Does This Sound Right to You?

Jacari CampbellThere is a young man who needs help, but before I tell you why, let me share a little about who he is. His name is Jacari Campbell, he is 21 years-old and he has just been sentenced to 10 years in prison for a crime that even his trial judge had doubts about his guilt. Jacari Campbell is regarded by all that know him as a fun loving and respectful young man that spent much of his free time training to play college football. Up until his arrest in October of 2012, Jacari was a student at Tallahassee Community College; he was just one semester from earning his Associates degree. Jacari had spent the summer working in a local restaurant to earn enough money to contribute to the car his parents were purchasing for him so that he would no longer have to take the bus or depend on others for transportation. This is an important point that Jacari contributed toward his car, because it demonstrates his work ethic, integrity and lack of entitlement; it is not the behavior of someone who commits armed robbery to get what they want. In fact, Jacari had never been in legal trouble before; he had no history of violence, fights or physical encounters beyond the football field. He had a spotless record with all of his former employers; he was respected within his community and an active member of his church.

As with all of us, Jacari was not a perfect human being, the immediate events leading up to the crime he was charged with demonstrates more than anything does, that he was a typical young man. He could be your son, your brother, your best friend. Those events also show grave inconsistencies and contradictions, which show more than a little reasonable doubt. Jacari’s alleged involvement in the crime seems to have begun the previous Monday, when he was invited to the home of a co-worker, Eugene Cole, whom he knew from his college work-study, program to watch the Monday night football game between the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys. Also in attendance was Cole’s roommate Willmore Stuart; Stuart would later become the sole witness against Jacari. If all three young men watched the entire game, they would have spent approximately 3 hours together in Cole and Stuart’s apartment. This is important because less than six days later, Stuart would tell police at the scene that the person who held him at gunpoint was a stranger whom he had never seen before.

According to Jacari, on October 6 he and his roommate were planning a night out to attend to attend a couple of parties. As a prelude, Jacari stated that he called Cole to purchase marijuana from him. Cole told Jacari that he was out of town and unsure of when he would return. In court, Cole would later testify that he believed that Jacari was calling to make sure he was away. Jacari states that he attended two parties that night and was at the second during the time the robbery would have taken place. Three witnesses to Jacari’s presence at the second party signed affidavits, but were never called to testify. The robbery occurred sometime between two and three a.m. The details of the crime are at best sketchy. Stuart is said to have been in the house with just his girlfriend, Brittany Hamilton, when a noise of someone breaking in woke them both; no other housemates were there at the time. According to Ms. Hamilton, the residence was completely dark, no lights were turned on, and while Stuart went to investigate the noise, she went into a closet to dial 911.

At the center of the trial, Willmore Stuart proved to be anything but reliable. He contradicts Ms. Hamilton with regard to there being lights on and initially, he doesn’t identify Jacari to police, his girlfriend or his housemate Cole. Later, when Eugene Cole returns, he questions Stuart and asks for a description, which Cole believes matches that of his co-worker Jacari. He shows Stuart Jacari’s Facebook profile, but Stuart is still unsure. Sometime later that day, Cole and Stuart decide to go to Jacari’s residence to confront him. After a brief conversation and with the urging of Cole, Stuart is now convinced that Jacari was the unmasked gunman. Stuart also claimed that there was a second robber in the house that night, a large man who stood 6’ 1” or 6’ 2” and weighed about 300 pounds; the man never confronts him and spends the entire time ransacking the rest of the home. This man has never been found, nor does he fit the description of any of Jacari’s friends. In addition, Stuart suggests that he brought the gunman an IPad, a laptop and a set of Beats headphone, while the gunman continued to hold on to the gun. Stuart finally claims that he was able to slam his bedroom shut, pressing his body against it, but the robbers made no attempt to re-enter the room and continued to search to apartment. Here are other key facts around the case:

  • The gunman did not wear a mask or gloves.
  • Several of the items in question were dropped outside the apartment.
  • Neither Jacari’s fingerprints nor DNA was found on those items or at the scene.
  • The witnesses who could place Jacari at the party were never called to testify.
  • Jacari does not testify in his defense, he is not allowed to do so by his attorney.
  • There is no record of Jacari even owning, possessing, or purchasing a gun before that night.
  • None of the stolen articles was found in Jacari’s possession.
  • Jacari goes willingly to the police station to answer questions.
  • Jacari does not invoke his rights.
  • Jacari does not bring an attorney.
  • Jacari is arrested on the spot.

Some things to consider:

  • Why does a young man with no criminal record commit armed robbery for no apparent reason?
  • Why did it take Stuart so long to identify Jacari?

Ask yourself these two questions, and then ask yourself whether there is reasonable doubt in this case.

Jacari Campbell was sentence to ten years in prison because of Florida’s 10-20-Life minimum sentencing law. That means that “courts must impose the minimum sentence regardless of any mitigating circumstance; that no part of the sentence may be suspended, deferred, or withheld, and defendants are not eligible for any discretionary early release, other than pardon or clemency, or conditional medical release, before serving the minimum sentence.”

If you, in any way, believe that justice was not done in this case, Jacari’s family is asking that you contribute whatever you can to his defense and appeal. Please visit “Jacari’s Defense Fund” and help this young man seek a fair trial.

Let me know what you think by posting a comment.

~ Richard


A Tale of Two Offices

ReceptionistsThe past year has been one in which I’ve had to spend an abnormally high amount of time in doctor’s offices. After avoiding the commitment for years, I even selected a primary care physician; it is something that healthcare insurers and providers are exceedingly fond of asking about.  Until recently, I had no real context to compare the behavior of the people who greet you at the front desk, ensure that you have paid what you owe and schedule your inevitable next appointment. Now that I have reluctantly been given that context I began considering how communication skills at the front desk could influence the perception one has about their medical provider.

The primary care physician I selected is a pleasant, robust woman, perhaps in her late thirties or early forties. She is one of the doctors who share a practice with my wife’s primary doctor and I became comfortable right away. During my initial visit, I found her to be extremely thorough and refreshingly direct without being condescending or rude. Unfortunately, I found the staff at the front desk not quite as inviting. Upon my first visit, I noticed there were three to four employees at the front desk and the same number of people waiting in the lobby to be seen. It was early and not very busy. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I had such an odd emotional reaction to that front desk staff.

After my visit with the doctor and I was about to schedule that inevitable follow up, I waited while another patient scheduled hers. I notice the interaction between the two and it felt….cold. I mentally chalked it up to some unpleasantness from the other patient that I had not witnessed so when it was my turn, I made a point of smiling, I even made some random humorous comment, which should have elicited some response, but I got nothing…..crickets….just a look that implored me to get on with it please. At the time, I didn’t give the incident anymore thought because frankly, I was more focused on my health.

In between medical doctor visits, I needed to make an appointment with a dentist, because one of my wisdom teeth became impacted. I decided to try a new dentist and after an initial exam, that dentist had to refer me to a specialist, it was in that specialist’s office that I found the most striking difference in how patients could treated at the front desk. It is a smaller office, with only two people at the front desk on a regular basis, after one visit I was on a first name basis with both. Even if it hadn’t been a situation in which they had time to chat with me, I still believe they would have greeted me with a welcoming smile and sincere warmth. I left with a feeling of confidence in their professionalism, even though the procedure I was going to undertake would be painful and unpleasant.

My second visit to my primary’s office only confirmed my suspicions from before; it’s not that anyone was rude, it was just cold, indifferent and mechanical and as much as I like my doctor, I am considering changing. From what I know, some doctors manage their offices themselves and others hire someone else to do it for them. In either case, this was a glaring example how the face of a business is not in the boardroom or the backroom. The face of any organization, no matter what size, is in those who greet the customer every day and no matter how great you are or how great your product is, your customers will eventually tire of poor relations with your upfront staff. If you put the right “face” on your business, your customers will better tolerate a little pain on occasion.

~ Richard

A Veterans’ Day

What do you say when your child comes to for your blessing

They tells you they are going to war; they will pick up arms and fight

They will risk their life; they will stand a post.


What do you say when you fear for the future

They are entering a new world; they will descend into darkness

They will reach into their soul, to man a remote outpost.


I wish I knew the path that they would take

I wish I saw the world they would see

I wish I understood.


My thoughts border on madness

My melancholy irrepressible

I wish my words could guide them, back to a perfect childhood.


For those of us who’s children came home

We honor this day for those who did not

And those who were indelibly changed.


We honor this day, for those that gave their blessing

To those who picked up arms; for those who went to war

For the children of the children; Whose lives now feel estranged.



~ Richard

“Haiku stairway” also known as stairway to Heaven, Oahu.

Woodlands on the Southern California Coast photo by Marc Adamus

Another 200 Shootings Today

Gun pile

As I was researching for this post, I was struck by two peculiar facts; it’s not the number of people shot each day, I already assumed that number would be high. Nor was it the lack of change in response to the depressing events. The first was that it is the Centers for Disease Control, which has the most accurate statistics on the subject. The Bureau of Justice Statistics does not necessarily include suicides, because in most states, suicide is not considered a crime. Which leads me to my second interesting nugget, which is that people commit suicide with guns at a much higher rate than they kill others with a gun; 18,735 compared to 11,493 (2009). America has been so focused on politicizing the gun-control issue from both sides that it has paralyzed the process of having positive discussions.

Perhaps a better way to address the issue is to treat it as the CDC does, as a disease. I’m not saying that people who love and want to own guns are in some way ill, but approaching gun violence as a treatable condition will give people on both sides of the debate a point of reference to agree that something has to change. You may be skeptical of the disease connection, but take a moment to review the statistics compiled on Mother Jones’ Web site. Keep in mind the list does not include the latest gun-amok in Los Angeles’ LAX on November 1 or the deadly family dispute in Greenwood, S.C. the day before. One the other hand, you too may recognize the irony of referring to the rise of gun violence as an epidemic.

Violence in America has long been the subject of scrutiny and debate and one should not be so naïve as to believe that removing guns from the equation will be the cure-all that is needed. Taking away guns will not alone reduce the nearly 20,000 people who succeed in taking their own lives by gun each year. Nor will it provide help to the countless others who have had or will have similar urges. Very few would disagree with the rationale that a person who takes an assault rifle or similar killing machine, and executes as many people as they can until they are stopped by force, is mentally unstable. We like to think we treat mental instability in this country as a disease, but that’s a topic for another day, assuming we did however, and we believe we treat sufferers of mental illness compassionately, why is the easy access to guns removed from the discussion.

I am not, unless someone can convince me otherwise, one who blames violent video games or explicit movies for the violent tendencies of this society. The insanity existed for generations before television and movies. Perhaps there is a way to use the escapism of those products as a way to sate those primal urges, rather than using them to dehumanize the senses to the horrific realities of violence. I understand that visceral reaction some have to the mere mention of gun control; we live in a time where it seems we lose more and more freedoms each day and the thought of having the right to bear arms taken off the books is simply a bridge too far. However, let’s be honest, we are burying ourselves under a mountain of guns and ammo while the underlying reasons for the violence remains unchecked.

~ Richard


Communicating Goals

Comm goals

I can’t think of a single organization that does not have specific tasks to complete, even teams or groups within the organization will have things that must be done within a defined timeframe. The achievement of these tasks is how success is measured, they are goals, and they become the very purpose of an organization’s existence. Setting and communicating goals should be considered as much art as it is science and the bolder the goal, the more creativity will need to be employed. When you consider the goals you have set for you organization, how involved is your team in initiating and implementing those goals. Who are the team members and what knowledge do they bring to the team?


In my business experience, the more routine the tasks, the poorer the communication of goals become. For example, in a call centers, service centers and production lines, managers often post or announce goals, which are understood only at the executive level. The word comes down that a thousand calls need to made or ten thousand rivets need to be produced. The goal hangs like a cloud over the heads of team members, but there’s no communication about the purpose, benefit or reasoning for the goal.  Team members grumble and grouse over the additional work because they do not feel invested in the outcome. If your service or production has consistently rated fair to poor, then perhaps it is time to rethink how your goals are being communicated. The goal of every business is to grow and expand, increase revenue or to boost investor value, but do these goals align with the needs of your employees. Beyond the monetary value of a business, the reason nearly every concern comes into existence is because they are supplying a product or serving a need. Do the needs and benefits of your employees grow and expand in proportion with company profits; if not, then they are not invested in the company’s success. It is true that employees want to keep their jobs and they will do whatever is reasonably required to do so, but that need does not rise to the level of commitment required to be exceptional.


If your service or production lines do not rate as exceptional, then begin by assessing the goals you have in place. Do they meet the following basic standards?

Are they realistic?

You may want to double sales or production by the end of the year but you don’t have the personnel and tools in place to make that happen. You don’t have the budget or the market share is unattainable.

Are the relevant?

Consider the vision of why the business began operation and how well your goals align with that vision. If your goals do not produce better results for your customers or employees, then what’s the point?

Do they encourage growth?

Goals are useless if they do not promote learning, improvement and growth; it is the experience of pursuing a goal that inspires teams to pursue the next one with enthusiasm. Ask any person or group that has achieved something great which is more lasting, reaching a milestone or the journey towards it.


The next step is to start looking critically at who the goals setters are; is it just you or a small group who think just as you do? The voice in your head may be your most trusted advisor, just make sure you have enough exposed yourself to a sufficiently broad range of information. If you rely on a team, keep in mind that diversity of experience is just as important as any other type of diversity.


Once you have your goals in place and you are ready to impose them on your staff, STOP; this is now the most critical part of communicating goals for others. Ask yourself what’s in it for “them.” The “them” is the team members who will be grinding away at achieving those goals. What input have they had in setting those goals, have you considered or even asked for feedback from previous missions? When it comes to setting goals failure IS an option, it’s how we learn. Including your team members’ opinions in the discussion of goals is an easy way of gaining their buy in. It’s harder to walk away from a goal you believe you’ve had a hand in setting. If you decide to offer an incentive for reaching a goal, make sure it is one that is meaningful to the team. Do not punish your teams for not reaching a goal, remember this is a learning process and if they are invested in the goal, the failure will be punishment enough. Your task will be to refocus and re-energize your team, that’s what leaders do.


~ Richard



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