Robert Downes

Marijuana Killings at Rainbow Farm

Were Grover (Tom) Crosslin and Rolland Rohm determined to become martyrs for the right to smoke pot?

If you believe the press reports on the shootings at the Rainbow Farm in Vandalia, Michigan, last month, that's the only conclusion that makes sense.

Unless, of course, the official version is as rubbery as the "facts" in the shootings at Ruby Ridge and Waco, and the Olympic Park bombing.

Farm owner Crosslin, 47, was shot after reportedly pointing a gun at an FBI agent on Labor Day Monday and refusing to drop it as ordered. His housemate Rohm, 28, died the next morning after pointing a rifle at a Michigan State Police trooper and again refusing to drop his weapon.

The two were under investigation for drug activities which took place at the 34-acre farm, home of the annual HempAid and RoachRoast festivals. They died in an apocalyptic setting, having set fire to the buildings on the farm, which was targeted for confiscation as part of the War on Drugs.

Last week, the press painted two views of the men: on one hand, they were described as generous, peace-loving hippie types who distributed Christmas presents each year to poor folks in Vandalia from the back of their pickup truck. On the other, they presided over what the Free Press described as an orgy of nudity, sex and drug use -- even involving children as young as seven years old smoking pot.

But whatever Crosslin and Rohm were, they clearly believed in their 4th Amendment right to privacy and the sanctity of the home -- a constitutional right which has been under fire so often this past decade. It's the right to be free from unwarranted search and seizure by the government in one's own home.

Unfortunately, they crossed the line of what is allowed under the 4th Amendment by breaking the law on their property in a highly public manner. You can't announce a pot festival statewide and not expect the cops to come calling -- it's like waving a red flag at a bull.

Yet so many questions remain unanswered in the shootings. Why weren't family members allowed to negotiate with the men early on? Why weren't non-lethal measures used, such as rubber bullets or tear gas? Why the head shots instead of a leg? Why didn't officers remain at a distance for a few days until tempers cooled down?

And most of all, why did Crosslin and Rohm commit virtual suicide by pointing rifles at officers on the scene? The two were unabashed supporters of marijuana, but friends and family members said they doubted either was inclined to die for their beliefs.

Yet, as a friend said, "You can push people until they break. I think they were pushed until they broke. That's not the people I knew."

Sometimes, as H. L. Mencken once said, "Even reasonable men are driven to raise the black flag and slit a few throats." As marijuana activists, Crosslin and Rohm probably weren't "reasonable" men as most citizens would define that term, but still, there has to be some doubt as to whether they were crazy enough to submit themselves to execution by FBI and State Police snipers.

Today, many arrests are routinely videotaped, and one can only imagine that an engagement involving both the State Police and the FBI was taped. We need to see those tapes at once to verify the facts of this case. We need to know that citizens aren't simply being executed willy-nilly whenever a 4th Amendment issue is at stake. Nothing less than our freedom depends on it.

Cult of the Fugitive

It was a hideous crime: Marilyn Sheppard, the pregnant wife of Dr. Sam Sheppard, was beaten to death in her home in suburban Cleveland on July 4, 1954. Her husband claimed that a "bushy-haired stranger" had done the deed, but the Lt. Gerard's of the day didn't buy his story. It seems that Dr. Sheppard had been in the midst of a love affair with a woman named Susan Hayes at the time of the murder.

If Dr. Sam Sheppard really did kill his wife in 1954, he probably never dreamed that the crime would spawn the fictional character, Dr. Richard Kimble, along with two television series, two films, a slew of documentaries and a thirsting public interest which seems as strong today as it did more than 45 years ago.

The original Fugitive sparked a "Trial of the Century" media frenzy similar to that of O.J. Simpson's. Dr. Sheppard was found guilty in the press; one Cleveland paper even ran an editorial, "Quit Stalling -- Bring Him In" before the physician was even arrested. An Ohio judge said the courtroom had the "atmosphere of a Roman holiday," due to newsmen who spiraled out of control.

Following Dr. Sheppard's conviction, the matter was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that he hadn't received a fair trial, due to the fact that "bedlam reigned at the courthouse, and newsmen took over practically the entire courtroom, hounding most of the participants in the trial, especially Sheppard." Every juror testified to hearing of Dr. Sheppard's guilt prior to serving in court. Dr. Sheppard's conviction was overturned and he was retried, only to be found guilty once again.

Dr. Sheppard died in 1970, still protesting his innocence. Since that time, his son has fought to clear his father's name. Last year, DNA evidence surfaced which may yet prove that the "bushy-haired stranger" was the true culprit.

Yet Dr. Sheppard's alter ego, the Fugitive, lives on, and has his hook (or is it that of the one-armed man?) lodged in our collective psyche. Where he goes, we will follow:

The Fugitive: Being the "Trial of the Century," the Sheppard case provided plenty of inspiration for Hollywood scriptwriters. The story bore fruit with one of the hottest TV shows of the '60s when "The Fugitive," starring jug-earred David Janssen aired from 1963-'67.

In the televised version, it was a mysterious one-armed man who killed the doctor's wife. The Fugitive drifted from town to town, employed in menial positions as a dishwasher or soda jerk, trying to track the villain down and clear his own name. Despite his lowly social status as a drifter (and middle-aged to boot), Janssen won the hearts of luscious blondes such as Tuesday Weld and Angie Dickenson in each episode by dint of his urbane manner and philosophical musings. And yes, he did catch the one-armed man when the series wrapped up in '67, making a believer out of even Lt. Gerard.

Harrison Ford reprised the role in the 1993 hit film and Ashley Judd did a female take with 1998's film, "Double Jeopardy," with Tommy Lee Jones playing the Lt. Gerard role in each film. We also see echoes of "The Fugitive" in reality-based cop shows such as "America's Most Wanted."

Currently, actor Tim Daly is filling Dr. Kimble's shoes on a new CBS show which has been deemed a runaway success by critics, if not viewers. Like the fugitives before him, Daly darts from town to town, seeking retribution for the killing of his wife while trying to elude the law and clear his name. His tormenter, police lieutenant Gerard (Mykelti Williamson) is relentless in his pursuit, forever disavowing clues that Dr. Kimble may in fact, be innocent.

Famous Fugitives and How They Fared:

Eric Rudolph: America's most notorious (and elusive) fugitive is still at large. An anti-abortion extremist, Rudolph has been linked to several bombings around the country, including those at abortion clinics, a gay nightclub, and the blast at Atlanta's Olympic Park in the summer of 1998.

Nurse Emily Lyons was standing just 12 feet away when a nail bomb went off on the morning of January 29, 1998 outside the New Woman All Women health care clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. The blast literally blew police officer Robert Sanderson to bits and ripped Lyon's body with hundreds of nails. Investigators believe that Rudolph was responsible for the blast, triggering it by remote control from across the street when the nurse and officer got in range.

Rudolph disappeared into the Appalachian wilderness in 1998, and despite a huge manhunt which included SWAT teams and tracking dogs, he was never found. Rudolph may have received assistance from residents of the area who looked upon him as a folk hero. Current speculation is that he either died in the wilderness, lives there still, or is living under an assumed name in the underground of the extreme right.

Abbie Hoffman: Founder of the anarchistic Yippies (Youth International Party), Hoffman was a professional prankster and rabble-rouser during the late '60s.

Hoffman was a hippie from New York's East Village who came to fame though a succession of spectacular stunts. He arranged an exorcism of the Pentagon, trying to levitate the building in protest of the Vietnam War, and was renowned for dumping dollar bills from the gallery of the New York Stock Exchange. He threatened to dose Chicago's water supply with LSD during the 1968 Democratic Convention, and he treated the notorious Chicago Seven trial as a circus. His books, "Revolution for the Hell of It," "Woodstock Nation" and "Steal this Book" were all bestsellers. A father, Abbie urged his followers to "kill your parents" and to steal and take drugs - restraint wasn't his cup of tea.

A coke bust and his political notoriety put Hoffman on the fugitive trail by the late '70s, when he disappeared underground and resurfaced as "Barry Freed" in upstate New York. As Freed, he became a relentless (and much more responsible) campaigner for the environment, working to save the St. Lawrence River. Although his extended family was under constant surveillance by the FBI and Freed was pictured a number of times in the newspaper, Hoffman was never captured. He surrendered to the authorities in the mid '80s, dying at the age of 52 in 1989. His memory lives on in the August, 2000 film, "Steal this Movie," starring Vincent D'Onofrio.

Patty Hearst: The most famous fugitive of the '70s started out as a victim of abduction by the revolutionary members of the Symbionese Liberation Party. Yet before her ordeal was through, Hearst became one of the most wanted fugitives in America.

Hearst was heiress to the newspaper fortune founded by William Randolph Hearst. After being abducted from her Berkeley apartment in 1974 as a "prisoner of war," she was locked in a closet for 50 days, undergoing brainwashing and sexual assault. The SLA slogan was, "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people." Her abduction resulted in the largest manhunt in U.S. history.

When Patty came out of the closet, it was as Tania, a born-again revolutionary who was photographed with a beret on her head, cradling a submachine gun in front of the SLA banner. The SLA forced her to participate in a bank robbery and to release statements of revolutionary mumbo-jumbo which enraged a previously sympathetic America.

Her SLA captors died in a fiery shootout with the law, and Patty was sentenced to seven years in prison despite pleas that she was victim of Stockholm Syndrome. She was released after two years by a pardon from President Jimmy Carter.

Most recently, Patricia Hearst Shaw starred in "Cecil B. DeMented," a John Waters film which depicts a group of "cinema terrorists" who kidnap a movie star to publicize their work.

The Weather Underground: Sixties' revolutionaries The Weathermen took their name from the Bob Dylan lyric, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." While most white, middle-class student "revolutionaries" were content to yell slogans like "Off the pigs!" and "Smash the state!", some members of the Weather Underground took their rhetoric to heart.

In March, 1970, a member of the group got his wires crossed and ignited 60 sticks of dynamite in a Greenwich Village townhouse, killing three members. Kathy Boudin and Cathy Wilkerson escaped the blast, living ten years as fugitives. Bernardine Dohrn and her husband Billy Ayers lived as fugitives for 11 years.

The last known action of the Weather Underground came in 1981 when Kathy Boudin and a radical group called the Family robbed a Brinks armored car, stealing $1,585,000. Two Nyack police officers were killed and one wounded in the resulting chase; Boudin, meanwhile, was captured.

Through the years, various Weathermen surfaced and surrendered, starting with Mark Rudd in 1977, followed by radicals such as Jeff Jones, Dohrn and Ayers. Boudin was sentenced to prison for 20 years to life, but many of her former revolutionaries are now back in the mainstream of society, some working as social activists.

Aaron Burr: There were many famous fugitives in the 19th century: John Wilkes Booth and the outlaws of the wild west come to mind. But perhaps the most colorful, and dangerous, was Aaron Burr, who served as Vice President under Thomas Jefferson.

In 1800, Jefferson and Burr tied for President in an electoral vote, with the tie broken by the House of Representatives. Burr got the cold shoulder as VP, however, and then had his political ambition to be Governor of New York derailed by Alexander Hamilton. He shot and killed Hamilton - the architect of federal power and the national bank - in a duel in 1804. Thereafter, Burr hatched a plan to invade Mexico with a private army in 1806 to create his own nation. Word of the conspiracy got out, however, and Burr was arrested and charged with treason. With the help of a political crony, Burr was released, fleeing the country before a second treason charge could be leveled. He lived as a fugitive for five years in France, trying to convince Napolean to invade America. The fugitive returned in 1812, living a life of wine women and song until 1836.

Sources: "The Movement and the Sixties" by Terry Anderson; "The Best of Abbie Hoffman" by Abbie Hoffman; "Crime and Punishment in American History" by Lawrence M. Friedman; "Don't Know Much About History" by Kenneth Davis.

Exorcisms-R-Us

"Now when (Jesus) stepped ashore, there met him a certain man who for a long time was possessed by a devil... Many times it had laid hold of him and he was bound with chains... but he would break the bonds asunder... And Jesus asked him, saying, 'What is they name?' And he said, Legion..." -- Luke 8:27-30

Let's face it, exorcism is a creepy subject, even if you don't happen to believe that there are 600 or so catalogued demons just itching to slip inside your body to make you flop around like a fish out of water. Even if you're a skeptic of levitations, talking in tongues and black-eyed little girls spewing vomit and obscenities, you can almost hear the clatter of cloven feet and whiff the stench of burning hair when your mind happens to wander down that unhappy path.

And just when you thought we'd turned a new millenium and left that medieval nonsense behind, up pops the Pope with an honest-to-God exorcism to remind us that old Scratch and his minions are never far from our thoughts. Never far, even, from the thoughts of one of the great world leaders...

Whoa! What's that thing looking over your shoulder!?! Whatever you do, don't look around... just keep reading, slowly, carefully. Let's be careful out there, people! Real careful! Because, you never know...

Exorcism 2000

"Get me the exorcist book, quick!"

Those are reportedly the words uttered by Pope John Paul II in mid-September, trying to cast out demons possessing a 19-year-old Italian woman who babbled in tongues and carried on in a state of hysteria at the Vatican, according to the Italian newspaper, "Il Messaggero." The paper claimed that the woman spoke "in a cavernous voice" and displayed "superhuman strength."

Rev. James LeBar, an exorcist and Catholic priest from Hyde Park, New York, said the incident actually happened, offering an account on the Newsweek.com website:

"According to the report I got from Rome, the woman had been having an exorcism by Father Gabrielle Amorth [the Pope's chief exorcist] the day before," Rev. LeBar told Newsweek.com. "And then she went into the audience, and when the Pope was giving the final blessing, that apparently it was too much for the demons and they erupted.

"She displayed great strength and spoke in languages that she wasn't studying. Afterward, the Pope brought her into another room. He spent about half an hour with her, praying... The next day, one of the bishops and Father Amorth continued the exorcism on the young lady."

No Dice

Unfortunately, the demons refused to vacate the premises. Rev. LeBar said the Pope and his crew had to be content with subduing the devils for the meantime. "Exorcism is a process; it doesn't work just in one moment here and there. It sometimes takes a long time. The Pope was part of the process."

What about the young lady? The exorcisms continued, with Rev. LeBar noting that demons can be "very stubborn" about giving up their turf. He added that it can take a number of priests, working in shifts over several days to get a demon to move on. Time magazine reports that it was the third exorcism conducted by the Pope since the late '70s.

Rev. LeBar has personally been involved in 40 exorcisms and estimates that an average of 25 occur each year in New York City alone. This year, a bishop in Chicago authorized the city's first exorcism in years, and Time claims that the practice is gaining a revival nationwide.

Nor is the Catholic Church alone in conducting exorcisms. The priest confirms that Protestant churches conduct even more of the casting-out rituals than Catholics. "You have some of Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and what I would call splinter churches doing exorcisms right and left."

The ABC's of Exorcism

Exorcism seems to be as old as religion itself. Shamans conducted exorcisms before the advent of organized religion, intervening in the spirit realm on behalf of their followers. In some cultures, illness and bad luck were thought to be the work of demons which could be cast out by a holy man.

There are also records of exorcisms conducted in ancient Babylon and Assyria. "In one, the exorcist made a figurine of the demon and uttered special word while destroying the image. In another, the exorcist made a figurine of the possessed person and asked the demon to leave the body of the person and instead occupy the figure," reports the Reader's Digest Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Life and Times.

The Bible mentions numerous exorcisms, with the most famous practitioner being Jesus Christ. "And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly," reports Matthew in his book, 17:18. In another case, Jesus cures a possessed man who babbles a pig-like language. He also gave the power of exorcism to the Apostles who roamed the ancient world spreading the gospel. Casting out demons was popular throughout the first century, A.D., reports the Dictionary of Bible Life.

Today's Catholic exorcism ritual dates back to the 14th century, reports Rev. LeBar. Major revisions of the ritual were made in 1614, with minor changes made in 1962, at which point the English language was allowed in lieu of Latin.

Those Darned Demons

Prior to the life of Jesus, demons were considered free-ranging evil spirits. But with the dawn of Christianity, demons came to be seen as the forces of Satan -- literally bad angels who had been cast out of heaven in a war against God and his loyal angels. Satan (Lucifer) and his fallen angels were angered that they had been given second-banana status by God, who favored of an inferior creation: human beings. In what plays out like a bad case of sibling rivalry, the fallen angels insisted that humans worship themselves instead of their Creator. This war was the subject of John Milton's epic poem, "Paradise Lost."

Exorcism goes to the heart of Christian theology because after the death and resurrection of Jesus, God exalted his son above the angels, according to the Catholic and Protestant catechisms. The exaltation of Jesus gave him authority over the angels -- including the evil angels, or demons.

In Christian exorcisms, the demon is commanded in the name of Jesus to state his name and the hour and date of his departure in a ritual which can take several days. Obtaining a name and departure time is sort of like forcing the demon to "say uncle" and admit that possession is a lost cause. The use of holy water, incense and incantations may also be involved.

Unfortunately, demons can be obstinate about their eviction notices, and picky about who's in charge. The biblical book of Acts notes that when a non-Christian exorcist tried to cast out a devil, "the evil spirit said to them in reply, 'Jesus I know... but who are you?'" (Acts 19:15).

The Devil & Mental Illness

"Modern commentators have theorized that episodes of possession by demons actually involved illnesses like epilepsy, but the authors of the Gospels would not have drawn such a distinction," notes the Dictionary of Bible Life.

Just as tribes of the Congo and Central Africa still attribute disease with hundreds of evil, mean-spirited gods lurking in every tree, rock and animal, so too did ancient exorcists find demons to be a handy way of explaining mental illness and convulsive disorders.

Because of sensitivity towards mental illness (schizophrenics are notoriously affected by religious hysteria), the Catholic Church requires that every candidate for an exorcism receive a complete psychological and psychiatric evaluation. Priests wishing to conduct exorcisms must also receive the go-ahead of their bishop.

Still, there are critics who feel that religious practitioners are messing with something best left to the mental health profession:

"Most, if not all, cases of alleged demonic possession of humans probably involve either people with brain disorders ranging from epilepsy to schizophrenia and Tourette's syndrome, or people whose brains are more or less healthy but who are unfortunate enough to be sucked into playing a social role with very unpleasant consequences," claims author Robert Todd Carroll in The Skeptic's Dictionary. "In any case, the behaviors of the possessed resemble very closely the behaviors of those with electrochemical, neurochemical or other physical disorders."

Do's & Don't's

Speaking of mental illness: in 1995, an Ontario woman was found guilty of killing her two-year-old granddaughter by forcing water down her throat in an attempt to exorcise a demon. The woman believed the girl was possessed because the child's estranged father wore a ring with two snakes on it and had "the light in his eyes" which signified demonic possession.

Then there's the 1998 case of the Argentine soccer team which conducted an exorcism on its playing field to drive out the demons which stood in the way of making it to the championships... Some things may be difficult to explain in psychological terms, however. The Roman Ritual of the Catholic Church offers some "General Rules" for exorcists:

"... The exorcist should not believe too readily that a person is possessed by an evil spirit; but he ought to ascertain the signs by which a person possessed can be distinguished from one who is suffering from some illness, especially one of a psychological nature. Signs of possession may be the following: ability to speak with some facility in a strange language or to understand it when spoken by another; the faculty of divulging future and hidden events; display of powers which are beyond the subject's age and natural condition; and various other conditions which, when taken together as a whole, build up the evidence."

Don't Read This...

... if you're planning to see the re-release of the film, "The Exorcist."

In "The Exorcist," a bestseller by William Peter Blatty, a Jesuit priest named Father Damien Karras is summoned after all medical and psychiatric hope is lost for curing a possessed child named Regan. Father Karras enters the girl's bedroom, "almost flinching backward at the pungent stench of moldering exrement that hit him in the face like a palpable blast."

It's a bad scene, with Regan having been tortured and scratched by the devil inside her.

"... Then his eyes locked, stunned, on the thing that was Regan, on the creature that was lying on its back in the bed, head propped against a pillow while eyes bulging wide in their hollow sockets shone with mad cunning and burning intelligence, with interest and with spite as they fixed upon his, as they watched him intently, seething in a face shaped into a skeletal, hideous mask of mind-bending malevolence. Karras shifted his gaze to the tangled, thickly matted hair; to the wasted arms and legs; the distended stomach jutting up so grotesquely; then back to the eyes: they were watching him... pinning him..."

Although he's been warned of the persuasive powers of the devil by the Roman Ritual, Father Karras enters into a dialogue with the demon possessing Regan and is tortured by the monster's knowledge of his family secrets. The demon even has the ability to read the priest's mind. They enter into a battle of wits and logic, discussing history, theology and the future.

After a monumental but fruitless struggle with the demon possessing the girl, Father Karras draws the devil into his own body and -- well, read the book or see the film if you want to know how it ends. And hope to God you never need an exorcism.

The simple exorcism text of Pope Leo XIII can be found on the web at www.truecatholic.org/exorcismsimple.htm.
BRAND NEW STORIES

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.