April 28, 2005

Keeping priorities straight in Tucson

Now to Arizona, for a story of prosecutorial (or County Attorney-al) intrigue:

Four former Pima County prosecutors are fighting to restore their reputations after they were disciplined for not sharing information about what they knew about the murder of Dr. David Stidham... Their appeal to the county Merit Commission is the first public venue for criminal and civil cases arising from the murder and has sharpened the focus on what the former prosecutors knew from their friend and former prosecutor, Lourdes Lopez, the ex-lover of Dr. Bradley Schwartz, the man accused of hiring a hit man to kill Stidham.

One assistant county attorney was fired, and three others were suspended and later resigned. The one who was fired made out pretty well, though; he moved on to a job in the public defender's office making nearly $10,000 more than what he was getting as a prosecutor.

He'll need the extra money if he plans to keep up with the new chief public defender's dress code, who recently

let his lawyers know that his favorite shirt maker was in town and they could get custom-fitted shirts at a good price. "I like to dress well," (he) said, "but I don't expect people to be a clotheshorse like I am, dress in $1,000 - well, I guess there aren't $1,000 suits anymore."

April 27, 2005

Idaho grand jurors to be questioned about racial bias

In Moscow, Judge Stegner has ruled that members of a grand jury may be questioned about any racial bias they may have had toward the defendants in a perjury case relating to the murder of U of I football player Eric McMillan.

The case revolves around the September killing of Eric McMillan, 19. Brothers Matthew R. Wells II, 27, and James Wells, 25, both of Seattle, have been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy. Six of the witnesses called to testify during the grand jury investigation — most of them part of the Wells family — were later charged with perjury.

The defense argued last month that several statements in the grand jury transcripts suggested jurors may have voted in favor of the indictments because the defendants are black.

Movement on Ephrata teen murderers case

In Grant County in central Washington, murder suspect Jake Eakin is expected to change his not guilty plea and be sentenced Thursday for the 2003 death of 13-year-old Craig Sorger.

Jake Eakin and Evan Savoie, both 14, are accused in the Feb. 15, 2003, killing of Sorger, a special education student who was beaten and stabbed repeatedly.

Eakin is scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning to change his plea and be sentenced.

Attorneys for Savoie filed a motion to dismiss the murder charge against him, set for hearing on May 5.

Check the Columbia Basin Herald later for more information.

Update 4/28/05: He pled to second-degree murder.

"Repression and Denial in Lawyering"

You know that I can be fairly conflicted about my vocation. As the man told the blade runner, "I have seen things you people wouldn't believe...", images of the harm, gory and horrible, that my clients have caused or allowed to be caused to others: their children, their parents, strangers, strangers' children. The images stay after the cases are over, and they accumulate in a place inside.

I'm pretty happy to be in a larger office now, doing few violent crimes, no sex crimes, no child victims. No more murders (inshallah). My caseload these days is almost all crimes against property, "C" and "B" felonies in this state, no "A"'s. All the same, my clients have left their victims afraid and insecure in their own homes. My effort continues to go to lessening the impact of the book as it's thrown at my clients. At the same time, while my people are culpable moral actors, they are humans first, and as scared and sad as they have every right to be. They deserve not to have the book thrown at them as forcefully as the prosecutor or victim might like.

Over time, to stay true to being a p.d., I've used a variety of strategies, most of them "maladaptive" (my wife in particular can tell you how well my "worn out from not feeling the pain and sadness" strategy worked). I'm working on it still. That's why today I was very grateful to have stumbled across this paper by Professor Susan Bandes of DePaul University College of Law.

Criminal defense lawyers are often asked the question, "How can you defend those people?" Yet that question, so framed, has a number of compelling answers and isn't particularly difficult. The more interesting question is: what emotional strategies do attorneys employ in order to zealously defend people accused or convicted of horrific crimes? What is required, and what toll does it take, both professionally and personally? This article examines the first person accounts of several criminal defense lawyers and one prosecutor, and also draws on my own experience as a criminal defense attorney. It finds in these accounts a number of commonalities in the ways in which attorneys use defense mechanisms to assist them in doing their work. It then looks to psychological literature, including clinical descriptions of defense mechanisms such as repression, denial and splitting, and more theoretical accounts of the psychological and moral consequences and benefits of using these mechanisms. It concludes that defense mechanisms are necessary, up to a point, to enable lawyers (both in criminal defense and elsewhere) to do their work, but that the line between the adaptive and maladaptive uses of such mechanisms is easily crossed, both professionally and personally .

I found that reading it helped. You may find it worthwhile too. I think that these are things we need to discuss amongst ourselves if we're going to do this work for a long time.

Update: First, Alaskablawg put this better than I did. Second, the author of this article and I have traded e-mails. She is still researching and teaching on these issues, and would entertain comments from other criminal defense lawyers. Her contact information is included on the same page where you can download her paper: Bandes, Susan, "Repression and Denial in Lawyering".

April 26, 2005

Amoral lawyer, moral lawyer

Thank you to Professor Jack Balkin's blog for carrying Marty Lederman's review of last week's debate on torture with Professor Jeremy Waldron of Columbia and John Yoo of Boalt:

...on the moral questions raised by the Administration's legal manipulations of the words of the torture statute and the Geneva Conventions(,) Yoo explained that such moral considerations are for the policymakers, not the lawyers: "In [writing] the legal memos, what’s the function of a lawyer? I view the function of a lawyer in those cases as to interpret the Geneva Conventions or the torture statute and not to interject my own moral views into what the government should do. . . "

To which Waldron responded as follows:

"I think with regard to some law, you can do the strict separation between the letter of the law and the moral spirit that Professor Yoo has indicated. [W]ith regard to much human rights law, and much international law, and much constitutional law, sometimes you cannot do that; you cannot understand the human rights provisions without understanding—at least in some sense—the moral ideas that inform it, imbue it, give it its coherence, shape its concepts, give us our sense of its importance. I believe that’s true of human rights provisions prohibiting torture. I believe it’s true also of the scheme of protection laid down in the Geneva Conventions. You need to understand this not as a strange set of runes which we will look at as if we’ve never seen them before, and have no idea what they’re trying to do, but [will] try to figure out what the text requires. In some sense, that’s obtuse lawyering, as well as obtuse morally."

One man is an apparatchik stamping tickets to the Gulag; the other is an attorney.

April 25, 2005

The policy of truth

Barbara Brink is head of the Alaska Public Defender Agency and a cool person. I met her once in Seattle at an NLADA function, where I praised her for stealing away someone I was trying to hire. All the law students who go up to Alaska to be summer public defenders owe her thanks.

Which makes this doubly bad news if it's true:

... Word is Gov. Frank Murkowski has officially notified Barbara Brink...that he won't be reappointing her when her term is up... she is being punished for suggesting to legislators at a recent hearing that they consider the budget implications of re-criminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

New WA law aimed at meth production

This weekend, the Washington legislature passed new restrictions on the sale of meth precursors:

...stores would be required to keep nonprescription cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanoline — the primary ingredients of home-cooked methamphetamine — behind their counters.

Store clerks would be required to ask for photo identification to ensure buyers were at least 18. The bill...reduc(es) the number of packages customers are allowed to buy in a 24-hour period from three...to two.

In addition, it would require that stores keep a log noting who buys the products...

The bill now goes to the governor.

April 24, 2005

Montana life and meth

"What's the lesson of a case in which a long series of "victimless" crimes somehow resulted in a lot of victims?"

Thanks to Mark A. R. Kleiman for leading me to this set of articles:

Hal Herring at New West has a hair-raising six-part series on what methamphetamine has brought to the Lake Flathead area of Western Montana. The story isn't just about meth... And it's told through the lens of a truly bizarre case about a wealthy and respected businessman who developed an entirely new approach to credit counseling. The series is a superb piece of reporting...

Here is a sample from the first installment:

It’s a low-wage, no-wage world, inhabited by the children who grew up in the death throes of the old economy. Their parents worked in the aluminum mill...or in the big sawmills that ran three shifts a day. They cut the timber or ran the skidders...or drove the trucks that hauled it to the mills.

Those were good jobs and they paid for simple houses and cars and fed families...But those jobs are gone now, and the children of those families... are marooned in a new economy...cleaning hotel rooms, punching a till, serving coffee, hammering nails in the condo developments, or doing nothing at all.

There are no lattes here, no Patagonia fleece or Sage flyrods. It’s a place where home-cooked methamphetamine is king and queen... People from that world don’t go skiing... They meet in front of the Flathead County Jail, smoking cigarettes and talking about who’s locked up, and who’s getting out...

Read the other installments:

  • Part 2: A Mother's Worst Nightmare
  • Part 3: A Pillar of the Community
  • Part 4: 'Our Give-a-Shitters Were Broken'
  • Part 5: The Scourge of Rural America
  • Part 6: Crime and Punishment

  • April 21, 2005

    Learning from lawyer advertising

    (click for more)

    Thanks to living in the same media market as E. Spat, I too have seen this Northwest lawyer's jaw-droppingly bad TV ads of which she speaks. If you go to his website, you simply must see his masterpiece, "Gallagher's Girls," for yourself (while it's still up). Then you can buy the t-shirt! (while supplies last).

    Thanks also to Legal Quandary, Professional Reponsibility profs throughout the land now can study his methods and his written work, "She's Not That Into Being Screwed Over By Her Husband's Divorce Lawyer - A Man's Guide to Understanding Women."

    Finally, thanks to Legal Underground, his approach now can reach a national audience. Excelsior!

    (offer may not be available in your area - check your local listings and local rules of professional responsibility for details)

    April 20, 2005

    A young man gone

    Nathan Fries

    I've looked several times at the picture of this Idaho murder victim, and hoped that there might be a Pocatello version of Chris Clarke, or Tom Spanbauer or John Rember, to preserve his story and help us understand how he came to die.

    His was a typical southern Idaho face: open, a little goofy, shiny cheeks and a big smile. Trusting in the future and in others.

    There's so much I want to know about how he came to lie in a shallow grave in Eastern Oregon, allegedly killed by someone he'd known since grade school.

    "He was just a normal Idaho country boy," his sister said. "He was a good guy. He would help anyone out. That's what got him in trouble."

    His alleged murderers moved to the big city of Boise - Meridian, actually - and moved in to his house, where they killed him.

    Their preliminary hearing has been delayed.

    I feel that I almost I know this poor kid. And his roommates.

    Heart attack on death row

    Jimmie Vurel Thomas died last Thursday. I talked about him here once before.

    He died in his death row cell at the max unit south of Boise. Several of the defense colleagues I admire worked on his cases. I think that their work exemplified one of the goals we strive towards in the trade: to illuminate the shared humanity of people who've committed the most twisted and unforgiveable acts, in order to say a helpful word on their behalf.

    This was an honorable way that one of his attorneys responded to the news:

    "Despite the offense he was charged with, and the subsequent conviction, he was a very good client in that he treated myself and my staff with total respect and I am sorry to hear of his passing."

    When I wrote the other thing about Jimmie Vurel last fall, I first put down that he was "evil." "No, he wasn't evil," my colleague said. The acts, yes, but to her, not the man, not even after that. It's strange to feel I owe her a note of condolence.

    April 19, 2005

    Benedictus PP. XVI

    Kein Panzerpapst?

    (Interesting: the heart says "rats!", while the head says, "wait and see...")

    Update: Fides, Spes, Caritas gets the "Good Attitude" award

    : Benedict XVI's work against the death penalty

    April 17, 2005

    "I know you are but what am I?"

    Back-and-forth if-you-didn't-laugh-you'd-cry attorney-client dialogue from Musings and Rants; why don't our clients take our advice, anyway?

    Client: They can't take my case to the grand jury. It's against my constitutional rights!
    Me: Actually, they can. And it doesn't violate your rights.
    Client: Yes it does.
    Me: No. It doesn't.
    Client: It does! I got people in Chicago that looked it up.
    Me: Are the people lawyers?
    Client: No. But they say that it's against my constitutional rights.

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    April 15, 2005

    Updates from OH for WA p.d.'s

    Sentencing Law and Policy provides commentary on yesterday's "big Blakely doings" here in Washington State, and gives a follow-up. The posts include links to yesterday's Washington Supreme Court opinion in State v. Hughes, and to an informative article from the TNT about a most unusual sentencing hearing stopped in mid-course yesterday by the state Supreme Court ruling.

    Non-appellately-minded types like myself can only bow in gratitude to such a fantastic resource as SL&P.

    Update: Governor Gregoire has signed SSB 5477, the "Blakely fix" bill, relating to exceptional sentences outside the standard range. The act includes an emergency clause, and takes effect immediately. It's online here.

    ABA Journal: no indigent defense? no trial

    Other blawggers have been following the indigent defense funding story out of Louisiana; here is the ABA Journal E-Report's take:

    No money for a criminal defense? No prosecution.

    That’s how the Louisiana Supreme Court is reconciling a defendant’s constitutional right to an attorney with the state’s failure to fund indigent defense programs.

    Read more here.

    (thanks to regular reader Dennis K. for the tip)

    April 14, 2005

    NYPD - RNC: interview with a wrongfully-arrested bystander

    Never mind the Chomskyites; Democracy Now had an interesting set of interviews today featuring Alexander Dunlop, arrested during the Republican national convention, whose charges were dropped when videotape was produced that contradicted the police:

    I was trying to go to my favorite sushi place... And I could see that I was blocked in. So, I asked a police officer, I said, “How do he get out of here?” And he pointed south toward 9th Street. And he said, “Well, you walk over there.” So I started walking over there, and I got up there, and I realized there was no exit point. And I turned around to find him again, and he said, “Well, I just asked you to go up here so I could arrest you.”

    Here is Eileen Clancy, a member of I-Witness video, a project that assembled hundreds of videotapes shot during the RNC:

    So I called his attorney right away, Michael Conroy, and said, “I have your guy on tape in a couple of places, including the arrest...” I said, “Well, let's take a look at your tape.” And I said, “Gee, it looks an awful lot like my tape. Well, I wonder what the problem is.” So we kept looking. I thought, “Maybe there's two cameras that are nearby. It just looks the same.” But he said, “But what you are describing is not on my tape.”

    And defense attorney Michael Conroy:

    This was a police tape that was... represented to me to be the complete unedited tape of the incident... That tape showed the demonstration....Then, the tape pans to the ground... Unfortunately, ...that's the point which Alex should be on the tape. It’s the point in which he is on the official tape that I was never given, and it shows that Alex is actually approaching a police officer to ask for directions, ...and it shows Alex being arrested very calmly, very quietly and not resisting arrest, and obviously, those are two key pieces that had I had earlier, I would have had a much better fight with the District Attorney's office to get this dismissed in the fall as opposed to eight months later.

    You can read and listen to the interviews, plus a response by Paul Browne, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information here.

    You can read more blawg commentary on Crime and Federalism, Discourse.net, and Objective Justice.

    April 13, 2005

    Two nearly new blawgs

    Objective Justice shows promise. I don't have to endorse all of its politics to respect what appears will be a thoughtful and rancor-free legal site. Plus, somebody in this group blog is a Boise State alum - my wife's school, my home town - so I've got to extend this laurel and hearty handshake. Welcome, Idaho-connected law-person.

    Injustice Anywhere is just one week old, but the Texas public defender behind it is mega-posting to make up for lost time. I'm pretty sure this p. d. will come up with "something interesting and meaningful." Texas is good for lots of material.

    April 11, 2005


    Second trial in the new jurisdiction today. Again, a disagreement over a client of mine and somebody else's property. In my clients' eyes and mine, the State would have a time of it getting past reasonable doubt, and we could show the jury a decent guy made into an unwitting trafficker in goods that he didn't know were stolen.

    Things were going pleasantly, with an above-board prosecutor. He and I had a few laughs with the jury panel, and then a helpful in-court clerk guided me through the color code for the local three-highlighter method of peremptory challenges. My client was in a good mood, and I was looking forward to putting on his testimony. The first two civilian witnesses were fine, inflicting no devastating blows.

    Then came the turn of the Overly Helpful Detective, ten year veteran of the force, who volunteered a bit of information that was so important that he just had to share it with the jury. Strangely, the same information had not been important enough to include in any police report or any page of discovery. I'd done several interviews with my client, and it was news to me. To be fair, perhaps the detective didn't consider the info unusual enough to burden the prosecutor with it until today, and only comprehended what a shame it would be not to speak up until he was on re-direct:

    Pros Q: "What was the relationship between Mr. Client and Mr. Other-Guy?"
    (who sold him the goods)

    Cop A: "Mr. Other-Guy was a drug dealer who sold methamphetamine to Mr. Client..." (approximately: I didn't write down the exact quote because I was too busy picking up my jaw from where it dropped)

    Bless her heart, Her Honor granted a mistrial. Thanks for playing the game, Mr. Detective! See you at the re-trial! Enjoy your conversation with the prosecutor on the way out the door!

    Bonus link:

    A private investigator on public defenders

    A New York p.i. explains why p.d.'s and other criminal defense lawyers will never win any popularity contests:

    Imagine if public defenders had to run for election... One candidate would say "Vote for me as your public defender. I'll win more cases than my opponent. I'm such a good defense lawyer that the streets will be filled with more murderers, rapists, and child molesters." His opponent counters: "No vote for me. I'm the world's worst lawyer. If I'm elected no defendant will ever win. The streets will be safe with me in office."

    Well, who do you think would win?

    April 08, 2005

    Death Penalty for Mickel

    Tonight the jury which took a half-hour finding former Evergreen State College student Andre Mickel guilty of murdering a California police officer took a full hour to find that he should be executed.

    “Killing is no beautiful thing — it’s disgusting, it’s abhorrent. But when liberty is on the line, it’s necessary,” said the 26-year-old from Olympia, Wash.

    “I think it’s very clear my son was murdered by an incoherent psychopath,” said the victim’s father, Richard Mobilio, after the jury returned its recommendation.

    “He didn’t give any pity to Mobilio, and we didn’t give him any,” said jury foreman Chantelle Estess.

    April 07, 2005

    Open letter to my mom and dad

    I swear that I will never keep you from spending time with Joe.
     Posted by Hello

    Even if the Washington Supreme Court says that grandparents have no visitation rights.

    Professional courtesy to fellow underachievers

    Two law students cheekily e-mailed me and asked for a link to their new site: Barely Legal: The Underachiever's Guide to Law School.

    In a related story, thanks to USnews, I can rest assured knowing that I graduated in the lower half of the middle third of the class from a Third Tier law school, and not a Fourth Tier school as I'd feared. As everyone knows, this is the single-most important factor in determining whether you are any good as a lawyer.

    The tyranny of small differences

    In court today for this case (among others):

    One of my clients is in the back of the patrol car with his wrists hand-cuffed behind his back.

    The officer tells him, "You're not under arrest - you're being detained."

    April 06, 2005

    Officer of the court down: who let him down?

    Back in October, I wrote about Justin Blair, a promising young Maricopa County criminal defense lawyer, who was shot and killed as an innocent bystander to a road rage incident.

    His family and friends are asking, why was his killer out on the street?

    The shooter was on felony probation for a drive by shooting in 2003. While on probation, he was later charged in a felony stabbing in 2004 -- yet he remained out of jail.

    It was six months later, when Police say Alonso pulled out an assault rifle, fired up to 15 shots, striking multiple passengers in a vehicle he was aiming at and killing Blair who was riding in a car driving the other way.

    Radoff said, "Justin was a lawyer, he swore to uphold the system, you know he would have defended Alonso given the chance and it failed him, it failed me, it failed Alonso."

    This Phoenix TV station webpage has the article and a video clip.

    Kurt Cobain, Olympian

    Eleven years gone this week. My South Sound neighbors know that he spent more of his life and did more of his creative work here than in Seattle, but they don't make that big a deal about it. He is missed.

    "There certainly are many places in Olympia that were important to Kurt, but there's not really any monuments. I think that's the way Olympia works, and it's probably the way Cobain would have wanted it."

    Slim Moon is fine with that, too. He doesn't really care that the world sees Cobain as solely a Seattle treasure.

    "Nobody in the Olympia rock scene has really gone to great lengths to correct that notion," he said. "We were happy to have been friends with them. We had several years of Nirvana all to ourselves. Seattle can claim Nirvana as a trophy -- I think that's far less meaningful than what we had here."

    An insightful article from The Olympian, written on the tenth anniversary, is here. RIP, sad brilliant guy.

    April 05, 2005

    God bless you, Skelly Wright!

    If Crescat Kid Will Baude is so smart, why had he never learned more about J. Skelly Wright beyond "an inscrutable opinion in contracts class and an article about campaign finance reform"?

    Higher education to the rescue!

    Last night Elaine Jones, President and Director-Counsel Emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, spoke at Baude's law school on "Judicial Courage: Skelly Wright's Example." Jones' talk dealt with

    "Judges like Skelly Wright, who care about issues of human rights and social justice, and the price they pay." Skelly Wright served on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana from 1949 to 1962, and he played a key role in forcing the desegregation of public facilities in and around New Orleans, including the public schools. At the same time, he was ostracized by the white community in Louisiana and, according to Jones, "basically drummed out of the state."

    Jones says that Wright's career serves as an excellent example of the struggles that lawyers committed to principles of social justice often face....

    And now you and Will Baude know a little bit more about this blog's patron saint.

    Mari gets a p.d. job, then gets to tell her dad...

    Oof, I could use some upbeat news! Gracias a Dios y a la Internet, the blogs didn't let me down:

    On Explaining My New Job To My Dad...

    Me: I'm so excited, Papi ~ you know, era muy dificile to get into this agency ~ voy a trabajar por el State y tuve three interviews y I had to meet with seven people and take an oral exam y hacer un "role play" and three written exercises and you should be very proud porque it's very hard to get into this kind of job......
    Papi: Sí, pero what is it?
    Me: Well, voy a ser un Legal Analyst por la Oficina del State Public Defender... [pause, deep breath] on death penalty appeals.....
    Papi (voice rising): Ai Mari, pero if someone killed one of my kids I would want them to die!
    Me (I will see your stern voice and raise you a spot of indignation): Pero Papi, vengeance no es justice!

    It's pointed, yet fun to read, and makes me wish there were more native speakers of Spanish in my new town, as in Yakima and the Magic Valley. Maybe it'd help to stop off at that taco wagon on Sleater-Kinney on my way home.


    Thanks to Jon DKLN for this link from the Washington Post about Andy Mickel, a young cop killer who passed this way.

    In November 2002, Officer David Mobilio was shot outside Red Bluff, CA. Six days later, this post appeared on various indy-media sites:

    "Hello Everyone, my name's Andy. I killed a Police Officer in Red Bluff, California in a motion to bring attention to, and halt, the police-state tactics that have come to be used throughout our country. Now I'm coming forward, to explain that this killing was also an action against corporate irresponsibility."

    Now he's in a death penalty trial, representing himself with the same mixture of delusion and conceit:

    In his opening statement to the jury, the Associated Press reported that Mickel said, "I want to tell you that I did ambush and kill David Mobilio." The police officer's widow was weeping in the courtroom. Mickel did not express remorse. He has pled not guilty. He promised to provide his side during the trial. Mickel is scheduled to begin his defense on Tuesday. "I'm going to have to tell you that stuff later," he told the jury. "I don't have a sound-bite defense."

    Whatever he thought his defense might have been - maybe the necessity defense of "I had to shoot the father of a toddler three times, twice in the back and once in the head, in order to prevent a greater evil" or the general defense of "Just let me tell you my side of the story," it appears that the judge shut him down on Friday. Now he will present no defense at all.

    Closing arguments are today. Those in my line of work will be interested in reading about the laissez-faire job Mickel's "advisory counsel" is doing. Remember, this is a cop-killer case, death penalty eligible.

    On his way to becoming a murderous little creep, Mickel went to The Evergreen State College, here in the South Sound. My neighbors have been following his case in The Olympian since it started. It was good to see the WaPo article giving a little snapshot of Oly and TESC life as background, while not taking the easy "Evergreen made him a killer" route. That boy wasn't right long before he came out West. It's an intriguing article, capped by an interview with Mickel. The author ventures:

    It is as if Mickel, in his thinking, had gone so far to the fringe left that he started to look a lot like the fringe right.

    Fine as far as that goes, but I don't think these high-level threateners of lawful authority are on the "fringe" of the right. Man, these are sad days for fans of the rule of law, left, right, or center.

    Update: Prosecutor closes with dramatic re-enactment of ambush

    Update: Mickel guilty.
    After deliberating the charges against defendant Andrew Mickel for 30 minutes a jury of six men and six woman returned Tuesday afternoon with a verdict of guilty and found a special allegation of murdering a police officer to be true.

    Update 4/6/05:
    Convicted cop-killer Andrew Mickel told a jury in the penalty phase of his trial today that he killed Red Bluff Police Officer David Mobilio out of “patriotism” and said the action was necessary and justified.

    Bonus equal-opportunity (non-DeLay) scoundrel links: Seattle Independent Media Center posts and comments about Mickel here and here, and coincidentally, here's the latest from seattle.indymedia.org:

    Kristian Williams, author of the book "Our Enemies in Blue" and a member of Rose City Cop Watch in Portland, will be speaking at Western Washington University Monday, April 11th...
    “Well-concieved , well-researched, and well-written,
    Our Enemies in Blue deserves a truly wide
    and deep readership.” - Mumia Abu-Jamal

    (Yes, the same Mumia whose taped voice was featured in that graduation happening / publicity stunt at Evergreen a few years back.)

    April 04, 2005

    Creek Running North: Life and Death

    A remarkable family story, told remarkably well:

    One morning twenty years ago this month, I opened the front section of the Washington Post and read that my friend Stephen Peter Morin had been executed by the state of Texas for capital murder.

    There are two reasons that that sentence, while accurate, felt awkward to write.

    First reason: it has been a long time since I thought of Morin as a friend. He was a twisted, manipulative and malevolent person, and if I hate anyone in the world or out of it I hate him.

    Second reason: I knew him as Ray Constantine.

    This is what literature looks like. Go read it now.

    Yet another reason why I left Idaho

    I do try so hard to keep this arbitrary and capricious thing from degenerating into a poli-blog, I really do, but things just have gotten so crazy lately.

    It seems that Idaho's senior U.S. Senator, Larry Craig (R), is not really into that whole separation-of-powers, three-branches-of-government, independent-judiciary thing. He has co-sponsored S. 520, the "Constitution Restoration Act of 2005":

    "The Constitution Restoration Act of 2005 - Amends the Federal judicial code to prohibit the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal district courts from exercising jurisdiction over any matter in which relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government or an officer or agent of such government concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.

    Prohibits a court of the United States from relying upon any law, policy, or other action of a foreign state or international organization in interpreting and applying the Constitution, other than English constitutional and common law up to the time of adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Provides that any Federal court decision relating to an issue removed from Federal jurisdiction by this Act is not binding precedent on State courts.

    Provides that any Supreme Court justice or Federal court judge who exceeds the jurisdictional limitations of this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offense for which the justice or judge may be removed, and to have violated the standard of good behavior required of Article III judges by the Constitution.

    I can't imagine Mike Crapo (a lawyer himself) or Mike Simpson or Butch Otter signing on to this profoundly un-conservative bit of pandering. I can't see Stephen Trott or other Republican-appointed judges embracing this. I hope not. One of these days, these little bills R's roll out to appease one wing of the party will pass, and then where will we all be?

    I respect most of my Republican colleagues back home, lawyers and judges. They're smart enough that eventually all but the most partisan of them will figure out that they're in the demagogues' sights, along with the justice system and the rule of law. One of these days, some Idaho R's will have to show some backbone and say, enough's enough.

    (link via Hullabaloo)

    Update: A link from home! Or from North Idaho, at any rate. Say hello to Angry Commentator. Come see her pose proudly with Bo Gritz! "It truely was an honor," she said. But for me, an exiled Gem Stater, all she can say is, " a good thing that Skelly left -- whoever he is."

    What was Orcinus saying about eliminationist rhetoric?

    From CrimLaw: Trial of the Century

    There's an especially entertaining courthouse report from Ken Lammers today, combining redheads, violence, coarse language, a loud objection and a heartwarming ending, and at least two morals to the story:

    - an accord and satisfaction is like a bird in the hand; and

    - cynical old criminal defense lawyers sometimes know better than you do.

    Set aside a few minutes and go to it.

    April 03, 2005

    A wonderful day in a one-way world

    From Kemplog, and from the land of Indiana Public Defender (fresh off a very persuasive 19-minute "not guilty" jury verdict), comes this postcard from a place where they're just not set up to do jury trials - misdemeanor court:

    Maximum caseload - Misdemeanor public defenders must scramble

    If most days are grueling, this morning’s two-hour session will be especially hectic. He has 51 new cases, plus 10 from the previous Friday, when court was closed. He will make time for all of them. Thankfully, most of his clients will plead guilty to an assortment of misdemeanor offenses ranging from lifting items from department stores to public drunkenness to possession of marijuana. Only one of (his) clients wants a trial.

    Ummm... about that "thankfully..."

    Last year, the misdemeanor public defenders were assigned 2,668 cases and disposed of all but 40 of them. The majority of defendants plead out; 12 went to trial....

    “That’s outrageous,” said Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council. “That’s very excessive.”

    The rest of the article is a pretty good balance of day-in-the-life snapshot and policy prescription:

    Indiana... should... increase the tab for the counties and help them defray the cost of misdemeanors. By increasing indigent defense, the state will meet its moral obligation to the poor, as well as reward attorneys... with the economic respect they deserve.

    Cop shop talk, p.d. PTSD

    Even if I don't always like cops, I like a good cop story, and if the teller is New York Irish like my mother-in-law, so much the better.

    Friday I'm driving home on Pacific Ave. in the commuter pick-up, listening to Fresh Air on KPLU, and the guest is Edward Conlon, author of the memoir Blue Blood, which begins with his first days on the street as an NYPD and goes back three generations.

    If you like this sort of thing, you can listen to him here.

    After a few blocks, Conlon gets to "just about the most terrible thing that I've seen" and I pull over:

    "There was this old woman who was on a bed. She was emaciated. There was what you recognize as a DOA smell. A couple of the paramedics were crying... They were lifting her off that plastic sheet and then she started to moan. There were maggots all over her. Maggots only eat dead tissue, so she was dying bit by bit. The really terrible thing was that she didn't live alone."

    There was this old woman in Twin Falls, Idaho. She was dying bit by bit. There were maggots. Her son who shared the house with her was charged with felony abandonment of a vulnerable adult. The brilliant young associate to whom I assigned the appellate brief quit, and later blogged about how the case horrified him, and was part of the reason that he left criminal law.

    I was trial counsel. We waived the jury and lost anyway. He went to prison. She died. The Idaho Court of Appeals opinion is here (PDF file).

    Who knows how our jobs corrode us, or the ways we might pay for the roles we play. In the morning, I'm going to hug my wife and kid and go with them to Mass.

    April 02, 2005

    Thanks and praise

    We all have our heroes, and sometimes we share them with the strangest bedfellows; of all the pictures of the Holy Father in all the world, Feddie chose this one (Parenthetically, do politics ever take a back seat at Southern Appeal? No wonder their side beats my side so often.). Ken is a uniter, not a divider, with his tribute.

    Today these images of John Paul II cheer me up:

    in Mary's arms

    extending freedom

    receiving Bob Dylan

    acting silly


    I did not have to agree with him 100% to admire him, to learn from him, and now to miss him. I am melancholy but grateful today for the life of a hero and servant.

    April 01, 2005

    His Holiness Pope John Paul II

    "Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence."

    Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

    Touched by the book meme stick

    Should've lain low.

    Creek Running North just stuck me with the gom jabbar! As we used to say in the desert, "Fear is the mind-killer", so I'll take the test:

    You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

    Since "Angle of Repose" appears to be taken, I'll choose "The Golden Gate" by Vikram Seth, for its tenderness and meter; I imagine that it would be pleasurable to memorize and to recite.

    Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

    Oh sure. The semi-fictional stand-in for Pam Houston in "Cowboys are My Weakness" leaps to mind. For purely fictional, in the past Brunnhilde, Portia and Tasha Yar have been there for me too.

    The last book you bought is?

    "Diamondfield Jack: A Study in Frontier Justice," by David Grover, for $1.00 at the Lacey library booksale

    What are you currently reading?

    Insight Guide to The Netherlands by ?
    Made Possible By ... The Death of Public Broadcasting by James Ledbetter
    Independent People by Haldor Laxness
    NY Review of Books (in the bathroom)

    Five books you would take to a deserted island:

    (I'm going for sheer quantity of printed words here)

    The Collected Works of Wallace Stegner (compiled especially for this trip)
    An anthology of Slavic literature (likewise - it's my fantasy)
    The Riverside Shakespeare
    The Bible
    The Army Survival Manual or the equivalent

    Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

    Bliss, because he's smart and off-beat, and he has a track record of answering these things

    East Ethnia, because I'll learn something

    Yeoman, because he's thoughtful and I'm curious