[Notice of corrections: This post had way too many typos, and I apologize profusely. Thanks to Crella for alerting me. I think I got all of them.]
I have a theory.
I wish I didn’t.
Therese Kozlowski got a videotape of her husband Brian poisoning her coffee with sleeping pills. Even with this evidence, the poisoner received a sentence of just 60 days in jail, which he will be allowed to serve on the weekends. The prosecutor called the sentence “a slap in the face” of the victim. Oh, it’s much worse than that.
It all started after Therese said she wanted a divorce. Then she noticed that she was feeling drowsy and tired on mornings when Brian made the coffee. She narrowly avoided an accident when she fell asleep while driving to work. So she secretly installed a small video camera by the coffee machine, and sure enough, Brian was putting the equivalent of eight sleeping pills in the morning java.
“Brian’s continuous, methodical, and calculated plot to poison me included a complete disregard for human life, including his own daughter [she also drank some of the spiked coffee], along with hundreds of other drivers who he put at risk every day for weeks,” Therese Kozlowski said in court. “I believe this was attempted murder. Once Brian realized he lost me and there was no getting me to stay in this unhealthy marriage, his goal was to eliminate me.”
Let’s see if this sentence generates a fraction of the national attention that the so-called “affluenza” sentence did. For this is much, much worse.
Star Stanford swimmer and Olympic swimming team candidate Brock Turner was arrested in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2015 when two Stanford graduate students saw him on the ground, thrusting his hips atop an unconscious, partially clothed woman. They called police; Turner ran, and police chased him down Turner. In trial, Turner claimed that the woman had consented, though police found her unconscious.
The jury didn’t believe him, and convicted Turner of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. The usual sentence for sexual assault is six years in state prison.Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, however, sentenced Turner to six months in county jail and three years’ probation. Turner could get out of prison after just three months.
(Yes, apparently this is going to be Blank Graphic Saturday.)
I just watched a CNN report that stated, “Ethan Couch’s attorney convinced the judge that the teen suffered from “‘Afflienza”‘
This is 100% false. The judge never said a word about “affluenza” in her order, nor did her words to Couch suggest that she agreed with the lawyer’s desperate “affluenza” theory, conveyed by a paid expert. (There is no such malady as “affluenza.”)
This is not in dispute: the judge did NOT accept this theory, and the fact that she gave the teen probation with a heavy load of conditions—another fact left out of the CNN report on Couch’s disappearance—does not suggest that she did. Thus CNN is spreading a narrative rather than conveying truth, in the process ignoring easily available evidence (the court transcript) that has not changed in two years and intentionally misleading its audience.
A news organization that allows this to happen cannot and must not be trusted.
You may recall the so-called “Affluenza” case of 2013, which I wrote about here.
Ethan Couch a Texas teenager from a rich family, killed four people in a drunken-driving crash (he also had no license) and crippled a friend riding with him. Instead of jail time, the 16-year-old was given probation mandating expensive counseling and treatment by a judge who found herself vilified far and wide. Now this, from his lawyers, Reagan Wynn and Scott Brown:
“We have recently learned that, for the last several days, the juvenile probation officer has been unable to make contact with Ethan or his mother with whom he has been residing.”
A video surfaced showing Couch playing beer pong, which is a violation of probation that could send him to prison. The assumption is that he had fled to avoid that result, and may have even left the country. The Washington Post reports that The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, who is now considered a fugitive.
So, I am asked, how do the Ethics Alarms observations on the original sentence stand now, since it is clear that the judge’s attempt to reform Ethan without locking him up has failed?
The answer is, having read what I wrote initially again, that I wouldn’t retract a word.
Last year, the American Bar Association House of Delegates passed a controversial resolution calling on states to ban the so-called gay panic defense. The defense arises (when it does arise, which is rarely), in cases of a heterosexual accused of an assault on a gay individual when the defense attorney argues that his client was so shocked and terrified by a homosexual advance of a romantic or sexual nature that he was overcome with disgust, anger and fear, and was launched into a psychotic state that compelled violence. Many judges refuse to allow it, because there is no accepted scientific evidence that “gay panic” exists as a legitimate prelude to temporary insanity.
That the American Bar Association urges federal, tribal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction.
Such legislative action should include:
(a) Requiring courts in any criminal trial or proceeding, upon the request of a party, to instruct the jury not to let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence its decision about the victims, witnesses, or defendant s based upon sexual orientation or gender identity; and
(b) Specifying that neither a non – violent sexual advance, nor the discovery of a person’s sex or gender identity, constitutes legally adequate provocation to mitigate the crime of murder to manslaughter, o r to mitigate the severity of any non – capital crime.
“I understand, son. We’ve all been at that awkward, “just want to beat the old white guy to death” age….”
Detroit Third Judicial Circuit Judge James Callahan sentenced 19-year-old gang member Latrez Cummings to six months in jail for his participation in the mob beating of Steve Utash, a 54-year-old white man who jumped out of his car to assist a 10-year-old African-American boy after his pick-up truck hit the child. Cummings and at least 20 others on the scene attacked Utash and beat him severely, leaving him with permanent brain damage.
Judge Callahan told Cummings that the lack of a father was what led him to his current plight. “That’s all you have needed in your life, a father, someone to discipline you, someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake,” Callahan lectured Cummings. “Without the guidance of a father, being 19 years of age, I can understand how some of these problems existed in the past.” The judge added that Cummings has suffered without “somebody to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake.” With the further rationalization, “We’ve all been 19 years of age, ” Callahan handed down the six month sentence, to be followed by probation.
Perhaps you have read about the horrific bullying case in Southern Maryland, where two teenaged girls victimized an autistic boy who attended their school who thought—indeed still thinks, apparently—that they were his friends. A recent Slate story gives you the flavor of it:
“A teenage boy identified as Michael and described as autistic started writing love letters to a pretty girl at his Southern Maryland high school. They became friends and started hanging out with the girl’s older friend, 17-year-old Lauren Bush, who was a cheerleader. On days when their parents weren’t around—mostly snow days—the girls began to toy with Michael. Bush put a knife to his throat and scared him, kicked him in the groin, dragged him by his hair, and tried to get him to have sex with the family dog. His younger “girlfriend” took video of the incidents on her cellphone. Once they got Michael to walk on a half-frozen pond. He fell through the ice, and they didn’t help him. Then, Sunday’s Post story revealed they didn’t let him ride in the warm car because he’d get the seats wet. Instead, they made him ride in the trunk.”
For whatever reason, there have been a lot of attacks on the legal profession lately—and some from within the legal profession—because of so-called “disgusting” and “frivolous” arguments by lawyers who are zealously representing their clients. These range from outrage over the so-called “affluenza” defense (which, it apparently does no good to point out, was explicitly rejected by the judge in that case), to the law suit against the Glendale, California memorial to women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese in World War II, to the argument that Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy was complicit in his son’s allegedly murdering his girlfriend because Remy hired a lawyer who mounted a vigorous defense in the son’s earlier domestic abuse arrests.
Lawyers are ethically obligated to advance whatever non-frivolous arguments and theories that are most likely to achieve their clients’ objectives, whether it is avoiding prison or rationalizing the crimes of the Japanese army. That is their job and societal function, and it is essential to our avoiding a jack-boot system where any of us could be thrown in jail by popular opinion or government edict. The laws are there to be used by every citizen, even when the citizen’s objectives are unethical, or when the citizen is a cur.
Our rights are all protected well by this principle, and it’s high time we stopped bitching about it.
Undeterred by this, however, yet another defense attorney is being savaged in the news media and blogosphere, as well as by women’s rights advocates, for making an argument in defense of his client that they find offensive. In Georgia, Darriuos Mathis and his legal team are making the argument, among their efforts to show that the evidence against him is not sufficiently conclusive, that Mathis is too attractive--fit, handsome, sexy– to have to resort to kidnapping and raping a 24-year-old woman two years ago, which is what he charged with.
Today we travel cross the pond for a head explosion-prompting episode. A charming young woman and mother named Loren Morris, now 21, began having sexual intercourse with an 8-year-old boy five years ago, and continued for two years until he was ten years old, involving about 50 forced sexual acts.
This case is relevant to a couple of recent Ethics Alarms controversies. Presumably Morris is being sentenced leniently on the basis of her horrific crime being committed while she was a juvenile, even though she is an adult now. As I asserted in the stateside case of the juvenile assault ripening into a murder, I think a juvenile whose crime is only discovered and proven after he or she enters adulthood should be tried and punished as an adult. Continue reading →
The infamous vehicular homicide case that generated the “Affluenza Defense” is well on its way to becoming an ethics train wreck.
The news media keeps doing its part: today CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield, whom I can no longer recall why I ever thought she was more than an over-opinionated hack (I think it was her glasses) said again today that Judge Jean Boyd “bought” 16-year-old scofflaw Ethan Crouch’s defense that he wasn’t responsible for his actions (that ended up leading to the death of four and critical injuries to two of his friends) because he had been spoiled by an affluent upbringing. As I already pointed out, there is no evidence that Judge Boyd agreed with that dubious argument, and solid evidence that she did not. Never mind. Ashleigh and the rest of her incompetent colleagues will continue to try to mislead the public regarding this just as they regularly do on nearly every other news story.
The more surprising development was the sudden participation of the Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon, he whose efforts to jail young Couch were foiled by Boyd’s expansive judicial compassion toward a minor, in the ethics follies. He’s attempting another “bite of the apple, ” as judges say, by asking Boyd to lock up Ethan on two counts of intoxication assault that he argues are still pending before her court. Shannon explained:
“During his recent trial, the 16-year-old admitted his guilt in four cases of intoxication manslaughter and two cases of intoxication assault. There has been no verdict formally entered in the two intoxication assault cases. Every case deserves a verdict.”
Shannon’s renewed plea focuses on the two teens riding in the back of Couch’s Ford F-350 pickup (voluntarily riding there, knowing the driver was unlicensed and drunk as a skunk) who suffered life-altering injuries. One of them, Sergio Molina, is paralyzed and can communicate only by blinking. It is 1) disingenuous2) unprofessional 3) unfair 4) futile, and he knows it, 5) irresponsible, and 6) probably unconstitutional.