Sometimes Prosecutors Do Good Work: A Dead Clock Is Right Twice a Day

I began watching Making a Murderer, Part II because Michelle Malkin recommended the work being done by Kathleen Zellner to free the victims of wrongful conviction.  Now, I’m not devoid of skepticism in these matters—not by a long shot.  As they say in the Jug, “Everybody’s always innocent.”  No, everybody in prison has not been wrongfully convicted… but not all have been rightly, justly convicted.  If everybody in a room filled with one hundred people claims to be left-handed, probably about ninety of them are lying.  That leaves ten who are telling the truth.

The case of Steven Avery (and the yet more outrageous case of Brendan Dassey, a minor from whom a confession was wrung because the material evidence against Avery was all but non-existent) interested me enough to explore Netflix further.  Another disclaimer: I do not much care for the Netflix operation.  One certainly stands a much better chance of finding Michael Moore’s latest documentary than Dinesh D’Souza’s.  And, of course, there’s always a tendency to cash in on a good thing. “Wrongful conviction” serials have almost become a genre, apparently. I watched the first segment of an Australian series titled I Am Innocent yesterday… and was not particularly stirred. Yes, the investigating officers who ramroded three Aboriginal school girls into prison for a brutal mugging without bothering to check their alibis (and on the victim’s assurance that these were not her assailants) should have been cashiered on the spot; but much of the hour seemed devoted to maintaining that the girls’ lives were “ruined” by half a year in lock-up before their conviction was overturned, and that the hundreds of thousands of dollars they were paid in indemnity just had to be frittered away–no fault of their own–on booze and partying to erase the nightmare.

So… yes, Netflix is a pander both to left-wing crusades and to shameless capitalist marketing. But… but then we have a production in which author John Grisham was deeply involved titled The Innocent Man. This one was riveting in a responsible and disturbing way.  I was bothered by a few loose ends.  Ron Williamson was fully exonerated of the murder of Debbie Carter thanks to a more meticulous and sophisticated examination of DNA evidence… but another woman appears to have testified that he broke in and raped her once upon a time, yet the narration made no further mention of this incident.  Were we to assume that it was concocted?  It bothered me.  Tocqueville wrote that rape was universally punished by hanging in the America of 1830; and, were it not for the ravages of Political Correctness and the sexual revolution upon our collective sanity, I’d be fairly comfortable with that penalty for that crime today.  Williamson was no choirboy, apparently.

The victim of sloppy “assembly line” justice who truly excited my sympathy was Tommy Ward.  Also a favorite local bad boy because of his being born on the wrong side of the tracks, Ward fit the “narrative”.  After hours of good cop/bad cop interrogation, during which critical details were constantly fed to him, a package of the selectively taped “interview”, complete with “confession”, was prepared for the defense and the jury.  I was beginning to wonder why we Americans so rail against Putin’s KGB rookie days when many of our jurisdictions favor the same tactics.  The intolerable irony in Tommy’s case is that he will never be granted parole, despite decades of flawless behavior in prison, unless he confirms his false confession to a heinous murder—a murder whose details both he and his puppeteer-examiners got wrong, as it turned out when Denice Haraway’s remains were finally located.

So what’s going on with our judges?  Is the objective for the convict to “show remorse”… or is it for His Honor to sleep well at night?

Next up, Out of Thin Air: a documentary revisiting case in Iceland, of all places, that involved hundreds (not thousands—mere hundreds) of hours of solitary confinement accompanied by sleep-deprivation tactics, dosing with depressants, and (in one instance) what we know affectionately as water-boarding.  Wow… the Vikings live on!  To this day, some of the then-teenagers convicted of two murders (for which no bodies were ever recovered and whose circumstances were utterly unrelated) cannot distinguish between fact and implanted fantasy.  It was some small comfort to me as an American, however, to learn that our system remains a bit more enlightened than somebody’s.

And then… and then, I took a plunge into The Confession Tapes.  The first case in the series concerned two teens (notice a pattern? teenagers as putty in the hands of seasoned detectives?) who had airtight alibis for the night during which the parents and sister of one were bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat.  Didn’t matter.  One of them read Nietzsche, and both used the insurance money to party with inappropriate abandon.  (Maybe the detective who gave himself a crash course in German philosophy should have read Camus’s Stranger, where a man gets the guillotine essentially for not showing grief upon his mother’s death.)  Defendants Burns and Rafay were not even interrogated by American police: their “confession” (again fed to them, one detail after another) was part of a Canadian sting that would be patently unconstitutional south of the border.  Particularly hard to watch was the pompous buffoon of a judge who unleashed a flatulent thunder of righteous indignation upon Burns because the fellow dared to protest his innocence before sentencing.

Is one prohibited, as a judge, from recognizing that one is not God, and that a verdict may be incorrect even though one is obliged to accept it and sentence accordingly?  Indeed, hasn’t a judge the authority—and the obligation—to vacate a verdict when the defendants are positively identified by multiple witnesses as being miles from the scene of the crime at the time of its commission?  Guess not.

At this point, I was psychologically drained.  I used to believe that our system performed reasonably well at putting bad guys in detention.  Now I see nothing but detectives reviewing evidence in search of bits that fit some novel they’re writing, DA’s trying to nail down convictions quickly in high-profile cases, and judges covering the obscene rat’s tail of the profession upon which they have built a claim to be local gods.  I couldn’t take any more.  I was ready for Netflix to give me David Attenborough hoarsely murmuring over Andean hummingbirds.

I’m on Twitter—have been so for about a year (@GringoViego41, if you’re interested; I can’t explain the 41–I just thought that the first part would surely have been claimed by many another old white guy).  Upon tweeting something about my Netflix ordeal, I drew a response that forced me back to The Confession Tapes.  I will not be terribly specific, because I once tried to help an Iranian Christian broadcast her message of persecution amid Germany’s flood of “refugees”… and was reviled for the indiscretion.  (Could never understand that, inasmuch as she had posted a video on YouTube of herself blaring away in Nuremberg’s town square.)  But without being explicit, I will share that I was directed by a response to my Tweet to view a later episode of the Netflix serial.  It’s one of the most preposterous cases I have yet seen.  The murdered man’s daughter was supposed to have been called by the killer shortly before the deed, and to have given out her dad’s location unwittingly.  The man charged with and convicted of this crime is the woman’s cousin, who positively identified his voice as not being the one she heard over the phone.  With no material evidence, then—no murder weapon, no DNA, no items of clothing—and also no motive and no eye-witness, this man received a life sentence because… because he “confessed” to being present (not to pulling the trigger) after ten hours following upon a day of working two jobs, and with the assurance that he could “go home” if he would recite the magic words.

I think Michelle Malkin may pick this one up, just as she has been in the vanguard of drawing attention to the judicial railroading of Officer Daniel Holtzclaw.  (The Williamson and Ward convictions are also frame-jobs from the Oklahoma gallery.). You and I both know that some bad actors waste a lot of the court’s time in filing infinite appeals: that mustn’t blind us to the reality that sometimes, as Diogenes once remarked, “The big crooks are arresting the little one.”  Indeed, one can see on the nation’s broadest possible stage that prosecutors can go a-riding like McNelly’s Rangers with a little book of suspects in one hand, a sixgun in the other, and a rope hanging from the saddle horn.  If they want you, they’ll get you.

Do you recognize our nation any more?  I don’t.

The Challenge to “Reaching Across the Aisle” Is Finding the Aisle

My son once remarked rather glibly that he’d like to run for public office some day.  I asked him over Thanksgiving if he had retained that ambition… and, after pulling a long face, he answered that he might seek office only if he could do so without raising the banner of either major political party.  Of course, this makes office-seeking a practical impossibility; but his response contained a sentiment that I have found very common in his generation.  They may speak of wanting to “cross the aisle” or wanting to “get something done”, a position which I have chided in them more than once; for why cross the aisle if error sits on the other side, and why get something done if activity leaves the world worse at dusk than it was at dawn?

But, yes, as little sympathy as I tend to have with one side, the other inspires in me no warmth of affection.  Both have lately passed a farm bill (another farm bill—the word “pork” acquires new meaning under that a rubber stamp, year after year) which subsidizes mega-farming conglomerates and helps to drive small farms out of business.  Neither side is currently talking about securing the power grid against an Electro-Magnetic Pulse that could leave 90 percent of us dead in a year: both are too busy drawing lines in the sand over the Wall.  For the sake of full disclosure, I will say openly that I believe the endgame envisioned by Democrat master-puppeteers (an elite group which fully excludes useful idiots like Alexandria Octavio-Cortez) is to flood our system with public dependency until shortages produce riots in the streets—at which point martial law will be declared, elections suspended, and a dictatorial oligarchy settled into place.  I believe that certain Republicans share that vision, though their way of reaching it may take a detour.  (How about, for instance, inviting civil chaos by not securing the power grid against an inevitable EMP?)

A particular commentator whom I have followed on Twitter and whose personal journey in life has led her through the kind of misery and travail that I always respect posted last week a comment about reaching across the aisle only to wring “one of them” by the neck.  I get it.  At the same time, though, I’ve blundered into studying a series of cases where justice has grossly miscarried: the Steven Avery case in Wisconsin, the four young men originally imprisoned for the Carter and Haraway murders in Ada (Oklahoma), and Officer Daniel Holtzclaw’s outrageous 263-year sentence for sexual assaults never committed (also in Oklahoma).  Now, my friends on the Right appear to be generally comfortable with the assembly-line manner in our justice system shuttles cases from the “active” to the “closed” file.  As long as someone ends up in the jug, they’re happy—and the judges for whom they vote seem fully aware of this predilection.  Of course, when Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller usurps unconstitutional powers and extorts Mike Flynn into an unlawful confession by bullying his son, the same justice-hawks suddenly develop a taste for fairness and due process—while the other side, on cue, is looking for a tree that will bear Flynn’s full weight.

Now, this past week, I see a flurry of “tweeting” (what an unconsciously apt verb for people who chatter away like starlings descended upon a field!) from the Right about what a bad boy Vladimir Putin is and how the cause of human decency and eternal truth compels us to stay in Syria and oppose evil actors everywhere.  Beyond the logistical impossibility of waging a worldwide war forever (for la paz empieza nunca, in the words of one Cold Warrior), how would we escape bombing ourselves at some point for our own malfeasance, if our crusade were sincere?  (Example: President Obama gave the order to “drone” perhaps as many as a thousand children located in close proximity to desirable targets.)  In our very imperfect world, should we not consider that the PRC’s objectives encompass the globe and include actually reading thoughts by means of cameras and interpretive software (a bit of intrusion already being practiced on Chinese citizens), whereas Putin is interested only in returning Russia to a world-power status as NATO annexes real estate all around him?  In short, shouldn’t we be cutting a deal with the lesser villain in order to hold the greater one in check?

All of this “aisle” stuff… if I am to reach across and strangle everyone who is promoting a ridiculous or ruinous position, I’ll need to combine the talents of the most implacable serial killer ever with those of the liveliest kangaroo.

So, my son… I do understand your perplexity—and I wish you and your generation much luck in trying to sort it all out.  Perhaps this explains the appeal of Octavio-Cortez: just go crazy and set the intellectual needle back to “zero”.  That failing, I can see no better place to begin than self-sufficiency.  Be radically skeptical, and be as stingy as Scrooge in the matter of handing control of your life over to Big Brother.  Make a circle around yourself of things you can handle on your own, and try to broaden the circle every month, every year.  Learn how to purify water.  Grow something to eat, even if it’s a few gojis on your window sill.  Take a self-defense course if you don’t want to pack a gun.  Put a little cash away in a safe place, and buy a little gold.

Could this be the platform of a new party, or of a transformed old party?  (The Anti-Slavery Party, perhaps?)  I don’t know.  I’m too old for such questions—or perhaps these are the questions that immediately make me feel very old.  I only know that everything seems to be headed in the reverse direction: dependency, and always more dependency.  As I receive the yearly bombarding of emails giddily wishing me happiness and good cheer—without any logical connection to real-world events or practical likelihood—I simply hit “delete, delete, delete”.  I will extend to you all, rather, the wish I have for my son: greater self-sufficiency.  Independence.  In my parlance, that translates as happiness and good cheer.

Would a Jury of Twelve Good Minds Be Better Than a Jury of Our Peers?

Last week I heard a certain television personality portray the kind of “loser” who (and I paraphrase, for I don’t have every detail by heart) inhabits his parents’ basement at age 30, plays video games in his underwear, and believes that “9/11 was an inside job”.  Lest I myself appear to meet the last qualification, I stress that my “takeaway” from the mass of contradictory 9/11 analysis has never been that it was an “inside job”.  My concern, rather, is that we cannot know what truly happened in such a scramble of disingenuous patching and plastering.  Naturally, the “wackos” turn out in full force to speculate when so little is nailed down… and this—another point I have stressed over the years—merely serves to discredit further any honest search for answers.  Indeed, a classic tactic of Soviet disinformation was to publish and circulate outlandish conspiracy theories about any event that the Party desired to conceal.  People quickly sigh, “There’s that annoying kid screaming about a wolf again,” and turn their backs.

I understand that the TV personality in question is something of a comic and caricaturist.  I’m not going to pretend offense at the genre.  There’s a real risk, though, of our admitting such witty slapdashery into our serious processing of events.  Excessive finesse—not being able to see the forest for the trees—characterizes the pettifogging scholarly world, and it can be very tiresome and enervating to behold; but excessive generality typifies the undisciplined lurches of popular group-think, and—entertaining though it can be—brings great risk.  At worst, it produces lynch mobs.  Even at its best, it creates shallow minds that imagine they have thought through an issue just because they’ve been able to torture a couple of weak analogies into a couple of cartoonish stereotypes.

Now, I would be writing almost nothing in this space if I could speak only with an expert’s authority.  I don’t have such authority in very many subjects.  I actually enjoy speculating, though, and suppose it to be healthy if done in a “maybe I’m wrong, but…” vein of poking around.  I hope I may attempt a general statement today that doesn’t put me in the camp of the caricaturist skipping merrily over details to sketch out a shocking, balloon-like picture.

Certainly in legal matters, I have no formal credentials whatever.  I expressed some genuine vexation last time with the slipshod manner in which judgments can be made from the bench, however… and I was stunned by how much applause I drew, some of it from people clearly more knowledgeable than I.  I had already planned on staying within this area for one more imaginary stroll; and I’ll begin down that path now after repeating that I’m just out for a stroll—I am not a trained jurist and expect that I will overlook a few intricate, important details.

Nevertheless… I can say with some assurance that a bad judge wouldn’t have a chance to pass an unjust sentence if the jury did not first convict; so my focus this time is on that “jury of peers”.  It’s important in a free republic, to be sure, for a defendant’s case to be heard by ordinary blokes like himself, and not just Milord in a powdered wig.  I see an increasing problem, though, with our “ordinariness” as jurors.  Let’s assume, against everything that practical experience has taught me, that those of us with a college degree or other evidence of ability to think independently (not that the former signifies the latter any more) have a chance of being selected and seated.  Even if my college major were biology, I could easily get lost in the muddy layers of today’s DNA evidence.  If a prosecutor tells me that the defendant’s DNA was on the knife, and the defense attorney says, “Sure, but the cops planted it,” how am I to weigh the two claims?  So the prosecutor says, “It was a hot day, and Smith’s hand sweated as he clutched the murder weapon,” that sounds plausible.  Then the defense attorney says, “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.  The State has found far more DNA on this handle than sweat could possibly leave.”  Wow.  Now I’m ready to toss a coin.  What I’ll do in reality, of course, is cast my vote on the basis of how I feel about cops, how I feel about Perry Mason over here and Hamilton Burger over there, how I feel about the defendant’s looks… and now I’m no better than the hyper-politicized judges about whom I wrote last time.

But what else can I do?  I’m in over my head.  I am being asked to arbitrate scientific questions over which people with graduate degrees might have an honest and long-standing argument.

In the real world, of course, the exchange I imagined above is unlikely to happen just because most of the heavy artillery is sitting behind the prosecution’s table.  The State (any state) has unlimited resources to go out and recruit expert witnesses—or so its agents seem to think, sitting prettily on our tax dollars.  Prosecutors appear also to know how to “share” evidence with the defense, as legally required, in ways that bury the good stuff.  (For instance, in Steven Avery’s trial, a computer disk that could well have proved exculpatory was very sketchily described at the end of a long list of items submitted to the defense just before the deadline.)  Unless the defense attorney is a high-priced racehorse, he probably doesn’t handle clients involved in complex cases on a regular basis.  The State has a team whose members are well versed in every contingency—and they probably “click” like a team, knowing how to apply finesse here and there during the presentation without quite straying over legal foul lines.

Add to this the jury’s preconditioning.  For some reason, our courtroom dramas on TV have shifted heavily to the prosecution’s side.  The Defenders, Perry Mason, and Abraham Lincoln Jones have yielded the floor to Law and Order and a huge kennel of elite CSI evidence-hounds. Strange, isn’t it, that the era of Eisenhower and gray flannel suits actually seems to have registered more sympathy for the poor guy in the docks than for the Machine That Keeps Our Streets Safe…. Henry Fonda single-handedly argued a hostile jury into acquitting in Twelve Angry Men. Now we have former prosecutor Kelly Siegler lending her expertise on a serial basis all over the nation to transform cold cases into indictments.

I can’t easily account for whatever societal shift is expressed in this morphing of our popular culture.  But the crux of my argument has already been made: that juries today are too often in over their heads.  Would I, with three degrees, be able to understand an intricate matter of tax evasion or copyright violation?  I very much doubt it.  If a homeowner whose house burned in a brushfire decided to sue the U.S. government for not combating climate change, would you be able to evaluate the merits of the case on both sides… or on either side?

My very tentative suggestion is that we create a “jurist profession”.  Make “jurism” a major in college.  Give the major different specializations—tax, civil, criminal, etc.—and require that graduates not only be re-certified yearly through an objective test, but that they lose their certification if detected in demonstrable incompetence, bias, or abuse.  Pay them well.  The investment would more than justify itself in the number of cases not fouled up and cycled through retrial by our system right now.

Wouldn’t you rather be making your case to twelve people like this if the neighbor who tussled with you about the property line turned up dead in his rose bushes, and then the State decided that putting a tidy frame around you was the best way to close the file quickly?  Do we even really have “peers” living around us any more, in any profound sense?  Personally, I’d rather have my freedom depend on twelve people who know the law than twelve random high-school graduates with driver’s licenses and voter ID’s.

The U.S. Justice System: A Banana Republic Slouching Toward Chaos

On the recommendation of Michelle Malkin (who has taken a great interest in publicizing the cases of the wrongfully convicted), I lately watched the Netflix series, Making a Murderer, Part II.  I’m no great fan of Netflix as an operation, and more generally I regard every arm of the entertainment industry as a driving force behind our vast cultural decline.  But you pick and choose, don’t you?  What else can one do in this world if a Hebridean monastery isn’t available?

As a series, the production is about twice too long for my taste.  I’m not really eager to know the details of Steven Avery’s family as they await the hour of his phone call from prison or plug along junking old jalopies while the state of Wisconsin crumples up his petitions and appeals.  Human interest?  Well, we all have our problems.  A family with mental illness or dementia or substance abuse gnawing away at its members might as well be considered part of the great wide sea of wretches with loved ones in prison.

No, the functioning of the legal process—I should say the mal- or dysfunction—is what makes the series riveting… and gut-wrenching.  Sometimes infuriating.  Kathleen Zellner has built up a formidable reputation as an advocate for the wrongly convicted; and, of course, one can easily tell that she’s nowadays greeted by the prosecutorial establishment with murmurs of, “Well, she’s not putting another notch on her gun at our expense!  Bring on the cameras.  We’ll show her who’s boss in this town!”

Seriously, I would speculate that the attitude I’ve just described is very vibrant among the judges who tossed Avery’s petitions aside cavalierly time after time.  In many states, one apparently need have no professional credentials whatever to be appointed a judge.  Sometimes judgeships are elective—the practical consequence of which is that the judge in question will rule as opinion polls tell him his constituents would like him to rule.  Job One is to be re-elected.  If you were voted in by a self-styled law-and-order crowd, whose knowledge of the Avery case is confined to two-minute segments on the evening news (God help us!) but whose certainty that bad guys walk on technicalities all the time is ironclad, then you pay no attention to the merits of the appeal.  Panem et circenses: give the hungry masses what they crave.

I found the preeminent example of this judicial travesty to be, not so much the instant dismissal of Avery’s request for an evidentiary hearing by some robed female idiot whose name escapes me, but the handling of Brendan Dassey’s extorted confession.  Without Dassey’s “confessing” that he and Avery had raped and murdered Teresa Halbach, Manitowoc County’s case could have advanced no motive for the crime and—in the relative absence of material evidence—would have become incoherent.  Brendan was a boy of sixteen when taken in for interrogation.  He had extremely poor social skills and an IQ measured in the low 80’s.  He was Mirandized… but one can only imagine what those abstract protections must have meant to him as a couple of avuncular detectives, on the other hand, promised him a quick trip home if he would just answer their questions honestly.  Three hours of tooth-pulling followed, with the two amigos constantly badgering the slumped-over boy with, “We know the truth, Brendan—we know that’s not what happened,” and, in final frustration, feeding him details to which he could answer “yes” or “no”.

Even brief excerpts of the interrogation were difficult to watch.  Yet Judge Hamilton, who seemed like a decent enough sort of soft-spoken, white, middle-aged champion of stable communities, could see nothing amiss in the inquisition, buying the prosecutor’s argument that Brendon needed to be nudged into attacks of conscience.  This spiritual awakening appears to have deserted the boy at Avery’s trial, where he repudiated the confession, refused to turn state’s evidence, and received a life sentence for his scruples.  Apparently he was conscientious enough (in the state’s eyes) to cop to a rape/murder scenario spoon-fed to him, but not enough to repeat the mea culpa—and also bright enough to grasp his Miranda rights, but not enough to understand that a murder conviction would put him in a cage for life.

Hamilton’s position failed to win over two other judges in the original appeal, but carried the day at the next level—the state of Wisconsin having refused with belligerent determination to admit its error.  I found myself drawing dangerously close to hair-tearing moments when the D.A.’s dragoon persisted in stressing that Brendan knew details only accessible to the perp—this when said details were a) fed to him, and b) corroborated by no material evidence but simply concocted by detectives.  Yet the little manikin was just doing his sordid job: it was the judges who should have blown away his house of cards.

For the record—and this may be more important than I would care to admit—two of the three judges who voted to throw out the confession were female, one of them black; three who found the confession ho-hum, business-as-usual, nothing-to-see-here were white males (the fourth being a fire-breathing harpy from hell who constantly talked over the presentation of Dassey’s attorney).  For years, I have bristled at the suggestion that we need to consult race, gender, and… I don’t know: taste in music?… when appointing judges to high benches.  Now I have to wonder.  If these sleepy, incurious hacks have nothing but their inbred prejudices to guide their decisions, then, yes, maybe we need to pay more attention to how they were bred.  I suppose, under the present system, we should pay exclusive attention to that.

The Supreme Court, by the way, declined to review this case.  No doubt, there is some unwritten “hot potato” rule that precludes that august body from burning its fingertips in such matters.

I will add, too, in wrapping up, that far too much mention was made—by both the D.A.’s office and certain judges—of the “need for closure” on the part of the victim’s family.  None of these officers should permit that need to tip the scales of justice.  Relatives of victims have a fully understandable tendency to believe that the guy in the docks is the right guy: you don’t sweet-talk your insomnia into remission by imagining that a heinous killer is still at large.  The court’s officers, however, are charged with punishing the guilty and safeguarding the public, not supplying survivors of crime with a soothing narrative.  The incompetence of this lot is simply underscored by its unreflective—and potentially lethal—sentimentality; for, remember, if the wrong guy is in jail, then a killer is still on the loose.

I’m not going to devote space to discussing the obvious and repeated instances of evidence-tampering, violation of protocol, sloppy or fallacious “expert” testimony, and prosecutorial misconduct (e.g., suppression of exculpatory evidence) in Avery’s own case.  You’d have to watch the series (and, yes, wade through the saga of Ma’s knee surgery) to appreciate the full magnitude of the injustice done here.  If you’re at all like me, your confidence in our system of justice will be irresistibly—and permanently—shaken.  We’re living in a banana republic; or if that is too harsh as a generality, then it appears, at least, that certain states and counties of our nation might as well be Lagos, Juarez, or Phnom Penh.

Footnote: could indifference to issues like this explain why 90+ percent of black Americans never vote for a Republican?  Could this kind of outrage lie at the bottom of much of the inexpressive, ill-marketed, politically exploited knee-taking at NFL contests?  Maybe middle-aged white guys with law degrees or a bit of public service should stop pitching the electorate with talk about safety in the streets and start focusing more on justice in the courts.  I hear the streets in Indonesia, where you can have a hand lopped off for picking a stray bill up off the sidewalk, are very safe.