Tag: Murder

Fallout From A Murder

No matter what one thinks of police and modern policing, police violence, police racism or lack therefore, the execution of two NYPD officers over the weekend was thoroughly evil. Even if these officers were abusive and racist — and there is no indication whatsoever that they were — this act should still be thoroughly condemned by everyone.

I am not an anarchist. We can see around the world how thin the veneer of civilization is and how easily it is destroyed. Law and order are a huge improvement over the lack thereof, no matter how poorly they are enforced. It’s one thing to criticize police and demand reform and changes. It’s one thing to defend yourself if, for example, cops smash down your door in the middle of the night and you have no idea what’s going on. People can and should oppose aggressive policing and the intrusion of government into their lives. But the deliberate and cold-blooded murder of two policemen is an attack on civilization, on the idea of law and order.

The primary problem we have with policing in the United States is not a bunch of evil cops running around. It is a political leadership that has given them a million laws to enforce, authorized an aggressive war on voluntary behavior, shoved assault weapons and tanks into their hands and chipped away at accountability. The system is failing the police as thoroughly as it is failing the rest of us.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of these vile murders, a narrative has emerged that conflates criticism of policing with the murders. This has been building for a long time. A couple of weeks ago, a paper ran a really stupid anti-police cartoon. This resulted in a union head issuing a scathing letter, demanding (and getting) an apology. But this wasn’t an isolated incident nor confined to idiot cartoons.

McNesby has a history of lashing out at journalists. When Philadelphia Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman broke an incredible story about a Philly PD rogue narcotics unit that was essentially robbing immigrant-owned bodegas, McNesby called a press conference in which he called drug-using police informants “one step above” reporters like Laker and Ruderman. Someone launched a Web site specifically to attack the reporters. The two women later won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting.

(Both the state and the Feds cleared the bodega cops despite video supporting the claims of multiple independent witnesses.)

Last week, police officers demanded an apology from a Cleveland Browns player for wearing a T-shirt demanding justice for John Crawford and Tamir Rice, as if being angry about the shooting of two men carrying BB guns was completely out of line. This followed demands for an apology when Rams players made the “hands up don’t shoot” gesture before a game. A police chief in California is under fire for marching with protesters in favor less police violence.

Bill de Blasio has become a lightning rod for this. Shortly before this incident, the PBA said that de Blasio was not welcome at any police funerals for “anti-police” views.

This pushback has only intensified in the aftermath of the murders. During de Blasio’s press conference, police literally turned their backs on him. Union leaders have said there is “blood on his hands” for his “anti-cop” positions, as though a career criminal and violent psychopath only needed to hear de Blasio’s speech to go on a murderous spree. Barack Obama, Eric Holder and Rahm Emmanuel have also been accused by Howard Safir, Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki of fomenting this event from their anti-cop rhetoric and “hatred” of cops.

But as Jamelle Bouie points out, none of this has been anti-cop unless you regard any criticism of police as anti-cop:

Police officers aren’t under siege from hostile elected officials. At no point, for example, has de Blasio attacked the New York City Police Department. Instead, he’s called for improved policing, including better community relations and new training for “de-escalation” techniques. “Fundamental questions are being asked, and rightfully so,” he said at the beginning of the month, after the grand jury decision in the death of Eric Garner. “The way we go about policing has to change.”

Likewise, neither President Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder has substantively criticized police. After a Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, Obama appealed for calm and praised law enforcement for doing a “tough job.” “Understand,” he said, “our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.”

When directly asked if “African-American and Latino young people should fear the police,” Holder said no. “I don’t think that they should fear the police,” he said in an interview for New York magazine with MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid. “But I certainly think that we have to build up a better relationship between young people, people of color, and people in law enforcement.”

Note that Bouie is actually quoting those accused of anti-cop rhetoric rather than making vague quote-free allegations.

Nothing here should be a surprise. Despite what these police organizations and their allies allege, there isn’t an anti-police movement in this country, or at least, none of any significance. The people demonstrating for Eric Garner and Michael Brown aren’t against police, they are for better policing. They want departments to treat their communities with respect, and they want accountability for officers who kill their neighbors without justification. When criminals kill law-abiding citizens, they’re punished. When criminals kill cops, they’re punished. But when cops kill citizens, the system breaks down and no one is held accountable. That is what people are protesting.

Given the dangers inherent to being a police officer—and the extent to which most cops are trying to do the best they can—it’s actually understandable that cops are a little angry with official and unofficial criticism. But they should know it comes with the territory. For all the leeway they receive, the police aren’t an inviolable force; they’re part of a public trust, accountable to elected leaders and the people who choose them. And in the same way that police have a responsibility to protect and secure the law, citizens have a responsibility to hold improper conduct to account.

On the subject of de Blasio specifically, Doug Mataconis points out that it is unreasonable to expect the reflexive absolute loyalty to the police that Giuliani exhibited:

Politically, DeBlasio may or may not have bungled his relationship with the NYPD during his first year in office, but that hardly makes him responsible for murder. Additionally, the fact that the Mayor may have expressed some sympathy for the people who were protesting the Garner decision is neither outrageous nor inappropriate. For one thing, it’s worth noting that he is the Mayor of all the people in New York, not just the police officers, and that as the elected leader of the city it is his job, in part, to be responsive to the concerns of civilians who see what they think is an injustice being committed by the police department and the justice system. The argument that being willing to listen to those protesters makes any political leader responsible for the actions of a violent criminal thug who traveled some 200 miles for the express purpose of committing murder is nonsense that ought to be rejected out of hand.

Yes, it is true that there have been some assholes calling for dead cops. Let’s not pretend that element isn’t out there. And people like Sharpton have been disgracefully slow to condemn such rhetoric. But this shooting does not mean the movement for better policing and more accountability is wrong. When a husband-and-wife team ambushed and murdered two cops earlier this year, it wasn’t the fault of the Tea Party. When Gabby Giffords was shot, it wasn’t the fault of Sarah Palin. When Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building, it wasn’t the fault of Rush Limbaugh. Arguing that acts of violence committed by crazed extremists discredits an entire movement is the sort of thing I expect out of the Left Wing in this country. Read Ross Douthat’s post on how isolated violent acts have been used throughout history to discredit political opponents. Nick Gillespie:

As the New York Daily News and other outlets are reporting, the apparent shooter was not only violent and unhinged but had bragged via Instagram that he was “putting wings on pigs” and “putting pigs in a blanket.”

The distance between such rantings and, even worse, the act of shooting policemen sitting in a patrol car is so vast that they simply have no relation to legitimate and even impassioned criticism of the militarization of police and the protesting of specific acts of apparent injustice.

To suggest otherwise is not simply disgraceful and cheapening to serious public discourse. It’s all too often the first refuge of people on the right and the left who are afraid to actually engage in any sort of meaningful debate.

This was an isolated incident. Last year saw the fewest cops murdered in seven decades and rates of violence against cops we haven’t seen since the 19th century. 2013 was an unusually safe year for cops and 2014 is likely to return to the 40-50 killings we’ve been averaging over the last decade. Doubtless, this increase will be cast as a “war on cops” by the usual sources. They dragged out the “war on cops” a few years ago when the number of murders went up, then went silent when it dropped back down again. But violence against cops is still at historic lows. As I note every time there is a mass shooting, these incidents are mercifully rare. These were the first NYPD cops murdered in three years.

And it’s worth noting something else: violence by cops is also down. It’s hard to tell how far down since official national statistics are not kept. But for the NYPD specifically, cop shootings of citizens is way down. So there is progress being made. But that progress still leaves us with a thousand people dead at the hands of police every year. That compares to about four a year in Germany, about a dozen in year in Canada and zero in Great Britain. Most of those killings are justified; some are not. But we have a system that has trouble distinguishing between the two.

The reaction to the killings is not unexpected. As I noted above, there has been a sustained campaign by police unions and supporters to delegitimize any criticism of the police (while ignoring provocative speech on their own side.) But let’s not pretend that there is no middle ground between the vicious execution of two cops and concern and criticism over a system that allows for consequence-free bad behavior.

Two good men are dead at the hands of a vile killer, a man who showed no compunction about shooting his ex-girlfriend before this or committing other acts of violence. Let’s not legitimize his deranged excuses by calling it a political movement.

Beheading in the Streets

I’ve been tinkering with a post on yesterday’s cold-blooded murder and attempted beheading of a UK soldier by two Islamic men. But what is there to say? It was senseless, pointless, barbaric and brutal — everything we have to expect from Islamism. And while the video of these men speaking is horrific, I’m glad that people will get to see these men literally soaked in the blood of an infidel while they shout Islamic slogans. Maybe they’ll quit pretending Islamism isn’t savagery.

Big and Little Apples Roundups

A lot going on today and I don’t have time to flood the zone with posts on everything. So here are a few rapid-fire thoughts:

It’s clear that today’s Empire State Building shooting was not a mass shooting but straight-up murder. The press were all geared up to cover it like a mass shooting, but the guy killed an executive and then got mowed down by cops on a crowded street. Much as I’d like to criticize the cops — all nine of the wounded were hit by their fire — my initial read is that they did the right thing. Grabbing murderers is their job. And when he turned on them with a weapon in hand, they had no choice but to fire.

Speaking of murderers, Anders Brevik is going to get 10-21 years in prison for murdering 77 people, most of them young and defenseless. This may sound like a liberal judge but it isn’t: Norway has neither the death penalty nor life sentences. 21 years is the maximum anyone can be sentenced to. The prosecutors can, however, petition against release for dangerous people and there is little doubt they will do so whenever this piece of shit is eligible to get out. Let’s hope the man never sees a free day.

Staying in the courts, Apple won its big lawsuit against Samsung, one of 19 lawsuits on four continents the two companies are currently fighting out. I have not kept up with this but read enough today to conclude that Samsung did copycat quite a bit, at least in their early iterations.

Finally, if you haven’t read it, please read Jim’s comment under the Lance Armstrong thread for a much better analysis of today’s events than I was able to bash out.

Update: One of Harley’s friends reminded me of this on Facebook: Chicago has some of the tougher gun control laws in the nation. On Thursday night/Friday morning, 19 people were shot in various unrelated incidents. Strange that this is getting a lot less coverage than what happened in New York.

Mathematical Malpractice Watch: Gun Deaths

Before we start, I don’t want to debate, right now, whether more or less gun control would have prevented today’s tragedy (although you can probably guess which way I lean). No, I want to illustrate how statistics get distorted to make gun control seem like a good idea.

(For the moment, I’ll ignore the suggestion that guns kill people all by themselves. I also have no idea if Dakin supports gun control or not. I do know that this has been retweeted by about 10,000 people who do.)

Notice a few things here. First, he’s split up England and Wales to make them seem less violent. Second, he compares the absolute number of gun homicides (not necessarily murders), which is deeply problematic. In one case, he’s comparing us to nation with a 15th of our population.

Let’s make a more useful comparison. We’ll take the 2010 murder rates and scale them up to the 312 million population of the United States.

Australia – 3,600
United Kingdom – 3,800
Germany – 2,500
Canada – 5,000
United States – 15,000

On this scale, the US is still the most violent country in the data, but the difference is not nearly as stark. But before you go thinking that strict gun control could reduce the number of murders by 80%, note something important: non-gun murders. Every year, 5000 Americans are killed without a gun involved. This number is still greater than the total murder rate in the other countries, nearly twice the rate of their non-gun murders.

There are other issues here: the plunge in murder rates over the last twenty years as gun control laws were loosened; the very low murder rates outside of the high-crime inner cities; that gun control laws in other countries aren’t as straight-forward as thought; that many nations with high gun ownership have low homicide rates (Switzerland, for example).

That’s another debate. What I’m pointing out here is how the numbers have been manipulated to make a bad situation seem worse in order to push an agenda.

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.

Jury Duty

Although I am a proponent of our judicial system (got anything better to offer?) I am also of a mind that people that sit on juries are usually too stupid to get out of jury duty. A promise of a jury of one’s peers is an easy order,  but to assume they will find anything resembling justice to always a crap shoot. One of the themes that was popular at the other site I wrote for was ,”What say you, jury?”, where we take an actual court case where the jury rendered a verdict, and dissect it a bit, either giving them accolades or raspberries. Sometimes we can’t be spot on, different laws in different states (what constitutes first degree murder may vary) and we are never privy to the jury instructions, the mutually agreed upon guidelines given to the jury by the judge as to what they are to consider, what definitions are important, and what hurdles must be jumped in order for a guilty verdict.

Today we examine a pharmacist who was robbed at gunpoint, but shot back, and was found guilty of first degree murder:

Over at livelink I found all 3 video feeds of the shooting, we can see much better from here exactly what happened.

Some things to consider, Oklahoma is one of a number of states that adhere to and recognize Castle Laws:

A Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal doctrine arising from English Common Law[1] that designates one’s place of residence (or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as one’s car or place of work) as a place in which one enjoys protection from illegal trespassing and violent attack. It then goes on to give a person the legal right to use deadly force to defend that place (his “castle“), and any other innocent persons legally inside it, from violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to violent attack. In a legal context, therefore, use of deadly force which actually results in death may be defended as justifiable homicide under the Castle Doctrine.

Ersland’s defense was simple, he was protecting himself and his several female employees within his castle from a violent robbery where  a gun was pointed at him. After downing one of the assailants (the one without the gun) and chasing the other out of the store, he returned but saw the downed robber (face down) still moving. He retrieved another (loaded) gun and felt still threatened by the downed man, either by movements or words ( he could not see the guy’s hands so was unsure if he had  a weapon), he then shot the robber 5 more times until he stopped moving. Notice that we can not see the downed robber during the second shooting spree, we don’t know what he was doing, we don’t know if words were exchanged (no audio). Ersland contends that the robber was trying to get up and was still a danger to him and his employees.

The main question before this jury (and you, the rightthinking jury) is whether the downed robber represented a sufficient threat to Ersland, was it reasonable to assume that he should still feel threatened? Under the law, the right to use deadly force ends at that instant that the menace has passed, the right to self defense does not include killing anyone who was rendered defenseless.

Ersland has become a hero within his community, even sparking new legislation to beef up self defense laws.

What separates murder from manslaughter is “malice aforthought:,  But first degree murder has a very high hurdle to clear:

In most states, first-degree murder is defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or “lying in wait” for the victim.

The jury deliberated for just over 3 hours, doesn’t seem very long to me, to come back with a first degree murder conviction so quickly, without being able to see the actions of the victim (was he a threat or not).

So there you are, was this a fair verdict, would you have voted for a lesser crime,  or even vote to acquit ?

One last thing before I send you all to the jury room for deliberations, drinkingwithbob has an opinion on the matter.