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.