February 25, 2009

My fellow Idahoans

Please check out my very smart friend Dennis Benjamin's SCOIDBlog:

"keeping an eye on the doings of the Supreme Court of Idaho and the lower state courts from a criminal defense point of view with news, commentary, gossip and rumor, satire, poetry and more."

("Poetry?")(The blog bills itself as a team effort - other Idaho friends appear, including Deborah Whipple - but so far, judging by number of posts, Dennis is the MVP)

CA: another good pd gone too soon

From the Sacramento Bee:

Obituary: Public defender fought for life on death row, at home

Jay Colangelo, a top California public defender who fought for death row inmates while battling for his own life against a rare type of cancer, died Saturday at age 55...

"He read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in eighth grade and never looked back..."

February 23, 2009

TX: big heart broken in Wichita Falls

A number of tributes to long-time Wichita County public defender John Curry, who died last week aged 47:

From the Times Record News - City mourning loss of Curry

From KFDK (with video) - John Curry Obituary and Memorial Service Planned for Former Public Defender

(those who know me personally will know how this big man's death touches me personally)

February 22, 2009

PA: judge - "I just don’t believe I have to spoon-feed people"

From the Scranton Times-Tribune:

Nearly half of Luzerne cases lacked representation

For years, Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. denied juvenile defendants their rights, imprisoned them over the recommendations of probation officers and took millions in kickbacks from the co-owner of two juvenile detention centers that earned nearly $30 million with his help...

Interviews and court documents portray Judge Ciavarella’s courtroom as a place where the outcome of cases was decided well before a hearing. Judge Ciavarella pressured court staff to recommend detention, even in cases where staffers believed detention wasn’t warranted, federal prosecutors allege...

Full rundown from Wilkes-Barre's CitizensVoice.com: Court Corruption Probe

February 19, 2009

Coming soon: one stop shopping

Check this out: Sancho at Tales of a Public Defender Investigator is setting up a public defender wiki. Still in beta, but what a cool concept. Thanks, subcommandante.

Our ranks, increased by one

Humongous headline over at Not For The Monosyllabic:

I'm a real life public defender!!!!!

We accept you, one of us, one of us!

MN: "it should be about justice and not about the cost"

The beleagured underpaid watchdog of justice trope again, this time from MinnPost.com:

A stark contrast in courts: Upstairs, the pricey lawyer-filled Coleman-Franken trial; downstairs, an overworked public defender

Michael Kunkel's work was done. For the moment... His hearing before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, including rapid-fire, rugged questioning from the three justices, was over. But his day was not. Kunkel, 29, was gathering his belongings for a parole hearing in Anoka County 25 miles (away). He has another 30 or so cases on his desk back at the State Public Defender's Office...

Just so happens Kunkel's venue today was Courtroom 200 of the Minnesota Judicial Center. It's directly beneath Courtroom 300, the daily venue for the Norm Coleman - Al Franken recount trial. Same building, different stage. Same justice system, different approach. Same profession, different league... ..It may seem a stretch to juxtapose the Franken - Coleman trial, its high-powered lawyers and its absentee ballots with Kunkel and his indigent sex offender client who needs a public defender to assist him...

In this case it is a stretch. Perhaps my days in the two-tier system have drained my outrage, but I'm not offended that in a close U.S. Senate race with national implications, the suits have taken over one courtroom. Besides, it provides an opportunity for curious reporters to take the elevator down to the depths where we work, and to bring back stories of the routine inequities that they find.

February 18, 2009

Happy birthday Wallace Stegner

The American writer Wallace Stegner was born one hundred years ago today."There was a time up there in Idaho when everything was wrong... Did you come down out of that into some restful 30° angle and live happily ever after?" - Angle of Repose (1971)

(Parenthetically, today's also our 14th wedding anniversary)

February 12, 2009

PA: juvenile injustice, judicial avarice

The juvenile reformers and public defenders have been talking about this, and now it's made the New York Times:

Judges Plead Guilty in Payoffs for Jailing Youths

(O)n Thursday... (J)udge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers... While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

“In my entire career, I’ve never heard of anything remotely approaching this,” said Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed by the State Supreme Court this week to determine what should be done with the estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003.

Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention. The case has shocked Luzerne County... And it raised concerns about whether juveniles should be required to have counsel either before or during their appearances in court and whether juvenile courts should be open to the public or child advocates...

February 11, 2009

UT: 60.4% chance of pissing off the DP jury pool

The story's less inflammatory than the headline, but still, an interesting way to start picking a "jury for life," from the Ogden Standard-Examiner:

Homicide defense motion excludes LDS jury members

The defense has filed a motion seeking to keep off Riqo Perea's jury any members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who adhere to the church's past teachings of blood atonement.

Such jurors would be much more likely to vote for an execution, according to the motion filed in 2nd District Court, where Perea faces the death penalty in a 2007 gang homicide. "Utah's population contains a significant percentage of members of one religion ... members of the LDS Church make up an estimated 60.4 percent of the state's population," reads the motion...

Just guessing here that the percentage of Mormons who adhere to anything close to blood atonement is more than a bit south of 60%. Also guessing that the Colorado Method hasn't spread to Weber County. Oh, and yes, this issue has come up in Idaho before.

February 09, 2009

WA: cut advocacy for kids now, pay later

From the Tacoma News Tribune:

Cut TeamChild and you put kids, budgets at risk

When legislators consider cutting $500,000 a year for TeamChild, they should ask themselves one question: Do they want the kids it now serves to grow up to be inmates or taxpayers?

February 08, 2009

ID: 8 year old? aspie? arrest her!

Brimming with pride to see the home state make the national news on ABC. Here's one Idaho town's take-no-prisoners response to autism spectrum disorders - oh, wait a minute, strike that:

Parents Consider Legal Action After Autistic Girl, 8, Arrested at School - Evelyn Towry Was Cuffed, Led Away by Police After Scuffle Over School Party

The mother of an 8-year-old autistic girl who was arrested after a scuffle with her teachers said it was horrifying to watch her daughter be led away in handcuffs from her northern Idaho elementary school... Police in Bonner County, Idaho, charged the girl, Evelyn Towry, with battery...

Spring Towry said she got to the school... just in time to see 54-pound Evelyn - who was diagnosed at age 5 with Asperger's Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism - being walked to a police car with two officers at her side. "She started screaming 'Mommy, I don't want to go! What are batteries? What are batteries?'" Towry said. "She didn't even know what she was arrested for."

Towry, who lives in Ponderay, said Evelyn told her that she had been refused entry into a school Christmas party that had been delayed until after the holidays because of a string of snow days, because she refused to take off her beloved "cow costume" - a hoodie with cow ears and a tail.

Towry said Evelyn... told her she was put in a separate classroom away from the party, but when she tried to leave, the teachers told her to stay put. Evelyn did not listen, Towry said, and the adults physically restrained her...

Via I Speak Of Dreams.

Bonus link
: for those who need a diagram to see why this was wrong (this person perhaps), Asperger Square 8 has drawn one for you:

February 06, 2009

WA: Seattle 1919 - we shall be all

Today makes the ninetieth anniversary of the start of the Seattle General Strike. If you happen to be in Seattle Saturday (and you don't have a nine-year-old who would rather feed the seagulls at Ivar's), you could celebrate (or commiserate) with the Seattle Labor Chorus and others, from 1PM to 5PM at the Seattle Labor Temple, 2800 1st Ave. Brought to you by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. It's free.

February 05, 2009

SC: "Sleezie Boy" is representing himself

From the Charleston Post and Courier:

Sensational drama unfolding in courtroom

Some tips for defending yourself against a troublesome murder rap: ...Never, ever, begin a sentence "(Let's) say I shot someone five times..."

February 04, 2009

Cute animal pictures: the highest and best use of the blawgosphere

As if to validate the point of the previously - linked post, here is an adorable goat in a holding cell (a Toggenburg, I believe):
Via West Seattle Blog by way of Slog.

I am an aggregator

Nothing to see here, move along.

P.S.: AmbImb introduced me to a term I should have known: tumblelog. Takes all kinds to make a blawgosphere.

February 02, 2009

MN: " 'How can you defend those people?' We are 'those people.' "

From In The Fray:

A day in the life of a public defender - Advocating for the indigent in rural Minnesota

Judge Richard Posner... once wrote, “[a] bare-bones system for the defense of indigent criminal defendants may be optimal.” How pleased he would have been watching me practice on that day...

"Reporters feed me and let me nap on their coats"

Equal time, from Bob the Cat in Olympia:
A cat's eye view of the statehouse ( Bob's blog via Ridenbaugh Press )

Bonus link: Neko Case - People Got A Lotta Nerve

February 01, 2009

Your MVP: Matilda the beagle

A satisfying Puppy Bowl V today: the dog I picked won Most Valuable Player (though I also liked the Catahoula Cur - sounds like what they'd call opposing counsel in Louisiana).

MX: "they can come for me at my office at any time"

Light a candle for the colleagues in Ciudad Juarez. From the Washington Post:

Defense Attorneys In Lawless Juarez Besieged on All Sides - 'This Is Nothing Like Before. I Don't Even Take Narco Cases. Not Anymore.'

The Mexican criminal defense attorney Salvador Urbina... no longer sleeps in the city where he practices law. It is far too dangerous. He now spends his nights across the border in a bland suburb of El Paso and commutes to the deadliest city in Mexico each morning. After he began receiving death threats, Urbina got his family out...