The Torch is out, the NJ Senate race is in a tizzy, and it may be headed for the courts.
Here at The MinuteMan, we value principle, and expect the leaders of both parties to do the same. Consequently, we have complete confidence that, in the next day or two, we will see solemn announcements from the rival camps. Republicans first:
Although we deeply regret the irregularities in the Democratic Party nominating process, the good people of the great state of NJ are entitled to a choice on Election Day. Therefore, as the party committed to the highest principles of democracy, we will not contest the replacement of Sen. Torricelli on the Nov. 5 ballot. May the best person win!
Oh, frabjous day amongst the Republicans! However, since idealistic Democrats would never put power ahead of principle, we would immediately see this from the state Democrats:
The good people of the great state of NJ are entitled to a choice on Election Day. Beyond that, however, they are entitled to have complete confidence that whoever they choose as Senator respects and upholds the law. Sen. Torricelli has withdrawn because he did not show that respect; the Democratic Party will be strictly honest and accountable in attempting to replace a man who seems to have fallen short of those high standards. Although the nominating process of our party has broken down, we will not cheat to replace a cheater.
Therefore, in order to provide the voters with a choice while, just as importantly, demonstrating our respect for the law, the Democratic Party will not formally present a candidate on the ballot; rather the Party will put its support behind the write-in candidacy of [Bruce Springsteen / Barbra Streisand / Frank Sinatra / Jon Bon Jovi / candidate to be named later].
Oh, I will be proud to be a Jersey boy! So many high roads! And in New Jersey, too, where the high road can seem a bit lonesome. Still, I think we have a solution here that principled Democrats can get behind - back a write-in candidate. Good luck in this election, and next time, see if nominating someone honest works out a bit better.
So, fun things to watch for: Let's watch the NY Times grumble and endorse, reluctantly, whoever it is the Democrats nominate, however they manage to nominate him or her. There are more important principles at stake than whether the two parties need to obey the law. In fact, if Republicans gain control of the Senate, we may see new judges who take the law seriously - death spiral!
Secondly, it may matter less than we think right now - Forrester's ads will refer to the new kid in town as "Torricelli's replacement" for the next five weeks, and this slogan of "They cheated to replace a cheater" will, I humbly predict, be a winner. Unless the Republicans are so heavy handed as to turn the newcomer into a victim (Note to Republicans: Forrester, and the voters of NJ, are the victims of a failed Democrat nominating process), the Republicans coast to victory in November. Then, the slogan becomes, "They lost trying to replace a loser".
By the time you read this, Sen. Torricelli's re-election campaign may be dead. There are reports that Sen. Torricelli may withdraw from his troubled Senate race if a suitable replacement can be found in time for the Nov. 5th ballot. But wait:
"Republicans said they would contest any effort to have a substitute candidate take his place, arguing that it is barred by state law so close to an election. According to GOP lawyers, the only exception acknowledged by a court has been in the case of the death of a nominee."
The Torch - team player? Politics ain't beanbag, Bob.
UPDATE: OK, the candidacy is dead, but the former candidate is still alive. Advice to Republicans: We the People want an election, not a court fight. Follow the John Ashcroft 2000 model, even if the Dems are cheaters.
Speaking on Iraq, David Bonior, second ranking Democrat in the House, had this to say:
"We've got to move forward in a way that's fair and impartial. That means not having the United States or the Iraqis dictate the rules to these inspections."
I suppose this may require a bit of clarification: Mr. Bonior is a member of the House of Representatives of the United States. That may not be clear from the quote.
Other people have had thoughts on this. I don't suppose being dead gives one greater authority, but here we go:
"We have nothing to do, but to choose what is right, to be steady in the pursuit of it, and leave the issue to Providence. " ATTRIBUTION: Samuel Richardson (1689–1761), British novelist.
"Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side..." ATTRIBUTION: James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)
And, from a former US Senator:
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
Barry Goldwater, with an interesting eulogy here, and some background here and here. None of these sources confirms my recollection that he was instrumental in reforming the chain of command structure of the US Military, reforms that proved their value in Desert Storm.
Al Gore spoke about Iraq on Monday. Reaction was mixed: some people hated the speech, some people hated both the speech and Al Gore. But now, Peggy Noonan of the WSJ chimes in with a piece evaluating the merits of both sides of the Iraqi debate. About the Democrats, she says this:
"The Democrats on Capitol Hill have so far failed to mount a principled, coherent opposition. I am not shocked by this, are you? One senses they are looking at the whole question merely as a matter of popular positioning: Will they like me if I say take out Saddam? Will they get mad at me if we try to take him out and it's a disaster? Will they like me if I say there's no reason to go to war? Have I focus-grouped this? Such unseriousness is potentially deeply destructive. It is certainly irresponsible. And here's the funny thing: If some Democrat stood up and spoke thoughtfully and without regard for political consequences about what is right for us to do, he'd likely garner enhanced respect and heightened standing. He'd seem taller than his colleagues. At any rate, more than usual, I am missing Pat Moynihan and Sam Nunn."
Ouch. OK, she does say "The Democrats on Capitol Hill", but my goodness - Is Al Gore even allowed to speak? "I see your lips moving on the videotape, Al, but I have turned off the sound?". Capitol Hill, eh? I guess former future Presidents need not apply.
Yes, I will accept (c), both of the above. I am marveling at this gem, highlighted by Stan ("The Man") Musil:
"As an amusing aside, Mr. Gore revived his old embarrassing campaign problem of asserting bizarre factoids which almost certainly will not check out once the inevitable investigative leg work is done by the media or Republican partisans:
[From the Washington Times]
Mr. Gore also said Mr. Bush's Justice Department and the FBI had spent more time and resources investigating a suspected brothel in New Orleans than monitoring bin Laden and his terrorist network. "Where is their sense of priorities?" Mr. Gore asked."
"The warnings were there," Gore said. He contended the Justice Department had assigned only one FBI agent to monitor Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida, while 13 FBI agents were assigned to eavesdrop on a brothel in New Orleans.
"Where is the sense of priorities?" asked Gore.
He commented Thursday at a fund-raising breakfast for Delaware attorney general candidate Carl Schnee."
So, Gore throwing out a bit of red meat at a fundraiser. And where is this story likely to take the ever-astute "Big Al"? I have some thoughts:
First, will it check out? Of course not. The very best Big Al can hope for is that some aide will produce a puzzling organization chart showing only one Justice Dept. official assigned full-time to Al-qaeda. Maybe in the prosecutors division, at a time when no cases were being developed. Maybe. But the FBI was involved in the investigation of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, and the investigation of the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, so, eventually, we will learn that many Justice Dept. officials work on international terror full-time, and includes Al-qaeda among their responsibilities.
We will also be told that, if you want to criticize the Administration, you should criticize the relevant agencies. Both the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have been slackers in the pursuit of Al-qaeda; the CIA and the US Military have been quite diligent, since Al-qaeda operates primarily overseas.
We will be reminded that, unless Big Al can produce a memo from George Bush saying "right, then, we are putting too many agents on terrorism and not enough on brothels", Administration apologists will observe that, as of the summer of 2001, these were the priorities inherited from Clinton-Gore. Left to our imaginations will be the question of why Bill Clinton was so interested in New Orleans brothels. And, to round out the day, we will learn that this was not just any brothel - it was a Very Serious Investigation into Organized Crime or the War On Drugs, or anyway, Something Big.
So, having launched this particular ship, to what safe harbor might Big Al be sailing?
-- KIDDING! Hey, I was just having fun at a fund-raiser, gimme a break.
Hmm, Al Gore, the King of Comedy, riffing on civil liberties and the lighter side of 9/11. Insensitive and tone-deaf.
-- No fair, I was taken out of context!
Please. He had to know this would be a soundbite. If it requires four pages of footnotes and a bibliography, save your defenders a lot of pain and leave it out. Pedantic and inept.
OK, enough of the favorable scenarios. What else is out there?
-- Stare closely at the puzzling chart. Although, in a broader sense, I may be wrong, clearly there is a technical sense in which I am correct.
Don't defend this, Al. Put down the shovel and stop digging. If you really believe this, you are ignorant as to how the Justice Dept. is organized, and soft on crime to boot.
-- Ooops, looks like we made a mistake.
Ooops, it looks like you don't have the common sense of a housecat. If there was a nano-second when you actually believed you could get away with this FBI story, either you are a stone-idiot, or you take me for one.
And I think that is about it. So, what is happening with Big Al? Political suicide? Look, this would be a gaffe for anyone. However, Big Al has a rep for straying from the facts. Yes, I know, he didn't really say he invented the Internet, that was a distortion by an unsympathetic media and evil Republicans. But guess what? The media is still unsympathetic, and Repuplicans are still evil - Big Al shouldn't supply the dirt to shovel on his own grave.
But I think the problem goes deeper. In the 90's, there were Republicans who hated Clinton with such passion that their brains froze - "Clinton-lock" was the technical term. If Clinton said at breakfast that he enjoyed watching the sun rise in the East, you would see the rebuttals by lunchtime: "Clinton said the sun rises in the East? More lies. Everyone knows that the sun is the center of the solar system and it is only the rotation of the earth about its own axis that creates the illusion of a rising sun. More spin from the master of illusion...." Oh, you remember.
Anyway, I think Gore may have become a rally point for Democrats affected with "Bush-lock", and we are seeing the evidence in his staff work. Heaven knows, Gore may be afflicted himself, and with some reason. Perhaps the recent voting debacle in Florida pushed him over the edge. But if he and his staff don't stop loathing and start thinking, they are going to have serious problems during their short campaign. As to suggestions for a cure? Well, time, and the Marc Rich pardons, worked for me. For Big Al, I cannot offer hope.
Too Ridiculous to be Serious; Too Serious to Ridicule
Which way to go on Nicholas Kristof's "Fighting Street to Street": "Is America really prepared for hundreds of casualties, even thousands, in an invasion and subsequent occupation that could last many years? " The Bothers Judd take a serious look at this, and I admire their intellect and restraint. For myself, this column is war, this column is death and destruction, but most especially, this column is silly.
Nicholas, Our Man in Baghdad, is going to scout Saddam's war preparations. Very sensitive info. We can see him, trench coat, fedora, the letters of transit... - does he smoke? NY Times writer, probably not. Press on.
"BASRA, Iraq — To understand why an invasion of Iraq may not be the cakewalk that the White House expects, pay $20 (round trip) and board an Iraqi Airways flight that soars from Baghdad straight through the American-enforced "no-flight zone" to Basra on the southern tip of Iraq."
The fog rolls across the airstrip. The engines of the airplane rev up. "If that plane leaves the ground and you're not on it, you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, and soon - MoDo is going to write on Saddam's war plans any day now."
"... American restraint is Iraq's ace going into war. Iraq knows that the United States cannot bomb schools, mosques and residential neighborhoods, and so it has plenty of places to hide its army. In the last gulf war, we were able to destroy an enemy that was out in the open desert, but this time Iraq seems intent on a different approach.
From Basra I drove to the Kuwait border on the "highway of death," to see how Iraq will guard what may be a principal invasion route for American troops. The only military presence was a few guards on the edge of Basra, amounting to what you'd expect at the entrance to an urban U.S. high school."
Huh? U.S. High School? Are we discussing vouchers and school choice and education reform? Get me back to Iraq, please.
"...Instead of protecting its borders, Iraq will hide its army within its cities, where air strikes are effective only at an unacceptable (for America) cost in civilian deaths. Saddam has a hiding place for himself that is better than Osama bin Laden's caves at Tora Bora: the teeming city of Baghdad, with five million inhabitants, where he already never spends two consecutive nights in the same place."
We'll always have Baghdad. If we didn't, we lost it along the way. We got it back last night, or at least, last week when George Bush spoke at the UN. Here's looking at you, Saddam.
"...The Americans are good at bombing," one Iraqi official mused. "But some day, they will have to come to the ground. And then we'll be waiting. Every Iraqi has a gun in his house, often a Kalashnikov. And every Iraqi has experience in fighting. So let's see how the Americans do when they're fighting in our streets."
"...This time we're taking on an army with possible bio- and chemical weapons, 400,000 regular army troops and supposedly seven million more in Al Quds militia.
Karar Hassan, a 22-year-old member of the militia in the city of Najaf, said he had just completed a training session in street fighting, including fighting house to house and even from trees. "I'll fight them till my last drop of blood," he added, in the kind of boast that is heard everywhere in Iraq."
Well, there are reports that young Karar's idea got a bit muddled in the translation. "I'll fight until the first drop of blood", or perhaps, "I'll fight until the risk of bloodshed", would be more accurate.
If someone tries to threaten us, we know how to respond," said a farmer named Hakim al-Khal in the bazaar of Karbala, and then he reached under his shirt and brandished a handgun."
Courage, Nicholas! A handgun! I know how sensitive you Times chaps can be about uncontrolled handguns, but we can get past this.
No, we can't! A farmer has a handgun? Geez, does Don Rumsfeld know? My God, Hakim has a gun and he knows how to use it! Did Blair put this in his dossier? OK, we can get comfortable with nukes, bio-terror, chemical weapons, and general undirected nastiness, but now put Hakim in the mix, and where are we? Get me Kofi Anon - twelve years of sanctions, and now this? A handgun? Did anyone check for bullets?
OK, that's fine, I've made my point. But I can't stop laughing! Oh, man, Nicholas, did you check out Hakim's brother, I heard he has a chainsaw. And Ma might have a pitchfork. This is great intel, guy, be sure to expense the fedora.
Enough. Oh, I may never blog again - I have seen the mountaintop. But here we go:
"Most Iraqis seem to have no love for Saddam, and the great majority will probably spend the war hiding under their beds. But if even a tiny proportion of the braggarts are serious, then look out. Moreover, some tribes are armed with mortars and large-caliber machine guns, so that even if they could not stop tanks rolling through to Baghdad, they could seriously hurt an American army of occupation.
Perhaps the American invasion will be a breeze after all. The Iraqi army is less than half the strength it was when it crumpled in a 100-hour ground war a decade ago, and U.S. forces are much stronger now."
Also, in 1991 we only had CNN. Due to the proliferation of cable news services, there will be many, many more news crews available to accept the surrender of Iraqi forces.
"...But if we're going to invade, we need to prepare for a worst-case scenario involving street-to-street fighting, with farmers like Mr. Khal taking potshots at our troops.
Is America really prepared for hundreds of casualties, even thousands, in an invasion and subsequent occupation that could last many years?"
Alright, this is serious. I am not interested in a bidding war, especially with someones else's sons and daughters - one casualty is too many. And Kristof mentioned Iraqi casualties earlier, but let's note them again now - a war will involve thousands of casualties, most of them Iraqi, and that is bad. The current sanctions regime results in the death of thousands of malnoruished, under-treated Iraqi children, we are told, and that is also bad. If Kristof has a pain-free solution, this would be a great time to present it.
I also excerpt this from the Brothers Judd very thoughtful post:
"do we still have the national will, demonstrated on battlefields from Massachusetts to Virginia to France to the Pacific Isles, to stand and fight for freedom, even if we may have to pay a horrible price or, almost as bad, make others pay a horrible price for opposing us?"
And I have a very special reason to be excited - this gives me an excuse to tell my only “Angels in the Playoffs” story. Come back with me to 1979. The Angels are matched up against the Orioles in the best-of-five American League Championship Series. The Angels have lost the first two games, and are now straining to avoid elimination. They trail by a run in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and nobody on.
I am back East, watching on television. The Eighties haven’t happened yet, and the Lakers haven’t trounced Dr. J and my Sixers yet, so I don’t have a full loathing of Southern California. Yet. I am casually waiting for the mighty Birds to wrap this up. But hark, what is this? Forty thousand fans are clapping their hands and chanting “Yes We Can! Yes We Can!”
Uhh, hello, my mellow fellows - ninth inning, two outs, nobody on, down a run - maybe you can, but no, you won't. Relax. Don’t you people have a beach to go to, or something?
“Yes We Can! Yes We Can!” And now, the erstwhile final batter hits a soft line drive right at the centerfielder, who, strangely, elects to have the ball bang off his glove for a two base error. Turn up the volume! “Yes We Can! Yes We Can!”
Hmm. The next batter walks. The winning run is on base! This crowd is, like, totally not chilled out, man. This feels like watching a crowd at a real ballgame at the Stadium - they are just going mad. “YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!”
At this moment, the camera pans across the crowd, and settles on the owner's skybox. Hey, the announcer informs us, there is Gene Autry, proud owner of the Angels. And who is that next to him, they wonder. Closer, please. My goodness, who is this with furrowed brow, cupping his chin in his hand as he peers intently at the drama below? In his most portentous baritone, the announcer says “Look who is seated next to Gene Autry. That is former President Richard Nixon. Just imagine - all the pressure that man has been under… and now this.”
No, I couldn’t imagine. The Angels did pull out a thrilling win that night before meekly submitting on the morrow. The Series was Orioles v. Pirates, “We Are Famileee”. Great autumn. And, much later, Nixon managed a comeback of his own.
Final thoughts? Yes, and I had my last drink last Saturday night, and my diet begins tomorrow. Anyway, unless discussion really heats up again, I would like to make the following points, which I divide into two posts, and move on. This first bit is inspired by some discussions I have had with the good people at Talk Left. This is not meant to suggest that they endorse these views, but rather to acknowledge their gracious attempts to encourage me to explain my thinking.
The blogosphere, reflecting the mass-media, divided into two camps, which I will call the “Exonerate now!” group, and the “Not so fast” gang. Gang of two, as best I know, because only Max Power and I were in it originally. Let’s check the Village Voice on Sept. 9 to see where this discussion started:
“In what is shaping up as potentially one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in New York history, lawyers are pushing to overturn the verdicts in the infamous Central Park jogger rape attack. This latest blow to the city criminal justice system's reputation results from the confession of a convicted murderer-rapist that he alone committed the crime and confirmed DNA evidence supporting his claim.”
Factually defensible, but misleading. The confirmed DNA evidence supports his claim that he raped the victim; it does not confirm the assertion that he acted alone.
This piece triggered an extended discussion of the implications of this case for our criminal justice system, and I have a lot of links here. However, on Sept 15, my very own “Not so fast” viewpoint emerged. My points:
-- given the many violent assaults in the Park that night, the police were acting reasonably in suspecting these five youths.
-- The DNA evidence was, by itself, neither new nor exculpatory: the fact of non-matching DNA had been brought out at the trial. The theory was that not all of the participants in the assault had been captured. Reyes emergence years simply means that he is the missing rapist.
-- What is new is the statement by Reyes that he followed the woman into the Park, raped her alone, and left her for dead. It is worth noting that Reyes is serving 33 year to life for three other rapes and a murder and that the statute of limitations has expired on this crime, so he has nothing to lose by lying.
Now, we know from the DNA that he is not lying about raping her. Did Reyes simply fall in with the other youths (Reyes was 18 at the time) and join in the assault? Or, perhaps he didn’t follow her into the Park - maybe he assaulted her after the other gang had finished with her. Or, having raped her, did he truly beat her so badly that she was left for dead, or did she recover, stagger to her feet, and then get attacked again by the youths? I do not claim to know the answers, but I am convinced that these are questions that deserve investigation.
So, the “not so fast” position was - there are serious questions here, let’s wait and see what facts can be developed. I, at least, have been quite clearly agnostic as to the actual guilt or innocence of the five youths, as noted in the Blogger archives currently bewond reach. Hmmph.
Now, I was impressed by the scope, balance, and fairness of the ABC News report. I am not asking people who believe that the boys are innocent to change their minds. However, I am steadfast in my belief that, having seen that report, or reading the summary, no reasonable person could honestly say that this case is open and shut. I would describe the view that it is open and shut as advocacy rather than analysis, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, there is little to rebut.
So, some stray thoughts: why, one wonders, do people cling to the advocacy position? Well, there is nothing wrong with advocacy, and, if that is your goal, letting facts interfere with a good story is silly. Beyond that, however, I wonder whether some folks are forming the following ‘logical” chain: “I believe our criminal justice system is deeply flawed”; “the Central Park Jogger case is a great injustice which supports my belief”.
My unsubstantiated speculation is that some folks are concerned that the chain can unravel backwards: “IF the Central Park Jogger case is not an example of a great injustice, THEN some might conclude that our criminal justice system is NOT deeply flawed". Clearly that conclusion does not follow. I am not asking anyone to change their worldview about the fairness of our criminal justice system; I have been asking, and continue to ask, that we defer including the Central Park case among the litany of horror stories until we have established the facts.
UPDATE: Talk Left sends us to A Burst of Light, who has this story from Reyes' former attorney. OK, Reyes did punch the attorney in the face in court, but does that mean he is a "psychopath"?
UPDATE 2: Very interesting piece in the NY Times. We have heard of "false confessions" and "true confessions". How about "over-confessing" - a person guilty of some crimes admits to those, and more. Some NYC investigators think that may have happened here. The story itself is featured prominently at the top of Section B-1 (the Metro section), and inspires yet another theory, which I guarantee you have not heard before:
The five confessions differed on important details. Suppose two confessions are accurate, and three represent "over-confessions" - scared kids, guilty of other things, confess to this as well. Maybe the group of assailants was five, including two properly convicted and three never identified. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But no maybe about this: unless the City can produce a videotape of Al Sharpton handing Matias Reyes a check, the judge is going to vacate these five convictions. Since the five have already done their time, it would be an insult to a jury and a waste of the DA's time to try them again. And people will be left believing what they want to believe, based on few facts and lots of suppostion.
Final Thoughts On the Central Park Jogger, Part Two
More thoughts, Part Two: File this under “Best Advocacy Argument Not Actually Presented”. We have seen a lot of back and forth about false confessions, and what might have prompted these five to confess to something they didn’t do. Surely, if the police had picked up five kids at Sunday School and sweated them for two days, they wouldn’t ALL have cracked? Which suggests that there must be some truth to their confessions, and anyway, two juries believed them.
Well, here is my new twist: the police weren’t sweating five kids from Sunday School; they were sweating about thirty kids from the Park. At least some of these kids truly had committed violent crimes that night, and all had good reason to be scared. In that scenario, might, maybe, 20% or so crack and give a false confession? Hmm. Bit of a “weakest link” theory. I apologize, that 20% figure jibes with the “false confession” study, and I consider that to be a potentially misleading coincidence. However, if I were representing these boys, I would make that point loudly and clearly - if you start with a large group of scared kids, a few of them will crack, and that is all it would take for a false conviction.
OK, how about “Best Rebuttal Argument Not Presented”? I may not be an objective judge, but here is my favorite, expressed in a few e-mails to some of my new found friends on the Left: Was this a police frame-up? Pretty lame effort from the boys in blue. A quick trip down to the crime scene, or the lab, by one cop with a few articles of clothing, and this case is OVER. Blood everywhere. Maybe hair, too. Forensic evidence galore. Look, the police thought Steve Lopez was the ringleader (he gets a first-name mention in the confession tapes we saw last night) - why not plant a bit of evidence on the guy you know did it?
OK, that argument wasn’t offered because the “frame-up” argument has sort of died down, as best I can tell. As well it should. I could actually lean towards a Salem Witch trial scenario: the police sincerely, and with good reason, believed that some of these kids were guilty; the psychological pressure of that belief wore some of the kids down. Good faith, bad result.
Last theory, and done: What the heck happened that night? The lead detective thinks Reyes assaulted her after the boys did. Well. How about a theory that explains the lack of blood on the boys, and the coaxing we saw of Kharey Wise to describe the beating as gruesome (in his initial stories, the boys were slapping the victim, but after prodding from the DA, he said a boy picked up a stone to beat her). Here we go: the boys attacked her, but, as Wise initially suggested, not particularly violently. No rocks, no blood. She flees, Reyes takes over, delivers the violent beating that became his trademark, and here we are. Reyes is lying about following the victim into the Park, telling the truth about the rest - impossible?
And who would know the truth? Reyes, probably. Given the psychological power of denial, I wonder if the boys themselves know the truth of that night at this point. The police are clearly committed to their viewpoint. And the rest of us? Well, believe what you want. But as Denzel Washington observes in “Training Day”, “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove”. And, setting aside these confessions, I don’t have the impression that anyone can prove much of anything.
Instant Reaction to the ABC News/PrimeTime on the Central Park Jogger
Quick take: very fair and balanced. Not nearly as exploitative as it could have been, and it made the point quite clearly that there are two sides to this discussion. My media bias fears were totally misplaced. Talk Left is planning to comment on this case in the next few days. They were kind enough to give me a sneak preview, and it promises to be thoughtful and well researched, so I am already a fan. Any of my deep thoughts will be in response to their post, alhough of course other e-mails or new postings are encouraged.
So, back to ABC: in watching the old videotapes of the confessions, several references were made to "Steve", who was alleged at one point to have cut the joggers pants with a knife. I will guess this to be Steve Lopez. The police believed him to be the ringleader, but he never made a statement. Eventually he acepted a plea deal for one charge of robbery.
The Cuffee family appeared last night in support of the five. Several members of the family offered their version of events at trial, and were not believed.
Finally, during one of the commercial breaks, ABC plugged next week's show. Remember the Estrada brothers, who murdered their parents? I don't, I don't even think I have the right name. Anyway, they killed their wealthy parents, the courts rejected their plea for mercy on the basis of the their status as orphans, and now they are in jail. The news? Some woman has married one of them. "Why?" asks Barbara Walters soulfully. And we are supposed to tune in next week to find out? Hello, Barbara, a rich hubby with no in-laws, does it get any better? Man, who watches this stuff?
This story has it all. My only quibble: in discussing Reyes's decison to come forward at this time, they do not seem to mention that the statute of limitations has now passed for this crime, so his confession has no consequences for Reyes.
ABC News on False Confessions
I presume that the experts are not as foolish as they appear in this interview, so I will blame it on the interviewer. But honestly, the basic logical fallacy of this presentation is laughable. Briefly, the ABC text presents the experts as saying: "we have studied false confessions; certain interrogation techniques are used in false confessions; we see these techniques used here; therefore, these confessions may be false."
Please. Try this example: "All men are mortal"; "I have identified something that is mortal"; "therefore, I have identified a man". Well, actually, I have identified one of my kid's goldfish, and I need to take care of that.
As to our experts, they need to study valid confessions - crimes where the criminal confessed, but external evidence corroborates their guilt - compare these to "false" confessions, and identify the differences. If the themes that are common to false confessions also run through true confessions, then it is back to the drawing boards.
An example: How might we get a false confession? "One method is by asking leading questions...", we learn. And do police sometimes, often, always, or never ask leading questions in a situation that ultimately leads to a true confession? No relevant information is provided to address this point, but my guess, based purely on crime shows, is that they do.
As I said, not having checked the underlying research, I blame ABC News for this one. Max Power had a related point about innumeracy and false confessions.
UPDATE: OK, here is a bit of research from one of the experts shown on ABC. These are extensive footnotes to a paper I can't find online. Soundbites: The author recognizes the "true confession" / "false confession" problem I mention. Serious methodological problems with implementing such an approach. Final work based on a study of 200 "false" confessions. That's not good. And, he explains why it is impossible to estimate a "false confession" rate.
Andrew Sullivan comments on Tom Daschle's attempts to find a middle ground between Bush and Gore:
"No, the deeper issue that Daschle is responding to, methinks, is Gore's speech. What Gore has done is galvanize the peacenik wing of the Democrats, undermining Daschle's leadership, and pushing Daschle into a corner. If Daschle now goes along with the president, he'll be called a poodle by the left. If he balks, he risks the Democrats becoming associated once again in the public mind with vacillation in matters of national defense. He's trapped, and when pushed by Bush and Gore at the same time, he exploded."
Left unsaid, until now: Daschle is trapped between Iraq and a nut case.
The AP has a story on the Central Park Jogger. Before we get to the AP story, let me present, again, the background. Bit of a courtesy to anyone here from "Google". Bit of a chore for regular readers:
On April 19, 1989, approximately thirty youths aged 14 to 16 entered Central Park for a night of what came to be known as "wilding". Five youths pleaded guilty to either assault, robbery, or attempted robbery. Three were tried and convicted of four assaults, robbery, riot, and rape. In a second trial, one youth was convicted of attempted murder, rape, three counts of assault, robbery, and riot. A fifth youth, Kharey Wise, was convicted of assault, sexual abuse, and riot. All have served their time for these crimes; four are now free and one is in jail on unrelated charges.
Three of the assault convictions, as well as the robbery and riot charges, stem from other events that evening: cyclists were harassed, several joggers were harrassed by stick and stones, and two male joggers were beaten. One male jogger, in fact, was knocked unconscious and required hospitalization.
At roughly the same time and place, a female jogger was brutally beaten and raped. Although she miraculously survived, she has amnesia as to the events in the Park that night and cannot provide useful testimony.
The police questioned a large number of young men that evening. Five eventually implicated themselves in the assault on the woman. Working with the DA, videotapes were made of these confessions, which were made in the presence of the parents. The five later recanted their confessions, but a judge ruled them admissible as evidence. There was very little physical evidence linking these youths to any of the crimes. Some DNA evidence was available, but, as the defense emphasized, it did not match any of the accused. The prosecution presented a theory of a gang rape where not all of the rapists had been apprehended, which the jury accepted. The defense forcefully presented the view that the confessions were coerced - having watched the videotapes, the jury rejected this argument. Ultimately, two separate juries convicted these five as noted.
Now, in the spring of 2002, Matias Reyes, age 31, emerges. He is serving 33 year to life for three rapes and a homicide. His DNA matches the DNA found at the scene of the Central Park Jogger rape. And he says he acted alone.
Based on this, the five defendants have moved to have the rape charges overturned, although the other assault charges do not seem to be in dispute. In early accounts, the Washington Post and the Village Voice seemed to lead to the view that this new DNA evidence exonerated the five youths, although the Times was more balanced. And, here at The MinuteMan, we have been urging people to take Just One Minute to focus on a few facts:
The DNA evidence is not new - the jury knew about a missing rapist at the trials.
Matias Reyes would have been 18 at the time of these assaults - it seems to be intellectually conceivable that he is simply the missing rapist, and the police are investigating this possibility. Other, although seemingly less likely possibilities, are that he raped her and she walked off only to be raped by the gang of youths; or that the gang of youths raped her, and then Reyes came along. The police seemed to be most focussed on the "missing gang rapist" theory.
What is new is Matias Reyes's statement - he claims that he acted alone. Now, the statute of limitations has passed on this crime, and Reyes is already serving 33 years to life. I am not sure that his uninvestigated, unsupported statement constitutes "proof" of anything. He might have many reasons to lie. As to why he might be telling the truth, I should note that Reyes claims that, while in prison, he has become a born again Christian. It is nice to see so many rallying to support a Christian fundamentalist, but I really do think that the City had good reason to approach his statement skeptically.
So, my points: As to, "The poor youths were innocent" - I said, not so fast. It is not the DNA that is exculpatory, it is the statement - let's give the City a chance to investigate. As to "how could the police have reasonably suspected these five on so little physical evidence" - well, these five did violently assault other joggers that evening in the same area, so I think the police had good reason for questioning them on this as well. Furthermore, the DNA evidence was not available at the time the confessions were obtained.
And now? ABC News will broadcast a report on false confessions, and present an interview with Matias Reyes. The AP has a story which give us a sneak preview: a NYC detective still thinks Reyes is lying, but can not establish a link beween Reyes and any of the thirty youths in the Park that the police have questioned. Hmm, I am puzzled, because in this story, at a meeting in support of these five youths, a videotape of an interview between an investigator and Reyes contains this nugget:
"Mr. Reyes said he confessed after he saw Mr. Wise in the Auburn Correctional Facility a few years ago. "When I bumped into him in Auburn, my heart tells me I got to say something," he said on the tape, adding, "I saw in his eyes the suffering he had been going through."
Well, I am not Kojak. Anyway, the detective is pitching the theory that the gang raped her first, and then Reyes raped her. Whether he has any evidence at all we shall see - Reyes did engage in violent rapes, so he may have demonstrated a history of certain preferences about which I would rather not speculate. However, if that is the best the City can offer, I would be feeling optimistic if I were counsel for these five boys.
UPDATE: Here is a Daily News story with background on the case. Don't be reading this at breakfast.
Mickey Kantor, the former secretary of commerce, found the silver lining while comenting on the Japanese economy during a recent visit to Tokyo:
"The banking system is struggling, consumer spending is down, the U.S. economy is weak, oil prices are near $30, there is deflation, political gridlock, reforms that have not been implemented — otherwise, things are perfect."
Well, well. I am denying rumors that I prepare his statements. But it sure looks like it would be fun.
Maybe There Were NY Times Reporters Over From Manhattan
President Bush made a campaign stop in New Jersey on behalf of Republican challenger Forrester, who is in a close race for the Senate seat currently held by "The Torch", Senator (and noted ethicist) Bob Torricelli. As a Jersey guy, I take exception when the NY Times makes cracks like this about that mysterious land across the river that I once called home:
"With the exception, perhaps, of any Martians in the audience, no one missed the point..."
Martians? We've all seen Men in Black. We know where the extra-terrestials are. More misinformation from the Times....
Or not. That "Blogger Blackout" has so disrupted my rhythm, I may do some sports news today. But anyway, surveying the reaction to the Gore speech leaves me wondering - how does this speech affect Gore for '04? We presume, of course, that he will run. We assert that, based on name recognition, his past experience, and his fund raising rolodex, he will be the early front-runner. So, does this speech nail down a role for Big Al as the voice of the principled opposition, and further solidify his claim to Party leadership? Beats me. Seems to beat TAPPED, too, but they liked the speech.
Oh, Why Not?
We had a great time at Yankee Stadium last night. Thirty-two thousand screaming fans, not one of whom could have named a single member of the opposing Tampa Bay Devil-Rays, roared for their Yankees! Swing, Alfonso! Swing Harder! Maybe chanting "M-V-P" will help him relax from the pressure of trying to hit his 40th homerun, thereby setting some deeply significant records. Almost - he brings the crowd to its feet by sending one to the warning track in left center, and fans magnificently during an 0 for 5 evening. Jason Giambi hits a mighty blast, but it hooks foul. Hold on! Several pitches later, and he hits this one harder and fairer. The first of two home runs for the new "Brother of Blast"! Mike Mussina gets the complete game shutout - good times.
It can't be easy when you stand ten feet tall. Professor Cooper updates his thinking on the Central Park Jogger case, and I am dwarfed by the courtesy and clarity of his writing. Armed Liberal is a fan, as well.
Jeanne d'Arc, Body and Soul: "And what interests me is... the myth. It's a theme that weave through a lot of stories I write -- the way a belief, often a mistaken one, influences the choices we make, the world we create."
In what seems to have become a regular feature here, I posted a review of the Central Park Jogger case on Saturday.
Susanna Cornett will be keeping an eye on this story, and me. If I am swept away by an eagle, please check her blog.
Mark Kleiman has kind words for me, and other words, both in a new post and in an update to his original post.
Max Power has a few thoughts on innumeracy as posted at Body and Soul (probably easiest to follow his link).
And, in a bit of a jaw-dropper, I find a brilliant summary of the Left theme for the Central Park Jogger posted last Sunday, Sept 15, at, helpfully, Talk Left:
"Lots of people are weighing in this week on the topic of the recently disclosed wrongful convictions of five youths in the 1989 Central Park Jogger case. Recent DNA testing (and the confession of someone previously uncharged in the crime) has established that the five defendants who were convicted of the rape and served time for it were in fact not the rapists.
Instapundit believes that the real issue is not whether the system makes mistakes, because they all do, but whether the mistakes were made in good or bad faith....
Well, this is exactly the idea I am trying to rebut. And progress is slow.
I should note that the InstaPundit linked to my first rebuttal at 4:23 PM. Talk Left introduced Glenn as a suppporting authority on the same Sunday, but I can not make out a timestamp. Lots of legal stuff in the ensuing week, since their motto is "Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news", but no follow up on this case. Yet, I persist.
Jeanne d'Arc, Body and Soul: "And what interests me is... the myth. It's a theme that weave through a lot of stories I write -- the way a belief, often a mistaken one, influences the choices we make, the world we create."
An Exhausted Reader wonders,"Maybe you can move off this "Just One Life to Live" format, and tell us what this Central Park Jogger story is about, briefly, is that too much to ask, ...". Good point! Away I go, with links at the end.
The Washington Post, and then the Village Voice, presented somewhat incomplete and misleading accounts of new developments in the Central Park Jogger case. The Times accounts from Sept 6 and Sept 7 were more clear. Matias Reyes, now 31, and imprisoned for rape and homicide, has presented a sworn affidavit asserting that he, acting alone, raped and violently beat the Central Park Jogger. His DNA matches the DNA found on the victim. Based on this, the five people convicted of her asssault have moved to have their convictions overturned. New York City is reviewing the case, and it is worth noting that the five have long since completed their jail terms for this. Thus, these legal maneuverings are about clearing their names, rather than releasing them from jail.
Well. This news of matching DNA set off a scramble among the left half of the blogosphere to see who could express the most profound remorse for this grave social injustice: these five innocent boys, the racist police, convicting little lambs on the basis of confessions that could only have been coerced, oh no!
I have posted a bit more background, available here, and here. Briefly, the mismatched DNA was known at the trial - the prosecution, the defense, and the jury understood that one rapist had not been captured. Furthermore, the issue of coercion with respect to the confessions had been presented. The jury, having been presented with these points, convicted the five young men, aged 14 to 16 at the time.
And did anything happen that night beyond the rape of the young woman known as the Central Park Jogger? Based on court testimony, about thirty black and Hispanic youths entered Central Park that night planning to cause trouble. A homeless man was beaten, several cyclists were harassed, and two male joggers were beaten near the place where the Central Park Jogger was found. The five boys mentioned in the Post story were part of this group, and were convicted of three assaults, robbery, and riot for these activities. Five other boys pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and one was prepared to cooperate with the District Attorney and testify against the others on these charges.
So, brief aside: the police have plenty of witnesses saying that a group of youths are beating people. The body of a raped and badly beaten woman is found that night in the same area. Is it an irresponsible, racist police assumption that maybe, maybe, maybe there is a link?
Long converations with many attendess to the night's events follow. The thirty youths came from two separate housing projects, so not everyone knew everyone else, but eventually, through the haze of statements, it becomes clear (to the police, the DA, and later, a jury) that these five assaulted the young woman. A sixth man, Lopez, seems to be involved, but wisely refuses to cooperate with the police and no separate case can be made against him. The statements also leave open the possibility of other rapists. Not much physical evidence, and, eventually, the DA, the defense, the jury, and the public learn that DNA found at the scene does not match any of the accused.
Trials follow, with these five convicted and five others accepting plea bargains. Now, years later, Matias Reyes emerges, the defense moves to have the convictions set aside, and here we are.
Could Matias Reyes be lying when he says he acted alone? I can scarcely imagine that signing a false statement and risking the legal consequences thereto could hold great fear or tweak the conscience of a man serving 33 years for multiple rapes and a homicide. I can imagine that, since this case was very high profile and politicized, he can picture himself as a hero in the community that supports these young men. If he is 31 now, he would have been 18 at the time of the rape - he could simply be the missing rapist known about all these years. Or, he could have raped the young woman and left her to be subsequently assaulted by the other group. Or, the other group could have beaten her as they described in their statements. One of the male joggers was beaten and left unconscious, but eventually got to his feet and staggered off for help. Perhaps she did the same, and was then set upon by Matias Reyes.
Or perhaps, he is telling the absolute truth - acting alone, he followed her into the Park, where he beat her savagely and left her for dead. Just a peculiar concidence that the other assaults were occurring nearby.
New York City is reviewing this. Meanwhile, although I do not doubt our open-mindedness, not all of us are currently convinced that the police acted improperly, that the arrest of these five was racist and unwarranted, that the new DNA evidence obviously exonerates everyone else, that the jury acted improperly in convicting these five, and that, to paraphrase Body and Soul, this incident formed the basis for the stigmatization of a generation of young black men.
Not all of us. But what is the power of myth-making in the blogosphere? And how might we assess the open-mindedness of the Left?
Bit of a pause. Now, Sept. 12, Body and Soul revisits the issue. Nice going, she got over 3000 hits on the original post!
"And what interests me is... the myth. It's a theme that weave through a lot of stories I write -- the way a belief, often a mistaken one, influences the choices we make, the world we create."
Atrios shares this interest: "Jeanne D'Arc [of Body and Soul] on the power of myth and the Central Park jogger story.", posted Sept. 13. More traffic, I imagine.
Glenn Reynolds joins in on the 14th. Then, in an update of the same post, I get a name mention and point Glenn towards the Max Power - Uppity-Negro discussion. Glenn also provides many other links. Just a foreshadowing, because later that day I deliver a long post defending the process, to which Glenn links, and which I have noted.
There has been interesting follow up by Ampersand, Armed Liberal, Mark Kleiman, Pandagon of the cool new site and the broken archives, and perhaps others. The four I mention seem ready, willing and able to take on new information and address the issues, and I have the scars to prove it.
Ms. Sisyphus Shrugged is, we are delighted to report, unfrozen. In a sensitive treatment of a serious personal and family crisis, she seems to be ready to convict the Bush girl of drug charges based on newspaper accounts. Innocent until proven guilty, indeed! However, I have seen no follow-up on the Central Park Jogger.
Atrios seems to have dropped this, as has Professor Cooper. Atrios does sometimes just link with a "Read This!", so I could have missed something.
Ms. Body and Soul has posted twice more on the Jogger: once to apologize for underestimating how dire the situation is, and once to remind us that police and scientists often engage in selective perception. As a fan of subtlety and irony, I applaud!
Jeanne d'Arc, Body and Soul: "And what interests me is... the myth. It's a theme that weave through a lot of stories I write -- the way a belief, often a mistaken one, influences the choices we make, the world we create."
Atrios: "Jeanne D'Arc on the power of myth and the Central Park jogger story."
Well, well, so many common interests! I too am interested in the Central Park Jogger story, and I too am interested in the making of myths. Of course, the myth that interests me is the treatment of this Central Park Jogger story in the blogosphere, but still, I expect we will find much to discuss.
I will be away all weekend, but I expect to take this up next week. Two of my posts on this subject are here, and here. Those can be followed to other stories.
Those two posts are long and serious - quite a strain on me and my readership, really, since short and snippy is more my flavor. Hard to predict next week's tone. Serious, or snarky? Engage the other side in thoughtful discussion, or go the "scorn and ridicule" route? I don't know myself. Can't wait 'til next week, though.
Briefly, the Central Park Jogger incident involved the violent rape of a young white woman in Central Park back in April of 1989. Based primarily on their own video-taped confessions, four black youths, aged 14 to 16 at the time, were convicted of her rape, and a fifth was convicted of sexual assault. Good police work, or blatant racism and police "coercion"? Sensible verdict, or gross injustice? The reaction of the blogosphere has been fascinating.
The Bush Administration continues to flounder helplessly on the Iraqi question, struggling to cobble together something its supporters can straight-facedly describe as a "plan". Today, the White House was caught flat-footed by Tom Daschle's bold new legislative initiative, which firmly positions the Democrats as the party of vision, national security, and responsible leadership. Daschle has already forced the White House to accede to his demand for Congressional involvement, and now the White House seems unable to resist his call for a prompt, strongly worded resolution on Iraq. Quick passage - Daschle predicts "early October" - then clears the way for the Democrats to re-focus national attention on the issues that matter to the American people, such as prescription drug coverage and health care.
Hey, this is easy. Kind of fun, too. Probably not habit-forming, but it may cheer up my buddies here and here.
We have been discussing the Central Park Jogger case, and the recent developments in which a new person, Reyes, has been conclusively identified by DNA evidence as having raped the victim. In 1990, five young men were convicted of this crime, based primarily on their confessions as to their activities on what was described as a "wilding night" involving as many as thirty youths. Reyes, imprisoned for other violent rapes and a rape/homicide, claims he acted alone. The blogosphere has seen expressions of anguish at this evident injustice, perhaps best characterized by this excerpt from “Body and Soul”:
... there is the liberal reaction, which was captured by Sisyphus Shrugged -- Oh, my God!
I'm not sure most of us have figured out yet exactly what we mean by that cry to heaven. Are we furious at the injustice of what was done to those boys?....
End of excerpt.
Because there seems to be a misunderstanding as to the number of crimes committed that night, I have obtained a copy of “Unequal Verdicts: The Central Park Verdicts Trial”, by Timothy Sullivan, Simon & Schuster, 1992. This book is devoted to this incident, and I summarize its major points as follows:
Antonio Diaz, 52, homeless man: beaten
Several cyclists: harassed, but unharmed
Female jogger: beaten, raped – identified as the Central Park Jogger
John Loughlin, jogger: former Marine, 6 feet, 4 inches, 190 lbs. – beaten, left unconscious, hospitalized with trauma to head, back, rib cage, right knee. Had his Walkman stolen, which becomes the basis for a robbery charge.
David Lewis, jogger: struck in harm, bruised from shoulder to elbow, x-rays revealed no broken bones
David Good, jogger: harassed, struck by stones and sticks.
Robert Garner, jogger: punched, hit by a rock, held down. When released, he ran, then walked home.
The victims above, with the exceptions of the homeless man and the female victim, testified to the involvement of a group of young black men. The cyclists reported roughly thirty, but apparently the groups split up by the time the joggers were assaulted. Only Loughlin was able to make an identification of an assailant, and there were serious questions about it – he apparently recognized a face on television.
One of the youths, Jermain Robinson, pleaded guilty to the robbery of Loughlin. Although he cooperated with the DA, he was not called as a witness. Apparently, he was being saved for the last trial, of Lopez. Ultimately, no trial occurred, because Lopez struck a plea bargain.
Charges: Basically, attempted homicide, rape and assault with respect to the female victim, assaults with respect to the different male joggers, robbery with respect to Loughlin’s radio, and riot. “Riot” seems to be violent behavior involving ten or more people.
The Jury, First Trial: McCray, Santana, Salaam:
“Four whites, four African-Americans, three Latinos, and one Asian”
Result: According to this book, the jury easily reached agreement on the riot charges, the assault charges against the male joggers, and the robbery charge.
The jury did struggle with the charges involving the female victim. The attempted murder charge was dropped early. Agreement on assault was reached quickly for Santana and Salaam. After several grueling days, the jury eventually agreed to rape and assault for all three.
The Jury, Second Trial: Wise, Richardson
“Five whites, four African-Americans, two Latinos, one Asian”
The jury reached quick agreement on the riot charge, the assault charge against the men, and the robbery charge in the case of Richardson. The rape charges were problematic, but eventually the jury settled on rape and attempted murder for Richardson, and assault and sexual abuse for Wise.
Summary of Convictions:
McCray: Rape, four assaults, robbery, riot
Salaam: Rape, four assaults, robbery, riot
Santana: Rape, four assaults, robbery, riot
Richardson: Attempted murder, rape, sodomy, three assaults, robbery, riot
Wise: One assault, sexual abuse, riot
But he sure does spend time there. The "Sweden is poorer than the Mississippi" notion has been circulating since early May, but Nathan puts it to sleep by adjusting the income and taxation figures for social services and lifestyle. My initial post lacked his extensive analysis, but I had a gut feeling something was missing.
UPDATE: These are not the kind of Swedish figures we were thinking of, but Our Man Sans Q seems to be enjoying his Swedish massage.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, announced today that she will be pushing Silicon Valley to speed development of a Verbal "Edit-Delete" device, so that the spoken word can be retracted and modified. As noted in her statement to an astonished press corps "It's too late for me personally, but others may benefit. If we can save one politician from heartbreak and humiliation, it will be worthwhile".
"Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., just back from Europe, said she detected growing opposition to the United States among America's allies. ``The driver of a lot of this animus,'' she said, ``is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To leave this unresolved and to attack an Arab country is going to be viewed as an attack on the Arab world.''
She said the anti-American sentiment was so strong that she felt it personally.
``As an American, I have always been proud,'' Feinstein said. Referring to her U.S. flag pin, she said, ``I was embarrassed to wear it.''
Emphasis added? No, phrase highlighted for deletion.
Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle now seems to be more supportive than President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The Times has Bush "scrambling" on the same subject. Well, you can't make an omelette without scrambling eggs.
Not every pennant race sees a lead change every day, and not every ball game is decided by one run. It just seems that way for the Oakland Whatevers. Do fans need to pass a heart-screening physical to enter the stadium?
I need to get out more. Susanna Cornett finally kicks me over to Ampersand, and this writer is great. The specific impetus was the Central Park Jogger story. Here is the blogger's first reaction on Sept. 6:
"...here's the short version: DNA tests have proven that the so-called "wilding teens" didn't rape the central park jogger. They were totally innocent. They were totally framed. And I totally bought into their guilt.
OK, plenty of folks stopped there with a reaction to one incomplete story. But check this out from Sept. 16, in the first of two posts:
"A bit more time has passed, and I've done a bit more reading. So here are some thoughts on the case.
Despite my initial reaction, we don't know that the 5 teens who were convicted are innocent....
But we don't know that they're guilty, either. "
This was the result of a research effort that had to drain the Lexis/Nexis budget for a month. This post, and the follow-up, dig up many newspaper and magazine citations from 1990, the time of the trial. Whoever is doing this might be the first ever pit-bull with a blog.
So, what do we think? Well, never get involved in a land war in Asia, for one. And take serious pause before slugging it out on a legal question with what seems to be a lawyer with superior research tools. On the other hand, "slugging it out" presumes significant disagreement. Do we have any? It is quite possible that we are addressing different questions.
Ampersand offers plenty of grist for the mill of those who would like to exonerate these five men today. However, our sticking point may be this conclusion:
"So what do I think? I don't know if the five (or six, counting Kharey Wise) teens accused of raping the Central Park jogger did it or not. But I don't need to know. I'm convinced that - even at the time, and even more so now - there is reasonable doubt about their guilt. And that should be all our system requires. Where reasonable doubt isn't enough to prevent a conviction, we have a problem."
There are two issues that need to be separated here. Should the jury, seeing the evidence available at the time, have acquited these five? And, knowing what we have learned since then, is it reasonable to think a new jury might today reach a different verdict?
The second question is easy - I would be astonished, barring new information, to see convictions at a second trial.
However, the first question is the crux of my position. Most of the objections to these convictions were made at the trial. Problems have emerged with the limited forensic evidence then available. However, the notion that these confessions were coerced was introduced by the defense. There is a question of adrequacy of counsel - this was a high profile case, and I suspect the defendants had good counsel, but I do not know. Ampersand provides this ambiguous tidbit:
"Only one of the six defendants' lawyer - Kharey Wise's lawyer - pressed the issue of racism and coercion at the trial as strongly as possible (American Lawyer, Jan/Feb 1991)...Although the mainstream press criticized the legal strategy for being "divisive," the jury was convinced - Wise was the only defendant to be acquitted of rape."
I have trouble reading this as "everyone agreed at the time that the lawyers were doing a poor job." After the convictions came in, people will inevitably have thoughts about what should have been done differently. We await clarification on this point.
The rest of Ampersand's objections are well-presented problems with the confessions. Again, however, this came out at trial. Ampersand notes that the jury struggled to reach a verdict. Well, yes.
But I have not been saying "I believe they are guilty". I have been arguing that they were found guilty by a jury in a proper trial. My opinion as to whether this is a mistake might be interesting. Surprisingly, and perhaps shockingly to some, I do not find my own opinion on this point to be interesting, or relevant. There is a process here - what happens next? And, just to provide a bit of reassurance, if I thought hand-wringing would help, I would be looking like Lady Macbeth. I spend a bit more time in my piece on what might happen next, and speculate on the motives of the various participants. I have little doubt that Ampersand will be doing the same. The author does look forward with some suggestions for reforming the legal system, and I expect there will be more. We have seen this film.
So, let me be clear. Ampersand's pieces are first class. This kind of work is essential in order to drive an appeal and create some useful publicity. My only argument has been with those who want to leap to unsupported conclusions on the basis of incomplete information.
Let's tap this ranting potential. Commenting on a contempt citation against the US Government for its role in the management of the American Indian trust funds, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said the following:
"In February of 1999, at the end of the first contempt trial in this matter, I stated that 'I have never seen more egregious misconduct by the federal government. Now at the conclusion of the second contempt trial in this action, I stand corrected. The Department of Interior has truly outdone itself this time."
The original contmept citation included Treasury Secretary Rubin and Interior Secretary Babbitt. The list is now extended to include Interior Secretary Norton. A bipartisan blast.
I could never afford his consulting fees, but I would love to bring Professor DeLong to a few cocktail parties. He could explain this while I do what I do best - comparative advantage in action. Yeah, baby!
I seem to have a post which has turned into a two-parter. A pretty much fact-based rebuttal to an assertion by "Body and Soul" appears here. I should say that some of the facts are hidden in some odd places, but there it is. Separately, I am still pondering "Letter From Gotham" and her follow-up comments. I have hopes of saying something thoughtful and sensible, but one never knows.
So, let's reprise Body and Soul, who describes one consequence of the Central Park incident:
"A generation of young minority men -- especially black men -- was unfairly stigmatized."¨
This was Letter From Gotham's launch point, and I have questioned this as well. So:
Bernie Goetz, the subway vigilante, had absorbed the idea that groups of young, black men were dangerous back in Dec 22, 1984. Look, I am not reviewing or endorsing these links, I don't know what is here besides the very basic facts. I see the side bar says "heroism", it may be a bit tilted, get your own Google. I'm observing, not endorsing. Thank you. I continue.
Diana Ross concert, Central Park, July 1983. Here, E-online alludes to "the mayhem of Diana Ross' Gotham gig". Those with long memories will remember that the first concert was rained out, so she had a second. For a virtually hopeless rag's account, check here. I recall some of their very basic facts, such as a mob (unruly crowd? gathering?) at Tavern on the Green, also in Central Park. I do not endorse this stuff, but I will offer it as evidence that prior to 1989, the perception that groups of young black youths meant trouble was circulating.
And, a bit more contemporary, several explanations of the Puerto Rican Day parade and follow up on June 11, 2000. Evidently, 45 women were assaulted and humiliated as part of a racist conspiracy to discredit Vieques protestors. Or, a somewhat more conventional account is here.
Well, can we agree that Ms. Body and Soul was a bit hasty with her suggestion that the Centarl Park incident unfairly stigmatized a generation? Look, it may be unfair, and we should talk about that. But this was not the incident that created the stigma.
The author has picked up on the Central Park Jogger story, and I need to gather my thoughts and reply calmly. But I am stewing about this description of her trip to a police station house following a mugging:
"When I went to the station house to try to ID the perps the cops handed me photo albums. Yeah, like family photo albums. I imagined some cop whose job it was to fit the pictures into the plastic sleeves ("hey! this is such a wonderful picture of little Albert!").
Not one honky in the bunch. Hardly any Hispanics, either, I noticed."
Not having spent a lot of time in station houses, I do not know for a fact that these books would normally be sorted by race. I mean, I would, but I sort my socks pretty carefully too. So, as I said, let me reflect - I have kids that need to get to school.
UPDATE: Looks like I'm not alone in being alone... Should I be quoting "The Police" right now? Pandagon is not happy. Balancing that, Letter From Gotham is open to correction on this point, but stands by her major theme.
UPDATE: Originally I had hoped to say something sensible, but now I'm just hoping to avoid anything stupid. Any bettors?
Right, then. "Body and Soul" asserts that young black men were unfairly stigmatized as a result of this incident. Diane E. of "Letter From Gotham" replies "Unfair! I've been mugged, my friends have been mugged or worse, look at the crime statistics and tell me if I am being unfair or unwise in steering clear of young black men for my own protection."
Now, my wife is quite sensible on this point. She has no problems whatsoever with black people, yellow people, brown people, any color people. Her problem is with violent people. I have a problem with violent people too, when I don't make this distinction clearly and she kicks me in the shins. Sensitivity training. Anyway, my wife is a "root causes" type: education, poverty, family upbringing, neighborhood, housing - nothing unusual on her list. She believes that there are plenty of places in America today populated by poor, menacing white folk. And that, less than two hundred years ago, the Irish neighborhoods in New York were cesspools of crime and drunkenness. But you knew that is where "paddy wagons" comes from, so let's press on.
Her point, and mine, and we presume Diane E's, is that self-preservation is not a race thing per se. Nobody is suggesting a genetic pre-disposition towards bad behavior. However, because the sidewalks of New York often do not allow enough time for a full review of a person's family and lifestyle, rapid assessments are made based on gender, race, age, and demeanor. Explaining why this is OK and not racist is a bit of a balancing act which probably ought to be approached carefully.
Look, if you are getting your lessons in empathy here, we have all fallen on hard times. But hey, rock bottom, it can only get better! I'll type quickly; perhaps that will make this less painful. I'm a middle aged white guy. What do I know about this? Nothing. I lived in Manhattan for ten years (1981-'91) but now I am in a leafy suburb. One fine morning, I was unshaven, unkempt, and properly dressed to mow the lawn when my wife sent me off on an errand to some tony women's clothing store. Yes, she needed it now, no, she couldn't wait, fine, dear. So, I get to the store, not looking at all like their typical customer. A peculiar coolness settles over the store. No, Mr. Invisible, we cannot see you, how could we possibly be expected to help you? Hmm. Not my normal reception. Do they have any idea how much my wife spends here? I don't, but I'm sure it's a lot. I do know that if I were wearing my snazzy business suit, looking like the Important Businessman I play at during the week, they would be falling all over themselves trying to separate me from my money. My situation is quite infuriating, but nobody cares and why should they, because I Do Not Belong. Eventually an older male clerk helps me out and chases me out, and there we are. So, one bad experience ten years ago, and I still remember it. And if it happened ten times a day?
Do I have stories about the police? Fine, once I was jogging in Beverly Hills, of all places. I was there for a friend's wedding, and a cop stopped me for jaywalking. Since I was not carrying my wallet and had no ID, there was some idle speculation about the merits of taking me "downtown". I was very deferential and kept to myself questions as to whether busting joggers for jaywalking represented the fast track to "Detective" in this burg. And I did not ask if I could meet Eddie Murphy, and I kept my own counsel on the seemingly relevant point that I had not left my wallet "downtown" either, it was in the hotel two GD blocks away, maybe THEY had left something "downtown", like their BRAINS... no, I did not walk that road, because I have incredible street savvy. So, no personal police stories to speak of, but I still get that sense of "here we go" when a policeman approaches. And if I were a young black kid, how would the world seem?
Look, I'm not saying Diane E is wrong, other than about the perp book and the implication that every criminal in Manhattan is young and black. But there are multiple sides to this, so please bear in mind a bit of relevant folk wisdom: Don't criticize someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile away when you criticize them. AND, you'll have their shoes.
That's it. We now resume our regularly scheduled butt-kicking.
"Unless someone can explain why August was too early, December is too late, but October is just right, it's clear that the administration is playing politics with Iraq."
Wel, fools rush in, so here I go. First, way back after the State of The Union speech when Iraq was mentioned as member of the "Axis of Evil", the Times speculated as to when military action against Iraq might start. We needed to restore our inventory of smart munitions following Afghanistan, and no one could imagine US troops fighting in Iraq in biochem suits in the summertime. So, Autumn at the earliest. The best months for fighting would probably be December to February, if the military option becomes necessary.
As to Bush's timing of his diplomatic and political push:
August? Europe was on vacation, Congress was in recess, the President was on vacation, Andrew Sullivan was on vacation - what if you gave a foreign policy address and nobody came?
December? Well, the diplomatic portion of the follow through (the technical term is "fandango") might take four months. This means military action could not start until April, with a risk of action running into the summer. Furthermore, Hannukah and Christmas take away the last two weeks of the month, and Congress is either out, or lame-duck. Not a great choice.
November? Ramadan runs from early November to early December. Terrible month to round up Muslim allies.
October? Let's note that, if Bush had waited until October, we would be hearing this same question of "October surprise, cheap politics". Supplemented, no doubt, by cries of "Imperial Presidency", since Congress would be in recess. Not a compelling choice.
And September? Do we arrive here by default? Hardly, since a strong positive case can be made for September. Congress is in session and can address the issue with legislation. Perhaps more importantly, the UN General Assembly opens. Normally, that happens in late September. However, the US asked that it be moved up to September 12. Many Heads of State were in New York for the 9/11 observance, so it fit their schedules. And what a great psychological advantage for Bush, to have delegates go from Ground Zero to the UN, where Bush could say "Never again". Finally, with a September 12 launch, there is ample time for the diplomatic process to unfold.
So, there it is. The Post-cogs have arrived at a decision, and there is no Minority Report.
Now, I have a bit of additional news, although I would like you to put down your coffee or Coca-cola before continuing.
Karl Rove fought this timing every step of the way!
OH, you know he didn't. But when life hands you lemonade, drink up. The politics works great for Bush, but if Rove had never attended a meeting, September 12 would still have been the day.
Fine, so we are wise as owls after the fact. Well, here is a new project for someone. The launch of Desert Storm was influenced by the lunar cycle - the US military likes to fight with a full moon, or a new moon, or something. Has to do with our relative advantage in night vision technology. I can not claim Steven Den Beste as a regular reader, nor he me, but this is his sort of topic. Anyway, check the dates for Desert Storm, research our military preferences, check the calendar, and you can pinpoint the start of a war in Iraq to within a couple of days in January, or in February. Weird, huh?