SAM I Am...

Just in case you thought SAM's were some rare artifact from the Lynne Stewart casecomes this piece from the NYT...


Yeee Ha!

How hilarious is this?
The US attorney in Montana thinks the state needs it's own drug czar. Yeah baby! Cuz' Montana ain't big enough for...


I Got Translated

In a moment of utter solipsistic glee, I just found this spanish version of my LA Times OpEd. To read it using Google's automatic translation service, click here. of The re-translated version is fantastic--a total hoot.

My bio (remember this is a completely narcissistic entry) reads:

David Feige is defending public. Its book ' Indefensiblé, on the system of penal justice, will be published east year by the Little publishing house, Brown.

Some other bits:

This Californian year will spend more than 5 trillions of dollars to maintain its system of prisons, with many of the 31,000 guards of prisons of the state winning more than the teachers of the state schools. The Dannenberg decision relegates to all a category of inmates to the whims of the political kingdom, where their fortunes are dictated by the attitudes towards the crime more than on the rehabilitation, proportionality, justice or common sense.

Or: Satisfactory as it can be in the creation of an extraordinarily punitive system of prisons, to leave to thousands of inmates without any hope it is not only one brutality, but in addition tenebrous, because as any guard will say to you, a prison without hopes is a dangerous place.

Cool huh?

Let Jamie Olis Go!

This piece from the CS Monitor uses Jamie Olis's outrageous sentence to frame some of the issues in the post Booker world.

I've never been a big softie on white collar sentencing, but Jamie Olis got severely screwed. Henry Blodget my fellow slatester
did a nice job of pointing this out. It is high time he (like so many others) got a sentence reduction.

Virginia Flameout

This article from Leesburg breaks the awful news that despite a 1.2 billion dollar surplus, the Virginia Legislature still wants to chronically under fund indigent defense.

Well, At least it pisses of the local paper

Meanwhile, McHenry County won't sue the state over the public defender's pay rate (it's supposed to be 90 percent of what a state's attorney makes.)


Bush Administration can no Longer Fake the News

Wow--finally someone has told the Bush administration that their obscene perversion of media independence (sending in a gay porn purveyor into the white house briefing room under a pseudonym to ask Bush softball questions, paying pundits to sell administration policies, and creating fake newscasts aka agitprop designed to advance the administration’s agenda without disclosing the sourcing.) Finally as reported here the comptroller general has issued a stern warning—rather than the indictments he should have urged….

"Twice in the last two years, agencies of the federal government have been caught distributing prepackaged television programs that used paid spokesmen acting as newscasters and, in violation of federal law, failed to disclose the administration's role in developing and financing them."


So Scary

Ok, I'm an idiot. I actually never know that George W Bush actually declared June 10th, 2000 to be "Jesus Day" in Texas

Sentencing Comission Hearings

Wondering what the USSC is thinking? check out the comprehensive coverage over at Doug Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy Blog. Good stuff as always.


The headline says it all...

Woman sees her rapist working at Target Yes, of course he got arrested again.


Brain Dead Dude Released

Yes it's true! California finally released a brain dead inmate Dan Provencio (the brain dead dude) had been costing the state $1,056-- a day in overtime.

Yes indeed--it initially took TWO CO's to guard the brain dead guy.

Oh did he end up brain dead?

Shot in the head with a rubber bullet by a guard.

Gee--you might rightly wonder--how much does California spend guarding comatose and incapacitated people?

Try 30 million bucks a year.

Even in New York...

This piece, reports that the NYCLU has threatened to sue over poor services for indigent defendants right here in New York State. It also has a link to the testimony of Donna Lieberman.


Playing the Fear Card Again...

Hey, if they can convict Lynne Stewart using Osama, why not keep the streak alive....Another Sheik on trial, another evidentiary travesty. In the financing cases, A judge allowed the jury hear a passenger's first-person account yesterday of a bus bombing in Tel Aviv.

The prosecutors do not argue that the sheik, Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad, had any role in the bombing, in which six people were killed. But they say he laughed and applauded when he heard about it. They have argued that information about the bombing, and the sheik's reaction to it, helped show that he wanted to support terrorism.


Dipping into the Fray...

I don't normally follow the reactions to things I write, (though I'm always happy to read e-mail feedback) but I was curious as to how people would react to my Slate piece on Lynne Stewart.

Beyond the expected posts urging us to 'hang all the lawyers' or helpfully reminding us that 'liberals suck', there were a number of more substantive posts, almost all of which took a surprisingly mechanistic and formulaic approach to the law. Most everyone seemed to think that if Lynne violated the SAMS, then she deserved to be convicted of conspiracy. Makes me sad--even as it's good to know.

Hard to Believe

But this LA Times piece suggests that the Schwarzenegger is actually steering the California corrections system toward a more rehabilitative model. Interesting.


Another Slate Piece

More on the tragic verdict in the Lynne Stewart case:
Radical Sheik - An elegy for radical lawyering. By David Feige

A Guide to New York State Sentencing

To my eternal annoyance, most lawyers still get sentencing wrong, and the press--well they almost never get it right. New York State sentencing in particular is complicated and confusing--being the result of a series of legislative fixes and overlapping amendments. So, just to be helpful, I've decided to post the
Guide to sentencing I originally created for the lawyers at The Bronx Defenders. It contains a helpful flow chart designed to get you to the proper sentencing scheme. Assuming you know the charges and whether they are violent or non-violent (a list is provided) you can find the authorized sentence. Remember all ye criminal defense lawyers--in NY, it's all about minimums--so don't just grab a plea because it's at the low end of the range--always, and I mean always try to get a plea to a lesser and then look at the minimums there...

Ok, this is not a subsitute for learning this stuff--it's all in the penal law, codified in article 70.


Radio Commentary

My commentary on the tragic trial and terrible conviction of Lynne Stewart can be found here (at least the script can)

Fear Tactics in Topeka

Don't Mess with Kansas... You think judges aren't afraid? How about this....

A majority of state senators, upset that the state's death penalty and school funding laws were overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court, is seeking veto power over future court nominees.

Introduced Wednesday, the resolution was co-sponsored by 28 of the 40 senators, one more than the two-thirds needed to pass a constitutional amendment. If passed by both the Senate and House, it would go before voters in the November 2006 election.

Aren't these the folks committed to the consitution? Wasn't there some strange old doctrine about separation of powers?

Georgia Justice...

In this article, Georgia's Chief justice praises new defender system. Really. In his state of the judiciary address he says:

The new statewide system of public defender offices "assures that justice will flow down like rivers of water and not just for the wealthy, but all our people,"

Oh...he's retiring.


Judge Index...

Finally online information about New York's judges. Tune in here for periodic and unscientific discussions of some of those listed here.

When Will This Happen Here?

Yep--Tony Blair himself Apologizes to Wrongly Convicted Men Can't you just see Bush standing up and saying 'sorry' to the 160 plus people exonerated so far by DNA many of whom were on death row?


Little Bunny Brunt

Quick! Pass a law! perverts with video camera's are filming... Here, the histrionic AP trumpets the "loopholes" in laws on video-voyeurism... more on that in a moment...

To Booker or not to Booker?

This rather interesting article has an interesting discussion of post-Booker sentencing. Worth a read for those mulling the impact of Booker in the south.


A Nice Way to Envision the Politics of Incarceration

Just look at the map--69% of NY's Prison Cells are in Republican districts. Hmmm

The tragic irony of Daryl Atkins

This terrifying piece about Daryl Atkins highlights the odd capriciousness of the death penalty. Atkins—the man in whose name the US Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for the mentally retarded, may get put to death anyway. Prosecutors suggest he’s not mentally retarded, and paradoxically his IQ scores do seem to have risen (most likely as a defense expert explains) because of his sustained exposure to the legal proceedings and repeated taking of IQ tests… A jury will soon decide.


Murder conviction and 5 years in prison worth 1 million dollars...

This little NY Times piece about the wrongful conviction of Milton Lantigua leaves out a crucial fact--the name of the prosecutor who withheld the critical exculpatory information.

I find it sad that in a case reversed for prosecutorial misconduct, a case described by an appellate court as "especially egregious", a case that resulted in a wrongful murder conviction, and a case in which the city was so convinced of its misbehavior that it paid out a million dollars, that the paper of record would leave out the name of the offending prosecutor.

Ah well.

Her name is Sophia Yozawitz.
Shame on her.


Cop Fear...

After coming within nine days of being executed for a crime he didn’t commit, Earl Washington wanted some answers and some recompense. And so he filed a civil suit against some of the cops that sent him to death row. Oh Boy— cops do not like getting sued. Not only have they refused to turn over their files—but 23 years later, they are still arguing (now to the US Supreme Court) that turning over the files would "compromise their investigation" the state’s AG’s office supports that absurd claim. Gives you a sense of why these guys feel so invulnerable. By the time anyone manages to get exonerated and get any documents, eveyone involved has pretty much forgotten the whole thing. The good news: the cops here are gonna loose and assuming they don’t tamper with the files and the evidence, the truth of the Washington case may finally out.


NOA trending toward ‘evil’

In the almost never-ending debate about whether Joshua Marquis--spokesman for the National District Attorney’s Association is evil or stupid, comes today’s gem:

Marquis has been getting lots of play since asserting that people exonerated by DNA evidence aren’t really exonerated after all. Yesterday I went on at some length about the idiocy of his comments in the National Review. Today’s gem comes from MSNBC.

There Marquis says:

“Well my concern about it is that, as you say, when we use the word “exonerated,” that means innocent. That means didn‘t do it. And four of us here are lawyers, all except Mr. Cook, and if somebody is asked the question of Mr. Cook or Mr. Cook is asked have you ever been convicted of a crime, he has to say yes because he pled no contest to murder in the second degree in order to get out of prison after 20 years.”

Let’s take a look: So in sentence 1 (the definitional sentence) he equates “Exonerated” with factual (as opposed to legal) innocence. And then what does he argue? That legal (as opposed to factual) guilt is what makes Cook guilty?

Moron or Prosecutorial nutcase?

My vote: This statement is so stupid, that it can’t be happenstance. I think it tips the balance of power toward evil rather than dumb (at least for today).


NOA Strikes Again...

Some of you may remember my vitriolic entries here and here about the insufferable Joshua Marquis,who I described (in a borrowed phrase) as ‘No Ordinary Asshole’ Guess what?…

Heeee’s Baaaaaack….

As it turns out, this science-denying imbecile gets to add ‘sore looser’ to the lengthy list of impolitic appellations with which he can be aptly described. In this last, a whiny Marquis essentially denies DNA exonerations. With the sort of argument that barely merits mention, notwithstanding re-iteration (Ok, I couldn’t help myself), Marquis suggests that Kerry Cook, exonerated by DNA after 22 years on death row, is actually guilty.

In this National Review piece, Marquis argues that Cook is guilty because he entered a ‘no-contest’ plea--a plea that got him out of prison after 22 years. It’s this kind of argument from a prosecutor that begs the question of whether he’s foolish or intentionally penning agit-prop for the powerul prosecutorial lobby. He should know better. The reality is Joshua Marquis would last about 60 seconds in a prison cell before begging to plead guilty to get out—lot’s of prosecutors fancy themselves tough-guys, but believe you me, send most of them to the row, and they’d confess to the Lindbergh kidnapping if it guaranteed them freedom.

But it’s even worse—because as Marquis well knows Cook didn’t even plead guilty--he pled no-contest. No Contest is a plea designed to allow prosecutors to save face and innocent people to get out of cases without admitting guilt. Unless he’s a complete fool, Marquis knows that, and yet, he persists in arguing in the face of a DNA exoneration that a decision to plead 'no contest and get out today' rather than sit in prison and wait out another trial after 22 years makes Cook guilty.

The problem really, is all this science messing up a place where Marquis and his cronies used to reign supreme. He just can't stand the idea of a system that makes mistakes. Basically Marquis and his self-important brethren have never met a criminal defendant they didn’t think was guilty and apparently have never met (or even heard of) a lying cop or a prosecutor who suppressed evidence. The result: A worldview so dogmatic that they become like the flat earth society—flatly denying evidence that contradicts their point of view.

You can read Kerry Cook’s reasoned and thoughtful rejoinder to Marquis’s drek here.


My Latest OpEd (LA Times)

Click here to read my latest OpEd on the California Supreme Court's decision in In Re Dannenberg. It ran in the Los Angles Times today under the headline: A Prison Without Hope Is a Dangerous Place

I don't usually...

I don't usually rag on fellow Slatesters, but this appalling bit of agit-prop requires that I make an exception. In it Phillip Carter argues the absurd position that it's cool if prosecutors essentially break the law, 'cause, hey--there's a whole system out there to moderate things. No really. Here's his justification for being pro Chertoff:

Carter writes:

"Chertoff pushed the envelope when it came to the use of these tools perhaps even beyond what the laws themselves would allow. But that is what it means to be an aggressive prosecutor."

--Are you kidding? Being an aggressive prosecutor is pushing the envelope past what the law allows? This is scary stuff, and there is oh so much more...

Carter continues: "Prosecutors have broad discretion to charge and prosecute crimes in good faith, even where an acquittal ultimately results. Indeed, many citizens expect prosecutors to aim high with their indictments; to seek a first-degree murder conviction in a tough case, for example, and let the jury decide whether the facts support such a charge or not."

--Um, no. That's appalling too. That's like saying a we should all cheat on our taxes, cause the IRS will sort it all out.

Finally, Carter draws a false and dangerous syllogism:

"Historically, the Justice Department has flexed its prosecutorial muscle by using technical violations of the law to snag some of America's worst enemies. Federal prosecutors famously convicted mobster Al Capone on charges of tax evasion when no prosecutor in the country was able to make a murder charge stick. Today, under the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, federal prosecutors use a coterie of criminal statutes to aggressively prosecute criminals who might otherwise be tried by state and local courts. The idea is to leverage federal criminal laws with substantially tougher sentences than their state law counterparts such as the federal statute prohibiting felons from having a firearm even though these "technical" violations may not actually represent the worst kinds of criminal offenses. (Picture a hard-core gang member with three recent murders to his credit being tried in federal court for merely having a gun in his waistband, because the federal charge is easier to prove and carries a 10-year minimum sentence, and you get the gist of this effort.)"

--Yes, the feds do this all the time, but somehow Carter doesn't seem to grasp the elemental difference between this and what he's discussed above: One is using the law and the other is intentionally breaking it. PSN is fine, and federalizing certain crimes may have its own drawbacks (note to Phil--Operation Triggerlock--the federalization of gun crimes-- is a joke in many states and many clients wind up doing LESS time in the feds than they would just on the gun under the state statute...) but using those laws and the proscribed penalties is a difference in kind not degree from sanctioning torture, or refusing to grant access to critical witnesses as if there was no right to confrontation.

Chertoff is worthy of disbarment not promotion. Sad that Carter can't see it.