Court Junkie podcast episode on Eric Frein trial

Court Junkie podcast episode on Eric Frein trial

I was a law clerk when the murder of Corporal Bryon Dickson and near-murder of Trooper Alex Douglass sparked a weeks-long manhunt that resulted in the capture, trial and conviction of Eric Matthew Frein. I won’t talk about anything I did with regard to the case (which was very little anyway), but I was living in the county seat of Milford, PA at the time and I can tell you the tragedy visibly saddened and infuriated several communities.

This link is to a fascinating episode of the Court Junkie Podcast which details the events in sensitive but vivid detail.

A disturbing sex trend called ‘stealthing’ is on the rise

A disturbing sex trend called ‘stealthing’ is on the rise

‘Stealthing’ is the non-consensual removal a condom during sex. Alexandra Brodsky’s article in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law [PDF] is powerful, nuanced and well-presented.

And I, too, can be powerful, nuanced, and well-presented when necessary. But this won’t be one of those times, so I want to make a language warning here for family and friends sensitive to vulgarities…

Men who ‘stealth’ are pieces of shit. Victims are left trying to equate it with rape when the perpetrators should be required to show why it is not. Here’s a choice quote from the USA Today article linked above:

The study also pointed to online forums where men often brag about removing a condom during sex or offer advice on how to get away with it. Some of the men in the forum have even suggested it’s their right to, “spread one’s seed”.

Such men should be sterilized. It is the State’s right to protect women from these cowards whose masculinity is tenuous and insecure that they are too scared to attempt a real relationship in which consent for unprotected sex is freely given at some point.

New Orleans: an unethical District Attorney and an overworked Public Defender

Prosecuted by her legal counterpart: ‘It destroyed my life in so many ways’

This DA should resign, now:

At least six defense attorneys and investigators say they faced threats of criminal charges by the Orleans parish district attorney for doing their jobs, the Guardian has found. Since DA Leon Cannizzaro took office in 2009, the attorneys have been accused of kidnapping, impersonation and witness tampering in the course of defending their clients. Each case has failed to stand up to scrutiny: all charges that have been brought were eventually dropped or overturned.

Disgusting.

Anderson Cooper did a great segment on 60 Minutes about how an underfunded, understaffed and overworked New Orleans Public Defender’s Office has started refusing felony cases. Chief PD Derwyn Bunton says he and his 52 attorneys cannot possibly represent the 20,000 clients they get annually in a way that comports with the ethical standards to which all attorneys are held, and to which criminal defendants are Constitutionally entitled.

It’s a divisive choice, but I think it’s the right one. Public Defenders Offices are notoriously underfunded all over the country, seen as low-hanging fruit when a politician or bureaucrat needs to cut budgets. But they should be among the last budgets cut. Many criminal defendants are guilty, and many are not. Because of that, all are entitled to the same Constitutionally mandated set of rights, chief among them being the right to representation.

No, public defenders don’t need and shouldn’t get astronomical budgets. But they should not have to divide 20,000 cases between 52 lawyers, either. That’s 384 cases per lawyer per year. Would you want to share your public defender with 383 other people? Would you feel confident that you will get your Constitutional rights to competent representation and a fair trial?

Didn’t think so.

Mentally incompetent Utah man dies in hospital after jail episode left him paralyzed

Mentally incompetent Utah man dies in hospital after jail episode left him paralyzed

Is this the kind of country where we let mental illness go untreated to the point where someone in jail for fighting with a couple of cops is effectively allowed to commit suicide, while on suicide watch?

Jail video shows a naked Hall with disheveled long hair and beard running headfirst into a wall three times before climbing up on the sink and falling headfirst to the floor. At the time, Hall had been waiting five months for a bed and treatment at the Utah State Hospital. Utah designates 100 beds at the hospital for inmate mental health treatment, but once the beds are occupied, additional defendants await openings from jail cells.

And this:

The Utah LegislatureThe Utah Legislature recently set aside $3 million in an effort to resolve a federal lawsuit filed by the Salt Lake City-based Disability Law Center, which alleges mentally ill defendants are not provided a speedy trial and suffer in jail without treatment because the state does not provide enough hospital beds and specialists to treat them.

Why couldn’t they set aside $3 million before they were sued, to solve the problem before anyone died?

Cosby charged with sexual assault

Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania

The TV legend is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand when she visited his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. A probable cause affidavit filed by investigators this week alleges that Cosby “sought to incapacitate” Constand by giving her a mix of pills and wine that sent her slipping in and out of consciousness and left her unable to consent to sexual activity.

Ms. Constand settled her civil case against Mr. Cosby but the latter’s statements in a deposition taken for that case and released to the public by request of the press triggered the Montgomery County District Attorney’s obligation to prosecute Cosby.

Video gamer hunts down, stabs man who killed his online ‘Counter-Strike’ character

Video gamer hunts down, stabs man who killed his online ‘Counter-Strike’ character

Michael Sheridan reports at NYDailyNews.com:

Julien Barreaux reportedly spent six months looking for the person who killed his online character in a virtual knife fight, and eventually found the foe living only a few miles away in Cambrai, a town about 2 hours north of Paris.

The lunatic only got two years’ imprisonment for what pretty plainly looks to me like premeditated attempted murder. I don’t know anything about French law, but that seems like an embarrassing outcome for any prosecutor.

Image is top of French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

Alison Parker, Adam Ward of WDBJ remembered by friends

Alison Parker, Adam Ward of WDBJ remembered by friends

It’s inappropriate to use these tragic murders as fodder for the never-ending Second Amendment debate, and people on both sides of the isle are already guilty of that.

If the killer’s intent was to terrorize, are those people who are disseminating photographic and video imagery of the murders aiding and abetting that son of a bitch, even after his suicide?

I’m obviously emotional over this thing, as many people are, and the aiding and abetting thing is more a thought experiment than a serious question. But if we don’t at least think about it, try to push the debate forward somehow, if nothing changes at all, Alison and Adam died for nothing. That’s unacceptable.

Lewis James Fogle Free, 34 Years After His Wrongful Conviction

Lewis James Fogle Free, 34 Years After His Wrongful Conviction

The case against Mr. Fogle itself was never a strong one – it was based entirely upon the testimony of so-called jailhouse informants, including a man himself suspected of the crime. It was only years after the 15-year-old victim’s body was found in the woods that the suspect, Elderkin, named Mr. Fogle as being involved. This accusation came during Elderkin’s fifth statement to police, while Elderkin was receiving psychiatric treatment and with the assistance of hypnosis. No physical evidence connected Mr. Fogle to the murder, and he testified at trial he was nowhere near the scene when the girl was murdered. Nonetehless, the jury convicted Mr. Fogle and the court sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

This gentleman spent more time in jail for something heinous he didn’t do than I have spent being alive. This guy has a wife and kids, who not only haven’t lived with him for 34 years, but who have had to deny he assaulted and murdered a teenager, as well. The District Attorney was admirable in his cooperation with Innocence.

But there is no utility in blaming or blessing any single person: what changes can we make to the criminal justice system that will prevent mistakes like this from happening in the first place?

Maybe life with parole shouldn’t be on the table unless there is conclusive DNA evidence of the defendant’s guilt. I don’t know. But we can’t shrug our shoulders about it. After all, we were happy to incarcerate Fogle for the rest of his life when we thought he took someone else’s life. What will do now that we have effectively taken most of his?

Obama Plans Broader Use of Clemency to Free Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Obama Plans Broader Use of Clemency to Free Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Peter Baker of The New York Times:

In his second term, Mr. Obama embarked on an effort to use clemency and has raised his total commutations to 43, a number he may double this month. The initiative was begun last year by James M. Cole, then the deputy attorney general, who set criteria for who might qualify: generally nonviolent inmates who have served more than 10 years in prison, have behaved well while incarcerated and would not have received as lengthy a sentence under today’s revised rules.

Overincarceration is a real problem. Like any decent lawyer, I’ll cite a few reliable sources.

I don’t have an answer. Longtime readers will know I’m a cynical bastard, despite my best efforts to the contrary. It seems to me like this move is more for the “optics” and less for real effect, but I’d love to be wrong.

Primary source: White House press release

Photo by me