Notes from around the Human Experience…
HERE WE GO AGAIN: Last month we wrote about Cleve Heidelberg, an Illinois man who spent 47 years in prison after being convicted of murder, a conviction that was vacated earlier this year. It was the first time we’d heard of a man being released after more than 40 years behind bars for something he didn’t do, and we’re fairly well-read on this issue.
Fly In The Ointment: The revolving door of the innocent leaving custody continues to turn. Earlier this week Ledura Watkins, 61, was released from prison in Detroit, his 1976 murder conviction overturned after 41 years in prison.
Watkins had spent most of his time in prison trying to clear his name. He said he wasn’t surprised he was being released, but he was surprised it took so long. He added he didn’t want to see another law book ever again.
Whoops, Our Bad: It would be news if Heidelberg and Watkins were the first innocent people ever released from prison in America, but they weren’t. Also last month and also in Michigan Desmond Ricks was released from prison after 25 years when, uh-oh, it was discovered he didn’t commit the murder he was convicted of.
The innocent being released is a lot like mass shootings in this country, both happen so regularly that neither are particularly surprising anymore.
Disagree With This. We Dare You: Our loss, because they should be. No innocent person should spend one second behind bars in America.
This Certainly Is Surprising: Heidelberg and Watkins are both black, as are most of the those who are innocent who are released after decades of imprisonment. It’s easy for us whites to ignore it because, let’s be honest, we’ve got ours and we aren’t likely to falsely imprisoned.
Gaylon For Congress, Vote Early, Vote Often: We feel so strongly about this issue we made it one of our three key issues last year when we ran for Congress in Colorado’s 3rd District. If others had it on their radar, however, they did a good job of keeping it to themselves. In a well-fed and well-entertained America, this is not an issue many care about.
We should care, though. Our government is imprisoning our fellow citizens for decades at a time for crimes they did not commit. We are citizens of a nation conceived in liberty. False imprisonment should make all of us want to go hang our head in shame.
HOT CONSTITUTIONAL ACTION: Congress declares war on Great Britain on this date in 1812, the first time Congress has exercised its constitutional prerogative to declare war since the ratification of the Constitution in 1787.
Exactly why war was declared, isn’t entirely clear. The British were hardly a grave threat to America. Some who think more about this than we do say America wanted to annex Canada, either for permanent settlement or to use as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Britain. This theory isn’t universally accepted, however.
OTOH: There were grievances, however. Britain was at war with France on the European mainland and its navy was blockading Europe, which America protested was a violation international law. Britain was also making pests of themselves by supporting the Indians that lived in what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This was land ceded to America by Britain after the American Revolution, land which Americans wanted to settle. Plus Britain was in the habit of pressing American merchant seaman into British naval service.
Fabulous. Now What?: Neither side was particularly ready for war. The United States Army had all of 7,00 men and President James Madison had counted on state militias providing a quick end to the war. State militias, however, proved indifferent. For their part, Britain needed another war like they needed a hole in the head.
The Bottom Line: The War of 1812 was inconclusive. Though the British army managed to burn the White House and other parts of Washington, neither side lost any territory. Though the war was good for morale in America, it is hardly remembered in Britain.
Great Moments In Tolerance: Susan B Anthony is fined $100 on this date in 1873 for having the nerve to vote in the 1872 US presidential election.
Living in Rochester, New York, Anthony and several dozen other women showed up on Election Day, 1872 to cast ballots, on the theory they were American citizens and were entitled to do so. 15 were allowed to do so, and Anthony was arrested two weeks later.
Trial was held in federal circuit court and presided over by Supreme Court Justice Ward Hunt. After not allowing Anthony to testify in her defense, which was common practice in federal court at the time, Hunt ordered the all-male jury to return a guilty verdict and then fined Anthony $100, about $2,000 in today’s money.
Eff This Noise: Anthony let it be known there was no way in hell she would pay as much as a penny of the fine. Hunt could have imprisoned Anthony until the fine was paid, however he decided not to make a federal case out of the matter and Anthony remained free and never did pay any portion of the fine.
Thought For The Day: Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself. – James Stephens, Irish poet, 1882-1950
Answer To The Last Trivia Question: There was not a trivia question last time!
Today’s Stumper: What was the last country the United States Congress declared war against? – Answer next time!