Today’s Criminal Justice News

Yesterday the Justice Department indicted Steve Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress, and there was much rejoicing. Merrick Garland did something! Yay! However, The Week is reporting that the judge assigned to the case, Carl J. Nichols, was appointed to the bench by Trump. He also once clerked for Justice Thomas. Oh, well. Bannon will get off with a slap on the wrist, no doubt. Let’s just see if Bannon’s indictments light any fires under Mark Meadows.

And before going on — do see the fundraiser I started yesterday to help me keep this beast of a blog online. And I do need some help.

Now on to another pending legal drama involving James O’Keefe and the contemptible Project Veritas. I take it that O’Keefe is being investigated for receiving stolen goods, namely Ashley Biden’s diary. O’Keefe says the diary was obtained legally, and that Ashley Biden “abandoned” the diary. Regarding this case, there is much hand-wringing going on about the Justice Department harassing journalists. And if O’Keefe is a journalist, I’m a toaster. But I fear that if the little weasel is indicted, the outcome will depend on the political orientation of the judge.

I have not been following the Kyle Rittenhouse trial closely, but from news stories I take it the prosecutor is doing a sloppy job, and the judge is biased in favor of Rittenhouse. It’s nearly certain he’ll get off.

Some of you may remember Jim Treacher. He is a right-wing blogger who used to drop by in the comments back during the Bush years. Treacher thinks the real injustice going on in the Rittenhouse case is that media isn’t reporting Rittenhouse shot three white guys and not three black guys. I don’t know about you, but I knew they were all white guys. Nearly every news story about the shooting ran pictures of the victims, all white. No, the text of the news stories don’t identify the victims as white, but exactly why that matters to anybody isn’t clear to me. I don’t think like a MAGA head, I guess.

Josh Marshall has an excellent commentary about Rittenhouse, but it’s behind a subscription firewall. Here is just one section:

To most of us it is pretty obvious that it’s not good for society to have lots of people walking around in public settings carrying loaded firearms. Open carry activists and ‘gun rights’ supporters generally say that’s all wrong. The problem isn’t guns. The issue is when someone decides to commit a crime with one. If someone shoots someone that’s a crime and it should be punished.

This flies in the face of human nature, common sense and the fact that laws are intended not only to punish crimes but make them less likely to happen in the first place. But let’s take this argument at face value. No one is physically injured by these yahoos strutting around with their AR-15s. The moment that changes we have laws that cover that. Those laws carry severe penalties. So far so good.

But the Rittenhouse case shows how that is not really true. Permissive self-defense laws allow a Rittenhouse to have his aggression double as self-defense. You intentionally go into a chaotic situation. You travel across state lines, highly and visibly armed, allegedly to ‘protect’ people who haven’t asked for your protection. Then you feel threatened, which seems likely to happen in a chaotic place when you show up, chest puffed out with a military style weapon. Your perception of danger entitles you to murderous violence, which you arrived locked and loaded to pursue in the first place. In Rittenhouse’s case part of his perception of threat came when people freaked out after he’d shot and killed the first person. And of course only other people get hurt or killed because you’ve got the over-the-top firepower and they don’t.

Yeah, pretty much. And the larger picture is that so many of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020 weren’t violent until the MAGA heads showed up, ostensibly to “protect” people.

I understand that the defense in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing in Georgia want the jury to know that Arbery, as he jogged through the neighborhood, had frequently stopped to look at construction of a neighborhood garage. That’s tresspassing! Of course, if a white passer-by had done the same thing, no one would have noticed. Arbery hadn’t broken in to anything, just looked at it. Arbery’s interest in garage construction made him a burglary suspect, apparently, even though no one has been able to demonstrate that he ever took anything, or that he had stolen goods on him when he was killed. He certainly wasn’t jogging down the street with a tool box or a power drill.

I still hold out hope that there will be justice for Ahmaud Arbery, but as in the case of Trayvon Martin, the defendants assume the right to arm themselves and detain and threaten an innocent, unarmed person. But if that person acts in self-defense, the yahoos who initiated the confrontation can just kill him and claim they were defending themselves. This is just screwy.

16 thoughts on “Today’s Criminal Justice News

  1. Donated.

    Dunno who you're using for hosting or how may hits you get but I found SiteGround much faster than other hosts. Your plan may need a lot more bandwidth but it's worth checking out.

    • I like my current hosting service a great deal; the problem is cost. The current archives for this blog go back to 2005, so that's a load of data. (I started the blog in 2002, but the first three years were not WordPress.) The $75/month includes security, backups, and https encryption, which most other companies charge extra for. Also the the past couple of years traffic went up, which is why I got moved into a more expensive hosting plan. But this company, Flywheel, has the absolute best technical support of any hosting service I've used. So I don't really want to move again, but if I can find a significantly better deal I suppose I will have to. 

  2. “It’s nearly certain he’ll (Rittenhouse) get off.”

    Don’t see it that way at all.

    A conviction might not look promising but it only takes one juror to force another trial.

  3. Hey, here's a thought.

    Maybe it’s not a good idea to let developmentally immature

    17-year olds wander around interstate with AR-15’s doing John Wayne

    cosplay with live ammo.

  4. Hey, here's a thought.

    Maybe it’s not a good idea to let developmentally immature

    17-year olds wander around with AR-15’s doing John Wayne

    cosplay with live ammo.

  5. I kicked in also, Maha. Paypal seems to be dragging their heels in processing my small measure of appreciation for all the fine work that you do. Aside from that, your request for donations finally gives me an opportunity to make a constructive contribution to this blog.

  6. If it comes down to another trial Rittenhouse will have a hard time pulling off his emotional meltdown for the second time.

  7. I've gone through the federal justice system. It's not what I expected. A Trump-appointed judge is not a good omen but the USSC has repeatedly slapped Trump down on all the election-related requests for intervention. I predict when the appeals court denies Trump in early December, the USSC will quickly decline to hear the case.

    The "Trump" court selections were McConnell selections and they are there to protect big money, not Trump and not fascism. I don't assume that Bannon has a sympathetic judge. The US House will have 10 months after they get papers to make the public case that there was an orchestrated plot to hold members of Congress hostage until Trump was crowned king. 

    That's my theory – what will the DOJ prove? Who will be caught in the conspiracy? The scheme was developed in a hurry – they probably left a trail which is why Trump wants to block the release of WH documents. People who are charged with violence are looking at years in prison – Who has info to trade for leiniency? 

    I'm not predicting a win, but it's too early in the game to predict a loss. 

    Regarding Rittenhouse, the judge talked to the prosecution and defense about jury instructions. The judge wants to introduce in his instructions to the jury that if they can't convict on 1st degree murder, they CAN consider these lesser crimes. That's good for the prosecution who should not have charged what they could not prove. (The killings were spontanious, not premeditated.) So I'm hopeful they will nail the twerp for crimes that put him in jail for years. I don't think they will put him away for life. He's gonna pair up with a white-supremacist gang to prevent being a victim to black gangs. But IMO (and I'm not an expert but I was in prison with experts) he will have to pay a price for the protection his life hangs on. If convicted.

    • Some states have looser guidelines for premeditation. I heard it said that, in one jurisdiction, you can premeditate in the very act of picking up a gun. That defies common sense, when second degree is often heat of passion, with the canonical example being catching a cheating partner en flagrante delicto… but I've heard that it *is* a standard, somewhere.

      There might be other things that can push the charges over the line for first degree. For example, if he threatened someone, then shot and killed them, claiming self-defense, that might be "using a gun in the commission of a crime (the threat=assault), that resulted in a homicide".

      The prosecutor doesn't sound like he's prosecuting poorly. One of the judge's lectures was "you were told you couldn't introduce that into evidence" when the prosecutor tried to cross examine, when Rittenhouse referenced it.

      Should he have checked with cranky Judge McCrankypants? Yes, in retrospect, but, normally, if you're told you can't introduce it, if the defendant/defense  introduces it, it's now a valid line of questioning.

      Also, I feel like I'm living in a truly messed up world for having to say this, but, we really have to start challenging the idea that, if someone tries to take a gun away, the gun owner is in danger of death.

      If you point a gun at me, and I'm sure I can take it off you, I will, to keep you from killing me. If I wanted you dead, I'd have brought my own gun so I could shoot you instead. You don't have a reasonable fear of death just because someone you're scaring tries to disarm you.

      • You don't have a reasonable fear of death just because someone you're scaring tries to disarm you.

        No, but you might very well if he points his own gun at you first and then momentarily looks away.

  8. I don't think the prosecutor is doing a sloppy job. It appears to me that the judge is cutting off every avenue for the prosecution to expose the mindset and attitude that Rittenhouse possessed as a gun totting vigilante. He was experiencing the testosterone rush that comes with putting a weapon of the nature in his hands..Don't nobody fuck with me! I have the power to turn you into a puddle of jello.

    Young Kyle chose the AR15 because he thought it was Kool. Not to mention 30 rounds in the magazine.

    • I've seen people say that Rittenhouse is a victim of the adults. I actually don't disagree… though I clearly think it's a different set of adults that are the problem!

      Here's the thing: a gun is a tool. You should pick the right tool for the job in question. The right tools for protecting property are probably cameras, lights, pepper spray, and maybe an electrical-stun device. Maybe, if you're patrolling in a group, *some* have side arms, or even long arms, but they're keeping far back, to maintain situational awareness.

      See, there's almost nothing about protecting property that benefits from a long arm. For fighting within about 50 feet, a handgun, or short barrel shotgun, is usually the optimal choice. If you're more than 50 feet away, how can you be sure that people are damaging property? And if you're in close, a rifle isn't just a weapon, it's a tempting target. Whoever controls the rifle controls the situation, after all.

      Now, if people are confronting those seeming to damage property, having some armed people standing by might not be a bad idea – but the goal should be to discourage violence, not to deliver it.

      I'm not a law enforcement professional, so I don't know if what I'm talking about is actually the right way to assist in the protection of property, okay? But you don't need specialized training to see that taking a rifle that fires extremely high velocity rounds is a dumb way to protect property. You'll be engaging with people much too far inside a rifle's tactical range (that is: the common range in which a rifle is actually used, in preference to a different weapon).

      • So really like using a sledge hammer to drive a brad into your wall to hang a picture.  The wrong tool for the situation.   Here the damage cannot be fixed at any expense, however.  It is way too late for that.  

        I an not sure our justice system was designed for this level of stupid.  It might just be the wrong tool for the job too.  

  9. YAY!!!!

    I finally got my meager contribution in today.

    I had some kind of problem the last two evenings, but I persevered. 😉

    Sorry it can't be more, maha.  You and the peanut gallery here have kept me sane the last 15+ years!

    Guns don't belong in cities.

    IMO, our Reich-Wing loons want guns in cities in the hopes that the libtard white people and the POC get into armed conflicts.

    But that ain't gonna happen. 

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