Below is a link to a quirky legal story out of Tennessee. It seems defense attorneys down there have been making it a point during trial to refer to the prosecution as “the Government,” or at least one local Assistant D.A. perceives that defense attorneys have been making a point of it. “What’s the big deal?” you might ask. This particular A.D.A. believes the reference is intended to be derogatory– an attempt to make her appear oppressive and to inflame the jury against her– so she filed a motion seeking to have defense counsel barred from referring to her as “the Government.” At the same time, the A.D.A. ironically has no problem referring to herself as “the State” (an anti-federalist nuance, perhaps). The story discloses that Tennessee prosecutors are often formally referred to as “General” in the courtroom, so defense counsel fired back a pleading requesting that the court order the prosecution to refer to him as “Captain Justice,” or “Guardian of the Realm.” This is all pretty silly stuff. Although it would be considered a little over the top for defense counsel to refer to Maine State prosecutors as “the Government,” Maine A.D.A.’s are commonly referred to as “the State,” and are pleased to embrace a vision of themselves as representatives of the people, battling the forces of disorder and chaos in their behalf. In fact, I’ve actually heard defense counsel grouse that it’s unfair that A.D.A.’s get to promote themselves to juries this way, as lawyer’s for the greater good. I’m guessing that in Tennessee the average person takes very little comfort, compared to the average Mainer, in hearing “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
TENNESSEE PROSECUTOR CRIES FOUL AT BEING REFERENCED AS “THE GOVERNMENT.”
Sat, November 2 2013 » Maine Law » Comments Off
There’s controversy swirling in Augusta over the recent jailing of a witness in a domestic violence case, by use (some are arguing misuse) of Maine’s material witness statute. The case raises issues over Kennebec County D.A. Meaghan Maloney’s balancing of concerns. It also demonstrates the limited role that alleged crime victims have in choosing whether to “press charges,” at least in the realm of male/female domestic violence cases. Often, alleged female victims of domestic violence need to be disabused of the idea that the criminal justice system allows them to control whether charges will be “pressed” or not. In the Augusta case, Jessica Ruiz was arrested on a material witness warrant and held in jail for 17 hours because Ruiz made the D.A. insecure that she might make herself absent when the time came for the State to use her as a witness against her alleged attacker, Robert Robinson, Jr. Some have argued that because the State found a way to arrest Ruiz and throw her in jail, they probably could have found a way to simply serve her with a subpoena instead.
For those alleged victims of domestic violence who think they have control over whether their case should be prosecuted or not, this illustrates that, not only is it not their call, but they should take care not to make the D.A. insecure about their unwillingness to cooperate, lest they themselves should end up in jail. D.A. Maloney says Robinson is a particularly bad guy and that, as much as she regrets the necessity of throwing Robinson’s alleged victim in jail, she’d rather do that than see Ruiz end up dead at Robinson’s hands. In other words, Maloney hated to do it, but she had to throw Ruiz in jail for her own good.
WAS JAILING ALLEGED VICTIM AS MATERIAL WITNESS NECESSARY? A GOOD IDEA?
Mon, September 30 2013 » Maine Law » Comments Off
Maine Court Screening- Some Lawyers Are More Equal Than Others.
There was a time not that long ago when no security screening took place at courthouse entry points in the Maine State court system. Over the past several years, State court security screening has become fairly routine, to the point that it now takes place most of the time in the courthouses where I practice. But not everyone gets screened- some classes of people enjoy an officially sanctioned privilege from screening– and that has started a small firestorm among certain unprivileged members of the Maine Bar. Oh, how I wish to fan the flames of that firestorm, even in the smallest way.
Back when I was a member of a class that is now privileged from screening (D.A.’s office employees), no security screening took place in the State system. Back then, the lack of security seemed pretty crazy to me. For example, I was an assistant D.A. in the Cumberland County Courthouse when the new addition was built, back around 1991. In the second floor lobby, near the elevators, there was a pattern in the new flooring, surrounded by metal lamp posts. The setup was reminiscent of the part of the Starship Enterprise where the Star Trek crew went to be beamed back and forth between the space ship and nearby planets. The lights had not yet been installed on the metal posts, and wires still protruded from the top. The D.A.’s Office was experimenting with holding a grand jury session in a tiny nearby courtroom. I was waiting to present a case to the grand jury when a guy in biker garb approached. He mistook the Star Trek floor layout and posts with protruding wires for some kind of metal detector setup. I know this because, as he approached and stood facing me about 2’ away, he said something like: “Oh wow, that’s a metal detector… I’ve got a weapon.” At that point, he reached toward his rib cage, under his leather jacket, as I stood and watched. Nearby, a relatively small female Sheriff’s Deputy who was there keeping track of grand jury witnesses immediately got up, pressed her palm against the guy’s chest and pushed him back to toward the wall. A larger Maine State Trooper who was present as a grand jury witness immediately assisted. Between the two of them, they disarmed the guy of a semi-automatic handgun with a full magazine, a large knife sheathed at the small of his back, and a second full magazine held near his ribcage. As it turned out, the guy had a concealed carry permit and meant no harm, but nobody from court security turned up at any point to check out or assist with the situation. They were oblivious to what was going on. This episode brought home for me how easy it would have been for a guy who did mean harm to have entered the courthouse and wiped out every court clerk working on the second floor, and a whole bunch of others to boot. I tried to draw attention to the problem, but nothing ever came of it– alarmist.
I tell the above story to demonstrate that I understand the need for court security, and that I’ve understood an urgent need for it ever since that need was brought home to me more than 20 years ago. It’s a good thing that we ordinarily have courthouse security screening procedures in place these days; at least much of the time, in a number of places. But still, I feel a little bit inferior to be one of the unprivileged, frequently made to stand in line, to empty my pocket of all metallic objects and pass through courthouse metal detectors (although I’ve only had to remove my belt once, and I’ve never been forced to take off my shoes). I’m sure I wouldn’t feel at all inferior if I shared this treatment with everyone else, but the problem is that there are many who belong to officially privileged classes, who are always allowed to just walk on by. The privileged classes include judges (a rarefied form of lawyer who make the rules in this area) and other judicial branch employees, including employees of the court clerk’s offices; D.A.’s, deputy and assistant D.A.’s (another form of lawyer) and others employed by D.A.’s offices; police officers; and, if I am not mistaken, courthouse custodial staff (janitors). Personally, I don’t get that worked up about having to go through courthouse security while my more privileged brethren and sistren, and those in their employ, blow through the fast lane. It suits my cynical sense of humor. But the practice has begun to rankle a significant number of other lawyers who don’t fit into one of the officially privileged classes. It seems that many of these lawyers are offended to be less trusted than janitors, court clerk’s staff, D.A.’s office personnel and police officers not to bring weapons into the courthouse, even though they are held to the standard of “officers of the court,” have sworn an oath to the court, had to pass a background check at the time of bar admission, and are monitored by the Maine Board of Bar Overseers. In the past couple of days I have detected the stirrings of a small backlash against these prejudicial screening processes. The backlash began with an email that Walter McKee, Esq., sent to members of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Walt has been working for some time now for equal treatment for all licensed Maine attorneys, only to have received a response from the judiciary to his recent inquiry about existing practices that goes something like this (I paraphrase): Thank you so much for your concern…noted…now go along and eat some cake, will you. Oh, to be among the privileged.
Tue, September 17 2013 » Maine Law » Comments Off
What Follows are a few updates and additions to my book “Maine Driver’s License Suspensions, Revocations and related Offenses (non-OUI),” that I have promised, for some time, to post:
Add to footnote 55, page 20, the following citation: State v. Spiegel, 2013 ME 73.
Amend Section 2.2(C)(2)(c)(1) ” Provisional License First Issued to Person Age 21 or Older,” to reflect the following:
Effective October 9, 2013, the language “without right to a hearing” is stricken from the governing statute, and the following language has been added: “If requested, the Secretary of State shall provide an opportunity for a hearing on the suspension as soon as practicable. After the hearing, the Secretary of State, for good cause shown, may continue, modify or rescind the suspension.”
Add to Section 2.2(C)(2)(g) “Negligent Causation of Death Suspensions,” page 52, after existing text:
Under authority of 29-A M.R.S §2458(2-A), the Secretary of State is to suspend for at least 3 years the license of anyone the Secretary of State finds recklessly or negligently operated a motor vehicle in a manner that caused the death of another person. The finding may be based on the Secretary of State’s records “or other sufficient evidence.” The suspension is to be imposed without preliminary hearing, but the Secretary of State must notify the person of a right to hearing under 29-A M.R.S. §2483. The Secretary of State is required to notify any family of the victim and is to consider, in its decision whether to issue the suspension, any written or oral statements received from the family. This statute leads to suspension of those who cause the death of another person through ordinary negligence. Suspension actions are often triggered by police officers, an accident victim’s family members or an attorney for the family providing police reports and other information to the Secretary of State.
Add new Section 2.2(C)(2)(h) “In Fact Causation of Serious Bodily Injury or Death While Knowingly Operating Under Suspension or Revocation,” as follows:
A person convicted of the Class C crime of knowingly operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked driver’s license and in fact causing the death of another person is to have his or her license suspended by the Secretary of State for 5 years. A person convicted of the Class B crime of knowingly operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked driver’s license and in fact causing the death of another person is to have his or her license suspended for 10 years.
Add to Section 2.2(D)(2) “Class E OAS,” page 54 at the end of the paragraph:
Although courts are not required to impose a suspension for conviction of this offense, the Secretary of State does impose a 60-day suspension upon receipt from the court of the abstract of conviction, as discussed in Section 2.2(C)(2)(b) above.
Add to Section 2.2(D)(3) “Operating While License Suspended for OUI or an OUI Offense,” page 56, first paragraph after “…for failure to satisfy reinstatement conditions”:
It should be noted that a person who has been granted a work-restricted license on an administrative suspension for a first-offense OUI does not commit the offense of operating after suspension for an OUI offense by operating outside the terms of the work restricted license. Once a work-restricted license is issued, the OUI suspension is stayed and the person is issued a license to drive for work purposes only. Because the person ‘s license is not suspended but is instead restricted at that point, operating beyond the work restriction constitutes the crime of operating beyond license restriction, under 29-A M.R.S. §1251(1)(B), not OAS for OUI. Similarly, it does not constitute OAS for OUI for a person to drive beyond the terms of a work-restricted license issued after the person serves 2/3 of the suspension period for a first offense OUI, under 29-A M.R.S. §2501, or for those who drive beyond license restriction after early reinstatement with an installed ignition interlock device, under 29-A M.R.S. §2508.
Add the following citation to footnote 242, page 60: State v. Spiegel, 2013 ME 73.
Add the following to the end of text at, page 119:
Note that even if a court finds that a prior conviction cannot be used to increase punishment because it was obtained in violation of the right to counsel, this finding does not allow a collateral attack to be made against a charge of operating after habitual offender revocation, even though the habitual offender declaration rests in part on the same uncounseled prior. The time to attack an habitual offender declaration is when the declaration is made, not after one has been charged criminally with driving in that status.
 29-A M.R.S. §2458(2-A).
 29-A M.R.S. §2464(1),(4).
 29-A M,R.S. §2464(2),(4).
 See State v. Spiegel, 2013 ME 73.
Updates to “Maine Driver’s License Suspensions, Revocations and Related Offenses.” 9/8/2013
Sun, September 8 2013 » Criminal Law, Maine Law » Comments Off
This past legislative session, the Maine Legislature enacted new provisions regarding OUI suspensions and early reinstatement with an ignition interlock device. The new provisions do not all take effect on the same date.
Effective for conduct committed on or after October 9, 2013, the length of license suspension for a 4th or subsequent OUI offense committed within 10 years is increased to 8 years. For conduct committed before October 9, 2013, this offense carries a 6-year license suspension and a requirement that, to become reinstated at the end of the 6-year term, the person must install an ignition interlock device and keep it installed for 6 years. Effective for conduct committed on or after October 9, 2013, a person will be eligible for reinstatement with an installed ignition interlock device after 4 years of the 8-year suspension period has run, with the requirement that the device must remain installed for the balance of the 8-year term. Also beginning October 9, 2013, those who are already under suspension for 6 years for a 4th or subsequent OUI offense committed within 10 years are eligible to apply for early reinstatement with an ignition interlock device once they complete 4 years of the 6-year term, with the requirement that the device must remain installed for the balance of the 6-year term. A person will not be reinstated to drive with an installed ignition interlock device unless the Secretary of State has received notice from DEEP that the person has met all DEEP requirements. The person will also be required to have paid a $50.00 reinstatement fee and, beginning October 9, 2013, will also need to pay a $50.00 administrative fee in addition to the reinstatement fee.
Effective for conduct committed on or after December 1, 2013, the length of license suspension is increased for a first offense OUI within 10 years from 90 days to 150 days. It has been widely reported by media outlets that the new length of suspension is 180 days, but it is in fact 150 days (see Public Law Chapter 389, Approved by the Governor July 1, 2013). A person convicted of such an offense may choose whether to seek early reinstatement with an installed ignition interlock device or simply serve the entire 150-day suspension term. A person seeking early reinstatement must first serve 30 days of the suspension term. The Secretary of State will not allow early reinstatement with an ignition interlock device unless notice has first been received that the person has met all DEEP requirements and unless a $50.00 reinstatement fee and an additional $50.00 administrative fee have been paid. A person who is reinstated early with an ignition interlock device must leave the device installed for the balance of the 150-day suspension term. If a person chooses not to seek early reinstatement with an installed ignition interlock device, the person will be reinstated to drive on a work-restricted basis after 2/3 (100 days) of the suspension period has been served, provided: (1) the Secretary of State has received notice that the person has met DEEP requirements at the point; and (2) the person has paid a $50.00 reinstatement fee. The work-restricted status will continue for the last 1/3 (50 days) of the suspension period. If, rather than wait until 2/3 of the suspension period has been served, the person applies for and is granted a work-restricted license on an administrative suspension, the time the person holds that work license will not be counted toward a court-ordered suspension for conviction of the same offense. Just as is the case with a 90-day first offense suspension, once a person applies for and is issued a work license on an administrative suspension, the suspension is considered “stayed” and the person is issued a license with the condition that the person must only operate for work purposes. Again, the time that a person is allowed to drive on this restricted license will not be counted toward a court-ordered suspension for conviction of a first offense OUI. A number of people have wondered whether, once December 1, 2013, rolls around, a person will be eligible for reinstatement with an ignition interlock device after serving 30 days of their suspension term on a 90-day suspension received for pre-December 1, 2013, first offense OUI conduct. The answer is “no.” Early reinstatement with an ignition interlock device will only be available for those who receive a 150-day suspension for a first offense OUI, and will not become available at any point for those who receive a 90-day suspension.
There will be an interesting twist in the new ignition interlock option for first offenders who are suspended for a first-offense refusal and convicted for a first offense OUI arising from the same event, for conduct committed on or after December 1, 2013. The governing statutes allow a person suspended for a first offense refusal to be reinstated to drive under a work restriction after serving 2/3 of the 275-day suspension period, provided the person has met DEEP requirements and paid a reinstatement fee at that point. As discussed above, the governing statutes also provide for a person who has met DEEP requirements and paid a reinstatement fee at the 2/3 mark of a 90-day suspension for a first offense OUI conviction to be reinstated with a work restriction for the last 30 days of that suspension period. Under current law, when a person is convicted of OUI within the first 6 months of the suspension period for the refusal, if DEEP requirements have been met and reinstatement fees have been paid, the BMV strings the time off the road for the administrative and court ordered suspensions together, causing the person to be barred from driving for a total of 8 months, followed by 4 months of license reinstatement on a work restricted license before full reinstatement. On December 1, 2013, when the suspension for a first offense OUI grows to 150 days, if a person in these circumstances does not seek early reinstatement with an ignition interlock device, that person will be reinstated to drive on a work restricted basis once 6 months (2/3 of refusal suspension) plus 100 days (2/3 of suspension for conviction) have passed, and will remain on the work restriction for 3 months (last 1/3 of refusal suspension) plus 50 days (last 1/3 of suspension for conviction). But what will happen if a person in these circumstances seeks early reinstatement with an ignition interlock device after serving the first 6 months of the refusal suspension plus 30 days of the court suspension? Will the person be reinstated to drive at that point but remain under a work restriction as well as an ignition interlock restriction until the remainder of the 275-day refusal suspension period has run? Or will the person be reinstated to drive at that point with an ignition interlock device and from that point forward no longer be under a work restriction? The answer is that as of September 25, 2013, the Secretary of State’s Office has not yet decided how it will structure this work-restricted early reinstatement (admin. refusal suspension) combined with early reinstatement with ignition interlock device (court ordered OUI suspension) situation… so stay tuned.
One last bit…effective December 1, 2013, a person convicted of OUI, Class C, based on in fact causation of serious bodily injury, will be allowed early reinstatement with an installed ignition interlock device after 3 years of the 6-year suspension term has run, provided all other requirements for early reinstatement, discussed above, have been met. The person will be required to leave the device installed for the balance of the 6-year suspension term.
Upcoming Changes in Maine OUI Suspensions and Ignition Interlock Reinstatement.
Wed, August 28 2013 » Criminal Law, Maine Law, OUI/DUI » Comments Off
I hate hate crimes statutes- always have. This week, three juveniles were arrested for their involvement in the murder of Christopher Lane, a white Australian college student who was out for a jog in Duncan, Oklahoma. One of the three told police he and his pals were bored, so they decided to kill somebody. And kill somebody they did, apparently by driving up behind the total stranger, Lane, and shooting him in the back. Two of the three juveniles, James Edwards and Chancey Luna, are clearly black. The third, Michael Jones, has been referred to in media accounts as white, but alternative media accounts have reported that he has one black parent, which must make him a “white black” in line with the “white Hispanic” label that the media affixed to George Zimmerman. Edwards reportedly used his Twitter account to express his hatred of whites, as in: “90 percent of white ppl are nasty #HATE THEM,” as well as to brag that he’d knocked out a few whites since the verdict in the Zimmerman trial, referring to whites by use of the term “woods,” which is short for “peckerwoods.” That and the fact that two, if not all three, of the alleged perpetrators are black while the victim is clearly white has caused a significant number of people to question why the murder isn’t being treated as a hate crime. But why should it matter? Apart from issues of double standards and hypocrisy, of course, really, why should it matter?
In this case, three juveniles decided to kill somebody and then set about doing it because it they were bored. How does it get worse than that? Can anyone seriously maintain that it’s pretty bad for someone to murder another person purely for the thrill of it, but it’s really serious to select the thrill-kill victim based on race, gender, perceived sexual orientation or religious affiliation? Any time someone selects a murder (or assault) victim based on race, gender, perceived sexual orientation or religious affiliation, the perpetrator is choosing to commit a calculated act of violence against someone who has done nothing to provoke that act of violence. The criminal law has always recognized that brand of violence as particularly punishment-worthy, long before the advent of hate crimes legislation. If some thug decides to bash my skull in on a Saturday night because he’s drunk and itching to bash a skull, it really doesn’t matter to me whether he chooses to bash my skull because I’m a white guy or because I happen to be in the vicinity. And it’s a good thing that his motive makes no difference to me, because it won’t make any difference to the powers that be either. I could hold my breath a long time waiting for the President of the United States to publicly declare his empathy for my plight because I could be his uncle or his cousin, or even himself 10 years from now, just as the family of Christopher Lane can wait till hell freezes over for a similar expression of solidarity from the Chief Executive.
In 2009, a group of young guys, all of them white, decided to break into a home in New Hampshire and commit a killing. Why? Because they decided they wanted to have that experience, that’s why. They didn’t know anyone who lived there. It just seemed like a great place to do some killing. Once inside, they killed a white woman whose husband was away on business and severely injured her white 10-year-old daughter, by hacking and stabbing them with a machete and a knife. That crime would have been no worse if the victims were selected because they were female, or if the woman and child had been black and had been selected on that basis (in fact, if the motive had been to feel the experience of murdering a child, that wouldn’t even have earned additional scorn under a hate crimes statute). But if the victims had been black, I have no doubt we would once again have witnessed the rolling out of the great “teachable moment” morality play, and no doubt some extra charges brought under a hate crimes statute. Why? Politics: To spotlight the evil that flows from an attitude of privilege among white males in this fundamentally flawed American society. Well, what better demonstrates a fundamental flaw in our present day American society than the fact that we have young guys going around killing people out of boredom or just to experience the thrill of the kill? Let’s hold a big “teachable moment” morality play about that. To make it convenient for the President of the United States to join in, maybe we could even set it in his home town of Chicago.
AREN’T THERE ENOUGH REAL ONES THAT WE DON’T NEED ANY FAKES?
Then we get fake hate crimes, in which activists agitate grievance brigades by staging acts of identity group hatred, apparently because there aren’t enough real hate crimes to maintain the proper degree of hysteria. But oops, in the recent case addressed in the links below, when the fakery was revealed, the elite educational institution where it was perpetrated and the establishment media that reported the “hate” offenses in the first instance refused to address the duping. The Cause, man…by whatever means…
Hate crimes statutes were conceived to help advance certain political narratives. The Matthew Shepard story is a cornerstone of one such narrative. The following article raises questions about the truth of that story. Is it true? Does it matter? What would the administration at Oberlin College say?
And then there was this one from Vassar College:
Sat, August 24 2013 » Criminal Law, Maine Law » Comments Off
Been working on the 2d edition of Maine OUI Law, which I’m hoping to knock into shape for publication in the next couple of months. The new edition will pick up cases issued by the Law Court since the last edition, focusing at some length on developments in the areas of Miranda and OUI-custody, and non-roadblock stops without individual suspicion. The new edition will also cover differences in Maine’s approved breath testing apparatuses between the old model 5000-EN and the current model 8000, as well as the statutory changes, effective December 1, 2013, that increase license suspensions for first offense OUI’s from 90 to 150 days, but allow early license reinstatement after 30 days with an installed ignition interlock device. Reserve your copies early and often.
9/17/2013 My publisher has it, so it will soon be ready to roll.
Sun, July 28 2013 » Maine Law, OUI/DUI » Comments Off
In September, the Maine Supreme Court will hold a public hearing on a proposed change to the Maine Rules of Criminal Procedure. The proposal would extend from 48 to 72 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, the maximum allowable time for bringing a person before a judge for an initial appearance and the setting of bail after that person has been arrested for a crime. The proposed extension is a really bad idea. To illustrate, a person who is arrested on a Wednesday before a Monday holiday could be held in jail without appearing before a judge until the following Tuesday. Under the current rule, the State would be required to arrange for that person to appear before a judge on or before Friday, within 48 hours after arrest. The proposed amendment was floated because the Sheriff of Washington County has trouble finding an open courthouse with a judge who can handle initial appearances in time to meet the current 48-hour rule (which has been in place just about forever, by the way). So the Washington County Sheriff wants to extend the time to 72 hours, so he won’t have to set bad actors free because the rule’s been breached. With the ready availability of video conferencing, there is absolutely no justification for this rule change, but some folks evidently think it makes more sense to hold people in jail for an extra day than to figure out a way to apply readily available technology to fix the problem. Now, according to the following link, pointed out to me by Walt McKee, Esq., the Maine Sheriff’s Association as a whole stands with the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in opposition to this ill-conceived proposal. Kill it!
Maine Sheriffs Join Opposition To Propose Time Extension for Initial Appearance After Arrest
Update: The Law Court cancelled the public hearing and the idea died a quiet death. It didn’t require euthanasia.
Tue, July 23 2013 » Maine Law » Comments Off
The George Zimmerman trial has ended with not guilty verdicts on second degree murder and the lesser-included charge of manslaughter. What does it mean? What broader message should we draw from this verdict? My take on it: the State of Florida placed George Zimmerman on trial for murder, a jury heard evidence over a 3-week period, the judge instructed the jury on the applicable law, including the law of self-defense, and the jury found that the State had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt; and that’s the sum and substance of it. Any lawyer who has been involved in a self-defense criminal trial will not be surprised by the verdict. But we were told from the outset that this case had broad implications, and that’s the problem. A criminal case is a criminal case. Despite the best efforts of the race hustlers and agenda-pushers to turn individual criminal cases into great symbols of broader truth, the facts of a particular criminal case almost never carry great social significance, or any meaning at all beyond the scope of the particular case. But facts are for juries to decide. Agendas are for politics, and the Zimmerman case was almost immediately coopted by the agenda of racial politics.
The Zimmerman case is one in a line of cases that have been used to present America with a “teachable moment.” The Duke Lacrosse case started out that way, but it unraveled too quickly when the alleged victim was demonstrated to have fabricated her tale of sexual assault by a group of white Duke University lacrosse players. Going further back, Tawana Brawley’s wildly implausible and blatantly false 1987 rape accusations were pushed by the Reverend Al Sharpton and company as a vehicle for consciousness-raising in the area of race relations. And in the realm of teachable moments in gender relations, there was a fairly broad-based push by feminists to turn the William Kennedy-Smith rape trial into the case that stood for everything. The template is essentially this: In fundamentally-flawed American society, members of a privileged class, consisting of whites (racial template) or males (feminist template) regularly act out their sense of privilege by harming, killing, or sexually assaulting with impunity members of oppressed classes– females, African-Americans, female African-Americans, etc. The template waits at the ready, needing only the next opportune case to be inserted. The template represents truth. Nothing more need be known to determine that the accused is guilty as charged, or that the case at issue implicates deeply ingrained flaws in American society, than to know that the defendant and the alleged victim fit within the template. But again, the reality is that individual criminal cases are simply that—individual criminal cases that rise or fall on their own particular facts and circumstances and the applicable law.
In the Zimmerman case, it was strange and unprecedented (in my memory) for a President of the United States to directly and publicly personalize a local criminal case, telling the American people that if he had a son, his son would look like Trayvon Martin. In what sense Trayvon Martin might have looked like the son the President doesn’t have (tall, thin, roughly 17 years old?) the President did not say, nor did he point out to us the relevance of his observation. But the President’s observation clearly helped elevate the story of this local criminal case to a position of national importance, paving the way for its use as a national teachable moment.
When the race hustlers arrived on the scene, they did their typical race-hustling thing, working to bend the criminal justice system to their will. After all, those who believe the system is already corrupted against them don’t tend to have compunctions about corrupting it further to serve their own ends. Before the Zimmerman case, in the Duke Lacrosse case, I suspect the race hustlers had a strong hand in encouraging the unethical actions of the district attorney there, as he sought to advance the narrative of privileged white jocks at an elite university treating a poor, working black female as sexual trash, even well after that narrative proved demonstrably untrue. In the Zimmerman case, there was an initial hiccup in the process of fitting the case to the template. The man with the very white name turned out to actually be Hispanic. To advance the narrative, Zimmerman was quickly labeled a “white Hispanic.” Later, when the actual evidence started to look extremely bad for the State, the prosecutors were strongly criticized for presenting witnesses helpful to the defense. While the D.A.’s should have had a better idea of the likely testimony of their own witnesses, and arguably should have refrained from presenting exculpatory evidence to the jury themselves, ultimately the fact that their own witnesses helped Zimmerman simply demonstrated the inherent weakness of the State’s case. When the case inside the courtroom started to resemble irreparably damaged goods, the race hustlers continued to do what the hustlers do– they threatened riots for the wrong outcome, but none of this brought about a guilty verdict. And now that the jury has rendered acquittals, the hustlers continue to push their template as truth. In their narrative, the fact of Zimmerman’s acquittal only demonstrates the power that the privileged hold within the system. So now we hear declarations from some quarters that Zimmerman’s acquittal demonstrates that white people can murder black people with impunity in this country. To their credit, Trayvon Martin’s parents are not among this crowd. Although they must suffer enormous pain from the loss of their son and the acquittal of the man who shot him, they stand back from the race-baiters. Meanwhile, calls have already gone out for a review of the case for a federal prosecution of Zimmerman, for civil rights violations. If and when such a prosecution occurs, won’t that simply be a matter of the godfather having lifted his finger or given the nod? Why should anyone think otherwise? After all, mistrust and villification of the other is the soul of racial politics, and it’s absurd to believe it’s not a 2-way street.
Here’s a link to an example of a successful self-defense claim when the shoe was on the other foot, and there was no national outcry: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/353695/defend-our-law-and-culture-not-george-zimmerman-david-french
A rebuttal to the argument that the Zimmerman verdict is the result of a racist judicial system, here: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/353864/post-zimmerman-poison-pill-heather-mac-donald
Florida v. George Zimmerman and Race Politics In America.
Sun, July 14 2013 » Criminal Law » Comments Off
Police at war? Who is the enemy?
In keeping with my theme of the day– disproportionate law enforcement responses—below is a link to a story from the July, 2013, ABA journal, titled “Rise of the Warrior Cop.” While there has been a move in law enforcement of late toward community policing, there’s been a simultaneous increase in the establishment of paramilitary SWAT units. Why? Statistics clearly show that we are not experiencing an increase in violent crime in this country, and I’m certain that the presence of a SWAT team in every hamlet isn’t what’s responsible for keeping the crime rate down. It isn’t good for anyone—civilian or police—to have thousands of officers deployed in this country as if on permanent war footing against members of the civilian population.
Interesting facts in the linked article include “[u]nlikely federal agencies with SWAT teams: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. National Park Services, [and the] Food and Drug Administration.” The article also highlights the abundant equipment received by the town of Johnston, Rhode Island, population 28,769, for its paramilitary unit, including 30 M-16’s with 18,000 rounds of ammunition, 44 bayonets to fix to those M-16’s, and 12 Humvees. I guess the SWAT team members of Johnston, RI, are prepared to run ‘em through with bayonets once the guns are out of ammo.
And then there’s the college kid who went to the store with her friends to buy ice cream, cookie dough and bottled water, only to find herself besieged by a half-dozen armed undercover liquor enforcement agents, who scared her half to death by pulling a gun, flashing what she thought were bogus badges and trying to smash their way through the windows of her vehicle. http://www.inquisitr.com/823163/virginia-college-student-arrested-after-buying-bottled-water/ Of course, she should have just gone face down on the pavement at the first command to stop, right? Isn’t that what all of us should be prepared to do on our next trip to the grocery store?
Addendum to the origin post: Here’s a link to an article that deals with the same topic, adding examples of arrests of those engaged in the non-criminal exercise of their right of free speech. This article also brings up the topic of people killed in drug raids carried out on the wrong houses. When the innocent are shot dead in their own houses, for reacting poorly to an armed home invasion by government officials carrying out their mandate in the war on drugs, their loved ones will at least know they died for a noble cause, right? http://www.timesdispatch.com/opinion/our-opinion/columnists-blogs/bart-hinkle/hinkle-commit-any-felonies-lately/article_58344fc1-7d4f-584a-8d16-36a1b1f2cdc0.html
And here’s a link to a map of “isolated incidents” of paramilitary overkill, raids on the wrong houses, innocent people killed, etc. Thankfully, Maine is clean. http://www.cato.org/raidmap
The hits just keep on coming. Here’s a story about a guy who was arrested for obstruction of justice, for not complying with a police order to let them take over his home as a position to gain a tactical advantage against his neighbor. What a scumbag, punk, huh? I bet he had it coming. http://intellihub.com/2013/07/05/police-arrest-assault-family-for-refusing-to-open-home-for-stakeout/
Another bad situation created by over-the-topness: http://www.infowars.com/florida-nurse-terrorized-by-us-marshals/
And the Wall Street Journal weighs in, providing a few more examples: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323848804578608040780519904.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories
Quite random, I realize, but here’s a clip of a guy who got arrested for taking video in the street while a SWAT raid took place. Would documenting events have interfered with creative report writing? http://photographyisnotacrime.com/2013/08/11/washington-man-arrested-for-video-recording-swat-team-from-public-sidewalk/
Mon, July 1 2013 » Criminal Law » Comments Off