Tag Archives: criminal law

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/26/17

1. I am puzzled that no respected journalism source—assuming arguendo that there is one—hasn’t taken on the New York Times’ alleged list of President Trump’s “lies,” which was in my Sunday Times and released on-line earlier. I will do it today, but it shouldn’t fall to me, or other similarly obscure analysts. Why, for example, hasn’t the Washington Post taken this golden opportunity to prove how biased, dishonest and incompetent its rival is? Because, you see, the list is disgraceful, and smoking gun evidence of the Times’ abdication of its duty to its readers, except its own perceived duty to give them around the clock Trump-bashing.

The other thing I’m puzzled about is why I continue to subscribe to the New York Times.

2. One possible reason: The Sunday Times is now a weekly collage of the various derangements, false narratives and  obsessions of the Left, and worth reading just to witness how 1) bias makes you stupid and 2) how unmoored to reality one can be and still be judged worthy of op-ed space. Here, for example, is “Black Deaths, American Lies” (the print title), a screed by Ibram X. Kendi, a professor of history at American University in Washington, D.C. (Disclosure: I was also a professor at American University. But I was an honest and apolitical one.)

The first line is, “Why are police officers rarely charged for taking black lives, and when they are, why do juries rarely convict?” This is deceit: an honest scholar wouldn’t have written it, and an ethical editor wouldn’t have allowed it to get into print. The sentence implies that officers are less rarely charged and convicted when they take white lives, and this is not true. In the print version, the article is headed by a touching photo of a street memorial to Mike Brown, whom we now know got himself shot. The Black Lives Matter narrative that Brown was murdered is still carried on by racist activists, ignorant members of the public, cynical politicians  and unethical figures like Kendi, who lend their authority to divisive falsehoods.  Kendi then focuses on the Philandro Castile shooting, as if its facts support his thesis. They don’t. First, the officer was charged, though he shouldn’t have been. Second, we have now seen the video, which clearly shows that after telling the officer that he had a gun, Castile reached into his pocket and began pulling out his wallet as the obviously panicked officer shouted at him not to pull out his gun. Just as the video proves that the officer was unfit to be a cop, it shows that he was in fear of his life and why. He could not be convicted of murder on that evidence. Never mind: The professor writes, Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, Workplace

California “Ethics”

California is not only rapidly exiting mainstream U.S. culture, it is forging its own distorted and unethical version of right and wrong.

Three alarming examples:

1. Forging ahead with single payer, and reality be damned.

The Sacramento Bee  pointed out that by replacing current state-run health programs with a single-payer system, the state would still need to come up with an additional $200 billion annually.This year’s state budget in California is about $180 billion. Yes, implementing a single-payer health care system would require doubling California’s current tax burden.

Oh, never mind! The state Senate voted 23 to 14 this month in favor of SB 562, a single-payer proposal that would guarantee universal health care to all Californians. “What we did today was really approve the concept of a single-payer system in California,” declared state Senator Ricardo Lara following the vote.

No, what they did was reaffirm the fact that progressive cant refuses to yield in the face of cold, hard facts, math, reason and common sense. The cheerleading from the Left is mind-numbing. Writes the Nation: If health care is a right—and it is—the only honest response to the current crisis is the single-payer “Medicare for All” reform that would bring the United States in line with humane and responsible countries worldwide.”

Well, let’s see: health care is NOT a right except in Left-Wing Fantasyland, and all of those “humane and responsible countries” have crushing tax burdens, reduced liberty, economic instability, crushing debt and completely different values, priorities and responsibilities than those of the United States.

Ethics is only ethical when it is practical and practicable in the real world. The ethical response to the fact that single-payer doubles the state budget is to say, “Oh. Well, obviously we can’t do that, then. On to plan B.”

2. That minimum wage increase that Gov. Brown said was based on principle rather than economics? Yeah, about that…

Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Ammon Bundy’s Cowboy Boots

Ammon Bundy. Nice look...that last name is a problem, though.

Ammon Bundy. Nice look…the jury should like it. That last name might be a problem, though.

Jury selection is was about to begin last week  in the trial of Ammon Bundy (Son of Cliven, no relation to Ted) and his fellow defendants who led an armed stand-off on federal lands in Oregon.  First, however, the judge in the case had to rule on Bundy’s lawyer’s motion demanding that the defendants, who are in custody, can wear neckties, belts and boots at trial as requested.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service  emailed  Bundy and the rest to alert them that certain  items of apparel wouldn’t be permitted at their trial: “Ties, Bows, Belts, Handkerchiefs, Cuff Links, Steel toe boots/shoes, Shoe laces, Shirt tie down straps, Safety pins, Shirt pocket pen protectors.” When U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown Tuesday afternoon asked Barbara Alfono, the deputy U.S marshal in charge of the Bundy trial, about the requirement, she explained that security concerns were the source of the order. Those accessories could be used as weapons against deputy marshals or the defendants themselves, she said. As for the boots, they would interfere with the shackles that are placed around the defendants ankles as they are transported to and from the courthouse. (The shackles will be removed, because prior courts have ruled that they are prejudicial, making defendants look dangerous to the jury.)

J. Morgan Philpot,  Ammon Bundy’s marvelously named lawyer, argued that since his client is innocent until proven guilty, he should be allowed to wear the civilian clothes that he chooses.  “These men are cowboys,” Philpot wrote  in his motion, “and given that the jury will be assessing their authenticity and credibility, they should be able to present themselves to the jury in that manner.” He continued:

“We must consider, when he does so, how will he look? And what are the spot assumptions and impressions will the jury have about him when they see him in the kind of white socks and loafers he was wearing today, with his beltless trousers, and dressed in a formal suit without a tie,Just as significantly, how will the lack of belt, tie, or other apparel compare to others in the courtroom, as he and the other detained defendants are the only ones who will appear that way.”

The judge ruled against him.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is it ethical for the system to prevent accused cowboys from looking like cowboys during their trial?

Continue reading

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Ask Ethics Alarms: “Why Is It Unethical For A Prosecutor To Say That A Witness Is telling The Truth?”

"Would I try to convict an innocent man?"

“Why would I try to convict an innocent man? He has to be guilty.”

The primary Ethics Alarms topic scout, the Amazing Fred, has posed a question about this case, in which a child pornography conviction was overturned because the government prosecutor repeatedly stated that his witnesses were stating the truth, and that the government doesn’t prosecute defendants who aren’t guilty.

Fred asks the question this way:

“A prosecutor told a jury that prosecution witnesses were credible…Isn’t a defense attorney allowed to discredit prosecution witnesses? Why shouldn’t a prosecutor be free to argue the opposite?

The problem isn’t arguing that prosecution witnesses are credible, but rather the prosecutor appearing to personally vouch for the witness. Lawyers aren’t witnesses, and their opinions aren’t testimony or evidence. A lawyer can tell a jury that a defendant is guilty or innocent, but a lawyer cannot say “I believe “ a witness or “I believe” the defendant is guilty. It doesn’t matter what the lawyers believe, and they prejudice the jury by making their own credibility part of the case. Lawyers don’t have to personally believe in the positions they argue. Continue reading

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In Virginia And D.C., Botching The Complex Relationship Between Law And Ethics

aforadultry

Laws don’t exist merely to do things; they must also stand for the ethical principles that sustain a stable and productive society. Laws create moral codes of conduct as well as a pragmatic ones. It is profoundly puzzling to me that so many regard this as a controversial statement, especially in a country founded by two documents that are steeped in values.

There are laws against stealing to discourage theft, but also because the official voice of society must make it clear what the values of that society are. The laws against stealing state that theft is wrong. The law expresses societal consensus about acceptable and unacceptable conduct; it also reinforces and strengthens that consensus.

The fact that this is a proper function of law doesn’t mean that those who write and pass laws or the public understand any of this. The relationship isn’t taught in schools, and while one might encounter this concept in law school or a good college government or philosophy course, one can be well-educated and never think about this at all. In other words, the officials who make laws often don’t have a clue what they are doing, and neither does anyone else.

Two glaring examples have arisen in my neck of the woods, the District of Columbia, where I work, and Virginia, where I live.

Behold:

In Virginia, Virginia Senate declined to pass a bill that would have decriminalized adultery in the state. Currently, adultery is a Class 4 misdemeanor. Sen. Scott Surovell (D–Fairfax) introduced a measure that would have reduced adultery from a criminal offense to a civil one, keeping the criminal law’s fine of no more than $250. Thirteen states have repealed similar adultery statutes in recent years, and only about a dozen states still treat the act as a crime. The immediate criticism of the Virginia decision was predictable and focused on “legislating morality,” as if that isn’t a legitimate function of law. What critics, usually from the left, mean when they use this catch phrase is “How dare the government interfere with private conduct that is nobody else’s business?” Well, is spousal abuse and child abuse private, then? Bigamy? The reason adultery is illegal is that it hurts people, wrecks families, traumatizes children, and destabilizes society. It is completely appropriate for society to say  “This is bad for everyone, so don’t do it.” The law is how we express such messages. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: The Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals

The unethical prosecutor in US v, Flores. Watch out for her!

The unethical prosecutor in State v. Flores. Watch out for her!

It’s always heartening to see a court cite the 1935 Supreme Court case of  Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, (1935), famous in legal ethics circles for its ringing statement that government lawyers must understand that their obligation “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win . . . , but that justice shall be done.”  The principle has been extended by some judges to civil cases as well, making the point that the government in any legal dispute should be interested only in the best interests of citizens and getting the case right. It is less heartening when the cite is in a dissent, as in this case.

The Ninth Circuit, reviewing a conviction for illegal drug importation, conceded that the prosecutor crossed into unethical territory by misstating the law,misstating the defendant’s testimony, and improperly vouching for a witness. Nonetheless, the court in State v. Flores concluded that this misconduct didn’t rise to the level of “plain error,” meaning that the defendant would have been found guilty anyway:

“In sum, while the government misrepresented Flores’s testimony and misstated the law on multiple occasions, in the context of the trial as a whole, it is unlikely that the jury was misled about the law or the facts.”

That’s right: the government misrepresented facts and law, but the jury was probably not misled. Continue reading

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Banning The “Gay Panic Defense”

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.

The ABA resolved:

 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.

It should be no surprise that California was the first state to follow this plan, with Gov. Jerry Brown signing an anti-gay panic defense bill into law in September. Now New Jersey has a similar law under consideration. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement