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Trials & Tribulations

On Jack Dunphy’s threads about Christopher Dorner, a number of Ricochetti

  1. Ryan M

    You’re right that it is a difficult issue.  Unfortunately, the simplicity of the system, which makes for some seemingly no-brainer summaries, doesn’t really exist once you get behind the scenes.  I have a hard time with it, myself, as a libertarian-type conservative Christian, working as a defense attorney…  My natural inclination is toward prosecution, but you see just as much abuse from prosecutors/cops.  Interestingly, neither side is really interested in “truth/justice” when it comes right down to it.  I do tend to actually be interested in the objective truth – but to do my job like that borders on malpractice (thank you supreme court), and I know that isn’t how the prosecutors I work with do their jobs. 

  2. Schrodinger

    Both the police and courts are losing the trust of the people, at least in the big cities. Justice has been perverted.

    I am glad Dornier is dead. But, the police response was disgustingly trigger happy. Shooting innocent civilians is inexcusable regardless of the circumstances. And, would the quantity of police resources employed in this case, ever be used to find a criminal that killed an ordinary citizen? I doubt it. It’s too bad the police consider themselves more important than the citizens who pay them. Instead, they arrest homeowners who kill criminals while defending their families.

    The 911 system has become a joke as some police forces simply do not respond to some calls. And, if they do respond, they are always too late to protect the citizen in need.

    The courts are just a big game of “jeopardy”. Lawyers play games with the rules and victims get nothing.

    I expect this trend will get worse.

  3. D.C. McAllister
    C

    The complexity of the legal system enables lengthy delays in justice.

    “Imagine the appeals, dissents and remandments, if lawyers had written The Ten Commandments.”

    As for the elated response to Dorner’s death, that’s just a natural human reaction and not reflective of the respect conservatives have for justice. It’s when we allow our human reactions and feelings to overrule rational principles or, God-forbid, create policy that we run into problems.

  4. Sumomitch

    High stakes criminal trials preceded by sensationalistic crimes seem to bog the always cludgey criminal justice system down. The whole system, like so much else that goes wrong in our world (education, healthcare) is in the hands of the “experts” (lawyers and judges) who are comfortable with the system as it is, and have all the tools to defend that status quo. Consider that Major Hassan still has not been brought to trial, 4 years after he murdered soldiers in the name of jihad. Obama killed the imam who inspired him by drone, but this guy still is drawing a paycheck from the US Army, and the Obama Administration (for unrelated political reasons) insists on classifying the event as “work-related violence.”

    It would take Constitutional amendments to change the criminal justice system to a truth-seeking efficient system. Given the ruling class’s propensity for criminalizing every aspect of human behavior they can’t otherwise control, I’m not sure any of us should cheer such amendments.  

  5. Devereaux

    I am neither happy nor sad over Dorner’s death. He died as he wished to I guess.

    What I DO find interesting is what drove him to this end. We have had several cases in my lifetime of police vs citizens. The one from Philadelphia seems quite straight forward – he killed a cop for no clear reason. But then I see things like Ruby Ridge and Waco – and the response by McVeigh. And the NYC police officer who killed another cop mistakenly during a robbery.

    We condemn these things as “bad” things, but I see little real examination of what really happened. ?Why does government think it can do these kinds of things to us. ?Do they simply believe the targets are marginal and not mainstream. I hold no particular views on the Branch Davidians, but the amount of lies by the government, the amount of “disappeared” evidence, the amount of open obstruction by “officers” in the investigation, is simply appalling.

    Regardless of all the noise, the biggest thing out there to fear is the government. I can protect myself relatively well against local thugs, but I have few defenses against a government that wants to come after me.

  6. raycon and lindacon
    Denise McAllister: … As for the elated response to Dorner’s death, that’s just a natural human reaction and not reflective of the respect conservatives have for justice. It’s when we allow our human reactions and feelings to overrule rational principles or, God-forbid, create policy that we run into problems. · 0 minutes ago

    Therein lies the issue.  The ‘justice’ system has become a perversion of a search for truth.  The ‘adversarial’ system of justice only works when both adversaries, prosecution and defense, seek the same answers in truth and confine themselves to using those findings to examine the guilt of the person charged with a crime.

    Supreme Court rulings, judicial and legislative rule making, and political interests have replaced the search for truth, making justice a difficult pursuit.  As @Ryan M observes; “I do tend to actually be interested in the objective truth – but to do my job like that borders on malpractice (thank you supreme court)”

    Conservatives are guilty of wanting actual justice to prevail, and watching such obscenities as the 911 and Al Qaeda fiascoes, or occasional jury nullification outcomes, leaves us with a foul taste for what passes for the Criminal Justice System.  Criminal indeed.

  7. Tom Meyer
    Sumomitch:

    Consider that Major Hassan still has not been brought to trial, 4 years after he murdered soldiers in the name of jihad.

    I completely forgot Major Hassan!  Seriously, what could  possibly be that four years to resolve there?

    I should have mentioned an idea that came out of a conversation I had  a prosecutor.  One of the major differences between being a prosecutor and a defense counsel is that part of the former’s profession is to exercise discretion about when to bring a case to trial; these decisions can (and should) have a huge impact on a prosecutor’s career.

    In contrast, there is no analogous professional incentive for defense counsel to exhibit such discretion.  Yes, an individual attorney can decline a case, but someone eventually has to take it, and that person is then obligated and incentivized to try to get the guy off, one way or another.  I’m not sure what the solution is, but there seems to be a problem there.

    Ryan, any thoughts?

  8. Ryan M

    Well, I am a public defender, so I don’t get to decline cases.  The rules governing defense attorneys are pretty ridiculous, especially in WA.  For instance, if you have a client who is an illegal immigrant, you basically have to be an immigration attorney, because it is your duty (I’m paraphrasing) to do everything in your power to avoid that client getting deported.  Additionally, it is always the client who makes decisions.  As a public defender, I don’t have much power over my clients (apart from education and articulation, both of which are actually big helps) – a private attorney can say “ok, we’ll go to trial and it will cost you about 20K,” but w/ the public attorney, the client pays nothing.  So he just says “F them, I’m taking this one all the way,” despite video evidence, a signed confession, etc….  So my win/loss record isn’t all that good, as you might imagine.

    You’re right that prosecutors have discretion, but they are human, with human egos.  That is a big problem.  In my experience, prosecutors (cont…)

  9. Ryan M

    (…cont)  tend to believe very highly in what they do (or that they are somehow qualified to do it).  This seems to lead to something of a God-complex (I’m not a psychologist, that’s just my impression).  They get kind of jaded and assume that everyone is guilty by virtue of having been arrested, and they often refuse to accept the possibility of police excesses or abuse.

    I have prosecutors who will only dismiss if they feel that they might lose, the thought never really enters their mind that the charge is inappropriate.  I don’t see a lot of judgment going on that couldn’t be paraphrased as “can I get a conviction” rather than “should we be pursuing this.”

    But back to your point, the job of a defense attorney isn’t something that even we agree on.  My primary motivation is libertarian-based, in acting as a check/balance and trying to reign in the excesses of the police/prosecutors.  I am almost never sympathetic with my clients, but I know that many are.  There are 4 attorneys in my small office – we all have different philosophies.

  10. Tom Meyer
    Ryan M: 

    But back to your point, the job of a defense attorney isn’t something that even we agree on.  My primary motivation is libertarian-based, in acting as a check/balance and trying to reign in the excesses of the police/prosecutors.  I am almost never sympathetic with my clients, but I know that many are.  There are 4 attorneys in my small office – we all have different philosophies.

    We need more public defenders like you, Ryan.

    And yes, the ability of a prosecutor to abuse his power is incredible and needs to be checked.  Again, that’s why we need more public defenders like you, and find ways to incentivize the kind of attitude you have.

  11. Ryan M

    I have written a few times about this, and had started actually trying to articulate it explicitly in an essay.  Of course, Ryan M isn’t exactly a super privacy-enhancing pseudonym, and so I have to be pretty careful.

    Here are a few that deal specifically w/ the role of a public defender:

    On the Playground

    Rehabilitating the Retributive Model

    On Rights and Freedom

    Liberal Demagoguery and the Problem of Plausibility

    Defending the Indefensible

    Stone Soup and the Stigma of Public Defense

    On Choking our Reflection

    Sorry for the huge list – there are actually quite a few that talk about my job (go figure), but I didn’t want to put 20 links up there. :)  Those essays are of varying quality… one was promoted to the main feed, another got zero comments (several of them have very few comments, actually). 

  12. Ryan M
    Tom Meyer

      Again, that’s why we need more public defenders like you, and find ways to incentivize the kind of attitude you have. · 4 minutes ago

    :)  I am not incentivized, that’s for sure!  I took a PD job because my wife was pregnant and I wasn’t going to sit at home out of pride and the desire to find something that fit my personality.  This job pays beans (you’d be amazed) and provides legal/professional disincentives when it comes to that “actually seek justice” attitude.  I am thankful to have the job, don’t get me wrong (there is much that I like about it), but will eagerly accept the next opportunity that knocks, even if it is not in the legal profession.

  13. Ryan M
    Schrodinger’s Cat:

    The courts are just a big game of “jeopardy”. Lawyers play games with the rules and victims get nothing.

    Well, this would be an interesting topic for Law Talk (if only to give a primer on the difference between criminal and civil law).  Victims rightly get nothing out of the criminal system, because there is another system in place to protect them.  I’m not saying it is perfect, but it is there. 

    Remember OJ?  He was found not-guilty of the criminal offense, but held liable for the civil matter.  In that case, he paid no “debt to society” (i.e. jail) but he was made to compensate the victims….  I am eternally having to explain the difference to my clients (“Yes, that may be a legitimate issue … for a different attorney … in a different court.”)

    I also get a lot of “the officer behaved in appropriately” (not amounting to rights-violations) and I have to say that they don’t drop criminal cases because the cop is a jerk, but you can file a civil complaint or a lawsuit against the city.

  14. Donald Todd

    Whiskey Sam as quoted in the member feed:  ”if our legal system was more concerned with providing justice to the victims than protecting criminals’ rights.”

    What if the person identified as “the criminal” is in fact innocent?  How does one arrive at justice then?  By all appearances, Dorner is actually responsible for the deaths and shootings that have been pinned on him.  

    If he had been captured and taken to court, with all the provisions due to people who are accused but who are also innocent until proven guilty, would that have been bad?  

    Given that Dorner appears to have killed some police officers, he is a “special circumstances” type of killer.  That is, he’d get due process and then a review of the trial before he was given the lethal injection.  No California state judge would stop that execution, and presumably no federal judge (outside of the 9th Circuit) would stop it either.

    The results, dying in a burning building or dying of lethal injection, are the same, ie, death.  I suspect that lethal injection is less painful than burning to death.

  15. Stuart Creque

    I want to throw a curveball into this discussion.

    On Feb. 2, an Indiana National Guardsman who’d served in Afghanistan was gunned down in front of his mother’s house in Chicago.  He was mistaken for someone else by a gang looking to exact revenge.

    This came just a few days after the murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago, also by gang members seeking revenge for a previous shooting.

    Remember what Rahm Emanuel said about gang members getting shot? 

    “Chicago’s street thugs are going to attack each other, they should take their fight away from innocent children.

    We’ve got two gangbangers, one standing next to a kid. Get away from that kid. Take your stuff away to the alley. Don’t touch the children of the city of Chicago.”

    Note that the Mayor has written off any prospect of bringing gangbangers to book for shooting each other — which leaves them to resort to private vendetta — which leads to bystanders and people who look like the wrong people getting killed.

    If the criminal justice system writes off a segment of society, that segment will fill the justice gap in undesirable ways.

  16. Whiskey Sam
    Tom Meyer

    In contrast, there is no analogous professional incentive for defense counsel to exhibit such discretion.  Yes, an individual attorney can decline a case, butsomeone eventually has to take it, and that person is then obligated and incentivized to try to get the guy off, one way or another.  I’m not sure what the solution is, but there seems to be a problem there.

    This, to me, is one of the great failings of our judicial system.  The defense should not be looking for ways to let a guilty person go free.  We appear more interested in protecting criminals’ rights than we are with the truth.  Justice cannot be served when the truth is ignored or obscured by technicalities.

  17. Whiskey Sam
    Donald Todd: 

    What if the person identified as “the criminal” is in fact innocent?  How does one arrive at justice then?  By all appearances, Dorner is actually responsible for the deaths and shootings that have been pinned on him.  

    If he had been captured and taken to court, with all the provisions due to people who are accused but who are also innocent until proven guilty, would that have been bad?  

    Given that Dorner appears to have killed some police officers, he is a “special circumstances” type of killer.  That is, he’d get due process and then a review of the trial before he was given the lethal injection.  No California state judge would stop that execution, and presumably no federal judge (outside of the 9th Circuit) would stop it either.

    The results, dying in a burning building or dying of lethal injection, are the same, ie, death.  I suspect that lethal injection is less painful than burning to death. · 27 minutes ago

    That assumes he didn’t shoot himself first.  There is a difference between someone who is wrongfully accused and one who is actively engaged in a killing spree culminating in a shootout with police.

  18. Whiskey Sam

    I want to balance my comments by acknowledging the need to allow defendants to defend themselves.  I’m bothered by the specific situation where someone is actively committing a crime, and we’re supposed to pretend he’s not guilty until he’s had a trial.  Look at all of the news articles referring to Dorner’s “alleged” crimes.  He said he did them, he was killed in the middle of doing more.  There is no alleged here.

    I’m also bothered by the scenario wherein someone is clearly guilty, but the evidence that proves it is inadmissible at trial.  When we let the guilty go free on technicalities, we subvert truth to a criminal’s rights.  Justice for the victim then is not served.  I have serious problems with that.

  19. Mauritius

    This from Devereaux!  ”Regardless of all the noise, the biggest thing out there to fear is the government. I can protect myself relatively well against local thugs, but I have few defenses against a government that wants to come after me.”

    I have expressed this sentiment in a previous post. And stated that I probably ought to shift some of my resources from health insurance to retaining a lawyer on a permanent basis. The Dorner case had a fairly explicit beginning and end … it was that messy middle that upset me and others on this site. The ends-justify-the-means, where innocents are caught up in the police activity. No-knock raids gone bad … innocents die … police state that “no one wins in these situations”. My greatest fear is that someone in my family will get arrested and dragged into the criminal justice system.

  20. Donald Todd

    Whiskey Sam: #17  There is a difference between someone who is wrongfully accused and one who is actively engaged in a killing spree culminating in a shootout with police.

    Exactly.  And the purpose of a criminal justice system is to identify the perpetrator, use proof to determine who broke the law, and then punish the guilty.  It is a dispassionate method for arriving at the truth, and can be time consuming, but the idea is to arrive at the truth.

    Dorner’s escape will probably leave unanswered questions.  Had he gone to trial, those self-same questions might have been answered or not, but there is the likelihood that they could have been asked.

    So now we have closure, without some desirable answers.

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