Category Archives: ct legal news

Has no public official in Connecticut heard of the First Amendment?

Why not?

Why not?

It seems, as with other parts of the Constitution, elected and appointment members of the executive branches in the Constitution State have but a passing familiarity with the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States1.

Just so we’re all on the same level playing field, that first Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In New York Times Co. v. United States2, Justice Hugo Black wrote:

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.

The press today takes many forms: it takes the form of traditional newspapers like the Danbury News-Times and it takes the form of dedicated, intrepid bloggers like Alfonso Robinson who runs both the HatCity Blog and My Left Nutmeg.

Ban the Box but abandon the ex-felon: the Kennard Ray saga

We are a country whose favorite pastime is not football, but incarceration. In such a country, we take delight in locking up young, minority men from the age of 14 to the age of death. We disproportionately incarcerate men of color and we saddle them after the fact of their convictions by heaping consequences upon consequences that are so onerous that almost no one, once burdened by the shackles of a felony, can free himself of them and re-enter Valhalla: middle class America. Onerous and mercurial probation conditions and registries and the constant mass media coverage are enough to drive most men mad.

Standing against this tide that inevitably washes out any traces of opportunity is a thing called “ban the box”. I’ve written about Ban the Box since at least 2009. It’s a policy [more information here - PDF.] that “bans” a box on employment forms asking if the applicant has a criminal record.

The purpose of this is to ensure that people aren’t denied employment simply because they have a criminal record. Cities and states that have enacted BTB policies are required to complete the application process, make a conditional offer of employment to the applicant and then conduct a background check. At that point the applicant can voluntarily disclose any relevant record and explain it. The employer can then choose to continue with employment or withdraw the offer. If the offer is withdrawn, the applicant can appeal that decision.

It’s a bloody brilliant idea that seeks to make the procedure a “record-blind” procedure, thus forcing employers to make decisions based on experience and talent and suitability for the job1.

Hartford, the capital of Connecticut, has such an ordinance [PDF] that requires “banning the box”2.

But the problem with Ban the Box, just as with other rules of equality and fairness the Government is entrusted with enforcing, is that someone has to really want to.

Ban the Box is nothing without political backing or the fortitude of the hirer to stand behind her decision to offer a job to someone with a criminal record. We3 are aware that there is a large section of the population for whom a generic criminal is worse than the genetic offspring of Osama Bin Laden, Obama bin Barack and Adolf Hitler combined. These are the people who comment on news stories.

These are the people who are going to be outraged with pitchforks and demand that the newspaper investigate why the city is giving a job to a criminal when there are perfectly good people in America who aren’t criminals and need a job. In other words, people incapable of nuance and context.

If the policy is to succeed, it takes someone with the conviction4 to say “I am standing by my decision to hire this individual because they are qualified for the job and will be an asset, despite the criminal history of their distant past.”

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra apparently is not such a man. On Tuesday, he announced that he was hiring a man named Kennard Ray as a his Deputy Chief of Staff. On Wednesday, Mr. Ray had withdrawn his name from consideration because “questions were asked about his criminal record“. Mr. Ray had a criminal record:

Ray’s criminal history includes a 1997 conviction for the sale of narcotics, a 1998 conviction for possession of narcotics, a 1998 conviction for carrying a pistol without a permit and a 2004 conviction for criminal possession of a gun.

Shit, you can get that record in Hartford just by driving through the city5. Mayor Segarra had this to say:

“Mr. Ray is a qualified individual with solid references from former supervisors and community leaders,” Segarra said. “However, public servants, especially those in leadership positions, must be held to a higher standard.”

I am at a loss to understand what that means. If Mr. Ray was utterly qualified for the job and came with strong recommendations and a demonstrated dedication to the city of Hartford and public service, then the fact of his criminal convictions should not alter the equation one iota. In fact, Mayor Segarra didn’t seem too perturbed by the fact that this individual might suddenly become undesirable because he might turn out to have a criminal record, demonstrated by the fact that when the Hartford Courant contacted the Mayor’s Office on Wednesday, one day after announcing the hiring, he had not yet conducted the background check6.

And so something happened when the Courant contacted him and he realized that Mr. Ray has a criminal record. Either Mr. Ray suddenly became unappealing solely because of his criminal record, or Mayor Segarra got scared of potential “bad press” and suggested to Mr. Ray that he might want to withdraw.

He certainly could have taken a firm stance and said that this is America, the purported land of second chances, where we love redemption and the underdog and that the purpose of Ban the Box was to permit such hires and that it would set a tremendous example for the community.

That doesn’t seem to be what happened and it certainly isn’t the stance taken by the Mayor in public. It also isn’t something that has been implied by Mr. Ray.7

It’s sad. Here was a perfect opportunity to explain to residents of a city with a massive crime problem and an even bigger reintegration problem that people are deserving of second chances. That people are better than the worst thing that they’ve done and that there is no shame in hiring someone with a criminal record – and to a position of trust and importance at that.

But instead the Mayor wants to “review” the policy and perhaps revise it to conduct background checks before job offers are made, which would render Ban the Box completely useless.

Because one should only do the right thing if it looks good.

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For more, see The Hartford Guardian; Real Hartford.

 

Don’t start nothing won’t be nothing

Connecticut has a very dubious and troubled relationship with our breach of peace statute. Its broad language gives license to turn perfectly legal acts into a crime.

So whether you’re someone who is legally carrying a gun in Connecticut, or a college student who returns home in his Halloween costume, society’s irresponsible overreaction is your responsibility.

I’m sure you’ve heard of David Kyem, the Central CT State U (such a fucking long name – hereinafter CCSU) student who walked back onto campus on a Monday wearing his ninja Halloween costume.

A guy, who allegedly went to that school, so someone must’ve known him, walking to his dorm room with a fake sword was cause to bring the SWAT team and 62 – yes, I said sixty-fucking-two – police officers to the campus. It caused a three hour lockdown and Kyem was arrested for breach of the peace.

Here’s a video of him dangerously getting into an elevator after which he dangerously presses the button to his floor and dangerously walks through a common room not in the least bit looking tired:

So how did this all come to light? Apparently someone who sat next to him on a bus (!) notified police:

Kaylie Washburn, a senior at CCSU who said she rode the bus with the suspicious person and called police. She said she was grateful for the quick police response and called 911 to “help prevent an incident like at Virginia Tech from happening at Central.”

More:

Jordan Governale, a 20-year-old junior from Farmington, said he walked by a man carrying a backpack and with a sword and sheath strapped to his back Monday morning. The man was wearing a mask, camouflage pants, knee pads and a vest resembling body armor, Governale said.

A minute later, he said, he saw police.  “At first I thought it was a Halloween costume. But after I saw the cops I thought it was some sort of threat,” he said. “It’s pretty scary. It’s pretty strange, unexpected.”

Yes, it’s unexpected, because it was a fucking Halloween costume to begin with. If we didn’t have such a disproportional response to guns, we might be able to have an intelligent conversation about them.1

Do you see that all it takes for you to be guilty of a crime is for someone to have their limbic system go in overdrive?

Thankfully for David Kyem, despite the charge, he is still not guilty of Breach of Peace:

(a) A person is guilty of breach of the peace in the second degree when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person: (1) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior in a public place; or (2) assaults or strikes another; or (3) threatens to commit any crime against another person or such other person’s property; or (4) publicly exhibits, distributes, posts up or advertises any offensive, indecent or abusive matter concerning any person; or (5) in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture; or (6) creates a public and hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which such person is not licensed or privileged to do. For purposes of this section, “public place” means any area that is used or held out for use by the public whether owned or operated by public or private interests.

(b) Breach of the peace in the second degree is a class B misdemeanor.

One might argue that subsection (6) applies, but one would be wrong. He is clearly licensed and privileged to walk through the campus of his school to his dorm room wearing a halloween costume carrying a fake gun and sword. I mean, he must’ve left campus with those things, right?

As if that wasn’t enough, they order him to leave campus. He returns the next day and is arrested for trespassing.

As if that isn’t enough, he’s no longer a student of the school: forced out or left because he didn’t want to be around morons is unclear.

At that point, the best thing for everyone would be to just let it go: the school and police massively overreacted, a student lost his education and is facing criminal charges and everyone had to go buy new pairs of underwear.

But no. This Police State USA, so the New Britain police department has made the almost laughable request that they be reimbursed $13,000 by Kyem and his family.

Kyem, the only guy who probably didn’t do anything wrong in this whole fiasco is being asked to foot the bill of our collective freakout.

In a way, we all have to foot this bill and already do. Because taxes.

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The Harmless Writ: whether you get due process depends on how guilty you are

In The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton argued that the Constitution should provide for the writ [of habeas corpus] “in the most ample manner” because it served as a bulwark against “arbitrary methods of prosecuting pretended offenses [and] arbitrary punishments upon arbitrary convictions.” The drafters of the Constitution imbedded it in Article I before adopting the Bill of Rights.

The Supreme Court has attested to the writ’s significance on many occasions. At different times, the Court has declared that habeas corpus is intended “to liberate an individual from unlawful imprisonment,” a procedure for “securing to the petitioners their constitutional rights,” and “the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom,” which, if withdrawn, “risk[s] injury to an important interest in human liberty.”

Most recently, the Court described the writ of habeas corpus as a “vital instrument” to securing “freedom from unlawful restraint,” such freedom being “a fundamental precept of liberty.”

Taken, once again, from this law review article [PDF]. To those who don’t know, a petition for writ of habeas corpus is a post-conviction1 avenue to challenge the legality of their incarceration.

As the legendary Judge Weinstein quoted in his report on 500 habeas corpus cases:

The writ tests only whether a prisoner has been accorded due process, not whether he is guilty.

Because, at one point in time, in this country and this legal system, we valued the process as much as the outcome. We placed emphasis on doing things correctly, because we possibly recognized that we all weren’t so blissfully immune from the powerful crosshairs of a runaway government. To that end, judges across the various states and in the federal system were given broad authority to hear these “habeas petitions” challenging the legality of convictions.

Concomitantly, they were given broad powers to fashion remedies, because the harm caused by a violation of a Constitutional right must be made whole as completely as possible.

In Hilton v. Braunskill, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote

Federal habeas corpus practice, as reflected by the decisions of this Court, indicates that a court has broad discretion in conditioning a judgment granting habeas relief.

So, for example:

Riggs v. Fairman, 399 F.3d 1179 (9th Cir.2005), a district court has considerable discretion in fashioning a remedy tailored to the injury suffered from the constitutional violation, and a court must consider the unique facts and circumstances of a particular case; Jeanty v. Bulger, 204 F.Supp.2d 1366 (S.D.Fla.2002), a court granting a writ of habeas corpus may also issue an injunction in aid of the writ; Gall v. Parker, 231 F.3d 265 (6th Cir.2000), a habeas court has broad discretion in fashioning habeas relief; Hannon v. Maschner, 981 F.2d 1142 (10th Cir.1992), a district court may exercise its broad authority in habeas cases to grant any relief it deems necessary, including 638*638 permanent discharge of a successful habeas petitioner; Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 107 S.Ct. 2113, 95 L.Ed.2d 724 (1987), federal courts have largest power to control and direct the form of judgment entered in cases brought up on habeas corpus; Jean v. Meissner, 90 F.R.D. 658 (S.D.Fla.1981), where appropriate, a habeas court may grant injunctive, declaratory and mandatory relief; Hobson v. Murray, 485 F.Supp. 1340 (E.D.Va.1980), federal courts are not narrowly restricted in fashioning an appropriate remedy on granting petition for writ of federal habeas corpus relief but instead, the court is charged to dispose of the matter as law and justice require; U.S. ex. rel. Marrero v. Warden, Lewisburg Penitentiary, 483 F.2d 656 (3rd Cir.1973), immediate and unconditional release is not the only remedy available in a habeas corpus proceeding.

Gentry v. Deuth. In Connecticut, this power, which derives from the habeas corpus court being a “court of equity” is identical to the power of the federal court. There are a set of statutes in this state, duly enacted by the legislature, that create special “habeas corpus courts”2 In CT, the legislature deemed it efficient to consolidate all these petitions in one courthouse in Rockville and assign 2-3 judges there to hear and dispose of all these cases. When I say “habeas court”, I’m referring to a judge assigned to sit as a habeas judge by the administration of the judicial branch. Once a judge has been administratively assigned to assume that role for a period of 2 or 3 years3, the judge takes on the duties, responsibilities and powers of the habeas corpus court which are given to it either by the common law (all the quotes above) or by statute, which states:

(a) The court or judge hearing any habeas corpus shall proceed in a summary way to determine the facts and issues of the case, by hearing the testimony and arguments in the case, and shall inquire fully into the cause of imprisonment and thereupon dispose of the case as law and justice require.

Emphasis added by me. Because as of today, that bolded portion is functionally excised from the law books and placed in the metaphorical trash heap which the CT Supreme Court is doing a fine job of filling with your and my individual rights and liberties.

In a decision today [PDF] in H.P.T. v. Commissioner that is one in a long line of utterly confused and confusing decisions about what, exactly, one must do in order to correct a Constitutional wrong when it comes to bad advice given by an individual’s lawyer, the court effectively divests these “habeas corpus” courts of their long-standing and inherent power to fashion the appropriate remedy.

This supreme court, for some reason, has gotten it into its head for over a decade now, that impartial habeas courts whose job is to determine whether a person has been “accorded due process”, not to sit and once again decide “whether he is guilty” are the wrong jurists to determine just what is to be done once they have decided that there was no due process.

A habeas court, generally, decides three things:

  1. Was there a Constitutional violation?
  2. Was there harm to the individual?
  3. How do we fix it?

There is absolutely no precedent whatsoever for questions 1 & 2 to be decided by one court and question 3 to be answered by another court altogether. And yet here we are in CT where this is precisely what has happened.

Here’s what the court wrote:

the proper remedy remains the same in most cases, namely, remanding the case to the trial court, which is vested with the discretion to [return the individual to pre-harm status]

Except, as we have seen just above, it is the habeas court, not the trial court that is “vested with the discretion”.

In order for its proposition, this opinion in H.P.T. cites only two cases4. One is its own opinion from last year in Ebron v. Commissioner, which is based primarily on a (deliberate?) misreading of Lafler and Frye and Lafler itself. The problem is that the SCOTUS cases of Lafler and Frye deal with setups where the trial court and the habeas court are one and the same, which is clearly not the scenario here in Connecticut.

So, in this opinion today, the CT Supreme Court has, without being asked to or without any due consideration, effectively repealed a statute duly passed by the State legislature. It has done so for one reason and one reason only:

In our view, the determination of the appropriate remedy will, in most cases, more properly be made by the trial court than by the habeas court because the former generally will have greater experience than the latter in crafting criminal sentences and, in some cases, may have access to information about the petitioner and the crime that is not available to the habeas court.

In other words, because the trial judge will know if he’s a really bad guy who needs to be locked up. The beauty of having an independent court not only evaluate the harm, but then also direct the remedy is that by virtue of being independent, the court has no stake in the game. It is not being asked to second guess or explain its own decision making.

Remember that the trial judge is the one that presided over the case when it was initially pending. This is the judge who may have ruled on discovery requests and, more importantly, conveyed plea bargain offers to the individual’s lawyer. This is the judge who was informed of the vagaries of the case and the strength of the evidence of guilt, or lack thereof. This is a judge who has formed an opinion of the individual’s guilt.

The supreme court says today, in stark contrast to centuries of habeas corpus jurisprudence, that guilt is relevant to determining whether an individual should be afforded the protection of the Constitution against illegal convictions.

The court affirms that as long as someone is guilty, it doesn’t matter how that conviction was obtained.

A Constitutional harm is being weighed not against the principle that was violated or the actual harm caused to an individual, but against the character of that person.

What this decision today does, is give rise to a scenario where questions 1 and 2 above may be answered in the affirmative and question 3 may be answered by a judge with an emotional stake in the outcome who might proffer a middle finger by way of remedy.

We may end up with a situation with absolutely no relief for a proven Constitutional violation. A harm without a remedy is no harm at all.

This court has managed to take the “best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom” and turn it into a harmless piece of paper.

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Restoring sanity to child sex cases

For as long as I can remember, there has been one fundamental truth in Connecticut if you are charged with a crime involving a sexual assault: you’re screwed1.

There’s the “liberal” standard of admitting prior sexual assault allegations in a case involving sexual assault, there’s straight up “once a sexual assault criminal, always any other type of criminal” and the almost unhindered admission of any type of “expert” testimony of an “expert” who claims to be an “expert” in the area of child sexual abuse [read: anecdotal evidence predicated solely on confirmation bias] despite a somewhat half-hearted effort to walk that back just ever so slightly and always distinguishably2 and then there’s the only-salvageable-by-judicial-fiat-Risk-of-Injury-statute, which is probably the most dangerous statute for due process and individual liberty and freedom that exists in Connecticut.

Not my town-itis: Norwich, CT edition

It seems, does it not, that sex offender hysteria has died down a bit? The outrageous calls for inhumane residency restrictions seem to have abated1. Except CT. You see, Connecticut never did succumb to the grip of the madness, relentless rejecting calls for residency restrictions2. But we’re not to be outdone, because if there’s anything that CT is good at, it’s doing things late.

So after the town of Montville got its panties in a bunch in 2010 over a sex offender treatment house that was scheduled to open3, there really hasn’t been much noise here about this.

Enter Norwalk, New London, Norwich, CT. I’m telling you this news article reads like a cut and paste job from many similar news articles years ago. First, you have the children:

Norwich residents are concerned about the number of sex offenders in town, several of which are concentrated in a neighborhood full of children and teens.

What’s concentrated, you ask? They’re hoping you’ve stopped paying attention after that first sentence and are now fuming in your living room, hurling obscenities at Obama, liberals and the Devil:

According to police, four of the city’s 75 registered sex offenders live on a stretch of Central Avenue, which borders a park in the Greeneville section of town.

Sound of record scratching from 80s sitcoms.

Four. Out of Seventy-Five. Live on a “stretch” of road which “borders” a park. Cue quote from parent:

“I’m appalled,” said Norwich resident Melanie Silva. “I’m a parent of four. This playground here is a hub for teenage and young children.”

Oh man, Silva is appalled. I bet some perp showed her his penis or something:

Silva said she hasn’t had any direct contact with the sex offenders, and neither has her personal trainer, Jessica Doubleday, who opened a studio in a garage facing the park.

At this point, any self-respecting journalist would walk away after rolling her eyes and mouthing, “get the f*ck out”. But, of course, this is Connecticut journalism we’re talking about, so strap in.

But this park is apparently the arboreal embodiment of the bogeyman:

“There’s no lighting in this playground, there’s no bathrooms in this playground, and there’s people walking around with open-bottled liquor and there’s people walking around that are selling drugs, and it’s very obvious,” she said.

And then failed to explain just what, exactly, was so “very obvious”, because I have no clue what she’s talking about or – more importantly and here I’m bringing this lesson back, kids – what the motherloving hell this has to do with sex offenders.

“With that many people around that are sex offenders, you never know when something is gonna happen,” she said.

Nope. Still no clue what she’s referring to. Because, Ms. Silva and Doubleday. Let me let you in on a secret. Come closer. Closer still. I’ll whisper in your ear:

There are sex offenders among us. Every day. You see them. They see you! BOO! Happy Hallooween.

But no faux outrage story in Connecticut would be complete with a legislator trying to re-reinvent the wheel:

Norwich officials met Monday with State Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague, who is pushing for reform and hopes to to develop proposals by late winter.

“We will be looking at the rules revolving around parole and probation to see what we can impact there,” said Osten.

“Many of the sex offenders that are identified are not controlled by the state any longer.”

Osten said some are beyond probation or parole and are living with family or on their own. She said she also wants to see more information reported on the state police website regarding the sex offenders’ crimes.

Forget a sex offender registry. I want a dumb legislator registry. An independently maintained list of idiotic comments by our elected officials, so I know whom to avoid the next time I’m at the legislature.

Sherman Screwed Skakel: New trial ordered

Well. This is something I never thought I’d type, but Michael Skakel has just had his convictions reversed and a new trial ordered [PDF] by former Appellate Court judge Thomas Bishop1, who was designated to preside over and adjudicate Skakel’s petition for writ of habeas corpus.

The allegations revolve mostly around Skakel’s representation by famed celebrity lawyer Mickey Sherman, in that Skakel alleges that Sherman did a terrible job representing him.

See, the Constitution not only requires that you have a lawyer, but that you have a lawyer who is competent and whose performance is within the norm2.

And that makes sense: what good is a lawyer if the lawyer performs terribly, is asleep and incompetent and completely mucks up your case? The lawyer must be required to act in an universally acceptable way.

So Skakel alleged that Sherman did many things wrong. In support of his allegations, he presented the testimony of three very respected Connecticut lawyers, all of whom seemed to have some very choice things to say about Sherman’s performance.

In a very lengthy, detailed and thorough opinion, Judge Bishop finds in Skakel’s favor on most of the serious allegations of ineffective assistance.

In other words, Sherman did a piss poor job of representing Skakel and that piss-poor representation deprived Skakel of his Constitutionally protected right to effective assistance of counsel and there is a reasonable likelihood that his piss-poor representation led to Skakel’s conviction.

Before I go any further, some background: Skakel is some rich and politically powerful dude (“a Kennedy cousin”) who was 15 years old when his neighbor – a 15 year old girl – was found bludgeoned to death. About 23 years later, in 1998, a grand jury was convened and in 2000 Skakel was charged with the murder.

Although a juvenile at time of the murder, he was tried as an adult. But lest you think this is a case of one brand of justice for the rich and one for the poor, let me explain to you that Skakel got screwed.

They’ve fucked him at every step. 15 at the time of the murder and should legally have been in juvenile court? No worries, we’ll just rule that sure that may be but now he’s an adult so he should be tried as an adult. Easy. Oh what’s that, you say? The statute of limitations ran out 20 years ago? No problem, we’ll just create a brand new rule out of our asses whole cloth that statutes of limitations don’t expire if the legislature changes statutes of limitations while they’re still running. Or something. Did we throw enough legal words at you so now you’re confused and have no idea what we said? Yes? Good. Go away. Don’t look here any more.

So, no. He hasn’t gotten preferential treatment from Connecticut courts. In fact, if anything, it seems to be almost the opposite3.

Judge Bishop finds that Sherman was ineffective in some pretty serious ways: first, that he failed to argue to the jury that there was someone else who had committed the crime – Thomas Skakel, Michael’s brother. Judge Bishop has this to say:

Attorney Sherman’s failure to point an accusatory finger at T. Skakel was and is inexplicable. Given the evidence of T. Skakel’s culpability available to Attorney Sherman before trial, there was no reasonable basis for his failure to shine the light of culpability on T. Skakel.

He further finds that there was an independent, detached reliable alibi witness Dennis Ossorio, who would’ve testified that Skakel was at his house around the time of the murder. This was not investigated or presented to the jury.

Equally damning is the Sherman’s failure to undermine the state’s star witness: Gregory Coleman who alleged that Skakel had made some specific confessions to him about murdering Moxley. Judge Bishop found that there were several other witnesses who would’ve testified that Coleman was a liar, proud to be a liar and that some of the described encounters with Skakel never occurred.

Sherman’s handling of the trial and his attitude throughout can best be summed up by this quote of Attorney Michael Fitzpatrick, one of Skakel’s experts:

Sherman’s failure…was a significant strategic error born of an overabundance of self-satisfaction with his [performance]

Here’s something I didn’t know: after closing arguments, but before the judge instructed the jury on the law, the trial judge had to specifically instruct the jurors that several comments made by Attorney Sherman were improper and they should ignore those comments. I can tell you that I’ve never seen that happen in relation to a defense attorney’s closing argument.

The real question, of course, is whether this will survive appellate review. I think the fact that it clocks in at 136 pages already gives the ruling a strong chance of survival4. Think of the work it will take to undo it. It’s possible – and if there ever was a case where it would happen, it would be this – but I think it’s somewhat unlikely. Further bolstering its chances are the other parts of the ruling where Judge Bishop finds either that Sherman did nothing wrong or that he did, but it didn’t affect the trial.

However one cannot come away without the sense that Sherman’s performance was so below par that it fundamentally affected the reliability of the outcome and called into question the fairness of the trial.

And that is something we should all be concerned about, whether the defendant is a Kennedy cousin or just your cousin.

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