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The Week in WTF

1. Sun-Times WTF?!, WTF?

In the interest of clarity, full disclosure and good hygiene, the Beachwood Reporter's "WTF" wishes to lay out the differences between us and the Sun-Times version of WTF.

First, the Sun-Times is obviously more chic.

Their definition:

The week in WTF?! By which we mean, of course, "Wow, that's fascinating!" Because during the last few days - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - what tom-foolery has taken place out on the Interwebs. Here's a look at the things that have caused us to say, "Whee! That's funny!

They link to many web videos they didn't actually create except by linking to them. Also, they use the words "tomfoolery" and "wow" without any self-conscious embarrassment. Also "whee!" which we believe is a sound effect more than a real word.

By comparison, our "WTF" is just us thinking out loud as normal people sometimes do. Nobody in the room but us chickens.

Also, even our moniker isn't nearly as clever. Ours just represents "What The Fuck."



We didn't have time to think of anything more chic, like maybe "What The F*ck."

But we have a focus group working on it.

2. LeBron James, WTF?

At this point, LeBron James is clearly ensconced atop the throne as King of Narcissism in the merry land of Oz, aided and abetted by ESPN. But it gets worse.

Fox Business Network scheduled a one-hour special after the hour-long ESPN genuflection revealing the choice.

The topic?

The financial implications of The Decision.

After that, there will be cable specials detailing the new burdens of suicide counselors in Akron and Cleveland, and then a show on Chicago Comcast analyzing how Carlos Boozer was a better investment.

Maybe I'm wrong. In fact, I'm sure of it. But what if LaBron James is just a very talented, hyper-marketed, attention-soaking loser?

3. Blago trial pundits, WTF?

Read the effing law. It can make you smarter

After listening to various Chicago media folk flounder in the muck trying to explain why they are baffled by the charges against Rod Blagojevich, here's a tip. Read the law. It's
18 U.S.C. 371.

Or just take in this helpful description:

Section 371's 'defraud' clause broadly applies to 'any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of (the federal) government.' It is not necessary that the conspiracy subject the government to property or pecuniary loss.

As in demanding money or personal considerations to name a United States senator.

Based on watching local media bloviate on this topic, it seems clear that A) they don't know what criminal conspiracy is, or, B) they don't think it's a real crime, like smacking your brother-in-law in the face with a shovel. But federal precedence is very clear: The feds consider conspiracy potentially worse than the crime under consideration.

4. Sun-Times editorial board, WTF?

We understand completely why the Sun-Times blames the stupid, stupid people of Illinois for electing the Greaseball in Good Suits twice as guv.

But geesh. Isn't this mustard a little too thick just to splatter in one direction, that being away from the Sun-Times?

You guys endorsed him twice which, the last time I noticed, was the way newspapers claim they know more about the candidates than the voters do. So, because we're the smart ones, all you schleps should do what we say.

Consider this fine piece of thought-provoking S-T analysis on October 20, 2006:

"There's no denying the cloud of scandal over his administration. One of his chief fund-raisers, Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, was indicted last week for alleged shakedowns for campaign contributions. More revelations likely will come right before the election when power broker Stuart Levine is expected to plead guilty. The governor said the charges against Rezko, if true, represent a personal betrayal by Rezko, and that he himself has never been involved in any unethical or illegal fund-raising. Our experience with Blagojevich prompts us to take him at his word. We've chosen to give him the benefit of the doubt and endorse him for a number of reasons."

Yes, let's take him at his word. Because taking people at their word is a bedrock technique of quality journalism.

5. Lake County prosecutors, WTF?

The prosecutors in Lake County continue to have a hard time with the concept of DNA evidence.

Jerry Hobbs, a low-level thug, drunk and easy "get" for the cops, has been in jail for five years awaiting trial for killing his young daughter and her friend. But DNA evidence assessed in 2008 - surprise! - clearly pointed to another suspect. They didn't know who; only that it wasn't Hobbs.

Now there's new evidence. Actually it appears all to be the same evidence that no one checked.

You'd have to guess the DNA evidence that now exonerates him in 2010 was available in 2005 and also in 2008. Prosecutors in Lake County simply don't believe much in DNA evidence, especially if it exonerates folks they've already convicted.

Even after the 2008 revelation, prosecutors nonetheless still insisted that Hobbs was guilty and should face the death penalty.

Hobbs confessed. There are lots of confessions in Lake County later disproved by DNA evidence. An inquisitive person might make whatever judgment is likely from that history.
Lake County may be the only criminal jurisdiction in the western world where prosecutors smirk at black-latter, scientifically unassailable DNA evidence and, in fact, try to concoct bizarre theories to disprove it.

What also seems apparent is that committed, ardent teams of interrogators, unhampered by video documentation or the presence of defense lawyers, can extract confessions from innocent defendants. And when then prosecutor makes up his or her mind immediately, there is little inspiration for police to pursue another candidate.

In a TV interview with Fox's Greta Van Sustren two days after the Hobbs murder on Mothers Day 2005, Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller had no doubts about Hobbs' guilt or that, despite contradictions in Hobbs' confession, felons often get the details in their confessions confused. There is no video of Hobbs' 19-hour interrogation. Or that police and prosecutors there considered anyone else until now.

Hobbs forgot to mention in his confession that the girl was raped. Prosecutors forgot to charge him with it. Or that Hobbs had no blood on the same clothes he was wearing the night of the girl's death.

If all this sounds depressingly familiar, consider other Lake County cases plagued by DNA improbabilities. Prosecutors still say Bennie Starks raped a 68-year-old woman in 1986. After he was convicted, matching DNA samples showed it wasn't Starks. The gap was 20 years.

He got a new trial and was released on bond in 2006 after doing 20 years of a 60-year sentence. But prosecutors there seem intent on trying him again.

The Juan Rivera case remains the pinnacle of how Lake County prosecutors skip through the looking glass into an alternate world of evidence. Rivera was sentenced to life in prison in 2009. It was his third trial - all convictions and two of them overturned on appeal - in the rape and murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker in 1992.

This one seems preposterous, except that word is insufficient for the details.

Though Rivera "confessed" to the crime and later recanted - notice again how "confession" seems a recurring theme in Lake County - defense experts have said that semen found in the girl's body didn't come from him. The DNA evidence proves that. Prosecutors agree that what's the DNA shows.

So he's innocent, right?

Not so fast.

Here's where the story took an odder turn.

Lake County prosecutors, primarily chief deputy Michael Mermel and his boss, Waller, then offer bizarre scenarios in which victims can be murdered by someone other than the man whose semen is found at the scene, including inside the victims' bodies. Their view of semen seems to be that it's a naturally occurring fluid that can be found floating in the air, and clings to nearby trees and flowers where young children rub against it.

Mermel described the Hobbs DNA evidence this way: "None of the sperm was found in a significant place."

Questions? There are many.

How can semen found on a dead girl's body have gone unknown or unnoticed for five years?

A new law requiring rape kits to be tested might help in the future, but it can't overcome willful disregard by a prosecutor intent on ignoring it.

Or maybe this one: For a case that prosecutors decided was open and shut, why has it taken five years for a trial that now seems unlikely to occur?

Or maybe this: How many murderers are on the loose in Lake County because the legal establishment there has the Inspector Clouseau Team at the helm?


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, a Sun-Times Media property.


Comments welcome.


Previously in The Week in WTF:
* TWIWTF: Walter Jacobson, Mark Kirk, the Sun-Times
* TWIWTF: Conrad Murray, Jim Laski, Notre Dame Nation
* TWIWTF: Chris Zorich, Eddie and Jobo, Blago.
* TWIWTF: Burge, Zambrano, Tyree


Also by David Rutter:
* The Lords of Ireland.

* Speaking of Notre Dame . . .

* Scheduling Notre Dame.

* Spade Robs Farley's Grave.

* Gov. Fester.

* Black Talks, Zell Walks.

* Roeper's Games.


* An excerpt from Rutter's Olga's War


Posted on July 9, 2010

MUSIC - School Of Rock Realizes How White It Is.
TV - A Plea To Matt Nagy.
POLITICS - Social Media Platforms Remove War Crimes Evidence.
SPORTS - 100 Choices Better Than La Russa.

BOOKS - Maps For Migrants And Ghosts.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Doing Philosophy At UIC.

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