Drunk & Disorderly

On the Docket of a Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney

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Oh Dem Bones


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Like most people, there are two hundred six bones in Donald Trump’s body. Unlike most people, not a one of them is honest or, it is ever more apparent, even decent.

The President of the United States lies five times a day to the people of his country, to the world. To be fair, he needs to lie so many times, because he lies about so many things. He lies about crimes committed against the United States by members of his campaign and staff and their associates at the Kremlin. He lies about former Presidents and political opponents. He lies about crimes he’s committed himself, and even that others have committed, against women.

He lies about immigrants. He lies about people of color. In his mind, the same thing, and not a good thing.

Those are just the public lies.

Worse, more and more the President is demanding that others around him lie, too. Two Senators of the United States, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, two days ago lied outright about this vulgar man’s vile characterization of major swaths of the world.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Surely she’s paid by the lie. (That would make her by far the highest-paid Trump staffer, despite the fierce competition.)

Even the President’s doctor lies, with amiable facility, about the state of the President’s health. It is of no importance at all that Trump would instruct his physician to under-report his weight, of all things (it would have taken a meat scale to get an accurate number anyway). There is no weighing the importance of this President’s vanity tipping the scales against truth: a perceived slight to his infantile ego could, incredibly, result in millions of nuclear deaths.

Other Presidents have lied — probably all of them. According to the New York Times, President Obama told eighteen bald-faced lies during his eight years in office. President Trump passed that mark in his third week in office. Not even a year in, and the Washington Post has catalogued more than two thousand lies.

Two thousand.

Two. Thousand.

Many of those are inconsequential. His weight. His I.Q. The size of his dick. Other lies are killing people and endangering millions more.

Our first President was, so the legend goes, someone who could not tell a lie. We’re still waiting for this one to tell a truth.

That’s why, with this President, there’s no telling how many more stories there are to come about his ill effects on the progress of criminal justice and human rights, in my country, and in yours.

Because I’ve got more than just one bone to pick with him.

I’ve got all two hundred six.

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I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

The Constitution guarantees that the President of the United States is an American. It’s the first and arguably most important qualification for the office. It’s supposed to protect us from foreign influences. The Constitution doesn’t guarantee that the President will be kind, or decent.

The kind and decent woman who cuts my hair is an American who was born in El Salvador. She remembers her birthplace, and the people there, a little differently from how Donald Trump imagines it. My best friend from law school is an African-American. My grandmother on my father’s side fared a little better, I guess: she was from the President’s electoral collaborator’s home country, Russia.

We’re Americans.

Some of us were lucky enough to be born here. Some unlucky enough to be dragged here in chains. Others were ambitious enough, determined enough, to come here. Or their parents were. Or their grandparents. Going back, all of us. All of us came from somewhere else.

Going back not so long ago, the first sight of America for many of us was the Statue of Liberty and, carved upon it, these words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.”

Many of us were literally tempest-tossed and homeless, and the American President — who somehow never absorbed the message he might have seen had he looked out from his Tower in New York — wants to toss us back. Toss us back to places without gold plating on the bathroom fixtures, and make sure nobody else tries to come to America from those shitholes. Okay, give the man the benefit of the doubt: maybe they’re only shithouses to him.

Being an American isn’t about gold plating.

It’s about aspiration, who we aspire to be.

We’re all immigrants, immigrating to the better angels of our nature, leaving behind the lesser.

Whether we were born here, or came here to stay from El Salvador, Haiti, The Congo, or Norway, we want to be an American. The best American we can be.

We want our President to be an American, too. The best American he or she can be. We’ve not yet seen the best of our current American President.

At least, we hope so.

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At Death’s Door


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

There was good news, and bad news, in the Death Penalty Information Center’s 2017 Year End Report.

The good news was that death sentences and executions in the United States were the second lowest in a quarter century, and public support for the death penalty was at its lowest in forty-five years. The public thirst for vengeance that properly belongeth to the Lord was at near-historic lows.

The bad news was that the leader of the free world felt mighty parched, expressing irritation both privately and publicly that more people aren’t gassed, electrocuted, poisoned, or — in the case of folks with no Norwegian blood in them at all — simply lynched.

The President of the United States’s enthusiasm for the death penalty seems to know no bounds. He’s called for it hundreds of times, over decades of promotional blathering urging “very fast” trials followed by equally fast executions. So far he hasn’t suggested it be the other way around.

In one case he called for a beheading. In many cases he’s called the unconvicted defendants “animals.” Most of them black or brown animals, as was the case with the Central Park Five, teenagers wrongly accused, convicted and imprisoned for the 1989 beating and rape of a white female jogger.

Both as President and, before his election, as a merely private son of a bitch, most of Trump’s public calls for execution have come before the inconvenient niceties of an actual trial and conviction. One gets the strong impression that if he could, he would simply drag defendants into the street and stone them to death.

To the President’s tremendous disappointment, however, things seem to be going the other way. Florida, for example, last year joined the rest of the states in requiring unanimous jury recommendations for death. And Alabama abolished its practice of judicial override, which until then permitted judges like Roy Moore to overrule a jury recommendation for life just because the justice struck out with his latest fourteen-year-old.

There was mourning in Harris County, Texas, which has executed more prisoners than any other county in the nation. In 2017, for the first time since 1974, the county went 0 for 2, neither executing nor even sentencing anyone to death.

Four men were exonerated in 2017, and four others won commutations to life sentences, further upsetting the President. One of the exonerated men was sentenced to death after the white prosecutor told the Louisiana jury, from which he had worked tirelessly to remove all black jurors, that Jesus Christ himself commanded that the black defendant be killed, and later instructed executioners that he should receive “as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to endure before he dies.”

Now, that’s a prosecutor that only his mother could love — his mother, and President Trump. Trump himself thinks that an execution oughtn’t be canceled, just because the prisoner didn’t do it. The Central Park Five? During his Presidential campaign, Trump said it was “outrageous” that they were exonerated and not executed for the crime they didn’t commit. That sentiment itself seems outrageous, but in all fairness to the President, every one of those defendants was dark-skinned.

Some have found it surprising that the President hasn’t called for the death penalty for his political opponents, like Hillary Clinton.

Not yet.

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Holy Days Gift #3 — The Last Statesman


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

I suspect that John McCain has returned home to Arizona, not to recover from his brain cancer, but to die from it. I hope I am wrong; it is deeply disgusting that the vilest President in the history of the Republic expel another Big Mac breath when this man is gone.

You can take the measure of what we will have lost by listening to, or better yet reading below, the speech he gave when he was awarded the Liberty Medal a little while ago.

I say “better yet reading,” because Senator McCain is old and ill, and his speaking voice falters, sometimes to the detriment of what he intended to say from his written speech. He’s lost a little of his timing, but the time John McCain gave his country should be hallowed time.

Either, though, is a gift to be cherished this Christmas, and a reminder of what our politicians could be, were they not burdened with greed, xenophobia, tiny hands, and orange hair.

Here is his speech, his gift to America:

Thank you, Joe, my old, dear friend, for those mostly undeserved kind words. Vice President Biden and I have known each other for a lot of years now, more than forty, if you’re counting. We knew each other back when we were young and handsome and smarter than everyone else but were too modest to say so.

Joe was already a senator, and I was the Navy’s liaison to the Senate. My duties included escorting senate delegations on overseas trips, and in that capacity, I supervised the disposition of the delegation’s luggage, which could require – now and again – when no one of lower rank was available for the job – that I carry someone worthy’s bag. Once or twice that worthy turned out to be the young senator from Delaware. I’ve resented it ever since.
Joe has heard me joke about that before. I hope he has heard, too, my profession of gratitude for his friendship these many years. It has meant a lot to me. We served in the Senate together for over twenty years, during some eventful times, as we passed from young men to the fossils who appear before you this evening.

We didn’t always agree on the issues. We often argued – sometimes passionately. But we believed in each other’s patriotism and the sincerity of each other’s convictions. We believed in the institution we were privileged to serve in. We believed in our mutual responsibility to help make the place work and to cooperate in finding solutions to our country’s problems. We believed in our country and in our country’s indispensability to international peace and stability and to the progress of humanity. And through it all, whether we argued or agreed, Joe was good company. Thank you, old friend, for your company and your service to America.

Thank you, too, to the National Constitution Center, and everyone associated with it for this award. Thank you for that video, and for the all too generous compliments paid to me this evening. I’m aware of the prestigious company the Liberty Medal places me in. I’m humbled by it, and I’ll try my best not to prove too unworthy of it.

Some years ago, I was present at an event where an earlier Liberty Medal recipient spoke about America’s values and the sacrifices made for them. It was 1991, and I was attending the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The World War II veteran, estimable patriot and good man, President George H.W. Bush, gave a moving speech at the USS Arizona memorial. I remember it very well. His voice was thick with emotion as he neared the end of his address. I imagine he was thinking not only of the brave Americans who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, but of the friends he had served with and lost in the Pacific where he had been the Navy’s youngest aviator.

‘Look at the water here, clear and quiet …’ he directed, ‘One day, in what now seems another lifetime, it wrapped its arms around the finest sons any nation could ever have, and it carried them to a better world.’

He could barely get out the last line, ‘May God bless them, and may God bless America, the most wondrous land on earth.’

The most wondrous land on earth, indeed. I’ve had the good fortune to spend sixty years in service to this wondrous land. It has not been perfect service, to be sure, and there were probably times when the country might have benefited from a little less of my help. But I’ve tried to deserve the privilege as best I can, and I’ve been repaid a thousand times over with adventures, with good company, and with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America. And I am so very grateful.

What a privilege it is to serve this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, magnificent country. With all our flaws, all our mistakes, with all the frailties of human nature as much on display as our virtues, with all the rancor and anger of our politics, we are blessed.

We are living in the land of the free, the land where anything is possible, the land of the immigrant’s dream, the land with the storied past forgotten in the rush to the imagined future, the land that repairs and reinvents itself, the land where a person can escape the consequences of a self-centered youth and know the satisfaction of sacrificing for an ideal, the land where you can go from aimless rebellion to a noble cause, and from the bottom of your class to your party’s nomination for president.

We are blessed, and we have been a blessing to humanity in turn. The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world. And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on December 7, 1941.

To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.

I am the luckiest guy on earth. I have served America’s cause – the cause of our security and the security of our friends, the cause of freedom and equal justice – all my adult life. I haven’t always served it well. I haven’t even always appreciated what I was serving. But among the few compensations of old age is the acuity of hindsight. I see now that I was part of something important that drew me along in its wake even when I was diverted by other interests. I was, knowingly or not, along for the ride as America made the future better than the past.

And I have enjoyed it, every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones. I’ve been inspired by the service of better patriots than me. I’ve seen Americans make sacrifices for our country and her causes and for people who were strangers to them but for our common humanity, sacrifices that were much harder than the service asked of me. And I’ve seen the good they have done, the lives they freed from tyranny and injustice, the hope they encouraged, the dreams they made achievable.

May God bless them. May God bless America, and give us the strength and wisdom, the generosity and compassion, to do our duty for this wondrous land, and for the world that counts on us. With all its suffering and dangers, the world still looks to the example and leadership of America to become, another, better place. What greater cause could anyone ever serve.

Thank you again for this honor. I’ll treasure it.

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Holy Days Gift #2 — Strangest Dream


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

Funny thing is, that’s exactly what the world had all agreed in 1928 – 1934. Before World War II, before Korea, before Vietnam, before the wars in the Middle East and over five of seven continents. Wars unending. Lives, interrupted.

Most of us were eighteen when we went to war, whichever war it was. By nineteen, by twenty at most, we were old men. Increasingly, we were old women as well.

At eighteen, we were just finding our voices, our own voices. We had so much to say. Many of us never got to say it. So many lost poems, So much music, gone in a spray of blood and bone.

The General Treaty for the Renunciation of War joined sixty-three countries (about all the countries the world had then) in a pledge to preserve the poetry and music yet to be written. The year 1934 was to have been the last year of loss, the first year of millennia of peace. Guns and swords and uniforms would scatter on the ground. We’d never fight again.

It’s still the law. The treaty has never been abrogated by any of the countries that signed it. War is illegal.

Maybe it’s time to enforce it. Maybe by next Christmas. Peace on earth at last. Click on Ed McCurdy’s words above.

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