Who Must Police the Police? Concerned Citizens

Perhaps four months ago, I wrote a couple of pieces in response to Episode Six of the Netflix series, The Confession Tapes.  I wasn’t entirely prepossessed by these documentaries on extorted, distorted, or abused confessions.  Oh, I was outraged, like everyone else, at how two college boys were manipulated in Canadian sting (illegal on this side of the border) into admitting that they had brutally bludgeoned to death the family of the younger lad… but then, I also didn’t understand how both could have been left utterly without adult supervision.  The black D.C. teenagers convicted of gang-raping and murdering an old woman simply played one-by-one into the suggestions of the police interrogators; that story repeats itself almost every day, for reasons that the blanket “racism” explanation obscures more than elucidates.  Then there was the bizarre case of the father whose foot twitched on the gas pedal: he was able to extricate himself and his wife from the car as it sank into a river, but his three children went down.  As a father myself, I couldn’t understand caring about life as much as this man does after having lost all my children through some klutzy accident.  The fellow was not simpatico.

I don’t know why the Buddy Woodall case nagged at me as had none of the others.  They all bothered me, all right… but my “bother” threshold had perhaps been somewhat surpassed, as well.  The other cases had left me feeling jaded. It was all just too much… all those dramatized injustices on top of others that Netflix and the Hollywood/Newsroom elite have wanted very much to keep out of the news.  I sensed that I had been watching our “justice” system melt down for a long time. I had watched it send soldiers away for twenty years because they defended themselves in an Afghan wasteland or snapped a shot of a submarine to share with the kids… watched it export thousands of deadly weapons to Mexican cartels in a covert bid to subvert the Second Amendment… watched officers of that system destroy subpoenaed evidence with bleach and hammer even as their cronies were writing up a full exoneration… watched a dedicated cop with a spotless record be jailed for life because a feminist district attorney found him too masculine… watched a distinguished general take a plea after being “stung” (yes, those operations are supposed to be illegal) by the goons of a Special Counsel who promised to target his son if he resisted….  I’m getting sick all over again just in reviving the memory of a few cases from the past six or eight years.

Our justice system is crap.  I don’t trust it any more.  I just want to grow walnuts, pecans, sweet potatoes, and beans on my twenty-five acres.  Screw the system.  The republic is collapsing in the acid byproduct of overheated brains reared on iPhones, weed, kinky sex, and long conversations with “comfort” animals.  Screw it all, and stay off my land.  “Keep out: dangerous old white guy here.”

So what made Buddy Woodall any different?  To this day, I don’t really know.  He wasn’t a spoiled frat boy, nor was he a black kid from the inner city.  Either of those environments is as far from me as the other, and I feel powerless in both.  It is that feeling of powerlessness, perhaps, that makes one morose and defensive.  Buddy’s world, however, was not so very far from mine, either geographically or demographically.  And I didn’t detect the presence of pompous, virtue-signaling political theatrics in his prosecution (as in the West Coast tale of the two college students) or a media-fed rush to clear a sensationally lurid case (as in the D.C.P.D.’s ramrodding of several black youths through the system).  Nobody involved in the Woodall case seemed to be particularly malevolent.  There was just too much carelessness—too much laziness.

Laziness: Tocqueville noticed almost two hundred years ago that it is a distinguishing characteristic of us Southerners.  The climate is somewhat responsible, no doubt (for every Southerner did not have a slave, contrary to an assertion made in one of Tocqueville’s many rhetorical flourishes: not one in ten owned a slave).  So Buddy Woodall serves three life sentences because… because likeable but lazy detectives didn’t follow leads, and because a probably quite likeable but plainly lazy jury didn’t ponder the evidence put before it.  Everybody just dozed off.  Yeah.  A friend of mine back in Texas once lost his business because the judge dozed off during the critical portion of the testimony.  It happens a lot down here.

I wanted to see if other people of approximately my socio-economic, political, and religious profile would react to this case as I had… and so I assembled a kind of panel (whose exchanges required much editing, just because all of us passed long days devoted to other pursuits).  You can see the result of this nearly three-month experiment at Amazon.  The e-book is titled, Anatomy of a Murder Trial: A Citizen Autopsy of Buddy Woodall’s Conviction for “The Labor Day Murders”.  I hope my sometimes intrusive engineering produced a fairly readable text.  I’m far too close to it to say if the thirty-two chapters of analyzing trial transcripts are riveting or suffocating.  I only hope, like Hippocrates, I have done no harm in my groping efforts to do a little good.

I’ll leave off by advancing this remark, which reprises one I made in this space perhaps a quarter-year ago.  One of my respondents expressed his surprise that the prosecution seems to model leftist rhetorical tactics: specifically, that it employs “moral equivalency” (e.g., “You say our opening remarks alleged facts never offered in evidence.  Hypocrite!  Why, you also say that the defendant was sweated by interrogators for half a day!”  You’d have to be there… but the “facts” at issue were not remotely proved, whereas the period of psychological pressure was arranged by the interrogators themselves to extend beyond the tight room at the station.)  This recalled to me a remark I’d made about how courtroom dramas on TV have shifted from the defense attorney’s to the prosecutor’s table.  It’s true.  In the Fifties, Hamilton Burger represented Eisenhower America: hardworking, decent, upright, gray-flannel-suited… and also apt to stifle creativity or discount anomaly.  Perry Mason’s clients were innocent but slightly off-beat—society’s free spirits or ne’er-do-well’s who were in the docks for straying from the Standard Deviation.  Perry was the guardian of liberalism, that beloved American creed that licenses the individual to go his own way.

Now the political Left occupies the other side of the room: it is—or would be—the new orthodoxy.  All must condone gay marriage, late-term abortion, gun bans, ungendered pronouns, Sharia communities, hatred of white privilege, and anti-hate speech codes.  All must wear the gray flannel suit.  Though all may not think in the prescribed manner, they must speak and behave according to prescription.  Liberalism is dead.  The foolish, tardy Right hasn’t even abandoned the well-worn habit of defaming the word, although defense of the liberal is precisely where the conservative should be pitching his battle.  Profiting from this fatal confusion of his adversary, the leftist progressive proceeds to pound society into clones with the force of SWAT teams and stiff prison terms that the system has placed in his fist.

I don’t say that Buddy Woodall is some lovable, misunderstood beatnik: I say this, however, to my brethren on the Right in the aftermath of Buddy’s conviction.  Do not support police activities unconditionally just because the kneeling at NFL games and the wicked caricature of honest cops patrolling risky neighborhoods outrages you.  Police are but human beings, like you and me, and they are also minions toiling under the authority of a complex hierarchy.  If ordered one day to break down your door or my door and search our house for guns or porn or books about Nazism or liter-bottles of Coke or plastic straws or a garden glove that has dried in the “okay” sign, most of them will execute the order.  We need to protect the human being within the uniform, lest the uniform compel him to discard his humanity.

Don’t let these witless lines in the shifting sand blind you to the immutable presence of abstract moral issues.

Criminal Investigation: Too Much Blueprint and Too Few Bricks? (Part II)

I would like to have more information about the forensic technique of identifying guns through imprints left upon spent shells (primarily by the firing pin).  I would like to know if that science had achieved a high degree of reliability in the early twenty-first century.  Of course, in the case of Buddy Woodall, we’re not talking about an experiment at MIT.  Glynn County, Georgia, is among the poorest in the state.  Even if the county lab possessed the latest technology in 2000, did it have technicians schooled in the latest skills?

The issue of shell casings being found on the property of Buddy’s parents that matched those recovered at the scene of a double homicide remains crucial to me.  The Netflix serial Confession Tapes brushed hurriedly past it in order to focus upon the defendant’s very dubious admission of guilt—and I will anticipate myself by noting here that the weapon Woodall confessed to firing could not possibly have produced the casings found.  This is just one in a string of “admissions” that must be false, and which the prosecution never tried to present as other than false while still insisting that Woodall had truly confessed. Yet whatever Netflix or the State of Georgia wished to foreground about the evidence, the shell casings remain the point most disturbing to me.

I am much predisposed in Buddy’s favor, however, by the State’s Confirmation of Conviction (# S13A1564) published online at https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ga-supreme-court/1655783.html.  Ironic, isn’t it, that a document tending to exonerate Buddy Woodall would be the work product of several judges writing to reaffirm that he had been correctly condemned! Here’s how it reads in regard to the murder weapon:

The police collected physical evidence which revealed Mr. Van Allen was shot three times [I wrote last time that he had been shot twice: I presume that I was wrong] with a .25 Lorcin pistol. The evidence also showed that a pearl-handled .25 Lorcin pistol and two other guns had been stolen from appellant’s father’s safe in May 2000. An acquaintance of appellant testified that sometime before the murders, he saw appellant with a .25 pearl-handled pistol and a 9mm Ruger. The medical examiner testified two of the three gunshots were fatal as to Mr. Van Allen—one to his head and another that went through his chest piercing his lungs and heart. The gunshot to Mr. Van Allen’s head was made from a distance of 16 to 18 inches because there was gun powder residue at the site of the entrance wound. Mr. Lynn died due to a gunshot to back of the head. Authorities were unable to recover the bullet or shell casing which would have revealed the caliber of the weapon used to inflict Mr. Lynn’s injury. The lead investigator on the case testified he had a discussion with the medical examiner wherein the medical examiner opined that Mr. Lynn was shot with a .38 caliber weapon; however, the medical examiner testified at trial that he could not determine what caliber weapon was used against Mr. Lynn. Still, police generally believed appellant and his co-defendant were both shooters, although appellant told police his co-defendant shot both victims.

Isn’t this interesting?  The notion that two guns and two shooters were involved is strongly suggested, yet an obligingly hesitant coroner was unwilling to exclude the .25 from Lynn’s murder by the time of trial. Buddy Woodall received life sentences for the commission of both murders, as if he were the sole culprit on the scene.

And just to thicken the plot yet further, it turns out the weapon used in Van Allen’s murder, at least, had indeed been stolen from the gun safe of Buddy’s father several months earlier!  Now, is the implication that Woodall was nicking his own dad’s possessions as well as gunning down other close relations?  This is an emerging portrait of a young psychotic—an incurable “bad boy”—which nothing in the defendant’s life appears to justify. Why would Buddy not simply have borrowed the gun; or if he knew he were going to use it in a robbery/murder three months later (to earn a few hundred bucks), why wouldn’t he snitch a weapon not traceable to his kinfolk? For that matter, if he needed a few c-notes that badly at that time, why not simply pawn the three guns that he had just stolen?

As for the acquaintance who testified to having seen Buddy with a pearl-handled pistol “sometime before the murders”, the official statement above is helpful neither in specifying the time nor the acquaintance. Woodall’s brother-in-law, David Wimberly, had volunteered a few items of testimony used by the prosecution; was this one of those? “Davy” might have borne an understandable grudge against Buddy for being implicated in the murders (accused of both, actually) by the “confession”. Even so, simply admitting to having seen a pearl-handled pistol—they’re not rare—hardly even reaches the threshold of circumstantial relevance.

The documentary records the claim of one witness that Woodall had spoken to him about ambushing a hypothetical victim in an out-of-the-way place. Such is the fabric of which the state’s case is woven: young men casually discussing over a beer how to murder someone, maybe after watching an episode of Forensic Files (my son’s favorite show). Let us grant, as well, that harvesting a statement of this sort from a lad on probation for a drug or assault conviction would be as easy as getting a lab rat to eat sugar. It happens all the time. A fellow being leaned on gently under such conditions would remember whatever little tidbit the detective needed. Anything to help law enforcement!

Being the person originally—and without compulsion—identified by Buddy as having borrowed the family’s blue car on the fateful day (more of that later), Wimberly does raise certain questions.  I know nothing whatever about David Wimberly, however, except what is alleged in legal documents.  These are often so far from dispelling the cloud of witness that they churn out more fog at critical points.  For instance, the judges who compiled the Confirmation of Conviction, in one of their more transparent statements, actually position the fatal wound to Lavelle Lynn 180 degrees from its true point of entry: the Netflix documentary made graphically clear (and I do mean graphically) that the bullet struck Lynn between the eyes, not in the back of the head. A similar document online identifies Lavelle Lynn as the uncle of Woodall’s wife. I find such confusion very odd, as someone who doesn’t normally read in the genre.  Is such slipshod assembly of the basic facts where a man’s life hangs in the balance really typically of how our system works?

The fate of the $490 in victim Lavelle Lynn’s wallet (stated on camera as $480 by Lynn’s daughter) poses another series of questions that I, as a juror, would have wanted answered—and perhaps the prosecution offered a more detailed account than the documentary’s producers had time to relate.  Still… what happened to the cash?  The published text of the Confirmation simply reads as follows:

The record also showed that when Mr. Lynn’s body was discovered, his wallet was missing from his person;3but the wallet was recovered several months later, emptied of money and laying [sic] by the roadside in another county.

I have retained the text’s “3” to indicate the probable intent of communicating more information—but the hyperlink is inactive.  So I’m left with my unanswered questions.  Since Woodall is supposed to have needed the money desperately, was there any record of overdue bills being paid off suddenly right after September 3?  Was a substantial cash deposit made in Buddy’s bank account at about this time—or did he usually pay his monthly bills in cash?  Finding those answers now would likely be impossible, at least in a form that didn’t involve pure hearsay.  Did detectives ask the questions when hard evidence could have settled the issues?  Pardon my skepticism… but I somehow doubt it.

The wallet’s point of discovery could have been another highly significant detail.  Bladen Road appears to me to run very near the border of Glynn and Brantley Counties, the latter of which was Woodall’s home turf; so was the cryptic “roadside in another county” where Lynn’s wallet eventually turned up a bit of Brantley real estate around the bend from Buddy’s house… or are we approaching Florida or Alabama?

Once again, the Confirmation couldn’t have been less helpful if it were a rural signpost twisted about by rowdy high school kids on a Friday night.  Buddy Woodall was working two jobs to support a wife and three children; if the wallet showed up on the road to Athens or Atlanta, its depositing would have required a trip that the defendant couldn’t have budgeted into his busy schedule—not without producing a strange absence noticeable to all around him.

It turns out, however (as I eventually discovered from another document), that the wallet was found along Highway 110—which is actually very close to Bladen Road, just west enough to cross the Brantley County line. (Why Their Honors couldn’t have written “roadside in Brantley County” instead of “roadside in another county” is anyone’s guess.) But now I have several questions of a different sort. Why would Woodall have taken the wallet, in the first place?  If enrichment by any and all means were the motive of these two robbery/homicides, then why not take second victim Robert Van Allen’s watch and other effects? Why not? Because Woodall was no fool, and he would know that such a haul couldn’t have been fenced locally without leaving a trail.  But if Woodall was no fool, then I must ask, once again: why take the wallet? And being smart enough to realize that he didn’t want a bunch of perilously identifiable material knocking around in his pocket, why toss the wallet out the window in his home county just at a spot where it could easily be found? I guarantee you that you or I could “lose” such an article where it wouldn’t be recovered for decades.

I wonder if the wallet was taken to transmit loud and clear the message, “This was a robbery,” because… because the murder wasn’t really a robbery at all.  I return to my suspicions about a drug-related hit, considering the cold-blooded shot between the eyes (which the Confirmation effectively scuffed up).  By 2000, the lush, remote backwoods of the Gulf States were attracting marijuana-growers even from Mexican cartels.  (That’s right: the cartels would smuggle their highly armed “farmers” into secure pockets such as national forests—there’s a huge stretch of such forest along I 20 through Mississippi—and issue them orders to kill intruders on sight.)  Lavelle Lynn had mixed himself up in some extra-legal activity that had grown a lot more risky than running a whiskey still.  I think he may have paid the ultimate price for that error.

But those who built and prosecuted the case against Buddy Woodall—I’m sure without malice or conscious distortion—assembled and stated “facts” in such a way that all roads led to Buddy’s doorstep.  When a path stubbornly wandered elsewhere, they dumped brush over it, turned their backs, and walked away.

And yet, I don’t think a pandillero from Michoacan would have stolen guns from the senior Mr. Woodall’s safe and then, three months later, have murdered with one of them. That all points to somebody local.

Criminal Investigation: Too Much Blueprint and Not Enough Bricks? (Part I)

A Netflix serial titled The Confession Tapes crossed my bow a few months ago.  At the time, I was growing so weary of cases where our judicial system—whether through incompetence or malice afterthought—had put innocent people in a cage for life that I couldn’t take any more.  I wasn’t denying the evidence; I was just trying to fight back a mounting depression, whose waters were already rising a hell of a lot faster around me that anything threatened by “climate change”.

I happened to Tweet something about my dismay—a found a whole new cause to grow depressed.  In the time that it takes a neutrino to travel from the sun, I acquired all kinds of liberal friends… all of whom dropped me the next day, as soon as I shared a sentiment about our need for a national border.  Gee, sorry: I didn’t realize that the desire for a just “justice system” was a partisan issue.

One Tweet, however, had a haunting quality. It contained little more than something like, “We are Episode 6.”  Curious, I watched that episode: “The Labor Day Murders”.  It involved a double homicide with the objective of lightening one victim’s wallet by about $450 (or $490, as I see in some sources).  The crime was evidently an ambush along Glynn county’s rural Bladen Road in extreme southeastern Georgia, not far from Savannah.  I believe there was a railroad track running beside the road at that point.  Lavelle Lynn, owner of a garage and dealer in auto parts (and anything else that made money, legal or illegal) was shot between the eyes with a .22 caliber handgun.  His friend and employee, Robert Arthur Van Allen, was also shot in the head—twice—and was found lying on his back.

I’m not making a bid here for drama.  I insist upon the details because, while I have no expertise at all in forensics, I do flatter myself that I know something about human psychology.  Getting shot between the eyes with a pistol, dead center… how does that happen?  Old Westerns notwithstanding, you can’t hit a bull’s eye with a hipshot.  The weapon must have been extended into the victim’s face at close range.  Why would a burly mechanic and sometime drug dealer like Lavelle Lynn let a gun’s bore settle over his forehead without trying to swat it away—and maybe getting himself killed, but at least spoiling the perfectly centered entry?  The shot must have come as a surprise: he must have thought that some kind of transaction or negotiation was ongoing.  “Okay, you’ve got my wallet.  What more do you want?”  “Okay, so you’re selling weed on this side of the track.  My customers already know me.”  He must not have realized that the assailant had murder in mind before he had stopped their truck.

Lynn must have been shot first, which would have made Van Allen a less willing and stable target.  I suppose that’s why he required two shots that weren’t as “clean”.

The man who did this was a cold-blooded killer.  I think a turf war between drug dealers makes a lot of sense, because that’s where you find an abundance of… yes, animals.  A fellow who needed quick cash and was aware that Lavelle carried a wad of it around might not have left him alive—but I figure he would have shot him in the torso first and then finished him through the head when the eyes were turned away.  To pull the switch on a human life as two vibrant eyes stare straight at you is psychopathic.  Shades of Che and his death squads.

So, naturally, after months of spinning their wheels, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation decided to zero in on Buddy Woodall, Lavelle Lynn’s all-American boy of a nephew: loving husband and father, working hard at two jobs (two legal jobs), no record of violent crime or antisocial behavior, and—by the way—very fond of Uncle Lavelle, who would cheerfully have loaned him cash if he were in dire straits.

The author of the Tweet that had alerted me to this case was Buddy’s wife Kristy.

I’m not Kathleen Zellner: I’ve already said that.  I have no prosecutorial or forensic experience whatever.  I have indeed had just a little experience, as a burglary victim, of how little focus local cops sometimes bring to their task and how shaky their awareness of human nature can be.  Just because facing down bad guys from behind a badge appeals to you doesn’t necessarily mean that you understand how human beings tick.  It may increase the probability, I’m afraid, that you do not possess such understanding.

I’m going to continue these posts for at least two more occasions, unless Kristy Woodall asks me to desist.  My hope is that someone having the competencies so severely lacking in my own resume may take an interest in the case, whose “guilty” verdict was confirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court in late January of 2014.  Naturally, of special interest in the Netflix series were the dubious conditions under which Buddy’s “confession” was elicited—and I’ll get to that, for the online document publicly confirming the verdict is itself at odds with the televised account of the interrogation on at least one major issue.

For now, however, I’ll wrap up by mentioning what was the most damning item of evidence to me: the shell casings found on the property of Buddy’s parents.  These were said to have made a perfect match with casings recovered from the crime scene.  The murder weapon itself was never retrieved, so any further ballistics analysis was impossible.

When you stop and think about it, that in itself is puzzling: I mean, that you would commit a double homicide to harvest about $500 knowing that you’d have to discard the weapon—and knowing that the semi-automatic pistol itself (sold before the crime) might have brought a couple of hundred in a pawn shop.

But as for the shell casings: I was unaware before doing further research that the imprint of the firing pin could become a unique identifier.  There seems to be some slight question even today about its being so.  Almost twenty years ago, was the state of forensic science at the point where the identification could be considered foolproof?  If those tests were run again in 2019, what results would they yield?

The implied narrative behind the shells recovered in the back yard of Woodall Senior was obviously that Buddy would take target practice there.  Can we confirm that?  Did neighbors routinely hear gunshots from that direction?  (I can tell you as a resident of rural Georgia myself: you would hear, even if you lived miles away.)

Did Buddy in fact have a .22 semi-automatic registered to him at the time?  If so, and if it was never recovered… what was the reason given by him for its disappearance?  If it was stolen before September 3, 2000, can anyone confirm the theft from remarks or documentation preceding the murders?

These were details, naturally, that didn’t make it into the show, whose spotlight shone on the confession; but I have to wonder if they were details that local detectives ever attempted to supply.

My impression of certain cases is that their “architects” eagerly fill in pieces that contribute to the desired effect as they appear—and either ignore or don’t seek out other pieces that might detract from the emerging whole.  I have further reason to believe that such “artistry” may have played a role in Woodall’s conviction.  I’ll speak further of that later.

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.