Crime

In Waukesha, Wisconsin this week, two 12-year-old girls tried to murder another 12-year-old girl. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly stabbing their young classmate 19 times. They each face up to 65 years in prison. Though news media typically do not name juvenile criminal defendants, numerous outlets have in this case, because of the severity of the charges and because the girls were charged as adults. Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel said that bail was set for $500,000 for each defendant.

According to police, Geyser and Weier planned the crime for months in advance. They invited the victim to a sleepover at Geyser’s home on Friday, originally plotting to cover the victim’s mouth with duct tape and then stab her in the neck, before running away. Instead, they decided that they would lure the victim to a nearby park the next day. Weier told police that she knew that the park bathroom had a drain in the floor where the blood could go down.

Geyser and Weier told their victim that they were going to the park to go bird-watching and play hide-and-seek. “People that trust you are very gullible,” Geyser reportedly told a detective. They passed by a public bathroom and some trees, and then, “Stabby, stab, stab,” Geyser said.

A bicyclist discovered the victim after she crawled to a sidewalk outside the woods. The victim, who was originally in critical condition, has now stabilized, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Geyser later apologized when talking with police, then added, “It was weird that I didn’t feel remorse.” When they asked her what she was trying to do when stabbing her friend she said, “I may as well just say it: Kill her.” When police asked Weir if she understood what it meant to kill someone, she replied, “I believe it’s ending a life and I regret it.”

What motivated this horrific chain of events? The answer can be found on the internet…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “‘Stabby, Stab, Stab’: What Inspired Two Preteen Girls To Attempt Murder?”

Pope Francis

When I first heard about Pope Francis comparing Jesus to a criminal defense attorney, a number of possible similarities sprung to mind:

  • He wasn’t known for his fashion sense.
  • He hung out with prostitutes and thieves.
  • Some people really hated him, but others felt he just got a bum rap.

While plausible, these weren’t the reasons the Holy Father made the comparison in a recent homily….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Pope Francis: How Is Jesus Like A Criminal Defense Lawyer?”

Congrats, professor, but Malawi’s law stinks.

* “I don’t think the government should be in the credentialing business.” Thanks to the whims of politicians, SCOTUSblog is having trouble getting media credentials to continue its coverage of the Supreme Court’s cases. [New York Times]

* How you like me now? In Redeeming the Dream (affiliate link), a new book co-authored with David Boies, Ted Olson says he experienced “some blowback” when he announced he was taking on the Prop 8 gay marriage case. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Steve Davis and Steve DiCarmine of failed firm fame think it’s “unfair” they have to defend themselves in a criminal case and an SEC case at the same time. They want the SEC case to be halted. Dewey think the judge will say yes? [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Back in 2011, Pillsbury decided to ship its back-office operations to Nashville, and now it’s hiring a small contingent of lawyers to work there. FYI, an Ivy League degree may not be necessary. [Washington Post]

* Only in Florida would a judge allegedly challenge a public defender to a fight out back during a hearing and start throwing punches. We’ll definitely have more on this fiasco later today. [WFTV Eyewitness News]

* Peter Mutharika, a former law professor who taught at Washington University in St. Louis Law for about 40 years, is now the new president of Malawi, where it’s illegal to fart. Congrats! [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

A few weeks ago, China’s police accused GlaxoSmithKline’s former head of China operations of making  illegal payments to Chinese doctors to boost GSK drug sales. Last fall witnessed the high-profile trial, conviction, and life sentence of Bo Xilai, the former head of the Chongqing Communist Party, on bribery charges. These two cases send a clear warning: Beijing is cracking down on corruption. Hard.

The GSK case shows that China will not tolerate corrupt activities by foreigners in sensitive industries, especially when such activities result in higher consumer prices. Beijing going after a foreign company for allegedly increasing health care prices is a smart political move, especially since the Chinese web is rife with complaints about exactly that.

But at the same time, it has become clear that Beijing is serious about rooting out corruption. The Party leaders in Beijing know that widespread corruption weakens their legitimacy and they are looking for ways to combat it. The important link between the Bo Xilai and the GSK cases is that they both involve defendants — a political elite and a foreign entity — whose arrests have engendered widespread discussion and sent a strong signal that no one in China is safe from prosecution. While Westerners are mostly complaining about the GSK arrests (multiple GSK employees have been arrested in addition to its former head of China operations), the Chinese internet is mostly loving it.

As a foreign company doing business in China, how should you react to the recent corruption crackdown?

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Sanctimonious attorneys bemoan the decline of civility in the legal practice. The “shark” mentality has eroded the quiet dignity of the second oldest profession (someone had to represent the first prostitute at her arraignment). It’s all a bit overblown — a callback to a halcyon time that never quite was.

Still, there’s something to be said for the fact that Clarence Darrow was never quoted telling William Jennings Bryant “[Bleep] With Me And You Will Have A Huge [Bleep]hole.” I mean, unless I missed that part of the transcript.

And now comes another attorney accused of threatening to violate someone in a most uncomfortable way. Except this time it wasn’t in a one-on-one conversation, but for all the world to see on Facebook….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pro Tip For Lawyers: Don’t Threaten To ‘Anally Rape’ Adversary”

* Congrats are in order for David Barron. The Harvard Law professor was confirmed to the First Circuit in a close vote (53-45), despite his apparent allegiance to our new drone overlords. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Another one bites the dust: Weil’s London banking leader Stephen Lucas decamped for Kirkland & Ellis. The firm retorted by saying: “We have got 40 finance lawyers left.” Aww, yay for you. [The Lawyer]

* We already know that state prosecutors are very poorly paid, but let’s go one step further and see if women are paid less than men. Shockingly enough, women are getting the shaft in Texas. [Texas Tribune]

* Dean Jack Boger of UNC Law is stepping down, but he’s proud of keeping legal ed affordable. “[B]y relative standards, we’re still doing that,” he said. It’s ~$39K for out-of-state students. [Chapelboro.com]

* O.J. Simpson’s lawyers submitted a gigantic legal doc in an attempt to get him a new trial for his armed-robbery case. Court word limit: 14,000. Words in the Juice’s motion: 19,993. Rules: LOL. [NBC News]

Last week, I wrote about why so few people go to trial, and I talked about some of the challenges of going to trial in a criminal case in federal court, particularly in a white-collar case.

This week, I’d like to talk about another challenge with going to trial — statements made to law enforcement by the person who is accused of a crime.

After Zachary Warren was indicted in connection with the Dewey implosion, there was a lot of coverage of why, exactly, a smart, educated, fancy lawyer would talk to law enforcement without a lawyer present. (See, e.g., here, and here, and here).

As these prior pieces talk about, there’s a tactical problem with talking to law enforcement in the first place — the agent may say that he or she is just giving you a chance to “tell your side of the story” or “get the truth out” but, really, that person’s interest is in getting a conviction so they get a stat. They’re trying to build a case against you and that has less to do with celebrating the importance of impartial truth seeking, and much more to do with boxing you in so that a trial would be hopeless (see this on one way to think about the agent’s priorities when they’re taking a statement).

There is, though, another problem with talking to law enforcement — one that, hopefully, DOJ is actually making better.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Perils of A Criminal Trial Redux; or, DOJ Belatedly Notices It Has Recording Equipment”

We’ve been talking about officially-sanctioned Chinese hacking for years. Whether the narrative involved offensive attacks on U.S. systems or industrial espionage, the “China threat” was a reliable talking point when discussing cybersecurity. Was the extent of the threat a little overblown? Sure. Hey, the Pentagon needed to spook some legislators into opening the pocketbook. But the idea that the Chinese government was trying diligently to hack into American systems was accurate.

And now the U.S. is doing something about it. It may not be much, but the Department of Justice is filing charges against five Chinese officials in the People’s Liberation Army (known as Unit 61398) for industrial espionage….

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* Who is the “Man In Black?” If you said, “Johnny Cash” you’d have been wrong in this instance. But right in life. [The Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Oh screw these guys. Hospital fires a radiation therapist who helped the mother of a cancer patient get in touch with the kid’s favorite football team. [Courthouse News Service]

* The latest on Net Neutrality. [LXBN]

* More news in the struggle to end unpaid internships — plaintiffs suing Warner Bros. have been granted the right to invite more people to a class action party. [Inside Counsel]

* There’s a quirk of the criminal justice system unfairly hurting African-Americans. I’m sorry, I thought that was all the criminal justice system. [PolicyMic]

* We’ve been wondering where Ed Siskel would land after leaving the Office of White House Counsel. Well, now we know. Congratulations WilmerHale. [Main Justice]

Criminal defense lawyers who practice in federal court bemoan the lack of jury trials these days.

According to the administrative office of the U.S. courts, in the twelve months ended March 31, 2013, in our federal courts, 83,614 people entered a plea of guilty. Only 1,953 went to a jury trial (there were 173 bench trials too, for what it’s worth).

So, around 2 percent of the folks who are charged in federal court go to trial — the rest plead guilty.

The numbers in white-collar cases are a little better. For fraud cases there were 9,925 guilty pleas and 411 jury trials — so about 4 percent of people accused of fraud opt to see a jury. For regulatory offenses there were 1,480 pleas and 47 jury trials — about 3 percent.

There are a lot of reasons why so many people plead guilty and so few go to trial. One reason is that the acquittal rate is low — about 13 percent overall (there were 260 acquittals overall in FY 2013). For what it’s worth, while fraud acquittals were in line with that, regulatory offenses had an acquittal rate that was much higher — 20 acquittals (counting bench and jury trials) out of 55 trials. That’s about 35 percent.

Another big reason is that people accused of a crime are meaningfully prevented from testifying — and if a trial turns on what a person knew, as many white-collar cases do, their ability to put on a defense is compromised by their inability to testify. They can see a bad verdict coming….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Why Johnny Can’t Talk: Federal Rule of Evidence 608(b) and the Difficulty of Trial”

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