Murder

We really don’t like writing about murders, suicides, and murder suicides here on Above the Law. They are always sad, the loss of human life is always tragic, and it’s really hard to be funny/snarky/edgy when people have died.

That said, we have to go where the news takes us, and so we press on today with a roundup of people in the legal community who recently met untimely ends. A Department of Justice lawyer took his own life, and an office manager for Townsend and Townsend and Crew allegedly killed her estranged husband, before turning the gun on herself…

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Clare Lenore Stoudt, a 35-year-old mother of five, was found dead in her home over the weekend. Stoudt was a tax associate at Pillsbury Winthrop. According to the ABA Journal, authorities believe that Stoudt may have been the victim of a murder-suicide:

The father of her three youngest children, Reginald Van Graves, 49, also was found apparently shot to death in the Howard County home, and a gun was in the vicinity, authorities say. A custody case over the three children, aged 2, 5 and 7, had begun less than a week earlier in Howard County Circuit Court.

The Howard County Times reports that police say the deaths may have been a murder-suicide. Autopsies have not yet been completed, however, and the investigation has not concluded.

Christine Kearns, managing partner for Pillsbury’s D.C. office, released the following statement for the firm….

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Ed. note: This post is by “The Gobbler,” one of the two writers under consideration to join Morning Dockette as a Morning Docket writer. As always, we welcome your thoughts in the comments.

I was asked to cover the lawsuit filed yesterday by the ACLU against the Obama administration regarding its policy of keeping a “kill list” and, to a larger extent, following up on it. Ashby Jones does a workmanlike summary of the basics here, providing links to background, discussion, and the complaint. Rather than rehash the facts, or lead a discussion of the latest embarrassingly naked moment in America’s long history of civil-rights-shrinkage during dips in the wartime pool, I thought I’d get creative. Sorry.

What follows is a screenplay depicting the rocky relationship between Mr. Anwar al-Aulaqi (pictured), the first American citizen added to the CIA’s naughty list; the ACLU, which, on Anwar’s behalf, alleges that the list and any action thereon violates several sections of the Constitution and international law; and the American Government. As the title suggests, it’s based on the plot and dialogue from Wedding Crashers. Christopher Walken will play the role of America, with Keir O’Donnell (a/k/a “Todd”) playing the role of Anwar. The supporting cast, in order of appearance: Vince Vaughn as ACLU, Owen Wilson as Center for Constitutional Rights, Ellen Dow (think “Rapper’s Delight” in The Wedding Singer) as Righty Conservative, Isla Fisher as Treasury, Bradley Cooper as District Court and Rachel McAdams as Court of Appeals.

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If you stick to the coasts, you might not have heard of Barnes & Thornburg. But it’s one of the biggest and best firms in Indiana. Unfortunately today we bring them up because of tragedy. A partner at the firm, Mary Jane Frisby, was found dead in her home. She appears to be the victim of a murder-suicide carried out by her husband. The ABA Journal reports:

The body of Mary Jane Frisby, 44, a former partner at the Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg, was found in her home, the apparent victim of homicide.

Police discovered her body after her estranged husband, David Frisby, shot himself at a parking garage near the firm, which she’d recently left, reports Channel 6 in Indianapolis.

Weeks before the murder, David Frisby lashed out at lawyers from Barnes & Thornburg…

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In Friday’s Non-Sequiturs, while linking to an interesting article about a man who served 27 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, I used an intentionally inflammatory blurb:

Would Michael Green, exonerated of rape charges by DNA evidence, be worth $2.2 million today if he hadn’t gone to prison? Just asking.

Judging from some of the comments, it seems that this blurb offended some of you. If so, I apologize.

(But I should also note that part of the blogger’s job is to troll provoke readers, intellectually and emotionally. Elie is tasked with baiting provoking the conservatives, and I’m in charge of provoking the liberals. If we don’t offend you every now and then, we’re not doing our jobs.)

In making my excessively irreverent quip, I was trying to get at a fairly serious question: How can we put a price on a man spending years behind bars for a crime he did not commit?

Let’s discuss….

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If you are superstitious, then the house shown at right (click to enlarge) — 1509 Swann Street NW, Washington, DC — is not the house for you. It is the house in which promising young lawyer Robert Wone — a former associate at Covington & Burling, and general counsel for Radio Free Asia at the time of his death — was murdered.

The murder took place almost four years ago, on August 2, 2006. Three former residents of 1509 Swann — former Arent Fox partner Joseph Price, his domestic partner Victor Zaborsky, and their lover, Dylan Ward — were recently found not guilty, after a bench on trial on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges (but not murder).

Their former house is currently on the market. Says our source:

Get a peek inside the house. For $1.6 million, I would expect my home to not have been the scene of a murder — but then again, nothing surprises me in DC real estate.

The house’s history may be troubled, but there’s a lot to like about it….

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In August 2006, Robert Wone, a promising young Asian-American attorney, was murdered while staying at a friend’s house in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Wone, then general counsel for Radio Free Asia and a former Covington & Burling associate, was stabbed to death. The housemates claimed that Wone had been attacked by an intruder, but the crime scene seemed to suggest that was not the case.

The unsolved murder inspired the birth of the site WhoMurderedRobertWone, which has tracked the progress of the investigation in excruciating detail. Prosecutors charged the three housemates, including former Arent Fox partner Joseph Price, with conspiracy, obstruction, and tampering, but not for his murder.

The verdict in the four-and-a-half week trial came today.

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You don’t know how to ask a question. You don’t know how to offer things into evidence. You keep making stupid speeches. You keep saying you are good at this. You are not. I do not say this to insult you.

Justice Carol Berkman to Robert Camarano, a pro se litigant representing himself in a murder trial in New York State Supreme Court.

Las Vegas federal courthouse Lloyd D George federal courthouse.jpgMonday’s shootout at the Lloyd George Courthouse in Las Vegas can be described as tragic, frightening, and now, surreal. Reports are out this morning that the gunman, Johnny Lee Wicks, previously served prison time for killing his brother. The ABA Journal collects the information:

Stories by the Associated Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal detail Wicks’ criminal past.
Wicks killed his brother after an argument escalated over whether his motorcycle could outrun his brother’s car, according to the Commercial Appeal account. Wicks had claimed he killed his brother in self defense, although no weapon was found near the body. He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 55 years in prison. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to 12 to 15 years, and Wicks was paroled after serving six years.

I’m not a huge fan of taking legal advice from the Bible, but surely killing your brother because you’re jealous over his sheep car deserves a harsher penalty than six years.
But we’re not done with Johnny Lee Wicks’s past. More after the jump.

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Las Vegas federal courthouse Lloyd D George federal courthouse.jpgDetails continue to roll in about Johnny Lee Wicks, the shooter during yesterday’s gunfight at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas. Apparently Wicks set fire to his own house before heading to the courthouse. ABC News reports:

The senior citizen who is being blamed for a Las Vegas courthouse shooting that killed a security officer had set his condo on fire in a fit of rage before the attack.
Friends and family told ABC News that Johnny Lee Wicks, 66, was so upset that his monthly Social Security check was being reduced that he set fire to his home in a gated retirement community around 5 a.m. Monday.

Wicks had filed a racial discrimination suit against the Social Security Administration because his benefits were cut. The suit got tossed and, apparently, that is what set him off. Over on True/Slant, Michael Roston hopes that Wicks’s deranged understanding of race in America isn’t used by neocons as a polemic against tolerance:

Of course, I’m still trying to be hopeful that the fact that Wicks was a black man shooting at a federal building won’t also be worked into the kulturkampf by agents of conservative histrionics. Rush Limbaugh is taking a few days off after his brush with the medical system, so he won’t be going on air tomorrow to declare that crimes like this happen only in “Obama’s America.” If anyone else out there was thinking about saying something like that, please, don’t. Let’s just all be thankful that there weren’t any more senseless deaths from this tragedy today.

Hear, hear. Bullets don’t care about skin color. An Above the Law reader who works at the Lloyd George Courthouse provides an eyewitness account of the harrowing minutes during the shooting.
The story after the jump.

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