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Gospel of Jesus’s Wife papyrus

If there is one attribute you are likely to acquire once you’ve been studying criminal investigative analysis for a while as I have, it’s skepticism. You learn never to take anything at face value and look to the evidence before forming any theory of the case.

This skepticism tends to permeate every aspect of your life. So when news reports surfaced that scholars and scientific experts from Harvard, MIT and Columbia had examined a small fragment of a document written on papyrus that purported to be “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” and declared it genuine, I was intrigued . . . but skeptical.

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Alex Hribal

Alex Hribal

The grim ledger of criminal justice does not account itself by the same principles as some other realms of life. There is never a completely positive outcome. All entries are judged on a scale of how bad they are, against how bad they could be.

And by this metric, yesterday’s tragedy at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, offers some instructive perspectives.

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... Or not.

… Or not.

“Wise men, when in doubt whether to speak or be quiet, give themselves the benefit of the doubt, and remain silent.”

-Napoleon Hill
Throughout the three weeks of the “D.C. Sniper” ordeal in and around the Nation’s Capital in the fall of 2002, I was besieged by requests to go on television and radio and submit to newspaper interviews. I turned them all down. The reason was neither excessive pride nor false modesty. It was simply that I had nothing to say. Worse, even, I was afraid that if I did say something publicly, it could be harmful.
This concern, however, did not stop others from spouting off, with sadly predictable results. And as we can see from recent cases and events, the compulsion to spout off when you have nothing to say has only gotten worse.
du Pont heir Robert H. Richards IV

du Pont heir Robert H. Richards IV

Our correspondent and close friend Meg Warren, a highly accomplished psychiatric nurse in Canada, is properly outraged by a sentence recently handed down by a judge in Delaware. So is my close friend and almost-cousin Emily Bazelon (we share an aunt on opposite sides of the family), a Slate senior editor and Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School.

“They can’t be serious!” Meg posted on my Facebook page.

“What is wrong with Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden?” Emily demanded in her Slate column.

What are both of these highly intelligent and insightful professional women talking about?

The fact that Judge Jurden suspended 48-year-old du Pont heir Robert H. Richards IV’s entire eight-year prison sentence for raping his three-year-old daughter because he “will not fare well” in the slammer.

To which Emily Bazelon responds, “To ask the obvious, so what?”

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Iwao Hakamada, then and now

Iwao Hakamada, then and now

Since the publication of Law & Disorder, we have devoted a good deal of time and energy to pointing out flaws in our judicial system that allow – and sometimes encourage – the conviction of innocent men and women. We have focussed on numerous cases in the United States, such as West Memphis Three in Arkansas, and have paid particularly attention to the shameful conviction and re-conviction of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in Italy.

Yesterday in Japan, Iwao Hakamada, 78, was released from the Tokyo Detention Centre by order of the Shizuoka District Court, and granted a retrial. Until then, he held the world’s record as the longest-serving inmate on death row – 48 years.

So it’s not just us.

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