Is our justice system still capable of deterring killers?

So a guy jumps on stage (on July 21) and attempts to stab Lee Zeldin, Republican challenger to N.Y. governor Kathy Hochul.  And, because N.Y.'s laws are now deliberately soft on crime, the attacker is charged with "attempted assault" ("attempted"? I'm no lawyer, but it sounds to me like not just assault, but aggravated assault!) and then released without bail!  I guess his actions didn't quite rise to the level of branding him a danger to society!

YouTube screen grab (cropped).

Meanwhile, in the nation's heartland, the man who admitted executing (on July 19) a North Kansas City, MO police officer (when the officer pulled him over for having expired temporary tags) has now pleaded Not Guilty to first degree murder, with bail set at $2 million (the local courts being not yet as infested with "bail reform"). He turned himself in because he was apparently more afraid of extra-judicial retribution by law officers than he was of the justice system.

Now that he’s in custody (and barring, of course, his being so overcome with remorse that, like Jeffrey Epstein, he commits suicide in his cell while the jailhouse cameras are conveniently on the fritz) I’m sure that lawyers are lining up to be his “dream team” and frame his actions as something other than cold-blooded murder. Apparently his facing the death penalty, no matter how richly deserved, is anything but a sure thing.

The usual talking-heads are, predictably, using this incident as an excuse to condemn the proliferation of firearms when the real problem is not the proliferation of guns but the proliferation of people who think that it’s OK to shoot police officers.

And before it’s all over, I predict that the murderer of Ofc. Daniel Vasquez will actually be not only defended but celebrated, fawned over and lionized. Don’t scoff at that notion; there’s ample precedent in, for example, the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (whom I wrote about here and here, as well as here). Abu-Jamal similarly executed Philadelphia Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981, and despite having been convicted and sentenced to death (his death sentence was dismissed in 2011) is not only still alive (and described by Wikipedia as “an American journalist and activist”), but serving life without parole has not prevented him from being the commencement speaker at Olympia, Washington's Evergreen College in 1999 and at Ohio's Antioch College in 2000.

So what’s the worst case scenario for Ofc. Vasquez’s killer? Anything less than the death penalty will be considered a win (and will be a tremendous feather-in-the-cap for his attorneys), and he’ll live out the rest of his days as a big man in prison. Even if he doesn’t find himself invited to speak at colleges, he’ll never have to worry where his next meal is coming from, or whether he can make his rent or mortgage payment. He’ll live in climate-controlled comfort and enjoy medical and dental care, gym privileges, color TV, internet access, and perhaps even conjugal visits (since there’s no shortage of women eager to correspond with and fall in love with convicted killers).

Or perhaps, like Ice-T (who, as far as I know, never killed anybody, but who became famous for his rap "song" Cop Killer which totally glamorizes -- some say encourages! -- the notion of killing police), he'll be offered a role playing a cop in a long-running TV show!

Most of us don’t need deterrents to committing criminal acts. We have consciences that keep us on the straight and narrow. We might briefly entertain a temptation to commit thievery, but would reject it on the grounds that it was wrong, and the notion of shooting a police officer wouldn’t even cross our minds. But there are among us individuals who lack a conscience, and for them there must be effective legal deterrents. But such persons are proliferating, even as those deterrents are losing their teeth (or having them deliberately removed, as in NY State), and all of us are already suffering for it.  And it will surely worsen.

Author’s Note: The author of more than 160 pieces published by American Thinker, Stu Tarlowe, 74, was for more than 15 years the personal editor for the late talk radio icon, author and columnist Barry Farber. Recently employed as a staff writer for a magazine forecasting political, financial, and societal trends, when he had to be hospitalized for COVID, Stu was summarily and permanently replaced (and he remains flummoxed by that betrayal of his loyalty). Having recovered from the Wuhan Flu, however, he now writes on a variety of topics (political and personal) in his newsletter at and is seeking another gig as a writer/editor/proofreader (in a perfect world, he would be paid to write a weekly column of essays like this).

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