to accept a verdict or appellate decision which pays no heed to justice and debilitates the victims and their families. It just gets worse when the murder fans celebrate their undeserved victory.

Individualist said...

LAwhawk

It is ironic because the VRC (Victim's rights Coalition) was very effective in starting campaigns to have judges pulled from office.

In Florida you do not vote for a judge per se you vote on whether or not they should be allowed to stay in office. The VRC was causing problems for certain judges they felt were not fair to the rights of Victims, to the extent that they had to spend money to combat them in election time.

This was met with scathing criticism but after the first couple of elections many savvy judges started to respond to the inquiries of the VRC. Of course many lawyers I know are always "concerned" by this and I do understand philospohically the point they are making. It is just that I think it needs to be done in many cases so I support it.

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: In California we use a similar procedure for Supreme Court and appellate positions. Our local judges are up for election every six years. If there's a vacancy, the governor appoints a judge based largely on the recommendation of the local bench and bar of that particular district and the state commission on judicial nominees. But the appointee is subject to the same election rules as all the others at the time of the next gubernatorial election. Regularly-elected lower court judges serve a six-year term. This keeps local judges local, and responsive to the legitimate needs of that community.

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: Good. The local court-watchers should have the power to keep the judges honest and fair.

tryanmax said...

How can I get appointed a judgeship with no legal experience? I guarantee I could do a better job than any of these living constitutionalists.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: I don't know about your state's rules, but in California local and district state judges must have a minimum number of years (usually, five) of actual practice before being seated on the bench. But anybody (literally anybody) with a law degree and a Bar license can be appointed to the appellate and Supreme Court bench without ever having practiced law or having sat on the bench.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

This song makes me wish the South did win!

Notice what he would do about the Supreme Court!

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: "If they were proven guilty, then they'd be hangin' quickly, instead of writin' books and smiling on TV." Perfect!

Post a Comment