Monthly Archives: July 2010

Gerry Spence and the Economic Of Extremism

Economists generally believe that extremism is probably a mistake. That’s because every choice involves a trade off. You’ll start with the easiest trades first, but as you push to greater extremes, you’ll have to trade off more and more things of value. For example, if you set out to own the fastest production car in the world, it will probably turn out to be uncomfortable, loud, hot, and astonishingly expensive.

You may be that rare person for whom those trades offs are worth the trouble to get the fastest car, but most people would be happier with something a little slower that offers more in turms of comfort and amenities.

One common form of extremism is fear of failure. If no woman has ever turned you down when you asked her out on a date, you’ve probably been too careful in choosing who to ask out. If you had been a little less careful, you probably would have been turned down a few times, but you would have asked out a lot more women and gone out on a lot more dates.

Similarly, if you’ve never missed an airplane, you’ve probably spent too much time waiting around in airports, and a heart surgeon who’s never lost a patient has probably turned down patients he could have saved.

Lately, Mark Bennett and Norm Pattis have both been questioning Gerry Spence’s claim to have never lost a criminal case. I don’t know if that’s true or how he defines winning or how many cases he’s taken, but I’m pretty sure of one thing: If Gerry Spence has been turning down every case he thought he might lose, then some of the cases he passed up were cases he would have won.

in Legal

Who’s Talking In the Blago Camp?

The defense has rested in the corruption trial of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich without letting the jury hear his testimony. Other people are discussing what it’s fair to assume about Blagojevich’s guilt based on his not testifying [be sure to read Scott Greenfield’s scathing response in the comments below], but I’m wondering how we’re hearing about so many details about the inner workings of the defense team.

Last week, criminal defense lawyer Stuart Goldberg was quoted in People discussing his meeting with actress Lindsay Lohan to discuss the possibility of representing her:

“My impression of Lindsay is that she’s a fragile lost child – a sleeping beauty with her head in the sand. I found her not fully forewarned of the consequence of her actions,” Stuart V. Goldberg, who was contacted by Lohan after her attorney resigned, tells PEOPLE.

“I’m concerned that she’s not disciplined or tethered enough to the reality of adult consequences,” he says. “She doesn’t seem to have the awareness of what’s going to befall her.”

New York personal injury lawyer Eric Turkewitz called him out about client confidentiality:

Why the hell is this Stuart Goldberg, apparently a Chicago criminal defense lawyer, talking about what he heard or saw in the confidence of his practice? And why would any future client ever trust him to keep a secret?

I had all that in mind as I read a report in the Chicago Sun-Times about the decision that Blagojevich should not testify:

But sources told the Sun-Times that despite the public show of discord, all the members of Blagojevich’s legal team — and the former governor himself — actually agree that Blagojevich should not testify.

The decision, which appeared to stun prosecutors, one of whom stared toward the former governor as he learned of the defense’s intent, is said to have come late Monday after a night of wrangling.

During preparations with his own lawyers and others, Blagojevich showed signs that he would have trouble answering questions clearly and succinctly and might not be able to withstand what is expected to be a withering cross examination, sources said. The defense also took into account the possibility that the government, which put on a quick case after only six weeks, had rebuttal witnesses ready, potentially including convicted businessman Tony Rezko.

How are Sun-Times reporters are getting information about legal decisions from inside the Blagojevich camp? Lohan’s lawyer appears to be a publicity-hungry fool who’s trying to attract attention to himself by talking about his celebrity almost-client. But Blagojevich is being defended by Sam Adams, who already has a big reputation for not being particularly foolish.

The Chicago Tribune is also reporting a similar story, so unless there’s some way in which this leak is part of the defense strategy, it sounds like somebody on the defense side is leaking privileged information to the press.

If I had to guess who’s talking too much, the obvious culprit is Rod Blagojevich.

Of Whores and Holes

If you’ve ever spent time editing digital audio recordings, you know that they can become hard to understand when you compress them just a little too much…

(The story follows a short commercial.)

The Real Big Shove: Everybody Gets Life

Scott Greenfield wrote today about a case involving a police officer who caught one of those lucky breaks in court that cops seem to get so often:

It seemed as if things couldn’t get any worse for Police Officer Patrick Pogan, when his arrest of Christopher Long, a cyclist in the Critical Mass rally, for attacking him was covertly videotaped.  Only 10 days on the job and he was shown to be a violent attacker and liar.  He had a great future ahead of him on the NYPD.  Except for that video.

Finally prosecuted.  Finally convicted, though not of the vicious assault on Long, because cops have to be allowed some latitude in vicious harming people, but convicted of filing a false instrument.  And yesterday, Patrick Pogan was sentenced to life.  No, not life in prison.  Not life on probation, Not life in community service.  He was given a conditional discharge by Justice Maxwell Wiley, which is a non-sentence sentence that says, go back to your life and have a nice day.  You’ve suffered enough.

So a jury convicted him, but the judge gave him no punishment whatsoever. Scott concludes his post this way:

Yet there must be a consequence when a police officer is caught, irrefutably, lying.  There must be a message that lying cops will not be tolerated.  Give him 30 days.  Give him probation.  Give him something.  The message must be that a cop cannot lie without consequences.

Instead, Patrick Pogan got life.  His own life, to live whatever way he chooses, as he’s now free to move on without consequence.  The message has been sent.

It’s another in a long line of good points from Scott Greenfield. But with all due respect, Scott made a mistake when he titled this post “The Big Shove Cop Gets Life.” When I read that title, I assumed he was talking about another case which he blogged about last year, linking to the original report by Sara Jean Green of the Seattle Times:

Witnesses have provided conflicting accounts of when two King County sheriff’s deputies identified themselves to an Edmonds man who ran from the deputies. He suffered life-threatening skull fractures when his head struck a concrete wall as one attempted to arrest him early Sunday in Belltown.

Seattle lawyer Sim Osborn, who has been retained by Christopher Harris’ family, said both deputies wore black uniforms and yelled to Harris from a half-block away in a darkened alley. He said one witness reported the two deputies didn’t identify themselves as law-enforcement officers until after Harris began running down the alley sometime after 1 a.m. Sunday. Osborn said Harris stopped running a few blocks away, apparently after realizing the two men chasing him were deputies.

There’s video of the incident. It happens in the first few seconds, and it’s unpleasant to watch:

(Scott and I recently had a discussion in his comments section about the distinction between a mere accident and a conscious disregard for human life. This incident seems like a clear case of the latter.)

At the time, the police were still investigating, and everything was up in the air. I wondered what happened to Christopher Harris and the deputy who shoved him.

It turns out that Sara Jean Green followed up on this story a year later in an article that came out last May. The cop who shoved Harris — now identified as King Country Deputy Matthew Paul — seems to have gotten away with it:

After reviewing the chase and apprehension of Harris, prosecutors found no basis to charge Paul with a crime. After an internal investigation cleared the deputy of wrongdoing, the King County Sheriff’s Office called the incident “a tragic accident.”

In other words, to use Scott’s terminology, Deputy Matthew Paul got life. His own life. He gets to go on as if nothing happened.

As for Christopher Harris, he wasn’t so lucky:

Sarah Harris goes through the motions of her day trying hard not to think about what life was like a year ago — or what it would be like now if not for “the incident.”

She feels guilty leaving the house, even if only for a couple of hours to visit her mom or sister, to run errands, or go grocery shopping. She still cries every night.

Her husband, the first boy she kissed and the only man she’s ever loved, suffered a catastrophic brain injury when his head slammed into a concrete wall after a brief footchase with two King County sheriff’s deputies on Mother’s Day 2009. He’s now confined to bed, unable to talk, walk or do anything for himself.

Christopher Sean Harris spent six weeks at Harborview Medical Center, where his family was encouraged to remove him from life support because doctors didn’t think he’d ever come out of a coma. But he did, and was transferred to an Edmonds nursing home in June.

Sarah Harris, who worked as a manager for Nordstrom and dreamed of becoming a buyer for the department store, gave up her job to care for her husband.

Doctors can’t put their finger on Chris Harris’ condition, Lamb said. Based on brain scans, they say he shouldn’t be able to move or make sounds. Yet, he can respond to simple commands and appears to have symptoms of “locked in” syndrome since he’s aware of what’s going on around him.

He even recognizes loved ones — his mother, his uncle, old friends from high school — who visit.

“He’ll stare at someone for a really long time, and then you’ll see the change in his eye,” Sarah Harris said. “It clicks, and all of a sudden he knows who he is looking at.”

I guess, in a different way, Christopher and Sarah Harris got life too.

How To Do/Avoid Drug Interdiction

Hey Kids! Want to know how to smuggle large amounts of dope without getting caught? Police Lieutenant Andrew G. Hawkes will show you how. Of course, he’s selling his training materials to police officers only, so you’ll have to get past his security questions without breaking any laws, which may be tricky.

Even so, there are a few handy tips on his web site:

Tip #3: “If you really want to be successful at highway drug interdiction then turn OFF your radar.  DRUG HAULERS DON’T SPEED!”

In other words, most highway cops are looking for speeders, so don’t speed.

Indicator #18:  “Passengers that DON’T know each others’ names is a strong indicator of drug trafficking.”

So, you should exchange names and check everybody’s memory before hitting the highway.

Tip #36-  “Be sure to turn on the A/C unit to see if the vents blow air, if they do not then that may mean there is a load of dope inside of it.”

So, don’t put so much dope in your ventilation system that it blocks the air flow.

Personally, I’m fascinated by this sort of thing. If anybody out there has a legally-acquired copy of the book and the bonus videos that they don’t want anymore, I’d love to buy them off of you.

(Hat tip, Scott Greenfield)

A Mixed Drug Message?

My wife and I were in Louisville, Kentucky this weekend, and while we were stopping at a gas station mini-mart next to our hotel, I spotted this anti-drug poster in the window:

Anti-drug poster in the window of a gas station in Louisville, Kentucky.
Larger ImageAnti-drug poster in the window of a gas station in Louisville, Kentucky.

The image is a little blurry because I took it with my phone, but the text reads, in part, “Trapped. Controlled. Alone. Also known as meth addiction.”

On the inside, as we were paying for our Diet Coke and snacks, I spotted this display of pot smoking paraphernalia under the cash register:

Drug paraphernalia on sale in the same gas station
Larger ImageDrug paraphernalia on sale in the same gas station

My first thought was that they were sending a mixed message, but perhaps the real message they are trying to send is “Don’t use crystal meth, because there are much safer drugs you can use, like marijuana.”

What To Do About Innocence?

There’s been round-the-blawgosphere turmoil about Lee v. Lampert, in which the 9th Circuit basically said that the AEDPA‘s time limits for filing a habeas petition still apply even though pretty much everyone agrees that the defendant is actually innocent. That is, Lee is innocent, but he just didn’t submit the paperwork on time. There’s plenty of coverage by Gideon, C&F, Gamso, and Greenfield.

I think that unless the U.S. Supreme court overturns this ruling or the Governor steps in and moots the case with a pardon, this case is probably headed for some crazy legal shenanigans, as the defense tries to find a judge who will go along with some sort of pretextual constitutional issue that will allow the facts to be reconsidered so that justice can be done.

This tends to support my observation that the machinery of justice is missing an important part:

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.

The closest we come to such a method is probably a habeas petition, which is going to be a problem…