Ethics Test: The Corey Pujols Sentence vs. The Derek Chauvin Sentence

I am having a hard time reconciling these two criminal trial sentences with basic ethical principles like fairness, equity, and consistency. Maybe you can help.

I suspect you never heard of the Corey Pujols manslaughter case in Florida, where a black Dunkin’ Donut manager was sentenced for killing a 73-year-old white man. There were no national headlines or special network reports after the May 4, 2021 incident at a shop in Tampa, Florida. There were no protests or angry demonstrations or riots; no organization called “Old White Guys’ Lives Matter” took up his victim’s cause.

Vonelle Cook was a  regular customer at the doughnut store, and not a welcome one: he was often cranky and abusive. On this visit he began berating staff members for the service he received at the store’s drive-through window. Asked repeatedly to leave, Cook parked and entered the shop while store manager Corey Pujols told another store employee to call the police. Cook began arguing with Pujols across the counter, and then Cook called Pujols a “nigger.”  Pujols came out from behind the counter to confront Cook.  Pujols, 27, warned the old man “not to say that again,” and true to his character and mood, Cook repeated the slur. Pujols punched him in the jaw; Vonelle Cook fell backwards onto the floor, hitting his head and sustaining fatal injuries. He died in a hospital three days later. Cook never touched or tried to strike his attacker Pujols.

Pujols was charged with manslaughter, but agreed to a plea deal in which he accepted  the lesser charge of felony battery. Under the sentence imposed this week by Judge Christine Marlewski of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court, Cook’s killer will be on probation for three years after he completes two years of  house arrest, and must perform 200 hours of community service as well as attending anger management courses.

Fair? Proportional? Consistent?

Andrew Warren, the state attorney for Hillsborough County, was satisfied, saying that the result “holds the defendant accountable while considering the totality of the circumstances — the aggressive approach and despicable racial slur used by the victim, along with the defendant’s age, lack of criminal record, and lack of intent to cause the victim’s death.”

From the news accounts, it appears that that the fact that Cook was not an admirable citizen and that he will not be greatly mourned by the community was also taken into consideration. He was a registered sex offender who had served time in prison after being convicted of  crimes including child abuse, possession of child pornography and sexual activity with minors.

Now let’s consider and contrast the sentence imposed on former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin—22 years and six months—and the relevant factors the two cases share and do not share.

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Don’t Censor The Anti-Police Mob, Do Expose, Reject And Condemn Them

Susan Sarandon proved with this ugly, stupid and unethical tweet that she is another talented artist, like Robert DeNiro and so, so many others, whose work has to be separated from their ill-informed, ignorant, politically-warped and outrageous personal opinions in order to tolerate it, never mind enjoy it. Sarandon is and always has been one of our very best film actresses, but my Cognitive Dissonance Scale is going to make it very hard for me to watch her performances after this.

The photo in the retweet shows the NYPD police gathered to honor slain NYPD Detective Jason Rivera. Officer Rivera and his 27-year-old partner Wilbert Mora died answering a 911 call from a mother in Harlem who said her son had verbally threatened her. They walked down a hall in the apartment and the son jumped out and opened fire, fatally wounding both officers. The outpouring of grief and professional respect from the New York police was traditional, appropriate and necessary. Continue reading

What Is The Appropriate Response To These Companies?

Target puppy

With crime rates soaring in many cities and “smash and garb” raids disrupting large retailers, companies like Home Depot, Nordstom’s and Target are calling on communities to increase policing. By “like,” I mean companies that previously hailed Black Lives Matter and other anti-policing organizations,, festooned their stores, ads and websites with endorsements of BLM as it vilified law enforcement and called for “defunding” the police, and gave large grants to it and other “social justice” movements seeking to reduce police protection of communities across the nation.

It was all part of “The Big Pander” sub-division of The Great Stupid, itself fueled by the George Floyd Freakout, because it makes perfect sense to decide that a single brutal police incident proves that all police are racist menaces. The fake history “1619 Project” and offshoots of Critical Race Theory also were bolstered by these corporations’ cynical virtue-signaling, at a time when catering to criminals is seen as a virtue.

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Ethics Dunce, Weenie Of The Month, And, To Be Blunt, An Incompetent Teacher: Lewis & Clark College Professor William Pritchard

grovel3

There is no excuse for this. It is simply abject cowardice and an abdication of duty.

Professor Pritchard was teaching his class about the use of blackface in theater and film, and showed a clip of Laurence Olivier iportraying the tragic hero in “Othello.” (Pritchard called Olivier’s facial covering “blackface,” apparently. I do not. It is called “make-up.”) Some students who are apparently fully-indoctrinated social justice warriors incapable of examining any issue from multiple perspectives—college is supposed to remedy that deficiency—were offended by the topic, and demanded that their instructor write “a well written apology, two pages in length or longer,” and that he read it aloud.

Seldom has “Bite me!” been more appropriate as a response in an academic setting. You might want to take a Dramamine before reading on.

Mentioning the Olivier film (which was discussed on Ethics Alarms here), the letter, composed by one student and signed by eleven others, states,

…After this was shown to us, our professor asked if Othello being played by a white man took away from the performance. Our answer was yes, because the actor was in blackface, an inherently racist performance from its origins. Blackface – and any other practice that alters one’s appearance, poise, and vernacular to the stereotype of a group of people, especially of race – dehumanizes the identity of marginalized people into a stereotype one can wear as a costume. Whitewashing (which includes blackface and yellowface) profits off a group’s oppression, but never has to experience the consequences of living that identity. Makeup can be washed off, but POC have to live with the violence that comes with being part of a marginalized group….[The professor] then facilitated an argument as to whether or not whitewashing was acceptable, and this made the students – especially students of color – very uncomfortable. When we said that Lawrence Olivier in blackface was not acceptable, our professor played devil’s advocate, and this made the students of color incredibly uncomfortable because it was shocking and felt aggressive that our professor was making room to excuse blackface …Some students were shaken for the rest of the day, and days to follow. Our professor asked us to compare two hypothetical actors – a Black man and a white man – both in the role of Othello. He asked, if the Black man had a poorer performance than the white man in this role, wouldn’t it be acceptable for the white man to play Othello? He was asking us if a white man could do a better job of playing a Black character than a Black man,”

For the record, the position here, as an ethicist, lawyer but mostly as a stage director with some reputation for being innovative, any race and any gender can play any role, and if he or she is the artist with the talents to ensure the best performance, in the sole judgment of the director, should. Going on…

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And The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman/ George Floyd/ Kyle Rittenhouse Ethics Train Wreck Rolls On…..

Prosecutor-square

In the tricky practice of ethics train wreck taxonomy, placing the Rittenhouse trial in the proper category is a challenge. Is the Tale of the Gun-toting Teen its own media bias and activist -fueled social and legal disaster, or is it just an extension of another?

I lean toward assigning this fiasco to the latter category, making it just one more extension of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, which eventually begat the George Floyd Freakout, which in turn led to the contrived outrage over the police shooting of Jacob Blake that spat out Rittenhouse’s unhelpful improvisation. After all, Martin, Floyd and Blake all were episodes that had nothing to do with race but that were hyped into divisive racial controversies and trials by irresponsible demagogues, protesters, politicians and reporters.

What I especially like about attributing all of this societal wreckage into a single ethics train wreck is that it demonstrates just how disastrous President Obama’s inflammatory comments equating Martin to “his son” were—as Ethics Alarms pointed out at the time. Maybe if the blame is squarely placed at the metaphorical fish head, Presidents will stop shooting off their mouths like that. (President Biden, do recall, falsely called Rittenhouse a white supremacist.)

This is all prelude to pointing out what a projectile vomit debacle yesterday’s closing arguments were. Both the prosecution and the defense stomped all over proper criminal trial practice and professional ethics.

For the prosecution…

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Kyle Rittenhouse Ethics, Part 3: Et Cetera

Schroeder

Remaining ethics notes in no special order, (but numbered because numbers work better than bullet points in WordPress’s terrible “block” system):

1. No evidence has surfaced indicating that Rittenhouse is a “white supremacist.” Nonetheless, many news media sources have reported that he is. Worse, Joe Biden has said so twice, once as a candidate and once since his election. Kyle’s mother appeared on Fox News and accused Joe Biden of defaming her son to win votes. That’s as good an explanation as any, I guess.

2. Trump Derangement is embedded in the trial. The Great Stupid moment par exellance: while Rittenhouse was on the stand, a cell phone tone rang out. It belonged to the phone of Judge Schroeder, and was Lee Greenwood’s patriotic country anthem “God Bless the U.S.A.” This immediately sparked deranged pundits and activist to demand the judge’s removal, because Donald Trump likes the song and has played it at rallies.

Morons. What songs a judge likes or doesn’t like isn’t evidence of any bias or conflict of interest whatsoever, and while the news media wants this trial seen as such, it’s not political. However, some judges have punished lawyers for allowing a cell phone to disrupt testimony. For a judge to have his own phone ring is bad.

3. Someone was explaining to me that the judge was biased because he appeared to be “anti-rioter.” All judges and all citizens should be anti-rioter.

4. Judge Schroeder also has been criticized for allowing the defense to use terms like looters and rioters but banning the prosecution from calling those shot by Rittenhouse as “victims.” As for the former, they were rioters and looters. There is no reason to disguise it. I agree with the “victims” ruling as well. I’ve often wondered about permitting the word in such trials: “victim” is an ambiguous term that can imply innocence. One meaning is “someone who is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment.” Someone who is killed in self-defense hasn’t been mistreated. The word biases the trial against a defendant like Rittenhouse.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/24/2021: Morning’s Not The Only Thing That’s Broken…

On October 24, 1945, the United Nations Charter became effective, marking this date as the international organization’s official birthday. What a disappointment the U.N. has been! The idea of a body made up of representatives of the nations of the world dedicated to promoting peace and mutual cooperation for the good of humanity was always a quixotic and probably doomed mission, one shared by the U.N.’s ill-conceived predecessor, Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations.

I am old enough, however, to remember when the American public believed in and respected the U.N. Its meetings were broadcast regularly by PBS; the U.N’s second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was one of the world’s most admired men, and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (ironically, since his father had effectively killed the League of Nations by blocking the U.S.’s membership in the new body in the Senate), was immensely popular. The U.N. has had its moments, notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but it squandered the public’s trust with outrageous committee appointments, placing brazen human rights violators on its Human Rights Council for example (currently Russia, China and Cuba are members), persistent efforts at world government, which is and should always be an offense to the U.S. Constitution, and corruption at the highest levels that have become impossible to excuse. Today the United Nations’ existence is largely symbolic. Maybe that’s enough to justify the expense, but we once thought the United Nations would be so much more.

1. Searching for an ethical news aggregator...but I can’t find one. I visited the Drudge Report for the first time in months, and saw this link: FACEBOOK Faulted by Staff Over Insurrection…

Drudge has been abandoned by many conservatives over the site’s decision to spin anti-Trump, but continuing to call the January 6 riot an “insurrection” after the FBI’s report conclusively showed it wasn’t one is signature significance for a propaganda site. Over at the aggregator that has snatched away Drudge’s Trump-supporting audience, Citizen Free Press, the coverage of the unfolding Alec Baldwin gunfire accident includes this headline: “PHOTOS — This is the woman Alec Baldwin put in charge of firearms for his low budget film…” and this image of the film’s armorist:

shooting armorist

Oh, I see! Based on her looks, we know she must have been incompetent! This is nothing but bigotry, and it is why so many people detest conservatives.

2. Until more people show some courage and principles, this kind of thing will only become more frequent and get worse. Witness the revolting development from Coastal Carolina University. The College Fix reports:

“On September 16, students filed into a classroom, and some students noted the names of several students of color were written on a whiteboard at the front of the class. Thinking this was some sort of list singling out minority students, the offended students planned a campus protest on September 21 instead of going to class.But the names were actually part of a list of students who may want to hang out together, drawn up by a visiting artist who had been counseling two students of color after the previous class. One of the students had said she felt isolated and wanted to get to know other minority students in the theater department, so the group brainstormed a list of potential friends. The school later admitted the list was “a resource for newer students who are looking to be in community with other BIPOC students.”

Never mind; Facts Don’t Matter! The school apologized to the mistakenly offended students with a statement that “faculty and students involved as well as the Theatre Department as a whole are deeply sorry to anyone who was affected by this incident.” That’s right: the school apologized to the students for the students leaping to conclusions and protesting before they knew what they were protesting about. Not only that, the visiting artist who created the list to help the minority students also apologized, calling her actions “thoughtless and careless.” Yes, it is certainly careless to assume that students in the era of The Great Stupid will be capable of being fair, responsible, and reasonable when they have unlimited power to make administrators and instructors lick their metaphorical boots on a whim.

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And The Great Stupid Figures Out How To Feed Itself: The NCAA’s Brilliant Plan

brilliant

I saw this coming. Didn’t you see this coming? Once colleges were told that they could and should treat college athletes as professional athletes, any effort to ensure that they might leave college able to do anything but run, throw, and dunk was on the way out. And so it is.

Last week, an NCAA task force recommended that incoming freshmen in Division I and II sports should no longer be required to meet minimum scores on standardized tests for initial eligibility.

Do you realize how ignorant you have to be to fail to meet the minimum scores?

The recommendation was made by the NCAA Standardized Test Score Task Force, was formed as part of the NCAA’s eight-point plan to advance racial equity. Yes, one sure way to advance racial equity is to let student athletes remain as dumb as marmots.

The Division I Committee on Academics and Division II Academic Requirements Committee will consider the recommendation at their next scheduled meetings in February. “This work reflects the NCAA’s commitment to continually reviewing our academic standards based on the best available data and other relevant information,” task force chairman David Wilson, president at Morgan State, said in a press release. “We are observing a national trend in NCAA member schools moving away from requiring standardized test scores for admissions purposes and this recommendation for athletics eligibility aligns directly with that movement.”

Everybody’s doing it! Now there’s a good reason for abandoning higher education for athletes! The ball started rolling in July 2020, when the National Association of Basketball Coaches called for the NCAA to permanently eliminate standardized test scores from eligibility requirements. Naturally, the main concern of basketball coaches is the educational achievements of student players.

“The days of colleges requiring the SAT or ACT are passing rapidly: more than half of all four-year colleges and universities will not require these tests for admissions in 2021, and more are dropping the requirement every week,” the NABC said in a statement at the time. “These tests should no longer be required in the initial-eligibility standards. The tests are again being recognized as forces of institutional racism, which is consistent with their history, and they should be jettisoned for that reason alone; moreover, pragmatics also support this change.”

Writes education blogger Joanne Jacobs, “So the plan is to admit unprepared students who will play football or basketball and leave college without a degree.”

Exactly. After all, a thuggish Minnesota cop accidentally killed a lifetime black hood without any racial motive, so this is a perfect response. And I am Marie of Romania.

The disgusted Ms Jacobs appended a relevant literary reference to her report…

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Is The George Floyd Freakout Finally Waning?

Oh, probably not, but there are some hopeful signs.

After the death by ambiguous causes of an African American petty hood resisting arrest at the hands, well, the knee, of a habitually brutal cop who should have been kicked off the force long before, absent any evidence whatsoever that the death was intentional or that it was motivated by race, police officers across the nation have been vilified, fired, prosecuted and generally abused virtually every time an African-American, and sometimes even a white citizen, died or was wounded in a police-involved shooting. This insanity, hysteria, freakout, deliberate exploitation, what ever you choose to call it, resulted in law enforcement around the nation being weakened, black communities being made more vulnerable to crime, a mass exodus of police officers, and an unprecedented spike in murders nation-wide. There were other horrible effects too, like the sudden acceptance of anti-white racism and discrimination as “restorative justice,” and the ascent of Kamala Harris to the office of Vice-President, but this is just an introduction.

Last week, however, two decisions in police-involved deaths showed that sanity might be creeping back.

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