An Unintended Consequences Case With Racial Overtones

I'm aware of felony murder laws, in which one participant in, say a bank robbery, is held liable for murder if another participant kills someone during the course of the crime or the getaway, but this California case is going a step further.

LAKEPORT, Calif. - Three young black men break into a white man's home in rural Northern California. The homeowner shoots two of them to death - but it's the surviving black man who is charged with murder.

In a case that has brought cries of racism from civil rights groups, Renato Hughes Jr., 22, was charged by prosecutors in this overwhelmingly white county under a rarely invoked legal doctrine that could make him responsible for the bloodshed.

The murder charge is based on California's Provocative Act doctrine --

The Provocative Act doctrine does not require prosecutors to prove the accused intended to kill. Instead, "they have to show that it was reasonably foreseeable that the criminal enterprise could trigger a fatal response from the homeowner," said Brian Getz, a San Francisco defense attorney unconnected to the case.

The doctrine is used so rarely the NAACP is alleging the charges are racially motivated. It's also are asking why the homeowner wasn't charged with murder.


I don't like the idea of making defendants liable for the acts of victims.

I also think this is a case of over-charging. The homeowner's step-son was beaten with a baseball bat and is so brain-damaged he can't feed himself and lives in a rehab facility. That's the crime the defendant should be held accountable for (assuming it wasn't self-defense) and I would bet that California's attempted murder, aggravated robbery and assault penalties, to name a few, have penalty enhancements that could keep this defendant in prison for decades if convicted of committing or aiding and abetting that attack.

The homeowner, responding to charges of racism in the prosecuting decision, says:

"Race has nothing to do with it other than this was a gang of black people who thought they were going to beat up this white family."

I sense racial animus but there are details I'd like to know more about: Were the three robbers armed? Who beat the stepson? Was the stepson brandishing a weapon (like a rifle or a gun) at the time he was beaten? Where were the two fleeing robbers when they were shot? Inside or outside the house?

When a law is on the books forever but rarely used, and then used to charge a black youth in an almost all-white county, questions need to be asked and answers provided.

The judge has granted a change of venue.

Stay tuned, and thanks to Steve Audio for e-mailing this to me.

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    In other words, (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by scribe on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 09:48:34 AM EST
    when the homeowner says:

    "Race has nothing to do with it other than this was a gang of black people who thought they were going to beat up this white family."

    Race had everything to do with it.

    Obviously (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by squeaky on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 10:14:40 AM EST
    No race involved, based on the quote. It is black and white.

    hm (none / 0) (#5)
    by manys on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 10:39:02 AM EST
    Assuming you're not being sarcastic (black and white?), then why does the homeowner speculate that a "gang of black people thought they were going to beat up a white family?" What does the homeowner know about the thoughts of a man he killed? Of course, I'm assuming they didn't have a big discussion before the violence broke out.

    Maybe because (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 10:53:27 AM EST
     the violent burglars WERE black and his family IS white and the burglars WERE beating them up?

      Are we to assume that all of you somehow know that if the burglars beating up his family were also white he would simply have submitted because he doesn't believe in shooting white people who invade his house in the middle of the night and begin severely beating his family?

     Sometimes the things said here are so bizarre it makes me wonder if the self-parody is intentional because it is hard to fathom how anyone could not see how foolish they sound.


    Did I miss something?? (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 11:33:32 AM EST
    That's the crime the defendant should be held accountable for (assuming it wasn't self-defense)

    Let me understand this. Three men break into someone's home and then they can plead self-defense?

    Color me old and old fashioned, but when you break into someone's home you deserve what you get.

    here in va, (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by cpinva on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 11:58:30 AM EST
    and i bet most other states, once you break into someone's house, you pretty much abrogate any rights you have, including to self-defense. the "fruit of the poisonous tree" theory. in fact, if the two dead criminals were still in the house, when they were shot, that they were shot in the back becomes a moot point.

    probably the reason the victim wasn't charged is because, um, hold on, bear with me here..................he's the victim? actually, this is really no different than the felony murder law you describe, except the deceased were participants in the crime, not the victims of it. same theory.

    frankly, unless there is evidence showing this statute hasn't been previously invoked, in similar cases (how many like this could there possibly be?) involving white/hispanic/asian perps, than the racism claim is baseless, meant only to inflame the community.

    hughes' mother's claim that her son is undergoing a "legal lynching" shows merely that she watched the clarence thomas confirmation hearings.

    Actually, (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 12:35:33 PM EST
     This case reminds me very much of the first felony-murder case I ever handled, many years ago.

      My client was charged with felony-murder for the death of his best friend. The allegations were that my client and two of his friends decided to rob a drug-dealer with an unloaded gun. All the participants including the drug-dealer to be robbed were black. The drug-dealer was a little guy and my clients and his friends were considerably larger. Unfortunately, the drug-dealer had a gun that was loaded and he shot and killed my client's best friend who was brandishing the unloaded gun.

      The black drug-dealer was not even charged with possession to distribute cocaine (or possession of a firearm in connection therewith)  let alone homicide even though he admitted to the police  he was selling cocaine and carrying the gun to protect himself and that he intentionally shot the deceased (in self-defense).

       Under the exact same legal theory as here  my client was charged with first degree murder under the felony-murder rule. The only significant difference was that prior to my being appointed to the case he confessed to the police that he and his friends intended to rob the drug-dealer and so did the surviving co-deferndant. The confession and his prior waiver of Miranda rights were recorded so a motion to suppress was very unlikely to succeed.

      Had we proceeded to trial on the murder count,  the prosecution would have had to prove the intent only to commit the underyling felony (robbery) not the intent to kill (or premeditation or actual malice) or for anyone to be harmed. That my client was unarmed, that the gun he knew of was unloaded, that he thought the dealer did not have a gun, that he obviously did not intend for his or want his friend to be killed or harmed was all pretty much uncontested but he likely would have been convicted under (in my experience the very commonly invoked where applicable) felony-murder rule AND armed robbery.

      Given those facts, my client decided to plead gulty to armed robbery. He was sentenced to 50 years, but because part of the agreement was that the prosecution would not make a formal  presentment of use of a firearm he was eligible for parole after 12 1/2. Had the prosecution filed a firearm presentment the parole eligibility for the robbery  would have been 16 2/3 years--- 1st degree murder carried a life sentence with eligibility for parole after 15 IF the jury made a recommendation of mercy (which was probably likely given the facts) but there was also the risk that after a trial  the court would impose some or all of the robbery sentence to be served consecutively.

      It was not an easy case and it was harsh punishment even with the plea deal. it was howver pretty standard for such cases regardless of the race of the defendant or the victim.


    Jeralyn. Please post an open thread (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by oculus on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 01:18:46 PM EST
    so I may vent about the photo of George W. Bush moving up and down to the right of my screen.

    The victim (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Patrick on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 09:22:55 PM EST
    in this case is Edmonds son.  Who was beaten upon the initial entry (and not by his step-father, as some wingnut up thread said).   They were also a well know "supplier" of medical marijuana and one of the 3 black kids that came up from San Francisco that day had relatives in the clearlake area, which is presumably how he knew about Edmonds house.  

    As for race being an issue, Edmonds didn't target them for their race, and I doubt the suspects cared about his.  If you want to claim racism on the part of the DA well fine, Hopkins is a big boy, he can handle it.  

    The case seems appropriately charged to me.  These boys knew what they were planning, and in fact immediately employed brutal force upon enterin gthe house.  It seems robbery wasn't their only intent.   Fortunately the owner of the house had a gun he was to access and end the threat.


    Evidence this docrine is "rarely" used? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 10:29:28 AM EST
      I don't practice in California but in my experience the doctrine is applied routinely in those cases where it arguably  applies and any "rarity" is a product of it not applying all that often.

      I'd also say that under those facts  alleging racism in the decision not to seek prosecution of the homeowner seriously undermines the credibility of claims that the decision to apply the  doctrine to the accomplice is based on race.

    Why make an incredibly stupid argument that just serves to distract from what might possibly be a valid one?

    As Curtis Mayfield says (none / 0) (#4)
    by Electa on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 10:31:16 AM EST
    "it's the same dat gum sung."  When Blacks are involved it always pertains to race.  The intrusion was wrong, unfortunately 2 more young black men have lost their lives..literally.  Another will spend the remainder of his in prison.  It's just the same dat gum sung for Blacks in apartheid America.  I'm just waiting on the pot to explode because folks are getting mighty tired of the INJUSTICE towards our sons.  Another youth was killed by NYPD, who had mental problems, the other night.  

    Don't (none / 0) (#6)
    by Wile ECoyote on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 10:39:15 AM EST
    forget another person will spend the rest of his life in a home with a brain damage.  Not as much of an INJUSTICE I guess.

    Has it been PROVEN (none / 0) (#8)
    by Electa on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 11:27:51 AM EST
    that the kid was beaten by the intruders?  Who knows maybe the mean stepfather beat the kid into a coma after he killed the 2 black kids.  If so who would believe the Black kid?  The kid can't say since he's in a coma.

    The racism unfortunately overshadows the alleged crime.  It is only alleged at this point...right?  It could be associated with the Jena case.  The beating of the White kid in Jena was WRONG but the prosecutor's over charging of the Jena 6 diminished the wrongful beating.  

    The injustice towards Blacks in America victimizes the victims more than the actual crime committed against them.  The issue of RACISM should be front and center in this presidential election as evidenced by it becoming more open than subtle.  It's looking more and more like Jim Crow everyday in America.  Blacks simply aren't making enough noise.


    You obviously (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 11:39:12 AM EST
    have a career in writing fantasy.

    Has it been proven that the kid was beaten by the intruders? Who knows maybe the mean stepfather beat the kid into a coma after he killed the 2 black kids.

    news flash! (5.00 / 0) (#33)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 04:29:17 PM EST
      Trials are for proving the facts. He hasn't been tried yet just indicted, and evidently a grand jury believe there was probable cause to believe he knowingly and intentionally engaged in a night-time burglary that resulted in deaths.

     He get s opportunity to build and present a case capable of convincing a jury the necessary elements of the offenses charged (not all the incidental alleged facts) have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

      Here we have people claiming he SHOULD NOT BE TRIED for murder and the State should not be permitted to present evidence tending to establish the elements of felony murder. Why? It seems for no fathomable reason other than the belief we must conclude he is a victim of racism because people with an agenda say so  without any slight support for the allegation and therefore he deserves to be cleared without a trial.


    The step (none / 0) (#14)
    by Wile ECoyote on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 12:29:32 PM EST
    father was mean?  How do you know this?

    Yup, injustice. (none / 0) (#10)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 11:34:36 AM EST
    Prosecutors said homeowner Shannon Edmonds opened fire Dec. 7 after three young men rampaged through the Clearlake house demanding marijuana and brutally beat his stepson.[...]Edmonds' stepson, Dale Lafferty, suffered brain damage from the baseball bat beating he took during the melee. The 19-year-old lives in a rehabilitation center and can no longer feed himself.

    Also makes the pro-MJ "stoners are mellow" claim a little questionable.

    You're right.... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 12:55:50 PM EST
    every time I get high I get this urge to break into somebody's crib and start beating people to within an inch of their death.  C'mon bro, have you ever smoked a doobie?



    i think he is alluding (none / 0) (#19)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 12:57:37 PM EST
    (jokingly) to the fact the homeowner/shooter was found to have marijuana (medically prescribed no less)in his system.

    I think he's alluding to.... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 01:08:56 PM EST
    the intruders looking to steal the homeowner's reefer.  Like they were reefer-crazed maniacs or something rampaging for a fix.

    No doubt they were maniacs, but I do doubt reefer had anything to do with their maniacal tendencies.


    I guess we should just wait for Sarc (none / 0) (#23)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 01:17:45 PM EST
     to clarify what he meant.

    How did the intruders (none / 0) (#27)
    by Electa on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 02:46:51 PM EST
    know there was MJ in the house?  Broke in to rob them for a blunt?

    probably they heard or knew (none / 0) (#29)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 03:03:34 PM EST
     he  marijuana and/or other drugs were sold from or stored in the house. We can safely assume they believed a sufficient quantity of marijuana, other drugs or money would be found there or they would not have broken in a place far from their homes in the middle of the night.

      The tactical problem is of course, the homeowner or other people in the house selling drugs provides a motive for the underlying robbery which is the enumerated offense relied upon to trigger the felony-murder rule.

      Evidence introduced to show the shooter is a bad person because he sold drugs does not negate the crime of breaking into his house but does bolster the prosecution's theory that the motive for the robbery was entry.

      It's not a legal defense to prove your victim is a criminal. As a practical matter stealing contraband or the fruits of criminal conduct can be LEGALLY safer in many instances for the obvious reason that most (but, amazingly enough,  not all) people will not call the cops to complain someone stole their drugs or the large sum of unexplainable money they had from selling them.

      The shooter may well be a "bad person." in fact in other more complete coverage I have seen there is information stating he tried to compel his girlfriend to commit suicide with him and made her swallow a bunch of pills along with him but then decided to drive them to the hospital. It's also been alleged that he was physically abusive toward her. that may come in both as to his credibility as a witness and possibly his state of mind when he fired the gun.

      But, none of it makes legal to break into his house and beat people and is probably only relevant to the "intervening/superseding cause" theory i described above with respect to the deaths.



    hmmm (none / 0) (#21)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 01:10:06 PM EST
    Judging by what he quoted from the article, I think not.  It seems that he is referring to people willing to violently break into homes in search of marijuana.  If I had to guess, however, I would venture that they hoped to grab a stash they could sell, rather than one they could chill out on.

    just to clarify . . . (none / 0) (#22)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 01:11:37 PM EST
    my "I think not" referred to the theory that the earlier poster was referring to the homeowner being on pot.

    C'mon, guys. It's Friday. (none / 0) (#31)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 03:49:52 PM EST
    It was supposed to be a joke. The article said the shooter had pot in his system. Kdog, I especially thought you'd get it. I should have used a ;-).

    OK, I get it now. The shooter being high (none / 0) (#32)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 03:54:22 PM EST
    was in a different article so you probably didn't see it and didn't know what I was talking about.
    Brown and other NAACP officials are asking why the homeowner is walking free. Tests showed Edmonds had marijuana and prescription medication in his system the night of the shooting. Edmonds had a prescription for both the pot and the medication to treat depression.

    Racism is real (none / 0) (#13)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 12:01:50 PM EST
     but when people start arguing that any prosecution of black people for crimes where the victims are white automatically have racist motivations then the as with boy who cried wolf you will tuned out when there might actually be racism involved.

      Hughes is entitled to a fair trial and he should be afforded opportunity to raise any legal or factual defenses he has before an impartial court and an impartial jury.

      His claim appears to be that he and his buddies decided to drive from San Francisco (it of course  being quite difficult to score weed in SF) to the boondocks in the middle of the night to purchase a small quantity of marijuana from someone he did not know and then some disagreement ensued and his friends got shot by a racist white guy when all he wanted to do was buy some weed.

       He should have every opportunity to present all the evidence he has to establish that version of events.  If the jury should find enough plausibility in that version of events to create a reasonable doubt that the deaths did not result from the knowing and intentional commission of a felony creating a high degree of risk of violence then he should be acquitted.

      Moreover, there is another legal doctrine known as intervening or superseding cause which might relieve him of of liability for murder even if the jury should find that he did knowingly and intentionally enter the house with the intent to commit a robery or larceny and even if the jury finds that he and/or his accomplices committed an assault or attempted murder. If he could establish that despite the fact that breaking into an occupied house at night to commit larceny is a dangerous undertaking for everyone involved that the danger created by that risk had abated at the time of the act causing death (the homeowner's shooting) by virtue of abandonment of the criminal undertaking that was reasonably apparent to the shooter so that the shooter's response was sufficiently attenuated from his criminal act he could be acquitted. If for example the deceased were killed after the beating had stopped and they had fled the house that defense may have merit. One is allowed to use deadly force in defense of himself or others but not to prevent attackers from escaping once the attack has ended.

      There are important questions of fact and that's what trials are for. It seems dubious, to put it mildly,  to suggest that there should not be a trial to determine the facts to which statutes and doctrines should be applied.

       He might also consider the wisdom of negotiating a plea agreement which will allow for conviction of offenses which do not  include murder and give him the chance for release some day.


    Same applies to white people (none / 0) (#28)
    by Electa on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 02:59:22 PM EST
    "but when people start arguing that any prosecution of black people for crimes where the victims are white automatically have racist motivations then the as with boy who cried wolf you will tuned out when there might actually be racism involved."

    do you really think blacks have compassion when whites claim they are victimized by blacks?  Most don't.  Historically, there have been too many incidents where Blacks, esp. men, have been accused when they are innocent and have spent years in prison for nothing.  This BS dates back to slavery when Black men were castrated, hung, maimed, lamed, tarred and feathered for what?????  Looking at a white women..same mentality today just more subtle in its delivery.  Did these kids really break into this man's house, beat his stepson with a bat for a f**cking joint?  Makes it hard for me to believe.


    Who is (none / 0) (#30)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 03:13:31 PM EST
     defending any claims by white people accused of crimes that the prosecutions are bogus and motivated by racism of black officials.

      As I said, racism is real. that reality hardly supports the conclusion or even assumption that any particular prosecution where the suspect is black and the victim white is racially motivated. I believe my point is that making that claim where the facts clearly don't seem to support it only serves to lessen the credibility afforded to similar claims that may in fact be well founded.


    Question.... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 12:32:06 PM EST
    Why the need to charge anybody with the killing of the 2 intruders?  Seems to me it's a justifiable homicide on the part of the homeowner...somebody breaks in my crib they get Louisville Sluggered first, questions later.  The surviving intruder can be charged with the crimes he actually committed, as Jeralyn said, which are bad enough.  

    Just because there are 2 dead people doesn't mean somebody has to be charged for their deaths. Charging the surviving intruder is ridiculous, imo, and could well be racially motivated for all we know.  Charging the homeowner with anything would be equally ridiculous.

    yeah, seriously (none / 0) (#17)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 12:47:27 PM EST
    Come on.  I think it is perfectly forseeable that someone might get shot when three people break into an occupied home, at night, and assault one of the occupants with a baseball bat.  This seems like an appropriate application of the felony murder rule to me.  I understand that some states don't apply felony murder to cases where someone other than one of the "bad guys" actually causes the death of another "bad guy," but California does.  I don't see what is wrong with applying the law, as written, to this case.

    I also don't see racism involved--and certainly not in the failure to prosecute the homeowner.  If someone breaks into your home at night, whether they are brutally assaulting your child or not, you should have the right to shoot them.  So what if their backs are turned or if it appears they are leaving?  How are you to know that they aren't just turned for a moment or aren't coming back?  In those split-second, life and death decisions, when the sanctity of your home has been so violently violated, in the dark of night, damn right you have the right to shoot.  Any talk of prosecuting the homeowner, in my opinion, is ludicrous.

    Race and the transformation of criminal justice (none / 0) (#25)
    by Alien Abductee on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 01:25:15 PM EST
    A provocative article by Glenn C. Loury that connects the rise of the civil rights movement with a shift in thinking about the purpose of criminal justice that is leading to the creation of a "racially defined pariah class":

    According to a 2005 report of the International Centre for Prison Studies in London, the United States--with five percent of the world's population--houses 25 percent of the world's inmates. Our incarceration rate (714 per 100,000 residents) is almost 40 percent greater than those of our nearest competitors...

    How did it come to this? One argument is that the massive increase in incarceration reflects the success of a rational public policy: faced with a compelling social problem, we responded by imprisoning people and succeeded in lowering crime rates. This argument is not entirely misguided. Increased incarceration does appear to have reduced crime somewhat. But by how much? Estimates of the share of the 1990s reduction in violent crime that can be attributed to the prison boom range from five percent to 25 percent. Whatever the number, analysts of all political stripes now agree that we have long ago entered the zone of diminishing returns...

    A more convincing argument is that imprisonment rates have continued to rise while crime rates have fallen because we have become progressively more punitive: not because crime has continued to explode (it hasn't), not because we made a smart policy choice, but because we have made a collective decision to increase the rate of punishment...

    This growth in punitiveness was accompanied by a shift in thinking about the basic purpose of criminal justice....

    Despite a sharp national decline in crime, American criminal justice has become crueler and less caring than it has been at any other time in our modern history. Why?

    The question has no simple answer, but the racial composition of prisons is a good place to start...

    The political scientist Vesla Mae Weaver...argues--persuasively, I think--that the punitive turn represented a political response to the success of the civil-rights movement...

    No doubt horrible crimes were committed in this case. But nothing happens in a social vacuum.

    Works for me. (1.00 / 1) (#34)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 05:54:17 PM EST
    What you are saying here is that locking violent criminals up reduces crime.

    Somehow I'm not surprised (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Alien Abductee on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 07:01:16 PM EST
    that the pitiless use of power without having to consider bothersome things like humanity or decency or justice is something that "works" for you.

    Does creating a highly expensive vicious cycle of incarceration that produces the social conditions for more crime also work for you?


    I know that you are incapable of understanding (1.00 / 1) (#38)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 07:49:26 AM EST
    this, but if you lock violent criminals up, they can't commit violent crimes.

    My sympathy lies with the victims.

    I wonder why you emote over thugs, killers and assorted people who destroy, hurt and terrorize.
    Can you explain that? I would read your excuses for these people with great interest.


    Did you even read the article? (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 01:14:00 PM EST
    If you did you wouldn't be saying what you're saying here. Or maybe you read it and didn't understand it. It would take a minimal amount of empathy to be able to grasp the argument, and I believe it's been shown that the right-wing authoritarian personality lacks the capacity for empathy except where it's been sanctioned by the punitive authority figures and disciplinarians they put their trust in so uncritically.

    Nonsense (none / 0) (#40)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Nov 18, 2007 at 09:53:59 AM EST

    the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

    I have a great deal of empathy for the victims.

    Now. Explain to me why I should have empathy with the three men who invaded a home, beat another person with a baseball bat until he has permanent brain damage and caused the homeowner to shoot them.

    Try and focus on that. None of this would have happened if they had not invaded the home.

    BTW - I am a Social Liberal Independent and you can find my support for many positions identified as "liberal." I am also not so stupid to believe that violent criminals should not be locked up.

    Now, if you want to discuss what created such people as these, that is another subject and has been studied long and hard and I confess I do not know, but do have opinions.


    I don't ask you to have (none / 0) (#41)
    by Alien Abductee on Mon Nov 19, 2007 at 04:08:55 PM EST
    empathy with the three men who invaded a home, beat another person with a baseball bat until he has permanent brain damage and caused the homeowner to shoot them.

    In that article Loury was saying that the increasing punitiveness of the justice system at the expense of any effort anymore in the way of preemptive social mitigation or rehabilitation has costs, and he was trying to lay them out.

    I have no objection to locking up violent people who are truly dangerous. I do object to locking up people who aren't violent and who aren't dangerous (e.g., many of the victims of the government's War on Drugs), and from that producing a widening set of negative social effects on their families and their communities. It ends up producing people who commit crimes like the one discussed here. How can it not?

    I do think it takes some willingness to exercise empathy beyond just for the victims to be able to see things clearly. If not empathy for the perpetrators, then for their families, their children, others in their social milieu. If you can't or won't do that, you can't see and properly assess the broader picture of the actual costs of the policy on the whole society and individuals like the homeowner and his son who randomly bear the brunt.


    Increased state prison population in (none / 0) (#26)
    by oculus on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 01:36:09 PM EST
    CA is a result of three-strikes law, I think.  Certainly does get repeat-offenders off the streets, although I strongly support restricting the third strike to specific crimes, not any felony conviction.

    More Guns Less Crime (none / 0) (#37)
    by diogenes on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 10:55:18 PM EST
    At least in this case.