Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

DWI Trial

He had as good a defense as a man could ask for.

The defense attorney got a lot of stuff redacted from the trial: the drugs? Gone. (There was an ownership question, so we couldn't even mention them.) The passenger? Not to be mentioned.  Audio from the video? Muted. (On scene had been discussed the drugs, and the not-to-be-mentioned passenger.) 

Because of technical glitches, one of the three DVDs of the stop didn't work. 

I had made a typo on the PC affidavit, which made it into the text of the report. 

The defendant had refused to give blood, and I had shrugged and decided that my case was strong enough without it, so I didn't seek a blood draw warrant. 

In an interesting twist, the attorney really tried to nail me to the wall for NOT getting a warrant and taking his client's blood. I explained that, before 2007, I had NEVER gotten a warrant for someone's blood, and that I didn't like to bother judges unless I needed to. "It only takes, what, about 20 minutes, to do it?" the defense attorney asked. 

"Is that your experience? Because after hours, I tend to find that it takes longer, sir. In MY experience," I answered. 

The defense attorney really grilled me on Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. That guy knew his NHTSA manual, pretty well. Well, so did I. I guess I answered the questions about the tests fairly competently. Lord knows, I've been administering the tests long enough. He took me to task for presenting all nine steps out and back to the Walk And Turn Test, because the manual says to only demonstrate three, and then turn around and come back. To me, I was being MORE fair, and giving the defendant more of an example to follow, but he pressed the case (and, if I'm fair, made a good case) that by presenting the longer version of the example, I was making the defendant have to stand heel-to-toe for a longer time, thereby increasing the likelihood that he would lose his balance and stand normally. 

He asked me if it was "natural" or "unnatural" to stand like that for any period of time. I answered (perhaps a little impertinently) that, while it probably wasn't natural behavior, the question could be begged as to whether driving was in and of itself unnatural behavior. 

He grilled me hard about the videos. As well he should have. A the attorney for the defense, he should demand to know why a key piece of evidence was missing, and hold our --no, my-- feet to the fire for why I couldn't produce it. I answered honestly that I didn't know, and sure wished that I had it, for our case. (Honestly, he had to be cheering that it was not available, because the other two videos were quite damning.)  In fact, it was that missing video which probably gave him the best glint of hope for the trial. 

The jury returned in an hour and a half with a Guilty verdict. 

I shook the defense attorney's hand afterward. It turned out that he had represented a citizen who had sued my department and me a few years ago (I was eventually dismissed as a defendant.). I don't always wait to shake a defense attorney's hand. But he had stalwartly defended his client, and hadn't attempted to impugn my character while doing so. It was a spirited, honorable defense against a good (but not perfect) case. 

I hope the defendant finishes out his probation, clean. We don't need more guys in jail.

A lot of people --me included-- complain about how the government works. About how it unnecessarily oppresses the public. But in this case and many others, I have seen it made to account for why it charged a citizen with a crime. I have seen the government have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was committed, by the defendant, during the time in question. That is due process. It is what we expect, but it is still a lot of work.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

A good day.

1. I got paid to shoot for three and a half hours, yesterday. I shot ammunition that I didn't pay for.

2. A cold front came in yesterday. The high was 78 degrees.

3. I had lunch with my father yesterday. We had Indian food. It was delicious and inexpensive and filling.

4. I took a nap.

5. After taking my kid to a meet-the-teacher thing at the middle school, I got home to find that my wife had fixed a superb green-chiles-and-rice dish.

6. I ended the day at home with an adult beverage or two, of higher quality than is commonly found.

I'm calling it: Best Day Of Summer, 2015.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Brady disclosure.

In 1963, the US Supreme Court ruled (quite correctly) in Brady v. Maryland that any and all evidence collected and/or held by the state in a prosecution is to be passed on to the defense. To fail to forward all of it to the defense would result in a lack of due process, which at the minimum would guarantee that the defendant's case would be dismissed. Over the years, this has come to some interesting ends. For one thing-- if an officer investigating a criminal case takes 32 photographs of the exact same thing, but only 1 of the pictures is in focus, all 32 still must be included in the case file turned over to the defense.  The thought is that the first or the 31st picture might well have contained a shred of evidence which would have led toward the defendant's case.

For a prosecutor to possess information which could be exculpatory and not turn it over is not only grounds for dismissal of a case, it is grounds for civil, administrative, and even criminal sanction against the prosecutor himself.

This led to Brady Lists.

Occasionally, there are times when what the state's witness on the stand testifies to and what the prosecutor knows to be true don't line up. Maybe the witness was in error. Maybe the prosecutor's grasp of the facts were in error. Maybe a document which the prosecutor briefed himself with was in error. Or, sometimes, the witness just lied. When the prosecutor knows that a witness doesn't tell the truth on the stand, he cannot in good conscience put that officer on the stand again. Over the years, it became a practice for district attorneys to draw up forms which they had their Assistant D.A.'s fill out about questionable police witnesses. If an officer's name was on the Brady List at a DA's office, then the DA would either look for another officer with knowledge of the case to testify, or would dismiss the case. Presumably, they would also consider turning over their knowledge of the officer's alleged misdeed to the defense, if they had to go forth with the case.  But it didn't happen, because those lists were kept secret for a long while.

Until recently. Dallas County's list was just published, and Tarrant County just sent out disclosures about their lists to a bunch of defendants.

So it was that, a couple of weeks ago, my chief sent me a text:
"See the local paper's article [about the existence of Brady lists in our county DA's office]. Let me know if you think I should contact the DA office." 
I immediately replied: 
"Yes. You should. If we have an officer on staff whom our DA has deemed untrustworthy enough not to back, you need to know about it. Even as uncomfortable a topic as that is to contemplate."  
I went on to assure him that I doubted that we had anything to worry about.

I promptly forgot about the conversation until Friday, when the chief called me in and asked me with a stony face whether I had been worried about what the DA would say. I told him, quite honestly, that I hadn't been. I know that I rely on the other men in my department, and I know who they are, and know that they would not fudge the truth, even when it damns them. I would bet my life on it.

He smiled and told me that none of our officers in our small (less than 10 man) department was on the list, and that ours was one of the only departments in the county without a person on the list. I smiled with pride at the first part, but was a bit saddened and a little shocked by the second part of that sentence.

I have heard that some of these lists got combined with grading lists on whether the officer was a good testifier (Did he speak clearly, did he stumble over words, did he seem unsure of himself or frightened of the courtroom? Did he wear an inappropriate tie?), and thus it could turn out that an officer on such a list might have made only the error of being a shy person with bad taste in tropical neck apparel. I don't know if that is true or not. I do know that these lists are made and added to by young prosecutors who don't have to prove up their case. While some police unions and advocacy groups have questioned them, however, they have been upheld by courts. Getting one's name on such a list, ironically enough, brings up the whole question of due process again (which is how the whole Brady issue got started.). So, the best thing for an officer to do is to avoid all appearances of impropriety, and state only that which is known, and never, ever, EVER try to "wing it."

Okay, I'll admit that I'm a little bit proud of my department. But I'm not going to break my arm patting ourselves on the back about it.

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My daughter's senior year begins.... Now.

To lots of people, the summer doesn't end until September First, or the observance of Labor Day, or when regular school is back in session. But when your child is in band, it starts earlier.

My elder daughter is a senior in high school this year, and is a drum major in the band. Today is the first day of band camp. Even though she has some kind of stomach ailment, she is fighting through it, and put together materialsm and cupcakes (hopefully safe?), and her water bottle and color-coded cards to give notice from across fields, and sunblock and sunglasses and her ever-present whistle (nicer than mine)-- all to get to school a half-hour early for the day.

This kid has been sleeping in until noon or later the last couple of weeks, staying up reading and watching movies with her sister. And she's been dating a little bit. But, she's been practicing her horn obsessively for the last month. She took a week earlier in the month and went to an elite drum major camp.  She's been working on summer assignments for her honors English, Math, Biology, and Spanish AP courses. We've been getting her into dual credit classes and getting her car set up for the school year, which basically for her starts today.

Here. We. Go.

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Saturday, July 04, 2015

239 years ago...

A group of men decided to sign a document declaring that they were citizens, and no longer subjects. This document started with a list of strident complaints against a man who was arguably the most powerful man in the world, and who believed he had a claim over their provenance. The subject and recipient of that document had standing troops in their homeland, and the resources to send many, many more.

Think about that, the next time you're reluctant to churn out a memo at work which points out an error made by your boss.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Old tools

Way back in the day (30 or 40 years back), my Dad made up a transport belt. It wasn't much-- it was just a large leather belt with a large brass ring tacked on with a strip of leatherr and two rivets. He kept it all through his years as an investigator. While clearing out a storage unit of his recently, I saw it and asked if I could have it, since he's retired now. The other day, I put a large prisoner into it before putting him into my car. It's simple: you just buckle buckle behind him, with the belt passed through the brass ring in front. Then the handcuffs are passed through the brass ring, and his hands are cuffed in front. It's very safe, but FAR more comfortable to the prisoner. I am a fan of not hurting my prisoners.
A few days ago, I had a low-risk warrant to serve on my day off. I put on some blue jeans and a department polo shirt and an ID card, and put my pistol on my hip. I reached into my sock drawer, and got Dad's old sheep's leather 'cuff carrier from his days as an investigator, and put my cuffs into it, and looped it over my belt. It all went swimmingly, and the guy got booked in, in no time flat, without pain or injury. 

Dad's old leather is still working. 

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Monday, April 20, 2015

This is what class looks like.

Longtime online pal Marko Kloos is so classy, he even apologizes for being a little rude when he correctly identifies a rude individual.

Winning a Hugo, up to now, has always been very valuable for a science fiction writer.

If you're like many of us, you want to find a magical story that will divert you from the drudgery of reality, without having to wade through the crap. Just give me the good stuff. So, it's incredibly alluring to see that list posted up on the wall of your local book store with the Hugo winners by year. I've been guilty of having perused the list, found a title that I haven't yet read, and pulled it off the shelf and immediately gone to the cash register. It's that simple: I didn't have to read the slush pile.

I know that I'm not the only one. As do smart people like... well, like Marko Kloos.

Marko, however, found himself in a very weird situation. He had written a very compelling page-turner, which would have found itself in the running for a Hugo anyway-- but which was pushed to the short-list by an unsavory person.

Vox Day, AKA Theodore Beale, is not a person I would invite into my home. He is racist. He is misogynistic. He was expelled from the Science Fiction Writer's Association because of his attacks on fellow writers based upon their race and gender. He is bitter. The funny thing is, the man can write. If he weren't so obnoxious, he probably would have won something by now. But there are lines which you cannot cross without having some backlash, and he crossed them. He will never win an award in science fiction.

To make up for this, Beale/Day came up with a scheme: pack the nominations. Campaign on fairness! Your favorite writers have no chance to win, through no fault of their own! Though they have wrought the best stories, their only sin is that they are white males!  The P.C.-minded establishment wants a multicultural field of nominees, at the expense of Quality! Hell, it sounds good. We all just want the best writing. Who cares what color or gender the author is? We all hate reverse discrimination, because it's just another kind of discrimination, right?

When I saw that online pal and best-selling author Larry Correia was being labeled as a racist (!) and misogynist himself, I began to think, Yeah, I can understand why you'd get ticked about these things. Larry's a good man. Larry is not a racist. He may be a conservative, but he's not a woman-hater. Larry's writings depict strong woman characters, multiple cultures in his good guys... anyway, you get the picture.  So Larry's corner started up a little group called the Sad Puppies. And frankly, I was on board.

Then Vox Day starts up the Rabid Puppies. He endorses a group of authors for Hugo nominations, and they get short-listed. Marko Kloos was one of the authors.

For a few days, it was heady times at Castle Frostbite. Think about this: You're nominated for the Hugo --one of the most well-known awards in your profession*-- and word is that you've got a very good chance of winning it. Heinlein won that award. Asimov won that award. Clark. Le Guin. Dick. Niven. Haldeman. Gibson. Card. Those are the giants on whose shoulders you will get to stand. I'm not gonna lie: I'm giddy just knowing a guy who gets to have his name mentioned in the same lists as those people.

The same rocket ship badge that is on every paperback of Stranger In A Strange Land could be on your books.

But then comes the crashing reality, which is that people would associate your nomination with the unsavory person who put your name on a list that he advocated be nominated.

Some stains you can never wash clean of.

So Marko, faced with that situation, quit. He pulled his book Lines Of Departure out of the running.
He took his ball (which he was winning with), and went home to Castle Frostbite.

Drop the mic.

He'll write more. And we'll get to read it. But when he takes the awards, it will be on his terms, and not via some shady deal co-opted by a shady jerk.  Hey, Vox? Marko was never your kind of people.
*Though, apparently, not really as critically-judged as you might hope. "Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by supporting or attending members of the annual World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon..." LawDog writes on his disappointment about the process.

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

This is not who we are.

This is indefensible.

This is abhorrent.

No police officer can defend this action by Michael T. Slager, formerly of the North Charleston, S.C. Police Department. Happily, I haven't seen a single officer try to.

Go to 1:35 in the video, and watch as Slager tosses a black object down next to the body. Immediately after cuffing the dying man, he is seen jogging back to where the struggle began, and at 1:08 he picks up that object. I will bet you a month's worth of paychecks that the object is a Taser. I've seen them and handled them for years. It is a gun-shaped black item, seen when he drops it to be a figure L.

So, seconds after the shooting, Slager is tampering with the scene. Hell, that's a third degree felony here in Texas.

And about that shooting. Even before Tennessee v. Garner (1985), this wouldn't have washed with regard to the Fleeing Felon doctrine.  But even if it were legal, it isn't right. You don't kill a man whom you have identified, just because of brief struggle and he ran away.

That video is hard to watch, but I'm so glad that it was made, and released. Because it will help us seek justice. It won't be enough, but it never is, in any shooting of any human.

That's not us.

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