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Database Finds Fugitive After 35 Years 459

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the can-run-but-cannot-hide dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Guardian has a story on a woman who was claims she is innocent and was apprehended 35 years after escaping prison by a computer database created by the Department of Homeland Security. Linda Darby was convicted of killing her husband in 1970 and sentenced to life at an Indiana prison but escaped two years later by climbing over a barbed-wire fence at the Indiana Women's Prison. She knocked on a stranger's door in Indianapolis, telling the woman who answered that her cuts and scratches were from a fight with her boyfriend. In Indianapolis she met the man who would become her third husband and moved to his hometown of Pulaski, where they raised their two children and watched eight grandchildren grow up. As Linda Jo McElroy, she used a similar date of birth and social security number to her real ones which allowed a computer database created by the Department of Homeland Security to identify her. Darby says she is innocent and fled prison because she did not want to serve time for another person's crime."
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Database Finds Fugitive After 35 Years

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  • Of course... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by azuredrake (1069906) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:20AM (#21223129)
    Of course, even if she was innocent of murder, she's now guilty of whatever charge Indiana has on its books for escaping from prison...
  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:43AM (#21223235) Homepage
    On the face of it she was found guilty of murder and compounded that by absconding from prison. She claims that she is innocent, but she would say that any way. There is no way that the armchair sleuths on slashdot can come to any realisitic determination of the truth. I fully appreciate that 'the law' is on occasion incorectly applied ... but that is another story.

    What is interesting is that we have this story probably flagged up by the authorities. I suspect that it is to make us think that the ''big government databases'' are a good thing and that we should approve their continued use. What is buried are the stories where these databases have screwed up and inconvenienced (or worse) innocent people.

  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:46AM (#21223255) Homepage Journal
    The title off the post is irritating.
    The database did nothing. It is a process running on a computer. Information flows in, (potentially useful) information flows out, a suspected criminal is arrested. One could as well claim that the piping system in a house effected the drowning of someone. Water flowed in, water flowed out, and someone died.
    The database is just an occasionally useful tool. The code for it is written by people, and the outputs are intrepreted and acted upon by people.
    Could we eschew this slipshod causal analysis?
  • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:48AM (#21223263)
    So, the REVENGE is complete.
    She managed to live as a productive citizen, have kids, and pay taxes -- but now at 65, the genius database that is going to let no small-time criminal get away has caught her. This is just sad. I don't think any of us really want a perfect tracking system -- we want good enough justice and better courts.

    I remember that my brother used to mess around with drugs in high school. He never got caught, but had some "therapy" when my parents found out. They don't have this for poor people -- they just go to jail. Now my brother makes over $250,000 and runs the SouthEaster division of some big company -- a productive citizen. If the system had caught him, he'd be an unemployable deadbeat, and probably dealing with depression and recidivism like all the other folks. We like to think that we are different -- but opportunity makes a HUGE difference to your outcomes in life.

    I'm glad when some mass murderer gets caught -- but I'm not so sure about this lady. Her life is over -- innocent or not. And it won't help anyone but to keep the employment of prison guards up. Do you know these mega-prisons have lobbyists now and that's where we got most of the push for mandatory sentences and 3 strikes and you are out?
  • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:51AM (#21223281) Homepage
    Oh, give me a break. You can discuss if this is a wise use of money or helps against terrorists, but if as a side effect an escaped murderer is caught and brought to justice, why are you trying to spin that as a bad thing? I really couldn't care less if she's been a saint since she escaped or if she claims to be innocent - a jury of her peers, after hearing all the evidence, found her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It's not exactly terribly creative to claim you escaped because you're innocent, you know. I want fugitives, whereever they may be and however long time has passed, to fear that some day they'll be found out and brought to justice. Within a reasonable balance of catching them, bringing them to trial and making sure they don't escape in the first place, that is.

  • by Large Green Mallard (31462) <lgm@theducks.org> on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:55AM (#21223297) Homepage
    The databases were created to stop terrorism. If they're being used to chase down anyone the government wants for anything, it's another step toward a police state.
  • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:56AM (#21223305) Journal

    At 64 she remains perfectly capable of killing her new husband, so her danger to society is hardly reduced.
    Correct, but was this danger to society great enough to justify all the new government powers that have been set up after 2001? If this is the best the DHS can do, then where does that put the cost to benefit ratio?
  • by sjbe (173966) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:57AM (#21223307)

    the genius database that is going to let no small-time criminal get away has caught her. This is just sad.


    So basically you are saying murder is OK. Wow. Innocent until proven guilty but that takes some really... interesting thinking to claim that murder is somehow forgivable.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:07AM (#21223377)
    And if she were railroaded and falsely convicted of the murder as she claims? Doesn't an innocent person deserve to live free? Isn't an innocent person entirely justified in escaping from a penal system which has erroneously imprisoned her because she had a shitty defense counsel? Or are you one of those law and order types that worship at the alter of State Authority, and who believes that it never wrongly convicts people?
  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:13AM (#21223399) Homepage Journal
    "Papers please." Americans never want to here these words. But even as far back as 1972, scholars of civil rights were aware of the dangers posed by compulsory provision of social security numbers. The uniqueness property of the SS numbers are so useful, it was quickly becoming necessary to use the number to transact a great deal of government and even private business.

    At least it used to be that the FBI couldn't troll through every database the government had, looking for people. The idea was that people don't have a choice about providing their SS number and other information that personally identifies them, so that this information should not be requested unless there was a clear reason to collect it, and should never be used except for that purpose.
  • Wrong Message (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ncryptd (1172815) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:15AM (#21223415)
    I realize that this is supposed to be a "Look what Big Brother can do for you!" piece -- but is anyone else a little unsettled by what went on? A woman claims her innocence to the point where she breaks out of jail. After escaping, she goes on to live a normal life for 35 years (not harming anyone, and raising children), after which the government re-captures her, and will haul her back to prison to rehabilitate. Given that she spent 35 years on the outside with no further crimes, I'd say that she's pretty rehabilitated already.... but I guess not.
     
     

    She and her husband ran a junk and antiques shop for a number of years, friends said. More recently, Darby worked cleaning houses and sitting with elderly people.


    Whew! Glad we have her off the streets. Thank God for that database....
  • by ubuwalker31 (1009137) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:16AM (#21223423)
    When you are convicted by a jury in the United States of a felony, you loose a number of rights by operation of law. You loose your right to freedom by having to go to jail, you loose your right to hold property, by having to compensate the victim and the state, and often, your right to vote. The reason why this is "ok" is because you lost these rights after "due process of law".

    Escaping from jail is a serious criminal offense with serious additional penalties. There is no statute of limitation concerns because it is an ongoing crime...the statute would start to run after recapture, however.

  • by schnikies79 (788746) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:16AM (#21223429)
    Or are you just one of those tools who think everybody in innocent just because they say so. She was convicted by a jury of her peers.
  • by Cal Paterson (881180) * on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:31AM (#21223503)
    Because a life sentence for murder is actually a very reasonable deterrent. Remember that almost all murder is done in a premeditated manner (otherwise it would be manslaughter (I'm in the UK)). There are some crimes where you are right, and it is not productive to attach a lengthy jail term as a deterrent (drug use, theft/robbery/burglary etc) but with murder is not one of them.

    Murder is the most serious crime, and if you neither attach a jail sentence (to deter) nor a therapy/rehab course (which is pointless because murder, as you said, has a tiny recidivism rate) you aren't actually attaching any judicial response, and murder ceases to be criminal behaviour.

    I understand your frustration at the seemingly fruitless punishment for murder (and you are correct; it serves no purpose for the betterment of the convicted), but having a long jail sentence for murder actually does serve society: by deterring murder.
  • Re:Of course... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Das Modell (969371) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:33AM (#21223515)
    Their policy is insane and dangerous. Why do rapists and psychopaths deserve freedom at the expense of the safety of others?
  • Re:Wrong Message (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .101retsaMytilaeR.> on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:36AM (#21223535) Homepage Journal

    A woman claims her innocence to the point where she breaks out of jail.

    What, only innocent people try and break out of jail? Please.

    Given that she spent 35 years on the outside with no further crimes, I'd say that she's pretty rehabilitated already.... but I guess not.

    So what's your point? If we convict people who MURDER their spouses, we should let them out to see if they can turn their life around? If your sister's husband murders your sister, then escapes, are you OK with just letting him go? If you're OK with murder, I assume you're OK if he just beats her up.

    Of course, we have to be consistent. If any prison claims that their innocent, we should let them out. Or if any prison *might* live a productive life, we should let them out. Or if any prison can manage to escape AND stay hidden for along enough time without any crime, then their crime will be forgiven.

    Maybe you can define exactly what you want the rule to be.

    If it was my son that was murdered by this woman, I'd be pretty happy that we have better tools to catch bad people. This was a huge win for law enforcement. I'm glad we're finding these people and not letting them chortle day after day about how they "got away with it."

  • by littlewink (996298) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:50AM (#21223613)
    pursuing enemies of the United States. Undoubtedly they also have determined where Osama Bin Laden is hiding?

    I am soooo pleased that we now have tens of thousands of otherwise unemployed white-collar workers working diligently to pursue terrorists such as this woman. If only one such terrorist is found by the trillions of dollars then I think the "War on Terror" must be declared a wild success.

    Sheesh!
  • Re:Of course... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:52AM (#21223631)
    I don't think that's relevant, the point is when caught they won't face extra charges for escaping. See? That wasn't so hard, was it? Thinking can be fun.
  • by peektwice (726616) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:55AM (#21223655)
    73% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

    Recidivism is low among convicted murderers because they often spend the rest of their lives in prison.

    I've got no sympathy for this woman just because she says "It wasn't me!". That's the excuse kids use every time they get caught doing something they shouldn't. However, most outgrow it.

    Murder however, is a capital offense, and the argument doesn't wash. Obviously the jury agrees.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:55AM (#21223659)
    "She was convicted by a jury of her peers."

    Jesus, I sincerely hope you get to face one of those one day.. Because juries are the pinnacle of intelligence, can't be mislead, deceived or swayed by irrelevant stuff, right? Just face it, it's a lottery as much as anything, especially if you can't afford a good defense.
  • by Ironsides (739422) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:56AM (#21223675) Homepage Journal
    Have you ever thought that the heavy sentences for murder are what keep the recidivism rate low? After all, it's kind of hare to commit a second murder while in jail.

    Also, as you say, vast majority of murders are by people the victim knew. Ever think that the heavy sentences keep others from committing murder?

    Sentences are for multiple reasons. Rehabilitation, Punishment and Deterrence. Rehabilitation so the person does not do it again. Punishment for their crime. Deterrence to keep others from committing the same crime.
  • Re:False Positives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Descalzo (898339) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:59AM (#21223695) Journal
    What I'm interested in hearing about is the people who were arrested. Not fingered. We'll NEVER hear about all the people who were fingered, because fingering is not really a bad thing.

    Well, maybe I'm being harsh. You should explain what exactly you mean by being "fingered" and what's wrong with it, and why we should be up in arms about it.

  • by kaiser423 (828989) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:07AM (#21223747)
    No, he's saying that this massive database that spies deeply into our lives that's supposed to catch terrorists is now catching little 'ol grandmas (who killed a person, but is not a terrorist), and that we're supposed to be happy about it. I am not.

    I would rather have her free on the street than lose some of my civil liberties. She didn't re-commit crimes, and she led a good life. She did/does deserve to be in jail, but this database is obviously not being used in the context that it was expected to be used in, and that's disturbing.

    If you've ever watched an old western, or any outlaw movie -- there's a very romantic idea in America of old criminals righting their ways by themselves, relocating and turning into great, good productive citizens. Then in the end of the movie, some asshole sheriff shows up and drags the ex-criminal back into court/jail to the sadness of the whole town who then rallies behind him. So, yea, internally a lot of people are conflicted -- this person should be in jail, but there's some part of the rough and tumble American ideal inside of people still that says she made it right and should be left alone. She needs to go back into jail for precedence reasons (can't just let her go once they've found a jail-bird), but a part of me is disgusted at the way she was caught -- by this TERRORIST DATABASE, and not by something that would have happened if the government wasn't actively data-mining in places that they normally wouldn't be if it weren't for 9/11/PATRIOT ACT/Bush.

    So yea, lock up the criminals (even better, rehabilitate), but don't justify a massive infringement in civil liberties by saying that it has allowed you to lock up grandma.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:09AM (#21223755) Homepage Journal
    The news is full of stories lately about people who where convicted by juries of their peers, spent 15-20 years in jail and eventually proven innocent by DNA evidence. Also, OJ was not convicted by a jury of his peers. That pretty much illustrates the value of a jury of your peers.
  • by lazlo (15906) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:12AM (#21223773) Homepage
    I'd be somewhat skeptical of those statistics. It seems to me that a murderer is either 1) in jail for his/her crime, 2) trying to avoid being caught, or 3) has been released after a lengthy prison stay. Case 1 makes recidivism difficult. In case 2, the murderer can be expected to be a bit cautious. In case 3, the murderer is at least a decade or two older, and my understanding is that the vast majority of crimes in general are committed by the youth (which may be due to similar statistical influences).

    However, that aside, most people agree that there should be *some* consequence for lawbreaking. From what I've seen, there are 4 basic reasons that people want that consequence applied, and many people seem to weight those reasons wildly differently. This leads to some people having a completely reasonable and consistent opinion that still makes absolutely no sense to someone else. The four reasons I've seen are:
    1) revenge
    2) deterrent
    3) rehabilitation
    4) prevention of recidivism (in the aspect that someone can't easily commit some crimes while in jail)

    So, for someone who weighs 3 and 4 heavily, the sentence for a first murder should be fairly light, as the criminal is unlikely to commit that crime again. If you weigh 1 and 2 heavily, then the consequence should be correlated to the seriousness of the crime, not the chance of the criminal committing the crime again, so a hefty sentence for murder makes sense.

    But even if 3 and 4 are the only concerns, there's got to be a reason why one would want to prevent recidivism. That reason is probably the potential for damage that the crime being committed again poses. Even though the recidivism rate for shoplifting is probably incredibly high, if it happens it's still *just shoplifting*. It costs someone some money. Similarly, even though the recidivism rate for murder may be extremely low, when it happens someone still dies, and that can significantly impact a lot of people. (I'm not trying to imply that you think murderers should receive a sentence lighter than shoplifters, it's just two things that tend to be on opposite ends of the scale for both recidivism and the impact of the crime's effects)
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:16AM (#21223801) Journal
    You do understand that she ostensibly MURDERED someone? She didn't just steal his ipod or wreck his car - she MURDERED him.

    "Given that she spent 35 years on the outside with no further crimes, I'd say that she's pretty rehabilitated already.... but I guess not."

    Maybe prison is meant to be *punishment*, and no, I don't think she's done her time if she was in fact guilty.

    Or would you agree that someone who kills YOUR sister, son, cousin, father - and managed to evade capture for 35 years should just be therefore forgiven?
  • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:17AM (#21223805) Homepage Journal
    Except it is not a good deterrent. There is absolutely no proof that longer murder sentences leads to higher rates of murders.

    Truth of the matter is that there are countries where murder carries long sentences with high murder rates (like the US) and with low murder rates (like the UK) and there are countries where murder carries short sentences with very low murder rates (like the Scandinavian countries) - there's no conclusive link between the length of sentences in these cases and frequency.

    The point is that the majority of murders, premeditated or not, are done without any thought for the consequences. It is either done in affect or it is done in emotional states where you most certainly will not spend time worrying about whether you'll be locked up for life or "only" a handful of years.

  • by domicius (1183827) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:28AM (#21223871)
    It's interesting to read this article and wonder where the husband's story has been gone. By carefully eliminating any possibility of sympathising with the victim of the murder, and by introducing fairly spurious ground for doubting the verdirct we're steered carefully towards reaching the writer's conclusion that this woman is innocent, and didn't deserve to be recaptured.

    What about her ex-husband's relatives, who have had to live a lifetime knowing the woman that was convicted of murdering their son/brother/father, ran away from justice and never served the punishment for her crime? What are their feelings that the person who had escaped a horrible crime to live a free life has been recaptured? Should they not feel relieved and even happy that a fugitive murderer has been apprehended to serve her time?

    Take whichever side you will, and believe what you will. But at the very least acknowledge the victim's side of the story, and that this article was one-sided and emotionally manipulative.
  • Stepping backwards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:39AM (#21223945)
    Maybe prison is meant to be *punishment*, and no, I don't think she's done her time if she was in fact guilty.

    Punishment? No, you mean Revenge.

    Revenge is about hate.

    The supposed purpose of the police system is to ensure that people are free of fear and hate. That we are safe to live in peace. Prison is supposed to remove people from society as long as they pose a threat, and it is meant to rehabilitate people so that they can lead peaceful lives. That is the end purpose of the law. That is the way we protect ourselves.

    Without knowing more about the woman and the life she has lived, we cannot judge. Perhaps she was being abused and her killing the man was an accidental result of self-defense. Or perhaps she was a jealous lunatic. Or perhaps she really was falsely accused. We do not know. But I DO know that revenge is not why I pay taxes. If this woman today poses no threat, if she has become a giving person who helps society, then containing her and ruining her psyche in a prison system which has a lousy track record of actually rehabilitating people, then what has happened here is a step backwards.

    You cannot un-kill people. The past is the past, and it may be very sad. But the future is not well served through revenge and further acts of hate. As Gandhi put it, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."


    -FL

  • by Kenneth Stephen (1950) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:39AM (#21223947) Journal
    Au contraire.

    Its the difference between building a house without a hammer, and building a house with one. The hammer didn't hammer the nails; the person did. However, the house wouldn't have gotten built without the hammer because its just too difficult to do it otherwise. And thats the point: the database is a tool that makes the difference between catching some criminals and letting them get away scot-free. The title of the story is exactly right.
  • by stoicfaux (466273) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:50AM (#21224033)

    So, why do we impose the heaviest sentences for murder, regardless of circumstance, heavier than those crimes that indicate a far more sociopathic personality, if the justice system is first and foremost about protecting society and its interests?

    Eh? "Regardless of circumstance?" Circumstances are why we have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, not guilty by reason of mental defect, and so on. Even then, the state can decline to bring charges, a plea bargain can be made, immunity given for help in prosecuting other crimes, a jury of our peers can choose to give a 'not guilty' verdict, and the governor/president can issue a pardon or commute the sentence. Society can even ignore murder if it chooses to (such as lynchings.)

    On the long list of crimes ranked by recidivism rates, murder ranks very near the bottom. Except for the few sociopaths who see murder as acceptable means for financial or personal gain, and the even fewer number who kill to indulge a predatory instinct or because it's just fun for them, the vast majority of murders are very obviously one-time affairs.

    It sounds more like rapists and other predators should be given life sentences, or otherwise removed from society in much the same way that murderers are. However, if the penalty for rape and murder are the same, then rapists might as well kill their victims.

    How do you determine if a murderer won't murder again? If/when you're wrong, then that's another life lost. Society isn't in the mood to trust someone who committed the ultimate crime of taking a life.

    And as others have stated, there's no way to undo, fix, or survive a murder, hence the harsh punishment.

    (Bracing for the bitchslaps...)

    Criticism and/or civilized debate are not equivalent to being bitch slapped, so don't play the martyr. Justice systems have been evolving for thousands of years and their workings have been analyzed, discussed, and debated by many minds greater than you or I.

  • by Splab (574204) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @12:31PM (#21224323)
    You can't say just by that that she is innocent of the original crime, however she has shown to be a capable of being a normal citizen working for the greater good, if prison is supposed to correct people and she has shown to be "correct" she should be led out.
  • by jimicus (737525) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @12:47PM (#21224441)
    interesting thinking to claim that murder is somehow forgivable.

    Excuse me while I play devil's advocate here - am I to understand that your point of view is that life imprisonment should mean life?

    Because if not, then the idea that society should never forgive a murderer to my mind implies that anyone who is let out of prison after serving such a term should never be able to find work, should be denied even the most basic of social housing or benefits and should essentially have no choice but to wind up living as a tramp, wandering the streets, drinking methylated spirits and shouting at people who aren't there.
  • Re:Of course... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @01:00PM (#21224549) Journal
    she's now guilty of whatever charge Indiana has on its books for escaping from prison...

    This case brings into question the whole purpose of prison. The criminal escape charges should be dropped if the idea behind prison is actually to reform the prisoner. It sounds like this lady lead a mainstream productive life, which should be the point of prison. Now if the real purpose of prison is a juvenile sense of revenge or to support the prison industrial complex, then by all means let's throw her back in and her new husband too, after all he was harboring a fugitive.
  • by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @01:11PM (#21224613) Homepage
    Prison is supposed to be used as a reformation tool. She escaped and has lived a criminal free (ie: reformed) life ever since. So what is the good of locking her up right now going to do? Reform her some more? Murder might not be forgivable (unless you have the money and power) but locking her up won't bring the dead guy back. It will only cause more strife in this world, since her husband will lose his wife, her children will lose their mother, and her grandchildren won't know their grandmother, and she's gonna die in prison. What a solution!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @01:43PM (#21224823)

    So if his god's the reason why he doesn't bomb, what happens if he loses faith?

  • by alexq (702716) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @01:46PM (#21224847)
    So basically you are saying murder is OK. Wow. Innocent until proven guilty but that takes some really... interesting thinking to claim that murder is somehow forgivable.

    There are two arguments for prisons: punitive and preventative.

    Regarding the second, preventative, it is fairly clear that locking this woman away would not prevent any further crimes - she has not done anything in criminal (apparently) in over 30 years. There would be societal benefit to putting her away.

    Further, if she IS innocent and wrongly charged (as she claims), then there's no reason to put her away at all. If she is guilty, she has proven that it was a mistake that she will not repeat, so no one is in danger because of her being free.

    Regarding the first, purely punitive, then you are right, but I would argue that punitive prisons are a backwards notion that does not serve society in any way - this is essentially societal revenge, which does not sound like a reasonable way for society to exist. There is such a thing as forgive and forget - but ONLY if it is clear that the person will not do it again. People make mistakes, people can get crazy, and people can be wrongly tried. If it's clear that the person is no longer a threat to society, then (this is not a rhetorical question) what is the point of locking them up? Who does it benefit?

  • Considering... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mad-cat (134809) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @01:49PM (#21224859) Homepage
    Considering she hasn't killed anyone in the time she's been out, I think they should consider the possibility that she is not a danger to society and change the conviction to manslaughter with credit for time served.

    Good job. We caught her. Now let it drop.
  • No. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by KBAegis (961391) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @01:53PM (#21224895)
    "A man is not innocent simply because he has never had the chance to steal." And, if I may point out a fundamental hypocrisy, you're also externalizing our domestic problems. The story here was about Homeland Security. Personally, I'm more concerned that our federal government has created a database to guard against foreign threats and is now using it to enforce domestic laws. If you want to blame that on the Mexicans, feel free, but refrain from criticizing those whom "refuse to fix the corruption and anarchy that's causing [the problem]."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @02:33PM (#21225231)
    Ever think that the heavy sentences keep others from committing murder?

    No. Do you seriously believe that more people would murder if the law wasn't so strict? ("Damn, Andy really pissed me off at last week's staff meeting. I'd stab him in the throat, if it was only a 6-month sentence.")

    Sentences are for multiple reasons. Rehabilitation, Punishment and Deterrence. Rehabilitation so the person does not do it again. Punishment for their crime. Deterrence to keep others from committing the same crime.

    That's what we tell citizens, anyway, to keep them satisfied. Statistically deterrence isn't a big one. And anybody who has been to one of our prisons can see that they're not built for rehabilitation. (If they were any good at it, why does America have 25% of the world's prisoners? The homosexual anal rape has become a joke punchline -- does that help with rehabilitation?) American prisons are in large part simply formalized racism and vengeance.
  • by Bozdune (68800) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @03:12PM (#21225523)
    Yes, the police system creates fear. But does fear deter crime? The answer is no. This has been proven by countless studies over the years, many of which have focused on capital punishment and its deterrent effect (it has none - see, for example, this [nsw.gov.au]).

    So your most of your argument is specious.

    The part of your argument that is incontestable is the part where you say "[prison] takes [criminals] off the streets." That, in fact, does lower the crime rate, although there are much more sensible approaches to lowering the crime rate (for example, de-criminalizing drug use (see this [powells.com])).

    The fact that Indiana didn't catch the woman for 35 years implies to me that they probably didn't try very hard -- hell, she didn't even move out of state. I'll bet there's a subtext to the story, or circumstances that we don't know about, that convinced the cops that she posed zero threat to society and wasn't worth expending the resources to track down. That judgment, if it was made, turned out to be true.
  • by Alascom (95042) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @03:32PM (#21225655)
    >Why isn't it called murder when the president slaughters people?

    Because most rational and intelligent people understand the difference between killing and murder. Sorry you don't have the intellectual capacity to fit into the rational and intelligent category.

    If I terminate your life while you are attempting to shoot children on a playground, that is killing in defense of others.
    If I terminate your life because you are suffering horribly from terminal cancer, that is killing for mercy.
    If I terminate your life after buying a big life insurance policy on you, that is murder.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @03:40PM (#21225713)
    Actually, she doesn't deserve to be in jail.

    You may think I'm crazy for saying that, of course, but I'm not a fan of the retributive concept of "justice" that countries like the USA use. For me, prison has two functions, and none beyond these: 1) keep society safe from those criminals who're actually dangerous; 2) reeducate criminals for the purpose of enabling them to function as productive members of society again.

    Now look at this case. 1) Is it necessary to put her in jail to keep society safe? No; she's been living for 35 years without doing anything, and possibly never was a threat at all, depending on whether she was indeed rightfully convicted or not (something I naturally can't comment on). 2) Is is necessary to reeducate her? No; she's already become a productive member of society again.

    Therefore, putting her in jail is counterproductive and wrong - QED. Unless, of course, one believes in using prison to take revenge on people, but that's not something I do (although I do realise I'd probably be in the minority if I lived in the USA).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @04:18PM (#21225947)

    I didn't mean in the context of what your god thinks of him, I mean in the context of black people who would prefer not to be blown up. If religion is what keeps him from doing this, then he's still very dangerous. What happens if somebody he loves dies and he decides that there isn't a god after all, and his "conversion" to a good person was mere fiction? The reliance on religion for his morality is a glaring point of failure.

  • by hokeyru (749540) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:31AM (#21229421)
    3) Deterrence.
  • by leereyno (32197) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @06:25AM (#21230155) Homepage Journal
    I really do have to disagree with you about theft, robbery, and burglary. Putting the people who do those things in jail prevents these things from being done by those people. The fact that the UK does not do this is a big part of why your crime rate is so high.

    My wife is from the UK, and the stories she's told me about burglaries, assaults, robberies, etc over there was almost more than I could believe. I live in Phoenix, AZ which is an area of some 5 million people. I don't even remember the last time I heard of someone being burglarized. It happens of course, my point is that it not such a common phenomena that you hear about it happening to anyone you know. No one I know has ever been burglarized to my knowledge, certainly no one in my family. Meanwhile among my wife's family back in Stoke there have been three different burglaries in the past 6 years. Nearly everyone in her town has a burglar alarm, which here are only used by people in wealthier areas, who actually have something worth enough to attract a burglar.

    At the end of the day the main reason why burglaries are so rare here is because the life expectancy of a burglar is pretty short. Breaking into someone's house is a good way to get shot. Burglar alarms are uncommon here, but firearms are not. Even a .22 can ruin someone's day, not to mention a pump action shotgun.

    When these sorts of criminals are caught here, we send them up for several years at a time. This keeps them off the street, thereby preventing them from committing more crimes. If they are smart they change their ways and stop being criminals. If they are not smart we have a 3-strikes law in this state the results in a life sentence upon their 3rd felony conviction, making crime a very self-limiting occupation.

    I do agree that sending drug USERS to prison is a waste all around. It wastes my money as a taxpayer locking up someone who should not be there. It wastes the state's resources keeping someone locked up when actual criminals could be kept there instead. And it wastes the life of someone who has committed no real crime. While smoking weed is a stupid waste of time and a somewhat self-destructive activity, it is not a crime. It is merely illegal. You damage yourself by doing it, but then that is your right as a free person. It is not the job of the state to protect citizens from themselves. Down that path lies tyrany. The state is invested with the power and authority to prosecute and punish those individuals who violate the rights of other individuals, as defined by law. Drug use violates no one.

    The truth is that most drug laws have very little do to with drugs, and everything to do with the kinds of people that society imagines uses certain drugs. Marijuana is illegal not because of any harm it does to an individual or to society, but because of the public's perception of the kinds of people who use it. The term "pothead" does not invoke images of a successful person. Instead it brings to mind images of a dysfunctional person, the kind of person that most people wish would go away. Drug laws are an attempt to outlaw certain types of people that the rest of society disapproves of. This does not work of course, but there you have it. This is why the laws against these drugs are on the books and enforced. Any mention of legalizing these drugs is interpreted by the public as creating more of these unsavory characters. Soccer moms don't want more potheads and so the drug that is associated with them stays illegal. In the meantime people are arrested and incarcerated because of who they are, namely potheads. Their identity has been tied to a particular substance. The prohibition of it is a prohibition of them. If they're stupid enough to go around looking like potheads then sooner or later they're going to get done up for it.
  • --In other words: If we judge this on a case-by-case basis, there is NO "benefit" to putting a stable Grandma in prison after 35 years of crime-free existence. It would undoubtedly be more of a tragedy for her children and grandchildren if we tried (not to mention her husband.)

Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes. -- Mickey Mouse

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