Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Friday, March 04, 2005  

Law: 'Mind control' theory could scuttle cult case

It appears that the outcome of a domestic abuse situation remarkable fot its violence will turn on whether jurors grasp that an abuser can be effective without being the person who pulls the trigger. Marcus Wesson, who styled his family on that of cult leader David Koresh, is said to have convinced his adult offspring to kill the children and themselves if the government attempted to intervene. One of his older daughers, like her sister and cousins a parent to a child by Wesson, may have been the person who shot nine family members, including herself, dead last year. Wesson himself emerged from the home unharmed.

The Los Angeles Times is covering the trial.

FRESNO — In the days after the worst mass murder in this city's history, police portrayed suspect Marcus Wesson as a cold-blooded killer who, one by one, shot his nine children to death rather than risk losing them to authorities.

But as his murder trial opened Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court, prosecutor Lisa Gamoian left open the distinct possibility that the 58-year-old Wesson never fired a single shot in the March 12, 2004, deaths. Even so, he was every bit a killer, she said, a father who used incest, fear and perversions of Christian teachings to persuade his children — two of whom were also his grandchildren — to carry out a murder-suicide pact.

The prosecutor cited evidence indicating that it was Wesson's 26-year-old daughter, Sebhrenah, who probably shot the children, ages 1 to 17, in the head before turning the .22-caliber handgun on herself. She was found on top of a pile of bodies in the back bedroom of their rented house with the gun beneath her right arm.

Wesson listened intently as Gamoian described him in her opening as a murderer who wielded mind control like a weapon.

"'It's better to die than have the government or some agency break up the family,' " Gamoian quoted Wesson as telling his older children. " 'Are you ready to die? If [Child Protective Services] ever comes in, we are to kill the kids and kill ourselves so we can be with the Lord.'"

Considerable research has been done on the Wesson family. Marcus Wesson seems to have fathered his first child with the woman who would later become his mother-in-law when he was 27. A few years later, he impregnated her 15-year-old daughter, his son's sister, and married the teen. Other children of his, as many as 18, would be born to the wife, Elisabeth, their daughters, and, his wife's sisters' daughters. Marcus Wesson allegedly began having sex with female relatives when they turned 13. The family's income was a combination of welfare payments received for decades and wages from the older children's employment. Wesson managed all funds, though he doesn't seem to have been employed. Dissident relatives say he ruled his largely female household completely, convincing family members he was God, as role model David Koresh had.

Though some of the 'wives' left over the years, it was not until last year that any of them confronted Wesson. Two of the neices he had incestuous relationships with came to the family's home and attempted to retrieve their children. They brought more than a dozen relatives and friends with them for moral support. Wesson managed to slip away during the confusion after the police were called. A couple of hours later, when police finally entered the house, nine persons, eight of them minors, were found dead from gunshot wounds. The police say that they did not hear the shots being fired.

It is possible Marcus Wesson fired the gun, but in the absence of physical evidence of that, attention has turned to Sebhrenah. It appears she may have followed instructions to kill the children and herself if it appeared the family was about to be broken up. If that is what occurrred, the complexity of the case may be too great for the average juror. Jurors are often chosen for what they don't know, not because they are knowledgeable. For example, some, perhaps most, jurors in the Michael Jackson trial are not aware of the television special that led to the charges he is being tried on. They somehow missed the brouhaha when the program aired, In this episode, jurors not familiar with group psychology, including the impact mind control can have on how people behave, may not realize that Marcus Wesson can have played the lead role in the murders, without firing a shot. In the worst scenario, Wesson could be acquitted and actually return to his reprehensible lifestyle.

Perhaps my concern will turn out to be unjustifed. I would welcome that result.

posted by J. | 11:00 PM

Wednesday, March 02, 2005  

News: Murders spotlight hate on the Internet

As someone interested in civil rights, you may already be aware of the horrible situation federal judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow is in. Lefkow, the judge who heard the trademark law violation case of white supremacist Matt Hale in 2000, came home to find her husband and mother murdered Monday evening. Hale had urged his followers to kill the jurist after she imposed a sentence on his World Church of the Creator an appeals court required. He was convicted of attempting to have Lefkow murdered and is awaiting sentencing. Again and again, I've been told, often by people involved in conservative politics, that there is no problem with hate groups online. They could not be more wrong. The Internet has become the locus of much, perhaps most, hate group recruiting and reinforcement because of its ease of use. Anyone with access to the 'Net and time on his hands can become a 'name' in organized racism through sheer perseverance. Matt Hale is proof of that. Despite his limited life experience and ability, he has spread his message of hatred of people of color, Jews and homosexuals far and wide. And, not for the first time, that message appears to have borne fruit.

One of the few positive results from the Lefkow tragedy is renewed attention to the Internet as a venue for hatemongers. National newscasts have devoted time to the case and will continue to do so. Their coverage includes interviews with the relative handful of organizations that track hate group activity in the United States. In addition, major newspaper and their websites are paying attention to the topic. Even conservative MSNBC is looking into the link between hate speech on the Web and violent crime.

They're all over the Internet: Messages gloating about the killings of Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother — all part of a growing web of online hate.

"The targeting of judges and other government officials by white supremacists and other extremists is nothing new," says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino.

And the Internet is a tool used by many white supremacists, including those allied with Matthew Hale, put in prison for plotting to kill Judge Lefkow.

"He would be a local, two-bit player in the Chicago area had it not been for the Internet," says Rabbi Abraham Cooper with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "And it is the Internet that is his engine and his ticket to becoming an international player."

Most of the hatemongers of the blogosphere, people like neo-Confederate apologist and Libertarian political candidate Al Barger, 'Christian Identity' white supremacist Harry Seabrook of Little Geneva and Aryan Nations advocate Edgar Steele,, have yet ot attract the following that Hale has. But the nature of the Internet is that making sense matters little. There is a potential for even the most ignorant and offensive person to attract followers who can cause real people real harm. The murders of Judge Lefkow's relatives may turn out to be further proof of that.

Reasonably related

Read more about the murders that have devastated a federal judge at Mac-a-ro-nies.

posted by J. | 11:00 PM

Tuesday, March 01, 2005  

Part I: SCV reformers strike back

Those of you who are long time readers of Silver Rights have been aware of the "war between the SCV" for a while. I began writing about it soon after the formation of the Save the SCV a couple years ago. But, here's a refresher anyway.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is an organization of men who claim to be descended from soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The group, founded in 1896, has long said its purpose is to remember the Confederate veterans and venerate their memory. For much of history, that meant cleaning and decorating the graves of the veterans and holding meetings where the values of leaders like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were praised. But, all things related to race (yes, the Civil War and its aftermath are very much related to race) were reconsidered during and after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Confederate symbols, such as the battle flag, were revived as a form of protest against desegregation and equality. Among the organizations resurrecting those symbols and what they stand for was the SCV.

However, the SCV has long been coy about what its respect for the Confederacy and its symbols means. According to its traditional leadership, what the Confederates fought for -- the continuation of human bondage -- could be severed from its character. Men who held slaves and/or fought for white supremacy were pure of heart, good Christian citizens, to be idolized.

About 30 years ago, the remnants of the overtly racist White Citizens Councils of the South formed the Council of Conservative Citizens. The CCC initially fought integration of public schools, but later broadened its objective to protecting the special 'rights' of Americans of European descent. Later, another overtly racist organization arose. The League of the South, which has the goal of a new secession of the Southern states, emerged more than a decade ago. In addition to being secessionist, it is sly, but relatively open, in spreading its belief that white people are a superior race. The CCC and the League have increasingly influenced the SCV 's objectives. Members and associates of both groups have obtained leadership positions in the SCV. Among them are white supremacist and neo-Nazi lawyer Kirk Lyons. The claim that the SCV is about "heritage, not hate" seems more and more ludicrous.

Save the SCV members take issue with the increasingly strident tone of the SCV, but not necessarily with its core beliefs. Instead of confrontation and race-baiting, the traditionalists, who have become the reformers, would return to less intrusive behavior. The radicals' response to the reformers has been to drive them out of organization when possible. For most of the time of this conflict, it appeared the radicals were largely getting their way. Lyons and racist historian Michael Hill, president of the League of the South, had put their imprimatur on the SCV. Former radical SCV Chief Ron Wilson ejected more than 300 traditionalists from the organization during his two-year tenure. He then won appointment to the board that sets education policy in South Carolina, despite his opposition to public education, particularly racially integrated schools.

Then, in a development that must have shocked the militants, things changed a week ago.

Cameron McWhirter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group of descendants of Confederate soldiers with more than 30,000 members worldwide, has erupted this month in its own civil war that threatens to tear the organization apart.

While shots have not been fired, a lawsuit has been filed; a temporary restraining [order] has ousted recently elected Commander-in-Chief Denne Sweeney; members have unceremoniously been kicked off the group's executive council; rancorous emails are flying; and, of course, many lawyers have been hired.

Who is in charge of the group is unclear. While the SCV Web site has announced a Sweeney replacement, it still posts his photograph as their leader. Sweeney, now back at his home outside Ferris, Texas, calls himself "commander-in-chief in exile."

"I'm aghast at this whole situation. It's basically a coup d’etat," said Brag Bowling, who was SCV national spokesman under Sweeney. "They are going to reap the whirlwind now," Bowling said of Sweeney's overthrowers.

Bowling, a supporter of the openly white supremacist leadership, is not the only one taken aback. Members of chapters throughout the country are angry that the momentum the radicals appeared to have has been countered. The man at the center of the that anger is C. Anthony Hodges of Chattanooga, who the reformers elected to head the SCV after ousting Sweeney.

The Macon Telegraph has more information.

. . .He could not be reached for comment, but in an open letter e-mailed to members, Hodges wrote that "extraordinary circumstances" required the council to act. He wrote that Sweeney violated the SCV's constitution by holding illegal meetings, illegally suspending opponents and trying to fire staffers.

"Never before have we faced such an atmosphere of intimidation and recrimination in the SCV," Hodges wrote.

Sweeney had apparently picked up where Wilson, who preceded him in the role, left off. Any member of the organization who did not toe the line was likely to face the same fate as the hundreds of ejected men. Some members decided to use the legal system to strike back. Currently, there is a TRO (temporary restraining order) giving the reformers control of SCV leadership and the group's headquarters. It will take time for the merits of the case to be heard.

What's the art?

A detail from the Confederate Constitution of Texas, which protected slavery in perpetuity.

Reasonably related

There will be a Part II. I want to examine what the infighting among the brethren of the SCV means to those of us who care about racial equality in comparison to what it means to the combatants.

A note from the editor

Between computer problems and completing a book manuscript (after the supposed deadline, unfortunately), I have not kept Silver Rights as up to date as I like to. However, I hope to return to doing so. Persons wishing to help with the computer replacement plan can do so by contributing to my PayPal account.

posted by J. | 5:30 PM