Category Archives: crime news

Does capital punishment deter capital crime?

So, the federal government is restoring the death penalty for federal crimes. The Justice Department is bringing back this form of punishment that’s been on the shelf for two decades, through presidential administrations of both parties.

I have to ask: What crime will it deter? Where is the deterrence that this punishment is supposed to create? Do criminals really think of the punishment when they commit these heinous acts?

Capital punishment gives me considerable heartburn as I grapple with how I feel about it. I have declared my opposition to the death penalty as a punishment handed out by states and, now, the federal government.

We kill criminals at a break-neck pace in Texas, although the pace has slowed considerably in recent years. There once was a time when we were executing ’em with stunning regularity. There were tacky, crass jokes about setting up a “drive-through window” at the state’s execution chamber in Livingston.

Did the frequency of those executions stem the crime tide? Did it prevent killers from doing what they did to deserve the ultimate punishment? I fear not.

Which makes the DOJ’s decision to return the death penalty so problematic for me.

I don’t want to “coddle” these individuals. They should serve hard time. I do not oppose “administrative segregation,” which is a euphemism for “solitary confinement.” If they’re going to spend the rest of their lives in prison, make them pay deeply for the crime that put them behind bars.

I am acutely aware that life sentences don’t deter criminals, either.

The notion of deterring criminal acts requires a lot more thought and nuance than just killing the individuals who commit them.

Change of venue? Sure, but move it far, far away

Amber Guyger is going to stand trial — possibly soon — for murder. The former Dallas police officer this past September allegedly walked into a Botham Jean’s apartment and shot him to death reportedly thinking she had entered her own apartment.

The case has riveted many residents of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, which makes a request for a change of venue so very interesting.

Guyger’s lawyers insist she cannot get a fair trial in Dallas County, where the case is set to be tried. They want a change of trial venue to a county other than Dallas County, citing “media hysteria” surrounding the case.

I am not going to argue for or against a change of venue. Indeed I can see why defendant’s legal counsel would want to change the trial location. However, the counsel should insist on moving it far away not just from Dallas County, but also from Collin County, Tarrant County, Rockwall County, Ellis County — or any part of the region served by the Dallas/Fort Worth media outlets that have been covering this case.

Send it to El Paso County, or to Orange County, or to Hidalgo County, or to Dallam County.

Yes, there is intense interest in this case.  A lot of the circumstances sound, shall we say, weird. Guyger was suspended at first from the Dallas Police Department and then was fired after she was indicted for murder in the death of Botham Jean, a native of St. Lucia who lived in an apartment on a separate floor from where Guyger resided.

Whatever the judge decides, my belief is that this case needs to go a lot farther away than just outside of Dallas County.

Hey, what about the ‘search for real killer(s)’?

Today marks 25 years since the deaths of two individuals who became linked inextricably with a former football great, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and someone who most Americans believe got away with a heinous crime.

O.J. Simpson was acquitted later of murdering his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in Nicole’s home in Los Angeles. O.J. was implicated in the deaths, given his past history of spousal abuse and, oh yeah, the physical evidence that the cops recovered from the crime scene.

Simpson hired a crack legal team led by Johnnie Cochran, and including Robert Shapiro, F. Lee Bailey and the father of those Kardashian girls, Robert Kardashian.

They cast sufficient doubt on the police investigation into the murder to score an acquittal. O.J. walked free and then made this pledge: that he would “spend the rest of my life” looking for the “real killer or killers of Nicole and Ron.”

Oh, but now he says he doesn’t want to “dwell on the negative.” He wants to move with his grown children. He lives in Las Vegas and spends his days playing golf.

I guess I should add that he was found “liable” for Nicole and Ron’s death in a civil suit and ordered to pay $33 million. The level of proof in the civil case was far less demanding that the criminal case. Still, that civil jury said in effect, dare I declare it, that O.J. killed his wife and friend.

What about the pledge to find the killers, O.J.? Are you still on the hunt?

Naw … I didn’t think so.

Christine Brennan wrote in USA Today that the real focus as we look back on this day should be on the Goldman family, who lost a son and a brother to, um, someone.

She urges us to devote our lives to creating what Simpson himself called a “no negative zone.” Not a bad idea at all.

But if hell freezes over and O.J. Simpson finds the real killers, I trust he’ll let us know.