Category Archives: Media incompetence/bias

Death Threats. Harassment. Obsession. (Amanda Knox)(Updated)

So a British tabloid that has been fanning the flames of the frenzied mob for eight years now reports that the FBI is investigating some of its readers.  Pretending to be neutral at this late date, after years of smearing and base casuistry masquerading as ‘journalism’.

The FBI can investigate away, and contrary to the impression given by the article, not all the lunatics are in the UK; there are plenty of people in the US who are driven mad by high profile acquittals, especially when the beneficiary is a pretty young woman.

We suspect this will go on for quite some time.  Our standing recommendation to the exonerated is to live as obscurely and remotely as possible in a country other than the one that convicted you in the first place.  Of course this reasonably requires the exoneree to be independently wealthy.  And that is exactly what those responsible for the wrongful conviction are obligated to ensure:  that their victim be made independently wealthy.

Wealthy or not, the exoneree will live out a substantially diminished life.  There’s no fixing it.  But leaving an exoneree to fend for herself, defenseless, in a world in which so many want to see her suffering or dead is literally excruciating and utterly unconscionable.

If you let loose the dogs of war in error, there’s no going back.  Prosecutors should think hard about what they set in motion when they file charges.

Update:  Radley Balko points out that we’re very, very lousy at compensating those we have injured through major malfunctions of the criminal justice process.  That has to improve.

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The Sad Fate Of Amanda Knox (Updated)(x2)

How is it possible, in an age where human intelligence has produced wonder after wonder, to have a murder case where guilt is determined by the “reasoning” level of a moron?

I was reading an article recently about the legal profession and the appalling lack of quality in reasoning that prevails.  Often, court opinions are little more than screeds of heavy rheotric that ignore evidence that obviously – and often definitively – undercuts the desired result.  They are frequently comically disingenuous.  Or at least it would be comical is someone’s life didn’t hang in the balance.

So the “Nencini” report re-convicting Amanda Knox contains a discussion of 2 phone calls AK made to Meredith Kercher’s phone the day after her murder but before the body was discovered  that lasted only a few seconds.  Nencini then draws the inference that these phone calls were not genuine, that they were designed to deceive the investigators, that they were so short because Amanda Knox never expected Meredith Kercher to answer because Amanda Knox already knew Meredith Kercher was dead.  And the only reason she could know that was she had participated in the killing.  Let me quote here from the Nencini report as excerpted in a “guilter” blogger’s article:

“The telephone call made [by Knox] at 12:11:54 pm to the English service of the victim lasted 4 seconds. Perhaps not even the time to repeat the first ring.

Knox should have been affected by a certain anxiety in calling Kercher’s telephone services. Filomena Romanelli let the defendant’s telephone ring for 36 seconds the first time, and the second for a good 65 seconds; an insistence which appears normal. But that did not happen when Knox called… these are two calls that barely registered [and this] has only one plausible explanation:

There was no concern at all in the mind of Amanda Knox when she made the two calls to the young English woman, simply because she knew very well that Meredith Kercher could not have answered the calls; calls which had to be made because Filomena Romanelli insisted, but which the defendant knew were useless. Nobody would have been able to answer those calls; let alone poor Meredith Kercher whom the accused knew was lifeless, locked in her own bedroom.”

The problem is that there was a much longer phone call from Amanda Knox to Kercher’s phone earlier – at 12:07 PM – so long that Kercher’s phone – that had been tossed into some bushes and would otherwise have been lost – rang and rang until it was found.  And this phone call also occurred well after Kercher’s murder, but before the shorter calls.

To a sane and reasonably intelligent person, then, the earlier, longer phone call rules out making the incriminating inference from the later calls.  In other words, Nencini is either not sane or not intelligent.  Or, I suppose there is a third possibility:  he’s not honest.

So Amanda KNox’s fate at this point has rested with a man who is either crazy, or stupid, or corrupt and dishonest, and there’s no other alternative.

So appalling.

Update:  From CNN’s report this morning:

But the high-profile nature of the case and the controversial evidence prosecutors have built their argument on makes Knox’s extradition anything but certain.

“Controversial” evidence? That’s what stupid evidence and unfounded argument are to the media – as long as those are offered by police and prosecutors.  Judges aren’t the only apparently reason-challenged players in this drama.

Update 2:  After 9 PM in Italy and no word yet.  If this was a jury deliberating over here, might start thinking about whether they’re hung, but I don’t think that’s possible here.

Update 3:  An apparently unexpected acquittal.  Good on the Italians. Of course, if twitter traffic was any indication, there are millions who will never let go of it.  But for now, while the whole thing is still terribly sad, Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend can enjoy at least some peace.  And maybe Meredith Kercher’s survivors, too.

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Filed under Judicial lying/cheating, Media incompetence/bias, Uncategorized, wrongful convictions

Jodi Arias – A Few Questions (WARNING: GRAPHIC TO THE EXTENT IT CAN BE MADE SENSE OF)

Back when I was posting about this case, I noted one of the things that bothered me most:  how does Jodi Arias, all by herself, get the better of  Travis Alexander in a knife fight?

This seems all the more problematic when you look at what the prosecutor argued, according to Nancy Grace’s HLN:

GRACE: OK. Let`s go over the evidence. Beth Karas, what is the state`s theory as to how she could murder him? She`s a couple — a few inches shorter than him. She weighs less than him. What`s their theory?

KARAS: Their theory is that as she was taking photos with his consent, while he was showering, she got him to sit in the shower to take one last photo. And two minutes after that photo was taken, there he is, on his back with his neck slashed. And that`s an accidental photo that her camera took.

So the theory is she got him in a vulnerable position, started to stab him. He grabbed at the knife because he has defensive wounds of cuts on his hands. And then he stumbled around, hung his head over the sink, bleeding into the sink, spitting. That`s the spatter. He probably stumbled, and she`s stabbing him in the back nine, ten times.

As he`s stumbling down the hall, he falls at the entrance to his bedroom. She slashes his throat, three-and-a-half inches deep, severs the airway, turns his body around and starts to drag him back and stuffs him in the shower — shoots him in the head, though, before putting him in the shower.

If she doesn’t kill or incapacitate him immediately with the knife there will be a ferocious response, right?  I mean, she would certainly lose that.

Then there are these “accidental” photos.  One of the ceiling and this other very interesting one, below.  How does the camera take photos “accidentally”?  Wouldn’t someone have to be handling it, or at least touching it in some manner?  If there was no one else there, how can that be?

But let’s say the camera might go off and snap a picture if it’s bumped in the struggle.  That’s a stretch, I think, but let’s run with that.  How is the photo below taken?  How does the camera get in that position? Were there any other photos “accidentally” taken besides the one of the ceiling and this one?

And, what does this photo show?  I mean, really?

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It’s taken at 5:32:16 and the killing is in progress, obviously. But what, exactly, are we looking at?  What did the prosecution argue?  What did the defense argue?

From my perspective:  a) I cannot tell what part of the victim’s body is in the photo; b) I see what appears to be a leg and foot clad in a black leotard or stocking, upper part about the middle of the photo at the top, and extending diagonally downward towards the right with the foot apparently on or near the tile floor; c) I have absolutely no idea what I am looking at in the left part of the photo or what the blue stripe at the far left of the photo is.

I would appreciate any input from someone with more knowledge about the case than I am.

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The NYPD Back Turning Backfire

You should read this article in full.  This situation is turning pretty ugly.

The subject of discussion is the police protest of the New York mayor by turning their backs on him as he gives a speech at the funerals of recently slain officers, and a directive from the police commissioner to the rank and file officers calling for this conduct to cease.  An officer who spoke on condition of anonymity:

“I did that because I feel Mayor de Blasio does not like cops, and I would never do anything to disrespect another cop or his family…“

“He cares about his boss more than the 35,000 cops he’s in charge of,” the cop complained.”

Then again, Sergeant’s Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins isn’t shy:

“If you’re the mayor and you have to direct the commissioner to respect you, it’s a total embarrassment for the office,” he said. “Are they going to order cops to go have dinner with him next?”

Then you have NYPD Captain’s Endowment Association President Richter*:

“We must work to honor Police Officer Wenjian Liu’s sacrifice at future services,” he said in a statement. “In this forum the appropriate protest is not a sign or turning away from mourners, or people the family has asked to speak, but rather cold, steely silence.”

So, the range of opinion among the New York police apparently goes from: a) protesting the mayor by turning your back; or b) protesting the mayor through “cold, steely silence”.  Because the mayor “doesn’t like cops”, which is pretty much a ludicrous assertion when you think about it.  It’s completely unnatural for a mayor not to like cops that are, after all, one of his most important political constituencies.  Liking cops is part of the mayor’s informal job description.

So, the real complaint could not be, and is not, that the mayor doesn’t like cops, but rather that he must not “like” cops enough.  How much is “enough”?  Apparently a whole lot.  Apparently it’s a very tough job to like cops as much as cops think you ought to like them when you are the mayor.  It may be an unattainable kind of like.  As in, a kind of worship.

I mean, I like cops.  I don’t worship them.

At this point, it’s hard to read this episode any other way than this:  the police commissioner and the mayor are seen as being insufficiently servile to collective police power and influence, and so the police collectively throw a hissy fit on the occasions of the funerals of of recently slain officers, using their deaths as an occasion to make a show of force against the mayor and commissioner.

And they are so convinced of their invincibility in all this.  It never seems to enter their mind that they are overplaying their hand, that they are coming to resemble spoiled children stamping their feet and holding their breath until they get their way.  They have gotten away with that too much to worry about it, and they are as yet unaware of the sea change that’s underway in much of the country.

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* What, do these guys have a separate “association” for every rank?

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This Isn’t Helping

Quite in contrast to Mayor Warren’s measured and thoughtful statement, some others among the New York City Police Department seem eager to aggravate things.

Let’s just note a few things from the article.

First, the Vice President of the United States was there.  That’s preposterous.  Or at least, it should seem preposterous even though it probably doesn’t to most people because we’re so used to political posturing.  But fundamentally, the VPOTUS is not in the NYC police chain of command and has no place in any of this.

Really, the highest official standing over the NYC Police Department is the the Mayor of New York City.  And he’s the one the police turned their backs on.  At a funeral.  Not a good time to express one’s political opinions, I should think, but the police have had so much political clout for so long they’ve become tone deaf.

In any case, did the Vice President attend Eric Garner’s funeral?  Michael Brown’s?  Of course not.  When protesters chant that “black lives matter” they are pointing out the disparity in treatment of these recent casualties in the street wars.  Whereupon the politicians immediately serve up some more disparity.

Note also:  police officers from around the country, and Canada, were in attendance.  Is this a show of support, or a show of force, and influence, and clout?

At some point there are diminishing returns.  I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded that the police outgun the rest of us.  This seems more a part of the problem than the solution.  In context, it doesn’t matter that much:  the well armed SWAT team members are not tempting targets; two regular beat cops sitting in their car not expecting an ambush are.  The price of the escalating rhetoric and the demonstration – once again – that the “law enforcement community” will have its way is paid by the more vulnerable of the group.  I guess that’s how it usually is.

There are personalities that are apparently oblivious to how this all works.  These personalities are common among police but not at all confined to them.  Nevertheless, we have noted before certain prominent law enforcement examples of – well, what shall we call it?  The will to power, I guess – such as here and here.

Probably part of the reason they are oblivious is that, as we noted in those previous posts, there’s something “hidden” about the costs, and I put the word in quotation marks because I don’t really think these things are obscure to normal grownups, just to nominal grownups who have never really grown up, and who continue to believe that life is really about getting what you want, having your way, bending the world – and others – to your will.

Banishing this mindset from polite society is a lot closer to what is needed than petulant back-turning maneuvers.

Again, Lovely Warren has it right.

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Fabricating Ferguson

Sometimes, cops and/or prosecutors fabricate evidence.  And I’m glad they do.  Simple, out and out lying can be very difficult or even impossible to expose, but when amateur fiction writers – and that’s what cops and prosecutors are when they fabricate evidence – make things up they are liable to screw up, revealing themselves as evidence fabricators and, you know, bad fiction writers.

Like say I’m writing a novel today but set in the 1920’s and I have a scene where some characters are having a conversation and one of the characters mentions the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or the Kennedy assassination.

Oops.

So apparently this “diary” mysteriously appeared and was used in the Ferguson Grand Jury presentation, from some unidentified witness (#40), describing the relevant events consistently with an account that would exonerate the police officer.  I came across this story courtesy of the brilliant Andrew Roth and can’t improve upon what he has already set forth here.  And you need to follow the links.  Because this story should really get around.

Bottom line is that this “diary” is an obvious fabrication – because preposterous – and let’s hope Charles Pierce, Esquire’s politics blogger, connects the dots more fully and we get answers from the Ferguson DA about using that evidence, which he knew was false, before a Grand Jury.

Now, I know this is hard for a lot of people to swallow, the idea that someone has had to confront not just inaccurate evidence, but wholly made up evidence, and wholly made up evidence by the government at that.  For most people this is unthinkable, unspeakable, and highly disturbing, not least because this could happen to them.  Obviously.

This reluctance – this denial – can lead to bizarre results, where people become, let’s face it, functionally stupid.  The prosecutor here should have a lot to explain along the “what-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it” lines, and if he can’t that might just be the end of his “career” as a prosecutor, and frankly there might be no good explanation because he’s either complicit in the dishonesty or…stupid.

Yes, he should have a lot of explaining to do.  Operative word is “should”.

But will anyone in the mainstream press, as opposed to just a few bloggers, pick up on this story and run with it, generating the pressure that will force him to have to explain?  I guess we’ll see, but believe it or not there’s a good chance the mainstream press won’t, and that nothing will come of this smoking gun type evidence other than Pierce and Roth and me blogging about it.

After all, nothing has come of the Ashley Baker statement, which surfaced in September of 2006:

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And a lot of intelligent people seem to have trouble seeing that the story told in that statement is obviously preposterous and therefore a fabrication by whoever generated it, and we know who generated it, and who used it (or, properly speaking its derivatives) before a Grand Jury, and this wasn’t done to exonerate someone but rather to indict and ultimately imprison someone.

Need more?

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I’m going to let readers put two and two together there rather than walk them through all that.  For anyone even remotely paying attention, there should be at minimum a horrible fascination about it all.  For anyone new to these pages, background can be found here.

Of course, to say that it is frustrating when, after all the lying and cheating you can’t prove screws things up for some poor bastard – because, you know, you couldn’t prove it – it then turns out not to even matter when you absolutely positively have proven it beyond a shadow of a doubt – well, to call that ‘frustrating’ doesn’t seem to quite capture it, does it?

So I hope this time it matters, and that a prosecutor who deliberately presented false evidence to a Grand Jury to get the result he wanted – mocking them and the whole system, including me – is punished for doing that. Or something.

Just remember, there is a school of thought among prosecutors that it’s okay to deliberately present perjury and/or fabricated evidence to a Grand Jury. Or was some such school of thought.  Maybe the Department of Justice has changed its mind, since they have removed the Grand Jury training manual that used to teach this from their official web page (used to be right here; now as you can see, you just get a blank page).

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Fraud Is As Fraud Does

I don’t think anyone can really tell you the point at which fraud, as a civil matter, crosses a line and becomes a criminal matter.  For that reason, all criminal fraud prosecutions are suspect, because their criminal nature is ill-defined.

But that does not by any means imply that fraud is unimportant.  At least not to us here at Lawyers on Strike.  We are of the opinion that civil cases are just as socially important and often more socially important than criminal cases.  In the fraud context we have taken the interesting position (well, it should be interesting for a lot of people but apparently it isn’t) that Wall Street corruption and perhaps some government corruption would be far better addressed by private lawsuits brought by the injured parties as opposed to criminal prosecutions conducted by the government, and that the major impediment to pursuing that remedy robustly is a corrupted judiciary which favors institutional litigants over individuals, for the most part depriving them of jury trials.  Which in turn are the only way, say, the Wall Streeters might be called to account.  Because regulatory capture, among other things.

But we must also recognize that we are pretty much alone in those views.  So alone, in fact, that there’s almost no chance any serious effort along those lines will be made.  At least not in our lifetime.

There’s a lawyer/law professor out there named William K. Black.  We like him over here even though he apparently doesn’t agree with us either, and thinks government regulation and criminal prosecutions are the solution.  Yet we keep trying to suggest our idea to him, with no response (scroll down to the first comment).

Which is too bad.

But moving on.  Unlikely though it may seem, our federal judge from Nebraska has recently tipped his hat in our direction by putting up a post featuring a well-known personal injury Plaintiff’s attorney exploring the idea that civil litigation – even personal injury litigation – has important social benefits.  And it’s worth noting how even in the title of the post the bias comes out, since Judge Kopf felt the need to acknowledge those who would call the featured lawyer “infamous” rather than simply famous.

I would call it subtle bias, but to me at least it is none-too-subtle.  And I daresay it has affected many, many rulings by Judge Kopf over the years, just as for Bill Black the only litigation he’s interested in is litigation on behalf of the government.

At some point I may go on from these anecdotal musings to describe how, in my view, there’s a loss of faith involved.  Faith in each other, in our ability to figure out the truth based upon evidence, in our rationality and capacity to be just.  And how this loss of faith engenders a kind of tyranny when it becomes widespread in a society.

But that’s too much for today.  Because football.

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Filed under financial crisis, Media incompetence/bias, Striking lawyers