Thursday, May 31, 2012

The John Edwards verdict

Today the jury in the John Edwards trial entered a not guilty verdict on one count and hung on the other five counts. Sure, I'm interested in that and, like many, I wonder whether the government will seek to retry the five remaining counts. (I would say no because, well, I don't think the government should get more than one chance to prove its case. The fact that the feds could not convince 12 jurors to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt should be the end of it as far as I'm concerned. And as a taxpayer, I don't appreciate the waste of resources.) But what I'm really interested in is the split verdict thing. And it's something that I haven't seen mentioned in any of the news articles about the verdict. Probably because you have to be a giant legal nerd like me to be aware of this part of it.

But just last week, the US Supreme Court issued what I consider to be a pretty horrifying opinion on double jeopardy on a case involving a split verdict. A jury in Arkansas was tasked with deciding Alex Blueford's guilt on capital murder or three possible lesser degrees of homicide. Officially, the defendant was charged with only one count: capital murder. The other charges the jury was considering were lesser included offenses. In that case, the jury was given the option of acquitting the defendant on all the charges or convicting him of one. But the jury unanimously agreed the defendant was not guilty of capital murder or first degree murder. They just couldn't decide whether he was guilty of one of the lesser charges of manslaughter or negligent homicide. The Supreme Court found that the defendant could be retried on the top charge of capital murder even though the jury indicated its unanimous finding that he was not guilty of that count. Since the defendant was only charged with one count and the other possible convictions were simply lesser includeds, the jury was not allowed to enter a split verdict so their unanimous finding didn't count as a verdict.

In contrast, John Edwards was charged with 6 separate counts, so evidently the jury was allowed to enter a verdict on the charge it did agree on. Now, I think in both situations, in all situations, a jury should be allowed to enter verdicts on the counts it agrees on and a hung jury should only be recorded on the counts the jury doesn't agree on, whether those counts are separately charged counts or lesser included offenses. A jury of 12 individuals has already heard the state's evidence of capital murder against Alex Blueford and unanimously agreed that he was not guilty of that count. The state should not get a second chance to try that charge just because the jury couldn't agree whether he was guilty of some lesser charge. I am glad to know that John Edwards won't have to face retrial on a charge that his jury agreed he should be acquitted on. I just wish the same could be said for Alex Blueford.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the gays...

I am so very excited that my beloved home state has now joined the recent fraternity of states with pastors making national headlines for calling for execution of gays. Go Kansas! I mean, we've had the Westboro Baptist Crazies for a while, but everyone mocks them and disavows their views because the method they use for getting out their message is so ugly. But let's not pretend that their message itself is so far removed from the messages other churches share. Like the Seneca, Kansas pastor who actually said that the government should put homosexuals to death. He clarified that HE won't lift a finger against gays; he wants nothing more than their salvation. But, darnit, the government really should kill them. The government won't, but it should.

Seriously. What the hell is the matter with people?? I look at my gay and lesbian friends, good, moral people filled with compassion and love, and have to wonder what on earth anyone sees about these people that warrants death? And how do the people who call for the death of these good people who do not, and would not, hurt anyone have the unmitigated gall to claim the moral high ground?

This pastor's explanation does not satisfy me. (Shocking, I know. But, really, what explanation for this view could possibly satisfy any decent, moral person?)

“You say, ‘Oh, I can’t believe you, you’re horrible. You’re a backwards neanderthal of a person.’ Is that what you’re calling scripture? Is God a neanderthal, backwards in his morality? Is it His word or not? If it’s His word, he commanded it. It’s His idea, not mine. And I’m not ashamed of it.”
Well, sir, you should be. You should be ashamed of it. It's horrifying. To call this view that of a backwards neanderthal is an insult to backwards neanderthals. There is nothing moral or just or righteous about your view. And how on earth can you feel good about worshiping and following a god who you believe supports this view?

I have had good, sensible people ask me how I can have any sense of morals since I don't believe in any god. (This is not the blog for me to go off on my "no one really gets their sense of morals from the bible, no matter how much they think they do" rant.) But after hearing so many of these pastors coming out with these horrible, gay-bashing sermons, my question is how can anyone who follows these pastors have any sense of morals? My sense of right and wrong and my commitment to kind and fair treatment of my fellow humans is thriving. It's the jerks like this guy who have the problem.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SJ, phone home

I was watching House Hunters International this evening. Trying not to be insanely jealous at the cute young Wisconsin couple who were moving to the Paris suburbs. As they were looking at an apartment closer to the city center, the woman commented that she would feel the need always to wear heels when she left the house. The city atmosphere just call out for heeled shoes, not mom flats.

It was like a sign. Like the mothership was calling me home. I would do so well in Paris. I mean, once we figured out how to move Allen Fieldhouse there...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The end of the evolution "debate"? I doubt it.

Richard Leakey is a more positive, optimistic sort than I. It would be nice if he is proved right and that the evolution doubters would come around within 15-30 years. But I just don't think it'll happen. There are too many people around who cling to their own beliefs, no matter how much evidence exists to prove those beliefs wrong. I'm looking at you, Birthers. And if you're coming from a position of faith, no amount of scientific evidence is a problem because the truly faithful will always find a faithful rebuttal to the seemingly insurmountable proof.

I would love to live in a world where reason and science reigned, not myths and legends. But unlike Mr. Leakey, I can't see us getting closer to my idea of utopia any time soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

It would be great if we could get through one damn say without someone telling me my attitude sucks or that I'm wrong or that something is my fault. Just one day, mkay? Thanks.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Martini Night

Every town has its own drink special, going out night. In this town, it's martini night on Thursdays. There are several bars that offer cheap martinis on Thursdays, but if you're going to martini night, you're going to the downtown hotel bar. I first went to martini night 3 or 4 years ago, but over the past two years, I have become a regular.

Tonight, though, it became clear that I have gone beyond mere regular status. I have reached "Norm" status where I have a particular table that is set aside for me. I made a reservation for tonight, but I did not specifically request table 10. It was set aside for me, though. As it was two weeks ago. As it is for one week from tonight. And, apparently, for any Thursday night from here on out that I reserve a table. I have become that person, the customer who is such a regular, she gets whatever she wants, whether she asks for it or not.

After the last two years that I have lived through, it is kind of nice to know that the Eldridge always wants me. I am beyond heartbroken and will undoubtedly never be able to love or trust anyone again. And, who are we kidding, no one is trying to love me, anyway. (Probably because I am broken beyond repair...)

But at least my bar wants me. Every Thursday. And broken and unlovable and unable to trust as I am, at least I can love martini night.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

There's no place like home. Thank goodness.

If you look up the word "dysfunction" in the dictionary, the picture would be of Kansas government. Bankrupting the state. Squabbling. And they utterly and totally failed to deal with redistricting, which kinda has to get done so we can all vote in primaries in August. So redistricting went to federal court for judges to decide.

And now there's squabbling about who gets to be involved in the lawsuit.

Oy, this state is a disaster.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

RIP, Kansas

Mark this date down. Because in a few years, we're going to look back on this day and recognize it as the day that Kansas went over the edge and began a fast, painful descent into hell, chaos, disaster.

Our [adjectives excluded because I'm working on being nicer] governor today signed into law an ill-conceived, rushed, outrageous, catastrophic, crushing tax cut package. We won't just fall off the cliff. He and his legislative buddies have pushed us. Estimates say this package of tax cuts could so devastate state revenue that we'll face a deficit of about $2.8 bil within just a few years. (Right now, the state actually has a slight surplus, which is nice after the lean, lean years we've had.)

Never mind that these ridiculous, over-the-top tax cuts aren't actually paid for in the budget. So much for the Republican claim that we can't pass legislation without including pay-fors. We can recklessly slash the state's revenue without any plans on how to replace that revenue because, well, because we can.

I seriously don't know how this state will pay for police, courts, prison, roads, etc. in 2 years.

So remember this day. 'Cause it's the day Kansas died.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The wrongful execution of Carlos DeLuna

Last week, a professor at Columbia University released his final report on the conviction of a man who was executed by Texas in [year]. For years, there had been rumblings, and a preliminary report, suggesting that the executed man, Carlos DeLuna, had been a victim of wrongful conviction. The case certainly has all the hallmarks. An eyewitness identification made under suggestive circumstances. A prosecutor withholding exculpatory information. A defense attorney who presented no mitigation at the penalty phase (raising the question of whether he'd done any investigation for the guilt phase, either). And there was the charming detail of the defendant's insistence that the real culprit was some other Carlos, a guy who'd never been found. The prosecutor had fun with that detail in closing argument.

But as it happens, there was another Carlos. A Carlos who looked an awful lot like the now-executed man. A Carlos who had a history of committing crimes with the same MO as this one. And a Carlos who was arrested with a knife that matched the wounds and was quite possibly the murder weapon in the crime DeLuna was executed for. Oh, and he has confessed to this crime for which Carlos DeLuna paid with his life.

So the report issued last week makes a very compelling case for DeLuna's actual innocence, which gives the abolition movement that which the pro-death penalty camp have always claimed we could never provide: a case of an innocent man being put to death. (The case of Cameron Todd Willingham wasn't cutting it for them, because, well, we all know that guy was bad and his unethical defense attorney said so. Though a district court judge was once prepared to file a written exoneration.)

Upon reading the stories about this report, many anti-death penalty advocates and members of the criminal defense bar immediately thought back to a screed, I mean opinion, once written by Justice Antonin Scalia. It's one I remember well because it was a concurring opinion in the only case I've actually seen argued before the United States Supreme Court, Kansas v. Marsh. Though it wasn't relevant to the actual decision, Justice Scalia wrote a contentious concurrence so he could go off on those damn fool abolitionists, blowing off the absurd notion that anyone who was innocent would ever be put to death, and making up ridiculous statistics to show how entirely uncommon wrongful convictions are.

It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case-not one-in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby. The dissent makes much of the new-found capacity of DNA testing to establish innocence. But in every case of an executed defendant of which I am aware, that technology has confirmed guilt.
And that's only the start of it. In characteristic bluster, Justice Scalia mocked the very idea that an innocent person would ever be executed.

How I would dearly love to hear from him this week. I would love to hear how he would rationalize and explain away the case of Carlos DeLuna. But what I would love most of all is if someone would ask him if he feels any personal responsibility for the system that allowed DeLuna to be executed. Because reading through the case, it occurred to me that we now have a #1 cause of wrongful executions: judges who turn a blind eye to the trial errors that lead to wrongful convictions.

This case bears all the hallmarks. The flawed eyewitness id. The prosecutorial misconduct. The lazy defense attorney. All it was missing was a jail snitch. These problems were apparent on the record. Throughout layers of appeal and process, they were presented to various courts in various ways. And at every level, those errors were found to be harmless. Because the reviewing courts had confidence in the outcome. I would hope that confidence is pretty shaken now.

The Justice Scalias of the criminal justice system need to get their heads out of the sand and stop pretending that our system is too great to allow an innocent person to be put to death. That pretense allows too many judges to affirm convictions while hiding behind the far-too-expansive notion of harmless error. They find errors, but trust in the system so much that they find those errors to be harmless, and then pat themselves on the back for overseeing such a fine, error-proof system. That complacence is a direct cause of Carlos DeLuna's wrongful execution. I can only hope that appellate court judges throughout the country have taken  notice.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Arizona, why do we let you be a state?

Ken Bennett, Arizona Secretary of State, you are full of crap. I am calling you out on it right here, right now. I sincerely hope that the voters in your state are making their voices heard, too.

He is making vague rumbles about how he might be required to keep the President off the ballot for the general November election.

"I'm not a birther. I believe the president was born in Hawaii -- or at least I hope he was," Bennett told Broomhead. "But my responsibility as secretary of state is to make sure that the ballots in Arizona are correct and that those people whose names are on the ballot have met the qualifications for the office they are seeking."

He claims he is distressed because Hawaii has not responded to his request for verification of the document that has been verified over and over. He doesn't understand why the state that has already issued proclamations and responded to document requests won't respond this once more. Apparently he missed the part where the state of Hawaii had to pass a law allowing state officials to ignore requests for the President's birth certificate. And apparently he missed seeing certified copies of both the short and long-form birth certificates.

The reality is that there is no possibility that this guy keeps the President off the ballot come November. It would be an outrageous abuse of power if he did. And it would be a huge slap in the face to the state of Hawaii to say that a certified copy of an official state record (not to mention verbal assurances by the highest ranking state officials) is insufficient proof of the record's validity.

Mr. Bennett himself would be furious if any other state refused to recognize an official, certified record from the state of Arizona. Chaos would ensue if every state started requiring something extra from their sister states beyond a certified copy or a verbal assurance. Honestly, if everyone could insist on something more than a certified copy of a short-form of whatever vital record states keep, state business would grind to a halt. As a Secretary of State charged with maintaining lots of his states records, Mr. Bennett knows all of this perfectly well and knows that the original certified copy of the short-form birth certificate that was first released by the Obama campaign back in 2008 was all the legal proof anyone had any need of. Which is precisely why he won't ultimately go through with his bogus threats to keep Obama off the ballot. So why is he even pretending?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This morning, a friend, and a fierce woman who no one should mess with, made fun of Kobe Bryant's "I don't take charges" nonsense by asking him how big a tampon he needed for his giant vagina. And it just about made my head explode.

Can we please, for the love of all that is good and feminist and gender equal, PLEASE stop equating male genitalia with strength and female genitalia with weakness?

Let's stop saying that someone is being a "pussy" if s/he is being cowardly. Let's stop urging people to "sack [or nut] up." Let's stop accusing men of having vaginas when they're not being strong and let's stop talking about women having brass balls when they are being strong.

I know this is just the kind of language that we've grown up with and we don't mean it that way and it's just funny and whatever other excuse or justification you can come up with. But it really is insulting and offensive and lame and just wrong. Language matters and these subtle things that we all claim don't really mean anything matter most of all. This insidious linkage of female with weak and male with strong is doing more damage than we even realize. So let's just stop doing up.

I'm going to vagina up* and declare that I will do all I can to stop this language usage.

*I'm still working out the fine details.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Badly done, Virginia

Did you see the Virginia Senate vote on a judicial nomination today? If you did and you know me, you're probably not surprised to know that this vote offended me to my core. Because today the Virginia Senate rejected a seemingly-qualified judicial nominee. And they seem to have rejected him because he's gay.

Of course, I don't think anyone actually said it was because he's gay. It's because of his candor on gay rights. It's because he holds himself out as "married" thereby demonstrating disrespect for the laws of the state. It's because he's on the board of a gay rights group. At least one delegate argued that the gentleman would be unable to be impartial on certain issues.

But I'm guessing those same state senators wouldn't vote against a nominee who was heavily involved in the NRA, which is in some ways a rights group. Because advocating for gun rights is acceptable. And no one would argue that a straight married judicial nominee wouldn't be able to be impartial on "certain issues" otherwise known as marriage and other family equality issues. Which is a little odd when you think about it because isn't the spread of gay marriage supposed to pose a dire and immediate threat to "traditional" straight marriage?

Seriously, I shouldn't have to say it that presuming that a gay person will be biased and unable to remain impartial on certain issues is offensive. Beyond offensive, really. Sheesh, why not just say that all gay people suffer from some deranged group think that prohibits them from thinking like "normal" people or ruling like "normal" judges.

Ugly move, Virginia. We really aren't close to getting over this anti-gay nonsense, are we?

ps- Did you notice that the rejected nominee is a prosecutor? So, yeah, I'm sticking up for a prosecutor. Note this occasion 'cause it doesn't happen often.

Friday, May 11, 2012

There is still good in him

Have you been following the trial of the Norwegian shooter? Anders Breivik is clearly a deranged lunatic. And, yes, he is responsible for the cold-blooded murder of 77 people, the majority of them teens. But I submit to you Defense Exhibit A in the case of Even People Who Do Really Bad Things Aren't ALL Bad vs. Public Perception That Those Who Do Bad Things Are Entirely Evil.

When the grief-stricken brother of one of Breivik's victims threw a shoe at him in court, Breivik made one very polite request. He asked that anyone who wants to throw things at him do so while he is walking in or out of court because his attorneys aren't next to him then. See, the grief-stricken shoe-thrower didn't have the best aim and his missile missed the target, hitting one of Breivik's defense attorneys, instead.

So, see? He may be a delusional loose cannon who can never again be trusted to roam the streets as a free man. But he's not ALL bad.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I would do anything for love (of my clients), but I won't do that

I don't think I have to prove my dedication to my clients to anyone. Just last week, I got choked up at book club talking about them. I go to the mattresses for all of them. No one has ever had reason to accuse me of being just a rubber stamp defender.

But this? This is a bridge too far for me. I will never wear a hijab for any man. I want to be respectful of my clients and build good relationships with them. But that has to go both ways. They need to be respectful of me as well. And asking me to cover my head or alter my dress is not respectful. Now, I don't know if the clients here had anything to do with this or if this is all the lawyer's doing. But I wouldn't do it.

On a side note, there is no way in hell that a court would order any of the other women in the courtroom to alter their dress. I mean, yeesh, what an ugly can of worms a judge would open there! An attorney's clothing would have to be incredibly inappropriate before a judge should go there. Skirts or shirts that open below the neck do not qualify.

I'm more interested in the question of how far should a defense attorney go to honor a client's views. Or how far this particular defense attorney would go. If a client wanted to read Bible passages with me and be assured that I'm a good, god-fearin' Christian, I wouldn't humor that. I don't think I'd be willing to do any sort of religious ritual. I wouldn't even pray with a client, though I would never object to the client praying in my presence. If a client truly had a problem working with a female attorney, no matter how offensive I found those views, I would file a motion to withdraw because it would not be in the client's best interests to proceed with an attorney he couldn't work with.

And I can promise you right now. I am never covering my hair for anyone.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In which I use a black silk dress and bedazzled shoes to swindle a Cubs fan

You probably don't remember this, but I collect mini bats. You know those little bats that they sell at baseball parks. I have upwards of 20 of them, from every baseball park I've ever been to plus a few others a friend and my father have given me. I added 4 to the collection back in March from spring training. And I have a few special bats from Kauffman Stadium (the home of the Royals) like a Negro Leagues Museum bat and a special George Brett bat.

George Brett is kind of a big deal to any Royals fan, but perhaps especially to a girl baseball fan who came of age watching him hit homers off Goose Gossage to send the Royals to the World Series and winning a World Series 5 years later and winning batting titles and playing in All-Star games and generally being the greatest player ever. There is still a George Brett poster on my bedroom wall at my parents' house. (My mother has said it doesn't feel right to take him down.) And my favorite number is 5 because of him.

So I was very excited to learn the Royals were doing a pine tar mini bat promotion this year. Remember the Pine Tar incident? Every Royals fan does. And a pine tar mini bat really does need to be a part of my collection. But my excitement only lasted until I realized the pine tar bat game was the same night as my good friend's bachelorette party! NO!!! I couldn't miss the bachelorette because I'm kinda part of the wedding and she's a good friend. But I needed one of those bats!

And then, there one was. After dinner but before dancing last night, we stopped at our hotel to drop off our stuff. While there, one of my friends decided to grab some cash at the ATM. The ATM that was currently occupied by a guy in Cubs gear holding a pine tar mini bat! He was just some silly Cubs fan, so he couldn't possibly have wanted it as badly as I did. I'm not gonna lie. I pretty much just took the bat out of his hands, oohing and aahing over it. Explaining to my friends the significance of the bat and how bummed I was that I didn't have one. How George Brett was my favorite ever and the pine tar thing was one of my favorite baseball moments. I went on and on and on until dumb Cubs guy finally clued in and said I could have it. Thankfully, I didn't have to get as far as the poster on the bedroom wall or the doll who was assigned to root for George and had her very own #5 jersey (all my stuffed animals had favorite players... I was a girly girl who liked to play with her dolls and stuffed animals while watching baseball). And I'm glad I didn't have to resort to downright theft, 'cause I probably would have.

I wonder if Cubs guy has yet realized that once I had that bat in my hands, there was no way in hell he was ever getting it back.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This isn't the state I grew up in

I do not like much about government in Kansas right now. Honestly, a few moderate Republican Senators are all that is standing between us and the abyss, and they're all being hard-core targeted for ouster by the radical right wing of the party who thinks it should be getting its way in absolutely everything. Every day brings some fresh new story to remind me just how awful the executive branch and the House of Representatives are. I mean we're talking full-out assault on all things good, decent, rational, and generally in the best interests of the citizens of the state who aren't named Koch.

Today's tidbit is this:

Kansas' leading organization that advocates for victims of sexual and domestic violence has parted ways with the state welfare agency, saying that new requirements imposed by Gov. Sam Brownback's administration on an assistance program would put victims in greater danger.

The agency says they are unwilling to participate in new guidelines that call for all victims to undergo psychological evaluations. All victims. Also, 90% of those served would be required to find employment within 18 months. And confidential information would have to be divulged as the advocate helped draft a "corrective action plan."

The KCSDV has been working with victims for a long, long time and finds these requirements objectionable and unrealistic. Not all victims need or would benefit from a psych eval. Plus, the results of those psych evals could actually wind up hurting victims in court cases. I can personally promise you that a defense attorney representing a defendant in a domestic violence case would use any information possible out of that evaluation. We usually have to fight tooth and nail to get them in the cases where there really is a glaringly obvious psychological concern. In the vast majority of cases, we're met with hostility for even asking. But SRS of Kansas wants to order them for all, which means there's already a report out there for us to ask for just a copy of... That could get ugly is all I'm saying. And we're not even talking about family law cases.

Finding employment isn't feasible for all victims. And the term "corrective action plan" is obnoxious. It suggests that the victims need correcting, that they're the problem.

So KCSDV has decided to end its relationship with SRS rather than continue contracting. Of course, the SRS secretary is saying that the private organization failed to meet even minimum performance standards and had been struggling to meet accountability standards for months. But if the standards SRS is setting are offensive and potentially entirely harmful to domestic violence victims, can anyone blame a domestic violence advocacy group for failing to meet those standards? I sure can't.

I tell ya, it's hard to look at what's going on in this state and have anything remotely close to optimism.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sarah's House Rule #1

I think I have hit on the #1 rule for being a guest in Sarah's house. Now, Maddie the dog might suggest that Rule #1 ought to be lavish love, attention, and treats on the dog of the house. And while I don't disapprove of that proposed rule, I don't think it quite makes it to the top spot.

No, I think the top spot is this: This house is an anti-death penalty zone. If you come in to my house as my guest, if I serve you food and drink (and, come on, we all know I'm an over-the-top host, so I've served you lots of food and drink), if I let you pet my dog, see my books, and generally kick back inside my castle (there's nothing Freudian here, folks, so move on), you don't get to tell me that some people, including my clients, deserve to die. My house, my castle, is a place where that particular opinion is not welcome and will not be tolerated. I mean, I'm not gonna kick you out or anything, but I'm gonna disagree with you vehemently and I'm gonna get the last word. 'Cause it's my house.

Oh, but I reserve the right to argue against you at your house because, well, I'm on the side of not killing people and that side always wins.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Resistance is futile

Slate had an article earlier this week that I really need you all to read. I'll make it easy and provide you a link 'cause I'm a really good, considerate host like that. (Seriously, you should see the way I host book club. And that party I had in June of '10? Legendary!)

The article is all about the crushing weight of misdemeanors on our criminal justice system. Happily, misdemeanors are not something I have to deal with much because that really would be soul-crushing, much more so than murders. (Let's not get distracted by psychoanalyzing why I would rather deal with a dead body than a guy hitting another guy with a beer bottle...)

Put simply, misdemeanors have turned into a racket system where hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people are getting convicted without anything approaching due process or the effective assistance of counsel. There are simply so many charges and so many costs associated with fighting the charges that far too many people cop pleas without putting up a fight. Often, without understanding what the charges are to begin with.

I have personally witnessed the phenomenon of a prosecutor having charged a misdemeanor behaving as if it was now his god-given right to get a conviction out of the deal. Or at least a conversion. It just so happened in that particular case, the prosecutor had very much messed with the wrong marines and had a couple of aggressive defense attorneys with a personal stake in the outcome of the case who were not going to go along with an innocent man pleading to a misdemeanor just to make it go away.

But that particular innocent man benefitted from nothing more than serendipity. He happened to have defense attorneys on his speed dial (yay family!) but most people charged with misdemeanors aren't that lucky. So they plead, even if they don't think they're guilty, because they frankly don't know what else to do and don't have any real, viable options. Fighting it means days off work, which might cost a job. Coming up with money to pay a lawyer (who will probably want more than the court costs associated with a guilty plea would be). And even if you fight it, take all those days off work that you risk losing your job, pay a lawyer, you still face the risk of being convicted and having to pay the court costs and a fine on top of it all. It starts to make sense why even innocent people charged with ridiculous nonsense just give in and plea because fighting costs more (in every sense of the word).

Anyway, the ultimate point of the article is if we want to reform the criminal justice system, want to cut costs, make it more efficient and more effective, we really ought to take a big, hard look at the millions of misdemeanors we charge every year. And I agree.

Can using the bathroom be a crime?

Ok, I know I'm in danger of becoming as much a pro-LGBT blog as a criminal defense/crazy Sarah blog. But I'm ok with that because I'm not sure it gets more pro-LGBT than me.

So here's the upsetting story for the day: a transsexual woman was ticketed in Dallas for using the women's restroom. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh.

As if life hasn't been tough enough for Paula (born Paul). Yes, she's a mannish-looking woman. And who knows how tall or broad she is. So when she was spotted in a women's room (that was empty when she went in), I can understand why the woman who saw her noticed her. But come on. I mean, really, come the F*** on. She was using the restroom! She didn't hurt anyone or even communicate with anyone. She did her business in a closed stall, washed her hands, and left. How on earth does any of that add up to a disorderly conduct charge?

But, see, the woman who did spot her was made uncomfortable by Paula's presence in the restroom. So this woman decided that Paula, who began her transition to female 6 years ago, had no business being there. Of course, how do you think some men might respond if Paula walked into the men's room, wearing a dress and pumps? You think she might run the risk of getting assaulted by the wrong guy in a men's room? Seems to me, either way, someone is going to be made uncomfortable by Paula entering a public restroom.

But Paula (and people like her) can't be blamed for how people react to her. And she, like all the rest of us, sometimes has to use the bathroom in public. And since she can't win and will meet resistance no matter where she goes, let her freakin' use the bathroom that she's comfortable in. I'm guessing that life has been difficult enough for her all these years, identifying with a different gender than her outward appearance would suggest. I don't know exactly how old she is, but she clearly wasn't born in the 90s when she might have had a hope of having parents who were comfortable with a transgender child. For crying out loud, let's not make it harder by requiring her to hold it until she gets home. At the very least, she shouldn't be charged with a crime because someone who had no interaction with her at all didn't like which bathroom she used.
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