Results matching “bergrin”

Two of the arguments most frequently lodged against the death penalty are that executions can be botched, leading to extended, severe pain; and that surviving family members don't want the trauma either of the protracted capital legal process or the bitter, sometimes jarring experience of the execution itself.

Both arguments were made by the defense side in last night's executions, and both were, as is typically the case, phony.

Will there be any sanctions for defense counsels' deceit?  Let me ask that another way:  Short of outright perjury or helping to plan the murder of prosecution witnesses, are there ever sanctions for defense counsels' deceit?

You've heard it all before.  Hey, look, we gotta be zealous!  Besides, the actual facts don't look so hot, so what else do you expect us to do?  Honestly, you Puritanical stuffed suits just don't have an ounce of compassion.  Anyway, who can really, actually, finally know "The Truth?"

Criminal Justice Discussion with Judge Alex Kozinski

The tape of the Federalist Society teleforum I had the opportunity to join with Judge Alex Kozinski is not yet available.  When it is, I'll post the link.

In the meantime, I can repeat only half the discussion, to wit, my opening statement.  (Judge Kozinski did not prepare a written opening).

Our debate continued what has become a national examination of some extremely important topics in criminal law, including what some call "incarceration nation," imploding crime rates, policing and police behavior, the reliability of forensic evidence, the increasing number of non-mens rea offenses, prosecutorial immunity, and plea bargaining, among many others.

Although the Judge and I had our disagreements, the breadth and sharpness of his knowledge was something to behold.

My opening is below.

What to Do About Over-Zealous Prosecutors

First, we have to define what an over-zealous prosecutor is. That's the easy part:  An over-zealous prosecutor is one who's awake during business hours.

Second, we have to devise a plan of action.  You might think that endless accusations of Brady violations (whether grounded or not) would do the job.  But that's getting to be old hat.  So we might want to move on to assassinating his witnesses.  On the other hand, that didn't seem to work out too well.

So on to today's story:

As the kidnappers pulled into a quiet, upscale golf course community, they thought they were about to abduct an assistant district attorney who sent a high-ranking gang member to prison for life, authorities said.

But they had the wrong address and when the prosecutor's father answered the door, they took him instead.

For five days, authorities said the kidnappers held 63-year-old Frank Janssen captive in an Atlanta apartment, tormenting his family by sending text messages threatening to cut him into pieces if police were called or their demands weren't met. They even sent a photo of him tied up in a chair.

Unlike many of my colleagues in academia, I don't think for a minute that this episode is the result of a "climate of hate" against DA's.  It's the result of good old fashioned criminality.  Still, one would hope that those endlessly spinning hateful tales about prosecutors might give it a moment's thought.

No Witness, No Case, Part III

In my previous entry, I discussed the conviction of prominent defense lawyer Paul Bergrin for zealous advocacy witness murder.  Reading over the NYT story, this part struck me as remarkably noteworthy, so much so that it deserves its own post:

In his trial, which began in January, prosecutors were permitted to play recorded conversations between Mr. Bergrin and a former gang member who had worn a wire for months to record conversations as Mr. Bergrin tried to hire him to kill a witness.

"We've got to make it look like a robbery," Mr. Bergrin was heard saying on grainy tapes. "It cannot under any circumstances look like a hit."

Mr. Bergrin argued that prosecutors were corrupt and that the witnesses against him were seeking -- and had received -- shorter sentences for their crimes. He explained the recordings by saying he had known all along that the "hit man" was an impostor and had gone along in the hopes of extracting legal fees from him.

In his three-and-a-half-hour closing statement last week, Mr. Bergrin pleaded with the jury for forgiveness, insisting that he was ashamed of the things he had been heard saying but that he was merely defending his clients.

"I get caught up in them, their families, their anguish," he said. "You try to work tirelessly and endlessly, as if they're your own children, as if they're your own family. I tried to be there for the downtrodden, for the underdog, for the destitute, to show the client and the people that they have somebody who is willing to stand up for them."

What is remarkable about these last few paragraphs is not how different they are from what you see every day on defense blogs, but how stunningly similar.  It is nothing short of "Paul Bergrin: The Defense Lawyer's Creed."

No Witness, No Case, Part II

A year and a half ago, I wrote about Paul Bergrin, a prominent New Jersey defense lawyer who took seriously the creed of standing up to prosecutors' bullying and their freelance destruction of Constitutional rights.  Bergrin was having none of it.

In what was obviously a vindictive prosecution, designed to intimidate the defense bar generally, the US Attorney for New Jersey decided to indict Bergrin on numerous charges.  The first jury deadlocked.  The second jury, clearly caving in to illicit prosecutorial tactics, convicted.  The verdict came in more than a month ago, but the story was tucked deep in the New York Times's "N.Y./Region" section, so I missed it until just now.

For those of you wondering what, specifically, Bergrin did, you have to read down to the twelfth paragraph to find out.  Here it is (emphasis added):

[The first judge on the case, later removed by the Third Circuit] refused to allow the authorities to try him on any of the charges other than two murder counts, for allegedly ordering members of a Newark gang to kill Kemo DeShawn McCray, a confidential F.B.I. informant who was to serve as a crucial witness in a case against one of Mr. Bergrin's clients.

Translation:  What a "zealous defense" actually means is "witness murder."  And no, this is hardly typical defense lawyering.  But it's worth remembering when one of our friends in the pristine defense bar starts bellowing about flagrant prosecutorial abuse.

No Witness, No Case

Q:  What's even better than a suppression motion?

A:  Offing the government's star witness.  That way, you don't have to worry about an appeal.

The feds have indicted a prominent New Jersey defense lawyer, Paul Bergrin, for murdering a government witness in a case he was defending, a fellow named Kemo McCray.  I have no personal knowledge of the case, and the judgment about Bergrin's guilt vel non will, obviously, have to await a jury's consideration.  But New York magazine has a fascinating article about it.  For example, these two paragraphs:

"‚ÄČ'No witness, no case'--that was Paul's motto," said one attorney [who knew him]. "There was this guy with a tattoo of the scales of justice on his back. Below the scales was the quote, 'No witness, no case--Paul Bergrin.' When your customers are all criminals, what's better advertising than a prison tattoo?"

Everyone had his Paul Bergrin ­story--how he started off with one client, then switched to another defendant in the same case, got the second guy to flip against the first, and kept the money from both. There were tales of how Bergrin planned to open a $30 million gambling casino in the Costa Rican cloud forest. And of course, there was the whorehouse deal. Bergrin had taken control of one of Manhattan's ritziest escort services and started bringing a steady stream of cops, lawyers, and even a prison official to the brothel's Worth Street headquarters, where the samples were free.

The trial wll be fascinatng to follow, if the government can persuade anyone to testify.



Monthly Archives