Good Review and Blawg-a-versary...

So today marks two years of blogging.
658 posts so far.

Happy Blawg-a-versary to me...

With only four days to go until the official publication of "Indefensible" a few reviews are starting to trickle in. Not surprisingly, the online world is leading the way. Here is the first one I know of outside the trades: BookLoons Reviews - Indefensible by David Feige.

I'm heading to Maine for a lecture early thursday and then coming back to the city and keeping my fingers crossed that all this crazy PR nonsense will have some effect on book sales. I guess we'll see.


Let the fun begin...

With 5 days to go before publication, the two big pre-publication pieces are out: Yesterday, The New York Daily News - Crime File - ran a full page piece calledAnd justice for all? Not exactly, and today, New York Magazine files this "Q&A With Indefensible Author David Feige". Hopefully, they'll stir up some interest as we hurtle toward publication, but who knows.


Why Part of Corporate America Hates Amnesty...

In this midst of the great immigration debate, it makes sense to pause for a moment to consider some the interests arrayed against relaxed enforcement of our labyrinthine immigration policies. Who, after all, stands to benefit from stepped up enforcement? How about the Prison-Industrial complex and it's web of for-profit prison companies like the Corrections Corporation of America?

A Friendly CCA Facility...

In the grotesque calculus of the CCA world-view, more enforcement means more detention and more detention means more money. And, thanks to increasingly draconian policies enacted by the Bush administration which seek to detain more and more foreigners despite studies that show that almost 90 percent of those released to non-for-profit organizations (rather than being detained) actually show up for their hearings, CCA is likely to get it's windfall.

Right now, despite the fact that we continue to incarcerate people at an ever expanding rate, CCA has about 5,000 beds available. To fill them, they are aggressively bidding for a contracts to house 1,200 non-citizens in criminal cases, a 2,800 incarcerated guests of the US marshall's service and several others.

According to Getahn Ward a writer for the Tennesssean, "CCA generates nearly 40% of its annual revenue from federal contracts — 16% from the Bureau of Prisons, 15% from the U.S. Marshal Service and 8% from ICE. CCA's ties with ICE date back to the company's early days in 1983, when it was hired to build and run the Houston Processing Center for the agency that was then called INS.

Last year, the company housed 1,200 ICE inmates who had to be moved out of Florida because of Hurricane Wilma.
"They're our largest single customer with needs south of the border," said Damon Hininger, vice president of federal customer relations at CCA. "With all the national emphasis on enforcement on the Southwest border and more resources available for patrol, that's going to have direct correlation with the need for detention."

Quick George, shovel some more bodies into the system, the shareholders are getting anxious.


The Countdown...

So there's just 8 days left before my book is officially published and I'm firmly entrenched in what my friend Mark Katz calls "the calm before the calm." So what, one might wonder does an author do in the days leading up to publication? Well, let's see--today I bought some heirloom tomato plants and transplanted them. I read a bit, checked my Amazon rankings half a dozen times and generally pondered the question of what else there was to do short of standing on my balcony and screaming that might get word of the book around.

Of course while I sit around in a narcissistic haze, things are going on the world. In Central Illinois, the Galesburg Mail His the excellent headline"Public Defender May Get Pay Raise" I love that even the prospect of paying a PD a bit more makes headlines. And of course down south In other news a judge in Louisiana has finally said "enough is enough" and ordered the release of inmates who have been denied legal representation.

So while I twist in the temperamental winds of public opinion (or worse public invisibility), the people who are actually doing the work and fighting the good fight battle on. Hat tip to all of them.


Time to say it...

So here's what's been rankling me about this whole Duke case: Lets' leave aside the increasingly obvious fact that these kids are downright innocent (One begins to wonder when those dear militant prosecutors who have been making excuses for this self proclaimed "victim" all these months will find the courage to just go on national TV and apologize). And lets' ignore all the other stuff for now, and instead, let us collectively consider what would have happened had these rich privileged white kids been poor (not even black--just poor).

Well most importantly, they'd be in jail. Every one of them. There is no way that a poor kid could have posted the $400,000.00 bail that has been set in the case. And there's the rub. Without money, forget winning the media war, what you'd have is Innocent kids sitting in jail for crimes they didn't commit. No one bothers to mention the tragedy of pre-trial detention but that is what, in the end, it all comes down to. The rich kids watch from the galleries, the poor ones from the jail cells.

And there's the rub. Right there is what's wrong with our criminal justice system.


Austin, We have a problem...

Spent all day traveling to Austin Texas where tomorrow I'll give a little lunch time talk for the American Constitution Society. Sadly there wasn't a non-stop flight to I had to fly via Cincinnati, a town that has earned my enmity by having a Wi-Fi Free airport rather than a free Wi-Fi airport...

So after a long day of travel, and a long line at the rental car place, I finally arrived in the bluest of red-state counties and promptly heading out of town for some excellent beef and pork at the The County Line BBQ (menu here) And, with a belly full of some pretty damn fine ribs and brisket, I made my way to my hotel. But even there calm evaded me. I dropped my bags, fired up the computer and promptly spent nearly an hour on the line with Tech Support in an ill-fated effort to get online. Eventually, now on the verge of having a phone or modem throwing fit a la some Aussie actor, I called down and just said, "look, you just have to move me to a room where the wire is live. I don't care what tech support says anymore, there is something wrong with the service in the room..."

Skepticism from the front desk, but mercifully generosity too. Someone was dispatched to my room with a new room key, I moved into said new room and voila, internet, blogging, e-mail, all the comforts of the rootless cosmoplite's proto-home.

Tomorrow, a disquisition on media and criminal justice. Thereafter some thoughts for this blog on the real scandal of the Duke case. But tonight, some much needed sleep.


Crazy Busy...

It's amazing how much time I can chew up doing very little. I think PR stuff often feels that way--a lot of hope and e-mail--not a lot of results. That being said, it's looking like the book will get a few nice notices. Obviously, I'll link to them from here whenever I can.

Meanwhile, the beloved blogosphere is already making me happy and assuaging my anxiety. Huge thanks are already in order for PD Stuff, Capital Defense Weekly and, (weighing in hilariously) Skelly at Arbitrary and Capricious. Thanks so much guys! I really appreciate it.

And while I'm sitting on my ass fretting about book PR, things I did a while ago which have a way longer shelf life than I anticipated keep popping up to give me the illusion that things are happening even though I'm doing nothing. The latest in that string:

The inclusion of an old radio piece I did about my dad in a new NPR CD called "Driveway Moments for Dads"

You can listen to a snippet of it here.

Quoth Moi...

My latest pontifications on the Duke rape case can be foundhere.


"A preference for finality" or just "Evil"?

Jim Dywer of the NYT reports on another DNA exoneration:

This guy:
Was charged with a murder that this guy: actually committed.

But what I love about this piece is that it makes clear that prosecutors OPPOSED the DNA testing that eventually exonerated this guy and that the judge--one Francis A. Affronti refused to order it. Shame on both of them.

Here's an excerpt:

"For more than a decade, prosecutors in Rochester have maintained that the words of Douglas Arthur Warney — a man with a history of delusions, an eighth-grade education and advanced AIDS — proved that he had stabbed a prominent community activist to death.

Mr. Warney, they said, told a detective details only the killer could know: that the victim was wearing a nightgown and had been cooking chicken in a pot, and that the murderer used a 12-inch serrated knife, shedding some of his own blood in the frenzied stabbing, on New Year's Day 1996.

Charged initially with capital murder, which carried the possibility of a death sentence, Mr. Warney, who has been behind bars since January 1996, was ultimately convicted of second-degree homicide and sentenced to 25 years. He was not expected to live that long because of poor health.

Today, however, Mr. Warney is due to appear in a Rochester courtroom — he uses a wheelchair — and prosecutors have agreed that his conviction should be dismissed. A series of DNA tests, which prosecutors at first tried to block, have linked blood found at the scene to another man, who is in prison for a different killing and three other stabbings.

The district attorney's office opposed the testing, and the judge, Francis A. Affronti, ruled in 2004 that the possibility the blood might match that of a criminal already in the state databank was "too speculative and improbable" to warrant the tests."


How they really think

This article from Fremont, Nebraska's Community Newspaper provides some great insight into how communities and governments think about indigent defense work. Dodge county Nebraska, it seems is considering a public defender system. Why? Just one reason: Cost.

Here are a few quotes from the article:

"In most cases, more-experienced attorneys can predict the outcome, provide “damage control” and work out plea bargains that are fair to everyone."

Huh? fair to everyone? that's what they're looking for in a defender....

“There's a possibility that we'll work out maximum fees for average cases,” he said, adding that extenuating circumstances would be considered. “We can maybe have a peer review committee (for bills that are viewed as too high).”

As a taxpayer, Holtorf said even though he would like to see the court-appointed system continue, it's the county's best interest that needs to be considered.

“If (a public defender's office) can save the county money, it could be the appropriate decision,” Holtorf said.


Ray v. Wachtler

This time a different kind of celebrity stalker:

Robert Ray, pursuer of former president Bill Clinton was arrested yesterday for stalking a woman named Tracy Loughlin,

(I believe that's her on the left)

It seems that Ms. Loughlin didn't want Mr. Robert Ray, pursuer of President Clinton around anymore. "She tried to end it four months ago" someone told the New York Post, but Mr. Ray just couldn't seem to control himself--those urges, his urges-- to see her, be near her, smell again the sweet perfume of...her. Well it was just too much for old Bobby. "He kept calling her, sending her e-mails and showing up at places he knew she would be."

Robert Ray surrendered to cops last night and was charged with fourth-degree stalking.

Of course, rather than go through the system and spend a night in jail like almost everyone else, Mr. Ray was given a desk-appearance ticket and freed.

Here's the rub: Ray, a rich republican who stalked some PR chick is going to be let go with a non-criminal conviction and no jail time. I guarantee it. He's walking. But as this case unfolds, I urge you all to remember what happened to Sol Wactler, the esteemed former chief judge of New York's highest court. He too was charged with stalking--in his case a woman named Joy Silverman. But he (a republican judge turned liberal champion) was prosecuted by the feds, arrested in a sting that involved dozens of agents and ultimately sentenced to a substantial period of incarceration.

Talk about arbitrary and capricious...


The PW Review

Sure I 'd like to gloat about how one of the Clinton prosecutors just got arrested, and sure I'd love to discuss the difference in a state vs. a federal prosecution, but...

I just found the link to the Publisher's Weekly review of


What are they thinking?

So I get this e-mail from the Center for Court innovation today. They're a very well-funded very official arm of the Unified Court System of the State of New York. Very serious business.

And they've started a blog.

And they very sweetly asked me to take a look.

Now the last thing I want to do is piss on parades or denigrate other nice people looking to do good work, but they had to have anticipated that this really wasn't up my alley. CCI, after all is devoted to problem solving courts and I'm, well, not a big fan.

But being sporting, and having too much time on my hands this week (see posts below to get a sense of the crap filling my days) I decided to take a look.

And right there, embedded in one of the first postings is the fundamental problem with CCI and the criminal justice system in general. It's the essential divide between us.

Here's the post (slightly shortened at ellipses)

Inside a Social Service Class

"I was selling cigarettes on the street."

"I got into a fight with my sister."

"The police found weed in my car."

It's Friday afternoon, and the 12 participants in the Bronx Community Solutions social service class are describing the arrest that brought them into our program...

"How many of you believe that your behavior and choices had a role to play in your arrest?" Maria (who's teaching the class) asks. Eight hands shoot up. "Big time," one adds.

Maria zones in on one young man who hasn't raised his hand, the one who earlier talked about his marijuana use. He's a harder case - he's convinced he was set up by someone in the neighborhood and that his smoking is not a problem.

"Have any of your friends or family asked you to stop smoking?" Maria asks.

He thinks for a moment. "I've had girlfriends tell me I'm a different person after I smoke," he admits.

"Anyone else?"

"Yeah, my mother."

He's starting to sweat. His pose of cool indifference is beginning to wear a little thin...

After the class is over, about half of the participants stay to speak with Maria. Three sign up for a job training program. The older man who spoke earlier tells Maria his Medicaid has expired and he needs help replacing his inhaler. He'll go back with Maria to her office, where she'll call her contact with the Department of Health...

That's how we measure success with a social service class - how many people stick around after the class is over to ask for help. We don't know how many will follow up, but it's a start.

posted by Aubrey Fox, Project Director at 11:53 AM on Apr 21 2006

Ok. Seems like a sweet post, detailing a lovely caring woman conducting a kindly court-mandated class. But this is what makes me crazy is hiding in plain sight in the very first sentence:

Can you tell me why, in a community with an unemployment rate like there is in the Bronx we are arresting people for "selling cigarettes on the street."? I've seen hundreds of those sorts of cases (along with a guy arrested for selling cookies, and another arrested for selling icys.

Moreover why is it that such a person need a "program" of any sort particularly one which seeks to assert individual responsibility?

The post, happily says that hands shot up when they asked ""How many of you believe that your behavior and choices had a role to play in your arrest?"

But why is that the question?

Sure selling cigs on the street caused that arrest. But why aren't we asking the larger questions? Questions like why are our criminal justice priorities arresting them rather than big time mob smugglers, or corporate tax evaders who cost us thousands of dollars for every penny the cig seller makes?

The honest answer is that they are sitting in that crappy little room enduring this court mandated "solution" because OUR behavior and our choices put them there. Our bad criminal justice choices and terrible policing policies.

I am truly pathetic...

And so pathetically proud:

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #2,816

I love my friends...

My book is finally here--printed and bound and finished. And though they changed the color of the text (which I hate). There is, at long last a book.

Being in a festive mood, I sent out a link to a bunch of my friends. And, well, I just know some really great people all of whom jumped on Amazon and ordered the book, propelling me on an Amazon ranking rampage all the way up to 5,634. Ah the pathetic things that make authors happy.

Sure to infuriate...

The times has a great piece on corporate travel. It starts with this gem: "Richard D. Parsons, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, owns a small vineyard in Tuscany that produces a Brunello di Montalcino selling for $80 a bottle, adorned with a crest of the Parsons family. Twice a year, he boards one of his company's four jets to visit his 20 acres in Italy. When he does, Time Warner shareholders pick up the bill."

How much might that cost?

" The actual cost to Time Warner of Mr. Parsons's round trip to Italy might be anywhere from $60,000 to $170,000, according to Conklin & de Decker Aviation Information, an aviation research and consulting company. Previously, the company could write off the full cost, for a tax savings of up to $42,500, assuming a 25 percent corporate tax rate. No longer."

Let's bear in mind these are already people making tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars. Is it so unreasonable to ask them to pay for their own personal travel?


Witness Intimidation...

The AP reports that A federal judge told prosecutors to call off the "attack dog" and wait until after John A. Gotti's third racketeering trial is over to force his brother and a close friend to testify before a grand jury.


In a hearing today, Judge Scheindlin closely questioned the prosecutor, Victor Hou, about whether he thought it was appropriate for agents serving subpoenas to make certain comments while serving the subpoenas...

" 'You can thank John Gotti for this,' " Judge Scheindlin echoed. "Do you defend that?"

Mr. Hou responded that he thought it was an "intemperate" thing to say, but probably not illegal.

Judge Scheindlin was skeptical. "Saying to the witness, you know who to blame for this," she insisted. "Whoo! That's almost the government sending out, as I said, an attack dog."

Today's hearing was to consider arguments from Mr. Gotti's lawyers that the government should not be allowed to subpoena people who testified in his defense in his last trial. Mr. Gotti's lawyers contend that the government has issued such subpoenas not in a legitimate search for information that could lead to criminal prosecution, but out of a desire to intimidate Mr. Gotti's witnesses.

His younger brother, Peter, and a close friend, Steven Dobies, have been served with subpoenas to testify before a grand jury, the defense said.

For Shame...

This guy gives us all a bad name:

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission says James Casson charged a defendant's family three-thousand dollars for work that should have been done for free.The A-R-D-C says Casson told the relatives he would spend more time on the case if they paid him the money. Casson allegedly received a check for the amount but relatives stopped payment before he could cash it.Casson is accused of being dishonest and violating several state rules.He is a private attorney who is paid more than 56-thousand dollars a year to represent criminal defendants as Livingston Countys part-time public defender."


Moussaoui Lives, I'm killed...

The outstanding verdict for Moussaoui means no TV for me tonight. Consider me happily preempted.

TV Tonight...

Strange that everyone seems to want me to talk about innocent rich white kids when I've spent my career defending (proudly) poor generally black and frequently guilty kids... Anyway, I'm on Catherine Crier at 5:00 p.m tonight on court tv and then after dinner, on Rita Cosby on MSNBC at 10.

Prosecutorial Pandering Prevails


If there were any doubt before, the election of Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong proves conclusively that pandering works, and that it works even better if you can exploit racial divisions to harm rather than heal. Nifong, of course is the prosecutor who has been hounding the Duke University lacrosse team despite mounting evidence that the case is actually another Tawana Brawley debacle. Ignoring an airtight alibi, persuasive photographic and documentary evidence and the absence of DNA, Nifong has continued to pursue a case he should have dropped before the complainant's criminal record, alcohol issues and prior claims of being gang-raped came to light. He didn't of course, because in a three way election in a community that is nearly 40 percent African American, he decided that hounding defendants was politically expedient. Sadly, it seems he was right about that.

The truth is that the Duke case, better than most any other one in recent memory illustrates in stark relief how political the criminal justice system has become and how the politics of prosecution have supplanted the quest for justice in courts around the country. It's sad, of course, that it takes the misalliance of innocent privileged white kids to be lined up against a shaky african american complainant to make this case so appealing to the general public. But it would be a terrible tragedy if the public went away without understanding the larger lesson here: that while dramatic, this isn't an isolated incident--it is standard operating procedure in a system whose ire is normally pointed at poor black kids, not privileged white ones. The Duke case merely illustrates just how hard it is for anyone--black or white to get a fair shake in the criminal justice system, once an accusation has been made.

Of course, because of the racial makeup of the case, there will be a tendency to see this as an isolated case to be understood in it's own term rather than as an object lesson in criminal justice. White people would be wise to look beyond the guilt or innocence of these defendants and understand just how often poor black defendants are treated just as badly or worse in our system of justice, and black people might take a moment to question the wisdom of lining up behind the same prosecutors who are driving a racially unbalanced criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates their children.


My latest Slate Piece...

I have another piece up on Slate. This one is about The politics of prosecution in the Duke case

I don't follow that law...

The Boston Globe has a fantastic article detailing the fact that Bush believes he only has to obey certain laws--not all of them.

They report: "President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research."

This is a must read.

Meanwhile, the money quote from Steven Colbert at the White House Correspondent's dinner: "Your low approval ratings are based on reality and reality has a well known liberal bias"