Saturday, December 15, 2012

‘Who Would Do This to Our Poor Little Babies’

Checked my phone when I woke up this morning and saw that my brother had sent me 3 texts with suggested presents for his little boys. I smiled as the items expressed each of the boys' unique personalities. Then I checked my Twitter feed and remembered.

I was in training yesterday, scanning my iPad for news stories and other articles relevant to my profession, when the first news flash about yet another school shooting popped up. Within an hour the confirmation came through - 20 elementary school children murdered.

The rest of the day the story followed the same predictable script: cable news channels playing the same footage over and over, while the same roster of pundits gave the same old opinions about how something like this could happen. It didn't take long for liberals to cry out once again for gun control, while gun rights folks quickly retorted with the same tired quips about how "guns don't kill people, bad guys kill people" and "if the teacher had been armed, this wouldn't have happened." Blah, blah, blah.

Our President addressed the nation, weary and, understandably, weepy. Once again the duty of his office demands that he visit the community and offer comfort to loved ones facing unimaginable grief, just as he did in Tucson and Aurora. This time will be different. The victims are so, so young.

Anderson Cooper did his usual "we are not going to say the shooter's name so we don't encourage others to do something like this." As if life is a Harry Potter book, and evil can be kept away as long as you just don't say his name.

Later in the day, Tweets and Facebook posts chastised us: "Stop talking politics. It's too soon to talk about this!" Ok, if it's too soon, then lets talk about the  Happy Valley Mall. Still too soon for that? How about Minneapolis? Still too soon? How about Oak Creek? Aurora? Oakland? Norcross, Georgia? That's just 2012. How about we go all the way back to 2011 and talk about Tucson?

Because we need to talk.

Columbine. Virginia Tech. Omaha. Northern Illinois University. San Diego. Ft. Hood. Santa Clara. Covina. The list of mass shooting sites is rapidly expanding. Soon the list will exceed the list of Civil War battle sites.

And we do nothing.

Just talking about solutions provokes a knee-jerk defensiveness from gun owners. Let's get this straight, no reasonable person wants to take away your guns. Ninety-nine percent of lawful gun owners are responsible and are not committing mass shootings or other crimes. But what does that mean? Police in Connecticut have told us that the guns used to murder children yesterday were all legally bought and registered to the shooter's mother.

I am reminded of a tragic shooting here in Las Cruces five years ago. New Mexico State Police Officer Susan Kuchma, a good cop and delightful person, was gunned down by her mentally ill son. He used Susan's own, lawfully owned, gun to do the deed.

In the days and weeks to come, we will learn more about the shooter. We will find out that there were warning signs, strange behaviors and incidents. We will all wonder why something wasn't done - how come nobody intervened? Pundits will point out that well-meaning liberals who have made it very difficult to institutionalize the mentally ill, combined with Reagan-era budget cuts, have left our nation's mental health system a woeful mess.

I don't know what the answers are. I know I am growing weary of supporting gun rights, as news tragedy after tragedy arrives in waves. I know the Second Amendment contains the phrase "well-regulated." I know that a mentally ill person, determined to cause destruction, will find a way to achieve it. I know we don't want a world where our children's teachers are issued sidearms along with the keys to their classrooms.

Whatever the answers are, it's not too soon to talk about them. It's already too late for the little children at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Docket Call

Monday, December 10, 2012

Docket Call


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Outlaws and Badmen

Trying to put together the ultimate playlist for crime, criminals and justice. Here's what I've come up with so far:

 I Fought The Law The Clash 
 Gimme Shelter The Rolling Stones 
 Only The Good Die Young  Billy Joel 
 Renegade Styx 
 Folsom Prison Blues  Johnny Cash 
 Johnny 99 Bruce Springsteen 
 Jailhouse Rock Elvis Presley 
 Lawyers, Guns And Money Warren Zevon 
 Stagger Lee  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
 Murder Incorporated Bruce Springsteen 
 One Piece At A Time Johnny Cash 
 Pretty Boy Floyd Woody Guthrie 
 I Ain't Living Long Like This Waylon Jennings 
 Take The Money And Run Steve Miller Band 
 Mama Tried Merle Haggard & The Strangers 
 One Way or Another Blondie 
 The Devil's Right Hand Steve Earle 
 The Legend Of Bonnie & Clyde Merle Haggard 
 Helter Skelter  Oasis 
 Sympathy for the Devil The Rolling Stones 
 The Road Goes On Forever  Robert Earl Keen 
 Crazy Eddie's Last Hurrah Reckless Kelly 
 Excitable Boy Warren Zevon 
 Atlantic City Bruce Springsteen 
 Bohemian Rhapsody  Queen 
 Psycho Killer  Talking Heads 
 I Shot The Sheriff  Bob Marley & The Wailers 
 Band on the Run  Paul McCartney 
 Twilight Zone Golden Earring 
 Smokin' In The Boys Room Mötley Crüe 
 State Trooper Bruce Springsteen 
 You Only Live Twice Nancy Sinatra 
 James Bond Theme (From "Dr. No.") John Barry Orchestra ,
 Gimme Three Steps Lynyrd Skynyrd 
 I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail Keller & The Keels
 Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard  Paul Simon 
 Blood Red And Goin' Down Tanya Tucker 
 Green, Green Grass Of Home Porter Wagoner 
 Walk On The Wild Side  Lou Reed 
 Roxanne The Police 
 Stan Eminem 
 Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out Of Hand Waylon Jennings 
 Perry Mason  Ozzy Osbourne 
 Meeting Across The River Bruce Springsteen 
 Smooth Criminal  Michael Jackson 
 Wanted Dead Or Alive Bon Jovi 
 Pancho and Lefty Merle Haggard;Willie Nelson 
 You May Be Right Billy Joel 
 Whenever Kindness Fails Robert Earl Keen 
 Copacabana Barry Manilow 
 Big Iron Marty Robbins 
 Rapid Roy [The Stock Car Boy] Jim Croce 
 Working At The Car Wash Blues Jim Croce 
 Live And Let Die Paul McCartney 
 Darlington County Bruce Springsteen 
 Fast Car Tracy Chapman 
 Jesse James Woody Guthrie 
 Criminal Fiona Apple 
 Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) Nancy Sinatra 
 I Can't Drive 55 Sammy Hagar 
 Tired Eyes Neil Young 
 Only Sixteen Dr. Hook 
 Mack The Knife Bobby Darin 
 Back On The Chain Gang  The Pretenders 
 A View To A Kill Duran Duran 
 1952 Vincent Black Lightning Richard Thompson 
 I Stole Your Love Kiss 
 Hot Rod Lincoln  Asleep At The Wheel 
 Radar Gun The Bottle Rockets 
 Highway Patrol Junior Brown 
 The Night The Lights Went Out In GA Vicki Lawrence
 Fuck Tha Police  N.W.A. 
 Leader of the Pack The Shangri Las
 Frank And Jesse James Warren Zevon 
 The Pusher Steppenwolf 
 Down On The Corner Creedence Clearwater Revival 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Docket Call


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Status Conference

Bad ass food blogger takes out burglar with bear spray and sword.

Vigilante: Sonya Yu baited her front porch to catch a neighborhood burglar who was stealing packages

A little excitement here in the City by the Bay this week. A local food blogger, Sonya Yu, was sick and tired of a package thief stealing from the front porches in her neighborhood while the cops did nothing.

So she took matters into her own hands and began plotting.

First she went to REI and bought a can of bear spray. This chemical repellant would not only incapacitate her prey but would also have the advantage of humiliating the thief with an orange dye, leaving him painted up like a drunken Longhorn frat boy at DKR stadium. Nothing good comes in orange.

Next, she set up a bait package to tempt the thief to come out of the shadows. She took her position from a second story balcony, as her diabolical plot began to unfold.

Filled with adrenalin and the excitement of finally confronting her nemises, she did what any crime fighter does while ticking down the seconds until the fight. She began writing out her wedding vows. Because nothing says "Honey, I've got your back for life" quite like a weaponized woman setting a trap for a criminal on your front porch.

Minutes later the mouse came for the cheese. Sonya unloads a half-can of bear spray on his sorry ass, and then takes time to tweet about it before giving chase:

And give chase she did, grabbing her bokken (you know, the wooden sword samurais train with) she took after the would-be package thief, all while live tweeting the narrative.

That's right, the police were "cracking up," their nervous laughter concealing utter humiliation that citizens have to sort to bear spray and swords to do the job the cops are paid to do.

Sonya didn't escape the encounter unscathed. She too was incapacitated by "blow back" from the chemical repellant.

Still managed to make my 1st blowtorch prime rib roast with homemade h... (w/ @lisey, Zack, & Tucker at TARDIS) [pic] —

At this point, having caught the neighborhood's most-wanted criminal, all while wrting wedding vows and live tweeting her adventures - and having been wounded in the process - most women would head for the tub with a bottle of Chardonnay and call it a day. Not our little vigilante.

She continued with her plans to host a dinner party. What was on the menu? Blow-torched prime rib and fried Brussels sprouts.

Sonya's soon-to-be husband better keep things in line. This woman has weapons and she's not afraid to use them.

Bear spray brings down an alleged burglar in Noe Valley | Crime Scene | an blog

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Status Conference

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another Good Guy is gone.

I've been traveling so the news about LCPD (Ret.) Lt. Tom England's sudden passing just caught up with me last night. Tom truly was one of "the good guys." Not because he wore a uniform but because of what he brought to that uniform. He was a man of fairness, integrity and honesty.

Those that knew him remember his great sense of humor and that double-barreled laugh that could set off car alarms two blocks away. Citizens that he encountered on the job respected him for treating them as human beings- not as the pigeonholed labels of "victim," "suspect," "witness," or, gasp, "defense attorney."

I woke up reminded of the story of how I first met Tom, way back when I lived in TorC and had a public defender contract in Sierra and Dona Ana Counties. I did a witness interview with him down in Las Cruces on some nothing case, the details of which have long faded from memory. About three weeks later I'm in my office in TorC and he gives me a call.

"Counselor," he said (in all the years after, he always referred to me as "Counselor," using the title in a respectful way, not with the sarcastic tone used by so many other cops), "do you represent Delbert So-and-so?"

"I do." I had Delbert on some minor charge up in Sierra County.

"Well I just stopped him in the Kmart parking lot. He wasn't really doing anything and I was about to let him go but Dispatch just came back with a warrant out of TorC."

That technically wasn't my case, it was something out of Muni Court but I was aware of it. I told Tom that.

"Well he says the warrant is for a failure to return some videotapes to the movie store. Is that true?"

"It is."

"They really file criminal charges for something like that up there?"

"They do. Gotta keep the local merchants happy."

"I'll be damned. Never heard of such a thing." He paused. "Here's the deal, technically I'm supposed to arrest him on this warrant, but between you and me and the fence post, I didn't really have any reasonable suspicion to stop him in the first place. He just seemed kind of jumpy when he saw me, and I guess I'd be jumpy too if I knew I had a warrant for not taking movies back on time. If I arrest him now, he'll sit down here at the jail [a real hell-hole back then - in the basement of the old County Court building on Amador] for a week before Sierra comes down to get him. I just don't feel right about that."

Another pause. I couldn't really ask that he let my client go, a warrant is a warrant after all.

"Tell you what I'm going to do. I'm bothered by the fact that I didn't have reasonable suspicion to call him over to my car in the first place, so I'm going to let him go. I'll tell him he needs to get his ass up to your office by the end of business today so you folks can get this straightened out. Sound fair to you Counselor?"

"It does. Thank you Officer England."

"Failure to return movies, you've got to be kidding me," he closed with that booming laugh.

And that's just how Tom was. RIP my friend.

The Status Conference

Only two things in life are certain, death and taxes. Now it appears one of those may not be a given after all. Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality? -

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Four men sue New Jersey organization over 'gay conversion therapy' - U.S. News

The War on Drugs seems to be ending with a whimper, not a bang. But it is ending. Indiana police leader says he'd legalize marijuana - SFGate

"The guy in the other courtroom's lawyer was so bad, he got us both convicted!" Behavior of Drew Peterson Lawyers Targeted in Unsuccessful Motion for New Trial in Neighboring Case - ABA Journal

A: 34,000. Q: "How many cases from a crime lab in Massachusetts will have to be hand reviewed due to the criminal incompetence of the lab supervisor?" Mass. gov. orders chemist's cases reviewed -

As long as you're going to jail, might as well have some company. DWI arrests involve same vehicle - The St. Tammany News: News

New York City went one whole day without a single murder. Props Big Apple! NYC crime news update: the impossible occurs - National Criminal Profiles |

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's not often the confession precedes the investigation.

Dominick Pelletier answered a help-wanted ad for the FBI and after sailing through the interview process, sat down for the polygraph. He didn't do so well, but he had a good explanation: all the kiddie porn on his home computer was making him uncomfortable. The FBI, known for its willingness to help a brother out, sent agents over to his house with a warrant to clear up any misunderstanding. One computer scan and 600 images later, Pelletier found out that not getting the FBI gig was the least of his worries. He was charged in federal court with possession of child pornography.

Pelletier's attorney moved to suppress the evidence because the FBI guys failed to Mirandize Pelletier before he sat down for the pre-employment polygraph. The district judge denied the motion so Pelletier appealed to the Seventh Circuit. The Court of Appeals, not surprisingly, found that Miranda warnings are not required during job interviews with law enforcement.

Judge Kanne's introduction to the opinion is classic:

Federal investigative agents will tell you that some cases are hard to solve. Some cases require years of effort—chasing down false leads and reigning in flighty witnesses. Others require painstaking scientific analysis, or weeks of poring over financial records for a hidden clue. And some cases are never solved at all—the right witness never comes forward, the right lead never pans out, or the right clue never turns up.

This is not one of those cases. The defendant, Dominick Pelletier, admitted during a job interview with the FBI that he had pornographic pictures of children on his home computer. Instead of joining the FBI's vaunted ranks, Pelletier was indicted for one count of possession of child pornography. After the district court denied two of his motions to suppress, Pelletier entered a conditional guilty plea and reserved the right to appeal the denial of the suppression motions. Finding no error, we affirm.


Daily Status Conference

Monday, November 26, 2012

How much justice can we afford?

The Bernalillo County Detention Center in Albuquerque has announced plans to release hundreds of prisoners - mostly in jail for petty crimes or petty warrants- and instead monitor these defendants with an ankle bracelet program. With the average cost of housing an inmate for one day at $80 or more, the ankle bracelet program could save tax payers hundreds of thousands annually.

Said the chief jail administrator:

We have a lot of offenders here that really don't pose that much of a threat to public safety," said jail chief Ramon Rustin. "Those individuals have a bunch of issues; substance abuse issues, alcohol issues. They're petty crime type offenders."
Unfortunately here in Dona Ana County, no such ankle bracelet program exists. Former DA - now Governor - Susana Martinez somehow persuaded local authorities to prohibit such a program.

Given that the majority of people held on local charges in DA County are in for minor crimes and misdemeanors, isn't it time we considered a more enlightened (and cost-beneficial) approach to justice?

Bernalillo County plans to release prisoners |

Sunday, November 25, 2012

California Highway Patrol Tasered Woman Goes Into Cardiac Arrest During ...

It's time that cops stop pretending Taser is safe.    


Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Is a cell phone really a pair of trousers?"

That’s the question addressed recently by a Texas Court of Appeals. The Court upheld the district court’s suppression of photos obtained when police searched a young man’s cell phone without a warrant while he was being held in jail on a very minor misdemeanor offense. The State appealed, arguing that since the phone was in the property locker at the jail, the search was no different than if the officer had looked at the man’s clothing from the same locker. The Amarillo Court of Appeals disagreed:

While assaults upon the Fourth Amendment and article I, § 9 of the United States and Texas Constitutions regularly occur, the one rebuffed by the trial court here is sustained.  A cell phone is not a pair of pants.

[The opinion also includes a great reference to Captain Kirk for all you Trekkies out there.]

State v. Granville, No. 07-11-0415-CR (Tex.App.-- Amarillo 2012).

H/T Paul Kennedy at The Defense Rests

Thursday, November 22, 2012

TSA killed the 4th Amendment, but is it killing us?

Every month brings a new story about the abuses of TSA. There's the cancer-surviving flight attendant forced to remove her prosthetic breast, the man whose urostomy bag was damaged during inspection forcing him to fly soaked in urine, children terrorized as they are groped and prodded by complete strangers, and on and on.

Despite this serious government intrusion into our civil rights, many Americans want the TSA to go even farther. A recent survey found that 30% of US Citizens believe that the TSA should be able conduct body cavity searches as part of screening to get on a plane. We seem to be willing to put up with an impromptu prostate exam by a civil service employee as long as these folks are keeping us alive.

But are they? It's well-known that TSA has never intercepted a terrorist or foiled a plot, and now a new study suggests that the increased security measures are actually killing Americans by the thousands. Bloomberg Businessweek has a piece this week about a new study which concludes that as more Americans avoid air travel because of the security hassle, fatalities on our nation's highways are increasing.
To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist. Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month—which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day. They also suggest that enhanced domestic baggage screening alone reduced passenger volume by about 5 percent in the five years after 9/11, and the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid security hassles over that period resulted in more than 100 road fatalities.

Ben Franklin warned us that "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." In the case of TSA and airport screenings, it appears we have gotten exactly what we deserve.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More problems with crime labs

Scandals Call Into Question Crime Labs' Oversight | WBUR & NPR

"We seem to believe in this country that forensic work is the property of the police department and the district attorneys, and it should not be. If it's science, that should be done by independent scientists," Schechter says.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Police Academy, Remedial Course

One more time boys and girls in blue:

“protect”   [pruh-tekt]  verb (used with object):  to defend or guard from attack, invasion, loss, annoyance, insult, etc.; cover or shield from injury or danger.

“serve”   [surv] verb (used with object): to be in the service of; work for; to be useful or of service to; help.

Homeowner tasered by police as he fought fire spreading from house next door

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Don't Talk to Cops, Part 1

"The future ain't what it used to be." - Yogi Berra

The criminal justice system in Las Cruces experienced the biggest shake-up in recent memory when a tidal wave of Democratic support swept out three judges appointed by Governor Susana Martinez. Judges Susan Riedel, Jacinto Palomino and Nelson Goodin - all former employees of the Governor -were replaced in their first election by Democrats Marci Beyer, Mary Rosner and Darren Kugler, respectively. 

The biggest shocker of Election Night was the upset of longtime prosecutor Amy Orlando by Mark D'Antonio, a newcomer to the political scene in Las Cruces, in a race that the Las Cruces Sun-News called "heated and sometimes nasty." And that's putting it mildly. Most local observers I talked to believed it to be one of the most vicious campaigns in local history. The dethroning of Orlando effectively ends one of the most successful regimes in Southern New Mexico history, where now-Governor Martinez and her right hand woman Orlando headed the District Attorney's Office for 16 years. 

With nearly 75 years of public service between them, Riedel, Goodin, Palomino and Orlando have served the community well. Their reputations and experience all but guarantee that each will quickly land on their feet. No doubt Susana will make sure that each of them has place to work in Santa Fe if nothing else.

For those of us at the courthouse daily, the changes ahead are exciting. The weeks and months ahead will be spent feeling out the new DA and judges as we gather information about their tendencies so we can best predict outcomes for our clients.

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted, "Nothing endures but change." Here's hoping that the changes ahead will bring about a more reasonable criminal justice system here in Dona Ana County.