Saturday, December 27, 2014


When I was a prosecutor it seemed like major crimes never happened between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. Anyhow, I seemed to always be getting called out to murder scenes after hours, on weekends, and on holidays. I remember one night I got called out to a stabbing at a local prison and spent the evening meeting with investigators and crime scene personnel, interviewing witnesses, and interrogating the defendant.
It had been a long time since I had interrogated a homicide suspect, so I decided “What the heck, why don’t I do it?” Technically it wasn’t yet a homicide because the victim was not quite dead. They were certain that his wounds were not survivable, so they were treating the case as a homicide investigation. Very few people survive a knife wound that punctures the heart.

We brought the suspect in and sat him down. The officer turned on the tape recorder and advised him of his rights. He said he understood them and was willing to talk. He should have understood them. He had been in prison for over a decade doing life without parole for murder. A check of his records revealed that he would have been a model inmate except for one small character flaw. About every eighteen to twenty four months he would try to kill another inmate. That none of his victims had died was more a testament to their vitality than to his lack of lethality. He didn't like to be "hassled" by other inmates and periodically trying to kill someone encouraged the other inmates to leave him alone. 

The suspect readily confessed. He had taken a shank (a prison-improvised knife) and walked up to the victim while the victim had his hands full lifting a garbage can and started stabbing him. The victim got the lid off the garbage can and used it as a shield or he would have probably died on the spot. When the officers arrived, the suspect dropped his shank and peacefully surrendered. He said that the victim had been threatening him, and he decided to perform what the Vietnam era called a “protective reaction strike,” i.e. kill the victim before the victim had a chance to kill him.

I pointed out that there were other ways to handle threats. Why didn’t he just “check in?” (When an inmate “checks in,” he voluntarily goes into administrative confinement for protection against other inmates.) “No,” he said, “I could never do that.”

“Why not?” I wanted to know.

“Because it’s against my religion.”

“What’s your religion?”

“I’m a Satanist.” That comment was something of a conversation stopper.

It turned out that the victim miraculously survived, the defendant pled guilty as charged to attempted murder and received a sentence of life without parole consecutive to all his other life sentences, and I went on to other cases.

This memory was dredged up by a cause celebre being played out at the Florida Capitol this Christmas. The American Atheists have erected a monument to Satan at the Capitol to compete with a Nativity Scene that had been placed there. The Nativity Scene was taken down, but the Satanic monument remained, and someone vandalized the display. The American Atheists say they are not going to repair the display because the damage demonstrates how bad, nasty, and awful “the religious right” is.

I think the Satanic display is a monument to discourtesy and hypocrisy. I believe this for the following reasons.
(1). The display was set up by atheists.

(2). Atheists don’t believe in the supernatural.

(3). Because atheists don’t believe in the supernatural, they don’t believe in Satan.

(4). The atheists have erected a display “celebrating” something they don’t believe in.

(5). They must have a motive other than the celebration of a nonexistent entity for setting up the display.

(6). The timing of their setting up the “Satanic” display (when a Nativity Scene was erected at the Capitol) strongly suggests that the “Satanic” display’s true purpose was to deride Christianity and Christians.

(7). If proposition 6 is true, then erecting the display was an act of religious intolerance.

(8). If propositions 6 and 7 are true, the American Atheists’ claim that "We've been tolerant of their display. We didn't like it, but we tolerated it," is baloney.

I’m in favor of free speech, but I’m not in favor of discourtesy or boorishness. The “Satanic” display at the Capitol is both discourteous and boorish, and I’m not surprised that some misguided soul tried to take it down. I should, however, be surprised that the representative of such an enlightened organization as the American Atheists would attempt to blame everyone on the “religious right” for the damage to their insulting display. Assigning group guilt for individual actions is very much an unenlightened thing to do.