Ten Commandments? What are they?

Hobby Lobby recently was charged by the Justice Department with stealing millions of dollars of artifacts in violation of the law.

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These devout Christians, you may recall, went all the ways to the Supreme Court to fight for their right to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees because of their strongly held religious beliefs. And then the Court made one of the worst decisions in its history by deciding that corporations could have religious beliefs and discriminate based on  those beliefs.

Well, not surprisingly, like many (if not most) Christians, they only care about some of the things their religion tells them. Stealing and lying — both clearly prohibited by their Ten Commandments, doesn’t seem to apply to them. Contraception — not mentioned anywhere in the Bible — well, that’s different.

Picking and choosing what religious laws you want to follow is nothing new, but the hypocrisy here is overwhelming.

To make matters worse, these artifacts were stolen in Iraq, and most likely stolen by agents of ISIS, so Hobby Lobby should now be categorized as a terrorist supporter, and the leaders of that organization should face serious criminal penalties. I mean, after all, I’ve represented people in my law practice who were stealing a few dozen dollars worth of stuff from WalMart who are now sitting in jail. Surely someone who violates the law and steals millions should be treated worse.

Ha ha! Just kidding. You know that will never happen.

 

 

No, Bill Clinton did not commit perjury

“You damned liberals complaining that Trump needs to be impeached! Why didn’t you want Bill Clinton impeached when he committed perjury — a felony!”

Look, I’m aware that conservatives have a reputation for ignoring facts when they get in the way of their world view — evolution and climate change aren’t real, trickle-down economics works, sexual orientation is a choice — but not only was Bill Clinton not convicted of perjury, he couldn’t be.4571618_orig

Yes, the House impeached him, because he lied about a consensual sexual affair he had with another adult. “Lying under oath is perjury!” they all scream. But no, it isn’t.

Perjury requires lying under oath about something relevant and material to a criminal investigation. If under oath you say your favorite color is blue when it’s really yellow, you’ve lied — but if your favorite color has nothing to do with a crime, then you haven’t committed perjury.

Adultery is not illegal. There was no “criminal investigation.” Republicans investigated both Clintons, over and over again, trying to find something — anything — they could get them on, and this was the only thing they could come up with. And impeachment doesn’t require anything more than enough politicians willing to impeach you.

Bill Clinton was never charged with perjury. No DA would file such frivolous charges, since clearly he hadn’t committed a crime. Is he a liar? Oh, absolutely. But he lied about something that really isn’t our business.

Meanwhile, Trump pretty much admits to Obstruction of Justice — an actual, real crime that has huge impact on our legal system — and Republicans yawn.  Since the GOP controlled the House under Clinton and Trump, and since they happily went after Clinton for his alleged non-crime, then surely they should be bringing impeachment charges against Trump for something much more severe right?

What? They’re not? Why, that would mean that they’re a bunch of lying hypocrites who are placing party above country!

(NOTE:  I know Bill Clinton is old news, but people keep bringing it up to distract from Trump. So feel free to bookmark this and send it to your Republican friends when they bring it up.

Not that it will matter. As we know, facts never convince them.)

Robocop vs. The Dallas Shooter

So much for the First Law.

Many civil libertarians are upset about the robot that was used to blow up the Dallas sniper. And I can kind of understand the concerns. We don’t want police blowing up people using robots, acting as judge, jury and executioner; we want people captured so they can face justice.robocop

But you know, sometimes you can’t capture people.

Micah Johnson killed cops. He wanted to kill more. He knew he was surrounded and knew that if he surrendered, he’d be getting the death penalty (This is Texas, after all). What would a few more cop deaths matter? His goal was to lure the cops in and hopefully take a few more down before he died.

So if I have the choice between risking the life of a cop (hell, of any human being) and that of a robot, then bye-bye, Daneel Olivaw*.

The robot is a tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good things and for evil things. I don’t disagree with the police’s use of the robot here.

 

*go ahead and google it

Criminal defense attorneys support crime!

There’s a new meme out there against Hillary Clinton which is full of lies, false quotes, and misleading information but that’s nothing new. (You can read about it on Snopes if you wish). The part that bothers me is this:

It criticizes her for representing a criminal when she was a young defense attorney and calls her an “advocate for rapists.”justice

This is the kind of attack we’ve seen before, usually from conservatives. It’s sad that I am seeing my liberal friends post this crap.

Conservatives who say things like that are hypocrites who say they love America while hating one of the very reasons the Founding Fathers fought the revolution: To rebel against a government that ignored basic rights. They put those rights in the first Ten Amendments: The right to counsel, the right to remain silent, the right to not be searched without a warrant and probable cause, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment — more than half of the Bill of Rights are about criminal rights.

And what’s to prevent the government from abusing these rights? Why, it’s defense attorneys.

But when we hold police responsible for illegal searches or argue that our clients’ rights are being abused, what do people say? “Oh, he got off on a technicality.” Yes, a technicality called the United States Constitution — the very foundation of our nation.

This is like the people who demand that freedom of speech be denied to speech they disagree with while defending that same right for themselves. Our freedoms are meaningless if they don’t apply to everyone, even people we hate.

Look, most of the people I represent are guilty of something. 95% of all cases end up with a plea. My job is to make sure that the innocent are defended and the guilty don’t have their rights denied or otherwise get screwed by the system.

This is patriotic. This is exactly what the Founding Fathers intended. This is what makes America great — that we, the people, can stand up to a powerful government that does wrong and can win without resorting to violence.

To imply that a defense attorney performing his or her job “supports crime” is an insult not just to attorneys, but to all Americans.

 

 

Driving While Black

Let me tell you about a recent case I had.

My client is a young black kid in college.  He’s never been in trouble before in his life. His dad is a successful businessman.

Being a good kid, he was allowed to borrow Dad’s expensive car to hang out with his friends. He did.

On the way home, he gets pulled over by a cop, who cites as the reason an “obscured license plate,” meaning it was covered in mud or something and the officer couldn’t read it. They’re allowed to stop to make sure it isn’t a false plate or something. (Actually, these days, cops can pull you over for just about anything, but that’s a topic for another day.)

My client is cooperative and polite.police car

The officer then says to my client that he wants to search the car. Thanks to a recent decision by a Republican-run Pennsylvania Supreme Court,*  you have no privacy rights in your car and the police can pretty much search whenever they want to. So my client, not wanting to cause a fuss, agrees. The officer finds a small amount of marijuana, left there by one of my client’s friends.

It should be noted that the officer detected no sign that my client was under the influence of marijuana — because he wasn’t. My client says he never smokes, and I have no reason to doubt that. Officers look for things like the smell of burnt marijuana, glassy eyes, and you know, the kind of way stoned people act. Had the officer thought there was any sign of that he would have taken my client in for a blood test and then, if there was a positive result, charged him with Driving Under the Influence.

So my client gets charged with Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana.

He continues on his way home.

As he nears home, he gets pulled over again. This time, this new officer says he’s pulling him over because the windows were too harshly tinted. Same thing happens — he doesn’t suspect my client of having committed any crime but demands a search anyway, and finds a grinder that the first cop missed. Now my client gets charged with Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Possession of Marijuana (for the few seeds found in the grinder).

Notice that the first cop never mentioned tinted windows and the second cop never mentioned an obscured license plate. Note as well that my client was never charged with the supposed reasons for the stops.

Now, for all my white friends: How often has this happened to you? How often are you pulled over for tinted windows or an obscured license plate or something else that is solely based on the officer’s opinion? A light out is an objective thing that makes sense for a traffic stop; how much tint is too much? How much mud is too much? Those kinds of things are judgment calls.

In my job as a defense attorney, I see those kinds of stops all the time, and almost always for young, dark-skinned men in expensive cars. In fact, as I have written about before, my Office Manager’s husband — a dark-skinned Hispanic businessman — gets pulled over probably once every two or three months for these kinds of reasons. He stands by and waits while the officer searches his car and always finds nothing and then he either gets a warning or a minor ticket that is hardly worth fighting over.

And many of my clients have similar stories, the worst of which are when the police find money and no other sign of criminal activity but keep the money because “it must have come from drugs!” Often, the cost of hiring an attorney to fight to get the money back is more than the amount of money taken, so ca-ching! Free money for the police fund. (That’s where a lot of those police tanks and other military gear comes from, you know.)

Now, are all police profiling black drivers? Oh, of course not. But when you see it happen as often as those of us in the criminal justice system see, you realize that there’s something going on here.

Once I was discussing a case in chambers with a judge who said that the police clearly knew what they were doing since she sees so many cases where drugs have been found during these searches. “That’s because you never hear about the stops where nothing is found,” I countered. “It looks like 100% of all searches are successful to you, because those are the only cases that come before you.” To her credit, she nodded, as if she had never considered that fact before.

And I think that’s where a lot of white people are — they don’t personally see it, so they think it doesn’t happen.

Now back to my case: There were two different DAs assigned to this case because they happened in two different jurisdictions, but I got them to talk to each other. They saw what was going on agreed to give my client probation without a verdict — he doesn’t plead guilty, and as long as he stays out of trouble and doesn’t test positive for any drugs (not a problem for him) the matter will eventually be dismissed and wiped from his record.

And boy, has he learned not to let those particular friends ride in his car any more.

 

*The good news is that thanks to some of these judges now being forced to resign due to various scandals, including one judge who is now in jail, a bunch of Democrats were elected to replace them. So this policy may change in the future.

Lying Liars respond to Planned Parenthood attack with lying lies

Carly Fiorino has made a name for herself by repeating a lie about Planned Parenthood selling baby parts, based on a false video that even its creator has admitted was a lie.  The rest of the GOP candidates haven’t called her out for this, and in fact have repeated other lies about PP while spending much of their time talking about how evil PP is for doing a perfectly legal medical procedure.

cartoon by Darren Bell

cartoon by Darren Bell

And people listen. They do. Of course they do — that’s the whole point. That’s why Planned Parenthood facilities all over the United States have been the subject of vandalism, arson, and shootings.

So when another one of those crazed loners who listens to them kills those “evil people” it’s hard to deny that it is because of the things that crazed loner heard those people say.

Unless, of course, you’re a liar to begin with. Then it’s easy to deny facts. After all, what’s one more lie?

These liars are now throwing up all sorts of lies to distance themselves from this guy.

“He was a trangendered leftist activist,” said Ted Cruz — because, you know, when you think of those transgendered leftist activists, what comes to mind are crazed loners who have crosses all over their walls living in a trailer surrounded by guns in the middle of nowhere. It’s practically a cliche.  In the real world, rational people can’t deny that the shooter was a right-wing conservative Christian, based on stuff found in his home and reports from his ex-wife.

This was a bank robbery gone bad,” goes another lie, repeated often by Fox News, only because this happened next door to a bank. They can’t quite explain why the shooter was saying “No more baby parts” during the botched bank robbery though. (The local police, by the way, have called this a “politically motivated shooting” and deny that there was a bank robbery at all.)

And then they continue to lie about the baby parts.

I guess that’s what happens when you’re addicted to being a liar. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

 

Jaywalkers, Zealous Cops, and The Scientific Method

Jaywalking is the example you give for the most minor offense possible under the law; it ranks up there with the “no spitting on the sidewalk” ordinances.

Jaywalking is a “summary” offense, like getting a traffic ticket, less than a misdemeanor, and carrying no jail time. If you get caught jaywalking, the worst that can possibly happen is that a cop will give you a ticket and you’ll pay a fine of $25 or so.

Well, unless you’re a young black male.

A few days ago, I posted the above video on my Facebook page, which caused quite a commotion. A cop arrests a kid for jaywalking to catch the bus, detains him, and then is seen beating the kid, who apparently fights back (as would anyone who is being beaten). Even then, the kid doesn’t run away, and the cop then calls over 8 more who surround the kid and harass him.

That’s all I know, based on the video. So I formed an opinion that the cops had tremendously overreacted over the most innocuous “crime” possible.

Some of my Facebook friends took me to task over this, complaining that I didn’t know the whole picture, and then they proceeded to come up with a bunch of possibilities that could have caused the officer to act this way.

Well, geez, I could do that too. What if the kid had fought the officer? What if he was seen with a weapon? What if the kid was actually a lizard space alien who had hypnotized the cop as part of a vast conspiracy to overthrow the planet Earth and steal our women?

Making up stuff to justify your already-held position is really easy to do.

Still, I was accused of being dishonest for making a decision about something when I don’t have all the facts.

Well, that’s how it works. You base an opinion on the facts you have before you. You don’t make up theories about stuff you have no evidence for. And if new facts emerge, you change your opinion to take those into account.

That’s the scientific method, usable in everyday life.

The problem is with people who make up “what if” scenarios to give them a conclusion opposite of all the facts before you. That’s a bit intellectually dishonest, if you ask me. While there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t have enough evidence to form an opinion yet” there is definitely something wrong with saying “I have an opinion but it’s not based on any facts we have right now.”

Then again, often these are the same people who will never change their minds when new facts emerge; they’re the ones who never let facts spoil their conclusions.