Best ever reason for not blogging — showing up for jury duty

I did my duty as a citizen today, when I left bright and early and headed up to the local courthouse.  Although it was a profoundly boring day, it was also an interesting experience.  You see, despite many years of lawyering, I’ve never sat on a jury, nor have I ever been part of selecting a jury.  (I’ve done a lot of behind the scenes work for jury selection, but I’ve never actually been in court for the process.)  What fascinated me was the way in which people’s attitudes changed during the day.

The system is set up so that about 50 people file into the courtroom.  Eighteen of them are seated in the jury box, with the hope that this group can be winnowed down to 12 jurors and 2 alternates.  The people in the box answer general information questions about themselves, and then provide more specific information related to the case.  First thing in the morning, anybody who could get out, tried to do so.  Once “cause” vanished (obvious conflicts such as knowing one of the lawyers or one of the defendants), the next most popular excuse was bias.  Basically, this boiled down to “Yes, I’ve had a similar experience/known someone similarly situated to the defendant/known someone similarly situated to the prosecution’s witnesses and, under those circumstances, it would be very hard for me to be unbiased in my approach to the evidence.”  As these people were excused, more people would be called to take their places.

What was so interesting was that, as the day progressed, fewer and fewer people tried to use bias as an excuse.  You’d hear the same factual offerings (similar experience or personal knowledge of people similarly situated to those in the case), but people asserted firmly that they would not be biased.  I understood why they did that.

In the morning, I’d invested minimal time in the process and just wanted out.  By the time I left 5 hours later (without ever having gotten within speaking distance of the jury box), I’d invested a lot of time in the matter and wanted to see how it ended.  It was supposed to be a short case and, thanks to the voir dire questions, I’d figured out the defense strategy.  I therefore wanted to see what the arresting officers would say, and how the lawyers for both the State and the defendant would handle the evidence.  Had I been asked about my biases, I would have stated the facts and disavowed the biases, just as everyone else did.

As it is, when I walked away, I left the story in the middle of the beginning.  Even though it had the potential to be interesting, I was denied the opportunity to find out how it would progress and then, finally, end.  So, for the first time in my life, I’m kind of looking forward to my next jury summons!

A perk of military service — patriotic criminals

If it wasn’t in a news story, I’d actually think that this was an O. Henry story, because the ending is such a twist.  You see, it all started when a young man, walking down a dark street at night was mugged and robbed at gunpoint:

A Milwaukee Army reservist’s military identification earned him some street cred Tuesday, when he says four men who mugged him at gunpoint returned his belongings and thanked him for his service after finding the ID.

The 21-year-old University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student said he was walking home from work about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday when he was pulled into an alley and told to lay face down and with a gun to his neck. Four men took his wallet, $16, keys, his cell phone and even a PowerBar wrapper from his pants pockets, he said.

But the hostile tone quickly changed when one of the robbers, whom the reservist presumed was the leader, saw an Army ID in the wallet. The robber told the others to return the items and they put most of his belongings on the ground next to him, including the wrapper, the reservist said.

“The guy continued to say throughout the situation that he respects what I do and at one point he actually thanked me and he actually apologized,” said the reservist, who asked not to be identified Tuesday because the robbers still had his keys.

The reservist said he asked the men, who all had hoods or hats covering their faces, if he could get up and they said he could before starting to walk away.

“The leader of the group actually walked back, gave me a quick fist bump, which was very strange,” he said.

Lest one get too excited by this heartwarming story of criminals gone good, they apparently robbed another man at gunpoint and, unimpressed by his credentials, happily absconded with his valuables.

Hat tip:  Sadie

Didn’t buy a policy? Go to jail.

Aside from being unconstitutional, I somehow doubt that the following is a winning formula as far as the American voter is concerned:

PELOSI: Buy a $15,000 Policy or Go to Jail
JCT Confirms Failure to Comply with Democrats’ Mandate Can Lead to 5 Years in Jail
Friday, November 06, 2009

Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

In response to the JCT letter, Camp said: “This is the ultimate example of the Democrats’ command-and-control style of governing – buy what we tell you or go to jail. It is outrageous and it should be stopped immediately.”

Key excerpts from the JCT letter appear below:

“H.R. 3962 provides that an individual (or a husband and wife in the case of a joint return) who does not, at any time during the taxable year, maintain acceptable health insurance coverage for himself or herself and each of his or her qualifying children is subject to an additional tax.” [page 1]

- – – – – – – – – -

“If the government determines that the taxpayer’s unpaid tax liability results from willful behavior, the following penalties could apply…” [page 2]

- – – – – – – – – -

“Criminal penalties

Prosecution is authorized under the Code for a variety of offenses. Depending on the level of the noncompliance, the following penalties could apply to an individual:

• Section 7203 – misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.

• Section 7201 – felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.” [page 3]

When confronted with this same issue during its consideration of a similar individual mandate tax, the Senate Finance Committee worked on a bipartisan basis to include language in its bill that shielded Americans from civil and criminal penalties. The Pelosi bill, however, contains no similar language protecting American citizens from civil and criminal tax penalties that could include a $250,000 fine and five years in jail.

“The Senate Finance Committee had the good sense to eliminate the extreme penalty of incarceration. Speaker Pelosi’s decision to leave in the jail time provision is a threat to every family who cannot afford the $15,000 premium her plan creates. Fortunately, Republicans have an alternative that will lower health insurance costs without raising taxes or cutting Medicare,” said Camp.

According to the Congressional Budget Office the lowest cost family non-group plan under the Speaker’s bill would cost $15,000 in 2016.

Modern England increasingly Darwinian

The other day, the Daily Mail ran an article about the exponential increase in stranger attacks in England, a byproduct of the public drunkenness that is increasing at an even faster rate than the violence.  I still remember when England was a remarkably safe, clean little country, except in the worst neighborhoods of the biggest cities.  Now, there is no time and no place in England that isn’t as randomly violent as a Third World country or a predator-filled jungle.

If you live in this kind of jungle, it pays to be prepared.  So here is a satisfying story about a BBC reporter who, after patiently enduring verbal attacks from two drunken yobs, turned on the physicality when the yobs tried to throw a punch.  (Did I mention that the BBC reporter is a black belt?)

Increasingly, England looks like a Mad Max culture.  How sad.

Don’t stop him; he serves a chance to kill again

If there was ever an example of misguided compassion, this story out of Britain must rank at the top of the list:

A psychopathic Satanist, given a ‘life means life’ sentence for strangling his cellmate whilst already serving life for murder, has had that cut to 20 years on appeal in order ‘to give him light at the end of the tunnel’.

The move came despite the admission that double killer Clement McNally described the murder as ‘better than sex’ and revealed he would kill again if the opportunity arose.

Father-of-one Anthony Hesketh, of Eastham Way, Worsley, who was in custody for a driving offence and facing drugs charges, was strangled with a T-shirt in September 2003. He was found dead on the floor of the Strangeways cell he shared with McNally.

McNally, 34 – a devil worshipper who decorated his cell with satanic symbols and suffers from ‘psychopathic, narcissistic, paranoid and obsessive-compulsive disorders, all mixed together’ – was serving a mandatory life term for stabbing to death his friend, Arthur Skelly, outside a party in Ashton-under-Lyne in July 2002.

He was given a life term, with a whole life tariff, for the second killing, after pleading guilty to manslaughter by way of diminished responsibility at Manchester Crown Court on July 12 2004.

But now the minimum term on his life sentence has been slashed to 20 years by Lord Justice Hughes, at London’s Criminal Appeal Court. The judge said it was not right that McNally should be denied a light at the end of the tunnel and never have a chance of release.

[snip]

Lord Justice Hughes, sitting with Mr Justice MacKay and Mr Justice Davis, said of Mr Hesketh’s killing: ‘McNally had no particular grievance against his victim – he simply suffered an urge to kill him.

‘He said it was exciting – better than sex. He said Satan told him to do things and it was his job to do as he was told.

‘He said he was not in the least bit sorry for what he had done, but had derived a great deal of pleasure from subsequently thinking about it.

‘He suffers from compulsive homicidal urges and poses an exceptional risk to other prisoners. He made it perfectly clear that he would kill again if the opportunity arose and the urge to kill was of sufficient intensity.’

However the judge said it was wrong not to give McNally the chance of being freed if, at some point in the future, his mental state stabilises to the extent that the authorities no longer consider him a danger to society.

He told the court: ‘The life sentence was plainly correct as he was likely to represent a danger of the gravest kind, for a period which could not be determined.

‘However the imposition of a whole life tariff was a mistaken application of the process of sentencing.

‘The life sentence itself is designed to cater for a prisoner in whom it cannot be seen when, or if ever, they will cease to be a danger to the public.

It’s amazing how the judge doesn’t seem to realize that, for a man who murdered two people in cold blood, maybe a life without “a light at the end of the tunnel” is just the right prescription.

Maybe this is just the pendulum swinging.  England used to hang children for stealing a loaf of bread.  Now it freely contemplates giving a second start to an unusually cold-blooded killer.  I would suggest, though, that the fact that England was disproportionately punitive 200 years ago doesn’t mean it needs to be disproportionately . . . well, compassion isn’t the right word, because some innocent always gets hurt . . . but disproportionately stupid now.

How about putting him on a diet?

A convicted murder who raped and murdered two girls in the 1980s is fighting execution on the ground that, because he is so fat, his veins are bad and it will be hard to get the right dosage for the lethal injection.  He also contends that his migraine medicine will make him resistant to the injection.  I have a few simple suggestions, given that this guy is in the prison system’s control:

1.  Feed him less so he loses weight.

2.  Stop his migraine medicine.

3.  Find his big veins before the execution and place an IV needle in it ahead of time.  No muss, no fuss.

Then kill the guy.

Returning castle status to an Englishman’s home

In a bizarre act of unexpected intelligence, the British government passed a law allowing Brits to defend themselves in their own homes (and on the streets) without fear of reprisal — not from the burglars within, but from the government forces without:

Home owners and “have-a go-heroes” have for the first time been given the legal right to defend themselves against burglars and muggers free from fear of prosecution.

In practice, householders are seldom prosecuted if they harm or even kill an intruder but the Act will give them greater legal protection

They will be able to use force against criminals who break into their homes or attack them in the street without worrying that “heat of the moment” misjudgements could see them brought before the courts.

Under new laws police and prosecutors will have to assess a person’s actions based on the person’s situation “as they saw it at the time” even if in hindsight it could be seen as unreasonable.

For example, homeowners would be able stab or shoot a burglar if confronted or tackle them and use force to detain them until police arrive. Muggers could be legally punched and beaten in the street or have their own weapons sued against them.

However, attacking a fleeing criminal with a weapon is not permitted nor is lying in wait to ambush them.

You can read more here.

You really have to wonder what the world is coming to when English government does something sensible.

If you masquerade as a US citizen, you’ll be treated as one

Back in 1989, Bay Area locals were stunned to learn of a horrific massacre up in Sonoma County:

[Ramon] Salcido, now 47, used a gun and knife to murder his wife, Angela Richards Salcido, 24; their daughters, 4-year-old Sofia and 22-month-old Teresa; his mother-in-law, Marion Richards, 47; her daughters, 12-year-old Ruth and 8-year-old Maria; and Tracey Toovey, 35, his supervisor at Grand Cru Winery in Glen Ellen.

He was also convicted of attempting to murder his 2-year-old daughter, Carmina, who survived a slashed throat, and another winery worker, Kenneth Butti, who was shot in the shoulder.

After these heinous murders, Salcido escaped to Mexico, where he was caught and returned to California for trial.  The jury convicted him and recommended the death penalty.  He’s been appealing ever since, a process that just resulted in an opinion from the California Supreme Court.

Almost surprisingly, given that it is a California Court, the judges ruled that the death penalty was valid.  They batted down his arguments about mental illness and information withheld from the jury, and all sorts of other stuff.

The argument that intrigued me was Salcido’s claim that, as a Mexican citizen, he could not be extradited from Mexico (which has no death penalty) to America.  This is a familiar argument, as we’ve seen it play out before, with Mexico refusing to turn suspected killers over to the US authorities.  This time, though, there was a twist.  In reading the following, you have to appreciate the unspoken concept behind all this, which is that Salcido was here in America, and committed all those horrible acts, as an illegal alien:

In his appeal, Salcido’s lawyer contended his client, who was a Mexican citizen, had been transferred to the United States in violation of a treaty that allows the Mexican government to block the extradition of one of its citizens unless U.S. authorities promise not to impose the death penalty, which does not exist in Mexico.

Salcido’s lawyer contended agents from Sonoma County and the federal government had induced Mexican officials to transfer Salcido by identifying him as a U.S. citizen.

But the court said law enforcement officials from both countries had believed Salcido was a U.S. citizen based on his own statements and on Salcido’s residence in California, where he had a Social Security card and a driver’s license.

In other words, the Supreme Court said that, if you’re going to go around pretending to be an American citizen, you can’t complain if you are then treated as one to your detriment.  In any event, the Court added, only the Mexican government gets to complain if one of its citizens is wrongfully taken from its borders.  Given Salcido’s appalling conduct, Mexico may feel that this is one citizenship error better left unremedied.

The madness of the judiciary

The alternative title for this post would have been:  You’re in prison, not a hotel.  From Best of the Web Today:

He Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly
Henry Boateng is an inmate in a Massachusetts State prison. He went to court arguing that his rights were being violated. Yesterday, a federal judge agreed:

Boateng, who has changed his name to Daniel Yeboah-Sefah and identifies himself as a Buddhist, has won a significant legal victory: A federal judge found that the state prison system violated his civil rights by denying him a vegan diet.US Chief District Judge Mark L. Wolf concluded that the system violated a 2000 federal statute that protects religious freedom in prison. In a judgment entered Tuesday, Wolf ordered the head of the system, beginning Friday, to provide the inmate at the Old Colony Correctional Center at Bridgewater with a vegan diet that hews to his religious beliefs.Although the prison system had offered Yeboah-Sefah a standard vegetarian diet, he has spent nearly a decade unsuccessfully seeking a vegan diet that excludes all animal products, including eggs and milk products.

In 1992, Boateng fathered a son, Jameel Moore. Like his dad, Jameel does not eat animal products. That’s because Boateng beat him to death when he was five weeks old.

Headlines can be deceiving

Here’s the headline: “Judge admits mistake in kicking whites out of court.” Upon reading that headline, I assumed that this was going to be the familiar story about some crackpot anti-white judge who issued a ruling, a la the Jeremiah White mode of thinking, that blacks can’t get a fair trial with whites around. Instead, the story is much deeper and sadder.

The story behind the headline is about an African-American judge in Georgia named Marvin Arrington who is profoundly disturbed by the fact that, in his criminal court, “I came out and saw the defendants, and it was about 99.9 percent Afro-Americans.” He wanted to give these defendants a lecture — not a “the white man is out to get you lecture,” but a “you’ve got to start taking control of yourselves” lecture. He was embarrassed, however, to give that lecture with whites present:

“I didn’t want them to think I was talking down to them; trying to embarrass them or insult them; be derogatory toward them, and I was just saying, ‘Please get yourself together,'” Arrington said.

To help these defendants listen to him without becoming humiliated by having successful white people around, the judge dismissed the whites and gave the lecture. He’s since realized that the lecture would have benefited everyone or, at least, not offended anyone:

“In retrospect, it was a mistake,” Judge Marvin Arrington told CNN. “Because my sheriff said to me, ‘Judge, that message should be given to everybody’ — ‘Don’t violate the law, make something out of yourself, go to school, find a role model, somebody that will help you advance your life.'”

***

He said he would open his court doors to everyone on Thursday and “I am going to give the same identical speech: ‘You’ve got to do better.'”

Judged Arrington’s handling of the situation may have been a bit inept, but he has the right idea:  he saw a problem, and he addressed it, not with speeches about victimhood and demands, but with a speech about personal responsibility, made to those who need to hear it most.  Good for him!  I sincerely hope that he doesn’t experience any career fallout from this particular decision.

Sanity returns (at least temporarily) in Chicago

I blogged yesterday about law enforcement run amok, in connection with the decision to prosecute a mother who left a sleeping child in the car, while she walked a few feet away — something every mother in the world has done. As you may recall, I was quite heated in expounding upon the idiocy of a system that would terrorize a good citizen in this way. I suspect I wasn’t the only one generating heat, because Chicago’s prosecutors abruptly decided to drop the charges against Treffly Coyne:

Charges will be dropped against a woman who briefly left her 2-year- old daughter alone in the car to take her two older daughters to pour coins into a Salvation Army kettle, prosecutors said Thursday.

The woman, Treffly Coyne, was charged with misdemeanor child endangerment and obstructing a peace officer after a Crestwood police officer spotted her sleeping daughter alone in the vehicle Dec. 8. The mother claimed she was close by at all times and was gone for just minutes.

Coyne’s trial was supposed to begin Thursday, but prosecutors could not meet the burden of proof and decided to drop the charges, Cook County State’s Attorney spokesman John Gorman said.

Her husband reacted with relief and anger. If convicted, his wife faced up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500.

“We shouldn’t have had to fight this long and this hard when my wife never did anything wrong,” said Timothy Janecyk. The planned dismissal of the charges “only shows they tore my family apart for no reason.”

Coyne, who was arrested in a loading zone near the entrance of a Wal- Mart store, contended 2-year-old Phoebe, who was sleeping, was safe inside the car after she locked it, activated the alarm system and turned on the emergency flashers.

She said she was never more than 30 feet from the vehicle, did not step inside the store and was gone for only minutes. And her attorney said because the car was always in sight, Coyne’s daughter never was unattended.

Crestwood Police Chief Timothy Sulikowski said he disagreed with prosecutors’ decision.

“We stand by the actions of our officers that night and they were looking out for the best interests of the child,” he said.

Sulikowski said that while police were obligated to report the case to the state’s child welfare agency, Coyne would not have been arrested had she cooperated and not refused to give them basic information, including the child’s name.

“By not providing us with that information and the information of her child, at that point we don’t know that that child is hers. We don’t know if that child has been listed as a kidnapped child or a missing child,” he said. “Absolutely, she forced this.”

Coyne has acknowledged that she did not tell the officers her child’s name after she called her husband on her cell phone and he told her not to say anything until he arrived. She said she was afraid and only wanted to wait for her husband, but police arrested her before he did.

I trust that you’ve figured out by now that this harassment against Treffly was because she didn’t immediately give the police the investigation they demanded. I’m extremely supportive of police, and I fully appreciate how difficult and dangerous their job is. But to harass a mother like this, to threaten her with the loss of her children, because she fell silent, is a horrific act of police ego and overreach, which was then, not only rubber-stamped, but enthusiastically endorsed by the entire Cook County political and prosecutorial system.  Shame on all of them.
And now I have only one last question: what kind of name is Treffly?