Tag Archive: crime

Real life

Joyce Carol Oates — Princeton University academic, critically acclaimed writer, multiple-prize-winning author and leading light of American letters — seems a little bewildered by the dust-up over her short story, “Landfill.” I can understand her reaction. Frankly, there’s a lot going on here that I find pretty puzzling myself.

The story (published in the October 9 issue of The New Yorker but no longer online at the magazine’s Web site) uses some details from the recent case of John A. Fiocco Jr., a freshman at The College of New Jersey who went missing for a month. His body turned up a month later in a Bucks County landfill.

College officials have been condemning the short story and Oates for her lack of sensitivity to their feelings and those of people who knew the victim. Today’s Star-Ledger has an article with Oates’s response:

When art and reality collide

Joyce Carol Oates, the Princeton University academic whose near-industrial level of productivity inspires admiration and envy among everyone else in the literary racket, is currently persona non grata at The College of New Jersey.

That’s because her short story “Landfill,” now online at The New Yorker, apparently draws rather heavily on the disappearance and death last year of TCNJ freshman John A. Fiocco Jr..

We all have tremendous sympathy for the late student’s family and friends. Unfortunately for the survivors, an event as widely known as this becomes grist for artists as well as for journalists. We can empathize with their feelings while recognizing that there is nothing that can (or should) be done to change that situation. For what it’s worth, Oates has previously drawn on real-life horrors for her fiction: the death of Mary Jo Kopechne in Black Water, the gruesome saga of Jeffrey Dahmer in Zombie.

A solution to the real-life tragedy is far more important than a fictional creation. I would suggest, very gently, that those who are upset with Joyce Carol Oates would put their energy to better use making sure the university police and administration resolve this case.

Cross posted at The Opinion Mill.

Garry McCarthy vrs. the Washington Heights Drug Pushers

Gee, I’m sorry I missed this story on Monday. It’s about the progress NYPD Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy made cleaning up the notorious Washington Heights neighborhood, where drug dealers held neighborhoods hostage while servicing (I’m sorry to say) suburban New Jerseyans.

Click here to read how McCarthy cleaned up one of Manhattan’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

Sounds to me like Cory Booker’s made an inspired choice for Newark Police Commissioner. I think I would wait and see what progress he makes before I decided Garry McCarthy is not right for Newark.

NJ Death Penalty Hearings News Roundup

Yesterday the Death Penalty Study Commission met for the first time.  There was a very good showing by opponents of the death penalty including Barry Scheck and Larry Peterson (pictured*), the first person in NJ to be exonerated using DNA evidence, as well as Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person in the US to be exonerated using DNA evidence, Lorry Post founder of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty,  Bishop John Smith from the Diocese of Trenton and William Bolan executive director of the NJ Catholic Conference.

Bishop Smith explained as he testified before the panel,

The death penalty in our view is not consistent with evolving standards of decency.  The death penalty diminishes all of us.  We cannot teach respect for life by taking life.

Cross posted on Pax Christi Summit

How Do You Define Murder?


Today President Bush exercised his veto stamp for the first time since he took office to reject a bill which would allow federal funding for stem cell research. 

President Bush believes as many other Christians and most Catholics that life begins at conception.  Tony Snow took the rhetoric up a notch during a press conference yesterday when, while refering to President Bush’s position, he said “The simple answer is he thinks murder is wrong.” 

Many pro-lifers, I am sure were thankful that he phrased it this way.  I am too, but I just couldn’t help but take the comment out of context and apply it elsewhere.  It was then that so many questions came to mind:

Is it murder to execute prisoners even after we have removed them from society?

Reading, Writing and Gangs

About 400 Trenton High students will skip school tomorrow. The gang problem has gotten so bad that kids are afraid to go to school and parents are afraid to send them.

The presense of the Bloods and Crips gangs has increased recently in the city, and the violence is spreading to nearby towns of Hamilton, Ewing, Lawrenceville and even Princeton. The rival Bloods factions: the Sex Money Murder Bloods and Gangster Killer Bloods have in recent weeks been involved in several murders. Many of these murders occured in broad daylight and some residents are afraid to walk outside now, even during the day.

Recently, a suspected gang member accused of murder got back on the streets after posting $50,000 cash for his $500,000 bail. Mayor Doug Palmer asked “Where’s a guy who doesn’t have a job get $50,000?” Good question. Perhaps the cocaine traffic ring wasn’t completely snuffed out last year.

Attorney General Farber has said she will speed up from 3 years to 4 months the time it takes for shooting cases to go to trial. “It doesn’t work if police arrest people involved in gang and drug violence if they are able to get out of jail in three or four days because they are able to post bail and if it takes two to three years to prosecute their cases,” she said.

That’s a start. Action must be taken – and soon. It’s bad enough that they don’t have enough books, computers or teachers. It’s bad enough they go to school in a run-down building that’s sorely in need of renovation. The least we should provide our children is a place where they can feel safe and learn. They’re already at a disadvantage and have enough challenges to overcome. Survival should not be one of them.