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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category


This is why everyone should be encouraged to carry a firearm

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

71-year-old patron fires on, scares off would-be robbers

Two men who attempted to hold up an Internet cafe were shot and injured by a patron of the business Friday night, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s officials said they got a call at 9:54 p.m. about an armed robbery at Palms Internet Cafe, 8444 SW State Road 200.

When deputies arrived at the scene, patrons outside the business told them that two men in masks, one armed with a baseball bat and the other with a handgun, had barged into the business.The robbers told the approximately 30 patrons to get on the floor, and they demanded money.

Officials said one of the patrons, Samuel Williams, drew his own handgun and shot at the robbers, according to sheriff’s officials. Both robbers began running toward the front door, and the patron fired several more shots as they fled. The two men got into a car parked nearby and fled.

[Text reposted from YouTube]

Way to go Samuel Williams.

Lowlifes count on victims being unarmed. See how quickly they flee when confronted by armed resistance.

If this had taken place in Massachusetts, odds are nobody would have been armed except the robber and everyone would have lost everything they carried. Worse, if someone was armed and shot at the bad guys, he probably would end up in jail for armed assault and if he hit one with a bullet, the thief might well sue him.

Despite what mealy-mouthed politicians and Attorney Generals might tell you, the police cannot protect you. They know this in Florida. Why can’t they figure this out here in The People’s Republic and in Washington, D.C.?


What boobs!

Monday, May 14th, 2012

A Monday rerun

Some folks in New Zealand are upset because a judge overturned a city council decision banning some women from parading through town on their motorcycles. Topless. The Mayor claimed the council received 1000 emails and 150 “submissions” opposing the event. On the other hand, 80,000 people turned out to enjoy the last such parade. Hmmm…1150 against, 80,000 for. Seems pretty clear the judge did the correct thing, especially since New Zealand law permits both men and women to be topless in public.

My question is – what’s the big deal? They’re breasts. We all know what breasts look like. Many of us became attached to them shortly after birth. So why do we get all worked up about the sight of milk glands?

Why is it okay for him to
be bare-chested in
public, but not her?

I’ve never understood it. In fact, the women I know well enough to ask about it don’t understand why men find breasts so interesting. To many of them, their  breasts are just these lumps that have to be restrained,  often get in the way, and are frequently the cause of back pain and shoulder grooves.

Frankly, I think America should take a lesson from New Zealand and pass the same law. Given all the blather about “equal protection under the law” it would seem to be required.

I know men with boobs that are bigger than their wife’s. Why is it okay for them to doff their shirt on a hot, muggy day, but not okay for the wife to do the same? Seems like a clear-cut case of discrimination to me.

Are we afraid of inciting young boys to frenzies of uncontrollable lust? I think the sight of a few topless women is far more likely to incite them to uncontrollable giggles.

The simple fact is, if women started going topless, after a few weeks, nobody but the terminally juvenile would even notice.

Men cast sly glances and openly stare at women’s breasts all the time now, primarily because they’re wondering what they really look like under all that fabric. If they were right out there, they’d know. Then they’d be able to look a woman in the eyes when they’re talking to her without having to force their eyes not to drop to her chest.

I think the folks who are making a big deal out of this parade are boobs, but not the soft, pretty kind. All their bleating and moaning is providing the parade with far more publicity than it would ever have otherwise received.

Mrs. Blogger has been hinting about a vacation next year. I’m thinking New Zealand.

What do you say?

Ladies, would you go topless if were not illegal? Should it even be illegal?

And guys, do you think breasts would lose their allure if they were “out there” everywhere, all the time?


Juries are supposed to judge, not be judged

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

The American system of trial by jury is often touted as the best possible means of dispensing justice. Certainly, that is the message of the short, 659-word column excerpted and linked below. And, certainly, that was once true. But that is no longer the case, and hasn’t been for a very long time.

Please take a few minutes to read it. See if you notice the same things that trouble me.

Judging the potential jury

It is the crazy, beautiful circus at the heart of the American justice system. Listen closely to a criminal trial jury selection and you learn a lot about the burdens, fears, foibles, and remarkable strengths of your fellow citizens. You hear profiles in courage and, from scattered artful dodgers, profiles in convenience. Above all you hear the solemn determination of ordinary folk to be fair.

On Monday morning, the jury pool gathered in Courtroom 18 at the Moakley Courthouse in South Boston, where US District Judge William G. Young presides. Young has an evangelist’s devotion to the jury system. In speeches to new jurors, he always calls it “the most vital expression of direct democracy that exists anywhere on the planet.”

He patiently explained why this pool of about 50 nervous souls were gathered. A man named Calvin Dedrick had been charged with gun and drug crimes. They alone could decide if he was guilty.

Then it was time to cull the group to 12 jurors and two alternates.

Click Here to read the rest of the column.

How appropriate the author chose the word “cull” to describe the jury selection process because, like culling a herd of animals, people are culled from the jury pool. Of course, with jurors, weakness and bad health have little to do with it. But undesirable traits have everything to do with it. Leading the list of undesirable traits are independent thinking and an unwillingness to do as you are told.

When the judge asked the man if he could find the defendant guilty even though the man believed drugs should be legal, he was really asking the man if he could put aside his conscience and do as he’s told. He’s telling the man his sole job as a juror is to decide if a law was broken. And that is a lie, one judges across the nation tell with daily regularity.

And what kind of person would vote against his own conscience?

While part of a juror’s job is to judge whether a law has been broken, it is also their job to decide if the law is constitutional, reasonable, and being applied in a reasonable manner in the case at hand.

The judge was asking that potential juror if he could find Calvin Dedrick guilty and send him off to prison merely for having a gun and/or for possessing and/or selling drugs, which the juror rightly believed should be legal. The judge was looking for people who could convict despite the fact that all laws restricting possession of firearms and of possessing and selling drugs are clearly unconstitutional. Of course, the judge would not be telling them that. It’s his job to keep the cops and prosecutors working, the prisons full, and himself employed.

“…you could understand Young’s great faith in these randomly selected, moderately vetted citizens.”

Jury pools may be randomly selected today, but Judge Young’s “great faith” in them rests on them being anything but “moderately vetted” as his questioning shows. He wants  a jury who can be led, like sheep; a jury that will not question the law or anything else he tells them.

If the jury’s only job was truly to decide whether or not a law was broken, we would not even need a jury. A computer could do it.

“Our whole moral authority depends on the people we’re bringing up here,” Young said. In Courtroom 18, that authority was quite sound.

Judge Young was correct.  A court’s moral authority does depend on the people they select. And once, that moral authority was sound. No longer. Juries packed with people who are willing to convict despite their personal beliefs are not juries at all. They’re human robots. And they are not dispensing justice.

In my courtroom, were I ever to sit in Judge Young’s chair, potential jurors would be asked

1) Do you in any way know or are you in any way related to any of the parties involved in this case?

Then I’d excuse those with long-standing vacation plans, health issues, etc.

Then twelve would be chosen at random as jurors and two as alternates.

Then we’d have some real justice.

What do you think?

Am I crazy? Do we need and want judges to “cull” jurors who are independent thinkers?

How would you run a courtroom?


Sometimes, justice really does prevail

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Some of you may remember the case of Matt Bandy, who, at 16 years of age, faced 90 years in prison because the family computer was hacked, turned into a zombie, and used to store nine pictures of child pornography. (Pornographers store pictures over a wide network of zombies so they will not be caught holding any on their machines, and will only lose a few if any single machine is removed from their network for whatever reason.)

Despite a literal mountain of evidence indicating the truth, then Arizona county prosecutor Andrew Thomas and his office were on a megalomaniacal power trip and refused to drop the charges. Faced with a possible 90 years, Matt chose to plead guilty to three counts of showing his friends a Playboy magazine.

Seriously. That’s not a joke. The whole thing was so outrageous, ABC’s 20/20 did segment on the case. (Short video preview.)

What nobody, except possibly Thomas and his stable of prosecuting zealots, realized at the time was that plea would brand Matt as a sexual predator in the eyes of Arizona law, which essentially destroyed his life, making it nearly impossible for him to find a job or have any kind of social life.

You can read about the case on the JusticeForMatt website if you’re interested. (Full disclosure — I was hired to build that website and still maintain it.)

Disgraced and disbarred former prosecutor Andrew Thomas tells the press it's all just a big conspiracy against him. Also disgraced and disbarred cohort Lisa Aubuchon still stands behind him.

Fast forward a few years and it was discovered that Thomas had political aspirations and was using his office to intimidate political opponents and rack up as many convictions as possible, regardless of the guilt or innocence of his victims. Suddenly, his over-the-top prosecution of Matt made a sort of warped kind of sense.

In too many of these cases, the government officials who abuse their power never suffer for it. But Thomas made the mistake of not just going after ordinary citizens like Matt. He tried to pile phoney charges on local officials and judges — pretty much anyone who did anything he didn’t like, including ruling against him in court. The Arizona Judiciary called in Special Prosecutors from Colorado to investigate Thomas and his operation and yesterday, he got his comeuppance. He was disbarred for abusing his office.

Thomas is likely to face a host of criminal and civil charges now. And Matt now has good reason to challenge both his forced plea bargain and his legal classification, get his record expunged, and soon, return to a normal life.

As for Thomas, I hope he’s harried and hounded and ruined and spends the next twenty or thirty years in prison, and not just because of what he and his cohorts did to Matt.

We invest a lot of power and trust in our public officials. And when those officials betray our trust and abuse their power, I believe they should face punishment much more severe than any meted out to ordinary lawbreakers. And I believe that should apply to all public officials, federal, state, and local, from the President down to the local government office workers.

We get the government we deserve and we deserve what we tolerate. I, for one, think we deserve much better than we’ve been getting.

What do you think we deserve?


Should judges have to explain their decisions?

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Should judges have to explain why they decided a case one way instead of another?

That is the question, and an interesting one, at the heart of a challenge by a Massachusetts judge who certain prosecutors claim is biased in favor of defendants.

Judge challenges review of his rulings
Asks SJC to block inquiry on thoughts

Judge Raymond G. Dougan, under investigation after being accused of bias in favor of defendants during 21 years on the bench, is asking the state’s highest court to prevent investigators from questioning him about how he reached individual decisions, asserting that judges should not have to reveal their inner thoughts about cases to anyone.

It is believed to be the first time in the 34-year history of the Commission on Judicial Conduct that a judge under investigation has challenged the agency’s authority, raising fears among advocates of open government and hopes among judges who believe the Dougan investigation threatens the independence of all judges.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

While there may have been others, this case, which has been playing out here for some time, is the first I heard of where prosecutors have gone after a judge for excessive leniency. On the flip side, I’ve never heard of a case where a judge has been questioned for constantly favoring the prosecution, and my sense is that there are far more “hanging” judges than ones who look for reasons to go easy on defendants.

Be that as it may, the question remains, should either flavor of judge have to explain every decision someone doesn’t like? I can see both sides of this argument.

Lady Justice

On the one hand, if a judge consistently ignores evidence of guilt or innocence in making his ruling, should not the “why” be part of the decision so other judges might benefit from the thought process in similar cases or challenges filed in the case?

On the other hand, if judges do include their reasoning, however sharp or faulty, doesn’t that undermine the very necessity of having judges at all?

If all that is in question during a trial is whether or not someone broke a law, why do we even need judges? Or juries for that matter. All we’d need is a computer loaded with all the state and federal laws to answer the question.

But trials are about more than laws, or used to be. They should be about justice. And sometimes the “just” decision is not the strictly “legal” one. An easy example is the man speeding to get an injured child or pregnant wife to the emergency room. Did he break the law? Certainly. Should he be punished? Of course not.

One of our great problems in modern America is the notion that laws must be absolutes. Did the defendant fail to file a piece of paper required by the state for whatever? Yes. Guilty. One year in prison. Never mind that his house burned down and in the aftermath, he simply forgot.

Laws used to be, and still should be, guidelines. Even the “laws” dictated by God have exceptions. Thou shall not kill…except if someone is trying to kill you or other innocents, you can stop him, killing him if you must. And given that, judges must have the discretion to override the law when he believes it necessary without the concern or fear that he will be made to defend every minute thought he put into it.

And that said, when a particular decision has been called into serious question, I believe a judge must be prepared to explain if for no other purpose than to reassure the citizens he serves that they can count on reasoned fairness in his courtroom.

Remember, it is not Lady Law we claim to honor in our courthouses, it’s Lady Justice who wears the blindfold and carries the scales.

Do you agree or disagree?



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