Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Monday, April 28, 2008

  Lock up the *ssholes

A favorite reader, ABD, writes in:



Every so often someone I know bisects the world in a way that makes me say, wow, let's extend that thought to everything. What if we reduced the moral basis for law and instead instituted penalties for various degrees of assholeness?

First, we'd see a return to civil society. People would be polite and respectful of one another, for fear of being prosecuted by their peers. Jury trials would be more effective, as determining if someone is an asshole or not is easily proven within a few days on the stand.

It doesn't matter how good a lawyer you have if the principal criterion on the stand is not the facts, but your attitude.

We'd end up with a kinder, gentler society, admittedly with a lot more people (from all walks of life) either in prison or attending charm school, or both.


So, this leads me up to two pieces of news of today:

Hans Reiser has been convicted of first degree murder, and faces 25 years to life in prison.

I found most of the circumstantial evidence against him tenuous at best, as I wrote when he first took the stand, but there was enough of it by the end for me to think second degree murder a likely outcome. There did not seem to be any evidence of premeditation, indeed, purchasing the books he purchased a week after his wife's disappearance suggested not only innocence, but lack of pre-mediation. He may have hated her, but he hadn't planned out killing her.

The internet thought differently, a poll of wired readers showed 62% not guilty. This reminds me
of a study done years ago (don't know the name of it) where trials were recreated for new juries by using purely recorded audio, and via using transcripts only.

In this case the transcript readers voted not guilty, those that got to see the legal theatrics and the man in person voted the maximum penalty.

If Reiser hadn't taken the stand and proved himself an asshole of the first degree, perhaps he'd have got off more lightly. I'm glad he took the stand and had a chance to defend himself in his own words, in his own internal framework. Sometimes the dialog became surreal, yet eloquent, with a hard edge of truth that rang outside the narrowness of the case itself:



I understand, now, in the adversarial justice system America has, why lawyers counsel not taking the stand in your own defense.

Reiser will appeal, but we won't be hearing from him much, although I imagine he'll become another Birdman of Alcatraz. Given good behavior in prison, Reiser will be able to access a computer again, although it will probably be running Windows.

Given the DoD connection, I doubt that his hard drives will ever be heard from again.

I don't think we'll ever know if he was truly guilty of anything more than being an asshole.


In other news, the first piece of hard evidence towards abuse at the FLDS settlement has been announced to the press. (I note that the individuals involved have been banned from talking to the press). Apparently 31 of the 54 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have been or were pregnant.

I want to make clear that I don't approve of old men sleeping with 14 year olds, OK? I do note that that that was legal under Texas law until 2006. I do note that spread of the figures immediately suspicious, and biased toward the prosecution: Why not publish numbers for 14,15 (clearly illegal under current law), 16 (maybe), 17 (not)...

As a blogger, and a person, my empathy always goes towards the underdogs. In this case my immediate view was to respect religious tolerance. Anytime I see police tanks roll up to a settlement (and I refuse to call the place a compound, the pictures show otherwise), my head fills up with scenes from Warsaw in 1939, one place among many, where people were different enough to be enslaved and gassed.

My thinking here has evolved somewhat, based on new evidence and research, but its too much to go into in one posting.

The thing is: I believe in the law; it's all we have that keeps us even mildly civil to each other.

And I freely confess that I may have been an asshole.

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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