Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Frustration in the Midwest

I have two trials set next week. The first client is facing a drug case that if convicted would cause him to die in prison. Yes I said a drug case not a rape, murder, arson, or anything involving a person. The district attorney has offered a plea negotiation to avoid life if my client would sign for 30+ years. Our State laws that involve drugs are outrageous. What makes it even more outrageous is the recommendation I received on my last murder case was a 35 year recommendation. I'm befuddled. Unfortunately, the facts on my case are not helpful for my client. When you find a rock of crack that's the size of a tennis ball, not good for a jury. Needless to say I'm frustrated.

Friday, September 23, 2005

An informal poll and an excuse for a joke

Women wash their hands more often than men after using a public restroom.
It's a good idea after being in a jail, too. However, I almost always shake hands with my clients, except the ones with their hands down their pants. How about the rest of the PD world?

So there's a Navy Lieutenant and a Marine Gunny in a bathroom. The Gunny finishes up at the urinal, zips up, and heads for the door. The Lieutenant tells the Gunny to stop, and tells him, "Gunnery Sergeant, at the Academy, one is taught to wash one's hands after using the lavatory." And the Gunny replies, "Sir, in the Corps they teach us not to piss on our hands."

And now you know why I'm an attorney and not a comedian.


Man, how come you aren't working for me?

On one of my cases, the Judge granted my motion and dismissed a trafficking charge that carried a mandatory punishment of life without possibility of parole. However, my motion was overruled with regard to a possession with intent charge. My client expressed his gratitude for saving him from an LWOP thusly: "Man, how come you aren't working for me!?"


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Good Cop

I talked this week with a police officer friend who I haven't had a lot of contact with for about ten years (before he was a cop).
Right now he's on drug enforcement, which he doesn’t really like. He'd like to move to robberies, where there are 'real' victims, 'real' crimes, 'real' police work, 'real' bad guys and the resources to do good work.
But what he really likes is patrol. Patrol? Why? Its not sexy, its not high profile, its not career enhancing; its beginner stuff.
He likes it because on patrol, you get to help people. From kittens in trees, to being 'Solomon on the scene'. Being a part of the solution for people's problems, rather than compounding the problems.
Being a part of the 'serve' part of protect and serve that gets forgotten among all the searches incident to arrest for failure to signal a right turn.
A good man doing good things in a tough job. Thanks, Marcus.

Bad Cop

Police have recognized how good a videotaped confession is; they've also realized how effective videotape is in ferreting out violations of counsel rights, threats, promises of reduced charges or other 'deals' and in explaining how a 'recanting' suspect could possible have known the details of the crime. So now the police have learned to only tape the stuff that helps them.

Stupid cop trick #410:
Only videotaping interrogations if a suspect is being cooperative, that is, has already confessed during the 'pre-interview.' They 'say' they give rights warnings before even the pre-interview, but with no video or audio, there’s no way to corroborate the timing of the rights waiver.
They used to do the pre interview and then give a rights waiver only if they got a confession, but Siebert has cut down on that some, subject to the same verifiability problems.
There are all sorts of tricks an interrogator can use in a pre-interview: they can threaten to incarcerate family or friends, they can feed the suspect details of the case for the suspect to parrot back after they're "cooperative," they can take care of any concerns a suspect may have about their right to counsel and explain away the suspects concerns, they can get the suspect to confess to self-defense or some lesser offense, etc.
There really isn't a downside to unrecorded pre-interviews; the final, recorded interrogation is smooth and error free. If a suspect 'cooperates' and then clams up for the recorded section (because the pressure's off, or there's a different pair of interrogators) the police can testify as to what they think the suspect said; who is a jury going to believe, a cop or a murderer/rapist, etc.?
But how to cut down on the practice of unrecorded interrogations until a suspect is "cooperative?" The S.Ct of Minnesota has a reasonably workable rule. Scales, 518 N.W.2d 587 (MN, 1984), requires cops to videotape ALL interrogations unless there's some reason not to. Alaska has something similar, and Illinois and Maine have done it by legislation.

Thinking Outside the Box

Are there protesters hanging around the penumbra of your abortion clinic? How can you get rid of them and still reconcile your client's Constitutional rights with the protestor's? Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania has come up with an elegant solution.


Here's how it works: You decide on the amount you would like to pledge for each protester (minimum 10 cents). When protesters show up on our sidewalks, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania will count and record their number each day from October 1 through November 30, 2005. We will place a sign outside the health center that tracks pledges and makes protesters fully aware that their actions are benefiting PPSP.

You can even pledge online (scroll down).


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I've lost a home town

I'm sitting here today listening to a little Harry Connick jr. and staring at my mask from my last mardi gras and just sadden by everything. I have family in the area that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Everyone is fine and well but most have lost everything. I was relieved to see on Dateline a friend in the background we hadn't heard from, so at least we know she is safe. I met her five years ago when we started going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. She was a college roommate of my best friend from law school. It was supposed to be a trip to celebrate passing the bar but has turned into a girls trip every other year. My best friend and I go everytime and we switch out who goes with us. This last year we took two friends that had never been and they are so glad that they went now. The wonderful thing about Mardi Gras is the music, food, and costumes/parades.. Okay a little alcohol is consumed at the local watering holes but its more than that. New Orleans never lets you down. The beignets at cafe du monde are always there for you in the morning after a late night just as the great Dixie jazz can be heard in the background as you walk the streets taking in the sights. I pray that New Orleans will rise above the waters and regain her strength. If any lady can do it, she can.