Tag Archives: sentencing

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/13/2018: The Serena Winds Continue To Blow, Along With A Lot Of Other Unpleasant Things

Good morning!

There’s Hurricane Hysteria in the Washington area, with everyone freaking out and clearing the store shelves, and the news media making it sound like this is the End of Days. Did you know that BOTH Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf lived in Washington, D.C.? Thanks to a late summer repeat of what goes on every time there’s a rumor of  nascent snow flake during our winters, nobody’s working, returning emails and phone calls, or doing anything, it seems, except, I assume,  trying to figure out a way to blame whatever happens on President Trump.

Incidentally, this was going to be an afternoon post yesterday, until my car blew a radiator hose on Route 395 at rush hour.

1. Yes, more on the “racist cartoon.” Reader Michael B. reminded me of some of the liberal editorial cartoonists’ attacks on Condoleeza Rice. Here was one such cartoon, from 2005, that I found online.

Here’s the real Condoleeza:

I’ve been challenged to post a poll on this cartoon too, but that’s tricky. The two cartoons are not equivalent. I don’t think either is racist, but if I were in the business of race-baiting, the Rice cartoon is worse for several reasons. To begin with, Serena really did throw a tantrum on the U.S. Open court, and it was ugly, thus theoretically justifying an ugly graphic portrayal. There was never an incident analogous to what the cartoon Condi is shown doing. Moreover, she never exhibited anything approaching the snarling, aggressive demeanor portrayed by the cartoonist, at least not in public. I think the face given Rice is also vaguely simian, and if a similar spoof of Michell Obama had been published, all hell would have broken loose.

There were some complaints about racist caricatures of Rice during the Bush years, but all from conservative organizations and commentators, none from the NAACP, and nothing on the scale of the uproar over the Williams cartoon.

My position is…

….that both the Williams and the Rice cartoon are within the acceptable range of an art form I detest and find inherently unethical, editorial cartooning.

….that the indignation over either cartoon is driven by bias toward the targets.

….that anyone who wasn’t vocal about “racial insensitivity” toward Rice in various cartoons is not the most convincing advocate for the position that the Knight drawing is racist.  Yes, such a person might have changed their point of view, but he or she has the burden of proof to demonstrate that this is the case. I’m skeptical.

So here are TWO polls..

 

2. I find it difficult to believe that as Democrats are revealing the total ethical void in their current strategy, polls show voters favoring a Democratic Congress in the upcoming election. Of course, it helps that the mainstream news media won’t communicate to the public fairly so they understand what’s going on:

  • During his hearings, Bret Kavanaugh said, speaking of the position of the plaintiffs in a case, “In that case, they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that were, as a religious matter, objected to.” This was immediately distorted in the news media and by anti-Kavanaugh activists as  Kavanaugh referring to birth control as “abortion-inducing drugs.” Hillary Clinton (to be fair, I assume that she was reading second hand accounts—you know, like everyone criticizes Trump for doing with Fox News) then beclowned herself by tweeting:

I want to be sure we’re all clear about something that Brett Kavanaugh said in his confirmation hearings last week. He referred to birth-control pills as “abortion-inducing drugs.” That set off a lot of alarm bells for me, and it should for you, too.

[Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!]

  • CNN tweeted this (Pointer: Instapundit):

I think this qualifies as going beyond deceit to pure lying. The texts themselves were evidence. It’s like a defense attorney saying “The prosecution, without evidence, suggests that the murder weapon with the defendant’s fingerprints on it links him to the killing!”

  • A man cursing Donald Trump attempted to stab Republican Rudy Peters,  running for the House in California, with a switchblade over the weekend.This kind of thing does not happen every day, nor in every Congressional race. Democrats have increasingly been suggesting violent measures be used against conservatives and Republicans, and there has already been one armed attack that nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise and threatened other GOP officials. Yet when Rep. Eric Swalwell, Peters’ opponent, appeared on  CNN host Erin Burnett’s show “Erin Burnett Outfront” last night, she never asked Stalwell about the attack or its implications. That’s journalistic negligence, and likely bias.

3. Please explain this to me. Anyone? Karen White, a transgender man “transitioning” to female, was accused of repeatedly raping a woman in 2016 and had been previously been jailed in 2001 for a sexual assault on a child. After telling the authorities that he identified as a woman, Karen, who still has her penis, aka her weapon of choice when engaged in sexual assault,  was remanded into HMP New Hall near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, an all female facility.

She then sexually assaulted four female inmates a few days later. Who could have predicted such a thing? The prison’s spokesperson said: “We apologize sincerely for the mistakes which were made in this case. While we work to manage all prisoners, including those who are transgender, sensitively and in line with the law, we are clear that the safety of all prisoners must be our absolute priority.” Continue reading

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Now THIS Is An Incompetent Judge…

The sky’s the limit!

High school  wrestler and football player Logan Michael Osborn, then 18, met a 14-year-old girl at a high school play in April 2017. After the curtain fell, they went for a walk down a secluded path, where Osborn overcame the young woman, tied a belt around her neck and hands, and performed a sex act. Osborn’s defense attorneys argued that it all was consensual, but consensual or not, she was still only 14, making this statutory rape.

In September 2017, Osborn pleaded guilty to sexual assault, saying that his conduct was the result of  “poor judgement.”  The judge sentenced Osborn to 10 years in prison with eight years suspended on his conviction of having carnal knowledge of the girl without use of force, a felony. Osborn also had to register as a sex offender. In January, however,  Chesterfield (Virginia) Circuit Judge T.J. Hauler stayed the  two-year term, saying he wanted to review the case further,and this week, he revealed the result of his review. The entire 10-year sentence is now stayed, meaning that Osborn will receive no prison time at all.

At last week’s hearing, Judge Hauler asked to hear “some positive things” about Osborn so James Trent, a foreman at an electrical company where he now works, commended Osborn’s work ethic and performance, saying that “sky’s the limit” for his future. The negative things? Well, he does appear to be a habitual sexual predator, if that counts. He has been accused of engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with girls seven previous times, including when he was 12. In that case, Osborn was charged with grabbing the genitals of another student. (The case was dismissed.) Continue reading

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Oh-Oh… I May Be Mellowing: I’m Not As Keen On The Felony Murder Rule As I Once Was

The New York Times recently had a story about the latest state, California, considering abolishing the felony murder rule, the tough American principle that if you participate in a felony and someone is killed, you can be tried for first degree murder even if you didn’t directly cause the death. Writing about the rule in 2014 as it  applied in a particularly odd case, I wrote,

I sort of like it, and always have. Like all laws, however, it doesn’t work perfectly all the time.

The reason I like the rule is that it acknowledges the real danger of initiating felonies, crimes that are serious and destructive. If you burn a business down to collect the insurance, for example, you should be held responsible by the law if the fire gets out of control and someone is killed. The law combines criminal and civil offenses; the felony murder rule is like a negligent crime principle. It is a law that implicitly understands Chaos Theory at a basic level: actions often have unpredictable consequences, and even if the consequences are worse than you expected or could have expected, you still are accountable for putting dangerous and perhaps deadly forces in motion. If you commit a felony, you better make damn sure you know what you are doing, because if people get killed,  you will be held to a doubly harsh standard. Better yet, don’t commit the crime.

Don’t commit the crime. I have this reaction to all complaints about harsh sentences when the individual complaining (or having an advocate complain on his behalf) is guilty of the crime involved…You knew the risk, and you get no sympathy from me. The same applies to felony murder. The felon rolled the dice, and lost. (Somebody else lost too: the victim who was killed.) Nobody made him (or her) roll.

The potential California reform would change state law so that only someone who actually killed, intended to kill or acted as a major player with “reckless indifference to human life” could face murder charges. That would avoid seemingly harsh sentences in cases like the one the Time story focuses on, in which Shawn Khalifa, 15 at the times, served as a look-out while some teenage friends broke into an elderly neighbor’s house in the  California town of Perris, looking for cash. The elderly homeowner was injured in the burglary and eventually died.  A jury convicted the teenager of first-degree murder under the felony murder rule, and he is serving a sentence of 25 years to life. I am tempted to support the California  measure, which would avoid Khalifa’s kind of sentence while keeping the possibility of a felony murder charge when the culpability is more than just moral luck. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Law & Law Enforcement

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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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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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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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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