What happens if you dial 666; or, upending the criminal justice system


Me for call someone did?

What happens when you dial 666, goes an old British childrens’ joke. Why, you get a policeman walking on his head!

If this study is anything to be believed, then we’ll all be dialing 119 pretty soon, for its implications are likely to turn the criminal justice system on its head. Professors at Vanderbilt University probed the brains of 16 volunteers, using MRIs, “as they judged scenarios of varying culpability and criminality on a scale of 0 to 9 – from no punishment to extreme punishment.”

(Yes, that is a picture of a British bobby. Upside down.)

Anyway, back to the study.

The results are rather intriguing:

Maryland commission recommends abolition of death penalty

I seem to have a knack for these things. I post about something and the next day there’s some news on that subject (or it could just be coincidence – take your pick). After yesterday’s post on the death penalty, I was but a little surprised to see two interesting news items today. The first is this very thorough and deeply interesting report [pdf] from the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment. A legislatively created body, the Commission was charged in 2008, with evaluating the racial, socio-economic, geographic and other influences on the death penalty and to make a recommendation as to its continued viability.

In a 13-9 vote, the Commission today recommended abolition of the death penalty in Maryland. In preparing this report:

A question – Off topic

This is a car accident/personal injury question. I’m sure some of you are well-versed in that area of the law. This is the setup: Two on ramps merge into one, leading to an interstate highway. One of those on-ramps has a yield sign. Assume that there are three cars going toward the highway on the non-yield side and one on the yield side.

The car on the yield side does not yield to the first car, which manages to pass it. The second car also manages to pass the car on the yield side, but the yield car is still moving forward. The third car on the non-yield side, which was following normal rules of traffic, keeps driving, because it has the right of way. Unfortunately, it is now to the side of, or slightly behind, the offending car from the yield side. They collide.

Is it a defense to any lawsuit that despite having the right of way, the third car is at fault (or at enough fault) that it should have followed normal rules of traffic and allowed the offending car to pass. Does the answer change if the third car hits the offending car from behind?

Ideally, following rules of traffic, the offending car from the yield side should have waited till all three cars had passed.

A few thoughts on the death penalty

Several occurances in the last week have got me thinking about the death penalty. Miguel Roman should be the new posterchild for abolishing the death penalty. Yes, he wasn’t on death row, but here is a man who spent 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Consider the rush to execution that the pro-death penalty crowd loves to push. Imagine if that was actually the case and Roman was on death row. He’d be dead right now. If my calculations are correct, were Roman on death row, he’d be the longest serving member of that club. And people complain about the length of time the other death row members’ appeals and habeas corpus petitions have taken. Many would have killed them already.

The arbitrariness of the death penalty is also something to ponder.

11. Be (intellectually) honest

Since the last post was mostly tongue-in-cheek, I couldn’t include #11: be honest, or intellectually honest.

The legal profession, despite the number of students graduating from law school every year, is small and insular. The local bar is small. The attorneys who practice in your given field are even smaller. And when you deal with the same attorneys over and over again, there is nothing more valuable than your reputation and your integrity.

Which is why it is imperative that you be honest. That you be intellectually honest. Opposing counsel and judges can see through your prevarication.

The law is not always friendly to you or your client or the position you want to take. It happens to all of us. That doesn’t give you a license to lie, or to make up arguments that ignore the law or the facts of the case.

10 things I didn’t learn in law school

Look, law school taught me a fair bit. I won’t lie. It taught me that even grown-ups can get drunk and get in fights at local bars. It taught me that my fellow lawyer isn’t much smarter than me and will one day become really famous. It taught me that you can fake your way through almost anything.

But here are ten things it didn’t teach me:

Might OJ Simpson have a Sanders claim?

how did I end up back here?

One interesting piece of information in this OJ Simpson brouhaha is the revelation that he may have rejected a plea offer for a sentence as low as 3 years. The first word came from a friend of The Juice and it was later confirmed by his lawyer.

Sanders, in the post title, refers to a CT Superior Court decision: Sanders v. Warden1. Obviously, OJ wouldn’t get the benefit of this particular case, because, as much as Mohegan Sun wants it to be, this is not Vegas. The principle Sanders stands for is borrowed from a 1996 Second Circuit decision: Boria v. Keane.