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Monday, June 30, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Boy in the Basement

     A suburban Atlanta couple accused of locking their son in the basement of their home for more than a year has surrendered to police…Ricardo Wimbush, 33, and his wife, Therian, 37, turned themselves in to the police Friday evening, June 27, 2014. Police said the couple is accused of confining the 13-year-old to a small room with a mattress and makeshift toilet. They face charges of child cruelty and false imprisonment.

     The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services received an anonymous tip on June 15, 2014. The boy's parents told authorities their son was locked up for disciplinary reasons. Police said the teen didn't appear malnourished, and neither he nor his nine siblings showed signs of physical abuse.

     The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services took custody of all the children...

     "The boy was essentially being treated as a prisoner would be treated," officer Jake Smith said when the warrant was issued for the couple earlier in the week. "The window had been painted over. There was a bucket the child used as bathroom, a mattress and a box spring," Smith said.

     In the arrest warrant, a detective wrote: "Therian and Ricardo justified the treatment of the boy saying he had molested three of the younger siblings. The child stated he was locked in... the basement for taking the family DVD player and lying about it…

     Wimbush played for Georgia Tech from 1999 to 2002 and led the team in tackles for three years. He signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons in 2003 but was cut before the season started.

"Georgia Couple Accused of Locking Son Up Turns Selves In," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 27, 2014  

Writing Quote: The Romance Mystery Hybrid

When I was writing romance, I realized that I needed more than just relationships to pull the characters through three hundred pages. I didn't like writing the detailed sex scenes, but I loved the action parts. So I decided to move into crime fiction. Truth is, I made a sort of hybrid--I took the things I loved about the romance and squashed those things into a mystery/adventure format. It's always risky to try something new like that, but it will work if you give the reader something compelling and appropriate for the emerging market.

Janet Evanovich, How I Write, 2006

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Nanny From Hell

     Marcella and Ralph Bracamonte felt sure they had found the idea nanny. The live-in nanny, whom they hired through Craigslist, immediately seemed to fit in, spending time around them and handling the couple's three kids well. But then the nanny, Diane Stretton, 64, became almost a different person, the couple said…

     She stopped working and holed up in her room, emerging only to eat. She didn't quit on the Bracamontes--in fact, she refused to leave their home. What's more, Stretton has threatened to sue them for wrongful termination and abuse of the elderly….

     Police say they cannot remove Stretton from the Braceamonte's home. The couple will have to go through an eviction process…[That is nonsense. The woman isn't a tenant. She was an employee who was fired. Throw her out, lock the doors, and if she tries to get back in, file a burglary complaint. Only in California.]

"California Couple's Live-In Nanny Stops Working, Refuses to Leave," Fox News, June 27, 2014 

Writing Quote: Plot Ups and Downs

A plot needs arcs. Arcs are the ups and downs, the changes in direction the story takes as events unfold. The most important thing is to keep the reader engaged in the story and the characters. If things don't change, if unexpected events don't occur, the book becomes boring fast.

Janet Evanovich, How I Write, 2006

CJ Quote: How Many Pet Dogs Do the Police Kill?

     A man who's dog was shot and killed by Salt Lake City police has posted a video of an exchange he had with officers minutes after the shooting. Sean Kendall's 3-year-old Weimaraner, named Geist, was shot in the head on June 24, 2014 after officers entered the homeowner's house while searching for a missing child…."Which officer shot my dog? Please," Kendall asked several officers standing in his front yard when he arrived at the scene.

     "We were looking for a lost child," one officer responded. A neighborhood parent had reported her 3-year-old child missing earlier in the day. The child was later found asleep in the basement of the family's home. [Why didn't they start the search in the missing boy's house?]

     "And that gives you probable cause to enter a private residence without permission from the owner?" asked a livid Kendall who asked for the names and badge numbers of the officers.

     "He [the shooting officer] was threatened by the dog, and he shot the dog. That's as simple as it gets," one officer said. [Cops like to keep things simple.] The officer who shot Geist was not at the scene at the time, though the officers gave Kendall his name. [The cop was probably meeting with his union rep.]

     "So backing up slowly and leaving the residence was not an option?" Kendall asked, his voice growing more agitated. "I understand it wasn't you personally," Kendall said, "but you guys killed my dog. I had this dog for three years. He was my best friend, and he was shot because an officer couldn't back out of my house! Is that against policy? Is that against training?" Kendall asked….

Chuck Ross, "Man Confronts Police After They Shot His Dog," The Daily Caller, June 26, 2014


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Are Americans Losing Touch With Reality?

     The results of a pair studies published in 2012 were quite disturbing. One study concerns the use of illegal drugs worldwide. The other pertains to mental deterioration as one gets older.

     According to researchers in Paris, France, the belief that mental decline doesn't start before age 60 is not correct. In reality, cognitive ability--memory, reasoning, and comprehension--begins to go south at age 45. So, what does this mean for America? In a country where 100 million citizens are over 50, and 35 million are older than 65, this could not be good news. And look at our politicians, a vast majority of them are over 50, and many into their 60s and 70s. In Mississippi they have a congressman who's in his eighties. And there's an eighty-some-year-old representing a congressional district in New York City. People with deteriorating minds are running our country. Perhaps that's one of the reasons the nation is in decline. (Young people have good, fresh brains, but they don't know anything.) What a mess.

     On the illicit drug front, according to a pair of Australian researchers, between 149 million and 271 million people worldwide took an illegal drug at least once in 2009. Other studies have shown that the heaviest drug users in the world are Americans. In 2009, 22 million Americans (This figure is low because it is based on self-reporting.) used illegal drugs. The narcotic of choice, marijuana was followed by meth, cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin. In addition, 9 million Americans abuse legal drugs and millions more take prescription pills. The latter is particularly true among older Americans who are losing their minds.

     On top of the dementia and the drug taking, the U.S. is home to 12 million alcoholics as well as an additional unkown number of people who drink too much but don't go to the meetings. According to a recent study, 38 million Americans binge drink at least once a month.

     So, what do we have here? We've got at least half of the adults in this country losing their minds, taking drugs and/or drinking too much. (Americans also eat too much, but that's another story.) If we are still the greatest country on earth, what does that say about the rest of the world?


Criminal Justice Quote: Child Sex Trafficking Arrests

     Nearly 170 victims of child sex trafficking, many of whom had never been reported missing, were rescued as part of an annual nationwide crackdown, the FBI announced on June 23, 2014. Besides the 168 children rescued from the sex trade, agents arrested 281 pimps during the same period on state and federal charges.

     "These are not kids in faraway lands," FBI Director James Comey said in announcing the annual enforcement push known as Operation Cross County. "These are America's children," he said….

     Since its creation in 2003, the FBI's program has resulted in the identification and recovery of about 3,600 children who have been sexually exploited….

CBS News, "FBI: 168 Kids Rescued," June 23, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Incarcerated Mother of Truant Kids Dies in Jail

     A mother of seven children who was sentenced to 48 hours in jail for her children's excessive truancy violations died during her sentence….Eileen Dinino, 55, died on Saturday, June 10, 2014 in a cell at the Berks County Jail in Reading, Pennsylvania….She died one day into her two-day sentence.

     Initial autopsy reports indicate that the cause of death was natural. However, the coroner is still waiting for toxicology tests to come back.

     The number of truancy violations charged to Dinino because her kids played hooky was the same as her age: 55. They had been accumulating since 1999. Under Pennsylvania law, parents can go to jail for five days for every single time their kids have an unexcused school absence. Dinino had the option to pay $2,000 in fines but she couldn't afford it….

     The sentencing judge, Dean R. Patton, said he sentenced the mother to jail reluctantly. He later criticized the sentencing guidelines he said he was required to follow….Local politicians have also expressed outrage about Dinino's death.…Since 2000, according to the Associated Press, more than 1,600 people have gone to jail in Berks County because of truancy violations and an inability to pay the resulting fines.

Eric Owens, "Mom of Seven Died in Prison After Judge Jailed Her For Her Kids' Excessive Truancy," The Daily Caller, June 14, 2014


Writing Quote: Character Development in Serious Fiction

     In a detective story, the hero often has no development. Hercule Poirot [Agatha Christie] is pretty much the same from beginning to end of a particular novel; he merely changes in the way he perceives things. Popular action heroes such as James Bond, Dirk Pitt, or Captain Kirk don't develop much either; they are pretty much the same beginning to end, from book to book. [The same is true of Sherlock Holmes.] But in a more serious work of dramatic fiction, the characters do change, often profoundly.

     Scrooge in A Christmas Carol turns from unrepentant miser to generous celebrant; Charles Allnut in The African Queen changes from a drunken sot to a responsible husband. Fred C. Dobbs in B. Traven's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is changed from a rather likable, down-and-out tramp to a greedy paranoiac by his lust for gold.

     Well-plotted, serious dramatic fiction is transformational by its very nature. The vicarious experience of this transformation is the most important reason people read serious fiction. A plot isn't just a matter of one thing happening after another; it's the progress toward the resolution of a predicament that transforms the character.

James N. Frey in Novel Writing, 2002 edited by Meg Leder and Jack Heffron 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Kentucky Fried Chicken Case: Outrage or Scam?

     In April 2014, a pit bull in Jackson, Mississippi mauled a 3-year-old girl named Victoria Wilcher. The attack left the toddler with healing facial scars and an eyepatch. On June 12, 2014, the girl's grandmother, Kelly Mullins, on a Facebook site called "Victoria's Victories," posted an account of an outrageous incident involving her granddaughter that supposedly had occurred at a Jackson KFC restaurant on May 15, 2014.

     According to Kelly Mullins, after ordering their food at the KFC place that day, an employee asked them to leave the premises. The employee, according to the story, kicked Mullins and her granddaughter out of the place because the other customers were disturbed by the girl's eyepatch and facial scars.

     The day after Mullins posted her account of the KFC insult, the story went viral. Victoria's family quickly took advantage of public sympathy generated by the Facebook posting by setting up a GoFundMe website to solicit donations on behalf of the humiliated little girl.

     Investigators looking into the KFC scandal uncovered information that cast doubt on the veracity of Kelly Mullins' story. Initially, members of the girl's family said the incident took place at the KFC restaurant located at State and High Streets. But later, according to family accounts, the fast-food expulsion occurred at the KFC place on Woodrow Wilson Drive not far from the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.

     A review of restaurant surveillance footage at both KFC restaurants failed to reveal a woman in her forties and a toddler matching the descriptions of Mullins and the girl. The investigators found no video evidence that the couple had entered the restaurant on May 15, 2014. Moreover, cash register entries did not confirm the food items Mullins said she had ordered that day.

     On June 21, 2014, a plastic surgeon responding to Mullins' story flew to Mississippi to consult with the family regarding the girl's disfiguring injuries.

     As doubts grew regarding the truthfulness of the grandmother's gut-wrenching story, the GoFundMe website released a statement regarding the Mullins account. In less than two weeks since the inflammatory Facebook posting, the site had raised $135,000 in donations, money the website would return to donors. GoFundMe personnel also shut down the Mullins site.

     Kelly Mullins, amid the expanding scandal, insisted that her accounts of the KFC incident were "true and accurate."

     A local prosecutor charged the owner the pit bull, the girl's grandfather, with child endangerment. The prosector charged Donald Mullins' girlfriend, Rita Tompkins, with the same offense. There was no doubt that the little girl had been mauled by the dog. At least that part of the story is true. If Kelly Mullins fabricated the KFC part of the story, she might end up in trouble with the law herself. Whatever the outcome of this case, public sentiment has turned against the grandmother.


Criminal Justice Quote: When the Physical Evidence Doesn't Support Self-Defense

     We went to a scene where the husband shot his wife. His story was she came at him with a knife and tried to stab him. So he was saying he killed her in self-defense. But there were a couple of things that just didn't make sense.

     There was a knife in her hand. But it was in the wrong direction to be used as a stabbing-type instrument. It was apparent that he had placed the knife in her hand after he shot her and probably, in his panic, faced it the wrong way.

     There was blood on the palm of her hand where she had touched the entrance wound when she was shot. The normal reaction is to grab where it hurts. and she did. And she had blood on her hand, but there was no blood on the knife.

Crime scene investigator in Crime Scene by Connie Fletcher, 2006

Writing Quote: Are Writers Crazy?

     Writing, even if you approach it as a hobby, is a highly competitive field that takes every ounce of focus and talent that you can bring to the table. If you don't work at it, you have no right to complain that others are more successful than you are. This is not a job for the lazy. Writing has to be your number one priority. [If it's your number one priority, it's more than a hobby.]

     And, yes, all this focus and drive will make you a little crazy….The real truth of the matter is that the writing life is not a life of grace, but insanity. So take good care of yourself and get some sleep because you're going to need your strength. [If sleep is your number one priority, then writing is your hobby. Regarding priority, I'd put keeping your sanity pretty high on the list. If writing makes you crazy, stop doing it. I don't see the advantage of a mental ward orderly advising you that your book has just come out.]

N. M. Kelly, The Constant Art of Being a Writer, 2009

Writing Quote: Creating a Protagonist

A well-developed character is multidimensional, with quirks and flaws, dreams, motivations, and values. A mystery novel's major character--the protagonist--must always want something. That desire is what sends him out in the middle of the night looking for a criminal when he could just as easily be sleeping in a warm, comfy bed. When something or someone stands in the way of your character getting what he wants, you get the beginnings of conflict. It's the conflict that sets up the story. How that character meets the challenge and overcomes the obstacles of the conflict defines that character.

Janet Evanovich, How I Write, 2006

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Committing The Perfect Crime

     Investment crook Bernie Madoff probably thought he'd committed the perfect crime. He was rich, well-known, loved by his family, and respected by his colleagues. But Ponzi scemes are not perfect crimes, and Bernie got caught. The financial sociopath lost his fortune, his reputation, his freedom and a son to suicide. His wife, the author of a boo-hoo memoir and his surviving son have disowned him. And like a true sociopath Bernie has insulted his victims by calling them greedy.

     Unlike Bernie Madoff, a lot of people get away with crimes big and small. Shoplifters, employee thieves, and even murderers have avoided conviction. But getting away with a criminal act doesn't necessarily make it a perfect crime. Offenders escape criminal detection and punishiment because their crimes weren't professionally investigated. So-called perfect crimes are made possible by imperfect police work, and good luck.

     To avoid a murder conviction the killer should make sure he doesn't leave part of himself at the scene of the homicide or take part of the death site with him. Ideally, the murder victim should not be a spouse, an ex-lover, a business competitor or someone to whom the killer owes money. Moreover, the homicide should be committed as far from the killer's home as possible. And there should be no eyewitnesses or accomplices. The successful murderer should create a believable alibi, and not tell a soul what he has done, not even a priest or a shrink. And if there is financial gain involved, the killer should avoid spending large sums of money for at least a year.

     If arrested and brought into the interrogation room the suspect should say nothing except that he wants a lawyer. Also, no self-respecting criminal agrees to a polygraph test. If incarcerated the suspect should be aware of the jailhouse informant. Successful criminals trust no one and keep their mouths shut.

     Killers get away with murder all the time because police officers contaminate physical evidence at the crime scene. Too many detectives are overworked, lazy, or incompetent. O. J. Simpson committed an imperfect, messy, clue-laden double murder and walked free. Police mistakes, a whacko jury, and an all-star defense team led to the acquittal of an obviously guilty man.

     The commission of a perfect perfect murder should entail the following:

   1. The coroner or medical examiner rules the death either natural, accidental, or suicidal.

   2. The killer does not come under serious police or media suspicion.

   3. The killer gains something significant from the victim's death.

   4. There is no physical evidence such as DNA that will later come back to haunt the killer.

     Before the emergence of modern toxicology and pharmacology, at a time when unhappy wives slowly poisoned their husbands to death (usually with arsenic found in rat poison), the perfect murder was possible--perhaps even easy. Today committing the perfect murder, at least in theory, is much more difficult and extremely rare. 

Writing Quote: In Writing a Book You're on Your Own

Writing a book is a strange job. "Here you go," a publish says at the onset, handing you a salary of sorts, and a deadline. "We'll see you in two years." And there you go indeed, in a state of high alarm, without any day-to-day ballast--no appointments, no tasks assigned each morning, no office colleagues to act as sounding boards, no clue as to what you are doing: equipped solely with a single idea, which you cling to like driftwood in a great dark, sea. [Really? You got a book contract based on a single idea? If you miss office routine, quit writing and go back to the office.]

Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad, 1998

Writing Quote: Romance Fiction

In 2008 in the United States romance fiction is said to have been worth $1.37 billion in actual book sales, quite apart from subsidiary rights income. Over 7,000 novels were published in the genre. The Romance Writers of America Association provides the...flag-waving statistics that 74 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008. Most readers--perhaps as many as 90 percent--are female.

Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Creating Crime Myths

In order for the momentum of a crime myth to be prolonged…myths must be accompanied by certain characterizations. Momentum is achieved if the crime problem has traits that either instill fear or threaten the vast majority of society in some appreciable way. Not unlike Greek mythology, modern crime myths must follow certain themes for success. There must be "virtuous' heroes, "innocent" victims, and "evil" villains who pose a clear and certain threat to the audience. Only then can a crime myth reach its potential . [There were two crime myths that dominated the 1980s: hundreds of serial killings running loose and an epidemic of stranger kidnappings of children. Currently there is myth that a growing army of zombie meth and bath salts addicts are roaming our cities.]

Victor E. Kappeler, Mark Blumberg and Gary W. Potter, The Mythology of Crime and Criminal Justice, Third Edition, 2000

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Insurance Fraud Investigation

The sad truth is that insurance fraud investigation is not a priority in this country. The police and prosecuting authorities are quick to pursue a bank robber or a burglar, but getting them to commit the resources to investigate an insurance fraud case is an uphill battle. Arson, for instance, is the least often and least effectively prosecuted crime in America. Most insurance fraud cases are circumstantial in nature and lack direct proof in the form of eyewitnesses. Those are not the kinds of cases the police and prosecutors want to readily pursue, because they know it will be a lengthy investigation, perhaps a costly investigation, and the prospects of conviction are far less than any other type of crime. [And even if there is a conviction, it's unlikely that the fraudster will go to prison.]

Jack Morgan, SIU, 2012 

Writing Quote: Literary Versus Commercial Fiction

     In general, fiction is divided into literary fiction and commercial fiction. Nobody can definitively say what separates one from the other, but that doesn't stop everybody from trying…

     Literary fiction pays more attention to style than does commercial fiction. It also probes characterization more deeply. It's often slower paced than commercial fiction because added description and character development take up many words. The typical worldview implied by literary fiction is complex and ambiguous, trying to be faithful to the complexity and ambiguity of life. A traditional "happy ending" is possible but not common.

     Commercial fiction can be just as well written, but in an entirely different way. It's usually faster paced with a stronger plot line: more events, higher stakes, more danger. Characterization can range from good to practically nonexistent. The style is usually transparent, which means the writer wants to tell the story in words that don't call attention to themselves, so the story itself--and not the style--receives the attention.

Nancy Kress in Novel Writing, 2002, Meg Leder and Jack Heffron, Editors

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Ex-Cop Wanted for Rape Arrested in Alaska

     Joseph Keenan May's quiet life on the lam in Alaska unraveled after he used his late stepbrother's name to apply for a driver's license and unemployment benefits…May, a former sheriff's deputy wanted since 1991 for capital sexual battery in Bradenton, Florida, was arrested on identify theft charges early Friday, June 20, 2014. Federal officers took him into custody at his home in Eagle River, Alaska.

     "Sometimes Alaska draws people who want to run away from things," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Bradley said."We find that there's an inordinate amount of fugitives here…Authorities say May, 60, has been the subject of a federal warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution since 1993. For years May lived under the identity of stepbrother Michael Camp who died in his teens in Pennsylvania…

     May faced up to 12 years for the federal charges in Alaska and potentially the death penalty in Florida…A former road patrol deputy, the authorities arrested May in 1990 for the rape of a 6-year-old girl in the 1970s. May fled before he could be tried.

Ray Sanchez, "Ex-Florida Deputy Arrested in Alaska After More Than Two Decades on The Lam," CNN, June 21, 2014

Writing Quote: Writer's Block

Writer's block usually manifests out of anxiety. This is simple to say, but when you're a writer, anxiety is a way of life. [Really?] So don't be hard on yourself. There are just too many variables that are out of your control, and it's normal for you to be anxious. The key is not to let it overwhelm you. According to the Mayo Clinic, general anxiety disorder symptoms can include restlessness, being keyed up or on edge, difficulty in concentrating, fatigue, irritability, impatience, being easily distracted, muscle tension, trouble falling or staying asleep, and excessive sweating. [Good heavens, if being a writer causes you these kinds of problems, stop being a writer. It's not worth it. A writer with writer's block is, by definition, not a writer.]

N. M Kelby, The Constant Art of Being a Writer, 2009

Writing Quote: Even Novelists Have to Get Their Facts Straight

Research is something that all novels need. If you say that in Santa Fe, Guadalupe Street intersects with Paseo De Peralta, these streets should intersect. People know these things, and if they find that you've made a mistake, you break that delicate trust that a reader extends to a writer. Always check those kinds of facts. [Writers of nonfiction, of course, are held to an even higher standard of factual accuracy. In a novel, so what?]

N. M. Kelby, The Constant Art of Being a Writer, 2009

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Stripper Gang Credit Card Scam

     Dr. Zyadk Younan, a cardiologist from Homdel, New Jersey, refused to accept responsibility for $135,000 in credit card debt he had supposedly incurred in early 2014 at a strip club in Manhattan, New York called Scores. Dr. Younan claimed that strippers at Scores had spiked his drinks with drugs to incapacitate him while they swiped his credit card without his authorization or knowledge. Had the physician's credit card tab not been so outrageously high, his claim of victimhood may have fallen on deaf ears.

     In the spring of 2014, DEA agents and officers with the NYPD launched a undercover investigation into Dr. Younan's allegations. As it turned out, it seemed the doctor and several other club patrons had been drugged and ripped-off.

     According to the results of the joint investigation, strippers from Scores and the RoadHouse Gentleman's Club in Queens conducted fishing expeditions at bars in Manhattan and Long Island looking for potential credit card victims. They began looking for patrons they could drug and rip-off in September 2013. The suspects allegedly set up club dates with these men, encounters that led to spiked drinks and credit card fraud. Once the suspects dropped the stimulant methylone, commonly known as molly, or the tranquilizer ketamine into their targets' drinks, they were able to take advantage of their drug addled customers. (I presume strippers earn commissions based on bar tabs.)

     According to investigators, the suspects believed that if challenged, their victims could be blackmailed into silence. According to reports, some of these men were blackmailed by members of the credit card scam.

     On June 11, 2014, police officers and federal agents arrested four strippers and the manager of Scores on charges of grand larceny, assault, and forgery. At their arraignments in Manhattan, all of the suspects, including club manager Carmine Vitolo, and the suspected ringleader, Samantha Barbash, pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Writing Quote: Phony Memoir or Phony Couple

     Jason Biggs' wife, Jenny Mollen, recently pubished her memoir, I Like You Just The Way I Am: Stories About Me and Some Other People in which she recounts a story about buying a hooker for Jason to have sex with while she watched. [One of these people is a celebrity. If you want to know which one, you will have to google them. I couldn't muster the interest.] Mollen appeared on "The View" on June 17, 2014 to promote her book. However, she shied away from the hooker story. Guest host Candace Cameron Bure [no idea] said she wasn't a fan [of hiring prostitutes for one's husband].

     "How is hiring a hooker for your husband's birthday, how is having threesomes…celebrated? I have a sense of humor, but I have a hard time finding humor in that." Bure said she felt Mollen wasn't being genuine. [Wow, a celebrity memoir that is full of crap. What a surprise!]...

     "This is not a habitual thing on our part," Jason Biggs said. "We don't have a group of prostitutes who come in and out of our house on a regular basis….My wife found the whole thing to be quite hysterical even while it was happening. She was actually on the bed, watching, eating a bag of potato chips, laughing. So you can imagine, I wasn't really performing to the best of my abilities. Also, said prostitute wasn't engaging with my wife the way I hoped she would so it all kind of fell apart, and the rest is in the book." [As far as I'm concerned it can stay in the book.]

Seth Richardson, "Jason Biggs Recounts His Time With a Hooker While His Wife Watched," The Daily Caller, June 20, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Patronizing Prostitutes: One Old Customer

     According to New Castle, Pennsylvania police, two officers observed  35-year-old Brandy Lynn Bartley loitering on South Mill Street. They saw her get into a car driven by Harry Anthony Mooney, 83, about 9 PM on Wednesday, June 28, 2014. Officers arrested Bartley and searched her purse. They found a glass pipe commonly used to ingest crack cocaine.

     A Lawrence County prosecutor charged Bartley with promoting prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia. The 83-year-old suspect was charged with patronizing a prostitute….

"Man, Woman to Face Prostitution Charges," New Castle News, June 20, 2014 

Writing Quote: Creating Characters Through Dialogue

We introduce our characters to our readers through dialogue. Dialogue combined with facial expression and body language indicates to readers who our characters are. In real life, this is how we get to know one another. We start interacting. Sometimes this goes well, sometimes it doesn't. Through dialogue, we decide if we like someone or not. This is also how our readers decide if they like our characters. As they listen to them and watch them interact with each other, they decide if these are good guys or bad guys or a combination. It's in our power to evoke positive or negative feelings in our readers for our characters through the dialogue we create for them.

Gloria Kempton, Dialogue, 2004 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jeremy Meeks: The Media Sensation Mugshot Hunk

     In our celebrity driven culture that puts a high premium on good looks, it's not surprising that a young, good-looking convicted felon with street gang credentials can attract thousands of adoring fans. While beauty is only skin deep, and a lot of beautiful celebrities are narcissistic jerks, it's beauty, not talent, achievement or decency that gets them into People Magazine, one of America's most popular and puerile publications. The overnight fame of a young criminal named Jeremy Ray Meeks is testimony to the power of good looks, the influence of social media, and the shallowness of American culture.

     Jeremy Meeks can thank police officers in Stockton, California for his fifteen minutes of fame. On Wednesday, June 18, 2014, pursuant to a joint law enforcement crackdown on street gang activity, officers pulled over Meek's car. A search of the vehicle resulted in the discovery of 9 mm ammunition, an unregistered .45-caliber pistol, a small quantity of marijuana, and two handgun magazines. When taken into custody, Meeks was accompanied by a 23-year-old man who, like himself, was serving time on probation.

     A San Joaquin County prosecutor charged Meeks with eleven felony counts related to firearms possession, gang membership, and probation violations. When someone in the Stockton Police Department posted Meeks' mugshot, the accused gang member with the high cheek bones, chiseled face, and striking blue eyes, became an instant media sensation. (To me, the gaunt arrestee with the vacuous expression on his face looks a lot like the male fashion models you see in J.C. Penny ads.)

     At his arraignment, the judge posted Meeks' bail at $1 million. While the suspected street gangster cooled his heels in the San Joaquin slammer, someone on Facebook posted his mugshot and created a fan page in his honor. In a matter of days, the Facebook page attracted 80,000 "likes," 21,000 comments, and 9,500 "shares." Not only that, news outlets like USA Today, TMZ, "Inside Edition," and New York Magazine published his mugshot and featured his story. (I wouldn't be surprised if Meeks makes the cover of People Magazine.)

     Jeremy Meeks mother, Katherine Angier, taking advantage of the media frenzy surrounding her outlaw son, set up a fundraising website that features photographs of him with his 3-year-old son. On the GoFundMe site, she addressed the issue of his gang-related tattoos that includes an inked teardrop beneath his left eye (a mark that honors a gang killing), the word "crip" (Crips gang) on his arm, and other prominent tattoos on his neck: "He has old tattoos which causes him to be stereotyped. (Wasn't that the idea behind the tattoos in the first place?) He's my son and he is so sweet. Please help him get a fair trial or else he'll be railroaded."

     By June 21, 2014, Angier had raised $2,000 for her son's defense.

     So, who is this sweet boy with the gang tattoos and fashion model face? In 2004, he left prison after serving two years for grand theft. A year later, in Spokane County, Washington, a prosecutor charged him with identify theft in the second degree for impersonating his brother, Emery Meeks. That prosecutor also charged him with resisting arrest, a count that was later dismissed. When the dust settled in the Washington case, Meeks ended up on probation.

     Stockton police and the prosecutor in San Joaquin County, California have expressed puzzlement over the Meeks media sensation. I guess these law enforcement practitioners don't realize that a segment of the American public has always considered the good looking outlaw a romantic figure. Meek's mother, by calling her son "sweet," might end up destroying his image and hastening  his return to obscurity.


Writing Quote: Getting Interviewees to Provide Interesting and Original Information

Some people love to talk about themselves. A few people love to talk about themselves but don't say much that is useful. They say such things as "The Lord made me do it," or "I've got to hand it to my teammates." [Being a sports journalist must be brutal.] Your job as an interviewer is to turn the subject into a storyteller. Ask questions so layered, so deep, and so odd that they elicit unusual responses. Take the person to places he wouldn't normally go. Ask questions that require descriptive answers.

Jacqui Banaszynski in Tell True Stories, 2007, Mark Kramer and Wendy Call, Editors 

Criminal Justice Quote: Intoxicated Driver Fatally Runs Over Her Father

     A southern California man identified by family members as a former Laotian military officers who aided U.S. efforts during the Vietnam War, was run over and killed by his daughter while he attempted to prevent the woman from driving drunk….Thirty-seven-year-old Soukvilay Barton ignored her father's pleas not to drive and backed her BMW convertible out of the garage, striking him.

      Bounmy Rajsombath was rushed to Riverside Hospital where he was pronounced dead Friday night, June 13, 2014. Witnesses say Barton had been drinking and arguing with family members. She stopped the car after seeing that her father was injured and sat sobbing before being taken into custody.

     Barton was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and gross vehicle manslaughter and was held on $75,000 bail….

"California Father Run Over Trying to Stop Daughter From Driving,", June 15, 2014 

Hellementary Education Quote: Kiddie Boot Camp

     The principal at a North Carolina elementary school is in hot water after parents say she forced a group of students to trudge around a dirt track for over two hours without water because they failed to wear their uniforms on the last day of school. The incident occurred on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at Manchester Elementary School just outside Fayetteville, North Carolina. The principal is Tammy Holland.

     Complaining parents say the trouble began when their kids showed up at school in regular garb instead of khakis and white polo shirts….The temperature was in the high 70s when the slog started and in the high 80s when it finally ended more than two hours later. The high humidity made the air seem hotter….

     School district officers are investigating the allegations….The superintendent noted that forced physical activity is illegal under school district rules….

Eric Owens, "Grade School Principal Makes Kids Walk For Hours in Heat Without Water," The Daily Caller, June 15, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Writing Quote: Creating Dialogue

Dialogue not only creates space on the page, which is visually appealing, it's also what brings characters to life in a story, which is emotionally appealing. We're much more interested in a story's setting when it comes through a scene of dialogue. Our characters' tense words let readers know where our characters are internally and create suspense for what's ahead in the story. The onset of a dialogue scene immediately propels the story into high gear. [Not necessarily. It depends on the conversation. I've read a lot of boring dialogue created by so-called "literary" novelists.] Through dialogue, we can give readers a very real sense of a story's setting. If done well, dialogue can even communicate the story's theme. [My advice to aspiring novelists--forget theme and focus on story.] Effective dialogue delivers all of these things to eager readers. This is the kind of dialogue we, as writers, want to create.

Gloria Kempton, Dialogue, 2004 

Criminal Justice Quote: Insurance Fraud

 The great irony is that while insurance fraud is widely perceived as a victimless crime, it is far from victimless. The average burglary results in the theft of about $1,000 in property. The average arson results in damage of more than $100,000. While everybody believes that burglary is a serious crime that must be prevented and prosecuted, the same cannot be said for the perception of insurance-related fraud cases. While the typical burglary may have one victim, the typical insurance fraud case leaves us all as victims. It is estimated that more than 20 percent of the premiums we all pay for insurance in this country goes to fraudulent claims. In some areas of the country, the numbers are even higher. So all of us pay for insurance fraud whenever we pay our insurance premiums. We are all victims of insurance fraud.

Jack Morgan, SIU, 2012

Friday, June 20, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Wife Beater Gets Off Light

     Some call it creative ruling; some call it bench buffoonery. In 2012 Joseph Bray was accused of shoving his wife and putting his hands around her throat when she snapped at him for forgetting her birthday. Judge John Hurley decided to hand out a unique punishment: a little romance.

     Not only did Judge Hurley order Bray to take his wife on a date, he also specified that it must be dinner at Red Lobster, followed by bowling, and that he must purchase flowers.

     Sounds like a good sentence, right? Bray can throw his wife around all he wants, as long as he takes her out to dinner afterward.

Neil Patrick Steward, Headlines! Headlines!, 2012 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Class Action Suit: A Goldmine for Lawyers

     In a class action, a group of enterprising lawyers persuade a judge to certify a "class" of plaintiffs…and then proceed to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the class. If you're a member of the class, you'll get a letter giving you the right to "opt out" of the class. Most likely, you'll throw the letter away without reading it because--you guessed it--it's written in legalese. Since you didn't opt out, you're a plaintiff. And if the defendant ends up paying the money, you'll get your share, but it's usually a very small one.

     In April 2005, a Los Angeles Times reporter was surprised to discover that his son had been a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Bank of America. The son was equally surprised, and disappointed, to learn that his cut would be 49 cents, while the plaintiffs' lawyers collected fees in excess of $2 million. In a similar action against Citibank, unwitting plaintiffs reported receiving checks as small as 2 cents. The legal fees were over $7 million.

Adam Freedman, The Party of the First Part, 2007 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Bergdahl Stalking Case

     The father of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl…harassed a pair of twin sisters in Hailey, Idaho, for several months, according to police reports obtained by The Daily Mail. In 2011, long before Robert Bergdahl began learning Pashto and Arabic…the bearded dad stalked Lacey and Allie Hillman, police documents say….

     The Hillman sisters told police that Bergdahl, a UPS deliveryman, harassed them for more than four months. Bergdahl's son Bowe was into his Taliban captivity during this period….The twins said Bergdahl, 51, drove by their residence--apparently they lived together--several times each day. On one occasion, the sisters claimed, he left an angry note charging that one of the girls [in their twenties] was "two-timing" him. Later, he allegedly left a note saying, "I am sorry for whatever I did."

     A few weeks later, the sisters told the police, Bergdahl confronted Allie Hillman at her front door after her boyfriend had left her house. She told police Bergdahl knocked on the door and said, while laughing, "Why are you two-timing me, bitch?"…

     Another time, Bergdahl allegedly sneaked around the outside of the home for a few hours and approached the house as Lacey Hillman was taking a shower. Lacey told local cops that she heard a noise and stepped out of the shower wearing a towel. She walked to a glass door. There, she told police, she saw a "shadowed person." It was Bergdahl, she said. He tried to get her to come closer to the door….

     It was after this voyeuristic episode that the sisters went to the police, saying they were "very scared," reports The Mail….

     The cops had a chat with Bergdahl, warning him to stay away from the twins's residence and places of work. He agreed to the terms. The Hillman twins agreed not to press charges.

     Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was held captive by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan from June 2009 until his release in May 2014. The release was part of a five-for-one prisoner trade with the Taliban….

Eric Owens, "Twin Sisters Say Bowe Bergdahl's Dad Was Obsessive Peeping-Tom Stalker," The Daily Caller, June 14, 2014  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Hot Bacon Grease as a Weapon

     A woman is wanted for allegedly throwing bacon grease on a man with whom she had been arguing. New Castle, Pennsylvania police charged Shawntay Hope Thomas, 37 in connection with the incident that happened about 10:15 PM on Thursday, June 12, 2014 at her house.

     Police say they were called to Jameson Hospital regarding a man suffering from burns and redness on his face, neck, and chest. He told officers that he and Thomas had been arguing and he had gone out to the porch. A short time later, he said, she went outside carrying a cup of hot bacon grease and threw it on him….She is charged with simple assault and harassment….

"Woman Charged With Bacon Grease Assault," New Castle News, June 18, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Infanticide

     Infanticide has been committed throughout human history for a multiplicity of reasons--personal, political, superstitious, and strategic. Whether or not a culture supports the perpetrators of infanticide, it is, like other forms of violence, highly mutable [subject to change]. In many cultures, offspring weren't considered to be fully human until they reached a certain age, one or two, sometimes three years old. Perhaps the most common cause of violence against infants arose from the need to space children in the absence of birth control. The Japanese word for infanticide means, "weeding," as in the thinning of rice saplings. Today, in some of the poorest communities in the world, infanticide as birth control takes a passive-aggressive form: babies are given birth to, then simply not fed.

     Cultures have also engaged in crude forms of eugenics, turning against twins, against girls, against deformities--as some societies continue to do, now, through selective abortion. Infants have been killed, as well, during famine, or in the midst of war, or as an offering in ritual sacrifice.

Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad, 1998

Writing Quote: Raymond Chandler on Ernest Hemingway

Raymond Chandler [a noted and literary twentieth century crime novelist] wrote a sentence true of [Ernest] Hemingway and himself: "I suppose the weakness, even the tragedy of writers like Hemingway is that their sort of stuff demands an immense vitality; and a man outgrows his vitality without unfortunately outgrowing his furious concern with it."

Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography, 2014 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Great Impostor: Ferdinand Waldo Demara

     While most people aren't con artists, charlatans, and swindlers, many are, in various degrees, cheats and pretenders. Men without military experience impersonate war heroes, politicians pretend to lead, bureaucrats impersonate competent employees, and job applicants falsely claim qualifications and work histories. It's not uncommon for young men to break the law by impersonating cops and FBI agents. Because most law enforcement impostors are inept, they are quickly caught.

     In 1937, 16-year-old Ferdinand Waldo Demara, Jr. ran away from his home in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He took up residence with Cistercian monks in Rhode Island, then in 1941, joined the U. S. Army. A year later, Demara went AWOL. Under the name Anthony Ignolia, he lived in another monastery before signing up with the Navy. Demara next faked his suicide, adopted the name Robert Lincoln French, and began playing the role of a religiously oriented psychologist. This led to a teaching position in a college psychology department.

     Bored with teaching, Demara worked as an orderly in a Los Angeles sanitarium, then moved to Washington State where he taught at St. Martin's College. The FBI interrupted his impersonation career by arresting him for desertion. That resulted in an 18-month stretch in a federal prison.

     Following his release from the federal penitentiary, Demara joined the Brothers of Christian Instruction order in Maine. There, Demara became friends with a young physician which led to the impostor becoming a trauma surgeon aboard a Royal Canadian Navy destroyer during the Korean War. Demara actually operated on 16 South Korean soldiers wounded in combat. He managed this by speed-reading surgical textbooks. All of his patients survived Although later exposed as a phony physician, the Canadian Navy did not press charges.

     In 1951, as Brother John Payne of the Christian Brothers of Instruction, Demara founded a college called La Mennais College of Alfred Maine. He left the state shortly thereafter. (In 1959, the college moved to Canton, Ohio, and in 1960, changed its name to Walsh College.)

     In the early 1960s, Demara worked as a prison administrator in Huntsville, Texas, and as a counselor at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles. In 1967, at age 46, he received a Graduate Certificate in Bible from Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon. In the late 1970s, Demara became a chaplain at a hospital in Anaheim, California. He became ill in 1980, and on June 7, 1982, died at the age of 62.

     Demara had become famous in the late 1950s after he sold his story to Life Magazine. In 1961, Tony Curtis played him in a popular movie called "The Great Impostor." Demara credited his impostor success to his high IQ, his photographic memory, and his understanding of institutional politics. (It also helps to move around a lot.) 

Kids, Don't Threaten Your Fellow Students With Rolled Up Paper

     A little boy, in May 2014,  got himself into big trouble at an exclusive, private school for pointing an object that merely represented a gun. Eight-year-old Asher Palmer rolled up a piece of paper, called it a gun, and pointed it at other kids….Officials at the special-needs school in New York City then expelled him.

     The Lang School is a ritzy, private institution that specializes in educating students with language difficulties. In 2014, annual tuition was $51,500. [Parents who spend that much a year for a kid's elementary eduction have a special need themselves--common sense.] "Asher is exactly the type of student Lang is supposed to be serving," the boy's frustrated mother, Melina Spadone told The New York Post. "Why they did this doesn't make sense."

     The principal at Lang, Micaela Bracamonte--who called herself the "head of school" reportedly informed school employees that eight-year-old Asher "had a model for physically aggressive behavior in his immediate family." The boy's mother wasn't sure who that model would be, but she said she imagined that Bracamonte was referring to her husband who had been an American soldier during the Gulf War. "I find it offensive and inappropriate," the angry mother told The Post.

     Spadone explained that her son, a first grader, fashioned the rolled-up piece of paper after he talked with his father about weapons in the military. Asher's teachers didn't take the piece of paper away. Instead, they just warned him not to point the menacing piece of paper at anyone. [Remember what they say--there is no such thing as an unloaded, fake toy gun.]

     Eventually the boy pointed the piece of paper at another kid. School officials claimed that Asher declared that he would "kill" a girl, apparently in separate incident. Consequently, Bracamonte alleged that the little boy had a "concrete plan" for killing another student. [Perhaps he had reached out to a second grade hit man armed with an eraser.] The boy's mother suggested that her eight-year-old son wasn't using the word "kill" literally.

     The angry mother said she and her husband, in the past five months, had spent $120,000 for tuition and one-on-one tutoring at Lang School with the understanding that their son would attend the school long-term. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Some Retirees Golf: Others Take Up Cooking

     Fresno, California police arrested a 64-year-old man suspected of cooking methamphetamine in his apartment at a retirement community….Robert Short was pulled over as part of a routine traffic stop late Saturday, June 14, 2014. Officers found meth in his car.

     Investigators then went to Short's apartment in the California League-Fresno Village, where they found a half pound of meth, heroin and materials for a meth lab. Police said the street value of the drugs Short was carrying was close to $1,700. Officers also found scales and baggies in his car….

     Short's neighbors at the senior housing facility say despite the tight-knit community there, they didn't know Short. He kept to himself. Short has been on supervised release for previous drug sales.

"Meth Lab Found at California Retirement Community," Associated Press, June 14, 2014 

Writing Quote: Flashbacks

I try to make my books linear, which means that the starting point is at the beginning and it travels along a chronological line toward the end, with no flashbacks. I do this because it makes for an easier read.

Janet Evanovich, How I Write, 2006 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Activist Students Accuse Campus Men of Rape Through Graffiti and Flyers

     Pursuant to a federal law called the Clery Act, the nation's colleges and universities are required, among other things, to promptly report allegations of campus rape and other sexual offenses to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Congress passed the law amid valid complaints that colleges and universities, to avoid bad publicity, routinely discouraged campus rape victims by making it difficult to file these complaints. Moreover, college administrators were reluctant to pass on these allegations to the police. The Clery Act was passed to solve this problem. Results have been mixed.

     It hasn't been a secret that on the campus of Columbia University in New York City, rape has been a campus problem for years. On April 25, 2014, twenty-three Columbia students filed a Clery Act complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. Through this document, the university stood accused of discouraging campus rape allegations to the authorities. These complainants also accuse university administrators of protecting students suspected of rape by refusing to kick them out of school.

     On May 7, 2014, a group of activists wrote the names of four accused rapists on the stalls in a Hamilton Hall women's restroom. Under the headings "Sexual Assault Violators" and "Rapists on Campus," the published names had been written in four different sets of handwriting with each writer using a different color marker. The last person on the lists was labeled a "serial rapist."

     The Hamilton Hall bathroom rape lists were posted less than 24 hours when university officials got wind of the "graffiti" and removed it. This not only prompted the activists to spread their message to other women's restrooms, it resulted in the publication of rape list flyers that were posted around the campus. For university administrators, the lists presented a public relations nightmare.

     On May 16, 2014, after Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz filed a rape complaint against one of the students on the rape lists with the New York City Police Department, the school paper, the Spectator, published this male undergraduate's name.

     A few days after the rapist's name appeared in the Spectator, Emma Sulkowicz, one of the Clery Act complainants, held a press conference. In describing her experience at the New York City Police Department, Sulkowicz said, "the officer basically treated me as if I was the criminal. After you've been physically violated the last thing you want is to have a policemen who is high on his own power telling you that everything you've just experienced is invalid."

     Regarding the Columbia rape lists, campus opinion seems divided between students who consider the lists the work of out-of-control vigilantes, and others who praise these students for standing up for victims' rights.

     At present, federal agents are investigating 55 colleges and universities for violations of the Clery Act. 

Hellementary Education Quote: Drink Up Kids, Tomorrow You'll Be Smoking E-Cigarettes

A superintendent says a Michigan teacher on March 6, 2014 gave non-alcoholic beer to a classroom of fifth graders as part of a history lesson. The superintendent says the teacher allowed Hyatt Elementary students in Linden, Michigan to sample O'Doul's that was brought to school by a student to represent ale common in the 1700s and consumed at the time because of the scarcity of clean water. The superintendent said the teacher made an "inappropriate choice." [Yes, the real thing would have been much more authentic.]

"Michigan Teacher Gives Fifth Grade Students O'Doul's Non-Alcoholic Beer," the Flint Journal, March 17, 2014  

Criminal Justice Quote: School Security Has Not Reduced Shootings

     There has been no real reduction in the number of U.S. school shootings despite increased security put in place after the rampage at a Connecticut elementary school in December 2012 left 20 children and six educators dead. An Associated Press analysis finds that there have been at least 11 school shooting this academic year alone, in addition to other cases of gun violence in school parking lots and elsewhere on campus when classes were not in session. Last August 2013, a gun discharged in a 5-year-old's backpack while students were waiting for the opening bell in the cafeteria at Westside Elementary School in Memphis. No one was hurt.

     Experts say the rate of school shootings is statistically unchanged since the mid-to-late 1990s, yet still remains troubling….

"No Reduction in U.S. School Shootings Despite Increased Security, Analysis Finds, Associated Press, February 2, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Child Molester Spared Prison

     In 1984, a Kalamazoo, Michigan man was found guilty of sexually assaulting his underage stepdaughter over a period of seven years, until she ran away. Rather than serve prison time, the judge ordered that he undergo chemical castration, a drug therapy that would diminish his sex drive.

     The craziest part is this: the drug was manufactured by the Upjohn pharmaceutical company, which was founded by the grandfather of the accused, making him the heir to the fortune. He'd go on to get rich off the company, but not before being forced to sample his own products.

Neil Patrick Steward, Headlines! Headlines!, 2012

Monday, June 16, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Couple Murdered for "Defriending" Girl on Facebook

     In the most awful case of overreaction ever, a young Nashville, Tennessee couple was brutally murdered after they "defriended" a girl on Facebook in 2012….

     It was the girl's father who decided to exact retribution for the snub. He went to the couple's house, shot them both, and slit the husband's throat for good measure. In an appalling testament to the senseless savagery of the crime, the killer left the couple's crying eight-month-old baby in her dead mother's arms.

Neil Patrick Steward, Headlines! Headlines!, 2012

Criminal Justice Quote: Unlawful Shooting at the Moon

     An Arizona man arrested for unlawfully discharging a firearm told authorities he was trying to shoot the moon. On June 6, 2014, Prescott Valley police responded to the home after a woman reported that her boyfriend had fired several shots from a handgun and still was armed.

     The woman and her teenage son told police that 39-year-old Cameron Read was talking about seeing the Halley's Comet and fired a round out of the window. They heard several more shots before fleeing.

     Police say Read has been booked into the Yavapai County Jail on suspicion of felony counts of unlawful discharge of a firearm, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, endangerment, and misdemeanor criminal damage. [Obviously not to the moon.]

"Arizona Man Arrested For Shooting at Moon," Associated Press, June 11, 2014 

Whackademia Quote: Campus Sex Crime on the Rise

 A new federal report says sex crimes reported at American colleges and universities went up in the last decade even as overall campus crime decreased. The report, released on June 10, 2014 from the U.S. Education Department, says 3,330 forcible sex offenses on college campuses were reported in 2011, a 51 percent increase from the 2,200 reported in 2001. The number of crimes in every other category, such as burglary, declined during the same period….

"Report: Sex Crimes Were Up at US Colleges," Associated Press, June 10, 2014


Writing Quote: Novel Writing is Hard and Lonely Work

     Writing a novel doesn't get any easier the second or the eleventh time you do it. And unfortunately, you won't have fans in your writing room to urge you on. There'll be no applause. Just month after month of putting it down and crossing it out and recasting the sentence once again. Everyone who has a life thinks he has a novel to write. And he or she may. But very few people understand that the life is not the novel, that chronology is not plot….

     Writing isn't easy. Simply because you have access to a pen, some paper, and a dictionary does not mean that you can write a novel any more than having access to a piano means you can play the Goldberg Variations. Anyone can make noise. It's music we're after. Anyone can write on and on indefinitely. We're after the definite article.

John Dufresne, Is Life Like This? 2010 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Rachel Fryer Child Abuse Murder Case

     In November 2013, Florida's Department of Children and Families (DCF) reunited Rachel Fryer with her five children. They had been taken away on May 13, 2011 when her infant son Tavont'ae Gordon died. (A forensic pathologist determined that the baby's death was accidental. Fryer claimed to have rolled over on the child. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death mechanical asphyxiation, a so-called "co-sleeping"fatality. The DCF took the five remaining children from the house due to evidence of substance abuse. Besides drugs, the 32-year-old mother had other problems. She was depressed, abusive, and for years had been in trouble with the law. But after completing a parenting program, she got her five children back.

     Fryer, a resident of Sanford, Florida, a town of 53,000 in the Orlando metropolitan area, served six months in jail in 2012 for violating the terms of her drug probation. Police in Seminole County arrested her in December 2013 for failure to appear in court. Over the past several years, she had been charged with resisting arrest, battery of a law enforcement officer, petty theft, and possession of marijuana.

     On Monday morning, February 10, 2014, one of Fryer's neighbors, worried about the well being of the Fryer children, called the DCF and requested a welfare check of the Fryer home. A caseworker arrived at the house to find Rachel gone. The social worker removed four of Fryer's children from the dwelling. The fifth child, 2-year-old Tariji, Tavont'ae's twin sister, was missing. Concerned about the welfare of the toddler, the caseworker called the Sanford Police Department. Detectives launched a missing persons investigation.

     That Monday night, Rachel Fryer showed up at the Sanford police station with a disturbing story. She claimed that on Thursday, February 6, when she tried to wake up her 2-year-old daughter, the toddler was unresponsive. She spent the next thirty minutes trying to revive the little girl with CPR. When that failed, and it became obvious that the child had stopped breathing, Fryer wrapped the body in a blanket. She did not call 911, the police department, or anyone else.

     After placing the dead girl into a leopard-print suitcase, a friend drove Fryer and Tariji to Crescent City, Florida, a town of two thousand in Putnam County northeast of Sanford. In the front yard of a house on Madison Avenue, Fryer buried her daughter in a shallow grave.

     In searching Fryer's cellphone, detectives discovered text messages that revealed the mother's state of mind in the days leading up to Tariji's death. In one message she had texted: "I'm bout to have a nervous breakdown. I can't take it no more….My child is retarded, I don't know what else to do….I need my depression medicine ASAP. This is too much, I'm about to lose it."

     From Fryer's 7-year-old daughter, detectives learned that Fryer regularly hit her children with a broom handle, a mop, and shoes. The 7-year-old said her mother had beaten her the day before her younger sister disappeared.

     On Tuesday, February 11, 2014, police officers in Crescent City, in the front yard of the house on Madison Avenue, saw a child's shoe sticking out of a freshly dug grave. Under the dirt officers found the corpse of a young girl wearing clothing that preliminarily identified the remains of Tariji Fryer. The leopard-print suitcase lay nearby.

     After a prosecutor in Sanford charged Rachel Fryer with aggravated child neglect, she was booked into the John E. Polk Correctional Facility. The judge denied her bond. In the meantime, investigators waited for the results of the girl's autopsy.

     On Tuesday, February 11, detectives questioned Tariji's father, 28-year-old Timothy Gordon. The DCF had not reunited Gordon with his children because he did not take the required parenting counseling in May 2011 following the death of Tavont'ae.

     The Seminole County Medical Examiner's Office, on February 27, 2014, reported that Tariji Gordon had been killed by blunt force trauma to the head. Some of the victim's injuries included, according to a south Florida forensic dentist, bite marks linked to the suspect. The medical examiner ruled the girl's death a criminal homicide. Following that ruling, a local prosecutor charged Rachel Fryer with murder and aggravated child abuse.

     At the suspect's murder arraignment, she pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors told reporters that in this case they will be seeking the death penalty.

     On March 12, 2014, a Seminole County grand jury indicted Fryer for first-degree murder and several lesser offenses. According to detectives who interrogated the suspect, she has confessed to murdering her daughter.


Criminal Justice Quote: Car Burglar Dies of Heart Attack After Struggle With Police

     A 30-year-old man suspected of breaking into cars died of an apparent heart attack following a foot chase and struggle with officers early Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Yonkers, New York police said a resident called 911 at 3:58 AM to report that a man was attempting to break into a vehicle on Bolmer Avenue. The caller said the man was running away through backyards.

     Police said officers from the Fourth Precinct responded and that the man was spotted on Corbalis Place. Police said a struggle ensued and the man was taken into custody. While being treated by Empress Ambulance personnel, police said the man went into cardiac arrest. He was treated at a local emergency room but died….

     The Yonkers Police Department Internal Affairs Division and the Westchester County District Attorney's Office are investigating the incident….The death comes about two and a half months after another suspect in Yonkers died during a police investigation. David Tena, 45, jumped out a window of an apartment and fell three stories to his death as police conducted a drug raid…

Thane Grauel, "Yonkers Suspect Dies After Struggle With Police,", June 11, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Burglar Set Free By Mistake Stabbed to Death

     A jury's confusion over how to fulfill their duty must have felt like a ticket to freedom for Bobby Lee Pearson, who was cleared of a burglary charge and set free. Unable to reach a verdict, Person's Fresno, California jury mistakenly signed a not guilty form on June 11, 2014. If fact, the jurors had actually deadlocked on his verdict….

     Pearson and a co-defendant, Terrell Minnieweather, were accused of burglarizing an apartment in 2013 and stealing a video system and a gun. The homeowner allegedly caught the intruders and wrestled with one of them….It was too late when the judge finally learned that the jury was unable to reach a verdict, stalling on an 8 to 4 vote in favor of guilt….

     After being released from jail, Pearson went to the home of his sister, Lasandra Jackson, to pick up some clothing and belongings….Pearson apparently got into a fight with his sister's boyfriend, 35-year-old Willie Gray. The two had a history of problems….Investigators believe Gray killed Pearson, who was found dead in the street with a chest wound from a knife and a cut on his stomach. Investigators found a steak knife near the body….

     Gray was arrested and treated for injuries to his hands before being booked on suspicion of murder….

Scott Smith, "California Man Dies Hours After Freed by Jury Mistake," Associated Press, June 13, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Good Thing the Robber Assaulted Jerimiah Willey

     Call it a mixed blessing--one that may have saved an Arizona convenience store employee's life. When Phoenix Circle K manager Jerimiah Willey was pistol-whipped during a robbery last month, he landed at St. Joseph's Hospital with a head injury that required eight staples. "He hit me in the head twice, and then throughout the whole thing, he was nudging me with the gun." Willey said.

     The hospital did a CT scan and discovered something far worse--a massive and potentially life-threatening brain tumor. "They said that had this not been found and found soon, he probably just would have gone to sleep one night and not been able to wake up," his wife, Alisha Willey said.

     Jerimiah is recovering from the first of what's expected to be three brain surgeries….The surgery has left him partially paralyzed, with slurred speech and some loss of hearing. He's undergoing therapy. Although the road ahead for the Willeys and their three children is uncertain, they're hopeful that the slow-growing tumor is benign and was caught before it was too late. A fund has been set up to help pay for the family's medical expenses….

Ed Payne and Dave Alsup, "Arizona Store Employee Discovers Brain Tumor After He's Pistol-Whipped," CNN, June 13, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

President Obama and the Battered-Wife Syndrome

     If Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical Muslim cleric accused of playing a role in a failed plot to bomb two cargo planes in 2010 had been shot in the United States by a police officer instead of being taken out by a drone in Yeman, would the shooting, under standard deadly force law, be legally justified? Under the legal rationale that al-Awlaki, at the time of his death, had not posed an imminent threat to anyone, probably not. Could he have been taken into custody without the use of deadly force? We'll never know. Did the government have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that al-Awlaki was a terrorist? We'll never know because al-Awlaki didn't get his day in court, a right given to all American citizens under the U.S. Constitution.

     So, if al-Awlaki wasn't killed in self-defense, or in the field of battle, how could his killing be legally justified? The only way I can think of is pursuant to the battered-wife syndrome which a few juries have recently equated with self-defense, even though the defendant, at the time of the homicidal act, wasn't under an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death. These defendants were acquitted of murder because of what their allegedly abusive husbands may have done to them in the future. So President Obama, in the role of the mastermind in a murder-for-hire trial, could argue that he had ordered al-Awlaki's hit to prevent him from commiting future violence against America.

     As one who is not comfortable with killing people in cold-blood for acts they may or may not commit in the future, I'm not a big fan of the battered-wife syndrome. And I'm uneasy, to say the least, about the way President Obama dispatched this American accused of terrorism. If the al-Awlaki killing isn't a case of unjustified murder-for-hire, what is? (See: "Self-Defense or Premeditated Murder?" October 9, 2011)

Criminal Justice Quote: The Decline of the Coroner's Office

     The office of coroner fell out of favor toward the end of the nineteenth century, as too many coroners were shown to be venal, corrupt, or incompetent. For a fee, a corrupt coroner might certify a suicide as an accidental death, allowing the relatives of the deceased to collect the life insurance. A coroner in Brooklyn, New York, who was paid by the coroner's inquest hearing, had the body of a drowned man moved from place to place around the East River waterfront and held multiple inquests over the same corpse.

     The office of coroner is disappearing around the United States, with coroners being replaced by medical examiners who are medical doctors trained in forensic pathology. In some jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles County, the title of coroner is kept, but the position is filled by a trained forensic pathologist. [In many states coroner offices still exist in rural counties. Coroners are elected into office, medical examiners are appointed.]

Michael Kurland, How to Try a Murder, 1997 

Criminal Justice Quote: How Big is Sex Trafficking in the U.S.?

     Estimates of the number of victims of human trafficking in the U.S. vary widely. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has estimated there are between 100,000 and 300,000 child victims of trafficking, though it no longer uses these figures, acknowledging the difficulty in measuring the scope of the problem.

     The Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization founded to combat human trafficking and "modern day slavery," has counted about 14,000 sex trafficking cases in the U.S. over the last six years, based on the number of calls to its national hotline. In 2012, the Department of Justice convicted 138 human traffickers in cases involving forced labor, sex trafficking of adults and sex trafficking of children, compared to 151 convictions in 2011. The majority of the cases involved sex trafficking.

     Human trafficking is a $9.8 billion annual industry in the U.S., according to the nonprofit Shared Hope International organization.

Monica Alba, "Super Bowl Surge in Sex Trafficking? Maybe Not, But Issue Grabs the Spotlight," NBC News, January 29, 2014 

Whackademia Quote: Fighting Racism in the Engineering Profession

     To become a good engineer or business major, a student must first study the all-important subjects of race and ethnicity--at least according to student government leaders at the University of Michigan, who are working to extend the liberal arts college race requirements to all colleges of the university. A proposal, drafted by the members of the Central Student Government, aims to reform the requirement that all students in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts study race and ethnicity before graduation. Moving forward, all students--even those in the Colleges of Engineering and Business--would be forced to take a class with a racial component, if the proposal were approved by faculty….

     The proposal is supported by the Black Student Union, a race-based group at UM that recently made news for presenting a list of demands to the university. Administrators immediately caved to the group's most costly demand: a $300,000 renovation of the campus's multicultural center….

Robby Soave, "Activists at U-M Trying to Force Engineering Students to Study Race and Ethnicity," The Daily Caller, March 14, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Justifiable Homicide

     There is no crime called "homicide." It is simply an umbrella term that includes various types of lawful homicide [executions, valid police involved shootings, and self defense) as well as unlawful homicide (involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, felony murder, second-degree murder, and first-degree murder]. The categories of lawful homicide are awfully narrow. One of them is justifiable homicide, which applies mainly to self-defense but can also apply to the defense of one's home from intruders. The latter is known as the castle defense….In such cases, the killing is intentional but "justified" by the circumstances.

     When the act of killing is truly unintentional [as opposed to reckless] the law calls this excusable homicide. Despite the name, it is not enough to say "excuse me" to the victim in order to fit into this category. Rather, the defendant must show that the killing was accidental; for example, when a driver hits a pedestrian who ran into the street without warning. [If a drunken driver accidentally runs over someone, that might constitute involuntary manslaughter.]

Adam Freedman, The Party of the First Part, 2007

Hellementary Education Quote: Two Charged in Connection With First-Grader Bringing Bags of Heroin to School

     Authorities say a man and a woman are facing charges after a first-grader brought 11 packs of heroin to a Philadelphia school. School officials say 20 students at Barry Elementary School in the city's Cobbs Creek section were taken to a hospital after a teacher saw a 6-year-old girl playing with one of the packets.

     No injuries were reported, although police said one of the packets appeared to have been bitten and a girl was complaining of stomach pains. Police and prosecutors said Wednesday, June 11, 2014 that 28-year-old Christopher Troy-Jenkins White and 32-year-old Marie Hunter were charged with endangerment and narcotics possession….

"2 Charged Over Heroin Found in Philadelphia School,", June 11, 2014 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hellementary Education Quote: Another Toy Gun Suspension

     First-grader Darin Simak is a little shy, a little upset and a little confused about why he can't go back to Martin Elementary School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, but he knows it's the result of him bringing a toy gun to school in his backpack on June 4, 2014. Jennifer Mathabel said her son left his usual backpack in a friend's car the night before, so he packed another one but missed the toy gun inside. "So I sent my child to school. My child discovers a toy gun at about 1:30 PM. He turns it in to the teacher and he's sent to the office and suspended," said Mathabel.

     But she felt her son shouldn't be suspended, and still sent him to school the next morning. "I got a phone call from the principal at 9 AM, and she said, 'Darin is not to be in school,' and I said, 'I'm sending him to school because he's entitled to be in school and be educated,'" said Mathabel. [She should have said, "My God! You people are idiots!"]

     Darin was given an in-school suspension until his father came to pick him up and take him back home. The New Kensington-Arnold School District superintendent said that bringing a toy gun to school violates the district's policy at the highest level [of stupidity] and requires a child to be suspended immediately until a meeting can be held to discuss what happened and whether punishment is warranted.

"First-Grader Suspended After Toy Gun Found in Backpack," June 6, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Attempted Honor Murder in Pakistan

     Shot twice. Tied up in a sack. Thrown into a canal. Yet somehow, 18-year-old Saba Maqsood lived to tell her story. Had she not, Pakistani police say, it could very well have been another honor murder. Those responsible for the horror, Maqsood told reporters on June 6, 2014, are her father and brother. They shot her because they didn't approve of her marriage to a neighbor….

     The first bullet hit her cheek, the next one her hand, after which the teenager says she "was slightly conscious, but alive. They put me into a sack, tied up the mouth of the sack and threw it into the canal," Maqsood recalled. "They thought I was dead, but I was not."

     [Maqsood was thrown into] a canal in the city of Hafizabad, a city in Punjab Province about 75 miles northwest of Lahore. Workers at a gas station spotted the sack and the young woman inside and immediately alerted authorities, Halfizabad police officer Ali Akbar told CNN. After corroborating the basics of Maqsood's story, including her injuries, Akbar said, "This seems to be an honor-related crime."

     Such crimes--which the perpetrators rationalize as necessary because the targeted women have somehow brought dishonor on a family--are hardly unprecedented in Pakistan…."The accused are on the run," the police officer Akbar said. "We are hopeful to apprehend them soon."

Aliza Kassim and Greg Botelho, "Pakistani Woman: My Relatives Shot Me, Threw Me in Canal for Marrying Neighbor," CNN, June 6, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Mayor Caught Dumping Dog Dirt in Neighbor's Yard

     The mayor of San Marino, California was caught on surveillance camera tossing a small bag of dog poop into a neighbor's front yard, and the homeowner is refusing to accept his apology. Resident Philip Lao said he discovered the small bag outside his home Saturday evening June 7, 2014 before going on a walk with his wife. After returning, he viewed footage from his home surveillance cameras to find out who dumped the bag in his yard. To his surprise, Lao recognized the culprit as Dennis Kneier, mayor of the wealthy San Gabriel Valley community.

     "We have not been able to sleep at night for a while because of this," Lao said. Kneier appears in the surveillance video holding a briefcase in his left hand and a small bag in his right as he walks in the 1400 block of Charlton Road. A woman, who was later identified as Kneier's wife, was walking a few steps ahead of  him and appears to say something to him, then points toward Lao's walkway moments before he tosses the bag.

     Lao called police about the incident and officers took a report, indicating the bag "appeared to have been intentionally placed in the walkway entrance," the San Marino Police Department said in a statement. Although police said Lao does not want to press charges, detectives are still investigating the incident.

     Lao claims the major has not been happy with him since he placed a "No poop zone" sign outside his home and has been vocal about his opposition to a proposed dog park at Lacy Park. But Kneier says he has no opinion about the dog park because it's not up for City Council review. As for the sign, Kneier said it has been a sore subject for many neighborhood residents, who have pleaded with him to convince Lao to remove it. "I personally don't like the sign, but I can't tell him to take it down," the mayor said.

     Kneier has not talked to Lao, but sent him a letter of apology [in which he claimed the dog dirt incident was accidental.]…But Lao says he's not accepting Kneier's apology because he believes the mayor is not being truthful. "He's compounding the situation by lying about how this occurred," Lao said. [Of course the mayor lied. He's a politician.]…

Veronica Rocha, "San Marino Mayor Caught Tossing Bag of Dog Poo in Neighbor's Yard," Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2014  

Criminal Justice Quote: The Innocent Defendant

     In many criminal trials the most important and difficult part of the defending attorney's job comes during the first half of the trial, when the prosecution is presenting its evidence. Discrediting the prosecution's case is at least as important as presenting the defense's own story.

     The guilty defendant often has an advantage over the truly innocent defendant: he knows what actually happened. If he is clever, he can carefully tailor his defense to fit the recoverable facts. The secret advantage for the side of truth and justice is that so many criminals who think they're clever are mistaken. The innocent defendant, on the other hand, usually doesn't know what really happened and is at a loss to explain away the evidence connecting him to the crime.

Michael Kurland, How to Try a Murder, 1997 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: What a Rape Case Defense Lawyer Said When His Client's Daughter Videotaped the Attacks

     A lack of so-called hard evidence has been known to unravel even a strong sexual assault case, but that shouldn't be a problem for a 14-year-old French girl who thought to secretly film one of her allegedly abusive father's attacks with a bedroom webcam.

     Even after the victim  had initially come forward, spilling details of the relationship with her father to a counselor at school in Flornsac, a small town in the southern Herault region, police could not arrest him until she delivered video proof of her allegations. Now she's in a woman's shelter, and he's awaiting trial in Beziers Prison. Investigators are still trying to gauge the mother's complicity, though she appears to have been a victim as well.

     Given that there's little disputing the veracity or import of the webcam footage, the father's attorney, Mathieu Montfort, has instead tried to downplay the frequency of such attacks: "There was a period when he was unemployed and in the middle of a divorce," the lawyer was quoted as saying. "He [the defendant] insists that these acts did not stretch back further than three or four months. His daughter says longer. But everyone should be very careful in what they say." [Except defense attorneys, of course.]

     Attorney Montfort also noted that his client said he "took no pleasure" in abusing his daughter and was just "messing around." [Well then, no harm done. What a load of defense attorney crap.] If the alleged rapist's daughter hadn't been able to bank on his ignorance of web technology to outsmart him, odds are he'd still be "messing around" today.

Miles Klee, "14-Year-Old Girl Films Father's Sexual Abuse With Webcam," The Daily Dot, November 6, 2013 

Criminal Justice Quote: Dinosaur Fossil Smuggler Turned Snitch For Light Sentence

     A dinosaur smuggler turned informant will spend only a few months in prison, about two years after Mongolian authorities realized Tyrannosaurus fossils had been pilfered from the Gobi Desert. Eric Prokopi, 29, pleaded guilty last year [2013] to three counts related to the smuggling of dinosaur fossils into the U.S. His biggest find was a 2-ton Tyrannosaurus bataar, about 8 feet tall, 24 feet long, and 70 million years old. Prokopi enlisted a New York auction house to put the dinosaur up for bid, but the quirky offering caught the eye of paleontologists, including an advisor to the Mongolian president.

     The fossils had a grayish-sand hue, which indicated they could have only come from Mongolia. Officials there worked with U.S. authorities to halt the million-dollar sale and prosecute Prokopi. Mongolian authorities even uncovered photographs of Prokopi working at an excavation site in the Gobi Desert.

     But prosecutors eventually requested leniency for him because Prokopi shared details about the fossil smuggling world that helped them recover several other items….Every fossil-smuggling investigation since Prokopi's arrest has been made possible in part by information he provided….

     Prokopi had faced up to 17 years in prison, but a federal judge on June 3, 2014 sentenced him to three months in prison and about a year of probation. Still, Prokopi had sought to avoid prison altogether because his reputation as a professional fossils dealer already has been tarnished, according to his attorney. He must turn himself in by September 2014. Prosecutors said Mongolia plans to open a natural history museum, beginning with the fossils recovered from the Prokopi case.

Paresh Dave, "Dinosaur Fossils Smuggler Turned Informant Gets Short Prison Sentence," Nation Now, June 4, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Another Slender Man Inspired Teen Knife Attack

     A teenage girl's brutal attack on her mother has been linked to an obsession with fictional horror figure Slander Man. An Ohio mother, who was stabbed by her 13-year-old daughter in the kitchen of their home, has told how her child assaulted her after the girl became obsessed with the fictional character.

     "I came home one night from work and she was in the kitchen waiting for me and she was wearing a mask, a white mask," the mother told a local news station. The mother suffered multiple minor injuries, including a puncture wound in her back. "She [the girl] was someone else during the attack," the victim said.

     The attack came to light after two Wisconsin adolescents were charged with the attempted murder of a 12-year-old classmate as a sacrifice to the online demon. Prosecutors allege that Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyster, both 12, stabbed a friend 19 times and left her to die….Police say the girls told detectives they wanted to murder the girl after reading tales about Slender Man on the horror website CreepyPasta….

     Slender Man, the creation of paranormal enthusiasts, is said to be a lanky, faceless creature in a suit who terrorizes and kidnaps children. It is believed the spooky figure was invented in a Photoshop contest on the Something Awful forums in 2009 and became the subject of online paranormal fan fiction….

     The mother who was assaulted has pleaded with parents to monitor the behavior and reading material of their children….

"Mother Attacked by Daughter Says Slender Man Could Be To Blame,", June 9, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Fight and Taser Naked Man on Cocaine Who Died the Next Day

     A 34-year-old…man died Sunday, June 8, 2014 after he was hospitalized following a confrontation with police early Saturday morning….Gilbert, Arizona police responded at about 3:30 AM Saturday…after callers reported that a naked man was yelling for help….Daniel Best assaulted police as they tried to detain him….It took five officers to subdue Best….Tasers were used several times. Police believe that Best had an altercation with his wife prior to their arrival, and that cocaine played a role in his actions….

     Once in custody, Best showed signs of medical distress and the fire department transported him to a hospital, where he died….

Matthew Casey, "Naked Gilbert Man Dies After Police Confrontation," The Republic, June 9, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Crappiest Little Whorehouses in Texas

     Fifteen women and three men were arrested on May 19, 2014 after a double prostitution sting in East Harris County, Texas.

     Undercover officers went into the suspected locations, a bar and a cantina located just east of Houston, disguised as customers after several complaints. A makeshift bedroom was discovered in the restrooms. The group had a total of 21 charges of prostitution and other crimes.

"Texas Prostitution Ring Busted,", May 20, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Death Penalty Jurors Don't Know the Meaning of "Aggravating" and "Mitigating"

     Studies and anecdotal evidence confirm that jurors routinely get confused by legalese….The price of confusion is especially high when the death penalty is at stake. Imagine twelve perfectly nice people who would rather be home [or at work] suddenly forced to decide a matter of life and death. What helpful advice do they receive? That in deciding whether to impose the death penalty they must consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

     The problem…is that the average layman hasn't a clue what the terms "aggravating" and "mitigating" mean in the legal context. An aggravating factor is one that heightens the seriousness of the defendant's crime; for example a long history of violent crime. At best, most jurors will understand the word "aggravating" in its colloquial sense as "annoying."Murderers do tend to be pretty annoying--does that mean they should all get the death penalty?

     Mitigating factors are those that tend to lessen the defendant's guilt, such as certain mental conditions. The Supreme Court of Georgia confidently asserted that mitigation "is a word of common meaning and usage" and therefore need not be explained to the jury. Try to remember the last time you heard the word "mitigation" used in everyday conversation.

Adam Freedman, Party of the First Part, 2007

Monday, June 9, 2014

Writing Quote: Mystery Plot Structures

     …..In a narrative constructed around a mystery, the central mystery, if anything, takes on an outsize importance, one that threatens to blot out everything else. On some level, the only thing that matters in a mystery story is the last chapter. You may think that's unfair, but it's just the way the genre works….

     One theory about the ideal structure of a mystery story…holds that in a mystery there are essentially two kinds of plot: an apparent plot and a revealed plot. The apparent plot is everything that happens up to the final chapter of the story... is immediately apparent, until the very end. The revealed plot is what really turns out to be the case after all the mysteries have been revealed.

     In a really good mystery…the difference between these two kinds of plots isn't just mechanical, it is interpretive. It isn't just about who-appears-to-have dunit and who-really-dunit. It's about what it all--the world, good and evil, women and men, family, justice, society, the truth at the heart of humanity--really means: what it seems to mean when we're wandering in the darkness, and what it means when we come into the light.

     Another theory holds that what the structure of a mystery is really about is story and discourse, signifier and signified. The mystery, in its opening chapters, posits the existence of a coherent, meaningful story: the body in the woods, the blood spatter, the knife in the grass, the partial footprint. But the story is hidden, its meaning obscured. The narrative that proceeds from this point is not, itself, the story--it is, rather, discourse, the system of talk and empty signification and endless deferment that surrounds the story, like planets orbiting a star that can be glimpsed only glancingly, never directly. The story, usually, is revealed in the final chapter, but the story that preceded the story--the story of the detectives finding clues, signifiers throbbing with a meaning that lay just outside their grasp--that wasn't the story.

Andrew De Young, "'True Detective': Just Another Murder Mystery, After All," The Stake, March 13, 2014