? When Barry Floyd Braeseke was recently cleared by the US Supreme Court of the 1976 murders of his mother, father, and grandfather, there was no real surprise to the case. It is true, of course, that Mr. Braeseke, of Dublin, California, had repeatedly confessed to the slayings and even spoke of them in detail in a 1978 episode of the highly rated coast-to-coast television show 60 Minutes.
One little thing about this verdict, though—it did upset one person: the attorney who had represented Mr. Braeseke. James Leonard Crew, "an experienced and respected defense lawyer in Alameda County," wrote a fiery note to the High Court: "Your recent decision in the case of People vs. Barry Braeseke was predictable. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a system of laws conceived to protect innocent people can become twisted to give freedom to a person who deliberately kills three innocent human beings, thereafter confesses four times to these killings, the last confession being on national television, and with all this somehow finds that freedom awaits him.…I [am] a responsible citizen in my community and shudder to think that my family has now been given less protection by our courts. No wonder the citizens in this country refer to attorneys in a disrespectful fashion and to many of our courts with comparable lack of respect."
The defeated prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Michael Cardoza, who will also have to retry the case now, commented: "When somebody like Jim Crew—who is an excellent and tough defense attorney—criticizes a decision, then you realize just how bad the Braeseke decision was. In effect, he's saying to the court, 'As an attorney, I did what I was supposed to do. But you bought it. Are you crazy?'" Well?
? The civilizing touches of democracy have graced the backward land of Ghana, and brought its citizens to a much fuller understanding of what the 20th century is really all about. As government representatives scoured the countryside this year to bestow the franchise upon the eager recipients of democratic power, the bestowers found a strange malady afflicting the bestowees. "'We shan't register'—villagers" read one front-page headline. Many nonvoters were quoted saying that they would prefer a jail sentence (the penalty for not enjoying the democratic privilege) to casting a ballot.
A reporter for the Los Angeles Times even found that the election commissioner, Judge Kingsley Nyinah, has received reports of angry villagers chasing voter-registration personnel back to the nation's capital. Nyinah comments: "The people are saying: 'We're fed up to the back teeth with all these promises. We've had enough of all these promises. The politicians go there [to parliament]. They forget about us. They make all the money, while here the roads and the schools are collapsing.'" Another Ghanan declared: "So far, parliament is just a symbol of privileges and fat careers."
We'll just have to train these uninitiated practitioners of democracy to do it right: let's send them Tip O'Neill (he'll teach 'em all about altruistic public service).
? Or maybe we ought to send them Mrs. Minnie Boyd, age 72. Minnie is mother to Willie Brown, speaker of the California State Assembly. The powerful Mr. Brown was so ecstatic that his legislature had for the first time in a decade enacted the first state budget on time for the constitutional deadline, that he did just what any powerful man would do to celebrate—he picked up the phone and called his mother. After he'd told her the glorious news, she told her boy that she was a little surprised to get a call from him, seeing as how it was not an "important occasion." He disagreed.
Then Minnie Boyd inquired as to who was paying for the long-distance, Sacramento to Dallas, phone call. Speaker Brown told his mom not to worry, because the state was footing the bill. "You'd better be glad I'm not one of your voters," Mrs. Boyd scolded her son. "I think this is an unwise expenditure." And with that, she hung up.
? A new technology in prisoner control may have been discovered by the nation's wardens, hard-pressed to deal with increasing violence and break-out attempts at the country's leading penitentiaries. Eight would-be escapees from the Metro Jail in Nashville, Tennessee, were skipping toward freedom when they found themselves entangled in the voracious tentacles of the women's cell block. Authorities soon found the felons trapped by the female desperadoes, in various stages of the sexual act. Night Magistrate Bill Norris recalled that the male prisoners were intending to clear the wall to freedom but were "distracted." "I think it's a fair characterization to say that it was an orgy," he said. Police tried to file rape warrants against the lawbreakers, but none of the female inmates would agree to prosecute. All eight escapees were easily captured, however.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".
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