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Posts Tagged ‘Murder

“Then murder’s out of tune”*…

 

Thomas Hargrove reviewing notes sent to him by police departments

In 2015, Scripps spun off the last of its newspapers, and Hargrove and the other print reporters lost their jobs. “The only guy who left with a skip was me,” he says. Hargrove, who was 59 at the time and had worked at the company for 37 years, qualified for a large severance and a nice pension, leaving him well-covered. Now he had enough time to go all in on his data project. He founded the Murder Accountability Project, or MAP, a tiny nonprofit seeking to make FBI murder data more widely and easily available…

His innovation was to teach a computer to spot trends in unsolved murders, using publicly available information that no one, including anyone in law enforcement, had used before. This makes him, in a manner of speaking, the Billy Beane of murder…

One might think that there’s a trove of data being crunched by law enforcement agencies across the country to find any clue that might be used to identify the perpetrators of what could be multiple homicides.  Thomas Hargrove found out there wasn’t.  So he starting building one: “Serial Killers Should Fear This Algorithm.” (Via the always-illuminating Next Draft.)

* Shakespeare, Othello

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As we track ’em down, we might recall that it was on this day in 2002 that former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic went on trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.  Milosevic served as his own attorney for much of the prolonged trial, which ended without a verdict when the so-called “Butcher of the Balkans” was found dead at age 64 from an apparent heart attack in his prison cell on March 11, 2006.

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Written by LW

February 12, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime”*…

 

In 1798  John Neagle, an honest Philadelphia blacksmith, was falsely convicted and incarcerated for America’s first major bank robbery; exonerated six months later, he then became America’s first recipient of a “wrongful imprisonment” settlement from the city.  The incredible tale in its entirety (and an explanation of the symbolism in the portrait of Neagle above) at  “The First American Bank Robbery Was An Epic Farce.”

* Howard Zinn

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As we take care not to throw away the key, we might send beautiful– but  deadly– birthday greetings to Benvenuto Cellini; he was born on this date in 1500.  A Renaissance goldsmith, sculptor, draftsman, soldier, musician, artist, poet, and memoirist, he was an important figure in the Mannerist period… and as he confessed inThe Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, a multiple murderer and maimer.

When certain decisions of the court were sent me by those lawyers, and I perceived that my cause had been unjustly lost, I had recourse for my defense to a great dagger I carried; for I have always taken pleasure in keeping fine weapons. The first man I attacked was a plaintiff who had sued me; and one evening I wounded him in the legs and arms so severely, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him of the use of both his legs. Then I sought out the other fellow who had brought the suit, and used him also such wise that he dropped it.
The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, Ch. XXVIII, as translated by John Addington Symonds, Dolphin Books edition, 1961

The Cellini Salt Cellar (or Salteria)

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Bust of Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

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Written by LW

November 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece”*…

 

In 2012, 437,000 people were killed worldwide, yielding a global average murder rate of 6.2 per 100,000 inhabitants. A third of those homicides occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, home to just 8% of the world’s population. But data on violent death can be difficult to obtain, since governments are often reluctant to share their homicide statistics. What data is available is sometimes inconsistent and inconclusive.

To make this data clear and to better address the problem of global homicide, a new open-source visualization tool, the Homicide Monitor, tracks the total number of murders and murder rates per country, broken down by gender, age and, where the data is available, the type of weapon used, including firearms, sharp weapons, blunt weapons, poisoning, and others. For the most violent region in the world, the 40 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, you can also see statistics by state and city. That geographic specificity helps to underscore an important point about murders, says Robert Muggah, the research director and program coordinator for Citizen Security at the Rio de Janeiro-based Igarapé Institute, in the above-lined story: “In most cities, the vast majority of violence takes place on just a few street corners, at certain times of the day, and among specific people.”

via Slashdot.  Explore the interactive murder map here.

* William Shakespeare, Macbeth

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As we reach for the kevlar, we might recall that it was on this date in 1637 (or nearabouts, as closely as scholars can say) that Cardinal Richelieu introduced the first table knives (knives with rounded edges)–reputedly to cure dinner guests of the unsavory habit of picking their teeth with the knife-points of the daggers that were, until then, used to cut meat at the table.  Years later, in 1669, King Louis XIV followed suit, forbidding pointed knives at his table; indeed, he extended the prohibition, banning pointed knives in the street in an attempt to reduce violence.

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Written by LW

May 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

“And now that I have some wood, I will begin the erection of my settlement”*…

 

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Family game nights, game nights in bars, game nights with friends– game nights are back!  And Board Games for Me can help…

It is a great time to enjoy board games. Great publishers are turning out a wide variety or high-quality games. Crowd-funding sites, such as Kickstarter, are allowing independent designers to create unique and interesting games. Internet video series, such as TableTop, are demonstrating how fun board games can be to a huge audience.

This rise in popularity leads to one frustration, finding games that fit what you are looking for can be difficult. Few people have the time to wade through the flood of games that are available to find something you will enjoy. Board Games for Me aims to make things easier for you by allowing you to easily search through several games and find ones that are the perfect fit for you. We want you to spend your time playing games, not searching for what you want to play next.

So, give it a try. You can have results back in less than a minute. What are you waiting for? Get out there and play more games!

* Sheldon Cooper, playing Settlers of Catan in Episode 100 of Big Bang Theory

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As we roll the dice, we might recall that it was on this date in 1991 that Pamela Smart was convicted Coral Gables, Florida of conspiring to murder her husband Greg.  A 24-year-old part-time heavy metal radio DJ (she hosted “Metal Madness”, as “Maiden of Metal” on local station WVFS), Pam had seduced 15-year-old Billy Flynn, then threatened him with an end to her sexual favors if he failed to help her get rid of Greg.  Flynn obliged, with the help of three friends.  All five conspirators were quickly arrested, tried, and convicted.

Flynn, who is serving a 30 years, has apologized and asked for a reduction in sentence.  Smart, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, continues to maintain her innocence.

One can only wonder if regular game nights might have prevented this tragedy.

Pamela Smart taking the oath at her trial

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Written by LW

March 22, 2014 at 1:01 am

“when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”*…

 

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Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) was a millionaire heiress and Chicago society dame with a very unusual hobby for a woman raised according to the strictest standards of nineteenth century domestic life: investigating murder. And she did this through a most unexpected medium: dollhouse-like dioramas. Glessner Lee grew up home-schooled and well-protected in the fortress-like Glessner House, designed by renown American architect H.H. Richardson, but she was introduced to the fields of homicide investigation and forensic science by her brother’s friend, George Magrath, who later became a medical examiner and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. Instantly captivated by the nascent pursuit, she became one of its most influential advocates. In 1936, she endowed the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard and made subsequent gifts to establish chaired professorships and seminars in homicide investigation. But that’s not all…

Glessner Lee, rather than using her well cultivated domestic skills to throw lavish parties for debutantes, tycoons, and other society types, subverted the notions typically enforced upon a woman of her standing by hosting elaborate dinners for investigators who would share with her, in sometimes gory detail, the intricacies of their profession. Glessner Lee oversaw every detail of these dinners herself, down to the menu and floral arrangements. She could probably tell you which wine goes best with discussion about a strangled corpse found in a bathroom. But the matronly Glessner Lee — who may have been the inspiration for Angela Lansbury’s character in “Murder She Wrote”– wanted to do more to help train investigators. She wanted to create a new tool for them…

In her conversations with police officers, scholars and scientists, she came to understand that through careful observation and evaluation of a crime scene, evidence can reveal what transpired within that space. The physical traces of a crime, the clues, the vestiges of a transgressive moment, have a limited lifespan, however, and can be lost or accidentally corrupted. If a crime scene were properly studied, the truth would ultimately be revealed.

To help her investigator friends learn to assess evidence and apply deductive reasoning,  to help them “find the truth in a nutshell,” Frances Glessner Lee created what she called “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,”  a series of lovingly crafted dioramas at the scale of one inch to one foot, each one a fully furnished picturesque scene of domesticity with one glaringly subversive element: a dead body…

These miniature crime scenes were representations of actual cases, assembled through police reports and court records to depict the crime as it happened and the scene as it was discovered. They were pure objective recreations. The design of each dollhouse, however, was Glessner Lee’s own invention and revealed her own predilections and biases formed while growing up in a palatial, meticulously appointed home. She makes certain assumptions about taste and lifestyle of low-income families, and her dioramas of their apartments are garishly decorated with, as Miller notes, “nostalgic,” and “often tawdry” furnishings.

Investigators had to learn how to search a room and identify important evidence to construct speculative narratives that would explain the crime and identify the criminal.  Glessner Lee’s models helped them develop and practice specific methods –geometric search patterns or zones, for example– to complete an analysis of a crime scene. “The forensic investigator,” Miller writes, “takes on the tedious task of sorting through the detritus of domestic life gone awry….the investigator claims a specific identity and an agenda: to interrogate a space and its objects through meticulous visual analysis”…

Read the full story at “How a Chicago Heiress Trained Homicide Detectives With an Unusual Tool: Dollhouses.”

* Sherlock Holmes, in The Sign of the Four

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As we re-enact the crime, we might recall that it was on this date in 1831, that Edward Smith knocked over the National City Bank of New York (an ancestor of Citibank), and made off with $245,000– America’s first bank robbery.  He was quickly apprehended and sentenced to five years in Sing Sing (which was only five years old when Smith arrived as an inmate).

While Smith has claim to being America’s first “bank robber” as we tend to use the term, his stick up was not the first theft from an American bank.  That honor seems to belong to the 1798 burglary of the the Bank of Pennsylvania at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia.

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Written by LW

March 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

Who – Where – How?…

In 1949, a solicitor’s clerk in Birmingham, Anthony Pratt, sold the rights to “Murder,” a board game he had invented, to English publisher Waddington’s, which in turn licensed North American rights to Parker Bros.  Later that year, the two companies introduced, respectively, Cluedo and Clue…. since when, tens of millions of people around the world have struggled to deduce who killed poor, perpetually-murdered Mr. Black (or “Mr. Boddy” in North American versions)– and have read the children’s books, played the video and iPod/iPhone games, put together the jig saw puzzles, and seen the television games shows, the Broadway musical, and the feature film all based on the game.

Readers can trace the evolution of the game here (from whence, the images above) or here, and can discover the (surprisingly complex) back-stories of the characters here.

As we adjust our deerstalkers, we might recall that it was on this date in 2007 that the continuity of America’s longest-running television game show, The Price Is Right, was maintained, as Bob Barker passed the microphone to Drew Carey.  Barker had taken over in 1972 from founding host Bill Cullen, who premiered the show in 1956.

Carey and Barker (source)

 

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