An update on the story about the liberal mugged by reality, plus news about shoddy police tactics

I wrote a few days ago about my liberal friend who was shocked by the way the judicial system treated a friend of hers who got arrested for allegedly doing a bad thing.  I have absolutely no idea whether the guy is guilty or innocent.  This post posits all three possibilities.

The guy ended up being charged with 21 counts, many of them duplicative, and all of them carrying very high minimum sentences.  He will almost certainly plea bargain.

If he’s guilty, a plea may be a good deal for him.

If he did what he is alleged to have done, but there are extenuating circumstances, that’s irrelevant in terms of deciding the risk of going to trial.  The moment a jury concludes that he committed the acts, he’s done for.  So again, a plea bargain is the way to go.

And then there’s the question of whether he’s innocent.  By charging him with 21 acts, the prosecutor, by bringing 21 counts against him, has already sent a signal to the jury that this is a “bad” man.  The legal presumption may be innocent until proven guilty, but a jury will almost certainly think “Boy, that’s a lot of smoke.  How about if we just convict him on one of the charges?”  The jurors won’t know, of course, that just one of those charges can mean decades in jail.  So again, the best bet for the guy is to plead out.

So think about that for a moment — we have created a judicial system where a person, whether guilty, innocent, or with a good excuse, begs to go to jail rather than to face the stacked deck in court.

But there’s more to it than that: This system encourages lousy police work, because the police know that they probably won’t be called upon to answer for it before a judge and jury.  Police are rational and they are overworked.  Even the best and most decent of them will eventually fall down the slippery slope of dangerously careless policing.

Did I say dangerous?  I meant it.  Please read this post by my friend Mike McDaniel (whose home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor).  It describes the terrible outcome of the kind of shoddy police work that our judicial system actively encourages.

A friend gets a hard lesson about the “liberal” police state

I was quite tired yesterday when I read something interesting.  Having read it, I jotted down an idea for blogging about it.  That note says “loving the individual versus loving the system.”  I then went to bed.  Today, I’ve spent the last several hours trying to remember what I read and what my cryptic little note meant.

Quite obviously, of course, the note refers to the difference between true conservatives, who believe in individualism, and Leftists of every type who speak of the individual, but only as a prop to justify state power.  The problem is that I’ve said this multiple times before at this blog.  What was new and exciting to me was something that I read that more perfectly illustrated the difference between conservative and statist.  I suspect that whatever that interesting trigger was, it’s gone forever, which is too bad.

However, having that thought in my mind did come in handy today when I got a call from a friend.  Someone she knows got arrested on the charge of doing something very bad.  He and his family don’t have much money, so they cannot afford a good lawyer.  Instead, he will get a pro bono public defender pulled from a pool of available attorneys — which means it’s very hit and miss whether the attorney has the actual skills to represent him.  The multiple charges against him carry automatic and lengthy prison terms — in other words, mitigating circumstances are not allowed.  I don’t know whether this person did what the police say he did but I do know that, if he actually did do what was alleged, there are actually mitigating circumstances.

But here’s the deal:  Because of the mandatory sentencing, his pro bono lawyer has already told him to plea bargain.  A trial is just too risky, because the outcome is binary — you win or you go to jail forever — and the attorney isn’t good enough to raise a reasonable challenge to the state’s charges.  That means that, even if this guy is innocent or there are extenuating circumstances, the risk of having his day in court is so great that the system is forcing him to spend the next decade or more in prison.

This is profoundly undemocratic.  We are guaranteed under the constitution a right to a fair and speedy trial, but the system is designed so that people have no incentive to take advantage of that inherent right.  The problem isn’t even as simple as rich defendants versus poor defendants.  It’s the fact that prosecutors layer on as many charges as possible, regardless of their validity, simply to force a plea bargain.  Rich people can hold out longer, but ultimately prosecutorial overreach is a “get into jail very not free” card.

My friend, who is heartbroken, was fulminating about the “police state.”  I agree.  I don’t blame individual police officers or even individual prosecutors (many of whom I count as my friends in the legal world).  They are operating in a system that cedes them greater and greater power, and with power inevitably follows corruption.  This is especially true when there are no checks on that power.

I see this increased power flowing not from the conservatives, who are normally considered law and order types, but from the statists, who are control freaks.  An inevitable byproduct of a control-freak is increased enforcement.  That is, control is meaningless unless you have the brute force to effectuate it.

Put another way, conservatives expect people to behave well.  Rather than micro-managing that behavior, they would like our institutions to teach good behavior as a moral, not a police, imperative.  Think about it this way:  If you remove God from the equation, the Ten Commandments are still a perfect list of core moral behaviors that lead to societal cooperation:

Exodus 20:1-17

Then God said all these words: “I am ADONAI your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery.

Commandment 1
“You are to have no other gods before me.

Commandment 2
You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline. You are not to bow down to them or serve them; for I, ADONAI your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but displaying grace to the thousandth generation of those who love me and obey my mitzvot.

Commandment 3
“You are not to use lightly the name of ADONAI your God, because ADONAI will not leave unpunished someone who uses his name lightly.

Commandment 4
“Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God. You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for ADONAI your God. On it, you are not to do any kind of work -not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the for eigner staying with you inside the gates to your property. For in six days, ADONAI made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why ADONAI blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself.

Commandment 5
“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land which ADONAI your God is giving you.

Commandment 6
“Do not murder.

Commandment 7
“Do not commit adultery.

Commandment 8
“Do not steal.

Commandment 9
“Do not give false evidence against your neighbor.

Commandment 10
“Do not covet your neighbor’s house; do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox, his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

People who willingly abide by these rules are good citizens.  Conservatives do not believe that they are perfect, but that they will err on the side of decency and morality.  The problem, of course, is that without God as the  ultimate, albeit abstract enforcer (which is the case with statists who will not cede any micromanagement even to God), you’re left with nothing put police power to carry out your increasingly petty and overreaching decrees.

Since there are no big rules, there can only be thousands and tens of thousands of petty little rules.  And petty little rules need an awful lot of law enforcement.  And a lot of law enforcement means a vast concentration of power centered on policing.  It also means an overwhelmed prison system that incentivizes going to jail rather than presenting your case.

What was fascinating was that my friend, in the midst of her unhappiness, had an epiphany:  Sen.  Dianne Feinstein is one of the leading lights of state power.  It’s true.  The minatory, bossy, arrogant Feinstein is certain that she knows everything better than you.  She goes about armed or with guards, but she knows that you’re too stupid to be armed.  Or if you are allowed to be armed, she knows which gun you should use and how many bullets it will take for you to defend yourself.  She knows what you should be paid for your work, she knows how much of your income the government can spend better than you, and she knows that it’s up to her to control even the minutest details of your life.

My friend, though, hasn’t quite connected all the dots.  After fingering DiFi as the living embodiment of Big Government, my friend said, in a bewildered voice, “I don’t understand how she could have come out of San Francisco.”

I’m not shy.  I told my friend that SF is the perfect DiFi breeding ground.  Take away San Francisco’s endless tolerance for public nudity and gay sex, and you reveal a City government with pure tyrannical instincts.  The Board of Stupidvisors micromanages the city in every way possible and has since the Leftist takeover in the 1960s.  Here are just a few examples, which appear in posts I’ve written over the years:

San Francisco: America’s homegrown anarchic totalitarianism

San Francisco mulls expanding gay rights program at expense of academic programs *UPDATED*

The politics of City budgets in liberal cities *UPDATED*

Socialist governments just LOVE to control food

We’ll spend your money no matter what

American taxpayers officially on the hook for a 1.7 mile tunnel in SF

Life for the law-abiding in San Francisco

You get what you pay for with city government

Only in SF is JROTC a “controversial” program

Dealing with government bureaucracies

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, nude world — if you live in San Francisco

The streets of San Francisco (or, this is Nancy Pelosi’s city)

San Francisco’s pro-tenant laws and ethos drive up the cost of renting

Life in an increasingly fascist city — what San Francisco’s plastic bag ban means

Pro-Life versus Get-A-Life

This definitely wasn’t the post I intended to write, but it will have to do.

The “shoot to wound” proposal in New York

When I was in law school, one of my classmates was a lovely man who had decided to go to law school after several years as a police officer in Oklahoma.  I forget the context of our conversation, but he once told me that, in law enforcement, you never shoot to wound.  Shooting is binary.  Either you don’t need to shoot at all, or if you need to shoot, the only way to ensure a safe outcome for both officer and innocent bystanders is to shoot to kill.  In other words, by the time you’re firing, the time for some hypothetical “shoot to wound” has already passed.  As part of that point, my friend told me that, unless you’re a sharpshooter, in a chaotic, adrenalin filled situation, you can’t shoot for delicate targets such as a hand, foot or knee.  You go for the big target — the torso — or the second biggest target — the head, and then you shoot to kill.

Despite his long, long years as a lawyer, I have no doubt that my friend is shocked and horrified, as are New York cops, at the new rule the Legislature is mulling over, one that requires them to shoot to wound:

City cops are livid over a legislative proposal that could handcuff the brave officers involved in life-and-death confrontations every day — requiring them to shoot gun-wielding suspects in the arm or leg rather than shoot to kill, The Post has learned.

The “minimum force” bill, which surfaced in the Assembly last week, seeks to amend the state penal codes’ “justification” clause that allows an officer the right to kill a thug if he feels his life or someone else’s is in imminent danger.

The bill — drafted in the wake of Sean Bell’s controversial police shooting death — would force officers to use their weapons “with the intent to stop, rather than kill” a suspect. They would be mandated to “shoot a suspect in the arm or the leg.”

Under present NYPD training, cops are taught to shoot at the center of their target and fire their weapon until the threat has been stopped.

“These are split-second, spontaneous events — and officers have to make a full assessment in a fraction of a second,” said an angry Michael Paladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association. “It is not realistic, and it exists only in cartoons.

“It’s moronic and would create two sets of rules in the streets if there is a gunfight. This legislation would require officers to literally shoot the gun out of someone’s hand or shoot to wound them in the leg or arm. I don’t know of any criminal who doesn’t shoot to kill. They are not bound by any restrictions.”

Read the rest here.

This one is right up there with the medal the military is contemplating for courageous restraint — an honor, Rush Limbaugh says, correctly, will surely be awarded only posthumously.

Is there anyone else out there who thinks it utterly insane that we, as a society, blithely assume that our troops and police should take all of the risks on our behalf, while we systematically strip them of their right to defend themselves against the bad guys?  Oh, wait.  Of course it makes sense.  I’m just looking at this whole thing wrong.  If you’re a Progressive, the troops and police are the bad guys.  It’s the ones on the receiving end of the evil cop and evil American soldier guns who are poor, misunderstood victims of the man, of America, of white imperialism, etc., and it’s only right and proper that they have the upper hand in any engagement.

Feh!

Sanity returns (at least temporarily) in Chicago

I blogged yesterday about law enforcement run amok, in connection with the decision to prosecute a mother who left a sleeping child in the car, while she walked a few feet away — something every mother in the world has done. As you may recall, I was quite heated in expounding upon the idiocy of a system that would terrorize a good citizen in this way. I suspect I wasn’t the only one generating heat, because Chicago’s prosecutors abruptly decided to drop the charges against Treffly Coyne:

Charges will be dropped against a woman who briefly left her 2-year- old daughter alone in the car to take her two older daughters to pour coins into a Salvation Army kettle, prosecutors said Thursday.

The woman, Treffly Coyne, was charged with misdemeanor child endangerment and obstructing a peace officer after a Crestwood police officer spotted her sleeping daughter alone in the vehicle Dec. 8. The mother claimed she was close by at all times and was gone for just minutes.

Coyne’s trial was supposed to begin Thursday, but prosecutors could not meet the burden of proof and decided to drop the charges, Cook County State’s Attorney spokesman John Gorman said.

Her husband reacted with relief and anger. If convicted, his wife faced up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500.

“We shouldn’t have had to fight this long and this hard when my wife never did anything wrong,” said Timothy Janecyk. The planned dismissal of the charges “only shows they tore my family apart for no reason.”

Coyne, who was arrested in a loading zone near the entrance of a Wal- Mart store, contended 2-year-old Phoebe, who was sleeping, was safe inside the car after she locked it, activated the alarm system and turned on the emergency flashers.

She said she was never more than 30 feet from the vehicle, did not step inside the store and was gone for only minutes. And her attorney said because the car was always in sight, Coyne’s daughter never was unattended.

Crestwood Police Chief Timothy Sulikowski said he disagreed with prosecutors’ decision.

“We stand by the actions of our officers that night and they were looking out for the best interests of the child,” he said.

Sulikowski said that while police were obligated to report the case to the state’s child welfare agency, Coyne would not have been arrested had she cooperated and not refused to give them basic information, including the child’s name.

“By not providing us with that information and the information of her child, at that point we don’t know that that child is hers. We don’t know if that child has been listed as a kidnapped child or a missing child,” he said. “Absolutely, she forced this.”

Coyne has acknowledged that she did not tell the officers her child’s name after she called her husband on her cell phone and he told her not to say anything until he arrived. She said she was afraid and only wanted to wait for her husband, but police arrested her before he did.

I trust that you’ve figured out by now that this harassment against Treffly was because she didn’t immediately give the police the investigation they demanded. I’m extremely supportive of police, and I fully appreciate how difficult and dangerous their job is. But to harass a mother like this, to threaten her with the loss of her children, because she fell silent, is a horrific act of police ego and overreach, which was then, not only rubber-stamped, but enthusiastically endorsed by the entire Cook County political and prosecutorial system.  Shame on all of them.
And now I have only one last question: what kind of name is Treffly?

How New York should handle Ahmadinejad’s proposed visit to Ground Zero

Much cyber-ink was spilled today about Ahmadinejad’s insistence that he visit Ground Zero. The upset, of course, was that we knew he wanted to go there, not to mourn, but to gloat. As it is, the matter was a tempest in a teapot, since his request was denied.  (But see the update, below.)

Next time the matter arises, though (and it will), I do have a suggestion for how to handle the visit. My idea comes from a story I heard about Teddy Roosevelt’s tenure as president of the board of New York City Police Commissioners. I don’t know if it’s a true story or not, but if it isn’t, it should be.

The story goes that, while Teddy occupied this position, a famous German anti-Semite came to speak in New York. Because he was such an incendiary speaker, and because he was journeying to a City that already had a huge Jewish population, the German man demanded police protection. Despite the outcry from people who would rather have seen the man stopped at the border, or left to his own devices on New York’s hostile streets, Teddy agreed to the man’s request. The German and his followers were convinced they had emerged victorious, until the morning when the German’s police protection appeared. It turned out that each of the armed men surrounding him was a Jewish police officer. The story ends there, but one has to assume that the man spent his entire visit haunted by the fear that, if someone were to attack him, his guard would be slow, very slow, to protect him.

So, perhaps, if Bloomberg eventually feels compelled to allow Ahmadinejad to visit the site, the mayor should make sure the assembled guard is composed of Jewish police officers or officers who are refugees from the Iranian revolution.

UPDATE: Whoops. Seems it’s back on again, so apparently my idea is still in play. Anyone in government listening?

Second guessing cops

I’ve taken a news story and put the facts in a different order.  The story essentially starts with the last point, and organizes the facts based on that point.  I’ve put the last point last, because it’s an after-the-fact conclusion that should not color the report.  I wonder if you’ll agree with my understand of the facts, and think that, at the very least, the reporter got ahead of himself with his upfront conclusion. 

What police knew:

[Richard] Desantis, who lived with his wife and two young children in a Santa Rosa, had fired about 10 pistol rounds into the ceiling of his home before Santa Rosa police officers showed up at his door at about 1:19 a.m.

***

Desantis’ wife, Patricia, had called the county’s 911 dispatch center and asked for help, saying that her husband had fired shots into the attic with his handgun because he thought he heard strangers’ voices. She said her husband was bipolar, and had stopped taking his medication.

Minutes later, police officers arrived and found the couple in the driveway — along with two young children.

Police said Desantis’ wife was holding her 2-year-old girl in her arms and yelling at the officers that this was a mental health problem. Officers ordered Richard Desantis to the ground.

***

Police investigators said Desantis also used methamphetamine.

***

According to the police, Soares used a nonlethal weapon to fire a 3-inch-long plastic projectile at Desantis’ lower body to stop his assault. The projectile apparently broke Desantis’ arm, but he continued charging at three of the officers. Celli, Mann and Menke each fired one round. Two bullets struck Desantis in the torso, stopping his advance.

An ambulance crew said Desantis was dead at the scene. Detectives later recovered one rifle and two handguns from inside the home, including the one used to shoot into the ceiling.  

What police may or may not have known:

“She had disarmed him before the cops were there,” [Eric] Safire [the wife's attorney] said. “She said, I got the gun, I got the gun. … I can’t say whether they heard her. He gets down on his knees with his hands up, then for some unknown reason advances toward them in some fashion.”   (Emphasis mine.)

What police are being accused of doing (per the opening paragraph in the news report):

A Santa Rosa ironworker was unarmed and in need of medication for bipolar disorder when he charged police and was shot dead early Monday in the driveway of his home, officials said Wednesday.

The death of Richard Desantis, 30, marks the second use of lethal force in four weeks by law enforcement officers in Sonoma County against a person with some form of mental illness.

In the earlier case, a 16-year-old Sebastopol boy was shot dead on March 12 by sheriff’s deputies who were called to his home after he threatened to kill his 6-year-old brother.

A lawyer representing Desantis’ widow asserted that both shootings were unjustified. “Evidently, the (police) training in Sonoma County is not effective,” said attorney Eric Safire of San Francisco.

It’s entirely possible that police may have overracted.  It’s just as likely though, that things played out another way.  Police knew as they approached the property that a deranged man was firing guns wildly, with young children nearby.  He was in front of the property when they arrived and, I have no doubt, they repeatedly yelled at him to get down.  Meanwhile, his wife was also screaming (and I bet the children were screaming, too).  The man partially complied, and then, this same man who had been reported as firing guns within his home, lunged at them.  He was undeterred by a warning, non-lethal shot.  So they shot again, and again.  In other words, based on the exact facts reported in this story under the opening opinion accusing the police of malfeasance, there’s very good evidence that, on the ground, without Monday morning quarterbacking, the police responded appropriate to a volatile and apparently dangerous situation.

As it is, it’s a terrible tragedy for a family whose mentally ill, drug abusing father was shot down in front of them.  That doesn’t mean, though, that it was the fault of the police that the situation ended as it did.