False Statements and Superfluous Details

It is always fascinating to read about a very old mystery that is finally solved.

In 1984, a twelve-year-old girl, Jonelle Matthews, disappeared from her home in Greely, Colorado.  Police say they have been “haunted” by the case since then.  Last week, the mystery was “solved”.  A man named Steve Pankey was convicted of her kidnapping and murder.

Wow!  DNA evidence, right?  Fingerprints?  A witness?  A confession?

Well, we now know better than to trust confessions.

The evidence, as far as can be determined from the news article in the New York Times and Wiki, consists mostly of Pankey making “odd” comments about the case, showing an “unusual” interest in it, and …  well, read about it.   It’s get weirder and weirder.  Apparently, Pankey, who is divorced, and whose wife seems to have provided police with some of the evidence of Pankey’s “odd” interest in the case, admits to being a celibate homosexual, even while he served as an assistant pastor at his church.

His wife, apparently, does not remember that his alibi– that he was with her the night of the kidnapping– was a lie.  She was there with him, just a few nights before they left for a trip to California.  The car was already partly packed.  Would she not remember if he had been out that evening, if she remembers that he listened to radio accounts with suspiciously strong curiosity, or that he asked her to read newspaper accounts of the story aloud to him after they arrived home?

Jonelle’s body was found in 2019 by a construction crew working on a pipeline.  There is no DNA evidence, no finger-prints, no photos, no witnesses.  There is, in short, nothing but a rather bizarre interpretation of some odd but not really strange verbal expressions by the suspect.

This is not the first time some odd person has made curious statements about an unsolved murder.  We should know better by now: it’s a psychological condition, a personality quirk, a bizarre compulsion.  If a person behaves “oddly”, by all means, check it out.  But if there is no supporting evidence, you probably have something similar to this case.

Ask yourself this: would the police have ever excluded a possible suspect because he didn’t provide “superfluous details” when discussing the case with them?

But to bring a case like that to court, based sole on the “superfluous” detail or “excessive” interest is worse than inadequate.  It borders on criminal abuse.  Close enough!  Hang him!  Great police work!  Medals for everybody.

And Jonelle’s family is glad to have “closure”.  If I were in Jonelle’s family, I would tell the police, “are you fucking kidding me?”  Get back to work.

This is all absurd.  It’s idiotic.  And, as if we don’t already know from election-deniers,  it is further evidence that a lot of people are, frankly, stupid: a jury voted unanimously that, by golly, if the police think he’s guilty, he must be guilty.  They convicted him.

Pankey insists he is innocent.  He says he is being persecuted because of his homosexuality.  He might be right.

I love the “superfluous details”.  The police felt that the “superfluous details” implicated him.  Because there is some kind of magical police science that tells you that men who provide “superfluous details” likely committed a crime.  Just as, when I was little, my mother believed that giggling if someone stared at you and asked if you were lying meant that you were lying.

I know people who put on a grave, serious expression when talking about police who were killed or injured on duty, as if there is something solemn or sacred about them.   It is very hard, especially recently, especially after the numerous incidents in which police behaved very, very badly (even to the point of homicide) and not one of the officers who saw or heard of the incident reported it, to not believe that most police don’t deserve our respect.

Interesting side-note: Jonelle was born to a 13-year-old girl, and then adopted.

“A chokecherry tree was planted in front of Franklin Middle School in memory of Jonelle. The tree died after a few years and a plaque inscribed with Jonelle’s name disappeared.[18]”  (Wiki)  So much for that solemn commitment to commemorate and honor her memory.  I guess it was a superfluous detail.


Theory of Conspiracy Theories

There are about 20 or so good reasons to believe that John F. Kennedy was killed as the result of a conspiracy, and about a thousand reasons to believe that the conspirators should be comforted by the plethora of crack pot conspiracy theories out there dedicated to discrediting the whole idea of a conspiracy. These are straw men just waiting for reasonable, logical men like Dale Myers to come along and demolish them. Here he demolishes a theory he attributes to conspiracy buffs, but which, in fact, was actually the result of the government’s own errors in it’s initial investigation. (The government initially said that the first shot hit Kennedy in the neck, the second Connelly, the third Kennedy in the head. Then it tried to explain the entrance wound in the neck by a claim that Kennedy had turned around to see where the shots were coming from…. )


Why or why oh why are people like Dale Myers not content to do their good work and then leave it alone. Oh no– Myers tackles one particular detail of the conspiracy theory, solves it to his own personal satisfaction, and then concludes that there must not have been a conspiracy. He attacks one small aspect of the many conspiracy theories and then concludes that all aspects of all theories are, therefore, false. He doesn’t even address the issue of the “pristine” (stretcher) bullet that allegedly did all the damage he describes. In fact, that bullet had to have done all that damage or his theory collapses.

What he has demonstrated with some weight is that Kennedy and Connelly were probably hit about the same time by a bullet or bullets fired by somebody. Well, no, he actually can’t really demonstrate that either because Kennedy is already reacting to a shot by the time he emerges from behind the Stemmons Freeway sign. We don’t know when he began to react, so we don’t know when exactly he was shot. It’s quite possible, given the evidence Myers shows us, that Kennedy and Connelly were hit by two different shots fired at about the same time by two different gunman. He succeeds in making the theory of multiple gunmen less plausible, but it doesn’t rule it out.

Myers doesn’t explain here the Teague fragment– the shot that missed the car and hit the over-pass, sending a fragment of concrete into the face of Mr. James Teague– a shot ridiculously wide of the car. A shot ridiculously inaccurate for a shooter who was able to hit Kennedy in the head on his third try.

Myers doesn’t prove that Oswald fired any shots at all. Only that a shot came from behind and above. Myers claims that his reconstruction shows that the shots had to come from the sixth floor window– that’s an amazing conclusion given the variables involved. It is impossible to believe that Myers arrived at that conclusion from the objective evidence he puts before you. It is impossible to believe that he is justified in asserting anything more than that the shots came from that approximate location. It is impossible to believe that he has not already assumed the shots came from exactly that windows because he already knows that that is where Oswald was supposed to be. Then he acts as if he has uncovered an amazing fact in support of the lone gunman theory.

A little less smugness is called for. He has helped disprove the theory that there had to be two gunman. But he hasn’t solved the murder. He hasn’t proven that the shots came from Oswald. He hasn’t even proven that Oswald at the window at the moment the motorcade drove by.

What Myers does not prove:

  • that the bullets came from Oswald’s rifle: the ridiculous pristine bullet found on the stretcher is a very weak connection, especially (but not only) because of the controversy of which stretcher the bullet actually came from. Furthermore, the FBI now admits that it’s “scientific” analysis of bullets has always been flawed and unreliable, and will no longer provide that service to law enforcement.
  • that Oswald fired the shots: the FBI found no usable finger prints on the rifle at all. The Dallas Police later claimed to find a fragment of a palm print on the disassembled rifle. That’s a little weird and dubious at best.
    that there was actually an entry wound on the back of the head– the autopsy was botched so badly that there will never be a satisfactory answer to this question, especially given that none of the Parkland doctors saw this entry wound.
  • that the wound in the throat came from a bullet exiting Kennedy’s body. Most of the Parkland doctors initially identified this wound as an entry wound. Myers explains how it might have been a bullet exiting, but, again, the autopsy was botched and that remains questionable.
  • And a whole lot of other things, including the strange stories about Oswald’s relationships in New Orleans (including his contacts with David Ferrie), his adventures in Russia, the speed with which he was identified as the prime suspect, and so on and so on.

The state of conspiracy theory about Kennedy’s assassination is in a hopeless mess. That doesn’t mean all the conspiracy theories are wrong, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the Warren Commission was right, or even that the Warren Commission was not ridiculous. (Just look at who was on the Warren Commission: a bunch of fat old white politicians and judges who represented, exquisitely, the class of politician the Kennedys had just elbowed aside in John’s drive to the presidency.)

It has recently been shown that a great deal of FBI testimony in murder cases concerning the similarities and differences between bullets coming from different batches from a manufacturer…. was utterly unfounded. One of the reasons Oswald was held to be guilty was that the bullets found in the limousine and in Connelly were allegedly from the same batch as bullets found in Oswald’s possession, at his house.

The FBI now admits that this “proof” was based on junk science, with no grounding in fact whatsoever.

We also know that most people will continue to believe that the FBI “proved” that the bullets were from the same batch. It takes a long time for the truth to upend an embedded lie.

I do call it a lie because this untrue belief was not a disinterested belief– it was used over and over again in many U.S. courts to prove guilt. It was virtually never used to prove innocence.

Defenders of the Warren Commission have long argued that there was no evidence that Oswald knew David Ferrie, the pilot for the anti-Castro Cubans operating in Florida with links to the CIA. Eureka: a photograph surfaced just a few years ago showing Oswald and Ferrie at the same gathering of Cadets in Florida, I believe.


It is one thing for defenders of the Warren Commission to assert that the evidence of a connection was thin and unreliable– it was quite another for them to insist that there was no relationship, and then be proven wrong.

Dale Myers does not understand that you cannot prove a negative.  He can prove that a certain conspiracy theory has not been proven– but he can’t prove, therefore, that all other conspiracy theories are false.

more debunking of the the single bullet theory

More on Assassination Theories

Youtube Video debunking Myers


“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public.
NY Times, April 27, 2008

This is the Bush Administration at it’s most astonishingly acute. This is from a letter drafted by the Attorney-General’s office to the intelligence services to enlighten them as to how they may torture.

Or was it drafted by the Arch-Bishop of Seville in 1300 to enlighten the Jesuits as to how much torture could be applied to a heretic? Let’s paraphrase: “the fact that an act is undertaken to prevent the spread of heresy rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse…” Or if Marxist guerrillas in Guatemala in the 1970’s had captured a suspected CIA mole: “the fact that an act is undertaken to prevent the oppression of the proletariat and exploitation of the working classes…”

Are there any government or military or paramilitary entities out there who only torture for the purpose of humiliation or abuse? Stop that right now– you are violating international law! But if you have some purpose, divine or otherwise, in mind, well, we do it, so why shouldn’t you?

We had formerly thought that such people were monsters of depravity, bereft of all that makes us human and civilized. They used to be our enemies. But now, they are merely like us, as long as their first reason is not “humiliation or abuse”. As long as they do not, as they approach their helpless victims with a tong, or electrodes, or a barrel of water, tell them, “and now I will inflict terrible suffering on you for the sole purpose of humiliation and abuse! Once I have humiliated and abused you, I will stop!

Obama’s Dobson

What’s the big deal? This story will last as long as the media can milk it, and then on to the next “scandal”. What is Jeremiah Wright if not nothing more than Barack Obama’s James Dobson?

James Dobson loves George Bush and regularly instructs him on who to nominate to the Supreme Court and who to appoint Attorney-General and whether or not God loves torture (he does– because he also likes spanking). Dobson is a crackpot neo-Victorian Puritan who has made himself extremely wealthy by easing parent’s consciences about controlling every aspect of their children’s lives until they get married and, maybe, move out of the home.

Like Wright, he says a lot of stupid things and Bush is as careful as Obama will be about associating himself too closely with the weirdo. Unlike Wright, Dobson is secretive and shrewd and hides from the public, but loves to name-drop in his radio addresses, bragging about calling up Bush and straightening him out regularly about the Lord’s will about this and that. Why is this not a scandal? Because it’s not a hot story. The Wright story won’t be hot in a few months either, because Obama has clearly distanced himself from his former pastor.

As if Dobson isn’t weird enough, we have Reverend John Hagee, who seems to believe that the U.S.’s main reason for existence is to supply Israel with military equipment, and a pulpit for his chubby son to practice on so he can inherit the family racket. John McCain hasn’t been asked to distance himself from this whacky supporter. Why is Obama being savaged for a similar relationship with Wright?

As others have noticed, there is a peculiar kind of coordination going on in the conservative pundits community on this and other stories. The story arrives through a blog or Youtube video or something, and then suddenly all of the conservative commentators, like a pack of jackals, dig into it and spin it the same way. I doubt they actually call each other first– it’s more like they just keep tabs on the spin of the day and join in as appropriate, and this gives the marvelous effect of the story being much bigger and far more significant than it really is. We saw that kind of spin during the Clinton impeachment, when, one after the other, they all suddenly seized on the idea that it was not the sex that was so impeachable, but the fact that he lied about it. Well, if they all say it, it must be true.

If you noticed that, you may also have noticed the coordinated approach to Hillary Clinton lately: she’s great. They love her. They thought she was crass and brassy and nannyish, but now they can see that she really is a very astute, refined woman who might make a great president. They are doing this because, as loyal Republicans, they want to be sure the Democrats put the best candidate forward in November. Right. Of course.

Very interesting. Who would the Republicans really rather have running against McCain this fall? I think conservatives think it’s Hillary, and I’m not sure they’re right. But when Irving Kristol stoops to praise Senator Clinton, you may want to dust off those Willie Horton posters. Is John McCain so lame that he would use his best weapon against Obama now? Why haven’t they gone after Clinton’s murky financial status, or feminist ideology, or flip-flops on Iraq? Because they didn’t think about it yet? Why are they even bothering to attack Obama when the primaries haven’t even ended?


Finally, Karl Rove is famous for a particular stratagem that has worked very well for failed Republican politicians: take your own greatest weakness, and accuse your opponent of having the same defect. That way, when he gets around to pointing out your biggest deficiencies, it will sound like “no, you’re a big fat liar”. The Republican responds: “I said it first!”

So you go after Kerry’s war record. You accuse the Democrats of “partisanship” during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominees. You claim they are trying to cheat the voters in Florida out of their votes. You accuse them of mudslinging.

And so Bush, astoundingly, attacks and blames the Democrats for the recession his administration has steered us into. Wow. That’s smart politics.

This may be the year the voters stop buying it. Maybe not. We can hope.

In the meantime, as I mourn the transmogrification of John McCain into Bush Jr. Jr., and marvel at the delusional persistence of Hillary Clinton, I observe that this is the most ridiculous and ineffective election system in the Western World. The whole thing should start in August of this year and end in November. And even that is too long.

Just How Evil is James Dobson:

(From Wikipedia)

From Wikipedia:

On June 242008, Dobson publicly criticized statements made by U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama in Obama’s 2006 “Call to Renewal”[65] address. Dobson stated that Obama was “distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview.”[66] On October 232008, Dobson published a “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America” that proposed that an Obama presidency would lead to: mandated homosexual teachings across all schools; the banning of firearms in entire states; the end of the Boy Scoutshome schooling, Christian school groups, Christian adoption agencies, and talk radiopornography on prime-time and daytime television; mandatory bonuses for gay soldiers; terrorist attacks across America; the nuclear bombing of Tel Aviv; the conquering of most of Eastern Europe by Russia; the end of health care for Americans over 80; out-of-control gasoline prices; and complete economic disaster in the United States, among other catastrophes.[67] In the days after the 2008 presidential election, Dobson stated on his radio program that he was mourning the Obama election, claiming that Obama supported infanticide, would be responsible for the deaths of millions of unborn children, and was “going to appoint the most liberal justices to the Supreme Court, perhaps, that we’ve ever had.”[68]

Dobson is an intelligent design supporter and has spoken at conferences supporting the subject, and frequently criticizes evolution,[69] contrary to the teachings of his Christian denomination, the Church of the Nazarene.[70] In 2007, Dobson was one of 25 evangelicals who called for the ouster of Rev. Richard Cizik from his position at the National Association of Evangelicals because Cizik had taken a stance urging evangelicals to take global warming seriously.[71]

Not This Evidence

After all the news coverage of the wrongful convictions that have been overturned with DNA evidence and the incompetent or malicious police investigators and forensic “experts” responsible, you would think the police might think twice before pulling something like this:

Michigan State Police fiber expert Guy Nutter testified Wednesday fibers found on Dickinson’s body and the pillow covering her face were consistent with those taken from a 100-percent acrylic sweatshirt police discovered at Taylor’s home in Southfield.

Graham noted Nutter’s report said no individual source of the fibers could be determined because his sweatshirt would be indistinguishable from others just like it. She used prosecution photos of Dickinson’s closet to point out a dark blue or black-hooded sweatshirt, which Nutter admitted was not tested for fiber comparisons. From Grand Rapids Press, April 2, 2008

Wow. Here we go. A “fiber expert”! Do you know what that is? Did you think that there was a college somewhere where you could go to study for four years so you could become a “fiber expert”? Or do you think this might just be some science major with a big ego and a microscope? What constitutes a “match”, do you think, of two fibers? Do you think there is some objective criteria involved, or just a lot of verbiage and charts and graphs and power point slides? How many “points” of similarity should there be? How many different chemicals used in the formulation of the material?

It turns out that the fibers– of course– were not tested until after the police had their suspect. There’s no point in testing before you have a suspect, ha ha, since you don’t use fiber evidence to find a suspect. If you did, it would find too many suspects. Think about that.

The only purpose of fiber comparisons is to prove that the suspect you already have– it could be anybody– is guilty. Since there are any number of fibers available at any given crime scene and any number of fibers available in any given suspect’s closet at any given time– this is a snap. Why don’t juries laugh this kind of evidence out of court?

Then we have this:

Michael Arntz, a former EMU police officer, testified for a second time this week about video images he pieced together during a two-week review of footage from campus surveillance cameras.

The images, played repeatedly on a projector screen Wednesday, show a man identified by several people as Taylor leaving Buell Hall shortly after 4 a.m. Dec. 13.

So Michael Arntz, an Eastern Michigan University police officer, took it upon himself to “piece together” some video footage that he and some others claim shows the suspect, Orange Taylor, leaving the residence in which Laura Dickinson’s body was later found. That is worrying. One hopes the defense team– public defenders, of course– is astute enough to demand that the district attorney either provide a single, intact continuous tape, or exclude the evidence altogether.

The defendant, the colorfully named Orange Taylor, has a serious problem. His semen was found on the body. But the door to her room was left locked from the inside, and there was no evidence of foul play. In fact, the police and medical experts have no idea of how she died. They suggest she was suffocated with a pillow. This is the second trial for Orange Taylor — the first jury couldn’t reach a verdict.

Taylor’s attorneys argued that he entered Dickinson’s dorm room the night of Dec. 13, 2006, to steal items and masturbated over her body, not realizing she was dead. His DNA was found on her inner thigh.

From Here.

It’s hard to know what to make of this case. He might be guilty of murder. It’s very hard to explain his DNA on the body if he wasn’t there, and it’s very hard to explain why he was there if he wasn’t committing a crime– he and the victim were not acquainted– and it’s hard to explain why she died if the sex was consensual.  Not all prosecutions involving dubious evidence (the fibres) are of the wrong person.

The fiber evidence should be laughed out of court.

Update:  New York Times article on a forensic scientist who committed suicide shortly after it was revealed that he had not followed correct procedures in at least some cases.