Drunk & Disorderly

On the Docket of a Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney

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Black Monday

Tamir Rice

Tamir Rice

 

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

Some things you can buy with six million dollars:

  • A replica of the White House built for a Texas governor in the 1920s who had higher ambitions but a lower skill set.
  • A season of “Game of Thrones.”
  • A Galaxy Super Yacht, though you’ll have to settle for the cheapest model.
  • A week’s supply of makeup for Kim Kardashian.
  • A twelve-year-old black boy’s life.

That’s how much money they’ve settled on the family of Tamir Rice, who was gut-shot on a playground by a Cleveland police officer who was so frightened of confrontation with a black face of any age that he leaped from his cop car gun blazing before cowering behind the car lest the boy manage to draw his toy gun with his dying breath.

The settlement spares the city from a federal civil rights trial that would have shown just how little black lives matter in Cleveland, as they do in so many places in this land of the free, where most native American black folks are descended from slaves who only counted for three-fifths of a real person. And, as the mayor of that fine city said, the payout to make up for butchering the child and his civil rights serves the higher purpose of “protect(ing) the rights of the city and its taxpayers.” How the scales of justice are freighted with coin.

I once helped bury a child not quite Tamir’s age. Six hundred million dollars couldn’t begin to dilute the grief her family felt, feels, and will feel till someone else helps bury them.

Under the terms of the settlement, Cleveland admits no wrongdoing. Nothing wrong about being the home of police who kill black boys on playgrounds.

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An I for an Eye

 

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

I hate prisons. Hate that we haven’t figured out a better way to deal with people who commit crimes than throwing them in a hole.

But prison is what we’ve got now for people who fire guns and don’t much care who the bullet strikes. New York police officer Peter Liang fired his gun in November 2014 because he was afraid of the dark. We’ve all seen cop shows where the officer pulls his gun but keeps his finger outside the trigger guard till a suspect is in sight. Liang didn’t sight anyone but his finger was tense against the trigger in the dimly lighted hallway of an apartment house full of people when he heard a loud noise and jerked that finger in terror. A man of color, Liang heard the bullet ricochet and strike the chest of another man of color he’d never known, met, or seen.

Liang and his partner stood around arguing about who would call in the accidental shooting while the man died in his girlfriend’s arms. Neither cop tried to save his life. They later testified it would have been useless because they didn’t know what to do anyway.

Two months ago Liang was convicted of manslaughter and official misconduct. He was looking at fifteen years in prison.

Today the judge sentenced Liang to five years’ probation, and community service. I know people who were sentenced to probation and community service for swimming in someone else’s pool. The judge said he could tell, just by looking at the surveillance video of Liang entering the building, that the officer “was entering with the serious mind of protecting the people,” and that “(S)hooting somebody never entered his mind.” That was some video. I don’t remember ever putting my finger against a trigger on a big boys’ gun without thinking I might shoot somebody or something.

Still, the sentence was far worse than it was for the cop who, that same month, deliberately shot twelve-year-old Tamir Rice to death for playing with an Airsoft gun at a Cleveland playground. Far worse than it was for the New York City cop who, four months earlier, deliberately choked Eric Garner to death for selling cigarets on the street. Those guys weren’t even charged for the black lives they took. Just routine police work.

Maybe Liang can use the eight hundred hours of community service he owes traveling from police department to police department in the United States, talking about the dangers of sending poorly trained officers out there to protect their communities.

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How To Make Sure the Black Man Gets the Needle

 

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

(The following practice tips are based on the court order in a capital murder case appeal, State v. Bennett, in The United States District Court District of South Carolina, Charleston Division. The prosecutor in the case, the only occasionally drunken Donnie “Dr. Death” Myers, has tried more death penalty cases than anyone in the state.)

 

1. Get yourself an all-white jury.

2. Make sure one of the jurors is a people-pleaser who says if he has any doubts he’ll go along with the majority if they want to kill the black man.

3. Try the case before a judge who thinks that’s just dandy.

4. Put on a witness, unrelated to the murder case, and ask him about a dream he had, after the defendant put a beating on him, where Indians were chasing and trying to kill him, and the thing is, those Indians seemed to be black folk too.

5. Solicit testimony that while awaiting trial in prison, the black man had sex with a female prison guard and, wait, wasn’t she a white woman? You remember, the blonde-headed lady.

6. Argue that if the jury gives the black man life, “he’ll come back out. Meeting him again will be like meeting King Kong on a bad day.”

7. Point out several times during closing argument just how big this big black gorilla is. Why, he’s six-feet seven, three hundred pounds. Hands way bigger than some of them Presidential candidates.

8. Throw in a few names like “monster,” “caveman,” and “beast of burden” for good measure.

9. Do NOT get a juror so candid as the one Dr. Death got, who when asked after the trial why he thought Bennett had killed the victim, replied, “Because he was just a dumb nigger.”

 
(After hearing all this, and more, the federal district court overturned the death sentence. The big black monkey will still be in jail the rest of his life; Donnie just doesn’t get to see the needle stuck in him. Sadder yet, old Donnie is retiring and has sent his last black man to Death Row.)

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Things I Wish I’d Never Heard in American Political Discourse

 

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

Is it just Donald and Ted, or are Hillary and Bernie up to the same thing? I’m an independent voter, so I don’t really pay that much attention till the nominees are picked.

So maybe this sort of thing has happened before, but my probably ignorant impression is that no candidate in the history of the Republic till now has ever guaranteed the voters that his procreative equipment is bigger than the average Marco’s, nor has anyone said anything remotely like this from Ted Cruz (isn’t he a United States Senator?):

Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.

Maybe if he’s a sweet little kitten?

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Making a Perjuror (Many, in Fact)

 

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

Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, convicted murderers serving life in prison and subjects of the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer,” each has an IQ idling around seventy points.

As the documentary strives to make achingly, infuriatingly clear, each was convicted by a jury of his peers.

Neither jury could see the lush forest of reasonable doubt, for the giant sequoias of planted police evidence, grandstanding prosecutors who never met an ethics class they didn’t ignore, and judges better suited to judging Little Miss pageants.

That is in no way to say these guys were innocent. But no one proved them guilty — certainly not the smug, self-satisfied, serial-sexting prosecutor who presented totally competing theories in their separate trials.

At Avery’s trial, the since-disgraced (technically, continuously disgraced) district attorney lies to the jury and says all the evidence, “everything in this case, pointed towards one person, towards one defendant.” Then at Dassey’s trial, with nary a blush, the DA lies to that jury and says Dassey and Uncle Steve murdered their victim together.

If you watch the documentary, you’ll see two of the finest criminal defense lawyers I’ve ever watched — Dean Strang and Jerry Buting of Wisconsin — at work in the fields of the devil. You’ll also see one of the worst, in Dassey’s case, seemingly doing everything he can to get his client convicted, grinning goofily the while, before the judge finally throws him off the case.

You’ll also see a parade of perjuring witnesses and wonder how they can keep their own goofy grins off their faces.

It’s gripping, it’ll take ten hours out of your life you won’t want back, and — God bless us, everyone — shines blinding light into the dark halls of what we like to call justice.

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