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May 10, 2017

"Life Without Redemption: When 1 in 7 U.S. inmates is serving a life term, it's time to rethink our failed crime policies"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new commentary authored by Ashley Nellis and Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project which serves as a kind of follow-up to its recent report on life sentencing (discussed here). Here are excerpts:

A new report from our organization, The Sentencing Project, finds that an astounding 206,000 people — 1 in 7 people in prison — is serving a life term, including with or without the possibility of parole, and so-called "virtual" life sentences, where the offender faces 50 years or more. Overall, the per capita rate at which the U.S. uses life imprisonment nearly equals the entire prison population of several industrialized nations.

The number of "lifers" in prison — nearly 5 times the figure in 1984 — is an outgrowth of the movement to "get tough" that characterized sentencing policies in the 1980s and 1990s.  Along with the spread of mandatory sentencing, "three strikes" and other harsh policies, states and the federal government have increasingly sentenced individuals to life in prison.

These figures come at a moment when calls to end mass incarceration abound throughout the nation.  Despite the new punitive policy shift at the federal level led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, many lawmakers, practitioners and civil rights organizations are advocating for a sizable reduction in what is now seen as a bloated and ineffective prison complex.  Yet the increasing use of life imprisonment suggests that substantial reductions in incarceration will be limited unless policymakers address the punishments at the deep end of the system for crimes that include violence, along with the more politically salable offenses involving drugs.

Most people serving life have been convicted of serious crimes, but among the population are over 17,000 persons convicted of nonviolent offenses and another 12,000 who were under 18 at the time of their crime. In three states, California, Utah and Louisiana, 1 in 3 prisoners is serving a life or virtual life sentence....

As is true of the justice system generally, racial and ethnic disparities are also profound among the lifer population. Today, two-thirds of those serving life are people of color.  While these individuals have generally been convicted of serious crimes, they are frequently sentenced to life imprisonment due to a prior criminal record through mechanisms such as habitual offender laws, more likely to be imposed on minorities.  Life in prison after a "third strike" might seem reasonable, but it fails to incorporate an understanding of the role of concentrated poverty, aggressive law enforcement and implicit bias that contribute to these criminal histories.

Prior recent related post:

May 10, 2017 at 10:29 AM | Permalink

Comments

Here we go. The profession finished off the death penalty. Life sentences are next, but far more numerous and lucrative.

Posted by: David Behar | May 10, 2017 10:46:24 AM

There are countries with better overall criminal justice policies than ours and they also don't have a death penalty. Probably connected in my view. Overall, in the future, I think our criminal justice system will be seen as barbaric as Dr. McCoy thought our medical system was in Star Trek IV.

Posted by: Joe | May 10, 2017 10:48:09 AM

Although I am hardly a follower of the Marxist School, in this area its views have great force:

"The legal system is an apparatus that is created to secure the interests of the dominant class. Contrary to conventional belief, law is a tool of the ruling class. The legal system provides the mechanism for the forceful and violent control of the rest of the population. In the course of the battle, the agents of the law serve as the military
force for the protection of domestic order. Hence, the state and its accompanying legal system reflect and serve the needs of the ruling class. The primary interest of the ruling class is to preserve the existing capitalist order. This is accomplished ultimately by means of the legal system."

Richard Quinney, "Crime Control in Capitalist Society," in Ian Taylor, Paul Walton, and Jock Young, eds., Critical Criminology (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975), pp. 192–93, 195.

Posted by: Emily | May 10, 2017 11:00:03 AM

Joe,

Our criminal justice system will never hold a candle to the barbarity of what is happening on our urban streets.

Our CJS numbers are driven mainly by the feral gang youth (16-30) inhabiting our cities, a problem much more severe here than in most other countries. We should have zero interest in having them anywhere near us until we find an acceptable way of keeping them from becoming feral in the first place. Unfortunately, doves are no match for barbarity.

How many strikes should they get? Do you volunteer yourself and your family to be the next victim of one of the additional strikes?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 10, 2017 3:10:29 PM

Comparing masses of people to animals is probably not going to help us toward a more civilized public policy in that department.

The people who are most at risk here don't support that mentality and believe -- accepting that a certain segment of people after correctly processed deserve to be in prison -- our current criminal justice system has lots of problems. The drug policy, if only a segment of the problem, a major example. It also requires a major change in social policy to address some of these things.

Finally, my own state has determined having the death penalty net isn't worth it. It has not made us less safe than those with it for that reason.

Posted by: Joe | May 10, 2017 3:44:10 PM

Joe. What about comparing people to sneaky weasels, and cold blooded reptiles? Then what about rounding them up, and getting rid of the vermin? Once rid of the vermin, loose the public on the criminals, and kill them all. What about that?

Posted by: David Behar | May 10, 2017 6:27:14 PM

Emily. Those experiments have been done.

First, turn off the rule of law, you are now in Fallujah. You are spending your entire day on physical survival, and can achieve nothing else. This experiment settled the question 30,000 years ago. Get with the times.

Then, all socialist and Communist societies have caused massive poverty, and untold wealth for the top 1%. On the other hand, the smallest dose of capitalism raised a billion people in China and in India, from abject poverty. They are getting so rich, they will soon be able to buy us out. One change in our favor, is they are imitating us and increasing the number of their lawyers. That should chortle their nascent economies in their cribs.

Posted by: David Behar | May 10, 2017 6:33:30 PM

Joe stated: "Comparing masses of people to animals is probably not going to help us toward a more civilized public policy in that department."

Please come up with a phrase that better describes our inner cities AND is more accurate. I dare you. Lying is not "civilized." Just as I refuse to completely ignore science and pretend that a boy is a girl in spite of the factual nature of chromosomes or that a human life begins anywhere else but soon after conception when every embryology textbook says so, I refuse to euphemize behavior that is best described by the word feral.

You stated: "The people who are most at risk here don't support that mentality and believe --..."

Yep, because they have been told for two generations by people like you that their problems are everyone else's fault but their own. The success of propaganda is not proof that the propaganda is correct.

You stated: "Finally, my own state has determined having the death penalty net isn't worth it. It has not made us less safe than those with it for that reason."

I thought this thread was about life sentences.

I also note that you never answered my questions.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 10, 2017 7:21:54 PM

TarIsQtr: You state, "that a human life begins... soon after conception when every embryology textbook says so," Secular embryology textbook do not recognize a starting point for human life; at most they suggest that life begins "over time," and certainly not shortly after conception. Please keep your religious views of this website. Keep them to yourself and in your church.

Posted by: Emily | May 10, 2017 8:52:46 PM

Emily. Are you a feminist? Don't be ashamed, be proud. Feminism is to 2017 what the KKK was to 1917. Both are false lawyer ideologies. Both are made politically correct by appellate court decisions. Both are white supremacy false ideologies, because whites are not inherently superior. Both resulted in the deaths of thousands of black males. The KKK lynched 5000 men over 100 years. The feminist lawyer orchestrates the excess murders of 5000 black males a year. So, it is 100 times more lethal to black males than the KKK. As a result of feminism, kill a white, get death. Kill a black, get a few years. Now, the lawyer attack on long sentences is starting, as this post proposes.

Speaking of racism, one is more likely to find a pro-black or a pro-Jew post on the David Duke website, than a pro-victim post on this lawyer pro-criminal blog. The odds of either is close to nil.

Posted by: David Behar | May 10, 2017 10:40:47 PM

Emily, you little fascist you.

1) You do not own this website and have no authority to tell me to "keep (my) religious views" off of it.

2) They are scientific, not religious views.

3) Throughout the history of this country (until very recently), religious views were expected, not excluded by tin pot fascists like you.

As to your point. Here are the views of three notable embryology textbooks, quoted and referenced.

“Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” (Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. pp. 16, 2.)

“Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.” (Signorelli et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, CELL TISSUE RES. 349(3):765, March 20, 2012.)

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte” (Emphasis added; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Mueller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000, p. 8).

YOUR turn. And I am not talking about Bill Nye or some politicized doctor, three EMBRYOLOGY TEXTBOOKS.

The science is clear and you are denying it.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 11, 2017 7:19:48 AM

Just an aside to Doug.

I make a scientific statement of reality and 1) Get accused of putting forth a "religious argument", and 2) Get told that religious views are only acceptable in church, contrary to hundreds of years of history and legal precedent on this continent.

Not to mention, she is clearly a "science denier."

Yet, you wonder why I call this place a "cesspool." Emily provides a perfect example. ;-)

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 11, 2017 7:38:51 AM

"Please come up with a phrase that better describes our inner cities AND is more accurate."

The problems of our inner cities is not merely as result of gang activity to begin with, so that wasn't very accurate as a generalization as is. But, to the degree gang activity is involved, it is a result of human beings acting in certain ways, a mixture in itself. They are not non-human animals. They are not merely "feral" beings. I'm not "lying." That implies ill motive; but not lying to myself either. You can "dare" me all you want. Tough boy talk isn't overly useful either.

"Yep, because they have been told for two generations by people like you that their problems are everyone else's fault but their own. The success of propaganda is not proof that the propaganda is correct."

I'm dared to open myself to be a victim to test my beliefs but this doesn't suggest much respect for actual victims. They are allegedly deluded sorts not aware of their well being. Repeatedly, I'm told here my views disrespect victims. But, when victims agree with me, it turns out they are wrong too. Anyway, don't accept the premises.

"I thought this thread was about life sentences."

It is about the proper approach to public safety, so the death penalty is relevant, in part because it is all interrelated as I noted.

"I also note that you never answered my questions."

Any implication that they get "free" strikes is denied. I said that with the appropriate procedures in place, confinement would be appropriate in various cases. I am unable in a single comment to provide some exact formula here. Finally, I noted in general that I disagree, as do those who live in inner cities in general, with your overall public policy approach as a means to guard against "strikes."

Since the questions are a bit hard to take totally seriously anyway, I note that is good enough for me.

Posted by: Joe | May 11, 2017 3:04:15 PM

Tarls, I always am grateful when you mix it up in the comments here, and I hope your winking smiley face is a sign you are enjoying being a part of the mix. For the record and despite the enduring challenges posed by David, I continue to try to encourage a diverse array of folks in this space to engage in respectful dynamic dialogue, even if that includes sharp language and misstatements and obvious efforts to raise off-topic issues that will get under the skin of some readers.

In particular, Tarls, I trust you expected to --- and obviously did --- get a rise out of some folks by referencing "feral gang youth" and then the off-topic concerns of gender identity and when life begins. Obviously, I welcome and encourage commenters to share scientific statements and religious arguments and every other insight or perspective they may have in service to advancing a diverse and productive dialogue about public policy issues relating to crime and punishment.

How you choose to characterize the commenters and commentary in this space is up to you, but I hope you will continue to mix it up as your time and energy and interest permits.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 11, 2017 3:55:03 PM

Joe stated: "The problems of our inner cities is not merely as result of gang activity to begin with, so that wasn't very accurate as a generalization as is."

What a coincidence. I never actually SAID it was "merely" a result of gang activity. I said it was "mainly", an accurate assessment that can be backed up with actual data.

http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/FedCrimes/story?id=6773423

From the article: "As many as 1 million gang members are believed responsible for as much as 80 percent of crime in America -- and the gangs are spreading across the country, according to a Justice Department gang threat assessment.

Approximately "1 million gang members belonging to more than 20,000 gangs were criminally active within all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of September 2008," the report says.

"Criminal gangs commit as much as 80 percent of the crime in many communities, according to law enforcement officials throughout the nation," the report notes as part of its key findings. "Typical gang-related crimes include alien smuggling, armed robbery, assault, auto theft, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud, home invasions, identity theft, murder and weapons trafficking."

So, Joe, please don't mischaracterize what I said. I assume you are an honest person who will apologize for doing so and admit that there is very strong data to back up my original statement.

Is my assumption correct?

Joe stated: "But, to the degree gang activity is involved, it is a result of human beings acting in certain ways, a mixture in itself. They are not non-human animals. They are not merely "feral" beings."

I note that you did not come up with a more descriptive and accurate phrase. Tell us how to better describe MS 13 gang members beating (and killing) individuals in the street. Need videos? I saw and worked with these people on a daily basis and can assure you it is accurate despite your delicate sensibilities gained from watching MSNBC specials about them.

You stated: "I'm not "lying." That implies ill motive; but not lying to myself either."

Sure you are, like when you claimed that I said urban crime was cause "merely" by gang violence. As far as naming the threat of feral urban children, I concede that you could just be childishly naive.

Joe stated: "You can "dare" me all you want. Tough boy talk isn't overly useful either.""

I agree, but it is not "tough boy talk." There was no threat of violence, just an attempt to get you to find a better and more accurate phrase, which you could not even do.

You state: "I'm dared to open myself to be a victim to test my beliefs but this doesn't suggest much respect for actual victims. They are allegedly deluded sorts not aware of their well being. Repeatedly, I'm told here my views disrespect victims. But, when victims agree with me, it turns out they are wrong too. Anyway, don't accept the premises."

You confuse "respect" with agreeing with or conceding some type of moral authority to their policy desires. You disrespect victims because you give almost no consideration to their well being in favor of criminals. My motives ARE their well being whether they agree or not.

Joe stated: "Any implication that they get "free" strikes is denied. I said that with the appropriate procedures in place, confinement would be appropriate in various cases. I am unable in a single comment to provide some exact formula here. Finally, I noted in general that I disagree, as do those who live in inner cities in general, with your overall public policy approach as a means to guard against "strikes."

Since the questions are a bit hard to take totally seriously anyway, I note that is good enough for me."

Vague word salad that means absolutely nothing and does little but provide a very thin veneer to imply that you want to keep bad people in prison knowing that you have every desire to let out as many as possible out of our "barbaric" system by gutting the "appropriate procedures" you claim to support.

BTW, your generalization about what inner city denizens want is far more inaccurate than my factual statement about inner city crime "mainly" being caused by gangs.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 12, 2017 10:34:42 AM

Joe, I do give you credit for showing up even with a losing hand.

It's more than Emily could muster. Bueller? Bueller?

I'm sure she will be back with those quotes from three embryology textbooks any minute...

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 12, 2017 10:36:47 AM

Doug,

I have to push back at the assertion that when life begins and human sexuality are off topic. It's an overarching theme from the left, to change the language and plain meaning of words. Joe cringes at "feral" not because he cares about how it may make some people feel, he cringes because it is an accurate assessment of their behavior. The other topics I brought up are two more examples of this. If they can get the rest of us to pretend that life begins at birth and that a boy can be a girl, it is an easy step to get their policy desires fulfilled. The truth is their enemy. Other obvious examples include "undocumented alien" and "investment" instead of "spending." Joe likes Orwellian language.

The point of my post to you (and this one) is to outline and show why I made the statement months ago that you took such offense to. Not counting you, I have been engaged by two of your posters. Both outright lied about what I said.

1) Emily said I made a "religious argument" when I did no such thing. She brought up religion, not me. I suspect she did so because the scientific argument is so one-sided in my favor.

2) Joe stated that I claimed urban crime was caused only (he used the word "merely" which means "just") by gangs. I never said that. I used the word "mainly", which is backed up by DOJ data.

I feel that my original assessment is vindicated.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 12, 2017 10:55:16 AM

Tarls, that folks have misrepresented what you said in the course of a heated discussion does not, in my view, vindicate your "original assessment" that nearly all commenters here (save federalist) are part a "liberal cesspool" of persons "who hate Amerikkka." Moreover, you are seemingly guilty of a similar misrepresentation, as Emily never in fact said you made a "religious argument." Rather, she asked you to "please keep your religious views of this website." I do not think that your misquote here serves to make you a "liar" or a member of a "cesspool"; it is just something that goes back and forth in a heated discourse.

More to the point, I am still struggling to understand any basis for you to brand Emily and Joe, based on their comments here, as haters of America. I get that you think the left likes to embrace Orwellian techniques to further their agenda. But your assertion that most commentors "here Amerikkka" strikes me as a McCarthy-like effort to make illegitimate a certain type of dissent and discourse.

I say all this not to tell you should or should not discuss particular topics is particular ways, but only to highlight that your own (and others') disdain for opposing comments here tends to run in every direction --- as David Behar often helps demonstrate. And that is why I do not moderate, but rather try to keep this comment space as free and open as possible. And I hope you continue to engage here because I learn something everytime that you do.

Posted by: Doug B | May 12, 2017 1:11:15 PM

Doug,

Stop the liaring, I mean lawyering. This is EXACTLY how you contribute to the cesspool nature of your blog.

I NEVER brought up religion. What the hell do you think, "Keep your religious views off this website" means? It is clearly implying that I was making a religious argument, which I never did. There is absolutely no credible argument that she was doing anything else. If you have one, bring it.

And, no, an honest paraphrase of her statement is not a misquote.

That you could deny this is absolutely perplexing. Not everything is black and white but this is. I never brought up religion. In fact, I used an expressly SCIENTIFIC argument, including quotes from embryology textbooks and you dishonestly choose to parse my paraphrasing of her? Unreal.

Using terse language is something that happens in a "heated discourse." Saying that someone is doing the exact opposite of what he did should not be. That's a lie. I know she was wrong. You know she was wrong. Heck, even she knows she is wrong which is probably at least one of the reasons she disappeared (another being the mountain of scientific evidence against her position).

Just as you (and Joe) know I never said that gangs are the ONLY cause of urban violence but he had no credible argument, so he pretended I did.

You have an unattractive habit of complaining about the dishonest rhetoric of our political class while doing everything from turning a blind eye (Joe) to lying in defense (Emily) of those who agree with you. Our politicians are a symptom of our cultural rot, which attorneys (and law school professors) pay no small part in.

I know that winning an argument at all costs is embedded in the DNA of everyone in your profession. For once, put that aside and look at actual facts. Let the truth lead you instead of results. Emily was wrong. Joe was wrong. Now, so are you.

A few simple questions. Should not take much more than a "yes" or "no" or a one or two word phrase.

1) Was my argument about the origins of life made from a scientific or religious point of view?

2) Was I correct that gang violence is a main driver of urban crime?

3) Did I say that gang violence was the only driver/cause of urban crime?

4) According to embryology textbooks, when does a human life begin?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 12, 2017 2:14:57 PM

Doug stated: "Tarls, that folks have misrepresented what you said in the course of a heated discussion does not, in my view, vindicate your "original assessment" that nearly all commenters here (save federalist) are part a "liberal cesspool" of persons "who hate Amerikkka.""

More dishonesty.

Here are my words: "Yet, you wonder why I call this place a "cesspool." Emily provides a perfect example."

I only attached them to "cesspool", not hating Amerikkka.

That said, the rarity of any compliments towards their country does make me wonder. You cannot exactly make a great argument that Joe has a great love for the country he describes as having a "barbaric" criminal justice system while getting offended at calling those who slaughter each other on the streets "feral." Oh, the ironknee!

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 12, 2017 2:25:29 PM

Tarls, what is with the labels "dishonesty" and "outright lied" in this context? Were you being dishonest and engaging in an outright lie when you put "religious argument" in quotes TWICE to suggest this is what Emily said when in fact she said no such thing? As the comment thread reveals, she said "religious views" and you claim you made an "honest paraphrase." But just as you apparently feel it fair to "imply" that she accused you of making a religious argument, she may have thought it fair to imply that your scientific argument was influenced by your "religious views."

Are your arguments, Tarls, ever influenced by "religious views"? Is someone a "facist" if they might (rightly or wrongly) believe that someone's views on when life begins is influenced by "religious views"?

My point is NOT that you are dishonest or a liar, but rather that you, in the course of this discussion, have engaged in the kind of heated discourse conduct that leads you to attack others. You say everyone else is "wrong" for how they view/interpret what you say, but then resist the suggestion that you might be wrong in how you view/interpret what others say. That's fine, if it suits you to throw stones from you glass house, especially when interacting with lawyers whom you plainly (like David Behar) hold in low esteem. But, especially when you throw around labels like facist and cesspool and dishonesty and liar, the mixture of hypocrisy and disrespect strikes me as distasteful and, in a sense, un-American.

Now, on to your "simple questions":

1. I saw you were making a point about science, but about a topic that people often rely on religious sources to bolster a particular perspective.

2. The statement that "gang violence is the main drive of urban crime" is a highly contestable statement because every term here is itself contested in the literature. More to the point, you reference to youngster (16-30) is an indisputably accurate accounting of urban (and rural) crimes of all sorts. For more on the gang front, here is a link to the FBI's most recent gang assesstment: https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/national-gang-report-2015.pdf/view But, at the risk of you accusing me of too much nuance, I will readily say gangs and their violent behavior --- interwined and somewhat enhanced by drug activity --- is a huge part of the story of crime in cities.

3. You did NOT say that gang violence was the only driver of violent crime (just like Emily did NOT say you were making a "religious argument."

4. I do not own any embryology textbooks, so I cannot answer this question. But I am disinclined to assume or call you "dishonest" or any other names on this point or others.

Posted by: Doug B | May 12, 2017 5:25:37 PM

Doug stated: "Tarls, what is with the labels "dishonesty" and "outright lied" in this context? Were you being dishonest and engaging in an outright lie when you put "religious argument" in quotes TWICE to suggest this is what Emily said when in fact she said no such thing?"

Ever hear of "air quotes?" As a professor, you should know that quotation marks are used for more than direct quotes. For example, they can be used in paraphrasing. She was accusing me of making a "religious argument" even if she never used those words. Your argument here is an absurd red herring. Even if I had attempted to attribute a direct quote to her, it is at best a process foul. It did not change the meaning of her statement. She DID accuse me of making a religious argument, which was never made.

You stated: "But just as you apparently feel it fair to "imply" that she accused you of making a religious argument, she may have thought it fair to imply that your scientific argument was influenced by your "religious views.""

More nonsense. I implied no such thing. She DID accuse me of making a religious argument. It's clear. She told me to keep my religious views off this website. She did not "imply" that I did. She SAID I did even if she used different words to say it. You are not this dumb.

You stated: "Are your arguments, Tarls, ever influenced by "religious views"?"

Of course. So what? I made a scientific argument here. There was not a whiff of religiosity in my statement. That my faith happens to coincide with the science is an irrelevancy that has nothing to do with this debate. I agree with science. She does not. That is all that is relevant. Stop the waterfall of logical fallacies.

You stated: " Is someone a "facist" if they might (rightly or wrongly) believe that someone's views on when life begins is influenced by "religious views"?"

Again, that is not the right question. I did not make a religious argument. I made a scientific one. You debate the points made, not ones you wish others made. It is also a sign of the weakness of her (and seemingly your) argument. She cannot engage me on the chosen field, so bring in red herrings.

BTW, yes, someone IS a budding fascist when they tell you to shut up and keep religious views in your home and church rather than a website she does not own.

Do you agree with such comments?

You stated: "My point is NOT that you are dishonest or a liar, but rather that you, in the course of this discussion, have engaged in the kind of heated discourse conduct that leads you to attack others. You say everyone else is "wrong" for how they view/interpret what you say, but then resist the suggestion that you might be wrong in how you view/interpret what others say."

Please, Doug, what did I interpret incorrectly?

Emily's comment was NOT an attempt to say I was making a religious argument? Please tell me what the hell she was trying to say then.

She is "wrong" because I did no such thing, which any honest reader can see. Just as I did not say that all urban crime is caused by gangs, which Joe said I did. It's hilarious. You keep implying that I am interpreting comments wrong but you have not even tried to come up with a credible counter interpretation.

You stated: "That's fine, if it suits you to throw stones from you glass house, especially when interacting with lawyers whom you plainly (like David Behar) hold in low esteem."

Again, show the glass house and what I interpreted wrong. Making accusations is not the same as supporting them. And this conversation is exactly why I hold lawyers in low esteem. You are too smart to not know you are wrong. Yet, you cannot admit it.

You stated: "But, especially when you throw around labels like facist and cesspool and dishonesty and liar, the mixture of hypocrisy and disrespect strikes me as distasteful and, in a sense, un-American."

So, Doug, what is more un-American? Me calling Emily a fascist or her saying that religion can only be expressed in home or church? Is that what the constitution and hundreds of years of legal analysis says? You don't see ANY whiff of fascism in, " Please keep your religious views of this website. Keep them to yourself and in your church.?"

Seriously?

What is more disrespectful? Me calling Emily and Joe a liar or them making the lie and never coming back to at least clear the record?

And you have absolutely zero evidence of hypocrisy (although we all are guilty of it to an extent). Emily made a claim that just was not true. I made no religious argument. My paraphrasing of her comment was accurate.

You stated: "1. I saw you were making a point about science, but about a topic that people often rely on religious sources to bolster a particular perspective."

OK, what "religious source" did I use to "bolster" my perspective? Quote me using that source.

And, let's assume this was an economics debate and Emily made a free market argument in favor of a point often made by communists. Would it then be fair for me to accuse her of making a communist argument and that she should keep her communist views in North Korea? Because THAT is exactly what you are defending with your "logic."

You stated: "2. The statement that "gang violence is the main drive of urban crime" is a highly contestable statement because every term here is itself contested in the literature. More to the point, you reference to youngster (16-30) is an indisputably accurate accounting of urban (and rural) crimes of all sorts. For more on the gang front, here is a link to the FBI's most recent gang assesstment: https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/national-gang-report-2015.pdf/view But, at the risk of you accusing me of too much nuance, I will readily say gangs and their violent behavior --- interwined and somewhat enhanced by drug activity --- is a huge part of the story of crime in cities."

In other words, you agree with me. Why? Because the data is overwhelmingly in my favor.

3) "3. You did NOT say that gang violence was the only driver of violent crime (just like Emily did NOT say you were making a "religious argument.""

BS. There is no other credible interpretation and you have not supplied one. "Get your religious views off this website because they belong only in your home and church" (an accurate paraphrase) IS a statement that the argument I made was a religious one.

It wasn't.

You stated: "4. I do not own any embryology textbooks, so I cannot answer this question. But I am disinclined to assume or call you "dishonest" or any other names on this point or others."

Don't be a weasel. Not that it matters to you, but I find Bill's respect for you more and more misguided. You saw my quotes above. Furthermore, as a law professor at a major university we all know that you have access to just about any embryology textbook in circulation from the same computer you typed your response to me and can have it in less time than it took to type it.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 12, 2017 8:20:14 PM

One more point.

You seem to be making the absurd claim that Emily was not accusing me of making a religious argument but that my response to her was somehow based on religion even though there was not a whiff of religiosity in it, only science. At least that is what I think you are saying, as your argument is necessarily logically muddled.

Let's assume that absurdity as arguendo.

Is the same then true of the textbook authors? Is it then your claim that they, even though they are looking to get books published by a very liberal profession, were blind to science and made those statements out of misguided religiosity? Are you claiming they are wrong on the science? Would you encourage your students to make such a leap and dismiss scientific evidence in order to make an unsubstantiated claim of religious influence? After all, THAT is what the entire debate comes down to.

On whose side does the science fall on? Emily or me? If you don't trust my sources, take 5 minutes and look up your own on the OSU website that we all know you have access to. Stop playing dumb.

The same is true with Joe regarding urban crime, although you have begrudgingly taken my side already.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 13, 2017 6:53:29 AM

Tarls, yet again, you show in your second post that you do a variation of what you attack others for doing. I have NOT claimed that "Emily was not accusing [you] of making a religious argument [or] that [your] response to her was somehow based on religion." I said simply that you made a misrepresentation for putting in quotes twice something that a person did not actually say. Now you say these were "air quotes" and that this was "at best a process foul." Fine, but after you admit you were procedurally wrong in your use of quotes, you then suggest I am making an "absurd claim" that I am not making at all. My point was just to call out a (quite small) mistake you made, and I did so to suggest merely that you resist harshly judging Joe and Emily for mistakes they might make in the course of a heated blog comment back-and-forth.

As for what Emily said, I surmise she did not accept your assertion about the science coming from scientific texts AND assumed that you had brought up this (seemingly off-topic) reference point because of your "religious views." (You whistle past the data-based reality that people who bring up when life begins are often influenced by "religious views," so it is not obviously misguided or evil to assume a link here.) That said, I think it was quite impolite for Emily to urge you or anyone else to keep their religious views off this forum. But I also think it impolite to brand Emily a "fascist" for one comment, or for anyone to brand you or Bill Otis or David Behar a "fascist" or other names based on some blog comments.

Put simply, I am not a fan of name calling in this context or others. But I am also not a fan of policing how others name-call in this forum because my time and energy is limited, and I do not want to spend time judging whether "weasel" or "reptile" or "KKK" are permissible adjectives while others are not. Perhaps it is all the name-calling here that what leads you to conclude that the people who use this forum "hate America," but you seem effective at name-calling and I do not think you hate America.

The comment about folks here hating America (not the "cesspool" comment) is what makes you in my mind, Tarls, a variation on Emily. She interpreted your comment about life beginning as a statement influenced by religious views. You took her to task, called her names, and she went away. Meanwhile, you seemingly interpret comments by others here as influenced by hatred toward America, but based only really on criticism of the American CJ system. How in any logical way does that evince hatred for the USA and more than your life begins comment reveal religiosity?

Finally, I am not looking up the embryology textbooks because I trust your statements here and I can barely find time to look up things that interest me. And I am not trying to be "begrudging" in this respect or others, but rather just want to spend my limited time trying to better understand what makes you tick and makes you so disdainful of others (myself included). In so doing, I find interesting that you are seemingly eager to have me read up on embryology textbooks. I trust your representations here and I appreciate your affinity for science, as well as your vigor in defending what you say and believe. As I have said repeatedly in this thread, I hope you continue to swim in this "pool."

Posted by: Doug B | May 13, 2017 12:55:31 PM

Doug, you have said repeatedly that she did not say I was making a religious argument. You do not get to now say you never made such a claim and get to be taken seriously. You did.

Whether or not I put "religious argument" in quotes or not (and what I meant by those quotes) is entirely irrelevant. It did not change the meaning of her statement, which would be an actual foul. At worst, it was an accurate paraphrase put forth as a quote. Big deal. Here is an analogy of what happened.

Emily: Mike diddles kids.
Me: How dare you accuse Mike of being a "child molester" without evidence!
You: She never accused Mike of being a "child molester."

That you see equality of error in that says a hell of a lot more about you than it does me.

Now let's look at what she and Joe did with my words.

I made a statement indicating only the science behind the issue. No mention of faith. None was implied. I merely made a statement of science backed up by the actual science. Emily, based on nothing but an assumption due to science and religion converging, accused me of making a religious argument, in essence changing the plain meaning of my words. A huge difference.

Same with Joe. I stated, quite clearly, that urban crime is driven mainly by gangs. This is backed up by tons of data, including the DOJ claiming that up to 80% of urban crime is caused by gangs. Instead of arguing my point, Joe argues a completely different one, saying I claimed gangs are behind ALL urban crime.

Yet you want to believe that putting words in quotes that didn't change Emily's meaning is the same thing? Good luck with that.

You stated: "She interpreted your comment about life beginning as a statement influenced by religious views."

If only that was what happened. Or, more accurately, if that was ALL that happened. Interpretations need to be based off of something. Nothing in my statement lent credence to any such interpretation. If a debate opponent spent an hour making a free market argument for single payer healthcare, it would be completely unfair and dishonest for me to say, "Get your socialist beliefs out of America and back to North Korea." It is putting forth a lie. At best, it is bigotry on her part for believing that religious autocracy must be behind even the strongest scientific arguments.

You stated: "(You whistle past the data-based reality that people who bring up when life begins are often influenced by "religious views," so it is not obviously misguided or evil to assume a link here.)"

I whistled past nothing. I brought this point up earlier today, asking you (which YOU whistled past) whether the same "link" could be "assumed" of the several authors who wrote the quoted and referenced textbooks. Did you make that link? Why or why not?

And it IS misguided and evil to presume that someone's scientific argument is less valid and sound because they may have faith. If I were making a philosophical or religious defense, it would be fair. But I didn't. You (and Emily) are engaging in several logical fallacies, including the genetic fallacy. Does my faith change one word in those textbooks? Does it make them any more or less correct? If not, your entire line of reasoning is irrelevant. The evidence stands as strong as ever.

I also find it interesting how you see the development of this thread. You have said multiple times that you find the use of the word "fascist" distasteful and it puts me in the same class with Emily. However, the facts just don't back that up.

Emily more than lied about my case being made from a religious viewpoint, she was absolutely classless in the way she made the claim. Keep in mind that I had not even ADDRESSED her yet.

She stated: "Please keep your religious views of this website. Keep them to yourself and in your church."

Shut up and keep your religious views in church. Is that a fair paraphrase? It seems so. Is it incredibly rude? Again, it seems so. Does it represent American ideals? I don't think so. Were her words something that a fascist might say? Yes, again.

In other words, not only did I not call anyone names until Emily (who I was not even talking to) decided to spew venom, the word I used to describe her post had the advantage of being accurate.

Again, two things happened that changed my tenor. Emily lied and became insulting. Then, Joe lied. I even asked him to clear the air and just admit that I did not say what he claimed. He didn't. More than enough to justify my response. Yet, your negative words are directed almost exclusively at me. That says a lot.

Finally, no, Doug, I do not have interest in you reading embryology textbooks, nor would you have to. However, you took sides and you did so with the side that was fibbing. What gets lost in arguments like this is who was actually correct. This time, it was clearly me. What's discouraging is that truth does not even seem to be a factor in how you respond to threads.

You seem to be surprised/concerned about the level of disdain I have for attorneys, as if I am an outlier and it somehow a signal of my poor character. I hate to break the news to you, but this thread and your conduct in it is a perfect reminder of why as far back as the 16th century when Dick the Butcher said, "Let's kill all the lawyers" people hated lawyers and today your profession still polls below anal cancer.

It's not me. It's you.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 13, 2017 3:50:04 PM

Tarls, you would make a great lawyer because you are good at shading a factual record to serve your argument and at ignoring what undermines your claims. My point throughout was that your putting of "religious argument" in quotes was a mistake (albeit a small one) and that such a (heat-of-the-blog mistake) might lead you to consider the possibility that Emily and Joe also were guilty of merely a mistake rather than a lie and dishonesty driven by evil intentions.

Truth matters to me, but so to does trying to understand others rather than assume ill will. That really gets to the nub of this, Tarls, as you seem eager the assume to worst of Emily and Joe (and lawyers and me). In this sense, I see similarity with what you attack Emily for --- making assumptions about another based on a blog comment.

Meanwhile, I am not sure what "truth" you think I am disregarding. You were the only one who directed comments to me, and I responded to your comments. I did not chime in hoping to be the "truth" champion or to defend Emily or Joe. I do not care to or try to defend/support/correct any commenters, though I continue to be eager to question your "statement months ago" that folks here hate America. (You clarified here that you meant your "liberal cesspool" statement (which does not bother me) not your hate America statement (which does concern me). Once you clarified that you were not referencing your "hate America" point, perhaps I should have moved on.) But, again in an effort to be respectful, I answered your "simple questions," which in turn lead to you suggesting I was a "weasel." There is no winning with you, so I guess I should just stop trying.

But before I give up, let me go back to the point that rankles by asking you to respond to a question that I think you have refused to address in the past:

Tarls: what is the basis and evidence you have for the assertion that nearly all the commenters here hate America?

I believe you have made that statement repeatedly, and I am still eager for your account of the "truth" that supports this statement.

Posted by: Doug B | May 13, 2017 4:48:34 PM

Doug, you are calling what could only be possibly seen as an "error" (again, I disagree with even that) in a law school paper an error on a blog. Too funny.

Let me give you a little history. I have been on message boards since well before 9/11. I met Bill Otis on the old NYT's board back then. It's been a long time.

In all of my time on such boards, I have seen a hundred people say what you are saying, that people error. Here is the thing though. Unlike my "error" (If you notice, I put that in quotes even though you didn't use that word, you used mistake) which can at worst be described as neutral because it did not change the meaning of Emily's comment, I have yet to see an error that was ever neutral or put my words in a BETTER light, which would necessarily happen about half the time if it was just a mistake. The "mistakes" always made my words look more extreme (mainly becomes merely) or are a complete fabrication made out of thin air (shut up and keep your religion in Church). If it is just bad luck, that is one hell of a run.

Likewise, the people that make these mistakes almost never come back to correct the record. Did I run from your absurd accusation of my mistake? No, I defended it. Did I run off of C&C when you corrected me about whether Sessions recused himself? No, I said "my bad" (again, quotes used properly even though I did not use those exact words). What does that say about me compared to all of those people (including Emily and Joe) when their "mistakes" were pointed out?

You can answer if you want but don't feel compelled to. We both know the answer.

You stated: " That really gets to the nub of this, Tarls, as you seem eager the assume to worst of Emily and Joe (and lawyers and me). In this sense, I see similarity with what you attack Emily for --- making assumptions about another based on a blog comment."

Talk about putting shade on the truth...

Doug, is "shut up and keep your religion in church" (again, a paraphrase correctly put in quotes) a comment someone with fascist tendencies would make? Look back. Was my comment out of the blue? No, I was wrongly attacked and I noted the nature of the attack, yet your comments are directed at me. You are asking me to disarm, take blow after blow, and never say a meaningful word in response. You even called my response "un-American" (but you HATE name calling!!!), a word you did not use with someone who thinks, in America, that religious people are to keep their beliefs to themselves unless they are in church.

What a hoot.

You stated: "I did not chime in hoping to be the "truth" champion or to defend Emily or Joe. I do not care to or try to defend/support/correct any commenters,..."

Nonsense. You do not have to defend Emily with a vocal defense of her words. You only have to ignore her assault on me (and American values) and attack my RESPONSE to her. It's what you do. Your fellow frogs in the cesspool attack, attack, and attack, but whether it be Federalist, me, Bill, or whoever has opinions you disagree with are almost always the focus of your attention. You repeat ad nauseum that you are not here to police commenters conduct but almost your entire time in this thread has been spent policing and criticizing me for correcting the record and putting up a vigorous defense.

You stated: "I answered your "simple questions," which in turn lead to you suggesting I was a "weasel." "

Talk about a misrepresentation. You "answered" a specific question with the response that you do not own a embryology textbook. It is probably accurate on its face, but it was a "weasel" answer. We both know you could be looking at almost any such textbook in the world in 2 minutes on the same computer you respond to me with.

You stated: "But before I give up, let me go back to the point that rankles by asking you to respond to a question that I think you have refused to address in the past:"

Been there. Done that. I have responded to this question a dozen times and am not going to do so again just because you did not like the answer. You now only use it as a red herring when your argument is beaten on the merits.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 14, 2017 9:14:30 PM

Doug, here is your comment from the other day: "But, especially when you throw around labels like facist and cesspool and dishonesty and liar, the mixture of hypocrisy and disrespect strikes me as distasteful and, in a sense, un-American."

Please answer the following questions.

What is more "un-American"?

Emily essentially saying "shut up and keep your religion in church" or my response that her words are fascist?

Were her words, that religion belongs only in church, in line with American principles?

Are they something a fascist would say?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 14, 2017 9:20:10 PM

Tarls, again, I chimed in here not to defend Emily or to attack you but to respond to your comment to me after Emily's attack on you. My first comment aspired to be a compliment toward you (and a too-subtle rebuke of Emliy), along with an observation that you should not have been too surprised to get a rise out of others with your comments. You then continued the attack on Joe and Emily and suggested that they were examples that vindicate your "original assessment" that nearly all commenters here (save federalist) are part a "liberal cesspool" (and, I though you were also saying that they were persons "who hate Amerikkka" but you clarified this later).

I then brought up your misquote (which I keep saying was minor) in a seemingly foolish attempt to get you to consider the possibility that other commenters are just human rather than haters. That was not an effort to get you to "disarm" or to stop attacking as you see fit in this space (indeed, I learn from all the rumbles here). Rather, I was perhaps foolishly suggesting that you acknowledge that, just as you took such offense at how Emily characterized you, there was a possibility that she took offense to how you characterized her. I surmise you did not think it fair or justified that I did not join you in bashing Emily and taking sides, but I am deeply disinclined to take sides or bash anyone for anything they say in this space, particularly if it is not directed at me.

My tendency has always been to try to ignore all attacks in this space unless they are directed toward me or unless someone --- like you here --- asks me to respond. David Behar attacks nearly everyone and everything in his comments with opinions I disagree with, and I generally ignore them. federalist attacks "'rat judges" and many others, and I ignore him. Emily attacked you, you attacked back, and my plan was to ignore this until you addressed me. Notably, neither David or federalist seem to expect me to defend them or tell them they are right when they get into fights with other commenters. I surmise Tarls you want me to take your side in your back-and-forth here, and I am now thinking I just should have praised you more fully so as to avoid so much nitpicking, name-calling (of which I am now guilty), and yet another effort by you to get me to take your side.

Throughout this all, I surmise that I underestimated (1) the level of offense you took from Emily's and Joe's (and maybe my) comments, and (2) the degree you want me to criticize Emily for her comment. I am not going to apologize for Emily or others, but I want to make sure you get the satisfaction of knowing I think she was wrong to tell you to shut up and wrong to say religious views should not be shared in the public space. (For the record, this strikes me as a modern secular progressive statement, not a fascist statement. Fascists, historically and philosophically, are inclined to de-legitimate religion in ALL spaces.) But I continue to think you are wrong to assume or believe that those who disagree with you are haters of America and that statement/judgment will always trouble me, Tarls.

So, to wrap up and try to respond to your questions:

(1) I do think it Emily's comment is more "un-American" than your labeling of her as a fascist. (Note for the record that you did not merely say "her words are fascist," rather you said she was a fascist ("Emily, you little fascist you" and "tin pot fascists like you" were your exact words).

(2) I still see a mixture of hypocrisy and disrespect that strikes me as distasteful and, in a sense, un-American when persons get so very upset by name-calling directed one way but then engage in somewhat similar name-calling.

Though trite and tired, I still like the idea that in the US we can disagree without being disagreeable. And, particularly during a time in our history in which politics and discourse over public affairs too often resembles a blood-sport, I find myself most eager to just try to dial down the rhetoric and encourage everyone to try to see common ground and get along.

In the end, Tarls, our back-and-forth here reinforces my sense that my effort and desire to be an open and honest and independent broker in a public discourse may truly be a fools errand. As you and Bill seem to think, my failure to jump in to defend you while others attack is seen as evidence I am taking a side, so it seems there is no way I can avoid taking sides in your eyes. That is too bad, but it is also a very useful learning experience and still more of an explanation for why our politics have become so polarized. I have always hated what I see as simplistic "if you are not with us, you must be against us" approaches to issues, but I suppose I have to resolve myself to the fact that nuanced efforts at a kind of moderator's neutrality in this and other respects is not readily understood nor appreciated.

Posted by: Doug B | May 15, 2017 9:40:54 AM

Doug,

I will have to push back (surprise!) on at least a couple of points.

1) I was not trying to get you to take my side. Your acceptance of my words only matters in the sense that you have the ability to stop my participation here. Even that is limited, as I do not find it too difficult to stay away. I have zero problem disagreeing with you or you disagreeing with me.

My intent, which I thought was clear but perhaps was not, was to point out why many posters (including me) usually stay away from the cesspool. It took only a post or two to see my words twisted beyond all recognition. A "main cause" became an only cause. A scientific argument became a religious one, accusing me, even by your own interpretation, of some kind of scientific Trojan horse. It's unkind, dishonest, and exhausting. There was zero effort to get you to "bash" anyone, just one to take an honest look at what your blog is (in the comment section).

There is a reason that your comment section is overwhelmingly and disproportionately populated with leftists, and it is not because of their great debating skills or being on the right side of every issue.

2) I am completely without concern for how Emily "felt", just as I am not concerned for the feelings of a criminal who hit a little old lady over the head for her SS check. If a police officer is then rude to him, so be it. If Emily does not like being called a fascist, don't act like a fascist. If she regrets her words, she should come back and say so.

3) Yes, I called her fascist, not her words. However, fascists say fascist things. Socialists say socialist things. Free marketers say free capitalist things. She said them and left them out there without correction.

4) You stated: "(For the record, this strikes me as a modern secular progressive statement, not a fascist statement."

You act like there is a huge difference. See our contemporary college campuses where a bag of shibboleths is used to smoke out the "outsiders."

I would point out that you are wrong about fascism and religion (religion is often dominated, used, and corrupted by fascism) but it does not even matter. Take religion out of it. Imagine someone saying, "Your beliefs are not welcome or to be spoken because -insert any reason here-." That is what Emily said and is what is told almost any conservative speaker on our college campuses.

That is fascism.

5) Your final paragraph is a self-aggrandizing soliloquy based completely on false premises. No one wants you to defend them or agree with them. But also let's not pretend that when you DO step in, that it is not almost exclusively for one "side."

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 15, 2017 11:12:28 AM

Glad for your push back, Tarls, and for your willingness to take the time for this extended back-and-forth. Here are a few reactions to your push-back:

1. I understand how the likes of Emily and Joe may push you away, just as others tell me David Behar pushes them away from engaging in the comments. But my "honest" look at the comments does not lead me to see whether the "left" or the "right" dominate, in part because I have limited ability and limited desire to look at comments/issues through a left/right partisan lens. I let people here talk and never close a thread or censor because I like freedom and I like to see what people do with freedom.

2 + 3. I find it interesting that you equate Emily with a criminal, and I suppose I am not surprised you have no concern for her feelings. I doubt she is a fascist, but you never know about people and it may have been valuable for her to see how strongly you reacted to her comment.

4 + 5. I find it interesting that you seemingly view modern secular progressives and college campuses to be full of fascists. For me fascism has set of meanings that go far beyond being intolerant and stifling dissent --- and it can include using religion as a political tool, but usually does not include confining religion to churches.

For the record, I do see far too many intolerant people among progressives and on campuses these days, but I also see far too many intolerant people in many other arenas as well. And that is why I seek to welcome and tolerate everyone in this space --- including David Behar, despite regular requests to ban him. So, let me close with this question:

When I resist repeated requests to ban David Behar from commenting, whose "side" do you think I am on?

Posted by: Doug B. | May 15, 2017 4:57:56 PM

1) I drive from Kentucky to northern Ohio every Sunday afternoon and then back home on Thursday. During my time on 75/71, I see countless roadkill. I would say that 70% are deer with the rest being made up of dogs, raccoons, opossum, etc. Does that mean I am looking for dead deer or I just know that they make up a huge percentage of roadkill because I pass them? I don't believe for a minute that you do not see the dead deer, Doug.

2-3) I did not "equate" her with a criminal.

4) Again, that the was religion is almost irrelevant. "Keep your opinions to yourself" for whatever reason is a pretty good indicator of someone with fascist tendencies. It is certainly not a shining example of our founding American principles.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 16, 2017 1:00:38 PM

Still eager to hear, Tarls, whose "side" do you think I am on when I resist repeated requests to ban David Behar from commenting. Or maybe he is really deer behind a fake name? ;-)

Posted by: Doug B. | May 16, 2017 4:36:27 PM

It's pretty simple, Doug, because he is a name you can throw out there to buttress the very argument you are making. Once you ban one from either side, you have no credible defense in not banning others.

His presence does not change the fact that the overwhelming majority of those throwing "more heat than light" out there are those who agree with you on most CJ issues. The lectures are saved for me, fed, etc., the small minority. Again, this thread id an example. My harsh words for Emily was a reaction to her completely unfair assertion, yet I received the scolding and she received your defense.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 17, 2017 7:23:29 PM

Tarls, my first comment to you here started "I always am grateful when you mix it up in the comments here." With such a harsh scolding, it is no wonder you do not feel welcome; perhaps we can find a "safe space" for you on some nearby college campus before all the heat here melts your snowflake. ;-)

Sarcasm aside, I am sorry you feel I am unfair and unbalanced. I try not to be, though perhaps I am just further proof of the left's complaint that everyone is subject to conscious and unconscious biases in all forms of behavior and decision-making.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 17, 2017 9:02:00 PM

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