Criminal Justice in an Aging Society

     It’s become common knowledge that elderly people are prolific shoplifters. But it’s still surprising when an old person commits a serious crime such as assault or criminal homicide. In recent years, due to mental illness and dementi…

     It's become common knowledge that elderly people are prolific shoplifters. But it's still surprising when an old person commits a serious crime such as assault or criminal homicide. In recent years, due to mental illness and dementia, dozens of eighty and ninety-year-olds have been shot to death by the police. While these police-involved shootings were found to be justified, many of the fatal shootings were the result of the modern era's hair-trigger, militaristic form of policing. While perhaps legally justified, many of these deadly encounters were arguably unnecessary. But in a zero-tolerant police culture, age and dementia are no longer factors in the shoot-don't shoot equation. Gender doesn't figure in either.

Pearlie Golden

     Pearlie Golden, a 93-year-old resident of Hearne, Texas, a town of 4,500 in the east-central part of the state, didn't like it when the Texas Department of Public Safety declined to renew her driver's license on Tuesday May 6, 2014. Back at her house after failing the test, Pearlie, an African-American known in the community as "Miss Sulie," got into an argument with her nephew, Roy Jones. She demanded that he return the keys to her car. He refused. She got up from her chair on the front porch and entered the house. When she returned, she had a .38-caliber revolver in her hand. Roy Jones ran into the house and called 911.

     Officer Stephen Stem with the Hearne Police Department responded to the 911 call. In 2012, officer Stem had shot a man to death in the line of duty. He was cleared of wrongdoing in that case by a local grand jury and remained on the force.

    Officer Stem, in responding to the call at the old woman's house, shot Pearlie Golden three times. She died shortly thereafter at a nearby hospital. In justifying the deadly use of force on a 93-year-old woman, a police spokesperson said the deceased had "brandished a gun."(According to the Associated Press, Golden, prior to being shot by officer Stem, had actually fired her gun. It is not clear if she took aim at the officer. If she had fired at officer Stem, or at anyone else in his presence, this use of deadly force was clearly justified. If she shot into the air, or the gun discharged accidentally, the issue will be more complicated.) The official spokesperson said, "The officer asked her to put the handgun down, and when she would not, shots were fired." According to the spokesperson, officer Stem ordered her to drop the weapon three times.

     Many citizens of Hearne, outraged by the shooting, protested outside the police department. Ruben Gomez, the town's mayor, said he would recommend that officer Stem be fired from the department. On Saturday, May 10, the city council voted 6-0 to discharge officer Stem. To determine if the officer had committed a form of criminal homicide, the shooting was under investigation by the Texas Ranger's Office.

     On September 10, 2014, a local grand jury declined to indict the former police officer.

     Stephen Stem filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Hearne city council. On February 10, 2015, a federal judge dismissed the case.

Leo Sharp

     In 2014, Leo Sharp, a 90-yar-old decorated World War II veteran, resided in Michigan City, Indiana, a town of 30,000 fifty miles east of Chicago. In the fall of 2013, a federal prosecutor charged Sharp and eighteen others in connection with their involvement with a Mexican drug cartel. Mr. Sharp confessed to hauling more than a ton of cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico. He had earned, during his tenure as a drug courier, more than $1 million. (In 2011, police stopped Sharp on a traffic violation on Interstate 94 west of Detroit. The arresting officer recovered a large quantity of cocaine.)

     On May 7, 2014, following his guilty plea, Leo Sharp appeared before a federal judge in Detroit for his sentencing. Sharp's attorney, in arguing for leniency, focused on his client's past, particularly his being awarded the Bronze Star for  his combat in the Battle of Mount Battaglia in Italy. Attorney Darryl Goldberg also informed the court that Mr. Sharp's dementia would place a burden on federal prison personnel.

      When it came time for the defendant to speak, Mr. Sharp, dressed in a suit and tie, said he wanted to spend his few remaining years in Hawaii growing papayas on land he owned in that state. (He had probably purchased the property with his drug income.) "All I can tell you, your honor, is I'm really heartbroken I did what I did. But it's done."

     U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds sentenced Leo Sharp to three years in prison, and fined him $500,000. The judge said, "I don't doubt that prison will be difficult for you, but respect for the law requires there be some custody in this case." In all probability, this judge sentenced the old man to life behind bars.
   
      

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Senseless Crime

The common motive behind many crimes that appear senseless is kicks–the thrill of doing the forbidden. There is excitement in thinking about crime, bragging about crime, executing the crime, making the getaway, and celebrating the triumph. Even if the…

The common motive behind many crimes that appear senseless is kicks--the thrill of doing the forbidden. There is excitement in thinking about crime, bragging about crime, executing the crime, making the getaway, and celebrating the triumph. Even if the offender is caught, there is excitement in dealing with the police, in trying to beat the rap, in receiving notoriety, and, if it gets that far, the trial proceedings.

Dr. Stanton E. Samenow, Inside the Criminal Mind, 1984

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Real Cause of Crime

Criminals cause crime–not bad neighborhoods, inadequate parents, television, schools, drugs, or unemployment. Crime resides within the minds of human beings and is not caused by social conditions. Once we as a society recognize this simple fact, we sh…

Criminals cause crime--not bad neighborhoods, inadequate parents, television, schools, drugs, or unemployment. Crime resides within the minds of human beings and is not caused by social conditions. Once we as a society recognize this simple fact, we shall take measures radically different from current ones. To be sure, we shall continue to remedy intolerable social conditions for this is worthwhile in and of itself. But we shall not expect criminals to change because of such efforts.

Dr. Stanton E. Samenow, Inside the Criminal Mind, 1984

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Bernard Goetz: The Subway Vigilante

     In the 1980s muggers, rapists, and panhandling bums ruled the streets, trains, and subway stations of New York City. The Bronx looked like a post World War Two city that had been bombed to rubble. Prostitutes, pimps, x-rated store f…

     In the 1980s muggers, rapists, and panhandling bums ruled the streets, trains, and subway stations of New York City. The Bronx looked like a post World War Two city that had been bombed to rubble. Prostitutes, pimps, x-rated store fronts, strip joints, three-card monte stands, street corner drug dealers, and thieves selling their loot were entrenched in Manhattan's Times Square. (Today, Times Square is as wholesome as Disneyland.) New York had become a seedy, smelly, and dangerous place. Tourism had dropped off and people doing legitimate business throughout the city struggled. Corrupt and incompetent politicians had let the Big Apple rot. Law abiding residents of New York were angry, frightened, and fed-up.

     In 1981, a gang of muggers in a Canal Street subway station beneath Manhattan beat-up and robbed 34-year-old Bernard Goetz. After the attack, Goetz, the owner of a small electronics business in Greenwich Village, started carrying a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver.

     On December 22, 1984, at five-thirty in the evening, while riding the Number 2 train under Manhattan, four black teenagers approached Bernard Goetz and asked him for money. Believing that the youths were about to rob him, Goetz pulled out his S & W 38 and shot each kid once. The boys survived, but one of them, Darrell Cabey, was left brain-damaged and paralyzed.

     The subway shootings grabbed headlines in New York City and baffled the police who had no idea who had shot the teens. Nine days after the incident, Bernard Goetz turned himself into the police and identified himself as the so-called "Subway Vigilante." By now the case had divided New Yorkers by race. Blacks vilified Goetz as a trigger-happy racist. Many whites hailed him as a crime-fighting hero. The subway vigilante case symbolized a citizenry fed-up with out-of-control street crime and a broken criminal justice system.

     Manhattan's district attorney, fearing massive civil disorder, threw the book at Mr. Goetz, charging him with attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon. In January 1988, the jury in the high-profile trial acquitted the defendant of all charges but the third-degree weapons offense. The judge sentenced Goetz to one year in jail. Nine months later he was free.

     In 1990, Darrell Cabey, the person Goetz paralyzed, sued him for $50 million. Six years later the jury awarded Cabey $43 million in damages. That year Goetz declared bankruptcy.

     On December 22, 2011, twenty-seven years to the day he was shot by Goetz on the train, James Ramseur was found dead of a drug overdose. Asked to comment on Ramseur's death by a reporter with the New York Daily News, Goetz said, "It sounds like he was depressed."

     On Friday, November 1, 2013, a female undercover cop cracking down on Ganja (a highly resinous form of cannabis) peddlers in Union Square Park at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan, was approached by a tall, thin man in his sixties who asked if she wanted to get high. When the cop said yes, Bernard Goetz said he would go to his apartment and return with $30 worth of marijuana. Upon his return from his Greenwich Village dwelling with the weed, the undercover cop placed him under arrest. A Manhattan prosecutor charged Goetz with the misdemeanor offense of criminal sale of marijuana. Suddenly Bernard Goetz, the Subway Vigilante, was back in the news.

     Since shooting the four teenagers in 1984, life had not been particularly kind to Bernard Goetz.

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Sports/Crime Documentary

     Twenty years ago, Tonya Harding became a household name after she was implicated in the “whack heard around the world” on her figure skating USA teammate, Nancy Kerrigan. To this day, there may not be a bigger scandal in modern sports history.

     Now, two decades later, the scandal is the focus of ESPN’s latest documentary in the network’s “30 for 30” series. “The Price of Gold” opens with Nancy Kerrigan shrieking through tears, “Why me? Why?” after a man (who we all now know was a friend of Harding’s ex-husband) kidnapped her after a practice prior to the January 6, 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships….

     “The Price of Gold” aired on January 16, 2014 at 9PM on ESPN.

     [In the spring of 2018, Tonya Harding was a contestant on a reality TV show called “Dancing With the Stars.” She came in third.]

Taylor Bigler, The Daily Caller, January 8, 2014

     Twenty years ago, Tonya Harding became a household name after she was implicated in the "whack heard around the world" on her figure skating USA teammate, Nancy Kerrigan. To this day, there may not be a bigger scandal in modern sports history.

     Now, two decades later, the scandal is the focus of ESPN's latest documentary in the network's "30 for 30" series. "The Price of Gold" opens with Nancy Kerrigan shrieking through tears, "Why me? Why?" after a man (who we all now know was a friend of Harding's ex-husband) kidnapped her after a practice prior to the January 6, 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships….

     "The Price of Gold" aired on January 16, 2014 at 9PM on ESPN.

     [In the spring of 2018, Tonya Harding was a contestant on a reality TV show called "Dancing With the Stars." She came in third.]

Taylor Bigler, The Daily Caller, January 8, 2014

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Shot Heard Around the Golf Course

     Jeff Fleming lived in a house adjacent to the 16th hole fairway on the Lakeridge Golf Course in Reno, Nevada. In September 2012, when a golfer hit a ball through one of Fleming’s windows, the 53-year-old imposed a unique penalty on …

     Jeff Fleming lived in a house adjacent to the 16th hole fairway on the Lakeridge Golf Course in Reno, Nevada. In September 2012, when a golfer hit a ball through one of Fleming's windows, the 53-year-old imposed a unique penalty on the wayward ball striker. As the golfer addressed his dropped ball not far from the window he had broken, Mr. Fleming made a shot of his own. He fired a shotgun at the terrified golfer who dropped his club and ran for his life. Mr. Fleming, apparently, had not yelled "fore!"

     Fortunately for the golfer, Mr. Fleming was off-target with his shot as well. The golfer, hit by a few pellets from a single shotgun round, was treated at a nearby emergency room for minor arm and leg injuries.

     Immediately after the golf course shooting, Jeff Fleming drove to his attorney's office to turn himself in. Police officers arrested him at the law office. A Washoe County prosecutor charged Mr. Fleming with assault with a deadly weapon, a serious crime that could put Fleming behind bars for twenty years.

     In October 2013, the man who fired a shotgun at the golfer who broke his window pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of battery with a deadly weapon. Even so, he faced a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. However, when Fleming was sentenced in December, the judge put him on probation. The fact he didn't have a criminal record, and had expressed remorse shortly after the shooting, probably keep him out of prison. 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Times Square Cookie Monster Case

     New York City’s Times Square, in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, was one of the seediest sections of the city. The midtown Manhattan tourist attraction was inhabited by panhandlers, pickpockets, drunks passed out in their own urine, prosti…

     New York City's Times Square, in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, was one of the seediest sections of the city. The midtown Manhattan tourist attraction was inhabited by panhandlers, pickpockets, drunks passed out in their own urine, prostitutes, pimps, 3-card monte hustlers, and guys hawking stolen and knock-off watches. Times Square was home to strip joints, hole-in-the-wall bars, peep-shows, adult movie theaters, dirty book stores, and cathouses. This was not a destination for kids or tourists in search of wholesome entertainment. This was a place to get mugged, hustled, and ripped-off.

     When mayor Rudy Giuliani and his police commissioner took control of the city in the 1990s, they cleaned house in Manhattan and transformed Times Square into a Disneyesque theme park for families with young children. Toy stores, souvenir shops, clothing outlets, and fast-food restaurants replaced the adult entertainment establishments. The prostitutes, pimps, panhandlers and street hustlers were replaced by an assortment of costumed Sesame Street and comic book characters who probably think of themselves as street performers.

     Instead of being accosted by whores, bums, and stolen goods merchants, Times Square tourists are hassled by a motley band of oddballs walking around the place inside Spider-Man, Superman, Wonder Woman, Elmo, Big Bird, Super Mario, and Cookie Monster outfits. (This kind of thing goes on in Los Angeles as well. Where I live, if some guy dressed up like Superman walked around town engaging kids, he'd find himself in a police vehicle on his way to jail faster than a speeding bullet.)

     In Times Square, the costumed impersonators compete against each other for the attention of tourists accompanied by kids. They pose and mug it up for the children whose parents are supposed to tip them for the photo-ops. When little Lester returns to West Virginia he can impress his friends with a photograph of himself being hugged by Wonder Woman. (The street performers are not supposed to directly solicit tips. In New York City this is called "aggressive begging.")

     In the scheme of things, slipping a guy in a Big Bird suit a couple of bucks for posing with your kid is harmless enough. It certainly beats having your pocket picked, or losing a couple of hundred bucks to some street corner 3-card monte hustler. But occasionally, in the heat of tip-hustling competition, things get out of hand. Some of the impersonators have slipped out of character. Super Mario got in trouble for groping a woman. Spider-Man pushed a tourist, and Elmo uttered an anti-Sematic slur. Occasionally fights break out between the characters. (It would be odd seeing Big Bird knock Superman to the ground.)

     On Sunday, April 7, 2013, Parmita Katkar, the former Miss India Asia Pacific beauty queen, a Bollywood actress and model, was in Times Square with her husband and two sons. From Stamford, Connecticut, the family had come to Times Square to buy a bicycle at the massive Toys-R-Us store. Around two-thirty that afternoon, she and her family were set upon by the Cookie Monster, AKA Osvaldo Oviroz-Lopez. The big blue furry creature grabbed up Katkar's two-year-old boy and said, "Come on, take a picture." When the mother hesitated, the Cookie Monster put the kid down, pushed him, and said, "Come on, come on! Give me the money!"

     As the terrified boy's father hustled off to find cash for a tip, Oviroz-Lopez launched a verbal attack on the kid's mother. "You are a bitch," he yelled. "Your son is a bastard and your stuff is trash." (I presume the Cookie Monster was commenting on Katkar's body of work in Bollywood.)

     As the shaken tourists escaped the wrath of the furious Cookie Monster, the toddler kept saying, "I don't like Cookie Monster!"

     The next day, the 33-year-old Cookie Monster impersonator was arraigned in a Manhattan criminal court on charges of assault, child endangerment, and aggressive begging. He posted his $1,000 bond and was released.

     In February 2014, the judge agreed to dismiss the charges against Quiroz-lopez after the Cookie Monster performed one day of community service.  

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Why Did Emily Creno Fake Her Son’s Cancer?

     On the surface there was nothing exceptional about Emily J. Creno. In 2012, the mother of an 8-year-old girl and a boy who was four lived in Utica, a central Ohio town not far from Columbus. After the 31-year-old’s marriage had gone…

     On the surface there was nothing exceptional about Emily J. Creno. In 2012, the mother of an 8-year-old girl and a boy who was four lived in Utica, a central Ohio town not far from Columbus. After the 31-year-old's marriage had gone sour, her husband John moved out of the house.

     In December 2012, Emily took her son J. J. to a hospital emergency room in Columbus. She told medical personnel that he had suffered a series of seizures. Following blood tests, X-rays, and EEG monitoring, the physical told Emily that her son was in good health.

     Notwithstanding her son's clean bill of health, confirmed by subsequent hospital visits and various screening tests, Emily Creno told friends and family that J. J. had been diagnosed with cancer. She said J. J.  didn't have long to live. The child, thinking that he was terminally ill, basically shut down. When John Creno visited his son, the boy couldn't speak or get off the couch. (Emily regularly shaved J. J.'s head to give him the appearance of someone being treated with chemotherapy.) Her estranged husband had no idea his son's illness was a hoax orchestrated by his wife. (The couple has since divorced.)

     One of Emily's sympathetic friends created a Facebook page for the purpose of soliciting donations for the distraught mother and her dying son. About twenty people sent the family clothes, toys, and money. One Facebook reader drove 500 miles to console Emily and the stricken boy.

     In May 2013, a Columbus woman with a daughter suffering from leukemia visited the Creno Facebook page where she read postings about J. J.'s illness and symptoms that didn't make sense. Thinking that Emily Creno was possibly soliciting money and goods on a false pretense, this woman reported her suspicion to an officer with the Utica Police Department.

     Utica detective Damian Smith, in response to the tipster's call, got in touch with the Columbus oncologist who was supposedly treating the Creno boy. The physician said he did not know Emily or her son. Further investigation, which presumably included Creno's interrogation and perhaps a polygraph test, established the fact that her son's terminal illness was nothing more that a product of her imagination and deception.

     Licking County prosecutor Tracy Van Winkle, in September 2013, charged Emily Creno with one count of third-degree child endangerment. Shortly thereafter, police officers took the suspect into custody on the felony charge. A local magistrate set her bail at $50,000. According to the prosecutor, she would present the case to a grand jury which could result in additional charges related to fraud and theft by deception.

     As the criminal case moved forward, J. J. Creno and his sister were residing with a distant relative. It was not clear if the boy's physical incapacity was entirely psychological, or the result of being poisoned by his mother. In either case, the effects of his ordeal would probably be long-lasting.

     On May 7, 2014, Emily Creno, after pleading no contest to charges of theft and endangering a child, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by Judge Thomas Marcelain. The judge also ordered Creno to pay back nearly $3,000 to the people who donated to her phony cause. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Marcelain said that Creno's ploy had been intended to get her husband back, a scheme that got out of hand.

     In terms of motive, this could have been a Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP) case. Mothers with this disorder make their children ill to gain sympathy and attention from friends, family, and hospital personnel. Quite often the MSBP subject is trying to attract the attention of an indifferent or estranged spouse. Even if Emily Creno didn't poison her son to make him ill, her cancer hoax could be explained in the context of this disorder. In other words, the motive behind this dreadful case may have been pathological rather than theft by deception. It should be noted, however, that Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy does not constitute a recognized legal defense. It is not the same as legal insanity because MSBP mothers are fully aware of what they are doing, and that it's wrong. 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Does Evidence Matter in Justice Policymaking?

For two decades, criminal justice advocates have been promoting the idea of basing anticrime policy on scientific evidence. But is anyone listening? Leading criminologists address the question at a Philadelpia conference.

For two decades, criminal justice advocates have been talking up the idea of basing anticrime policy on scientific evidence.

How much is it actually happening nationwide?

That question was on the table Thursday at the American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting, held this year in Philadelphia. Criminologists long have complained that policymakers tend to ignore their studies and pursue ideas based more on whims than science.

Laurie Robinson, former Assistant U.S. Attorney General now on the faculty of George Mason University, believes there has been much progress but also a lot of resistance to the idea of backing up justice policy with solid research.

In the first of two Robinson stints at DOJ, a report assessing what works in fighting crime and what doesn’t helped her cut federal funding for programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) and military-style boot camps for low-level offenders.

Still, dubious ideas like gun buy-backs by police agencies keep recurring even though studies have found them ineffective.

“Science has a hard time combatting emotionally popular programs,” Robinson said during a panel discussing the topic.

Edward Mulvey of the University of Pittsburgh, who heads a Science Advisory Board at DOJ, agreed that evidence on the spread of evidence-based programs is mixed.

Many “unsound policies” remain in the criminal justice world, partly because much of the public doesn’t see the value of waiting for evidence to justify a policy change, Mulvey said.

He takes the “long view” that proved practices eventually will prevail over “media headlines” about ideas that prove ineffective.

The Trump administration has said that it will retain the science board at OJP, which was established by former Attorney General Eric Holder.

At the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), DOJ’s research agency, David Muhlhausen has moved from the Heritage Foundation to become director.

At Thursday’s criminology program, Muhlhausen declared that “science-based crime policy is on the rise, but we need to improve — we’re not where we want to be.”

Mulhausen is enthusiastic about a website established by Robinson, crimesolutions.gov, which assesses the effectiveness of many anticrime programs that have been studied.

Muhlhausen’s primary concern is that there are too many program evaluations that are “quasi experimental” — far from definitive because they weren’t done using the “randomized controlled trials” in which people getting an experimental treatment are compared with similar groups who aren’t subjected to it.

He cited the example of drug courts, which he said had repeatedly been evaluated using the “quasi experimental” method.

The new NIJ director said that in general, he wanted to stop funding government-subsidized programs that don’t work, to avoid a “waste of taxpayers’ money.”

His criticism wasn’t limited to the Justice Department.

Muhlhausen cited a project of the Department of Labor supporting job training for former prisoners that the agency touted while not disclosing that a randomized controlled trial showed it was ineffective.

He also cited the Hawaii-based HOPE program (Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement), which puts some criminal defendants on probation under the threat of quick punishment if they violate rules.

Muhlhausen said an initial evaluation in Hawaii found the program valuable but randomized controlled trials in other states cast doubt on it.

“We have to be careful to define ‘what works,'” Muhlhausen said Thursday.

Muhlhausen admitted that evidence-based anticrime policies would be a “tough sell” to some audiences, such as working police officers.

He is supporting a project to instill academic concepts more widely among the ranks of criminal justice practitioners, a group he dubbed “pracademics.”

One leading justice practitioner who agreed that it can be difficult to instill evidentiary principles in the work of police and other criminal justice workers was Gil Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief and director of National Drug Policy under President Obama.

Kerlikowske noted that many large police departments had improved their techniques in such areas as videotaping confessions and obtaining witness identifications of crime suspects, but that many smaller departments had not caught up with needed changes. He said the academic community bears some of the blame for not offering their expertise to small police agencies.

Criminologists seemed pleased that NIJ’s Muhlhausen had embraced evidence-based policymaking in a presidential administration that has shunned scientific evidence in areas such as climate change.

Still, Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University expressed doubt that Muhlhausen could insist on the “gold standard” of randomized controlled trials for most studies of anticrime projects.

Important areas such as the death penalty aren’t appropriate for such experiments, Blumstein said.

Muhlhausen agreed that every crime study couldn’t be a randomized controlled trial. He repeatedly said that he wants NIJ to “advance the ball” and not to fund repeated studies that don’t aim to break significant new ground.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org