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Raging About Sex Offenders

Mandatory minimum sentences are typically the tool of angry lawmakers. A lawmaker learns of a case which from afar he think calls for incarceration. The defendant is granted probation. The lawmaker talks tough on crime, a community rallies, and soon new legislation is passed.

All this typically done without the benefit of what the judge, prosecutor and defense counsel knew. All this done, in effect, from the peanut gallery.

Consider the case of Connecticut State Rep. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton. Mr. Witkos just read that a man accused of possessing child pornography was not whisked off to prison upon conviction. Predictably, Witkos now calls for mandatory jail time, and he wants the state to notify people living within 500 feet of a sex offender's home.  He wants more hysteria.

The case in question involved a man convicted of possessing pornographic images of children. Some of the images depicted rape. After being charged he promptly sought treatment. His treater told the judge, one year after the arrest, that the man was in treatment, doing well, and was a low risk to reoffend.

That wasn't enough for Mr. Witkos, apparently. He wanted something more than rehabilitation. And a felony conviction was not enough flesh.  Perhaps the death penalty would satisfy Mr. Witkos.

Connecticut's United States Attorney, Kevin O'Connor, is also prepared to jump on the bandwagon. His office may prosecute the man now, too. What federal interest is served at this point? Any potential prosecution looks vindictive. Defendant not hammered hard enough in state court? Then let's place his head on a federal anvil.

Apparently the sentencing judge felt it necessary to defend his decision in the wake of Witkos's rage. In a prepared statement he noted the defenant had no criminal history, was charged with mere possession, and had not distributed pornography. The defendant had no contact with minors.

"The psychiatrist who evaluated [Burke] for over one year prior to sentencing reported that in his 37 years of evaluating defendants, he has never evaluated an offender with such a low risk of interacting with children," the Judge said. The defendant accepted responsibility for his acts, was shameful, and even probation officers recommended probation.

A group of anonymous nitwits calling itself the was also outraged. They feel vulnerable, they told the press.

Enough of this nonsense. Sex offenses are in our time the new witchcraft. We're as hysterical about these crimes as were the good people of Salem over witches. And our means of addressing the hysteria is about as effective.

In Connecticut, as elsewhere, we mandate sex offender treatment for those convicted of a crime. Yet even the experts disagree about whether treatment works. Overwhelmed social workers and probation officers then staff these programs, with often silly and ridiculous requirements.

Defense counsel in this case handled it just right. His client was charged, and the evidence apparently sufficient to convict. So the client got treatment, and, lo and behold, the treatment worked. The defendant pleaded guilty, and a judge not known to be soft on crime, did not send him to prison because there was no need to do so.

The system worked this time. But that's not enough for those bent on vengeance or easy votes. Who will protect us from the likes of Mr. Witkos? Read all about it


Legal Organization Gives Award to Vile Person

The NACDL, which is supposed to represent the interests of criminal defense lawyers, recently gave Janet Reno an award for being a champion of "justice."  This sort of left-wing ass kissing is repulsive.

Janet Reno was, and always will be, one of the evilest characters of the American justice system.  She and Mike Nifong should procreate, to see if there is any truth to the concept of an Anti-Christ: Surely they could produce one.  Worse than John Ashcroft, and less protective of individual rights than the wrongfully-attacked Judge Pryor, I can't think of anything redeeming about Janet Reno.  Yet the NACDL gave her an award.

I'm shocked, thought not as shocked as when I first learned the truth about Janet Reno.


Cretin Alert

I am sure that Nancy Lawson, the principal of the Wilma Fisher Elementary School in Frisco, Texas, has some redeeming characteristics. But intelligence is not one of them. Why she is permitted to lead an elementary school is unfathomable.

Ms. Lawson took one of her teachers to task not long ago. The teacher's offense? Why, she took a fifth grade class to the Dallas Museum of Art. While there, "students were exposed to nude statutes and other nude art representations, and the time was not used wisely for learning during the trip" Ms. Lawson wrote in a memorandum.

Rather than call Ms. Lawson in for a chat or asking her whether all was well in her bat cage, the Frisco Independent School District suspended the teacher. This week, the school board settle the teacher's claim against it, agreeing to pay her the balance of the school year's salary and to replace a good letter of recommendation placed in her file by another principal. Both parties agreed not to disparage one another.

Apparently, both children and horses are expected to wear blinders in Frisco, Texas. 


Things You Didn't Know About Skilling

From American's number one source for Enron-related news:

Skilling began working at Enron in 1990 as the sole employee and head of a wholesale division, was made president and chief operating officer of Enron in 1997, and was eventually elevated to CEO in February 2001. During his tenure, Enron grew into an international, multi-billion dollar corporation with earnings that rose from a couple of hundred million dollars in 1990 to $1.6 billion in 1998, of which his trading division produced over half. By 2000, Enron's revenue had risen to $100 billion and, as of August 23, 2000, Enron’s stock price peaked at $90 per share. Skilling resigned about a year later, by which point the stock had declined 51% in a troubled post-bubble market for energy and broadband companies. From January 1999 until he resigned in August 2001, Skilling increased his stock holdings in Enron by over 250%.

Those of you actually looking for the truth about Enron should read the rest of the post.


Enron's Oracles Speak

Jury consultants have a great gig.  They come up with a bunch of ideas about how people make decisions.  It's pretty hard to disprove their ideas since they will tell you that, as a non-jury consultant, you are blind to the truths they see.  When their clients win, it's because of their insights.  When their clients lose, it's the judge's fault.  Enron's Oracles blame pre-trial rulings for loss.


Shut Up And Sing

I can't say that I've listened to a song by the Dixie Chicks, but I am aware that they spur controversry with their political views. They are ratcheting up the volume a notch or two with a new documentary called "Shut Up and Sing." And there's a blog page, too.

Like or love 'em, you can post your thoughts here. Dixie Click


Mavericks Take Note

I stumbled across this quotation today while doing research on an unrelated topic. I pass it along simply because it edifies.

"There is a place in our system of criminal justice for the maverick and the risk taker and for approaches that might not fit into the structured environment of a public defender's office, or that might displease a judge whose preference for nonconfrontational styles of advocacy might influence the judge's appointment decisions. ... The choice of counsel is the primary means for the defendant to establish the kind of defense he will put forward.... Only a healthy, independent defense bar can be expected to meet the demands of the varied circumstances faced by criminal defendants, and assure that the interests of the individual defendant are not unduly subordinat[ed] ... to the needs of the system."

Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered v. United States, 491 U.S. 617, 645-48 (Blackmun, J., dissenting).

Makes me wanna holler.


A Crack-Like Sentence For Skilling

Veterans of the criminal courts sometimes become numb to big sentences. A client "catches" 30 years in a bad drug case. Perhaps a couple of life terms to someone convicted of a contract killing. Even death lurks. Bad things happen in the criminal courts.

But really bad things rarely seem to happen to those convicted of white collar crime. Until today. Today former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison. His request for bond was denied, and he was ordered confined at home, with an electronic monitor on his ankle until such time as he reports to prison.

Put another way, a corporate convict was just treated like a crack dealer.

I am not sure how I feel about this. Crack sentences are too harsh; everyone knows it, but no one has the will to do something about it for fear they will be perceived as soft on crime. And white collar sentences are typically far too low. What elevated Skillings to the stratosphere was loss amount and the number of foreseeable victims.

But 24 years? That is likely to be close to a life sentence for the 52-year-old Skilling.

The sentence certainly sends a message of intolerance for corporate corruption.  But it does so at the cost of sensitizing us to big time for any crime. That seems like a net loss in terms of social utility.


Grim Monday

The New York Times made for grim reading this morning. Our generals have drawn a line of sorts in the sand around Baghdad. If we can't provide security in the city, then, well, then it sounds as if we are going to bring our troops home.  And then comes a report that Barack Obama might be making a run at the White House.

Why not simply announce the world that we have lost our bearings?

Why military planners think that occupying a foreign city will yield peace and goodwill is a mystery to me. This month has been one of the deadliest for American troops since we invaded Iraq. After three years, what will persuade the Iraqi people that the men roaming their streets in helmets and flak jackets are a friendly force?  Even Pentagon analysts recently concluded that the fighting in Iraq has spawned a whole new generation of terrorists, motivated, and now trained in real time, to blow things up in the name of their cause.

It is understandable that confidence in American leaders is low. The White House got us into this mess. Getting out won't be easy.

So, the reasoning seems to go, let's elect someone with no experience in foreign affairs.

Barack Obama, 45, has been in the United States Senate for two years. That is the extent of his experience in national politics. Is being an outside the primary qualification for running this year? At least Jimmy Carter had served as governor of Georgia before marching on Washington.