Chowchilla Revisited

In 1976, three young men kidnapped a school bus full of children in Chowchillla, California. The 26 children and the driver were forced at gunpoint into a truck that was buried at a rock quarry. The bus driver, Ed Ray, and some of the older boys dug back through the hole through which they entered the underground chamber. It took them 16 hours to escape. Meanwhile, the kidnappers planned to demand $5 million in ransom, but the police phone lines were busy. Before the plan could be carried out, the victims had escaped. Richard Schoenfeld, James Schoenfeld, and Fred Woods received life sentences for the crime. They have served 35 years in prison. Some people believe that's enough, including their prosecutor David Minier.
Since then, each has been denied parole dozens of times. Supporters say their continued imprisonment makes a mockery of the idea of rehabilitation. Minier, now a retired judge, favors parole for all three kidnappers.

"Quite frankly, I am simply amazed that Richard Schoenfeld, given his record as a model prisoner, was not paroled years ago," Minier wrote the parole board in 2006.

At the Feb. 23 news conference in San Francisco, Dale Fore, one of the lead investigators in the case, said: "They were just dumb rich kids, and they paid a hell of a price for what they did."

After retiring from the Madera County Sheriff's Department, Fore worked as a private investigator for the Woods family's attorneys, tracking down kidnapping victims to see if any would write letters of support for parole. None has.

"I might not be the most popular guy when I get back home," Fore said. "But right is right. How much time do you want out of these guys?"

If you ask the people of Chowchilla, the answer is life without parole. On one hand, the crime as planned was horrific. On the other hand, no one was seriously hurt in the end. Many people convicted of murder receive lighter sentences. On the other hand, this crime could have ended as a mass murder. What do you think? Link -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Associated Press)

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So here is the documents I promised

Metaphors We Think With: The Role of Metaphor in
Reasoning
Paul H. Thibodeau, Lera Boroditsky*
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America
http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~lera/papers/crime-metaphors.pdf

I couldn't find the book I promised, I had closed it I guess. But there is another here that address the issue more directly:

Doing Justice Better: The Politics Of Restorative Justice by David J. Cornwell

And finally, the paper For The Law Neuroscience Changes Nothing and Everything by Jonathan Cohen and Joshua Greene
http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/GreeneWJH/GreeneCohenPhilTrans-04.pdf

"Free will as we ordinarily
understand it is an illusion generated by our cognitive
architecture. Retributivist notions of criminal responsibility
ultimately depend on this illusion, and, if we are
lucky, they will give way to consequentialist ones, thus
radically transforming our approach to criminal justice."

The absence of free-will as a belief is common among neuroscientists, however there are a few exceptions, such as Michael Gazzaniga. Some of these men, lawyers and other justice official organized by the Dana Foundation attempted to rebut the consequenalist view.

For more proponents from science of the view that free-will is false and or our justice systems flawed see:

Brain, Mind and Consciousness (conference)
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4831204601412295941

Beyond Belief
http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-science-religion-reason-and-survival

Beyond Belief: Enlightenment 2.0
http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-enlightenment-2-0

Here is a teaser; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdRZk4NRgYs
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Come to think of it also, I had a modern criminology book on my desktop at home that specifically addresses the influence of public perception on criminal justice system. Most of which proves to be negative to the over-all reduction of crime and recidivism rates.

This book also lead me to research on the influence metaphorical-framing on public perception of crime which is very interesting.

And I can direct readers to Johnathan Cohen and Joshua Greene, Criminologists, Psychologists and advocates of a consequentialist approach to criminal justice.

I'll follow up when I get the title of the other documents.
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Also, details of the case of Leopold and Loeb and statements given by Darrow in their defence can be viewed at the excellent website http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/famous/loeb/5c.html

"What is a mitigating circumstance? Is it youth? If so, why? Simply because the child has not the judgment of life that a grown person has...

"Here are two boys who are minors. The law would forbid them making contracts, forbid them marrying without the consent of their parents, would not permit them to vote. Why? Because they haven't the judgment which only comes with years, because they are not fully responsible...

"I cannot understand the glib, lighthearted carelessness of lawyers who talk of hanging two boys as if they were talking of a holiday or visiting the races..."

Darrow then looked at Judge Caverly and his voice hushed in respect, "I don't believe there is a judge in Cook County that would not take into consideration the mental status of any man before they sentence him to death."

"They call it a cold-blooded murder because they want to take human lives....This is the most cold-blooded murder, says the State, that ever occurred....I have never yet tried a case where the state's attorney did not say that it was the most cold-blooded, inexcusable, premeditated case that ever occurred. If is was murder, there never was such a murder...Lawyers are apt to say that."

"This is a senseless, useless, purposeless, motiveless act of two boys....There was not a particle of hate, there was not a grain of malice, there was no opportunity to be cruel except as death is cruel -- and death is cruel."

"They had a weird, almost impossible relationship. Leopold, with his obsession of the superman, had repeatedly said that Loeb was his idea of the superman. He had the attitude toward him that one has to his most devoted friend, or that a man has to a lover. Without the combination of these two, nothing of this sort probably would have happened....all the testimony of the alienists....shows that this terrible act was the act of immature and diseased brains, the act of children.

"Nobody can explain it any other way.

"No one can imagine it any other way.

"It is not possible that it could have happened in any other way."
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BTW, the defense attorney representing Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb was the world-renowned American Civil Liberties Lawyer Clarence Darrow. Darrow was most famous for representing John Scopes in the Scopes Monkey Trials and is portrayed as Henry Drummond in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind by the actor Spencer Tracy. The film is a dramatization of the Scops Monkey Trials.

The reason I bring up his name is that he came to defend Leopold and Loeb because of his metaphysical beliefs and how they pertain to crime. These can be learned from his 1922 book Crime: Its Cause and Treatment. Which I think gives a clear insight into why the justice system doesn't serve to reduce or prevent crime.

The book can be viewed on project gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/12027)
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