Mysterious chess crime and court hearings you won’t hear about on TV

I don’t know how many people search the web for chess news. Most people think chess is boring. But I’m foolishly contemplating a plot for a chess mystery—knowing as I do that the audience will probably be miniscule.

Today I came across two chess news items that should interest everyone who reads this blog (assuming you read it because you’re interested in mysteries, crimes, and elusive justice).

One, a New York Times article, “Russian Knights Joust to Control Chess World” (which I will cover in detail later), reported that the Kremlin has invaded and taken over the Russian Chess Federation headquarters in Moscow.

The other chess news involves a former Bend, OR, Regional Manager of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and second-best chess player in the Central Oregon Chess Club, a man now known only as John Doe.

Sidebar: The two stories linked to above and below are from TV stations. They seem to be raw notes of reporters, and you need to read them carefully to figure out what really has happened. What follows is my interpretation of these stories. I have no independent knowledge of the facts.

Who Is Rated Chess Player John Doe?

Last week, apparently, the State Department’s passport investigative branch arrested a man, who had been going by the name Jason Robert Evers, for lying on a passport application. Further research led (through “Operation Death Match”) to the discovery that the identity actually belonged to a 3-year-old Ohio child murdered in 1982.

John Doe refuses to identify himself for his own “safety,” according to his attorney. As a consequence of his failure to cooperate with the court, Doe has also been charged with a cascade of crimes from identity theft to driving without a valid license. There is absolutely no link between him and the murdered child, since he has been observed to be between 32 and 40 years old (he won’t give his age), so he would have been between 4 and 12 when the murder occurred.

What most intrigues me about this case is provided in a comment to the KOHD article, dated yesterday (May 26, 2010). The anonymous commenter says: “I think he is Johnny Gosch.” (WARNING: This link leads to the Johnny Gosch Foundation. It displays some incredibly shocking and disturbing photos, so please do not visit the site unless you are prepared for what’s coming. I recommend instead that you look at America’s Most Wanted story on Johnny Gosch. But I’m linking to the Johnny Gosch Foundation, because it seems to be the work of his family.)

Johnny Gosch was a 12-year-old following his newspaper route one Sunday in 1982 (as in the Evers case), who was abducted by a pedophile ring. His family was sent graphic, terrifying photos of him bound, gagged, and abused. There can be no question that he was the victim of vicious pedophiles.

John Doe apparently adopted the name Jason Evers in 1996. In 1997 Noreen Gosch, Johnny’s mother, received a visit from a young man claiming to be her son and whom she believes was her son. At that time he said that he was engaged in criminal activity and could not safely reveal himself.

John Doe has been in the Northwest since about 2002, leading an exemplary life. In fact, he was such a harsh regulator of liquor licenses that retailers complained about him, and he had to be reassigned from Bend to Portland and then Ontario, OR, a few years ago. He is well-respected by the chess community, is engaged, and has many friends and supporters (according to KTVZ).

It’s a disturbing story, no matter who John Doe, chess player, turns out to be. Once again it reminds us of the harsh reality of child pornography and sex trafficking. In every story about these commercial gangs who exploit children, there are always references to politically well-placed players, for example, the Marc Dutroux Belgian pedophile scandal.

Let’s face it: this crime is obviously widespread but even a dedicated task force of the FBI has been unable to bring these rings to justice. They caught Al Capone eventually by getting him for tax fraud. There’s bound to be a ton of money involved in these crimes, too. As Deep Throat said, “Follow the money.”

Every time I read about another such horror story, I have to recall the conspiracy theorists who commented on this blog with allegations of a pedophile ring’s involvement in Columbine and the persistent rumors of pedophile involvement in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

Can we really dismiss all of these theories as loony?

Disappearing Data—Bureau of Justice Statistics

In George Orwell’s 1984, the hero, Winston Smith works for the government’s Records Department. His job is to edit, redact, and rewrite news articles and then destroy the last remaining copy of the original. The contemporary equivalent of the Records Department, apparently, is the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Until a few months ago, any citizen could access the latest, complete collection of data on the courts and prison systems in this country via the Web. Now, suddenly, the Bureau of Justice Statistics provides public access only to summaries of data, without any of the backup datasets. This means you and I cannot verify the accuracy of the BJI summaries or analyze the data for our own purposes, which may not coincide with the government’s all the time.

For example, I was trying to determine how many people charged with murder actually go through a murder trial, as opposed to “copping a plea” or opting for a bench trial. I can’t do that now, because the data simply aren’t there.

A couple of months ago, I discovered that the raw data are no longer housed at the BJI. When I finally tracked down the repository, it appeared to be an organization of universities, which claimed to provide complete information to “member institutions.”

But I can’t prove this now, because things seem to have changed again. Now the data are supposedly available through The Federal Justice Statics Resource Center. (BTW: This is described as a “project,” not an agency or bureau.) But I still can’t seem to access the datasets. Instead, something called the Urban Institute seems to have them. When I tried to download data from the “Data Archive” I received the following message:

“These data are to be used for research and statistical purposes only. Use of the data for any purpose other than research or statistical purpose may constitute a violation of section 812(a) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, section 1407(d) of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, or Part 22 of section 28 Code of Federal Regulations and may be subject to Federal prosecution and a fine of up to $10,000.”

What possible use could data be put to that would be criminal? Data=facts, right? To me it sounds as if I were to use the data to support my opinions about the justice system, I might be committing a crime.

RIP American Dream

The Network on Transitions to Adulthood has issued a report (sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation) that sends chills down my spine and ought to make your spine at least tingle, too:

Transition to adulthood delayed, marriage and family postponed, study finds

Young Americans are postponing all the major adult milestones until after the age of thirty.

The study shows that the vast majority of Americans born in 1980 and after are delaying leaving their parents’ homes, delaying careers, delaying marriage and parenthood, delaying life.

For many years I’ve thought the way we treat high school and college students is a terrible mistake. At the same time they’re becoming sexually active earlier and “experimenting” with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, we prohibit them from getting meaningful part-time jobs (through child-welfare and child labor laws, raising the minimum wage, and putting illegal immigrants into low-paying job that teenagers could do just as well, the so-called “jobs that Americans don’t want,” or so George Bush claimed, like working at McDonalds and mowing lawns).

The study also points to the sky-rocketing percentage of minority women who are single moms by the age of 25 (and most of them live with their parents, too).

Right now, roughly 14% of the population falls in the age group from 20-30. Another 28% are under 20, That’s 42% of the population—and we can expect all these youths to be similarly dependent on their elders. 

In other words, right now 42% of Americans cannot fend for themselves. They don’t have the experience to formulate meaningful opinions about important social issues (although they have the vote from age 18). Yet they are extremely vocal about politics. This is nothing new, of course. Back in the day, my generation used to say, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

The difference between then and now is that my generation was decently educated. We could read and do basic math. Now in many states only about 50% of young people graduate from high school. In some cities (such as Chicago) even in states where the graduation rate approaches 90% the city’s rate is 50%. Now I think my generation should say, “Don’t trust anyone under 30.”

These figures represent millions of young adults who have no hope. I can think of no solution to this problem, short of radically overhauling the public education system immediately. High school students have to be incented to stay in school, so that means we need to get them good, part-time jobs. We have to do this. Now. Unfortunately we all know that’s not going to happen.

Sidebar: Chicago’s teens are among the most oppressed by the current situation. On the South Side (blacks) there are not only no jobs for teens, there are no jobs for adults either. Despite this, the City Council refuses to permit Walmart to build stores in Chicago to serve this neighborhood—to serve them not only low-priced consumer goods, but also jobs.

Wondering why we have a gang problem in this country?

It’s beginning to sound to me as if the American Dream is dead.

Sidebar: In case you’re 30 or under and don’t know what the American Dream is, please read this Wikipedia article on the topic. My definition is “the every person can prosper through her own hard work and obtain what is most important to her, such as property (a home, an acre of woods), and spend her productive time engaged in meaningful, life-enhancing activity.”

Judges are the biggest threat to the American jury system

I write this blog article with confidence that it will prevent me from ever again being called up for jury duty or serving on a jury. (Judges have the power to strike a name from the rolls.)

Today the Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago judges routinely violate an IL law that prohibits any speeder from receiving more than two “court supervisions” in a year: “Thousands of times a year, judges in the Chicago area sentence speeders to extra, illegal supervisions. The newspaper’s analysis showed that in the six-county metro area, the law is ignored about 11 times each day court. . . .” And this includes chronic speeders who kill people with their cars.

Sidebar: In case you don’t know what a “supervision” is in traffic court, it’s nothing. The judge makes you pay the ticket, forces you to watch a video, and then waves bye-bye.

Monday the U. S. Supreme Court overturned a life-without-parole sentence for a Florida juvenile (Graham v Florida) who had committed non-homicide offenses for which an adult could have been sentenced to as little as 5 years, at the circuit-court judge’s discretion. That’s right; if he had been 21 and the judge liked the way he looked, the judge could have sentenced to him five years.

Clearly, Florida legislators are crafting sentencing guidelines that are far, far too broad; this puts too much discretion into the hands of judges.

In the trial in which I was a juror, the judge literally rewrote the IL kidnapping statute in the jury instructions. Fortunately, several of us on the jury could read, and she didn’t write very well. The only check on judges who misstate the law to the jury, however, is the lengthy, costly appellate system.

The U. S. Constitution calls for an independent judiciary. Unfortunately, the Constitution also grants the Executive branch of government the power to appoint many judges (which necessarily makes them “dependent” on the evaluation of a political group). It also allows the States to establish their own means of creating a judiciary, and most States elect all judges except for their own appointed Supreme Court justices.

Elections mean the judges are party hacks. The political parties put only the judges in their pockets onto the ballots. No judge who lacks a party affiliation will ever appear on a ballot, at least not in Cook County.

Sidebar: I don’t see any harm in the President nominating Justices for the Supreme Court and the Senate confirming them. Throughout history, the Justices have exhibited political independence once on the Court and have often surprised the Presidents who chose them.

Hire Judges

In Cook County each primary and election ballot includes dozens of judicial candidates. Despite local bar association ratings, most voters have no clue about these names. Such an election is nothing but a farce.

Most communities hire the Chief of Police, police officers, medical examiners, corporate attorneys, and other legal professionals. We ought to start hiring judges and prosecutors, too. That way, when the community’s political leaders change, its professional prosecutors and judges can change, too. The hiring process should rely on credentials so that when community leaders hire incompetent, political hacks, they can be fired or, if not, the leaders will soon be out of a job, too.

Graham v Florida—Many journalists didn’t even get the vote count right

Yesterday, the first story I read about the monumental U. S. Supreme Court decision (Graham v. Florida) claimed the decision was 5-4, with Justice Kennedy writing the court’s decision and Justice Thomas writing the dissenting opinion. Without reading further, I assumed this represented the usual liberal-conservative split.

Today, articles correctly called the decision 6-3, but I doubt you’ll hear any intelligent coverage of the decision beyond this. The 6 concurring were actually 3 separate opinions and the 3 dissenting were actually 2 separate opinions for a total of 5 separate opinions, not 2 (pro and con). I recommend you read the complete decision and dissenting opinions in Graham v Florida, because the case strikes at the heart of the Bill of Rights and of the entire concept of common-law juvenile justice.

On Monday, the Supreme Court also issued a monumental decision in United States v. Comstock et al. in which recent Justice nominee Elena Kagan, Solicitor General, had argued for the federal government that not only the mentally ill but also the “sexually dangerous” can be held indefinitely to protect the public. (FYI: This was the first I’ve heard that the federal government can indefinitely suspend habeas corpus rights of the mentally ill.) The Comstock decision was 7-2, comprising 2 concurring opinions and 1 dissenting opinion.

Simple math tells you that something is going on here other than all the usual suspects voting for “strict constructionism” against the majority liberal interpretation of the Constitution as “a living document.” In fact, conservative Chief Justice Roberts joined the liberal majority in both these decisions, and only Thomas and Scalia dissented in both these decisions.

The media are doing the cause of justice in this country a very, very great disservice by failing to read Supreme Court decisions carefully before they report superficially on them.

Both the decisions are written in English. Both are filled with rich detail on the issues involved. Please read them.

Of great interest to this non-lawyer, non-judicial, former juror is that both of these decisions impact the judiciary and prosecution—not the jury system. The Graham decision prevents judges from permanently depriving juveniles of their liberty and the Comstock decision permits federal prosecutors and judges to permanently deprive sex offenders of their liberty.

Here’s my concern: As long as a convict has a valid birth certificate and can prove he or she is a juvenile, the convict’s rights are protected, but as long as the federal government can find a psychologist to declare a convict to be “sexually dangerous,” the convict is screwed (of course, maybe that’s appropriate).

Oregon v Beagley–2020

I’m a fiction writer. I prefer fiction to reality. The trial currently being scrutinized on CNN’s In Session is so surreal it has inspired me to write a vignette set in a dystopic future when medical care is not only mandatory for everyone at any age but the law establishes the appropriate treatment for various physical conditions. In honor of the Beagley trial, I’m titling the vignette:

“Hindsight Is 2020”

In the year 2020 Natasha Beasley was fifty-two years old, and the proud grandmother of three-year-old Keesha. Because Keesha’s single mom had to work long hours, Natasha provided day care for her. So, when one day little Keesha complained to her about a bad sore throat, she called her own doctor and made an appointment to bring Keesha into his clinic, where a pediatrician could take a look at her.

Dr. Ganesh examined Keesha that very afternoon. When he was finished, he led the grandmother out of the examination room where Keesha still sat on the table. “Ms. Beasely,” the doctor said, “from what I can see there’s nothing to worry about. Keesha has tonsillitis.”

“Oh, that’s a relief,” said Natasha. “I had tonsillitis as a kid, too. It’s pretty common, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is, and I’m glad to tell you that since you had tonsillitis we’ve learned a great deal about it.”

“I know. I had a tonsillectomy. And after that they figured out that tonsils are supposed to get infected. It’s part of the natural process. It helps a child’s immune system develop,” said Natasha.

The doctor laughed. “I’m sure that’s what they thought a few years ago. But we know better now. In fact, the most-recent regulations are that tonsils should be removed at birth. Little Keesha’s overdue.”

Natasha thought about that a moment. “Does that mean I have to put her in the hospital right away and have them take her tonsils out?”

“No, you won’t have to do that. The Department of Child Protective Services has just taken custody of her. They’ll take her to the hospital. When you go back out in the waiting room, the sheriff will cuff you.”

“Why?” She was floored.

“You and your daughter violated the mandatory tonsillectomy regulation of 2019,” said the doctor.

“But Keesha was born in 2017. How could we have violated a regulation that didn’t even exist?”

“Isn’t it obvious? It’s retroactive,” he said. “Unless a regulation is retroactive, it’s worthless. Millions of children born too early would slip through the cracks otherwise.”

Finis

“More On” Oregon v Beagley

According to WebMD’s Medscape, in Oregon a pregnant teen of any age can obtain an abortion (medical treatment) without informing her parents. Nonetheless, a dying teenage boy (age 16) is not permitted to consent to or decline medical treatment. If he does decline, then his parents are sent to prison for negligent homicide.

This is insanity. Either a teenager (who must be covered by his or her parent’s medical insurance) has a right to self-determination with regard to his or her body or not.

What if a teenage girl in Oregon is pregnant, but carrying the fetus to term will threaten her health or even kill her? Can her parents force her to have an abortion? What if abortion is against her religion or she and her parents refuse to give her one? Will her parents be charged with negligent homicide if she dies?

I’m not advocating anti-science, anti-medicine religions. I’m not advocating one opinion or the other in the debate over parental consent to abortions. I’m simply advocating self-consistency, logic, the Kantian categorical imperative.

You can’t have it both ways and be in the right both ways.

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Oregon v Beagley—Have It Both Ways

Over the weekend, President Obama spoke at the commencement at Hampton University. In his address, the President stressed the power of education and chastised the media for trivializing information:

And meanwhile, you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.  And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.

While I don’t think that electronic devices are inherently non-informative, I do think that many commercial firms exploit information and pervert its true import. Since the demise of Court TV, unfortunately, CNN’s TruTV (its successor) has turned into a purely exploitative cable channel.

Today its In Session begins “coverage” of another trial that should never have occurred, Oregon v Jeff and Marci Beagley. In Session anchors will undoubtedly raise their voices in outrage and rail against the parents who let their 16-year-old son decide whether or not he wanted to see a doctor in his illness.

For many years, states have required parents to provide adequate medical care for their children. Most cases like the Beagleys’ are handled in family court (where there are no juries) as negligence. A typical situation might be, for example, that a public-health official would have the family summoned before a judge, who would hear testimony of physicians about the child’s condition and chances of recovery with and without medical care. Then the judge would issue an order that the child must be placed in the care of a physician. If the parents refuse to comply, they’re found to be in contempt of court and jailed, and the child is then put in the temporary custody of health-care officials.

By the age of 16, though, a child has reached the “age of reason” (usually the legal age is somewhere between 5 and 11). In some states a 16-year-old is at the age of consent for sexual activity. In some states a child of 14 must consent to his own medical treatment. Sixteen-year-olds are routinely tried as adults.

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Law

There’s a very great irony that the Beagley case was tied in Oregon, where the state permits people to commit suicide under the care of a physician.

So, let’s try to puzzle out what “The State” must believe Jeff and Marci Beagley did wrong:

Well, obviously the crime was not calling a doctor when their near-adult son developed a “urinary tract blockage.” I have no idea what that condition was specifically, but it sounds a bit like kidney stones. So, this must mean that if you have a kidney stone and decide to try to pass it without a doctor’s intervention, you are committing a crime in Oregon.

Worse yet, the parents made the mistake of asking their near-adult son if he wanted to see a doctor. They should have left him alone in the bathroom, I guess, to deal with the problem as he wished.

If the parents did not know their son was ill, they would also be innocent, I suppose. And if the parents were not members of a church that holds as a principal tenet that all ailments must be left up to God, their ignorance of his illness would have been simply stupid, not homicidal.

Ad Absurdum

Clearly what the Beagleys ought to have done, given the Death with Dignity Law, was to call a physician, tell him their son was terminally ill, and ask him to sit by the bedside stroking his hand comfortingly and with dignity while he died.

Sidebar to In Session: Please stick with live coverage of real murder trials, or send reporters to cover the Supreme Court, or send reporters to Chicago to cover all the shenanigans going on here.  Enough already of family tragedies.

Jury Reform—The End Is Near (Part 2)

Amendment V of the U.S. Constitution

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights is the basis of our criminal justice system. The Sixth Amendment is the basis of our jury system: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law . . . .” Yet today the states have all enacted laws that directly contravene both of these Amendments, and the U. S. Supreme Court has upheld many of these laws.

Few states require a grand jury indictment for murder. Every state permits a defendant to be tried more than once for murder if the trial ends in a hung jury (proof the prosecution did not prove its case). No state compels defendants to testify, but all states permit the prosecution to prevent defendants from testifying by charging them with multiple, unrelated crimes about which they would be compelled to testify if the charges were not brought. Defendants are routinely deprived of property that’s used as evidence in a case, and many states deprive convicts of access even to their own DNA for purposes of exoneration. Speedy trials are impossible in the over-crowded, under-funded court systems. Sensationalized, media coverage makes impartial juries impossible. And nation-wide, mass-media coverage often makes it impossible to conduct trials in the district where the crime occurred.

I know of one person who was “held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime” without a “presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury” when it was not a “Time of War,” was “twice put in jeopardy of life or limb,” was “compelled” NOT to testify because of another, pending indictment, and was deprived of “property, without due process of law.” In addition, it took several years to convict her. Local media labeled her a “Black Widow.” After the charges were filed, the state went back more than 20 years to the tragic death of her first husband and trumped up a second murder charge against her.

Look at Casey Anthony, if you need another example.

Jury Reform Is Long Overdue

Visit www.constitution.org for an excellent survey of jury-reform ideas. Recently the English have been considering serious jury reform, although their system already avoids some of the problems of ours: the unprofessional nature of juries (no preparation, laughable pay), one-trial jurors, need for unanimous verdicts, and wasting time and money by keeping a large jury pool locked in the courthouse for an extended period of time despite never being called up for a trial.

Many people have called for “professional juries” and proposed reasonable schemes for achieving this. For example, given the high unemployment rate now, it would make good sense to draw jurors from the lines at the Unemployment Compensation offices, and given the growing population of retirees to draw them from the Social Security rolls.  These people could be called up for extended periods, could serve on more than one trial, could be adequately compensated and thoroughly trained.

The issue of training is problematic, though, since the courts (as www.constitution.org explains) are bound and determined these days to violate the Bill of Rights by telling jurors completely erroneous things about what they are entitled to know and to do.

So What Else Is New?

Systems, just like living organisms, inevitably become more and more complex until they succumb to entropy. Soon decay sets in.

The Constitution, though, is NOT A SYSTEM. It’s a beautiful expression of some fundamental social principles. Jury reform DOES NOT REQUIRE a new law or amendment. All we need in order for jury reform to occur is for the U. S. Supreme Court to reread the Bill of Rights and overturn these illogical, unfair state laws:

  • The State should not be able to prosecute a murder (of any degree other than manslaughter) without a grand jury indictment.
  • A hung jury should be accepted as a not-guilty verdict to prevent double jeopardy, or more than a true majority (2/3) should be sufficient for any verdict except in a death-penalty case.
  • The State should not be allowed to hold charges over anyone’s head for longer than a year or 18 months at the most. No one can sustain the costs entailed in a lengthy defense, especially since a defendant’s livelihood is inevitably impacted by prosecution.
  • Defendants should be permitted to testify without reference to prior convictions or pending charges.
  • The State should not be allowed to keep evidence (private property) away from a convict.
  • The State should not provide information to the media for any purpose (Freedom of Information Act or not).
  • If a media outlet chooses to cover a trial, it should be prohibited from commercializing the coverage (such as CNN’s TruTV trial coverage, which is interspersed with commercials for their own programs, such as ones featuring the idiotic behavior of drunks and fools jumping into basketball hoops).
  • Change-of-venue requests should be automatically granted.
  • An impartial jury need not be an ignorant jury; it must, though, be a jury of people who have no stake in the outcome of the trial and who have no relationship with the defense, prosecution, judge, police, or victims. If we followed the English example of forming juries for the purpose of serving on more than one trial, they would more likely be impartial.
  • Jurors should be voluntary, adequately compensated, and trained using materials designed by and paid for by the federal court system so that the materials correctly reflect the Supreme Court’s understanding of due process of law, not each trial judge’s personal opinions.