TRIALS: Last Act at Kent State

My Lai. Kent State. Attica.

In each case, under different pressures, Americans in uniform used "excessive force"—a legalistic euphemism often used to describe official killing. Yet the legal system has had great difficulty in pinpointing responsibility. In all three celebrated cases, the only man convicted of criminal conduct was Lieut. William Calley, who served just 40 months for the My Lai massacre, mostly under comfortable house arrest. Last week, what may be the final legal action against any officials in the three incidents ended in a Cleveland courtroom. The record of absolving representatives of the state did not change.

Last Resort. The...

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