Chattanooga Shootings Produce Heroes: We Should Remember Their Names

How many people would risk their lives to do what the two Marines in Chattanooga did? How many would have, instead, yielded to the temptation to hide and live? The bravery displayed by Sullivan and Wyatt defines courage. Heroism such as this often goes unnoticed, or barely noticed. More time is spent worshipping celebrities, athletes or movie actors, who so frequently disappoint adoring fans. More public attention is also devoted to the shooters than is given to their victims or the occasional heroes who stand up to the tragic and senseless bloodbaths caused by rampagers.

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Rampage shootings sometimes produce heroes like Sullivan and Wyatt. Yet there is a good chance you’ve never heard of Liviu Librescu, Bill Badger or Jeffrey May, all rampage shooting heroes. Read their stories in my latest Huffington Post column.

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The Images Of Rampage Killers Make A Difference

A photo can make a huge difference in forming public opinion. James E. Holmes is on trial for the rampage murders at the Aurora Colorado movie theater in July of 2012. Holmes was recently convicted of the murder of 12 people and the injuries to at least 70 others. A Centennial, Colorado jury is deliberating now on his fate and deciding whether he will face the death penalty. Holmes’ defense team have put forward an insanity defense, a defense proven extremely hard to prevail with American juries.

Many Americans have repeatedly seen several photographs of Holmes. In one set of popular photos, taken in court, Holmes has bright red died hair and a wide eyed look. He has a scary appearance. Here is one such recent court photograph of Holmes:

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James Holmes Appears In Court (Photo by RJ Sangosti/Getty)

And here is another photograph with wide circulation of James Holmes, his police mug shot. He has shorter hair, but still a somewhat frightening appearance:

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James Holmes’ mug shot. (AFP Photo / Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office)

One wonders, though, if public opinion of Holmes would be affected if older photos of Holmes were chosen for mass exposure by the news media. You see, before going on his horrible, blood curdling rampage, Holmes appears to have led a normal suburban life. That is not to suggest that Holmes did not display evidence of mental illness; experts have been debating that in court over the last few weeks. Holmes, though, was an honors high school student and an extremely high achieving college student as well. Holmes graduated from Westview High School in the Torrey Highlands community of San Diego, where he played soccer and ran cross-country track.

Holmes studied neuroscience from The University of California/Riverside, graduating with high honors and a 3.95 GPA. He was enrolled in a PhD program.

Take a look at Holmes’  high school yearbook photo, taken just six years before his rampage. There’s a good chance you’ve never seen this photo on the evening news or your local newspaper; I know I had not:

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James E. Holmes 2006 High School Yearbook Photo (Photo courtesy of The Daily News).

What a startling difference, right? If this was the photograph plastered all over CNN, Fox, MSNBC and the New York Times, do you think America would have a different image of Holmes? How many people are aware of his high achieving childhood of relatively normal youth? What happened to this young man in the six years from his suburban California high school graduation to 2012 when he shot 70 innocent people?  The experts agree he suffered from schizophrenia.

The images are revealing.

(Note: Jim blogs about Rampage murders for the Huffington Post.)

 

Believers, Rampages And The Church In Charleston

Here are my thoughts in The Huffington Post about why, perhaps, the Church in Charleston, South Carolina was the site of a rampage shooting.

 

Let It All Hang Out Or Cover It Up?

The summer kicked off with a blockbuster: the unveiling of the new Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair. Washington, a locale suitable for a magazine more aptly called “Vanity Affair,” is abuzz over another cover story: who was Dennis Hastert paying off and for what?

Hastert, 73, the former Speaker of the House, was arraigned this week in a United States federal court in Illinois on a two count indictment. The indictment, rather short on details, alleges that Hastert lied to the F.B.I. about why he withdrew $3.5 million from a bank account. The Justice Department claims Hastert was paying off a yet-to-named (the mysterious “Individual ‘A’”) to cover-up some “past-misconduct.”

Dennis Hastert Appears In Federal Court. Photo Courtesy of Reuters.

Dennis Hastert Appears In Federal Court. Photo Courtesy of Reuters.

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Courage In The Face of Rampage Shootings

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Published in The Newstimes June 12, 2015

It has been one year (May 23rd) since a deadly rampage shooting near the University of California/Santa Barbara left six innocent college students dead. If it seems like we are routinely marking annual remembrances of rampages it is because we are. Mass shootings at schools and other places occur with startling frequency. Graduating law school students at the University of Arizona College of Law were given a harsh reminder of that reality last week at the commencement ceremony at the McKale Arena. Last week (May 16th) former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords joined her retired astronaut husband, Mark Kelly on stage to address the nearly 180 law school graduates. I was one of them, having returned to school to pursue graduate legal studies; I was one three students at the ceremony awarded a doctoral degree. Continue reading

Teenagers At Home? Protecting Yourself from Alcohol Related Civil and Criminal Liability

Now that this awful winter is finally over, April showers are giving way to May flowers and people are starting to plan parties and activities at home like graduation parties, prom parties, or any other get-togethers, it’s a good time to think about your liability for what happens when something goes wrong. And a lot can go wrong.

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As parents, what are some of the things that you need to worry about when there’s a party in your house?

If your kid’s are like mine, and I have four of them, they look for houses where parents are not home. You have plenty to worry about whether you’re home or not and there’s a party.

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Is It Legal To Tape Telephone Calls?

How to Avoid Getting Arrested For Making Illegal Recordings in CT

It’s tempting. Say you have a suspicion that your spouse is hiding something from you, your roommate is stealing or an employee is disclosing confidential company information to a competitor? Can you set up a system to record their phone calls? As an attorney practicing criminal law I often get calls from clients and other lawyers asking if it is legal in Connecticut to record phone calls. The answer is: sometimes.

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In Connecticut a person is guilty of the crime of Eavesdropping when they illegally record telephone calls, a class D Felony. That makes it a rather serious crime, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. So, when is taping a crime? It is illegal in CT to record telephone calls without the permission of at least one of the people making or receiving the call. So, it is not illegal under CT law to record a call the person making the recording if they are a party to the call. Simple? Hardly. There are many other factors to consider. Although it may not be a state crime, whenever recording any telephone call, the person making the call must either record a warning that the call is being taped, or, have an automatic beep every 15 seconds. If the recorder does not take those precautions when recording calls they are subject to civil liability—a possible civil lawsuit.

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