What He Said, and What it Says About Us

By BitcoDavid

Texas – the state that’s turning execution into a pastime - publishes the last words of death row inmates. We got this story from an excellent piece in the Gray Lady. If you read it, pay particular attention to the comments section. We tend to forget that in America, most people view inmates with a mix of fear and hatred. I was really disturbed by the lack of empathy, sympathy or even basic compassion towards the condemned, in many of  those comments.

Texas' new and improved execution chamber - I guess it beats ol' Gruesome Gerty. Image Credit NYT

Texas’ new and improved execution chamber – I guess it beats ol’ Gruesome Gerty.
Image Credit NYT

Anyway, here’s the link to Texas’ page:

http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/death_row/dr_executed_offenders.html

They publish the race of each offender on the main page, and if you click the individual links, they cite the gender as well as the race and gender of the victim. It provides a fascinating insight into the Texas judicial system. This site is well worth bookmarking and studying thoroughly.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

NYT Confirms, Ebel Dead after Police Shootout

By BitcoDavid

Evan Spencer Ebel is shown in this undated Colorado Department of Corrections booking. Image: Denver Post

Some of the confusion surrounding the Tom Clements shooting has been cleared up. The New York Times announced this morning, that on Friday, shooting suspect Evan S. Ebel, had died in the hospital following the police shootout, northwest of Dallas, Texas. Police however, will continue the investigation as well as investigations into several other murders, of which they suspect Ebel responsible.

As of this point, detectives have no definitive link between Ebel and the Clements shooting, however they will continue to compare ballistics and other physical evidence.

Meanwhile, Texas authorities are looking into a connection between the shooting of Tom Clements and the killing of assistant DA, Mark E. Hasse, whom they say was involved in prosecuting the prison gang - Aryan Brotherhood. Original reports had linked Ebel to the Aryan Nation – a supremacist religious organization, not the prison gang. You’ll have to forgive me, I’m not up on my White supremacist groups.

similarly, detectives in Texas have no link between these two shootings, but say that the investigation is still open.

Deputy Jame Boyd

Deputy Jame Boyd – shot by Ebel while attempting to escape in Texas. Boyd was wearing a vest, and is being treated for minor injuries. Image: Denver Post.

Ebel is also being tied into the murder of Nathan Leon, a Denver employee of Domino’s Pizza. A Domino’s pizza box was recovered from the wreckage of Ebel’s Cadillac. Denver Police claim that they have sufficient evidence on top of that, to build a case.

As you know, a flurry of mis-reports, rumors and possible motives have been floating around the mainstream media and the Internet. For example, it has been suggested that Ebel was a member of the 211’s - a White supremacist prison gang. Different papers have claimed him a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and the Aryan Nation, while still others seek to pin the blame on a Saudi National serving time in Colorado.

Just so you know, in all the reports I have read on this story – none of those theories have been proven out, and authorities have no official record of Ebel’s involvement in any of those groups, or the extent of what that involvement may have been.

In a related story, the Denver Post is reporting that Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper was close friends with Ebel’s father. Hickenlooper has not denied the friendship, but insists that he never intervened in Ebel’s interactions with law enforcement, and that he had not taken any steps to insure Ebel’s parole. The Governor stated that he was not even aware that Ebel had been released from prison.

To get what coverage there is, out there – sarcasm, mine – you can go to the New York Times, here at the Denver Post, or here.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Follow Up: Texas Style Arrest of Clements’ Alleged Shooter

By BitcoDavid

The scene of the arrest, photo credit: New York Times

Boy, they don’t mess around in Texas. After a 100 mph chase, and an OK Coral style shootout, Texas law enforcement officers managed to shoot and wound the suspected killer of Tom Clements, the Colorado Director of Prisons. Apparently, Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, a Coloradoan with a long criminal record, and a current Denver parolee,  is the man suspected in the shooting.

Tom Clements — NYT

Rumors – many fueled by the Denver Post – have been circulating around the Internet, as to Ebel’s motive. Before his identity was known, their was some suspicion that the shooting was carried out by an agent for Saudi national, Homaidan al-Turki, whom Clements had refused to allow, to serve out the remainder of a Colorado prison sentence in Saudi Arabia. It was also believed that the shooter was under orders by the prison gang - the 211s, a White Supremacist group – as retribution for something or other. The Post also drew a correlation between this shooting and the Aryan Nation prison gang. Often, when the mainstream media doesn’t have anything to report, they’ll just make stuff up.

We don’t know why he did it yet, or for that matter – if he did it at all. What we do know is what Texas did to bring him in. According to the NYT, Ebel was stopped by a Montague County Sheriff’s Deputy, outside of Dallas at a little before noon, yesterday. He was driving a car with Colorado plates, that matched a witness description as having been seen outside of Clement’s home on the night of the shooting.

Clements’ house, where the shooting took place. — NYT

Ebel allegedly opened fire on the deputy and then stomped on it, promoting a high speed chase. He was said to be doing a hundred mph, when he t-boned a tractor trailer. Business as usual for Ebel, he jumped out of the now decimated Caddy, and began a shootout with the cops. No word on the trucker.

The cops finally drilled one in him, and he is now on life support at a Texas hospital, awaiting extradition.

Denver and Golden, Co. detectives have flown to Texas to aid in the investigation. Denver authorities have stated that they will continue investigating despite Ebel’s death, which I find confusing. According to the Times, he’s still alive – but on life support. Nowhere, could I find a definitive statement in the Post as to his having died.

For more on this go to the New York Times, or the Denver Post.

 BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

March 10th Digest Post – NYT

By BitcoDavid

First off, The Times filed this under their Weddings and Celebrations column. Michael Morton and Cynthia May Chessman are newly-wedded man and wife. Morton however, was just freed from a Texas state prison facility, due to exoneration by DNA – thanks to the efforts of the Innocence Project. He had served 25 years for the beating death of his former wife – a crime actually committed by a man named Mark A. Norwood. As we wrote earlier this week, Texas holds the national record for wrongful convictions, and the Innocence Project has freed over 300 people. You can go here, for NYT’s original coverage.

***

Poor dude. I guess gullibility is a crime in Argentina.

Denise Milani. Photo: Chew the dirt.com

English theoretical physicist Paul Frampton.

From the Sunday Magazine section – this is really sad and tragic. It appears that a university physics professor, Paul Frampton, met the girl of his dreams on an online dating site. The girl – many years his junior – claimed to be an international bikini model – Denise Milani. The two began chatting online, and finally arranged to meet at a photo shoot in Bolivia. After several false starts and travel complications, Frampton was contacted and asked to deliver a suitcase to a new rendezvous site, by Milani. Following his heart more than his brain, he agreed to meet a total stranger in an alley in Buenos Aires – to take delivery on the suitcase – from one of Milani’s friends. I shouldn’t have to tell you where this is going. Frampton ends up sentenced to 4 yrs, 8 mos.  in an Argentinian prison, for smuggling Cocaine. Milani – the real one – when contacted, said she had no idea as to who he – or the individual claiming her identity – was.

What’s the moral here? I don’t really know. Carefully screen your online dating contacts? Don’t travel? If you do travel, don’t do it in South America? Certainly, don’t pick up suitcases in alleys, and bring them to airports. But I think the real issue here is, let’s stop the War on Drugs. Guys like Frampton suffer enough just getting their hearts broken – and getting laughed at by their friends. They don’t need prison time on top of all that.

The original piece is here.

***

A vacant lot in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles will be turned into a park, forcing out paroled sex offenders. Photo: NYT

A vacant lot in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles will be turned into a park, forcing out paroled sex offenders. Photo: NYT

This story appeared in the U.S. News section.  Cities and towns across this country are building tiny little parks, some no bigger than a single family home, in an effort to force registered sex offenders out of their communities. Zero Tolerance laws in most states deny registered sex offenders housing near schools or public parks.

Statistics show however, that sex offenders are more likely prone to recidivism if they don’t have stable housing. Furthermore, they are harder to track. So although this activity may appear safer for these communities, it might in fact, be resultant in an increase in sex-crime.

Sex offenders in America are thrice punished. They’re sentenced. Behind bars they’re victims of unparalleled abuse, violence and even homicide. And upon release, they’re forced to register and subjected to discrimination from all sides.

I’m certainly not defending them. I think abuse crimes – especially those perpetrated on children – are the most heinous. Although, I would advocate treatment rather than punishment. And I’ve always held dear the belief that once you’ve served your time… well, you’ve served your time.

Here’s the Gray Lady’s article.

***

Ben Spencer. Photo: NYT

Ben Spencer. Photo: NYT

Also in the U.S. News section – and also in Texas, Ben Spencer was proven not guilty of a 1987 murder – for which he had served over 20 years –  in 2008. Texas however, has refused to release him, even after the judge’s ruling. He was originally convicted on the testimony of a jailhouse informer who has recently recanted, and a witness who admitted that she was seeking reward money. The prosecution is arguing that although the evidence convicting him was faulty – it falls upon him – and his attorneys – to find new evidence as to his innocence. This flies in the face of innocent until proven guilty. Ahh, Texas.

Here’s what the less sardonic NYT has to say.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

On the Boren-Thomas Case

By BitcoDavid

Laura Christine Boren Thomas, 20 slain by Andre Thomas on March 27th 2004.Photo by Matt Rainwater for Texas Monthly, courtesy of NYT.

Laura Christine Boren Thomas, 20 slain by Andre Thomas on March 27th 2004.
Photo by Matt Rainwater for Texas Monthly, courtesy of NYT.

Andre Thomas is insane. That statement requires no validation, no clarification and leaves no room for debate. Just over 11 years ago, Thomas brutally murdered his estranged 20-year-old wife and her 2 children – 4 years old and 13 months old, respectively. He did so, by attempting to dig their hearts out of their chests. He then left the scene, and tried the same on himself. Since it is impossible to cut out your own heart, he failed – surviving to face charges. He confessed, and at age 21 was sentenced to death.

While awaiting trial, Thomas gouged out one of his own eyeballs. In 2008, he gouged out the other, this time eating it.

Mugshot from 2004. Mr. Thomas gouged out His eyes, eating one. Photo credit: Grayson County Sheriff's office, courtesy of NYT.

Mugshot from 2004. Mr. Thomas gouged out His eyes, eating one. Photo credit: Grayson County Sheriff’s office, courtesy of NYT.

During the month that preceded the crime, Mr. Thomas had sought mental health treatment, on several occasions. Twice, during this period, his obvious psychoses made doctors so nervous that they requested emergency detention warrants for him. He rang all the bells, ranting on about suicide, the Bible and his mission from God. He told the doctors that Ms. Boren was the Biblical Jezebel, that his son was the Antichrist and that his infant daughter was part of a satanic conspiracy. He ranted and raved. He spoke of hearing voices, and told how he had been called upon to free their hearts of demonic possession.
Despite all this, he was never detained, and never treated.

In Texas, as in most states, hospitals cannot hold people who check in for mental health reasons, but refuse to stay. It is necessary to obtain a warrant, in which case the burden of proof falls on the psych department, to show that the patient is a potential danger to himself or others. However, Texas does have a non-profit organization that is seeking to change that – the Texas Appleseed Project. They are urging the state to change the existing law. One such change would involve granting hospitals and mental health facilities the right to detain patients in the advent of a demonstrable mental health crisis.

This is just one more case where we – society – dropped the ball, and let a disturbed psychotic slip through the cracks. In short, we could have saved that family. Records show that Thomas had complained of hearing voices – voices that commanded him to do evil things – since he was a small child. He told school friends and teachers that he heard demons in his head. By his teens, Thomas had attempted suicide several times. He was an alcoholic and a drug addict. By his 18th birthday, he already had a long history of arrests.

We failed him, and now we want to kill him. He did a horrible thing and he deserves to be punished. Perhaps, but we need to be very careful here. Almost 2 decades before he did that horrible thing, he came to us, asking for help. We chose not to give it to him. It’s too expensive. It’s a violation of his Constitutional rights. He didn’t follow the prescribed plan. Would you lock up everybody who mutters about suicide – or even homicide?

A friend of mine, several years ago, was going through a bad patch. His job was in jeopardy. His family was falling apart around him. He was losing his home, and he was drowning in debt. He chose to seek the advice of a mental health professional. In the ensuing session, he mentioned to the doctor, “Sometimes I just feel like I could kill.” Up went the red flags, and my friend ended up hospitalized. In Massachusetts, they can hold you for 3 days for observation. My friend wasn’t mentally ill. He was suffering. It’s something people do. Some may see those 3 days as an overreaction on the part of the doctor, and in this particular case, I would agree.

What about Dylan Klebold? Maybe 3 days of forced observation – followed up with treatment upon the realization that this young man was indeed a threat to himself and others – could have saved the lives of the Columbine students.

The mentally ill can be cured. But, it is expensive, and sadly – at times – it involves stepping on one or more of their Constitutional rights. We just need to maintain caution. There is a difference between watching out for those in need, and becoming a police state. I’m not advocating some sort of Aktion T-4, here. Individual liberty is – and must always be – paramount in American law, but we cannot continue to ignore the mentally ill, hoping they’ll just go away – and we can’t keep letting the penal system and the death penalty do the work we’re either too lazy or too inept to do.

The grave-site of Thomas' 3 young victims. Photo Credit Matt Rainwater for Texas Monthly, courtesy of NYT.

The grave-site of Thomas’ 3 young victims. Photo Credit Matt Rainwater for Texas Monthly, courtesy of NYT.

In writing the above, I consulted the following:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/us/advocates-seek-mental-health-changes-including-power-to-detain.html

http://crimeblog.dallasnews.com/2009/01/texas-death-row-inmate-plucks.html/

http://www.johntfloyd.com/blog/2009/02/andre-thomas-insane-in-texas/

http://www.adriangarcia.com/2013/02/20/andre-thomas-mental-health-criminal-justice-collide/

http://murderpedia.org/male.T/t/thomas-andre-lee.htm

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

In retrospect: On the state of seeking Deaf Smith

By Jean F. Andrews

[Author’s Note: If you live in Texas, you know about Deaf Smith, a popular hero among deaf and hearing Texans alike. Dr. Steve Baldwin a prolific writer, presenter and trained historian, shares his Deaf culture research with deafinprison readers. Dr. Baldwin gives us a fresh perspective on Deaf Smith’s role in Texas history. (Jean Andrews)]

***

In Retrospect: On the State of Seeking Deaf Smith by Dr. Steve Baldwin

Deaf Smith County Texas

Deaf Smith County Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the inaugural 17-part exhibit of Erastus “Deaf” Smith’s 225th birthday celebration on the ground floor of the Texas State Capitol rotunda from April 18 to 20, 2012 and subsequent tours across the state, which ended on October 25 in Dallas, I decided to sum up my experience as the primary exhibitor, researcher, and writer since I first seriously studied about Deaf Smith (1787-1817), the famous “Texian” spy, scout, ranger and pioneer about 32 years ago.

Of course, the method of studying, researching and theorizing evolved over time with the advent of technology, Internet, new information, accessible papers, better archives and libraries. To go from a thin folder of information about Deaf Smith in the Baker Library for American History that was renamed Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin to two standard file boxes of my personal collection testifies for hard work, dedication, focus and a passion that has not abated over time. One word of advice to sincere future researchers and writers: do not bother to locate Smith’s missing and unmarked gravesite in Richmond, Texas since early 1830s burial sites are difficult to pinpoint due to customs, pine coffins, unclear town maps and complicated legal issues.

English: I took photo with Canon camera in Chi...

From the Deaf Smith Museum in Childress, TX. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, my alarming concern now is the lack of quality research because of the onslaught of vlogs and blogs that appear to epitomize inaccurate historical information about Smith’s life and feats. The worst case of plagiarism from the book (1973) by the definitive biographer of Deaf Smith named Cleburne Huston (1894-1989) came from a national deaf magazine. None of the magazine writers, albeit no respective bylines, actually took the time to research and verify their material, visit archives, and even worst, give their citations the necessary documented credit. Consequently, my role went from historian to vigilant against blatant plagiarism and online piracy of published work and the lack of historical accuracy.

English: Deaf Smith Elementary School

Deaf Smith Elementary School. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Let’s move on from the wanton disregard for honest publishing and researching to the three most common questions that came from school-aged students during the fall exhibit tour. First query: “Was Deaf Smith really deaf.” Based on contemporary 2nd and third-party witnesses and other documented information, Smith was deafened and his hearing became progressively worst, as he got older. His speech shape was fraught with high-pitched sounds, but intellectual enough to be understood. Research shows that he was quite the loner, hunted alone with his hearing dog, and abhorred group discussions or social life on the frontier.

The second most common question was: “Why do we have very few written documents from Deaf Smith himself?” First of all, he was quite a busy backwoodsman, always hunting, surveying, exploring or defending a Central Texas town from marauding bandits and warring Comanches. Although he had a good command of English, spoken or written, he was not a consistent literary man. There are relatively very few first-person accounts on record. However, thanks to his historic legacy and many legends in Texas, his fame was well documented in periodicals, diaries, journals, newspapers, family history, historical paintings and biographies of his contemporaries.

The third common question was: “How was Deaf Smith able to achieve so many incredible military feats in a span of seven months?” Keep in mind that he was chosen personally by General Sam Houston because of Smith’s reputation as a proven scout in early 19th century Texas. Such an assignment speaks volumes about Smith’s reputation as being the “eyes of the Texian army.” Based on his visual acuity, Smith knew the land, rivers and critters of Texas by heart, mind and soul, albeit smelling and feeling. He proved his leadership by commanding a spy and scout company, which made pivotal decisions that tipped the war in favor of the Texas independence in April of 1836. That band of soldiers saved Houston’s troops more than once, numbering about five documented activities, including the destruction of a strategic bridge.

English: “Surrender of Santa Anna” by William ...

“Surrender of Santa Anna” by William Huddle (1847–92), 1886 The painting “Surrender of Santa Anna” by William Huddle, shows the Mexican strong-man surrendering to a wounded Sam Houston. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If one would goggle the painting called “The Surrender of Santa Anna,” there is the evidence that Smith played a prominent and crucial role in the Battle of San Jacinto. In fact, the painter, William H. Huddle (1847-1892) literally interviewed the veterans who substantiated Smith’s role as the true hero of the victorious battle. In a nutshell, Smith was a seasoned soldier, determined person, proven survivor, courageous warrior and attitudinal barrier fighter.

In closing my special article for this website, I wish to announce that I intend to donate my Deaf Smith collection of documents, artifacts, research notes, photos, my filmed play, a monograph, and historic prints to the University of Texas at Austin. Such a collection in one of their libraries, be it the Briscoe Center or the Brockett Center, will allow future researchers to continue my passionate research and publish more new and accurate information about Texas’ most amazing military hero who was not “afraid of whizzing bullets” or “felt the bite before the bark of the dog.”

Steve Baldwin and “Deaf Smith.” Courtesy Jean F. Andrews

Contact Dr. Steve Baldwin for his publications on Deaf Smith.

dfsmithtx@aol.com

Steve Baldwin Image courtesy of Jean F. Andrews

More Pictures of Leroy Colombo – From Jean Andrews

Dr. Andrews sent me these pictures as a supplement to her article on Leroy Colombo.

Historical marker in Galveston, Texas

Colombo in his later years

This is another historical marker in Galveston

Two-shot of Colombo on beach in peak of his career

Street in Galveston bearing the name of this great Deaf athlete

I hope you enjoyed this brief photo-essay. The article by Dr. Andrews can be found at http://deafinprison.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/hero-of-galveston-island-the-legacy-of-leroy-colombo-1905-1972/

 

 

 

 

 

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