Tag Archives: Arizona

Too Far Too Fast

The Warren Court had made a habit… out of rewriting Constitutional law.  Landmark civil rights cases such as Baker vs. Carr and Brown v. Board of Education drastically altered the segregated South, while Engel vs. Vitale and Griswold vs. Connecticut would fuel the culture wars for decades to come.  It was the criminal procedure mandates handed down by Earl Warren that have drawn his court’s legacy into question.  Brady vs. Maryland, Gideon vs. Wainwright, and  Escobedo vs. Illinois radically altered due process and police procedure, some argue to the detriment of law enforcement.  No other case symbolizes the Warren Court’s activism better than Miranda vs. Arizona, handed down on June 13, 1966.

Legislating from the bench

Few cases are as misunderstood…and detested as the ‘Miranda’ ruling.  The basic holding was that due process begins when a suspect is taken into custody, not when they enter legal proceedings.  Warren was not satisfied with a simple procedural question, taking the decision to the Constitutional level-

The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.

“The Court is not a general haven for reform movements”.[

 It was now the responsibility of the state to inform the citizens of their 5th and 6th amendment protections The Warren Court was deeply divided in delivering a 5-4 decision.  Justice John Marshall Harlan did not approve of Warren’s reach, “nothing in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution or in the precedents squares with the heavy-handed and one-sided action that is so precipitously taken by the Court in the name of fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities….This Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one story too many is added.”    

Civil libertarians argue the technical risks of freeing criminals …is worth the protections the opinions offer, but Justice Byron White could not concur, “I have no desire whatsoever to share the responsibility for any such impact on the present criminal process. In some unknown number of cases, the Court’s rule will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets and to the environment which produced him, to repeat his crime whenever it pleases him. As a consequence, there will not be a gain, but a loss, in human dignity.”

 

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You Wouldn’t Like Him

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp is forever linked to Arizona...  A ruthless self-promoter, Earp lived long enough to see his legend cemented in popular culture.  Much of the story was laid out in his ghost-written biography, “Wyatt Earp; Frontier Marshall”

He’s not who you think

 

Words associated with the Earp legend… justice, law, honor, peacemaker….are difficult to remove from popular culture;  History is not nearly as flattering.  Earp was first and foremost a capitalist, looking for new and more efficient ways to manipulate frontier economic conditions.  Earp and his extended family were masters at separating miners, cowboys, and settlers from their hard-earned western cash.  Wearing the badge shielded Earp and his brothers from scrutiny as they eliminated competition to their gambling, saloon, and prostitution enterprises.

 

Not the reluctant lawman

There is no doubt that Wyatt Earp was a man of action… accounts from contemporaries like Bat Masterson, Luke Short, Charlie Bassett, and John Clum all indicate a fearless individual who never shied from a confrontation.  But does this no-nonsense attitude amount to true heroism?

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Shot Heard ‘Round the Town

Wyatt Earp fired the most important shot…during the gunfight at the OK Corral.  Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday enjoyed the name recognition, but the most dangerous man on the streets of Tombstone that day was Frank McLaury.  McLaury was known throughout the Arizona territory as a dangerous gunman; but, he was also a notorious cattle thief.  On October 26, 1881, his brand of criminality threatened the Earp clan’s plans to exploit the saloons of Tombstone.

A good shot and a dangerous man

At the pivotal moment… when Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury reached for their Colt revolvers, Wyatt Earp described his move,  “Billy Clanton leveled his pistol at me, but I did not aim at him. I knew that Frank McLaury had the reputation of being a good shot and a dangerous man, and I aimed at Frank McLaury.”  Earp hit McLaury squarely in the stomach, badly wounding him.  Billy Clanton began firing wildly drawing the attention of the other Earp gunman, but Frank McLaury continued firing as he tried to exit the Corral to Fremont Street.

Waiting for the Earps

  • His first shot hit Virgil Earp in the right calf
  • As he reached the mouth of the lot, his second shot, across his body, hit Morgan Earp in the shoulder
  • During the final confrontation with Doc Holliday in the middle of Fremont Street, his last shot hit Holliday in the hip, knocking him down
  • Wyatt Earp’s duster had two bullet holes in the right sleeve, possibly from McLaury’s gun

    The fight then became general….

Frank McLaury likely hit every member of the Earp party… during the gunfight….with a bullet in his stomach.  Wyatt Earp’s first shot likely saved all their lives that day.  Had he missed, McLaury might have killed them all.

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Men in Black

There was no greater lawman in the West… than Wyatt Earp (so the legend goes.)  Earp didn’t reside in Arizona more than 2 years but his reputation left an indelible mark.  To honor the territorial era lawmen, Arizona constructed a peace officers’ memorial, an anonymous figure representing all the brave men who wore the badge.  A closer look at the statue shows an unmistakable resemblance to one officer in particular.

Who inspired this ?

 

Being the toughest and deadliest gunslinger requires… just the right image.  What if three brothers involved in the most infamous gunfight in the annals of the west were all blonde haired and blue-eyed?  Not exactly the classic tough guy image required to carry on a legend.  Artists committed to perpetuating the Earp mythology have portrayed the heroes as tall, dark, and deadly.

Earp in 1889- modified

A fair-haired tough guy?

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Ranking the Movie Wyatts

Wyatt Earp has been the subject of 13 major feature films…and has appeared in dozens of television shows.  Which portrayals stand up to the scrutiny of history?

All business

  1. James GarnerHour of the Gun :   Dark, torn, repressed…Earp at his most troubled.  Garner is the real deal in this John Sturges classic.
  2. Kurt Russell- Tombstone :  A good mix of Earp the capitalist and Earp the lawman, Russell is workman-like in his performance.  Unfortunately, Val Kilmer steals the show as Holliday.
  3. Henry Fonda- My Darling Clementine :  Fonda portrays a humorless Earp?  Who would have guessed?  John Ford’s masterpiece is short on history, long on drama.
  4. Hugh O’Brian- The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp : Dapper dresser, serious lawman, frontier justice personafide….O’Brian brought a believable Earp to the small screen.
  5. Kevin Costner – Wyatt Earp :  Properly displaying Earp’s stern disposition, Costner is almost too dour in his 1994 performance.  Wyatt didn’t overpower his brothers like a misguided patriarch.

    No smiles in an Earp movie

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You Wouldn’t Like Him

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp is forever linked to Arizona...  A ruthless self-promoter, Earp lived long enough to see his legend cemented in popular culture.  Much of the story was laid out in his ghost-written biography, “Wyatt Earp; Frontier Marshall”

He’s not who you think

 

Words associated with the Earp legend… justice, law, honor, peacemaker….are difficult to remove from popular culture;  History is not nearly as flattering.  Earp was first and foremost a capitalist, looking for new and more efficient ways to manipulate frontier economic conditions.  Earp and his extended family were masters at separating miners, cowboys, and settlers from their hard-earned western cash.  Wearing the badge shielded Earp and his brothers from scrutiny as they eliminated competition to their gambling, saloon, and prostitution enterprises.

 

Not the reluctant lawman

There is no doubt that Wyatt Earp was a man of action… accounts from contemporaries like Bat Masterson, Luke Short, Charlie Bassett, and John Clum all indicate a fearless individual who never shied from a confrontation.  But does this no-nonsense attitude amount to true heroism?

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Recall Madness

Long before Wisconsin decided to waste… taxpayer time and money on an attempted recall of its Governor, Arizona became only the second state to attempt such a feat.  Evan Mecham holds the dubious honor of being the only sitting Governor to be recalled and impeached in the same term.  Unlike Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, the efforts to remove Mecham were not based on partisan politics, but on grievous misdeeds by an elected official.

Marched to the beat of his own drummer

Evan Mecham cancelled the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday… days after his inauguration in January 1987.  His explanation to the press was, “King doesn’t deserve a holiday…You folks(blacks) don’t need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs.”  Mecham remained defiant as national civil rights groups boycotted Arizona and the NFL refused to hold the Super Bowl in here.  Mecham also publicly declared black children could be called “pickaninnies”  and that high divorce rates in Arizona were the fault of working women.  Other Mecham missteps include;

  • Nominating three government officials facing criminal indictments, including one for capital murder
  • Using taxpayer money to hire private investigators to search his offices for listening devices
  • Publicly mocking Japanese diplomats visiting Phoenix
  • Vetoing budgets from the Republican controlled legislature for not supporting his nominees
  • Using a $350,000 private loan for his campaign and not reporting it to state officials
  • Loaning $80,000 of public money to his auto dealership

Mecham pushed Arizona away from Reagan too

Mecham was not attacked solely by Democrats… Leading Republicans like Congressman Jon Kyl and Senator John McCain called on him to resign.  The recall effort began in August 1987 and gathered the requisite number of signatures in less than one month.  Mecham used every tactic at his disposal to prevent verification, but over 315,000 signatures had been collected, more than the number of votes that elected him.  The recall was set for May 1988, Republican John Rhodes agreed to oppose Mecham.

Arizona residents campaign against their Governor

The Arizona House of Representatives filed articles of impeachment… against Mecham for the illegal loans.  Mecham was tried and removed from office in February 1988 before his recall election could be held.   Mecham defended his record until the day he died, February 21, 2008.  His arguments are not supported by history.  Once Arizona established the MLK holiday, the devastating effects of the economic boycott came to an end.  In 1996 the NFL awarded Super Bowl XXX to Tempe, bringing over $200,000 million in revenues to the state.   Arizona Secretary of State Rose Mofford became Governor upon Mecham’s removal, the first woman to hold the office.

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