Life Is No Nintendo Game

I have said before that lyrics are every bit as important as the tune of a song to me; I choose which music I listen to carefully. That said, I typically hate rap. The vast majority of it makes women into property, gang violence heroic, drug use and alcoholism chic, and prison time something to aspire to for “street cred”. I particularly dislike Eminem. However, late one night while on duty, I was watching a spot on Fox News where they discussed the song “Love the Way You Lie” and the subject matter of the lyrics: domestic violence. Finding that especially poignant considering Rhianna’s participation, I broke my rule and downloaded the song.

The lyrics are powerful. I would not suggest this song for a kid, but the lyrics bring up some very good points.

Domestic violence is an enormous problem worldwide, but here in the US it wasn’t always a crime. Rape and violence against a married partner, for a long time, was not necessarily classified as a crime, rape in particular. It took years of fighting to convince lawmakers that being married doesn’t grant a person the right to abuse their spouse either mentally, physically or sexually. Domestic violence (which, in my profession, we simply refer to as DV) somehow still manages to be a blight on our society, one that is worse in many ways than other problems we face – and often more expensive, costing nearly $6 billion a year to deal with (most of that being for medical care).

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 85% of DV victims are women. One in every four women will experience DV in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault every year. Witnessing violence between one’s parents or guardians is the strongest risk factor for the continuation of DV from one generation to the next, and boys who witness such violence at home are twice as likely to behave the same way against their partners as adults. Approximately half of all abusers also abuse children. What about reporting? DV is one of the most underreported crimes in our society. Only 25% of all physical assaults and a paltry 20% of all rapes perpetrated by intimate partners are reported to the police. Only 20% of those who experienced serious DV applied for restraining orders, and among those issued a full half of those served with such orders violated them. The most sobering fact is that a full one-third of all female homicide victims were murdered by their intimate partners after experiencing DV at their hands. Less than 20% of victims seek medical attention for injuries incurred by DV. There is a separate figure for the costs of homicides that end DV relationships: a whopping $37 billion.

Today, Arizona residents saw a harrowing story of domestic violence. Antwon Smith, born in 1984, has applied for four different orders of protection against four different girlfriends since 2003. In the first three cases, his partners fought back and the orders were rightfully quashed; in 2008, he got one to stick when an ex-girlfriend didn’t fight the order. Either that ex didn’t realize that she had to fight it or she was so terrified of him that she simply didn’t want to face him in court; either way, today’s video from a Circle K in Mesa was horrifying. Smith’s ex girlfriend fled from him after he put a razor to her throat and ran into a Circle K store to call police. As she was dialing the phone Smith stormed in, took the phone away, then grabbed her arm and bodily dragged her from the store and forced her into his car. He then led police on a chase before being caught. The girlfriend, who has not been officially named, is probably lucky to still be alive. Smith was found not guilty of aggravated assault stemming from another relationship in 2007 but still had a warrant out for his arrest for a serious driving offense.

Not all DV stories have such relieving endings, though. On September 4, 2005, Jorge Mario Gurrola got into yet another argument with girlfriend Monica Sanchez. Monica’s mother Maria did not want her to move to Arizona to be with Gurrola because she knew he was dangerous, but because she already had one child with him she came anyway. She didn’t want her daughter to grow up without a father. On that fateful September day five years ago this month, Gurrola found a picture of another man in Monica’s wallet and he exploded in a fit of rage, beating her so severely she fell into a coma. She died two days later – along with her unborn child. His parents sued Monica’s for access to their daughter just two months later. In June 2007, I went to the Mesa branch of the Maricopa County Superior court to observe his sentencing and watched his relatives behave poorly, mocking the Sanchez family and trying to claim that Gurrola was really a good man. Childhood teachers wrote letters about what he was like as a boy. Not one member of his family acknowledged the gravity of his crime. In his initial 2008 appeal, after having claimed in court at his sentencing to deserve the hatred of Monica’s family, Gurrola argued that because he didn’t mean to kill their unborn child, it shouldn’t count as an actual crime and come attached with a separate prison sentence. Such contrition.

Gay and lesbian couples are not immune, either. Any intimate partner can commit acts of DV. It often starts out slowly; a partner becomes jealous of other relationships you have, insisting more and more with each incident that you cut off other people. They eventually isolate you completely from the outside world. They have impossible expectations, believing that you are supposed to supply everything they need. They’re easily offended, very touchy – the slightest remark becomes a personal attack and generates a strong response. Jealousy will give way to violence against others, whether verbal or physical. They’ll start lying to turn you against people who are important to you. They’re very moody, often depressed and angry. Their moodiness first gets blamed on others, along with their anger; then, when others can’t be blamed anymore, they blame you. They claim they can’t help their feelings or the subsequent reactions. When you refuse sex, they may try to force you into it or wait until you’re asleep. They’ll self-medicate with alcohol or narcotics. Eventually it will give way to physical violence, injuries, and sometimes death.

What’s worse about DV is that often, the victim feels they’re trapped because their entire lives are wrapped up in their abuser – including their finances. Leaving seems impossible with no money (or access to it), no vehicle to legally take, and no job away from where they live with their abuser. Most despairing of all is that many don’t even recognize that they are being abused.

Eminem’s lyric “you don’t get another chance, life is no Nintendo game” was meant to convey the fact that you can’t take back the cruel acts you commit against your partner. Whether words or deeds, it cannot be taken back. If you are the victim, then you should get out at the first sign rather than giving them opportunities to give you others. The heinous nature of DV is why I believe it has long been far more important to face than hate crimes. It has cost far more in so many ways.

The Criminal Revolving Door

I’m going to post a video blog tomorrow in relation to the 9/11 anniversary…for now, I have something else to gripe about. Yesterday, a couple robbed a Glendale car wash at around 0100. At that ungodly hour, nobody is driving; pretty well everyone but the weird ones are at home, maintaining their circadian rhythms. This couple was caught, but they fled, driving at speeds of 70 mph on surface streets. Police decided for some reason that it was too dangerous and didn’t pursue the vehicle. Shortly after that decision was made, the couple fled on foot and entered the home of a married couple in their mid-50’s.

They shot both, killing the husband and critically wounding the wife.

First, meet Rene Durgin. He’s better known as Arizona inmate #178146. In 2002, he racked up his first major offense as an adult (he was just barely 18 and had been in and out of the juvenile justice system): dangerous drug use and possession of paraphernalia. He was sentenced to three years of probation. Less than one year later, in early 2003, he was caught violating probation when he was caught yet again with the same dangerous drug and associated paraphernalia (for the unbaptized, that means the tools with which to cut and use the drug, whether by injecting, smoking or snorting). His probation was revoked and then reinstated after a couple of hearings and a promise that “I’ll do better this time, I swear!” Later that very same year, Durgin was arrested for felony theft and his probation was revoked; he was first sentenced to a stint in the MCSO jail, then when the judge realized that he was on probation for two other drug cases, combined the three and he was sentenced to three years in prison.

He was released in 2005 – early enough to be on parole when he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. Despite his record and the path they knew he was headed down, they let him plead guilty to nothing more than misconduct involving weapons and listed his crime as non-dangerous and non-repetitive. He was released in March of this year, a full seven months early. He was on parole yesterday when he robbed the car wash and committed murder.

Next meet his girlie-friend, Patricia Mayhorn – Arizona inmate #222166.

...and NOW!
Then...
In 2003, Mayhorn was given probation for grand theft auto (the only mention I can find in the legal record is in this court minute entry; I can only guess the felony conviction was in another state). In 2007, she was also arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and after repeated setbacks because she kept absconding and not showing up for trial, she finally plead guilty to misconduct involving weapons. Again they gave her a non-dangerous label, but did call her a repetitive offender. She was also released early, but had at least been out of prison for two years when she helped her mijo commit robbery and murder. What I don’t get is why her sentence was changed; she was first sentenced to four years, six months. Remember how I said that she was given repeat offender status? That, too, was changed.

Now, one person is dead and his wife is critically wounded. Her life will never be even remotely normal again. How did we come to a place in our society where it is acceptable to make deals with criminals just to shove them through a revolving door and end up seeing them again, often in worse condition than they were in before, with new crimes and new victims to take care of? How did we get here?

How did we come to a place in our society where crime is regarded as commonplace, something we wave off as little more than an annoyance? How did we arrive here, where police officers don’t have time to investigate car thefts or home break-ins? To whom do we owe pittance for providing criminals with every loophole they could dream of in order to avoid taking responsibility and actually being punished? When did it become a running cultural joke that prison inmates get free room & board, a free education, free legal representation for any lawsuit they wish to file, and it’s all perfectly normal?!?

Rene Durgin and Patricia Mayhorn never should have been given any deal. There was a time when getting caught with dangerous narcotics would have immediately landed you in prison. Now you get a few years’ probation. I once watched a judge here in Phoenix listen to the long rap sheet of a repeat offender caught breaking into cars and homes to get money for dope do the unthinkable – he asked the offender why he should be given a THIRD opportunity to get clean when, in the past, he’d made the same promises and always broken them, then turned around and said, “okay, you have one chance left…”

Unbelievable. When “this is your last warning” is dismissed offhand by offenders because the next judge will go easy on them, the law holds no weight. When the death penalty is decried as barbaric in any circumstance, criminals don’t mind spending the rest of their lives behind bars. Why should it bother them? They’re taken care of. They don’t have to work. They don’t have to do much of anything, really. I’ve worked in prisons and I can tell you that regardless of what an inmate says, being behind bars doesn’t really bother them – especially not when MTV and VH1 put on reality shows about artists in prison and the music they write.

If we do not shut the criminal revolving door, it will only be downhill from here.

The Culture of Satanic Panic

I’m not sure what it was that brought the name into my head. Maybe it was God. Maybe it was one of my synapses misfiring. For some reason, Dr. Rebecca Brown, M.D. popped into my head a couple of weeks ago. Brown (who is no longer a doctor – something I will explain later in this post) wrote two books, He Came to Set the Captives Free and Prepare For War. My mother insisted when I was in jr. high school that I read both of them. The two books told the story of Brown and an “associate”, Elaine (whose full name was never given in the books), and their self-described journey through Satanism. The books were extremely graphic; they bordered on being outright pornography. As an eighth-grader in Houston at a private Christian school, I was young and impressionable. Mom wanted me to understand “what’s really out there.” She heartily disliked my desire to learn martial arts and had begun to stop letting me watch movies like The Karate Kid and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. According to Brown, the martial arts were wholly Satanic and would bring a demonic curse onto your child if you allowed them to study any of the various fighting styles.

As I waded through the now nearly-endless parade of articles written debunking Brown’s claims, I came across a story I hadn’t read about in years: the West Memphis Three. It isn’t often that I side with the accused in a crime these days. I have become convinced, though, that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley are all innocent.

In early May of 1993, my family watched the news from our Houston living room as a massive story played out in Arkansas. In the tiny truck-stop town of West Memphis, three eight-year-old boys – Michael Moore, Stevie Branch and Christopher Byers – went missing one night only to be discovered dead in the woods the next day. The boys were found nude, hogtied and had severe head trauma. Their clothing had been wrapped around sticks and stuck in the mud, although two of the boys’ underwear was never found. A police juvenile parole officer named Steve Jones made the initial discovery.

Police investigative techniques were terrible. The small town WMPD was not trained to deal with such a horrific crime. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Having been to crime scenes, I can tell you that any police officer, EMS worker or coroner whose training is worth a damn knows when they spot a dead body. You typically smell it first – even outdoors. Police officers in West Memphis, though, charged right into the shallow creek where the boys lay and dragged them out. Even in 1993 most police officers knew that even when children are involved, you have to keep your wits about you and recognize what the situation is before you go charging in. They didn’t, however, and if any footprints had been there they were lost in the kerfuffle.

A camera wasn’t available until a full half hour after the scene was discovered. The coroner wasn’t called until two hours afterward. During all of this, Jones – the parole officer – piped up and said, “it looks like Damien Echols finally killed someone.” No evidence, no nothing, he just spit the words out effortlessly. Echols was one of his low-level troublemakers, a young man given to wearing his hair long, his clothing black, and listening to bands like Metallica – and Jones was convinced because of his appearance and his deliberately shocking statements (“sure, I’m a Satanist!”) that Echols was pure evil. Rumors swirled in the largely poor- to middle-class town gripped with the Satanic Panic of the 80’s and 90’s that Echols and Baldwin were members of a Satanic cult.

The coroner’s investigation wasn’t any better than the police investigation. Both agencies refused offers of help from the Arkansas State Police. At the scene of the crime, reporters finally got a statement from John Mark Byers, the adoptive stepfather of one of the victims. Police had failed to shield him from the scene and the details. Police then failed to tell him that talking to the press was a big no-no. Byers immediately went to reporters and told them some of the facts at the scene, things that only the perpetrator would have known. Within 24 hours half of America knew those facts.

Damien Echols was polygraphed just two days after the grisly discovery in the Robin Hood Hills woods. Any and every teenager that could have possibly been associated with Echols in any way was polygraphed. Police claimed that Echols was deceptive yet could not produce a written record. One detective was described as verbally abusive to interviewees who gave answers that didn’t implicate Echols. Then, not quite a month after the murders, police dragged Jessie Misskelley in for questioning. For more than 12 hours he was questioned by police and somehow only the final 46 minutes of the interrogation was recorded. He told police exactly what they wanted to hear: that best friends Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin had decided to ambush the three boys and kill them for a Satanic ritual. The problem with the confession was that the beginning of the recording catches what had already been going on for 12 hours – Misskelley didn’t know a damn thing about the crimes. He gave the wrong time, the wrong location, and inconsistent statements regarding what had been done to the boys. Detectives had to correct him multiple times before he spit out a story that was consistent enough to start making arrests.

None of this mattered. Police built their “case” on the shoddiest investigative work I have ever read about in my life, and prosecutors, knowing the sensibilities of the people in the area, took the case to trial with nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Misskelley and Baldwin were sentenced to life behind bars, and Echols was sentenced to death. Later it was discovered that judge David Burnett exhibited behavior which implied he’d already decided that all three boys were guilty. Kent Arnold, foreman of the Baldwin/Echols trial jury, had inside knowledge of Misskelley’s confession and entered it into the deliberation discussions after the confession had been ruled legally inadmissable – by then Misskelley had recanted and refused to testify against the other two.

Today, judge Davis sits on the Arkansas Appellate Court and in a clear conflict of interests ruled that the three could not have new trials, even in light of new evidence – which included DNA. The convictions of Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley were secured with no evidence at all. Prosecutors didn’t even have circumstantial evidence! I believe that the outcome of this case, including the behavior of officers involved and the convictions from local juries, was heavily tainted by emotional reactions based entirely in a phenomenon we now call Satanic Panic.

It was in 1992 that I first read He Came to Set the Captives Free. Everyone at my family’s church, Grace Community Church, was raving about the information in it. Brown described a life in which she was called on by God Himself to save the masses from Satanism – all on her own. She supposedly began with Elaine, who reportedly had been one of Satan’s brides and a high priestess of a massive Satanic coven. The story contains claims that Elaine was married to Satan in a Presbyterian church, that she later sipped champagne aboard a luxury jet with him, and he later taught her astral projection so she and the other members of the coven could murder without leaving any evidence. As if that isn’t enough, the book also claimed that Elaine routinely took part in human sacrifice, that the humans being used ranged from newborn to fully adult, and graphically described the orgies supposedly held by the coven. Very little detail was left to the imagination. Elaine also claimed to have been Satan’s personal representative, going so far as to help place other Satanists in various churches and negotiate huge sales of arms between various countries all over the world. Brown herself tells tales of treating an ER patient, a young pastor, who had supposedly been tortured, stabbed and crucified – a story that has never been corroborated.

Is it any wonder, growing up in a church that pushed this astronomical level of nonsense, that I grew up to call Disturbed my favorite band?

Two weeks ago, I started digging to find out the truth about Brown, Elaine, and the stories they told. I remember Brown describing interactions with patients deep in ICU psychosis and her belief that it was caused by demons. I remember reading the gory details of human sacrifices, including crucifixion. I remember reading claims that the movements taught in martial arts were really silent Satanic incantations (which I now find hilarious, having spent half my life in the martial arts, including Shaolin and Krav Maga). I remember reading about the claim that it took eight weeks to exorcise hundreds of demons from Elaine after her conversion to Christianity.

There’s a bigger story to be told. Rebecca Brown changed her name to hide from the infamy that followed her true name – Ruth Irene Bailey. “Satan’s special hospital”, where Dr. Bailey did her internship, was Ball Memorial Hospital. Her claims that bibles were removed and ministers banned? False. It was discovered that she had begun bringing candles to use in exorcisms in the hospital and was asked to leave. Her behavior was so bizarre that she had to change her name. In fact, her medical license was revoked by the Indiana Medical Board in 1984 for stealing prescription medications, intentionally misdiagnosing patients so she could claim they were possessed by demons, and then prescribing illegal amounts of certain drugs. This was a full two years before her first book was published. Brown has kept the “Dr.” and “M.D” titles to add credibility to her wild stories.

Elaine, who Brown always refused to allow to be identified or interviewed, was Edna Elaine Moses. Moses was a deeply mentally disturbed woman whose family was not surprised in the least when writers started sniffing around the authors. According to her immediate family, she was well-known for being an attention-seeker, going so far as to regularly fake having full tonic-clonic seizures while in public. During the time she supposedly traveled the world as Satan’s personal representative to religious leaders, heads of state and rock stars, she was actually working as a Licensed Practical Nurse in Indiana. The two women met at Ball Memorial and quickly moved in together. It is believed due to evidence gathered to revoke Brown’s medical license that the women were drug addicts and possibly lesbians; Brown and Elaine shared a bed from the time they moved in together to the time that they parted ways. Brown was unofficially diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and Elaine had been frequently diagnosed by doctors as being of “mixed personalities” and was of “questionable reliability.”

To this day I question my sanity. As a kid my head was filled with tales of Satanism and evil pervading everyone around me. Everything involved demon possession. Ruth Bailey/Rebecca Brown (who is, by the way, still in the ministry with husband Daniel Yoder, who is a convicted criminal for multiple cases of identity theft) helped hucksters like Mike Warnke sell overhyped stories of Satanic Ritual Abuse to gullible Christians all over the world. I believe that they helped create the atmosphere that allowed three innocent teenagers to be convicted of a crime they were never involved in by convincing hordes of the faithful that Satanism afflicted the larger majority of the population. I very seriously doubt that there was even one single Satanic cult in or even near West Memphis when those three boys were murdered, but the police, Steve Jones, and their sham of an “occult expert” – Dr. Dale Griffis, a former cop who claimed that the boys’ blood and semen would have been collected for use in future rituals, despite the fact that none of the boys had been bled very much and that they were far too young to produce semen, making such a claim impossible – spoon-fed a deeply religious citizenry a drama they wanted to believe in, if for no other reason than to strengthen their own faith.

The claim made by Brown, one oft-repeated by my mom and many of her friends back then, is that Satan wants you to question the story. He supposedly wants you to to think it’s so fantastic that it’s unbelievable. To question whether it’s true is dangerous, they said. While my logical mind realizes this is a falsehood on a grand scale, sometimes I still question whether or not I’m wrong to question such stories. I do know this…during the time that I was reading those books, something felt very wrong. I always had difficulty sleeping because of the nightmares that plagued me. I’m sure most of the people I knew from Grace still believe in that garbage and would likely argue that the fact that I’m a lesbian now is proof of demonic activity and I’m only writing a missive like this to further confuse things.

I think that the culture of Satanic Panic is just another emotional drug that some Christians like to cling to, much the way many of them do to high-energy “worship” that includes speaking in tongues without interpreters and being “slain in the spirit.” There’s no wisdom in it.

The New Riots

In 2006 here in Arizona, a 13-year-old boy brought three friends home after school. His parents gone, the group smoked some weed. At some point the host decided it would earn him serious coolness points if he showed off daddy’s shotgun; knowing nothing about gun safety, he muzzled one of his friends as he showed it off and accidentally pulled the trigger. His friend died. Against his family’s wishes, he was tried as an adult and by the age of 15 was sentenced to no less than ten years behind bars for involuntary manslaughter.

His family decried the sentence as too harsh. He’s too young, they said. He doesn’t understand the gravity of what he did. Upon this, I immediately argued that our prisons are full of folks who didn’t mean to do what they did – and prison is there to teach that lesson. You cannot simply behave any way you wish and expect that when the consequences are tragic, because it was a mistake, you’ll get off scot-free. It doesn’t work that way.

Last year, 28-year-old Oakland transit officer Johannes Mehserle was involved in an arrest on a train platform that quickly went awry. Out of nowhere, Mehserle pulled his sidearm and fired, killing 22-year-old suspect Oscar Grant. The shooting resulted in violent riots in Oakland and many clashes between black residents and police. Mehserle is white; Grant was black. Video of the shooting showed the incident. Later on, stories conflicted: Jackie Bryson, one of Grant’s friends, claimed later that Mehserle said “f— this” before drawing his sidearm. An officer Jon Woffinden, however, testified that Mehserly said, “I can’t get his hands. I’m gonna tase him.”

Mehserly immediately resigned and cooperated with the investigation. When a warrant was issued for his arrest, he went in quietly. The story went that he intended to tase Grant and realized too late that he’d grabbed the wrong piece of equipment.

I’ve seen two different videos. Most of them have been removed from YouTube for “terms of use violations”. In each angle, you can see Grant and several friends on the ground. Grant, in the middle, struggles. You can see Mehserle and his partner struggling with him. Then as his partner plants his knee on Grant’s neck, Mehserle reaches for his belt, points his weapon, and fires.

Mehserle has said that as they struggled, he saw Grant reach for his pocket and that was when he decided to use his taser. I have no trouble believing that. Some cops carry their tasers right next to their pistols; others, for this very reason, carry them either on the front of their belt or in a special holster on the front of their tactical vest. Either way, Grant was unarmed and Mehserle shot and killed him. Mistake or no something did need to be done.

What is irritating me more than anything right now is the response. Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter today, and friends and family of Oscar Grant are outraged. Why? Grant’s mother screamed outside the courtroom after the verdict, “My son was murdered! He was murdered!” Grant has become this generation’s Rodney King of sorts. Grant’s mother is, to me, no different than the mother of any other young thug of any race who swears their baby boys haven’t done anything to deserve what’s happened.

What are the facts of this case?

Oscar Grant was among 12 friends heading home from a New Year’s party in the early hours of January 1, 2009. BART officers received notification that a fight had broken out among the group and all of those involved were drunk and/or under the influence of narcotics. Mehserle and his partner were among those who responded. After the shooting, Grant reportedly said, “you shot me!” He survived the trip to the hospital but died later that morning.

What’s important, though, is that Grant was resisting arrest. According to testimony, he was repeatedly commanded to stop resisting. Despite claims to the contrary, Grant was not yet handcuffed; he was actively fighting the officers.

Something else is important. Grant was a high school dropout who worked at fast food joints while he peddled narcotics. He served his first state prison sentence for dealing drugs. Then, in 2007, he fled a traffic stop. At one point he pulled a pistol, but upon seeing several officers he pitched the weapon and fled on foot. He was tased during that incident and was so amped up on something (I have not been able to find out what) that he continued to resist arrest. He was sentenced to 16 months.

Fast forward to New Year’s Day 2009. He’s only been out of prison for three months. While on the train, one of Grant’s friends calls a young white boy a foul name. The boy’s father gets agitated, and Grant gets into a fight with him. The fight ends up including Grant’s friends fighting with a group of Latino passengers. That’s where Mehserly and Woffinden come in.

Why is Grant’s past relevant, you ask? Mehserly wasn’t involved in either arrest. He wouldn’t have known what happened, and it wouldn’t have affected his actions, right?

It’s important because it shows a history. Every criminal has a history. When Oscar Grant was stopped by police on that platform, he had no intention of going back to jail. Here’s why: an autopsy found both alcohol and Fentanyl in his blood. Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic analgesic, typically prescribed for cancer patients. It tends to produce a sense of euphoria. Like hydromorphone, which I mentioned in my post about Lindsay Lohan, it isn’t prescribed until a patient has already been on multiple narcotic analgesics that have since ceased to create the desired effect on a patient. There was no Earthly reason why Grant should have been taking it.

We’ve heard a lot about what Grant didn’t have. I’d like to know what he DID have. What was in his pockets? Was he trying to create a distraction while he tossed an illegal substance away to avoid more jail time? The press hasn’t talked about those issues.

I will readily admit that Mehserle was wrong and is deserving of punishment. I cannot accept, however, claims from overly emotional family and friends that he executed Oscar Grant. The man had a spotless record as an officer. Not a single complaint of unprofessional conduct was in his personnel file. I can, however, believe that Grant was doing exactly what others at the scene described and that Mehserle meant to use his taser.

Either way, he’s going to prison. His life as he’s known it is over. His wife and child now have to face a whole new reality because of his mistake. The difference between Mehserle and the thugs who belong in prison is that he’ll genuinely care about making a decent life once he’s freed and likely will never, ever commit another crime. He won’t resort to selling drugs to make money. And he won’t try to excuse bad behavior by claiming that society did it to him. That is something I can respect.

WAAAAAHHHHH!!!

The big news this week isn’t the Gulf oil spill (though it should be). The immigration debate is even taking a back seat in many ways to what’s making headlines right now. Are you ready?

Lindsay Lohan is going to jail.

*GASP*

Oh, come on…did anybody really think this was outside the realm of possibility? Did we really believe she was going to clean up her act? What’s so huge about her going to jail?

That’s right, I almost forgot – she pitched a snit fit, as did her lawyer, her mom and just about everyone else there NOT in the media. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I heard that some of them went spastic, too.

Lindsay cried and begged the judge not to throw her in jail in a display of wanton childishness that I haven’t seen since Paris Hilton was sentenced to 45 days (and only served five). Her lawyer said, “all we want is for Lindsay to be treated like everyone else and that hasn’t happened so far.” Mother Dina said, “This is so not fair to do this to my child,” while dad Michael described being in jail himself after insider trading charges and railed against the use of prescription drugs to treat addiction to narcotics.

That is high-larious. Here’s the sequence of events: July 2007 Lohan is arrested for DUI. It’s her second so far. What makes this arrest stand out is not just that it’s her second DUI in as many months; she’s also found in possession of a usable amount of cocaine. She first tries to make the excuse that someone gave it to her and she didn’t know what it was (if I only had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that…), then tells the truth in court and pleads guilty. She’s given one day in jail, ten days of community service and three years of probation. She’s ordered to rehab, alcohol education and is ordered to wear a SCRAM anklet to monitor her for alcohol – because the judge orders her to stay away from the stuff. In multiple interviews she admits to being addicted to narcotics and alcohol. She serves no less than three stints, not just one, in different rehabilitation centers.

During all of this she repeatedly failed to obey the terms of her probation. She didn’t go to alcohol education as promised. Her SCRAM anklet went off, notifying her parole officer that she’d been drinking. On May 27 she was ordered to take a drug and alcohol test and tested positive for both. To top it all off, when she was called to court to answer for all of this, she failed to show and a string of Twitter messages told the story that her passport had been stolen and she was stuck in Cannes. To be fair, that is entirely possible, and losing your passport can be a nightmare. The judge did rescind the arrest warrant that had been issued and rescheduled a new hearing. That hearing resulted in a new hearing held yesterday. Today, she and her family are decrying the judge’s decision as unfair.

I’d like to know what’s so unfair about it. Two DUI’s in a short period of time, an MVA (motor vehicle accident), possession of a dangerous narcotic, and repeated probation violations will eventually add up to more serious punishment. Did Lohan’s attorney or family really think that because she’s Lindsay Lohan the judge was going to give her a smack on the wrist and an admonishment not to do it again?

Occasionally, if I’m not working (obviously), I’ll go to the Maricopa County Superior Court in downtown Phoenix and observe criminal court hearings. I’ve observed arraignments, trials, and sentencing hearings. Having an education in the subject has helped me understand things that most people don’t. The sentencing hearings are the most interesting. I always hear the same things: I’m so sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking, just give me a chance, I’ll do better next time, I promise, blah, blah, blah. I can almost recite it in my sleep because I’ve heard it so often and always in the same wording (not counting the time I was a corrections officer, I heard plenty during those days, too). Drug addicts turn to assault, burglary and armed robbery to fund their habits. I once listened to a man who’d been arrested breaking into a car promise the judge all the same things I’d heard before – then listened to the judge say, “this is your third offense.” My mouth dropped open in shock. That was because of what came next: on the first offense, he was given probation; on the second, he went to prison. He’d only been out of prison for two months and he’d gone right back to his old life.

Lindsay is right about one thing – this is unfair. Not unfair in the sense that she’s going to jail after repeated probation violations; it’s unfair that she’s getting 90 days in jail and 90 days in rehab. That’s it? Are you kidding? Normal pukes like me would have the book thrown at us for violating probation after two DUI’s and discovery of narcotic abuse. When you’re Lindsay Lohan and you have a hell of a lot of money and you don’t need to pass drug tests to get the job you need so you can pay the bills, where is the incentive to NOT use that crap? JAIL.

Through her probation officer we’ve also learned that she takes Trazadone for depression, Zoloft to sleep, Adderall to get up after the Zoloft does its job, Nexium for heartburn, and Dilaudid – aka hydromorphone, an extremely powerful narcotic analgesic, one I hope I never have need for – for supposed “dental pain”. Having been in the music biz for a little while, I learned that when you’ve got a big enough name there’s always a doctor willing to write a script for any drug you want, so I’m not buying her use of hydromorphone “for as long as she can remember” according to reports. HIPAA may guarantee she has the right to privacy but I think both her probation officer and that judge should be looking into how long she’s been taking it and what she’s taking it for. That’s a pretty powerful drug to be taking for a dental procedure that we never heard anything about. Plus, she’s reported to have asthma and she smokes. No self-respecting physician would prescribe this drug under those circumstances because it can severely exacerbate breathing problems. Other counter-indications say that it shouldn’t be used unless other narcotic analgesics have been used for a long period of time and are no longer effective. What does that tell us?

I hope she gets her life in order. I’m not just railing because she’s a starlet who expected a break. I genuinely hope she finds a way to clean up her life. I like seeing happy endings once in a while.

Reality Check: The Long Reach of Illegal Immigration

My anger over the current crisis surrounding illegal immigration is a little personal. Way back in 1999, a person I worked with stole my identity – name, social security number, date of birth, address at my parents’ house, all of it – and bought a car. When the payments weren’t made the bank I worked for at the time started chasing me down. I got harassing phone calls every day from a guy who was determined in his refusal to believe that I didn’t own a fully-restored 1960’s Thunderbird. It took six months to convince them that I never applied for or ever took control of that vehicle. Believe it or not, that was far more efficient than what was about to happen.

Fast forward to 2005. At least I think that’s when it happened. Two Mexican men who worked for the same company that employed me, a small family-owned company, got their hands on my social security number and started establishing new identities. Both of them ended up getting worker’s compensation. Both opened bank accounts and credit cards. One got an auto loan and the other managed to get a mortgage (how that happened I’ve nary a clue). I didn’t know anything until I filed my tax return in 2006. Instead of the fair-sized direct deposit I expected, I got a letter. I had apparently worked THREE other jobs, collected worker’s comp at two different addresses that I didn’t recognize, and owed far more in taxes than I had paid according to the IRS.

It wasn’t until 2008 that I finally got my back returns for the previous three years combined. In the meantime, I had also begun to get letters from two banks and a lawyer regarding debt on several accounts that were somehow linked to me. It wasn’t until this year that I didn’t have any difficulty in getting tax returns paid. Five years. That is how long it took me to convince Wells Fargo, Desert Schools Credit Union, and the IRS that I hadn’t worked for a restaurant or a construction company and that I hadn’t collected worker’s comp or taken out loans for a 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe or a house down on Southern Avenue. I was even threatened with the specter of imprisonment at one point – for fraud that I hadn’t committed. I never told my family and most of my friends never heard about it because I was genuinely afraid that I might be in big trouble over another person’s crime. It was a nightmare I hope never to revisit.

Today, MCSO deputies raided a local family-owned sanitation business called Parks & Sons after the company hired people who used fake ID’s and stolen social security numbers to get their jobs. The raid was the culmination of an eight-month-long investigation into a tip from an employee. As is customary now, wives showed up with a small army of children in tow, some of them crying and screaming at deputies for arresting the men. Only seven were actually taken into custody; another 40 are at large, most of whom managed to jump fences and escape as the raid began.

One woman, Maria Ruiz, said, “they’re coming here to arrest people that are here working…how come he doesn’t go to the border or to, uh, somewhere to arrest criminals? People that are on the streets? I have six kids! So what’s gonna happen now? I’m waiting for my US citizenship. My kids are US citizens! So what’s gonna happen now?” Naturally, the cameras captured her and a friend both wearing the customary “Legalize Arizona” t-shirts that anti-SB 1070 protesters wear (either it’s becoming a staple in their wardrobe or they were prepared for this incident). And they were captured crying hysterically as the MCSO paddywagon pulled away. It was all very dramatic.

There was no drama when I found out that I was being held responsible for bills I hadn’t incurred. I was the only one crying when I got a phone call from an investigator who told me that the penalty for tax fraud could be prison time. Nobody was there to crusade for me when two illegal immigrants bailed on their debts when they couldn’t find jobs and I was the only one left without a chair. I did nothing wrong, yet I paid dearly.

I get tired of hearing about how the illegals have such a rough time of it. It makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I see these people showing up at deportation raids wailing and gnashing teeth about how horrible it is that their loved one is being arrested. They say it’s all about racism. I say they’re full of shit. I have lived the reality of identity theft and I am angry that nobody seems to care about the fallout from these supposedly “victimless” crimes. What’s worse is that there are far worse examples out there and people have put out far more time and money than I did to clean up their credit. Some of the victims are kids who have no idea what’s in store for them – the first time they go to open a checking account, they’ll be rebuffed because there are already accounts and loans under their identity.

To Maria Ruiz and those like her, I say this: get out of my country. Stop popping out anchor babies. Stop using whatever means you think you can get away with to get jobs, bank accounts, mortgages, business loans, worker’s compensation, and unemployment benefits. The pity party is only going to get you so far. Obama won’t be in office forever. We will not allow political correctness to destroy our country.

Walk A Mile…

Just over a year ago, convicted felon Anthony Gonzales and four accomplices stormed a home in Arizona wearing tactical gear and body armor and armed with assault rifles. They claimed to be police. They held a local rapper and his family hostage while looking for about $60,000 in jewelry. When police sirens could be heard, the thugs bailed, then led Gilbert police on a chase that ended with one of the two vehicles being overturned in a PIT maneuver. Gonzales died when he was ejected from the vehicle and pinned underneath it. Later, his mother filed a notice of intent to sue and even offered an up-front settlement amount. Last month the lawsuit was finally filed in civil court against the Town of Gilbert and three police officers (reference case # CV2010-015823 to see the initial filing).

I blogged about this incident back in December, and mirrored the post on a local website (one I no longer post new missives on). Today a woman claiming to be Anthony Gonzales’ ex-girlfriend posted a late comment:

You know.. its bad to judge because no matter what like one of you said…you can be rich and grow up with the most proper and smart parents their (inappropriate term) kid can be a murderer you see it on the tv all the time. Anthony Gonzales was my boyfriend and the love of my life. Im not just saying this because of that but im saying it because I KNOW HIM. He was very very smart and helped ME get thru school. He was the man of his house taking care of his sisters and mom and grandma. He was doing that since his grandfather passed. He had a crazy life yes.. but his intentions were good. It sounds dumb but its true. Was it smart or good thinking? NO! And if he were still here I would tell him that. But hes gone now and I cant. His main goal was always to take care of his family even when he got out. What he did the first time was young dumb actions that gave him big consequences. This time..his intentions were to make enough money to take care of his family’s problems until he found a job. I talked to him days and the night before…he never mentioned doing anything like this and i couldnt believe he would after his first mistake and doing 3 years. But Anthony didnt care about himself .. he gets caught up thinkin about helping his family. So.. did he make a good choice? No. Did he pay for it? Yes … with the ultimate punishment. Death. And were all still paying for it. The suing stuff is not true. His mom doesnt want a DIME for nething… because it wont bring her son back. He was loved so much and honestly a smart and special person who just would make bad decisions part of because he was in prison from 17 to 21 yrs old. He became a man in there. SO my only thing I ask is put yourself in our shoes and think if it was someone in your family. Thank you

Here is my response, via email:

I don’t typically get on azcentral.com anymore as I am boycotting over their tasteless handling of a story regarding Gilbert PD Lt. Shuhandler. I did, however, want to respond to your comment.

I have put myself in your shoes. Many times. I love my dad, and I love my brother. I still love my ex and we’re good friends. If any one of them did what Anthony had done, I would not have defended them in any way, shape or form. If they survived I would cut them off completely out of support for their victims until they expressed deep, genuine remorse and a willingness to take whatever punishment justice saw fit to dole out. I can tell you it wouldn’t be easy. I have thought long and hard about how I would react if it was a member of my family.

I used to be a corrections officer and I saw some of the most violent offenders go to visitation with their significant others, parents, siblings and children and be loving and affectionate people. Within hours of returning to their cell blocks they would be completely different people. Those thoughtful, amazing men who really just wanted to take care of their families would turn into violent thugs the instant it was just them and us.

I would venture a guess that you never knew what he was really like. I learned a very important lesson when I was a kid, one that has followed me throughout my life: character is who you are when you think those you care about the most aren’t watching. The most violent rapists, serial killers and robbers in US history all had families and friends who couldn’t believe what they were accused of.

I’ll tell you what I tell every family member of a criminal I write about…instead of asking me to stand in your shoes, try thinking beyond what you feel about what happened. Put yourself in the shoes of the victims of Anthony’s crimes and imagine how you would feel if Anthony had been the victim rather than the perpetrator. You’d likely feel very, very differently.

A few more thoughts…having a “crazy life” does not now nor will it ever excuse the victimization of others. Anthony and his four friends had to do some serious planning. They had to find out that their victim had the items they wanted, they had to find a way to purchase body armor, tactical gear and semi-automatic AR-15’s (which he was not allowed to handle, much less own), and they had to plan the attack itself. This was not an operation that was planned and pulled off in the space of a few hours. It took time to develop. No good man is capable of planning such a thing and carrying it out and later have anyone believe that he just wanted to take care of his family.

Before anyone else tries to give me a lecture on putting myself in the shoes of those who loved the criminal I’m eviscerating in print, stop and think about how the victims of your loved one feel right now. When you’ve found yourself capable of putting your own pity party aside to think of someone else and you think you’ve got a good idea how they feel, by all means let me know what you come up with.

Litigation Nation

Regular readers will know well that I was once a corrections officer. I have experience with juveniles, adults, males, females, state, private and federal inmates. I have learned that privately owned and operated facilities are the worst idea ever conceived. Juveniles and adults are two wholly different populations; kids in corrections will disobey simply to be rebellious and look cool, while adults typically respect the rules at least on their face to avoid losing privileges. Kids who go from juvie to adult systems usually have a tough lesson to learn the first few times they pull something like what they used to before they turned 18 and piss off the rest of the inmates on their block when such shenanigans screw up their routine. Federal inmates with ICE will smile at the officers and say, “see you in six months!” because they’re planning to turn around and sneak right back into the country – they’ve done it many times. In a short period of time, I saw quite a bit. Most of all I learned that career is not for me because I have little to no tolerance for adults who know the rules and will still find complicated ways to flaunt them, then get angry and sue when they’re caught. (My favorite was the inmate who sued when he found out that his gang paraphernalia, including two homemade tattoo guns, was being used in the academy to train new officers.)

Another thing I learned, and learned quickly: inmates, both male and female, will commit just about any shocking sexual act they can contrive to get attention. For the most part, adults in prison will behave because they don’t want to lose their privileges (such as their TV’s, classes, time on the weight racks, etc.). There are always the “close management” populations, however, and they are entirely comprised of inmates who will assault officers in any way they possibly can. In just a few short years I had inmates throw every bodily fluid you can imagine (yes, including feces) at me. I learned that you can use a shard of quartz rock half the size of your pinky fingernail to saw a hole in your arm all the way down to an artery – then wait and pop the artery when officers come in to restrain you, and they’re sprayed with blood. I learned that men can form an erection and ejaculate literally on command if it means seeing a new officer, or a “fish”, blush or become otherwise flustered. I learned that women can be the most disgusting creatures on the planet when they really want to, particularly when “Aunt Flo” is visiting. I learned that any inmate, regardless of age or gender, can become maniacally violent for no reason other than that they don’t like the officer standing in front of them.

I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. Fourteen correctional nurses and intake officers, all female, are suing their former employer, the Florida Department of Corrections. Why?

Male inmates masturbated in front of them. More specifically, they “gunned” for them, meaning that they ejaculated directly at them.

What’s even more ludicrous is that they are currently about to begin their second trial! In the first, each employee was awarded $45,000 by the jury. The decision was that, “the [Florida Department of Corrections] failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior in the workplace.” The opinion of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals cited such cases as Erickson v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections and Slayton v. Department of Ohio Youth Services, two cases which have very questionable capability of setting a precedent for such a case. In Erickson v. WDC, a non-security employee of a private facility was attacked and raped by an inmate who then escaped with her car. In Slayton v. DOYS, another non-security employee was raped but refused to report the supposed assault and was, in fact, accused by inmates of initiating sexual contact (in few cases would I believe the inmates, but after reading up on that case, I do believe them even though I think they’re as much at fault for partaking as she is in initiating it).

In both of the cases cited for precedent, non-security employees had actually been raped because security staff were found to be negligent. In the case before us – Beckford v. Department of Corrections – no such assault took place. A group of employees tasked with medical duties and classification of inmates witnessed what every officer deals with when walking the block. I am, obviously, a female, and yes, I had inmates gunning for me. It was disgusting. I knew when I got into the job that such incidents would occur, though. I didn’t go in without fair warning. I promise these medical staff were warned of the same thing. Their argument is that the department didn’t do enough to stop the close management inmates “gunning” activities.

The court is remiss to ignore other issues that play into this. When discussing close management or special housing inmates, you’re talking about a group of particularly nasty people who cannot be allowed in the general population because their behavior is dangerous to themselves, other inmates and officers. In special housing units inmates are already confined 23 hours a day inside a cell that contains a bed bolted to the wall, stainless steel sink and toilet, a heavy metal door with a plexiglas window, and a slot through which they can give inmates food or medication. They’re only allowed outside for a single hour a day inside a shaded chain-link fence cage. They never have direct contact with other inmates or officers. It’s not solitary confinement, but it’s as close as prisons can legally get to it. What else were prison officials supposed to do?

They’re not allowed to beat inmates. Punishment isn’t punishment anymore. Inmates are taught that they’re not to blame for their crimes – it’s really their bad upbringing and their life circumstances. From the time we are children these days, everyone is taught that you don’t have to take responsibility for your actions. When prison inmates riot or assault an officer, what punishment do they get from there? There’s little more to do at that point. Maybe tack a few years onto their sentence. They’re already in prison. When I worked in private corrections, those of us who had worked at other facilities before were told that we were not allowed to wear our stab shields (low-grade body armor) because it would make the inmates feel that we didn’t trust them. I kid you not.

Essentially, this lawsuit says that prison facilities are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The Eleventh Circuit refused to see the realities that lie beyond the claims of the female employees. It’s not just about inmates creating a sexually harassing work environment. It’s a testament to the complete and utter lack of accountability of any kind in the American justice system. Inmates can sue if an officer so much as uses a profanity in their presence, and there are many instances where they have won. Every individual, business and government entity in America lives in abject terror of the idea of being sued because you never know if you’ll win or lose, even if you’ve done the right thing.

Free Fahlman

Rob Targosz was a good man.

He was a 12-year veteran of the Gilbert Police Department, named “Officer of the Year” twice. He was a problem-solver, always coming up with new ideas, and known for his smile and good nature. To this day his friends and family miss him. On April 30, 2006, Rob was on his GPD motorcycle unit on his way to a DUI enforcement post when a red Ford Mustang blew a red light at the intersection of Apache Blvd. and Price Rd. (also the frontage road for the Loop 101). The Mustang obliterated Rob’s unit, causing injuries that he would succumb to the next day; the driver and a passenger jumped out of the Mustang and fled on foot. The passenger, 20-year-old Ryan Moore, felt some remorse and later returned to the scene and turned himself in. Four hours after the wreck, 20-year-old driver Tyler Fahlman was located at his father’s North Scottsdale home. The car was registered to his father.

At that time, four hours after the incident, Tyler blew a .083 on a breathalyzer test. That’s four hours of his body metabolizing alcohol; a human adult typically metabolizes alcohol at a rate of about one drink per hour. That means at the time of the wreck, his blood alcohol content was probably .20 or higher.

Two years later, Fahlman finally pleaded guilty and received a nine-year sentence. During sentencing, his father and sister reportedly made very emotional pleas to be lenient on him. He just made a mistake, right? Well, it continues. I have recently discovered a Facebook page dedicated to him. It’s called “Free Fahlman” and it was set up by his sister and one of his best friends. Here’s the description:

“Show your love for a brother on lock down. We all make mistakes, that’s what life’s about. I hope all that were Ty’s REAL friends understand this and always keep him at mind. Hopefully we can all compose a shrine of pics and memories of Ty on “FREE FAHLMAN” to reflect upon from time to time. Ty: Do your time, Don’t let your time do you.”

It gets better. The page is still public – for now – and there are some amazing comments there.

A white boy from Snottsdale (I live in the city, I can get away with making fun of it) named Travis Heisler, who apparently thinks he’s a gangster, said, “dedicating “IM FREE” by PIMP C (R.I.P.) to ty , so many of us miss you brother, stay up, we will see you soon.” Another friend named Derek Cardoza tells Tyler – who is a writer and was studying film at Scottsdale CC – that he’s “laying the foundation” for when his buddy gets out of prison. I guess the wannabe mafioso theme runs in his friends, because another one named Gavin Carpenter said, “Happy birthday brother, keep your head up buddy we are holdin it down for you until you get home. Arnold is coming out with a new movie with Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Danny Trejo, Randy Coutour, and Stone Cold Steve Austin..sickest cast ever, called the Expendables! Stay up playa we will see you in no time. -GIP.” Gal pal Gena Lee Nolin wrote, “Thinking about you Ty.. I hope that you’re still writing and dreaming about the days to come. That your visions and the words you write will someday be for all of us to see.. I believe it!”

The most disgusting post of all was early in the section from a friend named Robin Pels. She said, “I think about Ty often and just think the whole situations sucks. They (the law officials) could have turned this into a positive instead of ruining so many lives. Ty has a lot to offer and could have done so much for the topic other sitting in a cell..makes me sick.”

You had your two cents. Now, since the officers, family and friends who loved Rob are unable to speak because of the jobs they still love, I’m going to have MY say.

You all say that he made a mistake. According to Robin, it’s apparently sickening to you that law enforcement wanted to see justice done because there was oh so much good Tyler could do now. Here’s the problem…Tyler was first cited for underage drinking in 2003, when he was just 16 years old. His father called the police himself to “teach him a lesson.” It didn’t stick, because just three short days later, on April 13, 2003, Tyler was arrested for underage drinking, driving under the influence, giving false information and having liquor in a vehicle – after crashing daddy’s Mercedes into a house at 0400 and trying to back up and drive away. He got a measley 24 hours in jail and some community service along with an expunged record. Just five months later, in September 2003, he was cited for underage drinking yet again, this time while hosting a keg party at his parents’ house. One month after that, in October 2003, he was arrested for DUI again. He got a year of probation and was required to attend AA and a MADD impact panel. His record was expunged a second time. He was cited for speeding just one month before the April 2006 wreck in which he flew past cars stopped at a red light, went through the light and hit Rob Targosz.

No…a “mistake” would have been what happened if he’d been sober when he hit Rob. I might have bought the idea that it was a mistake if it was the first time he’d gone driving while drunk. What I fail to understand is how so many people can be so loyal to a person who continually defied the laws not only about drinking, not only about driving, but BOTH repeatedly. I might be able to understand supporting him while he does his time if, in his and your remorse, you all felt that he deserved what he’d gotten and he needed to serve all of his time.

Tyler has been at ASPC Eyman for nearly two and a half years now. He’s got just five years left; he may well get out of prison in half that. In his prison mugshot, he wears a smirk that I cannot abide, one I’ve seen on many prison inmates and ICE detainees. When making his statement, Tyler claimed that he saw the burning wreckage but wasn’t thinking that someone might be in it – he was thinking about how he’d wrecked his father’s car. That isn’t a mistake, either, and calling it “selfish” is letting yourself off the hook. Try inexcusable. You knew before you got behind the wheel that what you were doing was wrong. If you don’t know it now, then I cannot find an ounce of respect for you or for your friends. Rob’s wife, children, family and friends will never have him back. Our prisons are full of people who just “made mistakes” that landed them there. Claiming to not understand what you did wrong does not now and never will absolve you of the consequences of your actions. Since a slew of arrests, probation, AA meetings and impact panels (not to mention crashing a car into a house) didn’t teach you, what else was the public supposed to do – wait for you to kill someone else? Your dreams may one day be realized, you privileged little brat, but listening to you and your family and friends talk about how unfair your sentence is disgusts me. I’d really like to know which of you stuck-up trust-fund pricks were at the kegger that landed his THIRD underage drinking arrest. I never would have been able to get away with anything remotely like that when I was a kid.

Incredibly, the maker of the site had the patent nerve to post a picture of the Steve Benson memorial cartoon paying homage to Rob Targosz. I wanted to vomit.

The Inhumanity

Yesterday, the oldest death row inmate in the United States died of natural causes. He was 94 years old.

Born in 1915, Viva Leroy Nash was first arrested at the age of 15 in 1930 after an armed robbery and was sent to a federal prison in Leavenworth, KS. After that, he ended up in Connecticut where he shot a police officer (the officer survived) and was arrested a short time later in Dallas, Texas. He served 25 years in prison for that shooting. After that, he landed back in Salt Lake City – where he’d grown up – and he pulled off another armed robbery and murder in 1977. He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

Somehow, this honest-to-God winner got assigned to an offsite work crew and in October 1982, he escaped. He ran for three weeks before robbing a coin shop in Phoenix. During the robbery, he shot employee Greggory West. A neighboring shop owner held Nash at gunpoint until police arrived and arrested him. Nash was then sentenced to death in the State of Arizona.

1982 was 28 years ago. 28 YEARS. At the time of his death his lawyers spoke fondly of him and talked about his deafness, near-blindness and wavering dementia. They spoke as if it had been a travesty that Nash had died in prison the way he did. As if society was wrong for not letting him go.

The real travesty is that it took 28 years for a death row inmate to die.

Those who are opposed to the death penalty, think about this: Nash, from the time he was 15 years old, did nothing but hurt people. Armed robbery, assault, murder, all of it caused nothing but pain. If he didn’t know it was wrong he wouldn’t have tried to run from the authorities when he committed the crimes. He knew what he was doing was wrong and he knew there would be a high price if he got caught. He learned early on how to play the system.

By the time he was caught in Utah in 1977, everyone should have known he would be a threat as long as he was alive. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s moratorium on executions, he was given two life sentences. Rather than sending him to a maximum-security facility, though, they gave him assignment to a work crew and he escaped to kill another day. For all we know, he may have committed more crimes that we didn’t finger him for.

It was a shame that he was allowed to founder in prison for 28 years. It was a shame that he was blind, deaf and approaching dementia. It’s a shame because he shouldn’t have been allowed to live as long as he did.

The arguments about those freed from death row by DNA evidence hold little water. There have been an extremely low number of those (I think a total of three) and most others released from death row have not actually been released from prison. Most have had their death sentences commuted to life sentences for one reason or another (one was commuted because the offender was 17 at the time that he murdered a nurse in Arizona and stole her truck and lived in her home after the crime and bragged to his friends about it, supposedly he was “too young” to understand what he’d done). Others have been granted pardons, but those are few and far between, too.

Nowadays when a person is accused of a crime, it’s because there is pretty damning evidence that the accused actually committed the crime. Our justice system is badly broken and needs to be fixed. If a person convicted of murder is sentenced to death, no more appeals for two decades–set aside one court to hear all death penalty appeals and give each convicted offender a maximum of one year. If the appeal is heard and denied before then, the death warrant should be signed and within 24 hours the death sentence should be carried out. It should be automatic.

I have no more tolerance whatsoever for liberals who think that the death penalty is wrong. Tell that to Bryan Wayne Hulsey, who murdered my friend Tony while he was on duty as a Glendale Police officer in 2007. He had only been out of prison for three months before he did that, and Tony wasn’t the first cop he’d attacked, and Tony’s family still waits and hopes for justice. Tell Deb Shuhandler and her two daughters; they just laid Eric, a 16-year-veteran of the Gilbert police department to rest after he was killed by another lifetime thug. Tell the children of Josie Greathouse Fox that the death penalty is wrong; their mother was a sheriff’s deputy in Millard County, Utah and was shot to death by an illegal alien drug offender.

Tell the walking wounded all over this nation who have survived losing a piece of themselves to murder that the death penalty is wrong. Tell them that it’s inhumane to take the life of the flab of human debris that killed their loved ones. We are all tired of hearing about how those people have rights. We had rights, too. As far as I can tell we still do. Don’t we have a say?