Thank you, Leon Yukem Noel. Thank you. Sometimes the most eloquent argument for a particular belief comes from the most unexpected places. And this past Wednesday, Noel gave a chilling example of why violent criminals with a history of violence should be tossed behind bars and the doors welded shut.
If you didn't get to read Sun reporter Brenda Buote's article in the April 17 issue about Noel's exhilarating performance in front of Judge John Carroll Byrnes, I will inform you. First, let's be clear who Noel is, so that we don't overlook the most important people in this matter: the family and loved ones of the woman he was convicted of murdering for 52 cents.
It was Aug. 8, 1995, when Baltimoreans got the news. A woman walking with her husband in the 1300 block of Washington Blvd. had been shot. A robber demanded money and shot 44-year-old Denise Ann Cooke above her left eye, ending her life and leaving her husband, Stephen Cooke, and their two children to carry the pain of this despicable act with them the rest of their lives.
So we Baltimoreans were shocked by Denise Cooke's senseless and brutal murder, but deep down we wondered - did the perpetrator have a criminal record? Was he one of that career criminal element who, at the time of his crime, should have had his sorry butt in jail?
We got the answer in Byrnes' court Wednesday. Assistant State's Attorney Gary D. Schenker said the 24-year-old Noel has at least a 14-year history of criminality. Reporter Buote quoted Schenker as he read from a 22-page pre-sentencing report.
" . . . since the age of 10, Mr. Noel has had contact upon contact with the juvenile and adult correctional system - including at least six offenses that were violent in nature.
"But time and time again, Mr. Noel was put back out on the street, and his response has been to hurt other members of our community. He is a man incapable of rehabilitation. We are asking that the state essentially warehouse Mr. Noel until he dies, so that he is not able to go out and harm another person."
When Byrne sentenced Noel to life without parole plus 25 years, the miscreant shouted to the judge, "I'll see you in hell." Then Noel suggested that Byrnes do something to improve his sex life. Then he uttered a stream of invective and curses. The incident has to make you feel empathy for the correctional officers - and even other prison inmates - who'll have to deal with this guy.
But Noel did do one positive thing: He proved violent career criminals belong behind bars for as long as we can legally keep them there. Noel and his criminal history are a testament to the belief of those meanies among us that slapping murderers, thieves, rapists and other reprobates in jail at the very least keeps them the hell away from the rest of us.
The tragedy is that we didn't do that before Noel murdered Denise Cooke. As Schenker indicated, we had our chances. But we kept turning Noel loose. We listened to those squishy-soft-on-crime liberals one time too many, and it's Stephen Cooke and his children who had to pay for the liberals' lack of backbone on crime.
An example equally tragic and egregious comes out of Chicago, where earlier this month an ex-convict confessed to beating and raping the 9-year-old known only as Girl X. According to Chicago police, Patrick Sykes, who served a two-year prison term in the early 1990s for attempted criminal sexual assault, confessed to knocking the girl unconscious, raping her and pouring "a gasoline-type substance down her throat," according to an Associated Press story.
Our prison system apparently failed to rehabilitate Sykes. Having failed to rehabilitate him, the least it could have done was to have kept him there.
"Three strikes and out" is racist, liberal black politicians and leadership howl, as though the law was directed against them personally and not meant to protect the hundreds of thousands of their constituents who live in fear of violent criminals. I'd like to see liberal black politicians and leaders - who continue to put criminals first and the rest of us last - utter such nonsense to Stephen Cooke or the parents of Girl X. Because the sad pathetic truth is that had "three strikes and out" been the law some years ago, Denise Ann Cooke might still be alive today.
Pub Date: 4/20/97