Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Biden outlines $37 billion proposal to fund policing and crime prevention

President Joe Biden has laid out a $37 billion budget proposal for Congress to fund policing and crime prevention efforts across the country, a plan that would focus on hiring and retaining officers, intervention strategies, improving the criminal justice system and efforts to keep guns out of dangerous hands, reports Spectrum News NY1.

The announcement comes as violent crime remains high above pre-pandemic levels, with homicide rates still up nearly 40% in major cities, according to the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ). Robberies also increased by 19% in 2022 from the same period last year, and car theft is up 15 percent.

Biden detailed his “Safer America Plan” in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Tuesday, a little over a month since his COVID-19 diagnosis delayed an initial visit and announcement there.

"When it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer is not 'defund the police.' It's fund the police," he said to applause Tuesday at Wilkes University.

The plan is a proposal for the president’s fiscal year 2023 budget, which Congress can consider.

The policing part of the plan includes nearly $13 billion to hire 100,000 officers over the next five years through the federal COPS Hiring Program. The money would come in the form of grants “to recruit, train, support, and manage” the officers in “effective, accountable community policing," the proposal says.

It "takes a page" out of the 1994 crime initiative that Biden helped spearhead under former president Bill Clinton, said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology expert and professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. That plan also included hiring thousands of new officers, which in turn did help reduce crime.

"In that sense, it's not a surprising plan coming from the president," Rosenfeld said, adding that the "track record is pretty good" when it comes to boosting police ranks.

Community policing has also long been a policy priority for Biden, which involves assigning police officers to particular areas so they become connected to the local population. Better relationships with officers can lead to greater cooperation with police in a community.

"I'm old enough to remember when cops used to walk the beat," he said.

"When it comes to fighting crime, we know what works: officers on the street who know the neighborhood ... who know the families they're protecting, who get the training they need to be able to do their jobs well, who work to earn the community's trust," Biden added.

The Safer America plan would also include $1 billion for training officers in a way that prioritizes “accountability, transparency, and the well-being of state and local officers,” plus separate money focused on officer well-being and retention.

"It appears to be what the public wants," Rosenfeld said of community policing. "It's an effective way of reducing the tensions that exist between many communities, especially disadvantaged communities of color, and the local police department."

The president also pointed to executive actions he's already taken boost policing, such as one in May that focused on federal law enforcement agencies and limited their use of force.

Biden on Tuesday also turned the focus back to guns, two months after he signed into law the first sweeping, bipartisan reform law in decades.

He once again urged Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, an effort he helped push through when he was a senator in 1994 before it expired in the early 2000s. 

"I'm determined to ban assault weapons in this country! Determined!" he roared

He also spoke about a horror that parents in Uvalde had to endure: submitting DNA so their kids could be identified underneath AR-15 bullet wounds.

"We're living in a country awash with weapons of war," Biden said. "What's the rationale for these weapons outside of a war zone?"

Biden's Safer America plan would also include $1.7 billion for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to enforce gun laws, including by hiring more agents and investigators.

All of this comes as post-pandemic crime rates remain higher than in the years before COVID-19 largely shut down the country. 

Homicides are up 39% midyear compared to 2019, according to the CCJ.

Gun deaths remain the most concerning, according to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which includes police executives representing the largest U.S. cities. U.S. health officials recorded the highest number of firearm deaths ever in 2020, with an average of 124 people dying per day.

Rosenfeld agreed that those are the most serious crimes, but he said his one criticism of Biden's plan is that it doesn't place enough emphasis on more common crimes like shoplifting or car break-ins. Larcenies, which are thefts that don't involve the use of force, are up 20% this year compared to 2021.

"They affect people directly or indirectly, because you know someone who's been a victim of that type of crime far more frequently than [you] would homicides or even other non-fatal gun violence," he said.

The plan does include a single effort to crack down on organized retail theft and resale of stolen items online, Rosenfeld noted.

Asked why the announcement Tuesday took place in Wilkes-Barre instead of a place like Philadelphia, where crime is more rampant, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did not share any reasoning but instead highlighted that Biden would make the speech near his hometown of Scranton.

Pennsylvania is also a key swing state, and Biden will take two more trips there within the next week, all ahead of November's midterm elections. On Tuesday he voiced his support for Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in his race for U.S. senator and Attorney General Josh Shapiro in his run for governor.

The Safer America plan also includes $700 million for crisis interventions related to mental health, plus a $15 billion for a proposed Accelerating Justice System Reform grant program that communities can use to do things like prevent violent crime, support formerly incarcerated Americans or expand co-responder programs to prevent officers from having to intervene in situations that may need something other than a law enforcement response.

To read more CLICK HERE 


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Pennsylvania considers compensation for wrongfully convicted

Being incarcerated is a life-altering experience. If you’re the imprisoned person, trying to reassemble your life after serving your debt to society can take years, if not decades. If you are the survivor of a crime, you also often face years of recovery.

But what about the wrongly imprisoned? The data are a matter for pause, reports John L. Micek of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint effort between the University of California Irvine, and the University of Michigan and Michigan State University’s law schools, 161 people were exonerated in 2021, with each person losing an average of 11.5 years of their lives.

Instances of official misconduct  occurred in at least 102 exonerations in 2021. Fifty-nine homicide cases — 77 percent of murder and manslaughter exonerations in 2021 — were the result of official misconduct, the data showed. And Pennsylvania accounted for seven of those exonerations last year, the registry’s 2021 report showed.

Now, two Pennsylvania lawmakers are asking their colleagues to back a bill that would provide some redress to the wrongfully imprisoned by allowing them to seek compensation for the years they’ve lost behind bars.

“When an individual is wrongfully convicted and incarcerated the consequences are devastating not only to them but their families and friends,” Reps. Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon, and Regina G. Young, D-Philadelphia, wrote in an Aug. 25 memo seeking sponsors for their bill.

“Individuals are not only deprived of their liberty, but they miss holidays, birthdays, and other important life events,” they continued. “They undoubtedly will suffer negative economic and professional consequences as well.”

The average “cost” of a wrongful conviction is an estimated $6.1 million, or $1,334 per-day of incarceration, according to a 2021 paper by Vanderbilt University Law School professor Mark Cohen.

Right now, 38 states, Washington D.C. and the federal government provide some kind of compensation or payment to the wrongfully convicted, according to data compiled by The Innocence Project.

In their memo, Ryan and Young argue that Pennsylvania, one of 12 states without a compensation statute, should enact its own law “to ensure that exonerated individuals are appropriately compensated for the liberty they have been denied and given the necessary resources and services to succeed after being released from their wrongful incarceration.”

Under their proposal, a person seeking compensation must show “by a preponderance” of the evidence that they:

  • “Were convicted of a felony.
  • “Were sentenced to incarceration based on the conviction and they have served all or any part of the sentence.
  • “Did not commit the crime that resulted in the conviction or there was no crime committed.
  • “Received either a pardon, that the charges were dismissed following reversal, or that they were acquitted upon retrial after the conviction was reversed or overturned,” and
  • “Were not convicted of any lesser included offense arising from the same transaction as the crime for which they were originally convicted,” Ryan and Young wrote.

If someone successfully proves all those things, the proposal calls for them to be awarded damages based on how long they were incarcerated and how long they spent on parole.

Tough on crime Texas, for instance, provides “the wrongfully convicted $80,000 per year and an annuity set at the same amount,” according to The Innocence Project.

And, in addition to any monetary compensation, “these damages can include child support an individual may have incurred while they were incarcerated, reasonable attorney fees, and compensation for any reasonable reintegrative services and mental and physical health care costs they incurred,” the two lawmakers wrote.

And, they added, “this legislation also provides various services, resources and assistance for individuals who are wrongfully convicted regardless if they are seeking compensation.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, August 29, 2022

Barr provided legal cover for Trump on obstruction, according to recently released documents

In response to a court order, the Justice Department has released a 2019 internal memorandum to then-Attorney General William P. Barr concerning whether the evidence gathered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III would justify charging then-President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice, writes Randall Eliason of the Washington Post. As Mueller noted in his report, the prospect of charging a president with obstruction raises difficult issues. But this newly released memo is not a serious attempt to grapple with those issues. It’s a whitewash — a failed effort to provide legal cover for Barr’s foregone conclusion exonerating the president. And as the statute of limitations clock continues to tick away, we still don’t have an honest assessment from the Justice Department regarding Trump and obstruction.

Mueller infamously declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on this question, based on the long-standing Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. In the memo, dated two days after Mueller sent his 400-plus page report to Barr, senior Justice Department officials Steven A. Engel and Edward O’Callaghan urge Barr to make that judgment himself and declare there was insufficient evidence of obstruction. Barr did just that in a misleading letter to Congress released that same day.

In their nine-page memo, Engel and O’Callaghan note that Mueller concluded there was insufficient evidence to find that Trump or his campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russians seeking to interfere with the 2016 election. They argue this would make obstruction charges inappropriate, because it would be unusual to prosecute someone for obstruction when there was no underlying criminal offense.

Scooter Libby and Martha Stewart would like a word. Both were convicted of obstructing investigations that ultimately did not result in other criminal charges — and that is not at all unusual. At the time of the obstruction, of course, a defendant does not know whether criminal charges ultimately will be brought. And people obstruct investigations for all kinds of reasons — including that the results might be politically damaging or embarrassing — even if they don’t fear criminal liability.

But the bigger flaw in this argument is that the obstruction itself might be the reason there was insufficient evidence to bring charges. According to this memo, if you are good at obstruction and succeed in thwarting the investigation, you get a free pass not only for the underlying conduct but also for the obstruction itself. That is not the law.

Engel and O’Callaghan also claim Mueller had a flawed view of obstruction because he believed that otherwise lawful acts — such as firing the FBI director — could constitute obstruction if done with corrupt intent. They argue this is incorrect, and that obstruction charges could not properly be based on conduct that is “lawful on its face.”

Wrong again. Obstruction charges often apply when otherwise lawful acts are done with the corrupt intent to obstruct. If I shred my personal files because my office is cluttered, that is perfectly lawful. If I shred those files because they have been subpoenaed by a grand jury, that same conduct is now obstruction of justice, based on my corrupt intent.

The memo also suggests Trump’s actions were not obstruction because they were motivated by his belief that the Mueller investigation was unfair and was interfering with his governing agenda. No doubt all public officials under investigation feel the same way. But that is no defense. Just as believing he won the election would not justify Trump unleashing a mob on the Capitol, being unhappy about the Mueller investigation would not justify obstructing that investigation.

But the strongest evidence of the memo’s true purpose is its suggestion that Barr himself decide the obstruction question. Engel and O’Callaghan argue it would be contrary to DOJ policy to leave that question unresolved. But if that were truly the concern, the best solution was obvious: Barr could have ordered Mueller to make that call. The very purpose of a special counsel is to take such decisions out of the hands of political appointees. Mueller and his team lived with the investigation for nearly two years and were in the best position to reach a legal conclusion about Trump’s conduct. Barr’s failure to ask Mueller for his view and decision to claim that role for himself suggests he knew he would not like Mueller’s answer.

Before he was even appointed as attorney general, Barr wrote an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department arguing that Mueller’s obstruction theories were “fatally misconceived.” There was never any doubt about where Barr was going to come down on the obstruction question, and the flimsy analysis in this memo does nothing to further illuminate the issue. Merrick Garland’s Justice Department could still take an independent look — and potentially prosecute — but time is running out.

To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, August 26, 2022

Mangino a guest on Court TV

Watch my interviews on Court TV discussing the charges facing Courtney Clenney and the two police officers sentenced in the George Floyd murder. 

To watch the interviews CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE

Oklahoma carries out execution of man recommended for clemency

 The 10th Execution of 2022

Oklahoma executed James Coddington on August 25, 2022 for a 1997 killing, despite a recommendation from the state’s Pardon and Parole Board that his life be spared, reported The Associated Press.

Coddington, 50, received a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester and was pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m. Gov. Kevin Stitt declined to commute Coddington’s sentence to life in prison without parole and rejected his petition for clemency. Coddington was the fifth Oklahoma inmate to be put to death since the state resumed executions last year.

“To all my family and friends, lawyers, everyone who’s been around me and loved me, thank you,” Coddington said while strapped to a gurney inside the death chamber. “Gov. Stitt, I don’t blame you and I forgive you.”

After delivering his last words, Coddington lifted his head and flashed a thumbs up to his attorney, Emma Rolls, who cried quietly in the witness room.

After the first drug, midazolam, was administered, Coddington’s breathing became labored and his chest hitched several times. A doctor on the execution team declared him unconscious at 10:08 a.m., and Coddington could be heard snoring inside the chamber.

Coddington was convicted and sentenced to die for beating 73-year-old Albert Hale to death with a hammer. Prosecutors say Coddington, then 24, became enraged when Hale refused to give him money to buy cocaine.

During a clemency hearing this month before the state’s five-member Pardon and Parole Board, an emotional Coddington apologized to Hale’s family and said he was a different man today.

But Mitch Hale, Albert Hale’s son who witnessed the execution, said he didn’t believe Coddington was sincerely remorseful, noting that he never mentioned his father or the Hale family during his last words.

“He proved today it wasn’t genuine. He never apologized,” Hale said. “He didn’t bring up my dad.”

Hale added: “I forgive him, but that doesn’t release him from the consequences of his actions.”

Rolls, Coddington’s attorney, said during the clemency hearing that Coddington was impaired by years of alcohol and drug abuse that began as an infant when his father put beer and whiskey into his baby bottles.

Coddington was twice sentenced to death for Hale’s killing, the second time in 2008 after his initial sentence was overturned on appeal.

After killing Hale, Coddington committed at least six armed robberies at gas stations and convenience stores across Oklahoma City.

“When the full circumstances of the murder, related robberies, and extensive history of violence on Mr. Coddington’s part are considered, one thing is clear: death is the only just punishment for him,” prosecutors in the state attorney general’s office wrote to the Pardon and Parole Board.

The state had halted executions in September 2015 when prison officials realized they had received the wrong lethal drug. It later came to light that the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate, and executions in the state were put on hold.

To read more CLICK HERE

Buffalo police use hot spot policing to curb violence

 The red, white and blue lights on the top of the two patrol cars swirled, illuminating the intersection of Walden Avenue and Harmonia Street the night of Aug. 10.

A lieutenant and two patrol officers walked around. Drivers slowed and peered out their windows. A worker at the convenience store on the corner stepped outside.

But it wasn't a 911 call that drew the police to Walden Avenue that night.

Buffalo police officers on duty at a micro hot spot, a pinpoint area where there's a higher concentration of violent crime on  Aug. 10, 2022, reported the The Buffalo News.

They were in that precise location because police identified it as a "micro hot spot." Since June, two people were shot and another stabbed within about a block of that intersection – a sign there could be more violence in the future.

The officers' assignment: park their cars, put on their lights, walk around and talk to whoever is out and about. 

"We're trying to make a presence," said Officer Ann Devaney, who, along with her partner, Officer Andrew Moffett, and Lt. Jim Otwell, spent about 15 minutes at  the intersection.

Officer Ann Devaney assigned on post to a micro hot spot, a pinpoint area where there's a higher concentration of violent crime on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. 

Minh Connors / Buffalo News

The idea: Put police officers in the places where there has been recent gun violence.

The police aren't there to ticket drivers and arrest people, although they can if they see a crime in progress or a traffic violation. But that's not the point.

"Our presence alone will act as a deterrence for any other gun violence," Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.

After two years of near record-high numbers of shootings in Buffalo, gun violence is on the decline in the city, even when the May 14 massacre at Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue that left 10 dead and three more shot is factored in.

Police officers on duty at a micro hot spot, a pinpoint area where there's a higher concentration of violent crime on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. 

Shootings are down about 36% in the first seven months of this year, compared to 2021, according to Buffalo police data. For the month of July, usually one of the busiest for crimes, the number of people who were shot was down 65%, compared to both 2020 and 2021. Shootings in cities across the state outside of New York City have overall shown a decrease in shootings, but Albany and Syracuse have continued to see increases, according to data from the state.

 "This new strategy, which is very data-driven, where we identify hot spots and then send police into hot spots for foot patrol has helped to build the community and police relationship," Mayor Byron Brown said.

Basing crime fighting tactics on hot spots has critics. Advocates for criminal justice reform have raised questions, saying they lead to disproportionate arrests and ticketing in poor communities of color. There's a years-long lawsuit pending against the Buffalo Police Department over traffic checkpoints in mostly minority neighborhoods.

The grid

The Buffalo Police Department began employing their new strategy about a year ago, amid an increase in shootings. It was based on an approach used by the Dallas Police Department.

Patrol officers were sent to areas where shootings had previously been reported to act as a physical deterrent to more crime.

At the same time, Buffalo police, working with the Erie County Sheriff's Office, State Police, the FBI and ATF, concentrated investigations on the "trigger pullers and gun traffickers," as Gramaglia calls those responsible for most of the gun violence in the city, roughly 75 people, according to police estimates. The law enforcement agencies executed search warrants and filed charges, in state and federal courts, to get some of those accused of violence off the streets.

The violence continued, but seemed to be slowing down.

In March, after Gramaglia became the new commissioner, he began fine-tuning the hot spot strategy.

It all begins with a digital map of the city, created with the help of data from the Erie Crime Analysis Center, a state-funded center that provides data and intelligence to the Buffalo Police Department.

First, the city is divided up into a grid of about 4,700 500-foot-by-500-foot squares. That's about the size of a small city block, in many cases smaller than a block.

Then, they overlay all of the shootings on the map – red for shootings with injuries or deaths and blue for "shots fired."

The dots include data on the date and time of the shootings, which are used to create a "timed heat map." The more recent the incident, the bigger the dot. The map is updated in real time as officers file their reports.

Looking at data over the previous 90 days, the police can pinpoint "micro hot spots."

Once a week, the data is shared and discussed at intelligence briefings, which are held on a rotating basis at the department's five police districts. Patrol officers are part of those meetings.

"Who knows more about what's going on in a neighborhood than the unformed officers patrolling them?" Gramaglia said.

They discuss which spots to target and who will go where and when. The aim is to have officers going to hot spots throughout the day, spending 10 to 15 minutes at each location. The assignments are called "directed patrols."

Patrol officers are expected to do directed patrols in between answering 911 calls. Other officers who are on special details, such as those specifically aimed at reducing gun violence, spend their shifts going on one directed patrol to the next. The patrols are largely funded through grants from the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Officers Joseph Walters and Rick Lopez, both veteran cops with decades on the job, were on Broadway near Sears Street, an area that's seen some extreme violence this summer. In June, two officers driving on Broadway heard gunfire and found a mortally wounded man in front of a laundromat in a strip mall at the intersection. The suspect then reportedly fired shots at the officers through their windshield. Other officers chased the suspect on foot through a parking lot to Playter Street and shot him multiple times. He survived and has since been charged with murder, attempted murder and illegal gun possession.

Lopez, a 37-year veteran and the second most senior officer in the department, said he's seen a lot of new initiatives. The directed patrols, he said, are like a new version of a foot patrol, where precinct cops would spend their entire shifts walking around their designated area.

"I started out the walking the beat," Lopez said. "I didn't see the inside of a car for the first 18 months on the job."

He said the hot spots data give police officers a chance to interact with the public, letting them get to know people who live and work there as they return to the same locations. That's a key part of the strategy, Gramaglia said.

It is not just sitting in a patrol car.

"You're getting out of the car, engaging with any residents that are out there," Gramaglia said.

"You're engaging in conversations," he added. "You're asking about problems that are occurring."

There aren't enough officers to conduct foot patrols in every neighborhood, he noted. The hot spot approach gives him "the ability to have smaller doses of foot patrols in a more frequent manner in the areas that are shown to have a higher propensity for gun violence," he said.

Across town on the same Wednesday, Lt. Eric Hofschneider and officers Steven Zappia and Brenden Robinson were on a directed patrol on Herkimer and West Ferry streets.

"There have been quite a few shots fired around here," Zappia said. 

They said when they pulled up, they saw a group of people gathered on a front yard on Herkimer. The people scattered when they saw the police car approach. As they walked down the block, they stopped to talk to a woman who seemed a little confused.

Hofschneider said he feels like the patrols are getting noticed.

"We're being proactive," he said. "Just our presence deters crime."

The falling gun violence numbers, Gramaglia said, "speak for themselves." Earlier this month, a week went by without any shootings in the city. The weekly shoot review meeting to analyze recent shootings was canceled.

"I absolutely believe that this is working," Gramaglia said.

To better gauge the hot spot strategy's effectiveness, Gramaglia is working with Dr. Scott Phillips, a criminologist at SUNY Buffalo State College. They have produced an initial report outlining the strategy, and will revisit it as more data become available.

Brown said the micro hot spot strategy should be a model for other cities, and he recently discussed it with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Little Rock, Ark., Mayor Frank Scott Jr. in a virtual panel on gun violence and citizen engagement.

"This approach is getting a lot of attention," Brown said. "But I suspect if it continues to be as success, as it has been, it will get even more attention nationally."

'A different vibe'

Lt. Mark Cyrek and Officer Kevin Kindzierski walked up Thatcher Avenue, past a house where there was a fatal shooting a month earlier. More recently, there was a confirmed "shots fired" call on the street.

"Hi. How are you doing?" they said to a woman as she got into her van, looking curiously at the officers and the flashing lights of their car. A man stood outside in his driveway, checking out the scene.

"I've been seeing the police out here every night," sad the man, who identified himself only as Keith and didn't want to give his full name, given the recent gun violence on his street.

He didn't witness or hear the shootings, he said. "But I heard about it," he added.

Keith said he's lived on Thatcher for more than two decades and has seen all kinds of police activity over the years.

"They'd ticket you. Pat you down," he recalled.

He said the recent patrols seem different.

"They're friendlier. They drive by and wave," he said. "I think it's better. I don't know if it works. But I can feel the atmosphere. It's a different vibe."

Visualize Dom Delouise in Blazing Saddles, yelling through megaphone. If you're quitting based on your boss being mean and demanding , you probably didn't need the job, or have never lived outside of academics or theater. People in both industries are known for overblown drama.

To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Mental health fails as a red flag to predict violence

The freshman who walked into the high school cafeteria in Marysville, Wash., in 2014 with his father’s .40-caliber Beretta did not fit anyone’s profile of a mass murderer. He was a crack athlete. He embraced his Native American traditions, wearing a headdress at tribal events and offering freshly killed deer to his grandmother. He was popular, so much so that he had just been elected homecoming prince.

He had no history of mental illness — just what several classmates described as an uncharacteristically bad mood that week. It was only after he killed four fellow students and wounded another that the armchair diagnosis of his mental state began.

Blaming mass murder on mental illness is a time-honored impulse, used by law enforcement and politicians alike, reports The New York Times. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” President Donald J. Trump said in 2019 in response to mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. After a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge. Period.”

Such explanations satisfy a deep longing to understand the incomprehensible. And they appeal to common sense — how could a person who kills indiscriminately be in their right mind?

Yet America’s mass killers fit no single profile and certainly no pattern of insanity — many, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder. Background checks can prevent someone with a diagnosis of mental illness from acquiring a gun, but psychologists say there is a wide divide between a clinical diagnosis and the type of emotional disturbance that precedes many mass killings.

The real problem, those experts say, is that mental illness is not a useful means to predict violence. About half of all Americans will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives, and the vast majority of people with mental illness do not kill.

“Do you or do you not have a mental health diagnosis?” said Jillian Peterson, a co-founder of the Violence Project, a research center that has compiled a database of mass shootings from 1966 on and studied perpetrators in depth. “In many cases, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not the main driver.”

Instead, many experts have come to focus on warning signs that occur whether or not actual mental illness is present, including marked changes in behavior, demeanor or appearance, uncharacteristic fights or arguments, and telling others of plans for violence, a phenomenon known as “leakage.”

This focus is far from perfect — it can be exceedingly difficult to weed out serious threats from many more that are idle, impetuous or exaggerated. But the warning signs approach has benefits: It can work even when the mental health system does not, and it sidesteps the complaint that blaming mass shootings on mental illness increases negative attitudes and stigma toward those who suffer from it.

For Dewey Cornell, an education professor at the University of Virginia who helps train schools to conduct behavioral threat assessments, a bellwether case was that of a high school freshman in West Paducah, Ky. In 1997, he brought guns to school disguised as an art project and opened fire, killing three students and wounding five.

The gunman had schizophrenia and was severely delusional, but that was not what helped Dr. Cornell develop his model for averting school violence.

Rather, it was that the killer’s mental state had clearly worsened over time, meaning there had been opportunities to intervene. He had been bullied, had made threats to his peers and had turned in an essay about shooting a bully at school.

“There were many, many warning signs and leakages and not a single student came forward and said, ‘Hey, I’m concerned,’” Dr. Cornell said. “It’s a case I use in all of my training programs to show how we can make a difference.”

Dr. Cornell said the mental health system is ill-suited to avert mass violence, because insurance companies limit what conditions they will pay to treat, and the laws governing psychiatric commitment, which can prevent people from acquiring guns, have a narrow definition of mental illness.

 “We identify individuals who are threatening to harm someone, but they do not meet the criteria for hospitalization because they don’t have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and they don’t express imminent intent to carry out their actions,” Dr. Cornell said.

Red flag laws are intended to get around some of those limitations by allowing for the temporary removal of a person’s guns if they are showing signs of dangerousness, regardless of mental illness.

The problem with relying on mental health diagnoses to predict gun violence has become apparent. The Uvalde gunman had no history of diagnosed mental illness. A teenager in Santa Fe, Texas, had never been diagnosed before he was accused of killing 10 schoolmates in 2018, though he has repeatedly been found mentally incompetent to stand trial. More than once, people who would go on to kill have been evaluated and sent on their way.

In some cases, treatment did not avert violence. The man who killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in 2012 had been seeing a psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia.

After the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, also in Colorado, the journalist Dave Cullen deflated many of the myths surrounding the massacre when he revealed that the perpetrators were neither outcasts nor bullied. Rather, he reported, one of the two gunmen was a psychopath, lacking in conscience and empathy but abundant in grandiose ideas, and the other was a suicidal depressive who went along with the plan.

And in Florida, where a jury is hearing testimony before sentencing on what motivated Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 people at a high school in Parkland in 2018, the defense is expected to present evidence beginning this week that Mr. Cruz suffered from a range of troubles, including brain damage, central nervous system abnormalities and cognitive deficits.

But there were warning signs: While Mr. Cruz was still a student, behavioral health professionals had been called to the school repeatedly because he made threats and exhibited disturbing behavior. Two guidance counselors and a sheriff’s deputy had advised that he be forcibly committed for psychiatric evaluation, but no such commitment ever took place.

In Dr. Peterson’s database, more than two-thirds of the perpetrators had some history of mental health concerns, including hospitalization, counseling, psychiatric medication or a previous diagnosis. About 30 percent of the gunmen had some form of psychosis, a category of mental illness that involves difficulty determining reality, and of those, a third killed in direct response to delusions or hallucinations.

But in many cases, the psychosis did not have an influence on their crime, or was only one of several motivating factors. For example, a college student believed that school employees were conspiring against him and had him under surveillance, but turned violent only after failing to get a refund for his tuition.

All of this has prompted some skepticism about the new federal gun law’s allocation of $8.5 billion to expand the country’s mental health care system, especially when the number of mass killers is vanishingly small. “If we were to cure serious mental illnesses, violence would go down by 4 percent,” said Jeffrey Swanson, a sociologist at Duke University.

Dr. Swanson said his research has found that other factors, like drug and alcohol use, are more closely connected to violence. And study after study has shown that the availability of guns has a far stronger link to violence than psychosocial factors.

Perpetrators are driven by a complex array of factors that can include a desire for fame, radicalization on the internet and childhood trauma, and experts say the means of intervention should be just as broad. Potential killers may be in need of a mentor, substance abuse treatment, cognitive support at school, or even help for their parents such as child care and transportation. Attention to social climate, like anti-bullying campaigns and programs that teach students how to recognize and counteract signs of isolation, may also avert violence.

J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and F.B.I. consultant, said that whether or not they are mentally ill, most mass killers develop a sense of having been wronged and choose a group to blame. “The personal grievance, then, typically leads to the individual deciding that there is only a violent solution to the distress that they’re experiencing,” he said.

Dr. Peterson of the Violence Project has framed perpetrators not as monstrous outsiders but members — and products — of their communities who are often signaling that they need help. She and other experts say that interventions should emphasize respect, dignity and inclusion. Punitive, exclusionary responses like expulsion from school are likely to increase the risk of violence.

Four out of five of the perpetrators in the project’s database, Dr. Peterson said, showed signs of crisis — defined as a period when one’s circumstances overwhelm one’s coping mechanisms, shortly before carrying out their crimes.

Crisis can be triggered or exacerbated by mental illness, but also by loss of a job, a breakup, divorce, death or other events. The mother of the Parkland gunman died three months before he carried out his attack at the high school, from which he had been expelled.

This suggests that potential violence can be averted. In a TEDx talk called “I Was Almost a School Shooter,” a man named Aaron Stark recounted how a friend’s simple invitation to watch a movie helped divert him from his plans. “When someone treats you like a person when you don’t even feel like a human, it’ll change your entire world,” he said.

In interviews with perpetrators, Dr. Peterson said, “We would always ask, is there anything that could have stopped you? And they would always tell us, yes.” She added, “I think one of them said probably anyone could have stopped me, but there was just no one.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, August 22, 2022

Congress targets the manufacturers of AR-15s

After a three-month-long investigation into the gun manufacturing industry in the wake of a string of mass shootings this year, House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) is introducing two pieces of legislation targeting the manufacturers of AR-style rifles, reported the Washington Post.

The proposed legislation includes a bill that would impose a 20 percent tax on the total revenue earned by manufacturers of AR-style rifles and high-capacity magazines and a bill that would require each firearm manufacturer to create and implement a system to track and analyze crimes committed with firearms they have sold.

The draft bills reviewed by The Washington Post — called the Firearm Industry Fairness Act and the Firearm Industry Crime and Trafficking Accountability Act — come on the heels of a report from the committee that found that five of the largest gun manufacturers in the United States did not track crimes associated with their products and that the industry earned more than $1 billion from the sales of AR-style weapons in the past decade.

The Firearm Industry Fairness Act would mean that “the family hunting rifle is not taxed at the same rate as an assault weapon, and would ensure that the firearm industry, like other industries in America, takes responsibility for the safety and misuse of its products,” Maloney said in a statement.

The federal excise tax imposed on the sale of certain firearms has not been updated since 1954 — “years before civilian automatic rifles were invented,” according to the legislation. “Despite the continued killings of children, teachers, and families with these weapons, federal taxes on firearms fail to differentiate between hunting rifles and weapons of war like AR-15s.”

The Firearm Industry Crime and Trafficking Accountability Act also mandates that manufacturers prohibit supplying firearms to a retailer if the company knows that “its provision of firearm products to that retailer will lead to a high risk of criminal activity or diversion,” and empowers the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to issue a civil penalty on manufacturers that continue to supply those retailers.

The committee’s report analyzed data related to 12 gun dealers that showed “troubling gun sales patterns, based on guns recovered in connection with crimes from 2014 through mid-2019 and traced back to these gun dealers.” A different study conducted by ATF found “that 5 percent of licensed dealers sell about 90 percent of guns used in crimes,” according to the bill.

The committee has assailed gun manufacturers that sold AR-style weapons used in recent mass killings, arguing that companies have employed aggressive tactics and marketing campaigns to promote the military-style guns that have prompted a major surge in sales.

President Biden signed into law the first major gun safety legislation passed by Congress in decades; however, the ban on AR-style weapons and high-capacity magazines passed by the House is unlikely to clear an evenly split Senate.

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Saturday, August 20, 2022

Biden will host White House summit on hate-fueled violence

U.S. President Joe Biden will host a White House summit in September to counter the effects of hate-fueled violence on American democracy and highlight his administration's actions to reduce gun violence, the White House told Reuters.

The Sept. 15 summit, dubbed "United We Stand," will bring together officials, faith leaders and civil rights groups and feature a keynote speech by Biden, who will put forward a shared vision for a more united America, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

Even as our nation has endured a disturbing series of hate-fueled attacks, from Oak Creek to Pittsburgh, from El Paso to Poway, from Atlanta to Buffalo, Americans remain overwhelmingly united in their opposition to such violence," Jean-Pierre said.

Biden, a Democrat, is seeking to highlight his recent legislative wins, including a gun safety law he signed in June, ahead of November midterm congressional elections. 

To read more CLICK HERE

Mangino joins Jesse Weber on Law and Crime Network

Watch my interview with Jesse Weber on Law and Crime Network.


Friday, August 19, 2022

The profile of a mass killer

 The profile of a mass killer according to the USA Today:

According to one study by James Knoll and Ronald Pies in the medical trade publication Psychiatric Times, mass killers are typically angry, aggrieved, emotionally unstable people who seek retribution or revenge for perceived mistreatment, rejection or humiliation. Offenders are often socially isolated and have limited social support.

“The ones who are more apt to commit mass murder are the ones who are paranoid, and who are suspicious and mistrusting and think that everyone is against them,” said Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at Columbia University who maintains a database of 350 mass killers going back more than a century. “It’s somebody who has fewer capacities at his disposal for adjusting to the crisis of losing the job or the girlfriend and will feel that life is over.”

Four in 10 men report that they own a gun. Gun owners are also predominantly white. According to Stone, men tend to be more aggressive and are more prone to violence. Offenders who commit public mass killings tend to be younger. At the same time, most family homicides involve middle-aged men.

To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Mangino a guest on Law and Crime Network

Watch my interview on Law and Crime Network with Jesse Weber talking about the penalty trial of Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz.


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Texas executes Asain woman for 2006 murder

 The 9th Execution of 2022

Texas executed Kosoul Chanthakoummane on August 17, 2022 for the 2006 murder of a real estate agent in a Collin County model home. It was the second execution this year in a state that typically puts more people to death than any other.

Chanthakoummane, 41, was sentenced to death for the murder of Sarah Walker, who was brutally beaten and stabbed to death while showing a home in a McKinney subdivision. The 40-year-old’s Rolex watch and ring were missing when police arrived.

Witnesses placed Chanthakoummane at the model home, and a bite mark on Walker’s back and blood under her fingernails and at the scene were linked to him, according to court records. The death row prisoner long claimed he was innocent.

No one from Walker’s family attended the execution, but Chanthakoummane’s mother stood in a small room to watch her son die through a pane of glass. Chanthakoummane was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital at 6:18 p.m. in the state’s death chamber in Huntsville, and he was pronounced dead 15 minutes later.

In his final statement, Chanthakoummane thanked Jesus, his supporters and prison ministers “for aiding me in my journey.”

“To Ms. Walker’s family, I pray my death will bring you peace,” he said into a microphone hanging above him as he lay on a prison gurney.

During his nearly 15 years on death row, the prisoner’s attorneys had chipped away at the reliability of evidence used to convict him of Walker’s killing. Forensic scientists have largely debunked the ability to match bite marks to an individual. And the witnesses who testified Chanthakoummane was the man they saw on the day of the murder had previously been hypnotized by police

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But analysts also determined his DNA was on Walker’s fingernails and elsewhere at the crime scene, and that evidence largely convinced the courts they had the right man. In his last appeals to Collin County and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals filed last week, Chanthakoummane’s attorneys argued that the DNA evidence is also questionable.

Under a 2013 Texas “junk science” law, courts can overturn a conviction when the scientific evidence presented at trial has since changed or been discredited.

“Critically, current scientific knowledge contradicts the trial court’s previous finding that the ‘only reasonable inference’ to be drawn from the DNA evidence is that Mr. Chanthakoummane violently attacked Ms. Walker,” wrote attorneys Catherine Clare Bernhard and Eric J. Allen.

In a court filing, the Collin County district attorney’s office replied that “Chanthakoummane presents no new science in the field of DNA analysis, and even if there were something new, he fails to show it would have prevented his conviction.”.

The local and state courts denied the appeals this week.

After Walker was killed, police initially looked at people close to her. Friends pointed to her ex-husband or romantic partners, and others reported foreign investors were upset with her for big losses in real estate deals, according to Chanthakoummane’s latest filing. Walker was also robbed and attacked at her home several months earlier, while Chanthakoummane was incarcerated in North Carolina for an armed robbery committed when he was 16.

DNA from blood samples and another real estate agent’s report shifted the investigation’s focus to Chanthakoummane. The other agent, who was selling a home near Walker’s model home, and her husband told police they saw an Asian man in a white Ford Mustang park across the street from the model home around the time of the murder. The couple later agreed to hypnosis by a Texas Ranger to see if they could remember more, but the state said the controversial practice did not significantly alter their testimony.

At trial, another real estate agent testified that the day before Walker’s murder, Chanthakoummane came to her home and asked to use the phone, saying his car broke down, according to court documents. She called the police when he refused to leave.

Chanthakoummane originally denied ever going to the model home, but under police interrogation said he went into the home to use the phone and drink some water after having car trouble. He said he didn’t see anyone inside and noted previous injuries on his hands could have left blood behind.

Police and prosecutors rejected the statement, but Chanthakoummane’s lawyers say new scientific research shows his DNA could have been transferred to Walker’s fingernails without any direct contact between them — for instance, if she touched an object he had left a blood mark on. The National Institute of Standards and Technology issued a draft report last year that said the possibility of such transfers can’t be ignored in criminal investigations.

Chanthakoummane’s lawyers noted an example of a man who was suspected of murder because his DNA was found on the fingernails of a homicide victim. It was later discovered the suspect had been injured on the day of the killing and ridden in the same ambulance as the homicide victim hours earlier, resulting in his DNA transfer.

Collin County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Lisa Braxton said the concept of DNA transfers, however, is not new.

Today's political violence comes from those 'who believe in nothing'

 Tom Nichols writes in The Atlantic:

Civil war is among the many terms we now use too easily. The American Civil War was a bloodbath driven by the inevitable confrontation between the Union and the organized forces of sedition and slavery. But at least the Civil War, as I recently said on Morning Joe during a panel on political violence in America, was about something. Compared with the bizarre ideas and half-baked wackiness that now infest American political life, the arguments between the North and the South look like a deep treatise on government.

The United States now faces a different kind of violence, from people who believe in nothing—or at least, in nothing real. We do not risk the creation of organized armies and militias in Virginia or Louisiana or Alabama marching on federal institutions. Instead, all of us face random threats and unpredictable dangers from people among us who spend too much time watching television and plunging down internet rabbit holes. These people, acting individually or in small groups, will be led not by rebel generals but by narcissistic wannabe heroes, and they will be egged on by cowards and instigators who will inflame them from the safety of a television or radio studio—or from behind the shield of elected office. Occasionally, they will congeal into a mob, as they did on January 6, 2021.

There is no single principle that unites these Americans in their violence against their fellow citizens. They will tell you that they are for “liberty” and “freedom,” but these are merely code words for personal grudges, racial and class resentments, and a generalized paranoia that dark forces are manipulating their lives. These are not people who are going to take up the flag of a state or of a deeper cause; they have already taken up the flag of a failed president, and their causes are a farrago of conspiracy theories and pulpy science-fiction plots.

What makes this situation worse is that there is no remedy for it. When people are driven by fantasies, by resentment, by an internalized sense of inferiority, there is no redemption in anything. Winning elections, burning effigies, even shooting at other citizens does not soothe their anger but instead deepens the spiritual and moral void that haunts them.

Donald Trump is central to this fraying of public sanity, because he has done one thing for such people that no one else could do: He has made their lives interesting. He has made them feel important. He has taken their itching frustrations about the unfairness of life and created a morality play around them, and cast himself as the central character. Trump, to his supporters, is the avenging angel who is going to lay waste to the “elites,” the smarty-pantses and do-gooders, the godless and the smug, the satisfied and the comfortable.

To read more CLICK HERE


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Parents arrested trying to enter Arizona school during lockdown

A man who appears to be armed approaches a school campus. Law enforcement arrives. With the school on lockdown, terrified family members seek to get inside to reach the children, reported The New York Times.

Like the early moments of what unfolded in May in Uvalde, Texas, that sequence during a scare in Arizona led to heated exchanges between parents and relatives of schoolchildren and the authorities. But then the confrontation took a different turn. In the end, three people were arrested, two of whom were shocked with stun guns, after they tried to enter the grounds of Thompson Ranch Elementary School in the city of El Mirage, the police said.

The man who prompted the lockdown was taken into custody, and no children or teachers were hurt. But in the wake of Uvalde, the clash involving parents represents a disturbing view of the rage and the distrust that can make a school crisis even more chaotic.

The Arizona authorities said that officers arrived at the scene shortly after someone there reported a man who appeared to have a handgun and was trying to gain access to the school. The man then fled in an unknown direction. Officers sought to make sure there was no longer a threat on the grounds, during which time they discovered a suspicious package that the police said was “ultimately examined by explosives technicians and rendered safe.”

But as concerned parents and relatives began to arrive, one person who was prevented from entering the school had an altercation with officers, the police said. Two other people joined in, prompting officers to fire their stun guns and take all three into custody. One of them was injured and taken to a hospital, the authorities said.

The identity of the suspect in the lockdown was not revealed on Sunday. He was being evaluated by mental health professionals, and criminal charges were pending, the police said. The names of the people who were arrested in the altercation were not available on Sunday.

video of the confrontation posted on social media shows parents and relatives shouting and pushing themselves against officers. At one point a clattering sound can be heard, and seconds later the video shows a handgun on the ground near one of the parents. The crowd scatters as the police fire stun guns and begin making arrests. A streak of blood can be seen on the pavement near one man as he is handcuffed, moaning in pain.

In an account given to KPNX-TV in Arizona, Darlene Gonzales, whose daughter was inside the school, said that after parents were told the lockdown threat was over she and her son sought to enter the school but were told to go the library. At that point, she said, the situation escalated and she was thrown to the ground. She added that the gun that was seen in the video belonged to her son.

Chief Paul Marzocca of the El Mirage Police Department said that those involved in the altercation had broken the law and bore responsibility for what had happened.

“One doesn’t get to create this chaos at a school in an emergency situation and walk away,” he said.

To read more CLICK HERE


Monday, August 15, 2022

The three criminal statutes listed in the Trump search warrant

The warrant that authorized the F.B.I. to search former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence listed three criminal laws as the basis of its investigation, offering a glimpse of an inquiry into his possession of government documents, reported The New York Times.

The search warrant, which was unsealed and made public on Friday in response to a motion by the Justice Department, showed that the magistrate judge who issued it found that there was probable cause to believe the F.B.I. would uncover evidence of all three crimes.

Mr. Trump, who had declined to make the documents public himself but did not object to their release, said that the materials listed in an inventory of items seized from his home had all been declassified. The inventory included multiple caches of documents that the F.B.I. described as top secret along with other government files.

Even if it is true that Mr. Trump deemed the files declassified before the end of his presidency, however, none of the three crimes depends on whether the documents are classified.

A federal judge on Friday unsealed the search warrant for former President Donald J. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Fla., as well as a list of items removed from the property when federal agents executed the warrant this week.

The first law, Section 793 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, is better known as the Espionage Act. It criminalizes the unauthorized retention or disclosure of information related to national defense that could be used to harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary. Each offense can carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

Despite its name, the Espionage Act is not limited to instances of spying for a foreign power and is written in a way that broadly covers mishandling of security-related secrets. The government has frequently used it to prosecute officials who have leaked information to the news media for the purpose of whistle-blowing or otherwise informing the public, for example.

Importantly, Congress enacted the Espionage Act in 1917, during World War I — decades before President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order that created the modern classification system, under which documents can be deemed confidential, secret or top secret. The president is the ultimate arbiter of whether any of those classifications applies — or should be lifted.

As a result, while these classifications — especially top secret ones — can be good indicators that a document probably meets the standard of being “national defense information” covered by the Espionage Act, charges under that law can be brought against someone who hoarded national security secrets even if they were not deemed classified.

The list of items that the warrant authorized the F.B.I. to seize captured this nuance. It said agents could take “documents with classification markings,” along with anything else in the boxes or containers where they found such files, but also any information “regarding the retrieval, storage or transmission of national defense information or classified material.”

The government has not said what specific documents investigators thought Mr. Trump had kept at Mar-a-Lago, nor what they found there. The inventory of items was vague, including multiple mentions of “miscellaneous top-secret documents,” for example.

But the invocation of “the retrieval, storage or transmission” of secret information in the warrant offered a potential clue to at least one category of the files the F.B.I. may have been looking for. One possible interpretation of that phrase is that it hinted at encrypted communications, hacking or surveillance abilities.

The other two laws invoked in the warrant do not have to do with national security.

The second, Section 1519, is an obstruction law that is part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a broad set of reforms enacted by Congress in 2002 after financial scandals at firms like Enron, Arthur Andersen and WorldCom.

Section 1519 sets a penalty of up to 20 years in prison per offense for the act of destroying or concealing documents or records “with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter” within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies.

The warrant does not specify whether that obstruction effort is a reference to the government’s attempts to retrieve all the publicly owned documents that should be given to the National Archives and Records Administration, or something separate.

The third law that investigators cite in the warrant, Section 2071, criminalizes the theft or destruction of government documents. It makes it a crime, punishable in part by up to three years in prison per offense, for anyone with custody of any record or document from federal court or public office to willfully and unlawfully conceal, remove, mutilate, falsify or destroy it.

While the list of items that the search warrant approved F.B.I. agents to seize singled out “documents with classification markings,” it contained a separate catchall phrase that appeared to be intended to scoop up any government-owned documents that Mr. Trump had unlawfully taken and kept.

The agents were authorized to seize “any government and/or presidential records created between Jan. 20, 2017, and Jan. 20, 2021” — the dates of Mr. Trump’s presidency — as well as “any evidence of the knowing alteration, destruction or concealment of any government and/or presidential records, or of any documents with classification markings.”

Notably, another penalty in Section 2071 for any conviction is that the defendant is barred from holding federal office. Against the backdrop of widespread expectations that Mr. Trump intends to run for president again in the 2024 election, that provision has attracted particular attention.

However, many legal specialists believe that any conviction under Section 2071 would be unlikely to block Mr. Trump from running again. Supreme Court rulings suggest that because the Constitution sets out criteria for who is eligible for the presidency, Congress cannot, by criminal law, alter that standard.

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