Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The Maryland Court of Appeals sustained convictions against a defendant for both common law indecent exposure as well as a statutory offense contained in the Corrections Services Article.
The defendant was incarcerated at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. He "masturbated in sight of a female corrections officer, while smiling and making eye contact with her, in spite of her orders to stop."
The court majority found that the statute did not preempt the common law offense. Two judges dissented. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, April 26, 2012
A divided Maryland Court of Appeals has held that a premises owner with the right to control a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull dog is liable for damages caused by the dog's attack notwithstanding the absence of prior notice of the dog's attacking nature: "When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous."
The holding in essence creates strict liability for owners of dogs with some amount of pit bull in them. Among the cases cited by the majority is a bar discipline matter from Florida involving the use of pit bull imagery in lawyer advertising.
The court declined to opine on the impact of the opinion on Rottweiler attacks.
There is a dissent of three judges:
Today, the majority holds that a pit bull or any dog with a trace of pit bull ancestry (determined by what means the majority leaves us entirely in the dark) shall be deemed hence forth vicious and inherently dangerous as a matter of law.
A footnote in the dissent:
The majority opinion delivers an unenlightening and unworkable rule regarding mixed-breed dogs. How much "pit bull" must there be in a dog to bring it within the strict liability edict? How will that be determined? What rationale exists for any particular percentage of the genetic code to trigger strict liability?
The dog at issue here was named Clifford (earlier Maryland pit bull cases involved dogs named Trouble and Rampage). Clifford escaped from a pen and attacked two boys. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
The New Jersey Appellate Division has reversed an order of summary judgment as to two of three defendants sued under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("LAD").
The plaintiff (a truck driver) had claimed to be subject to regular anti-Semitic comments from the defendants, who mistakenly thought that he was Jewish. The trial court held that the fact that the plaintiff was not in fact Jewish barred the action.
The court here found that conclusion to be erroneous as a matter of law:
...the individual defendants, all of whom were plaintiff's supervisors, were motivated by their belief that plaintiff was Jewish, and thus engaged in "real discrimination and harassment" of the kind that the LAD seeks to eliminate...That their target happened not to be Jewish should not serve to excuse their conduct.
The defendants had initially denied the comments had been made until a DVD was produced by the plaintiff that had such expressions as "Jew Bag," "F... you Hebrew," "Jew Bastard," "If you were a German, we would burn you in the oven," and "Only a Jew would argue over his hours."
At his deposition, one of the defendants admitted that the DVD was accurate and that he "used the song Hava Nagila as the ring tone for calls on his cell phone from plaintiff." (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Cynthia Fuchs Epstein (CUNY, Sociology) has republished her classic and foundational study Women in Law as part of the Quid Pro book project. It adds a new Foreword by Stanford's Deborah Rhode. Excerpt on the demise of 'Ladies' Day' in law schools, and other info, found at MsJD blog. And the book itself is at Amazon in paperback or Kindle, plus B&N for Nook and Apple iBooks. Although the book certainly covers women as law students and in law teaching, most chapters are about professional practice as such, in firms, solo practice, public interest work, government, and the judiciary.
Also out in paperback is a book I edited, written by Tulane students: Hot Topics in the Legal Profession 2012. Those two are the newest ones on topic with the U.S. legal profession. Upcoming is a reissue in paperback of Llewellyn's The Bramble Bush, though already in Kindle and other ebook formats. [Alan Childress]
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Touro Law Center's Jewish Law Institute features Nathan Lewin as part of its Distinguished Lecture Series, on Tuesday, March 20, at 5:30 pm. Lewin, a renowned advocate of religious freedoms and frequent arguer before the U.S. Supreme Court, will deliver a lecture, "The Legal Profession and the Orthodox Jewish Lawyer: Change Over Half a Century." It is open to the public and more information is linked here. [Alan Childress]
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court of Ohio held today that a provision in the state’s disorderly conduct statute, R.C. 2917.11(A)(2), that prohibits “recklessly causing inconvenience, annoyance or alarm to another by ... making excessive noise” provides sufficient notice for a person of ordinary intelligence to understand what the law requires, and therefore is not unconstitutionally vague.
The Court’s 7-0 decision, authored by Justice Robert R. Cupp, affirmed a decision of the 9th District Court of Appeals.
The case involved a citation issued to Jason Carrick of Wayne County by sheriff’s deputies for a minor misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. The citation was issued after an incident in which neighbors complained about loud music and particularly “booming” bass coming from a building owned by Carrick at which he was hosting a Halloween party. Carrick initially complied with the deputies’ request that he reduce the volume of the music, but later increased the volume again after the officers departed. After obtaining signed complaints from the neighbors, the deputies returned to Carrick’s property, cited him for violating the state disorderly conduct statute, and warned him that if they had to return again he would be arrested.
After receiving a third complaint at approximately 1:30 a.m., deputies returned to the property and placed Carrick under arrest. He was charged with and convicted of violating R.C. 2917.11(A)(2), the subsection of the disorderly conduct statute that addresses noise-related violations.
Carrick appealed, asserting that his conviction should be vacated because R.C. 2917.11(A)(2) fails to describe the conduct it prohibits with enough specificity that a person of ordinary intelligence can know what the law requires, and the provision is therefore unconstitutionally vague and unenforceable. The 9th District Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court, but certified that its ruling was in conflict with a 1985 decision of the 4th District in which that court held that the challenged statutory language was not sufficiently specific, and was therefore void for vagueness.
The Supreme Court agreed to review the case to resolve the conflict between appellate districts.
Writing for the Court, Justice Cupp cited Columbus v. Kim, a 2008 decision in which the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional a Columbus city ordinance that banned keeping or harboring “any animal which howls, barks or emits audible sounds that are unreasonably loud or disturbing and which are of such character intensity and duration as to disturb the peace and quiet of the neighborhood ...”
In Kim, Justice Cupp wrote, “(W)e concluded that ‘Columbus City Code 2327.14 is not unconstitutionally vague, because it sets forth sufficient standards to place a person of ordinary intelligence on notice of what conduct the ordinance prohibits. The ordinance incorporates an objective standard by prohibiting only those noises that are “unreasonably loud or disturbing.” The ordinance provides specific factors to be considered to gauge the level of the disturbance, namely, the “character, intensity and duration” of the disturbance. Further, we recognize that there are limitations in the English language with respect to being both specific and manageably brief, and it seems to us that although the prohibitions may not satisfy those intent on finding fault at any cost, they are set out in terms that the ordinary person exercising ordinary common sense can sufficiently understand and comply with.’”
“We find the analysis in Kim to be applicable here. Contrary to the appellate court’s analysis in the conflict case ... and Carrick’s assertions in this case, the statute at issue here does provide adequate qualifying language to prevent the statute from being unconstitutionally vague. R.C. 2917.11(A)(2) sets forth sufficient standards to place a person of ordinary intelligence on notice of what conduct the statute prohibits. It incorporates an objective standard by prohibiting only noise that is ‘unreasonable.’ This objective standard undermines Carrick’s assertion that R.C. 2917.11(A)(2) permits hypersensitive persons to impose criminal liability on others. Further, it enumerates specific factors – ‘inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another’ − with which to judge the level of the disturbance.”
“Additionally, the statute requires a culpable mental state of recklessness. Therefore, in order to violate R.C. 2917.11(A)(2), a person must act ‘with heedless indifference to the consequences,’ in ‘perversely disregard[ing] a known risk that his conduct is likely to cause a certain result or is likely to be of a certain nature.’”
“The record contains sufficient evidence for the trier of fact to conclude that the loud bass music emanating from Carrick’s Halloween party was loud enough to constitute ‘unreasonable noise’ that ‘inconvenience[d], annoy[ed], or alarm[ed] ... another.’ ... More specifically, (the complaining neighbors) were inconvenienced and annoyed by the loud bass music. A person of ordinary intelligence would understand that R.C. 2917.11(A)(2) proscribes playing music at a late hour at such a volume that it keeps the neighbors from sleeping, causes windows to vibrate on a house a quarter mile away, and prompts numerous calls of complaint to authorities. Moreover, prior to citing Carrick, law enforcement officers visited the property to advise Carrick that the music was so loud that it was generating complaints from his neighbors and they warned him to lower the volume. Carrick has failed to establish ‘beyond a reasonable doubt, that the statute was so unclear that he could not reasonably understand that it prohibited the acts in which he engaged.’”
“Accordingly, we conclude that R.C. 2971.11(A)(2) is neither unconstitutionally vague on its face nor as applied to Carrick. We answer the certified question in the negative and affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.”
Justice Cupp’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger and Yvette McGee Brown. Justice Paul E. Pfeifer concurred in judgment only.
The court's opinion is linked here. (MIke Frisch)
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has reversed its Court of Appeals and held that a criminal defendant convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct was not entitled to a new trial because she used a peremptory challenge to keep the judge's daughter-in-law off the jury:
We conclude that because the defendant exercised a peremptory strike to remove the circuit court judge's daughter-in-law from the jury, and because the defendant does not claim the jury was unfair or partial, a new trial is not required under the circumstances of the present case. The defendant has not shown that the presence of the challenged juror in the pool of potential jurors affected the defendant's substantial rights. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the court of appeals ordering a new trial.
The voir dire of the potential juror is recounted in the opinion:
THE COURT: All right. Nikki, you're my daughter-in-law. All right. I've told the attorneys that you and I have had no discussions about the case, correct?
JUROR STENGEL: Correct.
THE COURT: As a matter of fact, I didn't know until last night that you were coming in as a juror in this matter, right?
JUROR STENGEL: Correct.
THE COURT: Very good. You didn't ask and I wouldn't have excused you anyways so. But you're competent, you can be fair and impartial?
JUROR STENGEL: Uh-huh.
THE COURT: The fact that I'm the judge wouldn't affect your ability in this matter at all?
JUROR STENGEL: No.
THE COURT: Listen to all the evidence and decide the case, correct?
JUROR STENGEL: Correct.
THE COURT: And if we see you after the case, you wouldn't be at all hesitant as to how you decide the case, right?
JUROR STENGEL: Correct.
THE COURT: Very good. And I have told the lawyers about this, so they understand that as well.
The case was remanded to explore claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.The defense counsel had not challenged for cause.(Mike Frisch)
Monday, January 30, 2012
Charles Weisselberg and Su Li (Cal., Berkeley Law [and its great Center for Study of Law & Society]) have posted to SSRN their study of the transformation of the white collar defense bar. Its title is Big Law's Sixth Amendment: The Rise of Corporate White-Collar Practices in Large U.S. Law Firms and its abtract is:
Over the last three decades, corporate white-collar criminal defense and investigations practices have become established within the nation’s largest law firms. It did not used to be this way. White-collar work was not considered a legal specialty. And, historically, lawyers in the leading civil firms avoided criminal matters. But several developments occurred at once: firms grew dramatically, the norms within the firms changed, and new federal crimes and prosecution policies created enormous business opportunities for the large firms. Using a unique data set, this Article profiles the Big Law partners now in the white-collar practice area, most of whom are male former federal prosecutors. With additional data and a case study, the Article explores the movement of partners from government and from other firms, the profitability of corporate white-collar work, and the prosecution policies that facilitate and are in turn affected by the growth of this lucrative practice within Big Law. These developments have important implications for the prosecution function, the wider criminal defense bar, the law firms, and women in public and private white-collar practices.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
You may not catch it from the title, but William T. Gallagher's (Golden Gate U. Law) new paper posted to SSRN is firmly about the legal profession, the bar, and the practice of IP law. Using an empirical/interviewing methodology, Gallagher explores the construction of copyright/trademark law through day-to-day practice, cease and desist letters, and the stuff that never makes it to courts. A teacher of both Professional Responsibility/lawyer regulation as well as IP law, he has spent years collecting the data for this revealing study. His abstract:
In recent years, as Congress has created new intellectual property (IP) rights and courts have often interpreted those rights broadly, legal scholars have frequently decried the expanded scope of protection afforded IP owners in most substantive areas of IP law. According to this critique, the over-expansion of IP rights throughout the past two decades harms competition, chills free speech, and diminishes the public domain as increasingly broad areas of social life are brought within the scope of strong IP protection. While this over-expansion theory reflects an important — indeed, foundational — policy debate concerning the proper balance between IP owners’ rights and the public’s rights of access to the information, ideas, and expressions that IP protects, it is incomplete precisely because it focuses largely on what Congress or the courts do. In reality, most enforcement of IP rights takes place not in court, but in the everyday practices of IP owners and their lawyers. “Cease and desist” letters, phone calls, and negotiations with alleged infringers constitute the bulk of IP enforcement efforts in trademark and copyright practice. To be sure, these efforts take place in the “shadow” of IP law and are therefore influenced by it. But it is in these everyday practices — and not in trial or appellate courts — that most IP rights are asserted, resisted, and negotiated. Thus, if we want to know whether IP rights are over-enforced or over-extended, we need to know how, why, and to what effect these rights are exercised in daily life. To date, however, IP scholarship has focused virtually no attention on this critical arena of everyday practice. Most IP scholarship is primarily doctrinal, focusing on published appellate cases. Even the growing empirical scholarship on IP focuses largely on published or, at least, filed cases. As in every other area of civil justice, however, most IP disputes do not result in litigation, and most litigation settles well before trial. Certainly, published appellate decisions and even filed cases represent only a small percentage of IP disputes. Thus, in order to more fully understand whether IP rights affect competition, chill free speech, diminish the public domain, or impede creativity, it is necessary to explore how IP claims are made and resolved in private negotiation rather than in litigation, which is the focus of this Article. It presents findings from a qualitative empirical study of the trademark and copyright disputing process outside of court, based on original data derived from semi-structured interviews with experienced IP attorneys who advise clients on how to enforce their rights. This research is one of the first studies to examine how trademark and copyright claims are actually enforced in practice.
January 29, 2012 in Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession, Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, January 26, 2012
In a 5-2 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the Court of Special Appeals and found that a parent who suffered from an allergy to latex was discriminated against by her child's preschool for its failure to accommodate her condition by refusing to use non-latex products in its diaper changing of the child. The school responded by asking her to withdraw the child. The court held that the condition was a handicap that the school had not reasonably accommodated.
The dissent agrees that parenting is a "major life activity" but questions the "reasonable accommodation" analysis of the majority. The dissent also suggests that the court majority has failed to consider the potential broad impact of this decision. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, January 19, 2012
In the case involving the murder of Chandra Levy, the District of Columbia Court of Appealls has reversed and remanded a trial court order denying the Washington Post access to completed jury questionnaires.
The Post's request was made after the trial jury had been selected and the trial had begun. The government contended that the request was thus untimely.
On remand, the trial judge must start with a presumption that the completed questionnaires should be completely disclosed. If any answers touch on "deeply personal matters," the judge may provide the jurors with an opportunity to raise concerns in camera. The court may then enter specific individualized findings on the necessity of redaction that a capable of appellate review. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The Maryland Court of Appeals has held that a defendant who qualifies for appointed counsel is entitled to representation at the bail hearing that takes place at an initial appearance. While other related proceedings may go forward, the defendant must be afforded the opportunity to have counsel before the bail is set. The court interpreted the state's Public Defender Act to require the result.
A concurring and dissenting opinion refers to the "otherwise righteous" majority opinion as "turn[ing] a deaf ear to the pleas of the Office of the Public Defender" and invokes Yul Brynner as the Pharoah in the movie The Ten Commandments:
So it is written; So let it be done.
The concurring/dissenting opinion would impose a modest stay to consider the budgetary and logistical issues that will result from the majority's ruling. (Mike Frisch)
Sunday, December 25, 2011
The Connecticut Supreme Court has affirmed a decision of the Appellate Court finding no reversible error in a probation revocation order.
The defendant/probationer was sentenced to prison on alcohol-related offenses and was subject to a number of probationary conditions after her release.
At issue was the prosecutor's submission of evidence consisting of a series of photographs from her Facebook page. The undated photos appeared to show her partying at, among other places, Yankee Stadium. Some of the photos had the message "this is why I'm hot."
The prosecutor argued at the hearing that the photos evinced a violation:
...in all these pictures is again [the defendant] worshipping at the altar of alcohol and debauchery and lewd behavior. And why is that significant? It's significant because the message didn't get sent, and this individual refused to accept it.
The court describes the defense counsel's reply:
...the alcohol-related behavior evident on the defendant's Facebook profile was reflective of prevailing social norms, and the images were not representative of the way the defendant spent most of her time...
The court noted that the evidence would not satisfy the requirements of admissibility in a criminal trial but met the "minimal indicia of reliability necessary to pass constitutional muster in the context of a probation revocation hearing." (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, December 22, 2011
The Connecticut Appellate Court has held that a same sex domestic partner who had not yet entered into a civil union cannot assert a loss of consortium claim:
Even if we were to assume that a complaint that includes such an allegation states
a legally sufficient claim for loss of consortium, the plaintiff did not plead this fact in the third amended complaint. Although the plaintiff pleaded that she was in a stable relationship with Mueller, lived with her for many years, supported her financially and entered into a civil union with her one and one-half years after the tortious conduct had occurred, these allegations, even when construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, do not allege that the couple would have formalized their relationship before the defendants’ negligent acts ceased on March 5, 2004. Absent such an allegation, the plaintiff’s claim is functionally equivalent to that presented in Gurliacci.
The Gurliacci decision involved a loss of consortium claim based on an engaged relationship that had not yet resulted in marriage. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The Utah Supreme Court has held that a juvenile who solicited a beating to terminate her pregnancy did not seek an abortion. The term "abortion" is limited to medical procedures.
We conclude that the legislature could not possibly intended for the term abortion to include any series of steps or actions undertaken to kill an unborn child, including the alleged solicited violent beating of a pregnant woman.
The court thus reversed an order of the juvenile court dismissing delinquency charges and remanded for further proceedings.
In a separate opinion, the court reversed the dismissal of attempted murder charges against the adult who administered the beating. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
In a decision involving the request of the Globe newspapers for a transcript of the inquest into murder charges against Amy Bishop, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today has held:
Applying our new standard to the inquest report and transcript at issue in this case, the denial of the motion to impound must be vacated because, as to the transcript, the judge failed to recognize the effect of G.L. c. 38, § 10, and, as to the report, the judge rested on the principle in Kennedy that we now replace with the rule that the report becomes a presumptively public document when the transcript becomes a presumptively public document. On remand, the judge will conduct further proceedings in accordance with this opinion, with the proviso that the inquest report and transcript shall continue to be impounded until at least ten calendar days after the issuance of the rescript. After the issuance of the rescript, the defendant, the Commonwealth, the decedent's immediate family, or another interested party shall have ten calendar days to move in the criminal case in the Superior Court to impound the inquest report and transcript for "good cause shown." If no such motion is filed, the report and transcript shall be made available to the public. If such a motion is filed, the report and transcript shall continue to be impounded temporarily until the adjudication of the motion or further order of the judge.
Finally, we address whether, in the future, a petition under G.L. c. 211, § 3, shall continue to be the only means to obtain review of the denial or allowance of a motion to impound an inquest report or transcript, or to vacate or modify an order of impoundment. In civil cases, under Rule 12 of the Uniform Rules on Impoundment Procedure at 905 (LexisNexis 2011-2012), an order impounding or refusing to impound documents filed in court may be appealed to a single justice of the Appeals Court. See Commonwealth v. Silva, 448 Mass. 701, 705 (2007). In criminal cases, we have declared that the "[p]ractice regarding orders of impoundment entered in criminal proceedings should hew as closely as possible to the protocol established by the uniform rules," and require that appellate review of impoundment orders conform to the uniform rules. Id., quoting Republican Co. v. Appeals Court, 442 Mass. 218, 227 n. 14 (2004). We conclude that in the future the practice regarding orders impounding or refusing to impound an inquest report or transcript should also "hew as closely as possible to the protocol established by the uniform rules," and that, as in the uniform rules, such orders may be appealed to a single justice of the Appeals Court.
Bishop is a professor charged in Alabama with the murder of three colleagues. This decision relates to the investigation into the 1986 death of her brother.
The prior Kennedy decision described above related to the inquest into the death of Mary Jo Kopeckne.
The title to this post was inspired by this book. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, December 5, 2011
The South Carolina Supreme Court has held that a baserunner who collided at home plate with the catcher in a Boy Scout softball game is not liable for damages. Both catcher and baserunner were fathers who participated in the game.
In March 2004, David Cole and his son, David Jr., who was a member of Cub Scout Pack 48, attended a Cub Scout family camping trip. During the course of the trip, Cole and David Jr. participated in a father-son, pick-up softball game. Jeff Wagner and his son were also on the camping trip and were playing on the opposite team from the Coles in the softball game. Although one of the older boys had been playing catcher, Cole took over the position because he was afraid the boy would be hit by a foul ball or by the batter.
Neither of the teams kept score, and during each inning everyone was allowed to bat. Apparently, some of the fathers were playing too aggressively in the minds of some participants and hitting the ball with full swings. One of the Scout leaders, Keith Corley, briefly interrupted the game and asked them to play more safely, fearing that they were putting the scouts in danger.
During Wagner's next turn at bat, he hit a double. Another father came up to bat after him and hit the ball into the outfield, potentially allowing Wagner to score. As Wagner reached home plate, he collided with Cole, who had moved on top of the plate, thereby placing his body directly in the baseline. Wagner was running so fast that he was unable to stop or change directions in time to avoid Cole. Upon impact, Wagner flipped in the air and landed on a bat, breaking a rib. Cole suffered a closed head injury and was rendered semiconscious. He then began bleeding and went into convulsions. Cole had to be airlifted to Palmetto Richland Hospital where he spent two days in the intensive care unit. David Jr. witnessed the entire accident in fear that his father was going to die.
Cole and his wife Karen, personally and as guardian ad litem for David Jr. (collectively, Appellants), brought this action against Wagner, the Boy Scouts of America, Indian Waters Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Pack 48, and Faith Presbyterian Church for personal injury, loss of consortium, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Wagner moved for summary judgment, contending he owed no duty to Cole because Cole assumed the risks incident to the sport of softball. The circuit court granted Wagner's motion, and this appeal followed.
Even assuming, arguendo, that Wagner's conduct could be characterized as reckless, it was not so reckless as to involve risks outside the scope of softball. The likelihood of someone running too fast to stop or playing more aggressively than anticipated is part of the competitive atmosphere of athletics. Almost all contact sports, especially ones that require protective gear as part of their equipment, involve conduct that a reasonably prudent person would recognize may result in injury. To the extent these risks inhere in the sport involved, we hold some recklessness by coparticipants in a contact sport must be assumed as part of the game. Accordingly, a player assumes the risk of ordinary recklessness committed within the course of the game.
We emphasize that this holding is limited to recklessness committed within the scope of the game and does not include intentional conduct by a coparticipant of a sport, or conduct so reckless as to be outside the scope of the game. Even within the context of a contact sport, players owe reciprocal duties to not intentionally injure each other. Cole does not allege that Wagner's conduct was intentional nor does he allege such recklessness as would fall outside the scope of the game of softball. Thus, Wagner's conduct fell within the duty of care he owed to Cole as a coparticipant in the game.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The Maryland Court of Appeals has reversed a conviction for sexual assault and assault because the court gave a so-called "anti-CSI effect" jury instruction.
The court was unpersuaded that the TV show has created a phenonenon that permits the use of such an instruction absent some need to cure "pre-existing overreaching by the defense...." The instruction "is fraught with potential for reversible error" and may diminish the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The instruction advises a jury that "there is no legal requirement that the State utilize any specific investigative technique or scientific test to prove its case."
The court may revisit the issue if scholarly research establishes that there is a CSI effect. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a murder conviction and ordered the appointment of a special prosecutor where the prosecutor had entered into a (now cancelled) literary contract for a book about the case. The contract "created an irreversible, actual conflict of interest with [the prosecutor's] duty to the people of Indiana...the trial court erred when it denied [the defendant's] petition."
The defendant was facing a third trial and second retrial on charges that he had murdered his wife and two children. The first conviction was reversed due to prejudicial evidence concerning the defendant's extramarital affairs. After the second conviction, he filed an interlocutory appeal seeking a special prosecutor in light of the book deal.
The Floyd County Prosecutor prosecuted the defendant in the second trial. He was contacted by a literary agency "hours before the jury reached a verdict..." He inked the deal before sentencing. The defendant got life without parole.
The book deal progressed under the working title, "Sacred Trust: Deadly Betrayal." The prosecutor received an advance payment of $1,700. After the conviction was reversed by the Indiana Supreme Court, Penguin (the publisher) decided to delay any decision about moving forward with the book. Eventually, the deal fell through. The prosecutor returned the advance to Penguin.
The prosecutor refiled the murder charges. The defendant sought to remove him and have a special prosecutor appointed because of the book deal. At a hearing on the motion, Dean Emeritus Norman Lefstein at Indiana University School of Law testified that there was a conflict of interest. The trial court nonetheless denied the motion in light of the cancellation of the contract.
The court here found that the book deal was "a bell that cannot be unrung" that "permanently compromised [the prosecutor's] ability to advocate on behalf of the people of the state of Indiana in this trial."
Thanks to my favorite Hoosier attorney - Don Lundberg - for sending me the case.
Inspiration for the title to the post: Frank Sinatra. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, October 31, 2011
The Washington State Supreme Court sustained a constitutional challenge to a county noise ordinance that prohibited honking for any reason other than public safety. A defendant was convicted for honking a car horn at 6 am in front of a neighbor's house.
The court majority:
A moment's reflection brings to mind numerous occasions in which a person honking a vehicle horn will be engaging in speech intended to communicate a message that will be understood in context. Examples might include: a driver of a carpool vehicle who toots a horn to let a coworker know it is time to go, a driver who enthusiastically responds to a sign that says "honk if you support our troops,"wedding guests who celebrate nuptials by sounding their horns, and a motorist who honks a horn in support of an individual picketing on a street corner. Thus, we reject the Court of Appeals' conclusion that horn honking is a type of conduct that does not involve speech. Immelt, 150 Wn. App. at 687. Horn honking does constitute protected speech in many instances, regardless of whether it would constitute protected speech in Immelt's particular case...
The horn ordinance here does not survive scrutiny. It is substantially overbroad, "not only in an absolute sense, but also relative to the statute's plainly legitimate sweep." Williams, 553 U.S. at 292. It prohibits a wide swath of expressive conduct in order to protect against a narrow category of public disturbances.
In its examples, the court fails to note the expressive value of honking at someone who cuts you off in traffic. (Mike Frisch)