Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
*One of those terrorist-loving lawyers for the Gitmo detainees publishes an open letter to Cully Stimson in Salon and it is awesome.
*The dedicated lawyers at the Cook County Public Defender's Office are fighting back against budget cuts that would mean a bunch of lawyers there losing their jobs, and their already high caseloads getting even higher.
*Bill O'Reilly, adamant defender of children against sex offenders, thinks Shawn Hornbeck didn't escape his abductor for over four years because it liked it since he didn't have to go to school.
*The judge and the DA apologized to James Waller yesterday in court when his DNA exoneration was made official, but I think it would be nice if someone tracked down the jurors who didn't do their job and got some apologies from them. They convicted the guy in 46 minutes based on an obviously bad voice identification and in the face of an alibi. Step up and take some responsibility for violating your oath and sending an innocent man to the pen for 30 years, jurors! Maybe future jurors will learn a lesson.
*I told the prosecutor yesterday that my case set for trial on Tuesday should be dismissed because he didn't have the evidence to prove it, and this morning, he dismissed it. Wow. That's pretty cool.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Will New Dallas DA Get to the Bottom of Wrongful Convictions?
A Juvenile Case with a Little of Everything
Pentagon Official Calls for Boycott of Law Firms Representing Gitmo Detainees
Charles Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, thinks all the law firms doing pro bono work to represent the detainees at Guantanamo should be blackballed. He wants all their names published and their clients to ditch them. Apparently, it's not enough for Mr. Stimson that they be held indefinitely without charge, tortured, denied the writ of habeas corpus, and tried on charges they're not allowed to be told about, with evidence they're not permitted to see or hear, and without being permitted to call witnesses in their own defense. Nope, he needs to slander their attorneys, who are spending hundreds of hours for no compensation (despite Mr. Stimson's veiled assertion that they were being compensated by shadowy terrorist financial supporters), becaue as attorneys, we are ethically obligated to ensure that everyone, no matter how shameful and despicable they are accused of being, are given the due process guaranteed by our constitution. I'm not sure what more I would expect from the person who is apparently in charge of detainee affairs. Common sense and decency and respect for the rule of law don't seem to be running high in those parts these days.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Greg at Public Defender Stuff had the honor of hosting the MLK edition of Blawg Review this week, and it is an excellent place to check out posts around the blogosphere in honor of MLK.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Massive Link Update
Why Don't Parents Hire Lawyers for Their Kids?
As I was thinking about this conclusion, it struck me that, in the county where I practice, virtually none of the juveniles accused of crimes are represented by hired counsel. As juveniles, they are all presumed indigent, and entitled to be represented by my office. But, just like an adult defendant, they have the right to hire private counsel if they choose. As children, it's highly unlikely they'd be capable of retaining an attorney on their own, so if private counsel is employed, it is because their parents have chosen to pay the money to do so.
Many of my clients come from poor families, those whom I would classify as truly indigent, and not marginally indigent. But, there are quite a few that come from middle class families as well. Certainly, many of these parents could marshal the resources to hire a private attorney. And yet, except on very rare occasions, they choose not to. Why? Is it because these parents don't care about their children's cases as much as they would care about their own? That they don't think whatever consequences their child might receive from the juvenile system are severe enough to merit laying out the money for an attorney? That they don't believe in their children's innocence? Or are they simply more willing to trust a public defender to do the best job that can be done than they would be if it were themselves standing accused?
I am not a parent. But I often hear parents say that they would sacrifice their lives for their children--that they would do anything to protect their children, no matter the personal consequence. But when it comes to their children being threatened with sanctions in the criminal justice system, that doesn't seem to be the case. At least not in the county where I practice. Or, maybe it says something about the children that end up in the juvenile justice system. Is it possible that a good percentage of the kids who end up in the juvenile system have parents who aren't so self-sacrificing? That they aren't the parents who would do anything to protect their children, no matter the personal consequence?
I think I do a very good job for my clients. And I like to believe that I get them just as good results as they would get if they hired a private attorney. But, if the prevailing viewpoint in society is that public defenders don't do as good a job as hired attorneys, why do so many parents entrust their children to me, instead of doing whatever it takes to pay a private lawyer to stand up for the rights of their children?
Friday, January 12, 2007
Fox News Analysts Have a Thirst for Justice . . . For Rich, White Defendants
But, since virtually the beginning, most of the folks at Fox News--normally big on law and order--have been almost uniformly skeptical of the accuser and the prosecution, and supportive of the defendants. Sean Hannity, in particular, has been an outspoken advocate for the accused and equally outspoken in his outrage at the prosecutor and the accuser. She is a slut, a drunk, a liar. The prosecutor is a disgrace, a violator of civil rights, and needs to be thrown out of office, disbarred, if not prosecuted himself.
Honestly, I think this case is a disgrace. I think it would be a travesty to take the case to trial. The identification procedures used were atrocious, the accuser's account of events has changed as often as she has spoken about it, and the physical evidence is either virtually nonexistent or exculpatory. Heck, one of the accused has about as airtight an alibi as you can have without actually being locked up in jail at the time of the "crime." So, yeah, I think the case should be thrown out. If the DA doesn't have the good sense to dismiss it, the judge needs to have the balls to toss it based on the prosecutorial misconduct, and impermissibly suggestive identification procedures.
As someone who rants and raves when people are wrongly accused, I should be thrilled that someone like Sean Hannity at Fox News is so outspoken in his indignation. But, here's my problem with Sean Hannity. When has he ever given a damn about a poor defendant, wrongfully accused or convicted? When has he called on the federal government to investigate a prosecutor for civil rights violations committed against someone who didn't go to a prestigious university or have a wealthy family? When he rails against the prosecutor for abusing his authority in this case just to get elected, does he ever consider what responsibility he and his Fox co-hort Bill O'Reilly have when they threaten the political futures of elected officials who refuse to pass draconian sex offender laws that, they must admit in light of the Duke case, sometimes end up being imposed on innocent people? I haven't seen any evidence of that. The title of my blog comes from the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I might suggest to Sean Hannity that, over this long holiday weekend, he reflect on that quote. And perhaps he might acknowledge that all across this country, the poor are subjected to injustices perpetrated by police officers and prosecutors not doing their job. And they don't have millions of dollars to fight back like the Duke players do. And that, perhaps, if he spent some time urging the people and politicos in this country to do something to prevent and to rectify those injustices, then the chances that rich, white boys from Duke will fall prey to those same injustices would be significantly less.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Global warming to cost us
Global warming will cost Washington state and its residents millions of dollars in higher prices and remedial measures, a new study says.
I think someone over there at the Post-Intelligencer was being funny. And I heartily approve.
Mommy and Daddy Issues
Tip for the Prosecutor
There's Not Enough Crime in This Town
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
New York Governor Chooses Not to Gouge Prisoners' Families on Phone Calls
Public Defending in New Orleans Still Rough Going
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Behind the Scenes of the Supreme Court
Monday, January 08, 2007
Time for Some Lawmakin'
I'll start with this: They need to change the values that are required for thefts and malicious mischiefs (vandalism) to qualify as felonies. Right now, theft or property damage of over $250 constitutes a felony. I'm not sure the last time the legislature addressed these values, but I'm told it's been a loooooong time--in other words, the legislature made a $250 theft a felony back when $250 was worth way more than it is now. Back in Texas, it took $1500 for theft or mischief to be a felony, and I think that is much more appropriate. Felonies are supposed to be the more serious crimes, and throwing a bunch of relatively minor thefts and mischiefs into the felony pot is a waste of the resources that should be devoted to more serious offenses. It also concerns me how many clients I have who have cases worth trying, but who are so concerned about a felony conviction, that they are willing to take a plea bargain to a misdemeanor charge, even while saying that they are innocent.
So, how about joining the 21st century on this one, legislature? I think a value of $1500 is about right, but I'd settle for $1000.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
You Like Me! You Really Like Me!
Thursday, January 04, 2007
I'm Having a Constitutional Crisis About My Low Salary, Too
I Need Some Help
New PD Blogs
The life and times of a Non-Profit Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney. "At the end of the day, after it's all finished and over, and in spite of it all... they're still just kids."
Aint that the truth.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
A Reminder About Freedom and This Job
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The State . . .
This is the United States of America
Top 10 Civil Liberties Violations of 2006
The head of the Colorado PD's office actually told us at an informational meeting that they view working for the DA as a huge black mark. While he didn't say it would be an automatic disqualification, he did state that there was no PD he knew that could even consider being a prosecutor.
That's just nuts. In my old office in Texas, we had a number of former prosecutors in our office. For two years, I interviewed law students from every law school in the state at the UT Public Interest Law Conference for internships in our office. Trust me when I say that having volunteered or worked at a prosecutor's office was NOT a black mark. It was a plus. Anything that illustrated an interest in criminal law was a plus. The fact is that public defender jobs are not easy to get, especially right out of law school. It is much more feasible to get a prosecutor's job coming straight out of law school--at least it was in Texas, where very few counties even have public defender offices. Also, one of the best, if not THE best way to get criminal trial experience right out of the gate is to go work for a prosecutor's office. That kind of experience, even if it's on the side of the prosecution, is incredibly valuable to a public defender. In my experience as a public defender, I have known plenty of PDs who could never imagine being a prosecutor. Personally, I tend to fall on that side of things, although it's not something I would ever completely rule out. But, the idea that working for a prosecutor should disqualify you from being a public defender is simply ludicrous. A good lawyer is a good lawyer. And if that good lawyer can bring the passion and professionalism to representing the indigent accused that she brought to representing the state, then the indigent accused are better off. That's the way I see it.