Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday morning roundup

Yeah, Wal-Mart is everyone's favorite target. With all the piling on after the revelations that Wal-Mart bribed some officials in Mexico, Scott Greenfield's is a voice of sanity.

Anders Breivik is claiming he wasn't insane at the time of his attack that led to the deaths of 77 people last year. What does it say about the state of Mr. Breivik's mind when he's claiming sanity after admitting that he's a murderer?

The Houston Police Department seems to have a bit of a problem when it comes to seizing property. I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere but I can't seem to come up with it right now.

And finally, the towns of Boring, Oregon and Dull, Scotland have decided to become sister cities. A perfect partnership. Is there a Dreary somewhere around?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Droning on and on

Under the Obama Administration, the United States has upped the ante when it comes to unmanned drone attacks. And, along with the increased use of drones, come more innocents who end up dead.

President Obama defends his use of drones by claiming they are used to make targeted strikes at suspected terrorists on the other side of the world. What Mr. Obama, and other proponents of drone attacks, seem to forget is that bombs are not the most precise, discriminating killers. While you might very well be able to program a drone to drop a bomb on a particular building, you can't control who's in the building. You also can't control the collateral damage (read: innocent dead people) that results from an explosion.

The history of warfare can best be analogized as looking to see from how far away you can kill someone. We went from hand-to-hand combat to bows and arrows to guns to bombs to drones. War has become a video game for those who oversee the drone program.

But, for all the government's self-congratulatory backslapping after every death by drone, what would the reaction be if another country entered the United States and murdered one of their enemies of the state? What would the reaction be if another country conducted a "surgical strike" in the US that left innocent folks laying dead in the streets?

But, hey, we don't have to worry about that now, do we? I mean, we're talking about a bunch of brown-skinned people who worship their god in a different way. So what's the problem?

Calling someone an enemy combatant doesn't change the calculus. The US is entering another country for the purpose of killing someone without due process of law. In fact, without any consideration of any other country's laws. As Jeff Gamso is wont to point out, the United States is supposed to follow the rule of law - not the law of rule.

Where's the outrage? If it's okay for los federales to carry out extra-judicial (just love that term) murders overseas, what's to prevent another country from invoking the same principle and carrying them our in our streets? Oh, that's right - if someone were to do that here they would face the mighty wrath of the US military but since no one is willing to stand up to the big bully, the US is able to act with impunity.

Still the fact remains, murder is murder, no matter how much you might try to sugar coat it.

Click here to watch the live stream of the International Drones Conference this weekend.

H/T Democracy Now!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Update: One drug executions

Once again the State of Texas tied an inmate to a gurney and pumped poison into his veins and called a murder an execution. Once again trained medical personnel disregarded the oaths they took to do no harm and aided the government in killing a man. Once again the murder of an inmate failed to bring the people he killed back from the dead.

Beunka Adams is dead. But his death changed nothing. Maybe Rick Perry can brag out killing another person the next time he runs for office.

As it turns out, Thursday was a banner day for news on executions in these United States. In Kentucky, a state circuit judge ruled that the state must consider switching to a one-drug protocol for its executions or continue to face challenges to the three-drug protocol now being used.

Challenges have been made under the Eighth Amendment arguing that the three-drug protocol constitutes cruel and unusual punishment due to concerns that inmates feel excruciating pain during the process but, because of the drug that paralyzes the inmate, it appears that he has fallen into unconsciousness.

The judge said with the increase in the number of states using pentobarbital to conduct one-drug executions, it is time that Kentucky consider changing its protocol in order to moot the pending litigation.

At the same time we have a story out of Arizona that a defense attorney who was present as a witness at his client's execution saw his client shake violently after being administered the single drug. The attorney, Tim Gabrielson, is concerned that his client experienced pain during the execution.

Arizona uses pentobarbital to murder inmates.

Although some may not see the problem with a condemned man suffering pain as he is being executed, the deliberate infliction of pain by the state is of grave concern. While the state has the ultimate power to decide who lives and who dies - the state does not have the authority to subject its citizens to the intentional infliction of physical pain. Such conduct not only violates the Eighth Amendment, it also undermines the moral authority of the government.

H/T Doug Berman (Sentencing Law & Policy)

HCCLA packs METRO board meeting

Yesterday the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association made its presence felt at the monthly Metropolitan Transit Authority's (METRO) monthly board meeting regarding the use of TSA's VIPR teams on April 13, 2012.

Click here for a link to the video of the board meeting.

Prior to the meeting a letter from METRO CEO George Grenias was circulated that attempted to explain all the confusion about whether or not there were random searches of bags on April 13. According to the letter the initial press release on April 13 and the blog post on April 16 quoted from TSA's national "campaign" literature. Board members stressed that they were unaware of any random bag searches on April 13. Of course some of the board members, namely Burt Ballanfant, said they were unaware of the controversy.

Metro letter 04/26/12

Earl Musick, president of HCCLA, spoke about the duty to uphold the Constitution. He read the text of the Fourth Amendment to the board and presented the board with a copy of the Constitution suitable for framing. Past HCCLA presidents Mark Bennett and Robb Fickman also spoke. Mr. Bennett let the board know that a viper is one of the most dangerous snakes on the planet and that once you let a viper in your house you may never get it out. Mr. Fickman told the board that if METRO police wanted to practice their counter-terrorism moves they should practice them on each other, not the citizens of Harris County. He decried the assault on the civil liberties of the bus-riding public.

Also speaking from HCCLA were Randall Kallinen who reminded the board of their fiduciary duty to protect METRO's assets from plaintiffs' attorneys, Franklin Bynum, who spoke "from the heart" about the respect that was due those who use METRO's services and yours truly who equated the war on terrorism with the war against individual liberty.

Also present and speaking at the meeting were US Congressional Candidate Steve Sussman (in his "Tyranny Response Team" T-shirt and members of the Houston Free Thinkers. One of the Free Thinkers quoted Benjamin Franklin's line "those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither."

According to METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia, as long as he serves as chairman there will be no random bag searches on METRO buses. He also stated that TSA was here on METRO's request and that METRO set the parameters on the operation. While the purpose of the operation was supposedly to ferret out any terrorists who might be riding the bus, no terrorists were caught. The arrests were for prostitution and drug possession.

We were also informed that TSA agents had been on METRO rail many times in the past but that April 13 was the first time they had gotten involved with the buses. What were TSA agents doing on the trains? METRO serves the Houston metropolitan area. Every point of departure and arrival is within Harris County (with a few exceptions where the city limits stretch into Fort Bend County). There are already a bevy of law enforcement agencies in Harris County - we don't need to add TSA to the mix.

After the meeting, as we had lunch at Zydeco's, I was left with a couple of thoughts to ponder. First, if the board knew as little about the operation as they claimed, who's really running the show down on Main Street? Second, is anyone vetting press releases and social media posts before they get circulated?

See also:

"Metro says it won't do random bag checks," Houston Chronicle (Apr. 27, 2012)
"Metro faces public backlash over counter-terror initiative," KTRK-13 (Apr. 26, 2012)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Execution Watch: 4/26/2012

The state that carries out more executions than any other state is ready to kill again...


BEUNKA ADAMS. He and his partner, Richard Cobb, were convicted of abducting and killing a man during the robbery of a convenience store in the East Texas town of Rusk. Cobb remains on death row. Adams was 19 at the time of the offense; Cobb was 18. Three days before the scheduled execution, a federal judge in Texarkana granted Adams a stay of execution. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the stay, which was lifted by the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

For more information on Mr. Adams, click here.

"Unless a stay is issued, we'll broadcast ...Thursday, April 26, 2012, 6-7 PM CT
KPFT Houston 90.1 FM
Listen online: > Listen

You can find more information on Execution Watch's Facebook page.

Road trip

Today was a road trip Wednesday. I had a client with a commercial driver's license who got a speeding ticket up in Brazos County. Since he had a CDL our only choices were to plead the case or try it. He chose to go to trial.

Now it's one thing to try a case on your own turf - but trying a case on someone else's turf is quite another story. After we finish questioning the jury panel the judge asked us if we were ready to make our strikes. Um, Judge, I've got a few folks I need to challenge for cause. After I announced my challenges I felt right at home as the judge proceeded to do his best to rehabilitate each of the jurors who announced that they were biased against my client in one way or another.

Trying the case was pretty much the same as anywhere else - with the exception that, in Brazos County, police witnesses apparently are allowed to read from their notes when the testify. Oh, silly me. I guess I should have read the local rules in advance.

After testimony was completed we gave our closing arguments. I wasn't aware that it was customary in Brazos County for the prosecutor to take my demonstrative aid and throw it across the courtroom. I think that was Local Rule No. 2. Well, either that or not giving the jury a written or oral charge.

The judge told the jury to go back and decide whether my client was guilty or not. I asked if we could approach and I asked to see the charge. He handed me the verdict form. I asked him where the charge was and he told me I was looking at it. Luckily someone told me that this judge didn't give the jury a charge so I had already taken the time to draft a charge that the judge ended up sending back with the jury.

About 45 minutes later the jury informed the bailiff that they were deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial and sent us all off on our way.

I ended up at Rudy's BBQ on Jersey. Rudy's is a chain - but still serves some pretty damn good barbecue. I had my usual - brisket and sausage - with a side of creamed corn. The brisket was moist with a health smoke ring. Rudy's smokes their meat with a healthy dose of oak. The jalapeno sausage was cut lengthwise instead of sliced and had a bit of a kick to it. My only complaint was the slightly funky taste of the sweet tea. I know I should probably go back to getting unsweetened tea and using the pick packet of cancer-causing sweetener - but I digress.

All in all, it was some good stuff.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A million dollar flat fee? Why not?

If you're a criminal defense attorney you know by now that the State Bar of Texas is none too happy that you charge your clients a flat up-front fee for your services. It's just so out of touch with the big retainer and hourly fee structure that the white shoe firms think was inscribed on the tablets that Moses brought down from the mountain.

But, as it turns out, the problem might not be the nature of the fee arrangement - the problem may be that you just aren't charging your clients enough up front. The University of Texas has shown, once and for all, that bigger is better and of no concern to any authority.

For, you see, UT is paying a Washington, D.C. white shoe firm the grand sum of $987,000 to defend its use of affirmative action in its admissions process before the U.S. Supreme Court. My first thought was why the firm didn't just charge a cool mil. What's another $13,000 anyway?

Thanks to Ralph Haurwitz over at the Austin American-Statesman, we have a copy of the contract the Board of Regents signed with the firm of Lathan & Watkins, LLP.

Now, without getting into the merits of the arguments in favor of, or opposed to, UT's current admissions rules, is the fee worth it? There are around 50,000 students at UT-Austin, with the amount the board is spending to defend one lawsuit, those students could see their tuition reduced by almost $20,000. That would certainly go a long way to reducing the amount of debt college students are saddled with as they step out into the job market.

But let's say the university and the state are both satisfied with the representation those white shoe boys in Foggy Bottom are providing. Doesn't that make the fee worth it - regardless of how much that fee was?

And, if that's the case, what business does the State Bar have in interfering with the fee agreements we enter into with our clients? Who's in a better position to determine whether a fee is fair or not - the client seeking the services or an organization that represents corporate and insurance defense firms?


Okay, okay. My math is obviously a little shaky. Instead of $20,000 per student the actual figure would be $20.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Judge decrees that defendants must waive attorney-client privilege

"My attorney has advised me that this plea will result in the following immigration consequences for me: __________."
This is the new admonishment that Marc Carter, the Presiding Judge of the 228th Judicial District Court has added to the plea papers used in that court.

What could possibly be wrong with the defendant acknowledging he understands the potential immigration consequences of his plea? What court, in the post-Padilla era wouldn't want it on the record that the defendant was aware that his plea could have some serious consequences as to his or her future in the United States? More cynically, what court wouldn't want to cut off those habeas writs alleging the defendant was unaware of the consequences of his plea off at the knees?

But let's think about this for a second. The last time I checked my conversations with my clients were privileged (with very rare exception). Only the client can waive that privilege.

Judge Carter is requiring defendants to waive attorney-client confidentiality. More than that, Judge Carter is requiring defendants who may not understand the privileges and protections they are afforded by law.

When entering a plea, a defendant necessarily waives his right to remain silent. But there is no such requirement that he waive attorney-client confidentiality. Any attorney who presents this paperwork to his client prior to a plea is asking that client to waive a right he or she may not even be aware they have. Any attorney who asks his client to sign this admonishment is knowingly violating a sacred trust.

Are we going to start carving up that privilege depending on the type of crime alleged or the immigration status of the defendant? Is asking a certain class of defendants to waive privilege a violation of the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause?

And then there's the little bitty problem that a defense attorney cannot tell a client exactly what the potential immigration consequences of plea could be. If the alleged conduct would constitute a felony under federal law, then the client may be subject to deportation. If the alleged conduct is a crime of dishonesty, the client may be deportable. If the client pleads guilty to a drug charge, he may be deportable. But what about immigration bonds and the pleadings los federales must file? What about the client's status and his history? These are all factors that play a role in how any immigration action might end.

And exactly how is this going to work when the defendant who is here without the blessing of our government is offered a reduced charge if he pleads guilty on the initial setting? Is that attorney going to have enough information to explain to his client what the implications of the plea may or may not be? Is that attorney going to know what his client's legal status is and how the court proceedings may affect that status? Will the court question the signing of the admonishment on the initial setting or be satisfied to have something to that effect on the record?

The admonishment is a bad idea for many different reasons. Judge Carter needs to reconsider the entire idea.

Admonishment - 228th JDC

Another assault on privacy

It's just never enough. No matter how much data the US government can collect on citizens, there is always more data just out of reach.

Last week the European Parliament voted to pass a bill allowing the US Department of Homeland Security to have access to the Passenger Name Records of any airline either operating out of the 27 countries of the European Union or any other airline incorporated or "storing data" in the EU.

And, no, you shouldn't need to ask why los federales need such information. It's the latest salvo in the war on the right to be left alone terrorism. Apologists for the overreaching arms of the state will point out that such information allowed the United States to catch various baddies over the years.

And now ordinary folks from across the pond will be giving up some of their personal data to Big Brother for the privilege of coming to America.

Some MEPs say the proposals leave too many unanswered questions, such as how will the US use this information, how long will it keep the data and who will have access to it? 
Dutch Liberal-Democrat MEP Sophie in 't Veld was involved in drafting the proposals but voted against the bill. 
"The results of the vote show clearly that there are very strong reservations against this agreement. However, the US made it very clear that a 'no' vote would be answered by suspending visa-free travel to the US," she said. 
"Many colleagues - understandably - did not want to make this sacrifice. But it is highly regrettable that the fundamental rights of EU citizens have been bargained away under pressure."

And why did the EU prostrate itself before the United States and agree to give up personal data on their citizens? Because of threats by the United States to suspend visa-free travel from Europe. Oh, the things our representatives are willing to cede on our behalf for the convenience of others.

Somewhere along the way in this war on the Bill of Rights terrorism, the government has forgotten one very important proposition. The proposition that we are all innocent unless proven guilty. Slowly, but surely, our basic right to be left alone by the state has eroded - and continues to erode because few people are willing to stand up and do anything about it.

Most folks will stand in that line at the airport and grumble about having to take off their shoes or pass through a full body scanner or have to suffer the humiliation of a scope and grope and just complain. Well, I guess that's just the price we pay for safety, they say.

This isn't about safety. It's about the unencumbered intrusion of the federal government into our private lives. It has to stop or else one day you will wake up and wonder where your right to privacy went.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Did you hear the one about the sheriff...

Arresting over 500 illegal immigrants just for laughs? Damn, that Joe Arpaio is one fucking funny guy.

While being investigated by los federales for his policies that violated the rights of illegal immigrants, Joe Arpaio went on the lecture circuit and told a crowd in Houston that he arrested folks just for the heck of it.

Nice, Sheriff Joe, very nice.

If there was ever any doubt that the federal government needs to deal with Joe Arpaio as they would deal with anyone else suspected of criminal behavior - this is it. Enough of the acting like a scared child when confronting the big bad bully of Maricopa County. He's just a sheriff. If he broke the law, if he violated the civil rights of folks living within his jurisdiction, it's time he had to face the music.

Joe Arpaio has been allowed to flaunt his disregard for civil rights for years because, for some reason, everyone is afraid of the man. Los federales have brought down federal judges, senators, congressmen and governors. Why it's so hard to force a sheriff in Arizona to answer for his actions, I have yet to understand.

In an interview Thursday, Arpaio defended his comments before Texans For Immigration Reform as a collection of humorous off-the-cuff remarks intended merely to show that he wasn't going to back down to critics. 
"These are not official, under-oath speeches," Arpaio said. "It's strictly a speech that when I'm talking to certain groups, they like to hear what I have to say, because they know I'm under the gun."

But as long as everyone stands by too scared to do anything, the little bully in the southwest is allowed to continue his campaign of intimidation. Joe Arpaio isn't bigger than the Constitution. When he was sworn into office he took an oath to uphold the laws of Arizona and the laws of the United States. But he's given a free pass to do whatever the hell he wants to do.

Arresting people just because he can do it? Why not? Who's going to challenge him?

Petty tyrants are allowed to humiliate folks because no one is willing to stand up to them. If this latest episode isn't enough to get the feds involved, I don't know what is. He's on tape telling an audience that he arrested hundreds of people just because he could - not because he had any legal reason to do so.

Now's the time for President Obama and Eric Holder to actually stand up and do something about the flagrant abuses in Maricopa County. Why do I get the feeling that nothing's going to happen?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday morning roundup

Leave it to Bud Selig to fuck everything up. On Friday night the Astros wore their Colt .45 uniforms for the last time this season and handed out replicas to the fans at the ballpark. Only problem is the replicas were missing the revolver thanks to Bud's idiotic directive earlier this year that the Astros couldn't put the gun on their jerseys (historical accuracy be damned). Unfortunately the Astros had to order the replicas months in advance (so they say) and had to have them made sans revolvers.

Congress is looking into just what was going on in Cartagena, Colombia with Secret Service agents, Marines and prostitutes. It's one of those stories that just seems to get worse the more people talk. The lesson, as always, honor your agreement with the escort.

India is, by some accounts, the third largest economy on the planet. Unfortunately the spoils of that economy have not fallen equally to the citizenry. A large portion of the Indian population still lives in abject poverty. So, when the Indian government had the choice of spending $500 million to upgrade its infrastructure, improve education and reduce poverty or to build a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead 3000 miles, what do you think it chose. That's right, screw the people!

Ted Nugent has a bad case of the runs every time he opens his mouth.

Maybe the gunmen were from the Rooster Liberation Front.

And, finally, it sounds like something straight out of Mythbusters - the US Forest Service is finalizing plans to blow up a handful of cows that froze to death in the Colorado mountains.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Grand Prix of Bahrain to run despite crackdown on dissent

Tomorrow morning the Formula One Grand Prix of Bahrain will be run. At the same time the Bahraini security forces will be out trying to quell dissent. All in a day's work for the wealthy jet set class.

Yesterday tens of thousands of protesters marched on a highway into the capital Manama. Security forces responded by firing stun grenades and tear gas into the crowds. This morning a man was found dead with gunshot wounds after overnight clashes with the police.

Last year's race was cancelled after 35 people died in anti-government protests during the Arab Spring.
"I think for those of us who are trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the race allows us to build bridges across communities, get people working together." Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Kahlifa
Not that Bernie Ecclestone, the head of the international sanctioning body for Formula One, gives a rat's ass about anything other than the money that will be lining his pockets. He said this year's race will go ahead after assurances from the repressive regime that there will be no security issues during the race weekend.

All the race will do is add an air of legitimacy to an anti-democratic regime that has repressed its citizens mercilessly over the years. The fact that the international racing community has no compunctions about running the race speaks volumes about those involved.

Just remember, this is the same body that continued to race in South Africa long after the rest of the international community had already shunned the apartheid regime.

Enjoy your riches, Bernie, just don't think too much about who died to line your pockets.

San Jacinto Day

On this spot, just east of downtown Houston, Texas gained its independence back on April 21, 1836. This is where I'll be with my wife and girls today. Happy San Jacinto Day!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Too much, the magic bus

If you were thinking about hopping on that Metro bus for any reason, you might want to think again. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Metro is planning on subjecting more riders to TSA's brand new counter-terrorism measure.

That's right. Expect to see the police searching bags, asking for identification and running drug dogs around buses and bus stops for the next 60-90 days. They'll even have TSA's own behavioral detection officers who are trained to fuck with people for no good reason figure out who's a terrorist and who isn't.

According to the Metro police chief (that's the head of the bus cops), the Anti-Fourth Amendment brigade will be patrolling certain routes based on "crime data and trends and information" provided by drivers and passengers.

Looking for terrorists? Really?

How many terrorists did y'all pick up last Friday?

That's right - none. Because you know if they had found a terrorist the police would have made a lot of noise about it. But after gloating about the random bag searches, Metro began changing its story. First it morphed into bag were only searched if there was probable cause to search. Then Metro denied any bags were searched.
*   *   *
Law officials performed random bag checks, conducted sweeps with our K-9 drug and bomb-detecting dogs, and assigned both uniformed and plainclothes officers at transit centers and rail platforms to detect and prevent criminal activity.
Metro's in-house blog (4/16/12)

MarkWBennett NO random bag checks were performed during BusSafe exercise. We search only w/ probable cause or consent.

Metro's Twitter feed (4/18/12)

ChuckStanfield  There were NO bag searches conducted during this operation..

If these guys can't even keep their stories straight, how can you believe anything that comes out of their mouths?

This assault on the people's right to be left alone isn't about finding terrorists on city buses. It's about finding excuses to arrest folks on nothing more than a hunch. The behavioral detection officers will provide the cover for the unlawful searches by claiming a passenger was acting in a suspicious manner. The uniformed officer will then use that "finding" to violate the rider's Fourth Amendment rights by conducting a search without either a warrant or probable cause. And guess what? No one's going to find any bombs on board - they'll find a little pot, some crack, maybe some powder and other assorted pharmaceuticals.

Law enforcement expects the public to eat up this counter-terrorism bullshit while they conspire to violate the Fourth Amendment rights of everyone who steps into a bus station, onto a platform or who rides the bus or train. We can't allow them to get away with it.

H/T Mark Bennett

Closing the book

Okay, it's time to take a little break for some baseball. Tonight I'll be at the ballpark with my youngest watching the Astros wear their Colt .45 throwbacks for the last time. Since it's a 7:05 start we'll be long gone before the final pitch but I have a feeling we'll enjoy ourselves out there.

The other day Tom Verducci brought up a point that I've made in the past - with all the refinements in the art of pitching, how come so many pitchers end of on the disabled list or on a table under the knife?

When I was growing up starting pitchers would routinely pitch into the eighth inning of games. These beasts would throw well over a hundred pitches on three days rest and would rarely end up missing chunks of the season due to injury. Relief pitchers, for the most part, were former starters who washed out. There were a few monsters out there who would come in when the game was on the line (regardless of what inning it was) and pitch more than an inning in relief on a regular basis.

Just take a look at the stat lines for Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and Jeff Reardon to see how much the art of pitching has changed.

Nowadays with year-round training, pitch counts and five-man rotations, pitchers are falling like flies. Even closers are going down at a record clip. And these closers don't even bother coming in until the ninth inning and never have to work their way out of someone else's jam. They are never asked to pitch more than one inning. Managers have all downed the koolaid about having a set-up guy for the set-up guy, a set-up guy and the closer. The save stat is the most worthless stat there is - the save should go to the guy who got out of the jam in the seventh inning - not the guy who walked to the mound to start the ninth.
Managers are motivated by the save statistic, throwing three-out save chances to their closer like bones to a dog. The game universally has embraced this idea that a closer can't come in to a tie game on the road -- better to lose the game with a lesser pitcher than run your closer out there without a save in hand. 
What makes this groupthink so crazy is that the system isn't working. Closers are breaking down or losing effectiveness faster than you can say Joel Zumaya. (Quick, look around baseball: show me the high velocity, high energy closer with the obligatory, goofy closer-hair starter kit who has a long career. The job has a bit of planned obsolescence to it.) 
Clubs can find closers; it's keeping them in the job that is the tough part. Over the previous five seasons, 53 closers saved 25 games at least once. Thirty-three of them, or 62 percent, no longer are closing. Only five pitchers saved 25 games three times in the past five years and are still closing: Jose Valverde, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell and Joe Nathan (with the latter two off to shaky starts). Mostly, closers just come and go, or they break down and virtually disappear (Zumaya, B.J. Ryan, David Aardsma, Brandon Lyon, Kerry Wood, Bobby Jenks, etc.).
I don't know what the problem is. As Mr. Verducci points out, these days there are more problems with the elbow than with the shoulder. Hardly anyone had elbow problems back in the day. There's a reason "Tommy John" surgery is called "Tommy John" surgery - no one had it done until Tommy John had it done in 1974.

Something's seriously wrong when the phenom of all phenoms - Stephen Strasburg - was shut down in his rookie season to have Tommy John surgery. Brian Wilson, the hero for the Giants in their series winning season, is done for 2012 to have his second Tommy John surgery and he's not even thirty. Ditto for Joakim Soria, who just had his second Tommy John surgery.

One thing general managers should take away from this latest wave of broken down pitchers is the folly of spending several million dollars a year on a player who will throw less than 80 innings a year - and then only if the team is winning going into the ninth inning. Relief pitchers are a dime a dozen and baseball types need to get over their wet dreams about fireballing closers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

He just couldn't help himself

Richard Land is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is regarded by some as the most powerful person in the Southern Baptist Church. He also can't keep his mouth shut.

Mr. Land has seen fit to criticize so-called "black leaders" for bringing the nation's attention to the killing of Trayvon Martin. In Mr. Land's eyes, President Obama was wrong to address the issue and that the president "poured gasoline on the racialist fires" in order to prop up his floundering campaign.

When asked if regretted his comments, Mr. Land stood by them and then turned around and defended George Zimmerman by stating that Mr. Zimmerman was right to be suspicious of a black youth. He added that black men are "statistically more likely to do harm" than white men.

This from a man who is still trying to remove the stench of slavery and racism from the Southern Baptist Church. He was the architect behind the church's apology for its support of slavery back in 1995.
"Part of racial reconciliation is being able to speak the truth in love without being called a racist and without having to bow down to the god of political correctness." -- Richard Land
We can all feel free to disagree about what happened that February night in Florida and about what the proper remedy is. But for the man behind the curtain to make the case that black men are more likely to be violent than whites is beyond incomprehensible.

Even worse, according to Aaron Weaver, a blogger at Baylor University, Mr. Land's comments weren't even his own. He lifted them, without attribution, from an article by Jeffrey Kuhner in the right wing Washington Times (I guess no one's told Mr. Land that the Times is the mouthpiece for the Moonies).

But Mr. Land has an excuse. It is a live radio show, after all. How can he be expected to tell the listeners that he's reading verbatim from an article written by someone else? And, according to Mr. Weaver, this isn't the first time Mr. Land has done it.

Hey, it's okay, Mr. Land. Hypocrisy and the Baptist church go together like Martin and Lewis, peanut butter and chocolate, and barbecue and beer. I understand that you want the government to get its nose out of the way businesses screw workers and corporations rape the environment. You'd much rather have the government impose your reactionary views on the populace.

It's an alternative fee structure, not a flat fee

According to the Wall Street Journal, partners billing in the top 25% of hourly billers saw their hourly fees rise by 4.9% to an average of $873 an hour while those in the bottom quarter saw an increase of 1.3% to $204 an hour.

Among the heavy hitters was Andrew Goldman, vice chairman of the bankruptcy practice at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, LLP. Mr. Goldman's time came in at over $1,000 an hour which would appear quite pricey for someone who is filing for bankruptcy. Maybe those legal fees were just the little bit needed to push the company over the ledge.

It seems that Biglaw firms have found a way to increase their hourly rates through so-called alternative fee structures. You know what those are. For a while it was all the rage in the ABA Journal. It was sometimes referred to as value billing. We're not going to gouge you on the meter - we'll just charge a flat fee instead.

But, wait a minute, isn't that the same thing that the white-shoe boys at the State Bar of Texas are trying to prevent criminal defense lawyers from doing? I guess when the boys in the penthouse are doing it, it's called value billing but when those of us in the trenches do it, we're gouging our clients.

Our clients don't care how much time we spend working on their case. They care about resolving the case in a way that either keeps the incident off their record or in a way that allows them to get back to their normal lives.

Bar associations act in the interests of the biggest firms since they provide most of the members and most of the financing for the organization. Conversely, if you're a solo practitioner, then, to the bar association, you're worth about as much as a bucket of warm spit. And, it means you're an easy target.

No one is going to question a white-shoe firm that charges upward of $800 an hour for legal services because every other firm wants to be able to charge just as much. Likewise, no one is going to audit the billing practices of the big firms because no one else wants to go under the microscope.

So, instead of questioning just what it is that the Biglaw firms do that's worth $1,000 an hour, let's just go and mess with the men and women who do the dirty work and represent the kind of people we won't let into our reception areas. Meanwhile we'll keep billing clients a flat fee, call it value billing, and raise a ruckus over those criminal defense attorneys who ask for their fees upfront.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unarmed, paralyzed and dead

Bryan Keith Carnes supposedly ran a red light in the early morning hours of Tuesday, April 17, 2012 in Willis, Texas. For those of y'all not familiar with the geography of the Houston area, Willis is about 40 miles north of Houston on Interstate 45.

For reasons we shall never know, Mr. Carnes decided not to stop. He continued driving south on I-45 toward Houston. As he approached The Woodlands (about 25 miles north of Houston), the camper on Mr. Carnes' truck raised and a wheelchair was hoisted on a boom and allowed to bounce on the freeway. Somewhere near Woodlands Parkway a spike strip was laid out. As soon as Mr. Carnes' truck hit the strip the tires blew out and he crashed into the barricade.

Mr. Carnes was then shot to death by a Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy who fired three shots into the truck. The yet-unnamed officer claimed that Mr. Carnes told police to shoot him and that he reached under his seat as officers approached the truck.

Mr. Carnes was a father and a paraplegic. The wheelchair in the bed of the truck was his.

I'm sure the deputy who killed Mr. Carnes will claim that he thought Mr. Carnes was reaching for a weapon. But, strangely enough, the article makes no mention of whether any weapon was found in the truck. As there were no witnesses around, save law enforcement officers, we have no independent source to verify that Mr. Carnes told the officers to shoot him.

Mr. Carnes wasn't going anywhere. His truck couldn't be driven. He couldn't access his wheelchair. There was no need to shoot him. We know there wasn't a weapon (because you know damn well that if there were the police would have made one freaking big deal about it).

We don't know how fast Mr. Carnes was driving - but the police officers involved made no claim that it was a high speed chase (and, once again, you know damn well that if it had been a high speed chase the police would have made one freaking bid deal about it).

There was no need for the police to shoot and kill Bryan Carnes. But what you had were a bunch of armed officers with adrenaline coursing through their bodies. And the result is a dead father and a grieving family. Now where's the justice in that?

Fair and balanced, just like Fox News

The person in that black robe sitting behind the raised desk is supposed to be an impartial and neutral arbiter. That person is not supposed to have a dog in the fight. That person is supposed to make his or her decisions without regard to who it helps.

Of course, like much else in the world we live in, it is honored more in the breach than the observance. But we at least demand the appearance of impartiality, dammit!

Judge Bill Harmon in Harris County couldn't care less about appearances. He doesn't care even to create the impression that he is above the fray.

The other day my colleague, Mark Bennett, posted the video Chronicles of a Teen Killer on his blog. The video was put together with the cooperation of the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the Houston Police Department. And Judge Harmon.

The film is a serious look at drunk driving. But it's propaganda. It's designed to poison jurors into accepting the loose logic the police and prosecutors use in charging many motorists with driving while intoxicated. And there, lending his face to the project, is a man who is supposed to remain neutral and detached.

And that's not all. Proudly displayed behind the judge's desk in County Criminal Court at Law No.2 on the eighth floor of the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center is a plaque from MADD commending Judge Harmon on his work in support of MADD's objectives.

Can there be any doubt as to whether Judge Harmon can sit as an impartial arbiter in a DWI case?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

District Clerk to resign

Faced with mounting legal challenges, Galveston County District Clerk Jason Murray has announced that he will resign from office within the next two weeks. In addition to a recent DWI in League City and his probation for assaulting his wife, Mr. Murray appears to be the target of a special prosecutor retained by the Galveston County District Attorney's Office.

Mr. Murray was swept into office in the Republican sweep of Galveston County in 2010. Growth in the northern part of the county and the decline of the population along the coast thanks to Hurricane Ike have handed control of the county to the Republican party.

In their haste to vote for any breathing thing with an R after its name, Galveston County elected as district clerk, a man plagued with so many personal demons he is having to leave office in shame and as judge, a man who was on probation from the State Bar of Texas for ethics violations.

GOP-mania also caused a State District Judge to switch his allegiance from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party so that he could retain his seat. In fairness, Judge Wayne Mallia has always been just a tad-bit conservative, but, when the winds blew from the left, he signed up with the Democrats in order to win his seat and now, with the winds shifting, he's going to the other side. Just a word of caution, political expediency and ideological purity are too very different things. If he cheated on her to be with you, what makes you think he won't do it again?

Word on the street is that there is a line of candidates ready to run in the GOP primary for the bench in County Court Three in 2014 despite the fact that a Republican (albeit one that makes Barry Goldwater look like a damn liberal) is already sitting there. My sources tell me that one attorney who was in line for a district court seat was asked to step aside and run for Dupuy's seat next time around.

Mussolini made the trains run on time

It was bad enough when airport harassment security was handed over to the newly-formed TSA following the attacks on 9/11. Of course the real tragedy was the attack on the Constitution by our own government using 9/11 as an excuse to crack down on rampant civil liberties.

It was a mild pain in the ass to travel by air prior to the hijackings. But since that time we have seen one more intrusion into our privacy after another. Every few months the muckety-mucks at TSA decide to implement a new strategy to fight yesterday's attack.

If you read Scott Greenfield yesterday you know about the sudden insights that Kip Hawley has had since he quit running TSA. While he is now troubled by the intrusion into travelers' privacy, it didn't seem to bother him too much when he was running the show.

Last night my colleague Mark Bennett posted a piece on his blawg that went beyond merely disturbing. Now Mark and I share a couple of things in common - neither one of us will fly as our little protest against the means by which los federales have used to trample the privacy rights of the citizenry. It turns out that TSA is not satisfied with fucking airport security up beyond belief. Now it's their mission to fuck up the rest of the nation's transportation system.

TSA's VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) unit descended upon Houston recently and trampled upon the rights of folks hopping a ride on METRO. That's right. Somehow it's now under TSA's purview to implement security measures for those so brazen as to take advantage of public transportation.

Law officials performed random bag checks, conducted sweeps with our K-9 drug and bomb-detecting dogs, and assigned both uniformed and plainclothes officers at transit centers and rail platforms to detect and prevent criminal activity. 
At a news conference last Friday, METRO Police Chief Victor Rodriguez called METRO's transit system one of the safest in the world. "We at METRO take our responsibility seriously. We have a safe and secure system," said Rodriguez. "This initiative is going to help us maintain and enhance the safety of our system. It takes this collaborative effort to synergize those expertise and skills for the benefit of all of Houston." 
Doyle Raines, general manager at the Transportation Security Administration, said Rodriguez invited the TSA to bring its viper teams to join in this grassroots pilot program that grew from a peer advisory group of mass transit police chiefs and security directors that included METRO's Rodriguez. 
The VIPR squad, assisted by the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the METRO police and Harris County Constables carried out a counter-terrorism exercise by subjecting riders to "random" bag searches and K-9 sniffs. The stormtroopers agencies recorded eight felony arrests.

So tell me, Mr. Rodriguez, just how many of those who got arrested were subjected to searches without probable cause? Not that it matters, I suppose, because the courts in Harris County aren't known for suppressing searches just because the police might (and i stress might) have overstepped their legal authority. I mean, the guy had the goods on him, didn't he?

Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (who has never missed an opportunity to mug for the camera) exclaimed that she was ecstatic that the TSA was subjecting bus riders to the same inconveniences that airline passengers put up with.

But how many people had their rights trampled upon? How many times did the police ignore the proscriptions of the 4th Amendment and subject folks to unreasonable search and seizure? How much more of this can we endure? How long until even the most docile American stands up and tells the government that enough is enough?

We used to have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Not any more. At the airport you have none. At home the NSA is downloading all of your phone calls and internet searches. And now, the people who take public transportation (and down here that's mainly folks who can't afford a working car) have none.

If you're fed up here's your chance to do something about it. METRO will hold its next board meeting on April 26, 2012 in the second floor boardroom at 1900 Main at 9:00 a.m. Let's pack the room and let METRO know how we feel about the steady erosion of our rights.

Mark is mad as hell and I can't take it anymore.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Poor, petty, pitiful you

I witnessed something this past week that seemed more appropriate for a smoke-filled back room than a PTA meeting. It's been written here in the blawgosphere that when you hand someone a job with very little authority, pettiness often follows. Take a look at parking lot attendants, TSA screeners and municipal court judges, for example.

My wife served on the board of the PTA at our daughter's school for the past year as treasurer. As it turned out there were some clashes of personality among the board members since not everyone wanted to do everything the same way.

Last week, however, took the cake. It was election time once again for the PTA. For the last month or two board members were firing incendiary e-mails back and forth across the listserv at one another. For an added measure of thoughtlessness, the school's principal was following the exchange on the listserv.

Thursday night was the big night. All during the day the e-mail bombs kept falling. I, on the other hand, was just looking forward to some warm pizza and a Dr Pepper at the end of the day. As it turned out, one of the board members brought her mom, who signed up as a member, to the meeting, along with a dozen or so brand new members. Some of the new members' kids wouldn't even be students at the school until next year.

At that point the fix was in. As soon as my wife figured out what was happening she pulled her name off the ballot. She was in shock at what had happened. She was dumbfounded that someone would pack a meeting just to keep her "opponents" off the board.

Meanwhile I went to the music room where my daughters were hanging out and watched Mary Poppins.

What I found remarkable is that we were talking about the PTA board. The PTA has no voice in the running of the school. It exists solely for fundraising and to create the illusion that the parents have some say in the way the school operates. Few people are confused about this.

These little petty tyrants are everywhere. You'll find them at the DMV, with the homeowners' association and on your jury panel.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday morning roundup

Of course it had to end this way. Back in November, Anders Behring Breivik, accused of killing 77 people in Norway last summer (most of whom were children) was examined by a psychiatrist and found to be insane. The forensic psychiatrists who conducted the evaluation found that Mr. Breivik was a paranoid schizophrenic.

But that would mean that the state couldn't put Mr. Breivik on trial for the murders - and we mustn't deprive the state of its power to infringe upon the liberty of any individual. So, miraculously enough, a second examination found that Mr. Breivik wasn't insane at the time of the alleged crimes. Interesting how that worked out, wouldn't you say?

Oh the messiness that is Chinese politics. Just a few months ago "experts" in Chinese politics touted Bo Xilai, the party boss in Chongqing as a rising star. Then, just as suddenly, Bo was dismissed as party secretary and now his wife, Gu Kailai, has been accused of murdering a British businessman found dead in his hotel room last November. Makes our method of picking candidates seem reasonable in comparison.

Apparently times are tough for GOP Presidential hopefuls as the Newt bounced a check in Utah.

Finally, at Wal-Mart you can save money and live better thanks to a one-pot "shake and bake" meth lab in the restroom of a Wal-Mart in Boaz, Alabama.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sights and sounds of a tradition

Here are a few shots from last week's Opening Day at Minute Maid Park. While the Astros came up short on the scoreboard, our time at the ballpark was wonderful.

This was the last year the Astros will open the season in the National League. Next year will be full of late night games and designated hitters. But, the more I think about it, the more I think Bill was probably right. My daughter doesn't understand the nuances of baseball. She doesn't know what league the Astros are in. She doesn't know what a designated hitter is.

She just likes to go to the ballpark with her Daddy and watch some baseball. I'm okay with that.

Here are some of the scenes of Opening Day 2011...

Outside the ballpark before the game. We were sitting on a hill eating peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Opening Day is the only day in which the entire lineups of both teams are introduced.

Play ball! Wandy tosses out the first pitch of the season.

Fireworks at the ballpark.

The end of a wonderful day at the ballpark.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Connecticut legislature votes to abolish the death penalty

The elected representatives of the State of Connecticut have voted to repeal the state's death penalty. Governor Daniel P. Malloy has already announced that he intends to sign the bill into law. As part of the compromise, however, the eleven men remaining on death row will still be subject to execution.

Connecticut becomes the fifth state in the last five years to decide that it makes no sense for the state to be in the murder business. Connecticut joins Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey and New York in repealing the death penalty.

As Jeff Gamso so eloquently points out, though, the new law will mandate that the most severe sentence that can be imposed is death in prison (life without parole). The law also says that inmates serving life without parole will be segregated from the general population and only allowed outside their cells for two hours a day.

Republicans, who voted against the measure, criticized the provision allowing for the execution of the eleven men on death row. Lawmakers said the measure was hypocritical and could allow for the appellate courts to overturn the death sentences. As to the first point - I'd like to see a show of hands of which Republicans would've voted for the bill had it abolished the death penalty outright and commuted the existing death sentences to life without parole.

Still waiting, boys...

As to the second point - I hope that an appellate court would look to the newly signed statute and either remand the case for sentencing or commute the death sentence to life without parole. I agree that abolishing the death penalty but still allowing the state to murder eleven additional men is hypocritical and undercuts the moral authority for abolishing the death penalty.

I'm also aware of the cost of doing business in a legislative body. The objective of the bill was to get the state out of the killing business. The reality was that there were not enough votes to pass the bill unless there was a provision exempting the eleven men currently on death row.

Step by step and state by state the death penalty is losing its support. At some point we may reach a tipping point where enough states have abolished the death penalty on various grounds that appellate courts may look to the general mood when determining whether a particular state's process for killing an inmate meets constitutional muster.

Meanwhile we can only wait.

See also:

"Nevermore in my name: CT abolishes the death penalty," A Public Defender (Apr. 11, 2012)

"Connecticut bill to repeal death penalty to become law with Governor's signature," Sentencing Law and Policy (Apr. 12, 2012)

Suggestions for your book club's reading list

Well it's that time of the year again. It's time to read a banned book. Whether your flavor be offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexuality or racism, the American Library Association has you covered with their list of 2011's most banned books.

So, without further ado, here's your reading list for the next twelve months:

1)      ttylttfnl8rg8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
2)      The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
3)      The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
4)      My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
5)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
6)      Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
7)      Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
8)      What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
9)      Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
10)  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Offensive language; racism

The most ironic entry on the list is, of course, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The book made the list of Top 10 banned books and the movie made AFI's list of the Best 10 Films Ever. AFI even named Atticus Finch as the No. 1 movie hero. Yes, the book contains some offensive language and yes, the book depicts racism in the South. But since when is accurately portraying "the other America" grounds for banning a book? I guess the imagery conflicts with the rosy picture conservatives want to paint of the "good ol' days."

Maybe one day the wingnuts will realize that banning books doesn't change the past. All it does is create ignorance. Racism is part of our past. Religious intolerance is part of the fabric of this country. Kids have sex.

You don't like what an author wrote? Great. Tell people you disagree. Write a rebuttal. Debate the points over coffee or beer. Parse the words. Democracy flourishes with the free exchange of ideas - whether you agree with them or not. Kick back and enjoy the cacophony of discordant voices.

Don't ban books. Read them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cowering in Miami

Heaven forbid someone  in South Florida voice any opinion about Fidel Castro that strays from the right wing orthodoxy of the Cuban emigres. Somewhere along the line, Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen told Time Magazine that he loved Fidel Castro.

The Cubans in their bermuda shorts, black socks and sandals were aghast that anyone could make such a remark. Loving Fidel Castro? Are you kidding me?

He's only the man who led the revolt that drove the right-wing dictator (and friend of America) Fulgencio Batista out of power in 1959. He liberated the nation's resources from foreign corporations. He kicked the mafiosa who ran Havana's casinos to the curb. He promised a voice to those who were crushed under the thumbs of Batista and the foreign companies.

He was no angel, make no mistake about it. He confiscated property held by wealthy Cubans (thus hastening their move to Florida). He jailed political opponents. His regime repressed freedom of expression.

For this grave transgression, Mr. Guillen was suspended without pay for five games. Let's get this straight, Mr. Guillen made a statement. He didn't insult anyone. He didn't threaten anyone. He merely said something that some folks in Miami found objectionable. More to the point, he said something that some folks who fork over some serious money for tickets and advertising found objectionable.

So fucking what?

And then Bud Selig, that little worm with the bad toupee who has done his best to ruin baseball, acted like a little sycophant and contributed nothing but hot air and expelled carbon dioxide to the debate:
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he supported the decision to suspend Guillen. He called Guillen's remarks in the magazine ''offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world'' and ''have no place in our game.''
The remarks have "no place in our game." Really, Bud? This coming from the commissioner of a league in which one of the teams is nicknamed the Indians and has one of the most disgusting racist logos in all of professional sports. This from the commissioner who sat on his hands while the biggest scandal in baseball since 1919 occurred right underneath his nose. This from a commissioner who has introduced warmongering and violence into the national pasttime under the guise of patriotism. This from a commissioner who didn't have the guts to take the All Star Game out of Arizona despite the passage of laws that discriminated against Latinos.

And then, just to demonstrate that he is just as stupid as he looks, Mr. Selig said this:
''All of our 30 clubs play significant roles within their local communities,'' he added. ''And I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game's many cultures deserve.''
I can only assume that Native Americans aren't one of baseball's many cultures. And apparently neither are free thinkers.

I guess Mr. Selig has no problem with our government listening in on our phone calls and reading our e-mails. I guess he has no problem with our government sanctioning torture in violation of the Geneva Convention. I guess he has no problems with the slaughter of innocents in the Middle East. I guess he has no problem with our government providing arms and military assistance to repressive regimes around the world.

Of course Mr. Guillen didn't make matters better when he tried to apologize for stating his opinion. Instead of standing up for open dialogue and free speech, Mr. Guillen swallowed the company line and tried to distance himself from his remarks.

Mr. Guillen had nothing to apologize for. But don't tell that to the zealots on South Beach and the stooge from Milwaukee.

What, no twitter feed?

George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, has put up a website soliciting donations for his living and legal expenses. Of course I'm playing right along with Mr. Zimmerman's ploy to keep himself in the public spotlight for a little while longer just by posting this.

For someone who seems to resent the media scrutiny he's been placed under, Mr. Zimmerman certainly had a strange reaction. Launching a website and asking people for money is not the best way to keep oneself out of the cameras.
On Sunday February 26th, I was involved in a life altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage. As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life. This website's sole purpose is to ensure my supporters they are receiving my full attention without any intermediaries.
While one of the links on the page is for "The Facts," it contains nothing more than a statement that he regrets not being able to discuss said facts on the website. That's probably the smartest move he's made since the story broke.

One of the first things I tell clients when they come in is to stop posting to Facebook, Twitter or any other social media sites while their case is pending. In some instances it doesn't really matter because my client is smart and savvy enough not to post anything embarrassing in the first place. But, after a client on a dope case bragged on his MySpace page about his latest dope deal - I take no chances.

The best thing Mr. Zimmerman can do right now is lay low and let the local prosecutors muck up the works. So long as the public's attention is focused on what the authorities are, or are not, doing in the investigation they aren't looking at Mr. Zimmerman. And, while he might actually crave being back in the spotlight, the best place for the target of a criminal investigation to be is in the shadows.

While the purpose of the website may very well be to raise money to retain an attorney, it certainly creates the appearance that Mr. Zimmerman is trying to cash in on his infamy. He would do much better to keep "off the grid."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More fun with forensics

So, let's pretend that you're the head of a state forensic sciences board and you receive a complaint from an analyst at a laboratory that is "certified" by the American Society of Laboratory Directors. The complaint alleges that the lab has been using chemicals after the expiration dates on the bottles, that the lab is using outdated protocols and that analysts have been conducting tests without wearing gloves (among others).

Do you:
(A) Have the forensic sciences board look into the allegations?
(B) Have the ASLD look into the allegations that the lab they "certified" is not quite up to snuff? or
(C) Book a tee time.
Now, let's assume that the state board chose Option B and that now you're one of the higher-ups at ASLD. When the complaint is referred to your office, do you:
(A) Send out an audit team to conduct an inspection of the facility?
(B) Interview the person making the complaint?
(C) Pick up the phone and call up the head of the lab and ask him some questions? or
(D) Get a bunch of dollar bills and head over to the nearest strip club for lunch?
Stay with me here. Now let's say you've decided the complaint was without merit. You need to create a paper trail that shows you did something with the complaint. Do you:
(A) Release the report to the public?
(B) Quietly release the report to the forensics board? or
(C) Worry about the report after a trip across the Red River to a casino in Oklahoma?
Of course we all know the answers to the questions. This is a lab that runs a whole bunch of tests for the benefit of prosecutors and we certainly don't want to do anything that's going to cause the prosecutors any problems. We certainly can't expect them to conclude that the lab wasn't operating properly and that the results of any tests might be compromised, can we?

ASLD took over 13 months to complete their "investigation." Their investigation consisted of telephone interviews with managers at SWIFS (Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences) in Dallas. Not once did anyone from ASLD contact the individual who made the complaint.

After ASLD's report was issued, it took the Texas Forensic Sciences Commission another 13 months to forward the findings to the individual who made the complaint. As a result of the "investigation" by the body who had accredited the lab two years prior to the complaint, the TFSC found the complaint to be groundless.

In addition, according to my anonymous source, two members of the TFSC paid ASLD/LAB for accreditation of the labs they operated - Nizam Peerwani and Sarah Kerrigan.

Dr. Peerwani is the chief medical examiner for Tarrant, Denton, Johnson and Parker Counties.  Dr. Kerrigan is the director of the Sam Houston Regional Crime Lab in The Woodlands. In addition, Dr. Peerwani has entered into financial contracts for forensic services from SWIFS, as has Arthur Eisenberg of the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

Now I'm not accusing anyone of a conflict of interest in this matter - but there is, at least, the appearance that something might not be on the up-and-up when members of the state forensics board have outside business dealings with the organization that accredits and investigates crime lab facilities in Texas. It raises a few more eyebrows when at least two members of the board have financial dealings with the lab being investigated.

Dallas SWIFS Investigative Report - Wyckoff-1-2