The Disturbing Case Of The Intimidated Juror

Courtroom Jury Box

I don’t like the implications of this story one bit.

In Clayton County, Georgia, a jury had just come in with an acquittal verdict in the trial of Eric Lydell Smith, who had been charged with nine counts including malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault, in connection with the death of his neighbor, Eric Hernandez. Two years ago, Smith and Hernandez got into a fist fight on the street where both lived. Smith, an African-American, says he shot Hernandez—the mainstream newsmedia would refer to him as a “white Hispanic” if he had done the shooting— in self-defense, but prosecutors and witnesses told the jury the fight had ended and Hernandez was walking away when Smith killed him.

“Not guilty of malice murder,” the jury foreman read from the verdict form, as Hernandez’ family openly wept in court. One not guilty verdict after the another was announced. Then prosecutors, nobody is certain why, asked the judge to take the unusual step of polling the jury members. The first eleven jurors, in turn, repeated the announced verdict of “not guilty” on all counts. Then the 12th juror, a white woman,  answered the judge’s  “Is this your verdict?” with a shocking “No, your honor.”

That’s a mistrial. Smith will probably be retried. Continue reading

Disrespect And Assault In The Operating Room: Our Nightmares Are Real


“A few moments later, the anesthesiologist walks in the room and asks, ‘What do you got?’ Dr. Canby says, ‘Vaginal delivery. Uterine atony. External massage failed. Give her some ketamine.’”…I look at Mrs. Lopez—her eyes are half-closed and vacant. Dr. Canby instructs me to hold her knee. A fellow medical student holds her other knee….Canby then performs an internal bimanual uterine massage. He places his left hand inside her vagina, makes a fist, and presses it against her uterus. I look down and see only his wrist; his entire hand is inside her. Canby puts his right hand on her abdomen and then massages her uterus between his hands. After a few minutes, he feels the uterus contract and harden. He says something like, ‘Atta girl. That’s what I like. A nice, tight uterus.’ And the bleeding stops. The guy saved her life…But then something happened that I’ll never forget. Dr. Canby raises his right hand into the air. He starts to sing ‘La Cucaracha.’ He sings, ‘La Cucaracha, la cucaracha, dada, dada, dada-daaa.’ It looks like he is dancing with her. He stomps his feet, twists his body, and waves his right arm above his head. All the while, he holds her, his whole hand still inside her vagina. He starts laughing. He keeps dancing. And then he looks at me. I begin to sway to his beat. My feet shuffle. I hum and laugh along with him. Moments later, the anesthesiologist yells, ‘Knock it off, assholes!’ And we stop.”

This is an operating room anecdote related in an anonymously authored article published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a respected medical journal. The publication says that the piece is intended to shine light in a dark corner of the medical profession. Oh-oh. The essay is anonymous, I assume, because the author is afraid that there would be professional repercussions from his revealing this—what? Bad habit? Dirty secret? Crime? Reason for us to go stark, raving mad? Continue reading

“Ick Factor” At Its Worst: No, The Bystander Who Took The Video Of Walter Scott’s Shooting Isn’t “Cashing In”

Q. "Oh, ICK! Why would you take money for THAT?" A. Because it's valuable, they want it, and I own it, you idiot.

Q. “Oh, ICK! Why would you take money for THAT?”
A. Because it’s valuable, they want it, and I own it, you idiot.

Slate Magazine’s Josh Voorhees seems to think there is something unseemly about Feidin Santana, the bystander who recorded the film on his smartphone showing North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager shooting and killing Walter Scott on April 4, seeking payment from news outlets who use his video.

In an article revealing that Santana’s lawyers are making the case that he is entitled to compensation, Voorhees writes, “While it may seem opportunistic to try to make money off a video of someone’s death…” and later,

“Regardless of how you feel about Santana trying to cash in, if nothing else it provides another incentive—albeit a less noble one—for bystanders to whip out their phones and start filming when they see a police confrontation.”

Let me be uncharacteristically blunt: anyone who sees anything unethical, unseemly, ignoble or opportunistic about Santana seeking fair payment for his property when it is being used by news outlets all over the country as if the video was shot by their own employees is either… Continue reading

Let’s Play “Spot the Ten Outrages!” (Public School Version)

Here we have a video, taken with a North Carolina high school (North Rowan High School) student’s cell phone during class. (yes, it just points at the ceiling. It’s the audio that matters):

Now lets’s play…SPOT THE OUTRAGE!

(There are ten!)

OUTRAGE 1: Does this sound like a class in session to you? Students are laughing and joking, barely paying attention. What kind of learning can occur in such a a chaotic environment? Do parents realize this is what school is like today?

Is the fact that a student is recording the class without the teacher’s consent an ethical breach? Once I would be tempted to answer yes: recording without permission is always unfair and a Golden Rule violation unless there are special circumstances. However, special circumstances were present, and may be present in more classrooms than our fragile sanity will permit us to accept. I now think perhaps all public school classrooms should be videotaped, all the time.Then we would quickly know the extent of our education catastrophe, as horrifying as that would be.

OUTRAGE 2: The teacher of the social studies class presents as the“fact of the day” the Washington Post sliming of Mitt Romney based on his mistreatment of a fellow student in his prep school days. In itself, this is not an inappropriate topic for discussion by a high school class, as the story raises many fascinating issues. How much do the students feel their conduct during their tender years should count against their character 50 years hence? Is it relevant to the presidential election in any way? How have attitudes toward “sissies,” gays and less-than masculine boys changed since the early Sixties, if at all? How have attitudes toward and awareness of homosexuality? What does this story say about the objectivity of the  press? Is it fair? None of these legitimate and discussion-worthy questions, however, seemed to occur to the teacher, who was simply trying to show that “Romney was a bully in high school” in a clumsy and transparent effort to indoctrinate her students in her own political views. Continue reading

Ethics Tip For Police Being Videoed: Smile!

Every now and then one learns about a practice that seems so obviously wrong that it is difficult to believe it could really occur in America. The police’s broad power to confiscate property used in the commission of a crime stunned me when I first read about it in law school. Municipal government use of the power of eminent domain to take private property and turn it over to corporate interests for profit-making development, as in the Kelo case, was another example. During the health care reform debate, I learned that our elected representatives not only didn’t bother to read major legislation, they thought there was nothing wrong with not reading it. I’m still scratching my head over that one.

The increasingly common phenomenon of police arresting citizens for recording arrests and other police activity on video is the most recent example of conduct that is so wrong it is hard to believe it happens—but it does. Continue reading