Crime and Punishment?
Barney Reads Up on Wrongful Convictions
The Innocent Man: If you’re going to be accused of a serious crime, make sure it’s in Santa Barbara, not Ada, Oklahoma.
You doubt? Then read John Grisham’s nonfiction work, The Innocent Man. It’s about a guy who came within days of execution, the result of shameful police work, suppressed evidence, jail house snitches, voodoo science, an ethics-challenged DA, uncaring judges (except for a few) and the bad luck of having a blind lawyer appointed as his defense attorney. No one cared that the defendant accused of a murder-rape was so mentally ill he couldn’t cooperate with his lawyer. It’s a shocking story about the miscarriage of justice and just one of too many cases of convictions that are reversed thanks to DNA.
Meanwhile, the California Assembly has cleared three bills aimed at preventing wrongful convictions. But the governor – in his dubious wisdom – might veto the measures because of opposition from law enforcement agencies. Back in the 1960s when I covered the Santa Barbara courts, lawyers for indigents were appointed from a list of often-reluctant local attorneys, whether or not they had any experience with criminal cases. Fortunately, we now have a highly professional public defenders office.
Rip – Ouch!: Women riding in what looked to be a Roman bath in the Summer Solstice parade were scantily clad, their breasts covered only with what appeared to be a minimum amount of flesh-colored duct tape. But how did it feel, observers wondered, when it came time to peel off the tape?
Birth With a View: When an elitist European mother-to-be arrived in L.A. recently to give birth at a top hospital, she was so shocked at the sight of an ordinary room that she insisted on a suite. (Yes, they are available for the rich and famous, at a princely price, of course.) Then, when the baby was due, she was trundled into what Santa Barbara friends term “a celebrity delivery room with a fantastic view of the city.” Some of Tinseltown’s most celebrated women have given birth there, sheltered from the labor pains of everyday moms. Mother and baby are both doing fine.
He’s Everywhere: I was just biting into the best tamale I’ve ever eaten, my back to the door (always a mistake) at Los Arroyos on Coast Village Road, when a voice boomed from behind me. It was Jonathan Winters, launching into one of his amusing monologues, subjects ranging from married life, to the Marines, to something about Hugh Hefner and a 23-year old blonde. At 81, Winters is as funny as ever and I had to listen carefully to catch just half of his rapid-fire jokes. Tony and Maria Arroyo – and the whole crew there – love Winters, welcoming him to his favorite table. He sat there with a crony, wielding an illustrated cane the size of a baseball bat.
Million-Dollar Pledge: Wow! The Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation has pledged $1 million to Santa Barbara City College’s culinary arts program, to be used for scholarships over the next decade. The foundation was founded in 1977 by Donald and Coeta Barker, longtime residents of Santa Barbara and Rancho Mirage.
Crime and Punishment: Speaking of prison, the mystery is over about where Lompoc federal prisoner Michael Santos will wind up. You’ll recall that Santos – in the slammer for drugs – has, while behind bars at various prisons, written three books about prison life, earned a BS and a Master’s Degree, and would be working on his Ph.D if the feds would let him. Although a model prisoner at Lompoc, he apparently irked the powers that be there and was tossed into solitary. Now, I learn, he’s being transferred to a private prison camp in Taft, operated on a contract with the feds. It’s near Bakersfield and is a low-medium-security facility.
Son of Larry: Steven Crandell, son of “Mr. MC” Larry Crandell, has been named director of development and public affairs for the Santa Barbara-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Steve, 48, graduated from Santa Barbara High, received a BS from Stanford and a Master’s in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, England. He’s also a heckuva basketball player.
Capps Coastal Protection: Cheers to Rep. Lois Capps for leading the House effort to reject a move to overturn the 26-year old bipartisan Congressional ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. “I am very pleased we were able to defeat these misguided amendments that would have jeopardized our sensitive coastal environment and economies,” said Capps, who’s a member of the Natural Resources Committee. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; drilling for oil and natural gas is dirty, dangerous, and the slowest way to meet our country’s energy needs. This drill-only approach to meeting our energy needs isn’t ending our addiction to fossil fuels, it’s enabling it. If we really want to break the cycle of addiction we have to redouble our efforts to reduce demand, enhance efficiency and invest in renewable energy sources.”
Barney Brantingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.