The California professor who allegedly plotted mass murder at his deceased son’s former school was finally arraigned last week. Still no charges in connection with the alleged mass murder plot, but at least now there are eight arson counts, enough to keep him safely off the streets for quite a while if convicted (and if they have any sense in California). For now, he remains jailed without bail (suggesting that they may in fact have some sense in California).
The judge in the Drew Peterson trial has drawn what appears to be a significant line demarcating what hearsay statements he will and won’t admit into evidence. Previously, the judge has allowed hearsay statements from witnesses who’ve testified that the deceased, Peterson’s third wife, had told them that she was afraid of Peterson. Then, late last week, the prosecution sought to introduce hearsay statements from a witness who was reportedly going to testify that Peterson’s currently-missing fourth wife had told him that she had lied about Peterson being with her on the night of wife #3’s death. The judge barred the latter testimony, which strongly suggests that he’ll also bar testimony from another potential prosecution witness who was supposed to say essentially the same thing. This is an important delineation that the judge is making because Peterson’s alibi for the murder of wife #3 is that he was with wife #4. Still to come, the “battle of the experts” over forensic evidence.
James Holmes (and a concerning new study)
The judge in the James Holmes case has continued, at least for the time being, to prohibit the release of evidence contained in Holmes’ psychiatric history and records, citing the defense’s concerns about Holmes’ privacy. As I’ve said in the past, however, while it may not be as soon as we in the media would like, I think that the information will come out eventually when Holmes’ own attorney makes his mental state the centerpiece of his trial. And by the way, a new study out of the University of Utah examined judges’ sentencing tendencies toward defendants who were found guilty but argued in mitigation that “genetic” defects in their brains contributed to their criminal behavior. Guess what? Judges’ tended to give somewhat shorter sentences to those defendants who introduced “mitigating” evidence about the supposed relationship between genetics (which isn’t even clearly established at this point) and criminal behavior. I don’t want to give any ideas to Holmes’ defense attorney here, but it sounds like I need to do some more speaking at judges’ meetings!
Family Research Council Shooting
Last Thursday night, the head of the Family Research Council (FRC), Tony Perkins, appeared on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss the shooting of a security guard at the FRC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters that had occurred just a day prior (which could’ve been much worse had it not been for a fast-acting FRC employee). Perkins told O’Reilly that he blamed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for inflaming the shooter against the FRC by labeling it a “hate group,” much like some extremist pro-choice activists blamed O’Reilly and his correspondents/guests, including me, for inflaming the shooter of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller here in Kansas back in 2009. I doubt that the SPLC was any more responsible for the FRC shooting than we were for the Tiller shooting, and I won’t be surprised if the FRC shooter didn’t even know what the SPLC has said about the FRC. Even if he did know, this type of nut typically tunes in to whatever he thinks will validate or reinforce his pre-existing sentiments, and then he selectively hears whatever he wants to hear. Media messages didn’t make an otherwise-peaceful guy into a homicidal nut in either case. And, even if one were to believe that media messages do inflame the hatred that sparks violence, there’d be an important difference between the two cases: Everything we said about Tiller was objective fact – Tiller appeared to be blatantly violating the law with impunity, and the victims of his alleged violations obviously couldn’t speak for themselves, so it was our duty to inform the public about that situation (not to keep the public in the dark about it for fear that our reportage could inflame some nut). If, on the other hand, the SPLC lied about or mischaracterized the FRC, that was irresponsible regardless of whether it encouraged the FRC shooter. In each of these cases, though, the bottom line is that the only culpable party is the party who pulled the trigger.
Paul Watson of the “Sea Shepherds,” a.k.a. the Whale Wars captain, has jumped bail and fled Germany, fearing extradition to Costa Rica or Japan for crimes that he allegedly (do I really need to say allegedly with respect to Japan when he’s been on worldwide television endangering Japanese citizens on the high seas?) committed against those countries’ citizens. At least now he should be considered a fugitive anywhere in the world, so hopefully he’ll be picked back up and sent directly to whichever country will lock him up the longest. I don’t like seeing whales killed any more than you probably do, but this guy’s an eco-pirate, and the civilized world really needs to bring him to justice so that we can be intellectually consistent when we say that piracy with any other motivation is unacceptable to us.