On the night of September 17, 2003, Michael Domaloan, 21, and Felix Quiroz, 23, were shot outside a club named Bub Blars that was located nearby to Cal State Northridge. Both Michael and Felix died of their wounds in the early hours of September 18, ten years ago today.
Although the shooting took place in front of more than a dozen witnesses, no one was ever tried in criminal court for the deaths of Michael and Felix.
The reasons why are complicated and heartbreaking.
WitnessLA began to tell the story some years ago.
Then we got sidetracked by the many other stories that are also important—things like corruption in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the ongoing saga at juvenile probation both in LA and elsewhere in the state, the many-layered issue of California’s prison realignment, the cost to kids of zero tolerance policies…and more.
Yet, the story of the shooting of Michael Domaloan and Felix Quiroz, and its troubling legal aftermath, still continues to haunt us.
It is because of our commitment to telling this crucial story and others like it—however long it takes—that WitnessLA exists.
We plan to make our way back to finishing our work on Michael and Felix’s case in early 2014.
So, for those who still wait for answers, don’t give up. We haven’t.
In the meantime, here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2 of The Shooting.
MIRANDA AND DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV: WHEN WE’RE SURE THAT SOMEONE HAS DONE SOMETHING TERRIBLE, WHEN MUST WE READ HIM HIS RIGHTS?
Of course we want the feds to have gotten everything possible our of Dzhokar Tsarnaev before he started clamming up. But is that merely an emotional position or a legally justifiable one? (Do remember, that the rights we give away in exceptionally moments often tend to stay given away.)
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev talked for 16 hours before he was read his rights. Emily Bazelon of Slate thinks that’s too long. Here’s a clip from her discussion-provoking essay on the matter.
According to the AP, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev answered questions for 16 hours before he was read the Miranda warning that he could remain silent and could ask for a lawyer. Once Tsarnaev was told that, he stopped talking. (So much for the idea that everyone has heard Miranda warnings so many times on TV that they have become an empty ritual.) The AP also reports that the investigators questioning him were “surprised when a magistrate judge and a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s office entered the hospital room.” The investigators “had planned to keep questioning him.”
Wow. That’s bad no matter your point of view. If you think Tsarnaev doesn’t deserve the normal protections American law affords criminal suspects, then you’d want the FBI to keep at him as long as they chose. Or if, like me, you’re worried about how far the Obama administration’s Justice Department has stretched the limited “public safety” exception the Supreme Court has allowed for questioning suspects about ongoing danger without Miranda warnings, 16 hours sounds expansive.
It’s true that Miranda offers protection only after the fact. Technically, the rule is violated not when investigators fail to give the warnings, but when they try to introduce in court a confession or other facts a suspect revealed before he was read his rights. It’s also true that given the mountain of evidence against Tsarneav, he could be convicted without his own statements. But that may not be true with the next terrorist suspect—or the next hated man for whom the government decides to stretch the public safety exception. The Justice Department is setting a precedent here. And how does that precedent directly involve public safety, when all of law enforcement reassured the public that safety had been restored once Tsarnaev was captured Friday night, and that the authorities strongly believed he and his brother, Tamerlan, had acted alone?
Read on. There’s a lot more.
CAN I SAY I’M SORRY? IS THERE A PLACE FOR APOLOGIES IN CRIMINAL COURT?
This research paper on the value of—and legal difficulty with—apologies by defendants in criminal court, by Professor Michael Jones of the Phoenix School of Law, covers an interesting question.
Here’s the abstract:
This paper is written for the purpose of addressing the power and possibility of early apologies in the criminal justice system. As constructed, our criminal justice system rewards defendants that learn early in their case to remain silent, and punishes those that talk. Defendants that may want to offer an apology or allocution for the harm they’ve caused are often required to wait until a sentencing hearing, which may come months, or even years after the event in question. This paper proposes that the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure be modified to provide an exception for apology to criminal defendants. Apologies can play an invaluable role in the healing process for victims, defendants, family members and others tied together by the unfortunate events of a criminal prosecution. This paper seeks to further the comprehensive law movement approach that promotes a healing process for those involved in the criminal justice system.
(A thank you, once again, to the excellent Doug Berman of Sentencing, Law & Policy, for flagging this paper.)
THE KOCH-BROS, THE LA TIMES, AND A NOT-SO-MODEST PROPOSALS
Now that the shock of the Koch duo’s possible purchase of the LA Times and other Tribune Corp papers is nearly a week old, a whole second wave of reactions has been surfacing, some of them….odd.
Take, for example, this somewhat untethered column by the Washington Post’s Steve Perlstein in which Perlstein breathlessly suggests that he knows a sure fire way that the LAT employees can save the paper from the marauding Koch-sters.
Everyone should quit. (Right, Steve. That’d show ‘em.)
“If the Times journalists,” he writes…
….”….decide collectively to walk out the door one day, the readers and advertisers are almost certain to follow.
“A new owner, of course, could hire new journalists, and certainly there are plenty of them out there looking for a job. But it would take time to attract them, get them working as a team and weed out the inevitable clunkers…
“And in the meantime, competing news organizations would be quick to pick up Tribune’s stars and use them to lure away readers and advertisers at a time when circulation and revenue are already under pressure. Hell, in the age of the Internet, the rebellious journalists could easily start their own news organizations and grab a good chunk of their old readership within weeks.
This is a rare moment for Tribune’s beleaguered journalists. For the first time in a long time, they actually have leverage. They’d be crazy not to use it….”
Washington Post columnist Herold Meyerson spent years as a political journalist in LA, so it’s understandable that he would feel moved to weigh in on the possibility of the Koch brothers as buyers for the LA Times, and about the necessity of remembering that a newspaper isn’t just a business; it’s also a civic trust.
Here’s a couple of clips:
On May 21, Los Angeles voters will go to the polls to select a new mayor. Who will govern Los Angeles, however, is only the second-most important local question in the city today. The most important, by far, is who will buy the Los Angeles Times.
The Times is one of the eight daily newspapers now owned by the creditors who took control of the Tribune Co. after real estate wheeler-dealer Sam Zell drove it into bankruptcy. Others include the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel and the Hartford Courant. The Tribune board members whom the creditors selected want to unload the papers in favor of more money-making ventures.
Fans of newspapers are a jumpy lot these days. And in the past couple of weeks, their apprehension has gone through the roof with word that right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch are looking to buy all eight papers.
Being human beings, all newspaper owners have politics of their own. Since the 19th century, however, most haven’t gone into business primarily to advance a political perspective. Profit, professional and civic pride, and recognition have largely motivated them. It’s hard to see how any of these factored into the Koch brothers’ calculations.
In their very brief no-comment on the sale rumors, the Kochs took care to note, “We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions” owned by Tribune, but the staffs at those papers fear that, once Kochified, the papers would quickly turn into print versions of Fox News. A recent informal poll that one L.A. Times writer conducted of his colleagues showed that almost all planned to exit if the Kochs took control (and that included sports writers and arts writers). Those who stayed would have to grapple with how to cover politics and elections in which their paper’s owners played a leading role. It’s also unclear who in Los Angeles, one of the nation’s most liberal cities, would actually want to read such a paper, but then the Kochs don’t appear to view this as a money-making venture.
Though slimmed down from its glory days, the L.A. Times remains a great newspaper, as its recent stories on increasing employer surveillance of blue-collar workers illustrate. But the paper that, under the reign of publisher-owner Otis Chandler in the 1960s and ’70s, moved to the apex of American journalism has suffered a string of indifferent-to-godawful owners, ranging from Mr. Chandler’s cousins to Mr. Zell — that rare journalism mogul who actively hated journalism and journalists….
In the wake of the findings presented at the most recent hearing of the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence there have been a series of responses. (You can find WitnessLA’s story on the hearing here.)
The strongest is an editorial by the Daily News. The DN article doesn’t quite call for Baca to step down, but it comes pretty close. Here’s a clip:
It may be time for Baca, 70, to consider resigning his post. It’s hasn’t quite reached the point where the public should demand his removal, but he’d likely have been fired already for such a failure of leadership if the county supervisors had that kind of power over an elected sheriff.
Granted, running the Los Angeles Men’s Jail is no more a picnic than being incarcerated in it. The most dangerous murderers, thugs and crooks from not only L.A. County but practically every corner of the world are booked into it on a daily basis. The Hilton, it’s not.
But it’s also not a place in which those incarcerated should expect to be the victims of a cabal of deputies who hide behind a code of silence about violence. Who have their alleged crimes announced to the general jailhouse population and then are tossed into it. Who are strip searched not because the deputies expect to find any weapons but as a routine tool of humiliation – deputies who use heavy force not as a last resort, as regulations require, but as a first resort.
These are the charges brought against Baca’s administration by the county’s Citizens Commission on Jail Violence last week. Its members are all prominent attorneys and retired judges. [WLA NOTE: Actually, the commission is made up of four retired federal judges, one police chief, one famous former church pastor and a former federal prosecutor who is now a member of various policy groups. But, okay, we take their point.] Baca’s response is, as ever, certainly one of concern – but it’s also the administrative equivalent of that old street cop’s line to the crowds: “Move along; there’s nothing to see here.”
… The commission must decide whether reform of the long-troubled county jails is possible under Sheriff Lee Baca, who has emerged in the testimony as an out-of-touch figure overly reliant on his command staff. The sheriff has proved ineffective, at best, at running the jails. He blames his staff for keeping him in the dark about inmate abuse and other misconduct by deputies, yet despite repeated complaints over a period of years, he hasn’t held anyone accountable or made significant staff changes.
He failed to file inmate complaints in the personnel records of deputies accused of misconduct, making it nearly impossible for such evidence to be used by inmates in criminal defense trials. Although Baca says he’s taken steps to reduce abuse in recent months, there’s no way to know whether the reduction will continue once he and his office are out of the spotlight.
The commission should also consider whether the current department structure makes sense in a county as vast as Los Angeles. Can a single sheriff manage the largest jail system in the nation as well as providing public safety to dozens of cities and unincorporated areas?
On the same day as the LAT editorial, Sherriff Lee Baca wrote his own Op Ed response to the Commission findings. Here’s how it opens:
Last week, the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence issued a report sharply critical of my department with regard to violence at the Los Angeles County Jail. But the report neglected to mention a number of important initiatives my management team and I have put into place since allegations of problems at the jails surfaced. These measures have resulted in a record low use of force in county jails in recent months.
Here are just some of the initiatives investigators neglected to mention in their report to the jail commission on Friday.
When the American Civil Liberties Union first raised allegations of excessive force being used by deputies, I launched a full-scale investigation into each and every one. Because allegations and anecdotes are not the same as facts, it was important to discover what was true, and I think that when these investigations are completed, which I believe will be soon, the public will be surprised by the factual findings.
PRIVATE DEBT COLLECTORS THREATENING JAIL TIME ON DISTRICT ATTORNEY STATIONERY
Debt collection companies have been sending out notices to check-bouncers, threatening them with jail time, using the local district attorney’s seal and signature. DA’s offices allow the private companies to use their stationary with the understanding that the debt collectors will also try to wrangle an additional $180 from the debtors for a “financial accountability class” from which the DA’s office reaps a portion of the fee. (While we haven’t looked into this, on first glance, we’re made slightly queasy here.)
The NY Times’ Jessica Silver Greenberg has the story. Here’s how it opens:
The letters are sent by the thousands to people across the country who have written bad checks, threatening them with jail if they do not pay up.
They bear the seal and signature of the local district attorney’s office. But there is a catch: the letters are from debt-collection companies, which the prosecutors allow to use their letterhead. In return, the companies try to collect not only the unpaid check, but also high fees from debtors for a class on budgeting and financial responsibility, some of which goes back to the district attorneys’ offices.
The practice, which has spread to more than 300 district attorneys’ offices in recent years, shocked Angela Yartz when she was threatened with conviction over a $47.95 check to Walmart. A single mother in San Mateo, Calif., Ms. Yartz said she learned the check had bounced only when she opened a letter in February, signed by the Alameda County district attorney, informing her that unless she paid $280.05 — including $180 for a “financial accountability” class — she could be jailed for up to one year.
“I was so worried driving my kid to and from school that if I failed to signal, they would cart me off to jail,” Ms. Yartz said.
Debt collectors have come under fire for illegally menacing people behind on their bills with threats of jail. What makes this approach unusual is that the ultimatum comes with the imprimatur of law enforcement itself — though it is made before any prosecutor has determined a crime has been committed.
A DEATH ROW INMATE’S TRAGIC ARGUMENT FOR MERCY
Lawyers for Pennsylvania prisoner Terrence Williams will go before the PA Board of Pardons today to request that his death sentence be transmuted to life without parole. Terrence’s case for clemency is an extremely interesting one. After a suffering abuse and a series of violent rapes beginning in childhood, Terrence snapped and beat to death a man who sexually assaulted him. Even the victim’s wife
On Monday afternoon, before the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons in Harrisburg, lawyers for a man named Terrance Williams will attempt to convince state officials that his life should be spared– that instead of being executed by lethal injection on October 3rd Williams (shown at left) should instead be permitted to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. Despite the deadly violence of Williams’ crime, despite no questions about his guilt, it’s an unusually compelling clemency request– and because of its timing, in the midst of two local sex abuse scandals, a vivid test of the nature of Pennsylvania’s clemency process itself.
Williams’ lawyers will make their case to five officials who will then make a recommendation to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, who signed Williams’ death warrant on August 8th. The vote of the Board of Pardons must be unanimous in Williams’ favor and, even then, under state law, Gov. Corbett is free to disregard it and push on with the execution. It would be the first contested execution in the state in nearly half a century (three executions between now and then occurred when the defendants in the cases all agreed to waive their appeals). And it’s clear that the governor will be a tough sell.
This is so despite the fact that the widow of Williams’ victim now believes that his sentence should be commuted to life. It is so despite the fact that eight former judges — federal and state — now believe his trial was unjust. It is so despite the pleas of 28 former prosecutors — federal, state and local — who have gone on the record saying that justice would be served by clemency. It is so despite the fact that five of Williams’ trial jurors have come forward and declared, under oath, that they never would have recommended a death sentence for him had they known of material facts his defense attorneys did not introduce at trial.
At its core, clemency is an act of mercy, an official acknowledgment that justice will be best served in a particular instance by the granting of relief to someone who is not, technically speaking, entitled to it. There are many legitimate legal reasons why Williams ought to be given a new trial– just yesterday a state judge agreed to hear more about the new evidence in the case– but clemency is not about law. It’s about equity. It’s about the power of the state to put to right an unjust result. Below are some of the facts that were not introduced at Williams’ long-ago murder trial. Judge for yourself whether he deserves to die at the hands of the state.
The U.S. Attorney’s office has agreed to review the weekend shootings, according to Anaheim mayor Tom Tait. He will meet on Friday with members of U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI. The AP report has more.
In addition, the mother of Manual Diaz, the man who was killed by Anaheim police on Saturday has publicly and emotionally condemned the violent protests, the AP reports. (NOTE: I’m linking to the Atlanta Journal Constitution version of the AP story because they have posted a video of last night’s violent mess of a demonstration.)
Tuesday night marks the fourth day of protests in Anaheim over the Saturday shooting of an unarmed man, Manual Diaz, who was said to be running from Anaheim officers when he was reportedly shot in the leg and the back of the head.
The community was further upset when, in the minutes after the Diaz shooting, distressed residents and onlookers began arguing with police, at which point officers shot non-lethal projectiles at the crowd that included small children. At one point, a K-9 police dog raced into the same crowd and visibly fastened its teeth to one man’s person or shirt, it’s hard to tell which. Much of this was caught in the KCAL 9 video posted above in a scene that is undeniably disturbing.
Then on Sunday, a second Anaheim man, 21-year-old Joel Mathew Acevedo, was shot and killed by police after he allegedly opened fire after a car chase involving a stolen vehicle, although there is some dispute over the details that account.
Columnist Gustavo Arellano of the OC Weekly broke the news of the second shooting after noting a Facebook post by the dead man’s mother, whom it turns out he knew.
Whether or not the Acevedo shooting was righteous, it was the last thing this on edge community needed.
Although the Acevedo shooting was reportedly righteous, coming so soon after after that of Diaz, it further inflamed the expanding groups of protesters.
On Tuesday night, protests moved into violence. The LA Times reported that protesters grabbed rocks from a construction site and “hurled them at officers.”
Some of the now ubiquitous (and often effective) freelance videographers, doing live streaming from their cell phones, reported being fired at with tiny “bean bags,” pepper balls, and “impact weapons” despite holding up press passes. One of the streaming videographers kept wishing on camera that he had brought his helmet, worrying about rock throwers as well as police. Around 11 pm, live streamers reported the sound of windows being broken at a Starbucks down the street, presumably by protestors. Meanwhile fires burned in nearby dumpsters.
The AP has an overview of events in Anaheim, where it seems anger at the police force has been brewing in the city for a while.
In their team coverage, the OC Register reports that two officers have been put on leave following the shooting of Diaz.
Here’s a clip from the OC Register’s report from the weekend:
Police described Diaz as a “documented gang member,” and said he was shot after the officers saw three men near a car in the 600 block of Anna Drive, near La Palma Avenue and State College Boulevard. Believing the activity to be suspicious, the officers approached the vehicle, and all three men fled on foot.
The officers chased Diaz and observed him throwing unidentified objects onto rooftops as he ran, Welter said. What led one of the officers to shoot Diaz remained under investigation Sunday, Welter said.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said he would be asking California’s attorney general to assist in the investigation.
“I’m asking for a full investigation,” Tait said at a Sunday news conference. “Transparency is essential. Whatever the truth is, we will own it.”
The dead man’s sister, Lupe Diaz, said Sunday that her brother was “just hanging out with friends” before the shooting.
“There is no explanation,” Diaz said. “It’s not fair.”
The Registor also reported that, according to the Anaheim police, the K-9 police dog, which evidently bit several people, got loose from a police car accidentally.
Reuters reports that Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait is now calling for both a state and federal review of the whole matter.
AND IN OTHER NEWS……THE LA CITY COUNCIL JUST SAYS NO TO RETAIL MEDICAL MARIJUANA
For 5 years, the LA City Council has been trying—unsuccessfully-–to come up with a sensible way to regulate the medical marijuana dispensaries that have been popping up in the city like….well…weeds. Now, it seems, because of the council’s inability to come up with a legally viable way to set down some firm guidelines, big pot sellers have taken advantage of the situation (how shocking!), thus our fair council members have decided to shut down all retail sales—-with the possible exception of 182 dispensaries that opened before a 2007 city moratorium, which might—or might not— have been given some kind of loophole. What kind of loophole, and what practical difference it will make, seems somewhat unclear.
In other words, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what this vote will mean for medical marijuana in LA in the future.
For the moment, however, KPCC’s Alice Walton has one of the best reports on Tuesday’s medical weed banning activities.
Here’s how her story opens:
Nonprofit storefronts that sell medical marijuana will be banned in the city of Los Angeles under a proposal approved Tuesday.
The Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 to prohibit the sale of medical cannabis in retail establishments. However, exemptions will allow patients to continue growing marijuana for their own use, and primary caregivers may continue to distribute the drug.
The vote, which came after hours of public testimony and debate, drew sharp criticism from patients who use medical marijuana to tame the side effects of their illnesses. Some public speakers shouted at council members and then the police officers who took to the council chamber after the vote.
Earlier in the day, the council heard from patients and advocates of medical marijuana.
“A ban on medical cannabis collectives and cooperatives is an attack on patients. They need this. It can work in other cities,” said Don Duncan, the California director of Americans for Safe Access. “You guys have to get it together and pass regulations that protect safe access for legitimate patients for legal operations.”
The original vote against the ban was 13-1, with Councilman Paul Koretz dissenting. However, the councilman later flipped his vote so the ordinance could get to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s desk sooner. The ban will take effect in about 40 days. Dispensary owners who do not close their businesses could face fines or misdemeanors, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
IS THE INSANITY DEFENSE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT? SCOTUS MAY—OR MAY NOT—ELECT TO DECIDE
The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes has done a great job laying out this interesting and important question just as the Supreme Court was hearing a request to take on the issue. Here’s how Barnes’ story opens:
There’s no doubt John Joseph Delling knew what he was doing. His carefully planned 2007 crime spree lasted weeks, covered 6,500 miles and culminated in two people dead and one seriously wounded.
He had his reasons, too. Delling, then 21, had become “a type of Jesus,” he later explained, and the men he attacked, two of them former classmates he had not seen in years, were stealing his “energy.” An MRI of his brain would have revealed the damage the men had already caused, he told authorities.
I had to defend myself,” he said.
As the nation confronts another act of unfathomable madness, Delling’s story is one chapter in a distressing and violent genre: the loner who tries to impress a movie star by shooting the president; the mother who drowns her children to save them from damnation; the black-clad shooter who seems to step from the movie screen to kill.
But Delling’s case presents an intriguing legal question as well. He committed his crimes in Idaho, which is one of only four states — Kansas, Montana and Utah are the others — in which a defendant may not use insanity as a defense to criminal charges.
Delling’s lawyers are now at the Supreme Court, asking the justices to rule that the Constitution mandates that such a defense be available for those who, because of mental illness, are not responsible for the mayhem they create.
“For centuries, the moral integrity of the criminal law has depended, in part, on the insanity defense,” Stanford law professor Jeffrey L. Fisher wrote in a petition on Delling’s behalf.
Over the weekend, it was hard to focus on news other than the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 people were killed, 58 wounded, at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. With this in mind, we’ve set aside other issues and have gathered some reports and stories that you might have missed.
DON’T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE KILLER, WRITES DAVE CULLEN
Journalist and author Dave Cullen has first hand experience about the perils of jumping to conclusions about mass murder—and mass murderers. He is the author of the excellent book Columbine, which deconstructs in harrowing detail the myriad events that led to the Columbine school massacre, after which everyone reporting on the tragedy, including Cullen himself, seemed to get it wrong.
Here’s the opening of his essay about the Colorado shooting for Sunday’s NY Times.
YOU’VE had 48 hours to reflect on the ghastly shooting in Colorado at a movie theater. You’ve been bombarded with “facts” and opinions about James Holmes’s motives. You have probably expressed your opinion on why he did it. You are probably wrong.
I learned that the hard way. In 1999 I lived in Denver and was part of the first wave of reporters to descend on Columbine High School the afternoon it was attacked. I ran with the journalistic pack that created the myths we are still living with. We created those myths for one reason: we were trying to answer the burning question of why, and we were trying to answer it way too soon. I spent 10 years studying Columbine, and we all know what happened there, right? Two outcast loners exacted revenge against the jocks for relentlessly bullying them.
Not one bit of that turned out to be true.
But the news media jumped to all those conclusions in the first 24 hours, so they are accepted by many people today as fact. The real story is a lot more disturbing. And instructive.
MENTIONING THE POLITICALLY UNMENTIONABLE
It is nearly impossible not to talk about gun control after this shooting (pro and con). And yet the presidential candidates have managed it. Here are some of the more articulate pleas for a real discussion on the matter.
In the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik writes about what the politicians—on the right and the left—won’t talk about.
The murders—it dignifies them to call them a “tragedy”—in Aurora, Colorado, have hit us all hard, though the grief of the friends and families of the victims is unimaginable. Still, it hits home, or someplace worse than home, for any parent who (as I did, as so many did) had a kid at one of the many midnight screenings of the new Batman movie last night, they having gone to see it the moment it opened. Once again, as so often before, the unthinkable news is disassembled, piece by piece, into its heartbreaking parts. After the Virginia Tech shooting, the horrifying detail, as I wrote at the time, was that the cell phones were still ringing in the pockets of the dead children as their parents tried to call them. In Colorado, you can’t expunge the knowledge of the sudden turn from pleasure to horror that those children experienced.
The truth is made worse by the reality that no one—really no one—anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life. That includes the President, whose consoling message managed to avoid the issue of why these killings take place. Of course, we don’t know, and perhaps never will, what exactly “made him” do what he did; but we know how he did it.
The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country—Canada, Norway, Britain—has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do—as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue. Does anyone even remember any longer last July’s gun massacre, those birthday-party killings in Texas, when an estranged husband murdered his wife and most of her family, leaving six dead?
But nothing changes: the blood lobby still blares out its certainties, including the pretense that the Second Amendment—despite the clear grammar of its first sentence—is designed not to protect citizen militias but to make sure that no lunatic goes unarmed
And then there is James Fallows’ Sunday night post at the Atlantic, after readers wrote him to say he was too pessimistic and furious in his earlier post about his certainty shootings like this would happen again.
Here’s a clip from the first post:
Like everyone, and I’d say especially like every parent, I am of course saddened and horrified by the latest mass shooting-murder. My sympathies to all.
And of course the additional sad, horrifying, and appalling point is the shared American knowledge that, beyond any doubt, this will happen again, and that it will happen in America many, many times before it occurs anywhere else…..
Now here’s a clip from the second post that went up Sunday night (in which he doesn’t back off in the least):
….I never mean to give in to jaded fatalism, so I will reflect on this again.
….Meanwhile, this sample of the insanity of today’s “security” thinking.
The latest Colorado shooter — like Jared Loughner of Tucson, Seung-Hui Cho of Virginia Tech, and the countless others whose names we forget after they have done their damage — could not legally have walked onto an airplane carrying a water bottle, or without taking off his shoes.
But he could walk down the street with a legally purchased assault rifle, body armor, and as much ammo as he could lift.
At some point the madness of this disproportion may sink in. To be clear on my own views: I see no reason why a civilian should be allowed to possess an assault rifle like this shooter’s AR-15, a civilian version of the military M16, or similar high-capacity weapons. These are for soldiers and others formally authorized to administer deadly force.
And while we’re on the “madness” topic, please consider:
The lasting distortion in our airport operations and travel “security” rules if these same 12 people had been killed and dozens injured on an airplane. We’d have Congressional hearings, sackings of TSA officials, new inspections and screening machines “to keep us safe,” and so on.
The military, diplomatic, and cultural consequences if the Batman murderer had happened to yell “Allahu Akbar!” or “Death to America!” before dispatching his victims….
THE MURDERS AND THE DEATH PENALITY
This weekend Doug Berman, the attorney/law professor/sentencing expert who blogs at Sentencing Law and Policy, generated a LOT of heated discussion in response to this post on the shooting rampage in which he said how relieved he was that Colorado is a death penalty state.
(A little later, he revisited his thoughts on the matter with a cooler head here in his Sunday post, but he didn’t dial back his point.)
Here’s a small clip from the post that stirred everyone up:
….In the immediate aftermath of these sorts of horrific mass killings, I find it so very hard to react with my head without also listening to my heart. And in these kind of awful cases, my heart (or is it my gut) often suggests to me that ultimate punishment of death is the only one which feels fitting. I suspect Colorado prosecutors (and perhaps also federal prosecutors) will have similar feelings…..
(Readers here know that we at WLA are big fans of Doug Berman,which doesn’t mean we agree with him on absolutely everything).
BILL BRATTON TALKS ABOUT ARMED MOVIEGOERS
In the midst of much nattering by TV talking heads on the issue, former LAPD chief Bill Bratton was refreshingly sane and specific on Meet the Press as he responded to the argument that, if only theater goers had been carrying their own guns, much of the theater shooting tragedy could have been averted.
(NOTE: You have to listen to quite a bit of blather before you get to Bratton’s comments at about minute 2:03.)
Earlier in the weekend, Bratton told FOX News that “What we need is “some sanity in our gun control laws.”