Monday, June 03, 2013

Stranger Than Fiction?

Well, some things are, for sure.

A random reading of the papers – online editions, for the most part – over the past several weeks brought forward a few odd stories.

The first one to catch my wandering eye was datelined Seattle, WA, May 16th. A 10-year old boy was sentenced to up to 5-1/2 years in a detention facility "for his role in a foiled plot to rape and kill a girl in his school and harm other children". Ten years old? One has to be impressed. The precocious would-be murderer/rapist had taken a Remington Model 1911 pistol that originally belonged to his grandfather from his older brother's room. He and a friend had packed the pistol, along with ammunition and a knife, for the trip to school on a school bus. Fortunately, they were caught in time. The motive for the planned crime? The intended victim was the 10-year old's "former girlfriend" who was guilty of "being rude" and "always making fun" of him and his friends.

There was no information in the report on any reaction from the National Rifle Association to the news of the planned murder. One assumes, though, that they would quickly have recommended that all female grade-schoolers should in future be armed, and allowed to carry concealed weapons to school. Just in case. That would go along with the NRA's insightful statement that the citizens of Boston must have wished they were all carrying handguns at the time of the recent terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon. Just what said citizens might have used their handguns for at the time the bombs went off is an unanswered question, considering that the perpetrators were not identified until some considerable time had passed. Random shooting perhaps, in the hope that one of the dozens hit by flying lead might have been a guilty party? Possibly. Of course, no one has ever accused the NRA of offering responsible commentary in any other such occasion.

Earlier that same month, there were several reports in the New York Times that a review of some fifty Brooklyn murder cases were being reviewed. It seems – and "seem" is all that it is at the moment – that an "acclaimed homicide detective", now retired, one Louis Scarcella, had used methods that can only be described as questionable, to engineer convictions in the murder cases under review. The reviews were precipitated when a judge freed one David Ranta, who had spent 23 years in prison after a murder conviction. When his case was reviewed, investigators found that Detective Scarcella and his partner had failed to pursue a more logical suspect. Further, they had apparently "removed violent criminals from jail to let them smoke crack cocaine and visit prostitutes in exchange for incriminating Mr. Ranta. A witness also said Mr. Scarcella told him who to choose in a lineup."

Detective Scarcella, now 61, and who retired from the Police Force in 1999, was quoted in the Times as saying that "he was surprised to learn of the review." The investigation is ongoing.

As is often the case with me, the Scarcella-inspired review reminded me of a film that focused its story line on a case of wrongful conviction engineered by the New York Police with the cooperation of an ambitious District Attorney. The film from 1989 is True Believer, with Robert Downey, Jr. and James Woods:


Very highly recommended.

An even more bizarre case than the Scarcella review was brought forward in late April, this one from Baltimore, Maryland. In this case, it appears that a jailed gang ringleader has taken over a prison, the Baltimore City Detention Center, and he has fathered five – count 'em, five! – children with four separate female guards. The prisoner in question, one Tavon White, aged 36, had "showered three of the guards with expensive gifts, including luxury cars and jewellery."

One has to be impressed. It appears that White and his gang, the "Black Guerilla Family", had, since 2009, literally taken control of the facility following their incarceration. Media reports  state that observers are comparing the takeover to something out of the popular crime mini-series, The Wire, itself set in Baltimore. "It is definitely life imitating art," said one Brenda Smith, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C., who studies Jailhouse sexual abuse. Hard to argue with that, I suppose.

Do I detect a new mini-series moving towards development?

1 comment:

Picks By Pat said...

True believer impressed me as one of the best films ever made in the "wrongly convicted" category. Excellent performances, great story and good soundtrack.