Thursday, December 31, 2009

More on the Water Rights initiative proposal

This was published in the Herald on 12/30.  Letters from the proponents, which appeared the previous week, are not on line, but the comment thread is open if Ed G. or any of the other proponents want to chime in.   

Re: the proposed water rights ordinance

The people have a right to know that this proposal could affect the city's ability to provide basic services. Lawyers are expensive. One of the ways the city balanced the budget this year was to make a big cut in the amount budgeted for legal advice. But if the city were actually involved in a lawsuit, this budget limit would go out the window and something else would have to be cut. That something else could be one of the guys running snowplows, or a police officer or fireman.

Yes, it would take at least one complaint to force the city to sue. That was exactly my point. Even if the city's own testing found no water contamination; even if the city attorney said the case was not winnable; even if our elected representatives believed the complainant was a paranoid hypochondriac, one complaint could force the city to sue. Would this be enforceable? Probably not, but then the city might end up in a lawsuit over its failure to file a lawsuit. If there were a specific standard written into the proposal, such as our water being contaminated with more than 50 micrograms per liter of silver (the EPA standard) I would not be concerned. But as written, the definition of harm is entirely subjective.

Silver toxicity comes from the silver ion, not from any particular compound. It could be caused by silver nitrate in photographic chemicals, or from ingesting colloidal silver—a product sold locally that some people swear by, but which any M.D. doctor in town will tell you to avoid. Iodine toxicity is also a potential problem, but the threshold for harm would be much higher, since it is an essential micronutrient.

For a private citizen, civil disobedience is an option if existing laws are seen as unjust. But public servants take an oath to administer the laws as they are, not as they would like them to be. I'm writing this letter strictly on my own, but it does seem like the authors of the proposed ordinance expect city officials to do their civil disobedience for them by ignoring state laws to the contrary.

And there is really no credible evidence that cloud seeding 40 to 80 miles away, in a separate watershed, would deposit silver iodide here, in harmful, or even in measurable quantities. Studies in the Sierra Nevada downstream from cloud seeding operations rarely show more than 100 parts per trillion, which is more than two orders of magnitude below the toxic level. The generators would only be fired up when a storm front comes in, and the fronts all blow away from our village. This is not to say that I trust PG & E. The movie "Erin Brockovich," was based on a true story about water contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a really toxic substance, by the same PG & E Corporation. But the take home messages from that story are that if big corporations really do cause contamination, there are always lawyers who will take the case for a contingency fee, and there are existing laws to base it on. You don't need to force a cash-strapped small town to take this risk.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bottled water sales declining

Bottled Water Sales Decline 5.2% in two years.

And some people wonder why.  Well for starters, we are in a recession, and tap water, which is virtually free, is just as good, except in a very few places that have unsolvable mineral pollution problems.  In fact, one brand of bottled water, Aquafina, is tap water. 

And it takes a huge amount of oil to bottle and ship water in plastic containers.  Plus, the plastic bottles themselves are made from petrochemicals.  This hastens the day when we will really have an oil shortage.  It also puts huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.  bottled water and energy  I have posted posted previously my objections to the proposed water rights ordinance in Mount Shasta.  But one provision that I could wholeheartedly support is the prohibition on selling water from the city springs and wells to a bottling company.  A bottling plant may seem like a good idea to a depressed community, but the long term prospects for this kind of business will not be good when gasoline and diesel prices reach the $6 to $8 dollar per barrel range.  The "obstructionists" in McCloud might seem pretty reasonable if the water business dries up in 10 years or so.  And if it is getting warmer in California, it will also get much more dry.  The water supply from our local springs is likely to be greatly diminished.  
Maybe one of the simplest things we could do to reduce our carbon footprint is to require all gas stations and fast food restaurants to provide free tap water, and tax bottled water.

Embarrassing Day for the Forest Service

Karuk members block project   It was another embarrassing day for the US Forest Service.  The supervisor of Six Rivers National Forest, Tyrone Kelley,  has admitted that commitments made to the Karuk tribe during the planning process for a fuel reduction project were not completely followed on the ground.  Unfortunately, I saw that happen a few other times during my Forest Service career.  Sometimes it is a genuine oversight.  Other times, somebody at a low or middle level just thinks that the added restrictions are totally impractical and disregards the mitigations in the plan when drawing up the contract.  But, I did have one boss who never let that happen.  His name was Mike Hupp, the former District Ranger at McCloud and Mount Shasta.  He was an excellent hands-on manager who always brought the planning and implementation people together early in the process to make sure the plan was doable.  Then he would make sure that the contract people followed the plan and all of the mitigation measures.  Mike should have been a Forest Supervisor by now.  But he was a white male, and at a promotional disadvantage in the diversity driven staffing practices of the Forest Service, especially in California.  A couple of years ago, he was hounded into early retirement by an endless string of grievances from a paranoid and disgruntled employee.
Maybe it is unfair to print Kelley's picture.    Maybe not.  He has been the boss there for three and one half years.  If the contract was big enough, he signed it.  If not, it was signed by the District Ranger.  The ranger at Orleans now is Nathan Colegrove, a member of the Hupa tribe, whose previous experience was largely in tribal forestry and teaching.  Nathan Colegrove, Sr.  Some other members of the Colegrove family, including Agnes (Jeeps) Colegrove and Daniel (Johnsons) Colegrove, have spent much of their lives in prison.  It is encouraging to learn that part of the family has become educated, and gained a good career.  
If you read the stories in the media about this incident, you would assume that this is a case of the white management of the Forest Service ignoring the needs of Native Americans.  Well, in this case, that just isn't so. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climate Engineering

Here is some heavy reading for those of you who are chemtrails true believers, and also for any science nerds with an interest in climate change and the potential to mitigate our greenhouse emissions by putting more aerosol particles into the atmosphere. 
Teller's Lawrence Livermore Paper
Climate Engineering Responses (many authors)

Tellers paper is 21 pages.  The other one, by the NOVIM group, is 66 pages.  Some of the equations make my eyes glaze over.  My education on this subject ended after Chemistry 1A.  But a non-nerd can skim through the material and pick up some useful background. 

As I read through it I started to wonder at first whether my profound skepticism on this subject was misplaced.  Both papers indicate that placing the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere needed to reduce the solar radiation by an amount sufficient to cancel the impact of increased greenhouse gases is feasible.  Both papers indicate that aluminum particles are most likely to be the most practical material to use, although mother nature does it with sulfur dioxide in volcanic eruptions.  Aha!  --What if they really are doing it already. 
However, both papers indicate that the knowledge of how to do it is not really there yet.  It is not determined how to keep the particles scattered so that the reflect sunlight effectively and do not agglutinate into large particles that quickly fall to earth.  Also, the elevation needed to do this effectively is 60,000 to 95,000 feet, far higher than the 30,000 feet that is the typical ceiling for most commercial and military flights. 
And footnote 31 of Teller's paper was reassuring: 
"Worth noting is the fact that the annual tonnages of either sulfur or aluminum oxides presently proposed for stratospheric deployment are tiny compared to the quantities of these materials which are either naturally lofted into the atmosphere (e.g. by dust storms) or are already injected by human activities (e.g. fossil fuel burning of all types.)"
This tends to confirm what I have always suspected, that the high levels of aluminum reported in some water samples, if not caused by contamination of samples, are most likely attributable to the hundreds of ways that we use aluminum in our civilization or to naturally high levels of aluminum in some soil types.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Letter to the District Attorney

Dear Mr. Andrus:

I am extremely disappointed in your decision to dismiss charges against Greg Nelson and Suzanne Little. Usually, a DA will go for a retrial when he gets a majority vote for conviction the first time around. Murder is absolutely the highest priority crime to prosecute. How can you possibly say that the rest of your workload is more important?

Christine Chenevert and yourself did your best on the first trial and managed to convince seven jurors that Greg was guilty, guilty, guilty! But I think there are a number of ways you could improve on a retrial.

 In jury selection, it appears from what other jurors have said that you were stuck with a couple of jurors that were hopelessly biased against conviction. I hope your intuition on this is better next time. When a defense lawyer questions a potential juror very aggressively, then reluctantly decides not to challenge, he/she may be playing a game to sneak a juror he/she really likes onto the jury. Don't get any non-practicing lawyers on the jury. Do look for people who have seen what meth does and does not do to people. Being Native American is probably a plus, except for Hoopa residents.

 A couple of jurors thought that Greg was the salt of the earth. This should not have happened. He is almost certainly a pusher as well as a meth user. Find some people in rehab who will testify that Greg sold them meth. Sylvia Jenkins was not very credible, but if you use her, ask her if Greg supplied her with meth when she was a minor. Find some gyppo loggers who fired Greg because he showed up loaded and couldn't do the job. Did he pay income taxes? Probably not. Get his IRS records. Did he make enough to live without dealing meth? Probably not. Make sure the jury knows he is a scumbag.

 Don't leave Steve Marshall for the defense to take apart. Prep him as well as you can and put him on. Make sure that you discuss any inconsistencies in his testimony during direct, and give him a chance to reconcile differences between his recollections and the confession. In "Outrage," Bugliosi said that if only the DA had gotten Fuhrman to say that yes, to his great regret he had used the term nigger on a few occasions, OJ would have been convicted.

 Research any precedents saying that minor participants in a kidnapping are equally guilty. Make sure the judge and jury hear that and try to get it in the instructions. Work harder on the ransom note issue. Things unfortunately do get lost in 33 years.

 Maybe you need an expert on what meth does and does not do to a person. Meth addicts I have known were clever liars, skilled at manipulating people. It would be totally out of character for a meth addict to give a false confession. Bugliosi handled this issue pretty well when the defense objected to Linda Kasabian's testimony on the grounds that she was an acid head with a blown mind.

 Keep digging for witnesses to the disposal of the body.

 Could the red honda still be in a junkyard somewhere? Are there records that Albert Carpenter or someone else did own this car? Really work on anything that might result in physical evidence.

 If Greg can be convicted on a drug charge and in jail during a retrial for murder, so much the better.

 Work harder on motive. Did Bill Cook have anything to do with the accusation that Antone murdered Herb Cook? Did he testify in Antone's trial? Did Antone and Suzanne get a huge bill they couldn't pay after the trial? If so, make sure the jury knows this.

Confession + seven guilty votes = Murder Case Dismissed!

Faced with a budget crisis and a powerful bay area defense attorney, DA Kirk Andrus moved to dismiss kidnapping charges against Suzanne Little, and Murder/kidnap charges against Greg Nelson of Hoopa, for the death 33 years ago of six-year old Willie Cook of Happy Camp.  Nelson's first trial ended with the jury deadlocked 7 to 5 for conviction on murder, and 6 to 6 on the kidnapping charge.  Redding Searchlight
Nelson's retrial and Little's trial had been scheduled to begin Jan 11.  Family and friends of the victim felt betrayed and appalled by the decision.  Andrus will undoubtedly be second-guessed for spending a reported $60,000 in drug forfeiture money for a special prosecutor in Nelson's first trial instead of prosecuting it himself.  Many courtroom observers thought that Nelson's first trial should have been a slam dunk, since the prosecution had a confession and an eyewitness.  But public defender Lael Kayfetz managed to sow enough doubt to get a mistrial. 

The state can still refile charges against both defendants if they get more evidence and/or more money. 
As the days have gone on since the mistrial was announced on November 12, I have become more convinced of Nelson and Little's guilt.  Several former jurors have commented extensively on the case in the Eureka Times-Standard forum.  Topix forum   The bottom line is that Nelson did confess.  The confession was wrung out of him over a two day period, but it was ruled admissible.  Nelson clearly and consistently denied molesting Cook, whose body was found nude.  But his statements on whether he suffocated or strangled Willie were equivocal in the beginning, until he finally did confess, although he claimed he hadn't really meant to kill him.  And he admitted early on that he was the driver when Willie was kidnapped in Happy Camp and brought to Hoopa.  Nelson later claimed that he made the confession because he was really messed up on meth, and had consumed 1/8 ounce of it that the arresting officers missed, when they stopped for a bathroom break.  Nelson may not be too bright, but he already knew about Miranda rights, having two previous convictions.  And the meth addicts that I have known would definitely lie, but they all seemed to be clever liars skilled at manipulating people to get money or whatever they needed to get more speed.  The idea that this powerful mental stimulant would make someone confess to something they didn't do is fundamentally at odds with the reality I have seen over the last 40 years.  I would say that any juror relying on his own common sense would have to put the idea of false confessions in the same loopy category as the idea of "recovered memories," a concept advocated by a few psychologists years ago. 

Where did the prosecution go wrong on this case?  See above  post.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cars in US use a lot more fuel than the same models in Europe

My daughter in Europe just leased a Toyota Auris.  This car appears to be almost identical to the Toyota Matrix sold in the US.  However, the Matrix, with a standard 1.8 liter engine and five speed manual transmission, gets mileage of 26-32.  The Auris has a 1.3 liter motor with a 6 speed manual, and gets 33-48 mpg.  The Auris also comes in diesel, which gets 45-62 if I have the conversions right.  Well the diesel can't pass our smog regulations, but the 1.3 liter/six speed combo ought to be saleable in the US.  It looks like the manufacturers still think we are so addicted to power that we would not buy an engine that gets 50% better highway mileage.   They may be right.  Gasoline pices in the United States  now are about a third of what Europeans pay.  For most of us, it isn't painful enough yet to fill up. 
The Toyota Yaris has an identical nameplate in Europe and the US, but the smallest engine in the US is a 1.5 liter that gets 29 city, 36 highway.  The European version comes with a three cylinder, one liter engine that gets 40 city, 54 highway. 

Of course, Toyota also makes two smaller models, the Aygo and the iQ, which get even better mileage but couldn't meet US safety standards.  Crash test standards are probably a sacred cow, but we really need to give buyers some flexibility to buy a fuel efficient car at a reasonable price.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Conspiracy Theories

What is it about Mount Shasta that makes conspiracy theories sprout and grow so vigorously?  From just a couple of recent conversations with friends, I have learned that:
  • The government is engaging in a secret but very active program of mixing aluminum and borate particles into jet engine exhaust to combat global warming. 
  • Global warming has been proven to be a complete hoax.  (This from the same person who two years ago might have said Exxon is conspiring to suppress knowledge of global warming. 
  • Technology exists to solve our energy problems by running cars on water and hydrogen, but the government and the oil companies are suppressing it. 
  • Flu shots are a conspiracy to kill people. 
  • President Obama was born in Kenya.
  • Bill Clinton's birth father was Winthrop Rockefeller, former governor of Arkansas. 
  • War with Russia is going to happen within three years. 
  • Al Gore is the scion of an oil family. 
  • Evolution has never been proven
  • Academia is suppressing knowledge of advanced ancient civilizations 30,000 years older than the Sumerians. 
  • The lemurians beneath the mountain are real. 
I haven't heard anything about 9-11 for a while, or I could add that one to the list.  Well, to be fair, there are a few that I believe in myself:
  • The weapons of mass destruction myth was created largely by people who value the interests of Israel more than those of the United States.
  • The alleged attacks on US Navy ships the Maddox and Turner Joy were exaggerated or totally fabricated by military interests who wanted to expand the Vietnam War. 
  • Bill Clinton's birth father probably was not Willam Jefferson Blythe. 
  • Fox News deliberately lies to advance the interests of the military-industrial complex. 
The air isn't really that rarefied here.  But we are a community that has long been a destination for seekers with  a will to believe.   We have a popular bumper sticker that read, "Mount Shasta.  We're all here because we're not all there."  And in the short to mid term, truth is hardly necessary.  Most women will react much more positively to a fervently believed scenario than to a stodgy atheism.  Whether global warming is real or a conspiracy has only a small impact on our lives, at least for the next few years.  And people who know that the Food and Drug Administration is controlled by evil people usually have at least a good basic intuition on what to eat.  Of course, my friend Dave who sometimes wears a respirator on the street to counter the impact of chemtrails isn't helping his social life any.  And the older woman who is sure that chemtrails are tearing her lungs out must have some serious psychosomatic symptoms, or maybe some real symptoms for which she really needs a doctor.  This post is rambling.  I should just publish it. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Liberal and Conservative Books

The tally at Mount Shasta's Village Book's is two sales for Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue," and one for Al Gore's "Our Choice."  Come on book lovers, isn't Mount Shasta supposed to be a blue community? 
--The one for Al Gore was me.  I may write a little on it later. 

Global Warming Stalled

Here is a good simple article on recent climate.  Global warming has been stalled for the last nine years.  This is admitted by most scientists in the field.  The most likely causes are the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and a minimal period of sunspot activity.  When these non-anthropogenic cycles start to reverse, warming will be accellerated and the impact of anthropogenic causes will be more evident, according to the scientists he interviews.  The author is a journalist.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Checking on Medical Marijuana

Redding police are getting organized to check the records of marijuana dispensaries, after the city council passed an ordinance this week.  Record-Searchlight
Why don't we have an ordinance like that here in Mount Shasta?  Fifty year old Ronald Lynn Henderson here was caught last week selling marijuana to two teenage girls near the high school.  Is he a medical marijuana user?  We don't know.  Was he getting medical marijuana and reselling it?  We don't know. I was trying to thing where I might have seen Henderson before, and he looks somewhat like I guy who was collecting signatures for the medical marijuana initiative a few years back.  Lieutenant Tazzari of the MSPD didn't even know about the case when I inquired.  The bust took place just outside of the city limits, in county jurisdiction, but you would think there would be more coordination between the sheriff and the local police.  This case should be prosecuted.  I know from personal experience that students on marijuana put out a very minimal effort to get by in school or at work.  I hope we are not so jaded that we condone selling it to minor girls.  The flaws in the water initiative (see previous post) might be due to the fact that the principal author of it is also one of the main advocates for full legalization of marijuana.

Update:  Yreka has banned marijuana dispensaries.  here  This means the Mount Shasta dispensaries are likely to get more business.  This will increase the need for oversight. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Water Initiative

Some of my friends are circulating a local initiative petition to ban cloud seeding in the city of Mount Shasta, as well as banning commercial water bottling.  After reading all 13 pages of the proposed ordinance (here), I believe that it is, unfortunately, very poorly conceived. 

Inalienable Right to Water?

Section 2.1.1, by declaring that residents have an inalienable right to use and consume water, would appear to prevent the city from shutting off anyone's water for non-payment.  Water is, unfortunately, a commodity.  In much of the world, people can't get as much of it as they would like.  The city has a property right to its water supply, thanks to the foresight of the city fathers.  Residents have a right to use this water that is conditional on paying their hookup fees and monthly bills.   Do the many millions of Southern Californians have an inalienable right to water?  If so, that implies that they have an inalienable right to take water from from Northern California, since they don't have enough of their own. 

Cloud Seeding
Section, prohibiting cloud seeding or weather modification in Mount Shasta, addresses a nonexistent problem.  Nobody would pay to do cloud seeding here, because nobody has a vested interest in increasing rainfall within the city.  We have no agriculture.  There is a very small hydro operation at Lake Siskiyou, which probably couldn't afford a cloud seeding operation.  And most of the water in the Lake comes from the Sacramento inlet, well to the west of town on national forest property.  The existing bottling plant knows well that rumors of silver iodide use would be very bad for their business, so they wouldn't want cloud seeding even if they needed to increase their flow.  
And the ordinance would not do anything about the cloud seeding that is proposed or ongoing in the McCloud and Pit River watersheds by PG&E. 

Biological Impacts of Cloud Seeding

One study on  the health impacts of cloud seeding indicates that the average person gets more exposure to silver from tooth fillings than from silver iodide, and more iodine from the iodized salt that most of us consume.  (wikipedia)   A publication here indicates that silver concentrations in Sierra Nevada areas where there has been a lot of cloud seeding are about 100 parts per trillion, as opposed to a US Public Health Service maximum of 50 parts per billion. This, admittedly is from an overview published by the industry    This  study analyzed toxic impacts of another silver compound at concentrations of 10 to 30,000 parts per billion, in contrast to the parts per trillion residues found as a result of cloud seeding.  (sorry, abstract only)   The most thorough study I can find on aluminum toxicity is here, from a United Nations group.  Unfortunately, it does study this specific compound.  The toxic impacts are generally from ionic silver, and I am not enough of a chemistry student to predict the breakdown of silver iodide.  If I have any readers (dream on) who are chemistry nerds, please comment.  BC Guidlines  Here is another good reference.  And another -- Nat Biological Service   The main reference cited by Wikipedia, showing no accumulation of silver above background levels resulting from cloud seeding, is a 256 page book by Donald A. Klein, which is not on the net and probably not available locally.  Silver iodide has a relatively low mammalian toxicity.  The toxicity for microorganisms and marine life is much higher, but I can't find any real world evidence that cloud seeding has ever increased silver iodide concentrations to anywhere near the toxic threshhold. 

Water Bottling (Export) Prohibition

Section and prohibit commercial water bottling operations in the city.  This is one provision that I could support.  The city water supply is likely to get smaller in future years, because climate warming in California is generally correllated with drought.  The existing Coca-cola (formerly Dannon) water bottling plant is outside the city limits.  At one time, the city was considering selling water to this plant, but they couldn't agree on a price. 


Various parts of section 2.2 attempt to override state and federal law regarding the rights of incorporated businesses.  Section specifically asserts that state laws to the contrary are null in Mount Shasta.  I don't think we pay our police force enough to get them to be a militia protecting our independence from the state.  This is sort of a left wing sagebrush rebellion.  I would be worried if the people promoting this initiative were gun nuts, but fortunately, most of them are peace/love types.   Actually, I couldn't sign the petition if I wanted to, because I have a two bit volunteer job with the city which requires me to swear to defend the constitution of the state of California. 

City Required to Sue

Section requires the city to sue if city residents are found to have contaminants such as silver iodide in their bodies.  This would open up a huge can of worms.  When I first heard about the initiative, I thought it referred to the city water supply, which can easily be tested.  But silver iodide in someone's body could come from anywhere.  I personally know someone local who has taken silver products internally as an alternative therapy for a medical problem.  And the references indicate that silver exposure is much more likely to come from industrial sources than from cloud seeding. 

No Growth . . . Period?

Section 2.4, on the rights of natural communities and ecosystems, provides fertile grounds for anyone to sue anyone who proposes to build anything in Mount Shasta.  Existing CEQA law already requires government permitting agencies to carefully consider any adverse effects to the environment, and to carefully balance human needs against potential adverse impacts.  But this ordinance would automatically prohibit any development which had any adverse impact on wetlands, streams, aquifers and other natural communities and ecosystems.  If enforcable and enforced, it would surely shut down Sousa's quarrying operation at the north end of town.  This business is admittedly an irreversible alteration of the landscape, and a huge eyesore where it can be seen.  But it has been grandfathered in for many years, and the building products it and similar quarries produce are essential to our civilization.

Initiatives are required to be limited to a single topic.  I count five different subjects in this one.  However, the courts have generally been pretty liberal in interpreting this rule. 

So, for my two cents worth, don't sign the petition.  It could have serious unintended consequences in several respects.  We have a lot of real problems to address without this diversion

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Our Afghanistan Dilemma

This piece by Stephen Walt in "Foreign Policy" makes more sense to me than most of what is being written about Afghanistan.  Damned if you Do, Damned if you don't

(last paragraph)
With respect to Afghanistan: it is either a worth a prolonged and costly investment of lives and money or it isn't. Either we go all in -- which in my view is still a very bad idea -- or we should get out. Trying to split the difference on this issue is not leadership; in fact, it is a recipe for failure

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Murder on the Klamath--Mistrial

Judge Rufus Yent declared a mistrial Thursday morning in the Greg Nelson trial.  The final poll was six to six on the kidnapping count, and seven to five for conviction on the murder count.  Unfortunately, I missed the drama of the moment.  I was working on my garden patch, and found one last onion. 

But I did get to the courthouse at 3:30.  Court was in session from 4:00 to 4:30.  The prosecution now has moved to try Greg Nelson and Suzanne Little together, with jury selection beginning Jan. 11.  Neither defense lawyer seemed to have any serious objections, but they will have until the 19th to reply.  The judge postponed action on the motion of John Forsyth, representing Little, for a change of venue.  It looks like both teams are proceeding on the assumption that the trial will be in Yreka, but we will see. 

A joint trial would be a logistical problem because the small courtroom would have to hold two separate juries, each with four alternates.  There will probably be occasions when one jury would be escorted out of the room because defendants may have conflicting interests. 

Judge Yent indicated that Little would probably be released on own recognizance in exchange for a waiver of right to prompt trial, provided that she stay away from Hoopa.  Forsyth said she would be in San Francisco.  Both defendants were present, in prison orange instead of street clothes.  Court was recessed after the discussion of scheduling.  Other than a few comments, Forsyth had little opportunity to demonstrate his skill.  Prosecution witness Sylvia Jenkins claimed that they robbed the Ray's Sentry supermarket to get money to pay him.  (Not that she is a very credible witness, but that was the rumor in Hoopa.)
I was surprised that murder got more votes for conviction than kidnapping.  The corroboration of the murder confession rested almost entirely with Steve Marshall.  To believe his story, you have to believe that after he told his mother he saw Greg, Suzanne and Joyce, and was told to keep quiet and stay close, then a few weeks later they dropped him off at the home of the suspected kidnappers for babysitting.  What parent would do that?  The kidnapping confession, on the other hand, seems to be corroborated by his sister's testimony, and a couple of others who said they saw the child.  Plus, the kidnapping confession took place during the "good cop" part of the interrogation, and seems more spontaneous.  But, I'm not entitled to second guess the jurors.  They got intimately familiar with all the evidence.  I heard a little bit directly, and the rest second hand.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Serious Drought in our Future?

Here is an interesting report on past climates in California.  In some areas, climate warming equals warmer and wetter, but it looks like the impacts in California would be warmer and much drier. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This is from an anonymous poster on the Eureka Times-Standard forum:
The jury sent out a note this afternoon saying that they are at an impasse. The judge brought the jury into court and the foreman said that the vote is 7 to 5 on both charges, with 7 for not guilty on both charges. The judge sent the jury home. The courts are closed tomorrow. [Veterans' Day] The judge told the jury to come back on Thursday morning to give another try at deliberating. The judge told the jury that if they still cannot agree on verdicts on Thursday, then he will release the jury and declare a mistrial.
Earlier, I had called the courthouse and the clerk said only that they had come in to ask some questions of the judge, and would resume deliberations shortly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nelson's Sentence, If Found Guilty

As of Monday morning there is still no verdict.  Daily News 

If found guilty does the court or the jury have much sentencing discretion?  According to the current criminal code, it looks like the only possible sentence on either count is life without parole.  Section 209a  of the Calif. Penal Code prescribes life without parole in any kidnapping case in which the victim is held and detained or held for ransom if the kidnapping results in death of the victim.  kidnapping code   This would be true even if the jury does not necessarily believe Bill Cooks testimony that he did get a ransom note, which was subsequently lost.  However, if the Penal Code in 1976 prescribed or allowed a lesser sentence, that code would apply.  I'm not a lawyer and that would be beyond my couch potato research ability. 

On the murder count, if the jury convicts and finds special circumstances, the only possible sentences are life without parole and death, but the prosecution has said it will not seek the death penalty.  Section 190.2 of the Cal. Penal Code defines most of the special circumstances.  special circumstances (scroll down)  The one that would certainly apply to this case is number 10.  The victim was killed to keep him from talking.  Also, number 1, that the victim was killed for financial gain, would apply if the jury believes that they were trying to get money from the Cook family.   Again, if the law was different in 1976, the penalty could be different. 

Would Nelson actually stay in prison until he is taken out feet first?  Since the law giving the court the option of death or life without parole was enacted, I don't think anyone has been released.  Governor Gray Davis didn't even release anyone with a 25 to life sentence, for fear of being attacked as a liberal wuss.  However, I wouldn't count on it.  The state is under a court order to reduce the prison inmate population and one report recommends that people who have served 20 years and are over 60 years old be considered for release even if their crime was murder (but not sex predators).  I'm not optimistic about the California economy, and it is likely that the prison problems we have now will be as bad or worse in 20 years. 
Another possibility is that the court will offer Nelson a post-conviction deal to testify against Suzanne Aubrey and any other possible defendants.  This would make sense for the prosecution, because their case against Aubrey is not as strong.

Friday, November 6, 2009

No Verdict Yet

Jurors in the trial of Greg Nelson for the 33 year old murder and kidnapping of Willie Cook in Happy Camp are apparently still deliberating as of noon Friday.  Three and one half days of deliberation could mean the jurors are just being conscientious, or it could mean there are some who have serious doubts about the validity of Nelson's confession.  A hung jury would be extremely difficult to retry.  Of the three living officers from the 1976 investigation, only Jack Partlow is still with it enough to testify convincingly.  And his testimony did not strongly support either side. 
I just recently noticed that prosecutor Christine Chenevert used to be a salaried deputy DA, but is now in private practice, and was retained at a fee not to exceed $95,000 for this trial.  If there is not a conviction, people will be asking serious questions about why DA Kirk Andrus couldn't try this case himself.  Codefendant Suzanne Little will be represented by John Forsythe, a reknowned bay area attorney who, I believe, has appeared on Greta Vansusteren's show.   A conviction in that case will be much more difficult, since there is no confession.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Biomass in Siskiyou County

Here is an article by Felice Pace on the limitations of biomass harvesting in Siskiyou County.   here

Much of it I agree with.  But, there are a couple of old environmentalist talking points that shouldn't go unchallenged. 
Removing too much forest canopy opens the forest to sunlight and reduces competition for moisture. This encourages brush sprouting and tree seedling survival. If the canopy is reduced below 60%, the result will be much greater fire risk 8 to 10 years down the pike. Unfortunately, the Forest Service – and Mr. Alexander’s group - usually insist on reducing canopy to 40% or less and calling this “fire risk reduction” In reality these practices create more fire risk over time.
There are some modeling and temperature studies that predict higher fire intensity at canopy levels under 60%, but actual real world fire behavior  studies show lower fire intensity in treated areas, even at low canopy levels.  Young forests on productive lands, if cut to 40% canopy closure, will return to 60% closure in 10-20 years.  If left at 60% closure, the results typically will be overstocking and stagnation with spindly trees in 20 years.  If we are treating a mature stand, 60% might be appropriate on high sites.  On the east side, the typical pine forest could not even support 60% crown closure in the long run. 

 Supervisor Marcia Armstrong would have us believe that the health destroying smoke experienced by Californians is the result of failure to log. This just repeats what Armstrong has heard from her timber industry backers. But – judging from the extensive fires of 2008 - at least half of that smoke is not from natural forest fires but from ill advised, dangerous and (at times) irresponsible burn-outs and back fires lit by overeager firefighters who do not understand how fire behaves in Northern California’s forested mountains.
 A backfire or burnout is designed to burn out the areas where the fire would go anyway.  If done right, it reduces smoke by burning more areas during the cooler night time weather, and less during the blow-up periods of two to eight p.m.  Typically, the fire managers resort to burnouts when there are large numbers of fires caused by lightning, and it is obvious that there are simply not enough firemen, air tankers and other resources to stop them from burning together and going to the ridge.  By burning down from the ridge at night instead of waiting for the fire to come up to the ridge in the afternoon, you increase your chances of holding the fire at the ridge.  To try to separate the smoke from the burnout from the original fire is misleading. 
That said, I have seen some abuses and bad decisions.  Most notably, on the Megram Fire in 1999, the fire team insisted on burning out the entire drainage of Horse Linto Creek, in mid-October, against the advice of locals.  Most of the burnout never got started, and the final fire perimeter was a very large U.  On another occasion, in a wilderness area on the Cleveland National Forest in Southern California, we had permission to build a fairly minimal tractor line in the wilderness.  But the burnout team insisted on lighting it off in mid-afternoon, causing a lot of containment problems.  We ended up building the four blade wide dozer lines that we had promised the resource officer we would avoid. 
Howver, in 2,008, we had a huge lightning bust in a drought year, just as fire danger was becoming extreme in late June.  There may not have been a lot of options. 
Furthermore, many of our largest fires “blew up” into firestorms in the flammable “slash” (small trees, branches and limbs) left behind by timber companies. Here’s a partial list of Siskiyou County fires that “blew up” in logging slash: Hog Fire (1977), Yellow and Glasgow fires (1987), Specimen Fire (1994).
The only one of these that I worked on was the Hog fire.  This was a typical case of lack of resources.  We were doing fine, lining a relatively small fire which was partially in a logged over area.  Then air support was restricted due to many fires in other areas.  One of the dozen or so lightning fires was giving us problems, and the fire team decided to pull back and burn everything out on the south side.  The north side was wilderness, and burned until we got an early rain, just as the management on that side was preparing to abandon direct attack and go to a burnout. 
Biomass generation that makes good environmental and economic sense and which protects public health will be supported by the environmental community
I hope so.  Generally, in my career in the flat, well roaded forests of McCloud, I had few problems with local environmentalists.  But two sales with a lot of biomass as well as commercial thinning and salvage were sued by out of town groups, resulting in costly delays.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The David Dingle Trial

The case of the people vs. David Dingle dates back to Feb. 8, 2008.  According to testimony in the preliminary hearing by the defendant's brother, Malcolm, an argument between David Dingle and Frank Martin resulted in David Dingle shooting Martin.  Martin then ran into the woods, but was found by the Dingle brothers.  According to Malcolm, David shot him two more times, then slit his throat.  Daily News, Preliminary Hearing Story

In jury selection today, it appeared that the defense was planning to argue for a verdict of justifiable homicide.  Unlike most murder trials, the defense appeared to favor law and order types, including a former state employee who had worked with inmate fire crews, and had once made a citizens arrest of a burglar in his home and held the suspect until police arrived.  Most of the challenges were of women, and the final jury composition was eight men and four women.  If the brother's testimony is admitted, the defense will have a high barrier to jump over. 

Nelson Trial, Continued

Closing arguments were completed today.  In the morning, I was in the jury pool for the David Dingle trial, and missed prosecutor Christine Chenevert's presentation.  After lunch, the jury was empaneled for the Dingle trial before I was called for interview, and I was excused in time to see much of public defender Lael Kayfetz' closing argument.  At times I feel like a flea trying to describe the elephant.  Kayfetz hammered away at inconsistencies in the testimony of prosecution witnesses, and appeared effective, particularly in undermining the testimony of Steve Marshall, who lied about his alcohol use, Sylvina Logan, whose memory the prosecution even admitted was getting foggy, and Sylvia Jenkins, a meth user since she was 13 and the primary suspect in the arson of Logan's home.  One point I had not realized was that although Marshall's claim that he witnessed the kidnapping and the murder was what kicked the investigation off dead center, the prosecution did not even call him as a witness.  He was instead called by the defense in an effort to show inconsistencies in the case. 
Kayfetz faces a much bigger hurdle in convincing the jury that Nelson made a false confession, but may have made some inroads.  Her most notable point may have been that Nelson, after confessing to the murder, did not identify the correct location of the body, but instead mentioned a different location which may have been suggested to him by the interrogator.  She also spent some time going over the possible alibi testimony of Ken and Diane Oliver, and Barbara Gaedel, as well as a police report indicating that a deputy saw Nelson and Joyce Croy at the home of Nelson's parents an hour after the kidnapping. 
In her final rebuttal, Chenevert claimed that the timeline was irrelevant, that Nelson could have taken Cook to Hoopa anytime, not necessarily right after the kidnapping.  She did not attempt to defend Steve Marshall's testimony, asserting that his testimony wasn't even necessary since they had a confession.  One thing that surprises me is that nobody suggested that Cook might have been taken first to the Aubrey place on Clear Creek, which is 10-15 minutes away from Happy Camp.  For myself, if I wasn't feeling reckless, a round trip from Happy Camp to Hoopa would be more like a three hour drive. 
Chenevert showed the last two minutes of Nelson's confession on video.  Nelson appeared extremely uncomfortable, but the sound was, unfortunately, inaudible to the back of the trial room in the courthouse basement.  She ended with two minutes of silence, representing the two minutes that it allegedly took Nelson to strangle Cook, while juxtaposing a 3 foot photo of the six year old victim with a still of Nelson in the interrogation room, and a very brief exhortation to the jury to do the right thing and find Nelson guilty of both charges. 

The jury instructions will be given tomorrow morning, Tuesday the 3rd.  The jury will probably begin deliberations the same day.  Although there are thing I still don't fully understand, such as how damaging the actual testimony of Nelson's twin sister was, the case will hinge mainly on whether the jury believes Nelson's confession.  Will the jury buy the prosecution contention that false confessions are so rare that the possibility can be discounted, or will they have nagging doubts based on defense claims that a weary and drugged Nelson was simply parroting information fed to him by officers Mendes, Blaney and Hilsenberg. 
There is still the possibility of a split verdict.  The jury could convict Nelson of kidnapping  based on his apparently more willing admission that he did transport the victim, but hang or even acquit on the murder charge.  I would not expect a verdict before Wednesday.
Dave Smith's story in the Daily News  here Covers the prosecution's closing arguments. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Exaggerated Global Warming Claims undermine the science

This is from the London Times.  The author is the paper's science editor.  That is, he is not a scientist himself, but someone who keeps up with the literature and should be relatively objective. 

Exaggerated and inaccurate claims about the threat from global warming risk undermining efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and contain climate change, senior scientists have told The Times.

Environmental lobbyists, politicians, researchers and journalists who distort climate science to support an agenda erode public understanding and play into the hands of sceptics, according to experts including a former government chief scientist.

Read more:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Murder trial, continued

Couldn't get to the courthouse today (Thurs 10/29).  Dave Smith's Story in the Siskiyou Daily News here
is three days behind, and described Monday's testimony by Ken and Lodema Oliver, who believe they were with Nelson on the day of the crime.  They lived at the Croy property in Hoopa at the time.  The article doesn't really go into the details of the timeline, as to whether their specific memories would establish that Nelson was not in Happy Camp at the time of the kidnapping.  And the witnesses were not entirely sure of the date, recalling being stopped by the police on Aug 28, 1976, although retired detective Jack Fairchild said he and Jack Partlow did not even get to the scene until around 10 pm on the 28th.  This testimony will be dissected by both lawyers during the summary, with the defense interpreting it as an alibi. 

So, who is ahead in this drama with one man's life and another family's need for justice at stake?  As a blogger, not a print journalist, I am free to speculate.  And none of the jurors look like internet nerds, so I'm not worrying about corrupting anyone.  I'm betting on a conviction on at least some charges.  Nelson's own testimony looms pretty large.  When he said  earlier in the interrogation, "I was just the driver," that meant he was at least the driver.  In my humble opinion, he could not have been unaware that he was helping in a kidnapping.  On the other hand, when he seemingly concurred that he had put the body in the barrel, I can't tell whether this is a true confession or a crashing speed freak at the end of a two day interview who just wants to say whatever it takes to get it over with.  The odd thing is that, as an outsider with no local ancestry (He had enough Cheyenne genes to get payments from that tribe, but looks mostly white.) he had no motive to be involved in this except the desire to fit in and please the girlfriend, Joyce Croy, who was 15 years older.  This is reminiscent a little of Albert Camus' novel, The Stranger, in which a man sets out to help a casual friend in a dispute, and ends up commiting murder.   The man who really did have a grudge against the Cook family was Antone Aubrey,  the late ex-husband of Suzanne Aubrey Little, the other defendant.  He is beyond human justice, having himself been the victim of an unsolved murder in 1980. 
I have heard rumors of rebuttal testimony being completed tomorrow, but nothing definite.  I hope to take in the summaries next week, but may be tied up. 
Unfortunately, the convictions of both defendants would do little or nothing to reduce the pervasive meth culture in the area, and family vendetta's are likely to continue.  When I lived on the Klamath River in the early '70's, most of the middle aged natives had been educated at the Sherman School for Indians in Riverside.  sherman school  They sometimes were proud of that, and other times expressed a sense of loss that so many of the elders had died when they returned.  The Sherman School still exists, but this has not been considered a politically correct way to treat the natives in recent decades.   However, few have suggested we apologize as the Australians did.  PM Rudd's Apology 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Murder on the Klamath

Wednesday's proceedings featured a poignantly sad tape from 26 year old Sylvia Jenkins, on the telephone with her Grandmother, Sylvina Olson. Jenkins started by telling Grandma that her baby was in the hospital, was only 4 1/2 pounds, and had been born after only six months inside her. She doesn't have custody of either of her daughters. She went on to apologize for her role in burning down Grandma's home in Hoopa. Her story varied during different parts of the tape but seemed to be that the defendant, Greg Nelson, had been threatening her, but her role in the burning was to fall asleep with a candle in the church next door, starting a fire there which was then carried to her Grandma's house by two other men with gasoline. If it didn't provide positive proof of Nelson's guilt, it did show a damning example of the corrosive effects of meth, the use of which appears to be widespread on the reservation and up the river. She said, "Hoopa is slowly burning itself out."
Public Defender Kayfetz attempted to show that the officer presenting the tape had led her and coached her to implicate Nelson.

Monday's testimony, which I am drawing from Dave Smith's article in the Daily News, featured the testimony of Dr. Karl Fischer, the clinical psychologist for the Hoopa Tribe. Fischer said that Steve Marshall, the main witness for the prosecution, suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. He is capable of remembering what he sees, and knows truth from illusion, but might have a tendency to fantasize. It appeared that he was saying that Marshall is believable unless he knowingly chose to lie. Marshall had testified that he witnessed both the kidnapping and the murder when he was 10 years old.

Cops on Steroids?

This is a post that could offend some powerful locals. It seems that Jim Betts, one of three candidates for Siskiyou County Sheriff, mentioned that he bulked up from 175 to his current huge girth with the aid of a supplement which used to be available in Walmart, but which you can't get any more. This comment was in the middle of a long and effusive article in the Fort Jones Pioneer Press. Betts is currently a captain in the sheriff's department and is the jail administrator.

What might this supplement be? He isn't saying, but we have two clues: first, it was very effective. He got huge. Second, that it has recently become unavailable without a prescription. This suggests that it was probably Androstenedione, the steroid that Mark McGwire used the year he hit 70 home runs. This substance was available over the counter with no restrictions until January, 2005, when the FDA banned its sale.  here

If he wasn't using androstenedione, it was probably one of 18 similar chemicals banned at the same time. (If anyone connected with the Betts campaign can prove that this is incorrect, I will be happy to make a retraction.) You could split hairs and call these substances steroid precursors, but they act on the body like steroids, and are currently regulated like steroids. What is the problem with this? Well, if you're a guy, one of the side effects is testicular atrophy, but this wouldn't affect his abilities as a sheriff. The big problem is that steroids, by increasing testosterone, make a man more aggressive and irritable. This is why Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco had such obnoxious personalities. here  (scroll down.)

Now there are a few occasions when a steroidal personality would help a cop take down a bad guy. But there are many more occasions when a cop needs to be a diplomat to get people to cooperate. This is especially true for the top cop in the department. It might sometimes be true, even in his current position as jail administrator.

Maybe this discussion is too alarmist. The testosterone impact of andro is believed to be short-lived. I don't know how long any behavioral effects would last. If he has really avoided andro since 2005, it may not be a problem. What would definitely be a problem is that he is high risk for a coronary that could end his career, possibly requiring a special election. A lot of his muscle mass has turned to lard, and andro definitely reduces the HDL/LDL ratio.

Update:  This is a bigger story nationally than I thought.  A Google search of "Cops on Steroids" had 355,000 hits.  (Couldn't find this piece)  Anyway, here is one of them:  Men's health article

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Murder on the Klamath, continued

Today, ten days after my last update, I spent my first actual time in the courtroom. I was summoned to the courthouse for jury duty on an unrelated case, and got to watch the Nelson case before and after. Defense attorney Lael Kayfetz could be described as hot, with rippling brunette curls, big brown eyes and a youthful body, evident despite her discreet lawyerly garb. Prosecutor Christine Chenevert (green oak in French, for name trivia fans) is older with hair starting to gray, but evidently spends a lot of time working out. Nelson looks like a typical guy in his 50's. I wouldn't place him as the whacked out doper of the arrest photos, nor would I recognize him as the mouthy teen I knew in 1973. The few spectators were mostly on the prosecution side, including the victim's sister Irma. Kayfetz, nearing the end of her case, spent a lot of the day trying to poke holes in the interrogation report of lead detective Nathan Mendes, accusing him of leading the defendant by supplying information that the defendant later repeated, and of ignoring potential exculpatory reports. Yet her best point seems to be a potential alibi for Nelson noted in the 1976 police reports. The source of this alibi--Nelson's now deceased parents. Mendes is tall and appears to have some mestizo background, being darker than the natives in the audience. He was not the sharpest witness, being unable to recall some points in the voluminous interrogation and the original police reports. But his performance was probably adequate and Chenevert established on redirect several areas where the testimony of other witnesses corroborated the incriminating parts of Nelson's statement.

The defense rested near the end of the day. Kayfetz looked a little harried. Chenevert called her first rebuttal witness, a former sheriff's deputy to go over an alleged stabbing incident in l998 involving Nelson. I'm not sure what the relevance was.

Ten days earlier, Chenevert's cross examination of Nelson had emphasized inconsistencies between his court testimony and his earlier interview with police investigators. Chenevert elicited a lot of "I don't remember," responses. Nelson did say that the arresting officers missed part of his methedrine stash, which he consumed at a restroom stop in Happy Camp. This probably made him quite loquacious during the first day of his questioning. This case is a classic example of why a defendant should ask for a lawyer and shut up. From here, it looks like the prosecution case would be weak without Nelson's own admissions. Nelson claimed that the meth induced him to make a false confession. Defendants rarely testify in murder trials, but in this case the defense lawyers deemed it necessary, in order to try to undo the damage from his police interrogation.

For the following two days, the defense called Dr. Angelo Leo, a psychology professor, as an expert witness to attempt to show that Nelson's confession was coerced. District attorney Kirk Andrus took over the cross examination of Leo, challenging his personal credentials and the science behind his theories. (Links for these two days, unfortunately, have expired.)
Leo had testified in the case of the Central Park jogger, getting five of the originally convicted defendants released after another defendant testified that he had been the only attacker. This was considered by many to be an outrage and a very selective reconsideration of the evidence.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Murder on the Klamath, Cont.

For the first two days, the defense tried with some success to damage the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, focussing on inconsistencies between their original stories and their current stories.
Then they called defendant Greg Nelson to the stand to testify on his own behalf. After a recess, they will have him try to explain why he confessed, then recanted. Nelson's partner of 20 years and wife for five years, Joyce Croy, was reportedly ordained in the Indian Shaker Church, which originated in Washington and is not connected to the Shaker Church of simple furniture fame. Nelson, unlike Croy and codefendant Suzanne Little, is not a local of the Karuk tribe. He and his twin sister have Cheyenne ancestry, although Nelson could easily be taken for white.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Original Stockholm Syndrome

I wanted to do some research on the killing of Siskiyou County sheriff's deputy Jesse Bo Hittson by Patrick "Hooty" Croy, a Karuk and Shasta Native American, in 1978. However, a google of Jesse Hittson led instead to the story of John Nathan Hittson, a Texas Sheriff in 1860. Hittson was called from the home of his family, including grandfather Jesse Hittson, to help find the Comanche kidnappers of Cynthia Parker.
The Parker family had been killed 24 years earlier by a band of raiders from several tribes. Nine year old Cynthia and five other family members were taken captive. A baby was soon killed because she cried too much. The other family members were ransomed over the next six years, but Cynthia was sold to a Comanche band, taken into the tribe, and eventually married Peta Nokona, a comanche warrior, with whom she had three children. When sighted by whites, she refused to speak English. Eventually, in 1860, she was forcibly rescued, along with her daughter, Topsanna, and reunited with white relatives. But her soul was Comanche, and she longed to return. Three years later, her daughter died, and Cynthia refused to eat until she also died. This was probably the real life story behind the novel "The Searchers." It was also a theme of the Kevin Costner movie, "Dances with Wolves." In the book, the Indians were Comanche, although the movie made them Cheyenne.

The rest of this story is that Parker's son Quanah, who was not "rescued," eventually became chief of the Comanche tribe. He was a successful war leader who supposedly never lost a battle, but surrendered in 1875, facing starvation due to lack of buffalo and continually being on the run. He adapted well to life on the Oklahoma reservation, making deals with Texas cattlemen instead of raiding them, and became quite wealthy, living until 1911.

The name "Hittson" is not that common. It's not unlikely that Siskiyou County's Jesse Bo Hittson was a descendant who remembered this story on that fateful night when he was off-duty, but responded to a radio call about an attempted convenience store robbery by a group of Indians.

This story is topical when we read about the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard, who could have been a classmate of my younger daughter. Let's hope that she and her daughters fare better than the unfortunate Cynthia Parker, and have a bright future.

I want to write more about the Hittson case. If any local readers (dream on) can put me in contact with some of the people who were there, please contact me. For those who aren't at all familiar with the case, the bare outlines are that a car chase followed by a shootout led to the death of Hittson. Croy and two family members were wounded. Croy was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Eight years later, an appeals court ordered a new trial. Famed defense attorney Tony Serra got a change of venue to San Francisco, and convinced the jury there that Croy was reacting in self-defense to a racist cop. Ironically, the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder was not retried, and his life sentence for this offense remained technically in effect. He was paroled, but when he was caught with a marijuana cigaret, a judge reinstated the life sentence, and he served a total of 19 years and seven months before being released in 2005.

Six Year Old Sent to Reform School for Camping Tool

Here is a sad commentary on how the perceived mandate to avoid disparate impacts on different races leads school officials to ignore common sense.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Have we learned nothing from the financial meltdown.

Here is a good essay on the causes of the financial crisis. Jerome's native language is not English, but you wouldn't know it.

Murder on the Klamath, continued

Oct. 12, 2009
The most recent reported testimony in the trial of Greg Nelson for the murder of Willie Cook in 1976 gives further details of the recorded questioning of Nelson by Sergeant Mark Hilsenberg of the Siskiyou Co. sheriff's office. After numerous denials, Nelson says, "“This is obvious – I put him in the barrel, drove him up and dropped him off I guess.”
Is this a full confession, a restatement of the question, or a sarcastic retort? We don't really know without hearing the tape. (I would like to spend a few days at the courthouse getting this firsthand, but I have a life, sort of.) But his statement definitely places him on the scene on the day of the murder. The most promising defense tactic might be to try to get this statement suppressed on appeal. It has been admitted into the trial, so there is no clear evidence that he had asked for a lawyer. At one point, he said he gave Cook to Daniel "Johnson" Colgrove. Testimony from other witnesses implied that another member of this notorious family, Agnes "Jeeps" Colgrove, was involved.
The Karuk Tribe is the main group of Native Americans between Orleans and Yreka. Their native language is in the Hokan group, and they are linguistically related to the Shasta, Pit River and Yana tribes. The Yurok Tribe lives primarily downstream, from Weitchpec to the Coast. Their language is related to the Algonquian group. The Hoopa Tribe occupy the Hoopa Reservation on the Trinity River, and spoke an Athabascan Language. The culture of the three tribes is similar, and there is a lot of intermarriage. The native Americans involved in this case are primarily Karuk. Defendant Suzanne Aubrey Little is a mixture of Hupa, Karuk and Wiyot.  Before the white man came, there was a significant amount of feuding between family groups. There was no legal authority. Traditionally, the way to break a cycle of killing and revenge was for the killer's family to make an appropriate payment to the victim's family. There is no history of military action between the United States and the Karuk Tribe, but there were many individual conflicts and murders in the early days. There are probably no full-blood Karuks. The karuk tribe declined from about 2,500 in 1850 to about 900 in 1900, but then began to recover. currently, there are about 5,000 people who claim at least 1/8 karuk ancestry.  The Karuk tribe survived as well as it did because the gold deposits were not especially valuable. After the mining declined, there was little to attract white settlers to the canyon until commercial logging picked up in the 1960's.  In the 1850's relationships between white men and native women were generally rape, but by the 1870's the white men who remained on the river were more interested in making a life than in getting rich quick, and often married native women.    It is tempting to say that the white settlers were Scotch-Irish and brought with them the traditions of violence mentioned in "Albion's Seed." The name Croy is associated with Scotch-Irish settlers, but Aubrey appears to be a Norman name, and Colgrove is associated with Buckinghamshire in Southeast England.  The name Cook is probably English.  Willie's grandfather was white, and both of his parents were mixed. 
Of course, the introduction of methamphetamine into a culture that doesn't have a strong tradition of law and order has even more disastrous consequences than it does elsewhere. The susceptibility of Native Americans to alcoholism has a genetic basis, and there may be genetics involved in susceptibility to other drugs.

Update: The prosecution rested after presenting testimony from the medical examiner. The examiner said from what she could determine with a 30 year old body, the manner of death could be asphyxiation, consistent with the prosecution theory. However, it could also have been poisoning, a non-fracturing blow to the head, or a horrible slow death inside the barrel. She ruled out shooting, stabbing and skull fracture. In an embarrassment for the prosecution, the original medical examiner's report was lost, and the original medical examiner is now deceased.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Murder on the Klamath

The big local news story in Siskiyou County is a Hatfield-McCoy story of feuds and unsolved murders going back at least to 1976, when the body of six year old Willie Cook was found in a barrel near Happy Camp. The case went cold until last year, when some locals started to talk. The participants are several Native American families. Of course, the white men who married into these families were likely also Hatfield-McCoy types. The Siskiyou Daily News has been carrying detailed stories on the trial. I feel compelled to follow this story because I think I knew the main defendant, Greg Nelson, in 1973, when he was in the Youth Conservation Corps crew in Somes Bar. (That is an employment and training program for high school age kids.) I also talked sometimes with an in-law of the the other main defendant, Susanne Aubrey Little, at the local bar. He would have a few beers and start running down the Forest Service, which was my employer. He said he was proud that his one non-Indian grandfather was a German, not a white man. . .
A third alleged participant, Joyce Croy, now deceased, was related somehow to Patrick "Hoody" Croy, who was convicted a few years back of murdering a police officer near Yreka. However, a bay area appeals court overturned the conviction on the grounds that we are all racist in Siskiyou County.
The prosecution's case seems to be floundering, with witnesses providing hear/say, contradicting their earlier statements, and admitting to long-term meth addiction. One informant said he had a psychic vision that Nelson committed the murder. The investigators are recalled to the stand to explain what the witnesses really meant. One of the investigators let slip that an elderly witness, Sylvina Logan, may be slipping into dementia. Logan's house burned down, and the prosecution claims it was set by Nelson because Logan talked to the prosecution.

However, as shaky as the prosecution's case may be, it looks like Nelson has convicted himself at least as an accessory to murder and a kidnapping participant, by admitting to being on the scene and transporting the victim. Susanne Little's trial will follow.
One other facet of the case is a defense attempt to blame the murder on "Jeeps" a Hoopa woman whose real name was Agnes Colgrove. She would have been a logical suspect, having been in an out of prison several times. Sam, one of my coworkers when I was at Willow Creek, was her neighbor. He said whenever he went away, he would ask Jeeps to watch his place. He figured if the biggest thief around was watching your place for you it should be pretty safe. But she hasn't been placed in the area at the time of the kidnapping and murder, and a number of witnesses do implicate the defendants in one way or another.
The press has followed the custom of not mentioning the race of the defendants, but it did publish photos, and most locals know. Actually Nelson looks mostly white, but a lot of downriver people claim Native American even if they only have one eighth.

So why is this my first blog post? My main interests are gardening, peak oil and fishing. I guess like many, I have a certain fascination with the dark side of human nature. And the subject of race and crime needs a healthy dose of sunshine and objectivity.