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June 27, 2007

A murder in Candlestick Park

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 the park


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A Death in Candlestick Park



Once upon a time, Leslie (“Jill”) May escaped to San Francisco from Pocatello.


It hadn’t been an easy life or an easy escape. Little Leslie was only 12 when she found her Mom dead on the floor.  Jill’s mother had died in an alcoholic stupor.  A few years later, Leslie ran away from home. Her Dad had raped her; she was 16 when she escaped. When she arrived in San Francisco, Jill was pregnant with her father’s child.  The baby didn’t make it, but “Jill” fashioned a life of sorts in the Tenderloin District. 


She found work as a prostitute.  Eventually, she and her pimp had three children.


Miraculously, Jill’s kids turned out just fine, thank you.


Lakesha and Ricky Jr. lived with Mom and Dad for years, while Robert, the youngest, got out early – he was raised by his grandparents on Dad’s side of the family.  Then Lakesha moved out to live with a relative. She graduated from high school and today Lakesha  manages two high end clothing stores. She is married and they own their own home. 


Ricky Jr. left too, eventually and moved in with Robert.  The two boys were raised by an uncle after Grandpa and Grandma died.  The boys attended Oakland’s Skyline High, earned B’s, and loved playing sports..


Robert said that his goal was to become the “opposite” of what his parents were.  By all accounts Robert has done that.  Robert got into college All three kids have “become the opposite”.


Meantime Jill fell into deeper and deeper into the abyss.  As her health and good looks failed, she was sucked into the Tenderloin District spiral: bad drugs, bad health, more bad drugs and even worse health.  She was no longer beautiful.  She was no longer a working girl.


Last fall Jill and her boyfriend were finally provided government housing.  Flash forward to this winter: Jill is still a drug addict, but she is still alive and hanging out on the streets.  She still moved among San Francisco’s hard core homeless population, I suppose, because it was her life.


Three years ago, Jill shared with a San Francisco Chronicle reporter that she hoped someday to take a bus and see the Statue of Liberty.  Someday.  Before she died.


Jill didn’t make it.  Robert learned of his mother’s death on a college campus. 


Leslie Jill May died on January 13 this year at the age 48. This is how it happened: 


According to the police and SFDA’s office, Jill had crossed two tough, street women, one of whom was in a loan dispute with Jill’s boyfriend. Jill was accosted, stripped, robbed and beaten on the street. That was January 11 this year. After it came to light that Jill had reported the beating to the police, the same two women kidnapped her a few days later, and drove her to Candlestick Park -- the great park is empty most of the time now, no longer the home of the Giants. 


Then these two women covered Jill with gasoline. 


Then they lit her on fire.


They waited while she burned because the wanted to be sure she was dead before they left the scene.


Her murderers were later arrested by San Francisco police based on the report of another drug addict, a woman who has now died.  Jill’s murder case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney George Butterworth of the San Francisco DA’s office.  The killers face a special circumstances murder charge. The most recent court date reported in the press was February 22.


On Friday, March 9, 2007, San Francisco Staff writer Jaxon Van Derbeken, reported that the DA’s office is going forward with this case “despite the overdose death of a key witness this week.”  We don’t know if there was another witness or whether either of the killers made incriminating admissions. Normally, when the key witness dies of an overdose, your case is in big trouble.  It would have been too early for the dead witness’s testimony to be preserved in a special proceeding.  An out of court statement against the accused is hearsay, inadmissible under the confrontation clause of the constitution.


The three children all insisted on a proper funeral for Mom. Even Dad showed up, wearing a suit.  Lakesha hadn’t seen Dad for a decade.  After Amazing Grace was played, the pastor reminded every one that “Grace means God will keep us even when we don’t want to be kept.”  


Jill’s three children then read a poem composed by Lakesha:


We will keep you in our hearts ‘til we are called home
Where we’ll meet and finally have that happy home
The place that we have always wanted
But never really known
The place where we will have our Mother
This is the place we will call home


As of the last report, the two women who police believe did this were still in custody.  By now they will have been provided with a public defender and an assigned counsel. [A different attorney for each is required because of the conflict of interest rules.]


There will not be a prosecutorial demand for the death penalty in Jill’s murder for two reasons: (a) Prosecutors don’t normally seek the death penalty – even when, as here, it is clearly warranted – when there are significant problems of proof. (b) The district Attorney of San Francisco, Kamela Harris, refuses to enforce the death penalty.  Since her election in 2003, she declined to enforce state law in this respect even in several police officer murders.  So she’s not likely to experience a punishment epiphany on the torture murder of a homeless woman.


Had this been the Scott Peterson murder, the Dyleski “Goth” murder or OJ’s notorious arrest and trial, there would be a fire storm of press attention.  Kudos to the S. F. Chronicle for writing about Jill’s murder providing the information from which this account was abstracted.


But I am troubled.  Since early March, we are experiencing the Great Press Silence.


Surely Jill’s case deserves more attention.


The two Chronicle reporters that were assigned to handle aspects of this case are Heather Knight at  and Jaxon Van Derbeken at . 


Let’s hope that their editors direct them to find out more.  We all want to know what happens next….


Stay tuned.



June 23, 2007

You've got to be Kidding!

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“You can count on evil and criminal folly to entertain us or illuminate the human condition or both.”  
Jay B. Gaskill
Former Public Defender
Alameda County, CA.


Puzzled Over Oakland?
You’ve Got to Be Kidding!


When the New York Times reported yesterday that authorities and experts were “puzzled” over Oakland’s rising murder rate --( )


-- my reaction was as above.



Thugology 101 -- This is not rocket science. 

Oakland, California has a critical mass of violence prone individuals, many of whom are habituated to prison life and who therefore are pretty much undeterred by the prospect of leaving the streets inhabited by their home boys and being taken to another location where they will run into their other home boys in the prison yard. 


Here’s the deal:


Punishment is a deterrent for that very large subset of crimes, including many murders, in which there is a measure of thinking before acting.  When the punishment is insufficient, so is the deterrent effect.



Oakland is one of those jurisdictions where the murder rate is exquisitely sensitive to three factors: (a) the number of cops on patrol during the time the impulse to kill someone is formed; (b) the prospect of getting caught; and (c) the possibility, however remote, of getting the death penalty, or at least spending a couple of very unpleasant decades on Death Row.  


Note: Just asking for the death penalty in a stone cold execution murder case represents an act of moral seriousness, one that telegraphs a message that resonates on the street.  Even the prospect of spending years and years on death row in a state like California, where 600 are called to wait for possible execution but few are chosen, operates a deterrent in its own right.


Almost all of the recent increase in Oakland’s murder rate consists of non-spontaneous killings, like gang hits, the execution of a “business” rival or witness.  These represent the subset of killings that can be deterred because they are crimes with a significant measure reflection and calculation before that trigger is pulled. 


A federal district judge has stayed all activity on California's Death Row because execution via injection might be so unpleasant that it would be “cruel” in the constitutional sense.  So we have a de facto moratorium in the death penalty, and Oakland’s killers have found it out.  My Op Ed reaction (published in the Oakland tribune) to that federal judge’s decision about lethal injection is at .


Recent studies have confirmed the reality of a grim dynamic that many of us have known about for several years: 


Death penalty moratoriums can spark a homicide increase.  I’ve written about this several times:


See my Oakland Tribune Op Ed, “Oakland's Climbing Murder Rate”, first printed in 2002 .


Note my detailed update to the Tribune piece about the federally imposed de facto death penalty moratorium at 


Find the now famous 2005 Study “Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs”, jointly published by the Brookings Institute and American Enterprise Insitute, available on the web in pdf format for free at - .


Review my overall take on this issue, including a discussion of the roots of societal ambivalence about executions at .



I’m sorry to report this to my squeamish friends (particularly those for whom moral/religious qualms have prevented them from accepting the evidence) but the jury is no longer out:  A few executions of guilty murders has the effect of sparing some murder victims in the future.  This will eventually become the new conventional wisdom.  In the meantime a few hundred more people in Oakland may die needlessly from gunfire and knives.  


The new mayor in town, former congressman Ron Dellums, has walked from meeting to meeting with a long, solemn face, wondering aloud whether the underlying social problems of the killers can be addressed, while the understaffed Oakland Police Department soldiers on, still struggling to hire its full allotted staffing numbers.

By the "Giuliani New York measure” (the number of cops per crooks), even a full staffed police department in Oakland is too little, too late.





June 21, 2007

Well Meaning Fools

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“You can count on evil and criminal folly to entertain us or illuminate the human condition or both.”  
Jay B. Gaskill
Former Public Defender
Alameda County, CA.


June 21, 2007:


The headline could have been:


Here are the salient facts. 


AW, by all accounts, was a 16 year old punk well on his way to becoming a 17 year old thug.  His mother and father had divorced, but Mom couldn’t control her son.  This is often the case with young punks, or haven’t you noticed?


WA had assisted in the commission of the robbery of a young woman a few months ago (note – this means by definition, a theft from a person accomplished by force or fear), but was released on conditions of probation that he promptly and repeatedly violated, including by engaging in threatening and “outlandish” behavior at school, “disruptive” behavior during counseling requiring his “removal”, resuming his gang associations and drug related activity. 


The code of juvenile-speak is easily broken here: Not to put too fine a point on it, this young fellow was a budding young thug, plain and simple, out of control and on a scary downward path. 


Bright Red flags are all over this pattern of behavior. 


Following AW’s latest screw-ups, he once again found himself in a locked facility (San Francisco’s juvenile Hall), and was about to be moved to a “rehabilitation program”.


Then Dad intervened.  A Juvenile Court Commissioner agreed to “place” young AW with Dad in Vallejo. 


And this release order, by the way, took place over the strong objections of prosecutors. 


But, to the surprise of no reasonable observer, AW did not report to Dad’s control. However, to AW’s  credit, after he got into trouble with a rival gang, he actually surrendered himself and was once again safely locked up in Juvenile Hall.


Enter San Francisco’s Mayor Newsom, a politician apparently more concerned with Juvenile Hall crowding than paying close, detailed attention to the public safety.  After all the Mayor has a lot on his plate these days. We can’t expect him to pay close attention to Juvenile Justice, can we?


The Mayor ordered the release of a second wave of youthful inmates from that facility.


[An aside: Overcrowding is a relative thing.  Conditions at SF’s Hall are less than perfect but better than many of the home conditions of some of its wards. A caveat: The Hall was under a court order to trim its residential crowding, but not necessarily that day and those particular wards.]


Yes, AW was among those released, again to his father, again against the recommendations of the prosecutors.


It is not clear from the available reports whether AW ever actually got into his father’s custody this time.  But it is clear that about week later he was involved in a street transaction during which AW fatally shot a 19 year old (identified as a drug dealer).


AW was reportedly fleeing the scene when police arrived, having taken drugs from the victim.  The victim is in the morgue with a bullet track through his head, and young AW is safely back in custody.


Who knows?  Maybe young AW will beat his case.  Maybe he has a defense to the shooting. 


One thing is clear: AW’s rehabilitation prognosis is poor.  Another thing is evident: The rehabilitation prognosis of the shooting victim is zero.


Here are the salient lessons:


(1) It is often not a kindness to a miscreant who has self discipline and self control problems to release him from the safety of confinement. And it is rarely a kindness to others. Had AW not been released, he would still have a chance at life.


(2) “Thugs” are recruited by the street ethos from a larger group of tough males who lack impulse control and a developed conscience.  Many of them can be saved, but not by wimp parents.  The days are long gone when any single parent (even one with strong parenting skills) is able to control and discipline a recalcitrant male child without getting into trouble with Social Services. 


(3) Well meaning fools are dangerous.




The full article “Probation Furor”, by reporter Jaxon Van Derbeken, is currently on the front page of the June 21, 2007 San Francisco Chronicle, linked at

June 14, 2007

Elementary, My Dear Watson

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Welcome to the Out-Lawyer’s blog
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Elementary, My Dear Watson…
Protecting the Innocent
& losing our Innocence
Reflections about Safe Neighborhoods and Death Penalty Policy
Jay B. Gaskill
Remembering My Dead Clients


Once I handled an “interrupted” juvenile case in front of the Hon. Carl West Anderson, an Alameda County Superior Court Judge who was later elevated to the California Court of Appeal.


The charged crime involved stealing from a mailbox.  Evidently it didn’t qualify as a “federal case” because the loss was minimal. 


My client (we’ll call him Joe) was a sweet faced young man, probably about 15 at the time, neatly dressed, amiable but very nervous.  He was out of custody and came to court on his own, sans mother.  Judge Anderson was in a bit of a rush because of a “witness scheduling” problem, as I recall, so a procedural compromise was reached:  We would proceed to hear part of the DA’s case; then we would break and resume the rest of the trial ten days later. My client would remain out of custody & readily agreed.


The evidence took about an hour that afternoon. I don’t recall all of the details, but there was a witness who claimed to observe someone (meeting my client’s description, of course) removing material from the neighbor’s mailbox.  The aging mailbox victim then was called and asked whether “the defendant” (the DA pointed to Joe with an accusing finger) had ever been given permission to remove items from the mailbox in question.  “No!” was the answer. 


My cross examination was brief. [At this point there was no in-court ID of the thief.]


When we reconvened ten days later, my client’s name was called.  A long silence followed; he was not in court.  I took a short recess. After I discovered that Joe wasn’t in the building and that no one answered the home phone, I requested a two day delay. 


The court denied my request, and insisted on allowing the DA to complete the prosecution’s case in chief, in absentia.  This was irregular, of course; after all, defendants – even in juvenile court – have a right to confront their accusers. So I made all the appropriate objections, including “I’m sure there is a good reason for his absence, your honor.”


The next ninety minutes or so were painful and unreal at the same time. I was sitting next to an empty chair and attempted to vigorously defend the absent Joe, all the while lodging an objection to the in absentia procedure.


[In fairness to the court, the defendant would be able to successfully object to this part of the proceeding whenever he showed up in person and the case resumed.  He would be pressured to agree, giving him further leverage on the single goal that was the most important to him: staying out of custody.]


But the case never resumed, and all charges were dismissed.  A few days after Joe’s first day in court, my client had been murdered.


No one had even bothered to call.


Later I represented Juan R, a lean, charming 22 year old laborer, who came to my office and the court dressed in jeans and a denim work shirt.  He had been charged with assault with a deadly weapon (a five inch knife) arising from a street encounter with “an old friend”. Any plea bargain was out of the question; Juan was no stranger to the system, but this – as he stoutly maintained – was “not right”.  So it was to be a full bore felony jury trial.


Flash forward to the trial. The complainant, we’ll call him Vince, was a stocky man about my client’s age, both shorter and considerably heavier.  Vince described being attacked on the street by my client “for no reason”. Vince hedged at first about whether he used a knife during the confrontation. “Maybe once, in self defense, before the f….r stuck me.” 


Then Juan R. took the stand and calmly described being confronted on the street by Vince who challenged him to fight.  A deadly fight ensued when Vince suddenly displayed his own five inch blade. But both men were armed with knives. The confrontation ended a few minutes later when Vince suddenly crumpled to his knees. My client’s knife was wedged in his skull.  Fortunately, Vince was a hard headed fellow; a murder case would have been much harder to defend because the jury would not have been able to assess Vince’s credibility.


The police recovered both knives from the scene; Vince was wheeled to Highland Emergency on a gurney, and my client was handcuffed and led to a patrol car.  The case was routinely charged. [There were a lot of knifings in Oakland.] And it quickly became a question of which party to believe. The “victim” came off as sullen and evasive; while my client, Juan, was calm, light hearted and straightforward. 


After a couple of hours of deliberation, the jury agreed that my client had acted in self defense. Juan was acquitted.  I never saw him again.


But about a year later I was conferring with my investigator on another case.  “I wonder how Juan R. is doing,” I mused. 


“You didn’t hear?  Juan was murdered last month.  Now we’re defending the killer.”


That wasn’t the first or last client of mine who had died at the hands of another. When I took over as the head of the department, it became one of my responsibilities to review conflict of interest matters affecting my office’s murder cases. 


During those years we had about 200 murder cases pending for trial at any given time.


Fn. [The overall caseload intake exceeded 40,000 new referrals every year -- that includes referrals of all kinds: juvenile cases, adult misdemeanors and felonies, and a few hundred civil commitment trial cases. This influx was efficiently and competently handled by a staff of dedicated trial attorneys, secretaries, clerks, investigators and law clerks who worked in six branch offices across the county. Overflow cases, most of them cases rejected for conflict of interest reasons, were referred to the private bar under contract with the county.  The last fiscal year I was in charge, the Public Defender 's department had a staff of about 220 men and women and did all of this for about 20m, including expert witness fees and forensic tests.]


Any instance in which one of our active clients was murdered was always brought to my attention, as well as any case in which a former client was murdered and we were asked to defend the accused killer. 


During the ten years I served as head public defender (this is a county with a population exceeding 1m) only one of my clients was executed by the state (David Mason on 12-13-05, a so-called “volunteer” who abandoned his appeals), but a couple were killed by other “clients” every month or so. 


And those were just the solved cases.

Elementary, My Dear Watson…


Civilizations are able to exist because of a general obedience to the core rules that create the conditions for civil peace.  These are the avoidance of murder, assault, trespass, theft, mendacity and oath breaking – in effect, obedience to the set of rules that the Decalogue and the English Common Law share with all functioning civilizations.


These core rules are the foundations of the civil order; they set the threshold conditions for civilized life, without which civilizations quickly deteriorate into war, chaos and dissolution. 


My “life of crime” consisted of the nearly three decades I spent as a professional public defender headquartered in Oakland, California. My time was not only entertaining; it was a post-graduate course in the human condition. 


My contact with thousands of criminals, hundreds of lawyers, police and judges, and the study of thousands of criminal transactions “from the inside”, taught me five simple but profound lessons:


(1)   The whole thing (i.e., the whole edifice of our civilized order) rests on a three layer foundation: (a) that deep normative infrastructure of agreed moral norms we sometimes call the social contract, (b) a robust system of rule-consequences designed to implement those rules, (c) and a reasonably fair and impartial system of law for adjudicating compliance.

(2)   My “clients” mostly consisted of those thousands of poor, impulsive, short-term-thinking people with inadequately developed consciences. This is the criminal subgroup that accounts for 98% of the ‘repeat business” in this country’s criminal courts. These are people in “failure mode”, most of whom are not “evil’ in the classic sense, but when faced with certain temptations, incentives and disincentives, they are fully capably of doing evil things to other human beings. While I acknowledge their weaknesses, we need to be reminded: They are dysfunctional but not crazy.  They remain capable of refraining from the worst kinds of conduct, provided the incentives and disincentives are clear enough and are reinforced with sufficient frequency.

(3)   Punishment is often kinder and, on the whole, more effective than “treatment.”  Because it connects the act to be punished with a moral principle and an implementing law, punishment has a general educational effect.  Moreover, punishment (but not treatment) is amenable to individuated mercy.

(4)   This is why the crime rate in any given population is a product of four interrelated factors: (a) the number and area-density of “clients” as defined above; (b) the weakness (or strength) of the social compact as a part of the prevailing culture; (c) the absence (or presence) of social forces (professional or amateur) charged with detecting, reporting and arresting wrongdoers; (d) an appropriately scaled system of punishment.

(5)   Punishment for crime is a measure of the moral seriousness of a given society. When coupled with a general sense of fairness in its administration (which means that the norms apply robustly to the great and small, rich and poor, powerful and powerless), just punishment is essential to the survival of the civil order.


Betrayal or Epiphany?


When I left the county service, I had served as the Chief Public Defender for the County of Alameda for a decade of management that followed a long hands-on career of defending criminals in the trial courts. My office (and I personally) had saved a number of clients from the gas chamber.  I thought then and still believe that the defense is honorable work, but that you don’t have to oppose all punishment on some unbalanced ideological level to be effective at the defense.


So you might imagine my surprise at the sense of betrayal among some of my former colleagues when, after a grace period of about 2  ½ years following my return to private life, the following was published on the Oakland Tribune, “My Word” Op Ed page. As a now former friend said in anger – “What the f… happened to you, Gaskill?”


I had the temerity to say, in print, that the death penalty served a vital purpose.   I had crossed a line.


My Word
Op Ed by Jay b. Gaskill
As Published in the Oakland Tribune on 11-30-02.  


Oakland has reached the one hundred murder mark, but consider another number: As of Halloween, there were 95 homicides in the city and only 31 of them had been solved.  Two thirds of the murders in the city of Oakland unsolved.


… Prison graduates live in two societies: among their “home boys” around town, and in prison, where their friends are doing time.  Gangs flourish behind bars; and  prison graduates are under-deterred. Neither the statistically improbable prospect of an arrest, nor the threat of a mere prison sentence is going to stop this group of criminals from pulling the trigger when it suits them. We need the will to overcome.


Problem. Oakland is neither a pro police nor a pro law-and-order town.  And Oakland is not a death penalty friendly jurisdiction. As Public Defender, I worked to prevent any of my clients from going to death row.  …[Now] I support the death penalty for selected murders, especially for the criminals who have gotten used to prison life,  because the credible threat of that punishment saves lives.


We’ve heard the death penalty is not a deterrent. Nonsense.  Whole categories of criminals are deterred.  Carjackings where the victim is in the trunk.  Some are shot, others not.  Criminals often think of the consequences. Cons who don’t kill don’t want to be executed. Who looks forward to the “green room?”  It’s really that simple.


The death penalty deters that class of murders where there is a moment to reflect before killing.  Think drug dealer turf shootings, gang warfare, witness killings, robbery murders. Most murders in Oakland can be deterred if: (1) the arrest risk reaches a credible level; (2) there is some prospect of the death penalty.  Granted, many murders aren’t “death eligible.”  But witness killings, murders while “lying in wait,” and killings in the course of listed felonies are.  Let’s add a new one: any first degree murder by someone who has spent time in state prison.  The City should back that legislation; declare zero tolerance for killings; and ask the prosecutor to seek death in every legally appropriate case. 


Of the thousands of dispossessed youth, of all the hard luck cases, very few actually kill. Despite all the pressures, only a comparatively handful actually blow away a fellow human being.  When we deter a potential killer, we help many people, including the would-be killer. The message is the key: Oakland is fed up with murder; enough is enough; if you take a life in “Oaktown”, you may forfeit your own.


… Will we let the promise of this wonderful city slip away because of a few thugs with weapons?  Stay tuned….


Jay Gaskill was former Alameda County Public Defender, now an attorney-consultant in Alameda.
Copyright ã 2002 Jay B. Gaskill



The Public Wake-up Begins
Excerpts from this week’s AP release.
June 6, 2007
Studies create new round in death penalty debates: Do executions deter other murders?
By ROBERT TANNER AP National Writer
[A] series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years ... claim to settle a once hotly debated argument -- whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer. ...
“Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it," said Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. "The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect.”
A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. “The results are robust, they don't really go away,” he said. “I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) -- what am I going to do, hide them?”...
Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).
The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 -- imposed by then-Gov. George Ryan and continued by current Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston. ...
            The studies' conclusions drew a philosophical response from a well-known liberal law professor, University of Chicago's Cass Sunstein. A critic of the death penalty, in 2005 he co-authored a paper titled “Is capital punishment morally required?”
“If it’s the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple,” he told The Associated Press.
The Public Education Continues


I have been aware of the research since early 03 and I wrote about it in these pages, particularly noting the 2005 joint Brookings Institute / AEI Study ( ) that I’ve cited in “Death Penalty Revisited” below.  Here are links to some of my Op Ed’s and articles.


Oakland's Murders 2002\
Murder in Oakland 02
Death Penalty revisited
Capital Punishment 06
(AEI/Brookings Abstract at )

Also see my article archived at 

My Caveat:
You Don’t Have To Like Medicine to Appreciate That It Works.


My enthusiasm is not for public executions of a few select convicted murderers as such, but for preventing the “free enterprise” variety that cuts down thousands of innocent men, women and children and permanently wounds their surviving families and friends, most of whom live relatively unprotected lives in the high-crime zones of urban America.   


My real passion is for the project of discouraging murder and violence and restoring peace and civility, particularly for America’s poorer neighborhoods. Sadly, these are places from which - for too many – there is little practical hope of escape. 


For me, morality cannot be just about “taking stands” and appearing to be benevolent.  It is about the much more challenging process of figuring out which policies are most likely to protect the truly innocent among us and getting them implemented in the real world.


On the real world level, morality cannot be divorced from the complicated and messy realm of human interactions.  To attempt to be moral on the practical level is to make mistakes.  It’s safer to just take positions from the “moral high ground”. Yes, the Real World is less forgiving. 


So be it. 


The evidence has caused me to change my mind about a particular policy more than once as I’m sure it will again….




PS – They never caught the guy who killed Juan R. I understand that the juvenile who killed Joe got off cheaply.  Usually, undue leniency is a setup. Joe’s killer has murdered again.  The second and third killings are always easier…

June 13, 2007

Welcome to the Out-Lawyer's Blog

June 11, 2007

The Human Conspiracy Blog Has Moved to A “Better Place”

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All the Prior “Human Conspiracy” Posts, from June, 2006, though June 6, 2007, are now archived in chronological order.  Eventually, you will only be able to visit (and search them) by going to the following link: .

Jay B. Gaskill

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The Out-Lawyer’s Blog
The Best Crimes & Criminal Trials Commentary in Web Space.
“You can count on evil and criminal folly to entertain us or illuminate the human condition or both.”  
Jay B. Gaskill
Former Public Defender
Alameda County, CA.


Welcome to the Out-Lawyer’s Blog.


My past commentaries on pending criminal cases have attracted about 100,000 “reads” and several hundred emails. For a sample, you might want to visit – or revisit:


The Dyleski - “Goth” Murder Case
The German Cannibal Case


The Scott Peterson Trial
Here is a sample comment--kudos from a television producer in LA.
I work for a television station in Los Angeles, and as a consequence am intimately familiar with what gets reported to viewers (as opposed to... dare I say it?...“Readers!”) these days.  The insights gleamed from your most-recent posting (see far surpass anything that may be learned by turning to the so-called “Fifth Estate.”
Of course I still look back with fondness on the days when broadcast “News” was viewed by management as the “price of admission” into the extremely lucrative world of exploiting the publicly-owned airwaves -- and not the obligatory “profit center” into which it has devolved.  I still warmly remember when the FCC's charge was to assure that broadcasters serve “the public use, convenience and necessity” -- although these recollections are like the gentle nostalgia one feels in recalling un-colorized movies, or freedom of speech outside “free speech zones.”
And your column DOES give me hope: Hope that there really may be a marketplace of ideas not bound by FCC license, and that a single voice in the darkness may, in fact, have power. 
B. B.

Los Angeles




Stay tuned…





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