Psychics Useless in Search For O.J. Simpson

20 years ago Tuesday, O.J. Simpson was a fugitive from justice.  He was supposed to turn himself in to the authorities at 11AM Pacific Time, having been charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman.  He did not, however, and soon disappeared.  Police began an active manhunt, and citizens, too, were on the lookout.

oj_simpsonPaula Donahey, who was the chief clerk-typist of the Robbery/Homicide Division kept a log of tips that were phoned in to a police hotline.  Among them were multiple impressions gleaned from “psychics” across the country.

One reported O.J. was hiding out in a local dry cleaning store.  He wasn’t.  But what a silly place that would have been to elude the law, huh?

Another psychic felt he was holed up in a house, which was either gray or white.  The house would be “on the left hand side if one looks down from the hill top,” they said.  He also may be dead.  The tipster said she had “never felt this strong before.”  Reading this, I have a strong feeling myself that psychics are worthless.

Even if psychic impressions like these were true, how in the world would they be helpful?  Are police really supposed to go find a hill somewhere, and start looking at grey and white houses?  Totally and completely ridiculous.

Of course, the police would soon learn Simpson was not at the dry cleaners, nor was he in a maybe white, maybe gray house, where he was maybe dead.  He would actually be found fleeing in a white Ford Bronco owned and being driven by his friend Al “A.C.”Cowlings.  The rest, of course, is history.

When it comes to providing useful information that actually lead to the whereabouts of suspects, psychics fail.



Evidence Dismissed” by Detectives Lange and Vannatter (1997), pages 158-159.

Stop It Already With Your Ridiculous JFK Conspiracy Theory

OswaldIn order to hold on to their beliefs, conspiracy theorists have devised a number of crazy ideas over the past 50 years to explain the assassination of President Kennedy.  Most of them have no basis in any kind of objective reality.  But the one that troubles me most, simply because it is founded on the denial of obvious facts, is that Lee Harvey Oswald could not have committed the crime because Oswald himself was incapable of making the shots that killed Kennedy.

Fact:  In December of 1956, Oswald achieved the rank of “sharpshooter,” the second-highest designation of marksmanship in the U.S. Marines.  Nearly 3 years later, in May of 1959, his marksmanship score lessened, however, he was still officially labeled as a “marksman.”

Oswald may not have been the world’s best shot, but according to Sgt. James Zahm, who was in charge of the marksmanship training unit, “In the Marine Corps, he is a good shot, slightly above average.”  But when compared to the average male in the United States, “he is an excellent shot.”  Shooting Kennedy on November 22nd 1963, Zahm said, “was an easy shot for a man with the equipment he had and his ability.”  (Posner 2003:20-21)
Of course, facts don’t often sway one who has their mind made up.  During a friendly discussion I had with a conspiracy theorist recently, in which I put forth these exact arguments, I was told that “even a marksman would have had difficulty hitting a moving target,” a reference to the moving JFK limo.  His response was begging to be slapped down.

It is indisputable that President Kennedy was shot.  No conspiracy theorist I know of denies that.  He was shot twice, in fact.  So clearly it must not have been that difficult to pull off.  Maybe for someone like myself who has never fired a rifle in his life, but certainly not for someone with the ability of Lee Harvey Oswald.

But don’t take my word for it.  The facts are easy to find.

There is No Justice for The Night Stalker’s Victims

ramirezstareOn Friday morning, at Marin General Hospital just outside San Francisco, serial killer Richard Ramirez passed away.  He was 53.

Known also as “The Night Stalker,” Ramirez was recognizable for his sinister stare and Satanic imagery, but it was his brutal rapes and murders that will be his legacy.  In 1984, and through the spring and summer months of 1985, he committed various “home invasion” style break-ins, ferociously stabbing his victims, raping and torturing them, and occasionally mutilating their bodies.  One woman’s neck was cut so badly that she was nearly decapitated.  Another’s eyes were gouged out.

I spoke to a friend about Ramirez’s death upon hearing the news and he remarked to me that this would, “close a dark chapter” in the life of the victim’s families.  But I’m not so sure about that.  Their loved ones are still dead; murdered in unspeakable ways.  Even if Ramirez had lived on, and eventually been executed, would this have ramirezpentagrambrought any real peace?

I am not a philosophy major, and I can’t swear to ever fully reading Plato’s Republic, but I don’t know precisely if justice can truly be served in cases like this.  Revenge, perhaps.  But unlike, say, stolen money or property, the murdered family members and friends can never be replaced.

What do you think?  If your loved one was murdered, could justice ever be done?  Can the “dark chapter” of Richard Ramirez ever truly be closed?

Celebrating Christopher Dorner

Like many people, I was riveted by the story of Christopher Dorner, an ex-LAPD officer turned rogue assassin, that has been dominating the headlines over the past week.  I checked the news off and on daily during the manhunt, equally curious and repulsed by what I saw:  a man once sworn “to protect and to serve” murdering police officers and their families, attempting the murder of many more, and assaulting senior citizens all because of a grudge he had over being fired by the department years before.  He was, in my estimation, one of the bad guys.

But others didn’t see it quite like I did.  Some have reacted to him as more of a folk hero; a man wronged by the system now out for revenge.  They were cheering for him to even the score.  They were cheering for him to get away.  It seems he was seen as a modern day Rambo, striking back against the social injustices endured by so many.


Credit: CBSNews

No doubt the LAPD made major errors during this ordeal.  For instance, the two innocent woman who were shot in a horrible case of mistaken identity was simply inexcusable.  But it didn’t surprise me.  The way this story was sensationalized would be shocking if it wasn’t basically par for the course for American for-profit news organizations.  The media created a circus, and camera crews were basically embedded with SWAT teams.  The pressure was intense to find Dorner, and the whole world was watching.  Errors were likely to be made under such scrutiny.  That it almost cost more people their lives is scary.

For all intents and purposes, the end came Tuesday evening during a shootout at a cabin in the Seven Oaks mountain community of San Bernardino.  Yet another officer was killed and so, too, was Dorner, after several incendiary tear gas canisters known as “burners” were fired into the location, quickly setting the cabin ablaze.  At first, I wasn’t sure whether or not I agreed with this tactic.  It was, more or less, an attempt at executing a suspect who was cornered.  Couldn’t there have been a better way to end the standoff?  However, I’ve come to the conclusion that Dorner’s deadly force was met with the deadly force of the officers.  There is little difference between having him die in a fire than there would be him being shot in the head.  Dorner himself said that he wouldn’t come out of this alive.  What difference does it make how he was killed?

Regardless of whether or not Dorner was improperly terminated by the LAPD over 4 years ago, or who in the department he was still pissed at, it didn’t give him license to murder innocent people.  He was an unstable man who did the wrong thing, and it’s a good thing for society that he wasn’t a cop anymore.  Ultimately, Christopher Dorner met the end he set up for himself.  He was no hero, and his actions throughout this last week are not at all to be justified or in any way revered.

UPDATE 02-17-13:  Dorner’s autopsy reveals he died as the result of suicide by a single gunshot to the head.