Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thought for the Day

Sexual abuse cases are bad.

Sexual abuse cases with a child victim are worse.

Sexual abuse cases with a child victim and a child defendant are the worst of all.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Daily Show Rips Nancy Grace Over Duke Case

My longstanding disgust for Nancy Grace is well-known to regular readers of this blog. Her coverage of the Duke Lacrosse "Rape" Case provided a nice vehicle for Jon Stewart and the good folks at The Daily Show to rip her a new one. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Six-Year-Old's Temper Tantrum Lands Her in Jail

Monday, April 09, 2007

Life's a Marathon

Saturday, I officially started my marathon training. Okay, I'm only training for a half-marathon. And, okay, I'm only training to walk a half-marathon. For me, though, this is a huge deal. I generally hate exercise. I can't count the number of times I start "working out," with all sorts of promises and goals to myself, only to quit because I'm bored or don't have the time, or some other convenient excuse. The end result is that I am extremely out of shape. And I'm sick and tired of it. I want to feel better. I want to look better. And I don't want to condemn myself to a life of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, like so many of my family members. So, I decided to participate in a program that trains people to run or walk marathons or half-marathons. Basically, you get together with the whole group every Saturday morning for a group walk/run, and then follow a schedule of walking or running during the week. I walked a mere 1.5 miles Saturday morning, and now, I'm on my way. Hopefully, I'll be able to tell you this fall that I completed my half-marathon. And hopefully, by then, I'll be feeling better all around.


These Clients We Defend

Woman of the Law is the subject of this week's Monday Musings at Public Defender Stuff. It's a great read, all-around, but one part of her comments really got me. She was having a discussion with a law professor who did capital defense work, and the issue of why she thought she might want to be a prosecutor came up. She told the professor about the abused kids she had worked with as a social worker, and how frustrated she would get with how the system dealt with them, and the professor responded, "These clients that we defend - they were your kids once. And this is where they ended up. This is what the system did for them."

Wow. So very true. So many of the kids I work with are being abused, and the system fails to protect them at every turn. And I often find myself hoping and praying that they don't end up where this professor's clients have.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

My Hypothetical Criminal Record

Have you ever sat down and thought out what your hypothetical criminal record would be if all the crimes you committed in your life would have been reported to the police and prosecuted? I think about a lot more with my juvenile clients who are racking up a criminal record even before they're adults. I wonder how much harder it will be for them to get into college, to get student loans, to get a job, to get an apartment. And I wonder why the hell the state is prosecuting so many of these kids instead of just giving some of them a good, stern lecture, grounding them, or allowing for some other form of parental punishment that worked just fine on so many of us, and allowed us to put our juvenile mistakes behind us without a criminal record, and move on to be responsible, productive adults.

I may be leaving some stuff out, but here it is. My hypothetical juvenile criminal record:

Assault - domestic violence
Harassment - domestic violence
Driving without a license
Reckless driving
Criminal trespass

Now, I was pretty much a square, goody-goody as a kid, and never drank or smoked pot, so I managed to avoid those convictions. But between fights with my older brother, shoplifting, and driving like a goddamned maniac, I could have racked up plenty of charges. And you know, it's not just having a criminal record that hurts kids; it's any contact with the juvenile system. There are some kids, sure, who may need to be on probation, with the threat of detention time to get them the help they need. But many kids don't. And bringing them into the criminal justice system does them harm. I want to post more on this--the harm done just by being in the system--in future posts. But for now, I'm just thankful that it never happened to me.

Don't be shy now--feel free to leave a comment with your hypothetical criminal record.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

On the Run

So, today, I had a client plead guilty to an assault charge involving a former classmate. The case was pretty old because she seemed to have had a habit of running away from home. Dad took a 5-hour bus ride to get here for her hearing today, which was great, except for the fact that he absolutely reaked of alcohol. After the plea, my client needed to talk to another prosecutor before heading back home because she is the complainant in a felony assault case where the defendant is her mother. Gee, I can't imagine why this girl keeps running away from home.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Some News From My Old Office

Here's a pretty comprehensive article on the costs and benefits of the public defender system in Dallas County from the Dallas Morning News. The one thing about the article that bothers me is that it continues to point out the problems of campaign contributions and how that affects judges' decisions in appointing private-practice attorneys, which is a perhaps more scandalous on its face, but doesn't talk about the major problem I witnessed with some private-practice attorneys--the financial incentive for the attorney to get the case over with as soon as possible. Strangely, this is cited by the judge as a positive for using private-practice attorneys as opposed to public defenders, and no real mention is made of the divergent interests this can create between the attorney and his client.

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Why are Child Prostitutes Treated Like Criminals Instead of Sexual Abuse Victims?

I can't read the actual article because either the magazine's website is down right now or my internet connection sucks, but a Salon blogger on women's issues notes a New York Magazine article about how child prostitutes are treated in the U.S.A. The bottom line is that, despite the fact that these girls are legally incapable of consenting to sex, and that many of them are essentially "sex slaves," they are frequently treated like nothing more than criminals when they are arrested for prostitution. There has to be a better way.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

FBI Doesn't Want Jurors To See How They Get Confessions

In the midst of the U.S. Attorney firings scandal, the New York Times has uncovered a fascinating little tidbit. Apparently, one of the fired prosecutors got the FBI all up-in-arms because he challenged a policy that forbids FBI agents from recording interrogations with suspects without supervisor approval. That's right--they're forbidden from preserving an accurate record of the interrogation. Why? Well, that's where it gets even better. Apparently, one of the major "legitimate" policy reasons put forward by the FBI is that jurors might not like what they see:

Psychological tricks like misleading or lying to a suspect in questioning or pretending to show the suspect sympathy might also offend a jury, the agency said. “Perfectly lawful and acceptable interviewing techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as proper means of obtaining information from defendants,” said one of the once-secret internal Justice Department communications made public as part of the investigation into the dismissals of the United States attorneys.

Interesting. So, they don't want jurors to see precisely what they do to obtain confessions because they think the jurors might find what they do "improper," even though it's not. Or, maybe, because the jurors, upon seeing the actual interrogation process, might be more inclined to believe defense assertions that the confession was false. It is very true that lying to suspects and applying extreme psychological pressure are "perfectly lawful," but it's also true that use of these techniques can result in false confessions, and that the average juror doesn't have an understanding of how these techniques play out. And the FBI doesn't ever want them to.

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