I’ll never forget that news footage. A man, under arrest for murder, was being escorted by police through an airport. At the right side of one frame was a man drinking at a fountain. Suddenly, shots rang out – the suspect was hit.

The camera swung to the right and we saw that the drinking man was also the shooting man. He was the father of the murder victim.

I understood his fury and, while legally he was wrong, I admit, I could not condemn him. I still can’t.

He knew that in our courts the guilty man would be pandered to by the liberal legal system and media and, through it all, his son was still dead.

There was a time when people took justice in their own hands, particularly when there was no law or when existing law was corrupt. It was vigilante justice. Today, that’s regarded as uncivilized.

Is it?

From my local newspapers yesterday and today:

Consider:

From Sarasota, Fla., word that the body of 11-year of Carlie Brucia was found near a church parking lot, five days after she disappeared on her way home from a pajama party. In a bizarre turn, her abduction was captured on a car-wash security camera, as she took a short-cut through the property.

The initial suspect, and now accused – one Joseph Peter Smith – was the owner of the car seen in the video. He’s no stranger to the law. His rap sheet is a mile long – arrested at least 13 times in Florida since 1993, on charges including kidnapping, false imprisonment, possession of heroin, prescription-drug fraud, possession of cocaine and aggravated battery. Add to that a string of paroles and parole violations, as well as delinquencies in paying court fees.

Smith was in violation of parole when picked up this time. Now we’ve added arrests for kidnapping and murder to his resume. As I write this, we don’t know how Carlie died or if she was sexually attacked.

Why was this man on the street? Why did the system allow the judges and the probation officers to let this slip? Why didn’t the judge order a parole hearing? Why didn’t the parole officers insist on it?

Saying they had no choice is not acceptable, but that’s what Florida Corrections Secretary James vs. Crosby Jr. claims.

Circuit Judge Happy Rapkin, who never saw Smith in court and did nothing even when notified twice of parole violations is tap-dancing: “If I thought that not signing a warrant caused this girls’ death, I’d quit. I couldn’t live with myself. But that didn’t happen. I did my job.”

Right Judge, and Carlie is still dead. Please, for starters, quit!

Consider:

In Oakland, Calif., Kenneth Parnell is on trial. He’s a convicted child predator now on trial for soliciting a kidnapping, attempted child stealing and trying to buy a person. He asked a friend to help him buy a young, black boy for $500.

This guy has history. In 1972, he kidnapped 7-year-old Steven Stayner, keeping him prisoner for 8 years, renaming him and sending him to school. In 1980, he had a friend snatch another child, 5-year-old Timmy White.

Not wanting Timmy to go through what he had, Steven took Timmy, hitched a ride and went to the police. Parnell did time but was on the streets again until his arrest in December 2002.

A grown-up Timmy White testified against him yesterday, but defense attorney Deborah Levy asked for a mistrial because White had undergone hypnosis back in 1980 (he was 5!) in conjunction with the first trial. The judge denied the request, but Levy isn’t satisfied.

Plus, she said, the effect on the jury of the information about Parnell’s pattern of kidnapping children would be minimal.

“I don’t think it helps … because these are acts Mr. Parnell did 20 or 30 years ago. His intent (this time, 2002) was to obtain a child – not to snatch one off the street.”

Oh, I see. It’s OK to buy a child (a black boy, at that) but not to snatch one. Uh-huh.

Why is this woman practicing law? Why was Parnell on the loose? Wonder why we’re in trouble?

Consider:

Area counties were kept in the dark as to where Cary Verse, a sexually violent predator would be released this week. His rap sheet is filled with sex crimes, including a 1992 attack on a man in a homeless shelter.

Word just came through that he’s released to posh Marin County – even the police weren’t warned.

He’s the second one. The first, Brian DeVries – a notorious child molester – got out last August to huge pubic uproar. In fact, the court said then, if a place wasn’t found for him secretly, it would order DeVries released with no monitoring!

Cary Verse will undergo outpatient treatment, a lie-detector and drug testing, wear a tracking bracelet and submit to searches, but thanks to Superior Court Judge John Minney, Verse’s whereabouts remain secret.

There’s no word whether the good judge plans to quit if Verse attacks someone else.

Consider:

Kevin Cooper is scheduled for execution, Feb. 10, for the 1982 hacking-stabbing deaths of Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica and their 11-year-old houseguest, Chris Hughes. Cooper had escaped from prison two days earlier, while serving burglary sentence.

The governor denied clemency, but the defense filed suit to stop the execution, saying that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

“Why is this killer still alive?”

And consider:

California’s Attorney General Bill Lockyer says that the state’s sex-offender registry is broken. More than 33,000 rapists and child molesters didn’t register as required. (They’re on the loose!) It’ll cost $15 million annually to track them down!

I don’t know. Maybe the old way was better. Find the guilty and string ’em up. At least you’d know where they are – they’d never hurt anyone else … and think of the money we’d save.

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