Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Home sweet home

For someone who already owns a home she loves, I sure spend a lot of time watching House Hunters, House Hunters International, My First Place, Property Virgins, and Selling New York. According to the buyers on some of those shows, my house is woefully inadequate. I don't have granite countertops. I don't have all that much closet space. I only have one bathroom (no granite, of course) and it's pretty small, with no fancy tile. And it's on the first floor, even though the bedrooms are upstairs, which seems to faze a lot of people, though I don't understand why. (It's a really quite convenient arrangement.) I don't have a fence or a big yard. I don't have a finished basement or a 2-car garage. In short, an awful lot of the buyers on those shows would turn up their noses at my little 100 year-old colonial with its tiny living room and no formal dining space.

But for all the beautiful, fabulous houses I see on those shows, I don't think I have yet seen a single house I could see myself living in better than my little red house. My kitchen cabinets are beautiful. My laundry situation is unmatched anywhere. (Right by the bathroom, where I tend to do most of my dressing and undressing anyway, and arranged so it separates the bathroom from the living space to provide privacy for people when others are in the living room.) My upstairs bedrooms are surprisingly spacious for a colonial from that era. And none of those swanky HGTV homes are walking distance to the ultimate cathedral of college basketball that is Allen Fieldhouse.

So maybe I watch all these shows to remind myself that I'm really pretty lucky to have the home I do. Even if it would be just a little bit nicer with a fence.

Stranger danger

The specter of random crime is a bogeyman that scares people. But the reality is that most crime isn't random at all. We all know the old adage that when someone is murdered, the police always start by looking at that person's spouse and other close family. Because random murders just don't often happen. My own experience is entirely consistent with the national statistics showing that there is almost always a connection between the crime victim and the perpetrator. Most especially in the category of homicide. But even the burglary cases I have handled have involved a link between the victim and the perpetrator. (Like movers, delivery men, repair guys, etc.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I bet you have a bridge to sell me, too.

North Carolina has a bit of a problem with its state crime lab. Turns out that crime lab had a couple of analysts who were lacking in the integrity department. They overstated blood evidence, falsely reported it, or just flat omitted it. In dozens of cases. Two FBI agents trying to unravel the mess identified 230 cases possibly affected,  including 3 in which executions have already happened. 165 of those cases resulted in convictions.

The Attorney General of North Carolina appeared to take the problem seriously and asked for someone to take a new look at those convictions. How nice to see the state's highest prosecutor taking a serious look at cases that raise valid concerns that defendants were wrongly convicted. It's a sign of integrity, of truly living up to the prosecutorial ideal of seeking justice, not just convictions. Maybe we have found the next Craig Watkins, the Dallas County District Attorney who has led the most impressive wrongful conviction review in the nation. I'm sure the AG of NC has found a respectable, impartial individual or group to review these 165 convictions.

Or not.

Attorney General Roy Cooper asked the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys to review the cases. He could have asked retired judges to do the review. Or out-of-state attorneys. Or put together a commission representing a cross-section of the criminal justice system, including a few prosecutors, a retired judge, and *gasp* even a defense attorney or two. Heck, he could even have farmed out the cases to district attorneys around the state, making sure that none were reviewing cases they had been personally involved in. But, no, he asked the prosecutors' professional association to do it. Yep. I'm sure they were entirely impartial and not at all predisposed to find all those convictions were sound. I'm sure a professional association of prosecutors wouldn't be inclined at all to circle the wagons and find their colleagues only ever convicted the right guys.

To be fair, though, they only found 147 of those convictions to be valid. They couldn't find the case files of the other 18. But those 147 that they could find all had "overwhelming" evidence of guilt. Every single one of them.

Forgive me if I don't find that reassurance terribly reassuring. I suspect the state's defense bar won't, either. It's just a little too convenient, unbelievably convenient, that of 147 convictions involving false or overstated blood evidence, not one single jury trial result would have been different without the problematic evidence. Having a little experience in what kind of evidence routinely comes in at trials and what prosecutors consider "overwhelming" evidence, I reject out of hand the claim that every single one of those 147 cases had overwhelming evidence even without the tainted evidence. It's just not possible. Would anyone take the Innocence Project at its word if they had conducted the review and found that all 147 convictions needed to be overturned? Of course not.

Surely AG Cooper and the Conference of District Attorneys don't really think they can sweep this mess under the rug like this.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The DUI lobby is powerful, well-funded, coordinated, and loud. For years now, they've been urging tougher and tougher DUI laws. It seems that most laws promoted by the DUI lobby pass, regardless of their cost or logical connection to public safety. And a lot of those laws are written in such a way that there's no defense, no matter the flaws in the science of the testing or the reality of the driver's actual non-impairment.

So I was a little pleased to see this story about a prominent lawyer who targets drunk drivers getting a taste of his own medicine. Maybe going through the process of a DUI charge will make him rethink some of the procedures the DUI lobby fought so hard for. See, this guy was convicted on the basis of having amphetamines in his system, from a legally-prescribed medication he takes daily. And there was no actual evidence that he wasn't capable of driving. But no matter. He now stands convicted of DUI and must attend DUI school and drive with an ignition interlock device for one year. Never mind the fact that an interlock device can't even test for the substance this man's DUI is based on.

I wonder if this guy still things ignition interlock devices should be required for everyone convicted of DUI, regardless of the actual facts of the case.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

She turned me into a Newt...

It's probably not a big surprise to learn I'm not a big fan of Newt Gingrich. But I generally avoid the topic because, well, it's just too easy to take shots at him. At the very least, his name is begging for people to ruefully ask why he never got better. And the stories of his hypocrisy about all things marital fidelity-like are legendary. True, some of them are probably mere urban legend, but still, it's a little questionable to crusade against a politician's affair with an intern while yourself carrying on with a congressional aide.

But today's headline is just too funny and I have to throw a little crap Gingrich's way. According to a story on MSNBC, Newt maintains that "love of country contributed to affair." Really? He said, "There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

(Side note: Things happened? Not, "I did things." No, those things just happened. Dude, drop the passive voice and own your actions!)

So because he loved his country too much, he worked too hard and things happened. That may be one of the most self-congratulatory explanations for infidelity I have ever heard. It's like he's urging us all to see what a great president he would make because he loves his country so much, he'll trash a marriage or two in service to it. Perhaps it is time for us all to return the favor and show Newt how much this country loves him. We should all not vote for him for President, out of love for him, to prevent his wrecking marriage #3.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


You would think that, of all people, criminal defense attorneys would appreciate the importance of maintaining confidences. But, boy, would you be wrong.

I love how somehow I'm the one out of line for being upset that private information of a highly sensitive nature isn't being treated as such.
Blog Designed by : NW Designs