Friday, June 19, 2015


       For some two weeks now, two dangerous convicted murderers have roamed at large in upstate New York or parts beyond.  Richard Matt and David Sweat managed a brilliantly planned and executed escape from the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility that has utterly confounded state authorities.

     At this writing, the legions of police and investigators employed on the case -- estimated to be at least 800 personnel -- remain clueless as to even the general location and route of the escaped duo.  The cost of this massive recapture operation is undoubtedly enormous, but New York authorities are understandably unenthusiastic about revealing the multi-millions involved.  At the federal level, the U.S. Marshals Service has added the duo to the list of America's Most Wanted.

       New York's liberal Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has taken a highly visible and active role in the state's response, although he possesses no apparent qualifications or experience that would make any genuine contribution to the locate-and-retrieval operation.  The fugitive-hunting skills of a liberal New York lawyer-politician are not to be confused with those of Dog the Bounty Hunter, or Lieutenant Girard in pursuit of Dr. Richard Kimble.  Cuomo would have done better to stay at his desk in Albany and leave the recapture operation to the cops and marshals, as those officers would undoubtedly confirm under grant of immunity.

                       Cuomo should leave fugitive-hunting to The Hunters

       Media pundits have debated whether Governor Cuomo has helped or hurt himself politically by assuming such a high-profile role in the escape crisis.  Some say it has provided a useful distraction from the more pedestrian and banal political bickering with the state legislature, making the governor appear (however falsely) preoccupied with more pressing matters of public safety.  Others note, in contrast, that the governor may appear out of his element in purporting to spearhead an operation that is best left in the hands of law enforcement and investigative operatives -- especially if the search drags on in futility or, even worse, the escapees commit further murders or crimes of violence.

       But Cuomo may have a more profound and personal motivation for his obviously intense and anxious involvement in the matter.  He may reluctantly recognize that the serious civic danger and disruption posed by the escape, and any deaths, injuries, or other harms that may yet result from it, may be attributable to the legal and policy predilections so zealously espoused by himself and his liberal cohorts.  Even if Cuomo does not come to that recognition -- and being a doctrinaire liberal, such a recognition is most unlikely -- Splashing Rocks will do it for him.

       One of Cuomo's responses to the crisis was to order an investigation by the state inspector general into "all factors" that were involved in the escape.  As Cuomo explained, "It is critically important to examine the circumstances that enabled these inmates to escape in the first place."

       But Cuomo could save himself and the state much unnecessary investigative cost and effort by acknowledging one decisive "factor" that indisputably allowed these murderers to escape and endanger the citizens of upstate New York and beyond.

       If Cuomo and his liberal ilk had not so effectively destroyed the state's ability to impose the death penalty, the two escapees would have been far too dead to escape from prison or anywhere else.

       Both Matt and Sweat were imprisoned for murders that would have been eligible for the death penalty under the Supreme Court's interpretations of the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishment clause. Richard Matt cruelly tortured his victim in an automobile trunk before murdering him and dismembering his body. David Sweat murdered a law enforcement officer in cold blood.

       Both of these murders thus included "aggravating circumstances" that would have subjected these men to capital punishment in a state that permits it.  But New York does not allow capital punishment -- thanks in large part to leftist officials, legislators, and lawyers like Andrew Cuomo.  If New York did authorize and enforce the death penalty, Matt and Sweat would have never had the opportunity to escape from prison, endanger the safety and security of thousands of people, force the costly deployment and diversion of at least 800 police officers, and possibly commit additional murders or other violent felonies while at large.

       Andrew Cuomo has long been adamantly opposed to the death penalty and has made it a major policy point in his political career.  For example, he wrote a NY Times op-ed piece in 2004 urging the New York legislature to reject efforts to enact an enforceable death penalty (the N.Y. death penalty statute that technically lingered on the books had been declared unconstitutional and unenforceable).  Among other canards and distortions in his article, Cuomo stated that "there remains no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime."  Cuomo's statement is simply false, and the escape of the Dannemora murderers aptly demonstrates why.

       Cuomo either ignores, or doesn't understand, that there are two kinds of deterrence, specific and general.  Specific deterrence simply means that an executed person is absolutely and specifically "deterred" from committing any more murders or other crimes.  This is not some jesuitical or theoretical point, but an entirely valid and practical justification for capital punishment in itself.

       Nor, as emphatically proven by the Dannemora breakout and others preceding it, is life imprisonment an effective alternative in that respect.  Both Matt and Sweatt are free to commit murder or other crimes because their life imprisonment, even in a maximum security facility, was inadequate to prevent their determined escape.  And their case is hardly unique.  The escape of the notorious Mecklenburg Six death row inmates from a maximum security Virginia prison in 1984 is another prime example that capital punishment provides the only certain form of specific deterrence.

       When a state surrenders the option of executing the likes of, say, Hannibal Lecter, it requires some poor prison personnel to guard, feed, and provide medical care to such a menacing and dangerous monster.  And it runs the risk that such a monster may escape and resume his murderous career.

       Cuomo's arrogant dismissal of the death penalty's deterrent effect is especially and demonstrably fallacious in the case of escaped inmates who are serving life sentences without possibility of parole. Because Cuomo and his liberal cohorts have succeeded in completely excluding resort to the death penalty in New York, there is little, if any, reason for escapees like Matt and Sweat to fear meaningful additional punishment should they commit additional murders or other serious crimes while at large.  They could sneer at their captors, "What are you gonna do, send me to life imprisonment at Dannemora?  LOL, suckers!"

       That is the consequence of New York's abandonment of the "general deterrence" provided by the death penalty, wholly apart from its abandonment of capital punishment's utility as a specific and foolproof deterrent as to murderers who are actually executed.  Not all potential murderers are deterred by the prospect of being executed by the state -- fanatics and lunatics, for example -- but most are.  It is simple, inescapable logic that the more severe a penalty, the greater its deterrent effect; our whole system of escalating punishments calibrated to the severity of the crime is based upon this logic.  And execution is the ultimate penalty.  If murderers did not fear execution more than life imprisonment, they would not desperately pursue every possible legal avenue to avoid execution in favor of life imprisonment.    

       So when death penalty abolitionists like Cuomo argue that there is "no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent," they are perpetrating a massive fraud.  They are glibly and dishonestly equating the valid point that the death penalty is an imperfect deterrent with the fraudulent myth that it has no deterrent effect at all.   And the danger, expense, and disruption occasioned by the Great Escape from Dannemora is but one example of the cost to society occasioned by the "success" of Cuomo and his fellow liberals in depriving New York of any resort to the death penalty -- even when it would be demonstrably just and efficacious.

          That the New York escapees were serving mere terms of imprisonment -- with the now indisputable potential for escape and further crime -- rather than rendered conclusively harmless and "deterred" following a capital sentence and execution is both morally and legally outrageous.  Mr. Matt was not only a recidivist murderer -- one in the U.S. and one in Mexico -- but the murder for which he was serving time in New York was an especially heinous torture-murder that cried out for capital retribution. As New York prosecutor Joseph Mordino (a veteran of over 200 murder cases) told a Niagara County judge:  "Of all the cases I've tried this would top my list for the death penalty."  David Sweat was guilty of the first degree murder of a law enforcement officer in the course of committing another felony, which would have resulted in certain capital punishment in a saner state, like, say, Texas.

       So Governor Cuomo should spare us his hand-wringing concern regarding what went wrong to allow the escape of the Dannemora Duo and the resultant danger, disruption, and enormous expenditure of public funds and law enforcement resources.  What went wrong was New York's ill-considered, illogical, and emotional abandonment of the death penalty, due in large part to the fanatical advocacy of Governor Cuomo and his ilk.  Had New York retained and enforced even a narrowly circumscribed death penalty, Messrs. Matt and Sweat would be dead and buried, rather than roaming the country at large and posing a threat to public safety wherever they arrive.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


        In Joseph Conrad's disturbing novella, The Heart of Darkness, the narrator Marlow discovers an enclave of primeval barbarism and degeneracy in the depths of the African Congo.  The depraved protagonist, Mr. Kurtz, ultimately gasps a fitting epitaph for the debased colony which he had helped to corrupt as he lies dying on a departing ship:  "The horror!  The horror!"

        One no longer need venture into the depths of colonial Africa to discover the heart of darkness, or to experience a society so degenerate that it inspires stark exclamations of horror. Contemporary America's own heart of darkness can be found in the physical, moral, and societal ruins of the wretched inner city of Baltimore, Maryland.

        Splashing Rocks has previously noted the decline of the city that has been described in more peaceful times as Charm City or, even more absurdly, The Land of Pleasant Living. See The Barbarians of Baltimore, at That post focused on the deeply deranged fans of the Baltimore Ravens NFL team, who went out of their way to flaunt their enthusiastic support and affection for the violence-prone Ravens running back, Ray Rice, despite (or perhaps because of!) the viral video evidence of Rice brutalizing and dragging the hapless woman who was then his fiance.

        But the mindless degeneracy exposed in the Ray Rice episode was relatively mild compared to the depths of degradation to which Baltimore, its leaders, and large elements of its population have descended in the wake of the so-called Freddie Gray incident and the orgy of urban savagery that ensued.

        Freddie Gray was a recidivist drug-dealer and multi-purpose criminal who was arrested by Baltimore police in a high-traffic illegal drug market for possession of an illegal switchblade knife in early April.  He later died due to injuries that have been attributed to police abuse or negligence during his transport to the station house.

        The insidious liberal media (especially CNN and MSNBC) pounced on the incident -- which was otherwise a purely local story -- as another opportunity to cultivate an incendiary narrative of purported police brutality against blameless black suspects. As though on cue, black racial agitators in the Al Sharpton mold pounced to exploit the situation with the kind of inflammatory race-baiting rhetoric that has become de rigueur in these incidents. The predictable result was an extended frenzy of barbaric and violent rioting in the streets of Baltimore.

        Anyone who thinks 21st century America embodies an advanced and enlightened civilization should be required to watch the videos of the atavistic pillaging, arson, robbery, and general marauding that laid waste to large portions of Baltimore during the period April 18 to May 3.  On the bogus pretext of protesting police misconduct that allegedly caused Gray's death, hordes of African-American thugs burned, vandalized, and robbed hapless Baltimore stores and businesses -- especially pharmacies, from which they made an enormous haul of drugs and narcotics -- and generally reduced Baltimore to a state of stark urban ruin.

                  Mayor Rawlings-Blake:  "There are no thugs in Baltimore."

        Both police and innocent citizens were assaulted at will.  The police were virtually helpless in the face of the frenzied violence and pillaging because, as we shall see, the city's corrupt leadership was in open sympathy with the rioters, rather than with the police and the interests of law and order.  Nothing so aptly illustrates the utter barbarism of the Baltimore riots than the pictures of frenzied feral delinquents stomping on the roofs of ransacked and disabled police cars.

        The state of violence in Baltimore became so severe and menacing that even the sacrosanct American ritual of habitual professional sports attendance was violated.  In one of the most eerie and dystopian spectacles of recent times, a Baltimore Orioles baseball game was played before an entirely empty stadium at Camden Yards.  Neither the city nor the ball club could assure the basic safety of spectators, so the gates were closed.  The unprecedented measure was understandable, however, as the violence surrounding the stadium during a previous Orioles game had resulted in fans and players being held hostage in the stadium until a lull in the hostilities allowed their reasonably safe exodus.

        Such is the congenial atmosphere surrounding Baltimore's entertainment and civic culture.  It might be called Beirut on the Patapsco, but that would be unfair to Beirut.

        In this incendiary environment, strong and mature government leadership was needed to quell the criminal insurrection and restore a modicum of order and safety to the city.  Instead, the Afro-racist Democrats who have run Baltimore since time immemorial aligned themselves emphatically on the side of the rioters and thugs, whom they perversely portrayed and defended as "civil rights demonstrators."

        First on the scene was Baltimore's partisan, divisive, and grossly inept mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who doubles as Secretary of the Democratic National Committee when she is not presiding over the decay and desolation of her city.  She promptly made the streets safe for the rioters, but dangerous for everybody else, when she required the police to stand down and refrain from confronting the rampaging criminal mobs.

       She then made one of the most infamous expressions of deranged and wrong-headed governance in American history when she stated:  "[W]e tried to make sure they [i.e., the rioters] were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on," and "we gave those who wished to destroy space to do that, as well."  Incredibly, the mayor thus made it clear that her primary concern was the protection of the rioters, and she made sure that they would be given sufficient "space" to destroy and pillage in safety!

       Not content with one infamous statement, she then declared that "there are no thugs in Baltimore," even as thousands of these homegrown "non-thugs" rampaged and ransacked at will within a stones throw from where she made her infamous remarks.

       But Rawlings-Blake's deranged alignment with Baltimore's marauders was soon eclipsed by the even more deplorable performance of  the now infamous Marilyn Mosby.  Mosby is the sneering, callow young attorney who, despite her glaring lack of basic qualifications, is the elected States Attorney -- in effect, the DA -- for the City of Baltimore.  It goes without saying that Mosby is black.  Virtually the entire power structure of Baltimore's government (including the Chief of Police, Anthony Batts) is dominated by blacks, demonstrating the absurdity of the claims that the city's legions of lawless black males are victims of racially discriminatory law enforcement.  In reality, the only racial group likely to face official discrimination in today's Baltimore is any group that is not black.

       Ms. Mosby's professional, ethical, and prosecutorial transgressions in response to the Freddie Gray incident and ensuing riots would be sufficient to justify disbarment, removal from office, and general public disgrace in a sane and civilized community.  In the deranged netherworld of riot-torn Baltimore, however, Mosby remains an ethnic and ideological heroine to many.

      Mosby perpetrated one of the most disgraceful performances in prosecutorial history when she held a ranting, demagogic press conference to announce premature charges against the six beleaguered police officers who tried to perform their difficult jobs in the drug-infested streets where Freddie Gray and his ilk conduct their insidious business.

      Mosby brazenly pandered to the urban barbarians when she declared that the patently excessive criminal charges (including murder and manslaughter) were issued in response to their rabid cries of "No justice, no peace!"  She violated the most basic principles and rules of prosecutorial discipline and even-handedness when she declared herself the advocate for Freddie Gray, his family, and the vengeful street mobs, rather than the objective representative of the state in pursuing truth and justice, wherever it leads. And her decision to abruptly short-circuit the careful deliberation and consultation that would normally precede the leveling of such serious charges represented a crass abdication of prosecutorial responsibility in favor of race-based political expediency.

     The sum effect of Mosby's divisive demagogy was to poison the jury pool against the embattled officers and to place the city's official blessing and  imprimatur upon the barbaric street violence of Baltimore's rampaging rioters. The officers' attorneys hardly needed to compose an argument to justify a motion for change of venue, since Mosby's grossly prejudicial public rant wrote their argument for them.

       Mosby then descended from ethical malfeasance to almost comical depths of legal and prosecutorial incompetence.  Her inept office could not even accurately list the names and addresses of the officers named in the charging documents.  As a result, the hapless citizens (a cafeteria worker and a plumber) who were mistakenly named on these public charges were exposed to threats, intimidation, and harassment from aggressive press inquiries.

       Next, Mosby apparently erred in basing her false arrest charges on a mistaken assumption that the knife Freddie Gray was carrying was perfectly legal -- when it apparently was an illegal switchblade under Baltimore City's stricter weapons-carrying laws.  When the defendants' lawyers demanded access to the critical knife to resolve this issue, Mosby absurdly responded by sniffing that she would not try the case in the media, and that it would be somehow "unethical" for her to reveal information about the knife.

       This is utter nonsense, especially coming from the theatrical prosecutor who all but convicted the officers in her inflammatory press conference.  Not only would providing the defendants access to the critical knife be completely "ethical," it would be required under the well-established Brady rule giving defendants' counsel a constitutional right to discovery of potentially exculpatory information.

       But Mosby's appalling legal ineptitude and hypocrisy did not end there.  The same partisan prosecutor who had seriously compromised the case with her "no justice, no peace" press conference then had the audacity to file a motion for a gag order seeking to prevent public discussion of the case.  But with that remarkable incompetence that has been the hallmark of her performance, Mosby erroneously filed her motion in the Circuit Court while the case was still in the jurisdiction of the District Court.  The court curtly rejected her mistaken motion, at least sparing all parties the necessity of watching the court demolish Mosby's ridiculous and legally flawed contentions.

       Even as this post is written, however, Mosby has persisted in her perversity by re-filing her motion for a broad gag order, now that she has at last discovered the proper court.  The radical prosecutor who all but certified the defendants' guilt in a nationally broadcast rant is frantically imploring the court to suppress public discussion of the Freddie Gray case and the potentially critical autopsy -- even after she and her Afro-racist allies have already poisoned public opinion against the officers.  With regard to those officers, Mosby appears to have embraced the infamous maxim of the tyrannical Queen of Hearts portrayed in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: "Sentence first, verdict afterwords."  And none of this free speech nonsense to allow the officers' side to seek to set the record straight.

        The reckless responses of Mayor Rawlings-Blake and States Attorney Mosby to the Freddie Gray incident have since produced dangerous and deadly consequences even beyond the immediate destruction and desolation of the riots.  And it bears emphasis that these two women are hardly alone in bearing culpability in this respect.

       For months and years preceding the Freddie Gray incident, President Obama, former Attorney General Holder, and current Attorney General Loretta Lynch have stoked the fires of black urban resentment, racism, and violence by endorsing the malicious canard that young black males are unjustly persecuted by a pattern of discriminatory law enforcement.  But the complete exoneration of Officer Darren Wilson for the justified self-defense shooting of the violent Michael Brown, after the Obama Administration had joined in the insidious campaign to portray Brown as the innocent victim of police racism, aptly demonstrated that the Administration-stoked narrative of discriminatory law enforcement was and is a fraud.

       Yet in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere, police have been forced into a policy of defensive and diffident law enforcement due to the eagerness of the liberal media, the racial agitators, and pandering leftist politicians -- including Obama and his minions -- to pounce and condemn them whenever there is a confrontation with black perpetrators in the streets.  In Baltimore, especially, the consequences have been immediate, palpable, and deadly.

       Baltimore police now face the reality that any direct street enforcement action against black suspects will immediately motivate crowds of black sympathizers to surround them, often menacingly, and to start recording their every move with cell-phone cameras.  The police now understand that the racial agitators and the media will pounce on any action they take that is even remotely questionable and seek to sensationalize it in the same manner we have seen in the Michael Brown and Freddie Gray cases.  The hapless officers targeted in such episodes face the prospect of suspension and loss of their jobs -- not to mention the very real danger of vindictive physical threats and attacks -- merely for doing the dangerous job of protecting the very ingrates who are so keen to condemn them for doing it.

       The dangerous and deadly consequences are not surprising.  The incidence of murders and shootings in Baltimore has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels in the weeks following the Freddie Gray riots, even while the arrest rate has severely (and understandably) declined.  The blame for this depressing state of affairs lays squarely at the feet of Baltimore's corrupt and incompetent leaders; the retrograde segment of the citizenry that is poised to pounce on the police for any enforcement action that offends black sensibilities; and, in a broader sense, the Obama Administration that has done so much to cultivate and sustain the insidious myth of discriminatory law enforcement against young black males.

       As long as racially divisive elements in media, government, and politics continue to reinforce and exploit this canard, the destructive experience of Baltimore is apt to be repeated in cities throughout America.