Morning Links

Friday, January 7th, 2011
  • Man dies in a house fire caused by police deployment of a flash grenade. It’s not the first time this has happened.
  • The last paragraph of this article pretty much sums up my expectations for the new GOP-led House.
  • Some crappy headlines this week. So here is a video of a tired puppy.
  • Curious to know what Agitator readers think of this story. Should it be a crime to exploit a flaw in slot machines? I’m not convinced it should be.
  • While we’re at it, here’s a bit more comments bait. To what degree is a 12-year-old culpable for murder? If you think this kid got what he deserved, at what age would you put the cutoff?
  • I’m quoted in this Boston Herald article about this week’s SWAT killing of Eurie Stamps.

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90 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Mattminus | 

    Do we want 37 year old men,with no skills or prospects, who have literally grown up in prison being released into society?

  2. #2 |  MassHole | 

    I second what Aresen said. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Herald write such an article. Keep up the good work Radley. People are paying attention to what you are saying.

  3. #3 |  Michael | 

    #31 – Include the date of death of the innocents so social conservatives can send out sorry for your loss cards. They’ll feel better for it.

  4. #4 |  Phelps | 

    I think that exploiting a software flaw in slot machines should only be a crime if it is also a crime for the casino to not pay in instances where the machine gives an “unintended” winning with no intentional manipulation by the player.

    It should be a two way street.

  5. #5 |  Matt | 

    Children who get into bad trouble are like that, only more so. They tend to be less mature and have poorer judgement compared to other children their own age. Committing a heinous act doesn’t make them LESS like children, it suggests they’re MORE childlike.

    I don’t buy this. While it’s true children can be impulsive and fail to conceive of the consequences of their actions, this case involves a deliberate killing intended to produce a particular result. It’s a very adult thing to conceive of someone dying as a result of your actions, and then go carry it out.

  6. #6 |  pyo1 | 

    “Really, if we’re going to consider “exploiting a glitch” as fraud, we’re going to have to charge every ”

    EVERY cop, judge, DA, etc… on down the line!

  7. #7 |  Don | 

    Matt #55, it’s not that the child didn’t intend for the other person to die, it’s that the child has no idea of the enormity of what that means, any more than a younger child understands how a small thing like playing with matches can have huge consequences. The fact that the kid was able to plan an action to get a short-term result doesn’t make him an adult. Indeed, he displayed childish, magical thinking in his belief that his parents would get back together if his stepdad died.

  8. #8 |  Michael | 

    #56 You forgot congress, the executive, and supreme court.

  9. #9 |  Athena | 

    Regarding the 12 year old:

    Generally speaking, if we don’t reward kids with adult-like privileges when they are extraordinarily good, we shouldn’t punish them with adult-like sentences when they are extraordinarily bad. As has already been mentioned, kids cannot legally consent and are treated as victims even when they engage in, say, a “consentual” sexual relationship. If we’re going to hold to this line of reason, I think it should be applied consistently. If an adult determined to have the mind of a 12 year old committed a murder, that would typically be considered as a mitigating factor. So, why should an actual 12 year old be treated with less consideration?

    As for where the line should be drawn? I think 18 is reasonable, as society has deemed it reasonable for most everything else. I find it to be a bit arbitrary, but that’s another discussion entirely.

    When it comes to this particular sentence, I would have no problem with it under the following circumstances: As much of the sentence as possible should be served in a juvenile facility and the convict should be parole-eligible. I read some of these comments about how this child’s life is over or wondering what he’ll be capable of upon release if he’s already involved in murder, and I wonder what these people actually know about the juvenile system.

    The juvenile system was created roughly a century ago because society realized even back then that children do not have the capacity that adults do, and they do have a capacity for rehabilitation that adults generally do not. The benefit of the juvenile system can be seen in current statistics. Minors dealt with by the juvenile system reoffend later and less often than those dealt with by the adult system. When it comes to child murders, the rate of recidivism is practically nil.

    This child’s life is not over. With the support of the juvenile system, structure and access to education, he could very well emerge a skillful, productive member of society. Many child murderers do just that.

  10. #10 |  Big A | 

    #47 Marty. Maybe we can settle this by the size of the business. If the business is small enough to make it easy to return an item that was mistakenly sent- you return it. You’re right in that Joe Small Businessman would appreciate the return, but more importantly, he would also be willing to process the return in a non-standard manner (i.e. not give a refund with it). If the business is large enough that the computer won’t allow a return without giving a refund or something like that, then don’t return it. As Dave K said- that’s their punishment for screwing up (and making it difficult for a considerate person to undo their mess).

  11. #11 |  Matt | 

    Magical thinking is also common in adults and it’s no excuse for criminal behavior. It’s the intention in the act, not the likelihood of success, that determine moral culpability. If a child plays with matches and burns down his house he has only caused an accident. If he deliberately sets the house ablaze with his parents inside because they didn’t buy him a toy, then it’s, arguably, murder (although of course each case must be evaluated individually).

  12. #12 |  Robert | 

    A man in Canada (Daniel Corriveau) managed to figure out that a casinos Keno game random number generator was not so random as they thought. he won 600,000 and after some fighting in the courts, got to keep it.

  13. #13 |  B | 

    Well…I think a 12-year-old committing a calculated murder and admitting as much makes a real good case 1) that sentencing guidelines for juveniles should be really flexible, because every case is different, and there is no magical date where moral culpability is conferred, 2) that when a juvenile is incarcerated for a long period of time, a *tremendous* responsibility falls on the state to do everything possible to rehabilitate him into a functional adult, and 3) that a great deal more resources could be put towards that end were the system not overwhelmed with offenders having committed non-violent crimes and things that shouldn’t be crimes at all.

    Prison should be reserved for people we have good reason to be afraid of, not people who we are just mad at or who do things of which only some of us disapprove.

    And just to be clear, a 12-year-old who commits murder in cold blood scares the hell out of me.

  14. #14 |  Brian | 

    Regarding the slot machines, I don’t think this is any different than a hacker using social engineering to get a password, or someone clearing out your bank accounts through fraud.

    I really can’t see how this is the same thing as counting cards.

  15. #15 |  ClubMedSux | 

    While I think there have been good arguments on both sides of the slot machine coin (pun intended), the one I simply can’t buy is the “punishment for being sloppy” argument. By that logic, if I buy a shitty lock for my door and somebody busts it in and robs me blind, then the robber isn’t culpable because that’s what I deserve for buying a shitty lock.

  16. #16 |  Sean L. | 

    If a 12-year-old commits murder, maybe they should postpone the 25-year sentence until he’s 18. Periodically check in with him — If he’s not a threat to others, stays off drugs, has good grades and is on his way to college and a career at that point, then treat it as a juvenile offence and let him be a productive citizen.

  17. #17 |  Brad | 

    The problem with the casino story is all the information left out. Nearly all machines, from slots to coke machines, have diagnostic and fail-safe modes that can sometimes be triggered by pressing certain button sequence combinations. You can find youtube clips of people exploiting these on coke machines and at laundromats.

    Basically what I expect happened was the slot machine has a diagnostic mode for the jackpot that is triggered by pressing a certain button sequence. The existence of this may even be required by the gaming commission for inspections. When this diagnostic mode is triggered the outward appearance of the machine is likely not altered (i.e. mechanisms, lights, sounds appear the same) but the results are not recorded internally in the machine because they are not “real” results, hence the “false jackpots” in the story. I suspect the perpetrators somehow had knowledge of this diagnostic mode and tricked casino employees to unwittingly trigger it by pretending to be high-rollers and getting perks that normal patrons wouldn’t. If this is the case, I think the relevant legal question is how they acquired the knowledge. If they got inside info from someone at the casino, gaming commission, slot manufacturer etc… I feel it’s an obvious case of fraud. If they figured this out through a trial-and-error process then I see it as a legitimate win akin to counting cards (only because they did not alter the machines themselves). However, given the elaborate acts used and the specific knowledge of the slots’ features I don’t find that likely.

  18. #18 |  Don | 

    Matt, you argued that his ability to plan and execute a murder made him culpable. Now you say the fact that he had no plan beyond that, is not mitigating. I think you’re on the right track, just take it farther. Culpability is about being able to appreciate the consequences of his actions, and that includes not just the fact that stepdad ends up dead (he expected that), but the fact that the family is destroyed and he himself goes to prison (which seems to have been a surprise).

    Adults understand that actions have complicated repercussions, so they’re accountable for their actions. Children don’t understand that, because they can’t—their brains aren’t fully developed—so they don’t have adult accountability. This kid is unambigously in with the children, in terms of his thinking and his accountability.

  19. #19 |  Country Woman | 

    I don’t believe that children should be held to the same standards of culpability as adults. It is hypocritical that on one hand a child cannot legally consent to “adult activities”, but still be seen as beyond reform and sentenced to damaging lengthy prison terms. At minimum there should be some mechanism in place for the review and possible revision of the sentence when the child comes of legal age. Every child and circumstance is different.

  20. #20 |  LibertarianBlue | 

    #31 | Michael

    You forget conservatives worship cops like the left worships taxes. You try to talk about police abuse, they brush it off as some left wing plot. The comments on the yahoo article pretty sums up their mentality.

  21. #21 |  Mattocracy | 

    Just because someone is above or below a certain age doesn’t just automatically mean that they understand or don’t understand the seriousness of a crime. It needs to be case by case basis.

    “And just to be clear, a 12-year-old who commits murder in cold blood scares the hell out of me.”

    Word. And I’m not trying to pick a fight with you, but people are also scared of drugs, immigrants, black people, cops, pit bulls, guns, global warming, etc. Being afraid isn’t enough of a reason to restrict liberty from certain people forever. Think about this-do you think he would’ve done this at the age of 18 or 20?

    “Adults understand that actions have complicated repercussions, so they’re accountable for their actions. Children don’t understand that, because they can’t—their brains aren’t fully developed—so they don’t have adult accountability. This kid is unambigously in with the children, in terms of his thinking and his accountability.”

    Word. I agree with you except that none of his friends shot their fucking dad so mom would marry someone else. Given this logic, parents and teachers should be getting knifed and gunned down every other day. I have a hard time imagining this kid and his peers don’t grasp the gravity of murder at their age seeing as how most don’t commit murder.

    There are no good options with a killer child. This isn’t in the same category as making poor decisions with matches or a bb gun. I have hard time saying “He’s just a kid who didn’t know any better” when damn good and well did. And I have a hard time sending him away for 25 years knowing that he’ll never reach full potential for a crime he may not have committed at a more mature age.

  22. #22 |  Don | 

    “I agree with you except that none of his friends shot their fucking dad so mom would marry someone else.” The fact that this child’s bad behavior is unusual, doesn’t make him less of a child. It just makes him an exceptional child (who happened to have access to a gun).

    No one’s saying he didn’t know any better. I’m not, anyway. Nor is anyone saying that he should be going to school with other people’s kids. I AM saying that he should be treated like a child with a (severe) behavior problem, not like an adult criminal.

  23. #23 |  B | 

    And I’m not trying to pick a fight with you, but people are also scared of drugs, immigrants, black people, cops, pit bulls, guns, global warming, etc. Being afraid isn’t enough of a reason to restrict liberty from certain people forever

    Yes, yes…I did say that prison should be reserved for people we have a “good reason” to be afraid of, and I realize that not everyone will define those “good reason” boundaries the same way, but there are probably some boundaries we could set that would be *nearly* universal. I’m pretty sure cold-blooded killers would fall within them.

    At any rate, we could certainly do better than we do now.

    Think about this-do you think he would’ve done this at the age of 18 or 20?

    Fair question, and I of course have no idea. If he developed normally (i.e., improved his sense of empathy and ability to judge consequences) probably not. If he’s a psychopath in training, probably so. Criminal justice has to be reactive, so we can only go based on what he’s done. I don’t think he should go to prison for life, and 25 years may be problematic because he will essentially start adulthood at 37 with a hell of a lot of baggage. But he definitely should go away for a while, and be watched very, very closely.

  24. #24 |  SusanK | 

    I’m surprised at how many people here think a 12-year old is as culpable as an adult. A twelve-year-old is simply not capable of comprehending abstract thoughts like “dead means dead” and “forever”. They only know right from wrong because they were told so, they don’t figure it out on their own.
    If you wouldn’t hire a 12-year old as your doctor or your lawyer, or put them in a position of authority/trust, then you don’t sincerely think they are as smart as adults.
    Also, culpability and punishment are different. Punishment generally isn’t applied in the juvenile justice system since the goal was originally rehabilitation. I think our society has lost that.

  25. #25 |  pam | 

    wow, depressing

  26. #26 |  Mattocracy | 

    “I AM saying that he should be treated like a child with a (severe) behavior problem, not like an adult criminal.”

    I see what you’re saying I’m not trying to pick a fight. I just have a hard time imagining that therapy and counseling is going to unfuck a kid who would resort to such an extreme act in order to control the parts of his life he didn’t like. I realize that you can’t put this in the same category as a hitman killing off rivals for a drug gang, yet it’s so much more than a severe behavorial problem.

    Juvenile hall and heavy progressive counselling (I don’t know what the alternatives are to 25 years, so I’m speculating) don’t seem to carry the kind of accountability one would expect for a capital crime.

    Again, I don’t think there is a good answer. All options seem to be disproportionate to the crime or disregard the mitigating factor of age and maturity. If there is a middle ground in all this, it’s not very wide.

  27. #27 |  Brian | 

    A twelve-year-old is simply not capable of comprehending abstract thoughts like “dead means dead” and “forever”. They only know right from wrong because they were told so, they don’t figure it out on their own.

    Sorry, this doesn’t work when the crime is intentional murder. 12 year olds are perfectly capable of understanding that when you point a gun at a guy’s head and pull the trigger, he doesn’t just go away for a while. And 12 year olds know that killing innocent people is wrong, unless they have some kind of mental disability.

    Now, if the case was a 12 year old convicted of negligent manslaughter (12 year old thinks it’d be a really fun idea to play cops and robbers with the loaded pistol he found in the alley, for example), then you have a point. But you don’t have to have a fully formed moral philosophy to know that intentional murder is permanent and wrong.

  28. #28 |  Gerald A | 

    What if I want to the ATM right after you and you forgot to “log out”. Can I empty out your account, keep the money and say it’s your own fault?. You drop your wallet with $2000 in it, do I keep it because it’s your fault?

    Maybe I was brought up different, but if you keep something you’re not entitled to, you’re a thief.

    For the record, I found a wallet with $2400 in a bar. It was returned to the owner.

  29. #29 |  Big A | 

    Gerald- I agree about returning wallets etc- I do the same. But at the same time, if someone did take the money from a found wallet, I don’t think that’s a crime. Just bad karma.

  30. #30 |  Michael | 

    #70 | LibertarianBlue

    I don’t intend to give the conservatives a pass. I thought:

    Have you considered publishing a book/booklet on police violence and the innocent people killed? Something simple that is inexpensive and can be passed out to the social conservatives. Include the date of death of the innocents so social conservatives can send out sorry for your loss cards. They’ll feel better for it.

    to be pretty clear.

  31. #31 |  pris | 

    Who is responsible for the health care bills when the police mistakenly shoot the wrong person or shoot an animal?

  32. #32 |  perlhaqr | 

    Don: Child or not, or possibly even especially so, what would you have done with them? You certainly don’t want to be teaching a child who will presumably grow up that he can get away with murder. (Literally, in this case.)

    Putting him in prison so he ends up on the streets at 37 having grown up in prison is clearly a terrible idea, too.

    As a practical matter, I find myself at least nodding towards ChristianLibertarian’s “eye for an eye” notion, just because at least it solves the problem of “not punishing him” and “generating a sociopath we’ll have to live with later”.

    Some sort of choice, given to the parents, whether the kid dies or they all go into exile. We need more desert islands we can set up coventry facilities on.

  33. #33 |  Tim Vande | 

    I remember reading something in Sport Illustrated in the 90’s that some people got charged after they came up with a computer algorithm that would pick a better line on sporting events than the casinos did. I think winning in Vegas is against the law.

  34. #34 |  El Scorcho | 

    I see the casino story like this:

    Imagine a poker table in a casino where you could see all the cards as they are dealt if you sat in a certain spot. Is this dishonest – I would say yes. Is it illegal? I don’t see how it would be.

    I also notice in cases like this, many tangentially applicable charges will be thrown at the guys because the act was not inherently illegal, but seems unfair.

  35. #35 |  Marshall | 

    Re casino software, I’m thinking about the automated stock market trading programs, some of which are arbitragers designed to take advantage of procedural flaws in the market.
    Steal thousands and go to jail. Steal millions and get a bonus.

  36. #36 |  Chris in AL | 

    The fact that the kid thought the murder would get mommy and daddy back together shows that he was thinking like a 12 year old, not an adult.

    And count me among those that just don’t accept the double standard. If you are mentally and socially and morally developed enough to be held to the same behavioral standards as an adult when it comes to a crime than you are developed enough to benefit from the privileges of adulthood, like voting, signing contracts, having a beer and consensual sex. You can’t be only smart enough for the bad but not smart enough for the good.

  37. #37 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Hmmm…the ex-cop in the casino glitch will get the least amount of charges.

    Professional courtesy!

  38. #38 |  Chance | 

    Pre-teen Children should not be held to adult criminal culpability standards in any circumstances. The evidence is pretty definitive that they simply do not have the same impulse control or critical thinking capabilities to have criminal intent.

    Age cutoff? I’ve seen plenty of people here argue that a one size fits all policy for things like BAC are not fair, and should depend on the individual and circumstances. I feel that way about child crime. In one case it may be proven that a 16 year old knew exactly what they were doing, and in another case a 19 year old may not be culpable.

  39. #39 |  BSK | 

    “For the 12 year-old murderer, an eye for an eye is fine with me. In a true Judeo-Christian ethic, prison is out of the question, and the family of the victim should get to decide what the punishment should be. I fail to see why the state even needs to be involved with this.”

    You have a gross misunderstanding of the “eye for an eye” tenet.

  40. #40 |  BSK | 

    Big A-

    So if you leave your door open and someone yanks your TV, is that just bad karma? If a woman falls asleep with her pants down and ass up in the air and some drunk frat boy helps himself to her, is that bad karma? As the previous poster said, taking something that does not belong to you is theft, plain and simple. Even if taking it is easy.