Sunday, August 4, 2013

Shaaliver Douse, and Considering the Aftermath

Trayvon Martin had one thing against him in particular.  He was black, walking by himself with his hood up at night through a gated community where he didn't live, and one fed-up neighborhood watch coordinator can get just a little suspicious.  The one thing against him was the confluence of all those elements happening at the same time.  If anything had been different, he'd probably still be around.  Exactly how things played out after Martin and George Zimmerman met isn't entirely clear, and may never be clear.  Some reports want us to believe the jury thinks Zimmerman got away with murder.  Maybe he did, maybe not.  We'll never be sure.  Like I said before however, I sure as hell would hate to be Zimmerman.

In a completely different, less ambiguous light we find the most recent shooting victim.  The facts could not diverge more broadly from those of the Trayvon Martin case.

Shaaliver Douse, 14 (fourteen!), was observed and recorded firing a weapon three times at a small group of people.  The shots were heard by nearby foot patrol cops, who came running toward the sound.  They saw Douse, who fired again.  At this time it isn't immediately clear whether the kid was shooting at his intended target or at the cops.  Whatever the case, he didn't drop the gun as ordered, and one of the officers shot him.

Douse is dead.  Dead in a gang-related gun crime, dropped by police, at the age of 14.  My wife just pointed out a very important observation, one that armchair quarterbacks would do well to remember: "A person with a gun is a gunman.  He isn't a fourteen year old kid with a gun, he's a gunman.  He can kill you."  Age isn't a consideration in such life-and-death situations.  You might want it to be, and after the fact people will try to make it one, but in the moment it cannot be.  The issue at hand isn't the age of the hand holding the gun, it's the gun and the hand holding it.  Age is a minor detail to be considered in the luxury of time, not in the emergency of confrontation.

The kid's aunt is quoted in the linked story as saying "the police get away with murder."  Well, no.  The cop that shot Douse is immediately placed on leave while the particulars of the shooting are sorted out.  There are recordings from more than one angle that Douse had a gun out and was aiming at someone.  And when the cops showed up, he didn't relinquish the weapon as instructed.

One thing I hear - and I heard this a lot when a person got shot and killed in the course of a shoplifting incident where the shoplifter pulled a gun - is that the people who are left behind when a person is killed by police complain that the police didn't just shoot them to wound.

That's dumb.  Shoot me in the leg and I still have my hands.  I can still shoot back.  Shoot me in the arm and I still have another arm, I can still shoot back.  The problem with guns is that they can kill, the person wielding a gun can kill someone else at a moment's notice from a distance.  The one sure way to make sure he cannot do that is to kill him.  If he won't put his gun down, there aren't many good ways to compel him to do so short of killing the gunman.

Douse wouldn't drop it.  The policeman killed him.

I imagine that the policeman is having a bad day.  Possibly worse than Shaaliver's family is having.  Douse had a history of gun violence and even a court appearance pending for same.  He's been in trouble before.  The area where he lives is raddled with gangs.  As upset as I know they are, I wonder how the family can be surprised.  Certainly they must have known something like this could happen, given Shaaliver's history.

As awful as it is for the family of the slain, the policemen's condition must be considered.  Sent as rookies to patrol a known hotbed of gang activity, they must have been nervous as hell.  Out of the police academy only a month, and they're involved in a shooting.  Not just a shooting, which is a tornado of paperwork in its own right, but one that results in a fatality - a whole 'nother tornado of not just paperwork, but stress.  Holy cats.  This is the kind of thing that can end careers, in this case almost literally before they've begun.

It just crossed my mind that the link above regarding stress talks about the psychological support provided for the policeman involved in the shooting.  Is any support offered for the surviving family members of the deceased?  I doubt it.  Counselors come out of the woodwork for victims in a crime, counselors are provided by the workplace for policemen and security officers and soldiers.  But what is provided for the survivors of the fallen criminal?  I wonder if there is some unspoken desire to punish those who raised such a detrimental person.  And yet, sometimes the families aren't that bad.

Was any kind of counseling offered to the families of Dylan Kebold and Eric Harris, the two kids who killed 13 people and injured over 20 more in the Columbine massacre?  I don't think so.  Not only do I not think so, I think maybe they were the ones who needed it most.  On top of their children being dead, somehow they were blamed.  "How could you produce such a monster," and "why didn't you see this coming" were common refrains they had to weather.

Douse's mom must be going through something similar.  In fact she's probably been thinking this sort of thing already, and whether it's valid or not, it must be addressed.  In a mess like this, everyone gets splattered, at least a little.  And almost no one can settle the issues by themselves.  We all need help in times like this.

Taking Matters Into His Own Hands

A death row inmate in Ohio has jumped the gun on prison officials by hanging himself ahead of his execution date.

Billy Slagle stabbed a neighbor to death in 1987.  No word on exactly why, but he did it.  And it's not like he used an illegal firearm or a dangerously long knife to do it, he used a plain old pair of scissors.  So when the alarmists call for more regulation on weapons and certification before ownership, ask yourself just how much regulation and certification is necessary before everyone is 100% safe all the time.  You won't ever get there.

That Slagle killed the lady is undeniable.  He was sentenced to death, also history.  But now he's had 26 years of life on the taxpayer's dime, all that time spent on appeals, challenges, etc.  Finally he ran out of appeals and the governor of Ohio decided not to grant clemency.

So what happens next?  Slagle hanged himself in his cell three days ahead of his execution date.

One quick question: how much did it cost, per year, to keep Slagle alive and safe, solely for the purpose of ending his life at a time and place of the state's choosing?  I can't find facts for Ohio but a quick search points up that an inmate on Death Row in California costs about $90,000 more per year to keep alive than a prisoner sentenced to life without parole.

More.  Per year.  If we assume Ohio's rates are comparable, that means keeping Slagle alive for those 26 years cost an extra $2.3M than it would for someone just on life w/o parole.  And ultimately that money is gone because when his time comes, Slagle is dead.

This is where I hate the death penalty.  Not just for the burden it lays on the spirits of those who must carry it out, but for the burden it lays on us, the law-abiding citizens who support it.  Yes, we want these people gone, never to mix with decent society again.  But does it have to break the bank?

After 26 years with only a short time remaining, Slagle killed himself.  Instead of Death Row,it might have been more appropriate to put him in Life Row, where the sun never shines on a free man, and a convenient length of stout rope always hangs from the ceiling, ready and waiting.  A condemned man can leave prison at any time...but not on his own feet.

You might consider it cruel and unfeeling, these suggestions I'm making.  Well, how cruel was it for Slagle to stab a woman 17 times?  The first three or four times could have been in anger, what about the last dozen or so?  Why should a society that holds justice and freedom so dear have to support a person like that?

If the prisoner wants to eat, let him work a field.  If he wants clothes, let him earn the money to purchase them.  And if a condemned man wants out of prison, he can leave.  He can leave by the one freedom still left to him.

The chief failing, in my opinion, of prison is that it punishes endlessly.  In prison criminals are thrust together into a poorly ordered, barely contained powderkeg where what mostly happens is that the strongest, most violent offenders continue to be strong and violent, subjugating other offenders to their will.  It would cost more up front, but I think it would be better to keep offenders separated at all times so they cannot teach each other criminal skills, compare tactics and whatnot.  They can work for their food just like free people do, they can earn their privileges, what few they should have in prison.  Perhaps, after spending their entire prison sentence at a job, they will have developed some work habits that are more positive and socially acceptable than robbing, stealing and assaulting.  If I don't work, I don't eat.  Why should a prisoner have it easier than that?

It's harsh.  But I think it's fair.  When this society is working hard to legalize such things as assisted euthanasia for the terminally ill, I think the terminally incarcerated should have the same option.  And even so, it's still more mercy than the prisoner ever showed for his victim.