aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Evidence of malice?
Thanks for the link, Maggie. And the tip.
I’ve been posting a lot about kids today and here it turns out we’ve got an Atlanta teen, Michael Murphy, who even the veteran prosecutor handling the murder case he’s in jail for isn’t convinced is guilty. So why’s the kid in jail nine months after the crime?
The prosecutor’s DA boss, Paul Howard, told him to try the kid as an adult on murder charges that carry an automatic life sentence if convicted:
Howard declined to comment other than to say, “The indictment speaks for itself.”
Defense attorney Rusty Mayer insists his client isn’t the one to blame for the June 17, 2007 shooting of Byron Watson, 18, who died a couple of days later.
Instead, Mayer claims that Watson was with a group of 15-20 teens who had surrounded Murphy’s Mills Street apartment near the Georgia Aquarium. They were angry with Michael Murphy’s mom, Teresa Murphy, who then worked as a security guard at the complex, Mayer said.
“She had run several of the kids off or had them arrested for selling weed or trespassing,” Mayer said.
Teresa Murphy, who legally carried a gun, also made enemies in her other jobs â€”tracking down fleeing suspected felons as a bounty hunter and snitching on lawbreakers as a criminal informant to Atlanta police.
So she was frightened when she spotted the group of teens walking up to her apartment. She yelled for her son, who also had a gun, to come to her aid.
Someone from the crowd yelled: “Pull the tool!” which Michael Murphy feared meant he or his mother was about to be shot.
Some serious self-defense. Adds Maggie:
[T]he autopsy shows the victim was hit from the back, meaning it’s more likely the shot came from the crowd, who was also firing. A good DA looks at that information and sees that trying this case is probably not worth their time. And a Assistant DA in Fulton County did just that. He was going to send the case to Juvenile Court to be dealt with on lesser charges. ...given the situation, you’d think the least they could do is let this kid out. But no bond has been granted. Instead the Judge berated the kid for having a gun. (And this is in Georgia! Where we’re regularly expanding the gun rights of our citizens! In fact, it seems like given the political climate, we’d be leaning in the kid’s favor instead of against him.)
Now Prosecutors can often be kept in check by defense attorneys and Judges. But the more serious the charge, the more leeway that prosecutor is going to get. All Murphy has going for him right now is time, but it looks like that’s time he’ll be spending in jail. I’m hopeful the case will turn out now, but how much is being lost in the mean time?
Even if it doesn’t rise to the level of willful malicious prosecution (and I tell you, I really have to wonder) it reeks at the very least of prosecution for the sake of re-election—as opposed to prosecution for what I, the common man, understand to be the legitimate reason: to make a safer city.
Midwest Teen Sex Show: Porn
Among my responsibilities, I oversee a linux lab in an experimental high school. We use Dan’s Guardian and while discussing it with a high school teacher last week I wondered whether the pervasiveness of porn on the Internet means that today’s kids simply pass through a porn phase, then go on with their lives.
Sure, some get stuck and we should identify and help them but it’s the adult males—those who never got to go through that phase (sort of akin to the 40 year-old gay man who comes out of the closet late and does all kinds of embarrassing things)—who have the real problem.
I guess we’ll never know.
Anyway, here’s a fun Midwest Teen Sex Show episode on Porn:
Youth to parents: can we talk sex? (reprised again)
In response to yet another study showing that social networks aren’t breeding grounds for sexual predators - my conclusion is that parents need to talk to their kids about sex! - I’m reprising this entire post from March. My experience, 40 years ago now, was precisely the same (sans Internet) as these kids, and I’m not thinking a single thing has changed since March...
On Morning Edition [March 8, 2007], from Blunt Radio in Portland, Maine, produced by Youth Radio and reported by Johanna Greenberg:
Ms. JOHANNA GREENBERG (High School Student, Portland, Maine): I’m sorry to say this, but parents are falling down on the job when it comes to The Talk.
Have your parents given you the sex talk?
Unidentified Woman #1: No.
Unidentified Man #1: No.
Unidentified Man #2: No.
Unidentified Woman #2: I feel uncomfortable.
Unidentified Woman #3: No, they never did.
Unidentified Woman #4: No.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GREENBERG: At school, when we compare notes, my friends and I realize we are learning about sex from the Internet and movies because our parents aren’t talking with us.
Unidentified Woman #5: They just assume that I did it already. But they didn’t talk to me about it.
GREENBERG: Have your parents given you a sex talk?
Unidentified Man #2: No.
GREENBERG: Nothing? They didn’t say anything about sex to you? Nothing at all?
Unidentified Man #2: No. None whatsoever. No.
Social Networks, predators, & neglecting the real problem
Techdirt reports on yet another study demonstrating that social networks aren’t breeding grounds for sexual predators:
Over the past few years there has been a huge number of grandstanding politicians claiming that social networks like Facebook and MySpace were breeding grounds for online predators, who were trying to entice children. They’ve been pushing for new laws, basically so they can get into the papers along with some quip about how they are out there protecting “the children.” Of course, it turns out that the entire premise is faulty. A few years back we pointed to a study that showed the problem was entirely exaggerated. Very few kids were approached by predators and most who were could easily brush it off, so long as they had been educated about the risks. Now there’s a new study out going even deeper in noting that sexual predators are unlikely to pretend to be teenagers using social networks, but rather are very upfront about who they are and what they want. In most cases, the victims knew that they were chatting with an older person, and believed that they were in a legitimate relationship, rather than being tricked. Once again, this suggests that all the hype and new laws being proposed to deal with the “problem” of predators on social networks are misplaced. The focus should be on basic education. Teach kids to have some “internet smarts” and they’re probably going to be just fine.
While I agree with the education conclusion, what I find tragic is the truth that most of the victims knew that they were chatting with an older person.
The real crisis is these kids need adults to engage, appropriately, with them on the topic of sex. Now that I have a young person living in my household (regular readers will recall that my nephew lives with us) I know just exactly how overwhelming the challenge of that can be.
So if you care at all about the facts… if you have kids—or just honestly care about them—and want to make a difference and help address these issues, here are some important resources:
A danah boyd post from a May 2007 panel of social scientists, Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization.
Stephanie Booth reacts to MySpace removing the profiles of 29,000 convicted sex offenders: Online Predator Paranoia.
Inheritance, good. Pay for grades, bad?
Do we not see our own biases??? Paying for grades may well work but even if it does I don’t trust that we’ll ever know:
Family Academy is one of 60 New York City public schools that volunteered to participate in the Spark incentive program, which is open to fourth and seventh graders for one school year. The money they earn is deposited into their own bank accounts, but they are free to spend it however they wish.
The Spark program, conceived by Harvard economist Dr. Roland Fryer, was created to narrow the educational gap between the haves and the have-nots. In other words, “trying to figure out a way to make school tangible for kids, to come up with short-term rewards that will be in their long-term best interest,” Fryer said.
Spark isn’t the only program in the country aimed at motivating kids with monetary incentives. Schools in a dozen states have similar programs. In Albuquerque, N.M., students at the Cesar Chavez Charter School can earn up to $300 a year for good attendance. In Santa Ana, Calif., kids who do well on their math tests can earn up to $250 and in Baltimore, students can take away $110 depending on their test scores.
The story asks “what does the research say?” then answers definitively that “despite short-term gains, [paying for grades] may be detrimental in the long-term by decreasing their motivation, especially when the incentive is removed.”
Huh??? MAY???? It ”may be detrimental?” WTF???
They use that conclusive qualifier to disqualify the whole idea and play into our cultural pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps myth when the simple fact is that social mobility between classes has lessened in this country—not increased—in the past 50 years.
We rail about the “death tax” so that the entitled can keep their leg-up, but don’t you go giving those poor kids money for good grades!!!
Fryer got one interesting quote into the story:
“The idea that we shouldn’t be giving kids rewards—come on. In affluent neighborhoods, parents take their kids to dinner, buy them shiny red cars. We’ve got to get past ‘It’s wrong, it’s bribery.’ We are in crisis mode; we’re beyond philosophy. If it doesn’t work, we’re all arguing over nothing.”
Fryer’s an interesting guy. I’ll be watching him.