Monthly Archives: October 2008

Pro se per se

I’m a little late on writing about this story (via several sources), but it sure is a doozy.

You know how it’s common knowlege that most appeals aren’t successful? Well, if you were a pro-se petitioner in Louisiana for the last 13 years, you knew that you wouldn’t win. Why is that? Because the Chief Judge of their Court of Appeals directed his clerk to summarily deny all appeals from pro-se petitioners without circulating the appeal to other judges.

The clerk, ridden with guilt, committed suicide earlier this year and left a note confessing everything.

This immoral and apparently illegal policy was in place until Jerrold Peterson, the staffer charged with implementing it, blew his brains out in May of last year. Peterson was driven to it in part, his suicide note suggested, by guilt over the nefarious tasks the judges made him perform.

In his note Peterson explained how the court gave indigent appellants the bum’s rush.

Although every criminal writ application is supposed to be reviewed by three judges, he was deputed to winnow out any that had been filed pro se and arrange for their automatic rejection.

Thus were an estimated 2,500 appeals deep-sixed without any judicial consideration whatsoever.

Now, facing public embarassment and possible ethical violations, the Louisiana Supreme Court has stepped in and asked…get this…the same appellate court to look at the appeals again. Note that they did not ask the Court to conduct an investigation into this practice, but simply to consider those appeals that were so summarily denied.

Because, if we placate the defendants with another cursory look at their appeals, we can sweep the ethical violations under the carpet.

At first this whole thing seemed rather odd to me. After all, how is this even possible? Here’s how:

Edward Dufresne, Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit, took charge of pro se appeals in 1994. He then had Peterson prepare rulings denying writs for all of them and signed off “without so much as a glance,” according to the suicide note. “No judge ever saw the writ application before the ruling was prepared by me,” Peterson wrote in a second suicide note to the Judiciary Commission.

The rulings also bore the names, though not the signatures, of judges Marion Edwards and Wally Rothschild. Neither Edwards nor Rothschild had any clue as to what was in the applications, or even knew that they had been filed, according to Peterson.

So you’ve got one complicit judge and maybe three. But there are 5 more on that court. What of them? Are we to really believe that these 5 (or 7) other judges never once questioned the stark absence of pro-se appeals? Particularly in Louisiana, whose system has the following characteristics:

  • About 90 percent of criminal defendants in Louisiana are indigent.
  • Louisiana only provides post-conviction legal aid in death penalty cases.  Everyone else must either hire a lawyer, find a lawyer to handle their case pro bono, or handle the appeal themselves.  Obviously, most have no choice but to opt for the latter.
  • One criminal defense lawyer in Louisiana told me that if you’re convicted of murder in Louisiana and you’re innocent, you’re actually better off getting the death penalty.  At least then you’ll get a team of lawyers, investigators, and experts to help with your appeal.

This from a state whose criminal justice system was already crumbling. It’s hard to believe that people such as Judge Dufresne take an oath to uphold the law and to prove equal protection under it. Disbarment may be enough, but only barely.

Justice delayed is no justice at all.

Gideon endorses: The election meme

So this post at Windypundit didn’t start out as a meme (although I guess you can argue it did, since he answered the questions posed to Reason editors), but I’ve decided in my infinite wisdom to make it one. This is not a political blog, but I’m allowed one political post every 45 years. This is it.

1. Who are you voting for in November?

Downticket Dems. For Prez – probably a write in vote. Boris Becker comes to mind.

2. Who did you vote for in 2004 and 2000?

Ralph Nader. Or not.

3. Is this the most important election in your lifetime?

Yes, until the next one. Or: no.

4. What will you miss about the Bush administration?

The Bushisms.

5. Leaving George W. Bush out of consideration, what former U.S. president would you most like to have waterboarded?

Can’t think of one who has so damaged the country. I mean, is there anything he didn’t do?

Your turn.

The AQA thread

Once in a while I feel magnanimous. Like tonight. So I will answer all questions asked (thus, AQA). This is an AQA thread.

Let’s start off with some recent queries that brought people to this blog:

  • is it ethical for a public defender to refuse to represent a person believed to be guilty? The short answer is no. There is no long answer.
  • father in prison, can they file an amendment by default? I’d answer if it I knew what the hell it meant. I’m going to say….all signs point to yes.
  • why are prisons overcrowded in the US? Oh boy. This is a doozie. Well, let’s see. Overcriminalization, harsh sentencing, no parole or early release and the complete and total lack of rehabilitation in prisons leading to recidivism. How’s that?
  • how do I get a public defender? Well, it varies from state to state. Usually you apply for a public defender at the local courthouse or in court when being arraigned.
  • how to get around statutory rape? Abstain or don’t get caught.
  • Connecticut public defender office. (this isn’t really a question, but here)
  • How can prison overcrowding be reproduced? The old fashioned way, I’d imagine. See answer 3 above.
  • Your chance for change rehab in CT? Limited
  • Cross examining a known eyewitness? Easier than cross-examining an unknown eyewitness, I imagine.
  • What are the principles of law? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Freedom, too.
  • CT Constitutional Amendment question 1 2008. No. See, that was simple. Repeat after me: No.
  • When an arrest is illegal. This feels like a game of madlibs. Hmm, let’s see. When an arrest is illegal the yellow mongoose swims with the overcrowded prison!
  • Todd Rizzo, CT? Sad.
  • Stoned. Good for you!
  • How to keep prior conviction from being introduced at trial? Claim to be your twin brother. Or get a lawyer who can do it for you. Either one has a 50-50 shot at success.
  • Ice cream Truck, and finally:
  • Gay oral

What-choo got?

Tweaks

FYI – I’ve tweaked a thing or two here on the blog. Some tweaks you won’t notice, one you will.

Given the propensity of people to say stupid things on the internet using the cloak of anonymity (myself included), it is always a good idea to keep reminding everyone to take personal responsibility.

To that end, I’ve appended a short paragraph at the head of each comment box. So every time you comment, you will be given a link to the privacy policy/legal disclaimer and the comments policy. If you haven’t read them in a while, go check them out.

Every time you say something stupid, you’re responsible. Not me. Some other blogs have chosen to moderate comments, I have not. I don’t want to impede the trickle of communication on this blog, but that doesn’t mean that you can say anything you want without consequence. I reserve the right to edit or delete any comment I see fit, without giving reason for it. I also reserve the right to ban people from commenting on the blog.

Finally, you say something, you own it.

If you haven’t been scared off yet, thanks for reading and leave a comment!