Reports are that New York City has scored a major victory over street crime. Thanks to the Latin vincere, vici, victi, “to conquer,” it has also created victims and led its mayor to think he is invincible. American jurisprudence is based on the presumption of innocence. For a criminal to be convicted he has to be caught dead to rights (Mid 19thC.), his guilt established beyond a shadow of a doubt. Dead has an air of finality about it, making things absolute and irreversible. The rights in the phrase are nothing more than past slang for  “at once.” In New York City, what’s dead are the rights of Black males and in too many instances, the men themselves.

A finding of guilt should be a lead-pipe cinch, not just successful but certain. The cinch is a belt-like strap used to secure the saddle on a horse. When properly tightened, it keeps the saddle from slipping out from under the rider. The lead pipe underscores the certainty from when plumbing was best done with lead pipes as opposed to those of cast-iron. What’s material here is the conviction from convincere (con, “with), “to overcome with arguments,” the beli

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