It’s not really an easy crime if you get caught…

Interviewer: Do you have any remorse about stealing from a 9-year old girl?

Thief: Right now, no. Because, I’m kinda pissed. Because I have charges…and, we had to give the money back anyway.

Wow.

Two girls steal money from Girl Scout’s. Why? Because they wanted money. And, they thought it would be an easy crime. Get caught. Then, they give an interview where they are rather upset that they had to give back the money they stole AND also have criminal charges.

The second girl also seems rather jealous that the Girl Scout’s are now selling sympathy cookies.

The lesson learned? “Probably not to get caught…or, MAYBE, not to steal.”

The best part about this? These girls who were so desperate for money that they took down a 9-year old like she was Andy Garcia’s Casino in Ocean’s 11 give an interview while each sipping on some kind of frozen Starbucks drink that undoubtedly has to cost like 8 dollars.

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This kidnapper does not appear to be good at his profession…

I don’t know a whole lot about how to kidnap someone. I do know, however, that when the act of kidnapping has started, you want to have a better exit strategy than this man.

TOPEKA, Kan. — A man convicted of holding a Topeka-area couple hostage is now suing his victims, claiming that they reneged on an agreement to hide him from police.

Oh, come on!

Who wouldn’t go back on that agreement?(Al Cowlings, maybe?)

According to the news article, the kidnapper burst into a home while being chased by police and held a couple hostage at knifepoint. Then, he apparently offered them an untold fortune of riches in exchange for hiding him from the police. Here’s where things get dicey:

The couple escaped and called police after Dimmick fell asleep. Now, Dimmick has filed suit in court claiming that he and the couple had an oral agreement that they would hide him from police.

I’ve never once had a thought along the lines of, “man, I wish I was a law school professor” (not that there is anything wrong with that). Except for RIGHT NOW. The hypothetical law school exam question I would write based on this story would be spectacular.

You need some consideration to make that oral agreement binding, pal. Holding a knife in someone’s face doesn’t exactly strike me as, “OK THIS GUY IS GOING TO LIVE UP TO HIS END OF THE BARGAIN.”

Basically, this is an Exercise in How NOT to make a Contract. Duress? Contracting for something illegal (trust me, someone would overlook that on a Contracts Law exam)? Confuse students by overly hinting that there was a meeting of the minds and then laugh when one of them does write meeting of the minds? No specified dollar amount in the contract?

You may wonder at this point, how did the couple manage to get their kidnapper to fall asleep? What kidnapper would be so confident in this oral agreement for an unspecified amount of riches that he would take a nap?

eating Cheetos and drinking Dr Pepper with him while watching the movie “Patch Adams.”

And, then, he fell asleep. Can’t blame the guy there, that movie was awful.

The Way Home by George Pelecanos

I meant to include this post a couple weeks back when I had decided to spend a bit more time writing about books for a week, rather than the TV/movies that tend to dominate this blog. I wound up busier than expected that week, and never got around to it. My essential point about Pelecanos as an author is that while he doesn’t write “LEGAL THRILLERS” he does write books that are more legally relevant than most legal thrillers. This is because Pelecanos tackles many of the underlying issues of the criminal justice system.

I was reminded of this when I had a client sentenced yesterday, and things did not go quite as I had desired. In the simplest terms, the sentencing was based on surface harshness rather than underlying realities. And, whenever I read something by Pelecanos, these underlying realities are ones that he writes about better than anyone I’ve been exposed to.

Admittedly, my exposure to writers is constantly evolving and my love for page-turners where I don’t need to think also eats up a lot potential discovery of new writers. But, anyway, The Way Home is a book that if you simply read the summary of without knowing Pelecanos, you’re probably not going to be inclined to leave with the book.

Summary!: dude finds 50k in the floor while remodeling a home. He doesn’t want to take the cash, but, alas, he’s not alone. He has a partner in the home to convince not to take the cash. People come to claim their cash from the home (what timing!), dudes die and things go south as Chris Flynn has to find THE WAY HOME.

Basically.

So, yeah, if you’re not a reader of Pelecanos, I really don’t see how that summary is going to lead to buying this book. Which, is not me ripping Pelecanos. It’s just to say that if you don’t go into this experience comfortable that you’re going to get damn good characters built around this cliched plot, you might not go into it at all.

Pelecanos takes these characters from their time in juvenile incarceration, to their early 20s where they begin to either put that past behind them, or continue to fall to the same mistakes. What he creates is an environment where you begin to understand his characters better than most novels present. In doing this, you ask yourself questions about that environment, without Pelecanos providing a direct prompt. He delves deeper into the roots of criminality than most writers and he does it in a package that will undoubtedly leave you in thought.

Pelecanos is an important writer to me. Like I said in the open, without writing direct legal thrillers and using crime as a backdrop, he does a better job of bringing the reader to think about the criminal justice system and the role it plays in society. Are the desired effects of that justice system playing out? Why or why not? How do those choices affect the communities in which they are designed to protect?

Pelecanos creates characters that allow you to examine these issues.

Jalen Rose gets 20 days for first time DUI…

Saw this on a couple of National blogs, and because most people react with, really, 20 days on a first time DUI? I guess it’s kind of a big deal. Two stories about this, before I briefly comment:

So, there’s the backdrop. And, I guess, a positive note is that Jalen Rose didn’t get favorable treatment because he’s a celebrity. I think, like most people, the outcome of this is a bit surprising to me. The Freep article lists an attorney who says he won’t defend a DUI in Judge Small’s courtroom because of how the Judge handles them. I guess that’s one way to handle the situation.

Here’s another…TMZ has quotes from Jalen’s Attorney, Keith Davidson:

Davidson adds, “[Jalen] was the victim of abuse of discretion; lack of proportionality in sentencing; legislating from the bench & instituting illegal minimum mandatory sentences for DUIs in violation of law. “

And, a quote from Judge Small, presumably during the sentencing, definitely not to TMZ:

“There lies the answer to drunk driving,” Small said. “Send a message out there that there will be serious consequences.”

Does incarceration such as the one Rose received deter drunk driving? Let’s keep quoting…

“The studies show it has no impact,” said James Fell, senior program director for the Alcohol, Policy and Safety Research Center in Maryland. “Jail is really only an effective tool if it is used as a threat to make the drunk driver comply with other orders for probation, treatment, community service, alcohol testing.”

That from the second Freep Article I linked to. The Freep, seem to be all over this story. They even had a piece Monday about another Oakland County Judge finding success with a sobriety court program…aimed at treatment, rather than incarceration.

Where do I fall on this? I find it a bit dubious to believe that Rose’s sentence is going to deter drunk driving, either from Rose himself, or from others. But, at the same time, if we trust our Judges enough to enter into alternative programs, I guess there should be some measure of leeway in the other direction. Even though, 20 days on a first offense strikes me as over the top.

I realize drunk driving is a serious offense, but, we’re talking about the sentencing of a first time DUI and how to best handle the situation for society as a whole. In handling DUI matters, you certainly realize that it’s an offense where a mistake is often made by good people and you want to best get them to avoid those mistakes moving forward.

So, any thoughts on Jalen? Too harsh? Just right? Feel free to comment.

OJ Simpson to confess…to Oprah?

For most people, I assume they are quick to tune out when OJ Simpson’s name comes up. I, on the other hand, am not afraid to admit that the OJ Simpson trial was likely the point where I decided I wanted to become an attorney. Combining that trial with a natural thought process that everyone accused of a crime has a right to a fair trial is in large part why I am where I am today.

Saying that never really sounds comfortable. To most, OJ Simpson is just a murderer who got away with it. To me, as a criminal defense attorney, one of the things you learn is that one should not have that sort of amazing defense only when they are rich. Everyone should have someone in their corner willing to fight for them. So, for better or for worse, the OJ Simpson saga had a huge impact on my life.

To the news…A publication in the UK is reporting that OJ Simpson is going to confess to killing Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. And, he’s going to give that confession to…OPRAH.

Didn’t Oprah retire from her TV show? Is she going to bring the show back for one night only? Ok, maybe those aren’t the big questions regarding this news, but, part of me has to wonder whether OJ isn’t just messing with Oprah.

According to the article in the Daily Mail, Simpson claims that the killings were done in Self-Defense. Apparently, Oprah was working on the Juice for a year to get him to cold break down and make this revelation. With OJ saying the killings were done in self-defense, they probably won’t provide closure to the matter, either. But, as an attorney, what is interesting to note is that if you were to take the huge leap of faith and decide to believe Simpson, that he acted in self-defense, it illustrates a lot of the decision making that goes in to trial strategy. Off the top of my head, and trying to remember to when I was 14 years old, self-defense was not presented by the defense. Glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit, most certainly was, however.

We often hear of trials as a search for truth. That’s probably just someone saying something to make themselves try and sound good. The Simpson case, no matter where you fall on the matter, illustrates that trials are not a search for truth. They are a search for winning, because both sides need to fight for their side and believe in their side. The Simpson case can also show that guilty people go free (irregardless of your opinion on Juice), but, within that, you have to remember that the flip side of that coin is that the same can happen with innocent people being found guilty.

In the end, the Juice is likely starved for attention and there probably isn’t much to take away from this, but, it is undeniable that the Trial affected a lot of people. Even if just as spectators, and, an interview confession would be a huge spectacle as well.

Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration

One Love Global hosted an Event this evening titled, “Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration.” The event was designed to allow Lansing, Michigan youths interact with the panel of five men currently incarcerated in a Michigan Prison.

The panel handled questions from the audience, a packed house at Lansing Community College’s DART Auditorium, on life in prison, anticipation of life outside of prison, how family members viewed them, the choices they made that led to their current position as well as myriad other topics. On hand to moderate was AJ Hilton of local FOX News.

One of the topics that came up several times throughout the course of the evening was the theme of asking those around you for help in terms of getting on the right track. One of the inmates mentioned that this notion goes against natural tendencies that many have.

As a criminal defense attorney, this idea of thought stuck with me quite a bit. When I think about the role of an attorney, helping a client better themselves is one that can sometimes be overlooked. An attorney gets the case, looks at the facts, finds the best way to proceed. Where I think an attorney can also help is in the role of a facilitator.

UPDATE: Link to an article on the event from the Lansing State Journal.

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