Go Granny!

The Granny Peace Brigade..

It's not easy to find heroes these days--particularly political ones. Looking across the landscape of the left, there remain a few skilled rhetoriticians, an awkward academic or two, and of course our aging rock star of an ex-president. And then there are the grannies.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that in the most moving political trial of the last several years, the average age was somewhere north of 70. The "grannies" among them 91 year old, Marie Runyon were handcuffed and arrested by the New York City Police department after they went on down to the Times Square army recruitment station to try to enlist. Basically, they wanted to trade their lives for those of some young soldiers. A heroic act no doubt, and good theatre too. But criminal? According to Robert Morganthau, the 87 year old district attorney of New York county, the answer seemed to be yes. And thus unfolded one of the more wonderful show trials in memory.

In New York, among the many ways to be guilty of Disorderly Conduct, a person can, "with the intent to cause public inconvenience annoyance or alarm" either "obstruct vehicular or pedestrian traffic" or" congregate with other persons in a public place and refuse to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse." Given the broad nature of the statues, it's no wonder the police and prosecutors use it all the time. And so, during the six day non-jury trial, that's exactly what the prosecution sought to prove.

The defense, by contrast did what defense lawyers have done for ages in political trials--they shifted the paradigm. One by one, the women--some aided by canes, one legally blind, another supported by a walker took the stand to testify to what Earl Ward, a skilled lawyer (and full disclosure: a board member of The Bronx Defenders--a public defender office in the South Bronx where I was once Trial Chief) called "their credentials".

Those credentials: a passionate commitment to free speech and protest, heartfelt horror at the war in Iraq, and, perhaps most importantly, ages closer to a centurion than an infant and the production of a gaggle of children and grandchildren. One after another, over six days, eighteen of these women, facing down prosecutors less than half their age, took the stand and defiantly delivered their message: this war has got to stop.

And in the end when it came time to deliver his verdict Judge Neil Ross did precisely what he should have done. He acquitted every single one of the grannies. He didn't do it because of their message, and he didn't do it because of their ages--he took pains to make that perfectly clear. He acquitted them because, well, it seemed that they hadn't actually committed a crime. As it turns out, the only people looking to enlist in Times Square that jaunty afternoon were a bunch of grannies who were barred from even entering the enlistment office. So as it turns out, they hadn't really obstructed anything at all. Moreover, the group of grannies was so porus that they hadn't actually blocked anyone or obstructed any traffic, vehicular, pedestrian, seeing-eye dog or other. All of which begs the question: Why were 18 grandmothers handcuffed and arrested at all?

The answer is that in this day and age--with a news blackout on photos of war dead and coffins, with "free speech zones" located miles from the events people want to protest, and with an increasingly militaristic police force ever less tolerant of dissent, peaceful protests large and small are being reacted to with more an more draconian force.

The squelching of dissent isn't just a problem for the young pierced anti-globalization radicals anymore. It's a problem for us all.

Thank god we have the grannies to remind us how far we've fallen.

Good News for the Guru of Ganja | The Huffington Post

So here it is: My first Huffington Post I actually think this'll be fun.

This one is about Ed Rosenthal.

And it begins:
Ed Rosenthal, the Guru of Ganja, has good reason to fear the feds. It was the Feds after all, pursuing a strangely anti-federalist agenda, that slapped the handcuffs on Mr. Rosenthal and charged him with growing marijuana, and it was the feds that brought and won a case in the United States Supreme Court which affirmed their right to charge and prosecute weed growers and users in states that have passed laws or constitutional ammedments allowing the cultivation and use of marijuana for medical purposes. And, of course it was the feds that tried and convicted Rosenthal back in 2003 and sought to have him imprisoned for several years.

Just clickhere to read the rest.


Huffing and Puffing...

Starting tomorrow, I'll be contributing to the Huffington Post Not quite sure how often or on what topics, but rest assured, there will be links here to my spoutings there...


See my star...

So my "starred" review is finally posted on Kirkus.

And here is what it says...

"A veteran public-defense lawyer offers candid insight into what he characterizes as a pervasively brutal and capricious criminal justice system.

Feige, a Court TV talking head and former Trial Chief of the Bronx Defenders knows his way around that New York Borough's notorious criminal courthouse. There he represented the frequently handcuffed, never cufflinked. They were street people, predators from the projects, crack dealers, wife beaters, turnstile jumpers, hustlers and killers. And they were seldom innocent. The author was fond of them all and viewed himself as as their last hope in an incomprehensible judiciary system. He was less happy with vicious assistant district attorneys and he detested judges who often prejudged and punished before hearing either the defense or the prosecution. Feige's text, loosely framed on a representative long work day explains how to use an autopsy report or a rap sheet. He teaches the art of investigation, the mechanics of drug busts and the hard truth that, when the police interrogate the police always win. the author demonstrates the skill required in plea bargaining, in which a price is negotiated for every crime and why "motions practice"--the submission of heaps of paper so assiduously practiced by private white-shoe litigators --is a different matter for the Bronx Defenders who must react quickly to cycle through the constant deluge of cases. And he introduces some of his clients each of whom he fully humanizes, caught in the wheels of the Department of Corrections. Feige will convince readers that whether guilty or innocent--especially innocent--it is always best to plea bargain rather than fight.

A vibrant, smart, authentic story of a special sort of heroics in which one lawyer does the best he can in a dysfunctional system that too often links "miscarriage" with "justice."

So what'ya think?


Mac Genius...

So here’s the Mac Hassle update:
Yesterday afternoon I went to the “Genius Bar” in Soho to have them take a look at my very sad Mac. The first thing I learned was that the Tek Serve Ass (see post below) had utterly misinformed me about whether my machine would power an external monitor (it would). The second thing I learned was that it’s just better to go back to the mothership. Now the truth of the matter is, the Genius (and the Genius in training who was tagging along) both spotted the little dent and both gave me a hard time about it. The difference was, that at the very least at the apple store, they didn’t try to scam me. Still, they insisted that I had to have the entire bottom case replaced and that I’d have to pay for it. This despite the fact that the problem was with the display and the clutches. (See diagram above). Bottom line: DESPITE having apple care, this is going to cost me just over $200.00. And that sucks.

Worse, though, is that it was utterly clear to me that this was a judgment call. If I had walked in looking like Katherine Heigl, I’d be $200 bucks richer.

Katherine Heigl

So not only was I out some cash I shouldn’t have spent, I had the added pain of knowing that my relative impoverishment was completely a function of my charmlessness.

The powerbook will be back in a week.


Down Time...

Good news and bad news: The good news is that I've had an OpEd accepted by the NYT--look for it in the next week or so.
The bad news? Catastrophic computer failure. I came home on thursday, and tried to wake up my powerbook. No dice. I had the gray screen of death.

So I did what good Mac lovers will--I restarted, zapped the pram, fiddled and futzed. Nada. Ok, so I fired up the very old G3 I-Book still running on OS 10.1.5 and barely able to keep up with blogging, writing or much of anything, ported over my e-mail, and headed down to Tekserve. Now despite the questionable reputation, I've had some good experienced with them--I've purchased several computers from them over the years. But yesterday I got this--no other way to describe him--total ass. With a look of disdain worthy of a effeminate concierge he began to catalogue the problems with my powerbook...wear in the casing (I wrote a whole book on the thing for Christ's sakes) a dent here and there... including the one by the DC adaptor which has been there for nearly 2 years and which TekServe itself described as "cosmetic" over a year and a half ago... I have to say, this guy was worse than officious. He was downright scowling and awful--the opposite of what I expect at a Mac place.

So then, to make matters worse, even though he couldn't diagnose my problem, he told me apple care wouldn't cover it and tried to scam me into paying over 400 bucks for repairs he couldn't detail. I was furious. It'd taken nearly 2 hours for this crap.

So Goodbye tekserve. They just lost a longtime customer.

Later today I have an appointment at the Apple Genus bar. I'm hoping they're more decent.

It's strange, I've owned a 512, an SE, a powerbook 100, a 520c a G3 I-book, and two 15 inch TI powerbooks over the years, and now, just as Apple is at it's acme, I'm actually considering abandoning them just on the basis of this bad service.

So pray for that I get a good Genius this afternoon who will restore my faith in the company. I love the Macs, and have both used and pushed them for years. But boy is it easy to piss away a lot of goodwill with one truly awful encounter.


This from The Onion

NAACP Calls For More Diversity In Police Lineups

April 19, 2006 | Issue 42•16

BALTIMORE—The NAACP challenged U.S. law-enforcement agencies Monday to promote diversity by providing a broader spectrum of ethnicities in police lineups. "We must expand the definition of the traditional lineup to include underrepresented groups such as Asians, Pacific Islanders, and whites," NAACP president Bruce Gordon said. "The criminal-justice system ought to offer all Americans the same opportunities blacks have enjoyed for so long."

GOP going down...

For quite some times, I've been chatting with friends about whether the Democrats have a chance to take control of one or both houses of congress in these next mid-term elections. Even with all that's going wring in the Bush white house, I've been hopeful but skeptical. But according to the options traders, this month it's about an even money bet.

Take a look:


No TV Me...

Though I had a lovely time on Catherine Crier's show on Monday, Rita just bumped me (so no MSNC tonight) and Jami's show on Court TV is re-scehduled for monday. Stay tuned!


TV Me...

Strangely, this duke rape case has been very good to me in terms of TV stuff.
All of a sudden the phone is ringing almost daily. And though I've done a bunch of TV over the years, when I was in the Bronx I kept it kind of to a minimum. But tonight, I'm doing Catherine Crier's show, tomorrow Rita Cosby on MSNBC and then Jami Floyd's show "The Best Defense" on Friday.

I've gotta think that eventually this'll be good for the book. And as soon as I can find an online version of that Kirkus review, I'll post it. Meanwhile, I still have to finish wresting with Turbo Tax...


Back to Bobby...

I normally stay away from the salacious, but as you know from postings here and here, I can't really help myself when it comes to the loathsome Jessica Cutler and her foul celebrity.

And so, bowing to my lesser self, I bring you this update on the lawsuit filed against Jessica by Little Bobby Steinbuch (now a professor at William H. Bowen School of Law in Arkansas).

As it turns out, Steinbuch moved to disqualify Jessica’s newly retained counsel, William Bode. Why? Because Steinbuch’s lawyers claim that Bode is, in fact, “W” from Jessica’s Washingtonienne blog. Yes, the same “W” who was into paying Cutler for a bit of butt fucking every now and then.

This from the motion papers:

“W” is the subject of the Blog and discussed in the Blog, inter alia, as follows: ‘W = A suger daddy who wants nothing but anal. Keep on trying to end it with him, but the money is too good…. I am done with W, for real this time. A man who tries to fuck you in the ass when you are sober does not love you. He should at least take you out for a few drinks to spare you the pain."

Oops. Sounds like Jessica was extracting some legal pay-backside. More significantly, not long after the motion was filed, Mr. Bode did in fact withdraw. Prematurely? Who knows.



To go along with my favorite jewish holiday, and my excellent brisket:

A wonderful starred review from Kirkus.

Now though I've seen it, it's not yet posted on their website. So as soon as I have a few minutes to transcribe it, I'll post it. Unlike that last perplexing one from Publisher's Weekly, this one is clearly, happily positive.


Cookin' along...

The brisket's in the oven, my tiny kitchen is overflowing with supplies.
Tomorrow is completely dedicated to cooking.

Also, the book just hit a new high on Amazon--22,763.
Strange that I find that exciting.


Men Suck...

The number of women in prisons in federal prisons has doubled since 1991. One reason for this is the increased prosecution of the wives and girlfriends of men suspected of being drug dealers.

One example is the case of Jessica Carothers from Washington state. In 2004, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents came into her house looking for her boyfriend. He wasn’t there, and he never came back. Ms. Carothers' name wasn’t on the arrest warrant, but DEA agents found meth and a scale in the house and arrested her. Ms. Carothers claimed innocence, but initially pled guilty because her attorney encouraged her to do so by telling her the punishment was house arrest. When she found out that pleading guilty meant several years in prison away from her four year old son, she had a new lawyer who withdrew the plea. The case went to trial, and she was acquitted.

For more, check out this article from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Here come the reviews...

This is so scary...

My first review is in. As is traditional, the trades strike first with Publisher's Weekly weighing in today and Kirkus to follow sometime next week. How did I find this, you might wonder--um, obsessive self googling.

So, without further ado, here it is, the first review of indefensible:

Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey Into the Inferno of American Justice
Feige, David (Author)

ISBN: 031615623X
Little Brown and Company
Published 2006-06
Hardcover, $24.95 (288p)
Biography & Autobiography | Lawyers & Judges; Law | Legal Profession

Reviewed 2006-04-10

This tragicomic exposé is a roller-coaster ride through the world of justice in the South Bronx. Former trial chief of the Bronx Defenders, Feige takes us through a typically harrowing day as a public defender, dealing with arbitrary judges and clients who are often victims of the judicial system. By a combination of skill and stealth, Feige negotiates the best deal he can get for his clients. In Feige's account, the power of judges-many of whom, he says, are political hacks-triumphs over almost everything else. One judge demanded that all Jews be removed from jury selection because they wouldn't be able to be present on Yom Kippur. To keep up with 75-100 cases at a time. Feige "reinvents" the rules so he can race from one court building to another. We follow the fortunes of dozens of cases, from the ridiculous (Michael, jailed for simply walking a friend's unvaccinated dog) to the tragic ( Jaron, charged with stabbing his cousin). But it's the failure of the system to free the innocent that haunts the author. In this dramatic first book, Feige skillfully shares his wisdom and his humanity and sheds light on a justice system that too often works irrationally.(June 3)

Copyright © 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Ok, so I have no idea if this is good or bad. It guess it seems pretty ok, the only thing is, it's not just my failure to free the innocent that haunts me--it's the whole darn system--and if what comes across is that I just care about the innocent, I haven't done my job well at all...

We'll see. Feel free, dear readers to give me your take on this...


Taking your teeth to the cleaners...

The NYT has reported that Federal prosecutors in Washington State tried to remove elaborate customized dental jewelry bonded to the teeth of two accused drug dealers, saying the jewelry was bought with drug money and should be forfeited to the government.

The men were on their way to a dental clinic Tuesday morning when their lawyers learned of the effort, rushed to court and persuaded a judge to halt it.The prosecutors had been granted permission to remove the jewelry in a secret proceeding in the federal court in Tacoma. In a sworn statement dated March 29 and unsealed this week, a federal agent, Brice P. McCracken, told a judge that the two men, Donald L. Lewis and Flenard T. Neal Jr., had used money from selling marijuana and cocaine to buy dental 'status symbols which drug traffickers purchase to portray their status in the criminal community.'Mr. Lewis and Mr. Neal are awaiting trial in Tacoma on drug and gun charges. They have pleaded not guilty. The dental jewelry, known as grills, cost 'from $1,000 to anywhere in excess of $25,000,' Special Agent McCracken wrote, saying he based his assessment in part on research he had conducted on a Web site called"

I love that big bad special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are doing their homework on I love even more that they put their allegedly reliable findings in sworn affidavits. As it turns out, despite his extensive research, McCracken didn't know that the gold he found on the website was actually bonded to the teeth.



Cross a Cop and Watch Out...

Remember my earlier post about the undercover investigation in which a news reporter tried to obtain complaint forms from some south florida police stations? If not, the quick refresher--the reporter was refused complaint reports in 90 percent of the precincts and physically chased out of another.

Sergeant Peter Schumanich the Chaser...

Well, After exposing the images of improper police behavior in the investigative piece, the Florida reporter Mike Kirsch’s found his personal information was being flashed on the Broward Police Benevolent Association website.

Yes indeed--what is normally referred to as a BOLO or Be On The Lookout by police - a bulletin announcing a criminal who is wanted - was being used by the Broward PBA to show Mike Kirsch as a wanted man. The website went on to show Kirsch’s personal driver’s license information.

When CBS4’s attorney’s wrote a letter to the PBA, they took down the BOLO, only to put it back up days later with his personal information such as home address deleted.

This is how these guys think. To really understand what it's actually like to deal with cops, watch this video.

My Night...

I'd had a bit of a glam night. To begin with--a small book party for Matthew Barney (not only a great artist, but as you can see, a hell of a handsome guy too) at Glen Horowitz booksellers, followed by a press dinner at the French Bistro Papillon at 54th, just off 5th.

Papillon is a cool place with nice, reassuring bistro decor--all dark wood and old ceiling fans--and as I sat down for a very tasty Onion Soup, the host swung by. "You know who's here?" He asked me.

The bar was essentially empty except for two or three people. A few other diners were scattered about happily munching on the hearty fare (I kind of wish I'd tried the Croque Monsieur).

"No." I said drolly. I'm rarely really moved by who else is around, and frankly, other than Harrison Ford, I'm unlikely to recognize anyone anyway.

"The Former President." he said.


I looked again. Sure enough.

There was Bill Clinton, having a drink at the bar.

There just aren't that many people who awe me--maybe a small handful, but he's one of them. And so, very uncharacteristically, I actually got up from my seat, went over to him, shook his hand, and thanked him for everything he'd done for us and for the country. He smiled, asked me my name and we chatted for a few seconds, before I demurred, not wanting to take up much of his time, and returned to my seat.

Now in retrospect, I wish I'd said "except of course for criminal justice" prompting a conversation about his CJ policies which in turn led to a discussion of my book, but alas, in the glare of that sort of megawatt celebrity, the mind does blank a bit.

Still, it made for a really cool night.


Couldn't have said it better myself...

This piece by Dahlia Lithwick (my excellent editor at Slate) perfectly captures the absurdity and horror of the Moussaoui verdict.


She writes: "Yet because of Moussaoui's false testimony, the government's nutty conspiracy theory, and the nation's need for closure, Moussaoui's name will be in the history books and the law books for all time; inextricably linked with 9/11, just as it has always been in his dreams."

Very much worth a read.

Also a little News Flash in case you haven't already heard: Delay is going down. He's not seeking re-election!


Kansas City Star Steps Up...

It's not often that a newspaper really steps up on behalf of indigent criminal defendants and their lawyers, but the Kansas City Star did just that. In an editorial yesterday, the star noted: "Missouri must stop starving its public defender system. The state-financed network has received no funding increase for five years. Meanwhile, the number and complexity of cases keep increasing."

The newspaper also properly observed that "Lawmakers have more than doubled the number of “deadly sins” for which convicts must serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentences. They also have decreed longer terms for repeat offenders. More severe penalties demand more work from defense attorneys. Meanwhile, public defenders also must represent indigent defendants in cases as minor as bad checks, if they involve the possibility of prison."

Missouri’s public defenders average 298 cases a year. Because of staffing shortages, they often must take on clerical tasks as well as legal work. The starting salary is $33,792, and the highest pay a lawyer can receive is $52,452. In comparison, first-year associates at some of Missouri’s large law firms command salaries of $90,000 or more a year. In Jackson County, a senior trial lawyer in the prosecutor’s office can earn $90,000.

I've taught and lectured several times at public defender conferences in Missouri, and I can tell you that that there are many wonderful, beautiful people all across that state who are devoted and dedicated to their clients and their craft. They deserve far better than their state is providing--and so do their clients.

A vigorous defense function is a critical element of a fair system. The dedicated public defenders of Missouri should be compensated at least as well as those prosecuting their clients, and their caseloads need to come down to the kinds of manageable levels that allow them to defend their clients in the kind of compassionate, thoughtful way they deserve.


Back in NYC...

It's been a hectic few days: my lecture in Asheville, North Carolina yesterday got delayed an hour causing me to miss the one non-stop back to NYC. Instead, I drove to Greenville/Spartanburg South Carolina, flew to Atlanta and changed there for a flight back to New York. I made it just in time (ok, actually I was really late) for a fantastic fundraiser for the Center for Constitutional Rights which was raising money for the excellent work they've been doing on behalf of the Gitmo detainees.

While there, I managed to see a good number of friends (and, as it turns out a few readers). All in all a wonderful welcome back to my way cool home.

Now that I'm back, I also got to download a few nice pictures from my trip. Most of my faves are simple shots of those glorious morning moments after a snowfall that skiers far more groovy than I call 'fresh tracks'.

shots like this:

The top here is a chute called "lone tree"
and yes, the good looking ones are mine...