Daily Archives: May 14, 2008

Embracing technology

As most of you know, I’m a tech-geek. I love technology and I love new gadgets and new software and cool things like that. I’ve started using technology in my day-to-day job and maybe you’ll find it useful too.

The tool I’m talking about is Microsoft’s Virtual Earth (you could use Google Earth too, but – surprise! – I prefer the MS version). Virtual Earth is software you download on your computer, which lets you view locations in 3D. I use it in conjunction with Live Maps (just pull up a map and then click on 3D – you will be prompted to download).

This is not a replacement for actual investigation, but merely a complement. I use this most frequently when reading police reports, to give myself a preliminary sense of the location and to orient myself with the streets and places mentioned in the report.

Say the police report states that the cops observed some activity taking place behind a building. I’d pull up that location on Live Maps and go to the 3D view. From there, I’d be able to tilt the map in all directions to see if, in fact, the police could have observed anything happening there. Gives you a sense of what the cops might have seen, without having to actually go there while you read the report.

A few examples follow. I’ve focused the map on that veritable hotbed of criminal activity: Iranistan Avenue, Bridgeport, CT.

Maybe it’s in the job description

Which might explain why lawyers love to hear themselves talk (I’m guilty of this too). The problem is that while this may we tolerable outside the courtroom, it can have disastrous consequences inside the courtroom.

Reflecting on Norm’s coverage of the Fieger trial some other nonsense I’ve read in the past week or two, I’ve come to the conclusion that we have to learn to talk less. It seems that sometimes we just can’t get out of our own way.

Maybe we need to have second chairs that will tell us to just STFU and sit down. The oft-repeated advice about cross-examinations is to never ask that final question that’s just sitting there on the tip of your tongue. You’ve made all your points and the conclusion is obvious. You don’t need to ask it, but you just want to. There’s this uncontrollable urge that comes from deep within you that eggs you on, pushes you to ask that question, just to see if you can push the envelope, just to see if you can make it any more painfully obvious that, say, the witness lied. Your training tells you not to, there’s a little voice in the back of the head telling you not to. And yet you do – and everything unravels. The question isn’t as slam dunk as you imagined it to be, the witness starts to waffle and wiggle out of the iron-clad suit you’d dressed them in and suddenly the impenetrable wall has been breached.

So stop talking, be aware of what’s happening in the courtroom and don’t ask that question just because you want to.

Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure you prepare your client to testify. Don’t just throw him up there and think it’ll all go okay. Even the best prepared defendants are itching to embellish and throw their version of the case down the toilet. Imagine what the ill prepared ones are doing.

Inmate murdered by victim’s relative

Kevin Cales was sentenced to life a few months ago for the deaths of 5 people, whose car he ran off the road in a high-speed pursuit. The car he was chasing was driven by his ex-girlfriend, whom he was stalking.

Cales was attacked from behind while he was seated at a table eating lunch.

Correction sources said the inmate who killed Cales is an 18-year-old man who is serving a seven-year sentence for robbery and, until Tuesday morning, was being housed in the same unit as Cales. The sources said they believed the attacker was related to one of the victims in the crash.

The assailant punched Cales, who was seated, knocking him to the ground, and stomped on his head and neck, sources said. The attack took seconds, before correction officers were able to reach him, sources said.

Some may say, well, he got what was coming to him. I just think it’s sad. What’s also curious is that the DOC is usually good about identifying potential problems with other inmates housed in the same unit. They won’t house co-defendants together, nor will they house inmates who are related to victims in the same unit (heck, even the same facility) as the offenders.

But then again, this is prison. If you want to get to someone, you almost always can.

The problem with voir dire

Is that sometimes you end up taking jurors you have no business taking. Like the R. Kelly trial. From media accounts:

Those jurors include an African-American woman whose husband is a Baptist pastor, a black man who identified himself as a Christian and a white executive who said he thinks Kelly is guilty.

What’s that again? A juror who has made up his mind? How can this juror possibly be seated, right? Because the law is full of legal fictions. One of these fictions is that if a juror says something extreme, he can be “rehabilitated”. (Oh, the irony.)

The white juror said he believed Kelly was guilty, but that he could give him a fair trial.

“I have two little kids,” the man said. “Child pornography is about as low as it gets.”

[Judge] Gaughan asked the man to look Kelly in the eye and promise him a fair trial.

Why do we perpetuate this nonsense? Does anyone reading this believe that this juror will “give him a fair trial”? Are we that starved for jurors that we will accept venirepersons who state that they have already decided on the guilt of the accused? Does the right to a fair trial really mean the right to the appearance of a fair trial?

I can understand the defense not pushing this too much – the judge has just created an appellate issue – but the Court should know better. In a high-profile case like this, wouldn’t you want to avoid any potential problems?