Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nobody's Said It Better

April 23 is World Book and Copyright Day (also known as the International Day of the Book).  It's organized by UNESCO to 
recognise the power of books to change our lives for the better and to support books and those who produce them.
I think that's pretty cool.

It's also the accepted date for Shakespeare's birthday.  We don't know exactly when he was born as there is no birth record.  But we have baptismal records.  They show he was baptized April 26, 1564. Baptism at that time and place generally occurred around 3 days after birth.  So . . .

Besides, we know that Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, which lends an appealing symmetry to his life.

In honor of World Book Day and of Shakespeare, and in recognition of one of this blawg's major themes, from The Merchant of Venice.
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew, 
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

New Motto: Tough But Incompetent

This seems to be the argument.

  • The buck stops here, so I take responsibility.
  • But it's everyone else who's supposed to tell me what to do.
  • And then I tell them to do it.
  • But they don't properly tell me what to do.
  • And I don't actually tell them to do it.
  • And I always say what I mean, but I often fail to say what I mean and in fact say something else.
  • So the buck stops here, but I'm not responsible.

Or something like that.

We know Sheriff Joe has admitted that he didn't do what the court ordered him to.  Yesterday he testified at his contempt hearing.
He told plaintiffs' attorney Stanley Young that he remembered hearing about the preliminary injunction when it was issued but said he didn't have knowledge of all the facts of the order.
"I delegated this court order to my subordinates and also to my counsel that represented me," he said.
Arpaio said he didn't recall if he ever did anything to ensure his office was complying with the order, saying he handed over the task to his former deputy chief, Brian Sands.
Hey, what more can you expect from the Toughest Sheriff in America™? John Wayne wouldn't ask questions. John Wayne would just say,
Do it, Pardner!
Same as Joe.

And if Pardner Sands doesn't do it? Shit, he explained that he delegated to his lackeys.
Earlier in the day, Sands also distanced himself in testimony from enforcement responsibility, telling his attorney that it was typically his subordinate's duty to implement training materials. Sands said he didn't know why the training module was never completed.
Whole fucking department is incompetent.  Ain't the fault of management, for god's sake.

And sure, his press releases have him saying things he didn't mean like he was going to keep going after immigrants when he meant illegal immigrants.  

But hey, he's the Toughest Sheriff in America™not some fucking pantywaist English professor.  And anyway, what's the difference between immigrants and illegal immigrants?*


Sheriff Joe, pressing the Law of Rule.
*He didn't really ask that question aloud.  But he knows the difference:  Immigrants come from places like Canada and Sweden and Germany.  Illegal immigrants come from Latin America.  

See how easy that is. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Birds of a Feather: Sheriff Joe and the FBI - UPDATE

"Stunned the legal community"?  Really?

Well, yeah.  I suppose.  Maybe the mergers and acquisitions guys.  Beyond that?  Only for the saying of it.

Oh, sorry.  You have no idea what I'm talking about.  I was musing over the first sentence of Eric Lander's op-ed in Tuesday's Times.
THE F.B.I. stunned the legal community on Monday with its acknowledgment that testimony by its forensic scientists about hair identification was scientifically indefensible in nearly every one of more than 250 cases reviewed.
Lander says it was no surprise to actual scientists who've known for years that nearly all of what's called "forensic science" is actually forensic bullshit.  But the lawyers have known that, too.  Really, anyone who's been paying attention's known it.

Lander points to a number of cases where the forensic guys told juries they were damn sure and it later turned out that they were just spinning old wives tales.  Those stories, they were in all the papers.  The NAS report?  Been out for five years now.  We've all got copies.

No, the surprise is that the FBI's admitting in broad strokes what it's quietly been acknowledging for a decade or more.  They didn't know what they were talking about - and if they did, they lied.

Because it's not science.  When the so-called expert would get on the witness stand and announce that he's looked at this hair and that hair and by god they came from the same person?  Well, maybe.  Or maybe not.  Because you can't tell.  I mean, it could be true.  Sure.  Unless you actually do something like 
Because you can't tell from the way hairs look.

Shall I go on?

We don't really know about fingerprints, either.  Or shoe prints or tire tracks or ballistics.  One study of the work of forensic bite mark experts showed that they were wrong more than 50% of the time. Get that?  If they said the defendant was guilty because those were his bite marks, that was really evidence that he was probably innocent.*

But the good news is that the FBI is now reviewing a couple of thousand cases where their experts said the hair matched and the person got convicted.  And in some cases executed.  

And the FBI is telling the defendants.  And it's making DNA tests available if the cops or the prosecutor wants them done.  (If the defendant wants them?  Gee, that didn't make it into the announcement.)

Hey, it's a start.  Here's the next step:  Let the state crime lab guys who were trained to be incompetent but pretend otherwise by the FBI own up to the fact that their hair comparison testimony was bull too.  And then start undoing convictions obtained through all the other false science.  All those things based on the crack work of trained lookers who say, 
Gee, those look the same to me.  And since I'm never wrong.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, in federal court in Arizona, Sheriff Joe owns up to the fact that he wholly ignored the court order to stop illegal roundups of everyone who looks like maybe they speak Spanish.

Yes, he said, I didn't give a shit about your fucking orders because I'm the Toughest Sheriff in America™ and get to do whatever I want.  And the taxpayers are happy to pay out millions and millions to settle all the lawsuits against me because I'm the Toughest Sheriff in America.™

Which pretty much calls the question:  Does the judge have the balls to lock the Sheriff up?  Um, probably not.  Still, this is maybe the first time Joe's actually admitted he did something he wasn't supposed to.  

I suppose that's something.

Of course, Joe says he's gonna run again.  For a 7th term.  And he's sure not planning to do it from a jail cell.

And the FBI still sends out bogus forensic "experts."  Just like your local crime lab does.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Scott Greenfield rightly points out that it didn't matter that we've been screaming about the incompetent/dishonest forensic faux-science for years - and nobody gave a shit.
While we’ve been screaming about this forever, nobody cared. Nobody listened, because we aren’t trusted government officials and it’s just us criminal defense lawyers complaining about stuff, like evidence and constitutional rights, again.
That the FBI admitted it is what stunned the legal community (of which, apparently, criminal defense lawyers are too minor a part to be worthy of recognition), because they are official.  Now the legal community cares. That’s stunning. Us, not so much.

*You could ask Ray Krone who was sentenced to death based on bite mark comparisons - twice.  Finally, the DNA showed what he'd said all along.  Wasn't him.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Man Bites Dog?

Jesse Kidder wasn't kidding.

Even though Wilcox had, allegedly, just murdered his fiancee and then his best friend.  

Even though Wilcox rushed at him.

Even when Wilcox reached toward his pocket.

Not even when Wilcox kept shouting
Shoot me!  Shoot me!
Not even then.

Jesse Kidder, that's Rookie Officer Jesse Kidder of the New Richmond Police Department, wasn't going to shoot Wilcox.  

Oh, Officer Kidder had his gun out.  Held it in front of him, aiming at Wilcox.

But he didn't shoot.  Instead, he backed away.  
I don't wanna shoot you, man!
Get down! Get down!
And damned if, finally, Wilcox didn't get down.

Without getting shot.

Officer Kidder explained,
I wanted to be absolutely sure before I used deadly force.
Probably it happens every day that a cop doesn't shoot someone he could.

This time, we have the video.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

You Think Maybe a Bit of Exploitation by the Media?

Then Marty Stroud went to meet Glenn Ford.

Stroud was the prosecutor who put Ford on death row 30 years ago.  Ford's the innocent guy Stroud put on death row 30 years ago.

Stroud's the guy who wrote an apology to the Shreveport Times.  Stroud's the guy who now says he was a kid, concerned with winning at all costs.  Stroud's the guy who says he cheated to get Ford convicted and sentenced to die.  Stroud's the guy who says Ford should get all the money Louisiana makes available to the wrongly convicted and the should get a lot more.

Ford's the guy who lost 30 years of his life because of what Stroud did.  Ford's the guy who got out of prison a month ago and then discovered he has stage 4 lung cancer and only a few more months to live.  Ford's the guy who, the courts said, won't get any of the money Louisiana theoretically makes available to the wrongfully convicted.

So Marty Stroud went to meet Glenn Ford.

Ford, who was released from prison with a manila envelope holding a $20 debit card ('cause they're so damned generous) and maybe the 24 cents he had in his account, lives on the kindness of volunteers and from donations.  While he dies of the disease they didn't bother telling him he had.

I'd like to think ABC News paid Ford for the privilege of ogling the meeting.  They certainly had the cameras there.  They picked Stroud up at the airport and drove him to the meeting.  They had the cameras in the car, too.

When Marty Stroud went to meet Glenn Ford.

And Marty Stroud said he was sorry.  He said he hopes he's a better man now.  He said he's learned.  

Ford said anger's not what drives him.  Trying to stay alive is what drives him.

Stroud said he's thought "for a long, long time," about this - whichever "this" exactly he meant.
I want you to know that I am very sorry. It's a stain on me that will be with me until I go to my grave, and I wasn't a very good person at all. I apologize for that.
But 30 years is a hell of long time.  Ford:
I'm sorry.  I can't forgive you.
They shook hands.  Wished each other well.  

Stroud left.  Ford, who really had nowhere to go and no means to get there, stayed.  The volunteers who care for him came and circled him.

ABC kept the cameras rolling for a bit.

When Marty Stroud went to meet Glenn Ford.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Making Plans

October 18, 2017. 

You can put that date in your calendar.  It's when they plan to murder Melvin Bonnell.

It was in Cleveland,  November 28, 1987.  That's when Bonnell shot Robert Eugene Bunner twice. Bunner died.  Four months and a day later, March 29, 1988, Bonnell was sentenced to be killed for the murder.

Years passed.  There were appeals.  New claims.  DNA testing.  Litigation over whether there would be more.  May 14, 2010.  Not quite 22 1/2 years after he murdered Brunner, just over 22 years since the court said he should be killed for it,* the prosecutor asked the Supreme Court of Ohio to set a date for the killing.

This morning, they did.  They scheduled the murder 2 1/2 years from now.

October 18, 2017.  

That's 29 years, 10 months, and 20 days since Bonnell killed Bunner.

And then.

Off with his head!

Or whatever method we use then.  Unless, of course, he gets a stay.  Or they run out of drugs.  Or bullets.  Or air.  Or electricity.  Or whatever we use to kill folks 30 monts from now.

30 months.  Do you know where you'll be that day?  Do you know where you were 30 months ago?  

Melvin Bonnell?  H can tell you.  He was in prison 30 months ago.  On death row.  Where he'd been for for about 25 years.

30 months from now?  On a gurney.  

October 18, 2017.

You can put it in your calendar.  If Bonnell has a calendar, it's probably in his.

* Pause, here, for the Ghandian koan: We kill to show that it's wrong to kill.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Who We Are and What We Do: Part The God Knows How Many It's Been Now

Here we go again.

Nobody's said it better than Harry Truman, assuming he's the one who said it.
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
The subject (and yeah, I'm getting in at the end of the day rather than the beginning but there's this thing about actually getting work done that comes before sitting down for a rant at the keyboard) is David Aylor.  You know, this guy.

He's the kid who agreed to defend Michael Slager, the cop who shot and killed Walter Scott the other day.  Which just makes sense.  I mean, he's the best.  Says so right there.

And when you're a cop who just went and shot a guy in the back while he was running away from you, and then made up a bullshit story and planted evidence to try to back it up, well, you don't just want any old shyster in your corner.  You want David Aylor, who voters picked as 

And by god, he was in Slager's corner.  Andrew Knapp for The Post and Courier.
A North Charleston police officer felt threatened last weekend when the driver he had stopped for a broken brake light tried to overpower him and take his Taser.
That’s why Patrolman 1st Class Michael Thomas Slager, a former Coast Guardsman, fatally shot the man, the officer’s attorney said Monday.
Slager thinks he properly followed all procedures and policies before resorting to deadly force, lawyer David Aylor said in a statement.
“This is a very tragic event for all of the families,” Aylor said. “I believe once the community hears all the facts of this shooting, they’ll have a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding this investigation."
In his corner, that is, until he wasn't.  From Aylor's website (fonts changed because I can't copy and shrink the original and what I get if I just copy overwhelms my blog and looks stupid).
Aylor No Longer Represents North Charleston Police Officer
APRIL 7, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE​​​​ Contact: David Aylor
​​​​​​​​​​ 843-577-5530
Attorney David Aylor Issues Statement:
Aylor No Longer Represents North Charleston Police Officer
Charleston, South Carolina – April 7, 2015 – Attorney David Aylor today issued the following statement regarding North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, the police officer involved with Saturday’s shooting.
“Today, I withdrew my representation of Michael Slager. This is a terrible tragedy that has impacted our community.”
Others have been writing about Aylor's lust for press attention.  And really, you do have to wonder about the press release.  

Were all those reporters lining up because the interesting thing about the case that it was Aylor who was the lawyer?  It's an extraordinary level or narcissism.  Which perhaps explains why he then felt the need to do an interview with the Daily Beast where he explained 
I can't specifically state what is the reason why or what isn't the reason why I'm no longer his lawyer. All I can say is that the same day of the discovery of the video that was disclosed publicly, I withdrew as counsel immediately. Whatever factors people want to take from that and conclusions they want to make, they have the right to do that. But I can't confirm from an attorney-client standpoint what the reason is.
You know, the video that showed that that the "better understanding of the circumstances" wasn't going to do Slager much good.

OK, yeah he essentially rolled on his client.

Yeah, he violated attorney-client privilege in substance if not in form while denying that he was doing that.

Yeah, he made an ass of himself in public, but that's what comes from media whoring when there's nothing to back it up besides being

And yeah it looks like shit, but they do say there's no such thing as bad publicity (though that's what convinced Rakofsky to sue the internet and it doesn't seem to have turned out too well for him - but I digress).

But see, here's the other thing.  Clients can be a pain.  They don't want to pay their bills.  They want their hands held.  They want their phone calls returned at their convenience.  They want not just loyalty and vigorous and competent and zealous representation.  They want to win.  And they want us to guarantee it and then deliver.    And do it their way - however ill-advised that way may be.

Sometimes the client fires the lawyer.  Sometimes the lawyer fires the client. 

But we're talking criminal defense here, and that means some possibility that the client may be (how can I put this delicately? Right, got it)
And he was surprised?  Or was he surprised the way Slager was?  Surprised that there's actual evidence showing that Slager was lying and planting evidence and actually did shoot a guy in the back while he was running away and posing no threat to anyone?

Because he figured he'd get a win 'cause juries always believe the cops when they make up bullshit about how they had to kill.  And then, suddenly, it looked like he might go down in flames.

And since it was never about Slager but always about Aylor - before, during, and after.  'Cause remember

You know, it's even possible that in the courtroom Aylor is the best lawyer in Charleston.  Really, it's possible.  He may have an extraordinary rapport with juries.  He may be a prodigy of cross-examination.  He may have a photographic memory. And he has, if his website is to be believed (hey, it might be true) a "legal team" with another lawyer, a maybe soon-to-be lawyer, a bunch of investigators, an office manager who breeds cats, dogs, and thoroughbreds in her spare time, even a goddamned accident reconstructionist.  He's been on Fox News and Dateline and in the New York Post.*  Oh, and he's a prosecutor on the side.

Damn, no wonder he's the best.

But there's that thing about it being about the clients not about us.  Always.  And there's that other thing about when the going gets tough.

And really, if you're going to do criminal defense, you might as well be OK with the idea that sometimes you'll be representing criminals.

The thing is, this isn't about Aylor.  He's just an instance.  Like Lot's wife, "both caution and example."**

*Hell, I was once interviewed by the BBC and I've been in the New York Times and on NPR and on TV and radio and in newspapers all across Ohio.  But the Post?  Wow.

** In John Bunyan's great, albeit little-read allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, Hopeful and Christian come upon a pillar of salt which they recognize as the pillar of salt into which god turned Lot's wife.  Then:
Christian: Let us take notice of what we see here, for our help from time to come. This woman escaped one judgment, for she fell not by the destruction of Sodom; yet she was destroyed by another, as we see: she is turned into a pillar of salt.
Hopeful: True, and she may be to us both caution and example; caution, that we should shun her sin; or a sign of what judgment will overtake such as shall not be prevented by this caution: so Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with the two hundred and fifty men that perished in their sin, did also become a sign or example to others to beware.