“Does anyone in Florida understand what justice is?—Florida v Kananen

CNN’s In Session is reprising a first-degree murder case in which the adult daughter of abusive parents abetted her adult brother’s murder of their mother. The salacious “episode” is titled “Mummified Mother Found Buried Under Rock Garden,” and the CNN commentators describe the “show” as a “Front Row Seat to Justice.” But a murder trial isn’t something a sane person wants a “front-row” seat to (since the front row includes the defendant’s chair), and in this case there is no justice involved.

Florida v Stacey Kananen could be a poster child for the ill-conceived Senate Bill 714 about which I wrote recently. S.714 allegedly seeks to publicize the following serious problems in the American justice system:

  • the absurdity of the United States having the largest prison population in the world, of which the largest part are incarcerated on minor charges such as drug possession
  • the role of DNA evidence in false convictions
  • the fact that prison sentences are becoming more and more lengthy
  • and the severity of punishments varies greatly from state to state

Stacey Kananen’s conviction adds one more relatively harmless person to the prison population; she was overcharged with first-degree murder for being an accessory to murder, thus causing her sentence to be out of all proportion to her crime; the only evidence against her was her brother’s confession and accusation, which was produced rather late in his own prosecution (why anyone would believe a confessed murderer about the complicity of anyone else, on his testimony alone, is beyond my understanding).

The law also needs to understand the role of childhood abuse in producing psychopaths and sociopaths. Society as a whole would be a much safer place if families could be rescued from the psychopaths and sociopaths who too often enslave and torture them. In the Kananen case the only serious psychopath or sociopath may have been the father, although it does seem as if the son is seriously damaged goods.

Sidebar: Nowhere in S.714 is there any mention of the absurd legal definition of insanity, which puts schizophrenics in prison because they claim that a voice told them to kill the evil ones (thus proving they know right from wrong. How else could they identify the evil ones?).

No, I don’t know how to rescue such families without permitting the government to intrude in every family’s privacy. The “human services” in government as often overlook abuse as they intervene to good effect. I’ve been told that fads in social work often return abuse victims to their abusers’ care with little more than a promise “to be good.”

Florida’s laws, in particular, strike me as bizarre. In Florida (until the Supremes “corrected” the state) laws put a minor in jail for life essentially for a parole violation. In Florida a mother who neglected and then apparently abused her child until she died (Casey Anthony) can be put on trial for capital murder, while a woman in Illinois who cut the baby out of another woman’s womb (and murdered her) because it was her boyfriend’s child is simply sent to prison. In Florida, witnesses in trials involving family members are subjected to public scrutiny and ridicule on CNN, with their tearful words hyphenated by commercials about a TV series on jerks jumping off roofs into basketball hoops.

Overzealous Prosecutors

Most states seem to have a plethora of overzealous prosecutors who grandstand in the courtroom in order to be reelected. I can’t explain Stacey Kenanen’s prosecution for first-degree murder as anything but that. (This, it seems to me, a non-lawyer, is the best argument against allowing cameras inside courts.)

Stacey Kananen’s brother admits to having suffocated his mother and then burying her body in his sister’s backyard. He claims she first tasered their mother (to subdue her, I guess, even though he weighed 400 pounds at the time), but he also admits to having been jealous and resentful of Stacey’s better treatment by their psychopathic, alcoholic father.

CNN’s Choices

Freaks and geeks have always been crowd-pleasers—in the Middle Ages it was bear-bating; in the 19th century it was the tattooed lady (before you get another tattoo take a look at some old photos of these women) and geeks who bit the heads off live chickens. Now that we’ve supposedly evolved into a more humane society, I would expect better.

It’s difficult to find anything that isn’t freakish in the entertainment media. Animated Avatars with blue skin and long necks (remember Cecil?) fall prey to the evil human creatures (in other words, us). Paris Hilton gets drunk and goes to jail. TruTV brings you Dumbest and In Session, which ignores all the really vital legal issues in this country in favor of bringing you the tragedies that occur in ordinary people’s bedrooms and backyards (and which ought to stay there. That’s what they mean when they say “Let sleeping dogs lie”).


S. 714 “National Criminal Justice Committee Act of 2009″

The Innocence Project is asking everyone interested in real justice in this country to support a Senate bill to create a Congressional committee to study needed reforms (S.714). Please read the press release dated May 20 by clicking here.

I’m of two minds on this issue—or maybe many minds. On the one hand, S.714 quite correctly points out the need to publicize and study a number of serious problems in the U.S. justice system, including:

  • the absurdity of the United States having the largest prison population in the world, most of whom are incarcerated on minor charges such as drug possession
  • the role of DNA evidence in false convictions
  • the fact that prison sentences are becoming more and more lengthy and that the severity of punishments varies greatly from state to state
  • the role of Mexican drug gangs in the rising crime rates in several cities and states

The bill also notes that “blue ribbon panels” are not best-suited to study this issue. Experts on such panels are not legislators; they are not representatives of the people; they should be consulted and called to testify but not asked to decide what needs to be done. This, I think, is a rare bit of wisdom from the U.S. Senate.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a great deal of confidence either in our current clutch of elected representatives at the state or federal level, and I’m not sure the federal government is authorized to reform state legislation except through the Supreme Court.

And, too, there’s the problem that the Congress is already too busy making mischief and spending the future wealth of this country to take on an exhaustive study of any issue.

The Simple Solution—The Innocence Project Can Do It Themselves

An organization, such as the Innocent Project, has it within their power to solve this problem by selecting a number of convicts who are currently incarcerated as a result of the botched justice system and suing the states in which they are incarcerated. The Bill of Rights provides that failures in due process should be brought before the Supreme Court. The Supremes have the ability to declare most of the stupid practices of the state courts unconstitutional.

“Cruel and Unusual Punishments”

If lawyers in this country would screw their heads on straight and study the language of the Bill of Rights for what it is (18th century English), they would understand that a “cruel” punishment is one that is irreversible and an “unusual” punishment is one that is not uniformly applied to everyone convicted of the same crime.

Then they would sue the states for routinely executing people—an irreversible punishment.

They would also sue the states for sentencing some drug users to life imprisonment because of the “three strikes” laws while other drug users are sentenced to public service.

Grand Jury Indictments

If lawyers in this country would screw their heads on straight they would understand that the Bill of Rights explicitly prohibits state prosecutors from charging and trying people for murder without a grand-jury indictment.

Due Process

If lawyers in this country would screw their heads on straight they would sue the states for violating the due process clause every day when they try juveniles as adults (a clearly unconstitutional practice, which also goes against the entire history of common law and due process in Western civilization).

Mexican Drug Gangs

S.714 correctly seeks to publicize the growing problem of Mexican gangs in American crime. What I don’t understand, though, is why the U.S. Senate thinks it needs to study this at taxpayer expense. It’s obvious. Every voter knows about it. And a real and substantial majority of Americans also know that the cause is our open southern border.

“The historical and possible future role the military can play in crime prevention efforts at the federal, state and local levels”

S.714 apparently includes the rather creepy assertion that the military can play a role in crime prevention. I hope this phrase does not suggest that we need to look to Nazi Germany as a role model. I have great respect for the U.S. military, but I do not want the National Guard to repeat Nixon’s mistake at Kent State University. In case you weren’t born in 1970, students at Kent State University who were protesting the war in Vietnam were shot down by National Guardsmen.

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The government is from Mars—or maybe just schizophrenic

Is it just me? I know I often see things from a weird, oblique direction, but every day the federal government does something new that stuns me. I couldn’t make this stuff up, and that’s what I do for a living—make stuff up, I mean.

First, the feds claim not to have read a new law in Arizona, but they’re nonetheless considering bringing a federal civil-rights suit against the state on behalf of people who have entered the country illegally through the southern border of Arizona. The law (and I have read it) requires police who legally stop, detain, or arrest a person on suspicion of a violation or crime to ask for identification that shows nationality. The feds’ opposition to this implies that they do not wish to deport illegal aliens, even when they have violated the law.

And now, once these people have been detained, the feds are going to make sure they are treated like guests in a resort, according to the Houston Chronicle. Commercial detention centers where these people are housed for about one month while their deportation is processed will soon be required to provide not only open doors and unmonitored phone calls (hmm, think Al Qaeda), but also superior cuisine, computer training, workout classes, twelve-hour sleep-overs for “friends,” and more.

I recognize that these detention centers are for illegals who have not violated any laws other than the laws prohibiting undocumented entry into this country. But frankly anyone who enters this country illegally is escaping from dismal circumstances, and I feel very sorry for them, but they probably aren’t addicted to workouts and salad bars and are unlikely to feel deprived if the feds fail to provide these amenities during detention. However, a terrorist who is unlucky enough to be caught entering the country illegally and who has not yet committed the dirty deeds he has in mind will be treated to a one-month near-resort-quality experience.

Not to mention that our homeless people would surely appreciate a month living in such circumstances.

Sidebar: No one ever seems to understand that most illegal aliens are only coming to this country because of a hellish existence elsewhere. And no one ever seems to want to acknowledge that thousands of these people are actually being “trafficked” into this country (which is a euphemism for women and children being sold to someone in this country).

No, American citizens in prison are treated worse by the feds than illegal aliens. Citizen prisoners in this country aren’t usually able to receive gifts of books to read (even though prison authorities can censor the books). You can’t send a Bible to a prisoner who needs to come to terms with his crime. You can’t send a book of poetry to a prisoner. Many prisons permit only donations to the prison library, and some of those libraries accept books only from publishers, not from individuals.

Yes, I understand that a prisoner is deprived of his Constitutional rights, but surely reading isn’t a Constitutional right: it’s a human right, and it’s in the best interests of society to have prisoners reading instead of sitting in the dark, rotting, going crazier than they are.

Why don’t American prisons teach illiterate prisoners to read and then invite those of us who are free to send them books? Wouldn’t it better to release convicts at the end of their sentences with at least basic literacy skill?