‘All In The Family’ Christmas Letter From Jennifer and James and Ethan Crumbley

Wonder what news the Crumbley family will have to write in their holiday letter this year.

‘The summer was dryer than normal, and that ole tree out back sure looks the worse for wear now that it lost another climb. Oh, yeah, our son killed four people after we bought a gun for him as an early holiday present. We decided that holing up in a warehouse was cheaper than a trip to Yellowstone and that sure made us popular coast-to-coast.

Hope all is good with you, and if you find any quarters in your couch please mail for our family defense fund. It will be a whopper next year! Do you think we all will look odd wearing orange for next year’s letter?

Pathetically yours,

The New Wards of the State

Shooter’s Parents Must Be Legally Accountable For Deadliest School Shooting This Year

Once again the deadly results of guns in our society make for terrible headlines. Once again the refrain from rational adults is a call to common sense and the development of gun control measures that will start to trim back the shootings. At the same time, conservatives chant their trite platitude, ‘thoughts and prayers’.

The layers of possible responses to the carnage left by Ethan Crumbley and the 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting are many. From working on issues in school concerning being bullied to the drowning of the nation in too many guns available for purchase, and the ease that children can get their hands on a deadly weapon. There is no single avenue to address the gravity of the situation.

But when it comes to guns in homes this blog has been consistent and adamant that parents must be held legally responsible when their weapons are not stored and safeguarded correctly. When they are accessible to underage people, and crimes take place with the weapons, then the law must follow the parents right to the jailhouse door and usher them inside.

On Wednesday we learned that the high school sophomore accused of killing four classmates and injuring others will be charged as an adult with a host of felonies, including terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder. The weight of the words from Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said it all.

Evidence shows the shooting was “absolutely premeditated.”

But equally important today was the news that prosecutors are also considering charges against the suspect’s parents. The New York Times reported that when the boy’s parents went to a sheriff’s substation after the shooting, they declined to let investigators question their child. The sheriff told reporters that a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting had been bought four days earlier by the suspect’s father. “He is not talking and neither are the parents,” the sheriff said.

There is appropriate outrage across the nation today as we learn more evidence to show why parents, once again, must be held accountable for actions that their child took, due to a deadly gun made accessible in their home.

This blog has repeatedly stated parents of young people who use guns to shoot, kill, and create violence also need to be held accountable. Some adult was responsible for the fact the shooter was able to place his hands on this weapon. There is no way that any sane person can say parental/adult actions, such as with this shooting, should not be addressed by the law that makes sure there is a responsibility shared by those who help to foster the violent outcomes.

The NRA has plenty of responsibility for the number of guns in our society and the ease with which anyone can get a deadly weapon. But when it comes to children with guns there also has to be a question asked–where the heck was the parent? It might also be a good time to ask if parents are not able to control their offspring then perhaps they should forfeit their children’s tax credits. The rest of society should not have to continually pay the price for bad parenting.

And so it goes.

Recent Exonerated Sentences Show Danger Of Death Penalty To Black Citizens

Even though Kevin Strickland was sentenced in Missouri to a life sentence for the murders of three people, had he resided in some other states he very well could have been sentenced to death. The 62-year-old Black man was convicted by an all-white jury in 1979.  Had he been sentenced in Texas, as an example, he might already have been put to death.

Now think about this.

This week a judge exonerated Strickland after more than 43 years in prison, marking the longest confirmed wrongful conviction case in Missouri’s history, and also one of the longest in the nation. The case against him was built on the testimony of Cynthia Douglas, the sole survivor and eyewitness, who later attempted multiple times to recant her testimony because she said she was pressured by police.

This summer Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued rare posthumous pardons to a group of Black men known as the Martinsville Seven, who were executed in 1951 after being convicted by all-white juries of raping a white woman. He issued what were termed “simple pardons,” which do not deal with the issue of guilt or innocence but recognize that the cases involved racial inequity and a lack of due process. The fact they never had their fair crack at the judicial process means their executions are viewed as appalling.

Just days ago four men known as the Groveland Four were exonerated of the false charges that they raped a white woman in 1949.  Florida State Attorney Bill Gladson stated the matter those many decades ago was “a complete breakdown of the criminal justice system.”

Last week in Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt called off the execution of Julius Jones, a Black man on death row. This case had taken on national interest due to the police investigation that was understood to be biased, and a defense lawyer who was more fitted to sweep the courthouse than sit before a judge in a trial. Then there is Oklahoma itself, with a justice system that has been correctly lambasted many times over the decades for racism in their death penalty cases.

The state has the highest Black incarceration rate in the U.S.: Black people are imprisoned at 4.5 times the rate of white people. Racial disparities have been shown at every level of the justice system—from arrest to conviction and ultimately sentencing. The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission found that the state is 3.2 times more likely to ask for the death penalty if the victim is white. 

We all can see the dangers within the judicial process with the death penalty, as there is then no room for actual justice to be rendered for those who have been falsely accused.

I just can not find a moral reasoning to ever allow the death penalty to be used as a means of conveying society’s revulsion to a criminal for an act that has been committed.  I do not feel that the government has the right to commit someone to death.   I have felt this way for all of my life. 

The fact we find some criminal acts to be so barbaric that some wish to turn to death as a way to make a statement about how society feels is a natural one.  I can understand how upset people can be over a murder. But what I can not understand are those who wish to translate those feelings of anger to an actual execution. 

Too often the evidence against Black men who are charged with serious crimes, in certain states with racial animus ingrained in their police departments and judicial processes, falls apart when the full light of sunshine is allowed entrance. The cases above–all within a small time frame from this year– prove the point of how prevalent racism is in police procedures and sentencing.

As a nation, we must not allow ourselves to be taken over by the desire for the ultimate revenge. When we sharply veer into that direction we are absolutely going to make horrific mistakes. With the death penalty, there is no way to ever correct that colossal and wrong decision.

And so it goes.

Dual Justice Systems Exist For Black And White Americans

What took place in Kenosha since the night Kyle Rittenhouse decided to carry an AR 15 into a violent street demonstration killing two, and injuring a third, has produced conversations about gun violence, the pitfalls and costs to society of broken families, the legal problems over a too broadly defined self-defense statute, and the requirement of objectivity from judges.

The past months also produced evidence and dialogue about the dual systems of justice we have in this nation. There is no doubt whatsoever that Black citizens are not treated the same as others in high profile and tragic circumstances.

Rittenhouse, the two men he killed and the man he wounded were all white, but the case has been linked from the start to issues of race and the criminal justice system.

Activists have previously pointed to differences in how police handled Rittenhouse’s case and that of Jacob Blake, the Black man who was shot by a white Kenosha police officer in August 2020, sparking protests in the city that became destructive and violent.

Video footage played during the trial showed Rittenhouse running toward police still wearing his rifle, and continuing past the police line at officers’ direction. He turned himself in to police in Antioch, Illinois, early the following day.

In Georgia, the brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery has brought forth another clear example of race motivated murder. It is also a showcase of how the justice system can be used to attempt the thwarting of the correct response to a grievous crime. The trial for the three white men accused of the murder has not been short on evidence proving racism has injected itself into the process.

Brunswick, the location of the trial, has a population that is more than half Black. So, it does need to be asked how but only one member of the jury is Black? The news reports of a truly embarrassing white defense attorney rising to repeatedly complain about Black pastors, including Reverend Jesse Jackson (a man I have deeply respected and supported for election) from sitting in on court proceedings was nothing short of galling.

Arbery’s death and the Rittenhouse case have added to the national conversation about racist vigilantism. Both the Kenosha killer and Travis McMichael, the shooter in Georgia, have claimed they acted in self-defense. The tortured reasoning it takes to bend the mind to attempt acceptance of such lunacy is something that our political system will need to address in various state statutes. Allowing leniency for the killing of people one does not like based on the color of their skin or their perceived role in street protests because of strangled legal contortions must be brought under control.

In the Rittenhouse case as soon as he purported the killings to be self-defense it downgraded other vital aspects of the case, such as how a 17-year-old with a deadly gun roamed the streets during a curfew.

On ABC’s This Week the issue of how the Kenosha trial would have been different had the defendant been Black was explored. Byron Pitts, chief national correspondent made the case for why this issue needs to resonate within our country.

Study after study shows that black men are arrested more often, convicted more often, and sentenced to longer sentences than white men accused of the same crime, and the same is — holds true in discipline in schools, that disparity.

And, Martha, heres a study, I think, that speaks to this case and the concerns about this case. According to the FBI, a — a fatal shooting where the shooter is white and the victim is black, three times more likely that’s ruled to be justifiable if both parties were white. And so I think for most reasonable people, and most surveys would bear this out, the few reasonable people would believe that if a 17-year-old black boy with an AR-15 showed up in Kenosha, Wisconsin at night, killed two people and injured a third, then that black boy would have been treated the same way by police or by the legal justice system.

It was noted in the conversation that had Rittenhouse been African-American the verdict would not have been the same, as statistical evidence proves Blacks do not prevail in such court cases. And so that is the injustice that people are looking at…..

It does not take any deep searching to recognize why conservatives and racists agree with the idea of taking the law into one’s own hands. That is the way vigilantes maintained control of Blacks in the South for many decades. White power, and how to maintain it is not a new concept. But misusing the state statutes to further those biases and grudges against Blacks is wholly acceptable. When they do succeed it adds further evidence as to why we can legitimately talk about a two-tier justice system.

And so it goes.

Editorial Cartoons About Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict

The power of these editorial cartoons is obvious. The messages are correctly drawn and presented.

Fallout From Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict, Kenosha Has Race And Vilgante Problems

It was a stunning verdict, at least for the ones still grounded in logic, common sense, and legal reasoning.

A jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on all counts after deliberating for nearly three and a half days. Jurors in the horrific case found that the then 17-year-old was not guilty of homicide, attempted homicide, or any other charges related to the August 2020 bloodshed and violence in Kenosha.

Much has been written about the foundations Rittenhouse started from that allowed for the teenager to drop out of school, have access to deadly weapons, and clearly not have the reasoning capabilities that many teenage males have at that age. After all, what must have been playing out in Rittenhouse’s thinking process to consider it was a good idea to carry an AR-15 into a city where massive protests were ongoing? Even a weeks-long trial with high-priced defense lawyers could not make that action seem sane to the viewers tuning in around the nation.

Much will be said about the outcome of the trial, the actions of the judge, and yes, the often poorly played hand of the prosecution team. But as civilized citizens, we must accept the verdict, even if we vehemently disagree with it.

As this chapter of Rittenhouse’s life turns a page (pun intended) it seems appropriate to consider another part of this larger story. A part that will find it much harder to pretend everything is back to normal.

I refer to the City of Kenosha.

What started this protracted and bloody story was the afternoon Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in Kenosha by a police officer. From that event, we have followed the sadness, anger, simmering resentments, misunderstandings, along with an overall sense of utter frustration that is understandable from within the Black community.   

At the time of the multiple shots fired at Blake, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said the police shooting “wasn’t an accident”.

“This wasn’t bad police work. This felt like some sort of vendetta taken out on a member of our community.”

Barnes was correct, as what happened looked like something a rigged police system in some third-rate country would use on some political dissidents.  At the time I stated that It was a ghastly crime that these officers will need to be charged with and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

We know that did not happen as Kenosha officials announced that the officers involved in the shooting would not be charged.

Now, this morning vigilantism was given an absolute pass by a Kenosha jury in the Rittenhouse killings.

The racial split in Kenosha has not mended, and it will be asked in the days to come as a result of today’s verdict, how it is a community can not render appropriate justice for the violent crimes that have consumed it. They seem not to even try.

Meanwhile, the nation is watching Kenosha and asking lots of appropriate questions.

I wonder what the verdict would be in the #RittenhouseTrial if the defendant were a Black seventeen-year-old from another state who killed two people with an illegal assault weapon?” legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin tweeted.

That question just got more biting in light of the verdict.

Meanwhile, at city hall, the question to ponder in light of the events since August 2020 is what new business would wish to locate to a place that defines itself with such low standards?

And so it goes.

Kyle Rittenhouse Had ‘Medic Bag’ But Never Tried To Help Anyone He Shot

The display from Kyle Rittenhouse on the stand during his jury trial for the killing of two people and the shooting of a third made for good television. Best overacting role since the end of the Hollywood period of such performances in the 1940s. The teenage actor was even able to squeeze out a tear. That takes some preparation and resolve to get to such a state.

But for the nation that watched the coverage on all news channels, it was surely seen as the nadir of the Rittenhouse story. Thus far.

I did not buy for a moment that the display from Rittenhouse was anything more than a planted moment within the testimony, concocted by his defense team to poke the right chords with at least one juror.

As with most aspects of life, however, it is not about what is said, but rather what is done.

When Rittenhouse fires his assault weapon in Kenosha while pretending to be both a policeman and an EMT he creates death and bloodshed. But never once does he use his self-described medic bag, in any way, to treat the grievous wounds he has inflicted. An injured man is screaming for help, in another video segment a cameraman removes his shirt and tries to stem the blood flow from a victim.

Yes, the word victim, the correct term for the ones shot in Kenosha, is used on this blog.

The brave little warrior who was supposed to be protecting a used car lot, rather than walking his talk, split the scene of the carnage. He was far out of the location of his firing of this assault weapon as quickly as possible.

On the stand Rittenhouse had his “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” moment. One that newspapers from Madison’s Wisconsin State Journal to California’s Mercury News published on their front pages today.

On the stand, he whimpered about his situation, but never once recognized the plight of others who fell to his bullets. Never once did he admit to a failure as a human being for killing others and fleeing from the scene of his crimes. There is one line that paraphrased hits the chord that struck many in the nation.

“You had your medic bag, but you never tried to help anyone you shot”.

That was the line and moment that resonated with viewers. Not an over-acted scene from someone who attempted to mimic films from the 1940s.

And so it goes.

Why Did No One Get Kyle Rittenhouse Needed Counseling Before Killings In Kenosha?

Though lawyers have a job to do in making a case for a defendant does not mean that the rest of us need to fall for the twisted concoctions crafted for the courtroom. This week we will read and hear many news accounts about the life and times of Kyle Rittenhouse. A jury will weigh the evidence and render a decision.

And because we hold firm to the belief in the wisdom of a jury we will accept the verdict, regardless of how this trial ends. I certainly have a viewpoint based on logic and morality, but while the jury is hearing the case will not get ahead of their work.

Rather it seems like a good time to ask a question that will likely not make its way into the hearing range of the jury.

How is it that a teenager can exhibit behavior that calls out for help and yet it seems none was offered? How is a teenager allowed to drop out of school, get drawn into a mindset where dressing up like a police officer seems normal, have access to an assault weapon, and smile for photos showcasing this type of behavior?

Granted, in retrospect following the news that Rittenhouse killed two people that behavior is most noticeable. But certainly, those closest to him in the family, or as neighbors, school personnel, even a single friend who witnessed this up close could have spoken out. This behavior did not occur in a vacuum and it needs to be asked why no one pulled the alarm bell when it could have made a difference?

I readily admit, and happily so, that my teenage experiences were vastly different from the defendant on trial in Kenosha this week. I have thought a great deal over the months about the average teenager and how they navigate those years in our current environment. I know it is not easy.

I have watched kids in my neighborhood growing up, head off to college, and am aware of some of the valleys and mountains in that journey. I know of parents who have assisted their child to get counseling so to address issues that need to be dealt with so as to become a sturdy adult. I have offered my personal support and encouragement on that path.

But as I have read about Rittenhouse the environment he grew up in seems almost alien.

My dad drove me each week to the public library in our small town of 500 people for books. It is reported that Rittenhouse’s mother drove her underage son across state lines to a city that was in the midst of protests and violence. Add in the mix an assault weapon and one has to ask how could this scenario not have ended in any other way than bloodshed for Rittenhouse?

As I said, it is hard to grasp the life Rittenhouse led up to his pulling the trigger in Kenosha. But I suggest we need to think about it.

As I have thought more and more about Rittenhouse since last August I have not softened my view on what he did. It was outrageous. I have, however, found myself feeling sorry about his home life. Had there been solid leadership employed he would have been required to stay in high school. There would have been an expectation of receiving counseling for whatever was triggering his fondness for, and reliance on, the imagery of power and strength emanating from law enforcement.

The cast is molded for Rittenhouse. The jury will make their decision in about two weeks.

Parents, friends, and school officials, however, know of other young males who could use guidance, support, strong steering in the correct direction, and the firmness and resolve from an adult that can shape a person to take the path Rittenhouse did not. It seems this trial can be more than passing judgment on this one teenager, and perhaps greatly assist the lives of others. That is my strong hope.

And so it goes.