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December 30, 2009

MURDERS ARE DOWN... WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?

MURDERS ARE DOWN, ECONOMIC DISTRESS IS UP?

What’s up with that? 

 

Analysis

By

Jay B. Gaskill

 

THIS ARTICLE IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN HTM FORMAT AT THE FOLLOWING LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/MurdersAreDown.htm

 

Welcome to the Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com    

As Posted On

→The Out-Lawyer’s Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog1   

→The Human Conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3 

Also check out the “OutLawyerGaskill” channel on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/OutLawyerGaskill ...

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are --

Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 by Jay B. Gaskill

Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article - except for personal use - is needed.

Forwarded links are welcomed.

 

Contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

 

As we linger in the dark well of the worst recession in recent memory, many urban jurisdictions are now reporting (San Francisco among them) that we are experiencing an inexplicable drop in murders.

 

You may doubt this is actually taking place.  Here are some links:

 

http://www.myfoxmemphis.com/dpp/news/tennessee/122909_murder-rate-declines-first-time-in-years [Memphis]

 

http://www.courierpostonline.com/article/20091230/NEWS01/912300329/1006/news01 [New Jersey]

 

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-09-09-crime_x.htm [Steep national decline]

 

http://www.examiner.com/x-24880-Boston-Law-Enforcement-Examiner~y2009m9d28-Boston-murder-rate-declines [Boston]

 

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/san_francisco&id=7193070 [San Francisco]

 

Years ago I was invited by the Alameda County Sheriff to address the graduating class of his peace officers; training academy. 

 

My address is posted here: http://www.jaygaskill.com/sheriff.html.htm.

 

Among the points I made was this:  Crime is not caused by or even strongly correlated with economic poverty.  Even in the Great Depression general crime did not go up, Al Capone notwithstanding. 

 

The overall crime rate is sensitive to a number of factors, notably the visible deterrent effect of a welcome police presence and the underlying morality of the non-criminal population (something I’ve called civilization’s ‘moral infrastructure’). 

 

Therefore in the USA, the UK and other cultures and subcultures where the Judeo-Christian ethos (or its moral equivalent) persists whether in its religious or secular forms (think ‘do not steal, lie, murder’ as being generally accepted), then the following principle will tend to govern: Crime operates in an inverse relationship to community.  Put another way, “When community is strengthened, crime is depressed” (assuming the baseline moral infrastructure and the implementing law and justice infrastructures are intact). 

 

In the current recession, more families are at home and more people are looking out for each other....and crime goes down.

 

Francis Fukuyama connected some of these dots in his book, The Great Disruption (1999 – link to Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Great-Disruption-Nature-Reconstitution-Social/dp/068484530X ).  He linked crime increases to the disruptive migration patterns that took apart existing networks of social relationships that had constituted our “social capital” when life patterns were more stable.  The missing piece in his analysis, in my opinion, was the health - or lack thereof - of the underlying moral framework. 

 

The “moral infrastructure” piece was separately disrupted by a bit of cultural insanity that is just now fading away.  This damage to the underlying morality of the non-criminal population was the unintended consequence of an outbreak of postmodern neo-tribal multiculturism.   Suddenly legitimacy was given to the perverse notion that thugs who belong to “oppressed” tribes were to be spared as an act of “social consciousness”, and that the beleaguered gendarmes who answered our 911 calls were to be mistrusted because they “work for the ruling class”. 

 

That nonsense has almost run its course.  My first indication of the healthy counter-trend took place several years ago in Oakland, California when crime victims and witnesses from “the hood” started showing up.  Today, whole neighborhoods of honest, hard working black families in Oakland are demanding more not less police services.   That very passion has a benign side effect:  Thugs are deterred by an energized population.

 

Yes, times are tough.  But there is a silver lining.

 

JBG

 

The author, a well known trial and appellate lawyer, served as the Alameda County (CA) Public Defender from 1989-99, then left his “life of crime” to pursue writing and general trouble making.  His profile is located at: www.jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf

 

 

Want to escape the dismal headlines? Read: Jay Gaskill’s new thriller, The Stranded Ones.  Purchase Information and samples:  http://www.jaygaskill.com/TourTheStrandedOnes.pdf

 

December 26, 2009

COMFORTING FOUR YEAR OLD CRIME VICTIMS

Want to escape the dismal headlines? Read Jay Gaskill’s new thriller.  More at  http://www.jaygaskill.com/TourTheStrandedOnes.pdf

 

Welcome to the Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com    

As Posted On

→The Out-Lawyer’s Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog1   

→The Human Conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3 

Also check out the “OutLawyerGaskill” channel on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/OutLawyerGaskill ...

 

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are --

Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 by Jay B. Gaskill

Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article - except for personal use - is needed.

Forwarded links are welcomed.

 

Contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

 

This Article in htm format is posted on The Policy Think Site at this LINK:

http://jaygaskill.com/CourtReasurranceDog.htm 

 

COMFORTING FOUR YEAR OLD CRIME VICTIMS

 

A retriever/lab mix named Vivian comforted a 4 year old boy as he testified against his aunt in an abuse case in Marin County a few weeks ago.  This was the San Francisco Chronicle’s front page story today, with pictures of dog and DA.

 

Pioneered in Seattle in 2003 by Deputy DA Ellen O’Neil-Stephens, the witness comfort program (using cute, nurturing dogs to support child crime victims) gone viral. 

 

Check out these links:

 

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003767349_courtdogs29m.html

 

http://www.marinij.com/ci_13991903?source=most_emailed

 

http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_13991903?nclick_check=1

 

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/lifestyle/stories.nsf/pets/story/A5EA01DC3751E96486257698001B2007?OpenDocument

 

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2008-06-02/news/0806020002_1_therapy-dogs-carroll-county-victim-witness-assistance

 

In the current state of journalism, no story, however touching, is complete without “balance”, which means:  Find some contrary comment to report, unless of course, you’re talking about global warming, in which case you can skip that part.

 

SO...WHAT DOES THE DEFENSE SAY?

 

The defense has argued (without success) that the comfort dog’s very presence in court sends a signal that something very bad has happened to the child witness.  No kidding.  Any charge of child abuse that gets to trial is generally an indication that something bad has probably happened to a vulnerable, underage witness.  Leave it to my former colleagues to make the obvious sound like rocket science.

 

It might be more accurate to say, that the presence of a comfort dog with a four year old witness portents that something very bad is about to happen to the defense.  I note with interest that that there are reportedly fewer quick deals in cases when comfort dogs are employed to strengthen witness resolve.  That outcome is both good and to be expected.  Many defense plea bargains are reached in order the “spare the victim” the ordeal of a court appearance (translate – sparing the rigors of cross examination).  This sort of plea bargain does avoid a trial but it also reduces the punishment because after all: Why “‘cop a plea’ without getting a ‘reduction’”?  

 

The mythical subset of defendants who graciously plead guilty to spare the victim and to atone for bad conduct by accepting a greater punishment must have been in somebody else’s caseload over the long years of my practice.  I can’t remember one.

 

The quick deal in child abuse cases because of victim reluctance represents a social good only if you take the position (as I do not) that crimes against children in US urban jurisdictions are over-prosecuted and over-punished.  Yes, there is a chance of miscarriage in these cases, admittedly a very small chance.  But the final check and balance, the ultimate way to prevent of a miscarriage of justice, is the classic fair trial, not a plea bargain-under-duress.

 

Another defense objection is that allowing dog comfort support for a child witness is an inducement in the nature of an award for testimony; by implication it is (supposedly) in the nature of a bribe.  This line of argument has traction only if the doggie comfort is an inducement to lie as opposed to a form of moral support for going public with an accusation. 

 

Child witnesses are frightened by their abusers, often confused and disturbed when crime is a breach of trust by a family member or authority figure. Small children are flat out terrified by the prospect of getting into a courtroom surrounded by adult strangers. The risks attendant a miscarriage of justice in child abuse cases, rare as they are, mostly stem from problematic eyewitness identifications of strangers (when identification is at issue) or witness manipulation by angry spouses. 

 

Comfort dogs encourage a safe space for questioning when an otherwise hysterical witness can be barely be made to understand questions let alone provide considered answers.  In my courtroom experience, the task of ferreting out errors and misstatements by kids in a trial stetting requires the defense attorney to be gentle, to earn trust and to have conducted a careful and thorough factual investigation before ever asking the first question.  A reassured child helps, does not hinder the search for the truth.

 

I know...I know...I’ve just used the dreaded “T” word here.  At their most noble, defense lawyers are primarily about eliciting truth, unlocking mercy and checking prosecution overreaching, that never-ending task of keeping the other side honest and fair.  The other image of defense lawyer is more cynical – lawyers for whom the game is about winning or – if not – inflicting such damage that the next encounter will result in a favorable plea bargain.  Both operate in the real world.

 

In my own experience, the task of cross examining a vulnerable child witness is wrenchingly difficult (often requiring therapeutic decompression at a pub), but it remains part of the general assignment, to defend the poor with the same vigor as a hired gun defends the rich.  Just as the Vatican assigns a pre-beatification “Satan’s advocate” to expose the weakness in candidate for sainthood, the defense is tasked to do the same for all prosecution cases whatever the ultimate merits. 

 

Should four year old abuse victims be denied their comfort dogs?  Hell no.  My advice to my former colleagues of the defense:  I know it’s tough.  So apply for your own dog. 

 

Jay B Gaskill

The author is the former Alameda County (CA) Public Defender

December 19, 2009

Blue Dogs Folding?

Senator Nelson appears to have caved. 

What next for Health Care?  Go to

Link -- http://jaygaskill.com/BlueDogsGreedyMonkeys.htm.

 

J

 


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