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  • Misdemeanor Murders

    Misdemeanor Murders

    “In politics stupidity is not a handicap.” Napoleon Bonaparte

    ‘Misdemeanor Murder’ is a term used in a derogatory fashion when referring to certain types of murders. Rather than a legal designation, it is an ideological concept pertaining to certain types of murders that humanize the criminal and demonize the victim within the criminal justice system. This term is quite often used by the media or persons working in law enforcement trying to downplay the importance (or in these cases, the lack of importance) to these non-consequential murders. Another appropriate name for this type of murder would be ‘Conditional Murder”. There are many conditions such as ‘depending on’s or ‘subject to’s attached to this type of crime.

    The definition of misdemeanor is any crime less serious than a felony. Misdemeanors are generally punished less severely. Sometime only with monetary fines.1 An example of a misdemeanor crime is first-time DUI perpetrators who are usually given a fine of $1000 – 1500 fine and a suspended license. First time DUI offenders do not get jail time.

    In some commonwealth countries, the misdemeanor/felony terminology is no longer used. Instead these two types of crimes are distinguished by different dialogue: they are called summary offences and indictable offences.

    In Canada misdemeanor crimes (summary offences) are considered to be crimes that are given no and/or small jail sentences; felonies (indictable offences) are the only crimes considered to be crimes worthy of high jail sentences.

    The murder of our son, Brian Ludwig, was one of these Misdemeanor Murders. We were told bluntly by a police Detective that Brian’s murder was not a high profile enough murder in the media which in turn affected the Crown Prosecutors office. There was not enough glory attached to Brian’s murder to motivate the Crown to keep its check-book open. Therefore, the budget for continuing the investigation of Brian’s murder had been depleted. In July of 2014, the Crown Prosecutor suggested to us this was the case and it was the Crown Prosecutor who made the decision to stay the charges. In October 2014, the Detective told us he had no more authorization for funds to continue with the investigation and he doubted that he get any more funds approved.

    The commentary from the Crown Prosecutor that “we need someone to come forward with a video” makes more sense when viewed through the eyes of a government department watching the bottom line. They know someone was videoing the scenario. That person never came forward and there were no more funds to continue to find that person.

    The money well had run dry.

    Misdemeanor murders are treated with dis-respect by all members of the law enforcement and media establishment. Brian’s murder along with thousands of other ‘lesser’ murders needs to be talked about, told and re-told. He needs to be treated better than the way he was treated in the early morning hours of the 26th August 2012. He deserves respect, not disdain; honor not abhorrence; belief not agnosticism.

    He was treated like a piece of garbage that morning by a group of five men. All friends. The most inhumane thing a man can do to another man is to kill him.

    Brian has also been treated with disdain by the Canadian Judicial system. There are two sides to every story and so far, in the Canadian Judicial system, it is one-sided and very bigoted in favor of the criminal. The Judicial system is not mandated to tell the 'other side’ of the story (that of the criminal’s victim.) And yet without the other side, these law enforcement people would be out of a job. They are hypocrites.

    The following types of murders are in this category called ‘Misdemeanor’ murders, but not necessarily restricted to it. By that I mean that there are exceptions whereby the police, crown prosecutors (district attorneys in the USA) and judiciary do take some of these murders much more seriously. The One-Punch Homicides that are treated more seriously are accompanied by another indictable offense. However, those particular cases are few and far between. In all of the following examples, jail sentences are very light (from 4 months to 2 years less a day) or none at all.

    1. Murder of Prostitutes – this group includes all ethnicity groups and skin color. This group includes the murder of indigenous women;

    2. Murder of a wife by her husband – this group of murdered women are always categorized under ‘domestic’ abuse;

    3. One-Punch Homicides; special note here - when a woman is punched in the head by her husband and dies, this is very rarely called a ‘one-punch homicide’; this murder is always characterized as ‘domestic’ violence;

    4. Murders committed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;2

    5. Regular vehicular homicide;

    6. Criminally Negligent Homicide; Example: on January 29, 2014 in Springfield, OR., Gerald Strebendt shot and killed 53-year-old David Paul Crofut, during an altercation following a traffic collision between the two drivers' vehicles. He was initially charged with murder, but the charges were later dropped to Criminally Negligent homicide;

    7. Murders committed AGAINST drug addicts or alcoholics;

    8. Murders committed AGAINST homeless people;

    9. Infanticide. Two dozen nations have decreased penalties for mothers who kill their baby before the age of one year.

    These are the forgotten people; the throw-away people.

    Another example of a ‘Misdemeanor Murder’, Ottawa, ON, Canada: Beginning at 2:53 AM on the 25th June 2006 an outdoor video surveillance camera captured the final 2 minutes and 45 seconds of the life of 18 year old Timothy Andrew Wojna from the moment he encountered 3 verbally abusive men on an Ottawa sidewalk to the moment when the coward, Mohammad Jihad Tabbara, punched him on the back of his head. In the video, Timothy Wojna resembled a rag doll just before he hit the pavement. Wojna died about an hour later in the hospital.

    This attack was an unprovoked attack by 21 year old Mohammed Jihad Tabbara, aided by 2 of his friends. For this terrible crime, Jihad Tabbara received a jail sentence of 2 years less 6 days.7

    In June 2014, a 17 year old killed 59 year old Ildefonso Romero 3 with one-punch outside the man's Bronx home. The 17 year old received a five-month sentence.

    In the states of Florida, Louisiana and Texas, law enforcement officials actually use the term ‘Misdemeanor Murder’ in a derogatory way when referring to certain types of murders. In Texas, the Dallas Morning News found that at least 120 times from 2000 through 2006, in murder trials, probation was given instead of a jail sentence. In Dallas County twice as many murderers were put on probation as were sent to death row. Most of these murder-probations are given to minorities who murder minorities, especially when the victim had engaged in illegal or immoral activity and when the victim has no relatives or friends. Defense lawyers are able to reduce sympathy for the victim.1 New Orleans is often accused of institutionalized "misdemeanor murder”. In Louisiana, there is an article 701 in the criminal code that effectively through incompetence of their judiciary, results in 60 day sentences for people charged with murder. These are a “Misdemeanor” murders. They actually call them that. In New Orleans, they also call them ’60 day’ murders.

    One of the identifying characteristics of a Misdemeanor Murder is the lack of sympathy for the murder victim within the media, the police forces and the crown prosecutors’ offices (District Attorney in the USA). For example, “in a 2001 article, the St. Petersburg Times reported a drifter convicted of murder fifteen years ago had his conviction overturned. The reporter refers to the original case as the kind lawyers call a "misdemeanor murder" due to lack of sympathy for the victim who was a teenage crack addict and prostitute”. 2

    Another identifying characteristic is the attachment of blame to the murder victim who in the opinion of the media/law enforcement/judiciary was a participant in their own death. A classic example of this is the One-Punch homicide of 58 year old Donald Greg Foran4 outside a Taco Bell in Calgary, AB in 2009 when he was approached by a homeless man (Christopher Thomas Guthrie) asking for money. Mr. Foran refused, said something to the assailant and was punched once in the face, falling and hitting his head on the pavement. Mr. Foran scolding Guthrie for begging is not an excuse to treat this murder like it was a lesser criminal act.

    I see two problems when dealing with all crimes in our judicial system. One is the definition of murder and the second is priorities with which jail time is meted out for crimes.

    A. Definition of murder in jurisdictions around the globe:

    The definition and understanding of murder around the globe is literally all over the spectrum. It ranges from the abstract to the harebrained.

    The Online-dictionary definition is “The killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law.” (Conditions Attached.)

    Merriam-Webster Definition: “the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought”. (Conditions Attached.)

    Wikipedia says: “Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification or valid excuse, (is this not a harebrained statement – does anyone need a valid excuse to kill?) especially the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought. This state of mind may, depending upon the jurisdiction, distinguish murder from other forms of unlawful homicide, such as manslaughter. Manslaughter is a killing committed in the absence of malice, brought about by reasonable provocation, or diminished capacity. Involuntary manslaughter, where it is recognized, is a killing that lacks all but the most attenuated guilty intent (mens rea), recklessness.” (Conditions Attached.)

    Murder is further defined by country. For example in the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime. (Conditions Attached.)

    In Finland, murder is defined as homicide with at least one of four aggravating factors: The following conditions are attached.

    1. Deliberate intent

    2. Exceptional brutality or cruelty

    3. Significantly endangering public safety

    4. Committed against a public official engaged in enforcing the law.5

    Other countries also have their peculiar definition of what constitutes murder. In Pakistan, honor killings are not considered murder. (Harebrained).

    If only certain killings of one human by another is considered murder, where does that leave the majority of human-based killing?

    B. Priorities of what constitutes a crime worthy of jail time:

    There are many non-violent crimes committed by offenders who receive jail sentences – in many cases long ones – who shouldn’t go to jail. Some of those are 1.) Blackmail/embezzlement/bribery/extortion; 2.) burglary/robbery/theft; 3.) false pretenses/fraud; larceny; 4.) possession of stolen property or drugs; 5.) tax evasion; 6.) bigamy.

    Obviously, some of the above mentioned crimes do entail violence and this would place them in a different category. For example, the recent riots in the United States whereby the protesters burned and trashed cars, broke windows in stores, etc. places these crimes in the violent category.

    Perhaps better punishment for non-violent crimes is to not put them in jail whereby they cannot work, but to give them sentences that hit them in the pocket book. Make them pay back to their victims that which they either stole or destroyed. Perhaps, house arrest and or ankle bracelets. Also, perhaps some form of community work in line with the length of the jail sentence that they would have received. I think a famous example of this is Martha Stewart. She should never have received jail time. In Mexico, men who don’t pay their child support actually go to jail. Where is the logic to this? How can they work when in jail?

    Reserve the jail space for offenders who commit rape, assault, murder, arson, cruelty towards animals, armed robbery, kidnapping, assassination, false imprisonment, human trafficking. All violent crimes.

    That is just my suggestion.

    Nothing is going to change until we redefine ‘murder’ in our societies all around the globe and take all murders seriously. Shooting someone over a traffic argument is reckless murder. Strangling a prostitute because she asks you for money is reckless murder. Punching a defenceless person in the back of the head is reckless murder. Australia has made giant steps to recognize that One-Punch Homicides need to be separated from this mass of lesser murders and dealt with accordingly.

    I would wager a bet that if some of the individuals who work in law enforcement, crown prosecutors (district attorneys in the USA) and judiciary suffered the murder of a child by an action that is considered a misdemeanor, they would change their ideology very quickly.

    By simply slapping these criminals on the wrist and letting them off, we are not teaching them to take responsibility for their actions.

    In closing, I am going to use another example. In 1989, Canadian Olympic gold-medalist swimmer, Victor Davis, was run down by Glen Crossley outside a Montreal night club. He and Victor Davis had a disagreement earlier inside the night club. Crossley went outside and waited for Davis to appear. When Davis was in the middle of the road, Crossley ran him down with his vehicle and then left the scene of the crime. Crossley received 10 months for this murder, of which he served only 4. 27 years later, in September 2016, Crossley pushed a 70-year old grandfather down some stairs in a bar in La Salle, Quebec killing him and is back before the court, charged with manslaughter – again. Crossley has shown no responsibility for his first murder and now has murdered again.

    I knew Victor Davis. The last time I saw him was about 1985 at one of the last swim meets he swam at professionally. He was a very exciting Olympian. What a waste of a beautiful life. His death is another example of a ‘Misdemeanor Murder’.

    Men who kill another human being for any reason whatsoever, are a very big problem. This problem is an epidemic – casually punching people in the head – and needs to be addressed.

    I am not pretending to have all the answers. Actually, I have probably none of the answers. But I think the blood of these senseless murders are on the hands of all of those of you who work in law enforcement, crown prosecutors (district attorneys in the USA) and judiciary.

    This topic is such a complex one, a book could pro ably be written on the subject. I am only hoping to bring some awareness to the general public on behalf of the people who have suffered from one of these Misdemeanor Murders.

    Author: Angela Ludwig

    February 2017

    1 Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misdemeanor

    2 http://donotpassgeaux.blogspot.mx/2007/04/misdemeanor-murder.html

    3 https://thebronxchronicle.com/2014/12/22/klein-sepulveda-unveil-ildefonso-romeros-law-2/

    4 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/single-punch-assault-charge-raised-to-manslaughter-1.812299

    5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_(Finnish_law)

    6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misdemeanor_murder

    7 https://www.scribd.com/document/34771316/Decision-to-sentence-Mohammad-Jihad-Tabbara-to-2-years-less-a-day-for-manslaughter

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