Showing posts sorted by date for query Frank Bruni. Sort by relevance Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by date for query Frank Bruni. Sort by relevance Show all posts

Friday, January 23, 2015

Missouri: Law School Student Schools Frank Bruni

A third-year law student, Erica J. Mazzotti, has a fine editorial in the St. Louis Dispatch re clemency. She notes that, aside from 9 pardons Governor Nixon granted last month, he has granted only one other request for clemency since he took office in 2009.

Mazzotti notes that the "longstanding tradition" of pardoning "is not just an act of mercy." It entails a "gubernatorial responsibility" to:
... correct injustices within the criminal justice system, including sentences that are significantly disproportionate between genders, offenders who are treated as criminals when in reality they themselves are victims of abuse, and rehabilitated inmates who spend decades incarcerated when they pose no societal threat. 
[Memo to Frank Bruni: Clue up!] Mazzotti notes the Community Coalition for Clemency, represents over a dozen women who "are victims of serious domestic and/or sexual abuse, had no prior history of violent crime, and in some cases received harsher sentences than similarly situated males."

She also discusses a Sentencing Project, study entitled, "Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime: A Tale of Three States” which found that "during the periods of decarceration in New York, New Jersey and California, violent crime rates fell at a greater rate in those three states compared to nationwide rates." Unfortunately, she says, Missouri’s rate of incarceration "continues to rise and as of 2013 is 32 percent higher than the national average."  See full editorial here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bruni: Creative, But Still Wrong

We have already commented on Frank Bruni's commentary on Mark Wahlberg's clemency application (see posts here), but Bruni is doubling down on his wrong-headed analysis and his downward slide is something to see!

Bruni proudly wields a colorless anecdote re Wahlberg's use of eye glasses which he (Bruni), evidently, believes sheds profound light on the substantive merit of Wahlberg's pardon application. After spending a couple of "days" with Wahlberg, years ago, Bruni has concluded Wahlberg exhibited a pattern of bad behavior, almost four decades ago, when he was 16-years old, and when he committed an offense so heinous that he served only 45 days in prison.

In the Morning Joe clip (below), Bruni says Wahlberg's argument for pardon is that, well, "he was 16 at the time." And that is when it becomes perfectly obvious that, for whatever reason, Mr. Bruni just can't think clearly, or very fairly, about this case.

Bruni admits "everyone" says Wahberg is a "great person to work with and an outstanding guy" and that he "probably is a different man." Yes, "probably" is as far as Bruni is willing to wander away from the comfort of his ginormous blind spot. But he then tosses those critical reference points (at least for those who believe in - and are truly interested in - rehabilitation) like a classically over-zealous prosecutor forsaking a handful of frivolous charges in plea bargain negotiations with an indigent defendant. Notably, to date, Bruni and his ilk can't find a single person - not even an anonymous person - to slam Wahlberg's character and reputation ... in the current decade ! Dear Reader, do you realize how hard it is these days to not be able to find an anonymous slanderer?!

For centuries, presidents and governors have considered community service and social good works in clemency decision making, without Bruni's permission and insight:
It's easy to give back money when you make that much money and if we start factoring in financial contributions into pardons, that's just income inequality transferred into criminal justice. I don't think we need to do that. 
The giant ball of flame barrels through a field of straw men. It may be easy to give, but many don't.  As long as we are waxing sociological, "ease" is certainly a relative notion. "Financial contributions" here means donations to organizations that do things like provide counselling and programs to high risk youth. And, of course, the "factoring" consideration would pack a lot of serious journalistic punch were "financial contributions" required. But they are not. They are simply fairly considered with a host of whatever other arguments an applicant can make for penitence, rehabilitation, social responsibility and integration back into society as a law-abiding and productive citizen. 

Presidents have granted pardons to farmers, for all sorts of crimes, that landed then in federal prison, for much longer periods of time, so they could return to their fields for harvest. A President, Bruni would keep them in over-crowded, expensive prisons, protecting himself from 1) any accusation of agricultural bias and 2) any possible negative interpretation of his decision-making concocted by the worst, most uninformed. Signals are more important to Bruni than the boring, raw merits of a pardon application - like the fact that one of the victims thinks Wahlberg should be pardoned. Boring, irrelevant stuff. Admittedly, it appears we have a lot of governors like Bruni!

Bruni says we can't give Wahlberg a pardon ... not because the crime was so horrible, not because the application is weak, or horribly flawed, not because Wahlberg hasn't changed, not because he does not deserve a pardon ... but "because we give so few of them." Brilliant. This is the exact bone-headed argument that Scott Walker uses to justify his "policy" of granting no pardons at all. As he puts it, if he does justice in one case, others will demand the same. God forbid there would be a break out of justice on Walker's (or President Bruni's) watch. 

Then, the coup de grace. Bruni says - sounding really authoritative, informed - "The whole point of pardons is to remove restrictions that keep people from rebuilding productive lives." Because such restrictions have had "almost no effect" on Wahlberg, he is (in Bruni's mind) ineligible for clemency. Pure unadulterated, inexcusable nonsense. He could hardly be more wrong. One could write a doctoral dissertation on the categories and levels of error therein.

Bruni - at this point - is so far in over his head he can only resort to re-convening the court now closed for almost four decades, serving as judge and jury and accusing Wahberg of committing a "vicious racial hate crime." A great sound bite for a six-minute segment and drive -by viewers with little appetite for the yawns prompted by rigorous discussions of fairness and justice. Bruni's "arguments" are the rough equivalent of a football player on the way to a sure touchdown, and dropping the ball before actually crossing the goal line, in an attempt to look really cool, impressive. Epic fail. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Times Editorial on Wahlberg

We have had our say on Mark Wahlberg's pardon application for some time now (see previous posts here). In Today's New York Times, Frank Bruni give us his two cents worth on the topic. Bruni believes Wahlberg is now "confronting" the fact that "life" is not so easily "manipulated" because his application has "rightly" been the focus of "negative" attention.

Bruni understands that the 43-year old Wahlberg committed his offenses when he was but 16 years of age. While Wahlberg's offenses involved physical violence and - it is said - "racial slurs," they were not considered serious enough to result in a jail sentence of more than 45 days. Bruni notes that, more than two decades ago, as rapper "Marky Mark," Wahlberg "was known for using crude language about women" and was "implicated in brawls." The cynic might note ...

Today, however, "several prominent Hollywood producers" insist Wahlberg's reputation "in the industry" is "sterling." He has also donated a considerable amount of time and energy for charitable causes. But Bruni dismisses all of Wahlberg's generosity because "he can afford that in a way that very few ex-cons can." Or, as Bruni puts it:
Financial generosity shouldn’t be a factor in his (or anyone else’s) favor: That’s just the criminal-justice system’s version of income inequality.
Ironically, Bruni is critical of Wahlberg for not having "reached out to the Vietnamese community in Dorchester or to the victims of his crimes." We assume that Wahlberg could, in a way that "very few ex-felons can."

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