Friday, October 07, 2005

Carville: Sometimes the problem with being a Democrat is being a Democrat

Ragin' Cajun James Carville has finally gotten it, even if he had to include a lot of less than profound drivel with it. In a recent speech at Northwestern University, Carville said, "Sometimes the problem with being a Democrat is being a Democrat."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Mon County Democratic Committee Slightly Revises Misleading Ad

In the last couple of weeks, I wrote about a very misleading political ad run in a local free paper by the Monongalia County Democratic Executive Committee that claimed Democratic legislators took actions during last month's special legislative session to protect property owners' rights in the wake of the Kelo v. New London decision.

This week's version of the ad follows:

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

NYTimes: Even Life Without Parole is an Excessively Harsh Punishment for Murderers

Confirming what those of us who support capital punishment have long believed, the New York Times is running a series, No Way Out, bemoaning that those convicts sentenced to life in prison are increasingly really serving life in prison. Life without parole has been touted as the alternative to execution that, in the eyes of death penalty opponents, avoids taking a life to avenge a life taken.

Many countries around the world that have abolished the death penalty have also abolished life without parole and equivalents. They believe even the worst of the worst can and deserve to be rehabilitated and returned to society. We execute or imprison for life without parole the worst, most violent criminals among us specifically because they have committed acts sufficiently vile to earn the judgment of their peers that society must be protected from any potential of recidivism by permanently removing that person from society.

Death penalty opponents in the United States argue that one of the drawbacks of the death penalty is the difficulty in obtaining extradition of accused murderers who have fled to counties that won't extradite to death penalty jurisdictions unless the death penalty is removed from the table. However, in the case of Mexico--and I'm sure other countries with which I am less familiar--they will not extradite anyone facing life without parole or a life without parole equivalent. Do we really want to give the cold-blooded killers who face the potential of death or life without parole even the opportunity of returning to society?

Today's installment in this series, "Serving Life, With No Chance of Redemption," is the third article in this series. Go to BugMeNot if you need a username and password.

Richardson Case Another Sad Reminder of Need for West Virginia to Reinstate the Death Penalty, Make Other Criminal Justice Improvements

Over the last few days, I've been writing about the case of Raymond Richardson, an accused murderer who is no stranger to the criminal justice system. Richardson was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for a brutal kidnapping of a former girlfriend in 1999. Subsequently, the state Supreme Court reduced his sentence to 10 years and that was further reduced to 5 years due to Richardson's good behavior while in prison, as mandated by West Virginia Code 28-5-27.

West Virginia may have the good fortune of having one of the nation's lowest crime rates, but this does not negate the need for the adoption of adequate laws for deterring, detecting, and punishing criminals who refuse to abide by the laws of a civilized society. Some on the left--most prominently the Charleston Gazette--bemoan the fact our prison population continues to grow rapidly while crime is stable. That the stability of crime results from the criminals being in prison apparently has not crossed their minds.

The issue of criminal justice is one that goes directly to the heart of the purpose of government. In this case, conservatives like myself hold that the first duty of any government is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of its people. To this end, we maintain a strong military to deter and, when necessary, combat our foreign enemies and the police and criminal justice system for domestic criminals. Nothing government does is more important.

With respect to crime, the goal of any criminal justice policy must be to first deter and prevent crime, but then apprehend and punish criminals for the crimes that are committed. In some cases, an orientation toward deterrence will be effective, such as our traffic laws and regulatory statutes. In others, however, we recognize that people will commit vile acts upon others and must be punished--including removal from the society whose laws the criminal will not obey via a prison sentence.

There are several serious shortfalls in West Virginia's criminal justice system the Legislature must fix:

  1. West Virginia must cease being one of only 12 states that do not have the death penalty for the most serious murders. To ensure the cost of prosecuting capital cases does not impose an undue burden on the counties, the state should assume the full cost of prosecuting capital cases & paying for the defense of those with public defenders or court-appointed lawyers in those cases in which the death penalty is sought.
  2. We must strengthen our laws regarding sexual predators and adopt mandatory prison sentences for all violent felonies. Child molesters routinely get probation or short jail or prison sentences and do not suffer the revocation of probation and required service of the prison sentence when probation is violated.
  3. We must reform our very liberal "good time" credit system (WV Code 28-5-27) that lets all convicts serving a sentence of less than life in prison automatically reduce his or her sentence by 50% simply for behaving well in prison. Convicts should be allowed a 15% reduction to maintain an incentive for good behavior behind bars but not more.
  4. We must strengthen our drug laws. Under current law, there are no mandatory sentences for any level of drug dealers and the maximum penalty for the most serious drug offense is 15 years, which is never really served thanks to indeterminate sentencing, 50% good time credits, and parole eligibility occurring after the minimum portion of the sentence--1 year in all felony drug cases--is served. The state should not shrug its responsibility to protect the people of West Virginia from the scourge of illegal drugs, assuming the feds will assume jurisdiction over the more serious cases. Our state has become a haven for drug dealers, who have brought many violent crimes in their wake. Compare West Virginia's principal drug laws (60A-4-401, 60A-4-406, and 60A-4-409) to Virginia's (18.2-248, 18.2-248.01, and 18.2-248.1). Also note while West Virginia adopted the original Uniform Controlled Substances Act in 1970, it never adopted the 1994 Uniform Controlled Substances Act.
  5. Our Three Strikes law (61-11-18), one of the nation's oldest, must be reformed to include a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for second-time felons, 25 years to life for third-time felons, mandatory life without parole for repeat violent felons (kidnappers, rapists, child molesters, robbers, arsonists, etc.), and mandatory application of this law in all cases. The present law includes only a minor sentence enhancement for second-time felons, life with the possibility of parole after 15 years for third-time felons, and mandatory life without parole only for a convicted murderer or first-degree sexual assault offender who has been previously convicted of murder or first-degree sexual assault.
  6. We should consider a move toward truth-in-sentencing. A sentence imposed by a judge should bear a greater relationship with the actual time served than under our current system. In most cases, an indeterminate sentence (i.e, 1-10 years) is imposed for a crime. In these cases, parole eligibility occurs after the minimum portion of the sentence has been served. In those few cases when a determinate sentence is imposed, parole eligibility generally occurs after serving 25% of the sentence. More offenses should require determinate sentences and parole eligibility should occur after a greater period, such as 50%. Another possibility might also involve eliminating parole for some or all classes of felonies, leaving the 15% good time credits (as proposed above) as the only deviation from a sentence imposed.
  7. The penalties for attempted felonies and accessories after the fact to felonies must be increased. Accessory after the fact is a misdemeanor even in murder cases. The maximum penalty for a failed attempt to commit first-degree murder is 15 years (which is automatically reduced by 50% just for good behavior in prison).
  8. The Legislature must make a priority of building new prisons. Even without any of the new laws I have proposed, the Division of Corrections estimates the state will need up to 10,000 new prison cells. When Virginia abolished parole, raised sentences for violent crimes, and dramatically strengthened their drug laws, they engaged in a massive prison construction program to house the estimated inmate population. Virginia was pleasantly surprised a few years after these reforms to find the prison population had not grown nearly as fast as expected. The convicts who were stuck in the revolving door were not released to reoffend and some potential criminals were deterred by the longer prison sentences.
  9. As a more expedient remedy to our lack of prison space pending the construction of new facilities, we must repeal the clause in the state constitution forbidding the out of state incarceration of inmates. Article III, Section 5 should be excised of the Banishment Clause. This will take a 2/3 vote of both houses of the Legislature and voter approval, but I believe this can be easily done.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Conservatives Should Oppose Miers Nomination; 2008 GOP Presidential Hopefuls Should Begin Unhitching Their Wagons from Bush White House

How does one accurately describe the feeling of betrayal?

That's the question that came to mind this morning as I heard that President Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and later found that she's given campaign contributions to Al Gore (1988), received positive ratings from Harry Reid during the senatorial consultation process, and is even receiving positive comments from Chucky Schumer.

This White House has apparently lost its mind and has lost the confidence of its conservative base with this act. Given the stakes of this Supreme Court vacancy, we needed a rock solid conservative with a long paper trail. Instead, we're getting another Souter: a stealth nominee whose paper trail is virtually nil, who has never undergone a trial by fire and who is personally vouched by the inner circle of the President.

Someone please tell me we did not do all the work we did in 2000 & 2004 to elect this President only to get a Supreme Court whom Senator Chuck Schumer says could be a consensus nominee. Someone please tell me that we're not going to have to take a stealth nominee whom we're being asked to trust without verifying.

History is not on the side of Republican presidents who hope for the best from their judicial nominees. Republican presidents gave us justices Earl Warren, William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, and David Souter. By contrast, the only Democratic nominee in the last 50 years to not be a full-fledged liberal judicial activist was Justice Byron White, a Kennedy appointee. In 1990, John Sununu the elder, former Governor of New Hampshire, swore David Souter was a conservative and he was nominated to the Supreme Court instead of Edith Jones; we quickly learned how wrong Sununu was.

Since I agree that directly asking prospective judicial nominees about their views on specific issues, their paper trails must be consulted to determine their philosophies and positions on key judicial issues. There are at least a dozen good, very well qualified conservatives on the appellate bench whose views have been tested under adversity. Janice Rogers Brown (who would have been my pick), Emilio Garza, Michael Luttig, Edith Jones (whom Bush 41 rejected in favor of David Souter), Samuel Alito, Karen Williams, and Priscilla Owen would all have been superior picks.

The President and his water carriers will say they wanted to nominate a "confirmable" candidate or something to that effect. Do they really believe a mother of all bloodbaths Supreme Court confirmation battle for someone like those I just mentioned would not be worth the fight? If nothing else, we conservatives are quite hungry for some bold actions in Washington. Unless I've missed something, there's no chance we would be able to use the next 3 or 4 months to pass permanent tax cuts, enact the Sununu-Ryan social Security bill, and open ANWR, the offshore areas, the Great Lakes and federal lands in the West to oil & gas exploration.

This Supreme Court nomination is about more than contemporary politics. We on the right who believe the Constitution means exactly what it says and exactly what the Founders intended and neither the passage of time nor public opinion shifts nor international opinion or jurisprudence are relevant want strong originalist judges. We want judges who understand that the evolving standards of an enlightened society should manifest themselves in the constitution only by the vote of 2/3 of both houses of Congress and the legislatures of 3/4 of the states. The opposing viewpoint holds that a voluntary recitation of a pledge of allegiance to the flag of one nation under God is unconstitutional, that the federal government can exercise power in virtually any area of our daily lives, and that the states are powerless to prevent the gruesome murder of unborn children even to the point of birth.

I never thought things would get this bad, but absent a change of course, I will be one of those who "stay home" next year, at least in the federal races. Unfortunately, many of those, who, like me, are disgusted to the point of considering staying home will do so with regard to all races, federal, state, and local. When the next scandal arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the white House should not be surprised to find its defenders and water carriers outside the Beltway far less numerous; at that point, President Bush will truly become a lame duck.

Now is the time for 2008 GOP presidential hopefuls to begin unhitching their wagons from President Bush. This administration and the conservative agenda are presently dead in the water. We will be lucky next year to preserve the seats we have in Congress, whereas nine months ago a filibuster-proof Senate and enduring Republican majority in Congress for the next generation seemed quite possible. I understood & tolerated the spending excesses as long as it appeared we were working toward important, long-range goals that outweighed large deficits and a government that consumed an excessive share of the economy regardless of whether it was financed by debt or taxes.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Charges Pending in Richardson Case; Ex-Con Whose Sentence Reduced by state Supreme Court Found with Dead Woman in Back Seat of his Car Last Week

Today's Sunday Gazette-Mail reports that police in Clay County are preparing to charge Raymond Richardson with murder in the case of the woman the State Police found stabbed to death in the back seat of Richardson's car during a routine traffic stop on I-79 last week.

Richardson, you will recall, had his 30-year prison sentence for a 1999 kidnapping conviction reduced to 10 years by the state Supreme Court and got out of prison last year with good time credit that further reduced his sentence to just 5 years. In the 1999 case, Richardson kidnapped his girlfriend at gunpoint and forced her to walk naked to an abandoned house, where--during a terrifying 14-hour ordeal--he urinated on her, burned her with lit cigarettes, doused her with gasoline, and threatened to set her on fire.