Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

Katie Halper of Salon – fast and loose with the facts

Posted by DNW on 2013/06/17


When someone, in this instance Katie Halper of Salon, is caught out playing fast and loose with facts in a transparent attempt to whip up a little progressive mob action, how are we to judge the author and her intentions? Barely sublimated narrative malice is after all, the common coin of progressive political narration. The disposition toward malice is taken for granted by most alert readers as being part of the architecture of the run-of-the-mill leftist mind. So, when we come across news articles which in passing misrepresent the facts of  some leftist cause de jour, we tend not to blink.

When however, the construction of the false narrative is rather more elaborate than usual, we pause.

Wandering from news link to news link recently, I came across this mess , ‘Stand your ground’ law helps white defendants a lot more than black ones” Double standards and all of that .

In her essay, Halper poses two Florida cases, “Wald” and “Alexander”, as examples of notorious and especially invidious legal outcomes resulting from what is generally called a no retreat self-defense or “stand your ground” plea.

Wald, who was a white male, got off on a justifiable force plea after killing an intruder in his house. This was bad. Alexander, who is black, went to jail for  for assultively firing a gun in a house she had once shared with her spouse. This is however not good, but also bad. But perhaps we are getting a little ahead of ourselves …

The relevant Florida statute reads in part:

1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred. 776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.

Halper’s narrative strategy is to illustrate her double standard contention with descriptions of what she offers up as two relevant paradigm cases. Halper concludes that the divergent outcomes for defendants Ralph Wald and Marissa Alexander (in these purportedly legally comparable events) is attributable to the race of the defendants. Halper writes:

“The disparity between these outcomes should be shocking. But, sadly, it’s not, once you take into account the fact that Wald is white and Alexander is black.”

Now,  it soon enough becomes apparent that Halper’s real purpose is not so much retrospective and legal as proactive and political. She wishes to use these cases to sound a more particular alarm: warning the progressive troops that while no “stand your ground” claim has yet been made in the Martin-Zimmerman case, as ” Zimmerman waived his right to a “stand your ground” pretrial hearing …”  she nonetheless considers it ” is likely that ‘stand your ground’ will come up during the actual trial.” And, Halper wonders, ” If it does, [and ] … the defense is successful. Will Zimmerman end up a free man, like Wald?”

So it’s to prime the troops for a little, or a lot of, anti-Zimmerman street action as much as any other reason that this is written. But the obvious poisoning of the well aside, what author and left-wing activist  Katie Halper more overtly purports to do, is to draw a contrast in supposedly egregious judicial outcomes between two putatively legally alike cases.

So, just as an exercise, let’s place Halper’s preemptive attempt to de-legitimize a defense which Zimmerman’s defense team has not in fact made, aside for a moment. Let’s instead consider whether the two exemplar cases she cites are even truly alike. In aid of doing so, we ask: is her presentation of the material anything like honest or evenhanded?

Let’s review the first instance in Halper’s parable of racial disparity, injustice, and unequal treatment, which centers on Ralph Wald.

Katie Halper introduces Wald thus,

“On March 10 of this year, around midnight, Ralph Wald, 70, of Brandon, Fla., got out of bed  to get a drink and found Walter Conley, 32, having sex with his wife, Johanna Lynn Flores, 41, in the living room. He immediately went back into his bedroom, grabbed his gun and shot Conley three times.”

Now, the “Think Progress” site, which Halper cites twice in succession as an authority for Conley being Flores’ lover, establishes the background somewhat differently:

“Ralph Wald, a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran, walked into his home around midnight, and less than ten seconds later, fired three shots at Walter Conley, according to ABC News.” Italicized divergences.

Halper, unfortunately,  does not bother to inform us as to why she believes the Think Progress site was a trustworthy source for information on Conley and Flores’ status lovers, but not for a description of the exact circumstances proximate to the shooting.

1. Did Wald walk into his house as Think Progress has it, or did he arise from sleep? Halper does not follow Think Progress there, but does not say why.

2. We also note that as part of the process of establishing context or characterization, Think Progress thought fit to include the factoid that Wald was a Vietnam veteran. This, Halper either also fails to notice, or dismisses without explanation. Her mind is obviously focused elsewhere.

But, as we see when reviewing a number of other articles, besides being as Halper describes him, an impotent 70 year old white man, Wald was 1. a Vietnam veteran, 2. a retired Lieutenant Colonel, and 3. the father of a then 20 year old daughter from a previous marriage.

To then recap the fact situation somewhat more comprehensively (and comparably, as we will see later): It was midnight and retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Wald, a 70 year old Vietnam veteran, and father of an adult daughter, had been sleeping in his house.  Wald awoke from his sleep only to find a man on top of his wife in his  own living room. Wald reportedly retrieved a gun from his bedroom, returned, and shot the man three times.

The man was apparently so preoccupied with his activities, or indifferent to their discovery, that he never bothered to decouple and decamp when Wald retreated to his bedroom in order to arm himself against the intruder.

The sticking points for Halper’s moral slide rule seem to be Wald’s age and impotence, along with the reported fact that the man having sex with, or raping, Wald’s wife on the living room floor of Wald’s house in the middle of the night, was a sometime current neighbor, and her one time boyfriend. Apparently Halper believes that this past association somehow made the neighbor’s presence in both Wald’s house and wife, excusable; or at least nonthreatening in some way.

Unfortunately for Halper’s insinuated no-harm no-foul thesis, Wald’s wife Johnna Lynn Flores,  the actual recepient of Conley’s living room floor delivered sexual attentions, is not of much assistance in granting us this particular progressive reassurance.  The Tampa Bay reports:

“Flores, the surviving central actor in the episode besides Wald, testified she was “black-out” drunk the night of the shooting after consuming a large quantity of cognac and remembered almost nothing.”

Halper seems wary that this “minor detail” might imply trouble for her theory, as she defensively admits,

“… while the fact that the two were lovers doesn’t imply consent, Flores has never accused Conley of rape — nor do prosecutors buy that that’s what Wald actually thought was happening.”

No, she is right in this; it does not imply consent. Flores was, on her own testimony blacked out and incapable of remembering anything.

We naturally suspect that if this sexual episode had taken place on, say, a college campus, with Flores an alcohol or drug besotted and blacked out coed, that Halper would be asserting there was a prima facie case that Flores had been de facto , if somehow not legally, raped. We would tend to agree. And note too, Halper’s trust of the prosecutors’ judgment with this statement:

” Flores has never accused Conley of rape — nor do prosecutors buy that that’s what Wald actually thought was happening”.

This trusting attitude will be much less evident later, once Halper begins work arranging her version of the Alexander case. And, while Halper makes much of the fact that the deceased was a former boyfriend of Flores, and an apparently occasional next door neighbor whom Wald might have recognized – and then presumably spared – Wald’s wife Johanna Flores, the recipient of Conley’s sexual attentions, had a somewhat different view of the outcome.

What was Johanna Flores’ own verdict on the verdict? ”

“I am elated, absolutely elated,” Flores said outside the Tampa courtroom where her spouse, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ralph Wald, 70, was acquitted of second-degree murder Thursday. Once Wald was released from jail, she said, he had promised her a special celebration. “Because my husband puts me first, he’s taking me to the Waffle House,” Flores said.”  Tampa Bay Times

What then of Conley?

In the second instance of Katie Halper’s parable, the moral character of both Marissa Alexander the shooter, and Rico Gray the abusive husband will become hammering points as she labors to establish exculpating factors in the Alexander case which will help to prove racial bias. So, what of Conley’s character then? Why has that not been introduced more thoroughly? We do remember him. He is after all, the dead “lover” in the Wald case. And Halper even thought fit to include the fact that he had a tattoo honoring Johanna.

Well, in the words of a Mail Online article which Halper cited for the authority that Wald showed no remorse in killing Conley, but which she failed to actually quote, we find this eminently quotable nugget:

Ms Flores was arrested last October – just two weeks before she and Wald were married – for allegedly firing a shot of Conley. She said he came over and refused to leave. Conley told police Flores invited him back to the home they used to share. She and Conley, who had a record of petty thefts and worked as a laborer, had shared a house next door to Wald in the community of Brandon. Flores allegedly shot at Conley at 3am on October 19. She and Wald were dating then and he bailed her out of jail. Those charges were later dropped. Ms Flores and Wald married on October 25. Wald, a U.S. Army veteran, has a 20-year-old daughter with a previous wife.

So, in order to drive him away, and in a period prior her marriage to Wald, Johanna Flores had herself shot at Conley – months before her husband finally killed him using the same technique.

Wald, a retired – if 70 and impotent- Lieutenant Colonel; Conley, a petty thief killed while shagging the “blacked out” wife (who had already shot at him) of another man, in the middle of the night, in that man’s own house, in that man’s own living room.

In the Alexander case, as sad as the eventual legal outcome was for Marissa Alexander, the facts on the ground, and the proximate circumstances, are clearly different. But before we start in on the physical facts, let’s make specific note of how Halper introduces Marissa Alexander:

“On Aug. 1, 2010, Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of three, with a master’s degree and no criminal record, was working for a payroll software company in Jacksonville.”

Compare that again with the treatment she delivers Wald, “On March 10 of this year, around midnight, Ralph Wald, 70, of Brandon, Fla., got out of bed  to get a drink and…”

Again, for Wald, no “Vietnam veteran”; no, father of a daughter; no, retired Lieutenant Colonel; and no mention of a previously clean legal record. Just a description of a supposedly cuckolded and impotent old man, who killed his wife’s lover in a fit of jealousy, when in search of a drink, he got out of bed and discovered them.

On then, to the description of setting in the Alexander case.

First, although the way Halper describes the context in Alexander’s case is jarringly sketchy and telegraphic, it is still clear enough to show that when Marissa Alexander committed aggravated assault with a firearm, the location in which the event occurred was not her current home, and she was not confronting  an unrelated midnight intruder. Instead, Alexander (on testimony and report) went to a dwelling which she had once shared with her spouse Rico Gray.

Thus, according to Halper’s own account, Marissa Alexander  ” … went to their former house to get some belongings.” Halper asserts Marissa Alexander did this thinking, “he [Rico Gray] was not at home”. However, “he”, her estranged husband Rico Gray, was home; whether she knew it or not.

Halper, now switching to one of those really neat passive voices wherein shit just magically happens, says, “The two got into an argument.” And, “Alexander says that Gray threatened her and she feared for her life.”

Ok … Halper then does something seemingly odd for anyone looking to present an objective and informative version of events, but something which makes sense for a polemicist trying to be clever. She angles to base her exculpatory recounting of Marissa Alexander’s actions not on neutral police reports, but on the testimony of the formally aggrieved party: performing a little rhetorical judo so to speak.

In this instance the legally aggrieved party of record is ostensibly Rico Gray, the husband of Alexander. It is Gray who is posited (his kids actually are) as the victim of the aggravated assault charge involving Alexander’s felonious use of a firearm.

Halper aims to undermine the State of Florida aggravated assault charge against Alexander by impeaching her husband Gray with his own words. But now remember, it is really the kids who are the state’s main motivation in bringing charges. Halper then, ostensibly referencing Rico Gray’s deposition of the encounter, tells us,

“When Alexander retreated into the bathroom, Gray tried to break the door. She ran into the garage, but couldn’t leave because it was locked.  She came back, he said, with a registered gun, which she legally owned …”

At a glance, we therefore assume Halper is quoting Gray’s damning admissions in the deposition document directly. The elisions are naturally taken to be all Halper’s. Thus Halper, superficially quoting Gray’s deposition, writes:

” I called her a whore and bitch and … I told her … if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you,” he said, in a deposition.”

But for anyone who actually bothers to check the link under the words “he said”, he finds not a legal deposition, but  an outraged opinion piece written by Fred Grimm of the Miami Herald. Here is how Grimm wrote it up:

“Sitting in the State Attorney’s Office, Gray described how he had erupted in anger when he discovered text messages on his wife’s phone to another man. (Alexander had moved out, but had come home briefly that day to retrieve her clothes.) “I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and . . . I told her, you know, I used to always tell her that, if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you. It was not the first time of ever saying it to her.”

Halper did then add an ellipsis to those Grimm used; but she  might better have helped the cause of truth  if she had quoted Grimm a little more extensively rather than elliptically:

“Marissa fired the gun twice that day into the wall. No one was injured. But the State Attorney’s Office said the reckless discharge of a firearm endangered the children. A jury (never told about the mandatory 20-year sentence) agreed. Circuit Judge James Daniel, handing down the verdict, noted that because of the state law, the sentencing decision “has been entirely taken out of my hands.” emphasis added.

Oh yeah, there were those kids in the room. Halper does of course mention them as being there; almost in passing as part of Grays self-critical depositional assessment of his own behavior. But she does not clearly stipulate why Alexander was really charged as she was: which was because the shots were discharged in a dwelling in the presence of kids (one of whom a little research will show was apparently next to the man whom Alexander was trying to impress with her no retreat seriousness of purpose). Or as one news source put it:

“Alexander, 31, claims she fired a shot from a handgun into the wall to protect herself during a confrontation with her husband, who she said had abused her. Because his two children were with them when she fired a shot in his direction, she was charged with three counts of aggravated assault.”2012 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved Emphaisis added

Nor in Halper’s attempt to establish this as a legally comparable case to Wald which ended in racially motivated and disproportionate justice, does Halper mention the following “little fact”: After the shooting event of August 10 2010, and after her booking on the aggravated assault charge, Marissa Alexander was freed on bond.

Ordered to stay away from her ex husband, she nonetheless, 5 months later on December 30th of the same year violated her probation, and was arrested on a charge of domestic violence for assaulting Rico Gray at his Brockett Way home address.

Photographs were taken into evidence of his [in my view relatively minor] facial abrasions and swelling.

Marissa Alexander was then contacted by the police via phone; and, after initially claiming she had an “alibi”, eventually consented to meet with an officer: REPORTShe was arrested and remained jailed until her trial over the aggravated assault charge involving the children.

In perusing the various news accounts it appears that Alexander could have made a defensive pleading at trial on a basis other than “stand your ground”, but chose not to do so.  She opted to try for the so-called “stand your ground” defense instead.

However, ” …  a Duval circuit judge rejected her Stand Your Ground defense. The judge decided that Alexander could have fled instead of running into the garage and fetching the pistol from her car. ‘This is inconsistent with a person in genuine fear of his or her life,’ the judge ruled — illustrating, if nothing else, that the effectiveness of the controversial self-defense statute varies wildly from one Florida circuit to the next.”

Whether it affected the judge’s decision or not, it is interesting to note how the law  reads regarding the presumptive coverage of the right. It says,

(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or …

It should also be noted that despite all this, Alexander was offered a reduced three year sentence plea by the same prosecutor who is in now charge of the Zimmerman case, Angela Corey.

Corey further indicated that she might have offered an even greater reduction (than three years instead of a potential 20) but it was Marissa Alexander’s violation of the terms of her probation over the outstanding aggravated assault charge, a bond violation which also resulted in her arrest for domestic battery, which made an even greater reduction of sentence offer on the part of prosecutors problematical.

In any event Alexander turned the 3 year offer of reduced time down. And now, unfortunately, she is in jail, sentenced to 20 years. But it is not because she’s black.

Where does all this leave Katie Halper? It leaves her holding title to what can only be, given the sources she herself cites, a deliberately deceitful narrative; a narrative intended to poison the well of public and perhaps even judicial opinion, in order to harm a third party’s interests.

That Halper has done this, is clear evidence of malice. That she has done it so blatantly, and expected it to pass, is persuasive evidence of stupidity.

Halper certainly looks guilty on both counts.

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