Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Like this thing is "real." Walter Sobchak tells us birth certificates are like toes...

The Oprah Defense...

Just when we thought getting the first black man elected President was an extraordinary feat cementing her legacy in history, we find out the power of Oprah is strong enough to do something truly unfathomable: influence a US District Court schedule.

A potential juror questioned during the second day of jury selection in Rod Blagojevich’s retrial Monday said she didn’t want her possible jury service to interfere with the taping of the Oprah Winfrey show, which she planned to attend on May 10.

She might just get her wish.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel said he could reschedule the trial of Illinois’ former governor to accommodate the talk show goddess but: “That seems a little over the top.”

“It’s the last year, judge,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar said, smiling, and referring to the final season the show is taping.

Zagel asked the woman if she had one ticket to attend the taping of the show, which will be in its final month of taping in May.

“Four tickets,” she said.

Zagel later seemed open to a defense lawyer’s suggestion that court be scheduled that day around the taping of the show. The parties agreed to revisit the issue.

If having tickets to the Oprah Winfrey show is enough to have a US District Court Judge schedule court around the taping, how long until we run into a case where Oprah is cited as an actual defense? The sad would probably work.

BTW, wonder what kind of message it's gonna send to the jury if the Court does schedule around a tv talkshow taping to jurors in a case involving a Defendant who has become a minor television celebrity?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ridgeland Speeding case: Hey...must be the money...

In case you weren't aware, the South Carolina town of Ridgeland has decided to use cameras to catch people speeding. Last year, before the General Assembly's session expired, they added an amendment to a bill to try to block this from happening. The SC AG issued opinions saying it wasn't legal and the Chief Justice has even weighed in, telling magistrate judges at their annual school that enabling legislation would be required for this practice to pass muster.

Ridgeland ignored all that and decided they was gonna get busy mailing out camera-enforced tickets (which we propose be hereafter referred to as "Ridgeland Commuter Christmas Cards"). A lawsuit followed by Columbia attorney Pete Strom. As discovery moves forward, guess appears that Ridgeland's decision to proceed full steam ahead was motivated by...*gasp*...MONEY. Color us shocked.

We've posted before the problems with speeding enforcement in this state. Specifically, the fact that hardly any law enforcement officer operates their speed measuring device as they are trained to by the SC Criminal Justice Academy, which means the "readings" should not be allowed in court. But even ignoring that, something certainly smells rotten in Ridgeland...and we think someone is gonna have to pay the piper.

Hattip Nelly for the posts title...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Looks like "the Movement" is clueless...

The State has a good article up showing just how politically tone deaf Nikki Haley and her staff were to the firestorm ousting Darle Moore from the University of South Carolina's Board of Trustees would create.

“I have a crush of calls within the last 30 minutes regarding whether Darla Moore has been pulled from the USC board,” Haley’s press secretary, Rob Godfrey, wrote to Haley and other staff members on March 15. “Do we want to do anything besides confirm this? Thank her for her service? Let me know.”
Uh...nice strategery, there Ms. Movement.

Another State article details the communications. (As an aside, is no one in the Haley Administration familiar with the Freedom of Information Act? Just curious...). Here's our favorite:

March 14: In a letter received this date, Cofield thanks Haley for the USC appointment. “It is a double honor to be appointed by the best governor in the United States of America.”
What a tool. The other thing that strikes us, is Haley's folks whining about the very real BS she got busted on over the whole Lexington Hospital job.

March 28: Godfrey objects to a (Charleston) Post and Courier reporter about her story including several paragraphs on the controversy over Haley’s Lexington Medical job application, which listed her income in her previous job as $100,000 higher than it was, according to her tax records. “Hadn’t y’all written about this … already?” When the reporter responds “the public has an interest,” Godfrey questions “the relevance.” “Gotcha … ” the reporter replies.

Yeah...what does my boss being a pathological liar over her last employment got to do with anything.'s leadership like this that makes me yearn for the days when SC was in the news for a man's taboo love for a certain horse named Sugar...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

SC Cops to implement better practices for identification and interrogation?

Columbia attorney, Joe McCulloch, founder of the Palmetto Innocence Project, along with the national Innocence Project and SLED, put on an outstanding seminar Friday in Columbia geared towards introducing local law enforcement to the best practices for identification and interrogation in the criminal justice field.

The seminar featured retired Charlotte, NC Police Chief Darrel Stephens; retired Burlington, NC Police Chief Mike Gauldin; former 5th Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese; Dr. Jennifer Dysart, associate professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York); Dr. Saul Kassin, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice); Ken Hammond, Director of the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Training & Standards Bureau; and attorney Andrew W. Vail, with Jenner & Block of Chicago. These speakers were joined by SLED Director Reggie Lloyd, SC AG Alan Wilson, US Atty for Northern Georgia Sally Yates and US Atty for SC Bill Nettles for a panel discussion at the end of the program.

The purpose of the seminar, was to provide local law enforcement with testimony from the "converted" so to speak; former cops speaking about their experiences with implementing best practices in identification and interrogation (such as utilizing the sequential photo array & video recording full interrogations). To that end, no speaker was more moving that Ret. Burlington, NC Chief of Police, Mike Gauldin. Gauldin was the lead investigator on the Ronald Cotton case. Cotton was wrongfully convicted not once, but TWICE for the rape of Jennifer Thompson. Cotton spent 11 years in prison before DNA exonerated him. 16 years later...Chief Gauldin still gets choked up talking about his role in sending an innocent man to prison.

"I was one of those people who tried to do what was right,” Gauldin told the audience. I thought I had."

"I don’t know where you are in South Carolina on wrongful convictions, but I’ve got news for you if you’re an investigator or a prosecutor: It could happen to you. I’ve got worse news: It may already have happened."
60 Minutes piece on the Cotton case can be seen below. Watch it...truly moving stuff.

According to The Innocence Project, 179 of the first 239 DNA exonerations were cases in which eyewitness misidentification was the central cause. That means that approximately seventy-five percent (75%) of wrongful convictions involve mistaken eyewitness identification.

In fifty-percent (50%) of those 179 cases, eyewitness misidentification was the sole cause for conviction. That means that eyewitness misidentification is the sole cause for approximately ninety percent (90%) of the DNA exonerated wrongful convictions.
Hopefully, Friday's seminar marks a sea change event in the evolution of these practices here in South Carolina. SLED Director Reggie Lloyd (who helped organize the seminar) came out in favor of videotaping interrogations:

"Most of these folks are used to television drama," State Law Enforcement Division Chief Reggie Lloyd said, adding that many jurors experience the "CSI effect" of having seen interrogations on TV shows. "To let them actually see it appeared to have no effect on them whatsoever."

Lloyd also committed to sitting down with McCulloch in the coming weeks and coming up with a policy, which will be memorialized via MOU, on how SLED will assist the Palmetto Innocence Project with potential wrongful conviction cases. Local media coverage of the event is available here, here and here.

It really was a great seminar. We got the chance to talk to Chief Gauldin for about 10 minutes after his presentation. The Chief just immediately strikes you as an incredibly good guy and to sit there some 16 years after the Cotton case shook out the way it did and see him still profoundly affected by it, moves you. We hope the law enforcement officers who saw the same thing Friday take that experience Chief Gauldin shared and try to implement changes to make sure the same thing does not happen to them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

150 years of avoidance: It was all about the slaves...

Yesterday marked the 150th Anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, better known 'round these parts as the firing on Fort Sumter. That means, that yesterday morning, on the battery in Charleston, there was a plethora of folks watching civil war buffs and re-enactors strut around in uniforms and civil war-era garb, while firing off authentic cannons.

We'd be willing to bet that a large number of those people who got all decked out, when asked, would explain to you how slavery was not the reason we had a civil war. Those people would be completely full of shit and/or ignorant.

Listen, the Civil War was fought for the same reason all wars are fought: MONEY. On April 12, 1861, slaves were the single biggest financial asset in the United States. They were worth $3.5 billion in 1860 dollars--that's more than the value of America's railroads, banks, factories or ships at the time. What was the south's biggest hope throughout the war for victory? That England would intervene. Why? King Cotton. Cotton was America's biggest export before the war. Cotton built Wall Street and it built the economic base of New England, through the textile mills. The South hoped that Britain's dependence on cotton would force England to recognize the south and help force the North to negotiate (1 in 5 British depended on cotton for a living). And what allowed cotton to become king? SLAVES. In the decade before the war, per capita wealth grew more than twice as fast in the South than it did in the North. The prices of slaves and land increased by 70%.

Ladies and gentlemen, GREED is the God of War. And the Civil War happened because the powers that be in the South did not want to give up the basis for their wealth.

Last night, a friend of ours commented on a poll another friend had posted on FB about people's views on slavery's role in the war. His comment seemed to indicate that if one reviewed contemporaneous writings from both sides during the war, one would not hold the belief that slavery caused the war. We think that's malarkey. 150 years from now, if someone reads contemporaneous writings from the run up to the invasion of Iraq, one could surmise our military action into Iraq was caused by WMDs, the hope for democracy in the Middle East, revenge against 9/11 terrorists, or any host of ideas. That don't make it so. We invaded Iraq for one reason: MONEY, ie., OIL.

The idea that the South went to war for "state's rights," liberty, honor, of anything other than preserving their right to keep an institution that allowed them cheap labor upon which to grow their wealth is a myth. It's a myth perpetuated by the likes former Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. Most of the post-war publishing immediately following the war was of the "battles and leaders" variety. Americans had just been ravaged by war and, understandably, had no appetite to revisit the root cause for the wounds that had been inflicted on both the North and South. Davis' book, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government was the first popular book to tackle the subject, and it paved the way for the "Lost Cause" school of history that leaves Americans today confused into thinking the war was caused by anything other than slavery. In Davis' view, the genteel planters of the South lived in harmony with slaves who were "contented with their lot...Never was there happier dependence of labor and capital on each other." Yes...we're sure. Written with the sure, self-righteousness of a man who was only familiar with one end of the whip.

Of course, the author of that Lost Cause "bible" had previously summed up his reasons for the war much more candidly: "Will you consent to be robbed of your property or will you strike bravely for liberty, property honor and life?" There you have it, Davis' real reason for breaking from the Union: his honor demanded he have the liberty to protect his property--Slaves.

Listen, there is no secret Slavery was the cause of the war. President Lincoln knew it. A few weeks before those famous shots were fired in Charleston, Lincoln spoke at his inauguration:
One section of the country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute

The truth is, the Civil War was the result of a long festering problem. One that is evident simply in our Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...But they weren't, were they? In fact, our founding fathers had to argue over the subject and a compromise was reached: some men, BLACK men, were worth only 3/5ths of a man. As James Madison noted during the drafting of our Constitution:
It seems now to be pretty well understood that the real difference of interests lies not between the large and small but between the Northern and Southern states. The institution of slavery and its consequences form the line.

Slavery is what led to Bleeding Kansas. It's what led t0 blood on the Senate floor, when South Carolina's own Congressman Preston Brooks nearly clubbed to death Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. It's what led abolitionist John Brown to guerilla movement at Harper's Ferry. It's what led to the god-awful Dred Scott decision. It's what led South Carolinian leaders to, as they declared their independence, indict the North for encouraging "thousands of our slaves to leave their homes, and those who have remained have been servile insurrection." It's what led Mississippi to declare: "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery--the greatest material interest in the world. There was no choice left to us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union." It's what led Georgians to declare: "We refuse to submit." matter how many people at the time may have believed they were individually fighting for something else (like US Gen. George McClellan, who wrote: "I am fighting to preserve the integrity of the Union & the power of the government--on no other issue"), any objective analysis knows that's just one individual's personal opinion. Further, it's an opinion that ignores reality: without slavery there is no war. The very foundation of that Union Gen. McClellan wanted to preserve, that all men are created equal, was diametrically opposed by the Confederacy. As Confederate VP, Alexander Stephens noted:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.

Folks...that's ballgame, right there. Contemporaneous historical commentary is great. But you still have to shift through the bullshit. People were just as uninformed, misleading, gullible or dense back then as they are today. By any objective big picture analysis, you can't hide the undeniable truth: The American Civil War was fought because of slavery. That this is still even a question for some people is the very reason we haven't been able to get over race in this country. It's been 150 years. Time to accept this fact and move on.

Hattip David Von Drehle's excellent "The Way We Weren't," in this week's Time, from which this post is heavily cribbed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

AT-AT for America!

We have the technology...the time is can wait no longer...children are our future. America can, should and must build an AT-AT Imperial Walker. Join AT-AT for America today!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tip for new lawyers...

To all you baby lawyers out there, when the judge in your trial declares a mistrial because they are "astonished" at how poorly your doing, don't go onto Facebook at brag:

1st-degree murder trial...MISTRIAL!

You're gonna come off as kind of a douche...

For the Record, our very first General Sessions case was an appointed murder trial. But our judge told us that we did a very good job. So did our client, but with the caveat that "I hope you understand when I don't say you did well later on." We told him we would.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Headed to Chucktown....

We're headed to Charleston today for the Bridge Run weekend with Team Tango and Cash. Enjoy your weekend...