Tag: Criminal law

Our Stupid Schools

We have to reach a breaking point on this. It’s simply getting too insane. Every day brings us more stories of the people who run our public schools acting like total fucking idiots:

Two masked men wearing hoodies and wielding handguns burst into the Pine Eagle Charter School in this tiny rural community on Friday. Students were at home for an in-service day, so the gunmen headed into a meeting room full of teachers and opened fire.

Someone figured out in a few seconds that the bullets were not drawing blood because they were blanks and the exercise was a drill, designed to test Pine Eagle’s preparation for an assault by “active shooters” who were, in reality, members of the school staff. But those few seconds left everybody plenty scared.

The worst part of the story? Several of the teachers involved think this was a good idea. Seriously. They praise it for raising their awareness of what to do in the event of something that has a one in 30,000 chance of happening. Think about what they might have done with that time (and stomach lining). Practicing a fire drill or the heimlich maneuver or sexual abuse awareness would have been a far more productive use of their time.

I appreciate that some children in Sandy Hook were saved because their teachers had training and responded effectively and bravely. I would, however, submit, that having two assholes run into a room and pretend to shoot a bunch of folk is not anyone’s definition of effective training.

But we’re not done, friends.

Eagle Scout Cole Withrow was just a few weeks from graduating with honors from his North Carolina high school, but now the active church member is facing a felony weapons charge and a precarious future after accidentally leaving a shotgun in his pickup truck in the school parking lot.

Most members of the Johnston County community, just southeast of Raleigh believe the 18-year-old is paying far too big a price for an honest mistake. Withrow had been skeet shooting with friends a day before, and only noticed he had left his shotgun in his truck on Monday morning as he reached to grab his book bag, said family friend Kimberly Boykin. When he realized his mistake, rather than leave school grounds, he went to the front office to call his mother for help.

The school is falling back on their usual “the law is very clear” default position. The problem with that position is that prosecutors have discretion to determine when someone has knowingly and dangerously violated the law and when someone has accidentally violated it. I have harped on this many times: that we have abandoned any concept of mens rea in this country. No one cares any more if you have evil intentions. All that matters is that you have tripped over one of the many thousands of laws that surround us.

I’m not opposed to punishing the kid. Rules is rules (although my dad’s school had a shooting club). But felony charges? What is the damned point of ruining this kid’s life? So we can make an example of him? An example of what? The only example I’m seeing here is the example of a bunch of power-crazed idiots who can’t figure out what laws are supposed to accomplish.

We’re still not done:

Kiera Wilmot got good grades and had a perfect behavior record. She wasn’t the kind of kid you’d expect to find hauled away in handcuffs and expelled from school, but that’s exactly what happened after an attempt at a science project went horribly wrong.

On 7 a.m. on Monday, the 16 year-old mixed some common household chemicals in a small 8 oz water bottle on the grounds of Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida. The reaction caused a small explosion that caused the top to pop up and produced some smoke. No one was hurt and no damage was caused.

According to WTSP, Wilmot told police that she was merely conducting a science experiment. Though her teachers knew nothing of the specific project, her principal seems to agree.

Apparently, the kid was just playing around with some chemicals to see what would happen. Again — a complete lack of mens rea. But this doesn’t matter to the needle-dicked prosecutors and school officials in Bartow. She broke the law! Time to destroy her dreams of college.


The problem in this country isn’t people who go to church. And it isn’t Eagle Scouts. It’s assholes who abuse their discretion to charge little girls with felonies for making a mistake in a science experiment. It’s legislators who draft laws that allow such atrocities. It’s media who press legislators for such laws. It’s voters who elect legislators who promise laws under which little girls can be charged with felonies for making a mistake in a science experiment.

And it’s that we, all of us, are too cowardly to see that in our hunt for little monsters, we’ve created a monster capable of destroying us all. That we’re afraid to join together, as a torch-wielding mob, and burn the monster we created to death.

This has to stop. The hysteria over school violence, the zero tolerance policies, the expelling and felony-charging of kids over pranks, mistakes and stupidity. It all has to stop. And it will not stop until we unelect every politician who supports it, boot every school board member who promotes it and hound every prosecutor who says he has no choice. And that will not happen until we quit being spineless cowed individuals who quail at any potential danger and engage in the kind of worst-first anything-for-the-children thinking that enables this. I’ve been to meetings where these policies have been discussed and the hysterics have the floor. Any opposition is seen as the moral equivalent of throwing kids in front of a firing squad.

We can’t be cowed. We can’t back down. One by one, parent by parent, schoolboard by schoolboard, politician by politician, we have to beat some fucking common sense into the country.

Zimmerman Charged

With second-degree murder. I’m not sure that the special prosecutor has done anyone any favors here. It’s going to be difficult to convict him of second-degree murder given the ambiguities in some of the testimony. And if he’s acquitted, no one is going to say, “Well, at least he was charged.”

The prosecutor said she doesn’t prosecute by public petition. But her demeanor is not that of someone who hates the spotlight. I have a bad feeling about this. Well, a worse one.

The Spirit Over The Letter

Last month I wrote post on the troubling trend of legislators tripping over themselves in the pursuit of sponsoring bills that adds ever more rules and laws into our lives. Not only are there too many laws now (many are just goofy) but the trend for their increase in numbers keeps rolling along. The impetus behind this is obvious, legislators have to justify their existence to get reelected, and the states/municipalities need the money garnered from fines.

But when justifiable laws/laws that make sense are enforced stupidly or without due regard for common sense, the damage is doubled because now you loose the support of the folks, that know better:

A New Hampshire man who fired his handgun into the ground to scare an alleged burglar he caught crawling out of a neighbor’s window is now facing a felony charge — and the same potential prison sentence as the man he stopped.
Dennis Fleming, 61, of Farmington, was arrested for reckless conduct after the Saturday incident at his 19th century farmhouse. The single grandfather had returned home to find that his home had been burglarized and spotted Joseph Hebert, 27, climbing out of a window at a neighbor’s home. Fleming said he yelled “Freeze!” before firing his gun into the ground, then held Hebert at gunpoint until police arrived.

This whole incident is troubling on a number of levels. Not only (in my mind) does this not meet the elements of the crime (where was this in any way reckless?) but they arrest a guy that is helping the police apprehend a burglar, then they take away all of his firearms, leaving him defenseless for future attacks and telling him even before his trial (whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?) that he cannot be trusted with his existing firarms, and depriving him of his Constitutional Second Amendment protections without due process.

Granted, this is not Texas, where The Castle Doctrine allows it’s citizens liberal interpretations concerning the protection of life and property, but even in left wing NH, the elements of the crime must be met.

Looking at the particular statute supposedly violated:

I. A person is guilty of reckless conduct if he recklessly engages in conduct which places or may place another in danger of serious bodily injury.
II. Reckless conduct is a class B felony if the person uses a deadly weapon as defined in RSA 625:11, V. All other reckless conduct is a misdemeanor.

Firing a weapon, on his own property and into the ground/not at the suspect, does not meet the definition of “reckless conduct”, sorry, but it doesn’t. Now I am assuming that the ground was dirt/grass or made up of some substance that would not cause a ricochet, where the bullet could not be controlled.

“I think it’s outrageous,” Pelkey told FoxNews.com. “He did the community a service here. We ought to thank him for it.”

Could not agree more, this whole episode just stinks to high heaven.

Now since I am familiar with the process, I am somewhat hopeful that:

1) The arresting department will drop the charges, knowing that the elements were not met and the public will not be served going forward with the charges.
2) The District Attorney’s Office will not file the charges, for the above reasons.
3) And if the above two reasons fail, the presiding judge will dismiss the charges on the spot, since he is the lone voice of reason and tasked with injecting common sense and fairness into his courtroom.

I would bet a large sum of money that this case will not go forward, I can’t imagine any sane juror thinking Fleming did wrong. When the electorate loses confidence in the judicial system and it’s ability to interpret the law and protect the law abiding citizens out there, governments get overturned. Here is hoping that cooler heads prevail.

We’ll Take That

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: thank God for the IJ:

Imagine you own a million-dollar piece of property free and clear, but then the federal government and local law enforcement agents announce that they are going to take it from you, not compensate you one dime, and then use the money they get from selling your land to pad their budgets—all this even though you have never so much as been accused of a crime, let alone convicted of one.

That is the nightmare Russ Caswell and his family is now facing in Tewksbury, Mass., where they stand to lose the family-operated motel they have owned for two generations.

Seeking to circumvent state law and cash in on the profits, the Tewksbury Police Department is working with the U.S. Department of Justice to take and sell the Caswells property because a tiny fraction of people who have stayed at the Motel Caswell during the past 20 years have been arrested for crimes. Keep in mind, the Caswells themselves have worked closely with law enforcement officials to prevent and report crime on their property. And the arrests the government complains of represent less than .05 percent of the 125,000 rooms the Caswells have rented over that period of time.

The Institute for Justice — one of those evil Right Wing groups that defense our civil liberties — is now fighting this in the courts.

Asset forfeiture is one of the most vile things out government does. The idea that started it was not completely insane: taking the property of people who did illegal things when the people themselves were not obtainable because they were overseas. It’s ridiculous and offensive to use asset forfeiture when the supposed perpetrator of the crime is standing right there. I don’t care what the Supreme Court says — charging someone’s property with a crime to bypass their Constitutional rights is simply not acceptable. And the federal government has made a bad situation far worse. If local authorities work with the Feds, they get to keep most of the property they seize.

Cops are taking the property of people who have not been charged with a crime and then using it for their own purposes. Can this be described as anything other than plain and simple armed robbery?

I have said before the Supreme Court is only one of the defenders of our liberty. Congress needs to step in and pass laws abolishing or severely restricting asset forfeiture. And if they don’t or won’t because they are pant-shittingly terrified of being seen as weak on crime, the President should issue an executive order suspending the practice. If you need to explain it, just run Russ Caswell in front of the cameras and explain that our government is stealing his hotel.

You can not possibly claim that you uphold the Constitution and support freedom and simultaneously support this bullshit. Citizens are being robbed by their own law enforcement agents. And, as we’ve see with all government abuses, it is only escalating, now extending to people who are bystanders of crime. This gangsterism can not end … it will not end … until we force our government to stop it.

There should not be a politician in this nation who can go another day without being asked if he supports this crap. And there should not be another politician who does support who is not thrown out on his police-state-loving ass. The lesson of the recent SOPA/PIPA fight is that we can make the politicians do the right thing when we want to. Do we want to?

(And while I’m at it: if you ever wish to donate money to a political cause, support the Institute for Justice. They are doing incredible work defending basic property and business rights. I can’t overemphasize their role in this.)

Update: Something to consider: one of the things assert forfeiture is used for is to deprive accused criminals of assets needed to procure legal defense. With no money to hire lawyers, people are reduced to either incompetent defense or plea bargain. Assert forfeiture is poisoning law enforcement in every way imaginable. It has to stop.

A Surplus of Law

I finally, somewhat belatedly, read Harvey Silverglate’s Three Felonies a Day. The book is a bit different from the title. It doesn’t actually argue that Americans commit three felonies a day. But it does argue that vague laws, ambitious prosecutors, regulatory complexity and the abandonment of mens rea — the principle that criminal charges should be brought only for intentional violations of the law — have created an environment in which massive swathes of the public are in jeopardy of having their lives, families and fortunes destroyed when they have done nothing wrong. His book show that the awesome prosecutorial power of the Justice Department has forced companies to fork over hundreds of millions rather than let their companies be destroyed (as Arthur Anderson was). It has pressured them into cutting employees loose for dubious criminal and civil prosecution. And he argues that my least favorite federal crime — lying to investigators when not under oath — gives the government the ability to prosecute people who have literally committed no crime. Just ask Martha Stewart.

While Silverglate is very good at detailing the environment that has led to this situation, there is something he has left out, in my opinion. A big contributor to the problem of prosecutorial overreach is that we have created an army in search of a war.

Let me back up about twenty years.

In the early 90’s, we were in the midst off a devastating and seemingly insurmountable crime wave. The crack epidemic shot crime to levels normally seen in third world countries. There were parts of our cities that were completely lawless. Crime was a major issue in the election of ’88 and ’92, with the Presidential candidates vying to see who could crack down hardest.

There were a lot of things we did to fight this surge — some good and some bad. Three strikes laws, more cops, more prosecutors, minimum sentences, more prisons — almost all of which had strong support from the public.

The “problem”, if you want to call it that, is that the crime rate hasn’t just fallen in the last twenty years, it’s completely crashed. The crime rate has fallen to about half of its peak level. We haven’t been this safe since the 1960’s. And yes, even with a recession on, it’s still falling. If you want to call the War on Crime a war, we’re winning.

Some of that is because society righted itself. In Parliament of Whores, one of O’Rourke’s interviewees predicted the drug problem would get better on its own. But at least some part of that drop — maybe the largest part of it — is because of the measures we took when we ramped up the War on Crime.

The problem is that we haven’t ramped those efforts down. Quite the contrary, to judge by the number of prisons and cops. The result is that we have a legal and law enforcement structure designed to deal with a problem at least twice the size of the one we actually have. A system in which cops are judged by arrests and tickets; prosecutors by convictions and sentences.

Nature abhors a vacuum. Something has to fill the void left by the predators we have put in prison. And that something is either crimes of little to no consequences — prostitution, drug use, bringing tylenol to school; or crimes that may not even be crimes such as the white collar prosecutions Silverglate details in his book.

There a million stories that detail the encroachment of our War on Crime into areas it is simply not suited for: the explosion of arrests for marijuana possession in New York; the increasing pressure on prostitutes and shrillness of anti-trafficking rhetoric; school kids being arrested and potentially jailed for extremely minor things; the ruinous and endless persecutions Silverglate details.

Every time we read about one of these outrages, we all ask the same question: ain’t the cops and lawyers got nothin’ better to do? The thing is … I don’t think they do. They are geared to fight a war that they’ve mostly won.

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you have a law enforcement structure built to deal with predators, everyone looks like a predator. So SWAT raids intended to deal with well-armed drug gangs are unleashed on small-time pot dealers. Asset forfeiture laws intended to bankrupt billionaire drug lords nab guys transporting church money. Search tactics intended for criminals are unleashed on school kids. Insider trading laws intended to deal with crooks nab cooks instead.

The enemy is in retreat. So why are we bombing the villagers? Because we’ve got to do something to make the public think they’re getting their money’s worth and that we’re serious about criminals. And so … we define criminality down. We create more enemies.

So what should we do? Should we slash police departments and fire prosecutors? I wouldn’t oppose some hiring freezes on either, but that may not be politically tenable with the invertebrate species currently occupying the seats of power. Another solution was suggested to me recently: change the mission. Take cops off of busts and raids and get them out into the community. They shouldn’t be busting petty drug dealers, they should be using them as their eyes and ears to find the truly dangerous. They should never bust a working girl; sex workers could be their greatest ally in saving girls who are really in trouble. Either of these is worth a try.

And prosecutors? Well, they could be lot more like Craig Watkins, the heroic Dallas DA who has ordered reviews of old contested cases and exonerated men who were falsely convicted. They could be more like Pat Lykos, now facing a primary challenge because of her reforms. Or they could be shifted to the defense side, to ensure everyone has competent counsel.

I think we are seeing some daylight. As I noted some months ago, both Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich have lent some support to treatment over jail for drug use (Christie expanding Jersey’s high successful Drug Courts). There is a growing movement among conservatives for prison and prosecutorial reform, with Senator Jim Webb leading the charge in Washington. Some judges are rebelling against sentencing guidelines. And now a majority of the public favor legalizing pot.

But it’s not enough by far. We set a huge machine in motion in the 1990’s. We had no choice; our society was crumbling. But we have to realize that the machine is a bit out of control. And shrinking or diverting it is critical to maintaining any kind of respect for the Rule of Law. Because when the government is arresting kids for high school pranks; when the government is raiding small-time pot growers; when the government is extorting money from businesses, they are not supporting the Rule of Law.

They’re threatening it.

A Criminal Nation

There is a disturbing trend in America wrt our bureaucratic overloads trying to solve every problem and correct every mistake by enacting new and more onerous laws. I wish I could blame this all on Obama, it is more convenient and tidy that way, but this has been going on for about 30 years now. Yes, he has quickened the pace and gone nuts in the process, but he was passed the baton and did not start the race on his own. Social engineering has literally gone amok, attempts to manipulated societal behavior so that it conforms more with a standard, their standard, and in direct conflict with freedoms and liberties synonymous with our American principles. And the greatest overreach in this area has occurred on the federal level:

Federal criminal law has exploded in size and scope—and deteriorated in quality. Honest, hard-working Americans doing their best to be respectable, law-abiding citizens can no longer be assured that they are safe from federal prosecutors. Federal criminal law used to focus on inherently wrongful conduct: treason, murder, counterfeiting, and the like. Today, an unimaginably broad range of socially and economically beneficial conduct is criminalized. More and more Americans who are otherwise law-abiding are being trapped and unjustly punished. Congress must halt its overcriminalization rampage and begin to eliminate vague, overbroad criminal offenses that punish good people who violate one of the tens of thousands of federal criminal offenses without criminal intent.

This last sentence is particularly salient. The presence of criminal intent,mens rea, has always been an important element of criminal law, the state of mind or the intend of the criminal. Granted, ignorance of the law is no excuse, but lately this has proven hollow in that more and more law abiding people are getting hauled in and jailed (or fined)for stuff they had no idea was illegal.

A typical example of this is going fishing. Gone are the days of grabbing your pole and throwing in your line, Now, you not only require a license, but a specific license for the specific fish you are fishing for, you can only use a specific type of bait and can only catch a specific size/gender fish, with a specific type/gauge line. Deviate one iota from what THEY say you can do, catch the wrong fish, keep the wrong fish, or (God forbid) catch an endangered species fish, and your ass just landed in a world of hurt. Go crabbing in the SF Bay and have some endangered crustacean crawl into your trap, it’s Alcatraz for you, buddy.

But the main purpose of this post is to cast ridicule and scorn at those municipalities that take this over reach one step further, to loonyville:

A Queens man is very upset after trying to put his trash out for collection and ending up with a ticket.

He, and others, are getting snared in an enforcement of a law that few people even know exists.

The scrooge award goes to the New York City Sanitation Department for the $100 tickets.

Raymond Janson says he received the $100 fine for putting his garbage cans at the curb 30 minutes early.

“I can’t say how incensed I am over this,” Janson says. “Not only at the excessive amount, but the nature of the summons.”

Hundred bucks? chump change, how about this?

A 91-year-old grandmother is having to fight a ticket for not having a lid on her trash can. The only problem is that Blanche Pierce doesn’t even have a trash can.

This old hag should have been fined for NOT having a trash can, what kind of an anarchist is she?

Probably the thing that ticks me off the most is that I know how these progessiveleftest states operate, one (like NY) comes up with a new means to screw it’s citizens and others (like California) follow suit. We already have idiotic regulations like alternate burn days, no plastic bags, no child toys in happy meals, and some crazy pet laws, oh, and no recycling scofflaws allowed.

We know that the country is on the wrong economic road, but this Draconian trend in criminalizing any even trivial breach of social conduct is turning us into a nation I’m not particularly proud of.

Educational Theft

That’s the crime that’s sweeping the nation:

An African-American mother of two, Ms. Williams-Bolar last year used her father’s address to enroll her two daughters in a better public school outside of their neighborhood. After spending nine days behind bars charged with grand theft, the single mother was convicted of two felony counts. Not only did this stain her spotless record, but it threatened her ability to earn the teacher’s license she had been working on.

Ms. Williams-Bolar caught a break last month when Ohio Gov. John Kasich granted her clemency, reducing her charges to misdemeanors from felonies. His decision allows her to pursue her teacher’s license, and it may provide hope to parents beyond the Buckeye State. In the last year, parents in Connecticut, Kentucky and Missouri have all been arrested—and await sentencing—for enrolling their children in better public schools outside of their districts.

School districts all over the nation are hiring special investigators to track these desperados down.

You really should real the whole thing. I can’t imagine a better illustration of the warped priorities of our education system than this story. It’s true that these people are going to schools that they haven’t paid the taxes for. But given how schools are funded (property taxes, progressive state and federal taxes) that could be said of many students. Moreover, the schools have no problem bussing minority students around when it was for their purposes — social justice and racial integration. But let some devoted mom put together a do-it-yourself bussing program and they go apeshit.

But it also illustrates just how arbitrarily and stupidly we put students in schools to begin with. Not by education level; not by pedagogical technique or need; not by parental choice; not by markets — but by geography. Imagine what your grocery store would be like if everyone in the neighborhood had to go there and no one could go to another grocery store for risk of committing a felony.

We are jailing people to preserve this broken, over-priced monopoly. It’s ridiculous.

The Arrowhead Desperadoes

My friends, you can sleep safe tonight.

Eddie Leroy Anderson of Craigmont, Idaho, is a retired logger, a former science teacher and now a federal criminal thanks to his arrowhead-collecting hobby.

In 2009, Mr. Anderson loaned his son some tools to dig for arrowheads near a favorite campground of theirs. Unfortunately, they were on federal land. Authorities “notified me to get a lawyer and a damn good one,” Mr. Anderson recalls.

There is no evidence the Andersons intended to break the law, or even knew the law existed, according to court records and interviews. But the law, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, doesn’t require criminal intent and makes it a felony punishable by up to two years in prison to attempt to take artifacts off federal land without a permit.

They paid a fine and got probation. The WSJ uses this as a lead-in to a growing controversy over the enormous number of federal laws that no one has ever heard of that can land you in prison. The result has been an explosion in the federal prison population — a huge fraction of whom are not dangerous to the public.

Harvey Silvergate’s book Three Felonies a Day documents this relentlessly. There are so many laws out there that you literally can’t go through life without unintentionally breaking them. Even relatively trivial offense can literally become a federal case. In this case, a law intended to stop people making wholesale raids on protected lands nailed two guys looking for arrowheads. And a problem that could have been solved with a return of the artifacts and a stern warning ended up with threats of prison time and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Does this sound sane to anyone?

Many of the new federal laws also set a lower bar for conviction than in the past: Prosecutors don’t necessarily need to show that the defendant had criminal intent.

These factors are contributing to some unusual applications of justice. Father-and-son arrowhead lovers can’t argue they made an innocent mistake. A lobster importer is convicted in the U.S. for violating a Honduran law that the Honduran government disavowed. A Pennsylvanian who injured her husband’s lover doesn’t face state criminal charges—instead, she faces federal charges tied to an international arms-control treaty.

The plaudits and rewards given to overzealous prosecutors don’t hurt either. Here’s a fun stat: the number of federal criminal laws is about 3000. “About”. No one knows exactly how many there are. If you asked for a list of federal laws to make sure you never broke one, you literally couldn’t get it.

Now there are many, especially those in law, who don’t see a problem with this. These guys broke the law and that’s it. If we want to make an exemption for innocent digging, it needs to be codified into law. But that flies in the face of centuries of common law tradition. It requires us to map out the legal mine field by stepping on every mine.

By creating a system with thousands of laws that can ensnare even the most innocent person, we have made criminals out of ordinary Americans and give immense power to law enforcement. If the feds decide they don’t like you, they can almost certainly find something you’ve done to break the law.

You really should read the whole thing to get properly maddened up. Not only does it describe the ridiculous crimes that have landed people in prison, it has statements from federal prosecutors defending these absurd prosecutions. Their words reveal a mentality that is looking to justify every prosecution they can think of rather than use the law to establish order and justice.

What to do? Well, judges need to have more authority to toss cases. Juries need to be instructed that nullification is a thing. Congress needs to stop passing laws and go back over the ones they have. All laws need to start coming with expiration dates. And prosecutors should be rewarded for showing discretion.

But the over-arching problem is that we’ve lost track of a very important legal principle: laws need to be clear and understandable to the people who are expected to obey them. We’ve gotten too used to a legal system that tolerates laws that are so obscure and opaque, they might as well be written in secret code. We laugh about 2000-page healthcare bills that no one has read but can still hit people with fines or prison time. The opacity of law has to stop.

I wouldn’t rule out a Constitutional Amendment to codify this. The law is not meant to be the exclusive domain of lawyers, understandable only to them. Everyone needs to know where they stand.

Our current situation is ruining lives and shredding respect for the rule of law. That has to register on someone’s rader, right?

Justice Served?

Sometimes the wheels of justice turn painfully slow, as witnessed last week when a 10 year manhunt of OBL culminated in a M4A1 round entering his left eye and exiting out the back of his head. If swift justice is preferable and 10 year old justice adequate, what would you call that which took 60 years, from act to sentence?

Guilty of being an accessory to the murder of 28,000 people, alright Guinness, a world record or not?

There are probably a lot of people saying ,”Hey, better late then never, no Nazi should be able to hide forever from their sordid past, and  all those thousands of relatives of the victims now have closure and can have some peace”. Some might say that, but I can think of several troubling questions that removes this nice tight lid on what seems like an open and shut case, and am wondering if anyone else is troubled by how this whole thing went down.

Mr. Demjanjuk was purported to be a guard at the Treblinka death camp (interestingly, different articles listed different camps, like the one I linked to above says it was Sobibor{a different camp} where he did his dirty work), regardless, both camps specialized in human extermination. Supposedly he was not camp commandant, had no part is the actual planning or purpose of the camp, but was one of probably thousands of lowly guards.

Other things that both sides agree on, He was Russian (Ukrainian actually) who was captured by the Germans and impressed into their Army, much like many of the captured Polish soldiers in the initial stages of the war.

Demjanjuk’s defense argued that he was a prisoner of war who was forced to do what the Nazis wanted. But the court rejected that claim, concluding that Demjanjuk could have fled “despite a certain degree of risk for himself.”

Of course, his lawyer maintained that he was never even a guard at the camp in Sobibor, Poland, but was a prisoner of war throughout World War II, and naturally there are no eye witnesses available that can place him at either camp.

Then we have the Israeli court room screw up, where in 1988, he was  convicted   of being “Ivan the Terrible,” a notorious concentration-camp guard at Treblinka. That verdict was later overturned on the basis of evidence that Mr. Demjanjuk had been falsely identified and he was set free, reinforcing the difficulties of trying so called Nazi’s 50 years after the fact.

But here are a few questions that I have:

1) Does an admitted Russian POW forced to serve in the German army, should he be considered a Nazi?

2)Assuming he was there and participated in everything the prosecution said he did, does he not have a valid defense when he asserts ,”If I did not do what I was told, they would kill me”?

3)The defense argued that the lone document in question that primarily convicted him (the camp photo ID with his name on it) was forged by Russian authorities, would not the Soviets view  any of “their own” who worked for the Germans as traitors, deserving to be discredited and shamed by any means?

4)If the logic that all who assisted in the deaths at the camps are equally as guilty, are we to condemn all the Jews that were forced to assist in the murders, the ones that sorted the possessions of the murdered, that assisted in emptying the ovens and buried the remains, all under threat of death themselves, are these Jews also culpable and deserving of being hunted down to all corners of the earth?

5) And lastly, was this really just a show trial with the outcome obvious, conducted to assuage a guilty nation of it’s past crimes?

Demjanjuk is 91 years old and he was sentenced to 5 years, pending appeal. The reality is that he will die before either the appeal get resolved or his sentence is served. What do you think should happen to him now?

If this whole affair gives the Jewish people some closure and some sense of vindication, then I guess it was worth it, but unlike the demise of OBL, I am not particularly sated.