The Most Brilliant Tax Reform Idea Ever!

Interested in a scheme of taxation that is highly progressive, functions in real time and eliminates forever the need to file tax returns?

Then click here to download Edgar L. Feige's submission to the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform.

I'm particularly proud to post this link, because not only is it the most progressive, sweeping tax reform idea out there, but it's brilliant (and handsome) proponent is my father.

If you want to read about it, but don't want to read the whole academic paper, click here to read Daniel Akst's comment on it from the New York Times.

If you want to see an entire site devoted to it, go to:


Get the Truth about the GOP's lies about the judiciary:

Click here for a list of some of Clinton's judicial nominees the GOP stifled

I thought the Athenians knew better

This from the Athens News :

"As part of an annual exercise in futility, the Athens County Commissioners on Tuesday considered a new contract for the county Public Defender's Office and criticized the state Legislature for not paying its fair share of the office's cost.

Every year, the Athens County Commissioners point out that the state is not living up to its requirement to pay 50 percent of the Public Defender's Office contract, and nearly every year the state cuts the percentage of how much it will pay. This year, the state is paying around 30 percent of the contract, and Athens County is paying around 70 percent."

The Public Defenders in Athens, Ohio haven't had a raise since 2001 and have yet to get approval for the extra lawyer they desperately need.


Clive Rocks

I've always liked my friend Clive's blog but this particular post,
titled "Coke can + Chocolate = fire" is one that every nascent geek need read.

Indigent Defense Feud

PD's and private criminal defense lawyers squabble over crumbs in LA instead of joining forces:

"They (the PD's) allege the private lawyers want to change the composition of the board because it has steadfastly refused to shift more of its $9.7 million budget to fund first-degree murder cases, which usually are handled by the private bar. That shift would come at the expense of lesser cases, in which the penalty is not death, that generally are handled by public defenders."

The PD's are right on this one--death penalty myopia can do real damage to average but deserving criminal defendants.


Alabama Considers Reducing Parole Time

With Alabama's Department of Corrections facing massive and expensive overcrowding, and the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles dealing with a large backlog of candidates, Alabama is considering reducing parole time for non-violent offenders.

It's Gotta Be the Shoes....

You gotta love this headline:
Flashy lawyers leave private practice for public defender jobs
Wonderful. Nice to see righteous PD work attracting good legal talent. But then, the first three paragraphs:

"Robert Hooker was hired to lead the Public Defender's Office, not dress it up, but the sartorially elegant Hooker believes in the power of appearances.

He moved his own leather chairs, Oriental rug, wood-slab desk and original artwork into a corner office at the county's Legal Services Building on Stone Avenue just north of Congress Street.
He'd like to bring a little style and fashion sense into the legal trenches of indigent defense, as a symbol of the professionalism he wants the office to project."

This is actually a great piece about improving indigent defense. But did the reporter and editor really have to go with the 'fancy suit' angle?


Criminal Court Blues

I had a case set for trial today.

It should have gone. I was ready, the DA was ready, the case was two years old.
Alas, no trial parts.

My client, a hard-working woman who has never has so much as a traffic ticket in her 45 years on this earth, is charged with resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration. Her crime? Repeatedly asking a cop involved in arresting her son, 'why are you arresting him?.' For this outrageous behavior, the cop, aptly named Roughneen (he claims it's pronounced ro-nin) throws my client to the ground, stomps on her and cuffs her.

To bring her back to a standing position, Rough-neen sees fit to lift her up by the little chain between the handcuffs. Oh--did I mention Rough-neen is about 6"3' and probably 260 pounds? He's huge--and sports a marine style haircut. Anyhow, beefcakes yanks her to her feet breaking her arm in three places and causing her permanant nerve damage.

And then, just to be safe, he arrests her and charges her with a crime.

And you wonder why I loathe a lot of these guys?

For two years this case has been kicking around. Thus far, the Bronx District Attorney's office has failed to dismiss.


Bad Cop!

The New York Times reports that::

"A police captain and 10 supervisors and detectives under him who investigated the department's narcotics, vice and auto crime detectives have been brought up on disciplinary charges, police officials said yesterday. They are accused in some cases of the same kinds of abuses they were responsible for tracking among other officers.

The administrative charges against the captain, six supervisors and four detectives - virtually every member of the Organized Crime Control Bureau Investigations Unit - were brought after an audit of the group last June, one official said."


Huh? What about criminal charges--these are the guys who monitor the guys who lock everyone else up. Shouldn't they be held to a higher, higher standard? Well, the answer, as it almost always is: no--they're gonna get a skate--because they're cops.

And so while any other citizen who did the same thing would be brought out in cuffs, these guys might have to retire on their generous police pensions.

More fruitful lawsuits

Court oversight of Allegheny County public defenders ends:

The lawsuit was filed in after newly elected Republican majority county commissioners cut the public defender's already strained budget by nearly a third.

The PD's (helped by the ACLU) sued, alleging that 'severe understaffing, excessive caseloads, inadequate policies and procedures, and other systemic deficiencies' meant that 'significant numbers of indigent persons represented by the office are in imminent danger' of having their Sixth and 14th Amendment rights violated.

On the eve of trial in 1998, an agreement was worked out by the parties -- the county, the ACLU and the United Steelworkers, the union representing the public defenders -- that mandated increased levels of funding and staffing and barred newly hired attorneys from having private practices."

Kick ass!

PD's Win Good Ruling In Baltimore

"Despite a state law requiring that suspects be freed or see a court commissioner within 24 hours of arrest, many suspects have been detained at the crowded Central Booking for much longer, some for as long as four days."

Sound familiar? Happens all over the place--but the public defender in Baltimore did something about it. They filed a lawsuit and just won a temporary order mandating that suspects who do not receive a court hearing within 24 hours of their arrest must be released from Baltimore's state-run booking center.

Good work guys!


Perp Video

Here's the video of the cops handcuffing the 5 year old girl.

Interesting that in the initial coverage, nothing I saw remarked on the fact that this was an african american child and white cops. Also interesting, while the kid "Ja-isha" is clearly out of control before the cops come, it's the cops that escalate the encounter--it's what they do after all.

The thing about the video is it demonstrates perhaps better than most anything else of late, how unidimentional cops are--how their primary reaction to volitility is a massive display of force. Just for fun--try sometime to take a video of cops making an arrest--though I'll warn you, you may need my services if you try.

Makes you wonder what kind of world we live in.


Chili Finger

The Wendy's Chili Finger case has resulted in criminal charges against the woman who claimed to have discovered the finger in her chili


Blogging will be a bit sporadic for the next few days (I'll be cooking up a storm though.) Here's a nice tidbit from West Virginia:Jail mistakenly releases the wrong inmate


I scooped the AP

Posted about this last night--today it shows up on AP (Okay so it's hardly breaking news, but still)...

Good Move

Nassau District Attorney Denis Dillon called Wednesday for police to videotape interrogations of suspects. You know it's bad when Nassau does the right thing before a single city DA does.

Even WORSE than I thought!

This article about the abominable sentence imposed on a 19 year old kid by judge Eileen O'Connor

Reveals something even more appalling--the kid had no criminal record. She asked about arrests and he said no--turns out, both arrests were thrown out. Not only has the kid never been to jail before, he's never even been convicted of anything.

This is totally outrageous--and I have some questions...
First, I'd like to know why she is entitled to ask about arrests--they have, in and of themselves no legal significance absent a conviction. Just for asking she should be reported to the committee on judicial conduct. Second, how is the answer contumacious? The dismissal of charges traditionally

Third, how and why did the prosecutor check--and why was he allowed to-- investigating jurors 'on a hunch' isn't legitimate law enforcement purpose. I'm not sure he's even allowed to do this. and he too should be reported to the disciplinary committee.

Some Things Never Change...

Judge Eileen O'Connor just sentenced a potential juror to 4 months in jail!

Sound familiar? To me this has scary echoes of my experience (chronicled here in Legal Affairs Magazine) with Judge Phyllis Skloot Bamberger here in the Bronx

Judge O'Connor aught to be ashamed. What kind of message does it send when you lock up an african american kid who actually SHOWS UP for jury duty (65 percent of people in Broward County don't.) Well, it seems to say--don't bother showing up. Is is possible that a judge appointed by Jeb Bush is sending a 'don't show up' message to the african american community? Sadly, with decisions this absurd (she opted not to even afford the kid a lawyer before throwing him in) I'm afraid the answer is 'yes.'


This from Texas

Dallas Criminal Lawyer Blog reports that:

The Fort Worth Court of Appeals has issued a second opinion concerning misconduct by a Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney.

For the second time, the Fort Worth Appeals Court found the prosecutor's trial tactics to be intentional and/or reckless prosecutorial misconduct. In particular, the court cited the prosecutor's tactic of repeatedly commenting on the Defendant's invocation of her right to remain silent.

But here's something that pisses me off:

Dallas lawyer says it's a "Tarrant County ADA," mentions the defendant's name (she's now been cleared) and notes the judge.

What's missing? The NAME of the scummy prosecutor who defiled the law and wrongly convicted someone by resorting to tactics that constituted prosecutorial misconduct.

Here at INDEFENSIBLE we name names! And so with a little digging, I can now report that the "Tarrant County ADA" is named:


Interesting that nowhere in the appellate opinion is Meyer named--instead the opinion goes out of it's way to only refer to "the state."

Well Shame on you Mick Meyer!

Turns out Meyer was suspended too after some drunken softball row in which nasty prosecutors taunted the Tarrant Count Advocates who provide mentoring to juvenile offenders.
Nice going.


Crazy Cop Out

Moussaoui plans to enter guilty plea?
That's what the papers are reporting...after years of legal wrangling that have put the Bush administration's feet to the fire, it looks like the only person actually charged with a 9-11 crime wants to cop a plea. Moussaoui's decision is so absurd (he doesn't seem to care if he gets death) that we can only hope that Judge Brinkema sees this for what it is--a crazy person with a death wish who has spent too long in virtual issolation. Anyone who wants to plead guilty and still sit through a penalty trial really is crasy. Let's hope she refuses to accept the plea.


Who Cares?

In an attempt to be less hectoring, I'm slicing out some of the more carping passages in Indefensible.
The book is probably stronger for it, but as an inveterate hectorer and carper, I have to say that I do think there's some value in saying some of the things I think are true about being a public defender.

But hey--this is a blog. And given the unmediated nature of blogging, I feel free in these 'pages' to hector and carp to my heart's content. And what hectoring nonsense have I been musing on of late? Caring--or more accurately the role of caring in being a PD.

Caring, day after day is one of the hardest things to do, and one of the things that most separates the committed public defender from just about everyone else in the system. How long, after all can you actually give a shit? Many prosecutors and even some more process oriented PD's have told me that in order to protect themselves from the crush of cases and the world of need, they cope by becoming professionals—by divorcing themselves from what they see. They claim, as one told me not so long ago, that “it’s the only way to survive the job—to not take it so personally.” They’re wrong, of course, and their emotional remove generally serves to erase whatever vestiges of compassion might otherwise have taken root in their tiny little hearts.

For me, of course it is very personal. I get mad when they try to put people I like in prison. I get mad when prosecutors justify ruining lives on the basis of ‘policy’. I feel personally offended when justice yields to ambition, or more often, rank callousness. I am personally disgusted when the criminal justice system perpetuates the cycle of violence and poverty in communities I care about. It’s all personal. It's not professional--and if and when it stops being personal, it may well be time to quit.

Just a Reminder...

This piece points out an obvious but important fact:

Ninety-four of the 162 active judges now on U.S. appeals courts were chosen by Republican presidents. On 10 of the 13 circuit courts, Republican appointees have a clear majority. And, since 1976, at least seven of the nine seats on the U.S. Supreme Court have been filled by Republican appointees.

That's who they're attacking.


A Call For Cases...

Hello my PD/Criminal Defense Lawyer friends:
I'm helping out on a TV pilot that is looking for cases. Not big bloody ones--but little quirky, interesting, or hilarious ones. If you've got any--you know the ones we tell each other in the bar after a long day at work--that are coming up for trial in the next 4-6 months, drop me an e-mail! Can't promise you're in a target jurisdiction, but if you have thoughts, or know others who might have such cases please do share.

Delay no More!

Even USA Today is opining that "It's difficult to argue that such allegations should just be scuttled...Yet that's where they're heading.

The bigger truth is that power brings the temptation for abuse — and the seeds of its own destruction, as Democrats learned a decade ago when Republicans regained control of the House, in part because of Democrats' ethical lapses and scandals.

Sadly, the Republicans seem to have taken the wrong lesson from the experience.

Meanwhile, Terrance Samuel describes Delay as "A gift to democrats" and several other papers describe his eroding support at home. Turn him over--he's cooked.

Just Say No!

Christopher McCowen has been charged with Christa Worthington's murder.

In case you forgot--she's the fashion writer found stabbed to death in the Cape Cod town of Truro about three years ago.

McCowen's DNA was allegedly found at the scene. Reports are that he voluntarily submitted a DNA sample nearly two years ago--which the lab just got around to matching.

Ok. Note to all of you: Never, and I mean NEVER voluntarily submit a DNA sample. Got that? Never. Not if you're guilty, not if you're innocent, not ever. Even if you're pure as the driven snow, that sample will produce a profile that'll be uploaded into the CODIS database--and you so don't want that.

But if you're guilty? Oy. Please. Guilty people (indeed clients of mine) have voluntarily submitted incriminating evidence. Why, you might reasonably ask? Because the cops are so adept at putting pressure on people, and people are so neurotic about being under suspicion, that they do stupid things.

So if you're thinking about doing something stupid, like submitting a biological sample, standing in a lineup, or making a statement to a law enforcement official who doesn't have a warrant or a court order requiring you to do so--PLEASE remember: It's far better that they suspect you than convict you. Far better to let them suspect without proof than to allow them to prove their case through your vain attempt to deflect suspicion.
Got that? Good.


Tom Delay Gutierrez

Ecuador's president dissolves the Supreme Court
Why? Because, says President Lucio Gutierrez
"unpopular judges were the cause of three days of pot-banging street protests in the country's capital." Sound Familiar?

Hmmm. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Bill Frist is heading to an evangelical conclave to continue his obscene attacks on the judiciary.

Hey guys--yeah Bill, Tom, you... I know you get all hot at the notion of american isolationism, and I get that you serve a guy who, despite growing up the muli-millionare son of a president never went anywhere much past Tijuana, but ahhh...there's a lesson to be learned from Ecuador. This way lies madness.

They're just sick...

The New York Times reports on Prison Marriage Classes

Make no mistake about it--classes in prisons are good.
But really...HELLO??? Am I in Alice in Wonderland here?

These same imbeciles who have been advocating for long punitive sentences, who have slashed prison programing, have refused to offer inmates access to higher education, these same assholes now want to teach marriage skills to the guys they've sent away for life who can't even touch the women to whom they're supposedly married. All this while refusing to distribute condoms in prison to prevent AIDS, failing to address the persistent problem of prison rape, callously attempting to cut social work support and employment training, whitewashing abominable prison hospital conditions...
Oh spare me this moronic idea.

Delusional Dentist Cops Out

Tom Sell whose case went all the to the big supremes, pled no contest in exchange for time served (about 8 years so far). Sell - who had maintained his innocence - was at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling over the involuntary medication of mentally ill defendants. His case set tougher standards for federal prosecutors who want to forcibly medicate defendants in order to make them mentally fit for trial. He should be heading to a halfway house right about now.


Bad Pants

Thanks to Indiana PD for this item:
A defendant is seeking a new trial after jurors found a confession in pants sent back to the jury room during deliberations.
Ok That's an easy one--new trial. The 'confession' wasn't ever entered into evidence. What's interesting here is the prosecutions position: "Prosecutor David Pascoe said the defense set this up because Banks (the public defender) found the confession when he searched the pants before they were placed in evidence." Hmmm. Interesting ethical question. Let's assume it to be true what happens if you find the actual confession mid trial? What do you do?

It's a start...

According to this piece A provincial appeals court has issued what it says is China's first ruling that confessions or evidence obtained by torture, trickery and coercion can't be used in court.

The decision came in a case in which a man falsely confessed to killing his wife. The confession put the guy in prison for 11 years, and nearly sent him to his death

How do we know the confession was false? His wife came back to the village. She explained her 1994 disappearance by saying she left him for another man.

Oops. Maybe there is something to that coerced intelligence ain't good intelligence thing.


The Death Penalty Anyone can Get

This by Jordan Rau in the LA Times(hey buddy--congratulations on the wedding...)

Despite a court order to improve medical care for inmates, San Quentin State Prison's health facilities and treatment practices are so harrowingly bad that many sick prisoners should not be taken there at all, independent examiners have concluded.

The court-appointed experts inspected the medical records of 10 inmates who died over the last few years in California's oldest and best known prison and concluded that in each case, the treatment 'showed serious problems' and 'most deaths were preventable.'

Doctors and nurses misdiagnosed illnesses, gave patients the wrong medications, neglected them for months and even years or delayed sending them to emergency rooms until they were fatally ill, the experts discovered.

The examiners watched a dentist examine inmate after inmate while wearing the same pair of gloves..."

Young Offenders...

This Seattle Times piece is a must read for those interested in the problems of juvies.

It uses the story of Heather Opel (seen here conferring with her lawyer)
to highlight the terrifying reality of juvenile sentencing.

"Heather Opel was 13 and felt cooped up inside the Snohomish County juvenile-detention center. When told that Echo Glen Children's Center has a big outdoor exercise area and that's where she'd be sent if she admitted she helped kill her mother's employer, pleading guilty didn't seem like a big deal.

Against the advice of her own attorney, Heather entered a plea of guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 22 years — the first seven at the Issaquah school for violent teens, the remainder in prison.

Her thinking: Going to prison wouldn't be so bad because she'd only be 35 when she got out — still young enough to fulfill her dream of playing professional women's basketball."

The Genius of The Feds Redux

Here's a good one: Let's appoint federal public defenders to represent two brothers alleged to be founders of the Cali drug cartel--the guys who supposedly smuggled 250 tons of cocaine into the US.

Why you reasonably ask should taxpayers foot the bill? Because the feds won't let them pay their lawyers claiming that everything they have is drug money and thus unavailable to pay legal fees. Genius.

Wrong Bell?

26 years after arriving on death row, should Ronald Bell get a new trial? Hell yes.

Cannibal Lecter

I'm sure you've all been following the fantastic case of Armin the German Cannibal.

Click Here for a Little Background

The facts were never really in dispute: Armin ran an ad, seeking a man for slaughter. And lo and behold, some guy pipes up. They dine together on part of him, and then Armin kills him, freezes him and dines regularly upon what's left. He described it as "like taking communion."

Anyway-- Germany's highest court Wednesday reviewed prosecutors' requests that Armin be sentenced to life in prison instead of the eight-year term imposed by a judge.

Prosecutors said Meiwes killed to ''satisfy a sexual impulse.''

But Meiwes argued that the victim volunteered to be killed and eaten, so the case should be classified a mercy killing, which carries a maximum five-year penalty.

I dunno--yucky yes, but life? I don't think so--especially since the reason they want life is not because of the death but because he might have gotten a hard on during it?

Go ahead--eat me alive for this one!

Florida Bang Bang...

I'm thinking about this Florida Situation, (see my earlier post here)

As I mentioned before, it modifies the law of self-defense extending the 'castle doctrine' to public places. That means that come October 2005, Floridians will be free to blast away in public in order to stop a 'forcible felony'. Obviously the NRA and republicans love this sort of 'dirty harry' style law of personal responsibility, but it will be criminal defense lawyers that will be laughing all the way to the bank.

By eliminating the 'duty to retreat' the law sends the message that the righteous have taken back the streets. But it's also eliminated one of the biggest prosecutorial advantages in every single self-defense case. And by creating a presumption that a defendant was, in fact in a reasonable fear of death, the law will almost certainly assure a fighting chance for any murder defendant facing a case where it was just the two of them...

I actually think that this may be one of the greatest gifts the defense bar has ever gotten--it breathes new viability and new life into homicide cases--after all, as those of you who have tried murders know: there's no CW to dispute your version of the facts. So all those tough drug murder cases with the sketchy decedents have a new angle--the guy was coming to rob me of my drugs--he had a gun/knife/stick/pinkie ring and I knew he was a bad-ass, so just after he announces 'Gimee the shit--I'm sticking your ass up'I blew him away. Except now--bingo--you get the self defense instruction. Gotta love it.

The supreme irony of the whole thing is that it really is that point on the far side of the political circle where the far right wing anti-government guys actually reach around to close the circle with the far left defend the individual from the government sentiments of many defense lawyers.


Going After Gitmo

This from the Times:
One of the detainees, Mustafa Ait Idir, claims in the lawsuit that he was severely beaten while his hands were tied behind his back and that he later suffered a mild stroke.

''The guards picked him up and slammed his body and his head into the steel bunk in his cell,'' the lawsuit says. ''They then threw him on the floor and continued to pound his body and bang his head into the floor.''

The guards held his face in the toilet ''and repeatedly pressed the flush button,'' according to the lawsuit.

Hearts and minds indeed.

In Case You Missed It...

Democratic Underground has again published their:

I particularly like Number 8--Jeff Gannnon. Remember him? The idiot purveyor of gay porn planted by the Bush administration (under a psudeonym) in the white house briefing room for the purpose of asking soft ball questions...

"We noted last week that our old pal Jeff Gannon was going to be appearing at a National Press Club panel on journalism and blogging, and pondered why he was invited to be there since he wasn't a journalist or a blogger. Well it turns out that Gannon was apparently asked along for the purposes of providing hilarious comic relief. Among Gannon's classic gags from last Friday's event were the suggestion that simply reprinting administration press releases is the same as real journalism, and that the government had to pay Armstrong Williams to write a positive story on No Child Left Behind because nobody else would. Funny stuff! He even held up one of those stupid red counties vs. blue counties maps which right-wingers love to use to demonstrate how "red" the country is, except - and this is the mark of a comedy genius at work - the red states were all green, because apparently his printer was running out of ink."

Click here for the whole list

Booker Update:

The Second Circuit just held that Booker is not retroactive to cases on collateral review.


Quick! Call Your Representative..

Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy Blog notes that some sleazy republicans are looking to add a disastrous provision to HR 1528--one that will make the sentencing guidelines into mandatory minimums. It has been scheduled for 'debate' tomorrow at 1.

It's section 12 of H.R. 1528. Just drop them a note saying please you oppose it's addition. Two lines will help.

The Letter of the Law...

The Akron Beacon Journal Reports that two justices of the Ohio Supreme Court wrote a letter apologizing to some victims for a decision they rendered following the law. Are you kidding?

(If you want to read the piece, you can log in using Email: Free4All)

She Was Serious:

This is the legally binding document that a friend's mother just wrote and executed. I love it.
Obviously this being a private matter, I've gotten consent to re-print it and still changed the names...


I, Lisa _______, am of sound mind, and I voluntarily make this declaration. If I become terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state or permanently unconscious as determined by at least two doctors, and if I am unable to participate in decisions regarding my medical care, I name my husband, Jim_______, Jr., as my patient advocate, with the power to make care, custody, and medical treatment decisions for me. I further declare that I do not wish to be kept alive while terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state or permanently unconscious. Under any of these circumstances, I expressly authorize my patient advocate to make decisions to withhold or withdraw treatment which will allow or cause my death. In the event my husband is disqualified or otherwise unable to serve, I name my daughter, Annie ________, in his place. In the event my daughter is disqualified or otherwise unable to serve, I name my son-in-law, William _________, to serve in her place. Finally, I declare that I do not wish my picture taken, by photograph or video, while in a persistent vegetative state or permanently unconscious. In summary, if you are ever wondering what to do with me, ask me. IÅfll tell you. If I canÅft tell you, ask Jim or Annie or Bill. Whatever you do, donÅft ask Bill Frist or Tom DeLay. In fact, donÅft ask Tom DeLay anything unless you are having a problem with termites. I understand he was a termite exterminator before he rose to power in the Congress.

Date: ______________________________ ____________________________________

Signed in the presence of:




Trainman (Darius McCollum) Sentenced

Darius McCollom was sentenced last week. Three years in prison for asking questions about the New York City Transit authority’s M-7 locomotives while decked out in a reflector vest and hardhat, and claiming to be an independent railroad safety consultant.

Darius is obsessed with trains, he’s loved them almost since birth, and driven them since age 15, when he made headlines by driving an E train from Herald Square to the World Trade Center. His love of the transit system though has proven unhealthy--over the years Darius has been arrested 18 times for transit related crimes.

Darius has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome—a disorder in which sufferers can become obsessed with particular topics, often exhibiting, as Darius does, an astonishing level of expertise. This significant fact didn’t come up until rather recently though-- when it was brought to the attention of the presiding judge who last sentenced Darius. Despite the fact nothing Darius has done has ever caused an injury or even recklessly endangered anyone, at that sentencing, in 2001, Justice Carol Berkman wasted no time in deriding Darius, ignoring the Aspergers and sentencing him to 2 1/2 to 5 years in state prison.

In ‘Catch me if you can’ Steven Spielberg’s 2002 blockbuster based on the true story of con artist Frank Abagnale Jr., a buttoned down G-man played by Tom Hanks, stalks and eventually arrests a daring and inventive check forger played by the ever limber Leonardo Dicpario. The film, set in the late 60’s and early 70’s probes the emergent bonds between cop and crook, delicately delving into the minds and humanity of each of the fundamentally isolated characters.

It is, in fact isolation that binds Abagnale, and his pursuer Carl Hanratty in their five year pas-de–deux replete with daring escapes, complex mind games and Christmas eve heart to hearts. And in the end, after forging nearly 2 million dollars in checks, and posing as a doctor, lawyer and an airline pilot it is Abagnale whose pathological dedication to his craft wins our hearts and, ultimately, Carl’s.

Abagnale goes to jail, of course, but the second act of his career, the one culminating in a book and a Spielberg biopic, results from his pursuer’s intervention—the Federal Bureau of Investigation gives him a job catching other crooks—the perfect use for an otherwise imperfect passion.

Darius McCollum is, in a sense, the Frank Abagnale Jr. of the train yards.
Darius, like Frank, started young in crime. Since his original foray, back when he was a student in a technical high school, Darius has been arrested over and over invariably for transit related offenses. He has at one time or another impersonated a conductor, a motorman and a superintendent. He has put out track fires, helped out flag crews and helped inspect malfunctioning trains for debris. His knowledge of the transit system is encyclopedic and legendary. Darius is as much the trainman’s trainman as Abagnale was a forger’s forger. And yet there is a critical difference between them.

Frank Abagnale’s forgery netted him nearly two million dollars—money swindled from others which he used to support a lavish lifestyle of fancy cars, high culture and world travel. Darius, on the other hand had none of these amenities. He was once charged with attempted grand larceny—the charge relating to a vehicle he signed out and back in again precisely according to procedure. There was no fine wine, fast car, or world travel for Darius McCollum—just gritty days cleaning and prepping busses at far flung depots, or directing traffic and repairing electrical boxes in the gloomy semi-darkness far below the ground.

After being sentenced for his crimes, Frank Abagnale, was granted early parole at age 26. For the $2 million dollars in bad checks, and multiple escape attempts, he spent just under five years behind bars. Following his release, he got job with the FBI. Darius McCollum is 39 years old. He has spent nearly a third of his life behind bars

Perhaps it’s the glamorized world of the biopic, but maybe Frank Abagnale did reap the benefits of a better time—one in which we understood the malleable boundary between lonely cop and accomplished criminal. A time when we were willing to allow for the possibility that someone could cross over that line. Perhaps it’s that Frank Abagnale was glamorous and white, while Darius is a pudgy African American. Or perhaps it is because being a forger and an escape artist is just sexier than impersonating a transit worker. But Darius McCollum is back in jail having never been given a chance to put his passion to work on the right side of the law—having been branded a criminal early, the system ignored a dozen chances to break the cycle of offense and incarceration—simply by giving Darius a job with the Transit Authority. We’ve never even tried, and for that we are all to blame. It seems that Darius’ McCollum’s life of incarceration begs the self same question that Frank Abagnale’s posed and answered some 30 years ago.


Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

'Weedman' is out of jail:

Unlike Pot-head granny, (see below) back here in the good old US of A, Robert "weedman" Forchion served 17 months of a 10-year prison sentence for pot. He was released in April 2002.

Hilariously, (or not) he was thrown back in jail four months later after he produced a pro-marijuana commercial but was released because a judge determined the commercial was protected by his right of free speech.

Ohhhh-riiiight. Free speech... Meanwhile, in another legal victory for Weedman, (A devoted Rasta and frequent candidate for office) an appellate court in NJ decided he didn't have to submit his DNA to the authorities. Phew--sounds like he could use some of Grandma's curry.

Grand pot Momma

Go Grandma!:

"An unrepentant grandmother who cooked cannabis cakes, soups and casseroles for neighbours and friends escaped jail yesterday after a judge told her that he did not want to make her a martyr."

Pro-Life Hypocrite..

Who knew?
that Randall Terry the nut-job operation rescue guy:

--Divorced his wife (for a 22 year old) while proclaiming the sanctity of marriage.

--Preaches the abomination of homosexuality while having a gay son (who he won't talk to).

--Has been arrested 40 times over abortion/pre-marital sex issues though both of his daughters have had pre-marital sex (one miscarried the other had two kids out of wedlock and became a muslim).

--Solicited donations from conservatives that he actually used to pay for his half-million dollar house. When confronted about that he explained he needed a home where "his family would be safe"

Some family Randy. You're a real model dad there. I really understand why you'd want America to look even more like your hypocritical, asinine kid-alienating, greedy self.

Cat Hunting

This from the LaCrosse (Wisconsin) Tribune:

Hunters across the state will be asked to vote next month on whether cats should be hunted.

A La Crosse man who hunts and traps wants to make free-roaming domestic cats an "unprotected species" that could be shot at will by anyone with a small-game license.

"If I'm in the woods and see a cat that doesn't have a collar, then I could shoot it," Smith said. "It gives people some leeway if they want to remove cats."


Absolution on Demand

Been Bad?
Feeling Guilty?
No Problem. Just click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for absolution on demand. It's a lot cheaper than church or therapy.


So this is really strange...
Unbeknownst to me

The Miami Herald has re-printed my review of Steve Bogira's wonderful book-Courtroom 302.

Except that it hasn't.

Without contacting me, they've edited it down, removing several laudatory passages. Here's what they did to the last few sentences:

Originally, I wrote that:

"In his analysis of these unknown cases, he carefully assembles and presents a portrait of a system plagued with abusive police officers and corrupt judges, a system more interested in statistics than people, a system more focused on punishment than rehabilitation. And that is why, perhaps as well as anyone before him, in writing about average defendants, Bogira is able to explain a system that "miscarries every day by doing precisely what we ask it to do.""

They re-wrote it to read:

"He carefully assembles and presents a portrait of a system plagued with abusive police officers and corrupt judges, more interested in statistics than people, more focused on punishment than rehabilitation. And that is why he is able to explain a system that ``miscarries every day by doing precisely what we ask it to do.''"

Does that change the tone?
I kind of think it does.
And I think the impression left by the edited review is not as favorable as I intended.
Any thoughts? Opinions? Suggestions as to what to do?


A warm and positive profile of a public defender!

Rare as it is, the AP has just run a story praising the phenomenal Federal Defender--Judy Clarke.

And boy does she deserve it.

"Judy Clarke has been described as a 'one-woman Dream Team' by a colleague who helped her defend Susan Smith, the South Carolina mom who avoided a death sentence after being convicted of drowning her two little boys in 1995"

She also did the Unabomber case--oh yeah, and after the Smith trial--she donated her fee to an anti-death penalty group.

Truly a heroine.


The Billboard is Gone Now...

Pedestrians used to the dizzying array of times square signage, and the glowing super-sized McDonald’s kiosk, might be forgiven for a studied indifference to the a recent salvo in the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association’s attempt to negotiate a new contract with the city—a massive billboard replete with it’s own little zipper relentlessly insisting that “NYC cops deserve better pay”.

Perched on the north side of 42nd street, just east of Eighth Avenue, the billboard stridently insists that while New York City’s Cops are “#1 in crime fighting” they are “145 in the nation in salary”. Framed by the empire state building on one side and the torch of lady liberty on the other, the ad lists the 144 police departments that ostensibly pay better than New York’s deserving finest.

As it turns out though, a police officer’s salary is almost as impenetrable as those of some corporate CEO’s. And while cops don’t get stock options, looking at a cop’s base salary can be as misleading as assuming that Louis Gerstner only earned 2 million dollars in 2001. (His actual income from IBM was over 50 times that).

So while it is true that a police officer’s starting salary is just over $39,000. That figure doesn’t include uniform allowances, holiday pay, night shift differentials, pension contributions, travel expenses, unlimited sick leave that averages nearly a month per year, generous vacation and personal time which adds more than another month a year just for rookies, and of course, overtime. And where overtime is concerned, the NYPD is a major consumer. Indeed, a number of officers are able to double their salaries on overtime alone. According to the city’s independent budget office, in the first three months of fiscal year 2004, cops racked up $125 million in overtime alone—a pace that would exceed budgeted overtime by nearly $200 million.

Of course, few of the cities 34,000 cops are rookies. Most are veterans. And, assuming that an officer has failed after 10 years, to make sergeant (base salary of $69,300) lieutenant (79,547) or Captain (103,577), he or she can still look forward to a base salary of well over $60,000--, and (between average sick leave, personal time, vacation time and paid holidays) nearly three full months of vacation each year.

And aside from the interesting question of what makes a police department #1 in “crime fighting”, the relationship between police pay and crime fighting is anything but obvious. For example, in the 2000 Fiscal year, before 9-11 made things even crazier, the city spent 237 million dollars just on police overtime--Much of it attributable to Giuliani quality of life offensives. And what did that mean in terms of crime fighting—plenty of arrests, but paradoxically, a 15 percent drop in major felony arrests, with a skyrocketing arrest rate for misdemeanor marijuana possessions—twice as many as the year before. So it may well be true that for 237 million dollars in police overtime we can crack down on the weed scourge in the city, and it may even be that this makes the NYPD #1 in crime fighting, but what the belligerent times square billboard conspicuously fails ask, is: Is it worth it?

Fantastic Rant...

Another Public Defender Blog on pro bono awards:

"They sicken me. I'm sorry, but they do. When I pick up a copy of the latest Law Tribune or similar legal publication and see High Partner of Major Law Firm felicitated for taking precious time out of his/her busy busy schedule to fight for an innocent man, for free no less, I want to vomit. "

"Why do we do this? Why do we give out awards to people who make ungodly amounts of money, doing mostly boring work anyway, for some "charity" work that they have done, mostly only to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct."

"No one ever gives awards to the Legal Aid lawyer, or the countless hard-working public defenders. So what is it about the big corporate attorney who provides pro bono representation that is so special? I'm not seeking recognition, or awards, or even a pat on the back. I do what I do, at serious financial loss, because I love my job. I love representing the indigent and I won't stop doing it."

"It is repugnant, however, for our profession to honor someone who didn't make that decision If you want to give pro bono awards, they should be given every year to every single public interest lawyer in the state. Not the High Partner."

"Thanks a lot, big lawyer guy - the indigent population was shit out of luck before you decided to come along."

So true. The reason, of course is that all the other partners pony up a lot of cash to see their friends honored. The sad thing is, not much of that cash ever goes to front line criminal defense work.

When we love the NRA

Florida just passed a law that any good PD has got to love.

Afflicted by some kind of 'Dirty Harry' haze,
The Florida Legislature has expanded the Castle doctrine to any place a person "has a right to be." That basically dispenses with the right to retreat which is, any most criminal defense lawyers know, the biggest hurdle we have in self-defense cases. Brilliant.
(Thanks to Public Defender blog)

Ann Althouse Says...

Ann Althouse a professor at my old Law School had this interesting commentary:

"if you read Feige's well-written and persuasive article, keep in mind that he represents the defense, that expert testimony is subject to attack if it is let in, and that child molesters are choosing victims who will often not be able to tell a straight story."

Ok. Sure. I represent the defense and expert testimony is subject to attack. But here's the problem: These are complicated issues. Doing a good cross about diagnosticity and falsifiability--one that makes a jury understand just what a bunch of crap CSAAS is, is tough--and truthfully takes more time, patience and research than most criminal defense lawyers can afford. The result is that often even the most bogus experts aren't really challenged--at least not when they don't have a million bucks to spend on a defense. It's why Judges are supposed to be gatekeepers, why Frye and Daubert hearings should be serious endeavors, not just shameful referenda on whether or not testimony advances the aims of the prosecution.

And as for choosing victims that can't tell a straight story: Please. Plenty (the credible ones) can and do. In any other context we take credibility and "telling a straight story" seriously. No-one has a problem disbelieving an incredible witness in a robbery or narcotics case--this is about our willingness to bend good rules in order to stack the deck in favor of conviction. The problem is disproving these sorts of incendiary allegations--overcoming the stigma of the charge itself is hard enough for an innocent person without bogus syndrome testimony thrown in.

Anyway Ann-thanks for reading, turn the comments on your blog back on, and give my regards to Tom Palay and Bascom Hill.


Movement in Montana

Proving the effacacy of lawsuits over indigent defense issues,: The Montana state legislature gave initial approval to a proposal to revamp the state's public defender system in hopes of improving representation for poor defendants and resolving a lawsuit over the current system.

The Newest Latest...

Here's a new one: Attack democrats for delaying a bill that republicans haven't drafted yet. I'm not kidding-- read all about it here.

Since You Asked...

It must have been that last Slate piece...

So having gotten several questions in the last few days about other stuff I've written, I've decided to post a quick list with links:

The New York Times Magazine:
How to Defend Someone You Know is Guilty
The Dark Side of Innocence

The LA Times Magazine:
The Supreme Beginner

Domestic Silence
Everyday Obstruction
Printing Problems
Public Offenders
Blue Hawaii
Pro-Se Can You See?
Radical Sheik
Stupid Syndrome Syndrome

The Washington Post Book World:
Finding the System Guilty: A Review of Courtroom 302

LA Times Op-Ed Page:
A Prison Without Hope

New York Times Op-Ed Page:
Defending Judge Duckman
Fatal Flaws in the Criminal Justice System
Jail Breaks
Put Down Your Gun

And that's it...
There are a few more magazine articles including Legal Affairs, Modern Bride, Lexus Magazine, and The Champion that can be found by clicking the links above or just going to my website.

Git 'Em!!

Now THIS is what I'm talkin' about.Finally some reports of the democrats weighing a Challenge to DeLay in 2006! It's about time too. Let's git this SOB.


Demanding Defenders

In a ruling issued Friday, the Louisiana Supreme Court said the Legislature is responsible for 'providing a working system for securing the representation of indigent defendants.' And the high court ruled that judges may block the prosecution of poor defendants until money to hire lawyers is available."

It's about time. This important editorial from the Times-Picayune praises that decision, points out that funding indigent defense is not the same as being soft on crime and basically says: Pony up the cash

Sneaky Peaky

Remember Brandon Mayfield?

He's the guy whose fingerprints the FBI found on the detonators near the scene of the Madrid train bombing (except oooopps they weren't his prints).

Mayfield has become a valuable object lesson in more than just the loosey-goosey quasi-science of fingerprint matching.
(My Slate piece on the subject is here)

As it turns out, after a sleazy try at dodging the question, Alberto Gonzales admitted that the government had used the PATRIOT Act against Mayfield. Let's just take a minute to really think about that. After swearing up and down that this was just gonna be used to nab the bad guys, we already have an admission that the government has used a sneak and peak warrant against an innocent American Citizen.

We Forget Sometimes

Just how painful and stressful the fact of an allegation can be. This piece tells the story of Andrew Dunn, a 40 year old law guardian who shot himself in the head today. He'd been accused guessed it, sexually abusing a boy back in 2002 and another starting in 1997. And while I'm sure many people will see this as proof of guilt, I'm not so sure. Imagine the prospect of being wrongly convicted, sentenced to prison and having your reputation completely shredded. I can see that driving someone to suicide.


Beware you're DNA

A Photographer has been ordered to give DNA in connection with a device used to bug Nicole Kidman's House

Does anyone else remember the movie Gattica?

It's here....

Stupid-Syndrome Syndrome

My latest Slate piece is up. It's about the Orwellian world of Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome.

Piggy Piggy Piggy...

Tom Delay pays his family half a million dollars in PAC money. As it turns out, a contribution to DeLay's political action committee is actually a payment to DeLay himself.

When Indigent Defense Depends on Traffic Tickets

So what happens when there's just no public defender money? According to a LA court, cases can be indefinitely suspended until there's money available. Nice. Especially since for some years defendants in some parishes were spending nine months in jail BEFORE even meeting their lawyers.


A Sniff is but a Sniff

In this recent non-ruling The big Supremes decline to decide whether the government can bring a trained dog over to your house to sniff for drugs. The guy who is appealing got 37 years. The problem here is mission creep. They can already use the dogs in airports, bus terminals etc...If this one goes, it'll be canine constitutional carnage... Bye bye fourth amendment.


Good Thinking...

A California court actually did the right thing recently by overturning a 26-years-to-life sentence for Keith Carmony.Carmony had been charged with failing to register as a sex offender. Calling the sentence a violation of the state and federal prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, the court ruled that the defendant's failure to register, was "completely harmless and no worse than a breach of an overtime parking ordinance."

"If the constitutional prohibition is to have a meaningful application," Blease wrote, "it must prohibit the imposition of a recidivist penalty based on an offense that is no more than a harmless technical violation of a regulatory law."

It's important to note that Carmony got the life bid for failing to update his records. He'd already registered but was required to review a form within five days of his birthday even though nothing in it had changed.

Delay no longer

Tom Delay is sucking wind thanks to his antics surrounding the Terri Schaivo case.

His rampant ethical lapses may not have been sticking, but his interventionist nonsense appears to have had a real effect.

A recent Chronicle poll, conducted late last week and published Sunday, indicated that nearly 40 percent of 501 likely voters in his district said their opinion of DeLay is less favorable than last year, compared with 11 percent who said their view of him has improved.

Many said they'd vote for someone else.
Time to start organizing a Dump Delay (Without Delay?)campaign.

Prison Sickness

This piece by fellow Soros Media Fellow Mary Beth Pfeiffer argues that the deaths of 23 inmates in jails across New York -- from Rikers Island to the Albany and Schenectady county lockups -- demonstrate the unseen perils of getting sick in facilities where medical care is contracted to companies seeking to make a profit.

Where NY prison health is concerned, substandard doesn't begin to cover it. I can't tell you how many clients I've had telling horror stories about trying to get treatment.

International news flash--

You might be interested to know that hundreds of death row prisoners in Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica may win a reprieve following an unprecedented Privy Council hearing which is set to begin in London. That's pretty exciting to begin with, but what you may not know is that most countries in the Caribbean have popular majorities that support a mandatory death penalty. Currently, death is the required penalty for a murder conviction.

According to a Caribbean news source...

The case is seen as so important that the Privy Council - the final court of appeal for former British colonies in the Caribbean, but made up mainly of UK law lords - which normally sits in panels of five, has decided to field nine judges for the first time.

The large cast of judges and lawyers means that the case cannot be heard as usual in the Privy Council building in Downing Street, but will be argued over six days in the Moses Room in the Palace of Westminster.

The role of the Privy Council as the final court of appeal for some former British colonies dates back to 1625. Caricom countries have resolved to replace it with their own Caribbean court of justice, but its gestation has been prolonged by political disagreements.


Dahlia does it again

In her incisive takedown of Men In Black,

Fellow slatester (and my editor) Dahlia Lithwick makes the subtle but important point that there has been a significant shift in the nature of right-wing attacks on the judiciary. They are no longer confined to "liberal" or "activist" judges, but rather directed at the judiciary itself.

Though she doesn't say it, to me this is another example of the brilliant right wing triangulation strategy (adopted from the Sinn Fein / IRA or Hamas / Palestinian Authority playbook) that uses attacks on the right from the further right to wrench the terms of the debate rightward. This is what they did when they ran a far right candidate against Arlen Spector claiming he was 'basically a democrat.'

By attacking even conservative judges they acomplish the same thing. Pernicious but effective. The tradgedy is that the left doesn't respond in kind. But ain't that the way of the world...

Of course what makes Dahlia's stuff so wonderful to read is that it not only makes this important point, but it also includes some more general (and deeply satisfying) bashing like the following:

"I use the word 'book' with some hesitation: Certainly it possesses chapters and words and other book-like accoutrements. But Men in Black is 208 large-print pages of mostly block quotes (from court decisions or other legal thinkers) padded with a forward by the eminent legal scholar Rush Limbaugh, and a blurry 10-page 'Appendix' of internal memos to and from congressional Democrats—stolen during Memogate. The reason it may take you only slightly longer to read Men in Black than it took Levin to write it is that you'll experience an overwhelming urge to shower between chapters."

DA: Strip Trick Worth 16 Years in Prison

Exactly how stupid are people in Indianapolis?According tho this report from the AP--pretty stupid. It seems a man has been convicted of tricking men into striping for him while he was on home confinement. (One potential 'victim' was about to strip in hopes of winning a supposed prize when he noticed the big box strapped to the defendant's ankle...)

Poor sad desperate dude.
Poor pathetic stripping dudes.

Great solution--16 years in prison.
Yeah, that makes a whole lotta sense--seems like the stupidest person in Indi is the prosecutor.

Get out of Jail, Pay 126,00 Dollars

I'm just back from giving a little talk at an innocence conference in DC and was about to just slide into a dead sleep when I came across this astonishing piece

It seems the sage state of LA will try to charge Wilbert Rideau $126,000 in court costs now that they've finally released him after 40 years in prison. Here's the comedy--the idiot DA wants Wilbert to pay because he went to trial. But as the piece notes:

"Before trial, District Attorney Rick Bryant declined to accept a plea agreement that would have resulted in the same manslaughter verdict that was ultimately reached by a jury and led to Rideau's release on time served.

"From Day One, we wanted and would have been happy to settle this case. The only reason it went to trial is that Mr. Bryant never really even talked to us about it," defense attorney George Kendall said. Bryant "wanted to convict Mr. Rideau of murder and send him back to Angola (state prison) where he would die and nothing short of that."

Oh yeah--definitely charge the guy. After 40 years in prison, what's a little debt?


Medical Weed Sure...but in Alabama?

Who knew there was a red-state pot smokers movement? This piece discusses the Medical marijuana bill introduced in the ALABAMA state Legislature.

And it's not an April Fools joke. On that front, as it turns out, our culprit is the inimitable Susan Lehman.

Very funny.

April's Fool

Yep! That's him--that's the guy I believe is behind the hilarious FAX purporting to be from the Manhattan DA's office.

Part of that FAX is printed in a post below, but I left out another choice paragraph.

"I hope you will take the time to consider the possibility of a ten week position as a practitioner-in-residence with the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney. The position comes with a negotiable $18,000 stipend. I hope you'll agree to meet with me and several members of the staff at an informal plenary meeting at which we can introduce ourselves and the program and answer any questions you may have."

Brilliant. Except for the part about me selling defense lawyer secrets for 18 grand.
Just a day before April Fools day--Naw...not for a minute.
It's gotta be Jaffe...or maybe, just maybe, it's Schooch...