Author Archives: SHG

Faithful To The Story (Update x2)

When I first read Gideon’s post at A Public Defender, it had the wrong smell, the wrong feel.  It was an awful story, about how a judge refused to remove a juror in a child rape case who made it as clear as possible that she was biased.  The point of the story was the efforts put in to create the appearance of rehabilitation.

The prosecutor then asked the juror: “You haven’t heard any evidence. How would you vote?”  Juror 112 responded, “I would have to vote guilty.

The judge asked if she could return a verdict of not guilty if the government couldn’t prove it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I don’t think I would be able to,” the juror replied.

The prosecutor tried again: “Let me ask you this flat-out. Let’s say the victim takes the stand [and] you flat-out don’t believe her. In fact, you think she’s lying. You look at her [and conclude] ‘I don’t believe a word coming out of her mouth.’ Are you going to convict this man anyway?”

Juror 112 responded before the first witness in the case had been called, “That depends. I still feel he was at fault.” Continue reading

Cameras Work (When The LAPD Wants Them To Work)

Cameras. Dash cams. Body Cams. The cure for police transparency, that protects and proves that the police conducted themselves properly, with the added benefit of providing a record of the defendant’s wrongdoing and statements. What’s not to like?

Apparently, enough that the Los Angeles Police Department found out that some of its officers screwed with their mandated cameras so that they wouldn’t work.

Los Angeles police officers tampered with voice recording equipment in dozens  of patrol cars in an effort to avoid being monitored while on duty, according to  records and interviews.

An inspection by Los  Angeles Police Department investigators found about half of the estimated 80  cars in one South L.A. patrol division were missing antennas, which help capture  what officers say in the field. The antennas in at least 10 more cars in nearby  divisions had also been removed. Continue reading

The Alibi versus The Crack Witness

Ace crime reporter Oren Yaniv broke the story of Jonathan Fleming’s release in the Daily News, reminding us yet again of the good fortune of not living in a state where executions are available.  After nearly a quarter century in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, Fleming is “elated.”

Brooklyn prosecutors are slated Tuesday to set free a man who spent more than two decades in prison — the latest in a spate of conviction reversals.

The murder conviction of Jonathan Fleming, 51, will be tossed following a reinvestigation of the August 1989 slaying that landed him in prison for over 24 years, the Daily News has learned.

In August, 1989, Darryl Rush was murdered in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Of this, there is no doubt. Continue reading

Victim Blaming, Victim Proofing (Update)

It was nearly seven years ago that I read GW lawprof Dan Solove’s book, The Future of Reputation.  After doing so, I sat down with my kids and had a nice talk about doing stupid things on the internet, and how that could come back to bite them in the butt later.

The upshot was to teach them to think ahead, to understand the potential unintended consequences of doing something that might seem cool or fun at the moment, but could have dire consequences later.  The point was to protect their reputation in the future, despite whatever they felt like doing today.

As I read a BBC post promoting the revenge porn advocates’ efforts to get criminal laws enacted, a quote by a baby lawyer from Brooklyn was quite disconcerting: Continue reading

Bronx ADA Megan Teesdale: Integrity Lost

The Daily News reports that Bronx Criminal Court Judge John Wilson dismissed a rape charge.  The defendant was cut loose.

The defendant, Segundo Marquez, had been held at Rikers Island for more than eight months awaiting trial on reduced misdemeanor rape charges stemming from a 2010 incident.

And then, it was gone.  The reason, however, is not so easily dismissed.  It wasn’t until summation at Marquez’s trial that all hell broke loose.

The two week-long trial had reached closing arguments when one of Teesdale’s supervisors informed the judge about a note on the case file referring to the contradictory testimony.

The prosecutor trying the case, Megan Teesdale, got caught. Continue reading

Is It Crazy To Be Nuts?

At the Faculty Lounge, Charlotte lawprof Brian Clarke “came out.”  No, not about sexuality, but something still hidden in deeper, darker places where society has yet to begin to accept.

I will admit to being a bit nervous about even raising this topic.  (Given the nature of many anonymous internet commenters, I think most people would be hesitant to bare even a minute portion of their souls online and attempt to engage with a very serious subject, only to be subject to snarky or mean-spirited attacks.)  Plus, mental illness and suicide are not comfortable subjects for most people.  There remains a very real stigma attached to mental illness.  Many people believe that suffering from clinical depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or a host of other mental illnesses is a character flaw or a weakness.  Having one of these diseases has been seen as something of which the sufferer should be ashamed.  This attitude has been in place for too long for people to easily change their perceptions and opinions.

However, as lawyers and law professors, we must to do more.  It is clear that our students need us to do more.  When you are depressed, you feel so terribly alone.  You feel different.  You feel ashamed.  You feel weak.  You feel like you will never feel better and that you can never be the person you want to be.  Continue reading

The Constitution Meets A Sign, and Loses

At the WaPo Conspiracy, David Post raises an interesting issue relating to the “seizure” by the TSA when one crosses an imaginary security line at the airport:

But even worse is this:  while waiting on the hoi polloi line, I started watching the TSA video that was running on the monitors overhead, and I was struck when the narrator said:  ”Once you enter the screening area, you will not be permitted to leave without TSA permission.”  Really?! Actually, I am permitted to leave without TSA  permission, whether they like it or not, because the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on “unreasonable . . . seizures” gives me that permission. We have a word for this, too, in the law, when government agents don’t allow us to leave freely:  ”being in custody.”

While his point makes sense from a logical perspective, his fellow traveler, Orin Kerr, notes that the law doesn’t quite agree: Continue reading

Because No One Can Stop The Myth

In yet another screwy screed, Georgetown Law’s Bill Otis at Crime & Consequences, who fancies himself a leader in the war against the Smarter Sentencing Act, boosted by the recognition of C&C as the “top-rated pro-prosecution blog” according to a scam link-bait survey that’s been desperately trying to find fools pathetic enough link back to it, says the feds can’t reduce their prison population.  It just won’t work.

In debating the Heroin Dealers Bonanza Act Smarter Sentencing Act, I hear one question again and again:   Since some states like Texas and Michigan have reduced their prison populations over the last few years and  have seen the decline in crime continue, why can’t the federal prison system do the same?

Who, exactly, Otis debates with, aside from the voices he hears in his own head and the occasional dog, is unclear. But as strawmen go, it’s a fair question, even if framed in a self-serving manner.

Even if prison reduction programs work for the states, they are not going to work for the feds.  The feds prosecute precisely the kind of drug gangs, and drug offenders, who are the most violent, the most entrenched, and the most prone to recidivism. Continue reading

Brooklyn Law’s New Game

The New York Times business section profiles Brooklyn Law School, as Dean Nicholas Allard takes the bold move of refusing to play the U.S News & World Reports ratings game.

Brooklyn will hold tuition at its current level — $1,800 a credit, or $53,850 a year — for the class entering this fall. Next year, it will introduce an across-the-board 15 percent cut in tuition. It is also reducing some kinds of merit aid, increasing need-based aid and offering a curriculum that allows some students to graduate in two years rather than the standard three. “It’s still expensive, and I wish we could do more,” Mr. Allard said.

While holding tuition at current levels isn’t exactly radical (or inexpensive), the cut in merit aid is the kicker. Continue reading

Everything Old Is New Again

Walter Olson shreds the conduct of the FBI in seizing the antiquities collection of 91-year-old Don Miller in Indiana.

FBI agents Wednesday seized “thousands” of cultural artifacts, including American Indian items, from the private collection of a 91-year-old man who had acquired them over the past eight decades.

The aim of the investigation is to determine what each artifact is, where it came from and how Miller obtained it, Jones said, to determine whether some of the items might be illegal to possess privately.

Jones acknowledged that Miller might have acquired some of the items before the passage of U.S. laws or treaties prohibited their sale or purchase.

What is happening to Miller reflects a conundrum facing anyone who had the misfortune of getting caught in the net of modernity, the effort to revisit the rules in light of current sensibilities by demanding that things that happened in the past somehow match the rules of the day. Continue reading

But For Video: Your Lying Eyes Edition

Between the rhetorical “search for the truth” stuff that’s thrown up when convenient, and the burden of proof stuff that’s hauled out for the same reason, people would likely believe that a video that shows police testimony is false less than accurate would be good enough to put an end to a phony reason to stop a car.

Not true, said the Indiana Supreme Court in Robinson v. Indiana.  There, the trial court held a suppression hearing for the stop of defendant’s car, which was pulled over by Deputy Casey Claeys of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputy Claeys later testified he saw the vehicle “drive off the right side, which was the south side of the road, twice.” Immediately after the second incident, he turned on his vehicle camera and initiated a traffic stop for “unsafe lane movement.” The camera, once activated, retroactively records the previous thirty seconds. Continue reading

DA Kathleen Rice: Shooting The Victim In The Head Justified

When Nassau County police officer Nikolas Budimlic decided that the best idea was to individually charge into a house where a gunman was holding people hostage, there were couple of possible outcomes. The first was that he would be a hero, get a medal and have a statue of him erected.  The second was that a lovely young woman, a Hofstra student, would lie dead before he was done, and the machinery of the state would crank into gear to shift the blame.

The odds were against Budimlic’s getting a statue.

Immediately after the death of Andrea Rebello from a bullet to the head, the gunman was blamed. Then it turned out that the “gunman” was Budimlic.  The police union then rushed to its member’s aid, explaining how it wasn’t the cop’s fault for shooting Rebello in the head, because criminals.

Then came the victim blaming, speculation about drugs in the house and how maybe Rebello was looking for Mr. Goodbar so that Budimlic’s bullet to the head wasn’t really a big deal. Continue reading

Evil In Albuquerque

Most people would be inclined to believe that the training regimen for police officers would be the subject of great oversight.  Perhaps a rigorous course of study developed by the best minds so that the public will receive the best service.  At the very least, it would be more than one guy’s idea of how a bunch of other guys with guns should behave.

Not in Albuquerque, which might answer the concern of former cop turned prof at John Jay College of coppery and shoe repair, Peter Moskos, asked after viewing the videos of the execution of James Boyd.

I think this was a bad shooting.

But what really worries me is that perhaps the officers performed exactly as trained. If so, we need to change police training (and not make scapegoats of the officers).

While Moskos holds cops in such low esteem that any bit of murderous stupidity can be sloughed off elsewhere, Continue reading

Need To Know Basis Only

Many years ago, I shared offices with a couple of guys, Paul Goldberger and Larry Dubin.  They were kinda big deals, and big deals got big fees. Their firm, Goldberger & Dubin, got big fees. Big enough that when paid in cash, Form 8300 was required by the IRS, and the form required, inter alia, the identity of the payor.

This was a problem, so they refused. The Second Circuit was unsympathetic.

Section 6050-I stops far short of the forfeiture statutes that were at issue in Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered v. United States, 491 U.S. 617 (1989) and United States v. Monsanto, 491 U.S. 600 (1989), in which the preclusion of the defendants from using seized assets to pay their attorneys was held not to violate the Sixth Amendment. Section 6050-I does not preclude would-be clients from using their own funds to hire whomever they choose. Continue reading

Time I’ll Never Get Back

At Tempe Criminal Defense, Matt Brown offers an amusing anecdote about how a court clerk at the Mesa Municipal Court acts as if he didn’t exist.

The court called us at 2:25 p.m. and left a message about getting our position on the state’s motion to continue trial.  That’s right, the state’s motion.  Not ours.  The motion the state didn’t bother faxing us until 3:45 p.m.

I called the court back sometime shortly before 5:00 p.m. and spoke with a very pleasant lady.  She wanted to know my position on the state’s motion.  I told her we didn’t oppose it and had in fact filed our own motion.  She asked for me to wait a moment and came back a bit later.

“Oh my goodness, so you did!” Continue reading

And They Care Why?

On the surface, it probably wouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that there are law enforcement groups that are trying to subvert bipartisan support for the Smarter Sentencing Act.  Sure, the hardcore and lazy federal prosecutors have come out against it, as it could make them have to work for the notches on their guns, but that was to be expected.

Yet, as the HuffPo explains, there is a second level of organized law enforcement working in the shadows to try to blunt the edge of reform of the mandatory minimums that allow prosecutors to own the system:

Several organizations representing state and local law enforcement are quietly trying to kill a bipartisan bill that would roll back tough mandatory sentences for people convicted of federal drug offenses under legislation passed during the height of America’s drug war three decades ago. Continue reading

Money Talks

By 4-1-4 vote, the Supreme Court held that campaign finance limitations were an unconstitutional restraint on the 1st Amendment in McCutcheon v. FEC.  The inevitable ensued.  The TL;dr version of the opinion reads:

The right to participate in democracy through political contributions is protected by the First Amendment, but that right is not absolute.Congress may regulate campaign contributions to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. See, e.g., Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 26–27. It may not, however, regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others. See, e.g., Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, 564 U. S. ___, ___.

The New York Times editorial castigating the opinion offered the dissent,

The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its crusade to knock down all barriers to the distorting power of money on American elections. Continue reading

Welcome to #LMA14!

Alas, I’m not in Orlando, the city born of fantasy in a bipolar state whose claim to fame is warmth and swamps, and so I won’t be able to share in the glow of finally being among those who share low self-esteem and the need to surround themselves with others who pray they can persuade the fools of the legal profession to loosen their mighty grip on their few remaining dollars.  But I’m with you in spirit and want to offer my best wishes for a fabulous few days.

For three days, you can call yourselves professionals.  Not in the sense of having survived a course of education designed to provide you with knowledge and ability to perform a task, nor in the sense of having a code of ethics, the violation of which will send you to the pokey and prevent your bulk emails offering your services to the unsuspecting, or even in the sense that you’ve been tested and found sufficiently competent to take responsibility for others.  No, not that kind of professional. The kind of professional that allows you to believe, against all odds, reason and the laws of physics, that you are worthy of respect. Continue reading

Silk Road Shows The Flaws Of The Laws (Update)

For those criminal defense lawyers whose attitude toward pre-trial motions is to make sure they change all the names before submitting their pro forma papers, take the time out of your empty life to read the memorandum in support filed by Josh Dratel on behalf of his client, Ross Ulbricht.

Ulbricht was the man behind Silk Road, alleged to be

an “underground website” allegedly “designed to enable users across the world to buy and sell illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services anonymously and outside the reach of law enforcement.”

It’s terribly evil, because all the reports about it when the crypto-challenged learned of its existence from the media following Ulbricht’s arrest said so.  A kinder description would be the eBay for those with mad computer skilz outside the control of government. Continue reading

Because Fresno Hates Pot

California may have been an early adopter of medical marijuana, but the nice folks who have their hands on the wheel in Fresno don’t see what that has to do with them.  While the state law permits the growth of medical marijuana, it also allowed localities to regulate its cultivation, which is a hole big enough to drive a Mack truck through.  Fresno figured it out.

Via KFSN-TV in Fresno:

Fresno narcotics officers have been called out to more than a dozen properties in the past two days, where marijuana was growing in backyards, shanty’s or garage enclosures. Complaints from neighbors have come from all over town, from McKinley and Cedar to Willow and Nees.

Narcotics Detective Mike Brogdon says the complaints multiplied. Continue reading