Recently in Notorious Cases Category

Rich People in Prison

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One gripe we hear all the time is that defendants with money invariably get away with their crimes or at least get off easy.  It's not true.  R. Scott Moxley at O.C. Weekly reports on the background of the murder conviction reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday and noted in this post.  It turns out that defendant Marvin Smith was a multimillionaire. 

The rich and famous Phil Spector is also a permanent guest of California taxpayers.  In Delaware, big time political mover and shaker Thomas Capano was sentenced to death.  He got off death row the same way thousands of others have -- the Supreme Court changed the rules after the trial was over.

What about O.J. Simpson?  His acquittal was mainly the result of racial dynamics in the wake of the Rodney King riots.  The dream team wasn't all that dreamy.  The prosecution proved his guilt sufficiently to convince an unbiased jury beyond a reasonable doubt; the problem was the jury.

That is not to say that a better lawyer will never make the difference in a close case.  But most cases are not close.  The difference is at the margins.
Miguel Bustillo, Ana Campoy, and Andrew Grossman report in the WSJ:

At a news conference, Sgt. Jeremy Lewis of the Police Department in Moore, near Oklahoma City, said the suspect in the stabbing spree, Alton Nolen, began attacking workers at random after he was fired from his job at the city's Vaughan Foods Inc. processing plant around 4:05 p.m. local time on Thursday.

When police arrived, two women in the plant's front office area had been attacked and Mr. Nolen, 30, lay wounded from gunshots, Sgt. Lewis said. One of the women, Colleen Hufford, 54, was decapitated. "He did kill Colleen and did sever her head," Sgt. Lewis said.

Police determined that as Mr. Nolen attacked the second victim, Traci Johnson, 43, he was confronted and shot by the chief operating officer of Vaughan Foods, Mark Vaughan, who is a reserve Oklahoma County sheriff's deputy, Sgt. Lewis said. "This off-duty deputy definitely saved Traci's life," he said, describing Mr. Vaughan as a hero. "This was not going to stop if he didn't stop it."

Seeing It Up Close

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There is an ongoing outcry against the sweet deal (no jail time and "counseling") given former NFL running back Ray Rice for knocking his girlfriend cold.

This caused me to reflect a moment:  Why the outrage against leniency for a simple (though thoroughly thuggish) assault and battery now, when what we usually hear is that leniency is overwhelmingly what the system needs  --  that it's far too harsh on first-time offenders, that African-Americans are picked out for prosecution, and that we're massively over-incarcerated?

Partly the answer is that Rice committed a politically incorrect crime, i.e., violence against women.  But I think an even bigger part is that the actual knockout blow is on every TV in America.  When people can see the thug in action for themselves, they react differently.  Differently, that is, from how they react when the crime is filtered through the defendant's PR department, typically consisting of his lawyer giving some sanitized (if not mostly just false) version.

This same lesson is brought home by the two recent filmed and televised beheadings of two Americans.  The shear sadism and cruelty of it cannot be blinkered away when you see the tape; PR isn't even attempted, because its fraudulent character would be too clear.

There is a lesson for us here:  Next time any of you debates the death penalty, insist that a tape of the beheadings be available to be shown to those who feel they can stomach looking.  When abolitionists have to deal with the reality of murder by seeing it up close  --  rather than through the intentionally distorted lens of their latest "America Is A Racist Cesspool" study  --  their minds might not be changed, but I venture to say their arrogance and holier-than-thou attitude will.

UPDATE:  Rice's plea deal was even worse than I thought.  There isn't even a probationary term, and the charges are likely to be dismissed in the future.  Tell me once more that the criminal justice system is too harsh....
There has been much talk on the Net recently of the posting of private nude photographs of certain celebrities.  There has also been much talk about the talk, whether people advising against engaging in behavior that makes such invasions of privacy possible are "blaming the victim."

I thought about posting on this, but Eugene Volokh has this long post at the eponymous Conspiracy that I mostly agree with, so I'll just link to him.

What Ferguson Is "About"

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Just now I read an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled, "Ferguson Isn't About Black Rage Against Cops; It's White Rage Against Progress."  The gist of the column, written by an associate professor in the African American studies and history department at Emory University, is that what's sparking the controversy isn't the shooting itself, nor the looting and violence thereafter, nor even any national concern about where we are, after all these years, with black crime and white police.

Nope, it's about how Ferguson "shows us" that white people still want to subjugate blacks a la' slavery (or as close as whites can get to slavery).  They want to do this by such vicious means as efforts "to dilute African American voting strength [through, e.g., voter ID laws] or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment."

The article is, in its way, just the most recent in a long line of furious, Sharptonesque attacks on whites, not dissimilar to the one I noted before arguing that what Ferguson is "about" is that whites had better cough up reparations.  But there's a more fundamental point about the vocabulary in which this entire discussion is being conducted.

Ferguson is the name of a town in Missouri.  It isn't "about" anything until we know what happened.  If you're reading something purporting to tell you what Ferguson is "about," or "the lessons of Ferguson," or "how to avoid the next Ferguson," put it down.  It's just using the word "Ferguson" to appropriate your attention to an agenda that's been around for years.

Those actually interested in knowing what Ferguson is "about" are still waiting. Waiting is annoying, for sure, but old-fashioned qualities like patience, maturity, authentic curiosity and fair play demand it.  If Ferguson turns out to be about a cop who shot a muscular, huge, enraged 18 year-old charging at him from a few seconds away, then it's "about" one thing.  If it shows a cop who shoot a huge, muscular 18 year-old who wanted nothing but to peacefully surrender and posed no realistic threat, then it's "about" something else.  In neither event is it necessarily about an issue with national resonance, although it might be, depending  --  again  --  on those pesky specifics.

For the moment, we are left to regret that, even as we're still in the dark about the most important facts,  the now standard-issue charge "KKK" gets hissed at those, white or black, who want to see that legitimate voters are the ones voting, and take at least a stab at paring back the government's sinkhole debt. If liberals are ever again able to make their arguments without this kind of opportunistic, race-baiting calumny, please, someone, jab me in the ribs.

Fools, Damned Fools, and Clients

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Michael Barone writes in the Washington Examiner:

"About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists in telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop." So supposedly said Elihu Root, New York lawyer and secretary of war and of state, and U.S. senator from 1909 to 1915.

Today it seems that many liberal "would-be clients" are in desperate need of what Root called "a decent lawyer."

Take Texans for Public Justice, the so-called public interest group that has been pushing for the indictment of Gov. Rick Perry by a grand jury at the urging of special prosecutor Michael McCrum.

The basis for the indictment is, in the words of liberal New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait, "unbelievably ridiculous."

Taranto on Obama's Ferguson Statement

Catching up on some stuff that happened while I was out of town, I found an interesting example of the political cross-currents in the Ferguson, Missouri matter.  James Taranto of the WSJ is not a big fan of President Obama, to put it mildly.  He does, though, give the President high marks for his statement last week in this column.

Multiple investigations are under way into the circumstances under which Michael Brown was killed. They must proceed deliberately, in accordance with the rule of law. "I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed because, although these are issues of local jurisdiction, the [Department of Justice] works for me and when they're conducting an investigation I've got to make sure that I don't look like I'm putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other," the president said.

People in positions of authority have an obligation to conduct themselves with reason and restraint. Whether or not the Ferguson police have lived up to that duty, the president, in his public statements on the crisis, has.

The Only Thing That Actually Counts

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The shooting in Ferguson, Mo. has been the launching pad for all manner of expounding about pre-existing agendas.  Libertarians have used it to urge the disarming of the police (called "demilitarization" for their present purposes); liberals have used it to push for legalizing dope; anti-white racists have used it to demand reparations ("reparations" being the word that radicals of one race use to promote appropriating money they did nothing to earn from people of a different race who did nothing to bring about the practices they condemn).

All this is the expected, if not exactly wholesome, reaction of a society that encourages free speech.  But it deflects  --  and is largely designed to deflect  -- from the one thing that actually counts.

DOJ's Version of Unbiased Justice

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My friend Paul Mirengoff at Powerline has a depressing and ominous assessment of the chance that Officer Darren Wilson, the Missouri cop who shot unarmed but huge 18 year-old Michael Brown, can get a fair shake from the federal grand jury looking into the case.

Eric Holder's Justice Department is in Missouri, some 50 strong according to Megyn Kelly, to investigate the shooting of Michael Brown and to decide whether to charge police officer Darren Wilson with civil rights crimes. The investigation and decision is in the hands of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division.

How much confidence can Americans have in the fairness and objectivity of this unit? The answer, I submit, is little if any.

Christian Adams at PJ Media has been covering the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division for years. PJ Media had to file a lawsuit to obtain the resumes of the lawyers Holder has brought into that group. According to Adams, it turned out that every one of his hires is a left-wing activist, and that some have histories of anti-police activity. 


What follows is a hair-raising rundown of the background of the lawyers who will be running the grand jury.  The short of it is that they're a bunch of far left ideologues.  

If you thought the Rick Perry indictment was a creature of politics, you're right. But I fear it was just a rehearsal.

Where Have All the Liberals Gone?

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People of my generation well remember the haunting anti-war song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" written by Pete Seeger and popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary. It was running through my head this morning, and got me to thinking, as I mulled the media's coverage of the shooting in Ferguson, Mo.:  Where have all the liberals gone?

In days of yore, when there was a notorious homicide or some other infamous episode, what I used to hear was

--  "No rush to judgment!"

--  "In America, everyone is presumed innocent."

--   "We can't try this case in the press."

--  "No trial by mob."

I'm just not hearing that at all these days. 

Where have all the liberals gone?


The Other Side of the Story in Ferguson

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I take press reports with a grain of salt, not because I think reporters are biased (although some certainly are), but because I much prefer facts about alleged crimes to be proved by the rigors of presentation in court, in particular oath-taking and cross-examination.  This is one reason that, for example, I put no great stock in one-sided "reports" that, 22 years after the fact, Cameron Todd Willingham has been "proved" innocent by "more advanced" scientific testing conducted by his partisans without oversight, scrutiny, or adversarial process of any kind.

It is with this skepticism in mind that I bring you this report from the New York Post:  "A Dozen Witnesses Say Ferguson Teen Attacked Cop Before Shooting".  There is also a report out that the cop, Officer Darren Wilson, suffered a facial fracture as a result of being attacked by the teenager he shot.

If these reports are true, it's very difficult to see how a scrupulous prosecutor can indict Wilson.

Unfortunately, with the politically edgy Civil Rights Division on the case, the operative word here is "scrupulous." 

We shall see.

UPDATE:  The original source for this story, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter 
Christine Byers, has been on family and medical leave since March, and has tweeted that the story does not appear in the paper because "it did not meet standards for publication." This makes me happy that I started this entry by reiterating my skepticism about about media reports.  Of course the story may still be true; we should find out more in the days to come. 

The Political Uses of Ferguson

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It was to be expected that the Usual Suspects would show up in Ferguson to push the Usual Causes, and would do so without finding out, or having any great interest in finding out, what actually happened.

Was this an NFL-sized gangbanger who had just committed a strong-arm robbery rushing a cop?  Was it a quick-trigger cop who got the drop on a teenager whose main "crime" was walking in the middle of the street?  Was it something else?

We don't know yet, but this fact makes no difference when the main point is to Fire Away.  Thus I bring you this Grievance-on-Steroids piece in the Atlantic.  I never thought I would say this, but it's enough to make Al Sharpton blush.

What Is Known about the Ferguson Shooting

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We don't as yet know anything like all the facts necessary to reach a judgment about whether the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. acted justifiably or committed murder, or something in between.

But we have learned some facts, and I want to present them without comment.

--  The Washington Post and numerous other outlets report that Brown was shot six times, all from the front, and had marijuana in his system.  The claim that he was shot from behind appears to be false.

--  Minutes before he and the officer encountered one another, Brown and another male robbed a convenience store and, in doing so, forcibly shoved a clerk much smaller in stature. The video is here.

--  It is often the case that a single shot will not disable a person charging at a police officer (which is not to say that Brown was, in fact, charging the officer here, a question that remains unsettled).

--  Brown was 6'4" and weighed 292 pounds, which, I believe, is larger than the average size of an NFL player.

--  One report  in a local paper states that Brown had recently taken up "rap" lyrics, which included, as apparently is usual for such things, explicit references to drugs and violence.

I repeat that none of these facts, individually or together, provides even a rudimentary basis for judgment.  But facts they are.

A Defense, Sort of, of the Perry Indictment

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As I've noted, a chorus of honest liberals has exposed and denounced the Perry indictment for the legally hollow political stunt it is.  See, e.g.,  this article and this one.  But some on the Left are holding out.

Exhibit A is this piece in The New Republic.  The thesis is that Perry, being a Very Bad Man, more-or-less deserves the wrath of a criminal accusation whether or not he's, ya know, actually guilty.  The indictment is, if not exactly cricket, at least clarifying.

Well, look, that's cool.  Some might say that taking such a view of the role of criminal law is repulsive.  I beg to differ.  It is, as the author argues, clarifying  -- clarifying about what lies ahead when the poisonous (and Marxist) theory that politics is everything prevails.
Rosemary Lehmberg holds the office of District Attorney of Travis County, Texas because she was elected to it.  The question  --  given that she served time on a drunk driving conviction and acted like a belligerent teenager in the lockup after her arrest  --  is: How?  And the answer is an old standby, though often overlooked in the perplexity of the moment:  

She got elected because the alternative was even worse.

Now that might have you wondering, good grief, who was the alternative?

The alternative was an anti-death penalty crackpot, one-time Judge Charlie Baird. Baird's partisan and illegal antics in trying to posthumously exonerate multiple child killer Cameron Todd Willingham are epic, and have been chronicled by Kent here, herehere, and here.

So if you're in Travis County, who do you want "enforcing" the law, an ill-tempered drunk or a reckless, ideological zealot?

Answer:  Ummm, move.

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