Friday, January 27, 2006

Murder Trial Update

The State has one more witness, and the case will probably go to the jury late this afternoon. After that, nobody knows.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hiding the Cold Medicine Doesn't Stop the Meth Problem

Grits for Breakfast has an excellent post explaining how lawmakers' enthusiasm for limiting the sale of cold medicine has done NOTHING to stem the country's growing methamphetamine problem. To be sure, it has reduced the number of meth labs in this country. The problem is that local "cooks" have simply been replaced, and then some, by Mexican drug cartels, with all the other evils that they bring to the equation, while overdoses and deaths from methamphetamine have actually increased. Grits is correct--the only way to truly address the methamphetamine problem--and all the other illegal drugs, for that matter--in this country is to reallocate the resources to prevention and treatment and away from the criminal justice system.

The "System Worked" . . . After 18 Years

Update: This story just gets worse and worse for the police. It now appears that the real perpetrator of this brutal rape was Arthur Mumphrey's brother Charles. Way back during the original investigation, Charles Mumphrey confessed to the police that he had committed the crime. The police threatened to prosecute Charles with perjury if he testified to that at Arthur's trial, and he ultimately recanted and did not testify. After DNA test results exonerated Arthur Mumphrey, investigators decided to give Charles another look. When he was questioned, he again confessed to the crime. Authorities are now awaiting DNA test results to see if they corroborate Charles Mumphrey's confession.
Original post:

It only took 18 years, but the system finally worked for Arthur Mumphrey. After serving 18 years of a 35-year sentence, Mumphrey was finally cleared by DNA testing in the brutal rape of a young girl. The primary evidence against him at trial? A co-defendant who was given a deal to testify against him. Meanwhile, because the statute of limitations has run on the case, even though they now have a DNA profile of the actual perpetrator, nothing can be done to hold him accountable for the crime. I do give credit to the prosecutors for not resisting the DNA testing, and for supporting his pardon in light of the results. Too often, prosecutors fight DNA testing in the first place, and even oppose vacating convictions when the tests exonerate the defendant. They talk about "finality" and how "a jury has spoken," instead of truly seeking justice. But many times, such as in this case, prosecutors do step up and do the right thing.

Murder Trial Update

Well, we picked our jury yesterday, and were supposed to start testimony this morning. Unfortunately, it came to the court's attention that one of our jurors is not a resident of the county, and is therefore disqualified from serving. So, we'll be starting all over again tomorrow morning. Yippee!

Monday, January 23, 2006


I'll be in a murder trial that will most likely last through the week, so blogging will be light to non-existent. I promise to tell you all the interesting stuff when I'm done.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

New Public Defender Blog

Welcome to the blogosphere to Defending Those People, written by a public defender in South Florida!

Deconstructing Scalia

In a great little piece of analysis, William Saletan at Slate wonders how to reconcile Scalia's decisions in recent abortion cases and this week's case on the feds' attempted preemption of Oregon's "Death with Dignity" Act. I can't believe he has the nerve to accuse Scalia of being "activist," or of trying to "make law instead of interpret the law," or of being a "results-oriented" judge.

The Civil Commitment Fallacy

There is a lot written and said these days about civil commitment of child molesters. These statutory schemes have been upheld by the courts in the face of constitutional challenges on the basis that they are regulatory and civil, rather than punitive and criminal. Whether it's a local district judge or a US Supreme Court justice that says it, that's a crock. It is punitive. It is criminal. And cases like the one two of my colleagues tried this week prove it. The purpose of these laws is to put so many restrictions on an individual that no one could possibly follow every condition to the letter. And when you make that screw up, BAM, back to prison you go. For life. I am happy to say, however, that, in this case, they beat the odds . . . for now. Just this morning, the jury found Mr. Alexander "not guilty."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why Doesn't Governor GoodHair Give a Damn About Wrongful Convictions?

Justice Coming Along Slowly for Walter Mann

It appears that the good folks at the Dallas County District Attorney's Office have decided that Walter Mann--who was wrongfully incarcerated for 15 months--shouldn't have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines and costs for writing a $67 bad check. How nice.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Where did comments go?

Update: I guess they're back. Whew.
Original post:

I was using Haloscan for comments because it allowed trackback, but now, Haloscan appears to have disappeared. There is no way to comment here, and their webpage is inaccessible. Do any of my fellow bloggers know what is going on? And, if Haloscan is truly gone for good, does anyone know how I can switch my comments back to blogspot? I am not HTML literate, and am worried that just deleting all the lines of script that say "Haloscan" in my template would not cure my problem. If you can help, please e-mail me at


Monday, January 09, 2006

The Continuing Saga of Walter Mann

Right before Christmas, I got poor old Walter Mann out of jail after a 15-month illegal incarceration. To make a long story short, Mr. Mann was assaulted by his teenage son, who was ordered into a juvenile facility. As his parent, Mr. Mann--67 and on disability--was ordered to pay the county $50/month for incarcerating his son. Mr. Mann couldn't pay. The state filed a motion for contempt. When Mr. Mann didn't appear, he was arrested. He was then left in jail without a hearing or a lawyer for fifteen months. The only reason he's not sitting in jail to this day is that his cellmate told his public defender, one of my co-workers, who passed it on to me, and I got him released. Even if Mr. Mann had actually been found in contempt, the maximum sentence he could have received is 6 months in jail. Anyway, I just found out today that the judge who left him in jail all that time has now ordered him to court to again attempt to collect that $50/month! Thankfully, he now has a good lawyer, who I have complete faith will handle this most appropriately. But just in case, I'm wondering if I should be on hand with a sharp instrument, offering to cut out a pound of flesh from poor Mr. Mann. Maybe that will satisfy the judge.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Post-Execution DNA

I am fascinated by the decision of Virginia Governor Mark Warner to order DNA tests on evidence related to the case of Roger Keith Coleman, who was executed in 1992. I remember reading the Time Magazine article about his case when I was in high school. At the time, I was a very conservative death penalty supporter. That article, I think, was the beginning of a shift in my ideas on the criminal justice system in general, and the death penalty in particular. I also remember reading years ago about his family's efforts, after he was executed, to get the DNA tests done anyway. I remember the state prosecutors vigorously arguing against such testing. What I remember most was the reason cited by either the prosecutors themselves or the judge who ultimately denied testing (my memory on this point is a bit hazy)--that if the results were exculpatory, it would undermine the public's confidence in the justice system. How's that for good, sound legal reasoning? If it is proven that the state executed an innocent man, the public will have less confidence in the system that sends people to their executions, therefore we can't let any possible evidence of their innocence be brought forward.

Like Blonde Justice, I'm not sure which way I want the tests to come out in Coleman's case. On one hand, I would feel better if it turns out that an innocent man was not executed. On the other hand, as someone who now opposes the death penalty on both moral and systemic grounds, it could be the most significant development in years in the long fight for abolition.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


This article in Texas Monthly, "Why Can't Stephen Phillips Get a DNA Test?," exposes the injustice of post-conviction DNA testing in Texas. Despite a law passed by the legislature to provide for testing, prosecutors still often fight the tests tooth and nail, and many judges seem perfectly happy to do their bidding. These activist judges seem content to flout the clear intent of the legislature to provide DNA testing, and no one is holding them accountable. Meanwhile, the potentially innocent rot in jail.

Hook 'Em Horns!

Congratulations to my Texas Longhorns on beating USC (the best college football team ever!) in the Rose Bowl 41-38 to win the national championship of college football.

This Just In: Houston PD Crime Lab Sucks

The hits just keep on coming for the Houston Police Department crime lab. In the latest report filed by an independent investigator, the lab was found to have made major mistakes in over 1/3 of the DNA cases that were randomly sampled, including three in cases that led to the defendant being sentenced to death. In one of those cases, despite a clear DNA result showing no DNA tied to the defendant in any of the evidence tested by the lab, they reported to the prosecution that the tests were "inconclusive." Oops. While some have tried to make the continuing story of the crime lab solely one of incompetence, it hasn't escaped my attention that most of the "major mistakes" made by the lab have been mistakes that favored the state's case. I'm sure it's just a coincidence.