“Gosnell” to be released October 12

Ever since seeing the rough cut of the film Gosnell last year, I’ve looked forward to the film’s release. Financing and finding a distributor took awhile. Finally, a release date has been set for the drama based on the trial of Kermit Gosnell: October 12, 2018.

Anyone looking for a sensationalized Gothic horror story can look elsewhere. This is a crime story, with much of the background taken from the Gosnell grand jury report. The focus for much of the movie is on the investigators and prosecutors, none of whom has an axe to grind one way or the other regarding the right to life. The story is about ordinary people, doing their jobs diligently, who are brought up short when political considerations get in the way of investigating homicides.

The portrayal of Kermit Gosnell is chilling in its restraint. It would have been easy for the screenwriters to render him in caricature. They didn’t.

I don’t know where the film will be screened locally, but I’ll watch for it.

The producers of the film are the authors of Gosnell – The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. Here’s my review of the book from 2017. 


N.H. Legislators Try Again to Repeal Death Penalty

Two years after repeal of New Hampshire’s death penalty law failed on a tie vote in the Senate, the Senate has approved SB 593 on a 14-10 vote. The bill would change the penalty for capital murder to life imprisonment without the possibility for parole.

SB 593 has been assigned to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee where a hearing is yet to be scheduled.

SB 593 has a long bipartisan list of co-sponsors, led by Sen. Kevin Avard (R-Nashua). In an op-ed published in the New Hampshire Union Leader two days before the Senate vote, Sen. Avard wrote about his reason for introducing the legislation. An excerpt:

SINCE THE DEATH penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1973, for every 10 people who have been executed across the country, one person has been exonerated. Can we continue to live with a 10 percent wrongful conviction rate in capital punishment cases? I cannot, which is why I have introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty in New Hampshire.

I have reached the point where no argument made in favor of capital punishment can overcome the reality that having the death penalty inevitably means that innocent people have been and will continue to be wrongfully convicted and executed. The only way to guarantee that the innocent are not wrongfully executed is to abolish capital punishment.

A Union Leader news report published the day after the Senate hearing on the bill said that people testifying in opposition included the president of the N.H. Chiefs of Police Association, the chief steward of the Manchester Police Patrolmen’s Association and president of the New Hampshire Police Association. The report also said that Governor Chris Sununu has threatened to veto the bill in the form passed by the Senate.

House committee to take up retained bills 5/23, including fetal homicide

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has scheduled a work session for Tuesday, May 23 on several retained bills, including two on fetal homicide (HB 156 and SB 66).

Also on the agenda is HB 287, which was introduced as a bill to study decriminalization of prostitution. All three of these bills were retained by the committee earlier this session, preventing them from coming before the full House.

A work session has no predetermined outcome. It is possible that the committee may vote to reconsider an earlier decision to retain a bill.

Watch the blog’s Facebook page for updates on May 23.

Changing the way we talk about criminal justice: Craig DeRoche and Justice Fellowship

Craig DeRoche of Justice Fellowship (craigderoche.com photo)
Craig DeRoche of Justice Fellowship (craigderoche.com photo)

Sometimes, the things I stumble into are far more rewarding than the things I plan. Such was the case at the recent Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. I had looked forward to a panel on abolition of the death penalty, featuring two speakers not normally found in a roomful of social conservatives. I saw shortly before I left for Washington that the scheduled panel on criminal justice had been changed: new name, new speakers. Not what I expected.

And that’s fine. If I’d gotten what I expected, I’d have missed the pleasure of meeting Craig DeRoche, executive director of Justice Fellowship. I met him in the conference’s exhibit hall, and I wish I’d had the presence of mind to record our conversation. A real interview would be a treat.

Hearing how I had been hoping for a conference session on the death penalty, he warned me that wasn’t his topic for the day. Instead, he was there to speak about criminal justice and addiction, and how so many people tied up in one are also tied up in the other. Craig describes his mission this way: “to change the American justice system and the way we treat those afflicted with or affected by addiction.” Justice Fellowship is the advocacy arm of Prison Fellowship, the ministry founded by the late Chuck Colson.

Craig isn’t working from a theoretical perspective. A former Speaker of the House in Michigan, his addiction to alcohol led to two arrests. He knows firsthand about rehab and court-ordered conditions, and about how addiction and prosecution affect whole families. He now knows what a public official’s life looks like to search engines after a fall from grace. He knows what it feels like to realize that prosecutors just might have political motives for some of their decisions. Now, with so much behind him, he could be forgiven for wanting to retreat from the public eye. Instead, he’s guiding Justice Fellowship.

At the end of our conversation, he handed me his book Highly Functional, gratis. I stayed up late that evening to read it. I recommend it for the down-to-earth manner in which he narrates the messiest parts of his life without sensationalism or self-pity. How he got from where he was – youngest Speaker ever in the Michigan House – to where he is makes for a story that just might hit some familiar notes for anyone who is or has lived with a “highly functional” substance abuser.

Towards the end of the book, he relates a story about how legislation supported by the Justice Foundation has done well in some states. Asked how he got bipartisanship on the bills, he rejected the very term. Instead, he said, principles and values won the day. It’s a fascinating chapter of the book, enriched by the comments on the same bills by an NAACP executive who supported them. Craig’s summary gave me something to think about.

I assured the crowd that the ability to convene discussions about principles and where they align has been discouraged in modern politics and the media. The government, federally and in the states, is set up where no one can win outright. This is done for good reason. To believe that compromise involves the disregard of principle is to feed on and encourage the worst human behavior possible for a person in elective office.