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21st Century Crime and Punishment: Motive in the murder of Christopher Lane

21st Century Crime and Punishment: Motive in the murder of Christopher Lane

Through no fault of his own, aspiring baseball player Christopher Lane of Australia was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“The wrong place” was jogging on a street in Duncan, Oklahoma. The wrong time was when a trio of teens with random murder in their hearts happened to spy him and, deciding he would make a good target, shot him in the back and killed him.

The press is covering the story heavily because of its sensationalistic aspects. One of the accused teenaged killers, 17-year-old Michael Dewayne Jones, said the victim had been chosen randomly and the motive was boredom. The killing therefore fits the very definition of “senseless” violence.

And of course it goes almost without saying that anti-gun pundits are jumping on the bandwagon of more background checks, despite the fact that there is no indication whatsoever that a tightening of such laws would have had any effect on the ability of these teens to obtain a gun and commit the crime.

There is the racial angle as well. The victim was white. Two of the suspects are black (James Francis Edwards Jr., 15, and Chancey Allen Luna, 16) and have been charged with first degree murder. But one appears from photos to be white and was charged with lesser offenses (“Michael Dewayne Jones, 17…was charged with using a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and with accessory to first-degree murder after the fact”).

I write “appears to be white” because I have yet to find a newspaper that discusses the issue and actually identifies Jones in a manner that would tell us his racial or ethnic background. For that matter, one of the black perps (Luna) appears, from the evidence of the photos in this article, to have a biological mother who is white.

Why do we care? Well, the connection between race and crime has certainly been an issue lately, hasn’t it? Neither our president nor Al Sharpton has decided to weigh in on this one yet, but others have certainly used it to make various points about race and crime. And because of the interracial aspects, and because the stated motive (or lack thereof) is so chilling—and do we take the perp’s word for it that it was actually boredom?—a racial motive is certainly a good possibility as well.

Almost everything about the true motive is speculation at this point, but I’ll add mine. This appears to have been a crime of opportunity; the fact that the victim was white was probably far from a drawback in the eyes of the perpetrators, but there’s no indication that it was a special motive, either.

The story of how the perps were apprehended after the killing might be relevant in evaluating the question:

James Johnson, 52, called the police to tell them that the accused killers were hiding in the car park of the Immauel Baptist Church car park at about 5pm, two hours after they allegedly shot Lane.

“My son called me and said, “They’re saying they’re coming to kill me,” so I called the police and they got here within about three minutes,” Johnson told the Herald Sun.

“They threatened to kill my son because they are in a gang, the Crips, and were trying to get my son in it and I wouldn’t let him do it.

“I told him he couldn’t run with those boys. He’s a little terrified.”

The article doesn’t mention the race of either James Johnson or his son in the text. But there’s a photo of the elder Johnson and he is black, so we can conclude that his son (and the trio’s next intended victim) is either black or of mixed race.

In summary: this does not appear to be a case of three otherwise fine upstanding youths who were bored one day and therefore decided to kill somebody. These were three boys in their mid-to-late teens who were loaded with gang- and rap-type braggadocio and petty criminal activity (from Facebook evidence as well as some previous encounters with the criminal justice system) who decided to escalate things and do some killing. Their first (and only) victim was a white stranger. Their second intended victim was a black acquaintance.

I have titled this post after the famous Dostoevsky novel Crime and Punishment, because that book contained an example of what might motivate a young perpetrator to commit a random and senseless act of violence in killing an elderly female pawnbroker. In the book the perpetrator Raskolnikov has complex philosophical inspirations; the Lane murder suspects seem to have been motivated by nothing more than aimlessness and a popular climate and culture that glorifies thuggery.

Note, also, as contrast, the telling testimony of Mr. Johnson, a black father who seems to have been active in protecting his own son from such influences. Remember his words [emphasis added]: “they are in a gang, the Crips, and were trying to get my son in it and I wouldn’t let him do it. I told him he couldn’t run with those boys.”

Johnson is a hero for three reasons. The first is that it was his call to police that was responsible for the apprehension of Lane’s probable killers. The second is that by doing so he may have saved his own son from death. And the third is his example as a parent and involved father: aware and proactive, countering the destructive cultural forces that surround so many young people today.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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This story is more detailed in the British and Australian press.

Not sure where I read it but someone said Jones’s father is black which would make sense, he kind of looks like a mulatto. (is that word okay to use anymore?)

Luckily, Jesse Jackson (Sr) has stepped right up to the plate and tweeted that he “…frowns on this behavior”.

Yes, truely, his words.

    Spiny Norman in reply to pjm. | August 22, 2013 at 1:48 am

    Since he’s had little to say about the on-going bloody gang war in Chicago, I guess his issue is that he’d rather the thugs’ behavior not make the national news.

    Musson in reply to pjm. | August 22, 2013 at 8:45 am

    If George Bush had a son, he would look like Christopher Lane.

“Why do we care?”

we don’t.

For once, can we let the wheels of justice turn without speculation as to motive, or media sensationalism?

I know nothing of the facts, other than the victims name. For once in my life, I’d like to keep it that way.

I care not about the media reports, I just want to see justice done in a legal court of law with due process. STOP THE SPECULATIONS ALREADY.

I think that there was another motivation that means the killing was less than random.

If you have a look at the Facebook and Twitter entries available via some of the news sources, then one gets the impression that James Edwards had another motivation for randomly choosing a white victim. Boredom was definitely not the reason for the crime committed with a gun that had its registration number removed.

The wrong place, the wrong time??? This was not MLK ave in Chicago at night.

BannedbytheGuardian | August 21, 2013 at 10:55 pm

I do not think seeing someone running past & then deciding to kill them is random . They got in a car & drove behind him & shot him through the back. ( one report I read had them shooting him a second time when he was down but I would wait for confirmation on that one ).

That is premeditated murder.

The racial angle is secondary . The. Australian had the perps up quickly – look black to us plus the Cripps gang angle . Plus interviews with the father who called 911 that the killers were coming for his son also .

If the tweets are permissible ( & after trayvon they may not be ) a racial motive could be argued .

The impression here is gang culture which in this case is black.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | August 22, 2013 at 12:31 am

    It was premeditated in the sense that they planned to do a random murder ie the murder itself was premeditated. The victim was random.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to MouseTheLuckyDog. | August 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      Good point, although I don’t believe it’s fully accurate. I think Lane was chosen because of his race, age and gender – young white male, psychologically perceived as the “warriors” of the white race. Yeah, any younger to early middle-aged white male would probably have sufficed, but entirely random? No. Lane was “profiled”, as most victims are. Blacks almost always hunt in packs and will only attack when they’re alone if it’s an elderly, handicapped or female white victim.

      The intended killing of Johnson’s son is a completely different matter. They knew him, and wanted to force him into their gang. They had deemed him a novitiate against his wishes. Apples and oranges.

      The Johnson boy’s blackness in no way expunges a racial motive in the killers’ shooting of Lane and any perception that it does is a rather shallow and superficial interpretation.

      The fact that Johnson’s son is black

        JackRussellTerrierist in reply to JackRussellTerrierist. | August 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm

        oops….(con’d)…..The fact that Johnson’s son is black automatically made him a desirable candidate for the gang recruitment that had spilled over to this town. Although the boy’s parents have apparently never been married, they have three children together and Dad apparently lives nearby, keeping a very watchful eye on his kids. It’s a better situation than most black kids experience.

Brava, neo. This is the best analysis of the tragic story I have yet read.

BannedbytheGuardian | August 21, 2013 at 11:18 pm

I had not read the article but only seen it on TV & one immediate report. one of Rupert Murdoch’s earliest acquisitions & is where most of his ground level tabloid talent is trained.

This was so much superior to any American coverage that I have seen. Well set out ,frank & fearless with. Discernible quotes.

Look and learn American media.

NC Mountain Girl | August 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm

They are lucky to have suspects. In May 2010 there was an equally senseless shooting murder of a 60 year old jogger out on a Sunday morning in Raytown MO. That one has never been solved.

    They found them via security camera footage.

      NC Mountain Girl in reply to Pablo. | August 22, 2013 at 10:03 am

      There was a surveillance video of a car from day one. The cops thought there were two men in it. The last story I can find was a first anniversary story that states no arrests have been made. There is a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

      I suspect there are many people who know who the shooters are but unless the goofs get cute and post it to Facebook who will come forward? That almost always seems to be the case with these gangs on homicidal youths. Everyone in the community is too afraid to act.

Midwest Rhino | August 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm

There are plenty of “justice for Trayvon” idiots that no doubt approve of this incident. They’ve been encouraged by Sharpton, Holder and Obama himself, as I see it.

Holder’s sells 2500 guns to the drug cartels, fights states that try to defend their borders. This administration’s own lawlessness and the resultant loss of our freedoms spits in the face of any family that has lost loved ones fighting for our country.

The country is devolving into gang warfare, starting with Obama and his union gangs, and the rich guys and their lobbyist gangs. And it goes right down to cities with political groups and their illegal cronyism, or the drug gangs.

Obama seems to care only about forming domestic gangs that will attack white conservatives, while internationally weakening us by siding with the Muslim Brotherhood. What a guy.

Neo, thanks for this. Very well considered and reasoned.

Mr. Johnson Senior is indeed a good man. Sounds like the kind of guy I’d like in my neighborhood.

What’s more, he points out by his example what was (very likely) missing in the lives of the three young perpetrators — a strong male authority figure who could, by word and example, teach right from wrong.

Of course one can’t get too philosophical or moralistic given the facts as we know them, but we do know that when boys grow up without men around to guide them that there is a risk of a bad outcome. We can’t say for sure in a given situation but we know it’s a risk. Boys without adult leadership gravitate to whoever does provide a sense of belonging. That might well be a gang, and all it entails.

We need men to be more involved in the upbringing of boys.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to stevewhitemd. | August 22, 2013 at 12:43 am

    Mr. Johnson does indeed seem to be a good man. His son is lucky to have him. Most black boys (and girls) are raised without a father in the home and, in many cases, have never seen their father or may not even know his name.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to stevewhitemd. | August 22, 2013 at 1:04 am

    The Luna kid’s father died in a motorcycle accident this year.

    Nevertheless, that does not excuse willful murder.

    Prayers for and condolences to the Lane family and his girlfriend. To the thugs, swift and sure judgment.

It really isn’t race, it’s culture. The lack of proper parenting, the absence of a father – not always literally, but not involved enough in the male child’s life – the life without goals, without love, without meaning … without most everything of importance. Doesn’t excuse the killing or any other killing, but it is important, I think, to recognize that white kids brought up the same way are as vicious, as savage and as violent as these young men and that the most likely producing cause(s) are present in homes of every ethnicity.

    pst314 in reply to Ike. | August 22, 2013 at 9:24 am

    “It really isn’t race, it’s culture.” It’s a racist culture. That is, a racist black ghetto culture of crime and violence and pathological victimhood, and a racist white liberal culture that endlessly preaches the ineradicable collective guilt of all whites for evils done by some long-dead whites, and that blames all current black failures on a mysterious, impossible-to-show white conspiracy.

      Radegunda in reply to pst314. | August 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

      Exactly. The pernicious combination of perpetual racial grievance and self-congratulatory white guilt (which sounds like an oxymoron but isn’t) has spawned a lawless ghetto culture, and a venal entertainment industry has glorified it.

      The media and academe and certain politicians constantly lie about the reality of inter-racial victimization, thus giving black youth the impression that any crime they want to commit against a white person is fully justified. The Zimmerman case was cynically played to that effect.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Ike. | August 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Your post presumes that the people giving birth to these savages have parenting skills, good or poor. Most don’t even have the ability to acquire parenting skills, let alone practice them in any meaningful way.

MouseTheLuckyDog | August 22, 2013 at 12:29 am

Was the weapon used even a legally obtained weapon? If not what do gun laws have to do with it?

Crime of opportunity…just like Trayvon jumping George Z. We’d bred a legion of thugs that fear nothing.

If a kid is not allowed to have a gun and buys one illegally, how does gun control prevent his acquisition and use of a gun to commit murder when he gets the gun for a gang or buys it on the streets?

    Radegunda in reply to Juba Doobai!. | August 22, 2013 at 11:21 am

    If they don’t have a gun, what prevents three teenagers from using their vehicle or their fists and feet to take out a lone jogger?

Since the early 1990s, more states have adopted “shall issue” policies with regard to concealed carry. The prevalence of “stand your ground” laws has also increased. Yet violent crime in the U.S. has dramatically declined over the same time period, and that includes the use of guns. In other words, more guns, less crime. This negative correlation is completely neglected by the press who seem obsessed with gun control.

If you want to understand crime then first study the characteristics of who commits crime, particularly the violent kind. The driving variables are: 1. sex, 2. age, 3. race. A city whose only occupants were old white women would have virtually no crime. A city whose only occupants were young black men, would be a hellhole of violence– see East St. Louis for an approximation. It’s time to focus on what will work to control crime instead of what feels good.

    Browndog in reply to raijin. | August 22, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Too often we fall into the trap of trying to figure out the “why” to define the “what”.

    In the good ‘ol days the “what” was left to law enforcement, and the “why” was left to the sociologists and psychologists.

    Since the ’60’s, the up-start fields of sociology/psychiatry began their quest to prove all humans are good, and anything bad is a result of their environment. Not their fault.

    Standard progressive philosophy.

    NC Mountain Girl in reply to raijin. | August 22, 2013 at 10:12 am

    What has distinguished black culture since the 1960s is the lack of fathers in the home.

    This is not new, and the liberals know all about it. In 1991,they hailed the movie Boyz in the Hood for how it “raised awareness” of the importance of fathers. The 25th anniversary edition DVD is probably on the drawing boards and all that has happened is the pathology of broken homes has spread like wildfire into lower class white communities. So has senseless youth crime.

      Blaming the high level of black crime on the lack of father ignores the fact that postbellum, the black crime rate has always been higher. One of the major black political activists, W.E.B. Dubois, wrote about the disproportionate amount of black crime in Philadelphia around 1900. You will find many tables and graphs presenting historical data in the book, “Ethnicity, Race and Crime.” Some of the graphs go back as far as 1870 and show a much higher rate of black crime. The criminal justice system is often accused of bias, and blamed for the high rates of black arrests and incarceration. However data from the National Crime Victimization Crime Survey (NCVS) approximately matches the arrest rates. NCVS only covers reports by victims, not the police. This data is independent of the arrest data and confirms that the high level of black crime is not simply an artifact of police prejudice.

      The difference in rates is astonishing. The murder rate for blacks is between seven and ten times the rate for whites, depending on the place and time period. Lack of a father doesn’t help, but it’s not the primary cause.

Whether the motive was boredom or a Trayvon Martin verdict payback the idea that things can be solved via violence is evil. To achieve thrills or “justice” via a bullet in someone’s back is the same evil that spurs Al Qaeda, the Islamic Brotherhood, Hezbollah and the young Chicago thugs.

Evil is the lie that you can have absolute power over life and death.

Freddie Sykes | August 22, 2013 at 8:24 am

There was talk in 2008 about what a community organizer does. He tries to divide people into them against us by instilling a sense of resentment, victimization and false entitlement. This has been President Obama’s agenda since taking office especially wrt race. It is working and helped contribute to this crime and the rise in racial violence in general. This was taking the knock out game, which has resulted in at least two deaths I am aware of, to the next logical level. The president did not create the climate but has done much to foster it.

Henry Hawkins | August 22, 2013 at 9:53 am

Three items:

The motive was not ‘boredom’ as reported all over media, it was a thrill kill, a type of homicide all too common among juveniles and young adults.

The killing wasn’t random, as reported all over the media, nor was the choice of victim. The victim was specifically chosen because he was alone and because he could be killed from a moving car.

Two other very possible motives cannot have been ruled out so quickly and bear investigation:

1. This may have been a gang initiation killing.

2. This may have been a killing intended to impress a local gang in hopes of gaining initiation.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Henry Hawkins. | August 23, 2013 at 12:15 am

    You left out race.

    One of the thugs reportedly posted or twittered that he knocked out five white guys after the George Zimmerman verdict, and, along with anti-white racial slurs, also posted that he hates white people. But I’m sure the other two just adore white people and didn’t want to participate. (roll eyes)

I have nothing to add to the fine comments above. I will say that if someone named “Dewayne” is white, it will be the biggest racial upset in names since Reggie Cleveland, the pitcher, turned out to be both white and Canadian.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Alex Bensky. | August 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    He’s only part white, although his white genes appear to be dominant. The other part is black. Thus, like obastard, he is a “white black”, unlike George Zimmerman who was deemed a “white Hispanic.”

It’s interesting how this story, despite every article I’ve seen gathering hundred or even thousands of comments (the CNN story yesterday had over 20,000 comments) is nowhere to be found on Google News.

If Google News is such an innocent aggregator site, shouldn’t it have some mention of this story? I mean, it’s just a machine, right? There is nothing on the Google News page – not in Top Stories, not anywhere in the National News.

Even *searching* Google News with the term “Christopher Lane” pulls up only a few stories. At first the ‘show more’ option listed over 5,500 articles, but when I clicked on the link, there was nothing there…nothing. At all. It was a blank page.

Now a few hours later Google when searched shows 634 stories, and it’s possible to click through to a page with the news links on it. Of course it’s not really clear where the other five thousand news links went, but only people who read Orwell care about stuff that.