Author Archives: SHG

The Murder “Epidemic” Spreads

As the opioid “epidemic” continues to be the driver of drug hysteria, and the drug dealers who sell to people who overdose are prosecuted not as dealers, but as murderers, the concept of murder continues to expand. First, it went from dealer to sharer. Now, an introduction to a connection is all it takes.

But Jamie Nelson, 34, was not the dealer who provided the fentanyl and heroin that killed Tracy Skornika in June. According to police, Skornika gave Nelson $50 to help her to find a heroin connection. Nelson took her to a dealer she apparently knew. Skornika overdosed and was found on her bathroom floor. She was pronounced dead three hours later at a hospital.

There’s nothing is this story that even suggests that Nelson wanted her friend dead. The Orlando Sentinel report on the case notes that Nelson cried when she found out Skornika had died.

That Nelson felt terrible, even cried, isn’t a defense to a murder. But then, that doesn’t answer the question of how her doing as a friend asked, introducing Skornika to her dealer, turns out to be a murder either. Continue reading

Bless Your Dear “American Heart”

In the good old days, a person could write a book and, if it wasn’t good for some reason, people didn’t buy it and it faded into meaningless obscurity. Good times. The problem for Laura Moriarty, who wrote a young adult book named “American Heart,” is that it was liked enough to be deemed worthy of a Kirkus Review, a pretty big deal.

When Laura Moriarty decided she wanted to write a dystopian novel about a future America in which Muslims are forcefully corralled into detention centers, she was aware that she should tread carefully. Her protagonist is a white teenager, but one of her main characters, Sadaf, is a Muslim American immigrant from Iran, so Moriarty began by diving into Iranian books and films. Moriarty explained via email that she asked two Iranian immigrant friends to read an early draft and see if Sadaf seemed authentic to them, and whether the language and accent fit  with their memories and experiences.

A friend of Pakistani and American descent who is a practicing Muslim gave additional feedback. Moriarty asked a senior colleague at the University of Kansas, Giselle Anatol, who writes about Young Adult fiction and has been critical of racist narratives in literature, to read the book with a particular eye toward avoiding another narrative about a “white savior.” And after American Heart was purchased by Harper, the publisher provided several formal “sensitivity reads,” in which a member of a minority group is charged with spotting potentially problematic depictions in a manuscript.

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Tuesday Talk*: The Land of the Free?

Do Millennials fear freedom? Well, not you, of course, but those other Millennials.

Young Americans seem to be losing faith in freedom. Why?

According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of Americans born before World War II. In 1995, 16 percent of Americans in their late teens and early adulthood thought democracy was a bad idea; in 2011, the number increased to 24 percent.

Democracy hasn’t exactly been kind to Millennials. It gave them perpetual war on foreign soil. It produced the Great Recession. They came of age in a world that persisted in telling them that they were special, and if they only played by the rules, they would enjoy great success, only to learn that the end of the road was dead or dying. And then Darth Cheeto was elected, despite everything they had been told about social justice.  Continue reading

Buying Bombast: The Preet Syndrome

For many of us who didn’t wake up to the criminal justice system on November 9, 2016, the elevation of former Southern District of New York United States Attorney Preet Bharara to progressive hero was like a bad joke. Preet? Seriously? As far as the newly-woke progressive left was concerned, his refusal to resign when Trump told him to made him an icon.

Did they have any idea how many kittens he kicked before? Did they even care? There are a lot of those beloved vulnerable and marginalized people of color who will spend the rest of their lives in prison because of Preet. And he’s your progressive hero?

Josie Duffy Rice calls out the “myth of the progressive prosecutor,” starting with Cy Vance.

Mr. Vance is considered one of America’s most progressive prosecutors and has the accolades to prove it. In 2015, he helped create the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Two years earlier, Attorney General Eric Holder gave him an award for having developed a partnership between local youths and law enforcement aimed at reducing violence.

Certainly Eric Holder was a progressive hero, given all he did to eliminate junk science from the courtroom, reduce wrongful convictions and not execute innocent people, with his trusty sidekick, Sally Yates, at his side. Continue reading

Short Take: Can Free Speech and Social Justice Co-Exist?

As part of the “Unsafe Spaces” tour being run by Spiked, a panel discussion will be held at New York Law School on November 2d, with former president of the ACLU, Nadine Strossen, as moderator. The title of the panel is provocative: Is the left eating itself?

The panel will consist of Northwestern prof Laura Kipnis, Evergreen College’s Bret Weinstein, Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill and “student social justice activist” academic, Angus Johnson*. Kipnis promoted the panel on the twitters:

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Sessions’ Inconsistent Consistency

Just when progressives, in Congress and elsewhere, were absolutely certain that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was the embodiment of everything they hated because he was bent on undoing their bureaucratic shift in law, he went and did something that confused them. He…he…well, let Matt Apuzzo explain.

The Justice Department has dispatched an experienced federal hate crimes lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with murdering a transgender high school student last year, a highly unusual move that officials said was personally initiated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In taking the step, Mr. Sessions, a staunch conservative, is sending a signal that he has made a priority of fighting violence against transgender people individually, even as he has rolled back legal protections for them collectively.

Up to now, it was more likely assumed that Sessions would be the one inclined to jail transgender people for being transgender, a status that presumably was unacceptable to someone with a name that, if it was a statue, would demand to be torn down. Continue reading

Short Take: Twits of the Times

The New York Times has issued new social media guidelines to its reporters.

To the newsroom:

The New York Times has been a dominant force on social media for years. Our newsroom accounts have tens of millions of followers. Many of our journalists are influential voices on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.

Tens of millions is a lot of followers. Whether that number pans out would require someone to do the math, but regardless, anyone who writes for such a big soapbox is likely to be taken seriously, whether they’re a journalist writing about politics or Roxane Gay.

We believe that to remain the world’s best news organization, we have to maintain a vibrant presence on social media.

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Bad Math At Good Colleges

They’re not asking. They’re demanding. And before you ask the obvious, “or what?”, their demands are being met, at least to some extent.

Students are protesting for official recognition of their identities, whether racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, first-generation, low-income or immigrant.

The new word for this is “intersectionalism.” A student can be black, female, gay, immigrant, pastafarian and the first in her family to go to college. All the boxes are checked.

Campuses that have prided themselves on increased diversity in admissions are now wrestling with students who want more control over the institutions they attend, including a say in hiring (even of visiting professors), housing (a theme house at the University of California, Santa Cruz, must be painted in Pan-African colors) and curriculum (among nearly 50 demands presented to the University of Chicago: the creation of courses on the Islamic golden age, sequences on Caribbean and Southeast Asian civilizations, and a required diversity/inclusion course).

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Heavy Cy

Who cares? For all the focus on campaign donations given New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., for his campaign against no one, nobody outside the crim law community knew or cared who would get the job for life. Unlike Brooklyn, or Houston, there was no pressing demand for reform in Manhattan.

DANY was the premier local prosecutor’s office in the nation, and when Robert Morgenthau decided it was time for him to pass the torch, he handed it to Cy. Morgy was an old-school patrician prosecutor. Cy was his ordained successor. The job is now Cy’s until he decides it’s time to go.

Cy doesn’t need the money personally. Cy doesn’t need the money to run a campaign against anyone. Not since his initial election has anyone mounted a serious campaign against him. It’s not as if he has to run a campaign ad to get some name recognition. As long he doesn’t do something monumentally stupid that puts his name in front of people such that they start to think, “hey, who is this guy who owns the DA’s office,” he will be there forever.

But that happened, if inadvertently. Two lawyers gave Cy’s campaign significant donations, which nobody would have cared about except that their clients are now hated. I could remind you that correlation does not prove causation, but we both know that nobody cares about logical fallacies. As Nancy Grace loved to say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Continue reading

Short Take: To Kill “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Caddo Parish, LouisianaAccomack County, Virginia. Now Biloxi, Mississippi. What do these three places have in common? They’ve banned Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, To Kill A Mockingbird, from the public school curriculum.

“To Kill A Mockingbird,” considered one of the best novels of the 20th century, is also one of the most controversial. According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the Harper Lee novel is one of the most challenged and banned classical books. Many of these objections come from parents, school administrators or advocacy groups who contend that its racially and sexually-charged themes are inappropriate for young readers.

On the one hand, it uses words that, while commonplace in music, are deemed unacceptable on paper. On the other hand, it challenges the “believe the victim” narrative, as it reflects an innocent black man convicted upon the lie of a white woman. These may have been important, provocative themes when the book was written, but we were a tougher society then, capable of thinking instead of merely crying whenever an idea challenged our sacred cows.

For criminal defense lawyers, the banning of To Kill A Mockingbird holds a special place in hell. This was the book that pushed many to go to law school, to defend the accused, to want to be like Atticus Finch. This was our book. And they’ve stolen it, twisted it, tainted it. Continue reading