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From the monthly archives: "August 2014"
Mark David Chapman & John Lennon

Mark Chapman & John Lennon

For the eighth time, the Board of Parole of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has denied release to Mark David Chapman, 59, who gunned down John Lennon outside his home at the Dakota apartment house in New York on December 8, 1980.

In its decision, the board found “a reasonable probability” that Chapman would again violate the law in a serious way if granted parole and that his release “would be incompatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law.”

To which we say, Yes and no, or rather, No and yes.

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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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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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