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Monday, December 18, 2017

Pedophile Teachers in California

     On January 30, 2012, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies arrested 61-year-old elementary teacher Mark Berndt on 23 counts of lewd acts against minors. The third grade teacher at the Miramonte Elementary School in Florence Firestone, an unincorporated community in Los Angeles County, stood accused of photographing 6 to 10-year olds in bondage positions, some with live bugs crawling on their faces. A few of the girls were shown holding spoons containing a white liquid up to their mouths. Children were also pictured about to eat cookies topped with the teacher's semen.

     Because of the influence of the California Teachers Association (CTA) and other education unions in the state, school administrators couldn't fire anyone, including teachers like Mark Berndt. In the Miramonte school, because parents were so outraged, and held protests, school administrators managed to get Berndt out of the classroom by paying him $40,000 to retire. That's how bad it was in the Golden State where it was truly golden for pedophiles working in the state's education system. (You can see why in California the firing of a merely incompetent teacher was unheard of. The unions simply did not allow the firing of crappy teachers. Teachers so rotten they managed to get dismissed from their jobs in other states could always find a home in the California system. The pay was outstanding, benefits were out of this world, and it didn't matter if the teacher was no good. And for pedophiles, California's classrooms were heaven on earth.)

     In 2012, in the wake of the Miramonte school scandal (Berndt wasn't the only pedophile working there), a group called Democrats for Educational Reform, introduced legislation in the state senate (S.B. 1530), that made it easier to dismiss teachers accused of sex, violence, or drug offenses against children. That bill, with vast public support, passed the Senate on a 33-4 bipartisan vote.

     In the California Assembly, when the Senate-passed legislation came before the Assembly Education Committee, committee members, by refusing to vote on the bill, killed the proposed law in committee. (These politicians didn't have the courage to vote "no.") That meant the bill did not reach the Assembly floor for a vote. If it had, it would have passed by a wide majority.)

     The committee members who killed this child protection legislation had bowed to the state's powerful teacher's unions, including the CTA. All of the state politicians who killed the bill through their abstentions, had been beneficiaries of large CTA political contributions. The fact that the CTA could stop legislation favored by a vast majority of California voters showed who was really running the show in that state. Democracy be damned. Moreover, the undermining of this needed legislation revealed what most citizens of the state already knew--that in California it was unions first, teachers second, and students, parents, and education third--and a bad third at that. It was no wonder the state had one of the worst public education systems in the country. For a sexually perverted school teacher, except perhaps for West Virginia, there was no friendlier place to work and abuse children than California.

     In California, the CTA, backed by an army of 325,000 teachers, and plenty of money to bribe and control state politicians, was in reality the fourth branch of government. As the biggest political spender in the state, its influence dwarfed other special interest groups. From 2000 through 2009, the CTA alone shelled out more than $211 million in political contributions and lobbying expenses. That was twice the amount given to politicians by the second largest bribery machine, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Since 2009, the CTA had pumped another $40 million into the state's political community. The union also played a major role in putting Governor Jerry Brown into office. So the teacher's unions owned him as well.)

     The fact that teacher's unions in California and other states were destroying the quality of public education in the country was bad enough. Even worse, they were enabling and protecting classroom child abusers. If school administrators couldn't protect students from the likes of Mark Berndt, California classrooms were not safe for children. This was as good a reason as any for home schooling or moving to a state where educating  students had a higher priority than protecting teachers from being fired for cause.

      As for Mark Berndt himself, he pleaded no contest in November 2013 to 23 counts of lewd acts on children. The judge sentenced him to 25 years in prison. A year later, the Los Angeles United School District agreed to pay out $170 million in court settlements related to the Berndt pedophilia case. The settlement involved more than a hundred students.

     If all the zookeepers in the state of California belonged to the CTA, the animals would be starving in their cages while their custodians sat around gorging themselves, complaining about their jobs, and threatening to strike.          

Was O. J. Simpson Innocent Of Double Murder?

     William C. Dear, the owner of a private investigation agency in Dallas, Texas, had over the years published a handful of nonfiction books featuring his adventures as a larger-than-life PI. A master of self-promotion in the mold of Allan Pinkerton, William Burns, and J. J. Arms (remember him?). Mr. Dear was in the news following the release of his 2012 book, O. J. Is Innocent and I Can Prove It. (A bold, if not artistic title.)

     As if exonerating one of America's most hated men is not enough, William Dear was accusing O. J.'s son Jason of the June 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. When revisionist true crime writers exonerate celebrated criminals by incriminating others, they usually accuse dead people who can't sue them for libel. Jason Simpson, who was 24-years-old when the Los Angeles police arrested his father, was alive at the time of the accusation.

     In the other twentieth century "crime of the century," the state of New Jersey, on April 3, 1936, electrocuted Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the 1932 murder of 20-month-old Charles Lindbergh, Jr. In the 1980s and 90s, a half dozen hack true crime writers produced books that exonerated Hauptmann, and incriminated Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, John F. Condon, Ellis Parker, and a host of others. At least three of these books make the case that the Lindbergh baby wasn't even murdered, that the authorities had misidentified the corpse (wearing the Lindbergh baby's clothing) found two miles from the Lindbergh estate. In reality, the evidence against Hauptmann had been substantial while the "proof" against the literary suspects turned out to be flimsy, and in many cases, bogus. Readers familiar with the history of the Lindbergh case, including several serious Lindbergh biographers, saw the revisionist books for what they were--fiction passed off as nonfiction. Nevertheless, these "Hauptmann is Innocent and I Can Prove It" books attracted a lot of attention, and drew more than a few dedicated followers.

     Unlike real investigative journalists, the authors of revisionist true crime books start with a theory and point of view, and ignore or try to explain away any facts that do not support, or conflict with, their thesis. In making the case against their suspects, true crime book revisionists frequently present negative evidence as either incriminating or exonerating. For example, in the Lindbergh case, Hauptmann must be innocent because the police didn't recover his latent fingerprints from the crime scene. In this genre of nonfiction crime writing, a revisionist's suspect can be guilty simply because he didn't have an alibi. That's how they do it. When you break these books down, there's nothing there but conjecture, speculation, wishful thinking, and the authors' beliefs. And quite often, evidence is presented that is simply fiction.

     True crime revisionists get away with their literary tricks because we live in an era where facts and knowledge get little respect, and there is no such thing as objective truth. Today, what one believes is true trumps what one knows is true. People who want criminals like Bruno Richard Hauptmann and O. J. Simpson to be innocent eagerly go along with the joke.

     For me, what's written (or not written) on the dust jacket of William Dear's book revealed it was not a work to be taken seriously. For example: "Once Dear established in his own mind that O. J. Simpson was innocent, he focused his attention on six possible suspects." I believe that Dear began with a single suspect, then cleared away the debris that conflicted with his case. If O. J. was in fact innocent, and his son was guilty, then the evidence against Jason Simpson should be much stronger, and more convincing than the evidence that was presented against his father. In my opinion, it was not. Here was William Dear's "startling new evidence that is certain to change everyone's perception of O. J.'s guilt:"

     In Jason's abandoned storage locker, Dear found a hunting knife. (This knife, however did not contain a mixture of Jason's and the victims' DNA or any other evidence to establish it as the murder weapon.)

     After the murders, Jason Simpson retained an attorney.

     Jason Simpson did not have an airtight alibi.

     Jason was depicted in a photograph wearing a knit cap similar to the one discovered at the crime scene. (If the crime scene hat contained hair follicles from Jason's head, and bore traces of the victims' blood, that could be incriminating. It didn't.)

     Two months before the murders, Jason Simpson allegedly assaulted his girlfriend. According to a criminal profiler, Jason's personality was more homicidal than his father's.

     According to William Dear, while O. J. was present at the crime scene, he did not commit the murders. (This was helpful because it explained away the physical evidence connecting O. J. to the victims.) According to Mr. Dear, O. J.'s only crime was that he took steps to cover-up the fact his son had killed Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. So, why did Jason Simpson kill Nicole? He murdered her because she had decided, at the last moment, not to dine at the restaurant where he worked as a chef. This was, therefore, a double murder motivated by injured pride. Give me a break.

     In reality, William Dear's revisionist version of the O. J. Simpson case doesn't offer enough evidence to indict the proverbial ham sandwich. Patterson Smith, the antiquarian bookseller from New Jersey who knows more about the literature of true crime than anyone, wrote the following about this true crime revisionist genre:

     "Of all crime books published, those posing revisionist theories tend to attract the greatest media attention. They are 'news.' Far from merely adding to our knowledge of a past event or re-embellishing a tale previously grown stale in the retelling, they say to us, 'You've been wrong about this case.' And if someone is thought to have been unjustly convicted and executed, the news is all the stronger.

     "It has, after all, been observed that Americans have a greater sense of injustice than of justice. (Perhaps O. J.'s acquittal is an example of this.) When a revisionist account reaches reviewers, the arguments put forth by its author can seem extraordinarily compelling, for very often the book does not aim for balance but selects only those facts that support its divergent thesis.

     "Moreover--and this is very important--the reviewer of a book on crime written for the general public often has little or no background in the case which could help him weigh the author's novel contentions against countervailing evidence. The reviewer sees only one side of the story, and it usually looks good."

     I don't think O. J. Is Innocent and I Can Prove It contained nearly enough evidence to convince many readers that O. J. was innocent, and that his son was the guilty party. The evidence presented against Simpson in the 1997 wrongful death civil trial was overwhelming. If one had any doubts regarding who murdered Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman, reading Vincent Bugliosi's book, Outrage, would erase those doubts.  

Thornton P. Knowles On Writer's And The Imposter Syndrome

At what point in a writing career does an author go from impersonating a writer to actually feeling like one? In my case, I'm still waiting for that feeling.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Heath Kellogg and His Counterfeiting Ring

     In the old days, counterfeiters made funny money the hard way: they laboriously, and with great skill and craftsmanship, engraved metal, facsimile plates. The quality of their fake twenties and hundred-dollar bills depended upon the engraving detail, the color of the ink, and the softness, strength, and feel of the paper used to approximate the government's secret blend. In those days only a handful of forgers possessed the skill and equipment needed to counterfeit money. This made them easy to identify, and to catch. But with ink in their blood, these men, the minute they got out of prison, returned to their illicit trades. The most skillful counterfeiters were driven by the challenge to produce fake money indistinguishable from the real thing.

     In the late Twentieth Century, with advances in computer, photocopy, and graphic arts technology, counterfeiters could produce half-decent fake bills by simply copying real money. At that time, American paper currency was the easiest money in the world to counterfeit. In an effort to render bills more difficult to replicate, the U. S. Treasury Department redesigned the larger denominations. (At one time the government printed $500 and $1,000-dollar bills. The largest denomination today is $100.)

     The U.S. government's anti-counterfeiting measures included adding holograms, embedded inks whose colors change depending on the angle of light, more color, and larger presidential portraits. The first bills to be redesigned were the tens, twenties, and fifties. The government didn't issue the new 100s until February 2011.

     The redesigned currency drove the amateurs out of the funny money business, but it didn't discourage counterfeiters like Heath J. Kellogg. In 2011, the 36-year-old counterfeiter owned and operated a graphic and web design shop in Marietta, Georgia. In February of that year, Kellogg, who has a history of forged check convictions, began producing fake $50-dollar bills. (Fifties are rarely counterfeited.)

     Kellogg approximated the security threads in government bills by using pens with colored ink that showed up under ultraviolet lamps. He printed out the facsimile fronts and backs separately, then glued the sheets together.

     In May 2011, a bank in Atlanta sent the Secret Service seven fake 50-dollar bills. Three months later, agents arrested a man in Conyers, Georgia who passed $50-dollar bills that matched the seven fakes that passed through the bank in Atlanta.

     The counterfeit bill passer had purchased his fake bills with a face value of $2,000 for $900 in genuine money. The arrestee identified Mr. Kellogg as the manufacturer of the fake fifties, and agreed to cooperate with the Secret Service.

     Agents arrested a second member of the counterfeit distribution ring who also became an undercover Secret Service operative. On November 15, 2012, following the execution of two search warrants and two controlled undercover buys of counterfeit currency from the suspect, agents arrested Heath Kellogg.

     The Assistant United States attorney in the Northern District of Georgia charged Kellogg with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute counterfeit U.S. currency. Five other men were charged in connection with the passing of Mr. Kellogg's contraband product. The federal prosecutor believed that Kellogg and his accomplices injected $1.1 million worth of fake $50-dollar bills into the local economy.

     In November 2013, a jury found Mr. Kellogg guilty as charged. On March 24, 2014, the federal judge sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

     Two days after the counterfeiter's sentencing, the judge sent accomplice Stacy P. Smith to prison for three years. Following his prison stretch, Smith faced three years of supervised release. The judge sentenced four other members of the Kellogg counterfeiting ring in March 2014. Those sentences ranged from 18-months behind bars to five years probation.
 

      

Easy Money: Three Quick and Simple Con Games

Case l

     A man and a woman, both well-dressed and in their mid-forties, approached an 86-year-old woman at a busy intersection in the Forest Hills section of Queens. The man showed the elderly woman a wallet fat with cash. "We just found it," the man said. "Look at all the money that's in it. Hundred dollar bills."

     Having interested the victim in the money, the man proposed they take the lost wallet to the local police precinct house. If the wallet was not claimed in 30 days, the three of them could divide up the cash. They could deposit the lost wallet with the police in the old woman's name. At the end of the waiting period, the police would release the wallet and its contents to her.

     But wait. How could the couple trust that a complete stranger will give them their share of the money? How about this? The woman could withdraw $10,000 from her bank account, money the couple could hold until the police release the wallet. If the wallet is claimed within the 30 day period, the couple will return the woman's good faith money.

     After the victim took $10,000 out of her bank account and handed it to the con artists, they asked her to wait on the street until they returned with the receipt from the police station. They of course disappeared with the scam victim's cash.

Case 2

     An 82-year-old man received a disturbing phone call regarding one of his grandsons. According to the caller, who identified himself as an officer with the New Jersey State Police, the young man had been arrested and needed $3,500 to get out of jail.

     To spare his grandson the horrors of criminal incarceration, the old man, from a Western Union Office, sent $3,500 to the con man. The good news, of course, was that the kid was not in jail. The bad news: the victim ended up $3,500 poorer and was left feeling like a sucker.

Case 3

     A con man impersonating an IRS agent informed a 35-year-old woman by telephone that she owed the government $2,000 in taxes. According to the faker, her problem was this: if she didn't pay up immediately, agents would come to her home and haul her off to prison.

     The terrified victim (the three most feared letters in America are IRS) rushed to a 7-Eleven convenience store where she purchased four $500 prepaid debit cards. The con man withdrew the $2,000 after the victim, using her cellphone at the store, read him the card numbers. With one phone call this scam artist stole $2,000. Easy money. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Self Esteem

I grew up in the era before the self esteem movement. When I was 11, as my father and another adult were discussing something, I injected my opinion into the conversation. Later, my dad took me aside and said this to me: "Son, by definition, you are retarded. You have the mind of an 11-year-old." Like I say, I grew up before the self esteem movement.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Johnny Lewis Murder Case

     During his teenage years, actor Jonathan "Johnny" Lewis landed roles in various television series such as Malcolm in the Middle, Drake & Josh, Judging Amy, Boston Public, American Dreams, and The OC. In 2007 he appeared in the movie AVPR: Aliens vs Predator Requiem, and three years later in the film The Runaways. More recently, he played a series character in a motorcycle-gang drama called, Sons of Anarchy. In the final episode of season 2 his character was killed off. (He said because he wanted out of the contract.) At one time Lewis dated an actress named Katy Perry.

     In January 2012, a pair of residents of a town house in Northridge, California came home to find the 28-year-old actor inside their dwelling. (Lewis had once lived in the complex.) Before leaving the scene of his burglary, Lewis, out of his mind on drugs, beat the town house occupants with an empty Perrier bottle. Charged with burglary and assault, Lewis spent some time in the Los Angeles County Jail before being released on bail.

     Six weeks later, while out on bond, Johnny Lewis punched a man in the face at a Santa Monica yogurt shop. A week later, police arrested him while attempting to break into a home in that city. Once again he posted bail, and was released from custody. But in March, when Lewis failed to show up at a court hearing, the judge issued a warrant for his arrest. Police took him into custody a short time later, and put him back in jail.

     In preparation for his sentencing hearing on the Santa Monica attempted burglary case, a probation officer, in a report dated May 17, 2012, wrote: "The defendant suffers from some kind of chemical dependency, mental health issues, and lack of permanent housing. Given this, [Lewis] will continue to be a threat to any community [in which] he may reside."

     On May 23, 2012, Judge Mark E. Windham, relying on the above report, sentenced Johnny Lewis to 30 days of mental health and drug abuse treatment at the Ridgeview Ranch in Altadena, California. After completing the program as an outpatient, the judge presiding over the two assault cases sentenced Lewis to a period of probation. Not long after that, Lewis was put behind bars for some other offense. He made bail again, and on September 21 was back on the street abusing drugs and causing trouble.

     Johnny Lewis was renting a room in a sprawling, two-story house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Felix Hills. His 81-year-old landlady, Catherine Davis, rented rooms in the Spanish-Style, bed-and-breakfast-like facility to young Hollywood actors. At ten o'clock in the morning of Wednesday, September 26, 2012, just five days after he had been released from jail, Lewis hopped a fence and attacked a painter working on the house next door. The owner of the home got into the fray, but Lewis was so high on drugs, there was nothing they could do to subdue him. The two men, fearing for their lives, took refuge in the house while Lewis tried to break into the place to continue the assault.

     When the mad actor returned to the Davis home, he broke into her living quarters, ripped her cat to pieces with his bare hands, smashed and ransacked the place, then beat the old woman to death. Neighbors who heard Catherine Davis screaming for her life, called 911.

     At 10:40 AM, when the police arrived at the scene, they found Johnny Lewis sprawled out dead on the driveway to the Davis house. Investigators believed that under the influence of drugs, he had fallen off the roof of the hillside dwelling. Inside, they found the beaten and strangled landlady, and her dismembered cat. Based on the dead actor's recent history, and the nature of his violence, detectives believed that Johnny Lewis had been high on PCP, crystal meth, or a new designer drug called "smiles," a psychedelic substance sold in the form of powder and pills.

     Jonathan Mandel, Lewis' attorney, told reporters that "Johnny Lewis had a lot of problems. I recommended treatment for him but he declined it. I give a lot of credit to his parents, they were really strong in trying to help him out. They really went to bat for him, but I guess they just couldn't do enough."

     Johnny Lewis' father, Michael, was a Scientologist who ran a Scientology clinic out in the San Fernando Valley. Mr. Lewis once wrote a screenplay with L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology founder, about the practice of Dianetics. After Johnny Lewis' arrests for burglary and assault, and the drug-crazed murder of Catherine Davis, Scientology officials distanced themselves from the young actor, claiming that he left the church years ago. His image, and references to him, disappeared from the church's various websites.

     Members of the Church of Scientology are forbidden from consulting with psychologists and psychiatrists, or from taking psychotic medication. L. Ron Hubbard considered psychiatrists pill-pushing charlatans, and established his own programs for members suffering from mental illness, emotional problems, and drug and alcohol abuse. In lieu of modern psychiatry, Scientologists are treated with one-on-one counseling sessions, the ingestion of large amounts of vitamins, and sweating out their demons in high-temperature saunas.

     In 2004, Johnny Lewis went through a Church of Scientology drug program called Narconon. He spoke publicly about his treatment, and appeared on Narconon related websites. (These images were scrubbed from the Internet.)

     Critics of the Church of Scientology, and there are millions of them around the world, accused church officials with contributing to the deaths of mentally ill Scientologists by denying them modern psychiatric medication. The media generally refrained from emphasizing the Scientology connection to Catherine Davis's drug-crazed murder.

Elizabeth George on Sherlock Holmes and Imperfect Characters

     No one wants to read about perfect characters. Since no reader is perfect, there is nothing more disagreeable than spending free time immersed in a story about an individual who leaps tall buildings of emotion, psyche, body, and spirit in a single bound. Would anyone want a person as a friend, tediously perfect in every way? Probably not. Thus, a character possessing perfection in one area should possess imperfection in another area.

     Sir Arthur Conan Doyle understood this, which is one of the reasons that his Sherlock Holmes has stood the test of time for more than one hundred years and counting. Holmes has the perfect intellect. The man is a virtual machine of cogitation. But he's an emotional black hole incapable of a sustained relationship with anyone except Dr. Watson, and on top of that, he abuses drugs. He has a series of rather quirky habits, and he's unbearably supercilious. As a character "package," he emerges unforgetably from the pages of Conon Doyle's stories. Consequently, it's difficult to believe that any reader of works written in English might not know who Sherlock Holmes is.

Elizabeth George, Write Away, 2004

Thornton P. Knowles On Death As The Writer's Nightmare

You wait all your life to die. And when you do, you can't write about it. This is the writer's nightmare.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, December 15, 2017

Donte Johnson: Playing the Stupid Card

     At one in the morning, after watching a movie at a friend's house, 20-year-old Sabina Rose O'Donnell borrowed a bicycle to ride to her north Philadelphia apartment a few blocks away. She never made it home. Later that day, June 2, 2010, police discovered her body in a trash-littered lot behind her apartment building. At the scene, investigators found jewelry, a camera, and an uncashed paycheck made payable to the victim. With her bra wrapped tightly around her neck, the victim had been raped, beaten, and strangled to death. He killer had left his bloody undershirt near her body.

     According to video-tapes from neighborhood surveillance cameras, police were able to place 18-year-old Donte Johnson in the area at the time of the murder. After two Philadelphia officers arrested Johnson on June 10, 2010, he admitted biking around the neighborhood that night, but denied any knowledge of the murder. His interrogators explained to him how DNA analysis of his sperm could link him the the dead woman's body. Upon hearing this, Johnson said he and the victim had consensual sex two days before her death. When the detectives questioned that story, Johnson tried another way of neutralizing the DNA evidence: he said that after stumbling across her body, he had masturbated over the corpse. The interrogators explained that this didn't explain away the bloody undershirt. At this point, Johnson confessed to the rape and murder.

     Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax charged Donte Johnson with first-degree murder, rape, and robbery. Soon after Johnson's court-appointed defense attorneys entered the case, the suspect took back his confession, and turned down a negotiated guilty plea. The defense challenged the reliability of the DNA evidence linking Johnson to the body and the murder site, and made the argument that the prosecution couldn't use his recanted confession. Johnson was now claiming that at the time of Sabina Rose O'Donnell's rape and murder, he was at home with his family.

     At a pre-trial hearing on April 30, 2012 to determine if the prosecution could introduce Johnson's confession, defense attorney Gary Server put a private forensic neuropsychologist on the stand. Dr. Gerald Cooke testified that Johnson, with a damaged brain and an IQ of 73, had the mental capacity of an 11-year-old. Because the suspect was almost retarded, his interrogators could have easily manipulated him into confessing to a crime he didn't commit. (So what's the solution to this? Using stupid interrogators to make things fair?)

     In arguing for the exclusion of Johnson's confession, attorney Server said, "The detective speaks to Mr. Johnson and he thinks he's talking to an adult, when in reality he's speaking to a child." The defense attorney also noted that when questioned by the police, his client had been drunk and high on drugs.

    The police officers who had arrested Johnson took the stand and testified that the suspect, sober and coherent, knew exactly what was going on when they took him into custody. According to the police officers, Johnson did not act or speak like an 11-year-old child. The judge, after hearing both sides of the argument, ruled that the prosecutor could introduce Johnson's confession at his trial. The defense attorneys could make the false confession claim to the jury.

     On May 1, 2012, after opening statements to the jury from both sides, the prosecutor presented the state's case. Surveillance cameras placed the defendant in the vicinity that night, Johnson had confessed to the rape and murder, and DNA linked him to the bloody shirt and the victim's body. From a prosecutor's point of view, as murder cases go, this was about as good as it gets.

     By comparison, the defense--that DNA analysts made mistakes, the confession was false, and Johnson's family said he was at  home with them that night--was weak.

     To convince the jury that police interrogators had taken advantage of Johnson's feeble mind to wrangle a false confession out of  him, the defense showed the video-taped testimony of the neuropsychologist, Dr. Gerald Cooke. According to Dr. Cooke--who earned $9,300 for his I.Q. testing and testimony--Donte Johnson has trouble solving problems, reasoning, and thinking quickly. His mother had given birth to Donte when she was 16; early in his youth he had suffered some kind of brain damage; and since turning 14, he has been using drugs and binge drinking. According to the psychologist, this simpleton never held a job, and had sex with scores of women. (Great.)

     Donte Johnson's attorneys chose not to put their client on the stand. Perhaps they didn't want to risk a witness box confession like in one of those old Perry Mason TV episodes. Moreover, having tried to make the jurors feel sorry for the defendant, the attorneys wanted to keep him under wraps. Following the closing arguments, and the judge's instructions, the case went to the jury.

     Jurors, after deliberating four hours, found Donte Johnson guilty of first degree-murder and rape. The judge sentenced him to life plus 40 to 80 years. In speaking to the judge after receiving his sentence, Johnson said, "How can you clearly say I did anything? If I did something I would take responsibility."

     If stupidity ever becomes a successful criminal defense, our prisons will be half empty.