Monthly Archives: March 2010

Strip Clubs and Daycare

I was skimming through an episode of Stossel on the subject of city management, particularly Cleveland city management, and at around 21:30 the chair of the Cleveland planning commission (attempting to justify her city’s bloated planning policy) says, “I’d hate to look up one day and see a strip club next to one of my day care centers.”

Curiously, she never explains why (and host John Stossel never asks). How exactly does it hurt a day care center to have a strip club next door? It’s not like strip clubs are filled with child molesters and perverts (unless you think wanting to see naked women is some kind of perversion). And even if strip clubs attract some creepy people, it’s not as if day care centers allow the kids in their care to wander the streets.

Also, you know who’d really like to have a day care center near a strip club? Strippers. Of course, it would have to have late hours…

Blogroll Maintenance

Reading the latest at Not Guilty, I realized that my blogroll is a bit out of date, not in the least because Not Guilty isn’t on it. I have short descriptions for each blog in the list, so even for blogs I already have, I might have to change the description.

Let’s see, going through the categories…

Bloggy Goodness


Cataloguing every inch of our daily slide down the slippery slope towards a more totalitarian state.


Free markets and free minds.

I don’t need a link to Reason and Reason‘s blog. I’ll just keep Hit & Run. And I’ll put the spaces back in the name.

Virgina Postrel

Author, columnist, brings depth to the simplest subjects.

That doesn’t seem quite right. Maybe “Author, columnist, and famous kidney doner.”


Your basic working philosopher.

Lindsay Beyerstein has moved her blog to Big Think and renamed it Focal Point because she’s doing some video media now, and when you say Majikthise out loud, it sounds like she’s one of the less well-known Bond girls.

A Stitch in Haste

Kip Esquire, lawyer, investment banker, and full-time pop scholar.

These days Kip’s blog is just a digest of his daily twitting. I’ll let him stay a little longer, but with the description “Kip Esquire, mad twitterer.”

War on Drugs

Vice Squad

Vice, in all its forms.

Jim Leitzel’s blog has stopped publication. Out it goes.

Last One Speaks

Injustice in the war on drugs.

Libby seems to have changed the thrust of her blog since I wrote that description. I’ll change it to her tag line (“A complicated woman with simple tastes”) and move it out of the drug war section.

Vigil for Lost Promise

A counterweight to the DEA’s exploitive site.

The link was bad. It now goes to Pete Guither’s site.


The So-Called “Austin Mayor” Blog

Just a tad to the left of my usual tastes, but always very interesting.

This blog has stopped publication.


There should be lots of changes in this section.

26th St. Bar Association

Chicago criminal defense.

This blog seems dead, so I’m going to remove it, despite the hope it brings that a Chicago crimlaw blogger will emerge.


A big, goofy, ballcap-wearing prosecutor who even likes dogs.

Lammers remakes himself every month or so, so I should probably change that description…but to what?

Blonde Justice

Funny stories about criminal defense.

Blondie doesn’t post much any more, but she stays, because she’s Blonde Justice.

Crime & Federalism

Legal analysis and bitching about federalism issues.

Not so much with the federalism lately.

Seeking Justice

Tom McKenna, Virginia prosecutor on a mission from God.

It keeps getting crazier, but that’s still a good description.

Woman of the Law

Defendin’, datin’, drinkin’.

The blog may be shutting down, but she’s a fun read so she stays for a little longer.

Prosecutor Post-Script

Sarena Straus, author and former Bronx D.A.

This blog seems dead, so I’m removing it.

Iowa Champion

Iowa criminal defense

This blog seems dead, so I’m removing it.


Bird Flu Breaking News

A bird flu news and blog aggregator.

Okay…I can safely remove this.

Citizen ICAM

Map of recent criminal activity in Chicago.

Link broke. It’s history.

CIA World Factbook

A brief summary about every nation.

It moved, so I changed the link.

That wraps up all the changes. Now for all the new additions to the blogroll…

First, there’s Mirriam

Not Guilty

A lawyer in search of a clue.

That was my summary back when she couldn’t decide what kind of work she wanted to do. It stays until I can think of something better.

Second, Norm’s back. Wait, let me check…yes, he hasn’t taken this one down in a fit of…Norm…yet, so the link goes back up with the same description as last time:

Norm Pattis

Norm will fight for you!

Now for the truly new blogs on the roll. In the legal section:

Gamso – For the Defense

An Ohio criminal defense lawyer

I’d love to think of something better, but I haven’t read enough yet.

Crime and Consequences Blog

Because we’re just not punishing people enough

Criminal Defense

It’s like a criminal defense blog, but from Florida

D.A. Confidential

Making prosecutors seem just like normal lawyers

Graham Lawyer Blog

Interesting writing about the law.

The Matlock Blog

Young Shawn Matlock discusses criminal law in Texas and beyond

He’s not really “Young” Shawn anymore according to Greenfield, but I’ve got nothing else.

New York Personal Injury Law Blog

Better than you’d think from the SEO-friendly name

West Virginia Criminal Law Blog

Also better than you’d think from the SEO-friendly name

South Carolina Criminal Defense Blog

And one more that’s better than you’d think from the SEO-friendly name

It’s your fault I can’t come up with better descriptions.

I’m also adding a new section for geeky computer stuff which includes the following blogs:

The Daily WTF

Crazy stories about bad things inside computer software and how they got there.


Extremely geeky comics

Google Blogoscoped

Smart writing about search engine technology.

And it’s about time I collected up a few economics blogs:

Steven Landsburg

The Armchair Economist

Greg Mankiw’s Blog

Aurhor of the most popular macroeconomics textbook

Marginal Revolution

The margins are where everything happens

Megan McArdle

Business and economics

Then under Media, I’ll add

Roger Ebert’s Journal

A great writer and a useful film critic.

And under photography, I really ought to include these guys:


How to light everything in the world with speedlights

I think that will do for now.

Betrayed By Our Local Governments

One of the most disgusting aspects of the current economic unpleasantness is the way our local governments have betrayed us. Instead of tightening the belts like the rest of us, they’ve been trying to find new ways to squeeze money out of us to meet their bloated payrolls.

Here in Illinois, the cost of license plate stickers has gone up $21. No reason for it, they just need to squeeze us a little more.

And the city of Chicago is installing hundreds of new traffic cameras. They even have a plan to use them to find uninsured motorists so they can collect millions of dollars in fines. They’re not even pretending it’s about safety any more.

Daisy Nguyen has more in an AP wire story:

LOS ANGELES — Shomari Jennings was willing to pay the $70 ticket he received for driving without a seatbelt, but not the slew of tacked-on fees and penalties that ballooned the cost more than tenfold.

Every $10 of his base fine triggered a $26 “penalty assessment” for courthouse construction, a DNA identification program, emergency medical services and other programs. Other fees ranged from $1 to $35.

“It’s the new tax,” Jennings, 30, complained while waiting in traffic court to contest a staggering bill compounded by a $500 fine for missing a court date.

It’s not just Chicago and L.A. either:

In Iowa, lawmakers grappling with shortfalls in the state’s public safety budget are exploring ways to increase fines for traffic violations. There’s a proposal in Maryland to add a $7.50 charge to traffic fines to help pay for law enforcement and fire protection equipment.

I’ve got an idea, how about if Iowa pays for law enforcement and fire protection out of their general revenue like they’re supposed to! Lawmakers always like to tie new taxes to important things — education is another big one — to make it harder for people to argue against the taxes, as if there weren’t tons of other less-critical services they could cut. (Or, you know, stop wasting money on victimless crimes. I’m just sayin’.) I mean, what the fuck are Iowans paying their taxes for if not police and fire?

Naturally, California is the most fucked up:

Last year, lawmakers agreed to a budget deal that nearly doubled the vehicle license fee that owners pay when they register their cars every year. The fee rose from .65 percent of a vehicle’s value to 1.15 percent. A significant portion of the revenue goes to the state’s general fund, and the rest to local crime prevention programs.

This year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested retrofitting 500 city and county traffic cameras to cite not only drivers who blow through red lights but speeders, too. The state, facing a $20 billion deficit, would collect 85 percent of the money, using the projected $338 million to help pay for courts and court security.

This, on the other hand, has a certain poetry to it: 

State Sen. Jenny Oropeza, however, has introduced legislation prohibiting local governments from collecting and keeping traffic fines.

[Los Angeles city councilman Dennis] Zine argues that the city pays for the cameras as well as training and equipping police.

“The state collects a majority of the fine for doing nothing when we’re burdened with all the responsibilities,” he said.

Welcome to the party, pal. That’s exactly how a lot of us feel about our income taxes.

The people who run our city and state governments have betrayed us when we needed help the most. Come election time, lets make them pay.

(Hat tip: Radley Balko.)

So What If You Might Be Innocent?

I was reading Mark Bennett’s account of the long and winding road that lead to the U.S. Supreme Court granting a stay of execution for Hank Skinner, a Texas man who’s claiming that some untested DNA evidence might prove him innocent. It’s a fascinating procedural tale, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I’m not.

But one thing Bennett wrote really sticks out:

If the State is ordered to provide the evidence for testing and that ruling is upheld, the DNA gets tested. If it is exculpatory, it’s not entirely clear what Skinner’s remedy is. As I previously noted, factual innocence is not itself grounds for reversal of a death sentence. It has to be coupled with a constitutional violation like ineffective assistance of counsel (but here Skinner’s trial counsel has blocked an IAC claim by saying that the decision not to seek testing of the DNA was a strategic one) or prosecutorial misconduct.

I’ve noticed this sort of thing before. Some new test becomes available, or the victim recants, or someone else makes a credible confession to the crime, and suddenly the lawyers are hard at work. But it’s a funny kind of work…

You’d think the lawyers would just go into court and file some sort of  “motion to examine new evidence” or a “writ of errorneous fact finding” or something like that, but there’s no such thing. Only the original trial court can examine the facts of the case, and once it has determined that the facts point to guilt, no other court can change that determination. The only way to get the courts to examine new evidence or reconsider a factual decision is to find some legal basis for throwing out the entire original trial.

So the defense lawyers end up casting about for some legal hook that will get them a retrial. Maybe they accuse the defendant’s previous lawyer of being legally ineffective, or maybe they accuse the prosecutor of misconduct. Quite often they try to find some ruling by the original trial judge which they can appeal. In any case, the legal basis for the appeal is essentially a pretext to get the factual issue back before the court.

This is an ridiculous situation. Our court system apparently has no simple, honest method of dealing with the possibility that a criminal court followed all the correct procedures and — perhaps due to facts unavailable at the time — still reached an erroneous conclusion.

So the lawyers end up hoping to find either an actual error by the original court (which has not already been denied during an earlier appeal) or at least something that looks enough like an error that a sympathetic judge who knows the real situation will throw out the original case. Or if that doesn’t happen, maybe the governor will step in with a pardon and relieve the court of the embarassment of going through this charade.

I’m sure I’m oversimplifying, but isn’t this an absurd way to run a justice system? Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but if I’m convicted of murder, and one day later the victim turns up alive and well (“Huh? What? I was just in my mountain cabin writing my novel…”) won’t my lawyers be scrambling to find a legal basis for an appeal instead simply confronting the court with the fact that the crime never happened?

A Bank Robbery To Go

In the movies and on television, bank robbers are daring and audacious. After storming the bank in a blitz attack that stuns the guards, they force the bank manager to empty the vault while they raid the teller drawers. All the while, one of them yells out a precise two-minute countdown that will allow them to escape before the police respond.

In real life, bank robbers are mostly kind of dopey. You’d expect that, since the thought process behind most bank robberies goes something like this:

  • I want money.
  • Banks have money.
  • I’ll rob a bank.

This is why there are so many stories about robbers who can’t think of any other bank to rob besides the one they use, where everybody knows them, and they write their demands to the teller on one of their own deposit slips.

Gideon points us to the latest development in dumb bank robberies:

Two accused bank robbers might have just been trying to save time when they called ahead and demanded that the bank have the cash ready when they got there. But placing and order for cash didn’t get them far.   

Albert Bailey, 27, and a 16-year-old, both from Bridgeport, called People’s United Bank on Stratfield Road about 10 minutes before they came to rob it on Tuesday afternoon, the Connecticut Post reports.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Sgt. James Perez, Fairfield police spokesman, told the Post. “They literally called the bank and said to have the bag of money ready on the floor because they’re coming to rob the place.”

Then, true to their word, they showed up – just as police were coming to greet them.

Gideon wants us to decide what sort of sentence these two clowns deserve.

“We Are All Not Guilty of Something…”

As you may have noticed, I love reading criminal defense blogs, and now there’s a new one I’m looking forward to. Actually it’s one of the oldest crimlaw blogs on the web, but it’s getting some new life to it: Mirriam Seddiq — the no-longer-anonymous proprietress of the original Not Guilty blog — is scraping a few rusty spots off her sword and shield as she prepares to re-enter criminal defense practice.

in Legal