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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Was Justice Done in Chicago "Dog-Urination" Murder?

Charles Clements and his lawn

A Chicago man last week was sentenced to probation for the murder of a neighbor who had allowed his dog to urinate on the man's lawn.

Charles J. Clements, a 69-year-old great-grandfather, was convicted in October of second-degree murder in the shooting of Joshua Funches, 23. The two men got into a confrontation on May 9 after Funches allowed his fox terrier to take a leak on Clements well manicured lawn.

While stating that a gun never should have been entered into the equation, leading to a fatal shooting, I was somewhat sympathetic toward Clements when we first wrote about this story. As regular readers know, I tend to be supportive of anyone who makes lawful efforts to protect their private-property rights--and early news reports indicated Clements was claiming self defense after Funches had threatened and punched him several times.

More recent news reports, however, give us considerable pause about Clements' actions. And it's hard to see how a judge could justify giving such a light sentence for what a jury determined was second-degree murder.

As we stated in our earlier posts, the incident could have been avoided if Funches, when confronted about the placement of his dog's pee, had simply said "sorry" and kept walking. Clements was within his legal rights to request that the dog, and its urine, stay off his property in the future--even if that request might seem over the top to many people, including me.

Clements, however, moved off solid legal footing when he decided to follow Funches down the street. Here is how the Chicago Tribune reported the story last week, based on trial testimony:

On May 9, Clements took a break from watching a tape of the 1986 Chicago Bears Super Bowl game to escort his wife out to her car, carrying a loaded .45-caliber pistol in his pocket. As he sat on the porch waiting for her to return from the post office, Funches walked past.

Clements testified at trial that Funches looked up at him "with a smug and defiant look on his face" and let the dog urinate on his lawn. He decided to confront Funches because he had been finding "stool deposits in my yard and on the sidewalk."

"I suspected he might be the person," Clements said. "I told him, 'You are supposed to clean up after your animal.'"

Clements said he was hoping to talk with Funches when he left his porch and followed Funches down the street. Instead, the two men argued, and Clements showed Funches the gun he was carrying in his overalls.

In earlier reports, it was unclear exactly where the confrontation and shooting took place--in front of Clements' house or somewhere down the street. This report makes it clear that Clements followed Funches down the street--and it shows that Funches probably never would have sassed or punched Clements if the older man had not followed him. Reports the Tribune:

The argument escalated after Funches said, "Old man, if you pull a gun on me, you better plan on using it." Eventually, Funches, who was unarmed, punched Clements once in the face, according to trial testimony.

Funches was standing motionless, Clements testified, when he pulled out his gun and opened fire. Funches was shot once in the abdomen in front of his aunt's house, on the street where he learned to ride a bike and walked to school as a child.

The father of two stumbled down the street to the sidewalk outside his mother's old house, which he and his girlfriend had recently fixed up and moved into, while Clements tried to rack another round.

Under this set of circumstances, one can understand why a jury considered this an act of murder. The judge apparently took Clements' age and clean record into consideration when deciding the sentence:

[Clements] could have faced up to 20 years in prison. Instead, Judge Daniel Rozak, who last year sentenced a spectator to three weeks in jail for loudly yawning in his courtroom, ordered Clements to serve 4 years of probation.

"This is not justice," said Gail Williams, one of Joshua's aunts. "It's unbelievable to know that in this day and age, you can follow a person down the street, pull a gun … kill a man, get charged with second-degree murder and walk out of a courtroom (with probation). . . . "

Rozak said the slaying wasn't about a puppy urinating on Clements' manicured lawn but "about (Clements') reaction … to being yelled at, pushed and punched in the face by a 23-year-old man."

Prosecutors called Rozak "an excellent judge"--lawyers always say that about judges when it's for public consumption--and said they will not appeal the sentence. But we think both the judge and the prosecutors are wrong. The sentence should be appealed because the punishment in this case does not fit the crime.

By introducing a gun into the equation and following Funches down the street, Clements committed an offense that deserves quite a bit more than probation.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Roger,

Sorry for dropping this here, but I want you to take a look at it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoQvdkIq2mI&feature=youtu.be

I also dropped it at kos for you.

If you have thoughts on it, please share them...both here and there.

-SJerseyIndy (at DailyKos)

legalschnauzer said...

SJerseyIndy:

Thanks for sending this. Very interesting. Curiously, I've been banned at Kos for one month for writing about the Wheeler murder. The guy who goes by Meteor Blades made that unilateral decision, I guess. Said my post was CT.

From the looks the item you sent, my post wasn't CT enough. This is more bizare than anything I posited.

I appreciate what the many good folks at Kos try to do, but I get a little weary of being called "CT" anytime I try to provide a news analysis of a justice-related story. That site might be more for poltical stuff than the justice pieces I usually write.

Don't know that I'm going to go back there. Kind of fed up with them and the strange agendas. Like dealing with a frat house and all of its odd terminology and rituals.

Human said...

Maybe the family of the victim will go for Civil damages. At least the P.O.S. might loss his lovely lawn then.

KOS is a purely supportive structure for the Democratic Party.

Peace.

Anonymous said...

Was justice done? No. Justice was not done. That old coward belongs in prison for the rest of his miserable life.

Anonymous said...

What is CT?

Anonymous said...

Roger,

You're welcome. I didn't know what to make of it. There was enough confirming links cited to make the thing seem somewhat plausible, but I couldn't sort through it all. I figured some additional knowledge you might have had might've shed a little light.

As to the whole Kos ordeal, it would be unfortunate for a number of users if you did not return.

While I'm also of the opinion that your diaries sometimes approach the realm of CT, I also appreciate the different angles you bring to the discussion. And different facts I might not have otherwise caught.

The whole thing seems to be a result of a warning issued by MB, which he states you ignored. I have no idea of knowing what the warning was or what you did specifically that caused the determination that you ignored it. But, if a warning was issued and you did ignore it, it would seem there should be some sort of repercussion. Surely there can be agreement or disagreement as to what those should be. But that is neither here nor there, as it has been left to MB, the community moderator.

Surely the goings on at Kos are somewhat sophomoric at times. But I would hope you wouldn't let that keep you away from there for good.

-SJerseyIndy

legalschnauzer said...

Anon (Next to Last):

CT is "conspiracy theory." It's a strange code Daily Kos has for diaries that are considered too speculative.

legalschnauzer said...

SJerseyIndy:

Thanks for your comment. The warning from MB was based on bad information. It was re: a diary I did on 1/3 about the Rove/Assange story, and the warning said I hurt my case by citing a Swedish tabloid. In fact, the Swedish tabloid cited me, plus Andrew Kreig at Huffington Post. I merely was reporting that the Rove/Assange story had been picked up in the Swedish press, nothing more and nothing less. It's simple fact, and the underlying story has been reported on HuffPo--and one source told me it's been picked up by some 4,000 blogs around the world.

Curiously, I had written 2-3 earlier diaries about Rove/Assange connections and received zero warnings. The Kos hierarchy only seemed to get antsy when the story made the Swedish press. I have to wonder why that is.

Anyway, the warning itself was not grounded in fact. Plus, that diary was No. 3 on that day's list of high-impact diaries and received 400-plus recs (if I remember correctly). So MB appears to be in the minority in his views about the post.

Second, I didn't ignore the warning. The piece I did on 1/4 about the Wheeler murder had nothing to do with the Rove/Assange story for which I received a bogus warning. The two were unrelated. And the Wheeler post was not even close to CT, in my view. It pointed out that Wheeler has extensive experience with Air Force tanker logistics and acquisition, and there currently is a $40 billion contract up for grabs between Boeing and EADS, which has strong ties to Alabama (where I live, and it's why I'm interested in it). All of this is fact, not CT. And because I live in AL and have sources informed about the tanker deal, I felt I had insight of interest to the Kos crowd.

I ended the diary simply by saying that investigators should look into Wheeler's ties to the industries that deal with Air Force tankers--that should be an avenue of inquiry. That's just common sense, and I suspect investigators are doing just that--or they will be.

Again, this diary received numerous recs and was among the top 50 high-impact diaries for the day.

MB can handle his duties however he sees fit, but he's way off base on this, and he's coming across as an autocrat who operates on bad information. Not the kind of thing Kos should be known for.

A final note: MB warnings are not terribly specific, and the diarist is pretty much left to guess at what he is talking about. I'm not into that whole Kos culture of CT and HR, etc. I'm a journalist with 30 years of experience trying to help shine light on justice-related issues--especially those that have possible connections to Alabama.

I didn't ignore anyone's warning. I just knew the warning was based on bad information, so I didn't know what to make of it. In my view, it has no application to the Wheeler story.

I've sought clarification from MB, and he hasn't responded, so I'm still in the dark.

legalschnauzer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
legalschnauzer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
legalschnauzer said...

SJerseyIndy:

Thanks for your comment. The warning from MB was based on bad information. It was re: a diary I did on 1/3 about the Rove/Assange story, and the warning said I hurt my case by citing a Swedish tabloid. In fact, the Swedish tabloid cited me, plus Andrew Kreig at Huffington Post. I merely was reporting that the Rove/Assange story had been picked up in the Swedish press, nothing more and nothing less. It's simple fact, and the underlying story has been reported on HuffPo--and one source told me it's been picked up by some 4,000 blogs around the world.

Second, I didn't ignore the warning. The piece I did on 1/4 about the Wheeler murder had nothing to do with the Rove/Assange story for which I received a bogus warning. The two were unrelated. And the Wheeler post was not even close to CT, in my view. It pointed out that Wheeler has extensive experience with Air Force tanker logistics and acquisition, and there currently is a $40 billion contract up for grabs between Boeing and EADS, which has strong ties to Alabama (where I live, and it's why I'm interested in it). All of this is fact, not CT.

I ended the diary simply by saying that investigators should look into Wheeler's ties to the industries that deal with Air Force tankers--that should be an avenue of inquiry. That's just common sense, and I suspect investigators are doing just that--or they will be.

MB can handle his duties however he sees fit, but he's way off base on this, and he's coming across as an autocrat who operates on bad information. Not the kind of thing Kos should be known for.