Murder, Mental Health, The Death Penalty & New Video Might Have Blown Amanda Knox’s Alibi

William Bruce was a young man with schizophrenia. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital until mental health advocates helped get him released despite him being actively symptomatic and dangerous. He then killed his mother. Years later, he is in a hospital, medicated and has gained insight into his illness. He told the Wall Street Journal:

“None of this would have happened if I had been medicated.”

The gunman who killed three people and wounded four others in Arkansas had been released from a mental hospital a few days before the shooting. It’s not clear why but most likely either because he was a danger to himself or others.

Las Vegas cops held a “purity seminar” about “promiscuous” girls.

Remember the man (Byron Smith) who set a trap and executed two teen intruders? These recordings capture their horrific deaths. They are graphic. The shooter was given life in prison without parole.

Has Amanda Knox’s alibi for the night of Meredith Kercher’s murder just been blown? It might just be true, according to newly released footage.

Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, recently gave a speech at the United Nations about the death penalty and discrimination. It is worth reading in its entirety but I focused on the part about death for people with mental illnesses:

“…Of course they committed horrendous crimes, took innocent lives that left others suffering and scarred for life, and they must be isolated to protect society. But through no fault of their own, they are tormented souls suffering from devastating afflictions that leave them unable to think and reason like people who are not so afflicted. That is greater punishment that any court can impose…

Weekend Reads

A UK woman went to the police 120 times begging them to assist her in stopping her stalker. They failed to listen and he stabbed her eight times with a 12-inch long pair of scissors. Luckily she lived.

Bondage, betrayal and lies: The strange murder case of Michele Williams.

Is Chantix to blame for a murder committed by a soldier?

Judge sentences convicted rapist to work at rape crisis center but quickly faces criticism.

Police in Maryland plan to live-tweet photos of “Johns” during a prostitution sting.

Amy Schumer gives a powerful speech about the difficulty of developing confidence (and how quickly it can be shattered). goes off about Congressional inaction regarding mass incarceration.

Speaking of the insanity of mass incarceration, how you watched Frontline’s Prison State? Or their new documentary about solitary confinement? These are “must sees.”

Did you know that Anderson Cooper had a stalker? He does and he has been released from custody. “Anderson has nothing to fear for me. I’m just concerned that people are going to walk around with walkie talkies, they’re going to see me on the street and people around Anderson Cooper might guide him to my path in order to get me in trouble.”

In a study of 405,000 prisoners released from 30 states in 2005, researchers found that 55.1% were arrested again within five years. “Five years after release, black offenders had the highest recidivism rate (81 percent), compared with Hispanic (75 percent) and white (73 percent) offenders.”

A 16 year-old boy is charged with the murder of his eight-year-old brother.

A woman faked illness 93 times to be in the presence of a nurse with whom she was sexually obsessed. The stalker was sentenced to a few months in custody and three years of probation.

A murder suspect with a “low IQ” does not want to be seen as “retarded.” He tells the court: Let’s go ahead and start the trial with the death penalty. That’s what I want.”

Jason Baldwin, of the West Memphis Three, advises actor who plays him in the new film “Devil’s Knot.”

Creepy. A man had been keeping notes on 20 women he had been following, rating their looks and tracking whether they were alone. He did this from a van he had converted into a “movable dungeon,” complete with chains and handcuffs. Investigators made the discovery after a shootout in which the man was killed by officers.

Chelsie Shallhas saw a young man slip into a storage locker and was creeped out by what she saw. She was right to be concerned. Seventeen-year old John David LaDue was planning a gun and bomb attack on the school right after killing his family.

Interested in Cold Cases? Check out the blog “Defrosting Cold Cases.

Elderly couple dies after apparent murder-suicide at nursing home.

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post on the execution of Clayton Lockett: “When I read about the crimes Lockett committed, I wish I could support capital punishment. When I read about what Warner did, I want to strangle him with my own hands. But revenge is not the same thing as justice, and karmic retribution is not a power I trust government to exercise. The death penalty has no place in a civilized society.”

First Study To Show That Innocent People Have Been Executed in the United States

Authors of a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences attempted to determine the rate of false convictions among people sentenced to death.

They examined exonerations among death-sentenced defendants between 1973 and 2004. Their data came from two primary sources: (1) the Bureau of Justice Statistics which is maintained by the Department of Justice and; (2) The Death Penalty Information Center which has recorded a list of defendants sentenced to death since 1973.

They ultimately ended up with 7,482 defendants in their study, 1.6% of whom had been exonerated.

The researchers used a statistical method called survival analysis to calculate their findings.

They determined that approximately 4.1% of defendants were erroneously sentenced to death between 1973 through 2004.

The researchers estimate that of the 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 in the United States, only “several” were innocent.

The 4.1% figure translates into about one in 25 people in prison under a death sentence are likely innocent.

The authors noted that their findings are unique because there are “no other reliable estimates of the rate of false conviction in any context.”

The 4.1% rate of error is higher than Justice Scalia’s 2007 estimate of 0.027%.

Though support for the death penalty has decreased in the past decade, the majority of Americans continue to support it. It’s difficult to support a system in which innocent people could be executed (and according to these researchers have been executed).

Case in point: Cameron Todd Willingham.

One innocent person executed is one too many.

The authors close with an important point: a great majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of murder are neither executed or exonerated.

“They are sentenced, or resentenced to prison for life, and then forgotten.”

Update: Mother Who Heard Voices Drowned Both Sons

A Pennsylvania woman, Laurel Michelle Schlemmer, 40, drowned her three-year-old son in a bathtub. She also attempted to drown her six-year-old son because “crazy voices” told her she would be a better mother to her third child if the other two “weren’t around.”

According to court documents, the mother put her oldest son, age 7, onto the bus before nine in the morning. She returned to the family home, filled up the bathtub and told the younger boys to take off their pajamas and get into the bathtub. She was fully clothed when she got into the tub as the “crazy voices” told her to push the boys into the water. She sat on top of them while they were submerged under the water.

She told detectives that she thought she would be a better mother to the seven-year-old child if the other two weren’t around. She thought that the other two would be “better off in heaven.”

After getting out of the bathtub, she took off her wet clothes, put them and two towels into a trash bag in the garbage. She then lifted the boys out of the bathtub, put them on the bathroom floor and called 911.

She did not attempt to resuscitate the boys because she “did not know how to do it.”

Another Andrea Yates?

This case is fairly similar to Andrea Yates. Andrea Yates was a middle-class Texas severely mentally ill mother who drowned her five children in a bathtub. The drownings began nearly as soon as her husband left for the day.

She took each child and put them face down in the water, one by one. She then immediately called 911 and spoke “unemotionally” to the authorities.

Soon after she called the authorities, Andrea phoned her husband Rusty. “It’s time. I finally did it” was what she told him on the phone.

Andrea gave a 17 minute confession to the police. Her rationale for killing the children was that she realized she was not a good mother to them and “they weren’t developing correctly.” She also did not want her children to be tormented by Satan. Satan had been conveying “bad thoughts” via the television and cameras in her home. She was frightened that Satan would lure her children to him and that perhaps she had some of Satan in her. She thought that Satan was giving her directions about harming her children and about how to drown them.

Andrea believed that drowning them was a way out for her children who would then be up in heaven, safe with God.

She ultimately thought that she was saving her children by drowning them.

Laurel Michelle Schlemmer might also have believed something similar but it’s too soon to know her exact state of mind.

The most telling aspect of these crimes, is that in both cases the mothers who committed these heinous acts of violence immediately reported themselves to the police. There was no effort to hide what they did, a behavior that often signifies severe mental impairment.

Yet another tragedy involving severe mental illness.

UPDATE: The second child has died and Schlemmer has been charged with homicide.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has reported that she was found not competent to stand trial and was sent to a state mental hospital for further evaluation. A doctor said that she has major depressive disorder, is psychotic and has suicidal ideations.

An April 4, 2014 article states that a 911 worker was fired for disclosing details of the 911 call from Schlemmer. The 911 call-taker said the mother originally said she thought that her children drowned in the bathtub.

Weekend Reads: Stalking Mom & Guilty Verdict For Man With Schizophrenia

Google Studying Employees

Did you know that Google is running a century-long study about how people work? Their employees are serving as study participants.

So far they have found there are two major approaches to work-life balance: segmentors and integrators. Segmentors are psychologically able to “turn it off” at home. They represent 31% of Google employees.

Intergrators are the kind of people who are constantly checking their emails. This group represented 69% of their employees.

Stalking Mother

This 44-year old mother was jailed for stalking a little league coach and his loved ones for her son not making the team. This letter was addressed to a 10-year old child:

“Think about it Dom. If something terrible happens to your dad, or mom or you sister, you can blame you dad for not taking my threats seriously. He will meet harm and the outcome will not be good for you. You might never see your dad again.”

Pastor Rick Warren

Pastor Rick Warren’s son Matthew committed suicide about a year ago. Pastor Warren has since launched a ministry that focuses on mental health. It will be:

“…a long-term campaign to launch discussions of mental health in pulpits and pews across the U.S. Friday’s workshops include “Christianity and Depression,” “How to Launch a Support Group and Counseling Ministry in your Church,” “Suicide Prevention: Saving Lives One Community at a Time” and “Food and The Body: Three Steps to Healing Eating Disorders through Community.”

“There is no shame in diabetes, there is no shame in high blood pressure, but why is it that if our brains stop working, there is supposed to be shame in that?”

Mother Kills 4-Year Old

This mother allegedly killed her four-year old son because she thought he was gay.  In a Facebook message, she wrote that she believed her son Zachary was going to be gay:

“He walks and talks like it. Ugh.”

Patton Oswalt as Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

FBI’s Most Wanted

One of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives turns himself in. The MS-13 gang member is accused of killing a young mother and a toddler in a very brutal way.

Man With Schizophrenia Convicted of Murder

David Tarloff, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was found guilty of stabbing a psychologist to death in a botched robbery six years ago.

Mr. Tarloff was attempting to steal $40,000 so that he could free his mother from a nursing home.

This was his third trial. The first trial never made it past jury selection because Tarloff became unstable. The second trial ended in a mistrial because the jury deadlocked.

The defendant reportedly brought a small black bag and a rolling suitcase with him to the scene of the crime. The bags contained knives, a meat cleaver, a hammer, ropes, duct tape, women’s clothing and adult diapers. He waited outside of the victim’s office while she was in a session with a patient. After the session was over, he stabbed her with a knife 15 times in the face, head and chest. When a nearby doctor heard the screams, he tried to save her and was ultimately stabbed by Tarloff.  He survived the attack.

Mr. Tarloff was soon apprehended.

Mr. Tarloff has a long history of severe mental illness. He was admitted to psychiatric hospitals 20 times. His psychiatric record is 10,000 pages long. He underwent ECT (shock therapy) 37 times during a 2012 stay in a psychiatric hospital.

He was obsessed with his delusional interactions with God. He said that God had instructed him to carry out the robbery.

The insanity defense is the most difficult to defend. This quote from a Tarloff juror highlights what the majority of the general public erroneously believes about this defense:

“Right is right, wrong is wrong. If he gets away with it, how many other people out there with schizophrenia could get away with it?”

Juries are not allowed to consider sentencing when deciding a verdict. In cases with insanity pleas, jurors often think that if adjudicated insane, that person will be free. They don’t go free.

Had he been found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would have been held in a psychiatric institution indefinitely and would receive treatment. The guilty verdict means that he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole. He will receive little if any treatment in prison.

A Vice Tweet

Wolf of Wall Street

The real Wolf of Wall Street: Was the movie accurate?

“That stuff was really really accurate, believe it or not. In some aspects it was even worse than that, although I would say I did more quaaludes that cocaine,” says Belfot. “I think that it is fun to have them watch someone snort something.”

Thursday’s Mental Health & Criminal Justice Headlines

Jordan Linn Graham has been sentenced to serve 365 months in federal prison without the possibility of parole. The judge also barred her from benefiting in any way from revealing details about the murder. The judge did not think she was remorseful about her husband’s death. He kept waiting for her to say she was sorry but she never did.

A former president of the San Francisco Board of Education is accused by the FBI of being involved in a murder-for hire-scheme and a gun and drug trafficking conspiracy.

You probably already know this but it bears repeating: the United States is the only country in the world where a person under the age of 18 can serve life in prison without parole. Every state in the United States has laws that allow for children to be charged as adults under certain circumstances, this according to Human Rights Watch who today filed an amicus brief before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Arkansas throws a mother in jail for breast-feeding while drinking a beer.  Even though it’s not illegal, she was still arrested for endangering the welfare of a child.

There have been over 300 people exonerated in this country. Most of them are men. This is a rare case about a 74-year-old woman who was released after serving 32 years for a murder she did not commit. In fact, the murder was committed by her abusive boyfriend. The University of Southern California Post-Conviction Justice Project contends that if the jury had heard testimony on the effects of intimate partner violence, she would not have been convicted.

According to one reporter, the case of Marlon Sullivan is fascinating and perhaps horrifying. Marlon Sullivan is an NFL agent, who is accused of dealing drugs, illegally selling firearms and offering to commit a murder-for-hire. Undercover federal agents believe that he would “have no trouble pulling off a “hit.”

Clifford Burns is accused of stabbing his estranged wife to death on Christmas Eve. His defense: “extreme emotional disturbance” (EED).

This type of defense is pursued when a defendant alleges he “acted under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance for which there was a reasonable explanation or excuse” when he killed another person.

In essence he saying he snapped and it was his wife’s fault. According to reports, it seems more likely that he planned to attack his wife, which is to say it was premeditated and not the result of him snapping.

He sent text messages to his daughters warning them that something was going to happen, he disposed of the knife immediately after the attack, and in a videotaped interview, he repeatedly discussed different ways that he had planned to go after his wife and have a standoff with police in the woods.

He has a lengthy history of domestic violence towards both his wife and one other woman.

Ohio is considering legislation in which drug dealers could be charged with murder if one of their customers dies from an overdose. Five others states are already doing this.

A 14-year old boy admitted to killing his 46-year-old father and 13-year-old brother.  His family members expressed concern because of his torture of animals. Investigators say that he has no remorse for what he has done.

Wednesday Mental Health & Criminal Justice Headlines

The FBI’s new most wanted fugitive is Juan Elias Garcia who killed a 19-year-old New York woman and her two-year-old son, execution style. Garcia is allegedly a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13).

At the time that he allegedly committed the murders, he was only 17 years old.

Remember the newlywed who pled guilty to pushing her husband off a cliff last summer?  Jordan Graham, 22, was supposed to be sentenced Thursday for the murder of her 25-year-old husband.  That sentencing has been placed on hold because she recently filed a motion to withdraw her plea on the basis that it was “illusory” and a “hollow formality.”

Read an investigation into Pennsylvania’s bleak prisons.

Don’t miss Michael Hall’s excellent story in Texas Monthly on the Lake Waco murders and the possibility that the men convicted of the crime may actually be innocent.

The evolution of the death penalty in one map.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Wednesday, March 26, 2014 that makes it legal to prohibit someone with a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence from owning a gun.

Think Progress believes that the ruling “could have significant implications in interpreting which state domestic violence laws bar gun possession.”

The Marijuana industry has its first full-time lobbyist.

Eight days have passed and there is no sign of missing eight-year old Relisha Rudd.

The police believe that a 51-year-old janitor of a homeless shelter, where the child had lived, killed his wife and now has the young girl in his possession.

The Washington Post traces Relisha’s difficult life.

Congressional Hearing Addresses Psychiatric Bed Shortage

Wednesday, the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing about the significant decrease in the psychiatric bed shortage.

One of the witnesses includes the outspoken Sheriff of Cook County Thomas Dart.

Mr. Dart has been trying to do everything within his power to deal with the thousands of mentally ill people passing through the Cook County Jail.

His tweets give you a sense of how bad the problem has become.


Additional testimony will come from Chief Michael C. Biasotti. Mr. Biasotti is the Immediate Past President of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. He has written extensively on the management of the severely mentally ill and their interactions with the police.

He also has a daughter with schizophrenia who has been involuntarily committed more than 20 times.

His recommendation to the committee would be to prevent individuals from decompensating to the point where law enforcement becomes involved.

“Make the seriously mentally ill first in line rather than last. As a law enforcement officer and father, I know treatment before tragedy is a better policy than tragedy before treatment.”

If interested in watching the hearing, you can tune in at 10 AM on the Energy Committee website. Hopefully reform is on the way.

Monday Crime, Justice & Mental Health Headlines

Some kids are posting video tutorials on YouTube with detailed instructions for their peers about how to get their teachers fired.

Has America’s police become to militarized? It is estimated that “89% of police departments serving American cities with more than 50,000 people had SWAT teams in the late 1990s—almost double the level in the mid-1980s. By 2007 more than 80% of police departments in cities with between 25,000 and 50,000 people had them, up from 20% in the mid-1980s (there are around 18,000 state and local police agencies in America, compared with fewer than 100 in Britain).”

Two Dallas men are charged with raping a 13-year-old deaf girl.

A convicted child molester sends a threatening letter to Obama but gets the wrong address. Savage threatened “to kill and to kidnap and to inflict bodily harm” on an unspecified member of the president’s family and to “torture and murder the president upon being released from prison.”

The Journal News is running a five-part series about a woman who may have purposefully injected sodium into her son’s feeding bag. Police suspect this may be a case of Munchhausen by proxy, a psychiatric condition in which a parent harms a child in an effort to gain sympathy or attention. The medical examiner has not yet ruled on the cause of the boy’s death.  You can begin reading part one of the series here.

The Subcommittee On Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 entitled “Where Have All The Patient’s Gone? Examining The Psychiatric Bed Shortage.” Here you can find a list of the witnesses who were invited to testify.

A shooting of a homeless man in Albuquerque is caught on tape. Attorney Joe Kennedy tells news officials “I’ve never seen a murder captured on videotape before.”

Read an in-depth analysis of the story of Ryan Ferguson who was wrongly convicted and recently released from prison. A $100 million lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of the wrongly convicted Ferguson.

Evidence That Columbia Mall Shooter Was Suicidal, Idolized Columbine Shooters

The Howard County Police Department recently held a news conference sharing information about the investigation into the January shooting at the Columbia Mall.

The shooting occurred on the morning of January 25, 2014 when Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, entered the upper level of the mall and killed two people and then turned the gun on himself.

The following is what we have learned thus far.

Aguilar spent months researching mass murder and was heavily focused on the Columbine shooters. His Internet research also involved learning learn how to assemble and fire a shotgun and learning how to build a bomb.

He also spent a great deal of time in chat rooms with people who were contemplating suicide.

He kept a private journal and had a blog on Tumblr, in which he took a photo of himself holding a 12-gauge shotgun and wrote this note in a dressing room moments before the shooting:

“I had to do this. Today is the day. On previous days I tried this I woke up with anxiety, regret and hope for a better future this day I didn’t, I woke up felt no emotions no empathy no sympathy. I will have freedom or maybe not. I could care less.”

Investigators do not believe that Aguilar knew his victims. The shooting, they believe based on evidence, was a random act of violence.

They speculate that Aguilar stopped shooting because he ran out of targets. He had 54 rounds of ammunition in his backpack but only fired nine.

The backpack also contained a video camera with images of himself holding a shotgun. Investigators declined to release these images because they believe he intended to use them to gain notoriety.

The shooter graduated from high school in June and had no criminal record. He had been working at the Dunkin’ Donuts shop near his residence. Interviews with classmates revealed that he did not stand out from other students.

Aguilar also had a psychiatric history. On at least one occasion, he sought psychiatric help for suicide. He reported hearing voices to a doctor but “gave no indication that they urged violence.”

His handwritten journals were described by investigators as being disconnected and violent. He wrote about using marijuana and often expressed suicidal ideation. Investigators said that he never mentioned a specific target.

The fact that he had a journal and a blog on Tumblr is evidence of the concept of leakage. Leakage is a type of warning behavior that involves someone intentionally or unintentionally leaving clues of an attack.

Research suggests that leakage occurs in the majority of mass shootings.

Images associated with the investigation, and of the shooter, can be found here.

Woman Admits to Stabbing Mother On Video

Katie Nichols, the woman in this video, stabbed her mother in the neck, chest and stomach. Her mother is in the ICU.

The case is still unfolding. According to the details so far, Nichols stuffed a sock in her mother’s mouth and attempted to tie her up. She also strangled her mother until she lost consciousness and then began stabbing her with scissors and two knives.

Though no specific mental illness has been identified, Ms. Nichols is clearly not well. The video of Ms. Nichols is quite unique in that she is openly admitting to stabbing her mother on camera. She also discusses the reasons why she did it.

Ms. Nichols believed that her mother had “symbolic representations of [her] death, [her] daughter’s death and [was privy to] every nuclear explosion that was supposed to happen… the satanic cult has been rounded up and killed now.”

The majority of people with mental illnesses are not dangerous but some can be dangerous, including those experiencing threat/control override delusions.

Threat-based delusions occur when a person believes that someone is trying to harm them.

Control override delusions are beliefs that outside forces are controlling one’s mind.

Many studies have shown that individuals affected by the aforementioned types of delusions are more violent than comparable groups without those delusions, but in many cases, substance abuse may have also contributed to the violent behavior.

Ms. Nichols appears to be demonstrating delusional thinking. She believes that her mother is a member of a cult and that her family is in danger. In her mind, she had to save herself and her child by killing her mother.

Obviously, her mother is not in a satanic cult nor is she controlling nuclear explosions, all of which indicate that Ms. Nichols is quite delusional.

People who are delusional believe their erroneous thinking. To them, their beliefs are 100% real. Evidence contradicting their beliefs do not dissuade their views. They cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is not real.

There are some people who feign mental illness after committing a violent act but generally speaking most people don’t. In fact, research shows that the most severely mentally ill people emphatically deny being mentally ill.

Based on her behavior in the video clip, Ms. Nichols seems to truly believe that she had to kill her mother to save herself and her child.

The story of Ms. Nichols and her mother, is yet another illustration of the travesty of untreated mental illness.

Something Stinks in Florida

Can’t we just tell the truth? You don’t need a law degree or a bunch of capitalized letters following your name to correctly identify the source of the stench that is permeating our country. It emanates from the Sunshine State, the orange juice capital of the world.

We know the state that it comes from but before we identify exactly what it is that stinks let’s be clear about what it is that does not stink. It’s not the sunshine. It’s not the orange juice and it is most certainly not the jurors in Florida.

It’s the law, people. The stand your ground law is not simply faulty. It is an abomination. It is an affront to the very notion of justice. It is an insult to our founding fathers.

Where the hell did Florida lawmakers come up with the idea that it’s okay to stand your ground, if you only “perceive” yourself to be in danger of physical harm? Let’s make it clear, very clear, in Florida it’s okay to shoot somebody, kill them stone cold dead, if you “think” you are in danger. Remember, you don’t need to be in danger, you just need to “think” that you are.

What about if you’re wrong? What if you think you are in danger, kill somebody, but the truth is that you were never in danger? You just thought you were in danger. But guess what, you were wrong!

Being wrong in Florida, is simply okay. Somebody just killed a person that they didn’t need to, they misperceived the situation and guess what? No harm, no foul, everybody can be wrong sometime. The fact that you just killed an innocent person and please let me be very clear here, that innocent person could be me or you or your very menacing looking 12-year-old daughter, doesn’t mean squat in Florida.

It’s okay to kill in Florida if you “think” you are in danger. “Being” in danger, don’t mean shit in Florida. Thinking you are in danger, is all that counts. Hey Florida legislators, don’t you realize what your law really means?

It means that there is no punishment for killing an innocent person.

That’s right. They can kill innocent people all day long in Florida, just as long as they think they are in danger. It doesn’t matter whether they are or are not. The only thing that matters is if they “think” they are.

Shooter: “You know officer, I’m not shitting you here, I thought that old lady had a shotgun. I know it really was just a black cane, but the way she was holding it and all, getting out of her car, it sure looked like a shotgun to me. ”

Police officer: “Did you really think she was a danger to you?”

Shooter: “I surely did.”

Police officer: “Did you really, really think she was a danger to you?”

Shooter: “You betcha I did!”

Police officer: “Well go on home and forget about it. Ain’t nobody perfect.”

Don’t blame the juries for letting killers go free. Blame Florida lawmakers for writing a law that allows well-intentioned individuals, with poor perceptual abilities, to go free after erroneously killing a completely innocent person.

You know, the Florida lawmakers ought to rewrite that law and they should do so with the same insight and wisdom that they used when writing it originally. In that vein, I would propose revisions to that law that should suit the wisdom and reasoning capacity of  Florida lawmakers.

My personal thoughts, obviously would be inconsistent with those of the Florida lawmakers who created the stand your ground law. So I won’t share my thoughts as to how I would deal with the Florida law instead I will propose changes that should be acceptable to those lawmakers. My own thoughts certainly would not be acceptable to the mindset responsible for the creation of the Florida stand your ground law.

So you lawmakers in Florida, probably by this time, realize that you might just be a little off with that stand your ground law. It probably needs a little tweaking and I have a few ideas that might just please you.

Let’s change the law a bit. No use throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

My first suggestion, keeping with the spirit of those Floridian law makers: only allow people to kill one innocent person, per lifetime. It’s like a get out of jail free card. It’s like saying “okay you got it wrong this time but the next time…” And let that next time be a really teaching event. A fine and a hefty one. Perhaps even in the hundreds of dollars range.

My next suggestion, to those lawmakers, would be to rewrite the law making it only okay to kill innocent people so long as they dress in a way that you find inappropriate and unbecoming and are also of a different race or ethnic group than their own.

See this way, it’s okay for a white guy to shoot a black guy or a black guy to shoot a white guy but it completely allows for the prosecution of a black guy shooting a black guy or even worse a white guy shooting a white guy.

Let’s face facts. Teenagers wearing hoodies look scary to some people. Black teenagers wearing hoodies look even more scary to those same people. Black teenagers, wearing hoodies, listening to loud music, look so damn scary that some people just gotta shoot them.

Now, I guess the obvious solution and you know what, it’s actually more obvious than most people would want to admit, is to make it illegal for a teenager to wear a hoodie.

Make it illegal, then people won’t get scared and won’t have to shoot them. And that solves a lot of the problem. But don’t forget, the same people who are afraid of teenagers wearing hoodies are even more afraid of “black” teenagers wearing hoodies.

With that same wisdom, perhaps while you’re at it, you should just make it illegal to be black. Because after all isn’t that what this is really all about.

Great New Show: HBO’s True Detective

True Detective, a new crime drama series that premiered on HBO in January 2014, is one of the best shows on television. Some reviewers predict that it will become as popular as Breaking Bad. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

True Detective follows the lives of two Louisiana detectives in their hunt for a serial killerThe storyline might not sound unique but the show is anything but ordinary. It’s character-driven and not plot-driven. It’s philosophical, unconventional, has great cinematography and original music by T Bone Burnett, an Oscar-winning producer and musician who has worked with Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan, among others.

When asked about writing music for the show, Burnett hit the nail on the head: “it was like reading a good novel… It’s like scoring an eight-hour movie.”

He’s right about the movie element. From the moment you begin watching the series, it feels like a movie. It’s engrossing. The characters are complicated, especially Rustin Cohle, a Louisiana homicide detective played by Matthew McConaughey.

If you are a writer, or have ever thought about writing, this show might inspire you to try your hand at fiction. I know its had that impact on me.

The drama is written by Nic Pizzolatto, a former professor of literature. He left a tenure-track position at DePauw University in Indiana. He was unhappy. In an LA Times interview about working in academia, he said that “I’d want to bring a flamethrower to faculty meetings. The pretentiousness of academics and their fragile personalities would not be tolerated in any other business in the known universe.”

Many people describe the drama as being dark. It is, in many ways, especially because it opens with a grim, ritualistic, unforgettable crime scene that involves a dead woman posed wearing a crown of antlers and thorns.

The search for a serial killer is certainly an element of the show but it is not its focus. In fact, Mr. Pizzolatto commented that he does not “give a… about serial killers” and he “certainly doesn’t care to engage in some sort of creative cultural competition for who can invent the most disgusting kind of serial killer.” For him, those elements of the show are “just a vehicle.”

If your interest lies in plot-driven shows, that move fast and are action-packed, then this show may not be for you. It is a slow developing plot. But if you prefer the intellectual immersion of a character-driven, philosophical and dynamic story about life and death, then you’ll want to set your DVR for 9 PM Sunday’s on HBO.

My only complaint: I wish there were more than eight episodes. There’s been talk of additional seasons but a definitive “season 2” of True Detective has yet to be been confirmed. We can only hope.

See the trailer below.

Teen With Schizophrenia Shot and Killed By Police In Front of Family

18-year-old Keith Vidal was shot and killed by a police officer Sunday when authorities responded to a call for help from family members. Keith was in the midst of a schizophrenic episode.

According to early reports, Keith had picked up a small screwdriver and refused to put it down, an action which prompted the family to call police. Initially, two officers arrived on the scene. The following events, which ultimately led to Keith being shot, are not fully clear.

According to Keith’s father, “…all of a sudden, this Southport cop [the third officer to arrive on the scene], walked in the house [and said]: ‘I don’t have time for this. Tase him. Let’s get him out of here.”

The officer used a stun gun on Keith who, “hit the ground [and then] this guy shot him,” Keith’s father reported.

Shots were fired “seconds” after the third officer arrived.

Keith was declared dead soon after being rushed to the hospital.

When Keith’s father demanded to know why his stepson was shot, the officer said “well, I’m protecting my officers.”

Keith’s mother Mary told reporters that she had often tried to get help for her son’s mental illness. Apparently, to no avail.

The current mental health system is in shambles and it’s been this way for some time, especially for people with serious mental illnesses. There are now more people residing in jails and prisons across the United States, than in psychiatric hospitals. The Los Angeles County Jail, for instance, is considered the largest defacto psychiatric facility.

Police shootings of people with mental illnesses is not a new phenomenon. An investigation by the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegraph uncovered “that at least half of the estimated 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems.”

Their investigation also revealed that in the state of Maine, the Attorney General’s Office, which investigated all of the police shootings, never found one of the shootings to be unjustified.

There are also no federal statistics about police shootings of mentally ill people.

I have worked with many police officers who were called upon to deal with severely mentally ill people. Some felt that it wasn’t their job to deal with “those people” but many others were kind, compassionate and patient with those of whom they were attempting to help.

Studies show that police officers who have undergone crisis intervention training (CIT), are better able to effectively de-escalate a mental health crisis. CIT should be mandatory for all law enforcement officials, at least until they are no longer the front-line responders in mental health emergencies.

Keith’s parents have said that the policeman who shot their son is a cold-blooded murderer.

Keith’s parents said they cannot understand what happened.

“Where is the justice, why did they shoot my son? This is what’s wrong with our mental health system.”

The authorities are investigating the events.

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Leaked Police Video of George Zimmerman’s Ex is Frightening

Samantha Scheibe, George Zimmerman’s then-girlfriend, details the November 2013 incident in which she called the police on him in this leaked video by The video first appeared online by Mother Jones and it describes the abusive behavior of George Zimmerman towards his girlfriend.

Since the incident, Scheibe decided against pressing charges and said that the police “misinterpreted” her statements. You can listen for yourself and come to your own conclusions about the nature of George Zimmerman.

She tried to end their relationship and he pulled a shotgun on her and smashed her belongings. She also told investigators that he had tried to choke her on an earlier occasion. It’s not clear if the two are still involved.

Update on the Forum Status and Leaving Comments on the Blog

Update: The forum should be fully active. To use the forum you will have to register a new username and password.

You can’t automatically use your same username and password that you use for leaving comments on the blog.

I want to also note that your first three comments on the forum will be “moderated” (i.e. approved before automatic posting) but after that, all of your comments will instantaneously appear. This is an spam-prevention measure.

The blog and the forum are two separate entities.

Once you enter the forum, to begin a new topic, just click on “New Topic” button. That should be all that is needed to get started.

Leaving Comments on the Blog

There have been issues with the inability to leave comments on the blog. Some users have reported that their passwords are no longer working but others have been able to correct these issues. Apparently there was a problem with the latest update to WordPress. My advice is to wait a day and try again. You may even have to re-register with WordPress.

We are working to correct these errors. We appreciate your patience. Full functioning of the blog should be restored in the very near future.