Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Move over Wong Sun, the Spanish have something better than the exclusionairy rule!

That's right, Spain, that great nation that has given us such niceties as the inquisition, the Spanish tickler, the Garotte, and the completed genocide of the Arawak, have brought something to the modern world that may actually be laudable:

Attempting to hold those involved in illegal searches accountable criminally.

"Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who famously indicted late Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet, has found himself in the dock for the first time.

He went on trial at the supreme court in Madrid charged with illegally authorizing police to bug the conversations of lawyers with clients.


The judge is accused of overstepping his authority by ordering the recording of prison conversations between three defendants and their lawyers.

Wait - doesn't that happen at FDC every day?

The prosecution is actually not as great as one might think. It is a private prosecution - the same thing that some Spaniards tried to do against Dick Cheney and George W. Bush (which I would support), and is probably tied to the fact that Garzon has been a bit of a renegade when it comes to targeting those that carry themselves as above the law. In Spain, Judges serve as investigating forces in criminal prosecutions - similar to a grand jury.

But, wouldn't it be nice if one day, law enforcement personnel who violate the Fourth Amendment actually faced some repercussions instead of just suppression?

Friday, January 13, 2012


I am having so much fun watching the Republicans devour their own.  Here is a clip of an ad attacking Romney as a liberal, and then pointing out in derogatory fashion that "...he speaks French too!"

To this I say: Quel crétin pourrait éventuellement accepter qu'il est mauvais d'être éduqués et parlent une langue étrangère? Ne cherchez pas plus loin que l'audiance cible!

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Our corner of the Universe

Astronomers are now reporting that they believe that in the Milky Way there are 100 billion planetary solar systems - stars that have planets orbiting them.

If you consider that there are believed to be in excess of 170 billion galaxies in the universe, you can really begin to appreciate the significance of the announcement.  This is especially so because we are still finding new life on Earth ("World's smallest frog discovered").

Given that humans have been seeking to communicate with extraterrestrial life since the beginning of recorded history, the announcement is quite exciting.  We should assume that other life in the Galaxy would be trying to communicate with outside life as well.  The question that we should now be looking into is how would a far more advanced life try to do it?  Certainly we will continue to develop better ways of "looking" across great distances to learn of the existence of these extraterrestrial systems, but knowing they are there and having an effective way of trying to communicate are very different.

Anyhow, not really related to the law, but interesting stuff, now I will focus on how to communicate with some AUSA re the true meaning of Brady, a task that is far more daunting than reaching ET.

In other news...it is okay to kill a bunch of enemy combatants in war, but God help you if you pee on their dead bodies! Seems a bit confusing to me if you really think about it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Trading Drugs for Guns is a no no!

Turns out that trading drugs for guns in the 11th Circuit will qualify for prosecution under 18 u.s.c. 924(c), for "possession" as opposed to "use" of a firearm.  Seems reasonable.  Good on ya Pryor!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What is a "Person"?

"My head knocks against the stars.
My feet are on the hilltops.
My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of universal life.
Down in the sounding foam of primal things I reach my hands and play with pebbles of destiny.
I have been to hell and back many times.
I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God.
I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible.
I know the passionate seizure of beauty
And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs reading "Keep Off."

My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive in the universe"
- Carl Sandburg 

The Ninth Circuit took 64 pages to debate the question of what a "person" is...en banc, and still did not arrive at a consensus (spoiler - "person" means a real person).  All the more reason for Rick Santorum to follow through with his threat to disband the 9th! 

I think it would have been more fun if Kozinski wrote a one-page "who am I" poem.

As issue is 18 u.s.c. 876(c), which deals with mailing threats to persons.  From the dissent:

"Disagreeing, the majority concludes that Havelock’s manifesto was not addressed to natural persons because it indicates nothing about the identity of any individual person to whom the communication supposedly was addressed. Unlike the majority, however, I can find nothing in § 876(c) that precludes liability when a threatening communication is addressed to, and threatens mass murder against, a community rather than a specific individual. I also can think of no reason why Congress would not have been concerned about threats
to commit mass murder. I would therefore hold that Havelock’s communications were addressed to natural persons."

It is an interesting read, if for not other reason than to ponder why a man who showed up at the Superbowl with a newly purchased AR-15 and lots of ammo, was not prosecuted for a terrorism related offense - there will be a quiz next week to see if you can figure out the answer.

Here is a link to the opinion: US v. Kurt Havelock

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Former AUSA Smackdown!

If you ever wondered whether or not there is a significant difference between litigating in Federal and State criminal court, look no further than Cliff Berry Inc. v. State of Florida.

Case reversed on Jury instruction, but took time to address a Richardson issue. 

Richardson, for those of you who don't know, basically says that a trial court must conduct an inquiry when there is a discovery violation.  In federal court, that would be the equivalent of actually holding AUSAs responsible when they...let's say...fail to turn over Giglio until the week before trial, when they were supposed to do it 14 days after the discovery order was entered.

Apparently, the former AUSA was practicing like he was back over in federal land where the lunatics run the asylum and there is no accountability as to prosecutors.  Here is the section dealing with the discovery violation:

"The record demonstrates that on November 26, 2008 – the day Schneir began testifying and before the State concluded its direct examination – defense counsel alerted the trial court to a possible discovery violation after it became clear that Schneir’s trial testimony was a significant departure from his pre-trial
statements and deposition:

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Judge, one request before we break, it’s through the Court to the prosecutors. . . .
Apparently now, with Mr. Schneir[’s] testimony and questions, it’s clear that Mr. Schneir’s testimony is at
odds with both his sworn [testimony] in May to the prosecutors, and his deposition in June.  And I’m asking if there are other statements, interviews or notes that occurred since that time, that are inconsistent with his prior testimony, that under Brady, that they be produced.

. . . .

THE COURT: So you’re invoking Brady, and I’m assuming, Mr. Scruggs, you’re aware of that, and
anything they are entitled to, you have turned over?

(Tr. 1545-46.)

The prosecutor denied being in possession of any such materials and asserted that “if I had any such reports or anything, they would have gotten them a long time ago.” (Tr. 1546.) [This line of course is cut and paste from the standard response in federal court...'the government is aware of...and will comply...]

Defense Counsel continued:

It’s clear from the question asked about dates and how he [Schneir] lied and all the meetings about dates, that Mr. Scruggs, before he asked these questions, knew that the testimony was going to vary from the sworn testimony previously given.

I believe that the oral statements have been made to Mr. Scruggs or to Mr. Fiedler that are inconsistent, that is within the obligation the prosecutor owes, and I cannot believe that Mr. Scruggs asked the questions, and is
surprised to hear that now the witness is testifying in variance.

So, I think there are statements out there, with all respect to Mr. Scruggs that Mr. Scruggs knows perfectly well and I ask for them now.

(Tr. 1546.)

In the exchange with the trial court that followed, the prosecutor agreed to think about and produce any undisclosed oral or written statements to the defense over the holiday weekend.

As we have already noted, based on the Assistant State Attorney’s Script, [in federal land, this would be referred to as work product, rather than the testimony the prosecutor prepared for the witness] it is clear that the State was aware Schneir would depart significantly from his pretrial sworn statement and deposition at trial before Schneir took the stand. For example, the Script summarizes the information the Assistant State Attorney expected to elicit from Schneir as follows:

• “Theft actually started in early 2000.”

• With respect to the outbound fuel lines, fuel was stolen “approx 12 times in 2000 to March 2003,” and with respect to the inbound fuel lines, fuel was stolen “approx 12 times.”

(Script, at R. P3364-65.)

The Script also outlines questions the Assistant State Attorney planned to (and did, in some form) ask Schneir at the trial:

• “Why lower numbers [and] wrong times for fuel theft?”

• “Why did you give wrong dates in depo?”

• “Why did you give wrong numbers/times in depo?” (Below this series of questions, the words “MINIMIZE INVOLVEMENT” were written in another person’s handwriting. These are the exact words Schneir used at trial to explain his departure from his pretrial testimony.)

(Script, at R. P3370.)

And, in fact, the Assistant State Attorney later confirmed at a post-trial hearing that he learned of the changes in Schneir’s testimony the weekend before Schneir took the stand. The State failed to notify the defense that
Schneir’s testimony had changed until after Schneir began testifying, and, exactly what the State told the defense is all but certain, as the dissent suggests."


"In his pre-trial sworn statements and a pre-trial deposition, Schneir contended that the Defendants began stealing jet fuel from the Fuel Farm in June 2002. At trial, Schneir testified that the theft of jet fuel began much earlier, in January 2000. Schneir's trial testimony at least doubled or tripled the amount of fuel he claimed the Defendants stole from the fuel farm and dramatically increased the duration of the crime. Although the State was aware that Schneir’s testimony at trial would drastically vary from his pre-trial sworn statement and deposition, the State failed to notify disclose the Defendants until Schneir had taken the stand."

The opinion goes on to reason that although the testimony was not Brady or impeachment material, the State was obligated to produce it when it became aware, and failed to do so, resulting in prejudice to the defense.

The contrast is really quite fascinating.  In federal court, there is no chance to depose or obtain statements pretrial, the manner in which this would have unfolded would have been that at trial, the guy would have testified to the higher fuel amounts, and then the government would have (if they were acting in good faith) produced the earlier, different statements.  The case would have gone up and the 11th would have PCA affirmed the conviction.

Great work by the boys over at Carlton Fields!