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A long time on the lam
May 2, 2008 9:22 AM   Subscribe

A southern California family is standing by the wife and mother who lived under a false name and with a colossal secret: Susan M. LeFevre escaped from a Plymouth prison 32 years ago.
posted by veedubya (188 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Score +1 for the war on drugs!
posted by jeblis at 9:24 AM on May 2, 2008


Holy crap. That is, hands-down, the best mug shot ever.
posted by Viomeda at 9:27 AM on May 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


I for one will be sleeping better knowing the likes of that rabble are again safely behind bars.
posted by tkchrist at 9:27 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Which just goes to show you can't rehab this hardcore drug-dealing users... ah, hmm. Yeah...
posted by rooftop secrets at 9:28 AM on May 2, 2008


If anyone deserves jail time it's the reporter who used the phrase "the woman [...] who bore his three children." Yikes.

That definitely is the greatest mugshot, though. Awesome.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:30 AM on May 2, 2008


Also, despite the coming flood of 'another innocent victim!' comments, if she was making six figures in 1972 selling heroin, well, let's just say that this probably isn't one of those innocent victim cases.
posted by Viomeda at 9:31 AM on May 2, 2008


Thank god the police got that dangerous drug dealer off the street. That's some tax money well spent, right there.
posted by mullingitover at 9:34 AM on May 2, 2008


Guess who else is a married woman, around 50, with two daughters and a son? The governor of Michigan -- who also happens to be in her last term. Commutation, here we come!
posted by brain_drain at 9:37 AM on May 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


According to police, she was the ringleader of a major narcotics operation with numerous underworld ties, so they put her in a minimum security prison without a fence? Also, $600 in cash, even in the 1970's, is hardly a the mark of a major drug dealer.
posted by TedW at 9:37 AM on May 2, 2008


Hmm... TedW has a point. Something isn't adding up here...
posted by arcticwoman at 9:39 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Perhaps she was not a snitch,that would explain the hard time for first conviction.
posted by hortense at 9:43 AM on May 2, 2008


Did the crime, do the time.

Do we want to send the message to today's arrested drug dealers that they should escape now in the hopes that, if they get caught later after a couple of decades, they can get a discount on their jail term because, Oh, Mister Judge, that was so very long ago, surely it doesn't matter now? Yes? We do? Okay then, let's try to get her released.
posted by WalterMitty at 9:47 AM on May 2, 2008


Sounds like she wasn't just a dealer; she was a druglord, and her actions led indirectly to violent deaths. Prison is about both rehabilitation and punishment. She doesn't need to be rehabilitated. But she still needs to be punished. Tack on another five years for escaping.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 9:47 AM on May 2, 2008


$104,000.00 in 1974 had about the same buying power as $471,079.83 in 2008. Annual inflation over this period was about 4.54%.

Apply $471K's buying power to today's Saginaw, Michigan, with an average yearly income of $27K, and that makes you a big player. No wonder she was all smiles in the mugshot.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:50 AM on May 2, 2008


Leaving Saginaw was probably the best thing she did.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:52 AM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Sounds like she wasn't just a dealer; she was a druglord, and her actions led indirectly to violent deaths.

Then why was she in minimum security?

Prison is about both rehabilitation and punishment.

The current prison system in the United States has nothing to do with rehabilitation.

She doesn't need to be rehabilitated. But she still needs to be punished. Tack on another five years for escaping.

She doesn't need rehabilitation now, but if you put her back in prison now, she will.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:55 AM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


hotter than the proverbial 10 dollar handgun, you mean
posted by pyramid termite at 9:55 AM on May 2, 2008


TedW: According to police, she was the ringleader of a major narcotics operation with numerous underworld ties, so they put her in a minimum security prison without a fence? Also, $600 in cash, even in the 1970's, is hardly a the mark of a major drug dealer.

Yeah, that seemed odd to me, too. All evidence the spokesman cites seems completely circumstantial and played-up. He says:

"I've heard her story that she just happened to be with a person who was selling heroin. The file we have is very different... She had people working for her. She was making a large profit. She wore nice clothing and rented an apartment. When she was arrested, she had $600 in cash, paraphernalia for cutting heroin, and photographs that proved she was acquainted with people higher up in the Saginaw drug world... When she was sentenced to do 10 to 20 years for a person with no prior history... those things don't mesh with someone (who was a small time drug dealer)... The state police that did the investigation estimated she was making $2,000 a week when she was arrested. That's $104,000 a year. That's good money now, imagine what it was in 1974."

A few points: first, "people working for her" is extremely vague, especially with somebody who deals drugs; hell, I can imagine stretching it to cover "she sold it to her old buddy Bob, who sold a little to Joe down the block." So I don't really know what that means, and the reporter didn't apparently ask. Second, "she wore nice clothing and rented an apartment," well, 'nice' is pretty damned relative, and if she didn't rent an apartment, where the hell was she supposed to live? Third, heroin-cutting paraphernalia, whatever; that's something that's common even among your standard junkie. Fourth, "photographs that prove that she was acquainted"? Well, yes, sure. But meeting drug dealers isn't a crime, nor does it directly imply that you're a big-time dealer. Unless the highest-up guys in the Saginaw drug world never left their houses or met anybody else.

Fifth, and this is one of the more egregious ones, so I'll repeat:

"I've heard her story that she just happened to be with a person who was selling heroin. The file we have is very different... When she was sentenced to do 10 to 20 years for a person with no prior history... those things don't mesh with someone (who was a small time drug dealer)..."

This is the clearest case of "assuming the conclusion" I think I've seen in a while. "Her conviction was obviously correct, because they wouldn't have convicted her if it wasn't correct to do so" doesn't really fly. Yes, fine, guy: you trust the legal system, but you're trying to argue that the legal system was trustworthy in this case, so you can't start from the premise that it was.

Sixth, he probably had to check his bags, take off his shoes, empty his pockets, and show his boarding pass to make the leap he makes from "$2,000 a week" to "$100,000 a year." We have no way of knowing that that kind of money was steady over any length of time. Of course, being a heroin kingpin comes with lots of stability and job security, so she might've been doing this for years. (Cue eye roll.) I have a feeling that, for "$2000 a week," we should read "$2000 in the week before she was arrested, or whenever she got a shipment like the one she had in her house when she was arrested."

The only thing that I think could be suspect (and, sorry, I disagree a little here with you, TedW) is the $600. That's a lot of money for somebody to walk around with. If she was walking down the street randomly, hanging around at a restaurant, taking the bus, it might be something that looked suspicious. But there's no context, so who knows? She might've been walking into a bank, she might've been buying a car, she might've been doing any number of things. Again, no context.

I wish reporters still knew how to ask questions.
posted by Viomeda at 9:56 AM on May 2, 2008 [17 favorites]


What innocent victim? She was arrested, had a trial, and was sentenced. Then she broke another law by breaking out of prison, broke the law yet again by stealing a social security number, committed fraud probably thousands of times by using that social security number in legal documentation, including but not limited to her her income tax filings and mortgage application on her house.

Hmm... TedW has a point. Something isn't adding up here...
posted by arcticwoman at 12:39 PM on May 2


It adds up if you consider the very likely possibility that she spent some of that accumulated $2,000 per week on a very good lawyer., and on the fact that it was 1974.

She should go back to prison and serve out the rest of her sentence. Anything else justifies every other inmate breaking out of prison. Anything else justifies every white collar criminal walking off their golf course prisons and onto a waiting jet bound for Switzerland. There is no such thing as justifying breaking out of prison by living a good life.

But around here, if it's about drugs, the rule of general application appears to be that there should be no enforcement of drug laws, and any law you break trying to avoid prosecution under a drug law is justified. Come on.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:56 AM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


WalterMitty writes "Do we want to send the message to today's arrested drug dealers that they should escape now in the hopes that, if they get caught later after a couple of decades, they can get a discount on their jail term because, Oh, Mister Judge, that was so very long ago, surely it doesn't matter now? Yes? We do? Okay then, let's try to get her released."

Agreed. I fully support your plan, WalterMitty.
posted by mullingitover at 9:59 AM on May 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


you trust the legal system, but you're trying to argue that the legal system was trustworthy in this case, so you can't start from the premise that it was.

It would be....oh my god can I do this....maybe I should just say petitio principii....I can't help myself...it would be to Beg the Question!

Ahahahahahahahahh....bwah hah hee hee *gibber* chortle *snort*
posted by freebird at 10:01 AM on May 2, 2008 [10 favorites]


WalterMitty: Did the crime, do the time.

Do we want to send the message to today's arrested drug dealers that they should escape now in the hopes that, if they get caught later after a couple of decades, they can get a discount on their jail term because, Oh, Mister Judge, that was so very long ago, surely it doesn't matter now? Yes? We do? Okay then, let's try to get her released.


Yes. I would like to send a message to every single drug dealer out there that they should escape and become productive members of society. The world would be awesome if every single drug dealer escaped from prison, went to college, got a job, had a family, raised three kids, and contributed to the world at large.

I don't at all understand why you wouldn't want that. I mean, my first reaction when reading about this woman was: 'it must have been very difficult to go out and make good with yourself knowing that money was so easy to come by the other way and knowing that you'd gotten away with it before.' I think that deserves some commendation. And if it encourages people to get out of prison and do good, well, more power to them.

It's not as though people need encouraging to want to escape from prison nowadays. Or as though it would help them much if they were encouraged, given security standards then and now.
posted by Viomeda at 10:04 AM on May 2, 2008 [36 favorites]


She should go back to prison and serve out the rest of her sentence. Anything else justifies every other inmate breaking out of prison. Anything else justifies every white collar criminal walking off their golf course prisons and onto a waiting jet bound for Switzerland. There is no such thing as justifying breaking out of prison by living a good life.

Prison's actually pretty stupid.

I don't know how we should deal with criminal behavior, but I'm pretty sure prison's not it. It doesn't do anyone any good.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


golf course prisons
There are no "golf course prisons" in the United States.
posted by Floydd at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2008


I agree with Viomeda. None of us will ever know the real story, unless she pens a book... and then we still probably won't.

However, I see a woman who had every strike against her and went on to be a productive member of society, wife, mother and taxpayer. That is something she would most likely not have done if she had served her whole sentence.

I know my opinion means nothing, but I would have her do some ridiculous amount of community service, a small stint in the local facility (90 days, or whatever), and pay a steep fine.

Yeah, she escaped, and that's not good. But if the death penalty isn't a crime deterrent, I hardly think putting her back in for 10 years is going to send a message of any kind to any criminal.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:06 AM on May 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


Yes. I would like to send a message to every single drug dealer out there that they should escape and become productive members of society. The world would be awesome if every single drug dealer escaped from prison, went to college, got a job, had a family, raised three kids, and contributed to the world at large.

Wholehearted agreement.
posted by miss tea at 10:09 AM on May 2, 2008


In any case, here's the U.S. Marshals press release. It just seems to me that we don't have nearly enough information to know which way is up in this case.
posted by Viomeda at 10:12 AM on May 2, 2008


Yes. I would like to send a message to every single drug dealer out there that they should escape and become productive members of society. The world would be awesome if every single drug dealer escaped from prison, went to college, got a job, had a family, raised three kids, and contributed to the world at large.

Agreed. I would happily let every single person out of prison - not just drug dealers - who would go out and live according to society's rules. Murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. If they could walk out of prison today and not break any laws that average people don't, I'd be all in favor of letting them go right now.

But then again, I'm one of those crazy Americans who believes that prisons are supposed to rehabilitate. That it's called a "correctional system" for a reason. And I suspect I'm in the minority anymore. I really get the impression most people nowadays would be perfectly happy with throwing any criminal in an oubliette.
posted by evilangela at 10:15 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you demand blood, just imagine that she served 30 years probation.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:15 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also: whence the 'anonymous tip,' without which her life would've gone on?
posted by Viomeda at 10:15 AM on May 2, 2008


Then why was she in minimum security?

A young white woman in the early 70s. You'd expect her to be sentenced anywhere else?
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:16 AM on May 2, 2008



A young white woman in the early 70s. You'd expect her to be sentenced anywhere else?

Honestly, I don't know. Are there figures available about this sort of thing?
posted by josher71 at 10:19 AM on May 2, 2008


If it was some ugly dude who looked like Edward James Olmos, there probably wouldn't even be a post about this. The person wouldn't get people lamenting over the situation.

Sorry for her kids, but hopefully she's at least got a release from the sense of fear and dread that had to still have been lingering, even after 3 decades.
posted by cashman at 10:19 AM on May 2, 2008


For all the people clamoring to put her back in, let me just say that my dad works in a super-max prison. Coffield Unit, in Texas. And the things he tells me would make the hardest man weep out of sympathy for these people. He (a born-again Christian) has told me numerous times that if he knew anyone about to be sentenced to a place like Coffield, he'd recommend suicide over incarceration.

This is a glimpse of what the prison's like from the perspective of someone getting released. The stories I hear are pretty horrific...

Example: Prisoners regularly hold feces in their mouths and spit it into the eyes of the prison guards and cell mates they don't want to bunk with so the person in question will get Hepatitis and get moved or put in the clinic.

Think she deserves that sort of treatment? Just wondering. And yes, I realize that she wouldn't end up there, but it's not hard to extrapolate that lots of prisons face these same issues of inhumane conditions and despair.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:23 AM on May 2, 2008 [9 favorites]


From her version of events:

She said she got into drugs after high school because she was despondent over the death of her teenage sweetheart in the Vietnam War.

Her parents, strict Catholics who took away her John Lennon albums and prohibited their daughter from wearing faded blue jeans, encouraged her to plead guilty to spare the family the embarrassment of a court trial, she said. LeFevre said she agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and violation of drug laws in hopes of winning leniency, but received the maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years.


In other words, some judge wanted to "send a message" by throwing someone who was just a couple of years out of high school in jail, possibly until she reached middle age. What kind of message do you think she got from that?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:26 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I would happily let every single person out of prison - not just drug dealers - who would go out and live according to society's rules.

Sounds nice. So, how could you tell those who would do that "live according to society's rules" thing from those who wouldn't?
posted by WalterMitty at 10:26 AM on May 2, 2008


evilangela: But then again, I'm one of those crazy Americans who believes that prisons are supposed to rehabilitate. That it's called a "correctional system" for a reason. And I suspect I'm in the minority anymore. I really get the impression most people nowadays would be perfectly happy with throwing any criminal in an oubliette.

I figure the point is pretty moot, because I know for a fact that we don't allow this sort of thing to happen anymore - you can't just walk away from even a minimum-security prison these days without being found pretty quickly. But I agree with you. The point of prison is rehabilitation. And I think there's a sincere problem with prisons nowadays in that they tend to rehabilitate less and less. This is not to say they should be more comfortable, or that we should pour billions of dollars into them; but we cut funding for them every year, and they become less-managed and less-controlled day by day as the systems that run them become conglomerates to cut costs. I think this is a serious problem. Maybe this woman is a throwback to a 'better time,' I don't know, but if I were the prison system, I would be standing up and saying that a great deal of rehab was done with her in that one year. That's what it seems like happened: prison was actually good for her. That's a message I'd like to send.

One of the most decent and honorable guys I've ever met was a guy who'd been a night-shift guard at the maximum security prison outside of Santa Fe for seven years. He'd always talk about how much he'd loved that job, which was a little odd to me; he said it taught him a lot about respect, and about how much respect human beings give and receive, and how to get respect, real respect, from people who don't want to give it, or who don't know how. He had some pretty harrowing stories, but he always finished them saying that he loved the job. I finally asked him why he'd quit to be a security guard at the hotel we worked together at. He told me: "I quit when I realized that suddenly I was the only guard who felt that way anymore."

So, synopsis: prisons: good idea, bad-to-worse execution in need of rehab itself. This story: who knows, though everybody has their hunches.
posted by Viomeda at 10:28 AM on May 2, 2008


Prison is about both rehabilitation and punishment.

Could I state the proposition that prison is about - or should be about - rehabilitation, punishment, and protecting those outside of prison from those in prison. So if we look at that as a three legged stool, considering her case.

1) Rehabilitation, naaah, she was a soccer mom and homemaker and productive member of society

2) punishment, well 10 - 20 years doesn't fit the crime, but I have a lot of questios about how bad her "crime" was, given her extreme youth, and also the prison that she was housed in. Seems that they were probably leaning on her in the hopes that she'll crack and fink out the "really" major drug dealers. But of course, I am speculating about as much as anyone else.

3) Protecting the public. Does the public need to be protected from her? Absolutely not.


So what is to be done? Serving out her sentence, when she'll be in her 60s and her teen-age son will be screwed up and perhaps her 20-something daughters might, just *migh* fulfill 2, but fails 1 & 3. give her a year or two for escaping, a fine, and community service and be done with it.
posted by xetere at 10:30 AM on May 2, 2008


What it always boils down to is, do you believe the criminal justice system is a system of punishment, or do you believe it's a system of rehabilitation? Do you believe crime can be effectively prevented, or that we can only strive to minimize its impact? There are right answers to these questions, and they ARE contradictory. A clue as to how poorly the USA is doing: its gigantic prison population.

But go ahead, put her away, make a martyr of her and political activists of her three children, who will never, ever forgive their government.
posted by mek at 10:37 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whatever the other issues surrounding this case this woman has finally got to answer to the state of Michigan. I hope they show mercy in sentencing this time.
posted by hojoki at 10:39 AM on May 2, 2008


This somehow seems unnecessary. Not unfair, just not right. She's a changed woman with a family and a completely different lifestyle. I'd think this even if she were a man. A poor man, even. This is basically a person who has given up the ways for which they were incarcerated, and it seems obvious that this person isn't going to go back those ways. Sending her back to prison could do more harm than good. It's too bad the law doesn't operate that way.
posted by katillathehun at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2008


If she gets out, Clarence Aaron better get out that same day.
posted by cashman at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Her conviction was obviously correct, because they wouldn't have convicted her if it wasn't correct to do so" doesn't really fly. Yes, fine, guy: you trust the legal system, but you're trying to argue that the legal system was trustworthy in this case, so you can't start from the premise that it was....
I wish reporters still knew how to ask questions.
posted by Viomeda at 12:56 PM on May 2


Here's the only question they should ask: Did you appeal your conviction? What was the result?

The person whose statement you are criticizing is an official in the prison system drawing conclusions from a file, not a prosecutor or attorney from the State AG's office.

Here's what we know: she was convicted. We assume she had a fair trial, otherwise she would have said something at the time, or appealed her conviction. In any case, you can't arbitrarily decide the trial wasn't fair just because you don't want to see the convicted felon returned to prison. We assume the system works if the victim doesn't say at the time that it didn't work.

Breaking out of prison does not justify reopening her case. Breaking out of prison cannot justify anything. It is its own crime. so were all the times she used a false identity. She's a criminal. She had a trial. She had a lawyer. We can assume she put on a defense, and the court assumed she put on her best defense. She lost. Case closed. See you in 20 years.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:44 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Don't you guys remember the family that was framed as major drug dealers recently? Has the show the Wire taught you nothing?
posted by clockworkjoe at 10:44 AM on May 2, 2008


Halloween Jack: From her version of events:...

And by "her version of events," I think you mean this Allison Hoffman AP article. (Jesus, reporters can't seem to remember what their job is these days.) I hate to say it, but the one thing the spokesman for the Saginaw cops got right is the fact that, well, it's her story, and she has every reason to make it sound nicer than it was. And if it's true that she was in minimum-security, there are probably a few real problems with her story, particularly the part about the barbed wire.

I'm looking forward to hearing what it was she did right after she left. I'd like to hear it from a reliable source.

Halloween Jack: What kind of message do you think she got from that?

Well, apparently a pretty good one, considering what she did with her life.
posted by Viomeda at 10:45 AM on May 2, 2008


WalterMitty : Sounds nice. So, how could you tell those who would do that "live according to society's rules" thing from those who wouldn't?

Uhh, those that live according to society's rules stop breaking the law? Seems pretty straightforward to me.

If anyone can prove that she has continued her life of crime since escaping, I'll agree that incarceration might be an answer, otherwise I can't imagine what justice would be served by putting this woman back in prision. Would her being off the street make anyone any safer? No? Then let's not waste the money.
posted by quin at 10:48 AM on May 2, 2008


The San Diego Fox affiliate has an article with interview footage. In part of the interview she claims that they were willing to drop the charges if she set up another guy but she said she was unable to do so and was told that pleading guilty and taking an arranged deal for probation was her best bet.

I'm not sure I buy either side of the story. There seem to be a lot of inconsistencies, but I can't tell if that's due to outright lying or just shitty reporting. Probably a bit of both.
posted by stefanie at 10:51 AM on May 2, 2008


Fucking stupid. The woman's clearly not a threat to society now. And lucky for us, considering the prison fucked up and let her escape in the first place.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:56 AM on May 2, 2008


Pastabagel: In any case, you can't arbitrarily decide the trial wasn't fair just because you don't want to see the convicted felon returned to prison. We assume the system works if the victim doesn't say at the time that it didn't work.

I don't think you can arbitrarily decide anything. I'm not saying you can. I'm only saying I see no grounds for any assumptions here. And maybe I shouldn't; it's really not my business, and I don't know the facts or the details. Also, let it be made clear that I'm not espousing a legal opinion, as I don't have that background, but rather thinking a little about what all this means.

Breaking out of prison does not justify reopening her case. Breaking out of prison cannot justify anything. It is its own crime. so were all the times she used a false identity. She's a criminal. She had a trial. She had a lawyer. We can assume she put on a defense, and the court assumed she put on her best defense. She lost. Case closed. See you in 20 years.

No one believes that breaking out of prison justifies reopening her case; people are wondering whether a life lived well as a beneficial member of society could repay society for some very, very bad things done early in life. It's just that this is such a fantastically odd case; in fact, aside from television shows and movies, I'm not aware of anybody who's escaped from prison and gone on to live a healthy, productive life. I guess you naturally wouldn't hear about those people, but I truly don't believe that it's common for criminals who have a history and habit of criminal activity simply to walk away from it and start anew. That rare fact is what's so interesting, and it's what makes people wonder if this special case should be treated differently.

This is aside from the fact that, if her use of a false identity really is its own new crime, then this case isn't closed, and she hasn't been sentenced yet. And if I were a judge ruling on that kind of case, I'd find it very interesting.
posted by Viomeda at 10:59 AM on May 2, 2008


I, for one, am glad that we've all decided to reserve judgment until we learn more about the facts of the case.
posted by saslett at 10:59 AM on May 2, 2008


I hardly think putting her back in for 10 years is going to send a message of any kind to any criminal.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:06 PM on May 2


It's supposed to send a message to her. It's also supposed to send a message to the other inmates. The message is "don't escape."

That's what it seems like happened: prison was actually good for her.

That's not at all what happened. What happened is that she escaped, and was very careful never to run afoul of the law because she know if she did, and she got caught, they'd learn about her escape and she'd never get out of prison. She wasn't rehabilitated. It was simply self-preservation.

Well, apparently a pretty good one, considering what she did with her life.
posted by Viomeda at 1:45 PM on May 2


What did she do with her life? Got married? What an accomplishment. Had kids? Again, not really an accomplishment. Paid taxes? Under what social security number? Was she working? It would seem she wasn't, as her driver's license expired 9 years ago.

This is the life she's supposed to lead. She doesn't get credit for doing the minimum expected of any citizen. I honestly cannot understand the sympathy this person elicits based on a poorly researched article and the few facts we have.

The reason we're talking about this is staring right back at you in the article. Nice pretty white suburban wife with her nice pretty family. She can't possibly be a criminal. If she was black and poor, we wouldn't even know about this story. She'd have been back in prison already.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:04 AM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Pastabagel, one last point, important enough to have to add it: I appreciate your sense that the seriousness and weight of the law demands that we repay like with like and submit those who've been sentenced to punishment. However, the purpose, and thus the heart, of the law is justice and the good of society at large. I don't see any way in which forcing her to serve her time promotes justice or the good of society. It's been argued that it sends the wrong message to would-be escapees; but, at worst, it seems to me that it sends a message that says, 'all right, if you manage to escape, and if you manage to elude us for three decades, and if in that time you become a productive family member, parent, and citizen, then we might consider special treatment.' I don't mind that message so much.

The law has a quality of mercy, too.
posted by Viomeda at 11:05 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


sasslett: I, for one, am glad that we've all decided to reserve judgment until we learn more about the facts of the case.

It bears repeating.
posted by Viomeda at 11:07 AM on May 2, 2008


I will make my favorite same old tired point:

There is no way that the pro-punishment crowd is going to win this public policy debate in the long term. Public perception is turning against the war on drugs. Public perception is turning against massive jail populations. It's not humane, and the more the public sees stark examples of it, the faster drugs will be legalized.

Incidentally, here's some law enforcement people who are in favor of legalization. Here's a Harvard graduate in sociology who worked for the Baltimore City Police Department for 14 months a cop. He thinks the drug war can't be won as well.

Let's try to read the writing on the wall. Let's view these problems a public policy issues and try to frame public policy solutions rather than arguing about right and wrong. Really. That's so 1980s.
posted by ewkpates at 11:13 AM on May 2, 2008


Sales of legalized marijuana added about 400 million Euro to the tax coffers last year here in the Netherlands. And that's just income tax for the coffee shop owners, since it's currently exempt from sales tax, and it could be a lot higher if the countries around us weren't forcing us to "crack down" on plantations and stuff.

Tell me again, how much are you spending on jails for this?
posted by DreamerFi at 11:14 AM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Actually that says if you can get away, get away, then don't get into trouble. Which is basically the message you should get upon leaving jail the right way. Only she didn't serve her time. She apparently is looking at 5 & 1/2 years, which is a good message to say don't run. Aaron has been in jail for 15 years, facing life in prison. If they want to be lenient, they can credit her with time served. At least she'll be out in a few years, and will be completely free to write her best selling book she'll make loads of money off of, in between appearances on talk shows.

I'm sure her black Lexus SUV will miss her until then, but alas.
posted by cashman at 11:14 AM on May 2, 2008


Surely all these war on drugs resources would be better spent on the war on food, or the war on sex. Down with things people like, I say!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:15 AM on May 2, 2008


Would it be relevant to mention that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population, but it has a quarter of the world's prisoners?
posted by found missing at 11:16 AM on May 2, 2008


Quin: Uhh, those that live according to society's rules stop breaking the law? Seems pretty straightforward to me.

But how do you know they won't revert to their criminal ways after leaving prison? Based on their say-so? Should we just give all those... um, "Murderers, rapists, thieves" the benefit of the doubt?

Sounds like a real nice thing to do. Let's do it now. NOW NOW NOW
posted by WalterMitty at 11:17 AM on May 2, 2008


prison is about ... punishment

by which you mean that nice little Christian virtue, revenge. Penal policy is based upon Retribution, Deterrence, Rehabilitation, and Social Protection, with retribution merely being society taking revenge on the perp. None of the other policies would be served here except perhaps the general deterrence aspect of deterrence (the deterrent effect on other people who might commit similar crimes). Retribution is the weakest of the goals given that it is essentially an anti-virtue, but it sells with the public. They love revenge. (Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.)
posted by caddis at 11:18 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


She wasn't rehabilitated. It was simply self-preservation.

How do you know?

Look, Pastabagel, your point that the justice system is racist is well taken. It sure is.

But-- I'm not sure if the solution is to that nobody should receive justice, including white people too. That seems fairly ass-backwards, to me.
posted by miss tea at 11:21 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's supposed to send a message to her. It's also supposed to send a message to the other inmates. The message is "don't escape."

Pastabagel, I have a hypothetical situation for you. Let's say that one day you accidentally piss of your local DA. He's a mean guy, so he decides to frame you for murder. You're arrested, the case goes to trial and you are convicted of first degree murder based on evidence that the DA, thanks to his contacts and influence, is able to manufacture against you.

You are sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. You appeal your sentence, and your appeal is denied repeatedly. Eventually, the US Supreme Court refuses to hear your case. All of your legal options have been exhausted. Now what? You've been a good boy: You've accepted the legal process at every junction, you've done everything you're supposed to do, yet you're still in prison for life because a corrupt government official (and his corrupt underlings) don't like you.

Question: you have the opportunity to escape. Do you take it? Or would you simply resign yourself to a lifetime of incarceration based on your profound respect for our (wildly corrupt) legal system?

While this is not the same situation as the lady in our story finds herself in, I think it's still relevant, as you seem to be arguing for some kind of "Legal Fundamentalism", where the Law, as it's currently formulated by our quasi-democratic process, is Supreme, even when it's blatantly unjust. Do you believe that there is ever a moment when men and women of clear mind and good faith can -- and, indeed, must -- break the law?
posted by Avenger at 11:22 AM on May 2, 2008


Would it be relevant to mention that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population, but it has a quarter of the world's prisoners?

While we're comparing statistics, did you know that China has about only one-seventh of the world's population, but executes the majority of the world's executions? For example, it handled about 63% of the 1591 confirmed executions around the world in 2006.

Prison is more humane than executioneering; at least you can escape, or maybe even leave if you outlast your sentence. There isn't really a widely available way to recover from an execution.
posted by WalterMitty at 11:23 AM on May 2, 2008


The point of prison is rehabilitation.

People always say this but it is not true. Prison as rehabilitation started with the Pennsylvania Quakers in the late 18th century, where they instituted Bible reading and repentance as important features of imprisonment with the goal of making the prisoners better people and curing them of their criminal impulses. Before that, prison never had a rehabilitative purpose and was used merely as punishment and to isolate the criminal from the people in society he might hurt. The rehabilitation experiment pretty much failed under the Quakers and that began the slide back into prison as punishment and societal protection. There are no prisons in the US right now that are actually concerned with rehabilitation and there have not been for a very long time. Prisons as primarily a place for rehabilitation existed for a brief period of time in a small geographic area. I am unsure how the widespread perception that prisons are for rehabilitation started, but I know until I read some specific information on the history of prisons I was under that same delusion.
posted by Falconetti at 11:24 AM on May 2, 2008


Send her back to prison only if you charge the conservative idiots who want her there with the bill. I'm tied of paying for the delusional war on sanity.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:25 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess you naturally wouldn't hear about those people, but I truly don't believe that it's common for criminals who have a history and habit of criminal activity simply to walk away from it and start anew.

You tell me not to make an assumption, but you proceed to assume she walked away from a criminal life, even though the article tells you plainly that she escaped from prison, which is a crime, and she used a false identity to get official documents, which is also a crime. You also don't know that she isn't still selling in possession of drugs, etc. But you are assuming it.

I can make the assumptions I do because the entire system of law the country operates on allows those assumptions to be made. We assume as a matter of law that trials are fair and that the convicted are guilty. We assume that defendants put on a defense because they are given the opportunity to do so, and anything they do, including refusing to take part in their defense, is considered by the law to be their defense.

I don't have to assume that every fact mentioned in the article is true, the operation of the legal system permits me to assume that whatever facts were offered at the trial were sufficient to support the outcome. This assumption is made in every case, including the ones in which you agree with the outcome.

In other words, their are no other facts. The only facts at issue are these:

1. She was arrested.
2. She was tried.
3. She was convicted.
4. She was sentenced.
5. She escaped.

Notice that it doesn't even matter what crime she committed. Maybe she sold drugs. Maybe she raped an entire school full of children. Maybe she made an illegal left turn. The crime doesn't matter. The length of the sentence doesn't matter. What matters is the law. It either applies to everyone under a common uniform transparent (to the defendant) system, or it applies to no one and we have anarchy and the justification for civil unrest.

Everyone, including the most brutal leader of the most brutal street gang in the history of America, has mitigating circumstances. They all have a story that would make you weep. They all might be better people if X Y Z. It doesn't matter. The law makes it clear that it ignores all of those things, and the law was set up to ignore them precisely because the law assumes that criminal has a story that would morally justify their reprieve from punishment.

Any discussion of the circumstances of her arrest or her involvement in the drug trade are completely irrelevant. Furthermore, they are legally out of order. They aren't submitted by witness under oath or under the rules of evidence. What anyone says could be a lie, it could be the truth, it could be bullshit. Hell, this is America, it probably is bullshit. There is absolutely no way to know for sure. The reason we have things like oaths and rules of evidence that exclude some kinds of evidence from consideration is to enable us to assume that whatever people say under oath or produce as evidence is true, even though we can't ever be sure that it is.

What is in the paper is nothing more than spin designed to elicit sympathy in a public that understandably wants to see a nice lady with a life well-lived avoid the horrible fate that they gleefully watch others succumb to.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:25 AM on May 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Hmm:

Link: LeFevre said she finally told her secret to her husband before Christmas, but later assured him people were not looking for her anymore. Then two officers showed up on their doorstep April 24...

The Michigan Department of Corrections Absconder Recovery Unit had received an anonymous tip about her in March. LeFevre said she has remained in touch with some relatives, but has no idea who made that call.

... in an unexplained twist, LeFevre's real name is listed on the couple's 1985 marriage certificate, according to an online database of public records.


Interesting.
posted by Viomeda at 11:27 AM on May 2, 2008


Well, she could might be able to reduce her time by acting in (or perhaps producing) an all-woman prison exploitation skin flick. That is something America really needs right now.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:27 AM on May 2, 2008


Also pertinent:

Ibid.: When LeFevre and others were arrested and charged, sentences of up to 20 years were fairly common, [Saginaw County Prosecutor Mike Thomas] said.
posted by Viomeda at 11:29 AM on May 2, 2008


She wasn't rehabilitated. It was simply self-preservation.

How do you know?


"I've tried to be exceptionally good," she told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday at the Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, a San Diego suburb. "I wanted to make a life as Marie, to make a point of being as disciplined as possible."

Kind of sounds like self-preservation.

I'm not sure if the solution is to that nobody should receive justice, including white people too.

I agree pretty much - It would just really sting to see her waved out of jail to cheers after being set free, producers clamoring for tv movie rights to her story, while that fella mentioned upthread rots away with a far more harsh sentence than five and a half years.

I'm just saying, if we're going to be fair, let's be fair. If everybody's getting the shaft, then overhaul the system. It would kind of be better if she did get shafted (I'm not hoping for that), because then maybe people would stand up and change the system. Because if this was Chris Jackson arrested in his Lexus years after being convicted as a drug dealer, I doubt there'd be this same level of fervor, you know?
posted by cashman at 11:31 AM on May 2, 2008


Do we really want to punish this woman at this point? Really? Is this what we have come to, that we as a society cannot show mercy, cannot take into account what the woman has done with her life since events 32 years ago?

I mean, this is not a mass murderer we are talking about. She was, at worst, someone who sold illegal drugs to people that wanted them.
posted by moonbiter at 11:38 AM on May 2, 2008


Pastabagel wrote "there should be no enforcement of drug laws, and any law you break trying to avoid prosecution under a drug law is justified."

The first half of that statement I agree with completely. The second, not so much. But as long as a person isn't harming non-consenting third parties in their attempt to avoid prosecution, I'm down with it.

Drug laws are bad laws, they shouldn't be enforced. Anyone who serves on a jury for a drug case should vote to acquit, regardless of guilt or innocence; as long as no violence was involved anyway. Our political class doesn't have the will to do the right thing, so its up to us citizens to fix the insanity directly via our jury participation.

As for prison in general, I favor completely eleminating all prison sentences for non-violent crimes [1]. From my POV the only time its reasonable to lock someone up is if they are actually a danger to others. I'll admit that I'm not sure what I'd support as a replacement for prison in the case of non-violent offenders, but I know that its utterly insane that we've got 1% of our national population shut up in the hellholes we call prisons. The fact that our criminal "justice" system is racist is another very good reason to end prison terms for all but violent behavior.

[1] Ok, also for repeat drunk drivers or other people who won't stop engaging in behavior that endangers others.
posted by sotonohito at 11:43 AM on May 2, 2008


It's clear that what America needs is more people behind bars.

And Pastabagel, your faith in the American system of justice is a little too quaint. 20 years in prison for dealing Heroin out of high school is ridiculous. Never mind that these out of order prison terms are certainly not a deterrent to others. (I agree, this story is getting the spin it is receiving because the women is White.)
posted by chunking express at 11:49 AM on May 2, 2008


1. She was arrested.
2. She was tried.
3. She was convicted.
4. She was sentenced.
5. She escaped.


6. She lived a lawful (other then living under a false identity) productive life for 32 years.

Tell you what pastabagel you pay for her incarceration. I figure it will only cost you about $70,000 per year.
posted by tkchrist at 11:50 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Pastabagel: The crime doesn't matter. The length of the sentence doesn't matter. What matters is the law. It either applies to everyone under a common uniform transparent (to the defendant) system, or it applies to no one and we have anarchy and the justification for civil unrest... Everyone, including the most brutal leader of the most brutal street gang in the history of America, has mitigating circumstances...

First of all, I can't believe that you really think that the law is an end unto itself; I assume you mean to say that the law shouldn't be mitigated for sentimental reasons when justice is not served by such mitigation. I agree. My point still stands: the law and justice are not necessarily the same thing, the spirit of the law is to serve justice, and justice includes mercy and the good of society at large, neither of which are served by this conviction. That's why the law changed in the last century as people began to desire a respect for privacy and the benefits that come with it; that's why Governors can sometimes commute sentences, and why judges sometimes give sentences that rather circumvent the ordinary punishments. It would be wonderful if there were an iron rule that applied in every case, as that would allow us simply to follow the letter of the law; but law has to keep justice in mind.

... The law makes it clear that it ignores all of those things, and the law was set up to ignore them precisely because the law assumes that criminal has a story that would morally justify their reprieve from punishment.

I don't think you mean to say this. The law makes it clear that it pays attention to these things in sentencing, but not in conviction. Why? Because there's no algorithm for what humans are capable of, and a six-figure doctor is as capable of murder or robbery as a street bum; therefore, the law has to determine what happened, and then it has to determine what to do about it. It's not 'blind,' despite the common metaphor; it's just orderly and logical. (I'm speaking about ideal U.S. law here.) The moment law begins to deal with intentionality - which it does regularly and thoroughly - it's started to try to discuss what people mean to do and why they mean to do those things. That sometimes involves discussions of background and circumstance.

I agree with the verdict: she's guilty of the counts you say she is. But I need a hell of a lot more information if I'm going to talk about what sentence makes sense, as there's a broad range possible.

What is in the paper is nothing more than spin designed to elicit sympathy in a public that understandably wants to see a nice lady with a life well-lived avoid the horrible fate that they gleefully watch others succumb to.

Certainly. And also to sell papers. The reportage has been consistently bad, and she's obviously the kind of person they love to fawn over and put on the front page. But, as you say, none of us knows the facts. We can parse what the law has said on this matter, and it's fairly straightforward, but we can't really speak to the justice of the situation. And since it so happens that law has a concern for justice, maybe it's not so simple to discuss the legal situation here as it seems.
posted by Viomeda at 11:51 AM on May 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Sounds nice. So, how could you tell those who would do that 'live according to society's rules' thing from those who wouldn't?"

I'd have to say that doing so for a couple of decades would be pretty strong inductive evidence that they would.
posted by jock@law at 12:01 PM on May 2, 2008


Two other points in what you said, Pastabagel, since there was a lot of insightful stuff:

You tell me not to make an assumption, but you proceed to assume she walked away from a criminal life, even though the article tells you plainly that she escaped from prison, which is a crime, and she used a false identity to get official documents, which is also a crime. You also don't know that she isn't still selling in possession of drugs, etc. But you are assuming it.

You're absolutely right. I was playing fast and loose with the facts, telling myself that if, after she committed the crime of escaping from prison, it wasn't really a crime to steal a dead person's identity. But it is, and it is for a reason; that can't be forgotten. What is more, we have no idea that she's been a "productive member of society." Hell, she could've gone back and dealt heroin for ten more years for all we know. That's an assumption that half of us are making here, and we really shouldn't.

We assume as a matter of law that trials are fair and that the convicted are guilty.

That's not precisely true. There's an entire system of courts dedicated to shoring up trials that may not have served justice. Yes, you're right, at a certain point we assume along with the law that justice has been served and disallow further appeal. However, even then, the law does not rule out any possibility of a change in sentence; there are certain exceptions to most rules, and the law is nuanced enough to take many different possibilities.

I say it again: the law exists to serve justice. And it has to keep justice in mind. It's not an end unto itself. This is the difficult part: the fact that, on the one end of the scale, the law cannot be objective and just without eschewing sentiment and emotion; and, on the other end of the scale, the law must continue to look to justice at all points. The difficult path between these two necessities is what makes political philosophy the most difficult study, I think.
posted by Viomeda at 12:01 PM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Although her defense attorney at the time, Nicholas R. Trojan III, asked the judge for probation, the investigating trooper, Michael Robinson, said he did not believe probation would help her change.

Well I guess Trooper Robinson stands corrected, eh? Her self-imposed probation seems to have worked out pretty well, all things considered.
posted by Naberius at 12:01 PM on May 2, 2008


moonbiter: She was, at worst, someone who sold illegal drugs to people that wanted them.

Who knows? Maybe she was worse.
posted by Viomeda at 12:02 PM on May 2, 2008


Also: whence the 'anonymous tip,' without which her life would've gone on?
posted by Viomeda at 10:15 AM on May 2 [+] [!]


There's definitely an interesting back story here regarding the snitch. Did she confide in someone? Cross paths with someone from Saginaw? The proverbial jilted lover? A customer who was wronged? Someone who had it in for her husband? Something weird, for sure, because who would connect the dots after 32 years -- so far away?

I smell a made-for-TV docudrama starring Glenn Close and Ted Danson, with Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus as the daughters, and Judd Nelson as the intrepid Fed on her trail...
posted by VicNebulous at 12:05 PM on May 2, 2008


I doubt she serves any more than five years, but she is going back to jail.
posted by caddis at 12:05 PM on May 2, 2008


Pastabagel writes "there should be no enforcement of drug laws, and any law you break trying to avoid prosecution under a drug law is justified"

Pastabagel, you're a radical but I agree.

Seriously though, if you come to Metafilter expecting people to be all torches and pitchforks about this, I have some bad news for you about the tooth fairy. It boils down to whether you believe in blindly obeying bad laws or following your own internal moral compass and living by the consequences of that. The latter school of thought is more prevalent here.
posted by mullingitover at 12:11 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


However, the purpose, and thus the heart, of the law is justice and the good of society at large. I don't see any way in which forcing her to serve her time promotes justice or the good of society.

The law is not about justice. It is about justice subject to constraints. Justice demands truth, but justice also demands a speedy trial, and sometimes the truth takes more time than what would be considered speedy.

The justice locking her up promotes is for the other inmate who chose not to escape and served his time. Letting her go with nothing or something minor sends the message that the law recognized a secret alternative to incarceration that was never revealed.

What if someone escapes, but becomes an alcoholic, gets divorced and has kids out of wedlock, and bounces from one minimum-wage job to another. Are we going to create a value system for judging free people by saying she made a contribution while he didn't?

Question: you have the opportunity to escape. Do you take it? Or would you simply resign yourself to a lifetime of incarceration based on your profound respect for our (wildly corrupt) legal system?

Avenger, you're hypothetical added the single most important fact to the case - I know that I'm not guilty. I know that the law has been abused. Therefore, not only would I escape, I would be morally justified in doing so.

In the case we have, we don't know whether she did this things she was found guilty of at trial. But do you see how we can never know this for certain? There is no omniscience. In it's place, we created the criminal law, criminal procedure, evidentiary rules, etc. We created an entire system that allows every one of us who can never know the truth to assume that we are getting to the truth.

Of course people are morally justified in breaking the law when the law itself is systematically immoral or systematically institutionalizing an injustice.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:12 PM on May 2, 2008


mullingitover: It boils down to whether you believe in blindly obeying bad laws or following your own internal moral compass and living by the consequences of that. The latter school of thought is more prevalent here.

For a lot of people it boils down to that, but I don't think it does for Pastabagel. I agree with him in certain senses. The law is a tremendous and powerful thing that deserves our respect because it allows society to exist. But I believe that there are standards by which law has to be judged, and, particularly in a democratic society, we have to talk about those standards.

In other words, I strenuously avoid breaking the law in private life - no stealing music, no speeding, no drugs - because I believe, with Lincoln, that law is the lifeblood of society and the reason we can live together as we do. Without it, we've got nothing, so it deserves respect simply by the fact that it is law even in cases where we disagree with it. But I still think we should continue to consider whether it's just, and to try to discover ways to improve it.
posted by Viomeda at 12:16 PM on May 2, 2008


Viomeda writes "The law is a tremendous and powerful thing that deserves our respect because it allows society to exist."

Does it? You seem to imply that humans are inherently flawed, and civilization can't develop unless we have rulers giving us orders. One could just as easily argue that civilization develops whenever humans are gathered together and their basic needs are met. People who are safe, sheltered from the elements, fed, cared for and feel valued rarely become parasitic criminals. One can argue that the law, when working properly, merely reflects the actions of the healthy individual.
posted by mullingitover at 12:22 PM on May 2, 2008


Pastabagel: Avenger, you're hypothetical added the single most important fact to the case - I know that I'm not guilty. I know that the law has been abused. Therefore, not only would I escape, I would be morally justified in doing so.

See, you just surprised me.

Just before I read that paragraph, I realized that I believe I've changed my mind. I think she should submit herself to the authorities and let them sentence her as they will. I know she's doing this, and she has no choice, but I believe it'll be good for her if she undergoes the punishment she escaped. Humans have little moral dignity if they spend their lives getting away with and away from things in their past; facing up is more essential than I think people realize.
posted by Viomeda at 12:24 PM on May 2, 2008


mullingitover: Does it? You seem to imply that humans are inherently flawed, and civilization can't develop unless we have rulers giving us orders. One could just as easily argue that civilization develops whenever humans are gathered together and their basic needs are met. People who are safe, sheltered from the elements, fed, cared for and feel valued rarely become parasitic criminals. One can argue that the law, when working properly, merely reflects the actions of the healthy individual.

I mean to imply that law develops whenever humans are gathered together and their basic needs are met. The better the laws, the more developed the common understanding of how humans best work together and relate, the more people are safe, sheltered from the elements, cared for, and valued. Even when law exists solely as an unwritten shared standard, even when there is no record of it, there is still law, and it is still the basis of the ability of human beings to share their lives with others.

Humans aren't inherently flawed; nor are they inherently good. But they have a capacity for political life, and that capacity is a very deep aspect of what we are. Law is natural to us. We are political beings.
posted by Viomeda at 12:30 PM on May 2, 2008


I believe it'll be good for her if she undergoes the punishment she escaped.

Seriously? I doubt she's hearing the beating of a heart beneath the floorboards.
posted by brain_drain at 12:34 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think our current drug laws are stupid, immoral and dangerous, but I also think that if you escape from jail you pretty much have to pay the consequences if you end up getting caught. That's how I want it to be, and, ultimately, that's how most people posting here probably want it to be too. Pastabagel is entirely correct, were this a black man with a history of violent assault it would be much less likely that the escapee would elicit as much sympathy, even though the chances are much better that this attractive white woman was better served by the justice system.
posted by OmieWise at 12:34 PM on May 2, 2008


Viomeda writes "Even when law exists solely as an unwritten shared standard, even when there is no record of it, there is still law, and it is still the basis of the ability of human beings to share their lives with others."

Say wha?

You're equating laws, which exist to further the political goals of lawmakers, with social norms, which develop organically within a culture and generally develop in spite of laws. You're still putting the cart before the horse.
posted by mullingitover at 12:36 PM on May 2, 2008


WalterMitty : But how do you know they won't revert to their criminal ways after leaving prison? Based on their say-so? Should we just give all those... um, "Murderers, rapists, thieves" the benefit of the doubt?

We do this now. It's called parole and probation. We look at people who are currently incarcerated or getting ready to be, and we attempt to use common sense and judgment to try to determine the likelihood of them continuing to commit crimes, and if the chances are low enough, we release them back into the public, while monitoring their actions.

This isn't like some radical idea that has never been tested before.

Assuming that a more thorough investigation of her activities of the last three decades doesn't uncover anything shocking, it seems to me that these would be better tools than sticking her back into a cell.
posted by quin at 1:00 PM on May 2, 2008


To everyone arguing she should be set free -- how do you distinguish her case from the many black, hispanic and white men who have escaped from prison, been caught and had to complete their terms?

Please spell it out -- is it being suburban? wealthy? female? having a rich husband? or bearing 3 kids? Do you need all 5?

Or do you think prison should be like US policy toward immigrants from Cuba -- as long as you can set foot on free soil, however you might get there, ollie ollie oxen free?
posted by msalt at 1:04 PM on May 2, 2008


Obviously, MetaFilter tends to believe that white women shouldn't have to serve their jail sentences.

Throw her back in jail. No time off for good behavior (prison escape does not constitute good behavior).

Prison, in part is about consequences. If you deal HEROIN, you might get caught and sentenced to a prison term. She wasn't an innocent lamb in the '70s. Today, she's merely an escapee.
posted by paperzach at 1:08 PM on May 2, 2008


This thread makes me a little queasy. The more I hear of law and punishment, the less I find myself endeared to either. I live in a very safe community so perhaps my opinion is irrelevant, but the subject at the heart of this discussion is a heroin conviction and I can't help mulling it over.

I've got three friends who all ran afoul of hard drugs and then cleaned up again; cocaine, heroin, and meth respectively. The differences between them and the woman in this case is that none of them were dealing it and none of them got caught. I'd say that all three of them are struggling to get their lives on track again, but that's nothing compared to how hopelessly fucked over they'd be if they'd landed in prison. I've never broken the law in a noteworthy way and I stay away from drugs entirely, yet even so, the law as it's instituted in America seems far more menacing to my freedom and pursuit of happiness than any druggy acquaintance I've ever had, or even some housewife on the lam with a deadman's social security number.

I don't really care if she lived a "good" life or not, but after thirty-two years without running afoul of the law again, any crime that isn't outright monstrous is worth simply forgiving. That goes for anyone, black or white, male or female. This is hardly the first article I've felt that way about, but it's the first I've had the chance to comment on. The more I hear about the horrors of prisons, the less I think they offer any real net good to society these days except in the rarest of cases. So as a teenager this woman took some bad advice, pleaded guilty without a trial, and threw herself on the mercy of the courts only to received the maximum sentence? I hardly see how justice is served by any of this.
posted by CheshireCat at 1:09 PM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


mullingitover: You're equating laws, which exist to further the political goals of lawmakers, with social norms, which develop organically within a culture and generally develop in spite of laws. You're still putting the cart before the horse.

They are the same in a very important way, although there are differences which have large effects on the circumstances. I know that they can seem like very distinct things from the perspective of a society which has written and codified laws, but consider it this way.

In ancient times- say, for example, early Greece- law was usually not written. It was discussed solemnly in large gatherings of the whole people of the city, and it was repeated in poetic form so that it would be easily remembered. It was a feature of life, however, as it is for us, and something people lived with; and, even when people didn't agree with all of its particulars, it was beneficial to act within the common understanding of what is just if only to reinforce the notion that people ought to act within it by one's consent to it.

I was arguing from something of a Hobbesian perspective: social norms cannot develop simply in spite of laws. If there were a social norm which directly contradicted written laws, the laws would cease to have any power; no one would act with a consideration to that written law, and everyone would ignore it. The power of a law, its essential character, derives from the consent of those who follow it. We may each have our own standards of justice, and some groups of us may have separate standards of justice, but law effectively amounts to whatever standards of justice we all share. They may be right, or they may be wrong; but they're what we share in common with the rest of society. Therefore, even in cases where there is some petty thing which we disagree with - say, the legality of marijuana, or the legality of seceding from the Union - it is often better for us to follow the standard of society rather than our own in order to communicate and encourage consent.

But I suppose I'm assuming a certain amount of democracy in all this. In a monarchy, law doesn't precisely reside in the consent of the governed so much as the content of what the governed have consented to. However, I think that government, by chieftain or by legislature, exists at all times and in all places that there are human beings. And law is the instrument of government.
posted by Viomeda at 1:10 PM on May 2, 2008


msalt: To everyone arguing she should be set free -- how do you distinguish her case from the many black, hispanic and white men who have escaped from prison, been caught and had to complete their terms?

I don't really believe anymore that she should be set free, but that's an awful argument. As someone pointed out upthread, do you mean to tell me that we should be unjust toward white women and black, hispanic, and white men? Does that make sense? During the civil rights era, did we ask that the KKK start lynching white men too?
posted by Viomeda at 1:14 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The KKK isn't the government.
posted by cashman at 1:19 PM on May 2, 2008


Or IS it!? dun dun Dun!

[dramatic klansman]
posted by cashman at 1:20 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Take off the mask. I know it's you, Mr. Duke.
posted by Viomeda at 1:21 PM on May 2, 2008


For people who seem to be confused, she was arrested for taking $600 from someone, but the police claim she was involved in much larger things. In fact, they didn't even catch her with any drugs, just the $600 they gave her and 'paraphernalia'. The rest of the charges could be pure fantasy, and the long jail term may simply be the product of vindictive prosecutors. It is possible to get long jail terms for minor crimes even if that isn't the case for most people captured.

The only thing that I think could be suspect (and, sorry, I disagree a little here with you, TedW) is the $600. That's a lot of money for somebody to walk around with.

Again, she had $600 because that's what the cops gave her.

It adds up if you consider the very likely possibility that she spent some of that accumulated $2,000 per week on a very good lawyer., and on the fact that it was 1974. -- Pastabagel

I don't know about 1974, but these days lawyers can't take money if it's likely to be drug money, which means the client needs to prove that the money they take came from legitimate sources. And not only that, but the police can confiscate money they consider drug money without so much as a court hearing. Even people who are never even charged with a crime have large amounts of cash confiscated if they happen to be carrying it.

So that's a pretty idiotic assumption to make.

Here's the only question they should ask: Did you appeal your conviction? What was the result? -- Pastabagel

You can't appeal when you plead guilty, idiot.

But how do you know they won't revert to their criminal ways after leaving prison? -- WalterMitty

Because we are talking about this specific person, who we know didn't have any legal problems after release? The original hypothetical we were talking about said 'if' we could know they wouldn't cause any problems, we could release them. Obviously we can't know about the future, but we do know that this particular person didn't cause any problems, so under that rubric there is no reason to keep her in prison.

While we're comparing statistics, did you know that China has about only one-seventh of the world's population, but executes the majority of the world's executions? For example, it handled about 63% of the 1591 confirmed executions around the world in 2006. -- WalterMitty

There is a profound problem of scale here. China executes 1000 people, and we imprison three million. Three thousand times as many Americans are in prison as Chinese are executed. Lots of people claim that one reason that the U.S. has more prisoners then China is that china executes people. As you can see, that's absurd. China executes a lot of people, but it's less then one in a million. But the U.S. imprisons more then 1 in 100 of it's people. In fact, the U.S. imprisons more people then India and China, the world's largest countries combined

The law is not about justice. It is about justice subject to constraints. Justice demands truth, but justice also demands a speedy trial, and sometimes the truth takes more time than what would be considered speedy. -- Pastabagel

Just out of curiosity, who the hell are you to make that claim? Seems rather self-righteous. Clearly, law, justice, etc are only concepts applied by individuals based on their own understanding. They are not natural laws like evolution or gravity. Frankly, your belief that we ought to throw people in prison for decades in order to sate your desire to fulfill your own unsupported (and indeed unsupportable) understanding of abstract concepts is pretty strong evidence that you are, in fact, a dick. If I had my way people like you would be disenfranchised.

Also while laws may be required for our society to exist (at least to the level that it's achieved) I would argue that the drug laws are actually detrimental to our society, and so enforcing those particular laws does not aide in any way the creation of a nice society.

The same arguments used here could be used to imprison someone arrested for miscegenation or imprisoning someone who assisted Jews in Nazi Germany. If the law itself is unjust, then it's enforcement is also unjust. The ancillary crimes required to stay out of prison are, in my mind, non-issues.
posted by delmoi at 1:21 PM on May 2, 2008 [10 favorites]


I've never broken the law in a noteworthy way and I stay away from drugs entirely, yet even so, the law as it's instituted in America seems far more menacing to my freedom and pursuit of happiness than any druggy acquaintance I've ever had, or even some housewife on the lam with a deadman's social security number.

Your comment makes me a little queasy. Here's a map of the 282 homicides in Baltimore last year, which is where I live. Note that the red flags represent murders committed with guns. Most of them are drug related. (Please see other comments re: race as a mitigating factor in why this woman's "plight" seems like such a rank injustice.)
posted by OmieWise at 1:22 PM on May 2, 2008


delmoi: If I had my way people like you would be disenfranchised.

Hear, hear! Let's take away his Jewish-Italian deli!

It's not as though rigatoni and lox were ever meant to be on the same plate, anyhow.
posted by Viomeda at 1:26 PM on May 2, 2008


do you mean to tell me that we should be unjust toward white women and black, hispanic, and white men?

Call me crazy, but I don't think it's unjust to send prison escapees back to prison. She was a 20 year old gorgeous blond from a close, supportive Catholic family who got caught dealing heroin. Her boyfriend got the same sentence and was out on parole in 2 years. So I don't see anything unjust at all in her case.
posted by msalt at 1:33 PM on May 2, 2008


Most of them are drug related.

And most probably wouldn't have happened if the drugs were not illegal and therefore valuable. In exactly the same way that alcohol helped to establish organized crime during the Prohibition, illegal drugs now fund much of the street crime we see day to day.

You want to see drug related murders go down? Take away the money one can get by selling drugs.
posted by quin at 1:36 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


msalt: Call me crazy, but I don't think it's unjust to send prison escapees back to prison. She was a 20 year old gorgeous blond from a close, supportive Catholic family who got caught dealing heroin. Her boyfriend got the same sentence and was out on parole in 2 years. So I don't see anything unjust at all in her case.

I don't know a damned thing about her family, none of us do, or her early life. I agree that she should go back to prison. I was only pointing out that shadenfreude is a pretty crappy way of judging a legal situation.
posted by Viomeda at 1:41 PM on May 2, 2008


Like I said OmieWise, I live in an area with very low violent crime, so my perception of this will necessarily be different from yours. On the other hand, as a largish midwestern city, meth production and mariuana coming down from Canada are big law enforcement concerns here (drunk driving being the most common thing to be prosecuted as far as I know) so it isn't like we don't have drug crimes that our community is grappling with, we just don't have the related gun violence. I don't know what the answer is, I'm just another fool with a keyboard after all, but even so I think this story as well as this discussion is much more nuanced than simply being about the fact that this is a white woman. Maybe that makes a few people empathize a bit better, but there's still a deeper questioning of the justice here than that sort of gut reaction.
posted by CheshireCat at 1:42 PM on May 2, 2008


"'I don't know what we're going to gain for the money,' said Robert Brown Jr., who was director of the Michigan Department of Corrections 1984-91 and spent 30 years with the department. 'Why should we spend the money to bring her back here, interrupt her life? She violated the law and violated the law again by running off. But we aren't going to gain anything by bringing her back. How much pound of flesh do we want? What did we expect when we sent her to prison? Did we get that? Something turned her around and thank God, that's it.'

Brown is now a nationally recognized consultant on corrections issues. He said Lefevre has lived a productive life since leaving Michigan and that justice would not likely be served by trying to punish her more.

Eaton County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sauter, a former president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, said he wouldn't want this case to be resolved in a way that would foster the notion that it's all right for someone to walk away from prison and nothing will be done about it as long as they manage to stay within the law.

'It emphasizes the two extremes,' Sauter said of the woman's situation. 'It appears she did turn her life around, but we also have to have respect for law and order. I think the judge who sentences her is going to take those things into consideration.'" *
posted by ericb at 1:42 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


And most probably wouldn't have happened if the drugs were not illegal and therefore valuable.

Yes, yes, thank you for stating one half of the obvious. That doesn't make them less murders or the people who killed others less murderers. Look, I don't support our current drug laws, but I was responding very specifically to a comment saying that "the law in America" was more threatening than "any druggy acquaintance I've ever had." That's a particularly privileged view of drugs, since they're a huge component of the destruction of many American communities. Regardless of how things might be if the drug laws were changed, ignoring the murders people involved in the drug trade perpetrate now is ridiculous.
posted by OmieWise at 1:44 PM on May 2, 2008


She's not alone.
"Lefevre is the second person from Michigan arrested in California this year after having escaped from prison more than 30 years ago, said state Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan.

Roger Crona, 61, was arrested Feb. 28 after having been on the lam for nearly 36 years. Crona was convicted in 1971 of forging the registration on a stolen car. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 4 years in prison but escaped from a Jackson prison on June 20, 1972, Marlan said.

He is in the Santa Barbara County Jail and is fighting extradition, Marlan said."
posted by ericb at 1:48 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think our current drug laws are stupid, immoral and dangerous, but I also think that if you escape from jail you pretty much have to pay the consequences if you end up getting caught. That's how I want it to be, and, ultimately, that's how most people posting here probably want it to be too.

yup.

She is seeking to have her sentence commuted.
posted by caddis at 1:57 PM on May 2, 2008


Obviously, MetaFilter tends to believe that white women shouldn't have to serve their jail sentences.

I've been following this thread closely, but haven't posted until now. In fact, I'm conflicted about the issue and haven't made up my mind yet.

However, I have noted that not a single person in this thread advocating leniency (whether full or partial) has said anything to suggest to me that their recommendation is due to either race or gender.

The fact that you so readily jump to such an unsupported conclusion says a lot about you and very little about what "MetaFilter tends to believe."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:58 PM on May 2, 2008


DevilsAdvocate: not a single person in this thread advocating leniency has said anything to suggest that their recommendation is due to either race or gender.

Not openly. But people keep talking about her "productive life" etc. when all we know is that she hasn't been convicted, is married to a wealthy guy, lives in an affluent white suburb and has 3 kids. No sign she's even had a job. So -- which is it? Should all escaped prisoners stay free? Or does her success in white suburbia make her special?

Viomeda: shadenfreude is a pretty crappy way of judging a legal situation.

I agree, and I don't think I'm shadenfreuding here. My point is: she has had a lot of breaks in life, and got caught dealing heroin. (The description of her family was from her excuse for pleading guilty, to spare them embarrassment. Lots of supportive quotes from her siblings in these articles, too.) I just don't see any principle or reason of justice by which she deserves leniency over other convicts.
posted by msalt at 2:15 PM on May 2, 2008


Another one - Deborah Gavin (TX).

HOUSTON — In the 33 years since her escape from a Georgia women's prison, Deborah Ann Gavin Murphey was able to evade authorities and keep most of her past to herself, carving out a small-town life in East Texas working as a nurse and raising two children.

She offered a few clues about her past to her husband and partner of 32 years, Richard Murphey. He knew she was a military brat, and he had met members of her family.

And before they were married, he knew she had spent time in prison.

But he didn't learn the full story until last week, after federal agents arrested his wife at the couple's home in tiny Frankston, about halfway between Tyler and Palestine.

In 1974, Deborah Murphey had walked out of the Georgia Women's Correctional Institution, where she was serving time for armed robbery.

----------------

The former Deborah Gavin was convicted of an armed robbery that she has since told her family she didn't commit.

"She was passed out in the back seat," Murphey said of the crime that landed his wife in prison. "She met this boy and this girl. When the car stopped, it was surrounded by police. She had found out they had stopped and robbed the store somewhere."

After her escape in 1974, she fled to Tennessee and Florida. She made her way to her mother's home in Irving the next year.

While living there, she met Murphey, a construction worker, through friends. He offered her a job as a construction helper in Plano.

Shortly after the two became a couple in 1975, she told him she had been in prison and had escaped at least once.

"I knew she had been in the pen and she had gotten out, went to Louisiana, and then she got caught," Murphey said.

But she said nothing about her last escape until after the two were married by a justice of the peace in McKinney in 1984.

"It was a while after we got married," Murphey said. "I was kind of tongue-tied."

The couple moved to East Texas, where the woman with an eighth-grade education got into the University of Texas at Tyler. She graduated with a nursing degree in 1994.

----------------

Deborah Murphey told her husband that the prison had gone through a sex abuse scandal involving correctional officers and inmates. Officials confirm that a sex abuse scandal forced the prison to close in the 1990s. Richard Murphey said he never asked his wife if she had been abused.

"She didn't tell me," he said. "I didn't want to know."

But one of her siblings, living in Oklahoma City, informed him last week that she was sexually abused at the prison.

Deborah Murphey worked as a nurse until two years ago, when a back injury forced her to quit her job at East Texas Medical Center in Tyler. She's had heart problems and a kidney removed because of cancer.
posted by cashman at 2:15 PM on May 2, 2008


However, I have noted that not a single person in this thread advocating leniency (whether full or partial) has said anything to suggest to me that their recommendation is due to either race or gender.

Just to clarify my position, I think the entire war on drug is bogus. Obviously poor and minorities (and mostly men) suffer the brunt of the war on drugs, but the way to correct that is not to make sure that people who might be considered 'privileged' are also treated unfairly.
posted by delmoi at 2:23 PM on May 2, 2008


That's a particularly privileged view of drugs, since they're a huge component of the destruction of many American communities.

Name one community that suffered serious destruction due to drugs before they were outlawed.
posted by delmoi at 2:26 PM on May 2, 2008


I think a Chandler quote from a mefi thread on Genarlow Wilson applies here:

“The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.”

-- Raymond Chandler
posted by lord_wolf at 2:28 PM on May 2, 2008


The stuff about race and sex is silly. If this were a black man who similarly had managed to lead a clean life, raise children etc. people would feel just as lenient toward him.
posted by caddis at 2:36 PM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Should all escaped prisoners stay free? Or does her success in white suburbia make her special?

That's a false dichotomy. It's possible to argue (again, I am not making such an argument myself, only saying such an argument is not inconsistent) that she should receive either full or partial leniency due to her success, without making that contingent on either her race or her gender.

You're the one who brought up "white suburbia." Not any of the people arguing for leniency. If you want to say "well, they were all thinking that, even if they didn't say it," then I guess everyone in the world is racist and sexist by that standard.

"I can imagine that such an argument could be motivated by racism or sexism" is not the same as "everyone who makes such an argument is necessarily motivated by racism or sexism."

I find the implication that anyone arguing in favor of her leniency is necessarily racist and/or sexist, when there is nothing in their arguments (open or otherwise) to actually suggest that, to be disgusting.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:37 PM on May 2, 2008


i haven't read every comment in this thread, but i think i essentially agree with pastabagel. if a law isn't just (like, say, prohibition of drugs) then it should be overturned. but, as long as the law stands, it (and the decisions of the jury or judge) should be upheld.

i think in many ways the problem is that we have so much leeway in the system already. if middle class college students did hard time every time they got caught for, say, possession and intent to distribute a class d substance, that law would have already been changed by now. since the system has enough wiggle room to just let them off 'cause, you know, they have so much to offer society, then those in power are less compelled to actually make the laws more just.

that said, i'm really glad i, i mean, uh, my friend, never had to go to prison.
posted by snofoam at 2:40 PM on May 2, 2008


Not openly. But people keep talking about her "productive life" etc. when all we know is that she hasn't been convicted, is married to a wealthy guy, lives in an affluent white suburb and has 3 kids. No sign she's even had a job. So -- which is it? Should all escaped prisoners stay free? Or does her success in white suburbia make her special?

You seem to be under the impression that raising a family is a breeze.
posted by katillathehun at 2:45 PM on May 2, 2008



Former heroin and cocaine addict here who once faced a similarly long sentence and very, very luckily had the judge dismiss the case "in the interests of justice" after about 7 years of being out on bail and not knowing whether I was going to have to go to prison for 15-life.

It was a first offense-- but I was facing New York's notorious Rockefeller drug laws. Thankfully, the judge saw me turn my life around after I decided to get treatment-- and she basically said that if I stayed clean, she'd keep me out of prison. The prosecutors, however, were arguing that it was racist for me to get off because I was white and middle class. I would usually be the only white defendant in the room when I went for my court appearances. The judge had made the same deal for some black and Latino college students caught in same position, however.

It is absolute insanity for nonviolent consensual crimes to result in longer sentences than for murder, serious assault and rape. I agree with those who say make her pay a large fine and get on with it at this point. And I would say the same no matter what race she was if she had similarly managed to lead a law-abiding life after this.

$600 is about what a gram of relatively pure heroin went for in the 80's in NY-- this would make her a very small time dealer/user basically, who probably sold to a few friends to support her habit. Highly unlikely that someone like this would be involved in any violence.

I knew plenty of far higher level drug dealers who were nonviolent-- they were mostly Deadheads, basically.

What these long sentences do is waste lives and money and cause all sorts of collateral damage to families while doing absolutely nothing to help people with drug problems or neighborhoods blighted by street dealing. If we've gotta use law enforcement, we should use it smartly: focus on attacking the violent, disruptive dealers and ignore those who conduct their trade in a way that doesn't impinge on neighbors who don't want drugs.
posted by Maias at 2:47 PM on May 2, 2008 [10 favorites]


So for everyone who's arguing that the law might be unjust or wev, but she should go back to jail and do her time: if you jumped in a time machine and went back to 1850 and met an escaped slave, would you return the slave to its master? It would be the lawful thing to do, after all.

There's a lot of blind worshipping at the altar of government going on here.
posted by mullingitover at 2:49 PM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


The law is made by men, and is only as worthy of respect as its makers.
posted by mek at 2:53 PM on May 2, 2008


Name one community that suffered serious destruction due to drugs before they were outlawed.

What would doing that (or not) have to do with my point, which is that people who MURDER people NOW are still MURDERERS even if drug laws are indirectly responsible for contributing to murder. Jesus, what is it with you? Is your position truly that people are not responsible for their actions because there are unjust and ineffective drug laws on the books?

if you jumped in a time machine and went back to 1850 and met an escaped slave, would you return the slave to its master? It would be the lawful thing to do, after all.

This is a ridiculous analogy and you should be ashamed of yourself. You're equating a white woman in 1970 doing (or dealing) heroin, and then escaping from jail to avoid her sentence, with an escaped slave? Believe me when I say that I understand the myriad problems with US drug policy (and I'd venture to guess that I deal with it much more directly and personally than 95% of the people commenting in this thread), but if you think equations with slavery are apt here you're blinded by some seriously problematic morality.
posted by OmieWise at 3:03 PM on May 2, 2008


OmieWise writes "You're equating a white woman in 1970 doing (or dealing) heroin, and then escaping from jail to avoid her sentence, with an escaped slave? Believe me when I say that I understand the myriad problems with US drug policy (and I'd venture to guess that I deal with it much more directly and personally than 95% of the people commenting in this thread), but if you think equations with slavery are apt here you're blinded by some seriously problematic morality."

Yeah, I guess you're right. I totally don't know what I was thinking in comparing one person's escape from unjust bondage with another person's escape from unjust bondage. I mean, what was I thinking? I am ashamed.
posted by mullingitover at 3:12 PM on May 2, 2008


mullingitover: i don't think 'ashamed' was the right word for omiewise to use, but your analogy isn't really analogous. unjust or not, she willfully broke the law. slavery didn't work that way. i think one could believe that laws should be enforced without supporting slavery.
posted by snofoam at 3:17 PM on May 2, 2008


Some drug laws are bad. I do not believe that the drug laws prohibiting the trafficking of heroin are among the bad ones.

According to my 5 minutes of internet research, in 1975, $600 worth of pure heroin could be cut into about $15,000 worth of street heroin, which is not an insignificant amount and turns her into a fairly major drug dealer in my eyes (i.e. she wasn't doing it to subsidize her salary from the local Piggly Wiggly). Of course, she might have been making a deal for $600 worth of street heroin, but that's no joke either.
posted by paperzach at 3:19 PM on May 2, 2008


How many of us were even alive when she was convicted?
posted by desjardins at 3:24 PM on May 2, 2008


which is that people who MURDER people NOW are still MURDERERS even if drug laws are indirectly responsible for contributing to murder.

You are, of course, absolutely correct. I think myself and others are trying to establish that if those drug laws hadn't been there, there might not have been any motivation, and the murders might not have even taken place. But I have no argument with your point here, people will kill each other regardless, and they should be responsible for their actions.
posted by quin at 3:31 PM on May 2, 2008


I read a similar story about 10 years ago in, I think, Outside Magazine. It was about a man who'd either escaped from prison or committed a crime and was ID'd but never caught. He had moved to some new state and led a productive life for decades before he was found. I think he may have even been mayor or had some formal standing in the community.

I can't remember the guy's name but I've often wondered since reading that article what they did with him.

Anyone know anything about this?
posted by dobbs at 3:31 PM on May 2, 2008


Help, I'm trapped in a bad revision of Les Miserable.

If she's got blood on her hands, then lock her up.
posted by mecran01 at 3:35 PM on May 2, 2008


I guess the Statute of Limitations doesn't apply here.
posted by sfts2 at 3:38 PM on May 2, 2008


Help, I'm trapped in a bad revision of Les Miserable.

This reminds me: I recently heard someone refer to an attitude of blind worship of the law without regard to true justice as Javertian. I thought it was a great coinage: "The Javertian morality of the anti-immigration crowd."; "Zero-tolerance policies are a natural result of a Javertian streak in the American character that values absolute rules over difficult judgements.", that kind of thing.

Has anyone else heard this usage? I think I'm going to start working it into conversations.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:44 PM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


snofoam writes "i don't think 'ashamed' was the right word for omiewise to use, but your analogy isn't really analogous. unjust or not, she willfully broke the law. slavery didn't work that way. i think one could believe that laws should be enforced without supporting slavery."

Slavery in the US operated within a legal framework, so no, until the Emancipation Proclamation you couldn't support the enforcement of the law without also supporting slavery.
posted by mullingitover at 3:44 PM on May 2, 2008


GO BACK TO JAIL. DO NOT PASS GO.
posted by zekinskia at 3:44 PM on May 2, 2008


paperzach writes "According to my 5 minutes of internet research, in 1975, $600 worth of pure heroin could be cut into about $15,000 worth of street heroin, which is not an insignificant amount and turns her into a fairly major drug dealer in my eyes (i.e. she wasn't doing it to subsidize her salary from the local Piggly Wiggly). Of course, she might have been making a deal for $600 worth of street heroin, but that's no joke either."

And this is so close to being relevant, except for the part where she never had any heroin.

Furthermore, even if she had a whole kilo I don't see how her crime would've been more serious than rape or murder, for which people routinely do less time than she was sentenced to.
posted by mullingitover at 3:49 PM on May 2, 2008


Other recent cases:
Linda Darby, Convicted Killer Caught 35 Years After Prison Escape.

Roberto Negron Diaz Caught 20 Years After Fleeing Prison; Had Been Incarcerated for Receiving Stolen Property and DUI.

Maximo Jurado Arrested 28 Years After Prison Escape; Originally Sentenced for Drug Offense.

Ailing 81-Year-Old Fugitive Nabbed 43 Years After Prison Escape.

Accused Drug Smuggler Jerome J. Wedge Caught 20 Years Later.
posted by ericb at 4:12 PM on May 2, 2008


sfts2: I guess the Statute of Limitations doesn't apply here.

Nope. She was already convicted. The statute of limitations only applies if they haven't been tried after a certain number of years.
posted by Viomeda at 4:14 PM on May 2, 2008


I think myself and others are trying to establish that if those drug laws hadn't been there, there might not have been any motivation, and the murders might not have even taken place.

I agree, and I thought I stipulated that when in every one of my comments I made clear that I don't support current drug policy in the US.

mullingitover--I'm surprised that you really cannot see a difference. I'm tempted to snark hard and dismiss you, but I'm trying not to do that. Do you really think that a law which punishes an offense disproportionately is the same as a system of laws that classifies a portion of humanity as property? In the former case, the offender has a choice of whether or not to engage in behavior that might run afoul of the law, in the latter case there is no offender at all, simply someone made into chattel. In the former case, not participating in the illegal behavior in no way infringes on what we consider in this country to be basic liberties, while in the latter the very idea of basic liberties is made mock of.

You further seem to suggest that supporting "law" means supporting ALL LAWS, and draw your analogy from this, but doing so betrays a lack of historical insight into how the abolitionists worked to change certain laws by practicing civil disobedience. The use of the phrase in common parlance is arguably traced back to Thoreau's essay on the subject which is explicitly abolitionist. You might do well to read the essay, which does not argue that one should be exempt from laws with which one disagrees, but rather that one should be prepared to face the penalty for contravening such laws.

I really can't imagine why you think that this woman's plight is comparable in any essential to slavery, and since you haven't argued why, even by analogy, your insistence that supporting her re-incarceration is lending support to unjust laws does not hold for me. As I view the situation, her absconding may be seen as a form of civil disobedience, but, if so, she should still be prepared to suffer the consequences when caught. It is precisely this suffering (you might also want to look at Letter from Birmingham Jail by MLK) which draws attention to the unjust nature of the laws.

In all, I think you do a HUGE disservice to the cause of changing drug laws when you try to equate overly stringent laws with an abhorrence like slavery. Not only is it ahistorical, as I've suggested, but it's intellectually disrespectful, turning a very particular national tragedy into a talking point. It further replaces argument with emotion, limiting rather than expanding discussion. That effect should be clear from this thread, where instead of developing an argument for why in this particular case (since we're talking about a particular case) this particular woman should stay free, and why, again in this case, supporting that is necessary as a way to highlight the injustice of this set of laws, you sought simply to claim an undefined moral high ground by painting the people you disagreed with as monsters.

The strange part about this, for me, is that I can see where one might make an argument drawing certain equivalences between system of slavery and our current "War of Drugs." Such an argument would have to acknowledge that along with race, there are powerful class and education issues at play in drug laws, and would have so somehow account for volition and choice. That the current laws are racist and destructive is beyond dispute by rational people, but that does not make them akin to slavery.
posted by OmieWise at 4:21 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


mullingitover, i agree that both situations are unjust and that both are supported by the laws of the time and place. i think it could be my moral duty to harbor a non-violent drug crime fugitive to keep them from being imprisoned under an unfair system if i were to be faced with that decision.

at the same time, despite the fact that many laws are flawed, accepting the rule of law has some benefits and i think applying laws consistently is an important part of how law should work.

i think there's a difference between breaking the law to follow your conscience (e.g., personally helping an escaped slave) and wanting the legal system to apply the law selectively (e.g., not incarcerating an escaped inmate). to me, wanting the legal system to treat all people the same (wishful thinking, eh?) is not the same as calling the federal marshall to rat her out.
posted by snofoam at 4:30 PM on May 2, 2008


posted by dobbs I read a similar story about 10 years ago in, I think, Outside Magazine. It was about a man who'd either escaped from prison or committed a crime and was ID'd but never caught. He had moved to some new state and led a productive life for decades before he was found. I think he may have even been mayor or had some formal standing in the community. I can't remember the guy's name but I've often wondered since reading that article what they did with him. Anyone know anything about this?

Sounds like Ira Einhorn. After murdering his girlfriend, stuffing her body in a steamer trunk, and locking it in his closet, he fled the country before his trial and began a new and productive life in France. Based on some of the logic in this thread, he should be a free man!
posted by optovox at 4:30 PM on May 2, 2008


Also, Ronald Biggs.
posted by optovox at 4:35 PM on May 2, 2008


posted by mr_roboto I don't know how we should deal with criminal behavior, but I'm pretty sure prison's not it. It doesn't do anyone any good.

Sure it does. It keeps murderers, rapists, and all sorts of other people who refuse to obey the rules of society in one convenient and secure place, far away from the rest of us.
posted by optovox at 4:41 PM on May 2, 2008


posted by evilangela I would happily let every single person out of prison - not just drug dealers - who would go out and live according to society's rules. Murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. If they could walk out of prison today and not break any laws that average people don't, I'd be all in favor of letting them go right now.

Yes, I bet Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, Scott Peterson, and Richard Allen Davis will assure you they'll happily live according to society's rules if they could just be set free.
posted by optovox at 4:53 PM on May 2, 2008


OmieWise writes "mullingitover--I'm surprised that you really cannot see a difference. I'm tempted to snark hard and dismiss you, but I'm trying not to do that. Do you really think that a law which punishes an offense disproportionately is the same as a system of laws that classifies a portion of humanity as property? In the former case, the offender has a choice of whether or not to engage in behavior that might run afoul of the law, in the latter case there is no offender at all, simply someone made into chattel. In the former case, not participating in the illegal behavior in no way infringes on what we consider in this country to be basic liberties, while in the latter the very idea of basic liberties is made mock of."

People in bondage unjustly shouldn't be. Can we agree on that?

OmieWise writes "You further seem to suggest that supporting 'law' means supporting ALL LAWS, and draw your analogy from this, but doing so betrays a lack of historical insight into how the abolitionists worked to change certain laws by practicing civil disobedience. The use of the phrase in common parlance is arguably traced back to Thoreau's essay on the subject which is explicitly abolitionist. You might do well to read the essay, which does not argue that one should be exempt from laws with which one disagrees, but rather that one should be prepared to face the penalty for contravening such laws."

Many people here are of the opinion that one must follow the law, whatever the hell it is, or suffer the consequences. I'm saying if you blindly endorse 'obeying the law, whatever the hell it says,' as many here advocate, then at certain points in history (the present included) you blindly supported some abhorrent things. In the past you supported slavery. Now you support locking up an aging, harmless suburban mother of two. I understand once can argue degrees of evil, but that to me is splitting hairs.

OmieWise writes "I really can't imagine why you think that this woman's plight is comparable in any essential to slavery, and since you haven't argued why, even by analogy, your insistence that supporting her re-incarceration is lending support to unjust laws does not hold for me. As I view the situation, her absconding may be seen as a form of civil disobedience, but, if so, she should still be prepared to suffer the consequences when caught. It is precisely this suffering (you might also want to look at Letter from Birmingham Jail by MLK) which draws attention to the unjust nature of the laws."

Why is it her duty to be a martyr? By your logic all the escaped slaves should've been returned to their owners to draw attention to the unjust nature of slavery. I realize you don't like this equivalence, but it's there. The number of people locked up for drug offenses now is in the same neighborhood of the number of slaves in the US in the 1860s. Who are we to argue over how this situation came to be? It's here. You're saying 'die on your feet or live on your knees, pick one,' and I'm proposing a third option, 'get the hell out of there.'

OmieWise writes "The strange part about this, for me, is that I can see where one might make an argument drawing certain equivalences between system of slavery and our current 'War of Drugs.' Such an argument would have to acknowledge that along with race, there are powerful class and education issues at play in drug laws, and would have so somehow account for volition and choice. That the current laws are racist and destructive is beyond dispute by rational people, but that does not make them akin to slavery."

Injustice in the form of human bondage is what it is, whenever and wherever it is. Most of the time when it happens, it's perfectly legal, and blind allegiance to the law means you're part of the problem. That's all I'm saying.
posted by mullingitover at 5:10 PM on May 2, 2008


optovox writes "Sounds like Ira Einhorn. After murdering his girlfriend, stuffing her body in a steamer trunk, and locking it in his closet, he fled the country before his trial and began a new and productive life in France. Based on some of the logic in this thread, he should be a free man!"

Did I miss the part where anyone said that fugitive murders should go free, or are you just putting in a half-hearted attempt at trolling? This is metafilter, if you're going to troll you should go big or go home.
posted by mullingitover at 5:16 PM on May 2, 2008


evilangela writes "I would happily let every single person out of prison - not just drug dealers - who would go out and live according to society's rules. Murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. If they could walk out of prison today and not break any laws that average people don't, I'd be all in favor of letting them go right now."

Ah shit, nvm
posted by mullingitover at 5:18 PM on May 2, 2008


What would doing that (or not) have to do with my point, which is that people who MURDER people NOW are still MURDERERS even if drug laws are indirectly responsible for contributing to murder.

...

This is a ridiculous analogy and you should be ashamed of yourself. You're equating a white woman in 1970 doing (or dealing) heroin, and then escaping from jail to avoid her sentence, with an escaped slave?


It's no more ridiculous than equating taking $600 from an undercover police officer with murder, which is what you seem to be doing here. You've replied in at least three comments linking drugs with murder, e.g.: ignoring the murders people involved in the drug trade perpetrate now is ridiculous.

Obviously there's a huge relationship between the drug trade and murder, but does that make every drug dealer a murderer? She didn't kill anyone. Let it go.

While most people are focusing on the guilt or innocence woman here, there's another factor. If the criminal justice system lets this woman go, it's a major symbolic defeat for it: "Look, this person turned into a decent person, and she did it without going to prison." It calls into question the entire drug war, the incarceration policies of the US, almost everything about our current system. On the other hand, if they force her to go to prison, her husband could divorce her, she could fall back into her old ways. Then the Michigan Department of Corrections can say, "She's a bad person, look what we saved you from taxpayers! That'll be $150,000, please drive through."

And the more I think about it, equating overly strict drug laws, like the crack sentencing laws and the mandatory minimum laws, with slavery is pretty damn valid. 1 in 15 vs. 1 in 99.

One final thing, from the story:
"Back then, Saginaw had a major heroin problem," Marlan said. "All this leads to violent crime -- shootings, murders... This sentence to a heroin dealer was an attempt to clean up the city and stop the violence."

I'm from Saginaw, grew up there, in Thomas Township actually. I'd like to congratulate Marlan and others for cleaning up the city. Nice work boys.
posted by formless at 5:26 PM on May 2, 2008


i'm sticking with both bad, but not the same as slavery. besides, it's not like we get to choose whether she goes back to prison or not. i think mullingitover and omie wise would agree that if we had the power to make one change, we would change the law so we didn't have a million people in prison for this, not to pardon this one woman.
posted by snofoam at 5:28 PM on May 2, 2008


katillathehun: You seem to be under the impression that raising a family is a breeze.

I'm the single parent of 2 daughters, 8 and 11, and think I have a pretty good grasp on its difficulty. I don't think it should be a "get out of jail free" card.
posted by msalt at 5:28 PM on May 2, 2008


posted by dobbs I read a similar story about 10 years ago in, I think, Outside Magazine. It was about a man who'd either escaped from prison or committed a crime and was ID'd but never caught . . . Anyone know anything about this?

Bill Harris, James Kilgore, or John List, perhaps?
posted by optovox at 5:53 PM on May 2, 2008


I'm the single parent of 2 daughters, 8 and 11, and think I have a pretty good grasp on its difficulty. I don't think it should be a "get out of jail free" card.

No, but you do seem to think she's had it easy because she's white and affluent. You don't know this woman any more than the rest of us do. All right, so she should go back to jail by law. Her race and financial status doesn't make her MORE guilty.
posted by katillathehun at 5:58 PM on May 2, 2008


Here's the only question they should ask: Did you appeal your conviction? What was the result? -- Pastabagel

You can't appeal when you plead guilty, idiot.


Well admittedly I didn't realize she pled guilty when I wrote that, and I was speaking more generally. But the fact that she pled guilty justifies escaping even less. And furthermore, yes, you actually can appeal from a guilty plea if you withdraw the plea first. But I guess you were very eager to jump at a chance to call me an idiot that you didn't bother to figure out what you're talking about. You can also appeal your sentence even if you pled guilty.

So basically she chose to mount no appeals and just decided that the rules don't apply to her.

Here is the problem all of you have. Let's say your the corrections department, and you decide not to pursue her. You decide her life is "productive" and not worth the expense of re-incarcerating her.

10,000 drug dealers escape tomorrow. They are free for 2 years. When you catch them, they are not openly or obviously violating the law. Do you send them back to prison? On what basis? What objective criteria are you using to distinguish between productive and unproductive ex-inmates? Is this criteria established beforehand, or ad hoc after the fact? What due process or equal protection problems do you face by not enforcing the law consistently against everyone?

This isn't a question where she broke an immoral law. She broke the law. She simply chose not to suffer the punishment. Typically civil disobedience involves suffering the punishment as a way of demonstrating the injustice of the law.

If this the escaped prisoner was Ken Lay, many of you would want to throw him back in jail.

Tell me, what if she raised money for Bush's campaign? What if she's a pro-life advocate? What if she's a racist? Does your opinion of whether she's a productive member of society change?

What many of you are advocating amounts to mob rule, plain and simple. You look at the defendant, form an irrational opinion of their character based on non-standard, idiosyncratic, and unspecified criteria and essentially let the person go if you think they are "productive". No two of you agree on the basis for letting her go.

You think I'm some pro-government fascist because I suggest that an escaped convict should be sent back to prison?
posted by Pastabagel at 6:08 PM on May 2, 2008


posted by Pastabagel Here is the problem all of you have.

Whoa there, Tex. Not all of us.
posted by optovox at 6:13 PM on May 2, 2008


It's no more ridiculous than equating taking $600 from an undercover police officer with murder, which is what you seem to be doing here.

Actually, I'm not remotely doing that. Go back and read my comments. My introduction of murder to the discussion was in response to someone suggesting that (roughly) "druggies" are harmless while "the law" is dangerous. That's only true when you exclude the worst aspects of drug crime from the equation, so I reminded all the folks talking about how drug offenses are harmless that this is demonstrably not true. Read what I wrote already.

mullingitover--Being put into prison for a voluntary act is not the same as involuntary bondage. I understand that you can use the same word to describe both, but you still haven't explained why they're comparable, and at this point I doubt you have a reason (although you obviously have a feeling).
posted by OmieWise at 6:49 PM on May 2, 2008


In the past you supported slavery. [...]By your logic all the escaped slaves should've been returned to their owners to draw attention to the unjust nature of slavery. I realize you don't like this equivalence, but it's there.

This just isn't true, and you're disingenuous (that's another word for lying) for suggesting that it is. You've asserted it, but you haven't explained why supporting a law about volitional activity now is akin to supporting laws enslaving people against their will. Perhaps you don't understand what volitional means?
posted by OmieWise at 6:53 PM on May 2, 2008


MetaFilter tends to believe that white women shouldn't have to serve their jail sentences.

MetaFilter tends to believe that no one should have to serve a jail sentence for selling drugs because who fucking gives a shit about selling drugs

You think I'm some pro-government fascist because I suggest that an escaped convict should be sent back to prison?
posted by Pastabagel at 6:08 PM on May 2


I think it's weird that you're so desperate to throw someone's mom in prison because she sold drugs three decades ago, yeah. She didn't kill anyone. If anyone's dying because of heroin, it's because prohibition makes accurate dosing difficult, and because black market trade disputes are settled with guns instead of lawsuits. Do away with prohibition and you solve both problems. Until then, drug laws are insane, unjust, inconsistent with the idea of a free country and a free people, and they should be ignored by everyone - civilians and law enforcement included.

Incidentally, may you be shown the mercy you show others. I don't think you'll like it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:54 PM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, may you be shown the mercy you show others. I don't think you'll like it.

Ah yes. This is the problem with the whole "she deserves preemptive clemency" argument. The folks in this thread want to both talk about this specific case and talk generally about the injustice of drug laws. You may also be shown the mercy you show to others when an escaped rapist, in jail for drug charges, rapes your daughter.

It's easy to argue for this lady, because she looks like she's no threat to anyone. But that isn't a standard, and once we expand from this specific case, we're faced with the unsavory realization that many of the people in prison for drug related offenses are there for some pretty unsavory shit. As I said above, drug murders are still murders, drug rapes are still rapes. Will your mercy be as sure when the perp isn't laughing in her mug shot and hasn't lived a middle class life? I suspect that many folks in this thread view drug offenses as lifestyle crimes, and in many communities they are. But, as in so much of American middle class life, that's a luxury predicated on an underclass of people of color who are bleeding and dying to move and supply that lifestyle. I'm not anti-drug, but I'm forced to wonder by some of the comments here if people have really seen what drugs do to communities. (Even if what they do is largely, but not totally, because of unjust laws, that does not obviate it.)
posted by OmieWise at 7:25 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


10,000 drug dealers escape tomorrow.

Awesome, does that mean the price of pot drops?
posted by mek at 7:27 PM on May 2, 2008


You may also be shown the mercy you show to others when an escaped rapist, in jail for drug charges, rapes your daughter.

well he should probably be in jail for rape but hey i'm no lawyer

justifying insane, expensive, draconian, pointless drug laws by claiming "well sometimes you get a rapist" is probably the dumbest thing i ever heard

why not go fishing with an atomic bomb
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:21 PM on May 2, 2008


If this the escaped prisoner was Ken Lay, many of you would want to throw him back in jail.

You know, if he had committed his particular crime at 20 and then after escaping had gone on to lead a life similar to hers for 30 years, I certainly would not be clamoring to throw him back in. People hated him because he was an unrepentant asshole. If he had changed, then he would be due forgiveness. Repentance and humility buy freedom, ask any lawyer. She might be an unrepentant asshole too, but on its face this story seems like she was not, more like a stupid kid over her head who managed to turn her life around. She deserves some jail time just for the whole escape thing, but a few years should suffice. Even the prison officials are talking on the order of five years. This whole "she broke the rules so she should be crucified" thing is just inane. Its form over substance. Its looking for the easy answer rather than using judgment. Its like the zero tolerance rules that schools use to kick a girl out of school because she brought in Midol to help with her period pain. They are brainless, as are the calls for blood on someone like this just because she "broke the rules." "Rules are rules" is for stupid people. That doesn't mean she is absolved, but the calls for blood are brainless.
posted by caddis at 8:25 PM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


That is, hands-down, the best mug shot ever.

Yeah, I think Karen O just figured out what she wants the cover to look like on the next Yeah Yeah Yeahs album.
posted by jonp72 at 8:51 PM on May 2, 2008


In other drug war news: Medical marijuana user who was denied liver transplant dies
posted by homunculus at 8:53 PM on May 2, 2008


think it's weird that you're so desperate to throw someone's mom in prison because she sold drugs three decades ago, yeah. She didn't kill anyone. If anyone's dying because of heroin, it's because prohibition makes accurate dosing difficult, and because black market trade disputes are settled with guns instead of lawsuits. Do away with prohibition and you solve both problems.

So let me understand the rule here. If you escape from prison and you manage not to get caught for breaking the law (because that is in fact all we actually know, that she was never arrested for breaking the law while she was out), and you have a family, then you get a pass. Is that what we get from this?

"Rules are rules" is for stupid people.

Ok, I guess I'm stupid. Second time in the thread I've been called that, by the way, so I guess that makes it true. So I've changed my mind. I hope she gets off without so much as a lecture. Whatever, it doesn't really matter at this point. I hope she gets a TV/book/movie deal, and goes on Oprah and Barbara Walters and talks about the pain of living a double life all those years. That's really the country we want. See, it stops being a double standard if the standard is subdivided a million different ways. It's the new math. The limit of an n-tuple standard as n approaches infinity = justice.

I'm so glad I live in a country where everyone holds the law and the judicial system in such complete contempt. I love that we can assume not only that our leaders are corrupt, but that the corruption is institutionalized within the structure of the system itself. I also love the half-assed moral code that permits us to remain indolent and apathetic in the face of such corruption. If you think the drug laws are immoral and unjust, then you live in a country where millions are imprisoned unjustly. You live in a country where thousands a day are arrested and tried by their government on the basis of a systematic, institutionalized injustice. So what are you going to do about it?
posted by Pastabagel at 9:58 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Her race and financial status doesn't make her MORE guilty.

Who said they did? I haven't seen anyone advocate that she get any more punishment than the 5 and 1/2 years predicted by the Michigan police. That's no extra time for escape, not even her full original sentence. Just same as anyone else would get.

if Ken Lay had committed his particular crime at 20 and then after escaping had gone on to lead a life similar to hers for 30 years, I certainly would not be clamoring to throw him back in. People hated him because he was an unrepentant asshole.

Who says her life has not been similar to Ken Lay's? That's what strikes me. We haven't heard anything about her doing good works, helping people, even being a nice person. She's certainly not repentant. All she has done is make excuses.
posted by msalt at 10:20 PM on May 2, 2008


So let me understand the rule here. If you escape from prison and you manage not to get caught for breaking the law (because that is in fact all we actually know, that she was never arrested for breaking the law while she was out), and you have a family, then you get a pass. Is that what we get from this?

If you got busted for drug sales or possession, yeah. For murder, rape, theft, no. Don't play dumb.

I'm so glad I live in a country where everyone holds the law and the judicial system in such complete contempt.

I don't. It'd be nice to trust the system. But the system is designed to provide cheap labor and big profits, without regard to whom it crushes. It's not very good.

You live in a country where thousands a day are arrested and tried by their government on the basis of a systematic, institutionalized injustice. So what are you going to do about it?

Well, I'm going to keep voting for freedom-minded Democrats (in short supply these days) and tax-evading nutcase Libertarians. Then my candidates will lose to your law-and-order-race-war-drug-war-fuck-you-I-got-mine candidates and we'll go about our business as usual.

It's funny to see you like this, Pastabagel. You're normally ferociously bright and not given to dirty rhetorical bullshit tricks like "oh if it's so bad why aren't u taking to the street guess u gots a half-assed moral code." The reality, as you well know, is much more complicated. Am I going to go protest the drug war? Fuck no. That's a quick route to a clubbing, followed by a fake resisting arrest charge and maybe if I'm really lucky the cops will plant a couple rocks on me and I can look forward to twenty years of assfucking and slave labor for the Corrections Corporation of America (their slogan: "Prison Privatization at Its Best")

Dissent is dead. Anyone who believes that the system is corrupt is marginalized and a kook. Your side won, Pastabagel. So be fucking happy about it, for Christ's sake. Go have a beer and celebrate when you watch some old lady who hasn't done shit to you or yours or anyone else's gets locked up again for a crime that shouldn't be a crime. I hope that her incarceration makes America a better place for you.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:26 PM on May 2, 2008 [7 favorites]


There might be a financial penalty, and community service that permits her to remain home with her kids. Anything more than that is vengeance, not justice.
posted by MetaMan at 10:58 PM on May 2, 2008


if we had the power to make one change, we would change the law so we didn't have a million people in prison for this, not to pardon this one woman.

Thank you. But if middle class, affluent, white drug users and dealers get punished less than poor, minority drug users and dealers, a lot of the support for reform disappears. I want equal treatment for the same reason I want women included in any military draft, and no college deferments.

Does anyone here really think that whites and affluent kids are treated just as harshly for drug crimes? Is it really that hard to imagine why all the attention for this one lady seems like a double standard? Are folks really blind to how stunningly offensive it is to compare her plight to that of 19th Century BLACK SLAVES?!
posted by msalt at 11:46 PM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


$600 is about what a gram of relatively pure heroin went for in the 80's in NY

This wasn't the 80's, it was early 70's. A gram of pharmaceutical heroin back in 1972 would cost you ten English pounds. My guess was that this deal was for an ounce. That's a shitload of dope by anyone's standards.

If she had the connections to deal an ounce of heroin at that time in history, she was almost certainly connected to organized crime.

Also: I do not think you mean what I think you mean when you advocate the complete abolition of the drug laws. Yes, American sentences are way too long. Yes, laws against possession that cause far greater harm than the drug itself ever could are a nonsense. However, if you think that a completely unregulated market in pharmaceutical products is really what you want, then you clearly haven't thought enough about this issue.

Also, also: pastabagel is correct. Don't like the drug laws? Campaign for change. (I don't and I do.) However, setting this woman free turns the system into a lottery: those who are lucky enough to evade justice for however long get a pass, while those who lack access to the protective resources that she had as a white middle class housewife get sent back to do their time? Kinda makes a mockery of the whole 'equal treatment under the law' thing, IMO.

Also also also: if you can't do the time, don't do the crime.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:10 AM on May 3, 2008


Also also also: if you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

Seriously? Did you really say that?

She received a sentence longer than what she would have received for manslaughter or rape. Just for selling drugs.

If you truly believe the war on drugs is crap, you also have to acknowledge that drugs like heroin and meth do terrible damage to individuals, families, and communities. And then acknowledge that the war on drugs does even more damage, and that those involved made the choice to do so.

So what's the solution? Some sort of rote application of mandatory sentencing (Rockefeller drug laws) so that the appearance of bias is eliminated?

That doesn't make any sense. This woman left prison and lived a normal life. Nobody is saying she was some kind of saint. But she stopped taking and selling drugs and got married and became a probably-boring suburban mom.

What value is served by making her serve out the rest of her entire sentence, aside from an effective demonstration of how arbitrary the system can be?
posted by miss tea at 4:58 AM on May 3, 2008


My impression is that she wasn't just "selling drugs" though. By the descriptions of amounts and the sentence she was given, I got the impression that she was most likely a key player in a drug ring, and as mentioned previously rings on that level are more often than not linked to organized crime or an equally serious criminal element. She wasn't just a girl harmlessly selling pot to her classmates for pizza money. When you are found to be involved on the level she allegedly was, quite often you are a link -- directly or indirectly -- to a web of violence and crimes that are far more serious, even if your hands are clean of murder & such yourself.

BTW, I'm in Del Mar today, I went to high school here (go Falcons!). Such a tragedy these overly privileged beachy dyed-blonde soccer moms have lost one of their own, they must be spiraling in confusion. Perhaps I should walk around and hug a few. Nah.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:28 AM on May 3, 2008


If you got busted for drug sales or possession, yeah. For murder, rape, theft, no. Don't play dumb.

Now I'm only playing dumb. If I get called dumb ten times in this thread, I think I win a prize.

Why not murder and theft? If her escape is justified retroactively by living a good life, why isn't murder a person who is going to turn out to live a very bad life justified? Why isn't stealing from criminals bad?

It's funny to see you like this, Pastabagel. You're normally ferociously bright and not given to dirty rhetorical bullshit tricks like "oh if it's so bad why aren't u taking to the street guess u gots a half-assed moral code." The reality, as you well know, is much more complicated.

Did you ever read Les Miserables? That what we are talking about here, in case no one's figured that out. Valjean gets locked up for stealing bread to feed his family, then gets thrown into prison for what amounts to a life sentence. He breaks out, comes across a bishop who out of compassion takes him in. Guess what Valjean does? He steals the silver. The bishop catches him. The bishop lets him keep he silver, and instructs his servants to give him more. He makes Valjean promise to live a good life.

The book then proceeds to describe for about 1000 pages (in the paperback edition) what a good life is. He saves a man's life during a war. He adopts a daughter, saves two other men's lives. Starts business where he employs people, sells them, and gives mcuh of the proceeds to the workers. His daughter falls in love with a revolutionary, and he takes it upon himself to shield her and him in the middle of the revolution. The life he leads would put Christ to shame. At the end of the book, he dies, seeing silver candlesticks on his mantle that the bishop gave him decades earlier, and asks whether he (valjean) kept his end of the promise.

Al the while he's pursued by the incorruptible Inspector Javert, who eventually discovers his secret, learning both that he is an escaped criminal but also that he is a just and good man. Not being able to serve the law and be a just man, commits suicide. He does not cast aside his obligations under the law, nor did he cast aside his humanity. He investigated the man.

Valjean's good life was not "getting married, getting rich, and staying out of trouble."

I would like us to rise to the level of a novel that was written over 150 years ago.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:16 AM on May 3, 2008


You're a smart guy, Pastabagel, but you're on the wrong side on this one.

Firstly, as others have pointed out, jail is a completely fucking insane idea and any arguments raised about law enforcement that happen to incidentally promote jailing people, are tainted thereby. It's rearranging the deckchairs on the Hindenburg. But that said, let's try our luck with groups of three, with aisles between, and space for drinks tables:

Simple fear of getting caught keeps a lot of people from committing crimes, that they otherwise might want to commit, regardless of whether they have ever committed a crime before or been sentenced to any time in jail before. There's no mileage in that argument.

The arrest, the purported crime and the sentencing process as recorded, in this woman's case, quite clearly show corruption and incompetence on the part of officers of the law, prosecution, and defense counsel. There's your "exceptional circumstances". Nothing to do with race or gender or age. Your trial's a total mockery of justice and reason? You go free. Your trial was fair? Back into jail. That's basically the same standard used for refugees from other jurisdictions. I don't see why that shouldn't work as well for chronological distance as for geographical distance.

Comparisons to murder etc are irrelevant. The woman's not a murderer. The advantage to society of actual enforcement of sentences varies, in the same way there is an advantage to society in having variable sentences for various crimes. To evade the sentence for shoplifting is about as bad as shoplifting. To evade the sentence for murder is about as bad as murder. That's why escaped murderers ought to be pursued with vigor, and escaped shoplifters ignored unless and until they commit some other crime.

If there isn't a statute of limitations on prison escape (and, by the circumstances, it seems there isn't in that jurisdiction), there should be. This woman's case is an excellent argument for imposing one. Your point about a need for trial speed, at some point, trumping pursuit of justice, applies equally well in the opposite direction: if the law cannot reacquire an escapee within some reasonable time, then so be it. Justice may or may not be served thereby, but as you say, speed must at some point, trump justice. "Too bad" cuts both ways.

The "fraud" issue with regard to assumed identity begs the question. Were she not able to live under another identity, she could not effectively escape. Assumption of the false identity is no worse, nor better, nor any different to the escape itself and ought not be considered separately at all. That would be like charging a person for all three of armed robbery, unlawful use of a gun, and theft. The offense of escape necessarily subsumes the offense of assumption of a false identity, which is done once. To charge each use of the false identity separately is like charging a speeder on the motorway with speeding separately for each X distance (a car-length, I suppose) traveled at a speed over the posted limit.

And finally, and by far most tellingly, it is vastly more cost-effective and efficient to have escaped prisoners running around behaving themselves and contributing to (or at least not damaging) society, in fear of being sent back to worse prison conditions if ever caught, than it is to have them in prison doing absolutely nothing except driving each other mad. It's all the benefits, none of the costs. In fact this should be the deal: if your crime was so trifling and your potential harm so small that you are sentenced to minimum security, and you successfully escape (which really ought to be no more difficult than waiting 'til no guards are watching you), then you should not be pursued at all. If, some time later in life, you are picked up again for some other crime, you should get sentenced to moderate security, from which you cannot easily escape, and serve the remainder of your original sentence, plus whatever you get for your latest crime. This has the twin advantages of keeping the harmless folk out of jail, and the harmful folk in jail for longer, and watched better.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:20 AM on May 3, 2008


Why not murder and theft? If her escape is justified retroactively by living a good life, why isn't murder a person who is going to turn out to live a very bad life justified? Why isn't stealing from criminals bad?

Jesus Christ, P, pay attention.

Murder and theft harm people. Selling drugs does not. You may argue that drugs are bad and that they hurt people, but so does alcohol, so do cigarettes, so do handguns, so do deep-fried Mars Bars and automobiles. I'm addicted to the single most deadly drug-delivery system in the pharmacopeia: cigarettes. They will kill me. Yet I don't blame Lorillard, or the dude at the Circle K, for selling them to me. I make my own choices and I live (and die) by the consequences of them.

Her escape is not justified retroactively by living a good life. It is justified because locking someone up, good or bad, black or white, rich or poor, for selling drugs is a fucking insane, stupid thing to do.

The fact that she became a boring, law-abiding citizen just makes putting her back there doubly sad and absurd.


BTW, I'm in Del Mar today, I went to high school here (go Falcons!). Such a tragedy these overly privileged beachy dyed-blonde soccer moms have lost one of their own, they must be spiraling in confusion. Perhaps I should walk around and hug a few. Nah.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:28 AM on May 3


Good god, is this what it's about? Jealousy? You hate "overly privileged beachy dyed-blonde soccer moms" so much that you want one of them jail even if it's for a bullshit reason? Do you understand how unbelievably sad and petty this makes you?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:48 AM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Susan M. Lefevre Escaped From A Plymouth Prison 32 Years Ago
“The judge showed sympathy but little mercy as he doled out his sentence to the 20-year-old woman standing in his courtroom. ‘I just hope you do change your own life,’ Judge Joseph R. McDonald told Susan LeFevre, according to transcripts of the Feb. 7, 1975, hearing in Saginaw, Mich. ‘You're a young woman and you can live this down, but you're going to have to pay the penalty.’

…Since her arrest last week, dueling images have emerged of the woman she was three decades ago.

The Michigan Department of Corrections has painted her as the teenage leader of a drug ring who earned $2,000 a week overseeing heroin deliveries.

LeFevre, on the other hand, said she was a student earning minimum wage. She dabbled in the drug scene, buying and selling here and there, she said, but no more than other young rebels experimenting across the nation.

According to court records and people close to the case, the truth appears to fall somewhere in between.

‘Sure, she was buying from someone else. She did make some sales. But she wasn't targeted as a major player,’ E. Brady Denton, Saginaw County's prosecutor in charge during the 1970s, said yesterday.

In interviews during the past week, LeFevre has downplayed her role in the heroin deal that led to her arrest. But 34 years ago, she stood in McDonald's courtroom and detailed the exchange, which she admitted arranging.

LeFevre said she was at her apartment Feb. 20, 1974, when the phone rang. The man on the other end, known only as Mark from Jackson, told her he wanted to make a deal.

Five spoons of heroin, 10 o'clock, in the parking lot of Luigi's pizzeria.

A few hours later, LeFevre, then 19, and friend Richie Anderson grabbed about 3 grams of heroin and headed out to make some money.

There was only one other car in the parking lot, and Anderson got out to make the deal with the skinny, long-haired hippie inside.

Time ticked on. An impatient LeFevre got out and approached the men at the other car. ‘What's taking so long?’ she asked. With the transaction finally complete, Anderson pocketed the $250 to $300 and he and LeFevre went into the pizzeria for a drink.

They weren't inside long when the restaurant was raided by a wave of police officers. The duo were handcuffed, searched and sent to jail. The blond hippie turned out to be Michael Robinson, a state trooper on a regional drug task force.

LeFevre, who had never been arrested or charged with a felony before, spent one night behind bars before an older couple posted her $3,000 bond. Their connection to her remains unclear.

LeFevre was appointed a public defender and pleaded not guilty to charges of delivering a controlled substance and conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance.

For months, she was allowed to attend classes at Lansing Community College, where she says she immersed herself in a new crowd and left her druggie friends behind.

Then, in October 1974, on the day her jury trial was to begin, she changed her plea to guilty. ‘It would be better for myself this way because there's too much evidence, to, you know, to plead innocent,’ she told the judge, according to the transcripts. ‘In case (the jury's verdict) didn't go the right way, I'd get a lot more than I'd ever get now. I'd get ten years, it just would be ten years for sure.’

At her sentencing the following February, she asked for leniency and tried to convince the judge that she'd removed the bad influences from her life.

‘I haven't seen anyone at all. I have hardly come back to Saginaw at all,’ she said.

‘I don't think any jail would help me, or help me when I get out or anything, because this was just hard enough, getting away from the (drug) associates, and I just finally have.’

But McDonald said he wasn't going to treat her any different from the many other drug dealers who had moved through his courtroom, including Anderson, who had received the same sentence.

‘This is a very serious problem in our state and in our country, and it's caused the whole city to disintegrate, really, around the country. Crime runs rampant because of people committing crimes to buy drugs,’ he said.

‘I've dealt…severely in the past, and I intend to in the future, with anyone convicted of the sale of drugs.’

And so did most other judges in Saginaw at the time, according to former prosecutor Denton.

‘Saginaw had a real heroin problem at that time. Heroin was coming from Mexico to south Texas to Saginaw – they called it Mexican brown,’ Denton said. ‘People were killing each other over it.’

When homicides in the city topped 50 a year, the drug task force came to town.

‘There were many other people in her exact same situation who got 10 to 20 years,’ Denton said.

If he were prosecutor today, Denton said, he wouldn't put LeFevre back in prison. Instead, he would allow her to withdraw her plea, have her replead to the same charges, then sentence her under the new Michigan guidelines, which would factor in a prior record, the severity of the crime and what she has done with her life.

‘I'd give her probation and let her go back and be with her family in California.’”
posted by ericb at 9:29 AM on May 3, 2008


Great details, thanks. Here's another new angle on this case (at end of article). LeFevre has said police put pressure on her to help arrest a bigger dealer. She says she "couldn't", but it looks like her boyfriend and partner may have:
LeFevre and Anderson received the same sentence on the same day...Anderson served two years of a 10- to 20-year sentence for selling heroin, and the parole board let him out in 1977.
What happened after that casts some doubt on her claims of not being a "real" criminal, but makes her choice to stay quiet understandable:
A man and wife out for a walk along Banner, near East (M-13), found Anderson's murdered body in a water-filled ditch in September 1981. ... Detectives said someone shot him several times in the head, "execution" style. Police have yet to catch his killer.
posted by msalt at 10:13 AM on May 3, 2008


Hey, what happened to son of sam's comment? (Or whatever his name was...) I thought it was really representative of that off-with-their-heads mindset.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:38 PM on May 3, 2008


If anyone saved it, would you MeMail it to me, please?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:42 PM on May 3, 2008


She took the risk of a prison sentence to make money dealing drugs and got caught. The risk is the reason you can make so much money. I don't agree with drug criminalization and I feel bad for her, but if her product wasn't illegal, she'd would have made about as much money as a liquor store clerk. She didn't like the cost of doing business.
posted by stavrogin at 11:54 PM on May 3, 2008


I could post it again, but since I've gathered myself from the rage I'll rephrase if I may. You know there's a myriad of utterly absurd comments and ideas I could copy and paste and refute But that would be time consuming. This "discussion" (read: whitewashing party) doesn't deserve the strokes of my righteous keys, but I'll say this. Suppose a Mexican woman who illegally immigrated from Mexico has been in the states so long she eventually decided to have a family or as you would call it "anchor children" when embroiled in the inadvertently nativist and racist issue of immigration comes up, most people who would all of a sudden position themselves on principle and advocate sending the parents home based on her coming here illegally in the first place. I in fact have read that on a couple of these threads when the issue was hot. The majority were for excommunication. Both issues are almost identical except for the drugs. I cannot accept that most people who claim to be a proponent of Human rights with an understanding of any universal human experience to be so biased.


It is justified because locking someone up, good or bad, black or white, rich or poor, for selling drugs is a fucking insane, stupid thing to do.posted by Optimus Chyme

I'm sorry...As I isolate this sentence, it loses none of its power and sheer ludicrousness.

"Shes only giving people what they want"
WTF?!!?
posted by Student of Man at 12:22 AM on May 4, 2008


I thought it was really representative of that off-with-their-heads mindset.

Javertian mindset, right?

Suppose a Mexican woman who illegally immigrated from Mexico has been in the states so long she eventually decided to have.... I in fact have read that on a couple of these threads when the issue was hot. The majority were for excommunication.

Bullshit. Not on Metafilter, was it. Links, if you've got 'em. Which you don't.

And even so, who gives a fuck?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:16 AM on May 4, 2008


Suppose a Mexican woman ... And even so, who gives a fuck?

Well, you see, that's kind of the problem. When it's a Mexican woman raising her family, you don't give a fuck. When it's a heroin dealer who happens to resemble the mother of many MeFites in her class and race, everyone sees a horrible miscarriage of justice.
posted by msalt at 7:50 AM on May 4, 2008


Suppose a Mexican woman who illegally immigrated from Mexico [a bunch of words] The majority were for excommunication. Both issues are almost identical except for the drugs. I cannot accept that most people who claim to be a proponent of Human rights with an understanding of any universal human experience to be so biased.
posted by Student of Man at 12:22 AM on May 4


what

Well, you see, that's kind of the problem. When it's a Mexican woman raising her family, you don't give a fuck. When it's a heroin dealer who happens to resemble the mother of many MeFites in her class and race, everyone sees a horrible miscarriage of justice.
posted by msalt at 7:50 AM on May 4


He's saying who gives a fuck because different members of this site have different ideas. You can't accuse someone of being inconsistent because someone they are only linked to tangentially happens to be a racist nutcase. Please provide links to me or mr_roboto or anyone else on mercy's side advocating for the deportation of parents on American-born children.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:33 AM on May 4, 2008


He's saying who gives a fuck because different members of this site have different ideas.

OK, re-reading that post I can see where he may have meant that. But the fact remains: sudden concern for this one woman, no concern for many others in similar circumstances. And no one can explain what's different about her, aside from class and race, nor are they willing to sign on for blanket freedom for any escaped convict who doesn't get arrested again.

It's a perfect example of what's wrong with our system: a white, middle class woman sells heroin, and people want to rescue her from the consequences. Others don't get that benefit.
posted by msalt at 11:17 AM on May 4, 2008


Msalt, I don't think you'll find many people arguing that this woman should be freed who don't also think that the others in jail for selling drugs should likewise be freed. You certainly don't have evidence of that in this thread. My concern for this woman and her family have nothing to do with class or race.

nor are they willing to sign on for blanket freedom for any escaped convict who doesn't get arrested again.

If a murderer escapes and lives a "good" life for thirty years, I don't think he or she should not be tossed back in jail once apprehended. Violent crime deserves harsh penalties and long incarceration. Selling drugs does not. That is it. End of story. Why are you conflating these two very separate issues?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:29 AM on May 4, 2008


Lincoln was all for returning slaves to their masters, for though he felt slavery was abhorrent, it was not only the letter of the law but also mandated by the Constitution. First inaugural address.

Anyway, this case is spliced up all over the place. There are multiple camps, many which are arguing against others by characterizing everyone else as something other than they are. The different views so far:

1) The law must be followed in all cases because without law there is chaos. Law is it's own end, and any deviation must receive the full wrath. Truthfully, not a lot of people take this view. The woman would be sent back to prison for her full term and serve additional sentences for escape and fraud.

2) The law serves men and therefore must be preserved whenever possible. As the law is a reflection of justice (which is the goal), it should only be abrogated when the purpose is obviously unjust. However, it still serves society by it's preservation. A decent minority take this view. The drug sentencing might be considered unjust, but that coupled with the escape and the fraud are not meaningless. The woman should have to face the legal system again, but the intervention of mercy (which compliments justice but is not the whole of justice) might mitigate the situation. Maybe even just a stiff fine. The woman's behavior (which still must be judged) can be taken into account.

3) The law currently is corrupt so it cannot be declared an independent good. Whether the woman should be freed or not really depends on the person views of the public (and the individual). A healthy majority have the view. Drug laws are such a corruption as to not be considered a crime. She was authorized to escape prison by the injustice of her conviction and therefore should not be reabsorbed into the legal system. If she did a violent crime, this would be different.

4) The law system is so corrupt that it no longer serves the purpose of rehabilitation. Any violation of law should only be dealt with by ensuring the violation does not occur again. Violent criminals who have no ability to commit their crimes again should be released. The concepts of law and justice have no relevance with each other or with society. Law is a function, something to be abhorred and done away with if possible. Very, very few people hold this rather anarchistic view. The woman should be declared free by her status of being free. She seems not to be dangerous to society and she seems reformed. Let her go.

Most actually are between three and four. The case details help differentiate where everyone falls. But you have to ask yourself, why should she be free? Is it because she should have never been charged in the first place? (Drug laws are unjust) She never should have been convicted in the first place? (Not enough evidence) She escaped and lived a life to be productive to society? (She has repaid her societal debt) She is no harm to anyone? (She is essentially rehabilitated)

Each of these are separate issues. You could disagree with the investigation, but believe that someone convicted of heroin drug trade for legitimate purposes should serve time. You could disbelieve in the war on drugs, but believe that she should go to jail for the good of over-turning the war on drugs. She could be guilty as sin and unrepentant, but you might let her go because she isn't dangerous. Until we know further, it's impossible to parse this case with other cases. What is generally true and specifically true is waaaaaay different.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:23 AM on May 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Excellent summary, Lord Chancellor. Otpimus, I count 53 comments in this thread before anyone brought up the wrongness of drug laws. Most of the discussion before that focused on her long, conviction-free life, or weakness in the case against her, as reasons for mercy. So I do think there are many who would have released her and left others in jail on drug crimes.

For that matter, I don't think I'm the only one who considers the war on drugs a colossal failure, yet isn't super comfortable with legalizing heroin dealing. I'm pretty sure if you did a poll, a good third of more of those who support "legalize drugs" in general would also say they support penalties for heroin dealing. I realize that's not rational, on it's face, but "legalize (all) drugs" (or not) is a pretty black-and-white choice.

Personally, I'd start with full funding for rehabilitation and decriminalizing posession, and try to work our way up from there, if I were king. But that's another discussion.
posted by msalt at 9:34 AM on May 5, 2008


msalt I'm pretty sure if you did a poll, a good third of more of those who support "legalize drugs" in general would also say they support penalties for heroin dealing. I realize that's not rational, on it's face,
Depends how one looks at it. Anecdotally, I think the majority of people who strongly support legalizing drug use also strongly support regulating drug manufacture and sale. I approve of the (continuing) legality of, say, car dealing, but I also approve of penalties of varying degrees for selling stolen cars, selling unroadworthy cars without proper declaration, selling imported cars for which the proper import documentation was not obtained, buying a car to drive while being unlicensed to drive one, improper operation of a motor vehicle, etc etc, all of which derives from the recognition that cars are dangerous, expensive, your use of it puts costs onto other people, and they are moderately difficult to operate properly.

Broadly speaking I believe people's legal right to have, use, buy and sell any thing ought to be regulated according to the harm the thing may do, and the clear purpose of the regulation ought to be the prevention and mitigation of the harm. The distinction between possession of a thing and performance of an action is largely semantic, and the same line of reasoning can be extended to all of criminal law. Positive and desirable actions belong just as well in the same philosophical model too: regulations requiring an action ought to be devised and enforced according to the benefit gained from having people do it (or harm done from not doing it), just as regulations forbidding an action ought to be devised and enforced according to the harm done from doing it (or benefit gained from not doing it). In all cases, the effect of the enforcement regime itself must be wisely considered; there are many, many cases where a stringent regime of forbiddance would do more harm than the action itself, or where a stringent regime of requirement would overcome the benefit gained.

In other words, I don't think there's anything special about drugs per se that warrants either a "drug war", or complete freedom of action. Both of these are ideological positions, pursued without regard to fact or consequence.

Student of Man Suppose a Mexican woman who illegally immigrated from Mexico has been in the states so long she eventually decided to have a family or as you would call it "anchor children" when embroiled in the inadvertently nativist and racist issue of immigration comes up, most people who would all of a sudden position themselves on principle and advocate sending the parents home based on her coming here illegally in the first place. I in fact have read that on a couple of these threads when the issue was hot.

As others have said, so what? Assume this theoretical discussion did occur. People who expressed a desire to deport the Mexican woman and jail the granny could have a consistent position: the written letter of the law trumps justice. Those who advocated deporting the Mexican woman but releasing the granny could have a consistent position: immigration law is important (trade barrier), drug law is not (freedom of self-harm). Those who advocated naturalizing the Mexican woman and jailing the granny could have a consistent position: immigration law is not important (free movement of labor vs free movement of capital) and drug law is important (restriction of moral turpitudes). And then there are more subtle issues around statutes of limitations for drug possession, prison escape, immigration, and so on; and then there's Pastabagel's core position as argued above which (IMO) summarizes to: sentences as passed should be enforced as passed, because evasion of sentence threatens the legal system. I don't want to speak for him, but it seems to me that that would only applicable to the Mexican if she had several years ago been caught for some crime, sentenced to deportation, and escaped, in which case, if he were to argue that she ought to be deported after having been caught for a second crime, his position is consistent.

It's possible to have different opinions or the same opinion, either way, for the treatment of both women, and be consistent in one's position. Consistency of position is not the same as factual correctness or moral soundness.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:21 PM on May 5, 2008


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