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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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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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Detective Jeff Majewski and Siren

Detective Jeff Majewski & Siren

Detective Jeff Majewski of the Westport, Massachusetts Police Department is an admired and intrepid law enforcement agent, and so was his dog, Siren. Overnight last April, the five-year-old German shepherd, who was in training as a search and rescue dog, died painfully as internal hemorrhaging pressed against his spinal cord. An autopsy – or necropsy as it is called with animals – revealed rat poison in Siren’s liver. Detective Majewski is convinced it was intentional – to get back at him for something.

Whoever this despicable individual is has chosen the wrong target. When a cop is murdered, the other cops see to it that the killer doesn’t get away with it.

The same is true for cop dogs.

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Would he be safe on the other side of the bars?

Would he be safe on the other side of the bars?

In response to our recent column about Terry Wayne Davis, the 44-year-old Illinois man who will either be tried or committed for allegedly having sex on multiple occasions with his five-month-old female Rottweiler puppy, and who had previously been convicted of sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, one of our readers and correspondents poses an important set of questions. Essentially, Taylor UK14 begins with our premise that the only reasonably reliable predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and then goes on to wonder what can or should be done when that behavior is recognized.

In other words, can an examination of past violence prevent future violence?

As you might suspect, there is no easy answer.

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Terry Wayne Davis

Terry Wayne Davis

Through the twisted legal logic that often accompanies strange cases, 44-year-old Terry Wayne Davis has been declared “not sexually dangerous” by an Illinois court-appointed psychologist and is therefore considered fit to stand trial. If he were found sexually dangerous, he would not be fit to stand trial, would be eligible for psychological treatment and could only be tried in a civil proceeding. On the other hand, if he were sexually dangerous, he could be held in a civil commitment until psychiatrists or psychologists deemed him no longer dangerous.

The charge: Three counts of sexual misconduct with a neighbor’s five-month-old female Rottweiler puppy.

The court needs to hear from one more psychologist before making a final ruling on Mr. Davis’s sexual dangerousness. We don’t know him and therefore don’t presume to evaluate him, but there are several issues of which those who are tasked with that evaluation should be mindful.

And by the way: having sex with a dog is not funny.

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