Monday, December 27, 2004

California's Megan's Law Online Database

I am generally opposed to the notion of destroying a person's life forever due to a criminal conviction (that is, a conviction for which the person will eventually be released and expected to be a contributing member of society afterwards), and I oppose mandatory lifetime registration requirements. That being said, California has now posted this information online, and damn if I didn't go searching online to see if any of my neighbors are sex offenders (I do have 2 little boys, after all). Am I a major hypocrite? Maybe so, I don't know what I would've done had I found a neighbor on the site, I don't think that there's much I could do. Perhaps I'd try to use some connections to find out what his prior was really about (sorry to those who are offended by my use of the word "he," but in my experience, and also on the site, I found next to no females there). If it wasn't serious (as many are not), I would not stress out. But, I wonder to myself, what would I do if I found out that 15 years ago my next door neighbor had his 10th conviction for molesting and kidnapping small boys, and he snuck in just before all the heavy sentences for this really kicked in in 1994? Are my views as a parent different than my views as a human being, as a Public Defender?

I did have fun looking up some of my old clients to see if they were in there. I guess it's good news for the makers of the site that, except for one, they were all in there. This means that they may have actually done a good job of putting the site together. I was surprised at how few people I had on the list. I have my own computerized records of every case I've handled for 7 years. In that time, I think I've only pled about 3 people to that list (I've never lost a trial for sex charges, I've done a couple, but none were convicted of sex offenses, and some walked). I have other clients with these offenses in their past who are in the database also.

An interesting side-note to this is that the database is off-limits to sex offenders. How they manage to enforce this, and why it is against the law, is beyond me. Perhaps they don't want these people commiserating, on the off chance that one pedophile wants to hang with another one, this way they can't look each other up. Of course, most of these people are required (I'm betting they don't typically go voluntarily) to go to sexual deviancy classes, so they probably meet plenty of others that way instead.

A couple of different sites have some discussions about the illegality aspect of this site, with some interesting back and forth. J Soglin of Criminal Appeal has a post on it here, and Professor Douglas Berman at Ohio State University has a follow-up on his sentencing blog.

The Volokh Conspiracy also has some discussion of the subject (I couldn't link to the specific post for some reason, so you have to scroll down a few posts to find it).

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Peterson Gets Death

Everyone I know has been asking me what was going to happen with Peterson (old news now, I guess). I wrote here how tough it would be for Peterson in penalty, but was telling everyone at home and at work that he's was going to get death. For those of us in the practice, it was hard to imagine, because, at least in big California counties, this would never be a death case in the first place. Those people underestimated small-town politics and the power of the media.

It'll take a while, that's for sure, and maybe he'll get some action on the bumping of jurors, but I doubt it. I think this case is going to stick.

Friday, December 10, 2004

How Have I missed this Blog

Alright, I have to admit I loved the movie Blond Justice (I even liked the sequel). So, how have I never realized that there is a Blond Justice blog? Written by a PD of all people? It's worth a look. Not as, ahem, serious, as mine (like I should be proud of growing old and stogy?), but a great one anyways. Reminds me of myself and my friends when we first started with the office, before we got bogged down with things like wives, kids, houses, schools, and all the other things that turn you from fun person to boring old person.

Enjoy the site.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Public Defender Dude Again, and Forever!!!

I'm very glad I didn't get specific about who I was going to go into private practice with on this board, since I have to now announce that he just reneged on our agreement and backed out. I had already given my notice with the office that I was leaving, had begun writing up a partnership agreement, and doing all other things required of one going into business with someone else when he called me up and told me he'd had a change of heart.

I was originally going to do this in the middle of October, but for reasons of benefits I decided to stick around until January. Thank goodness I didn't do this in October as originally planned, or I'd be screwed right now. My office was more than happy to let me rescind my resignation, and so I'm back in my old, familiar, and very happy situation as a lifer.

I feel like a gang member - PD 4 Life, baby!!!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Update on an Old Trial of Mine

Last year I did a long and emotionally and physically draining special circumstance murder trial (the prosecution chose not to seek death on it). Well, afterwards (the case hung 7-5 for guilty) I had to declare a conflict of interest due to new evidence that came forward which would involve us implicating another one of our clients.

That case just went back to trial with a new lawyer, using different tactics. The jury is still out on the case, and have been now for 2 days. I had my jury out for almost a week, so I guess a long deliberation is not surprising. Check out my November 2003 and October 2003 archives for my posts on the subject.

The case wore me out, and I vowed to my co-workers that I would not do another trial for a year (something nearly unthinkable, and that I've never even come close to accomplishing in the past). Well, jury hung 11/4/03, and I have still not done another trial, with none really on the horizon. I don't have any explanation for this, it's not like I'm avoiding them, I almost went a couple of times, and in a couple of cases where I wouldn't talk dispo with the DA because the case was so good were dismissed. Now, I think I need to get back into it since I've probably become rusty. What is voir dire anyways?

Is the US Government Becoming Oppressive?

I'm not generally alarmist about creeping facism and stifling of freedoms in this country. This means that I realize that it could happen, and I'm vigilant against giving the government too much power because I recognize that they will generally us it. However, I don't really think that we are as bad as countries like Iran or Syria, and that we don't face any danger of becoming that way. Clearly, our international image could come to look that way, but generally, I think that is very much hyperbole. I don't think anyone, objectively speaking, could compare us with a society like Iran's or Syria's.

That being said, we are supposed to be better, much better, and even facing comparisons with countries like that is troublesome. We should be compared with the best, not the worst. The fact that we're better than the worst is not comforting.

And now, our government is getting even worse. Today's LA Times speaks about some of the hearings in Federal Court where "Justice" Department lawyers have contended that even a little old lady in Switzerland who gives money to a charity, where some of that money is, unbeknownst to her, siphoned off to terrorists, may be abducted, detained and kept indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay.

Sayeth the exalted government:

"Someone's intention is clearly not a factor that would disable detention." It would be up to a newly established military review panel to decide whether to believe her and release her.

This is where our government is now? More from the article:

[Judge] Green asked if a hypothetical resident of England who taught English to the son of an Al Qaeda leader could be detained. Boyle said he could because "Al Qaeda could be trying to learn English to stage attacks there," and he compared that aid to "those shipping bullets to the front." Some detainees have been picked up in Bosnia and others in Africa.

Absolutely incredible!!! Anyone's a suspect, everyone's guilty, all the world's a crook, it's only up to our "military review boards" to determine whether they escape a life of detention at Guantanamo Bay without the review of any civilian court.

Maybe I'm lacking enough alarmism. This is truly evil.