Ah-HA! The Zoom Trial Slap-Down I’ve Been Expecting…

What took so long?

Add one more bit of disruption to order, law and society inflicted by Wuhan Virus Weenie-ism.

The Missouri Supreme Court, in a January 11 decision, held that defendant Rodney Smith’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation with witnesses against him was violated by two-way live video testimony about DNA evidence.

Of course it was. I’ve been wondering about this since the beginning of the pandemic lock downs. The witness who testified via video against Smith was a police lab employee. He testified that Smith’s DNA matched what was found on the 16-year-old girl who had accused him of sexual assault. The teenager recanted, making the lab employee’s testimony key to Smith’s conviction for statutory rape. Also key: Smith’s lawyer objected on the record to the Zoom testimony. Other defense attorneys have not been so protective of their clients’ right: I view not objecting as justifying an ineffective assistance of counsel appeal.

The Missouri court distinguished a U.S. Supreme Court case, Maryland v. Craig,that allowed one-way video testimony by child-abuse victims who would be traumatized if they could see the defendant. In Smith’s case, it held, the witness “was neither a victim nor a child,” and the trial court had made no finding that he was unavailable. Moreover, the admission of his testimony was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, so the conviction must be reversed.

The guessing is that this issue will ultimately have to be decided by SCOTUS.

Two appellate courts outside of Missouri courts have reached dueling decisions on video testimony The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that two-way live video testimony did not violate a defendant’s rights, but you know, Minnesota. The Kentucky Court of Appeals, in contrast, upheld a decision denying a prosecutor’s request to allow a witness to testify remotely because of Wuhan virus phobia. “General concerns about the spread of the virus do not justify abridging a defendant’s right to in-person confrontation,” the court said.

From The “Bias Makes You Stupid Files”: The “Work Friend” Misses The Point

Roxanne Gay is an impressive character. She’s a prolific writer of prose and fiction (including science fiction and comic books), a visiting professor at Yale as well as a professional feminist and LGBTQ advocate. She also contributes opinion essays to the New York Times, and as if she isn’t busy enough, is one of their advice columnists, writing the “Work Friend” Sunday column, which is almost always astute and wise in its advice regarding workplace politics and ethical dilemmas.

Not in this case, however. A female inquirer took offense when two male colleagues offered her unsolicited advice about improving her Zooming technique. She framed them as sexist attacks on a woman’s “appearance,” and Gay took the bait. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up 1: Rittenhouse-Free Zone Edition

JFK assassination

President Kennedy was assassinated on this date in 1963, easily my most vivid memory of any national event in my lifetime. I am not an admirer of Jack Kennedy as a President or a human being, but it is hard to imagine a more wrenching disruption of the nation’s course, spirit, fate and future than what occurred that day in Dallas.

We watched everything unfold for the rest of the week on our black and white TVs, from Walter Cronkite’s somber announcement that the President of the United States was dead, to the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, through to the D.C. funeral procession and John-John’s salute.

The day still represents traumafor me, and I am sure to many others of my generation: when Grace and I were planning our wedding in 1980 and November 22 was suggested as the most convenient date, I insisted on the 23rd instead. This is also the date that kicks off the dreaded holiday season, stuffed with milestones good and bad (I count seven between now and New Years), periods of anxiety, nostalgia and anticipation in between, and too much longing and memories of loss to bear.

I hate it.

1. Yes, it’s an unethical Christmas tree. In the town of Grimsby in North East Lincolnshire, the official Christmas tree has been taken down from the town center after a local uproar declaring the 10 foot, conical artificial tree a “national embarrassment.” It also cost a thousand pounds. The town’s explanation was, shall we say, confusing, with Councillor Callum Procter claiming,

There are great plans for celebrating the start of the Christmas period next week. Unfortunately, the Christmas Market tree was installed too early, and we understand that people were confused and thought this was our civic tree. The tree has been removed temporarily today and our contractors are reinstalling again, for free, ahead of the market next week. I’m looking forward to seeing people enjoying the illuminations, the market, and the revamped St James’ Square with the civic tree and the special lighting on the Minster as part of the Christmas experience.

Wait…the town is going to put the same tree back up, and everyone will like it because it won’t be “too early”? I am dubious. Here’s the tree:

bsd tree

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Dr. Mary Rudyk [Corrected]

“I think we have to be more blunt, we have to be more forceful, we have to say something coming out, you know you don’t get vaccinated, you know you’re going to die. I mean, let’s just be really blunt to these people.”

—-Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center Dr. Mary Rudyk, formerly the North Carolina’s Chief of Medical Staff, in a leaked Zoom discussion with a colleague about how to persuade vaccine resisters to get their shots. [ Notice of Correction: the original post included a shot from the Zoom recording that was not Rudyk, but the colleague she was talking with. Commenter Zanshin flagged the mistake. That is Rudyk above.]

In other words, lie and engage in fear-mongering! Oh, good plan. That’s surely the way to build back the trust the health care community has squandered during the pandemic.

Moron.

Rudyk says in the now viral two-minute video that  the hospital’s messaging needs to be “a little bit more scary for the public,” so she proposes including patients she characterizes as “post-COVID” in the hospital’s case count. Actually, as the hospital tried to explain later as it desperately attempts to address public outrage over the comments, that policy would be defensible, as patients hospitalized for conditions brought on by the virus are still in danger as a direct result of being infected. However, the ethical motive for making this choice is to be more informative, not to be “more scary.’

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From The “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Files, Legal Ethics Section, Zoom Subsection…

Zoome etiquette BIG

It’s a little fuzzy, so I’ll summarize: during a Zoom trial before the Michigan Court of Appeals, this Michigan lawyer held his middle finger up to the camera while his opponent was speaking. When the judges questioned him regarding the gesture, he said, apparently, something like “Not me! I can’t imagine what you are referring to!” even though his actions were recorded.

Ethics Verdicts: The Georgetown Law Professor’s Comments Were Careless But Not “Reprehensible,” And The Law Center Dean’s Statement Implying Her Comments Showed “Systemic Racism” Is Reprehensible…And False

This, I would remind you, is why the emphasis of the first Ethics Alarms post on this mess involving my former employer and alma mater was that GULC adjunct professor Sandra Sellers was culpable for the inevitable results of her unintentionally public candor for incompetently broadcasting her private observations over an online conferencing platform. I predicted that she was a goner once the school’s black student organization saw a grandstanding opportunity (and if it wrecks a lawyer’s reputation and career–so what? After all, she’s just another racist white bitch…), and I was right, in part because I know what the Law Center has become in recent years.

I also predicted a groveling apology from Sellers rather than the ringing defense of her observations that might have been helpful in both clarifying her comments and exposing the Law Center’s spectacular embrace of Rationalization #64, “It Isn’t What It is.” Poor, weak, technologically inept–but not wrong!–Sellers sent the Washington Post a copy of her grovel, which could have been drafted by a computer. She apologized for the “hurtful and misdirected remarks,” carefully chosen words indeed. Her remarks were “misdirected” because they were intended only for another professor, not the universe, and they were “hurtful” because they created a student relations crisis for Georgetown—which it has thoroughly botched. Sellers also said in the letter

“I would never do anything to intentionally hurt my students or Georgetown Law and wish I could take back my words. Regardless of my intent, I have done irreparable harm and I am truly sorry for this.”

Well, I give her some credit for declining to say that she didn’t mean what she said, or that what she said was untrue. Some. In essence she apologized for what I had written was the problem with her statement: it was careless to let it be witnessed by people who would—mostly deliberately— misinterpret it. Her carefully composed non-apology was clever, but it doesn’t help. The school’s statement, through GULC second-in-command Dean Trainor, was despicable—unfair and cowardly. It called the episode indicative of “structural issues of racism” (Translation: Sellers is a racist) and “explicit and implicit bias.”

Yes, a dean of a major law school declared on behalf of that law school that accurate observations involving student education are racist, presumably because they don’t advance a convenient but false progressive narrative. He also suspended the law professor Sellers was talking to because he didn’t meet his “bystander responsibility” and confront her over her non-racist statement as if it were racist.

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Introducing The “Technologically Inept Adjunct Professor With Politically Incorrect Opinions Principle”

Adjunct

This Georgetown Law Center adjunct professor is going to be fired, shunned, cancelled and otherwise ruined professionally and personally, and she has no excuses whatsoever.

The Ethics Alarms “Naked Teacher Principle” holds that ” a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.” This does not mean that such a teacher necessarily should be dismissed, but that the teacher has no basis for claiming to be a victim. The conduct was foolish and irresponsible, and the repercussions predictable.

The newly minted “Technologically Inept Adjunct Professor With Politically Incorrect Opinions Principle” is based on similar calculations. As certain anti-woke statements and positions are getting people fired or canceled daily, with any diversion from the current racial spoils and “diversity” narrative being tarred as “racist,” for a professor at a law school, especially one as tainted by Leftist bias as Georgetown, to express such views over any form of electronic communications is almost grounds for involuntary commitment. Careless and reckless people shouldn’t teach law students. It doesn’t matter whether the statement involved expressed a valid and defensible observation: if it involves a tenet of woke cant and isn’t supportive, then the statement is an invitation to be cancelled. First Amendment? Doesn’t matter. Academic freedom? Irrelevant. Fairness? The Golden Rule? “There but for the grace of God…”? Risible.The third rail is known and recognizable, and you deliberately jumped on it assuming it wasn’t live?

Don’t come whining to me.

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Deyate Hagood’s Zoom High School Economics Class

“What that nigga want God? Word up, look out for the cops…Word up, two for fives over here baby. Word up, two for fives them niggas got garbage down the way, word up.”

—-Lyrics in “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” performed by Wu-Tang Clan ,in one of two rap videos that formed the basis of an economics class taught by Deyate Hagood, a social studies teacher at A-TECH High School.

For the uneducated, “Two for fives” is a 90s’ term for crack cocaine sales, meaning “two vials for five dollars.”

When a Queens mom working at home heard this and another equally vulgar rap video taking up the bulk of her son’s Zoom economics class on “money, power and respect,” she snapped. The woman, whose name is being withheld because she fears retribution against her or her son, grabbed her son’s laptop and shouted at Deyate Hagood, the social studies teacher at A-TECH High School in Williamsburg, saying…

“You honestly ought to be motherfucking embarrassed. Disgusting! You have rap videos using N-words, talking about whores and bitches and selling drugs. I’m working from home, and this is what I’m hearing my kid in his senior year learning in class?”

Indeed it was. “I’ve had to watch my high-school senior spend an entire year at home in isolation while receiving a very limited education,” said the Queens mother, an executive assistant with a younger son in middle school. She told the New York Post that her 12th-grader did not have a book or syllabus for the economics class. Her son reported that Hagood usually showed videos. In the second rap video played that day in Hagood’s class, a prostitute in black lingerie “sings,”  “First you get the money. Then you get the muthafuckin’, power. After you get the fuckin’ power muthafuckas will respect you.”

Nice!

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Pre-Weekend Ethics Prep, 3/5/2021: Obama Disses Pete, John Defends The Redcoats, Harvard Beats Crump, And Zoom Strikes Again

Massacre-jpg

1. Today this post, from two years ago, is suddenly getting a lot of views. The reason: there was a resolution of the long-shot law suit by the descendants of two slaves in photographs owned by Harvard University. The slave’s descendant, Tamara Lanier, had employed Benjamin Crump, legal race-hustler without peer, to sue on the Hail Mary theory that

“the images are the “spoils of theft,” because as slaves Renty and Delia were unable to give consent to being photographed., and that Harvard is illegally profiting from the images by using them for “advertising and commercial purposes.” By keeping the photos, the lawsuit claims, Harvard has perpetuated the hallmarks of slavery that prevented African-Americans from holding, conveying or inheriting personal property.”

Sure, Ben….from the post:

“Harvard and other universities set themselves up for this by caving to historical airbrushing demands by the students they have helped indoctrinate, such as when Georgetown University established a policy giving an edge  in admissions to descendants of slaves who were sold to fund the school. I would say they have this coming and let them sleep on the bed of nails their laziness and cowardice have made, but therein lies a real danger. Harvard, which of late has been devising and defending one bad progressive idea after another (like discriminating against Asian Americans as Harvard’s own way of helping African Americans get admitted to the college), might just decide to be woke rather than responsible, and let Mrs. Lanier take the photos, thus setting a precedent with endless potential to cause havoc.”

Justice Camille F. Sarrouf of Middlesex County Superior Court this week acknowledged that the daguerreotypes had been taken under “horrific circumstances” but said that if the enslaved subjects, Renty and Delia, did not own the images when they were made in 1850, then their descendant who brought the lawsuit, Tamara Lanier, did not own them either.

Duh.

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A Line That Will Echo Through The Annals Of Legal Ethics And Technological Incompetence: “I’m Not A Cat”

Lawyer cat

I apologize for missing this wonderful story from last week.

In a civil forfeiture case hearing held via Zoom in Texas’ 394th Judicial District Court, Rod Ponton, a county attorney in Presidio County, Texas, couldn’t figure out how to turn off a filter he had somehow turned on. That filter made him appear to be a talking kitten.

“Mr. Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings,” Judge Roy Ferguson, presiding over the case, says with admirable restraint. “Augggh,” says. Ponton. “Can you hear me, Judge? I don’t know how to remove it. I’ve got my assistant here and she’s trying to.”

Then he adds, “I’m prepared to go forward with it. I’m here live” and “I’m not a cat.” “I can see that, ”Judge Ferguson replies.

Here’s the video:

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