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Friday, July 29, 2011

Bradlee Dean’s Lawyer Claims Rachel Maddow’s Career Is Over For Telling The Truth

Bradlee Dean’s Lawyer Claims Rachel Maddow’s Career Is Over For Telling The Truth
by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Radio minister and former rock singer Bradlee Dean may want to have his and his lawyer’s head examined. It is possible to sue someone for defamation if- and only if- you can prove that the information that they disseminated was both patently false and designed to hurt the career of a particular person. The problem here is that what Dr Rachel Maddow told her viewers was, well, the truth. She aired a clip of Dean praising the murder of lesbians and gays by Muslims in its entirety, and then aired the disclaimer by Dean that he did not call for the murder of lesbians and gays.
The fact that his ministry and personal finances have been severely damaged over this is not her fault. People today are far less tolerant of homophobes like Dean than they were a decade ago. The trial will be very quick. The lawyers for Dr. Maddow and MSNBC will say “Mr. Dean, did you or did you not say these things in this clip here?” Dean will say, under oath, “Yes, sir” The lawyers will then ask “did you or did you not issue this disclaimer also found in this clip?” Dean will say “Yes, sir.” The lawyers will then say “So, exactly how did Dr. Maddow defame you and destroy your ministery?”
That is not stopping Dean’s lawyer Larry Klayman from claiming that Maddow’s career was over. The two spoke by phone to the Michele Tafoya Show on CBS Radio. According to Talking Points Memo:
Maddow is “trying to destroy Bradlee Dean, trying to destroy Bachmann,” Klayman said, adding that Maddow’s remarks were the “most outrageous statement I’ve heard in my entire life, and I’ve lived a bit here.”
Tafoya, pressing Dean a bit on his position on homosexuality, asked him if he indeed believes it is an “abomination.”
“If you’re asking if I’m in agreement with the word of God, then yes I am,” Dean responded.
Maddow’s remarks have harmed both Dean’s reputation and finances, Klayman said. “You can’t just say whatever you want,” he said. “This is going to cost MSNBC hundreds of millions of dollars and will probably end the career of Rachel Maddow.”
Yes, she reported exactly what Dean said without much in the way of condemnation or anything other than laughing her backside off. So, how this is going to cost MSNBC or Dr. Maddow anything is rather hard to figure out. At issue is this statement from Dean:
“Muslims are calling for the execution for homosexuals in America, this was just released yesterday and it shows you that they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible, the Judeo Christian God. They seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do. Because these people are livid about enforcing their laws, they know homosexuality is an abomination. And I continually reach out to the homosexual communities on this radio show, and I warn them, which ones love? Here you have Obama condemning it behind the backs of the homosexuals but to their faces he’s promoting it. I say this to my gay friends out there the ones that continuously nitpick everything I say. Hollywood is promoting immorality and the God of the Heavens in Jesus names is warning you to flee from the wrath to come, yet you have Muslims calling for your execution. If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that’s what you’re seeing in America today. Read Leviticus 26 America.”
Dean also said “The bottom line is this … they [homosexuals] play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator. On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out. How many kids have been destroyed, how many adults have been destroyed because of crimes against nature?” In fact, the last statement has been proven manifestly incorrect repeatedly despite constant repetition by the homophobes out there.
And this clip from Dr. Rachel Maddow:
Visit msnbc.com for breaking newsworld news, and news about the economy
Klayman is also claiming that MSNBC and Dr. Maddow are trying to sabotage the Presidential Campaign of Michele Bachmann by going after Dean, though that claim is also untrue since this began back during the Minnesota gubernatorial race. Here is the audio of the program:
Dean has been doing a lot of ducking and only going on supportive venues for his interviews. He canceled an appearance on Michelangelo Signorile’s show recently, but appeared on the show of Alex Jones. Dean, of course, pulled out all the stops on his homophobia by claiming that lesbians and gays are targeting children for recruitment. Of course, that is false. Rather religious leaders love to target children for recruitment. What is the old Jesuit motto? “Give me a child until the age of seven and he is mine for life.” Dean and Jones talked about children as young as seven being taught about ‘fisting’, which is rather absurd. Here is the transcript:
DEAN: It’s about protecting a particular people who are being attacked, namely the young in public high schools and that’s what this is really about and what they want to do is they want to keep me on the defense so they can stay on the offense so they can continuously play the victim.
JONES: All over the country, it is a fact, and I wouldn’t want heterosexuals [sic] recruiting 7-year-olds. They target children and I can’t even say on the radio for 20 years what’s been taught.
DEAN: Yep.
JONES: But they teach children sexual acts that can kill you.
DEAN: Yep.
JONES: I mean, we’re talking about fisting, ladies and gentlemen. Things like that are taught to 7-year-olds.
Dean, basically, is claiming that people who have an agenda opposite or opposed to his are targeting him for destruction for a variety of reasons. This is not defamation. That is the normal course in a political debate. So, honestly, Dean might want to walk away before he and his ministry are in worse shape than they are now.
The allegations by Bradlee Dean and You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International (YCR) are completely without merit. The American Independent News Network stands firmly behind our news site, The Minnesota Independent; our reporter, Andy Birkey; as well as their reporting on Dean and his ministry. The complaint describes Birkey as taking “a ‘special interest’ in Plaintiffs Dean and YCR because he is a secularist and/or atheist and gay activist with a politically left ideology who despises people of faith.” However, in giving Birkey and The Minnesota Independent first prize for Best Continuing Coverage of their reporting on YCR, the 2010 judges for the Minnesota Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist’s Page One Awards stated, “the reporter [Birkey] takes a deep-dive with an even-handed approach into a weighty subject sure to provoke controversy from various standpoints. Leads readers to think about serious public policy and constitutional issues.”

All defendants rest cases in Ala. gambling trial

All defendants rest cases in Ala. gambling trial

Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - All nine defendants in the federal gambling corruption trial have rested their cases after calling only one defense witness.
Lawyers for Macon County casino owner Milton McGregor and the other eight defendants walked one at a time to the microphone at the start of court Friday and announced their clients were resting their cases.
Prosecutors spent more than seven weeks putting on 17 witnesses. Prosecutors say the defendants, including four former and current state witnesses, conspired to buy and sell votes on a bill to legalize electronic bingo at some locations in Alabama.
Defense attorneys started putting on the cases Thursday morning after U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson refused to throw out any of the charges. Only one witness was called Thursday by defendant Tom Coker, who joined the other defendants in resting Friday.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

5 years later, states struggle to comply with federal sex offender law

5 years later, states struggle to comply with federal sex offender law
By Emanuella Grinberg

This story was assisted by an H.F. Guggenheim/John Jay reporting fellowship from the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College.

(CNN) -- Five years ago this week, President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act with the intention of making it the law of the land for keeping tabs on sex offenders.

Named for the 6-year-old whose slaying by a stranger galvanized child safety reforms and turned his father, John Walsh, into one of the nation's most recognizable victims' advocates, the law set forth the most comprehensive national standards to date for monitoring sex offenders in America's communities.

This week also marks a key deadline for states, tribes and U.S. territories to meet the act's requirements or face a 10% cut in federal justice assistance funding, not exactly small change in tight economic times.

As of Wednesday, the 30th anniversary of Adam Walsh's disappearance from a Florida department store, 14 states, nine tribes and the territory of Guam had "substantially implemented" what's known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA, provisions of the Adam Walsh Act. On the eve of the July 27 deadline, last-minute submissions were trickling into the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking, known as the SMART office.

The law expanded the categories of crimes eligible for registration and increased the period and frequency of registration for certain adults and juveniles, effectively growing registries by as much 500% in some states. It called for jurisdictions to retroactively register some adult offenders who'd already done their time on the registry. It also called for registration of certain juveniles who'd been shielded from the registry in the past, based on the notion that confidentiality offers them a greater likelihood of rehabilitation.

The goal was to corral the information into a national public registry and FBI database. But the act is still very much a work in progress.

It's not from a lack of desire, said Susan Frederick, federal affairs counsel with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Since 2008, 48 states have enacted nearly 350 laws related to residency restrictions, sentencing and monitoring sex offenders, according to an NCSL database.

"States are very sympathetic to the need to supervise and penalize registered sex offenders. There's no softness on that population," Frederick said. "But any time you're going to be collecting and cataloging information on more people more often, that comes at a high cost. The question is whether it's worth it."

Many states don't want to change their laws; others believe the legislation's cost outweighs its predicted benefits, she said. Texas has put the estimated federal funding cuts at $1.4 million, compared to a cost of $38.7 million.
To see how the law has fared in practice, one need look no farther than Ohio, the first state to adopt the law in its original, most stringent form, in 2007.

Adam Walsh was 6 years old when a stranger took him from a Florida store. His decapitated body was later found.

Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Act, SB 10, has resulted in more than 7,000 legal claims, according to the state public defender's office. It also has led to years of litigation, two state Supreme Court rulings and separate registry criteria for sex offenders whose crimes occurred before and after the law's enactment.

The slow unraveling of Ohio's law underscores some of the major criticism of the new federal scheme and the registry in general: that it stigmatizes offenders beyond hope of rehabilitation while giving the public a false sense of security.

The federal agency created to help the states implement the act acknowledges that compliance has been an uphill battle. It has also listened to the states' concerns and issued supplemental guidelines that offer states more flexibility than Ohio had when it adopted its law.

Controversial legal issues like retroactive registration -- requiring an offender who was sentenced before the legislation to follow the new rules -- and juvenile registration get the most notice. For most states, however, the biggest hurdles are implementing technology and adjusting statutes, said Linda Baldwin, director of the SMART office.

"What happens across the board is some states are finding it more difficult to implement SORNA depending on their starting point," she said. "We've found that states whose systems are not centralized and digitized have had to make great changes to their registry system, but those changes require an investment that states have been able to apply to our office for funding for."

Uniform laws and a centralized database enable law enforcement to share information and ensure offenders don't slip through the cracks, Baldwin said. Community notification makes information about released sex offenders broadly available through various means, such as postcards in the mail, phone calls, e-mail alerts and police going door to door.

Online registries don't include everyone who is a threat, she said, because not all dangerous predators are known to law enforcement. Online registries also are not a tool to reduce repeat offenses, she said.

"It's hard to measure whether these important public safety goals are being met and figuring out how to measure that is challenging and may take years for us to complete," Baldwin said. "But what we've found is, as an alternative, many people are focusing on registration notification programs as tools to reduce recidivism, which really is not a major goal of these laws."

She stressed that the registries are "primarily a law enforcement tool, an ability to allow the public to take measures to protect themselves."

The effectiveness of registries -- for sex crimes and other offenses -- has long been a topic of debate. Supporters like Baldwin tout their public safety benefits, while critics say they can have the unintended consequence of destabilizing sex offenders.

"Public notification creates barriers to successful sex offender management and treatment and supervision," said Alisa Klein, Public Policy Consultant for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers and co-author of the report, "A Reasoned Approach: Reshaping Sex Offender Policy to Prevent Child Sex Abuse (PDF)."

Offenders re-entering the community need strong support systems to prevent them from reoffending, she said, through family, faith communities and a steady job.

"Going on a public registry creates an immediate stigma. It can prevent employment, prevent them from living with families, get them thrown out of faith communities; it has the consequence of putting someone in an emotional state that may make them more likely to reoffend," she said.

Some states have attempted to evaluate the benefits of SORNA. In Texas, home to more than 60,000 registered sex offenders, a 2010 report from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee (PDF)concluded, "It is clear registries do not provide the public safety," noting the issue contained "gray areas."

The California Sex Offender Management Board also recommended against implementing the provisions of the Adam Walsh Act, stating, "California state law and practice related to offender risk assessment, juvenile registration and sex offender monitoring is more consistent with evidence-based practice that can demonstrate real public safety outcomes."

Who commits sex crimes against children?
- Family member: 34.2% 
- Acquaintance: 58.7% 
- Stranger: 7% 

-- U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000

People on both sides of the debate agree that truly dangerous sexual predators, such as pedophiles and rapists, need to be monitored closely if they're going to be released into communities.

The federal law uses a three-tiered system based on the sex crimes offenders are convicted of to determine the length of time they must remain on the registry and the frequency with which they must check in with law enforcement. Critics say that using offense-based registration instead of an approach based on risk-assessment -- favored by states like Texas and California -- pulls too many offenders onto the registry and overburdens law enforcement, preventing police from keeping a close eye on the worst of the worst.

"I think we would have a better use of our time if we could determine who the most dangerous ones are," said Sheriff Jeff Grey of Mercer, Ohio. "Sometimes we get tied up registering the ones who are trying to do the right thing and don't have time to look for the ones that are out of compliance, but just because someone's registering and doing everything he's supposed to doesn't mean he's not going to reoffend."

In Ohio, law enforcement is working closely with the state Attorney General's Office to explore ways that technology can streamline the process. Sheriffs' departments use software that sends e-mail notifications to offenders or calls them seven days before they have to register. If the e-mail bounces back or the call goes to the wrong person, law enforcement knows an offender is not complying, Grey said.

The state also recently released an iPhone app -- Shaquille O'Neal is its spokesman -- that locates registered sex offenders in a given area. Authorities in Ohio also are looking into kiosks to allow offenders to self-register through iris and fingerprint scans at the sheriff's department if the technology proves reliable.

"We need to keep up with the technology because it's there to help us do the job," said Grey, chairman of the sex offender registration and notification committee for the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association.

Besides Ohio, states that have adopted SORNA are Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The number of offenders on Wyoming's registry increased from 125 to 1,450 after the state moved from risk-based assessment to a tier system for registration, said Kevin R. Smith, deputy director of the state's Criminal Justice Information Services.

The biggest change for Wyoming involved juveniles, who were exempt from registration under old state law. New guidelines passed in January 2011 allowed Wyoming to exclude juveniles from appearing on the online registry, but they're still subject to community notification, he said.

"It's always been a difficult decision for the Legislature, the need to register juveniles for public safety versus the idea of confidentiality to rehabilitate juveniles." Smith said. "Wyoming didn't want to be seen as any more or any less restrictive than the national standard. ... We didn't want to be seen as the place to come to that was easier on sex offenders."

There's a saying among critics of the registry, that the rare cases of "stranger-danger" inspire the most sweeping legislative reforms. The slayings of Adam Walsh, Jacob Wetterling, Jessica Lunsford and Dru Sjodin, all sparked legislation that has been incorporated in the Adam Walsh Act.

Sadly, it often takes a tragedy to inspire needed reforms, said Linda Walker, Sjodin's mother. She thinks if the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website had existed in 2003, it might have saved her daughter's life.

The abduction and murder of Dru Sjodin led to a law named after her that established a national sex offender registry.

Neither Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student, nor her mother knew that a sex offender considered likely to reoffend was living across the border in Crookston, Minnesota. Alfonso Rodriguez was released from prison in May 2003 after serving 23 years for sexual violence against a Crookston woman. He abducted Sjodin from a mall parking lot in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on November 22, raped and murdered her. Rodriguez is awaiting execution on federal death row.

Sjodin's death inspired Dru's Law, which required convicted child molesters to be listed on a national online database and face a felony charge for failing to update their whereabouts. It was included in the Adam Walsh Act and signed into law the same day, five years ago.

Sjodin's mother has become a member of a club no one wants to belong to: The Surviving Parents Coalition. The group advocates for legislative initiatives in areas of child safety education, the expansion of DNA laws and national standards for sex offender legislation -- Walker's main focus.

She maintains that the Adam Walsh Act sets minimum standards, not a ceiling, so the public can protect itself.

"Our borders, we don't see them, and we're such a mobile nation, we move to different communities frequently, so this gives you a better awareness of who you might be living among," she said.

"I get so angered that we humanize these people who choose to victimize. We give these offenders two, three, four different chances -- what does that say to the victims?"

Some people would rather die than face a lifetime on the registry. One of those people, Roy Martin, hanged himself in his garage after learning he would be reclassified as a Tier III offender in Ohio.

Martin was released from prison in 2004 after serving 10 years for raping a female relative, though he maintained his innocence, said his lawyer, Shimane K. Smith.

Under the state's Megan's Law, which took effect in 1997, a judge classified Martin a sexually oriented offender, which meant he had to register once a year for 10 years after his release. Then he received a letter in November 2007 from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation notifying him that under Ohio's SB 10, he would be reclassified effective January 1, 2008, as a Tier III offender.

For the rest of his life, he would have to check in every 90 days with law enforcement to confirm his home address, employer, school address and Internet identifiers and vehicle make.

His sex offender status was already a source of deep shame for the introverted, 50-year-old construction worker, who was prone to drinking in times of despair, said his companion, Denise Sees.

"You go to get a job, they know your record, they don't want you. Everybody knows who you are. You're marked for life," she said.

She never suspected he was capable of killing himself. But upon reflection, there were signs to indicate he had prepared for it, she said. He cleaned up the garage, organized his tools, finished an addition to the house. Then, early in the morning of February 27, 2008, he came home smelling of alcohol.

"I went to bed; told him we didn't have to talk about it. In the middle of the night, I heard coughing. I thought he was smoking a cigarette. I woke up the next morning and was calling for him. He was in the garage. He had hung himself with a cord," she said.

He didn't leave a note, but she knew that the prospect of lifetime registration was too much to bear.

"If you've not been involved in it you do not know what it's like," she said. "I just think him having that label on him, he couldn't take it anymore. I think he thought that was his best choice."

Since Martin's suicide, retroactive registration under SB 10 has been found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in two cases, including a July 13 ruling that found imposing "current registration requirements on a sex offender whose crime was committed prior to the enactment of SB 10 is punitive."

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he does not agree with the court's decision in State v. Williams (PDF), but his office will not appeal the ruling. He does plan to seek clarification on how the panel reached its decision and how that could apply to cases down the road.

DeWine, a former U.S. senator and representative, continues to support public registration. His next step is to figure out how to make sure offenders retain their pre-SORNA classification.

"The public has an interest in making sure these people check in with police and that we know where they are," he said. "The public policy goal of the attorney general's office is to make sure that the sex offenders who were classified before remain classified."

The recent court ruling creates a cliffhanger ending for those watching three juvenile cases that raised similar claims regarding retroactive registration.

"We think with the court's finding that SB 10 can't be applied retroactively to adults should lead to the same finding for children," said Brooke Burns with the Ohio Public Defender's Office, who represents two juveniles in claims that retroactive application of the law for juveniles is unconstitutional.

The cases underscore concerns nationwide that placing teens on a public registry will stigmatize them and hamper their chances of moving beyond the offense.

Given juveniles' positive response to treatment and room for cognitive development, the juvenile system has traditionally been regarded as rehabilitative, unlike the adult system, which counts punishment among its goals, Burns said.

"The court's finding that registration is punishment opens the door for us to start advocating that juveniles cannot be given a punishment because they're in juvenile court, which in itself is a rehabilitative system," she said.

Another scenario she hopes for is that the court might consider terminating the requirement to register at 21, the age at which the juvenile court loses jurisdiction over an offender -- except when it comes to the registry, Burns said.

"The only penalty that sticks beyond the juvenile system in and of itself is registration," she said. "We hope with (the court calling the registry) punishment, perhaps the court will find ... that you cannot impose a lifetime punishment on children or a person when the court that imposed it only has jurisdiction on a person 'til 21."

The use of the word "punitive" in the ruling has been a source of hope to opponents of the registry, who disagree with case law that says sex offender registration does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment because it is a civil remedy intended to protect the public.

Critics of the registry say it perpetuates fears that strangers are most likely to commit sex offenses on children, when research shows the most frequent perpetrators are relatives and acquaintances. Victim advocacy groups and policy think-tanks cite volumes of academic research and a Department of Justice study to support the argument that registries are not a cure-all for preventing sex crimes against children.

"It's such a misleading statement to send to the public that we somehow have a notion of where all sex offenders are and that we can keep the public safe from them because we have a registry," said Elizabeth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "It's fueled by awful things that happened to children and very understandable, but unfortunately that's not a fix that makes sense for most offenders."

Sex crime prevention begins in the home, she said, by instructing parents of the warning signs and teaching children not just about good touches and bad touches, but also about basic respect.

"Primary prevention is very long-term work that involves a cultural shift in terms of how we deal with children, what we teach children, the messages communities send toward children and women," she said. "There are still a lot of cultural norms that allow for the victimization of people who are vulnerable."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Do Smoking Regs Violate Tobacco Companies' Free-Speech Rights?

Do Smoking Regs Violate Tobacco Companies' Free-Speech Rights?
By Nathan Koppel

The 6th Circuit today is due today to hear an interesting challenge to the federal government’s regulatory power — and, no, we are not referencing another case involving the federal healthcare law.
At issue in the 6th Circuit case is the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco advertising.
Tobacco companies claim that the law, which bans the companies from sponsoring athletic, social and cultural events or offering free samples, violates their free-speech rights, the AP reports in this preview of today’s hearing.
The Tobacco Control Act has been a hot topic this year, after U.S. regulators mandated that cigarette makers add graphic warning labels to their products depicting such images as a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his neck — a development we wrote about here.  (The tobacco industry’s free-speech challenge predated the new smoking regulations, which are due to take effect new year.)
Last year, Kentucky federal judge Joseph McKinley Jr. largely rejected the industry’s free-speech challenge to the federal law.
Kenly Ames, an attorney for the tobacco companies, wrote in an appellate brief that the federal law doesn’t serve any purpose other than to make it difficult for companies to sell cigarettes, the AP reports.
Justice Department attorney Alisa B. Klein countered with a brief contending that the restrictions at issue are needed because of tobacco companies’ track record in seeking out new customers, according to AP. Tobacco imagery “seeks to distract potential users from the fact that tobacco products are lethal and addictive,” Klein wrote.

Reputed South Florida Mob Boss Appeals Fraud Conviction

Reputed South Florida Mob Boss 'Vincent Artuso' Appeals Fraud Conviction

he man considered to be the head of the Gambino crime family’s operations in South Florida has asked a federal appeals court to overturn his nine-year prison sentence for real estate fraud.
Vincent Artuso claims prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to convict him of fraud and racketeering charges involving a lengthy scam that cost ADT Security Services Inc. at least $11 million. Federal prosecutors counter that the evidence was sufficient to convict Artuso of the fraud charges.
Prosecutors said Artuso was a “made member” of the Gambino family and has been linked to the infamous hit that led to John Gotti’s rise to power.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Judge OKs spitting suit against Pa. Burger King

Judge OKs spitting suit against Pa. Burger King
A federal judge says a black trucker's lawsuit against a Burger King franchise in northwestern Pennsylvania should be heard by a jury and not dismissed as the restaurant's attorneys requested.

ERIE, Pa. —
A federal judge says a black trucker's lawsuit against a Burger King franchise in northwestern Pennsylvania should be heard by a jury and not dismissed as the restaurant's attorneys requested.
Glenn Goodwin, from Cleveland, Ohio, filed the civil rights lawsuit against Fast Food Enterprises (hash)3, which operates the restaurant along Interstate 90 in Fairview. Goodwin contends a white worker there spit in his burger in 2008.
Defense attorneys wanted U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming there's no proof of the spitting or that the worker was motivated by racial prejudice.
But McLaughlin says there's enough evidence in dispute that a jury should hear the case. State police found saliva in the burger, but didn't charge anyone because it was thrown away without a DNA test.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lawyers decry public comments from DSK's accuser

Lawyers decry public comments from DSK's accuser

Lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn are blasting back after the first public comments from the hotel maid accusing him of sexual assault.

"I want him to go to jail," Nafissatou Diallo told Newsweek in a cover story posted online Sunday. ABC News says it will broadcast an interview with her on three of its programs on Monday. In the interviews, she gives new details about the alleged attack in a Midtown hotel room.

Lawyers for the former International Monetary Fund chief say Diallo is looking for money and call the interviews "an unseemly circus" designed to inflame public opinion.

The case against Strauss-Kahn is in limbo after prosecutors raised doubts about the maid's credibility.

Her lawyers call the defense's conduct "an unprecedented smear campaign against the victim of a sexual attack."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lawyer for Leiby Kletzky's Killer Quits Case for His Kids

Lawyer for Leiby Kletzky's Killer Quits Case for His Kids

I didn't think I could be more disturbed and sickened by the murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky than I was already. Then I saw defense attorney Gerard Marrone on the news, explaining why he suddenly resigned from the case. Looking like a haunted man, Marrone said that as the father of three boys, he could not in good conscience continue to representKletzky's alleged killer, Levi Aron.
"I looked at my own children and there are no words. You see the victim and you feel so sad," said Marrone, who admitted to breaking down in tears over the "horrific" way Kletzky's life was ended.
"A little piece of me died when I got this case," he said.
That's when the gut-wrenching tragedy hit me on a whole new level. Criminal defense attorneys are tough guys; it comes with the territory. I've never seen someone in that line of work so openly repulsedby his client that he's forced to not only drop the case, but to drop all legal pretense and publicly react on a strictly human level: I'm too horrified by this man to defend him. 
What did Marrone see in Aron's eyes that shook him so badly? Those were the last eyes Leiby Kletzky ever looked into. To think that a perfectly innocent child had to spend the final moments of his life under that cold, empty stare makes me doubt the very order of the universe. So I completely understand what Marrone meant when he said, "Before I got involved I believed in the divinity of human beings, and when I got involved I questioned the divinity of human beings."
Of course he had to give up the case. As parents, how can we carry on raising our children if we don't harbor even the faintest hope that there's some meaning behind human life? I admire Marrone's honestyand his decision to put his children first.
Do you agree that Marrone did the right thing when he gave up the Leiby Kletzky case?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Megan's Law not intended for pranksters

Megan's Law not intended for pranksters

Often, the law is complex. A three-judge panel this week ruled that bullying by two 14-year-old Somerset County boys was serious enough to require them to register as sex offenders for the rest for their lives.

The crime? The two boys sat on the faces of 11-year-old and 12-year-old schoolmates, with bare buttocks.

One boy was convicted of criminal sexual contact. The other boy who was implicated pleaded guilty to the same offense and received the same penalty.

The trial court found that while the boys placed their buttocks on (or above) the victims’ faces, at least one of the boys’ penises touched the lips of a victim and might have parted the lips. Although that contact was unintended, it raises the act from horseplay and bullying to a more serious offense.

But how serious?

The question the panel grappled with was whether the boys are sex offenders and deserve an indelible punishment that could mark them for the rest of their lives. The panel, acknowledging “profound lifelong ramifications” for the boys, nonetheless said its hands were tied, because the law is the law, and Megan’s Law, when applied literally, fit.

Despite the horrid nature of an attack by stupid teens that got out of hand, we don’t believe Megan’s Law intended to punish teenage pranksters or bullies. The trial judge concluded the boys’ motive was to humiliate or degrade the victims. There was no evidence of sexual gratification.

This is not to dismiss the acts with boys-will-be-boys absolution. The punishment, however, should fit the crime, and while we acknowledge the humiliation suffered by the victims, there is no evidence this was a sex crime.

Asked why he did it, the teen said he “thought it was funny and I was trying to get my friends to laugh.”

While the state Legislature should consider changing the law to exclude similar situations, we hope the judges, if they’d had any leeway, would have used it. We hope they weren’t, as a defense attorney charged, “simply offended by the behavior and just couldn’t get past that issue.”

Emotion and a thirst for revenge could lead us to insist that making the boys register as sex offenders is a small price to pay for the psychological damage they have done.

But the question is, are they predators and sex offenders as Megan’s Law intended to define them? The answer is no.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Courtroom drama: Actors bring depositions to life

Courtroom drama: Actors bring depositions to life

By Manuel Rueda

Florida attorney Marc Brumer's client broke his heel after falling from a pedestrian ramp. But by the time he took the construction company that built the ramp to trial, the only witness had moved out of the state.
Brumer had a solution: he hired a professional actor to read the absent witness's deposition to the court.
Reading the deposition word for word and replicating the witness's Hispanic accent, the actor described how the ramp was badly lit and had no warning signs for pedestrians.
"We were all floored," Brumer said of the performance. "It was like the witness was there." The building company settled.
A specialist in personal injury cases, Brumer is among a handful of lawyers in Florida who hire actors to read the statements of absentee witnesses. He also runs Actors at Law, a small company that finds actors for lawyers when their witnesses cannot make it to a trial.
"I'm all for using tools that will help the jury understand the evidence," Brumer said. "When you go to trial on a difficult case, you need every tool you can get to win."
Attorneys in the United States are allowed to read out depositions to juries when their witnesses cannot attend a trial. Witness testimony can also be videotaped.
But as long as it is made clear to the court the reader is not the actual witness, anyone can read the depositions.
Brumer says that in most cases, the judge and the jury don't even notice he hired an actor to read a deposition.
Unorthodox ways to present evidence are easy to find in U.S. courts, where some cases like the recent trial of Florida mother Casey Anthony that found her not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee become prime-time media events.
The country's adversarial legal system, which requires two sides in a case to argue orally in front of juries, encourages innovation and drama in the courtroom.
Computer programs are used regularly to recreate accidents, while medical diagrams are common props. In larger cases, image consultants school defendants and witnesses on how to take the stand and behave. And psychologists help lawyers to analyze jurors' attitudes toward their clients.
However, legal experts have mixed feelings about the use of actors during trials.
"If you bring in a professional actor -- to read a deposition -- you could tint the situation" said Jan Jacobowitz, a former trial lawyer who directs the Professional Responsibility and Ethics program at the University of Miami's School of Law.
"But in other situations maybe you engage the jury and get them to pay better attention," she added.
Jacobowitz said the Florida Bar Association's professional rules of conduct contain provisions on candor, impartiality and fairness to the opposing party that could be used in some circumstances to challenge the use of actors in the courtroom.
The American Bar Association also contains similar provisions in its rules of conduct. But the legal entity has no specific rules governing use of actors in the courtroom.
"I think it should be left to the discretion of the judge," Jacobowitz concluded. "The issue here is the witness isn't going to appear anyway, and you're permitted to have the deposition written into the record, are you going to restrict the ability to choose who's going to read it?"
Ellen Jacoby, Brumer's partner in Actors at Law, argues attorneys could save some money by using actors.
Rather than hiring experts like doctors and scientists to spend an afternoon at court, she says law firms could take depositions in expert's offices, and hire actors to read out the testimonies for a fee of, say, $200 per hour.
"A lawyer doesn't want to pay $25,000 to bring in an expert witness," she said. "This makes the justice system a little bit more affordable."
Jacoby runs a casting agency that has found actors for several major TV series and films shot in Miami. Over the past 20 years she has worked for "Miami Vice," "CSI Miami," and the Hollywood comedy, "There's Something About Mary."
The thought of providing actors for the legal community came to Jacoby after she sued her insurance company for not covering a back injury she suffered in a car accident.
During the trial in which Brumer represented her, Jacoby was shocked to see jurors doze off as lawyers read the deposition of a police officer who witnessed the crash scene but was absent from the hearing.
"There were many things about the justice system that I was unhappy about. And the fact that the judge doesn't wake anybody up when they fall asleep? It's frightening," she said.
The logo of Actors at Law reads "don't let the jury fall asleep."
But lawyers in Florida and elsewhere around the country, have been slow to adopt the use of actors in court. Actors at Law has only received a dozen requests for deposition readers since it was launched in 2006.
Law Actors, a Chicago-based company that provided the same service back in the 1990s, peaked at some 20 requests per year in 2005, says its founder, Ian Harris. Clients were mainly based in Chicago, but Harris also found actors to read depositions for lawyers in Texas, Nevada and Florida.
After the 2008 recession, however, the company's business tanked, with no requests for actors coming in during 2009, and only 10 orders in 2010. Unable to make a living from Law Actors contracts, Harris took a daytime job in a Chicago condo.
"With the economy the way it is, it's much tougher to get anyone to use this kind of service," he said.
Harris says the demand for this sort of service before a jury has also dropped because lawyers are now more likely to settle cases before bringing them to trial.
U.S. lawyers took 2,154 civil cases to juries at district courts around the country in 2010 and 2,928 criminal cases. But five years earlier, when Law Actors' business was at its peak, juries heard 2,312 civil cases in U.S. district courts and a much higher number of criminal cases, 3,768.
Searching for new streams of revenue, Law Actors has developed workshops, in which actors teach lawyers how to get the most compelling testimony from their witnesses.
However, Harris hopes the risk-takers and "mavericks" in the legal profession will continue to see the benefits of using actors during trials.
"What the actors are able to do is bring a sense of reality," he said. "They're used to reading somebody else's words and making them come alive."