Monday, May 30, 2011

On the media: Milwaukee journalists fail miserably; kudos to Kenosha News

I recently represented Mary Hein, a therapist who was accused of drugging, hypnotizing, and brainwashing a male patient in order to have sex with him and to convince him to murder her husband.  As you might expect, the Milwaukee news force was all over it: FOX6, TMJ4, WISN12, and CBS58 were all here in Kenosha with video camera in hand, running salacious stories on the “bizarre murder-for-hire plot.”  Local residents were interviewed (of course) and said “you don’t expect this close to home”; one was even “shocked something like this could happen.”  One station also went to the trouble of interviewing another psychotherapist about Mary Hein’s “abuse of power”: as a fellow therapist, he found her behavior “pretty offensive.”  Another station threw out a teaser for future stories: “The prosecution says there is more evidence and more witnesses to prove the allegations are true.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

The New Miranda Warning

Before the days of The Legal Watchdog, I was typing away furiously for the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog.  One of my first posts there was titled The New Miranda Warning.  I figured that with all the new cases interpreting—or more accurately, limiting—our Miranda rights, we should have a new Miranda warning to go with them.  (As the law changes, shouldn’t the warning change too?)  It turns out the post was quite a hit, and has been reproduced in the latest issue of the Marquette Lawyer, which you can find here.  (The publishers added a nice photo of a cop roughing up a white-collar suspect—I like it.)  The original post is also on the MU Blog, here, and my other MU Blog posts can be found here.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Therapist Mary Hein cleared of “murder for hire” and “sex with patient” charges

I represent Mary Hein, a local therapist who was recently accused of hypnotizing, drugging and brainwashing a patient in order to have sex with him, and then soliciting him to murder her husband.  The case was covered by the Associated Press, Milwaukee’s NBC and Fox affiliates, and other news organizations.  After several months of litigation, including motions in limine and other pretrial motions, all felony charges against Ms. Hein have been dismissed.  Our press release is reprinted below.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

In defense of a defense: Lessons from Burns and Bvocik

In jury trials, judges often give prosecutors an incredibly wide berth in proving their cases.  Not only can they introduce direct evidence of the defendant’s guilt and motive, but they can also dredge-up the ancient past in the form of “other acts” evidence.  This places a dual burden on defendants: defend the charged crime and answer for decades-old allegations that often were never even charged, let alone proved.  But even more alarming, there is a double standard at work: when defendants have powerful and direct evidence of their innocence, courts will often go to great lengths to deny them the right to present a defense.  Two recent cases demonstrate this double standard, and teach us some valuable lessons in the process. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Psychology, law, and witness contamination

Dr. Larry White, a psychology professor at Beloit College and also a coauthor of mine on false confessions, recently alerted me to some interesting law and psychology articles for criminal defense lawyers.  When reviewing the studies, two in particular caught my attention.

In Forensic Interviewing Aids: Do Props Help Children Answer Questions About Touching?, the authors state that, despite the claims of child advocates that children are “concrete thinkers” and are aided by the use of anatomical dolls and diagrams, the evidence shows otherwise.  In fact, studies show that dolls and diagrams do little to increase the accuracy of reporting in controlled studies, and actually increase the incidence of false allegations of touching.  In Current Issues and Advances in Misinformation Research, the authors discuss how various types of post-incident events, including discussion of the event with other witnesses, can contaminate memories and lead to inaccurate reporting. 

Dr. White forwarded several other articles, all of which can be accessed in this free issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kenosha unveils “safe haven for crime victims and witnesses” recently reported that Kenosha County has created a new victim-witness room in the courthouse.  The room was created because “crime victims and witnesses felt intimidated by friends and family members of the defendants as they waited in hallways or in the courtroom” before testifying.  The new digs come complete with a flat-screen television, a DVD player, movies, toys, games, wall art, new furniture, and even a refrigerator.  (It’s unclear whether the fridge is stocked.)

Anthony Cotton on over-criminalization

Attorney Anthony Cotton recently published an excellent essay, “On the defensive: Wisconsin needs to address over-criminalization,” in the Wisconsin Law Journal.  Tony argues that we have criminalized way too much behavior, including a lot of behavior that doesn't even involve a bad intent, or mens rea, and yet other behavior that would be more effectively dealt with through treatment rather than punishment. 

In addition to Tony’s examples, strict liability sex crimes also pose a real problem for the unsuspecting citizen.  For example, in State v. Jadowski, the “victim” not only lied to the defendant about her age, but also had a state-issued identification card proving that she was an adult.  However, after the identification card turned out to be a good fake, the defendant was convicted of sexual assault of a child.  His fate was sealed when the state supreme court prevented him from mounting a defense based on the fraudulent misrepresentation of age by the “victim.” 

Tony’s article and Jadowski, with nothing more, provide a compelling case that we need a new, more constrained criminal code—not only for economic reasons, but also for moral reasons.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Time’s up, Einstein: The Legal Watchdog wrestles with dark matter and the theory of general relativity

If anyone is wondering why I'm delving into physics, it's because I was to be in trial all week, but the case settled last Friday.  Therefore, I decided to dedicate a few days to solving the mysteries of the universe.  True, I've only begun exploring the relevant issues, but the week is young. 

Have you ever heard of dark matter and wondered what it was?  It turns out that we can't verify its existence, and the only reason we created it—that’s right, we created it—is to allow us to cling to Einstein's theory of general relativity.  More specifically, when we use Einstein's equations (built on Newton's laws) to back into a measurement of "mass" by first looking at orbital speeds of the planets outside of our solar system, the equations produce more mass than we can actually observe.  So, observational mass and computational mass just don't match up.  Therefore, to make the two balance we created dark matter, i.e., matter that we can't see, but that must be there in order to make Einstein's equations work.  If Einstein’s theories weren’t already so well accepted in the physics community, this would be like assuming the very thing that we are trying to prove.  But because Einstein is a—or the—physics god, most physicists seem to try and substantiate, rather than question, his work.