Tag Archives: sentencing

Rewarding Violence And Vigilante Justice: The Unethical Glorification of Randall Margraves

That’s Margraves on the left, with Nassar, his target, cowering in red…

During the sentencing hearing for sexual predator Larry Nasser in an Eaton County, Michigan courtroom, Randall Margraves, the father of three daughters who were all molested by the former USA Women’s Gymnastics doctor, shouted “You son of a bitch!” and rushed Nassar.  He was tackled and placed in handcuffs. Before the attack, Margraves asked Judge Janice Cunningham to grant him “five minutes in a locked room with this demon. Yes or no.”  Perhaps he thought she was Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who might have granted his request based on her words at his previous sentencing hearing. Cunningham, however, refused the request.

After the father’s attempt to take the law into his own hands, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis told the stunned courtroom, “We cannot behave like this. This is letting him have his power over us….You cannot do this. I understand Mr. Margraves’ frustration, but you cannot do this. Use your words, use your experiences. Do not use physical violence.” Judge Cunningham added,

“We cannot react by using physical violence and assault against someone who has performed criminal acts. What Mr. Nassar did is horrible. It’s unthinkable, but please let the criminal justice system do what it is supposed to do and issue the punishment he should get.”

Nonetheless, no charges were filed against Margraves. Wrong.  This is irresponsible and hypocritical, as well as cowardly. (We know any punishment will be unpopular with the “Think of the children!” and the “What if it was your daughters?” crowds as well as the “Punch Nazis in the face”  constituency) If the message really is that a society can’t give in to vigilante justice and let citizens employ physical violence as extra-legal means to exact vengeance against criminals, then those who behave this way must be punished.  If they are not, then the opposite message is sent: “Well, when someone is really bad, and hurts someone you really care about, we sympathize. We understand how you feel.” What if Margraves had reached Nassar and delivered a punch to his face, fracturing his jaw? Or ripped his lips off? That he didn’t was just moral luck. Would the father have been charged then, as millions around the nation shut down their ethics alarms and cheered?

For the justice system to remains coherent and maintain integrity, the father had to be charged. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

The Unethical Sentencing Of Dr. Lawrence Nassar

Non-lawyers and journalists mostly cheered Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s grandstanding, self-indulgent, unprofessional and unethical handling of Dr. Larry Nassars’s sentencing yesterday. Nobody bothered to seek the opinion of criminal lawyers and judges, much less ethicists. If they had, they would have heard a loud, collective, “Ugh.”

It was a disgrace. I object to victim impact statements in sentencing, a terrible idea pushed by victim’s rights advocates, because it misrepresents the purpose of the justice system. The objective is to punish citizens for violating laws, not to get revenge for victims or their families, not to get “closure,” and not to satisfy emotional needs. The process isn’t personal, or shouldn’t be. If it is personal, then it isn’t objective. Judge Aquila threw all of that out the window as she played to the cameras and the mob.

Criminal defense lawyer and blogger Scott Greenfield aptly explained what was unethical about the parade of victims:

Nassar’s sentencing hearing is a clear example of a judge straying from promoting the public’s trust in a fair and impartial judiciary. Let’s begin with Judge Aquilina’s decision allowing over one hundred and sixty victim impact statements across seven days. 

Victim impact statements are theoretically allowed as a means of giving a crime victim the chance to describe their experience to the court. Defense lawyers aren’t typically fans of them, and too many can arguably have a prejudicial effect against a defendant.

Contrast Nasssar’s hearing with that of Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter responsible for the deaths of nine churchgoers. Judge Richard Gergel admonished the State’s list of thirty-eight statements, cautioning against a “spectacle”. David Bruck, the attorney assigned to advise Roof, claimed the proceeding violated “every principle restraining victim impact statements under the 8th Amendment.”

Strangely, no advocate stood to question admitting impact statements from over 160 victims, including gold medal Olympians, might prejudice a jurist’s decision. It’s hard to imagine Judge Aquilina even entertaining such an argument.

It is also hard to imagine Nassar’s sleepwalking defense attorney making such an objection. She was praised by the judge for taking on an unpopular client, but taking him on isn’t enough. She was supposed to protect his rights.

Then the judge delivered her sentence, turning her moment in the national spotlight into a self-aggrandizing, virtue-signalling, vainglorious soliloquy to the gallery. This was one more example of why televised court proceedings are a bad idea.

I’m going to give you the whole transcript of her remarks, bolding the sections before my comments. Cut to the bolded sections if you don’t care to experience the full measure of Judge Aquilina’s narcissism. One section,, however, was left out of all the published versions that I could find:

“Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment. If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls—these young women in their childhood—I would allow someone or many people to do to him what he did to others.”

The judge apparently had this excised from the official transcript. No wonder. She is advocating prison rape and by doing so, endorsing it. Michigan’s judicial ethics standards require in part,

“A judge should respect and observe the law. At all times, the conduct and manner of a judge should promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Without regard to a person’s race, gender, or other protected personal characteristic, a judge should treat every person fairly, with courtesy and respect.”

Needless to say—I hope—‘I wish I could have you gang raped’ does not meet this standard. It is also troubling that a judge would distort the record. She said what she said, and the public should know she is the kind of jurist would say something like that—an unethical one. The state’s judicial panel should also know.

Here is the rest: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/29/2017

Good Morning!

1. There are several accurate and fair points in the New York Times overview of the Obamacare repeal and replace fiasco, as well as some details that all add up top one thing: the GOP, top to bottom, wasn’t prepared to follow up on the promises it was making during the campaign. To be responsible and honest, it should have had the substitute plan for the Affordable Care Act crafted, analyzed and ready before the 2016 campaign was even underway—you know, one that still dealt with pre-existing condition problem, capped mediacl negligence lawsuit awards. and took steps to lower health care cots while giving the public more choices rather than fewer and not adding to the national debt. Instead, they just used a false promise to stir up the base, like Harold Hill railing about the new pool table corrupting the youth in River City. It was a con job, in other words, all along. Incredibly, the Times reports—assuming that what it reports is true, and of that we can never be sure, remember—

“Vote yes, Republican leaders told the holdouts in their conference. We promise it will never become law. After seven years of railing against the evils of the Affordable Care Act, the party had winnowed its hopes of dismantling it down to a menu of options to appease recalcitrant lawmakers — with no more pretenses of lofty policy making, only a realpolitik plea to keep the legislation churning through the Capitol by voting to advance something, anything.”

That’s nauseating, and unethical governance and politics at its worst.

Other notes from the article

  • “A ruling party that never expected to win. A conservative base long primed to accept nothing less than a full repeal. An overpromising and often disengaged president with no command of the policy itself and little apparent interest in selling its merits to the public.”

It’s fine to face reality when you appear to be defeated. It is unethical to run for office without being as prepared to win as you would be if your were the frontrunner.

  • “Yet in private sessions…Republicans worried about being saddled with a politically toxic “Trumpcare,” with some acknowledging that their dual promises — repealing the law swiftly without pulling the rug out from Americans — could not be reconciled.”

This just occurred to them? Wasn’t this obviously a problem that could have been predicted since. oh, 2010?

  • “Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, assembled a working group of 13 senators to draft the legislation — all of them male — excluding Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Collins.”

What a moron.

2. J.K Rowling, Harry Potter’s mommy who hates our President with a passion, sent out a re-tweet of an edited video appearing to show President Trump snubbing a child in a wheelchair. She wrote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou https://twitter.com/ansel/status/889596818383814656 …”

The tweet had gone viral, with more than 58 thousand retweets. It’s also carrying a lie. The actual, unedited video shows the President kneeling and talking to the boy. Now the tweet itself and the page of the tweeter has vanished.

Rowling has shown us that she is a foreign citizen using her influence to spread fake news in an effort to undermine our government. Someone should turn her into a newt. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/16/2017

 Isn’t it a lovely morning?

1. This isn’t the first post of the day: I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep (“As My Guitar Gently Weeps” was playing over and over in my head, don’t ask me why, and images from the Red Sox 16 inning loss to the Yankees was giving me the night terrors), so I went to the office and wrote this post. Charlie Green, critic and friend, properly pointed out that my comment in passing that incorrectly alluded to rumors about Joseph P. Kennedy being a bootlegger was exactly what my  post was criticizing David Brooks for doing in his attack on the entire Trump family, going back generations, a truly ugly op-ed.

What I was sorely tempted to say was that I’m just an ethics blogger, trying to focus attention on ethics standards in a daily blog from which I receive no income and intangible professional benefits if any. I mange to get 2000-4000 words published every 24 hours, working in short bursts while I try to earn a living, run a business, do research and be as good a father and husband as I can be. I have no editors, no researchers (except generous volunteers) and my blog is not a “paper of record” for journalists, seen by millions and paid for by subscribers. Is it really fair to hold Ethics Alarms to the same standards as David Brooks and the New York Times?

Make no mistake: my own standards are that no typo, no misstated fact, no misleading argument, are acceptable on an ethics blog, or any blog, or anything published on the web. Charles was right: using an unproven accusation of long-standing (Until Charles flagged it, I thought the bootlegging charge was a matter of public record) undermines my case against Brooks. Nonetheless, Brooks has absolutely no excuse. This is all he does, he has all week to produce a column or two, and he has a staff.

I’ve also corrected my error within hours of making it. What are the chances that Brooks and the Times will ever admit that they intentionally impugned the character of Fred Trump using rumors and innuendo as part of their ongoing effort to demonize the President of the United States?

My guess: Zero.

2. The big story this morning appears to be O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing. Will he be paroled and released after serving just nine years of the three-decade sentence he received for his participation in a burglary? Assuming that it is true that O.J., now 70 and unlikely to stab any more ex-wives and innocent bystanders to death, has been a model prisoner, yes, that would be the ethical result. O.J. got away with a double murder—he will not be asked at the hearing, “Once you’re out, can we assume that you’ll renew your relentless hunt for the real killer?”—but he wasn’t put in prison for that crime. Officially, he’s innocent. His fellow burglars were all put on probation, while the judge threw the book at the former football star, presumably to exact a measure of societal revenge for Nicole and Ron. The sentence was unethical. I don’t feel sorry for O.J. at all; I’m glad he had to serve hard time, just as I would have been happy if he had been squashed by a meteor. Justice, however, demands that he go free.

The bastard. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”

I am almost caught up on my backlog of Comments of the Day!

This one, by multiple COTDs author Humble Talent, is really two; I’m taking the liberty of combining his later explication with the original comment, as they follow as the night follows day. The topic is bias and double standards in the criminal justice system, and hold on to your hat.

Here is Humble Talent’s 2-for 1 Comment of the Day on the post, “The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”:

You know, every now and again when I’m feeling adventurous, I go to a place I think will have a whole lot of people that don’t think like me and poke at their sacred cows. You meet all kinds of people, and recently, I was given probably one of the better answers to a gender/race issue from the other side yet.

The original fact pattern is that racial activists will cite disparate impact as a problem at every stage of an interaction with the legal system. Black people are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. All of this, by the way, is true. It doesn’t account for the five-fold disparity between the black and white prison population on a per capita basis, but it is a thumb on the scale.

The juxtaposition is that the disparity between men and women in the justice system is about six times that of the racial disparity I just described. Men are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. Sonja Starr wrote extensively on this, and despite some of her methodology being questioned, there’s general consensus that she was on to something.

So the question is that if someone is deeply concerned about inequality, that they are genuinely interested in justice for everyone, why wouldn’t you be just as, if not more concerned with the gender disparity, than the racial one? Continue reading

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Helpful Hint: When A Man Proposes Marriage This Unethically, The Right Answer Is NO

Wow. What a classy proposal!

In Ohio, romantic Kyle Stump, 23, painted: “Michelle Marry Me. I Love You” and a heart—Awwwww!—- in  red letters on the side of a building in the city-owned shopping mall at Lake Sheffield, Ohio. His proposal covered 30 feet of wall space.

His girl friend Michelle Astorino still missed it until Stump took her to the building one night with a flashlight.  She said “yes,” the fool. Then police arrested him based on a tip, and matched the handwriting on the wall to a form Stump had filled out in 2012.

Did you know they tried to catch Jack The Ripper the same way? But I digress.

Stump pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief  and was sentenced to 60 days in jail with a $500 fine. The jail term was suspended as was most of the fine, but Romeo will have to pay $332 to sandblast the wall clean, and has to perform 80 hours of community service.

“They don’t have to be so hard on me,” Stump complained to the media. If I were the judge, that comment would be enough to make me reinstate the jail time and the full fine.

He says the legal setback means he’ll have to buy an engagement ring on an installment plan. Did I already say “Awwww!”?

“We’ve basically just brushed it off and are excited about our engagement,” Michelle told “Inside Edition.” “It’s still a crime, we understand that, but, I mean, it’s not that serious.”

No, you moron, in fact defacing public property or any property is very serious, and it doesn’t matter if you’re defacing it with “Hitler Rocks!” or “Give Peace A Chance.” It’s destruction of property, wastes scarce public funds,  shows disrespect to your neighbors and community, and proves your honey-bunny has the basic ethics comprehension of a terrier.

Well, at least it’s a good match..

Both of you are idiots.

Please don’t have kids.

________________________

Pointer: Fred

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Ethics Quiz: Punishing The 12-Year-Old Killer

debrow

Texas Monthly this month has a troubling profile of Edwin Debrow, who is 37 years old,  has been behind bars since he was 12, and may have to stay there until he is 52. On September 21, 1991, Debrow shot a San Antonio school teacher named Curtis Edwards in the back of the head. Edwards’ body was found sprawled across the front seat of a taxi that he drove part-time at night. Edwin, police determined, had shot Edwards during an attempted robbery. Above is the photo of the 12-year-old in custody.

Texas law, you will not be surprised to learn, allows very harsh punishment for  juvenile offenders.Other states will sometimes try 12-year-olds as adults. Last year’s documentary “Beware the Slenderman” tells the strange story of Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who attempted to stab another 12-year old girl to death in 2014. Under Wisconsin law, Weier and Geyser will be tried as adults for attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and if convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 65 years in state prison.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Is it ethical for society to punish children with such long prison sentences, no matter how serious the crime?

Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, History, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society