Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Snap Judgment and Ricin

Oops. Last Thursday I wrote a post which assumed that an Elvis impersonator had sent poison letters to U. S. government officials. The letters really did contain ricin, but the fellow's house didn't.

That may be why charges were dropped against him.1

Meanwhile, law enforcement is searching someone else's house. Eventually, I suppose they'll find a house with ricin, and someone living there who might plausibly have sent those letters.

Then again, maybe not. Some crimes don't get solved.

It's possible that Paul Kevin Curtis really did send those letters, and had the good sense not to leave evidence lying around. Not everyone who commits crimes is sloppy, and that's another topic.

Due Process and Embarrassment

If Mr. Curtis is guilty, and if new evidence points to him, I'm fairly confident that he'll be arrested again and tried for sending potentially-lethal substances to offices in Washington. I'm no great fan of the current administration, and do no hold members of Congress in awe. However, trying to poison whoever opens letters for an elected official is at best a daft way to make a point: and is ethically unsupportable.

If Mr. Curtis is innocent, which the current lack of evidence suggests, I hope that he's able to recover from this accusation.

I'm more than a bit embarrassed about simply assuming that an accusation is true. It's not that I don't trust law enforcement: rather, I know why we have the occasionally-frustrating legal processes we do. 'Guilty until proven dead' may feel good, and is certainly easier to manage than the American judicial system: but if I'm ever accused of a crime, I won't mind having a chance to demonstrate that I am innocent.

Another, and very serious, accusation has been made against a young man who was videotaped planting explosives at the Boston Marathon. I'm more confident that he actually is guilty. In that case, there's a video recording of what he and his deceased brother did, and their anything-but-innocent behavior while killing a police officer and exchanging fire with others.

I'm quite confident that the surviving brother arranged for death and destruction at a public event. However, I also think that it's a good idea to go through the usual judicial process: even when the case seems obvious.

Related posts:
In the news:

1 Excerpts from the news:
"Charges were dropped Tuesday against the Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others, while authorities searched at another man's home in connection with the case.

"The surprising move was announced in a brief document filed in federal court in Oxford hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from custody. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means they could be re-instated if prosecutors so choose.

"Attorneys for Curtis have suggested he was framed, and an FBI agent testified in court this week that no evidence of ricin was found in searches of his home. At a news conference Tuesday, they declined to discuss whether they were told what new information the government had uncovered...."
(Associated Press, via FoxNews.com)
"U.S. prosecutors dropped charges on Tuesday against a Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama, a U.S. senator and a state judge, according to court documents.

"The surprise decision came hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from a Mississippi jail on bond.

"Prosecutors said the 'ongoing investigation has revealed new information,' but provided no additional details, according to the court order dismissing the charges.

"Curtis told reporters he respected Obama. 'I would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official,' he said. 'I love this country.'

"He said he had no idea what ricin was. 'I thought they said "rice," I told them I don't eat rice,' he said...."
(Robbie Ward, Reuters)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.