Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Here's What I Remember

Now that all the remembrances of 9/11 are over, I finally felt I could say what I wanted to say. But as usual, Jon Stewart said it better.

Here are my memories of the time since that day:

I remember Falwell's "you helped cause this" comment and what a shock it was to see that kind of hate-as-usual, two days after the event that was supposed to bring us together.

I remember someone writing the local paper  within six months and claiming that, if you voted for Bill Clinton, you helped cause all those deaths and all that tragedy on 9/11. I particularly remember it because that person was my own father. That wound's still as fresh as the day it was so casually inflicted.

I remember being called a "traitor" and "terrorist sympathizer" and people e-mailing me anonymous death threats  for opposing their Dear Leader Dubbya's Wacky Iraqi Adventure (a war I and my fellow liberals were one hundred percent right about, by the way).

I remember Ann Coulter telling people that she thought the 9/11 widows were "enjoying" their husband's deaths.

I remember Glenn Beck saying he 'hated" the families of 9/11 victims--and becoming a hero of the Right. 
So I don't want to hear a damn thing about how 9/11 unified us from anyone on the Right. They were the ones who immediately started waving the bloody shirt and using it to divide us.

After all the hate directed against me personally and against people like me in general, starting before the smoke had even cleared, I don't want to hear a damn thing about how liberals are  hateful or the usual right wing whiny claptrap about "liberal name-calling". I don't know a name worse than traitor, and no one said a mumblin' word against anyone  calling me that since 9/11.

If you didn't stand up against it then, you can sit right the fuck down now. You have nothing to say that I want to hear.

Quote of the Day, or Terrenoire FTW

This morning, I heard someone on the radio claiming that a proposed state Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (which, it should be noted, is already banned by state law)  is "the most important issue facing North Carolina right now." 
Seriously. Someone from a state in the throes of a massive budget crisis, still rebuilding from hurricane Irene's damage, with a 10.1 percent jobless rate, had the infernal gall to say that. With a straight face.
 Which prompted this rejoinder from my good friend David Terrenoire on Facebook:
"I don't know about Carthage, but here in Durham I woke up to a fulfilling, full time job, my wife's health costs are completely covered, the education system is so good that our dogs speak English and Spanish, the cat does calculus and we have a unicorn shitting skittles in the front yard. So yes, let's go after gay marriage because everything else is 100% A-OK."

Terrenoire shoots, HE SCORES!

The Tea Party of Love (With Video)

Debate exchange offers window into larger question about role of health care - Political Hotsheet - CBS News:

So Ron Paul was asked in the Tea Party debate last night if a 30 year old without health insurance who went into a coma should just be allowed to die.

Paul, to his credit, said no, but opined that he'd be taken care of anyway.

Several voices from the Tea Party audience, however, cried out "YES!"

Yes. Just let him die.

A new low for the Party of Love.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

FAQ Two (And Final): How the Jury Might Have Been Thinking

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Last Saturday, a jury found Robert Stewart guilty, not of first-degree, but of second-degree murder for killing eight people at Pinelake Nursing Center in Carthage. I confess, I really didn't see it coming either.

First off, let me say that my heart truly goes out to the families of the dead. It must have been brutally hard to sit through hours of testimony and to relive the pain of that day. But please, I beg you to remember this about the verdict: Degrees of murder are in no way a reflection on the victims.

The life of a second-degree murder victim is worth just as much as that of a first-degree one in the eyes of the law. The degrees of homicide refer to the state of mind of the accused. After a lengthy hearing, ably tried by lawyers on both sides, the jury found that Robert Stewart didn't have that state of mind that could allow him to act with premeditation and deliberation.

Why? How could they do such a thing? Well, unless the jurors decide to talk about it (and there's no indication that they're inclined to do so), we may never know why they decided the way they did. There are a number of possible reasons, but all are pure conjecture.

The simplest explanation is that the jury considered all the evidence as to the prescription drugs Stewart was taking and the potential effects of those drugs on his state of mind and truly had reasonable doubts as to his ability to engage in premeditation and deliberation. The fact that they asked to re-examine evidence about those drugs would seem to bear this theory out.

Another explanation is that it was what we call a "compromise" verdict. Possibly some jurors wanted one verdict, some wanted another, but everyone was just plain worn out and daunted by the prospect of a another few weeks of hearings on whether or not Stewart should get the death penalty (the "guilt or innocence" phase is only the first part of a capital trial; the second, or "penalty" phase can go even longer).

So they came up with a verdict everyone on the jury could live with, one that put Robert Stewart in prison for well over 100 years - effectively life without parole. Again, this is pure conjecture, but it does -happen.

One of the things that shocked a lot of people was that Stewart's lawyers immediately gave notice of appeal. What were they thinking? Why didn't they just take the win and go home? Well, they can still do that. Just because a notice of appeal is given doesn't mean that the appeal itself will be pursued.

I imagine the last thing Messrs. Megerian and Wells would want for their client is another lengthy trial that could result in a different verdict. But you give the notice, because if you don't do it within the time limit, you lose the right to do so. It would be malpractice to just let that right go because you forgot to say the words "defendant gives notice of appeal."

On the subject of those defense lawyers: I don't know the gentlemen personally, but I do know the -system, and I have to laugh when people claim they did this trial for the big money. I know the court-appointed rates, and I know private rates, and trust me, they'd have made a heck of a lot more staying home and defending private clients.

You don't get rich off court-appointed capital trials; in fact, thanks to the time they take away from -everything else, they can turn into The Trial That Ate Your Practice if you're not careful.

So why do it? Well, as I said, I don't know Mr. Stewart's lawyers except to say hey to, so I can't speak for them. But I can say that everyone else I've ever met who does appointed capital defense does it because they believe that the Constitution's guarantee that everyone is entitled to counsel means everybody and that there isn't a constitutional loophole for really bad crimes.

In the Stewart case, two teams of experienced trial lawyers, under the eye of an experienced and even-handed trial judge, worked very hard to put all the evidence at their disposal in front of an impartial jury, which pondered that evidence for hours before -arriving at a verdict that put the defendant in jail for the rest of his natural life.

We may never know the answer to the question of exactly why they went the way they did, but I hope I was able to answer at least some of your other ones.