Trump promotes job opportunties for ex-offenders

Like most public defenders, we have clients who can’t even get a job in a car wash because they’re on probation. Who wants to hire a criminal, especially when they come with a nosy probation officer attached?

So we’re deeply impressed that Trump is contemplating hiring an ex-offender on probation! For Secretary of State! We’d unfairly stereotyped the President-elect as a troglodyte likely to bring back public hanging, flogging and Sunday blue laws forbidding restaurants to serve mimosas for brunch until noon. But instead he’s made a demonstrated commitment to reintegrating ex-offenders into the community!

The lucky candidate for a job with The Donald is David Petraeus, who’s on probation for Giving Away Military Secrets with His Pants Off (28 USC § 2 million).  During his abruptly terminated tenure as director of the CIA, he couldn’t resist bragging to an adoring bimbo about how he’d made Afghanistan safe for democracy back when he was a four-star general. And to show he wasn’t just blowing in her ear, he gave her a bunch of notebooks containing classified information.  The zany things married guys will do to impress a doll! But at sentencing he expressed deep remorse and recognition of the harm caused by his offense, saying, “Today marks the end of a two-and-a-half year ordeal. I now look forward to moving on with the next phase of my life.” Who could fail to be touched by such passionate breast-beating?

Trump isn’t the only Republican to recognize that the best way to rehabilitate ex-offenders is to give them meaningful jobs. Senator McCain, asked for his opinion, lectured the press on Truth and Reconciliation, or at least Reconciliation, explaining, “I think people make mistakes in life and you move on.”

A buddy of Petraeus’s at the Brookings Institution, referring to his disclosure of military secrets while head of the CIA as “personal shortcomings,” compared them to General Grant’s heavy drinking or Eisenhower’s bit on the side. “It’s not like he was giving this to the National Enquirer,” he explained.  After all, Petraeus only gave the classified information to his girlfriend, a self-styled “soldier-scholar” who was writing a book about him. “The world has deemed it clear that we recognize that we’re all human,” concluded this mouthpiece of Think Tank Row.

You might not appreciate what a revolution in penal thinking this is unless you’ve sat at a defense table being sprayed by a prosecutor screaming at your client for leaving a drug program. Or failed to get your 89-year old SORA client a risk level reduction because the prosecutor pouts and stamps her little foot about a 1957 conviction. (We’re not making this up).

All of this will change under the new Administration.  “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury,” prosecutors will say on summation, “Ever since his arrest, the defendant has been going through a terrible ordeal. You’ve spent three weeks hearing about his personal shortcomings.  But now that the world has deemed it clear that we recognize that we’re all human, I urge you to put them aside and move on.”

Still, we wonder if Trump quite grasps the implications of having a Secretary of State on probation. Like all federal probationers, Petraeus has a long list of conditions requiring him to do whatever his P.O. tells him and truthfully answer any question she asks, on pain of being remanded to the pokey. Although, this being the Western District of North Carolina, the federal judge made an exception to the prohibition against having a gun. (We didn’t make that up either).

Scene: World Summit on Nuclear Warfare

UN Secretary-General: It’s been a long night, my friends, but I think we’ve reached agreement at last. In a top secret pact that will never be disclosed outside this room, every country in the world has promised to destroy its nuclear weapons and not build any more, on condition that America  stop referring to Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the Axis of Evil. All in favor, raise your right hand.

Enter P.O. Treadwell, glaring at Petraeus.

P.O. Treadwell: David, I need you to come with me right now. You’re out past curfew and what’s more, consorting with known criminals in violation of your probation conditions.

Iraqi Foreign Minister: Who are you calling known criminals, Madam? I shall recommend an immediate declaration of war.

P.O. Treadwell: Don’t you go telling me my job, Ali Baba. It’s right in this here 3-page list of probation conditions. Not only that, he’s missed two sessions of his “blabbing state secrets to impress girlfriends” management program. Plus, he needs to give me a urine test right now.

Petraeus:  Wait, wait, don’t handcuff me until I’ve raised my right hand.

P.O. Treadwell: What are you voting about? I demand that you truthfully answer my questions

North Korean Foreign Minister: The subject cannot be disclosed! We would lose face and have no choice but to launch nuclear missiles at New York.

P.O. Treadwell:  Serves them right for invading North Carolina in 1863. Under Probation Rule #11, he’s obliged to answer all my questions truthfully, including disclosing any personal or business financial information. David, what’s the defense budget of North Korea?

Petraeus: Sorry, fellas, but I have to abide by my probation conditions and disclose all. It’s not like she’s from the National Enquirer.

UN Secretary-General: Fortunately, we foresaw this contingency when you were made Secretary of State. (Pushes button on his desk. Petraeus and P.O.  Treadwell blow up).  Now that that’s settled, who’s for the elimination of nuclear weapons? Unanimously carried with one abstention by the U.S.

Posted in Law & Parody | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Brooklyn DA prosecutes purse snatching as a hate crime

A recent press release from the Brooklyn DA’s Office announced that they’re charging a man with hate crimes for purse snatching and lifting a wallet from a handbag left in a shopping cart in T.J. Maxx Department Store. “We will work vigorously to prosecute all crimes based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity,” said DA Gonzalez. “The defendant allegedly targeted older women because they were easy marks.” The owners of the purses were three Russian women ages 61 to 64. 

ADA Tightskirt: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you’ve heard of Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany, the lynchings in the South, the genocides in Rwanda, the beheadings in the Middle East – all hate crimes, just like the case before you.  Here, the defendant’s target was that historically underrepresented, downtrodden minority, Russian women in their early 60’s. Feeble, decrepit, gaga, one foot in the grave, drooling and tottering along as best they can –

Judge: Um –

ADA Tightskirt: Did you say something, Judge?

Judge: (hastily putting away her copy of “Modern Maturity”) Nothing, please continue.

ADA Tightskirt: The judge will tell you that any crime based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity is a hate crime.  Since everybody has at least one of those factors, there’s nothing we can’t charge as a hate crime.

Defense counsel: Objection!  That makes the statute unconstitutionally vague! Not everything is a hate crime.

Judge: It is in Brooklyn. Overruled.

ADA Tightskirt: I call Madame Bolshoi Babushka to the stand. Madame, would you please tell the jury how you were robbed of your life savings by this vile bigot whose face is forever etched, imprinted, sculpted and burned onto your memory?

Mme. Babushka: I was trying on some lingerie at T. J. Maxx. I couldn’t have been more than 15 or 20 minutes. When I came out of the fitting room, my wallet was gone from my purse that I’d left in my shopping cart.

ADA Tightskirt: And of course the defendant had the opportunity to see that you were an elderly Russian woman?

Mme. Babushka: Kakoi elderly? At 64 I’m not even old enough to get a Senior Citizen discount Metrocard!

ADA Tightskirt: But didn’t you appear vulnerable in an old Russian sort of way that made this defendant consider you an easy mark and therefore violate your civil rights?

Mme. Babushka: I don’t know what you’re talking about, young woman. I am not old.

ADA Tightskirt: (desperately) But why do you think the defendant specifically targeted your purse? Surely it had to do with your being an easy mark?

Defense counsel: Objection! How would she know?

ADA Tightskirt: Judge, I have the burden of proving it was a hate crime. Obviously the People are entitled to ask any question that will prove their case.

Judge: Overruled. You may answer.

Mme. Babushka: I suppose he took it because it was there.  Like the reason people climb Mt. Everest. And he thought there might be money in it.

ADA Tightskirt: (losing it) You’re the victim of a hate crime, you old bag, a hate crime! I refuse to be cheated out of a conviction just because you refuse to admit you’re a doddering old fossil!  My daddy always told me, never trust the Russians –

Judge: Members of the jury, we’ll take a short recess. Don’t go to T.J. Maxx.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal law, Law & Parody | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Is your brief turgid and prolix?

Squawk writing

Judges are always complaining that appellate briefs are too long or, as Judge Saxe wrote in the NY Law Journal, “turgid and prolix.”

As the Emperor told Mozart: “Too many notes.”

Now they’ve resolved to take up arms against this sea of words. The NY Court of Appeals, after muddling through since 1897 without word limits, has decreed a maximum of 14k.  The federal courts are slashing it to 13k.  No more fat briefs! They must be put on a strict word-counting regimen.

So we were astonished when our local appellate court rejected our brief for incorporating into the text three photos that were shown to the jury at trial. If a picture is worth a thousand words, we saved. . . we saved. . . well, you do the math.

The prohibition against illustrated text dates back to the days of Blackstone when trials went like this:

The Crown: Constable, doth this illuminated manuscript justly and verily portray the loaf of bread appropriated by the accused to which she had neither right nor title?

Lord Feathergood: Away with such Popish devices, Sir! Forsooth, the Court giveth not a fig for whether the stolen property be white or rye. Say plainly, is the prisoner to be hanged or not?

But in our modern enlightened era, no prosecutor would dream of conducting a trial without visual aids like this:

“Officer, does this photograph fairly and accurately show where the defendant was selling drugs? How far was he from the 99-cent store over here? Please indicate where inside the laundromat the buyers were located.  Can you point to where you were standing when you had a clear and unobstructed view from around the corner?”

Or in civil trials:

“Doctor, can you say to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that this thingummy on the X-ray is the anterior view of the pancreas and not a pair of scissors that the defendant left inside the decedent after the operation?”

Or:

“Professor, is it your expert opinion that those tracks at the scene of the collision are not skidmarks, but the footprints of a giant biped unknown to science?”

“Send the photographs under separate cover,” sniffs the court clerk. Get real. Even assuming with many arguendos that these desperately overworked underpaid judges read the briefs at all, they’re not likely to stop and hunt around for the exhibits.

Which explains appellate decisions like this:

“We see nothing unduly suggestive about the lineup merely because the defendant was a 17-year old high school student and the fillers from the homeless shelter were in their 40’s.   Age difference alone is insufficient to render the procedure unconstitutional. A lineup is not a Hollywood casting agency where the police are required to provide fillers identical to the suspect.”

You know they haven’t looked at the lineup photo.

How much easier for everyone if the photos were scanned into the text! To paraphrase that great jurist Alice in Wonderland, “What’s the use of a brief without pictures?”

Posted in Criminal Defense Appeals, Humor, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged | 2 Comments

What’s wrong with this picture?

swabbing-dna-from-a-cell-phone

A photo from the L.A. Times illustrating how a San Diego lab swabs DNA from cell phones. We fear this lab isn’t going to stay in business for long.

Posted in Forensic "science", Law & Parody | Tagged | 8 Comments

Squawk is sent to PC training — again.

Schoolkids by Grenville

J.J. Grandville 1829

Once again, as part of the new “compassionate, client-centered”  ideology, the Great Dictator decreed that we attend another compulsory thought-reform program. This time it was about sex.

We learned that according to correct thinking, it’s only mindless conformists who allow themselves to be identified by their birth-assigned gender. Why, the doctor who filled out your birth certificate didn’t even know you. You must struggle for your identity on the battlefield of pronouns.

Unlike at the last boss-mandated training, we weren’t forced to stand up and say what our pronoun was. A good thing, now that we realize it’s a device for exposing us as mindless conformists. Instead we were instructed that it’s de rigueur in the brave new world to ask this question to our clients.

This made us think of our very first case, a client who’d pled guilty to gruesomely torturing and killing three people, but had a marvelous appellate issue.  Since winning an appeal from a guilty plea can ultimately result in just getting a longer sentence, we journeyed up the river to see if he wanted to take the risk.

But as soon as we sat down with the door locked behind us, he launched into his story of the murders.  “Those guys were going around the ‘hood saying I was a faggot,” he explained. “Obviously I couldn’t put up with that. So I had to kill them.”

“Of course,” we said compassionately. “Now, about your right-to-counsel issue. . . ”

We truly don’t understand the mentality of force-feeding The Truth.  As the wizard Merlin told the future King Arthur, the only principled way to disseminate your ideas for saving the world is “to make them available and not to impose them on other people”  (emphasis in original).

But thanks to our mandatory enlightenment, we now know why Subway Big Brother tells us to stand up for “a pregnant person.” And all this time we thought it meant don’t bother standing up for pregnant frogs.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Humor, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged | 2 Comments

What do legislators know about the Constitution?

plunkitt-of-tammany-hall     If you ever try to challenge the constitutionality of a statute, the predictable response from the courts is always, “deference to the Legislature.”

Why should legislators know what’s constitutional? Based on the flyers we find in our mailbox among the polar bear calendars and advice from the gas company about how to live a more fulfilling life, we’re the first to admit that nobody knows more than our Assemblyman when it comes to alternate side of the street parking and hot lunches for deserving seniors. Now that he’s retiring, there’s some kid going from door to door promising that if elected he’ll pass a bill making corruption illegal. No more politics and poker! No more little tin box that a little tin key unlocks!

But we have yet to see a candidate running on the platform of constitutional savvy, and if we did, we probably wouldn’t vote for him-or-her.  Never mind the Commerce Clause, Senator,  just tell Albany to keep nuclear reactors and football stadiums out of our backyard.

So when it comes to the constitutionality of criminal laws, why should courts defer to a bunch of people who think rational relationship is a dating service? Because, the thinking goes, that would be a return to the bad old days when the Supreme Court struck down labor laws for interfering with the individual’s inalienable right to work 100 hours a week for 2 cents a day. Therefore courts must henceforth always defer to the Legislature.

That’s like Mark Twain’s cat who, having sat on a hot stove, would never sit on a hot stove again. But he wouldn’t sit on a cold stove either.

Posted in Criminal law, Law & Parody | Tagged | 1 Comment

How to keep your brief under the word limit

Judges are always kvetching that appellate briefs are too long and BO-ring or, as Judge Saxe says, “turgid and prolix.”  The federal judish has decided to strike back by slashing word limits from 14,000 to 13,000.

The decree sparked howls of protest from the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers. Long don’t mean dull, as any reader of airport fiction knows. And short don’t mean good, like, when your appeal is summarily denied.  If courts want snappier prose, says the AAAL, they should post “short videos” on their websites explaining “how to write a decent brief.”

Humbug. In briefwriting as in life, decency has nothing to do with winning.

Here’s how to save thousands of words – draw comics instead:

involuntary-plea

Involuntary guilty plea

 

godzilla-summation

Prosecutor’s improper summation argument (and ineffective assistance of counsel)

car-search

Fourth Amendment violation

weight-of-evidence

Verdict against the weight of the evidence

Posted in Humor, Judges, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged | 6 Comments