Virginia Law to Punish Victims

On November 14, 1996 Alan Peterson, a Southern California contractor, was leaving a Jack in the Box with his lunch when 16-year-old gang member Lawrence Cottle shot him in the chest while attempting to carjack his pickup.  A short time later Peterson died in the hospital.  The next day Cottle robbed a man at gunpoint,  then held his gun to the head of a little girl while stealing her mother’s purse.  Cottle ended his crime spree with an armed carjacking before crashing into a police car while attempting to flee.  For these crimes Cottle was sentenced to life without parole (LWOP).  In May of last year, Alan Peterson’s daughter learned that her father’s murderer was eligible for release on parole and would go before the parole board in June.  She was devastated to learn that California has passed a law (SB 394) making murderers under 18 sentenced to LWOP eligible for parole after serving 25 years.  Dozens of other families have gone through the same trauma of learning that the murderers of their loved ones have been set free under this law.   A committee of the Virginia Senate has just passed out a bill (SB 842) that would make all murderers and all violent criminals eligible for release after serving 15 years.

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The Poisoning of America

If a pipeline owned by Dow Chemical or Chevron had leaked toxins that caused the death of 1,000 Americans in a single year, the entire force of the U.S. Government would have descended upon them, immediately shutting down the operation, followed by federal criminal charges being filed by the Justice Department.  It would not matter at all what political party controlled the White House or Congress.    Yet in 2021 toxic chemicals manufactured in China and sold to Mexican drug cartels who put them into pills that appear to be widely-prescribed drugs such and Xanax and Adderall.  These pills were trafficked across the U.S. southern border and ended up in every American city.  That year 70,000 people in the U.S. were poisoned by the fentanyl in those pills or by cocaine laced with the drug.  For perspective, 58,209 Americans were killed over the 19 years of the Vietnam War.  In the face of this massacre, did the federal government shut down the southern border?  Did the President and his State Department sanction China or Mexico for this crime?  Did Congress take any decisive action?

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Juvenile Crime Takes Off

In the late 1980s roughly one-third of serious and violent crimes in the U.S. were committed by juveniles under the age of 18.   In the eight years between 1986 and 1994 the number of violent crimes committed by juveniles went from 600,000 to 1.05 million.  A major contributor to the high juvenile crime rate over this period was the emergence of Columbian cocaine smuggled by South American gangs into U.S. and marketed by heavily armed street gangs.  Juveniles made up a significant cohort of the members of these gangs, who were constantly at war with rival gangs over marketing territory.  In large urban centers juvenile gang members played a major role in moving crack-cocaine and punishing rivals.  At that time state laws written in the 1950s to deal with teen-aged joyriders and petty thieves with short stays in Juvenile Hall and rehabilitation programs, were inadequate to deal with hardened 17-year-old drug dealers carrying automatic weapons.  Drive-by shootings, violent carjackings, and murders over a victim’s wristwatch or tennis shoes became regular occurrences in big cities and juveniles were often the perpetrators.

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Latzer and Mangual: The Myths of Mass Incarceration and Overpolicing

Here is a very worthwhile event, available online at the Heritage Foundation. Barry Latzer and Rafael Mangual will speak on the topic above at noon EST on Thursday, January 26. We have quoted both Latzer and Mangual often on this blog. Our friend Cully Stimson is the host.

In criminal justice, as the old saying goes, it’s not what we don’t know that gets us in trouble; it’s what we know for a fact that just is not so. We can expect Latzer and Mangual to expose many “woke” myths at this event.

300 LA Traffic Deaths in 2022, Activists Blame Streets

A story by Dakota Smith in the Los Angeles Times reports that traffic deaths in the city have hit a two-decade high.  More than half of the deaths involved vehicles hitting pedestrians or people on bicycles, both which significantly increased compared to prior years.  This comes as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that traffic fatalities nationally remained flat over 2022.  What is causing this increase?  The Los Angeles Times did not inquire into how many traffic fatalities involved an intoxicated driver.  With an estimated 69,000 homeless in LA, many using drugs, riding bicycles and wandering the streets, it might be that pedestrians and bike riders are part of the problem, but this was not reported.  Last March, the Los Angeles Police Commission announced that LAPD Officers were no longer authorized to make traffic stops.  This limits officers from pulling over cars weaving, turning without a signal, failing to stop at a stop sign or driving with an expired registration.  Losing the ability to stop a driver who is intoxicated and/or blatantly ignoring traffic laws might actually encourage traffic fatalities.  This concern was not reported in the Times.

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The Price of Social Justice

Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley’s recent piece, “The Economic and Human Costs of Protecting Criminals,” breaks down the impact of progressive sentencing reforms enacted across the country to achieve social justice.  The elimination of cash bail…the conversion of theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors…various “second chance” or so called smart sentencing laws enacted by democrat politicians to sentence habitual criminals to rehab rather than prison or jail, have come at a very high price.

“There’s little doubt that these policies, promoted in the name of social justice for the poor, result in more crimes being committed by people who otherwise would be behind bars. A study by two professors at the University of Utah, Paul Cassell and Richard Fowles, concluded that “after more generous release procedures were put in place, the number of released defendants charged with committing new crimes increased by 45%.” Proponents insist that only “low-level” and “nonviolent” offenders can take advantage of these reforms, but the study found that “the number of pre-trial releases charged with committing new violent crimes increased by an estimated 33%.” Shoplifters don’t always stick to shoplifting.”

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OK Denies Murderer’s Spiritual Advisor in Death Chamber

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has denied a condemned murderer’s request to have his spiritual advisor with him in the death chamber during his execution Thursday.  Sean Murphy of the Associated Press reports that Rev. Jeff Hood of Arkansas will not be allowed to be with double-murderer Scott Eizember during the lethal injection process because of his multiple arrests for anti-death penalty outbursts.  Attorneys representing Eizember filed a lawsuit Monday to stop the execution until Hood is allowed in the death chamber.  They cite the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2022 ruling in Ramirez v. Collier which announced that state’s were required to allow a murderer’s spiritual advisor to be physically present in the death chamber.  Whether this requirement includes allowing anti-death penalty activists who may use the execution as a protest opportunity is yet to be determined.  UPDATE:  Oklahoma relented and allowed Rev. Hood to be in the death chamber as Eizember was executed yesterday, as reported by CBS News.

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A Bipartisan Push Back in California?

Bill McEwen at GV Wire reports, “Addressing shoplifting and serial thefts is a bipartisan cause in the [California] state Legislature.” But there’s a catch.

But, if history is a guide, neither of the two recently introduced bills to amend Proposition 47 will make it to the November 2024 ballot for voters to decide. Continue reading . . .

Knife Crimes Increasing but Politicians Don’t Care

Shootings along with homicide rates in most large cities have increased significantly since the national crime surge accompanying the George Floyd riots.  While anti-second amendment democrat politicians including the President, the Mayor of New York City, California’s Governor and Attorney General are focused on “gun crimes” by criminals as justification to increase restrictions on gun ownership by the law-abiding public, knife crimes are not receiving the same level of political attention.  The seriousness of knife attacks was highlighted in a series of early 2022 fatal stabbings of young women beginning in January 12, when a repeat felon walked into a high-end furniture store in the very expensive Los Angeles neighborhood of Hancock Park and fatally stabbed Briana Kupfer, a college student working there.  The autopsy report indicated that Kupfer suffered from 26 stab wounds, eleven of which were to the 24-year-old’s chest.  Kupfer was also stabbed in her abdomen, pelvis, arms, and legs.

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Comedians in Jail and the Right to Counsel

The WaPo has this story about a strange case on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 6 conference list.

A Texas inmate filmed as part of a Comedy Central roast by comedian Jeff Ross while in jail is appealing his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the stand-up’s footage was improperly used to sentence him to death for attacking an elderly married couple.

Gabriel Hall was awaiting trial for a high-profile capital murder charge when Ross, known as the “Roastmaster General” for his insult comedy, was invited to Brazos County Jail and interviewed Hall and other inmates in 2015.

Though it never aired, the video was later subpoenaed and presented to the jury by the prosecutor, who argued Hall did not show remorse four years after the 2011 killing. But Hall’s legal team has argued that the taping happened without his lawyers’ knowledge and violated the inmate’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Continue reading . . .