Don't you hate it when the cameras happen to catch your illegal and outrageous behavior? Some Cops in Elizabeth certainly do!

A police lieutenant has been suspended and others are being investigated after a cable television station filmed officers drinking on a city parking deck, smashing the windows of a vehicle, and bragging about shaking down a local business for free alcohol.

Watch those camera's boys!

Lt. James Kearns, 37, was questioned by the department's internal affairs unit Thursday. He did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, said Donald Fraser, attorney for Elizabeth Policemen's Benevolent Association Local No. 4, which includes the Superior Officers Association.

Footage shot by News 12 New Jersey shows officers gathering on a parking deck near police headquarters, some in marked patrol cars. Some of the officers grabbed containers of beer, and one was recorded bragging about shaking down a local tavern for the alcohol.

One of the officers uses a nightstick to smash the windows of a vehicle, which Mayor J. Christian Bollwage said was a decommissioned police vehicle. Another tosses a beer bottle at a squad car that drives up to the gathering, then drives away.

"Don't come up here if you ain't gonna drink beer with us," someone is heard saying on the tape.


Today could be the day...

In a few hours, I think we can expect an indictment of at least Scooter Libby and possibly others.

Scooter's in Trouble...

And as fabulous as it'd be to see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the west wing in cuffs (that's the way Rudy liked to do it when he was U.S. Attorney), I think it's unlikely Rove's gonna get it tomorrow.

It seems to me, though, that with Harriet gone, we might well see a 'fuck you' S.Ct appointment hard on the heels of tomorrow's indictments. I'm talking someone like Jones or Bork, someone destined to provoke the kind of fight republicans want--a filibuster fight that'll distract from the damage the Plame inquiry is going to inflict.

It's going to be an interesting day and a fascinating few weeks.


Bye Bye Bing..

A man who repeatedly called a Hong Kong judge a crook in open court is guilty of trying to intimidate the court and interfere with the administration of justice, the High Court has ruled. Bing Choy, 61, was not present in court to hear the ruling, and must now be arrested in order to face Justices Michael Hartmann and Azizul Suffiad to be sentenced for his crime.

Since 2003, Choy has indicated in letters to the court that he considers the proceedings unlawful and has never appeared in court to defend himself.

Choy, a nonlegally trained advocate, has appeared in court more than 50 times representing his own or other companies. He is renowned for verbally abusing judges.

Tuesday's conviction relates to events in 2003 when he launched a tirade against the vice president of the Court of Appeal, Anthony Rogers, calling him a crook 36 times in 30 minutes.

Choy's invective was a "sustained, scurrilous, abusive attack," an "exercise in intimidation" and "constituted in itself a form of violence," Hartmann said Tuesday.

In April 2003, while representing Phoon Lee Piling, both as its director and legal advisor, Choy asked to have Rogers disqualified from hearing his civil appeal, because "evidence" showed him to be a "crook," "dishonest" and biased.

Choy claimed that in cases from 1996 and 2000 Rogers had ruled against him in a manner that was "fraudulent" and "obstructed justice." Then in May 2003 he attacked Rogers verbally in court.

"How can a crook sit in a competent court to hear an appeal?" Choy said at the time.


Double Dipping for Death

The House bill that would reauthorize the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law includes several little-noticed provisions that would dramatically transform the federal death penalty system, allowing smaller juries to decide on executions and giving prosecutors the ability to try again if a jury deadlocks on sentencing.

The bill also triples the number of terrorism-related crimes eligible for the death penalty, adding, among others, the material support law that has been the core of the government's legal strategy against terrorism.

Under the proposals, 41 crimes would be added to the 20 terrorism-related offenses now eligible for the federal death penalty. Prosecutors would also find it easier to impose a death sentence in cases in which the defendant did not have the intent to kill.

In one example cited by Human Rights Watch, "an individual could be sentenced to death for providing financial support to an organization whose members caused the death of another, even if this individual did not know or in any way intend that the members engage in acts of violence."

But critics are most concerned about procedural changes related to juries, including a provision that would allow a trial with fewer than 12 jurors if the court finds "good cause," with or without the agreement of the defense.

The bill would also give prosecutors a chance to try again if a jury is deadlocked over a death sentence. Currently, a hung jury at sentencing automatically results in a life sentence.


Dumping on Africa Again

Much of the used computer equipment sent from the United States to developing countries for use in homes, schools and businesses is often neither usable nor repairable, creating enormous environmental problems in some of the world's poorest places, according to a report to be issued today by an environmental organization.

Unusable equipment is being donated or sold to developing nations by recycling businesses in the United States as a way to dodge the expense of having to recycle it properly. While the report, written by the Basel Action Network, based in Seattle, focuses on Nigeria, in western Africa, it says the situation is similar throughout much of the developing world.

"Too often, justifications of 'building bridges over the digital divide' are used as excuses to obscure and ignore the fact that these bridges double as toxic waste pipelines," says the report. As a result, Nigeria and other developing nations are carrying a disproportionate burden of the world's toxic waste from technology products.

According to the National Safety Council, more than 63 million computers in the United States will become obsolete in 2005. An average computer monitor can contain as much as eight pounds of lead, along with plastics laden with flame retardants and cadmium, all of which can be harmful to the environment and to humans.


Still Going....

The number of prisoners in the United States rose again during 2004, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. (A Sunday, mind you to insure minimum press effect). Yep, we now have over 2.2 million people behind bars.

The number of inmates under state jurisdiction increased by 20,759 (1.6 percent) and the number under federal jurisdiction by 7,269 (4.2 percent). The total increase in the number of inmates in 2004 was nearly identical to 2003 and about 8,000 fewer than in 2002.

As of Dec. 31, 2004, there were 2,267,787 people behind bars in the United States, of which 1,421,911 were held in federal and state prisons (not including the 74,718 state and federal inmates incarcerated in local jails), 713,990 in local jails, 102,338 in juvenile facilities, 15,757 in U.S. Territory prisons, 9,788 in Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, 2,177 in military prisons and 1,826 in Indian country jails (as of June 30, 2003).

The Federal Bureau of Prisons operated the largest prison system at year-end 2004 (180,328 inmates), followed by Texas (168,105), California (166,556), Florida (85,553), and New York (85,533).

Here's a state by state breakdown:

U.S. 1,433,793 1,408,361 1.8
Federal 159,137 151,919 4.8
State 1,274,656 1,256,442 1.4

Northeast 161,121 163,494 -1.5

Conn. 13,240 13,587 -2.6
Maine 1,961 1,951 0.5
Mass. 8,688 8,814 -1.4
N.H. 2,448 2,434 0.6
N.J. 26,757 27,246 -1.8
N.Y. 63,751 65,198 -2.2
Pa. 40,931 40,880 0.1
R.I. 1,894 1,983 -4.5
Vt. 1,451 1,401 3.6

Midwest 248,896 246,583 0.9

Ill. 44,054 43,418 1.5
Ind. 23,939 23,007 4.1
Iowa 8,525 8,546 -0.2
Kan. 8,966 9,132 -1.8
Mich. 48,883 49,358 -1.0
Minn. 8,758 7,865 11.4
Mo. 31,061 30,275 2.6
Neb. 4,038 3,976 1.6
N.D. 1,238 1,147 7.9
Ohio 44,806 44,778 0.1
S.D. 3,088 3,016 2.4
Wis. 21,540 22,065 -2.4

South 576,292 565,380 1.9

Ala. 25,257 27,272 -7.4
Ark. 13,668 13,244 3.2
Del. 4,087 4,122 -0.8
Fla. 85,530 82,003 4.3
Ga. 51,089 47,200 8.2
Ky. 17,140 16,190 5.9
La. 36,939 36,047 2.5
Md. 22,696 23,230 -2.3
Miss. 19,469 19,569 -0.5
N.C. 30,683 29,394 4.4
Okla. 22,913 22,448 2.1
S.C. 22,730 22,942 -0.9
Tenn. 25,884 25,403 1.9
Texas 157,617 156,534 0.7
Va. 35,564 35,067 1.4
W.Va. 5,026 4,715 6.6

West 288,347 280,985 2.6

Alaska 2,632 2,629 0.1
Ariz. 31,106 29,722 4.7
Calif. 164,933 162,678 1.4
Colo. 20,293 19,671 3.2
Hawaii 4,174 4,167 0.2
Idaho 6,375 5,737 11.1
Mont. 3,877 3,620 7.1
Nev. 11,280 10,543 7.0
N.M. 6,111 5,934 3.0
Ore. 13,167 12,695 3.7
Utah 5,916 5,681 4.1
Wash. 16,503 16,036 2.9
Wyo. 1,980 1,872 5.8

Anyone Need a PD?


It's about time...

A judge on Wednesday threw out the murder conviction of David Lemus, the second of two men who wrongly spent more than 14 years in prison for the shooting death of a bouncer at a Manhattan nightclub.

Lemus and Olmado Hidalgo were convicted in the 1990 shooting of Palladium nightclub bouncer Marcus Peterson. The same judge threw out Hidalgo's conviction in July after finding he was unconnected to Lemus or anyone else involved in the incident.

Hidalgo was deported after his exoneration. The prosecutors say they'll retry Lemus.

“I think it's absurd and unfair, and I hope that [Manhattan District Attorney] Robert Morgenthau comes to his senses before he does it,” added Carol Kramer, the jury forewoman in the first trial. “Just leave these guys alone. Let justice be done now."

I couldn't say it better.

Judge Davis Slap Down

Judge Chester Davis who jailed Ronald Wayne Childress Jr essentially for not doing what the prosecutor wanted in a domestic violence case was reversed last week. Judge William Wood Jr. of Superior Court ruled yesterday that Davis did not follow the proper procedure in sending Childress to jail.

Neither Judge Childress nor Judge Davis

Good for Judge Wood. Bad for Mr. Childress who had already served his entire sentence.


In Other News...

Despite the efforts Joe Arpaio, of one of the most absurd and looney sheriffs in the country, two months ago, a state judge found it is illegal for Arpaio to refuse to transport female inmates to a medical facility for an elective abortion.

Sheriff Joe with Pink Underpants

And Arpaio isn't alone. Missouri officials must let a pregnant inmate have an abortion, the Supreme Court said Monday, rejecting an appeal by anti-abortion Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican.

Missouri, which has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country, argued taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab for transporting the woman to an abortion clinic.

The Court Giveth and the Court Taketh Away

A scary harbinger: The Supreme Court said Monday that death row inmates do not automatically have a right to a jury trial to determine whether they are mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution.

Awesome Public Defender
Robert Hooker of Pima County

Three years ago, the court barred executions of the mentally retarded, on grounds that they violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Justices left it up to states to determine whether inmates are retarded.

Pima County Public Defender Robert Hooker said he wasn't surprised by the decision, but was disappointed.

The Supreme Court has now decided to leave the decision of who is mentally retarded in the same hands as those who once determined it was OK to execute the mentally retarded - judges, Hooker said.

"This means a lot more mentally retarded people are going to be killed,"


Let this be a lesson...

The compassion of a Long Island woman, Victoria Ruvolo, who was nearly killed 11 months ago when a 20-pound frozen turkey was thrown into the windshield of the car she was driving, helped secure a lenient jail sentence on Monday for the young man who was charged with the crime.

The defendant, Ryan Cushing might have faced as much as 25 years in prison on the multiple felony charges originally brought against him in the attack, on Nov. 13, which broke every bone in Ms. Ruvolo's face and left her with brain injuries.

The Suffolk County district attorney, Thomas J. Spota, and Mr. Cushing's lawyer, William Keahon, seemed genuinely awed by the victim's temperate sense of justice. Had she taken a different position than she did,Mr. Keahon said, my client would have been incarcerated for many years. This to me is a very spiritual thing."



NJWeedMan is pissed off...

Don't even ask me what search term led me to NJWeedMan's site but his bloviating is (or will be to most public defenders) priceless. And, of course there is this shot of him in what he calls his "Fuck You Court Shirt"

The NJ WeedMan's "Fuck You Court Shirt"


Judge "Sick" Ric Howard Struck Before...

Scratch the surface and it's amazing what you'll find. Exactly three years ago, the Justice Policy Initiate wrote a piece looking at juvenile sentences.

Guess who they spotlighted? That's right: Sick Ric Howard:

That's Sic Rick holding the map

Here's what they wrote:

"Instead of focusing on anomalies, we need to look at more typical cases like that of Adam Bollenback, a 17-year-old mentally disabled boy with a history of substance abuse. At age 16, Adam stole a six-pack of beer from a neighbor's garage and then managed to slip away from a patrol car after being caught. Not only was he prosecuted as an adult; he was given a 10-year prison sentence. During the sentencing, Judge Ric Howard noted approvingly, "This sentence is going to break your spirit right now."

The guy deserves the moniker.

Following the sentencing, Adam's lawyer asked that the boy be segregated from adult inmates, but Howard rejected the request, stating, "He's an adult, and he's going to be treated as an adult."

That's just great.

In an interview following the sentencing, the garage owner, Charlotte Coadic, said, "If I had known [his age], I wouldn't have called the cops, I would have given him a good tongue-lashing and sent him home."

I bet that if she knew that the poor mentally ill kid would come before a sadist in a robe, she might have even spared him the tongue-lashing.

Everyone must get Jailed...

Reason 7,655 you should never, ever call the police (even if you're a "victim")

A judge in Forsyth Superior Court ordered yesterday the release of a man who was jailed for contempt after he didn't testify against a girlfriend who was accused of assaulting him.

Prosecutors in domestic court had expected Ronald Wayne Childress Jr. to testify Tuesday against his girlfriend, Jennifer Lynn Atwood. However, when Childress took the stand, he testified that Atwood had not assaulted him.

Judge Chester Davis of District Court nonetheless found Atwood guilty of simple assault and sentenced her to four days in jail. Davis then ruled that Childress had lied under oath and sentenced him to four days in jail as well.

So what do we know about Judge CHESTER DAVIS?

(Not the same judge)

A quick google search turned up the following questionnaire:

Chester C. Davis
Home address: 1447 Country Meadow Lane, Kernersville, 27284
Date of birth: Nov. 7, 1942
Education: B.A., Davidson College; J.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Occupation: District Court judge
Family: Married; three children; two grandchildren
Political experience: 13 years as a judge
What makes you best qualified: I am not opposed.


Go Boyce...

In a dissenting opinion filed in the capital case of Moore v. Parker, Judge Boyce Martin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit wrote that "the death penalty in this country is arbitrary, biased, and so fundamentally flawed at its very core that it is beyond repair." Among his many criticisms of the way capital punishment is applied in the U.S., Martin specifically noted his concerns about the issues of innocence, inadequate defense counsel, and the overall arbitrariness of the system. He wrote:

Judge Martin

I have been a judge on this Court for more than twenty-five years. In that time I have seen many death penalty cases and I have applied the law as instructed by the Supreme Court and I will continue to do so for as long as I remain on this Court. This my oath requires. After all these years, however, only one conclusion is possible: the death penalty in this country is arbitrary, biased, and so fundamentally flawed at its very core that it is beyond repair.


DA Sentenced to 18 Months for Lying About Sex With Informant

Though this is old news, it did fit nicely with my exchange with Tom about the preferential treatment prosecutors get. In this instance about a year ago, a South Georgia district attorney was sentenced to an 18-month prison term for lying to federal agents about an improper sexual relationship with a confidential informant.

He pled guilty to charges of lying when FBI agents asked whether he had ever had sex with a defendant in his district. Ellis said he had not, but Jody Manning, a drug defendant and informant for Ellis, told federal agents he had forced her into a sexual relationship.

(inexplicably this is what google returned for a search of the term
"sex with snitch")

In a more recent follow-up (a place with a fairly staid journalistic tone) reported the following concerning the 11th circuit's reversal of his conviction:

The 11th Circuit's unpublished -- or, non-precedential -- decision seemed unusual. Judges Gerald B. Tjoflat, William H. Pryor Jr. and visiting Senior 9th Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon issued their one-paragraph ruling just two days after oral argument, and it was based on an issue Ellis' lawyer, Michael J. Bowers, recalled barely came up during the discussion.

He served less than half his sentence.

The book is done...

With all the birthday festivities, I forgot to mention that on Friday, I turned in the most recent (and pretty much final) draft of the book.

It publishes in May.


Bad Little Prosecutor

Alas, more stories of scummy prosecutors and their evil deeds. How about this Washington County prosecutor suspended for stealing a defense attorney's notes It's true!

Suspended Prosecutor

Washington County Prosecutor Cynthia L. Winkler was suspended from practicing law for 120 days over a dispute that began when a chief deputy prosecutor tore a page of notes from a defense attorney's pad during a court hearing. According to the charges filed with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, Winkler and Chief Deputy Blaine Goode admitted Goode had taken the page of notes during a February 2003 trial without the defense attorney's knowledge, purportedly to secure a writing sample from the defendant. Goode got a 60-day suspension.

The pair failed to reveal they had the paper when the defense team was searching for it. The defense lawyer later spotted it under Winkler's file folder. Winkler and Goode said in court papers they wanted to compare the man's writing with that on a recipe for methamphetamine that was being used as evidence in his drug case.

The Goode News...the two will return to the prosecutors office after their suspensions.

Here's the decision:

The More I Hear, The More I Believe

That, as Molly Ivins wrote: "we are in trouble." The Miers nomination is a huge hoax--the joke's on the democrats. This woman is awful.

There is no question in my mind that Miers' chief qualification for this a S.Ct seat is loyalty to Bush. And what that means is that she will be the fifth vote on the court to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

She's not a genius--she's a hack--as Charles Krauthammer, explained it: "The issue is not the venue of Miers's constitutional scholarship, experience and engagement. The issue is their nonexistence." And that fact makes it easier for her to engage in conservative activism unconstrained by constitutional analysis. In other words I predict she will become the most partisan judge reasoning toward a predetermined political end.

And as I said above, don't be fooled by the old paper trail...Miers' church states on its website that it believes in biblical inerrancy, full immersion baptism, original sin and salvation dependent entirely upon accepting Jesus Christ. Everyone else is going to hell. And without any sense of a countervailing judicial philosophy, That's a scary place from which to reason.


Let's duke it out...

Having done the best I can to restore the comments allow me to respond briefly:

To Karl, who wrote that "I find your opinion of her religious faith to be rather shallow & bigoted. Your central theme that "she, like him has been born again, and the only lens through which to view her is that one" is akin to saying that jews & catholics shouldn't serve either because they would view the world through only that lens." I say this: First, I'm glad the people of deep faith are public defenders--the relationship between the religious precepts of the evangelical community and the ethical precepts of public defender community interests me greatly. I don't seek to condemn Ms. Miers on the basis of her faith, but I do think that the fact of her faith is more predictive of her judicial philosophy than some articles she wrote before that life change. I think to believe otherwise is foolish, if not, in a Supreme Court nominee, dangerous.

As for Tom, who wrote that "Maybe they're just more ethical than you defense lawyers. After all, your "ethical duty" is to represent clients zealously. Theirs is to do justice. It's very tempting for a defense lawyer to act like a sleaze mistaking it for "zeal." Speaking of misplaced zeal, I'd say you overlook the entirely reasonable view that the numbers you cite actually show that prosecutors are just more ethical as a group."

To Tom, I say--nonsense. The reality is, that everyone protects prosecutors whereas defense attorneys have their representation of clients picked apart on a daily basis in postconviction ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Even on direct appeal a DA's courtroom conduct is not subject to that much scrutiny. One reader who e-mailed me privately did a better job of this than I can, taking a small sample from a small corner of the country as an exemplar. That reader pointed out that the fact that DA's almost always skate with little or no punishment doesn't mean that prosecutors are more ethical nor that prosecutorial misconduct isn't rampant. They're not, It is. Just a few examples from Wisconsin

1. A former DA in Kenosha County was known for "pushing the envelope" in order to do justice. In State v. Copening, slip op. Case No. 79-246-CR (Jan. 10, 1980), 1980 WL 99266, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed a criminal conviction, in part, because of prosecutorial overreaching by DA Zapf. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court reversed us at 100 Wis.2d 700, 303 N.W.2d 821 (1981); although they did admonish him. In Disciplinary Proceedings Against Zapf, 126 Wis.2d 123, 375 N.W.2d 654(1985), the Supreme Court publically reprimanded him for unprofessional conduct.

2. In Re Paulus, 2004 WI 71, 272 Wis.2d 143, 682 N.W.2d 326, was a voluntary surrender of a license because Paulus entered a"... guilty plea to a federal count of accepting bribes totaling approximately $48,050 while holding the office of Winnebago County District Attorney, in exchange for benefits to defendants, including the dismissal or reduction of charges, return of seized property, and a request that another District Attorney give lenient treatment to a defendant and an additional federal count of filing a 1999 Form 1040 income tax return on which Paulus knowingly underreported his income for that year." Paulus ran for Attorney General in 2004 and is now in the federal pen.

3. In State v. Lettice, 205 Wis.2d 347, 556 N.W.2d 376 (Ct. App. 1996), the Court of Appeals affirmed an order granting the defendant a new trial because DA "...Lucarelli had filed the criminal charge either to disqualify defense counsel or to delay the jury trial scheduled to begin the following business day and by doing so had engaged in 'intentional misconduct'". But in In Re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Lucarelli, 2000 WI 55, 235 Wis.2d 557, 611 N.W.2d 754, the Supreme Court got wet feet, "We adopt the referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law that the Board failed to establish by clear and satisfactory evidence that Attorney Lucareli filed a criminal charge knowing it was not supported by probable cause. We also accept the referee's recommendation that this proceeding be dismissed without costs to either party."

4. In Disciplinary Proceedings Against Blask, 216 Wis.2d 129, 573 N.W.2d 835 (1998) there was a public reprimand of a DA but it was not for prosecutorial misconduct. Rather he was disciplined for physical altercations including, "On February 8, 1996, following a high school basketball game he attended in Merrill, then District Attorney Blask approached one of the game's referees and expressed significant displeasure with his officiating. District Attorney Blask shoved or pushed the referee into a wall near the door of the locker room, and the referee then went into the locker room."

5. Another public reprimand was issued in Disciplinary Proceedings Against Goetz, 213 Wis.2d 494, 570 N.W.2d 726 (1997), "We determine that the referee properly concluded that Attorney Goetz engaged in professional misconduct by his actions in these matters. We also determine that the nature and seriousness of that misconduct warrant imposition of the public reprimand recommended by the referee. Attorney Goetz's misrepresentation of his identity in order to have his views concerning a public official published in a newspaper and his subsequent use of his public office to deter inquiry into that misrepresentation constitute serious breaches of his professional obligations as a person licensed to represent others and as an officer of the justice system."

And this doesn't even begin to include the private reprimands--the lighter punishment that DA's usually skate with.

Technical Glitch and Apology...

As some of you noticed, I tried to switch to Haloscan yesterday. As it turns out, I don't like it. It wiped out the comments and despite my desire to add trackback, didn't allow e-mail notifications of comments. So I've switched back.

Sadly, this wiped out a number of comments left in the last few days. I'm going to try to post them where they were but you may notice some strange formatting. I am not trying to wipe them out--not even the ones concerning my bigotry...

More soon.

Wake up!

Ok, I wasn't going to weigh in on this, but I keep getting these insane hopeful notes from colleagues who seem to believe that Bush's new nominee to the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers is a centrist.



The faux republican outrage is staged. This woman is a dangerous stealth candidate. She was chosen precisely because her paper trail is misleading. She is a friend of the presidents. He knows her views and he knows too that she is going to implement a radical right-wing agenda. What she wrote in the 90's and early 90's makes no difference--just like Bush's draft dodging and alcohol abuse. She, like him has been born again, and the only lens through which to view her is that one. It's why the republicans will absolutely refuse to release any recent writings.

Harriet Miers is going to be disastrous choice.


In Unprecedented Move, an Ex-Prosecutor Gets Suspended for Lying

Tom Perrotta, (a fantastic reporter) has a piece in today's New York Law Journal about a scummy ex prosecutor who has finally been suspended from practicing law for three years. It turns out that he lied to a judge about the whereabouts of a potentially exculpatory witness. The ADA, a guy named CLAUDE STEWART told Queens Supreme Court Justice Jaime A. Rios that he did not know the whereabouts of a woman whose testimony might have contradicted the account of a key witness in a murder case. Four days earlier, however, Stuart and two detectives interviewed the woman at her job.

Now thank heavens this guy's been suspended from the practice of law. He is a blight on our system of justice, if sadly an all-too-common one. But here's where the story gets really interesting.

I've blogged before about how prosecutors believe themselves to be beyond reproach and above the law, and here's why. As Perrotta explains: "Two ethics experts said they could not recall the last time an attorney had been either suspended or disbarred in New York State for misconduct while working as a prosecutor.

"I don't know the last time this has happened," said Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace Law School and the author of "Prosecutorial Misconduct," a treatise. "It's startling to hear about that."

Barry Kamins, a partner at Flamhaft Levy Kamins & Hirsch and the former chair of the disciplinary committee for the 2nd and 11th Judicial Districts, said he did not know of a suspension or disbarment of a prosecutor in the last 20 years.

"On occasion there may have been a letter of caution issued to a prosecutor, but I cannot recall an assistant district attorney ever being suspended or disbarred in this state for misconduct," said Kamins, who chaired the committee from 1994 to 1998."

"Prosecutors have long been less likely to receive serious punishment from disciplinary committees, something that defense attorneys have complained has as much to do with politics as ethics. Gershman noted that investigating prosecutorial misconduct is often difficult. He added that defense attorneys are often reluctant to report prosecutors to disciplinary committees, as they work with them on a regular basis and need to maintain a good reputation for the purpose of plea bargains. "

And you wonder why the horrors continue?

More Sick Ric

Well well well...
My post about judge

Sick Ric Howard has provoked much commentary and some outrage on both sides of the issue. While several regular readers have weighed in with disgust at what Sick Ric did, "Anonymous" (care to sign on the dotted line next time?) in a vitriol laden rant complains that:

"By the way, whether the victims were intoxicated is irrelevant, unless it somehow made the defendant's conduct NOT reckless, right? And why is it important to you that the victims were white? If you're gonna accuse the judge, who you don't even know, of racism, why not have the balls to just do it instead of being a slimemeister?"

Well Anny, actually intoxication does make a difference--you see either driver can act to avoid an accident, the fact that the drunk (and likely coked-up) decedent barreled right into Mr. Thorton's car when he might have avoided it had he not been drunk does actually make a difference as does the fact that had the decedents been wearing seatbelts they might well not Also--Anny, you might consider that the stop sign was by all accounts poorly marked and located just past the crest of a hill--and that subsequent to the accident the county installed a sign warning of the stop ahead.

Finally, you're obviously unfamiliar with my anatomy (something, I should note that pleases me). If your reading comprehension was such that you thought I was avoiding calling the judge racist, I suggest you re-read the post or take a short course in irony and sarcasm. But just to spell it out for you: Judge Sick Ric Howard is a racist. I don't need to know someone personally to know that when they invoke sentencing a defendant's father (remember that little concept of relevancy you were tossing around?) before imposing a 30 year sentence AND the they sentenced a white guy named Richard Lee Buzby, 28, (who was in exactly the same position as Mr. Thornton) to one year in jail in 2004 after he pleaded guilty to killing two people in a 1999 car crash, well, then you're a racist.

Sick Ric

So what do you do when a young black kid who is speeding slightly, accidently rolls a few feet past a poorly marked stop sign at a rural intersection colliding with another speeding car driven by a drunk white kid with cocaine in his system?

Judge "Sick" Rick Howard

Well given that the white kids weren't wearing their seat belts, they died. So the obvious answer is--charge the black kid with vehicular manslaughter. After all, he's a good student, has no criminal record and works 35 hours a week washing trucks at a truck stop.

But then what to do when the state Department of Corrections, after investigating the case, recommended that the young black kid be sentenced to two years of community control followed by two years of probation?

Oh easy. Give him the maximum sentence--30 years, and order the kid (whose name is William Thornton IV) to serve it in an adult facility. And that's exactly what Circuit Judge Ric Howard did. But not before announcing to all assembled that he'd sentenced the kid's father to prison too.

Howard shouldn't be on the bench. This kind of reprehensible vindictive grandstanding shouldn't be tolerated. "Judge" Howard aught to be ashamed of himself.

Like so many other callous judges who care only for tough on crime headlines, he's thrown away another life--for no reason, costing the state a million dollars or so along the way. Shame shame shame.


Denver Jail So Crowded they're considering tents...

The two jails Wednesday were more than 50 percent over capacity, housing 2,583 inmates in facilities designed for 1,672. The population also exceeds initial limits for the new $378 million justice center that won't be complete until 2009.


Death is not different.

Back in 2002, I published an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled "Fatal Flaws In The Justice System" in which I argued that we weren't paying enough attention to lifers. That the death penalty debate was causing us to ignore the far more rampant problem of overincarceration. Back then I said:

"from inside the criminal justice system, the whole debate about the death penalty can sometimes seem like a distraction. The reality is that for every person on death row, there are many more who will die before completing their sentences. They will die alone in their cells or in the prison yard. They will die from jailhouse violence or natural causes hastened by stressful conditions and substandard medical care.

The main causes of these virtual death sentences are three-strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentencing. Because of them, more and more people receive prison terms of 20 or 30 years or life with no chance of parole. In California, there are inmates serving life sentences for petty theft, receiving stolen property or possession of marijuana for sale. All over this country governments are spending more and more money on aging inmates - creating entire geriatric wards for prisoners no longer able to walk or talk, let alone maim or kill.

Long sentences are not rare. The next case I am likely to take to trial carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life. Why? Because my client is charged with possessing more than four ounces of cocaine. Just about every public defender I know has a horror story about a client who was the victim of a long mandatory sentence. Almost no one else remembers these prisoners. They do not face the needle or the electric chair, so there is no debate about them."

Well it's only been three years, but today, the reporting side of the Times has published a long article which totally validates the point I made then. In it, Adam Liptak notes that:

A survey by The New York Times found that about 132,000 of the nation's prisoners, or almost 1 in 10, are serving life sentences. The number of lifers has almost doubled in the last decade, far outpacing the overall growth in the prison population. Of those lifers sentenced between 1988 and 2001, about a third are serving time for sentences other than murder, including burglary and drug crimes.

Growth has been especially sharp among lifers with the words "without parole" appended to their sentences. In 1993, the Times survey found, about 20 percent of all lifers had no chance of parole. Last year, the number rose to 28 percent.

The phenomenon is in some ways an artifact of the death penalty. Opponents of capital punishment have promoted life sentences as an alternative to execution. And as the nation's enthusiasm for the death penalty wanes amid restrictive Supreme Court rulings and a spate of death row exonerations, more states are turning to life sentences."

I'm pleased to see that this important point is finally getting some more ink. It's high time that we paid a bit more attention to the systemic issues in our system, not just those that conveniently tug at our heartstrings.