Frank’s characters confront moral uncertainties

bookWhat would you do if your teenaged daughter was assaulted, beaten and shot almost to the point of death, and raped? Would you hunt down the assailants? And what would you do if you were a physician and an ardent pro-life advocate and found that this same daughter was pregnant? What would you do if you were a Miami cop — a good one — and suddenly found yourself being ordered about by fools and politicos? And how do you go on defending a system that seems to condemn the victim rather than the perpetrator of a crime?

Lest we forget: Whitney was a criminal

Pardon my insensitivity. Whitney Houston was a great singing talent, indeed. That was a gift of nature. She was also a criminal.

There are over a million people in our jail and prisons today, and another two million on probation for doing exactly what she did for the better part of 15 years: buy, possess and use illegal drugs. But she got away with it and continued to reap admiration along the way.

The sports and entertainment world, and the media in general, should stop lionizing dead idols who spent a good part of their lives using recreational (and illegal) drugs. The subliminal messages they send to impressionable young people by the millions is not only powerful, it is infinitely damaging and carries long-term consequences.

While we know that hundreds of idols are unapologetic users of illegal marijuana, thousands more have made no secret of using heroin, cocaine and meth for recreation, which is not only illegal but highly addictive and destructive. When they die, mass funerals are held, long-winded eulogies of praise are heard and not a word is spoken about the horrid addiction they suffered by making stupid choices, choices that no child should ever make. Neither do they mention the lifelong pain and misery suffered by family and friends in their wake.

The list of celebrity users, dead and alive, is horrific: John Belushi, Robert Downey Jr., Tim Allen, David Bowie, Billie Holiday, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Charlie Sheen, and on and on. That doesn’t even address idols whose addictions were confined to prescription drugs like Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.

What is missing from Whitney Houston’s life, and from most celebrity drug addicts, is owning up, admitting openly that they have been caught up in the yoke of addiction and to use their fame, adoration and influence to steer young people away from the nightmare they will face if they get started on the drug path. Sadly, few do that.

Whitney Houston was talented but selfish. She wallowed in admiration for her musical skills while everyone turned a blind eye to the monkey on her back and her criminal behavior. Her sickness was of choice, not nature. As the world knew of her drug habits, she stood as a disgraceful role model for millions of young boys and girls, a shining example of how and why the drug scene is not so bad. “Look, Whitney Houston does it, it’s cool.” I dare to wonder how many kids vicariously entered the drug scene thanks to stars like her.

I might be inclined to feel more sympathetic if Whitney Houston had publicly used her iconic status in a crusade against drugs. Where are her video messages? Where are her billboards?  Where are her ubiquitous anti-drug admonitions?

“Hi kids, I’m that Grammy winner, Whitney Houston. You think I’m cool, but I’m not. I’m a hooked drug user and believe me, I curse the first day I ever tried cocaine and other hard drugs. You have no idea the sickness and pain I have suffered every day, at my own hand. I wish, so hard, I could wipe the slate clean and start over. But it’s too late. I’m an addict. My life is busted. I’m forever craving that hit one more time, a slave to drugs for life. Being rich means nothing.

“No matter how much money I have, it makes my life miserable. I beg every last one of you, don’t ever do drugs, not even the first time. Don’t get sucked into the ‘wanna be liked’ syndrome. Don’t be fooled by people like me. Drugs will eventually kill you. If not literally, they will kill your spirit and ruin your life. Never, never do what I’ve done. You’ll be sorry. That’s a promise.”

So, let’s hear it from the Hollywood stars, the rockers and rappers, musicians and singers. Where are your voices, Robert, Charlie, Lindsey and Snoop Dog? Why aren’t you using your idol status to help save the lives of impressionable kids from the misery you have suffered? Why don’t you care?

Most celebrity druggies haven’t the courage to do that. And neither did Whitney.

(Marshall Frank is former WNC resident, a retired Miami-Dade homicide detective and the author of several books. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Frank is always provocative and thought-provoking

Criminal Justice in America by Marshall Frank. AuthorHouse, 2008. 276 pages.

In Criminal Injustice in America: Essays by a Career Cop (AuthorHouse, ISBN 978-1-43892062-7), former policeman Marshall Frank gives us his take on the criminal justice system through a series of essays. Although Frank has explored the ideas behind these essays in numerous newspaper columns and novels, here he attempts an in-depth assessment of what he calls our “desperately fractured” criminal justice system.

Frank, who used to reside in Maggie Valley but recently relocated to Florida, begins his book by giving us a look at his background — cop, columnist, novelist, lecturer — and a list of his prejudices. He correctly writes that he considers himself “a centrist conservative, though I have some liberal leanings about social issues, like appropriating government funds for stem cell research, keeping a strict separation of church and state, and endorsing gay rights.” He adds that “I, for one, relish independent thought and hope my readers do the same.”

Certainly Criminal Justice in America trots out some rarely-heard ideas regarding radical change in the criminal justice system. Frank’s views on sex crimes, particularly those committed by child molesters, run contrary to the thinking of most Americans today.

Here, for example, he strongly recommends that child molesters, who according to Frank seem as drawn to their vice as drunks to booze or addicts to crack, receive counseling and help when apprehended. In another chapter, Frank suggests that all federal judges, including Supreme Court judges, have term limits of 15 years. He calls for the elimination of the requirement of a unanimous verdict, as well as for the elimination of the 12-person jury. He advocates the automatic deportation of all illegal aliens convicted of a felony, after they have finished their sentences, and recommends the completion of the fence along the border with Mexico to halt immigration and to slow the problems caused by illegals within the criminal justice system.

These and many other of Frank’s suggestions make Criminal Injustice in America a book well worth reading. The essays are written like newspaper columns and are easy on the eyes, and the conversational style is easy to comprehend.

Yet Criminal Justice in America does present some problems for the discerning reader.

In addition to a good number of typos and mistakes in the book, the statistics, which Frank uses abundantly, sometimes raise more questions than they answer. He writes, for example, that “the Catholic Church scandal earlier in this decade saw 4,392, (or 4 percent of all Roman Catholic clergy in the United States) being accused of sexually abusing children, as far back to the 1940s. (Per the John Jay Report commissioned by the Conference on Catholic Bishops).” Besides the minor mistake here — it is the Conference of Catholic Bishops — we are left in the dark. Does this mean that only 100,000 men have served as priests in the United States since the 1940s? And of the accused, how many priests were convicted?

This foggy statistical analysis extends throughout the book. In the very next paragraph, we learn that during a five-year period there were more than 2,500 cases in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic, “all involving sexual misconduct. More than 1,800 of those incidents involved young people, eighty percent of whom were students.” Questions: what were the other 20 percent? If we’re making some sort of comparison to priests, how many educators were accused as well as convicted?

Another complaint that might be directed at Criminal Justice in America is the cost of the programs recommended by Frank. Exorbitant as criminal justice costs now are, to institute the recommendations listed in this book would make the recent stimulus package look like the work of pikers. Many chapters in this book recommend creating more judges, more attorneys, more counselors, more day cares, more educational programs. To be fair to Frank, he lists these changes under the heading of “The Magic Wand,” which is a sort of personal wish list, yet the cost of these programs versus the cost of the current system — in money, in resources — is never compared on any realistic level.

Finally, Criminal Justice in America advocates more repressive and constrictive government than we already have now. In his discussion of abortion, for instance, Frank writes that we should “create legislation making it a crime to harass and harangue pregnant women at abortion clinics.” Even if we assume that the majority of Americans might favor such a move, is it not possible that such a recommendation, enacted into law and enforced by armed police, would lead to other protesters being banned? Frank writes that we need to expand “law enforcement sting operations throughout America to catch pedophiles surfing the Internet for children.” This idea not only increases law enforcement on the Internet, but raises the question: where in the hell are the parents in their children‘s lives? Why aren’t they watching out for children? Frank writes that we should “pull radio licenses from stations that play gansta rap on the public air waves.” Again, why pull radio licenses when the country allows such music to be created in the first place? And pulling radio licenses — what if the government next decides that we shouldn’t listen to gospel music or to certain political broadcasters?

Frank tell us at the beginning of Criminal Justice in America that he once met a house painter at a yard sale who recognized him.

“The painter extended his hand and said, ‘Howdy, I know you. I don’t always agree with what you say, but you sure do make me think.’ That’s better than a paycheck any day.”

The painter’s remarks hold true in regard to Criminal Justice in America. Frank is his own man, blunt, outspoken, sometimes out of his league but always a searcher, a digger after facts and solutions. Few readers, liberal or conservative, will agree with everything this former Miami homicide detective says in his critique of our laws and courts.

But he will make you think.

Let’s stop the hypocrisy

Thank goodness for Don Imus.

After 25 years of gutteral lyrics in the name of entertainment, none of which was protested, banned, boycotted or demonstrated against by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the Imus faux pas has finally brought trash music to a level of national outrage where it should have been long ago.

Reinstating draft could be a good thing

Jan. 20, 1961. Inauguration Day. The words that stuck in the minds and hearts of all citizens: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” said President John F. Kennedy.

Going after the good guys

The fine line between a cop doing one’s duty or overdoing his duty is once again in the grip of Monday morning quarterbacks to judge. Meanwhile, a pair of police careers are on the line.

Isn’t anyone going to defend the pope?

By Marshall Frank

They’re at it again. Once again, the world is held hostage as Christians pray for their lives and nations shutter at the prospect of chaos everywhere, all at the whim of the religion of peace.

Frank delivers another fine detective novel

In Marshall Frank’s latest Miami detective novel, The Latent (ISBN 1-4137-9890-X), a serial killer is terrorizing Miami’s gay community. Rockford “Rock” Burgamy, the detective assigned to the case and a stranger to the gay subculture, must not only track down the vicious killer known as J.D., but must also struggle with his own personal problems.

The time has come to lift Cuban embargo

This is about political ignorance, ignorance highlighted by the recent news about Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s apparently serious illness.

Finding a father while keeping a Dad

By Marshall Frank

Imagine having a fathers of all varieties. Step, biological and adopted? Here’s a story about such a person.

Not everyone’s life is utopia, complete with white picket fence, family barbeques and one set of happy parents. No one knows that better than Russell.

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