Saturday, April 14, 2018

Concept of burden of proof too nuanced for SCOW

In State v. Bell, 2018 WI 28, the defendant appealed his conviction because the prosecutor improperly lowered the state’s burden of proof and even shifted it to the defendant.  The jury trial was essentially a credibility battle.  And the prosecutor argued to the jury that, in order to find the defendant not guilty, the jury would have to believe that the accusers were liars. ⁋ 34.  The prosecutor further argued that the defendant’s trial counsel was unable to provide the jury with a motive for the accusers to lie, so therefore the jury must convict. ⁋ 35.  The Supreme Court of Wisconsin (SCOW) upheld the conviction.  Its reasoning: “Even now, [defendant’s appellate counsel] does not tell us how the jury could have acquitted him if it nonetheless believed the victims.” ⁋ 47.  Actually, appellate counsel did tell the court—repeatedly, in fact—how the jury could acquit the defendant even if it believed “the victims.”

Prosecutors in robes

There are countless examples of biased judges who rule for prosecutors despite the rules of evidence.  Sometimes, judges will even make up evidence out of thin air to help out the state.  This is problematic, of course, because judges are supposed to be — or at least should pretend to be — neutral and detached.  This newest example of judicial bias comes courtesy of an email from The Dog’s compatriot, The Irreverent Lawyer.  It’s pretty good, and exposes yet another judge who is merely a prosecutor in judicial clothing.

Look to your left; look to your right

Back in the days of The Paper Chase, there was a little speech that, at least according to legend, the Dean made during law school orientation.  “Look to your left; look to your right. One of you won’t be here next year.”  The message, of course, was that law school was not only tough to get in to, but would also be tough to complete.  And one out of every three of you will fail.  But in today’s softer, gentler world, the calculus has changed.  Well, sort of. 

Today, almost everyone gets admitted to law school, and even students with a mere 2.0 GPA in college can get scholarship money at some law schools.  Several forces have conspired to create this state of affairs.  Law schools have expanded in number to over 200, the student applicant pool has shrunk due to sliding demand and plummeting pay for lawyers, and a greater number of law schools are therefore competing for the smaller number of student loan conduits prospective students.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Appearance of (In)Justice

As fans of Making a Murderer know, a 16-year-old kid named Brendan Dassey was railroaded into confessing to a murder that, by every measure, he had nothing to do with.  Not surprisingly, the elected Wisconsin trial court judge found that his “confession” was “voluntary” and therefore admissible against him at trial.  (Never mind the interrogators’ dozens of threats and false promises of leniency.)  Equally unsurprising, the jury bought the prosecutor’s sophistry — he famously but falsely claimed that innocent people don’t confess — and convicted Dassey as a “party to the crime” of murder and other offenses.  And once again, unsurprisingly, the state appellate court rubber-stamped Dassey’s conviction in a superficial, two-paragraph “analysis” of the facts and law.  But after that, things got really interesting. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Baseball, Subs, and F-Bombs

Knightly enjoys a sub
I absolutely loved Tommy Lasorda subs in the late 90s.  With all due respect to Hungry Head -- Kenosha's oldest and finest sub shop -- few things were as enjoyable as going to Tommy Lasorda's Dugout on 22nd Avenue for a delicious sub made fresh, right in front of your eyes.  I recently tried to replicate the experience from memory using store-bought ingredients, but my attempt fell flat.  My effort was, at best, a foul tip.

Much like a home run ball, Tommy Lasorda's Dugout is long gone.  Last I read, the chain went out of business which proves, much like the old Betamax, that the best products don't necessarily survive.  But thanks to two email attachments I recently received from the Irreverent Lawyer, we can still enjoy some absolutely amazing clips of the legend Tommy Lasorda himself.