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Terrorism

Terrorism

With the acknowledgement that ISIS – the Islamic terrorist group so extreme that it has been rejected by al Qaeda – having recruited more than a thousand Americans to go fight for jihad, comes the worry that one or more of these individuals could return to the United States and wreak horror back home.

What could they do? Well, these are people who are proficient with weapons and are suicidally dedicated. That’s a bad combination.

So what are we doing about it?

Plenty. Since September 11, 2001 we have spent trillions and created entire new bureaucracies to combat homeland terrorism.

And yet. . .

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RobertHansen

Robert Hansen

Word came yesterday that Robert Hansen, known as “the Butcher Baker,” had passed away at age 75 at a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska. He was serving a sentence of 499 years in prison for kidnapping, rape and murder. He admitted to killing 17 women; we’ll probably never know the actual number.

Like the main character in Richard Connell’s popular 1924 short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” Robert Hansen got a particular thrill from hunting humans – in his case, terrified, naked women.

The cause of Mr. Hansen’s death was not announced. But whatever it was, it could not have come soon enough.

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Clarence Thomas & Trayvon Martin

Clarence Thomas & Trayvon Martin

Every reasonable and compassionate person must be affected by the August 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, and its violent, contentious aftermath. What is not in dispute is that the African American Mr. Brown, 18 and unarmed, was killed by white police officer Darren Wilson, 28, after Officer Wilson directed Brown and his 22-year-old friend Dorian Johnson not to walk in the street.

Everything else is in dispute. And that has launched a phenomenon that I have seen many times before, and it is as predictable as it is disturbing.

We have written often in this column about confirmation bias. With regard to the events in Ferguson, we’re seeing another variation.

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Robin Williams

Robin Williams

This is a variation and update of a column I wrote last year when two prominent radio hosts and motivational speakers committed suicide. Unfortunately, it is again relevant to the news.

It used to be when I would give speeches for victims’ rights organizations or homicide survivor groups, I would begin with this observation:

While all deaths are tragic, there is one type of death that is more tragic than all the others, and that is murder. In virtually all other deaths in our society, the individual is surrounded by a support system of some sort, whether it is family and friends, doctors and nurses, police, fire or EMT personnel, or selected others. Only in murder cases is the individual alone, bereft of friends, hope or comfort, terrified and often in pain.

After one such presentation in southern Virginia, a woman came up to me and stated she was moved by what I had said, but there was another type of death that fulfilled the same grim criteria.

And that was suicide.

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Cameron Todd Willingham

Cameron Todd Willingham

We have written about the Cameron Todd Willingham case before. We devoted several chapters to it in Law & Disorder, out this month in paperback, and we revisited it in this column in March, when the story emerged that Willingham’s conviction for the arson murder of his three young children in Corsicana, Texas, in 1991 was largely supported by the testimony of a jailhouse snitch who later recanted his testimony. Retired judge and former prosecutor John H. Jackson has recently been called to task to account for the gulf between his contention that convicted robber Johnny Webb received no deal for his testimony and the mountain of paper and emails showing that Jackson repeatedly intervened to get Webb a knocked-down sentence, early release and special considerations in prison. Jackson claims that he was just trying to protect an inmate who was now in danger in prison for having cooperated with prosecutors.

To us, the reason this case is so important is because, like the trials of the West Memphis Three in Arkansas and Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in Perugia, Italy, it represents so much more than its individual circumstances and provides cautionary warnings of what should be avoided at all costs.

The watchword, in the Willingham case, is arrogance.

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