Monday, July 27, 2015

In which Donald Trump's lawyer doesn't know the law

We already knew that Donald Trump is not in any way, shape, or form qualified to be President of the United States. Reality tv show host, he can handle. But leader of the free world is way, way above his skill level. While many of us might think that Putin is a loser and Kim Jong Un is a dummy, diplomacy requires not saying those things out loud. The Donald doesn't know how to do anything in any other way than as loudly as possible.

But today we further learned that Donald Trump's lawyer is, well, I guess I'm gonna do it. In terms The Donald himself would approve, Donald Trump's lawyer is a loser and a dummy.

Many decades ago, The Donald's first wife, Ivana, made an accusation about a sexual encounter with her then-husband. To all English speakers, the description she gave sure sounded like a rape. A she said no, he did it anyway, there was force involved rape.

This allegation has been known for decades, was in fact covered in a book published in 1993. But The Donald is running for president now, so it came back to light today. The Donald's attorney responded to the questions with an epically incorrect legal answer. According to The Donald's attorney, "And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse...You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”

I'll give you a minute to facepalm. Let me know when you're ready to resume reading.

You're ready now? No, yeah, he really said that. Need a little more facepalm time? I get it.

Ok. Let's just be clear about one thing. In every state in this country, having sex with a person who has said no, who has not consented, is rape. Period. End of story. Ring, vows, certificates, none of it matters. No means no regardless of marital status and no state in this country has said otherwise since 1993.

It's true that (shamefully), there used to be laws in these United States that said that it was a defense to a rape charge that the defendant is married to the victim. These laws stemmed from the gross, patriarchal, despicable idea that sex was a marital right due to men that women couldn't deny them. Fortunately, our society eventually said that was a big load of hooey and all of those laws have been changed. All of them, in all 50 states. There are still some states that distinguish situations of intoxication or other incapacitation, but let's not make ourselves angry dwelling on that stuff right now. Instead, let's focus on the fact that any time a conscious person says no or otherwise does not consent to sex but is made to engage in sex against her (or his) will, it is rape under the law. And no state will claim the defendant has a defense by virtue of being married to the victim. The last such law was repealed in 1993. Phew.

The Donald's lawyer doesn't know this. He doesn't seem to understand any of the law as it relates to rape and consent and marriage. Now, the lawyer might now claim he was referring to the law at the time of this alleged incident, which I understand to be around 1989. But sadly for the lawyer, the law in New York (which I believe would have been the relevant jurisdiction) stopped recognizing marriage as a defense to rape in 1984. So that doesn't even save this guy.

This lawyer's answer today was that you can't rape your wife. That hasn't been the law anywhere for over 20 years and in New York for over 30 years. So, yeah, this lawyer is a dummy who gives horrible legal advice. Which kinda makes him a loser. It certainly makes him someone none of us should feel comfortable being so close to a top-of-the-polls presidential candidate.

So we actually did learn some good stuff today. We learned that The Donald's lawyer badly needs to attend some Continuing Legal Education courses. We learned that The Donald doesn't surround himself with the best and the brightest as his chief lawyer is at least 30 years out of date on some key points of law. We didn't really learn that The Donald is a megalomaniac who thinks he can do what he wants with people he controls (like his wives) because this allegation has been public for over 20 years.

As for the lawyer, I hope the one thing he learns is this: You're fired.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

We're terrible at treating mental illness in this country. We ignore it, we discourage people from talking about it, we don't pay for treating it. People bemoan the lack of mental health treatment in this country, the fact that our standard way of dealing with mental health issues is to imprison folks. In the abstract, when talking about the big picture, a lot of people seem to get it. They get that we don't treat mental illness, we criminalize it, and that this is tragic.

This is a common refrain I hear from people in all walks of life. But most of you who say this, who bemoan the lack of mental health care in this country, are full of crap. Because when push comes to shove, most people faced with a particular individual refuse to accept mental illness as an "excuse." Which is how we get to James Homes, the Aurora theater shooter, being convicted of murder instead of properly being found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

The guy is nuts. He dyed his hair orange. He booby-trapped his apartment. His parents tried and tried to get him help. People at his school were alarmed by his increasingly erratic behavior. The guy's brain just isn't right. Don't tell me he premeditated, he planned, so that proves he wasn't mentally ill. You're just proving you don't understand mental illness at all if you think planning and total psychosis are mutually exclusive. They most definitely are not.

In Colorado, once a defendant meets the threshold for a defense on the basis of insanity (or mental disease or defect), the burden shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is not suffering from mental illness. In theory, that's quite a burden. From everything I have anecdotally seen about James Holmes, it's almost impossible to think the state could do this. Knowing what I know about death-qualified juries (they're predisposed to convict) and the way Americans refuse to accept mental illness as an "excuse" for behavior (even though that's exactly what it is), I don't trust this jury's verdict. Not for one second.

Instead, I think this verdict is proof that the reason mental illness doesn't get the treatment it deserves in this country is because deep down, most Americans don't really believe mental illness is a real thing. Most Americans think James Holmes, Andrea Yates, John Hinckley, Jr., or other psychotic people knew exactly what they were doing, knew it was wrong, and could have stopped themselves if they'd wanted to. Never mind that the illness is in the brain itself, so expecting ordered thought to overcome the disorder is kinda like expecting a color-blind person to know the thing she's seeing is red even though her brain sees it as green.

I'm losing hope that we as a nation will ever take mental illness seriously.
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