Hacking Hackers

I am opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. Agree or disagree, you've gotta admit that this is an interesting take on things: Feed the Worms Who Write Worms to the Worms - The economic logic of executing computer hackers.

I see at least one big flaw with this theory. I don't believe that the death penalty deters crime. I've met quite a few criminals in my day, including a few accused or convicted of murder, and I don't believe that a single one of them ever thought "I might get the death penalty for this" as they killed. I don't believe that murderers think of the consequences of their actions (beyond the death of the other party), and, moreover, I don't believe that any person committing homicide believes that he will be one of the few to get the death penalty for his murder. Many, but not all, criminals believe (at least until a defense attorney explains otherwise) that they can beat their case at trial (no matter how many times they've confessed or what type of evidence they've left behind). Even of those that know they're unlikely to beat their case, very few believe that they'll be one of the few to get the death penalty.

Actually, that's my case against deterrence in murder cases. On the other hand, I think that "hackers," not only premeditate their crimes, but are also capable of, at the very least, imagining the consequences of their actions and the possible repercussions. Perhaps, for hackers, knowing that they may face the death penalty might actually be a deterrent.

So, anyway, it's an interesting article. It's the first piece that I've read by Steven E. Landsburg, and it was good. Now I've read a few of the others available on Slate and liked them too, so perhaps, at some point, I'll write more on those too.

Right now, though, I'm feeling bad because Ken Lammers invited me to guest-blog at CrimLaw while he was away. So far I haven't had much to say. Well, at least nothing of the caliber that Lammers usually writes. (In case you haven't noticed, my stuff is mostly "war stories" without much legal substance, Lammers, on the other hand, writes about actual caselaw.) Now I'm going to see if I can dig up some kind of something, anything really, that I can blog about. I'm not one to snub such a prestigious invitation.

Yes, You're Annoying

If I can remember to do it, I always "google" my witnesses and my adversary's witnesses before trial.

Usually there's not much interesting out there, or there's obviously too many people out there with the same name, but I'm always waiting for the day when I hit the jackpot and find a news story beginning with "[Prosecution's star witness] was convicted of perjury..." Never happens. (Well, it hasn't happened yet.)

But, I did find something that must be the next best thing... I found the prosecution's star witness on amiannoying.com. Seriously. And, get this, the overwhelming majority of the site's voters say that he is, in fact, annoying. Not an accurate scientific poll, of course, but let's just hope my jurors see it the same way.

Same Old Story

...but I need to vent about it anyway.

Client's girlfriend calls me and asks me if I'm her boyfriend's D.A. See, there's a problem when clients (and their families) use a little law lingo, thinking they sound smart, when, in fact, talking about things you don't know about can end up hurting you.

Anyway, I explain to her that I'm not a D.A., that I'm a defense attorney, and she says "Yeah, that's what I said. You're the D.A." Hmmm... I can see how you think those initials work out... So, I explain that the D.A. is the one who tries to put people in jail, I'm the one who tries to get them out. It's not getting through, so I move on and ask her how I can help her.

And client's girlfriend asks me how she can go about getting him a... wait for it... "Real Lawyer."

I didn't want to, but I felt that I had to inform her that I am, in fact a real lawyer. (Sometimes I'm tempted to just say "Yeah, you're right, a real lawyer would probably be a lot more helpful.")

Anyway, I tell her that I am a real lawyer (and even hold back from saying, "What am I, imaginary?"), and she replied, "Well, I don't know. Because my friend who knows a lot about criminal law (read: gets arrested a lot) told me that it's much better to have a real lawyer."

At this point, I'm not going to argue with her (since, she apparently knows so much about criminal law), so I give her the number for a lawyer referral service.

Then she asks me what she should say when she calls.

So, I said, "You should tell them that you're looking for a real lawyer to handle your boyfriend's 3 misdemeanor marijuana sale cases."

And she told me, "He wasn't arrested for that."

Oh crap. All of the sudden I wonder if I've been talking to the wrong person. I didn't have his file in front of me, I just thought I remembered the client.

But then she said "No, he was arrested for Criminal Sale of Marijuana in the Fourth Degree."

Oh. Yeah. What's that saying? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing? Yeah, that's the one.

Defendants Say the Darndest Things

It's generally agreed upon that my clients say the funniest things. Here's one of the funnier interactions I had this week.

(Giving some background might put it in context, but I'd rather just get to the funny stuff.)

Client: "I'm telling you, I didn't know she was married."
Me: "She didn't have a ring on her finger?"
Client: "She didn't even have a rubber band on her wrist. You know what I'm saying?"

And to be honest, I'm not quite sure I did know what he was saying.

The Legal Limit

You know you've been reading too much true believer when...

Last night I'm watching CSI. The M.E. did an autopsy on a stipper. The stripper died in a hotel room, there was no allegation that she had been driving. The M.E. said, "Her B.A.C. was .3" and the CSI responded, "That's 3 times over the legal limit."

Legal limit for what? For being a stripper? She wasn't driving! There's no "legal limit" for how drunk you can be in everyday life! How is any legal limit even relevant? Sheesh.

This Must be Pop?

So I'm watching Amazing Race last night (don't worry, I'm not going to give anything away here). When something flashes on the bottom of the screen. Must be something important, right? Weather alert, Amber alert, Terrorism alert?

Nope, worse. It reads "Pop Star In Federal Custody."

Pop Star in Federal Custody? I run through all the pop stars in my mind. Britney? Jessica? Ashlee? Maybe Michael Jackson? But, really, that would've said "King of Pop," wouldn't it? Justin? Maybe Usher? But, he's hip hop.

Finally, I find out what this is all about: Jet diverted after Cat Stevens found on watch list.

Cat Stevens? People, it's time we rethink our definition of "pop star."

Public Service Announcement

To the young lady on my train last night,

I know you were confused about the pole in the middle of the train car. I just wanted to let you know that the purpose of the pole is for people (sometimes multiple people) to hold onto it while the train is moving.

I'm pretty sure the train's designers did not put it there for you to practice your stripper routine.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Blonde Justice

p.s. It's autumn now and it's starting to get chilly. You might want to invest in a sweater or something.

Tally Me Bananas

One of my favorite clients has a serious drug problem. He's been arrested so many times, he's kind of become my professional client. So, it's a good thing that he's one of my favorite clients, since I have to deal with him a lot.

Today we talked about a drug program. The judge has given him two options. The first option is a relatively short jail sentence to wrap up all of his open cases. The second option is to go into a residential drug program for the same length of time, but, here's the catch, if he gets discharged from the program, he'll get double the jail time.

On one hand, for the obvious reasons, he'd rather be in a drug treatment program than in the city jail. But he understands that it's hard to be successful in drug treatment and he doesn't want to end up with more jail time.

And he definitely needs a drug program, so maybe this would be a good opportunity for him. But, on the other hand, he could always finish off the time in jail and then get himself into treatment without the threat of jail hanging over his head.

So, we talked a little about the nature of his addiction. I can tell from his rap sheet he has a serious addiction. When he's out of jail, he can't go a month without getting arrested. Sometimes he's been rearrested the day after his release.

I asked a few questions: what he used, how often he used, when he started. Then he told me, "But Miss Justice, I never sold drugs. Because, you know, a monkey can't sell bananas."

Ha! A monkey can't sell bananas! How funny is that?

Full Moon

Not often, but occasionally, I coach my clients on how to behave in front of the judge. It depends on the client, the judge, and the situation.

I always coach a client for trial. How to dress, where we'll sit, what will happen.

There are certain judges that expect a higher level of decorum than others. When I get a sense of that, I'll quickly remind clients "If you talk to her, you say 'Your Honor,' if she talks to you directly, look at her while she's talking." That sort of thing.

Some clients need coaching, some don't.

Sometimes I coach a client as we go. I'll have to lean over and whisper "Don't cross your arms," when a client crosses his arms across his chest or "say yes or no," when a client answers a question with "uh-hunh."

But never, ever, would it have occurred to me to remind a client "Don't tell the judge to kiss your ass" or "Don't moon the judge." It's a good thing, then, that I didn't represent this client.

I Love Lucy

I usually don't take this kind of quiz because I think that none of the answer choices are exactly "me." For example, if a quiz asks for your favorite color, and pink isn't among the choices, how am I supposed to answer that? And sometimes none of the possible results are "me." But I felt like this quiz was perfect.

You are Lucy!

Which Peanuts Character are You? brought to you by Quizilla

In fact, one of the questions was "Which job do you find most appealing?" and one of the choices was "Defense attorney." Hmmm... not too much guess work involved there.

And growing up, I loved Lucy. Lucy from Peanuts, that is. She was a bossy know-it-all, but she wanted to help people and she was generally right. How can you argue with that?

Don't get me wrong, I would've wanted to spend the night in the pumpkin patch too, but Lucy was right when she said there was no great pumpkin, wasn't she?

Download Pick of the Day

Of course I don't condone the illegal downloading of music. I think performers (and the thousands of other people in the music industry) deserve every penny they earn for the hard work they do and the good they give to society.

That aside, I encourage you to get your ears on the song "Underwear Goes on the Inside" through whatever means necessary. I heard this on the radio the other day, and it's absolutely hilarious... and so right.

Drinking and Juror-ing Ok

Interestingly, a NY Supreme Court judge ruled yesterday that there's nothing wrong with a juror drinking - or being drunk - during a trial and during deliberations. (NY Times article - subscription required)

I seem to remember the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case referred to in the article from a law school class. There were allegations that the jurors were drank, smoked marijuana and used cocaine together and that the entire affair was "one big party."

I guess there are case where it could work out in a defendant's favor. I'd love to hear a juror say, "Hey, if I can drink and deliberate responsibly, there's no reason the defendant couldn't drink and drive responsibly. Not guilty."

Things I Wish My Clients Knew (Part 2)

Their lawyers names. How simple is that?

No, seriously. Walk through a criminal courthouse in a suit and at least ten different people will stop you and say "Do you know who my lawyer is?" My favorite response is, "I don't know who you are, how would I know who your lawyer is?"

And it's not that hard. Get their card. Bring it with you when you're going to court. Sounds simple to me.

And, here's another thing - the names of your other lawyers. You've got an immigration lawyer? A family court lawyer working on your child support issue? A lawyer for your other criminal case, in another jurisdiction? A parole lawyer? Give me their phone numbers! Or, I'd settle for just their names, so I can look up their numbers.

Oh, and, just a hint: "I know it's a lady," or "I know it's a dude," is not equivalent to knowing your lawyer.

Fairy Tale Wedding (Take 2)

Went to a wedding. Because that's what I always do.

The weddings I've gone to this summer have varied a lot. One was kind of a homemade low-key affair, one was a not-too-religious but pretty and on-the-beach kind of affair. This latest one involved a Catholic Mass. In Polish and English.

The Polish Catholic Mass was long and a little boring. Ok, a lot boring. But there was this one part that cracked me up.

A few hours into it, I could tell we were finally at the part that calls for some bride and groom participation. At least it would break up the monotony a little bit. You know the part, when the priest asks the questions, like "Do you take this woman...?" And isn't that really the only part of a wedding that matters anyway? So, we get to that part, and the priest starts it off by turning to the groom and asked him, "[Groom], do you enter into this marriage freely and willingly?"

And all I could think was "That's what the judge says when my clients plead guilty!" And it's true. I say a little spiel that my client wants to plead guilty and give up certain rights. And the judge turns to my client and says "[Defendant], do you enter into this plea freely and willingly?"

From now until forever, I will always think of that part of a wedding as "the plea allocution part."

I guess it's just another similarity between marriage and prison.

(See, that made up for the sappiness in my Fairy Tale Wedding post, didn't it?)

Blind Navigation

A friend went to Massachusetts on vacation. And brought back, as a souvenir gift, a 6-pack of beer Buzzard's Bay Brewery, a local brew.

The other night, I'm sitting there, drinking a bottle, and checking out the label.

Here's the front of the bottle:

I'm sorry the picture isn't too clear, but notice that it depicts something like a map of the area, and a silhouette depicting the bay as the body of a buzzard? Cute, right?

Now, here's the back of the bottle:

You're definitely not going to be able to read it. But it caught my attention, and I started reading it, because it noted that a portion of the profits from the beer sales go to some sort of preserve the bay type of foundation.

The back label also states - I'm not kidding here - "Chart on front not for navigational purposes."

Is this a joke? I mean, seriously, I can picture some fisherman out in their boat, beer in one hand, steering wheel in the other. "Well, according to the beer bottle, we should be at the spot by now."

Gotta love lawyers.

Caroline, Caroline, Caroline

I'm left to wonder, why are there so many songs about Carolines? I mean, it's not that common of a name, is it? I know one Caroline. No, wait, two. Maybe three if you count an ex-girlfriend of a friend that I'm not even sure that I actually met.

But meanwhile, you've got Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, Outkast's Roses (which, of course, include the lyrics, "Caroline... she's the reason for the word bitch,") and I just heard a song by Big Head Todd and the Monsters called Caroline. In fact, it may come as a surprise to learn that Yahoo radio has a list of 444 songs with "Caroline" in the title. (Well, some are repeats, but still, that's a lot, and that's not every song with Caroline in the lyrics.)

There are so many other lovely ladies' names, yet Carolines get all of the musical attention.

Why is that?

Things I Wish My Clients Knew (Part 1)

Your accuser and any other witnesses do not have to come to court every time that you have to come to court. This includes police officers. I know that sucks. I know you think, "Hey, if I have to be here, why don't they make him come?"

No, your case is not getting dismissed just because the person who filed a complaint against you didn't come to court. He or she didn't have to come to court. Only you did.

Some day, maybe there will be a trial. Your accuser, and any witnesses, may have to show up for some part of that trial. They'll get a chance to tell their story and I'll get a chance to ask them some questions. That will probably be the only time he or she has to come to court.

(And, I don't want to make this too complicated, but there's a chance that whatever witness you're thinking of won't be the witness that get's called at the trial. Sometimes the D.A. can and will prove the case through a different witness. And they're allowed to do that.)

I know you might think this is unfair. I know you think "I didn't do anything wrong, why am I the one being treated like a criminal and no one is doing anything to him?" Well, it's because you're the accused criminal.

I'm not saying that it's right or true or fair, it's just the way it is.

So, now you know.

Real Estate and More

You have to see this.

Look at this home listing.

Look at the pictures.

Especially the third picture down.

Look out the window.


On Punches and E-Mails

Look, I'll just come out and say it. Don't anticipate my blog to be very law-related this weekend. Because I've got enough law stressing me out, and I'm blogging to get away from it.

Anyway - check this out. Kevin Brown, a starting pitcher for the NY Yankees, broke his (non-pitching) hand after last night's game by punching a wall in the clubhouse. He says that he plans to continue his starts, some of the sports writers think it's not too likely. Either way, it really leaves me thinking "Dude, you get paid $15 million dollars a season for something you do with your hands. If you don't want the money, send it to me. But don't be stupid."

Oh, and I got a new e-mail address! It's blondejustice at gmail dot com. If you feel like writing to me.

A Little Help?

Alright... there's nothing law-related here... just a general question.

Let's say you volunteered to do something. Well, volunteer isn't exactly the word, let's say someone said "C'mon, come to this thing I'm doing..." and sort of roped you into doing something. We'll call it volunteering though, since you're an adult and could've found a tactful way to get out of it if you really wanted to.

Anyway, let's say this volunteer gig took you a few hours a week. A few hours of your very precious time. And let's say there were a few other volunteers and a few people on a paid staff.

And let's say you somewhat enjoyed doing it, but eh, you could take it or leave it. What I'm saying is, it was o.k. (it's not like you hated it), but you definitely weren't doing it because it was your passion.

Now let's say this volunteer program worked on some sort of cycle, where you didn't really have to do anything with it over the summer. And you think that, if you wanted, you could maybe use that to help you get out volunteering in the next cycle. As in, "Hey, I know I did it last year, but this year I'm really busy... I wish I could... sorry."

So, you were thinking of doing that. Because, hey, after all, if you're going to spend a few hours a week volunteering, it should be something you enjoy or something you really care about, right?

And then, let's say, you find out that all of the other "volunteers" had been GETTING PAID.

You'd definitely quit, right?

Your opinions please.