Showing posts with label Law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Law. Show all posts

05 June 2019

Five Red Herrings, Volume 11

by Robert Lopresti 

1. Pictures from a Prosecution. Back in 2017 the Library of Congress held an exhibit of unusual art: drawings by courtroom illustrators. Fascinating stuff including such sinister types as Charles Manson, Bernie Madoff, and (?) J.K. Rowling.

2. Man, that's succubustic. I have mentioned Lowering the Bar before. A wonderful website about all that is ridiculous in the world of law. This entry concerns a California attorney who used (invented, really) the word "succubustic' to describe the behavior of a female judge who refused to grant him the attorney's fees he wanted. (Apparently the lawyer worked very hard on the case, clocking 25 hours in a single day, for instance.) He also referred to the "defendant's pseudohermaphroditic misconduct." Stylish.

3. Write like a girl. Useful for all of us boy author types: Women Share the Biggest Mistakes Male Authors Make with Female Characters. Here's one from jennytrout: "We have never, ever looked in a mirror and silently described our nude bodies to ourselves, especially the size/shape/weight/resemblance to fruit, etc. of our breasts."

4. Write like a cop. From Robin Burcell, Top Ten Stupid Cop Mistakes (in Fiction). "Only some of the bosses are evil or stupid..."

 5. "Dieoramas." Article from Topic Magazine about Abigail Goldman, who  is an investigator for the Public Defender's office in my county. Her hobby is making tiny 3-D "reproductions" of entirely fictional murder scenes. Creepy...

04 November 2018

Pardons

by Leigh Lundin

An article recently caught my notice, ‘A History of Pardons in South Carolina’. Not just the Palmetto State acts progressive, but Alabama too. Take that, Northerners. Your Southern neighbors sometimes can be enlightened and compassionate, too, although to be fair, Connecticut is right up there amongst forgiving states. Then we have Florida… one of four states that won’t restore voting rights or the right to freely travel without the governor’s unlikely approval. So much for paying one’s debt to society.

Crime and Over-Punishment

For those of us who keep track of crime and punishment, pardoning is promising news. Consider two statistics that should rock us back on our heels.
Why in the Land of the Free, are so many not? Is such a large percentage of our citizens truly that much worse than criminals in, say Yemen or Iran? In Cuba or North Korea?

Two parts of the problem are over-charging and over-sentencing. However, those may be symptoms rather than causes. I suggest the real causes are politics, power, and profit. As prison corporations have learned, keeping lots of prisoners locked up means major money and stockholder dividends. They pay the political piper and call the tune. The rest of us foot the bill.
The Music Man
Mothers of River City!
Heed the warning
Before it's too late!
Ya got trouble
Right here in River City!
With a capital ‘T’
That rhymes with ‘P’
And that stands for Pool,
We’ve surely got trouble!
Right here in River City.

American politicians find it more fruitful to embrace law-n-order than honesty and integrity, than care and concern. Lobbyists, the pimps of politics, and legions of state and federal legislators have honed to a fine art whipping up public fear.


Political operatives use simplistic grade school terror phrases like ‘three strikes’ and ‘stand your ground’, with a similar simple lack of thought to unintended consequences. Three-strike lawmakers tied the hands of judges and juries, forcing them to send a thief to prison for life… for stealing his third bicycle. Consequences that get people killed.

A Little Christian (or Muslim or Jewish or…) Forgiveness

Naturally, politicians abound who want to dismantle the pardon system despite their well-documented value and success. They point to number 243 out of 400 and say, “See? Less than two years after we pardoned him, he’s being investigated for domestic violence or drunk driving.” The answer is those pardoned are simultaneously well-behaved and mistake-prone as the rest of lawful society, which reaps benefits from the pardon programs.

Pardons help former offenders reintegrate into the social structure, integrate into the work force, integrate back into their own families. Pardons with public expungement shields make it possible for returning prisoners to land jobs, meaning they’ll less likely steal to feed and house themselves. They will be less likely to apply for unemployment and welfare.

At least that’s one opinion. Who’s to say I’m right? What do you think?

16 May 2018

Five Red Herrings, Tenth School


by Robert Lopresti

1.  Derringer Days.  Yesterday the Short Mystery Fiction Society announced the winners of the Derringer Awards and I couldn't help but notice that I was one of them, specifically for Best Short.  "The Cop Who Liked Gilbert and Sullivan" appeared in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #23.  You can read what I had to say about it here and here.  Congratulations to my fellow winners, Brendan Dubois, David H. Hendricksen, and Earl Staggs.  But let's have a big round of applause for the winner of this year's Edward D. Hoch Memorial Gold Derringer for Lifetime Achievement.  That went to our own John M. Floyd!  Well deserved, too.

2. Free pictures!  It's always nice to find a new source for public domain illustrations.  (We bloggers love them, anyway.)  The Library of Congress very kindly sorted out the pictures on their website that are free for the taking.  (See the one below.)  Enjoy.


3. Underpaid through the ages. The University of Missouri Libraries has done a great service for anyone writing historical fiction.  Prices and Wages by Decades links you to actual government publications from the 1700s forward reporting on how much things cost and how much people were paid.  

4. Man With The Axe.  Last time I did one of these gather-alls I mentioned Lowering the Bar, which talks about the odd side of the legal biz.   I have to point out the story above which informs us that in a single incident a man in New York was charged with:
driving while ability impaired by drugs, driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs, no license plates, unregistered motor vehicle, uninspected motor vehicle, operating without insurance, no front windshield, and no safety glass.

But on the bright side for him,  it turned out there is no law in the Empire State against driving around with an axe embedded in the roof of your car.


5. Shanks does Japan. According to an automatic translation app, the title of the book at the right is Sunday Afternoon Tea With Mystery Writer.  Could be, but in English it's Shanks on Crime. First time I have ever appeared in Japanese.  I wish Shanks a long and happy visit there.



01 January 2015

Possession of a Live Fur-Bearer and other Misdemeanors

by Eve Fisher

(Actually by Grant Tripp, Laskin Police Officer, filling in for Eve Fisher)

It's New Year's Day and Eve's feeling a little fragile.  She's got a cold, or at least that's what she says. Anyway, she made me promise to keep this light - "None of those sad stories you tell late at night at the Norseman's, Grant!"  So I thought I'd share some of the more ridiculous City/County Ordinances of our locale.  I'm not kidding.  I read through the booklet - and I highly recommend you read through your local city/county ordinance booklet some time - and I discovered that we have all, alone and with others, been breaking ordinances left and right. Stuff that, frankly, I've never paid any attention to.

For example, let's take the Davison boys out for a little hunting one winter's day.  They have no idea that they have not only "Exceeded Maximum Size Hunt Party", but also exceeded how many people an old junker pick-up truck can hold.  (You can't see Uncle Ole, because he's passed out in the flat bed.)  That little day trip could cost them a fortune in fines. There's the "Unnecessary Parking on a Rural Road", which happens all the time.  For one thing, there are no porta-potties in cornfields, and for another, it's a ritual to get out, stamp feet, mutter about how BLEEPING cold it is, and get back in the car. This, of course, violates the obscenity laws, but if we start counting those, we'll all be paying fines left and right.  And we're not even going to get into alcohol-related violations...

But what really makes the Davison hunting trip so unusual is that they are in "Possession of a Live Furbearer", because of Uncle Ole passed out in the back.  He's the one who had the "Gun Protruding from Vehicle", although he didn't shoot off anything but his mouth.  And it was ridiculous for John Davison to screech the truck to a halt, "Claiming a Nonexistent Emergency", because he's known Uncle Ole too long for him to count as an emergency any longer, no matter what he ate for lunch.

Want more examples?  How about the ice fishermen who do "Exhibition Driving in Parks"?  What else do you call it when they do wheelies on ice?  In a pick-up?  And then break through?  If that isn't an exhibition, I don't know what is.  I know someone who managed to hit his brother in the rear end with a BB gun when they were kids.  Since his brother was in a tree at the time, this was a clear case of violating the ordinance against "Shooting a Turkey in a Tree."  But while I have heard of people "Hunting from a Motor Vehicle", I have yet to hear of anyone "Hunting from a Motorcycle", or "Hunting from Aircraft".  I'm luckier than I thought...

Some of the ordinances are violated every day.  No one thinks of violating the law when engaging in "Weed Removal".  Half the people in this town - any town - are going to jail for violating "3 Adult Cats Within City Limits".  And since when are "People in Back of Travel Trailer" breaking the law?  I thought that was the idea.  And if "Overweight" is a crime, we are all in trouble, especially this time of the year when an extra caramel roll is simply ballast so you don't end up in the next county when you slip on the ice.

thanks to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2445448/South-Dakota-gets-33-inches-snow-tornadoes-kill-3-Nebraska.html
More from the UK's Daily Mail - 12/9/2014
Naturally, some ordinances I agree with.  I think that "Moving Buildings" should be illegal, especially late at night outside of the Norseman's Bar.  And not only is "Clinging to a Car Roof" dangerous, but it can easily lead to "Alighting from Vehicle", "Making an Unreasonable Noise", and, eventually, "Wheelchair to Motor Vehicle."  But personally, I think an "Insecure Vehicle" is more a problem for a therapist than the police.


File:Snow on spruce tree.jpgBut the ordinance that really got my attention was "Unlawful Entering Cemetery with Fir."  Now let me get this straight.  If someone walks into a cemetery to plant a small pine tree near a dear departed's headstone, I'm supposed to go and arrest them?  And what makes a fir tree more illegal than, say, a hickory or a cottonwood?  I asked my friend Linda Thompson, Laskin Clerk of Courts, about that one and she told me that they didn't have enough room in the abbreviation for the word "firearm."  I don't believe that for a minute.  I'll bet you that some lawmaker, years ago, was nearly smothered in an avalanche when a big blue spruce let loose on him. Intimidated and out for revenge, he crafted the ordinance exactly as it reads.  "You've got 24 hours to get out of town, and take that fir with you!"

Happy New Year!

01 April 2012

Florida's Right to Kill Law

by Leigh Lundin

Three weeks ago, we brought you the story about Trayvon Martin's death when it was an early local issue. Since then the story has made national, even international headlines. The Reverend Jesse Jackson flew in and Friday the Reverend Al Sharpton called for 'action' and a boycott.

Our local NAACP has declined Sharpton's 'action' and boycott, thank you very much. We have a new prosecutor, the 11-month police chief stepped aside, and a majority of folks– including white folks– believe Trayvon Martin was terribly wronged.

Here's what most people don't know: Someone other than George Zimmerman is ultimately responsible.

Trayvon Martin

Shoot from the Lip

To be sure, radio wing-nuts assert we don't know how frightened and brave Ward Captain Zimmerman was to face an unarmed kid, and a gun group is advertising a George Zimmerman defense fund. Zimmerman's father claims we don't know all the facts and Zimmerman's brother made wild accusations that Martin grabbed the pistol and screamed "Tonight you die," which doesn't seem to fit known facts. We learned Zimmerman's magistrate father may have intervened on the side of his son in earlier arrests.

Worse, far-right sites such as StormFront have taken to defaming the teenager, falsifying photos and a police record. Yes, Trayvon was tattooed– with praying hands and a tribute to his grandmother.

In contrast, Trayvon's brother appeared level-headed and honest to a fault, saying he couldn't be certain if the screams heard on recordings are Trayvon or not. For the record, the Orlando Sentinel hired experts who, using two different technologies, demonstrated the screams weren't Zimmerman's.

Trayvon wasn't perfect, but we know that night the teen was innocent. That evening, he did nothing more wrong than buy tea and candy then walk home chatting with his 16-year-old girlfriend on his cell phone. The two had spent 400 minutes (6 hours 40 minutes!) chatting that day before the phone was knocked aside. Minutes later, he was killed mere meters from his house. [Note: We now know Rachel Jeantel was 19 and didn't consider herself a girlfriend.]

Culpability

I'm not here to demonize the shooter, much as I believe he caused a tragic death. Although Sanford's police department has had problems, I'm not sure we can focus blame on police. Why? If prosecutors refuse to prosecute, how can police jail the accused? And according to detectives, police wanted to arrest George Zimmerman but prosecutors refused.

Certainly investigators made mistakes, beginning with not dispatching a homicide detective to the scene and accepting the word of George Zimmerman without question. They did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, violating standard procedure. They uncritically accepted recorded screams were the killer's, not the victim's. They stated neighbors' stories conflicted with 'known' evidence. They refused to release the 911 calls until forced to by attorneys.

But in the end, their hands were tied. Why? You're about to find out. I'm going out on a limb and say another man is more responsible for not only Trayvon Martin's death, but the murder of dozens of other Floridians.

Legislated to Kill

This man's name is Durell Peaden of Crestview, Florida, a former state senator, the genius behind 776.013§3 that gives Floridians the right to kill with virtual impunity, a law that tripled the number of 'justifiable homicide' killers set free, jumping from an average of thirty-four a year to more than a hundred. The lobbyist behind the law was NRA's Marion Hammer who argued Floridians needed more than a right to carry a weapon, they need the right to use it pretty much at will.

In 2005, our Sunshine State pioneered a law called 'Stand Your Ground', also called 'Never Retreat', 'Shoot First', 'License to Kill' and, according to Tallahassee State Attorney Willie Meggs, 'that stinking law'. This testosterone-powered statute supplanted the common (and sensible) 'castle doctrine', which gave people the right to defend their homes. Sneering at what they called 'the Brady bunch', the NRA claimed the new statute was needed to prevent authorities from harassing law-abiding citizens with petty arrests.

It's not a 'pro-gun' law nor are the law's opponents anti-gun, although politicos on both sides may argue otherwise. The new statute legalized an aggressive never-back-down philosophy. It says you don't have to walk away from a confrontation. It says you have the right to solve problems with a gun or a baseball bat or a knife or an ice pick.

Applied Murphy's Law

With impunity, it allowed a man to kill another in a playground argument over a skateboard– literally. It allowed a homeowner to legally shoot an inebriated man who knocked on the wrong door and asked for a light. Alcisviades Polanco walked after fatally stabbing another in the head with an ice pick. Numerous avoidable bar fights have needlessly ended in death… and without penalty.

Six months ago, Judge Richard Oftedahl of the 15th Judicial Circuit dismissed all charges against Michael Monahan, charged in a double homicide and facing the death penalty. Monahan walked after shooting two unarmed men from a distance of twenty feet, men who never laid a hand on him.

No Bad Deed Goes Uncopied

This bill was strongly opposed by law enforcement, prosecutors, liberals and conservatives alike, although it appealed to excitable wing-nut elements. Since its inception, as many as twenty-four states copied it.

Its first five years saw nearly a hundred claims of use with more than two-thirds resulting in death. The vast majority of these homicides were excused by prosecutors or, in cases where prosecution actually occurred, given a pass by the courts.

Those favoring the law declare it a great success with fewer people clogging the courts. Victims like Trayvon Martin might argue otherwise. Many of the cases have only two witnesses… one who winds up dead.

Law of Unintended Consequences

Police and prosecutors tried to warn legislators about the predictable effects of the law, but lawmakers blew off their concerns, seduced by NRA donations and that exciting chance to kill a human being. Sadly, they're not the ones paying the price.

For the record, if you think I'm letting George Zimmerman off the hook or if you think I'm opposed to gun ownership, then you've misread the article. What I'm for is common sense which is sadly missing in Florida.

Maybe it's legislative sunstroke.

One more small thing bothers me. In researching this article, I came across two cases in which Florida courts disallowed the Stand Your Ground defense. In both of those cases, the shooter happened to be… black.