William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Monday, 24, August, 2009

IRB Approval

Filed under: Self mockery,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 14:46

It came! W00T. I haz the l33t r3s3rch skillz. Ahem. Now, if I can only get the case studies together and the Blackboard site working…

Graduate school-first class

Filed under: Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 14:39

A mixed bag this lot, more women than men, consisting of employees, medical students, a senior undergrad, several graduate students from various departments, and one of my colleagues who is auditing the course. Of course, there were more people than handouts, and the computer didn’t show up for the powerpoints.

I don’t have a sense of this lot’s personality. There was a bunch of sitting like lumps. I hope they start talking soon.

Sunday, 23, August, 2009

It’s That Time of Year Again

Filed under: Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 21:58

Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more;

Henry V, Act III, scene i, lines 1-2

Friday, 21, August, 2009

Sappy Cat Blogging

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 11:45

Tinker Tinker Little Star Tinker, Tinker, Little Star

Profound Ambivalence

Filed under: People who need pianos dropped on them,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 09:29

Noose-LAs a forensic pathologist, I have developed a case of profound ambivalence about capital punishment.  On the one hand, I recognize that people are fallible.  I do my best to do right by my patients, because it is the right thing to do, not out of fear of consequences of being wrong.  My fellow forensic scientists, I believe, feel the same way.  We do want to work for justice, and justice may be served if blame can be fairly assigned.  I shy away from consequences that are unchangeable.  If you are going to use the coercive power of the state to take a life, you’d better be bloody well sure that the person did it.  As the coercive power of the state can be mis-used (Joe Hill, anyone?)  it is prudent to err on the side of caution.

I have no inherent problems with LWOP (Life Without Parole), as long as it means what it says on the box.   There is one offender in Maine’s prison system who is on his second “life” sentance.  He got out of prison after “Life” which was a dozen years, and went on to re-offend spectacularly).   The public forgets over time, and victims get short shrift.

The Lybian Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted of the Lockerbie Bombing, where 270 people were killed when the device he planed in an airliner detonated.  270 innocents.  People who had no skin in the game in a dispute between Lybia and the UK except misfortune.  Now, I am well aware that life is not fair, and that there is such a thing as asymmetrical warfare, and all of the realities of this modern world.  Al-Megrahi was turned over by the Lybians, he was convicted, and developed prostatic carcinoma in prison3880091f1 This killer is being released to die in comfort at home.

I’m not the first to comment on this, as you can see here, here, and here.  I do concur, however, that this does not discourage these acts.  This person murdered, for profit (he was paid) and political reasons several HUNDRED people and he received a “heroes welcome?”

While I acknowledge the cost-savings for not having him die in prison, c’mon people. Compassion is all well and good. Mercy and forgiveness are important character traits. There is a difference between being compassionate and being a patsy, however. Al-Megrahi got into prison on the strength of his own actions, and showed no compassion towards his victims. Perhaps a judicial execution would be one final obscenity capping off a series of obscenities, one may argue the point. But let him die in prison. If not pour discourager les autres, at least for justice for those he killed without compassion.

If one does away with capital punishment as being too cruel and inhumane one must, in decency to the victims, have a replacement that both protects society and provides a measure of retribution. If we are too enlightened to just deal death outright, the living death of a 23 & 1 ADMAX is perfectly fine. To me, it seems more calculating and unfeeling, the modern version of the oubliette, a little forgetting place.
Image from www.radekaphotography.com/noose.htm, Shakespeare NM

Tuesday, 18, August, 2009


Filed under: Boom — williamthecoroner @ 20:38

If you get your knowledge of firearms from the media, instead of reality, you may be seriously inconvenienced, if not really, most sincerely dead.  TGACE is running a small series on tactics, and one thing to keep in mind is the difference between COVER and CONCEALMENT.

COVER is what bad guys cannot shoot through.  CONCEALMENT is what bad guys don’t shoot through because they don’t know you are there.  In my career, I’ve met several people who confused the two.  Not for long, however.

Further Thoughts on Talent and Character

Filed under: Life, the universe, & everything. — williamthecoroner @ 12:27

In the comments of a previous post, commenter Pelican raises some interesting points, and that leads to something I would like to continue to investigate.  Something I’ve read on other blogs. Namely, at what point does talent, be it sporting talent, political acumen, writing talent, whatever, make up for, even outweigh, moral wrongs committed by the talented person.  To give a couple of examples:

  1. A young campaign staffer gets a ride home with a talented rising politician.  There is a car crash, and the politician escapes and goes to bed, waiting to inform the police (though communication was available) for several hours.
  2. A cabbie comes upon another cabbie, his brother, who is being stopped by a policeman.  The policeman is shot and dies.  The brother refuses to speak as to what happened, the cabbie is convicted, and becomes a writer in prison.  He is lauded for his accomplishments, and his accomplishments are put forward as a reason to mitigate his sentence.
  3. A young woman cooperates with her young lover to kill the lover’s mother, bashing her in the head with a brick.  They are sent to prison.  When released, they are given new identities and new lives.  The woman goes on to be a popular mystery writer.

I can sort of see the last one, after all, one writes what one knows.  For the others though, their talents seem to erase their deeds.

Perhaps, as Pelican put it, it does come down to the severity of the deed.  I really can’t get too exercised over baseball statistics.  I don’t KNOW what an RBI is, all I know is the Indians start out good and end up in the cellar.   Death of another human being or wanton, vicious cruelty for profit is quite another kettle of fish than sports betting.

But then, one returns to Bernie Madoff.  A manipulator, a thief on a grand scale, true.  His crimes were non-violent, and were committed with the help of his victims.  One had to pursuade Bernie to take your money.  He didn’t handle the small fish, no, it was the big ones.

So is that the take home point, if one is going to commit crimes, kill and steal from the people who are helpless and have no one to avenge them?  Eugh.

Monday, 17, August, 2009

Good Doggie

Filed under: Overheard,People who need pianos dropped on them,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 14:34

Via Marko and Cranky, I learn that Michael “Ookie” Vick has ressurected his professional football career.  Well, now.

He has paid his debt to society.  He did serve his time.  He can throw a football, and may be an asset to the team.  I do not know.  I do, however, question his character.  Both the fundamental lack of empathy involved in running a kennel of fighting dogs, and betting on it.  Should people in professional sports be involved in betting?

In one sense, who better to know the strengths and weaknesses of one team over another?  They literally have (pig)skin in the game.  On the other hand, they have an unprecidented chance to make money using those skills for evil.  This is not fair to the run-of-the-mill bettor.  On the third hand the only thing fair to the run of the mill bettor would be to go and read a good book instead of making book.

Finally, Michael Vick was willing to take dogs and make them suffer and die for his own profit.  Though he has “paid his debt to society”, I’m not sure that that poor character ever goes away completely.  I would prefer not to speak or associate with Mr. Vick.  Perhaps providing him with a livelihood is a good business decision for the Eagles.  Outside of business, a good dose of  ostracism is in order.

Saturday, 15, August, 2009

Baby, You Win Again

Filed under: Poetry — williamthecoroner @ 22:13

Baby, You Win Again–Mary-Chapin Carpenter


I’m standing here freezing at a phone booth baby
In the middle of God knows where
I got one quarter left your machine packs up
But baby I know you’re there
And I just start crying ’cause it makes no sense
To waste these words and twenty-five cents
On a losing game
Baby you win again
I’ve been turning it over and over again
Like a stone I’m waiting to wish on
I’ve been holding my breath just wondering when
You’ll make some sort of decision
To let me in or let me go
I’ll always lose if I never know
Where I fit in
Baby you win again
I can’t be right if I’m always wrong
I can’t stand up if I’m always kneeling
At your altar or at your throne
You could show just a little feeling
For who I am
Baby you win again
Last night I dreamed we were standing here
On the corner of love and heartache
You jumped into your car you found first gear
And baby I felt the earth shake
And I woke up trembling with my heart in my throat
‘Cause there’ never a look a word or a note
At the bitter end
Baby you win again
I can’t be right if I’m always wrong
I can’t stand up if I’m always kneeling
At your altar or at your throne
You could show just a little feeling
For who I am
Baby you win again
Baby you win again
Baby you win again

Talk of the Diner

Filed under: Self mockery — williamthecoroner @ 04:47

One way to be the talk of the diner is to thoroughly stir cream and sugar into your water glass, leaving your coffee untouched.

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