Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Non-filer; Freed Killer; Calling Arnold

Subject: Non-filer; Freed Killer; Calling Arnold
Date: 6/6/2005 6:22:22 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)


The Quotidian, No. 55
The Column, No. 224

Monday, June 6, 2005

D-Day plus 61 years

Occasionally, but not more often than monthly, we send a Q article to our entire list of readers, which is now about 12,800. The Q, which stands for quotidian, goes to about 1100 people who have indicated to us that they want to receive it. Qs consist of links to current news and opinion articles, along with our observations. If you would like to receive Q, just type the letter Q on the subject line of this email, and press 'Reply'. We'll put you right on the list, which, BTW, has never been shown to anyone else, or used for any other purpose.

It is a point of honor for us not to send articles to people who do not want to receive them, so if you are bored with us, you can unsubscribe. We hope you keep up your interest in New York City affairs, especially in this election year, but we understand that our subject matter does not appeal to everyone.

We send Q to the larger group in these circumstances::

1)we think the links are particularly interesting, or

2)some time has passed since the last Q, and we want to let our newer readers know that they may opt to receive Q if they wish, or

3)we want to reach everyone with a relatively brief message which does not justify a free-standing e-mail by itself.

The news we can report back is that your written reactions to the historical - digressive - discursive article on 1945, have been overwhelmingly favorable. A handful of people unsubscribed, but we found out that was because of lack of time, not objections to the
articles we sent. As a result, we will do more wandering in print. These pieces cannot be produced on demand, so we must wait for the arrival of the spirit, which is beyond our ability to predict.

So many of you, when I meet you on the street or at a meeting or in any other setting, say the nicest thing about the articles. Even discounting some remarks as inspired more by courtesy than by conviction, I still very feel good at what you tell me. At the same time, relatively few people write in, unless there is a compelling reason to do so, or a special appeal to you.. Please consider yourselves encouraged to comment on articles, whether you agree or disagree with my position.

Also be aware that we have no party line on many issues - reasonable people can and do differ - and it is also not easy to determine in advance the merits of a particular project. I remember cases where I have turned out to be wrong, going back to 1963, when I supported the construction of P.S. 36 by destroying natural rock outcroppings and numerous trees in Morningside Park. I am less certain on land-use issues than I was when I was younger, so much younger than today.


We begin with a follow up on Friday's article about Queens Councilman James Sanders, who has not filed three years worth of reports with the Board of Elections. We realize that this is far from the most gripping issue in the city, but it does come under three of NYCivic's categories of interest: Ethics, Efficiency and Elections. (The other three are Education, Environment and Expenditures.)

There are two items today to add to the Sanders file. One is a second Newsday story by William Murphy, updating Friday's account. Murphy is on the Sanders case, and his reports are valuable in exploring how city agencies deal, if at all, with people who break or ignore the rules. The second is a glimpse into what Sanders does on the Council. It is the text of Council Resolution 970, seeking clemency fro Joanne Chesimard, which Sanders co-sponsored with Councilmember Charles Barron on May 20, 2005. BTW, Sanders chairs the Council's Committee on Economic Development.


Every day, the tabloids describe human tragedies involving violence. We are sorry about these sad events, but do not report them because, regrettably, they are commonplace.

Saturday's Daily News, however, carries a story by Celeste Katz, p7, which is so depressing that we want to bring the matter to your personal attention, if only to expose the failure of our legal system to provide justice, at least in this case.

The headline is: 'KIN RAGE OVER '82 SLAYER'S RELEASE.' Here are the facts of the case:

A 17-year old girl was beaten to death with a hammer by her 'boyfriend'. Her body was dumped into the Hudson River. It surfaced nine days letter, but there was no evidence as to who killed her. The case remained open for twenty years, until the killer's sister told cops that her brother made her help him get rid of the victim's body by dumping it into the river.

The jury convicted the killer of aggravated manslaughter, a reasonable decision in a case that old. The judge then immediately set the killer free. The reason:

There is no statute of limitations on murder in New Jersey, but there is a five-year limit on manslaughter prosecution. The conviction was for aggravated manslaughter, but since the statute of limitations had expired, no penalty could be imposed on the defendant. The jurors were not told that and they had no idea that their 'guilty' verdict would result in freeing the defendant on the spot.

Ms. Katz wrote: "Because of a [New Jersey] Supreme Court ruling that prevents a judge from telling a jury someone can go free even with a guilty verdict, jurors were unaware of the disparity between the two types of convictions." We believe that one possibility is that the verdict of aggravated manslaughter was a compromise between jurors who would convict for murder, and those who would not. If the jury were aware that the consequence of a manslaughter conviction would be instant freedom for the defendant, the result of their deliberations could well have been different. Even if the different result had been a hung jury, the state would still have had the option to retry the case.

We asked the Hudson County prosecutor what the defense was in the case. We were told the defendant's lawyer maintained that his client never struck the victim, and that the whole case was fabricated, twenty years later, by the sister because of bad blood between the siblings. The defendant did not take the stand to make this unlikely assertion, because he would have been subject to cross-examination.

Since the jury convicted the defendant of aggravated manslaughter, they obviously did not believe the defendant's lawyer's explanation of the circumstances. If the sister were to fabricate a story, why would she choose one in which she herself played a criminal role as an accessory after the fact? It is most likely that the jury believed the sister, concluded that the defendant killed his girlfriend, but not knowing beyond a reasonable doubt what the circumstances of their altercation were, the jurors could not be certain that he intended to kill her with the hammer. They did agree that he meant to hurt her head very badly.

That would be a reasonable conclusion for the jury to reach, on their sensible assumption that the defendant would be severely punished for his crime, but not have to spend the rest of his life in prison. They could not possibly have contemplated that the result of their just decision would be his immediate release.

"The law is a ass," Charles Dickens wrote. This case appears to substantiate that view, at least as far as the State of New Jersey is concerned.


An interesting look at donor massage in California appears today in a New York Sun article by Robert Salladay, on p5, from the Los Angeles Times.


The tale opens on a clandestine note, as if a latter-day Deep Throat had been on the scene: "When wealthy contributors write checks to Governor Schwarzenegger, they often get a few canapes and a drink -- and a secret telephone number that grants them access to his closest advisers and even the governor himself..."

The article then describes the Governor's fund raising efforts on behalf of an initiative he will bring to the ballot in November. The initiative proposes a government spending cap and a plan to lengthen the time in which a teacher can receive tenure. His proposal is strongly opposed by public employee unions, who are probably the most influential interest group in the state,comparable in strength to big business, but larger in numbers.

Since California is a blue state, carried by John Kerry by over 1.2 million votes, it would require a substantial political crossover for the governor's initiatives to be adopted. He is trying to raise over $31 million for the campaign, largely for television advertising. The Democrats and the unions are raising money for the other side, presumably assisted by the wealth and influence of Hollywood.

We make no judgment on the merits of the Schwarzenegger initiative. We only ask how, without some drastic remedy, California will deal with its annual $15 billion expense budget gap. Last year they borrowed the money, which brought their state debt ahead of New York's. (We run 1-2 in the nation.) Of course, California has almost twice New York State's population, so our per capita debt is higher than theirs.

The bottom line: As long as government is dominated by tax-receivers, as contrasted with taxpayers, expenses and debt will continue to climb faster than capacity to pay, and as Wall Street has shown us, this is a spiral that is impossible to maintain.

Our suggestions:
1)Governor Schwarzenegger should publish a telephone number, and invite those who wish to contribute money or their talents to call it.
2)This phone line should be paid for privately, rather than by the taxpayers of the Golden State.
3)Arnold should be allowed to speak to anyone he wishes, including people who give him money. This is, after all, a free country.

Henry J. Stern
New York Civic
520 Eighth Avenue
22nd Floor
New York, NY 10018
(212) 564-4441
(212) 564-5588 (fax)

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