Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ellie Nesler: 1952 — 2008

“Who?” I don’t know how much fame or publicity Ellie Nesler got outside of California. If you ever saw A Time To Kill — she did in real life what Samuel L. Jackson did in that movie.

In April 1993, Ellie Nesler shot and killed Daniel Driver in a California courtroom. Driver was on trial for molesting Ellie Nesler’s 7-year-old son, and three other boys, at a Christian camp.

During the trial it was revealed that several years earlier, Daniel Driver had pleaded guilty to numerous charges of child molestation. But he was given probation after the judge was bombarded with letters from members of Driver’s church, all vouching for his “character.”

Ellie Nesler made certain that Daniel Driver would never strike again.

Ellie Nesler wasn’t a saint. She had a prior criminal record, she was high on meth when she shot Daniel Driver, and after she served time for manslaughter for killing Driver, she was jailed again on meth charges (technically, possession of 10,000 pseudoephedrine tablets). But she did what practically anybody, regardless of political views or personality type, would do in that situation — or at least would fantasize about doing.

Rightly or wrongly, the vigilante is a powerful archetype. Dirty Harry, Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Sally Field in An Eye For An Eye, Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs — Ellie Nesler was the real-life version of these movie heroes.

She died of cancer last Friday.


cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

I'm torn. I certainly enjoyed the "Dirty Harry" and "Death Wish" movies. But in real life I don't like people taking the law into their own hands. That said, I realize how blind justice can sometimes be.

R.I.P. for Nesler, yes, and for Driver, not so much.

December 30, 2008 at 10:39 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

SW: Vigilantism is one of those things where there's an emotional pull in one direction and an intellectual pull in the opposite direction. What Nesler did certainly wasn't legal, and yet -- who wouldn't do the same thing in the same situation? (Or at least be mightily tempted?)

December 31, 2008 at 1:28 AM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

I say more power to her. The breakdown wasn’t with Nesler; it was with the justice system (re idiot judge) and the ass-wipes at the church who vouched for Driver.

Her drug problems were tangential and irrelevant to her case as far as I’m concerned. I would’ve given her a walk for temporary insanity. What mother (or father) wouldn’t be pushed the brink of homicidal fury in that case?

Those naïve, stupid, bible-thumping ass-wipes who blindly vouched for Driver are of the same ilk as those who blindly believe in, and vote for people like Sarah Palin and other moron politicians of any party.

The citizens of our country who are hyper-religious, inflexible, ignorant, lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling/unable to think and research on their own are growing in numbers; and will ruin our country by way of propagating societal division, civil unrest, and even civil war one day.

The movie “Idiocracy” is one of the most anthropologically prophetic movies of our time; and it’s such a stupid movie! It’s astounding to ponder.

Happy new year to you, my friend.

December 31, 2008 at 3:30 AM  
Anonymous kate said...

i think you protect your children at any cost.

December 31, 2008 at 3:58 AM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

That's the rub. I'm anti-death penalty, but if something like that happened, you're damn right 100% of my emotions would be on brutal, deadly vengeance.

Of course, these days, she could have said she worked for Blackwater and thought the molester was Muslim and would've gotten a slap on the wrist.

December 31, 2008 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I remember her well.

She was very fierce and brave. Unless you've had a child who was sexually abused by an adult, I don't think you can understand her anger.

December 31, 2008 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Mauigirl said...

Interesting about her - reminds me a of a book I read where the wife kills a priest in the courtroom because she thought he was molesting her son. But it turned out it was someone else. That's the problem with vigilante-ism I guess. It's why we have the laws... Of course, that story was fiction, but it could happen.

Sounds like in this case she got the right guy anyway!

Happy New Year, Tom! Hope you have a great 2009.

December 31, 2008 at 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Paul Malden said...

If it were my kid, I suppose I'd have done it, too.

On that note...Happy New Year!

December 31, 2008 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Carlos: Yup, those Biblewipes struck again. I guess as long as you pledge your love to Jesus, you can get away with anything.

Kate: Absolutely.

Randal: That’s an idea. Poor Ellie was born too early. Nowadays all she’d have to do is invoke national security, turrists, Blackwater, and she’d be a hero.

Christopher: Yup, fierce and brave would certainly describe her. What she did was illegal, but I can sure see why she did it.

Mauigirl: Yes, she at least got the right guy. And Happy New Year to you too.

Paul: I probably would too. Happy New Year.

December 31, 2008 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Enemy of the Republic said...

I have a temper that I rarely lose, but when I do, things happen. I could have been that woman in a moment of rage. But I couldn't ever plan out such a thing, as justified as she must have felt. Deep down I am too law abiding and I know the law is often wrong. But it goes along with moral law which is a higher realm: no one has the right to take life even though they do it all the time. This is why I cannot abide capital punishment. And I would only hope that I have my temper in check if I met a molester of my child or nieces, because it would be hard not to kill that person.

December 31, 2008 at 5:41 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Mauigirl raises a good point about vigilantism: it's emotional, reactive and scatter gun.

What if, despite his past history, Driver wasn't actually the one who molested Nesler's son? Suppose after his previous experience, Driver managed to straighten himself out, vowing to never molest another child. And suppose he kept that vow. I'm not saying that's the case and doubt that it is the case. I'm just posing some pertinent questions, because anything is possible and without proof it's all circumstantial.

Prosecutors, judges and juries have one mission. It's to get at the truth. Obviously, they don't always succeed. But in our system the onus is on the prosecution to prove guilt.

When someone does what Nesler did, the process is short circuited. You might say Driver deserved to die for his past misdeeds, whether he molested Nesler's child or not. But even if you believe that, you have to admit getting at the truth was made impossible and our system of justice was undermined — one more slip down a very slippery slope.

Keep in mind, a basic requirement of our system, to ensure its survival, is that the system itself is more important than any particular case.

With that out of the way, let me add wishes for a happy new year to all.

December 31, 2008 at 8:53 PM  
Blogger rockync said...

While I don't think rampant vigilantism would be a good thing, I can see how taking the law into your own hands might become necessary when the law loses sight completely of who the hell they are supposed to be protecting. I work in a jail once in a while; I've seen some of these scumbags up close and personal; I firmly support the death pentalty - it's not killing another human being, it's getting rid of the bogey man. Most of those headed for death row are killing machines that lack any kind of human emotion. They'd gun down a two year old for sport. No, I have no problem dispatching them from my earth...

January 1, 2009 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Enemy: I gotta agree with you. What she did was wrong and illegal, and vigilantism is a dangerous trend. But like you said, who knows how any of us would react in that same situation?

SW: It's possible that Driver wasn't guilty of that particular charge; and the process got short-circuited. And it's true, like you say, that "a basic requirement of our system, to ensure its survival, is that the system itself is more important than any particular case."

That's why her case was so much like a real life Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson movie. On an emotional level, most people are going "Yeah! Let him have it!" while realizing intellectually that we wouldn't really want our own neighborhoods being patrolled by vigilantes.

Rockync: I can sure see why she did what she did, even though it was illegal.

I hate to admit it (since I'm one of those bleeding heart pinko liberals) but I'm actually in favor of the death penalty too. (I hope I don't suddenly get "unlinked" by my fellow liberal bloggers.)

I agree with all of the arguments against capital punishment -- intellectually. But emotionally, there are just certain subhuman scumbags -- killing machines as you put it -- that need to be taken out.

January 1, 2009 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger rockync said...

Tom, believe me when I tell you that I hold life as most sacred, but the killers going to death row are not one or "us." They don't think like us or act like us - they are not one of us.
Any life not their own is expendable. I'm not kidding when I tell you they would gun down a child for sport and laugh about it afterwards!
There is absolutely nothing redeemable about these monsters - they may bear a resemblance to human beings but THEY ARE NOT HUMAN by any stretch of the imagination. Killing them insures that one of your loved ones or mine won't be their next victim. I don't consider it lightly and I am glad that there are extensive appeals to surmount so every chance to prove innocence is afforded to the convicted. But then it is time to rid our world of these reprehensible bastards.

January 1, 2009 at 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

My mother grew up in a Kentucky holler during the late 40's, 1950's. She told me a story that occurred when she was in grade school. A friend on the bus asked if boys got periods like girls did. Mom, being a young pre-pubescent kid at the time, didn't know. She later learned that the friend's mother shot and killed the father one night. When asked by local cops why she did it, she told them the husband had been molesting the girl's brothers for some time - hence, the bloody underwear. They took her down to the station, then let her go. No charges were filed.
There are some crimes for which I do believe that vigilantism can be a fitting conclusion to a bad problem, even despite the inherent flaws in the concept which some commenters very rightly brought up. Despite her prior and subsequent record, I think that Nesler's actions in this case were the only realistic actions that could be reasonably expected. The jury probably saw it similarly, hence, a manslaughter conviction instead of murder.

Tom, you're not the only BHL that supports the death penalty. We are all animals, in the strictly scientific sense, and sometimes it is like putting down a rabid animal, who is a danger to itself and others around it. What I have a problem with, and recommend an immediate moratorium on all death penalty convictions for, is the way the death penalty is handed out - overwhelmingly to black men living in poverty, and too many have been exonerated by DNA evidence for my taste these last few years. Way too many, which means the system is broken.

January 1, 2009 at 6:07 PM  
Anonymous janey said...

Nesler sent a message to the idiot judges, lawyers, and law makers that THEY need to do their jobs. Then maybe regular citizens wouldn't have to take the law into their own hands. Isn't that what we pay them outlandish salaries for?

January 1, 2009 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Rockync: Absolutely. Good comment.

Janey: That one judge sure was an idiot and should have been disbarred. Being swayed by a child molester's fellow church members and giving him probation -- no way.

Bee: Interesting story. That's another child molester who will never strike again.

That's true, we're all animals when you come right down to it. I know it seems contradictory to think one thing intellectually and feel the opposite way emotionally, but that's just the way it works sometimes. It sucks that the death penalty is mostly directed at the poor and minorities, and that too many people are found innocent after they've been executed. I'd be in favor of a moratorium for the same reasons you gave.

I also think the biggest corporate criminals should be executed. The perpetrators of the Wall Street meltdown, the Enron fiasco a few years ago -- string 'em up. After a fair trial of course :)

January 1, 2009 at 6:45 PM  

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