Tuesday, December 14, 1943

The Charlotte News

Tuesday, December 14, 1943


Site Ed. Note: Returning for a moment to the front page story of the previous day regarding the former Vanderbilt law student turned kidnaper, sentenced to death, we have determined, upon further research, that Thomas Robinson actually had no counsel at all when he entered his plea of guilty originally to the offense upon his initial arraignment. That, in itself, is not dispositive, as a mentally competent person may nevertheless enter a plea of guilty, with or without counsel.

But, the record in that case did not affirmatively demonstrate that Mr. Robinson knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel in so entering the plea. That is a controlling issue on entry of any plea of guilty and remains the law today. Indeed, Mr. Robinson contended that he did not know that he had a right to counsel. Regardless, the record must affirmatively show that the defendant is apprised of the right and that he expressly waives it.

His simultaneous contention that he was insane when he entered the plea, as he had been previously adjudged by a court, was not reached by the California District Court in San Francisco, as it was unnecessary to an adjudication of the issue of whether his plea would be overturned. The absence of a showing of a knowing and voluntary waiver of counsel was sufficient. (Had the record shown an expressed waiver, then the Court would have reached the issue of whether his previously adjudged mental state was such that he could not enter a knowing and intelligent waiver. In that event, the standard governing whether he was competent to stand trial would have likely been the standard by which the Court determined his competency to enter a plea.)

Thus, the Court, in Robinson v. Johnston, 50 F. Supp. 774 (N.D. Cal., 1943), issued a writ of habeas corpus ordering the plea to be deemed withdrawn and the defendant released from custody, which ultimately resulted in the jury trial proceeding, and, instead of the life sentence following the plea, the death sentence.

In 1945, the United States Supreme Court, in Robinson v. U.S., 324 US 282, upheld the validity of the subsequent jury conviction and death sentence. At issue was the sufficiency of injury to invoke the death penalty under the Lindbergh kidnapping law, which allowed the death penalty unless the kidnap victim was released "unharmed". The Court refused to look beyond the plain wording of the statute, while acknowledging that there would ordinarily be a distinction between "a pin prick and a permanently mutilated body". But since, in the case, the victim had been hit in the head twice with an iron bar, even though she was released without permanent injury, (no mention being made of the contention by the trial prosecutor, at least according to the news story, that she had suffered permanent loss of hearing), the Court found sufficient evidence to show that there was harm done within the meaning of the statute. Thus, the statute, regardless of its wisdom, would have to be provided cognizance by the courts. The death penalty stood, despite the fact that the victim was released without permanent injury.

Not raised, as it should have been on appeal, was whether the punishment was cruel and unusual, as being disproportionate to the offense, under the Eighth Amendment. Consequently, Mr. Robinsonís attorney on appeal probably should have been forced to take the juice for him.

Fortunately for the hapless Mr. Robinson, who had a long history of insanity and would continue to have it much of the remainder of his days, which persisted to 1994 when he died at age 87, 24 years after his release from prison on parole, his sentence was commuted in June, 1945 from death to life by President Truman, just 33 hours before the switch was set to be pulled.

Our statements of the previous dayís note nevertheless need no correction, incidentally, as it remains the case that Mr. Robinson had ineffective assistance of counsel, his own, at the time of entry of his plea, even if the substantive legal issue was different, that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his right to counsel. Our mistaken assumption, born of too much knowledge, was deduced from a reporter's error in the story, saying that the original plea of guilty was overturned because Mr. Robinson was "not represented properly by counsel", an erroneous and completely misleading statement.

It goes to show, as we have many times suggested, that sometimes newspapers and, especially local, broadcast news media so mangle stories about legal proceedings for want of legal training of the reporters covering them that they might as well stay home or just content themselves with coverage of the more salacious bits of the story, that fodder for the doddering booboisie to whom they are normally so fond of appealing and at which they are so adept in providing.

So thank you, incompetent 1943 A.P. boob-reporter, for wasting a couple of hours of our time yesterday in 2010 by assuming you knew something of which you obviously knew nothing, as do so many boobs who think they understand the law so well, simply because they make some pretense of being able to comprehend and relate information within the confines of the English language.

We could impart to you, Mr. Boob, through the gauzy mists of time, some hand signals which Neil Boyle probably provided the Italians with whom he had a little fisticuffian spat re the quality of the Italian fighting spirit in battle, but we shall leave it as written remonstrance. You were probably a 4-F'er, and thus we should not be disposed to pick on the invalid.

Incidentally, Private MacAvoy, whose electric chair was reported on Saturday by Drew Pearson to be unavailable for the December 30 date with the Iron Lady, and could not be obtained under the auspices of the War Production Board, presumably for the scarcity of steel with which to build it, (even though Nebraska prison officials might have become creative and used a tub of water and an electric light switch), was not so fortunate, for the horrific nature of his crime, even if he did not use the chisel. He was executed March 23, 1945 by the State of Nebraska, the first execution in that state since 1929.

Private MacAvoy, no doubt, had desired the war to persist well into the 1980's, if possible, perhaps hoping the Nazis would win and then free him to become one of them, as he would have meshed symbiotically well with that outfit.

All that said, the front page of this day reports that Cherkasy, last German stronghold on the middle Dneiper River between Kremenchug and Kiev, was recaptured by the Red Army. The withdrawal from the city by the Nazis meant that the Russians now had unimpeded supply lines between Kremenchug and Kiev.

In Italy, Indian troops with the Eighth Army broke the center line of German defenses while Canadians repelled armored attacks along the Adriatic coast.

Sir Anthony Eden, British Foreign Secretary, told Commons that the Tehran Conference would shorten the war and that the plans and timing for future operations against Germany were now in place and only needed to be rolled out onto the field of battle. Prime Minister Churchill remained in Cairo, still meeting with leaders of smaller nations.

After the President's meeting with General Patton in Sicily, the General departed for Cairo where he arrived in full view, parading, quite deliberately, about the city in his prominent staff car. Speculation was raised that he might be meeting with Turkish and Yugoslav officials to plan an invasion of the Balkans. Stay tuned.

Whether he wore his leggings or not was not reported, but most likely it was so.

We might send him a wire and ask him to speak for us to the A.P. reporter on the Thomas Robinson story.

On Saturday, the Seventh Army Air Force had dropped 50 tons of bombs on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands, destroying a Japanese cargo ship and shore facilities. More raids were reported proceeding against the Marshalls and Northern Solomons, significantly against only limited anti-aircraft fire. Australian infantry troops under General MacArthur were reported now to have advanced twelve miles north of Finschhafen, captured October 2.

RAF and American missions hit unspecified targets in Western Germany. The RAF suffered no reported losses while the Americans lost nine bombers, of which five were classified as heavy. Losses in the American daylight raids had become far fewer since the latter third of October when the bombers began flying with an increased contingent of fighter protection.

Hal Boyle reports of General James Doolittle having recoiled at assignment to a headquarters housed in an Italian villa which had been decorated in an Egyptian motif by an Italian Fascist official who had been its previous occupant. Colorful walls brightly lit by a spotlight and a stuffed crocodile highlighted the unusual décor. Carved wooden ibises stood watch over the furniture. General Doolittle got the creeps and asked to be reassigned to other quarters.

If you had ever seen an ibis, especially a stuffed ibis, staring at you, you would understand.

The horror.

He next relates of a game of donkey baseball among members of an air service command unit in North Africa on Thanksgiving Day. The donkeys won the game as the contesting officers and enlisted men whistled at its conclusion ďDonkey Serenade".

In Fort Lee, N.J., when police officers arrived at the residence of an ailing recluse, they found 37 ill dogs. Thirty-three had to be dispatched.

And, in what may have been the world's first controlled drone flight, a Navy pilot bailed out of his plane which had caught fire over Yankton, S.D. Before doing so, he was able to extinguish the fire which had nevertheless corrupted most of the wiring and shut down the engine. The plane, seemingly still bearing a pilot, nevertheless circled a field twice and made a soft landing.

Sometimes, it is probably best just to let the plane do the work.

We hope the 1943 A.P. reporter covering Mr. Robinson's ill fate, and his more contemporary ilk, take heed of that lesson.

On the editorial page, "The Home" advocates that the Mecklenburg County Industrial Home, a vocational training facility, alternative to jail for female misdemeanants, be abolished, its once salutary function having become outmoded by the creation of other county facilities serving the same or similar purposes.

"British Tip" relates of a London cable reprinted in The Wall Street Journal explaining why the London stock markets had not moved an iota in response to the Moscow, Cairo, and Tehran conferences of the previous sixty days. The British fully expected a three-way invasion of the Continent, and had for some time. Thus, the news finally of the planning for such a concerted invasion of Germany was anti-climactic. The cable had then juxtaposed a recitation of the numbers of German troops stationed along the 2,000-mile European coastline from Norway to Crete, consisting of a total of 200 divisions, the remainder occupied in Russia. That left only one division per 50 miles, when conventional military wisdom called for a division to cover every ten miles.

The piece underscores the logic of the juxtaposition and indicates that, assuming the figures accurate, the British not only expected an invasion of the Continent but expected its success as well, and thus no surprise was to be found in the absent stock market activity in the wake of the recent positive war news from the three major tripartite conferences.

"Red-Hunt" finds the words issued in a speech on the House floor by Representative Busbey, Republican of Illinois, to be a harbinger of the 1944 Republican platform. Said Mr. Busbey, the Comm-mm-unists were out to get everything decent in A-mer-i-ca and were threatening the A-mer-i-can way of life.

The editorial, in its prediction, was a little off as to timing, but, sure enough, with the addition of one of the chief young red-baiters of the post-war Congress, one who had fed his early congressional career on ferreting out Communists, to the ticket in 1952 amid the hysteria whipped by HUAC in the House and Joe McCarthy in the Senate, even if President Eisenhower thoroughly renounced Senator McCarthy and all for which he stood, the Republican Party would thrive on the anti-Communist slogan for years to come, right through Jesse Helms and 1993, over three years after the fall of the Wall. Senator Helms, however, was still gravely concerned over the threat of Cuba at the time.

Some people do not bother to read the newspapers, apparently, at least no more often than once every decade or three. Or, they do what Raymond Clapper and Sam Rayburn urged every public servant not to do.

Every true American patriot, and certainly every elected official in the country, probably should carefully read, even print out and clip on a handy wall somewhere, the always timely words of Mr. Clapper this day. He wrote of Speaker of the House Rayburn taking the unusual step of leaving the podium in the chamber and going to the floor to make a speech as an ordinary member of that body. His thusly underscored words exhorted the Representatives to return to their districts during the holidays and begin to lead the people, rather than following special interests, in this instance, special interests out to divide the country in a time when unity was needed to fight a world war.

The words of the editorial ring true to this day. Our elected officials are elected to serve and to lead, not to be lapdogs to special interests in possession of no means or talent more fluent than money and political clout.

Follow the clout, and you are a lout, hopefully soon to be turned out.

Dorothy Thompson discusses the Balkan bridges with the West versus those with the Soviet Union, with emphasis on the recent history of Czechoslovakia. A country more naturally aligned with the West, it had nevertheless not forgotten its abandonment by Britain and France at Munich in September, 1938 at a time when Russia was willing to uphold its treaty commitments to Czechoslovakia vis à vis Germany. Thus, now Czechoslovakiaís tendency was to lean toward Russia as its naturally preserving steward, even if it was not intending ever to become an extension of the Russian State. She urges the West to get onboard.

Samuel Grafton, repeating the theme of an editorial appearing April 16, invites his readers once again, while recapitulating memories of the past annual cycle, to have a betel nut. Sample:

Yes, sir, this Administration deliberately led us into the war. Yes, sir, this Administration wasn't thinking of war at all; thatís why it got caught at Pearl Harbor. It planned it all. It never planned a thing. It did. It didnít. Who bungled the big production miracle? I mean, who miracled the big production bungle? Anyway, itís the same thing in the end. Have a nut?

Well, as we said in April, we agree.

Drew Pearson discusses the diplomatic implications of the Tehran Conference for future relations between Britain, the Middle East, and India, as assuredly to be defined henceforth by the Russians. For the very choice of the locus for the meeting, in a country which had traditionally been a flashpoint for British-Russian conflict, with the Russians controlling the area of Iran north of Tehran and the British the area south, was freighted with symbolic portent for the future. Practically, the rapprochement recognized between the two countries at Tehran meant that Britain could no longer jealously guard its access to the Persian Gulf as against Russia. Access to the Persian Gulf gave Russia access to the Indian Ocean and thus political clout to control the destiny of India as against Britain.

Thus, the British might be inclined, suggested the diplomatic corps, to rethink their policy on India--which in early 1942 had assured dominion status at the conclusion of the war in exchange for Indiaís support in the war. While that agreement had never been formalized, it was tacitly recognized as India had provided its support thus far to the Allied effort while the unrest of the spring and summer of 1942 and Gandhi's satyagraha, followed by his house arrest in August, had all long since subsided even if its impetus was neither forgotten nor evaporated.

The diplomatic corps, however, says Mr. Pearson, believed that Churchill was too entrenched in his attitude toward India to favor full Indian independence anytime soon.

Rarely standing on logical juxtaposition, Mr. Pearson then turns his attention to a lady who stopped into a Virginia ABC store to purchase a pair of bootleg nylons. Directly, the dramseller produced a pair in the woman's specified size with a price tag of four bucks.

We gather, after, figuratively, chewing a couple of betel nuts, that her name was Norma, and that her sister Pamela had the other day instructed the inquisitive O.P.A. agent on the location of her father's ceiling prices. That, in turn, occurred not long before Pamela had previously later escorted her brother, suffering from Tourette's, to Williamsburg to witness the visit by the Queen.

Oh, by the way, the answer to the question we posed to the little girl, temporarily minding the stock of her father's shop while he went out looking for his sister's suitcase which she had misplaced on Friday afternoon, might at least start here.

Have a nut?

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