Sunday, May 31, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

By now it seems like all of America has turned its lonely eyes to our little State in a combination of shock, disgust, and not a small amount of schadenfreude over the scandal concerning the downfall of virulent anti-gay activist Josh Duggar after it was revealed that he "made a mistake" as a young kid when he engaged in inappropriate touching of some of his sisters as they slept.  

Of course, Josh is but 1/19 (I think.  I confess that I'm not really paying attention.) of the notoriously fecund Duggar family who up until recently had their own "reality show" on TLC.  I wrote "up until recently" as TLC has suspended the show in light of these allegations and Josh has resigned as president of something called the Family Research Council.  

Full disclosure: I have never watched the Duggar's show "19 Kids and Counting." It is my understanding that it provides a platform for them to promote their ultra-conservative Christian values.  But I would think that the main draw for viewers, especially those that have kids, is to see just how Jim Bob Duggar and his dutiful wife Michelle manage all of this.

I mean, I can't imagine there being much interest in inserting the camera into the average,say, United Methodist family, with homework, going off to a real school with other kids, soccer practice, piano lessons and the like being the average stuff the camera would record.  My friends up the hill still have 4 in the house ranging in age from 16-8.  Chaos, albeit happy chaos, prevails.  But it's not a freak show.  

19?  My God.  The mind reels.  

Much has been written and will be written about this situation.  And Jim Bob and Michelle are supposed to appear on Fox to discuss this matter, which has a chance to be fun.  

I mainly have one question which I will get to after a brief recitation of the facts. 

13 years or so ago, it was discovered that Josh had engaged in "inappropriate touching" of some sisters as they slept.  Jim Bob did not notify the authorities.  Rather, he sent the boy to Little Rock for counseling at a religious based center that was run at the time by a friend named Bill Gothard, who eventually resigned after allegations of sexual impropriety and harassment on his own part.  

Except that Michelle says he didn't really go.  She says he stayed with a family friend in Little Rock who was remodeling a house.  Whatever.

Jim Bob also took Josh to an Arkansas State Trooper named Joseph Hutchens who supposedly gave the young man what was described as a "stern talk." Mr. Hutchens, as a law enforcement officer was required to report this to the child abuse hotline.  He did not because the Duggars told him that only one sister was the object of Josh's curiosity.  How do we know this?  

Because that's what Hutchens told the coincidentally named tabloid Touch Weekly in an interview from prison where he is pulling 56 years for possession of child pornography.  

Now I'm not sure that I would turn my kid over to the authorities under the circumstances.  Josh's behavior may well be considered more inappropriate than criminal.  I don't necessarily disagree with Jim Bob's thinking at the time.  And I don't necessarily disagree with having a cop deliver a lecture to the young man. Countless young people have been diverted from trouble by a good talking to from a police officer.  

But it strikes me as really curious that the only people that Jim Bob sought out for help in this matter turned out to have had troublesome allegations of sexual misconduct against them.  What are the odds of that?  Which leads me to my question.

How many sex offenders do you know and have ready access to, Gentle Reader?  

And the Duggars are held out as exemplars of Christian family values?  

I mean, really.  Think about it.

How many sex offenders do you know?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Greetings From Saint Louis

No MSF today as I am in St. Louis for the wedding of my excellent nephew Eli. 

Talk amongst yourselves. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Sunday Feeling On Saturday

Beloved: I am jumping the gun a bit as I have a busy Sunday and won't have time to fool with this after today. 

Yesterday a federal jury returned its verdict in the penalty phase of the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the Boston Marathon bombing.  And they showed him no mercy as they unanimously recommended that he be put to death.

At this point, a clarification, and not an entirely useless one, is in order.  Most accounts that I have read refer to the jury "sentencing" Mr. Tsarnaev to death. This is incorrect.  Only the judge pronounces the sentence.  The sentencing hearing will be held at a later date, which as far as I know has not been set as of this writing. Theoretically, the judge doesn't have to have to agree with the jury verdict, although surely he will in this case.  But the pronouncement of the sentence is within the strict province of the judge, not the jury.  Indeed, the jury has been discharged of its grim duty by the Court.  They are done. And undoubtedly glad of it.  

It is the same situation with a guilty plea.  I have seen a few in my day, mostly as I was waiting around to do business that I had with the Court.  Guilt or innocence ( or more accurately "not guilty) is a legal conclusion.  If the judge accepts the guilty plea (which he or she does not have to do) the Judge advises the Defendant that "I accept your plea of guilty and I hereby find you guilty." 

I have been asked if I am surprised.  I am and I am not.  I am mildly surprised in that Massachusetts has no death penalty at the state level and the folks there have a long history of opposition to it.  Indeed, most polls indicated that most Bostonians wanted Tsarnaev to catch life imprisonment instead of capital punishment.  

But I am not surprised in that, first of all, a person who sits on a jury in which the death penalty is sought has to be "death qualified." In other words, he or she must advise the Court whether or not they could issue a death penalty verdict in a capital case.  If they cannot, they are disqualified from serving. Which might strike you as stacking the deck against the Defendant if not completely perverse.  You are not alone.  But perverse though it may be, it has been held constitutional.  

After all, swabbing the condemned man's arm with alcohol prior to inserting the needle that will administer the poisons that will kill him is likewise perverse.  But it is part of the procedure.  (Theoretically, there is always the chance that a Stay may be issued before the button is pushed.  It is not as perverse as letting the condemned choose their last meal. But still.)

I am basically opposed to capitol punishment.  Especially as it is administered at the state level.  However, if anybody does it the right way, or as right as it can be done, it is Uncle.  In the first place the local US Attorney doesn't have the authority to seek the death penalty in a criminal case unless the Attorney General of the United States signs off on it.  This implies several levels of review entirely consistent with the gravity of the situation.  

Secondly, the average Defendant in a Federal death penalty case will have access to better quality legal assistance than his state counterpart will.  No knock on state Public Defenders but their case load is too high and they don't have adequate resources to investigate the case.  An indigent Defendant will have access to the Federal Public Defender or the Court has the authority to pay private counsel.  My late friend Hugh was one of three or four private lawyers appointed by the Court in a particularly grisly murder case that somehow violated Federal law.  Which is rare.  

Moving to the particulars of the instant case, the arc of the narrative of the defense was pretty low.  They won't let you plead guilty to capital murder.  And armed with the mountain of evidence of Tsarnaev's guilt, the Feds either didn't offer a plea deal or they rejected any such offer made to them.  

The Tsarnaev case reminded me of something one of my criminal lawyer friends said about the Jerry Sandusky case.  "Talk about nothing to work with," Peter said over lunch one day.  The analysis applies here.  The fact of the young man's guilt was inescapable under any set of facts.  So while the defense couldn't plead him out, they made the decision not to offer a defense.  Or much of one.  And this tactical decision made by able death penalty lawyers, one with which I do not disagree, put Tsarnaev halfway to the grave yard.

Talk about nothing to work with.  

All they were left with was hitting a home run in the penalty phase.  After all, they just needed to persuade one juror.  They failed.  And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will get to face the music soon and very soon.

So as a lawyer, I get the ramifications of the decision not to aggressively defend the case.  You can't run the risk of pissing off the same jury from whom you will seek mercy.  As a prosecutor friend of mine says of similarly situated defendants, "He put himself in a real tough spot." And so to that extent I'm not surprised by what happened in the penalty phase of the trial. Tsarnaev put himself in a real tough spot.  His lawyers had nothing to work with,

And he did it by placing, along with his brother, improvised explosive devices in a crowded venue at Boston's most beloved sporting event.  They did it with the obvious intent of killing and maiming innocent bystanders and striking terror into the populace.  Later, they tried to shoot it out with the cops as they were closing in.

Here's one of my sayings.  I don't support the death penalty.  But some guys got it coming if anybody does.  That is what I consider to be a practical approach to the issue. 

Dzhokhar Tsarnev is one of those guys that's got it coming if anybody does.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Mother's Day Feeling

I like Mother's Day.  Not as much as I like Father's Day when I can get in on the Father's Day bargains at clothing and sporting goods stores.  But still I like it.

I approve of motherhood in general without which I would not be typing this and you would not be reading it.  But Moms deserve a special day, if not a special place in Heaven for no other reason than they lugged us around inside their bellies for 9 months.  That is no small feat and is not to be taken lightly.  My own mother did it three more times after having me.  


It is my honor and privilege to be spending a great deal of time with a mom type nowadays.  She's got 2 kids.  The girl is fixing to head off for college.  The boy is heading into high school where he is preparing to play football.  I don't see much of the girl.  She is pretty much busy being the star in her own movie. I don't mean that in a bad way.  She has a boyfriend.  She has her friends.  She has a bent for social activism that I can kind of relate to.  And she is going off to college in St. Louis to enter the marketplace of ideas with a bunch of other really smart people.  Her focus is elsewhere.  She is outta here. I get it.

The boy is pretty uncomplicated and user-friendly.  He's quiet like his mother and he favors her physically as well.  Like her, he is an athlete, tall and strong. He is currently spending most weekends playing AAU basketball.  While I tend to view AAU ball as a continuing criminal enterprise as much as anything, he's a good ballplayer and I enjoy watching him play.  I also like being around him and I think the feeling is mutual if for no other reason than I usually have a hundred bucks on me at all times which comes in handy at the drive-thru.  The boy can put it away.  It's an awesome thing to behold.  

I guess M is like most Moms in that she is a worrier.  I suppose when you put kids on this Earth you tend to have a constant parade of horribles going down the Main Street of your consciousness at least until they get into Med school or otherwise get their feet on the ground.  Maybe "worry" is too strong a word. Our mutual friend K seems to prefer the word "fret." So we'll go with that.

Now as fretty as these two gals can get, they cannot hold a candle to the near constant free floating anxiety that my own sainted late mother could put out.  As I have said Donice Bowen saw a bear in every window.  24-7. For some reason this long repressed memory just bubbled up to the top as I consider this: I remember my brother Dave and I bought an FM converter to install in whatever piece of crap vehicle we were driving at the time.  

Our mother naturally opposed this.  Her reason?  Because we might be busy tuning into a station while crossing a railroad track and get crushed by an oncoming train.  Really. It wasn't sufficient for her to fret about the prospect of mere inattentive driving on our part while trying to tune into the Stones.  No. She immediately cast her mind into my brother and I perishing in a common disaster of operatic proportions as the natural and proximate consequence of our purchase of a 25 buck appliance from Radio Shack.

I am not making this up. This is the way my poor mother tended to regard life. It must have been a terrible way to live.

I don't know that any of the moms I am privileged to have in my orbit are quite at the level of-well-pathology as was my mother.  But they all do tend to worry. Whereas Dads on the other hand tend not to worry too much as a class.  The ones I know more or less expect something stupid to happen eventually as a matter of course. Dads tend to prefer to deal with problems on a transactional basis for lack of a better way of putting it.  

It is my hope that on this one day set aside to honor mothers everywhere that they can turn the volume down on the parade of horribles and just enjoy themselves.  

Except that you know you shouldn't have spent that much on the gift.  There are better uses for the money. 

You know she will say it.  

Sunday, May 03, 2015

My Sunday Too Busy Feeling

Between a quick trip to Baton Rouge, AAU basketball which resulted in a trip to the ER with the 15 year old basketball player (he's fine) and a fundraiser for the Little Rock Zoo, there has been no time to share my gilded pensees with the public.

Talk among yourselves.  And if you keep getting decked out there on the court try not to land on the same elbow every time.