I was captivated this week by the escape of drug billionaire Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from a maximum-security prison in Mexico. He walked out through a mile-long tunnel that led from his shower to a building beyond prison walls. You can see the inside of the tunnel here. The DEA is saying all the right things but must be just a little miffed about the whole thing, since (1) this is Guzman’s second escape from a Mexican prison, and (2) Mexico denied the United States’ request to extradite Guzman to face charges in the United States, claiming that it was able to ensure his continued confinement.
By coincidence, I recently finished The Cartel, a novel by Don Winslow about Mexico’s war on drugs. It starts with a Sinaloan kingpin’s escape from a maximum security prison in Mexico, so it’s timely and topical. It’s also bloody and riveting.
In other news:
Old Forsyth County courthouse transformed into quirky apartment building. The Winston-Salem Journal has a story here about the historic preservation/transformation project that turned the old county courthouse into upscale apartments. One interesting feature is that “[t]he large courtroom has been transformed into amenity space for tenants, with a kitchen, gym and lounge room. But the judicial bench and flags remain, as well as the original wood paneling, acoustical tile and crown molding.” The bench area seems serve as sort of a community living room, which is neat and simultaneously rather odd.
President Obama focuses on criminal justice reform. Criminal justice hasn’t been a major point of emphasis for President Obama so far, but that seems to be changing. The New York Times reports here on his recent visit to a prison in Oklahoma, which made him the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. He used the visit to advocate for shorter sentences for non-violent drug offenders and for improved conditions of confinement. Also this week, the president announced 46 sentence commutations, again focused mainly on non-violent drug offenders. The White House press release is here.
Theater shooter case moves to penalty phase. In Colorado, James Holmes has been convicted on all 165 counts against him for murdering 12 people and injuring 70 more at a movie theater in the city of Aurora. The jury quickly rejected Holmes’s claim of insanity. The state is seeking the death penalty and the case will move to a penalty phase next week. This local article explains the basic process, which does not sound too different from ours. Next Monday marks the third anniversary of the crime.
The lighter side: canine edition. Finally, two less serious stories involving man’s best friend caught my eye this week.
First, Johnny Depp’s wife has been charged with illegally importing dogs into Australia. The animals in question are Pistol and Boo Boo, the couple’s Yorkshire terriers, who allegedly were smuggled into the country on Depp’s private jet. The country’s Agriculture Minister seemed simultaneously start-struck and buttoned down, arguing “[i]f we start letting movie stars — even though they’ve been the sexiest man alive twice — to come into our nation [with pets], then why don’t we just break the laws for everybody?”
Second, a prosecutor’s passion for pooches provoked some petulant palaver in Virginia. Above the Law has the story here, but in a nutshell, a federal prosecutor brought his dog into the office over the weekend; the office administrator objected by mass email; the prosecutor responded, also by mass email; and things ran far, far off the rails from there. The story has the original emails on both sides, plus an opportunity to take sides in a poll.