Monday, June 26, 2017

"Mistakes were made": A reply to Michael Griesbach

Fresh off their defeat in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Dassey's case, prosecutors are back it.  This time, prosecutor Michael Griesbach claims that Steven Avery is not entitled to a new trial, despite what he concedes were law enforcement and prosecutorial mistakes, because Avery was proved guilty "beyond a shadow of a doubt."  Well, this is a softball I couldn't resist smacking out of the park.  You can read my newest Wisconsin Law Journal column here.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Larry White on Brendan Dassey's interrogation

My frequent coauthor and false confession expert Dr. Lawrence T. White was just interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio about Brendan Dassy's interrogation.  You can listen to the interview here.  You can also see Larry in this excerpt from Making a Murderer.  (For his full appearance, see episode 3 on Netflix.)  And for my own interview on WPR where we discuss Making a Murderer, my research with Larry on Wisconsin's unconstitutionally low burden of proof, and other topics, click here.  Finally, for my book Convicting Avery: The Bizarre Laws and Broken System behind Making a Murderer (Prometheus Books), including a chapter on interrogations and false confessions, click here.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Brendan Dassey, Wisconsin state courts, and the state of legal education [updated below]

The 7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals recently affirmed the reversal of Brendan Dassey’s conviction.  The decision is 128 pages.  The main reason it’s so long is this: the Wisconsin appellate court failed to do any actual analysis when it originally affirmed Dassey’s conviction; instead, it merely repeated the applicable legal standard and then jumped to its conclusion — all in two very short paragraphs.  Therefore, the Seventh Circuit had to analyze everything from scratch.  This is something we Wisconsin criminal defense lawyers have to deal with regularly from some of our state’s trial and appellate courts: judges reaching their decision first, and then saying anything — or in Dassey’s case, nothing — to justify their predetermined outcome.  But what if I’m wrong?  What if the Wisconsin appellate court judges didn’t make up their minds ahead of time and were actually doing their best to reach a reasoned conclusion?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How far does the Wisconsin state bar bureaucracy reach?

After sorting through my email inbox today, I learned that the mandatory-membership Wisconsin state bar has something called a “leadership development committee.”  And for the low, low price of $300.00, Wisconsin lawyers can take part in the “G. Lane Ware Leadership Academy.”  This is the second annual gathering; the inaugural event “was a huge success!” 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Free speech: A message for public universities (and their students)

For the universities, before you spend any more time and money expanding the university bureaucracy to implement that micro-aggression reporting system, read Matal v. Tam.  It doesn't say anything the rest of us didn't already know, and it involves the government's denial of a person's right to a trademark because of offensive speech, but all of the principles still apply.  (It is, after all, the First Amendment.)  Here are some quotes of interest from the decision, along with some concluding remarks to the universities and their students:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Roger Federer, Michael Cicchini, and Pennsylvania’s Burden of Proof

Photo by Manolo Guijarro
“Roger Federer is a better tennis player than Michael Cicchini.”  While that statement is technically true, it doesn’t really say anything.  It tells you nothing about how good Roger Federer is (or how bad I am) at tennis.  So at best, it’s a completely meaningless statement.  And if you don’t know much about the sport to begin with, the sentence is worse than meaningless.  It’s grossly misleading.  Why?  Because it gives the impression that Roger Federer and yours truly are somehow comparable or at least part of the same tennis universe.  If we weren’t, why would we be compared to one another?  After all, no one ever bothers to say that a Ferrari is faster than a Yugo or that Cal Tech offers a better physics education than Wisconsin’s Gateway Tech, even though both claims are technically true.  Yet this type of highly misleading comparison is found at the heart of something far more important than tennis, cars, and even physics: Pennsylvania’s burden of proof jury instruction in criminal cases. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Reversing Avery?

Steven Avery's post-conviction counsel has just filed a 220-page post-conviction motion.  I look forward to printing it off and diving into the details tomorrow.  In perhaps the most interesting part of the motion, attorney Kathleen Zellner has identified a third-party suspect.  You can see who he is in this clip, where he (sort of) answers questions from a news reporter.  And of course, to learn more about Wisconsin's truth-suppressing third-party defense rule, its unconstitutionally low burden of proof, its weak ethics rules governing prosecutors, and other legal defects that caused Avery to be convicted in the first place, read my newest book, Convicting Avery.  

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Is the Marquette Golden Eagle an Endangered Species?

Much like the Golden State Warriors of the NBA, the Marquette Warriors were once the coolest name in their sport.  (And Marquette also had a history of being one of the most progressive teams in recruiting, in fashion, and in flat-out sticking it to the man.)  I was a Warrior in my graduate school days, before law school, back in the early 1990s.  But then in 1994, Marquette made the switch to probably the most common, generic nickname in college sports: the Golden Eagles.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come to really like the Eagle, particularly after it evolved into its current form (pictured left).  It is probably the best bird logo in college sports: a cool, aggressive, and determined looking bird that is ready to get to business, stat.  And I still love my Marquette hoops—even post-Dwyane Wade, it is the bright spot during our long, cold Wisconsin winters.  But when Marquette changed its name from Warriors to Golden Eagles back in ‘94, I pointed out the absurdity of the thought process behind the move.  Now, that thought process has spread like a virus and no mascot (or person) is safe.