Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam hanged

Let me start thusly: he was guilty, of that there can be no doubt. He was hanged for a massacre that had occurred over 20 years earlier, and the proof was incontrovertible. Despite that, I have serious reservations about the fairness of his trial- I find it an outrage that two judges were removed midstream for being insufficiently partial to the prosecution, and only a fool would argue that the outcome was not preordained. The procedures in place were substantially less rigorous than those at Nuremberg, and no one at Saddam's trial possessed even a fraction of the stature of Justice Jackson.

In the end, though, I am struck by Saddam's, well, humanity at the very end. The Bush Administration tried to demonize Saddam, a cross of Satan and Fonzie- snap his fingers and people die by the thousands. But when you read something like this, "'He just gave up,' said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser. 'We were astonished. It was strange. He just gave up,'" you realize that he was just a man.

The usual people reacted in the usual ways.

The Vatican:

The execution punishes "a crime with another crime," said Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI's top prelate for justice issues, in an interview published Friday with the Rome newspaper La Repubblica. "The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the state," Martino was quoted as saying.

Great Britain:
"We oppose the death penalty in all cases, regardless of the individual or the crime," said Rob Tinline, spokesman for the British Foreign Office. "[But] it's an Iraqi trial, with Iraqi defendants, in an Iraqi court — it's a decision for the Iraqi authorities."

Jesse Jackson:
"Saddam's heinous crimes against humanity can never be diminished, but he was our ally while he was doing it," he said Friday. "Saddam as a war trophy only deepens the catastrophe to which we are indelibly linked."

I do not claim any special knowledge of the hereafter. I do not know whether Saddam will be rewarded with virgins and ambrosia, or burn in hell, or simply fade into the black. I do know that he was no monster. He was just a man. He both rose and fell at the behest of my government, and you can add one more body to the count that will stain my great nation's soul.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam to hang tomorrow?

No rush or anything- just reiterates my belief that it was a kangaroo court from start to finish.

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for pointing the way on this. The FEC has handed down over $6 million in civil fines for campaign violations. What I find so interesting is that Freddie Mac was fined about $3.8 million.
Freddie Mac is officially known as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. It was created by Congress, the President appoints five of the eighteen Directors, and it is extempt from taxation by statute. In other words, Freddie Mac is not just any other company- even if it is not part of the government (because it doesn't receive tax money, and is a publicly traded corporation with private shareholders), it has no existence apart from the government.

So here we have one government entity levying fines against another entity (kinda) of the government. Since Freddie Mac owes its existence to Congress, I can certainly understand that they have an interest in influencing elections. However, this strikes me as little more than a circle jerk- Freddie Mac makes improper contributions, the recipients of such contributions win election, the government fines FM, the fine money gets deposited in the Treasury, and then gets funneled back to FM through the two Federal oversight agencies Freddie Mac answers to.

If this seems a little conspiratorial, I admit that it is. But it just makes my eyebrows raise a wee bit....

Thursday, December 28, 2006

YouTube catches accused killer

Police in Hamilton, Ontario had a conundrum on their hands- how to catch a killer when there are no witnesses, only a grainy security video that shows a person of interest, and not even his face?

Post it on YouTube (the video appears to have been removed from YouTube, but I found at another site, which I have to say, is nowhere NEAR as good).

George Gallo, a 24-year-old man, turned himself into police about two weeks after a 72-second surveillance video from the concert site was posted online.

Police say the clip didn't lead to any witnesses coming forward, but the extra attention paid to the case because of the use of YouTube likely encouraged the suspect to turn himself in.

This is what life is like now- the mere existence of a video that doesn't show anything, and that didn't actually produce any witnesses prompted someone to turn himself in. It is a lesson that Michael Richards learned the hard way- you are always on camera, and the entire world is watching.

There are other examples of investigators using YouTube to find witnesses, and this is probably no different from police releasing video to TV news in the search for leads, but if it worked once, you can be certain it will become more common.

An end to a sordid mess

The New Jersey Appellate Division has affirmed Rabbi Fred Neulander's life sentence, twelve years after Carol Neulander was found bludgeoned to death. The opinion is legally uninteresting because this was a very clean trial, but the Court recites the facts in a literate and novelistic way.

In March or April 1994, defendant asked Jenoff if he would "kill for the State of Israel." Jenoff answered that he would. Jenoff explained that defendant became the most important person in his life, other than his own son. When Jenoff thanked defendant for "everything . . . he was doing" for him, defendant responded, "maybe some day you could do a favor for me." Jenoff told defendant he would do anything he asked.

In late April 1994, defendant again raised the topic of Israel and told Jenoff that an evil "enemy to the State of Israel" lived in Cherry Hill. Defendant explained that this person was "so bad" and should be "killed." A week later, in early May 1994, they again discussed this "enemy of Israel," at which time defendant looked at Jenoff and asked if he was "man enough to kill" the enemy. Defendant grabbed Jenoff's elbow and asked, "am I talking to the right person?" Jenoff stated that he was scared, but said "yes, Rabbi." Defendant then drove Jenoff to his home and said the person he wanted him to kill was his wife, Carol.

I was in law school at the time of Rabbi Neulander's first trial. The campus was only a few blocks away from the Courthouse, and my trial ad class took place in the Courthouse itself after hours. One of my teachers was a former prosecutor in Camden County, and was the local commentator for Court TV's coverage. I know every one of these names, and I have met some of them at law school functions. I don't say this to boast, but rather to emphasize that I know this case well.

The first jury was out maybe four hours when they sent a message to the Judge that they were hopelessly deadlocked and wanted to know how much longer they would have to pretend to deliberate. There was improper jury contact by the press; and a most eloquent plea for mercy during the penalty phase.

After twelve year, I am glad that it has come to an end. In the final analysis, he was really just another greedy philanderer, albeit one with money and degrees. Every time someone does something stupid in the name of love (or sex), one of my coworkers just rolls his eyes and says "Mr. Dick is a godless pig."

A godless pig- that's all the Rabbi is. Good riddance.

Some new projects underway

A few weeks ago, I complained about the difficulty of doing legal research for free, despite the fact that the law itself is free and public. It makes no sense to me that we should have to pay a company like Lexis or Westlaw for the privilege of finding information that is generally available free of charge somewhere.

So, now I am doing something about it. Jimmy Wales' new for-profit company Wikia offers free topical wikis on everything from the Transformers to cognitive linguistics. So naturally, there is a law Wikia. I have started working on articles for the legal wiki, focusing so far on my area of expertise, i.e. criminal. Wikia is also starting a new service in the next few weeks called OpenServing, in which users develop the content and Wikia provides the backend. The OpenServing site should be live in a few weeks.

Using the collective knowledge capital of the legal web, it should be possible to offer a meaningful research alternative to the subscription services. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford, 1913-2006

The 38th President of the United States has died. He was 93.

Appointed, not elected, to the Vice-Presidency he would ascend to the Oval Office in the wake of Watergate. Most controversially, he pardoned President Nixon, a move that probably cost him election proper.

It is no secret that I am a hard-core leftist, liberal being not strong enough a word to describe me. Nevertheless, I have always held Gerald Ford in high esteem. When called upon to serve- in war, in Congress, in the White House- he did so with honor and diligence. He led the country through dark times, probably knowing that he had inherited a no-win situation, and yet did so without complaint.

In his later years, he would decry the bitter partisanship that has come to define our politics. It would seem that the lesser women and men stalking the halls of Congress these days take a perverse glee in backstabbing and rancorous discord, never so much as taking a social lunch with a member from the opposing party. This was not always the case- Ford was elected to Congress the same year that a young Jack Kennedy was first elected. They became fast friends, leaving the politics to the floor of the House, understanding that policy differences need not be personal differences.

This country could use another man like him.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Illegal immigration suit

The ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund have filed suit against the City of Farmers Branch, Texas alleging that its ordinance prohibiting renting to illegal immigrants is unconstitutional.

My response- well, duh. It is discriminatory- it is a two-bit jerkwater town trying to set immigration policy on its own, and it is just racist, unlike a similar ordinance in Hazleton, Pennsylvania that apparently also applies to Santa Claus.

NOTE: The town fathers in Hazleton have referred the above website to the police for investigation, because it seeks donations, presumably to defray the costs or the domain and hosting. Sheesh, some people have no sense of humor- particularly when calling attention to their bigotry and foolishness.

Saddam Hussein's Death Sentence Affirmed

Those Iraqi judges sure know how to do what they're told....

I will not shed a tear for that man when he is strung up, but I might shed a tear for justice or the rule of law. The only thing missing from that courtroom was the kangaroo itself.

My little holiday break is over....

Back to work- well, not work work. This work. But first, a few meta-updates about either me or this blog (AKA, shameless pimpery).

Since Public Defenders are the dirt of the profession, there was not a single PD blog award during the annual year-end navel gazing over at Blawg Review. So, Greg over at PDStuff have announced Public Defender Blog Awards. I am nominated in a number of categories, and while it is an honor just to be nominated, you should vote early and often. (Hey- if Bashman could campaign vigorously for second place....)

I have been invited to guest blog for I am excited and definitely looking forward to it, since my first attempt at topical blogging was decidedly political. Look for that in the New Year, and I will of course provide updates about that here as well.

I have finally succumbed. After much consternation and resistance, I have gotten on MySpace, mostly so that my sisters would stop bugging me about it. While I still believe that MySpace is petri dish of bad web design (EMBEDDED AUDIO BLASTING! Backgrounds that overwhelm the content! Bad CSS! PpL H00 WrIt3 lIK3 dis!) I am always looking for mew friends. Add me there, or go to my other (better) social networking sites- flickr, 43Things, or And of course, there is my personal blog, The Mayor of Nowhere.

According to MyBlogLog, someone linked to me from, a business blog, written entirely in French. While I have no idea how they found me, I always appreciate the link!