Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is JP candidate up to his waist in water?

It seems that while George Huntoon, candidate for Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Position 2, was president of his homeowners' association, he engaged in a little plumbing work that didn't exactly have the approval of the City of Houston.

In fact, you could even say he stole water from the city when he bypassed the city water meter by cutting the PVC supply pipe and reattaching it on the other side of the water meter. His plumbing job only came to light when the city checked the electric meter for the pump -- and it showed electricity usage even though the water meter did not show any water usage.
Click here to listen to Mr. Huntoon talk about getting water for free.
Is this the person you want sitting on the bench?

Sitting on the hot seat

You're a criminal defense attorney. A (male) client who's being investigated for impersonating a 15-year old girl online comes into your office with his laptop computer. He tells you he just bought a new computer program that will erase everything on his hard drive. That's nice, you tell him, knowing full well that he was sold a pack (or a CD) of lies. He tells you he had some really dirty pictures of kids on his laptop but now they're all gone.

You tell him that those programs don't work and that the government has people who do nothing but recover "deleted" information from hard drives. Then he asks you what should he do.

What do you tell him?

Now let's say the person coming to you is your next door neighbor and that she's been worried because her teenage daughter's been acting funny the last few weeks. She tells you that she looked through her daughter's room and found a baggy with a "green leafy substance." You suspect it's marijuana. She asks you what she should do?

What do you tell her?

Now let's suppose it's your teenage child that's been acting funny. You suspect he's up to something but you don't know what so you look through his room while he's at school. In the nightstand you find a baggy with what you suspect is pot in it.

What do you do?

This brings us to our conundrum - what is evidence?

According to Black's Law Dictionary, evidence is something that tends to prove or disprove the existence of an alleged fact. Black's defines fact as something that actually exists.

Merriam-Webster defines evidence as something that furnishes proof (specifically something legally submitted to a tribunal to ascertain the truth of a matter).

Is evidence a term of art in the legal world that has no meaning in the "real" world until and unless something is being investigated? If you tell your neighbor to flush the pot down the toilet, are you obstructing justice by destroying evidence? Evidence of what? What if you tell your neighbor what you would do if it were your child? What if you flush your son's pot down the toilet?

What if the government has no idea that your client had kiddie porn on his laptop? What if there was no indication in the indictment that he was suspected of possessing kiddie porn? What if there was no search warrant issued to seize images on his computer?

What would you do? Answer wrongly and you could find yourself without a law license or on the wrong side of the criminal justice system.

The clock is ticking...

Friday, February 26, 2010

The missing tweet?

I guess I must've missed the tweet from @MontgomeryTxDAO about the assistant district attorney up in Montgomery County who was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Houston on Thursday night.

I'm sure it's just an oversight and we should expect to see something on Brett Ligon's Twitter feed anytime now.

The people's building is no longer open to the people

The authority a democratic government exercises is granted to it by the people it governs. You remember what Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg about government of and by the people, right?

The gleaming palaces that our governors, legislators and judges occupy belong to the people -- we just allow them to use the space for a given amount of time.

When I was a student at the University of Texas I used to go down to the State Capitol complex every year on my birthday. I'd go at night because the floodlights focused on the beautiful pink granite made the building a glowing white. Back then you could drive right up to the Capitol and walk around inside 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Looking up at the dome from the rotunda was an amazing sight - no matter how many times you'd seen it before.

But then 9/11 happened and someone thought that the State Capitol might be a target of terrorists. Nevermind that if there were terrorists in Austin, they wouldn't pose much of a danger because after a short while they would be smoking pot, roaming up and down South Congress and watching Nanci Griffiths at the Cactus Cafe.

Now the powers-that-be have decided that we the people can no longer drive up and park alongside the State Capitol, that the building will only be open during the day and that visitors shall be subject to searches. And the politicians that closed the people's building to the people claim to be "of the people" and against government.

Now what was it that P.T. Barnum said about fooling the people?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Death sentence reversed in Hood case

Charles Dean Hood's date with the executioner has been cancelled as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his death sentence. Ironically enough, the Court made no mention of the affair between the judge, Verla Sue Holland, and the prosecutor, Tom O'Connell.

The Court, instead, based its decision on mitigation evidence that Mr. Hood was not allowed to present to the jury during the punishment phase of his trial. The evidence in question raises the possibility that Mr. Hood was abused as a child.

The decision does not vacate the conviction, however, and Mr. Hood continues to maintain his innocence.

While the Court will always attempt to make its decisions on the narrowest of grounds, to ignore the relationship between the judge and the prosecutor smacks of protecting the robe. To be certain, Mr. Hood is no longer under the threat of death, but the question still remains whether or not he is innocent.

The Court's decision to ignore the elephant in the room does short shrift to justice.

See also:

"Court throws out death penalty for Texas man" New York Times (Feb. 24, 2010)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vampires to wear blue

If you're a Houston motorist you might consider replacing the fuzzy dice hanging from your mirror with garlic cloves because soon vampires will be infiltrating the Houston Police Department. According to this story that ran on KPRC-TV, seven HPD officers are taking a 40-hour class at Lone Star College to become licensed phlebotomists.

"What we want to do is make it so onerous for people to drink and drive that they won't take that risk." -- HPD Assistant Chief Vicki King.

The plan calls for the vampire officers to conduct blood draws at the old police station at 61 Reisner, home of Central Intox and the city jail. Does anyone believe that qualifies as a "sanitary place?"

"This is about the pursuit of justice. You've got one opportunity to prove someone is innocent just like you have one opportunity to collect evidence." -- Vicki King

Maybe Ms. King grew up idolizing the late Senator Joe McCarthy as he, too, believed that the accused bore the burden of proving their innocence. With that kind of attitude she would fit right at home on the bench at the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center.

Click here to see the video.

All in the name of judicial economy

Former State District Judge Robert Gill had a novel method of moving his docket along. In a 14-year period, Gill handled almost 8,000 probation revocations. His method? As he would say, cutting out the middleman.

And who was the middleman? The prosecutor from the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office.

Tarrant County criminal defense attorney William Ray testified under oath in federal court that the judge would negotiate his own plea deals and if a defendant rejected the offer he would hear the case and, if the allegations were proven, order a more severe sentence.

Mr. Ray's testimony came in a habeas hearing that resulted in a conviction being vacated due to ineffective assistance that he rendered.

According to the chief of the criminal division in the DA's office, Alan Levy, the district attorney was well aware of how things operated in Judge Gill's court. He said that even though the practice was not the norm in Tarrant County, the case load moved rapidly and "the sentences seemed to fit the offenses." As it turns out, about 60% of probationers brought before Judge Gill had their probations revoked.

Apparently not too many attorneys complained about the practice, least of all Mr. Ray who pocketed over $1.3 million in court appointments over the last five years. Mr. Ray was also Judge Gill's largest campaign contributor in 2004 -- even though Gill was unopposed.

Robert Gill retired from the bench in 2007 and is a deputy chief with the Tarrant County DA's Office.

For fourteen years defense attorneys allowed this to continue. Why? Was it fear of not getting appointments? Was it fear of pissing off the judge? Was it laziness? Or was it pure cowardice?

Injustice continues only because we stand aside and let it. This is how we've always done things. Don't rock the boat. You've got to go along to get along. This injustice only came to light because Sandra Wilson, a defendant with a history of mental problems, stood up and fought.

Welcome to the People's Republic of Maryland

The State of Maryland is contemplating a rule that would ban people from carrying communication devices, including cell phones, into courthouses. The judiciary rules committee (or Chinese politburo) is up in arms over Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the like shedding a little bit of light on what goes on behind the walls of the courthouse.

Proponents of the ban say it would protect witnesses from having their pictures snapped by "snitch" hunters carrying cell phones.
A person may not bring any electronic device into any court facility. -- Maryland's proposed policy
I hate to be the one bearing bad news but the Chinese, the Soviets and every other totalitarian regime has tried to restrict the flow of information but cyberspace knows no boundaries (except for the self-imposed ones companies have implemented when bowing down to kiss the feet of the Chinese dictators). The only entities that fear the public's access to information are those entities that have something they wish to hide.

Anyone arrested in this country has the right to a public trial -- and the public includes the blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

School district sued over webcam policy

A Pennsylvania school district has been sued in federal court over allegations that school district officials activated laptop computer webcams in students' homes.

Officials with the Lower Merion School District, who activated the cameras 42 times over the past 14 months, claim they only did so to locate lost, stolen or missing computers and that they never used the images to monitor or discipline students.

The lawsuit came about after Harriton High School Vice Principal Linday Matsko informed student Blake Robbins that the school thought he was engaged in improper behavior when a school district official thought a piece of candy sitting near the computer was a pill. Mr. Robbins was accused of selling drugs.

The suit alleges that the school district violated federal wiretap laws and Mr. Robbin's right to privacy.

Our right to privacy is based on the reasonableness of our expectation of privacy in a given circumstance. With remotely activated webcams, electronic toll tags, GPS devices in cell phones and cars, and full body scanners at airports the reasonableness of your expectation becomes less and less.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Same song, different verse

Main Entry: ac·ci·dent
Pronunciation: \ˈak-sə-dənt, -ˌdent; ˈaks-dənt\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin accident-, accidens nonessential quality, chance, from present participle of accidere to happen, from ad- + cadere to fall — more at chance
Date: 14th century

1 a : an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance b : lack of intention or necessity : chance
2 a : an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance b : an unexpected and medically important bodily event especially when injurious c : an unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured but for which legal relief may be sought d —used euphemistically to refer to an involuntary act or instance of urination or defecation
3 : a nonessential property or quality of an entity or circumstance

Warren Diepraam is at it again - criminalizing traffic accidents and trying to brand a driver who made a mistake as a felon.

Of course Mr. Diepraam has now taken his traveling circus act up the road to Montgomery County where he's hoping the powers that be won't have noticed the headaches he left behind in Harris County.

For Warren, there is no grey. Everything is black and white. Traffic accidents are called accidents for a reason. No one intended for them to happen. Accidents occur because one or more drivers were negligent in the operation of their car -- the fact that some was injured doesn't make it any more likely that the other driver intended to hit him.

Friday, February 19, 2010

On contracts, torts and the death penalty

On the way down to the island this morning I heard a radio ad for Judge Rose Vela, a republican candidate for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. She was proud of the fact that she had presided over death penalty cases on the trial bench and that this somehow qualifies her to sit on the state's highest civil appellate court. I'm not certain how imposing the death penalty qualifies one to decide what the language in a contract means whether someone owed someone else a duty or if a person is a responsible third party.

If she enjoys green-lighting state-sponsored murder, perhaps Judge Vela should go to the Court of Criminal Appeals where she can ponder issues of due process and constitutional rights before uttering those two famous words -- "harmless error."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When does a traffic stop become unreasonable?

At 1:40 a.m. on July 17, 2009, police in Southaven, Mississippi stopped a white Pontiac Grand Prix for driving with no license plate tag. After he pulled the car over, Sgt. Lance Sheppard realized the car had a license plate but the license plate light was not working.

After he approached the car from the passenger side he asked the driver, Josue Valle-Tellez, for his driver's license and insurance. He then asked Mr. Valle-Tellez to get out of the car. After informing Mr. Valle-Tellez that he had been stopped because his license plate lamp was out, Sgt. Sheppard frisked him for weapons. He then began questioning Mr. Valle-Tellez about his travel plans. He asked Mr. Valle-Tellez where he had come from, where he was going and who the passengers were. Officer Cunningham (who arrived after the initial stop) then watched Mr. Valle-Tellez while Sgt. Sheppard questioned the passengers.

After getting conflicting answers from everyone, Sgt. Sheppard asked Mr. Valle-Tellez if he could search the car. All this time the good officer held on tight to Mr. Valle-Tellez' driver's license and insurance card.

Lo and behold, forty-five minutes later, in the bumper of the car, Sgt. Sheppard found eight kilos of heroin hydrochloride. Mr. Velle-Tellez was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute.

But, wait just a minute. The Honorable Sharion Aycock, a federal district judge for the Northern District of Mississippi, ruled the stop was unreasonably extended and that the search was, therefore, illegal.

The court evaluated the initial traffic stop under the Terry v. Ohio analysis and determined that Sgt. Sheppard was justified in stopping Mr. Valle-Tellez' car. The court then looked to see if the detention was reasonable and lasted no longer than necessary in relation to the reason for the initial stop.

To make that determination the court looked to whether Sgt. Sheppard "pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel [his] suspicions quickly..." In making this analysis the court looked at how much time elapsed between the time Sgt. Sheppard asked for Mr. Valle-Tellez' license and when he "ran" the license. The court also looked to the timing of Sgt. Sheppard's request to search the car (he didn't check Mr. Valle-Tellez' license until after he had consented to the search). The court also looked at the "totality of the circumstances" surrounding the stop to determine whether Sgt. Sheppard had developed a reasonable suspicion based on articulable facts. Finally the court looked at the length of the overall stop (over 45 minutes).

Judge Aycock found that the length of the stop made the stop unreasonable as Sgt. Sheppard was unable to show a connection from contradictory answers from the driver and passengers and criminal activity.

The court then tackled the issue of Mr. Valle-Tellez' consent to the search. The court looked to a multi-factor test used by the Fifth Circuit in making its determination. The court focused in on the timing of Mr. Valle-Tellez' consent in relation to the illegal stop. The court was troubled that the police delayed the return of Mr. Valle-Tellez' driver's license and did not inform him that he was free to leave once his license came back "clean." The court then decided that Mr. Valle-Tellez' consent was "not an independent act of Valle-Tellez' free will."

The court granted Mr. Valle-Tellez' motion to suppress on the grounds that the stop was unreasonable and that the search was illegal.

This fact pattern is repeated ad nauseum in towns and cities across this country, but many defendants choose not to challenge the legality of the stop because they gave their "consent." Mr. Valle-Tellez chose to fight and was rewarded for that decision.

See also:

"N.D.Miss: 45 stop without RS unreasonable" (Jan. 16, 2010)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

And in conclusion...

A civil suit filed by a family alleging that benzene in an old San Antonio landfill caused their daughter to develop leukemia may have have implications in drunk driving prosecutions in Texas. The family won a judgment against the city based largely on the testimony of oncologist Dr. Mahendar Patel who testified the child's cancer was the result of her mother's exposure to benzene while pregnant.

Dr. Patel based his opinion on the testimony of the family's other expert witness and on several studies of cancer rates in workers exposed to benzene. He testified that he had never conducted any research on the cancer-causing effects of benzene. The studies upon which he relied were based on workers' exposure to concentrations of benzene more than 200 times the concentration found in the family's yard.

The city claimed Dr. Patel's testimony was conclusory and legally insufficient to support a judgment in several motions for directed verdict after the plaintiffs had rested their case, after the city rested and again after the verdict was rendered (motion for judgment n.o.v.). The city never objected to the admission of the evidence while Dr. Patel testified.

On appeal, the Texas Supreme Court held that a party may complain on appeal that conclusory expert testimony is insufficient to support a judgment even if the party did not object to the admission of the testimony at trial. However, if the objection is that the basis for the expert opinion is unreliable, the failure to object at trial is fatal.
Bare, baseless opinions will not support a judgment even if there is no objection to their admission in evidence. -- City of San Antonio v. Pollock, 284 SW3d 809, 816 (Tex.2009).
The Court went on to say that:
even when some basis is offered for an opinion, if that basis does not, on its face, support the opinion, the opinion is still conclusory. -- 284 SW3d at 817.
The implications for DWI defense are quite clear. If the state's expert offers a conclusory opinion, you have not waived the issue for appeal by failing to object at trial.

Take retrograde extrapolation as an example. The state's expert will take the stand and testify what the defendant's alcohol concentration would have been at the time of driving based solely on a breath or blood test result and the bastardization of the Widmark equation. The state's expert doesn't know what the defendant had to drink, when the defendant drank it, over what period of time the defendant drank it, what the defendant had in her stomach at the time she drank it, what the defendant's weight is, what the defendant's blood-breath partition ratio is or whether the test results are accurate.

The state's expert's opinion may have some basis behind it -- but does that basis support the opinion? In reality, all the state's expert has done was take the breath test result and add .015 for every hour that elapsed between the time of the stop and the time of the breath test. The entire basis for his opinion is the breath test result and he cannot prove that the result was accurate.

A faulty opinion, I conclude.

Sobriety checkpoints: the new cash cow

A study by the University of California's Investigative Reporting Program has found that sobriety checkpoints in California generate about $40 million annually not through the arrest of suspected drunk drivers but from fees associated with impounding the cars of non-licensed drivers. Cities split towing and impound fees with the towing and impound companies.

According to the California Office for Traffic Safety, over $30 million was spent on overtime pay for officers manning the checkpoints. The bulk of this money came from taxpayers across the country as part of a grant program.

Statewide officers manning these checkpoints average seven vehicle impoundments for every DWI arrest. That ratio was 11:1 in Oakland, 15:1 in San Rafael and as high as 60:1 in Montebello. The investigation also revealed that police are seizing vehicles in predominately Hispanic cities at a rate three times higher than in cities with a small minority population.

In 2007 the state seized 15,700 vehicles at sobriety checkpoints. That number increased to 17,900 in 2008 and about 24,000 last year.

In California, towing companies must hold vehicles seized because the driver had no license for 30 days -- running up the fees for the owners of those cars who, often, have no choice but to allow the cars to be sold at auction because they cannot afford the fees. Ironically enough, a person arrested on suspicion of DWI can retrieve his car the next day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's time to walk the walk

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other persons charged in the September 11, 2001 attacks should be tried in a civilian criminal court. If you take the politics out of the case they are being accused of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Were the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon acts of terrorism? Certainly, but they were criminal acts. Mr. Mohammed and his co-defendants are not enemy combatants. The United States was not at war with al-Qaeda at the time of the attacks.

This is an opportunity for the United States to show the world how an adversarial legal system should operate. Put the case before a federal grand jury. Allow that body to deliberate and decide whether to issue an indictment. Should indictments be issued, allow Mr. Mohammed and the other defendants the same rights afforded to any other criminal defendant: trial by jury, the right of confrontation, the right to put on evidence in their behalf and the right to remain silent. More importantly, show the world that every man is presumed innocent unless and until the state can prove otherwise beyond all reasonable doubt.

Of course someone might want to remind the Vice President and the White House press secretary of that presumption. Joe Biden has already announced to the world that Mr. Mohammed is guilty and Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Mohammed "is going to meet justice and he's going to meet his maker."

Will passions be inflamed? Yes, but that is the nature of a democracy. Will "secrets" be revealed? Quite possibly, but the American people have the right to know what our government is doing in our name.

In the end, with the spotlight shining on the proceedings, Mr. Mohammed will receive a fair trial and we will strengthen our democracy and our legal system through our actions, not just our words.

See also:

"Since when are Americans afraid of trials" Houston Chronicle (Feb. 2, 2010)
"A trial for years" Simple Justice (Feb. 1, 2010)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy trails to you

Isn't driving into opposing traffic one of the "most common and reliable initial indicators of DWI" according to NHTSA?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The butcher, the baker and the idiot who fell off the turnip truck

I attended the Harris County Municipal Justice Bar Association's lunch today so I could see the candidates for Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Place 2. For those of you unfamiliar with that court, the current Justice of the Peace, William Yeoman, is retiring and four republicans are running for his bench.

Of the four candidates, Jeff Williams, George Huntoon and Virginia Pittman spoke at the luncheon. Mr. Williams is an attorney, Ms. Pittman is the supervisor of the court's criminal department and Mr. Huntoon is a real estate huckster, er agent.

Judge Yeoman's court is the busiest in the State of Texas, or at least that's what Judge Yeoman announces to the gathered throng when he steps out to present his monologue, er welcome speech, every morning.

Mr. Williams said he has practiced in Judge Yeoman's court and knows what a nightmare it can be. He promised to streamline procedures so that attorneys weren't spending hours in court. Of course on the traffic side of things, the nightmarish docket can be a blessing as DPS officers will rarely appear for trial and cases are continued for a year or more.

Ms. Pittman understands the inner workings of the court. She knows what works now and what doesn't. She proposed to get input from court staff as to what needs to be changed. While some might say that a court insider could be very myopic when it comes to operations, when it comes to the strange world of the justice court, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Finally we come to the strange world of Mr. Huntoon. He was quite proud to let us know he wasn't an attorney -- but he always wanted to be one. His radio ads tout him as someone who would run the court as a conservative republican. When questioned about that statement he seemed at quite a loss for what a JP court actually does.

If you're concerned that a Harris County Justice of the Peace might conduct a marriage ceremony between two gays or lesbians, then Mr. Huntoon is the man for you. He said he would never do that. If you're worried that a Harris County Justice of the Peace might sit over a trial in which a defendant was charged with a hate crime (WTF?), he let us know that he wouldn't stand for it -- he didn't think federal hate crime legislation was constitutional. Finally, if you lie awake at night fretting that a Harris County Justice of the Peace would be one of those liberal activist judges who make up the law on the bench, you needn't worry anymore.

Mr. Huntoon said that as a judge he represented everyone in the district. Huh? Is that what he really said? Earth to McFly, a judge represents no one. A judge is supposed to be a neutral arbiter of the facts before him.

So for those of y'all voting in the republican primary next month, you've got a choice. You can choose the attorney, the court employee or the buffoon who has no freakin' idea what a Justice of the Peace does.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

To kill a beautiful courthouse

In 1940, Brazoria County erected this art-deco-ish courthouse that is resplendent in its simplicity and design.

Unfortunately, in the 1970's they added this atrocious annex designed from the government-office building school of design.

It should be a crime...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Driving a stake into the 5th Amendment

Upset that motorists suspected of driving while intoxicated weren't cooperating with police and providing incriminating evidence (i.e. blowing into the state's breath test machine), Summit County (OH) Prosecutor Sherri Walsh authored a bill making a crime for a motorist to refuse the breath test.

Vitaly Simin became the first person prosecuted for and convicted of tampering with evidence because he refused to blow. He was sentenced to three years in prison for that and his sixth DWI conviction.

Ms. Walsh was, understandably, elated after gaining a conviction based on a law that makes the Fifth Amendment a joke in Ohio.
"The law is now clear that drunk drivers cannot refuse to take a breath test. It is mandatory, and the jury agreed that Mr. Simin broke that law and deserved prison time. Bottom line: It doesn't pay to refuse to cooperate. It will increase your sentence." -- Sherri Walsh, Summit County (OH) prosecutor
Refusing a breath test is not tampering with evidence. The evidence of Mr. Simin's intoxication consists of the officer's observation of Mr. Simin's driving, the smell of alcohol on his breath, his admission to drinking, any other observations that might be consistent with intoxication and how he did on any police coordination exercises that were administered. Mr. Simin's alcohol concentration is only evidence if he a breath or blood sample is taken and tested -- if there was no test, there is no evidence of his alcohol concentration. If there is no evidence, there is nothing with which to tamper.

This is just another example of the extremes to which prosecutors and legislatures will go to strip the constitutional rights of motorists. Prosecutors know that DWI cases can be hard to prove and they are willing to go to any length to force a defendant to incriminate himself.

I've said it before, and I will say it again, a motorist pulled over on suspicion of DWI has fewer rights than any other individual in this country.

See also:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Criminal defendants tweeting during trial

After seeing this piece from the ABA, it might be a good idea to tell clients to stay off social media before and during trial.

Sam Riddle, a political consultant in Michigan, went on trial on charges of public corruption and blasted his defense attorney while the jury was out deliberating.
  1. Until today I never understood the true depth that ineffective counsel could achieve. The 6th Amendment screams for justice.
  2. When your fate is in the hand of others, Man, THAT is not a good feeling. Especially when those that are to define you simply don't.
Steve Keefer, on trial for public corruption in Pittsburgh, took his frustration with the state's investigation out by tweeting during trial.
  1. cant resist... mazo testified that i saved the caucus millions of $ while i was director
  2. the good Lord, truth and justice will always win...
  3. especially when at the same time of his announcement, his ex-cos is testifying about how much of a waste HWD was...
  4. after 20 years in politics, i suppose i shouldnt be astounded any longer by the level of hypocracy...
  5. and then howard william deweese decides that he is holy enuff to run for office again...
  6. cant believe the balls of howard william deweese... he fired a bunch of people claiming they were engaging in corruption, yet he gets indict
  7. the attack was on the credibility of the evidense and its collection... not the wittness
  8. i've heard said, if ur opponent stoops to stealing ur yard signs, u must b in good shape
  9. AG's R worried about me saying anything bad about corbett or this phony investigation
  10. sorry folks... no more tweeting from trial...
  11. court is adjourned for the day... twitter issue is unresolved for me...
  12. stay tuned... i may be back
  13. sorry folks... AG must be worried... not allowed to tweet anymore...
  14. walk finished... excellent job of explaining
  15. Walk holds up stack of immunity agreements and explains the deals that witnesses are getting
  16. walk is doing a good job utlining the inconsistancies in the AG's charges
  17. polarmo finished remarks for peretta... brian walk is starting opening for cott
  18. day 2; opening remarks for cott and peretta this morning
  19. @Matt_Belanger don't forget to mention Matt that Merium Fox recieved the largetst bonus of 38K and she was never mentioned by the AG at all
  20. kevin harley: defense is making allegations trying to confuse jury... newsflash; hey kevin, phone records dont lie...
  21. corbett's campaign satff inside the courtroom today... it speaks volumes about what this trial is all about...
  22. waiting to see how the main stream media covers the fact that the AG objected to us showing corbett's own campaign phone records...
  23. adjourned for the day
  24. my aty has run through an entire list of things about this case in which the jury will NOT hear my name...
  25. slowly and methodically explaining how my office worked and the late hours we were required to work...
  26. my aty is beginning my opening remarks
  27. resuming opening remarks... defense is not allowed to show tom corbett's campaign phone records
  28. back from recess... its clear the judge wont allow us to talk about these phone records in open court... lawyers are on side bar now arguing
  29. AG lawyers freaked out... judge called an immediate recess... AG lawyers are frantically buzzing around
  30. defense just showed phone records from corbetts camapaign phones showing that corbett's campaign made hundreds of calls to state staff
  31. defense just quoted tom corbett as saying he juggles campaign work and state work all the time...
  32. btw, corbett has campaign staff here in the courtroom
  33. AG made first objection less than 5 minutes into our opening statement
  34. AG has concluded opening arguments... mentioned my name three times... once was to say that i had nothing to do with bonuses.
  35. all opening statements will be today... AG will start
  36. AG has 10 lawyers here
  37. waiting for attorneys to finish conference with judge. so far the AG has at least has at least six agents here
  38. If all goes as planed, I'm going to be sending updates during the trial...
  39. start
So what's the harm, you ask? Statements made by a party to a suit are admissible, even if the party who made the statement doesn't testify, because the statements aren't considered hearsay. In Mr. Riddle's case it may not matter because he waited until the jury took the case before posting updates -- but should one of the jurors go snooping around the internet...

Mr. Keefer's updates are far more troubling, however, because he began posting updates on Facebook and Twitter during the trial. Any comments he made could be introduced into evidence by the state if he made any harmful admissions.

The danger, of course, becomes greater in complicated multi-day trials when jurors have time to do a little "research" on the side.