50 Cent Regret

I had a weird dream the other night. I dreamt I was on some kind of game show. And, at the end, somehow, I had to choose between my current boyfriend or 50 Cent.

And I don't know why, but I chose 50 Cent. And I immediately regretted it. I just kept saying, "Wait, I didn't want to," "I changed my mind," and "Where's my boyfriend?"

And I was so upset.

I actually woke up upset. Instead of waking up thinking, "Wow, that was a weird dream," I was thinking, "That was horrible. Why did I do that?"

I was still thinking about it even as I showered, even as I got dressed. And I kept thinking, "Why is this weird dream upsetting me so much?"

Then it came to me, all of the sudden: I had chosen something new and flashy over something I knew and loved. And I had regretted it.

Now I'm just trying to stay optimistic that this was just some weird dream, and not a comment on my new job choice. I thought about trying to take back my resignation letter, but I feel like I need to go forward with this, just to see what happens.

“Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.” -Victoria Holt

Defending Michael Vick

Stephon Marbury came out in support of Michael Vick's dogfighting ways.

Hey, Stephon, didn't you notice that not even Michael Vick is defending Michael Vick?
We don't say anything about people shooting deers and shooting other animals, you know what I mean? From what I hear, dogfighting is a sport. It's just behind closed doors and I think it's tough that we build Michael Vick up and then we break him down ... I think he fell into a bad situation.

The only person breaking Michael Vick down is Michael Vick. But the most telling words in that statement? "From what I hear." Sure. From what you hear. From your "friend."

Michael Vick is doing the right thing by pleading guilty. Stephon Marbury might think that shooting deers and fighting dogs are the same thing, but I can tell you that it'd be very tough to find twelve people who feel the same way.

Sorry, Gertrude

Sometimes people comment on really old blog posts here. I imagine they googled something, found a 3-year-old post, left a comment, and, most likely, they never came back. The only other person who is going to see their comment is the one other random googler who happens to find that one post (out of 742, so far). Because I don't think my regular readers are going back to my 2004 posts and checking on the comments.

But sometimes those comments are just so... "good"... that I have to make sure you all see them.

For example, in August 2004, I wrote a post called "Law and The Amazing Race." In it, I added, regarding Mirna, a participant of that season's Amazing Race, after noting that I did not like her name:
...[t]he most surprising part is that Mirna isn't even her first name, it's her middle name.

I understand that sometimes people have a good reason for using their middle name. Maybe it sounds better, maybe it's less confusing. But if my first name was Lara and my middle name was Mirna, you could bet I'd go by Lara.

I think my post is clear: I don't think "Mirna," is a nice sounding name. (The word I used in the original post was "awful.") If I had a choice over the name "Lara" or the name "Mirna," I would choose "Lara."

I wrote that I think sometimes people have a good reason for using their middle name. Sometimes parents name a child after another family member, for instance, and then use the middle name to differentiate.

I'm personally from the school of thought that a middle name should be more like an accent, and if that's what your parents want to call you, they should make it your first name. I think a middle name should be more like the flower in your hair, not your whole outfit, you know what I mean?

Someone commented (back in 2004), that they don't trust people who use their middle name. I don't really care. Personally, I don't really trust people who have first names as both their first name and their last name. (Like, "Joseph Thomas," where "Thomas" is the surname - but you weren't really sure - maybe that's his middle name, right?) And I realize it's something you can't really control. But still, I feel like, at best, it's confusing, and at worst, it's kind of shifty.

I'm also a little confused by women who have compound first names, like "Mary Beth," but "Mary Beth" is their first name, not their first and middle name. Because, really, how can you tell? I mean, if your birth certificate says Mary Beth Smith, it sure looks to me like your first name is "Mary" and your middle name is "Beth." And then when you correct me and say, "No, my first name is Mary Beth," I think, "Well, ok, maybe your parents called you Mary Beth, but the first name on your birth certificate is Mary and the name Beth really falls in the middle, doesn't it?"

And, you know, we all judge people by their names, sometimes before we even meet them. (Men, tell me you'd want to go on a blind date with a "Hilda," "Gertrude," or "Esther," rather than a "Christina," "Allison," or "Kathryn.") That's why there is such pressure on new parents to come up with good names for their children.

So, the only real problem I have with people who use their middle name instead of their first name is when their first name is the nicer name. (If you were born "Sarah Gertrude Smith" and you're going by "Gertrude," I personally question your judgment. Period.) We all have our ideas of what are names are nice and what names aren't, or what names fit a person, and what names don't. So if you don't like your first name, use your middle name. And if you don't like your middle name, no one has to know it. And if you don't like either name, come up with your own nickname.

But, please, don't be such a crybaby like this commenter, who, just yesterday, left this comment on my Amazing Race post from over 3 years ago:
I want to make a comment about idiots saying that people who go by their middle names shouldn't be trusted by anyone. That is a retarded and bigoted statement to make about people. I go by my middle name and my parents forced me to do this every single day of my life. This means that my parents started doing this to me on the day of my birth. My older brother, sister and some of our cousins were also forced by our parents to do this from the time of their births. Almost everyone that I know who is called by their middle name was forced to do this from their birth as well. Why on earth do you idiots force people from birth to go by their middle names, get amnesia about us, refuse to accommodate us, screw up our names on every single legal document and then punish us because of your stupidity? Why don't you quit creating the problem that you hate so much and stop acting like a bunch of jerks because of it? If you want to screw up someone's name and punish them for it, then you should feel free to screw up your own names. Leave other people alone about this because it is rude.

Leave other people alone? Really? Because it kind of seems like maybe you were out searching for the topic.

But, more importantly, if you're old enough to use the internet, then you're old enough to say, "From now on, I'm going by my first name, and that is that." It might be a little confusing for a while - like when your high school friends who know you as "Gertrude" come visit you at college and meet your friends who know you as "Sarah." But they'll get over it.

And maybe that will help you get over it.

P.D. For Life

Listen up. Announcement time.

I have tendered my resignation, I will no longer be a public defender.

I really wasn't looking for a new job. Someone asked me to take a job that I think will be interesting, and it kind of seemed like the right time for a change.

I will still be practicing criminal defense. Plus I'll get to try a few other areas of law, and get my feet wet in a few different courts. I think that's all that I'm ready to say about the new job.

I haven't figured out whether I will keep blogging. I think that I can, logistically, but I'm not sure that I'll have as much time as I once did. I have a few more weeks, and I hope that I can figure it out in that time.

I guess I will be opening up the 2007 Public Defender Awards to a whole new round of contenders for Best Blog by a Female Public Defender and Best Personality - so consider that my gift to you, ladies. And other people with good personalities.

I am also accepting ideas for a new quote at the top of the page. I would try to think of one myself, but I'm rewatching Season 2 of Weeds before tomorrow's season premiere.

And don't you worry, I will always be a P.D. at heart.

When Kids Die in Hot Cars

Two fathers leave their young children to die in a hot car.

One is a college professor. He and his wife had struggled for years to have a child, and conceived their son through IVF. One day, after a night of being awakened by the baby, he drives to work, and completely forgets his son in the back seat.

Another worked as a horse groomer, a non-citizen, working 16 hour days, and taking care of his daughter the entire time. One day he decided to spend a few hours betting on horses after work, and left his daughter in the car.

Both have already suffered a great tragedy by losing their children. But is one more at fault than the other? Does one deserve prison time more than the other?

Well, the college professor is White, and the horse groomer is from Peru. So, the public defender background in me can tell you, just from that information, who goes to prison.

Maybe the additional fact that the college professor was at work, while the horse groomer was betting on the ponies matters. But should it? Probably not. I mean, the baby in the car doesn't know (or care) why daddy left her there.

The article also points out that the college professor had "studied parenting books," while the horse groomer presumably had less time and education for reading books, the article states that he "had no idea" a car could heat up in that way. He left the window open just an inch because he was afraid that if he left it open further, someone might take the child. Obviously he cared, he just didn't understand. His IQ was low, his defense attorney called him "borderline retarded."

In my mind, that makes the college professor more responsible. He knew, or could have known, or should have known the consequences of his actions.

Ultimately, though, the issue came down to the fact that the college professor "forgot" his son in the car, while the horse groomer made an uninformed decision to leave his daughter in the car. Why is it better to forget your child than to not understand how quickly a car can become too hot for a baby?

Because he was just forgetful, the college professor was not prosecuted. The horse groomer was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and will be deported when he finishes his term. The college professor and his wife went on to have 3 more children.

Another article points out more sentencing disparities: Sentences Vary When Kids Die in Hot Cars. The article points out that these deaths rose when laws changed to require parents to put car seats in the back seat, rather than in the front seat.

According to this article:
_Mothers are treated much more harshly than fathers. While mothers and fathers are charged and convicted at about the same rates, moms are 26 percent more likely to do time. And their median sentence is two years longer than the terms received by dads.

_Day care workers and other paid baby sitters are more likely than parents to be charged and convicted. But they are jailed less frequently than parents, and for less than half the time.

_Charges are filed in half of all cases — even when a child was left unintentionally.

In cases where parents are charged, sentences range from 20 years in prison to pretrial diversionary programs (the charges will be dismissed after a period of probation and other conditions such as parenting classes). Some judges are more creative in finding sentences that they believe fit the crime. One mother was ordered to produce a video about her ordeal to be used in parenting classes. A babysitter was ordered to pay the child's funeral expenses, make donations to the hospital that treated the child, in addition to eight months in prison.

Most creatively, one judge sentenced a father to "spend one day a year in jail for seven years and to hold an annual blood drive around the anniversary of his daughter's death."

The most important thing that can be done is to educate parents that don't ordinarily have access to parenting books and informational websites about the dangers of leaving children in a car so that parents and caregivers don't make bad decisions.

Also, if you've been to a baby shower in the past year, you know that there are a million gadgets for sale to ease any parents' neurosis. So, why can't something be created, whether it's as hi-tech as an alarm or a low-tech as a post-it note on the dashboard that says "DON'T FORGET THE BABY!" Hundreds of children die this way, and it is something so easy to avoid.

I recently noticed a car commercial which touted a "heartbeat monitor" so that the woman approaching her car in the dark parking lot would know that there was a psychopath hiding in the backseat. I would imagine that this could be used in reverse, to alert a parent walking away from the car that the child is still in the backseat. I can imagine this someday becoming a mandatory safety feature for parents, much like child car seats.

That helps solve the problem of parents who "forget" their children. But this country has a far way to go before we solve the problem of parents who leave their children in the car while they work because they can't afford childcare.

Without Prejudice on GSN

Now I remember what got me thinking about blogging about TV. About 2 weeks ago I watched the series premiere for this new show on Game Show Network (which is now just called "GSN," by the way). Which makes me wonder, are they planning to move away from showing Game Shows? Kind of like how they say Kentucky Fried Chicken started calling itself "KFC," when they stopped using real chicken? (And, therefore, the urban legend went, couldn't use the word "Chicken" in their name.)

Anyway, the show was called Without Prejudice and it was somewhat interesting for a trial lawyer to watch.

So, here's the concept. There's 5 people on a "jury" and there's 5 contestants, vying for $25K. Not much, I know, but then again, they don't have to do much. The jury's job is to choose which of the 5 contestants will get the money. They are not supposed to judge based on who needs the money the most (so it's not a contest of "who is the neediest,") and the one question they're never allowed to ask is, "What will you do with the money?"

Round One starts off with the 5 jury members evaluating the 5 contestants solely on the basis of seeing a short video of each of the 5 contestants in which each contestant just introduces himself by name and where he is from. Based on that alone, the 5 jury members have a few minutes to discuss the contestants, and then they have to vote 1 off.

It's kind of interesting what the jurors think they can make of someone in that less than one minute clip. Some of the comments are "He doesn't look like he needs the money," "He seems creepy," and even one guy who just comes out and says, much to the surprise of the other jurors, "I don't really like that contestant because I don't really like Black people." Wow.

Just think, that's how the panel is sizing up my client as they walk in the room. Before they even sit down.

Left with 4 contestants, the jury then watches a slightly longer clip from each contestant solely about their backgrounds. For example, in the premiere, one young man reveals that his mother raised him, and that his father was shot when he was young. Others talk about how they were raised, or where they went to school.

Now, with slightly more information, the jurors discuss the contestants again. There is a "host" to the show, a psychologist who leads the discussion with useful questions like, "Why do you say that?" and "How does that make you feel?" She also tries to redirect the conversation when it goes astray.

One interesting "twist," is when the jurors learn a little about the contestants based on a "moral dilemma." For example, in this episode, before the taping began, each contestant was caught on hidden camera as they saw another "contestant" (actually an actor that they think is another contestant) "steal" a few hundred dollars by not reporting it when they are overpaid for their expenses by the show. Every contestant told the show staff member when asked, but one female contestant tried to cover for the thief a little bit by saying something like, "Oh, I don't think she did it on purpose. She probably didn't realize."

One young male contestant calls one of his boys on his cell phone to say, "Whoa, I just saw this girl, she totally just stole that money."

And, he actually got slammed by the jury, who thought it was an immature move that he needed to call his boy to help him deal with the dilemma.

The jury votes to eliminate another contestant.

Next they hear from the remaining 3 contestants in a video about how they live now, mostly what they do for a living, but also about their family lives and whatever else they do.

In this round, one man states that he works as an actor in the "adult entertainment industry." More specifically, he's a porn guy.

One of the jurors states, "Porn ruins lives," and votes to eliminate that contestant. Another juror says, "good for him." Ultimately, that contestant is voted off immediately after this revelation. But we also learn that he makes a heck of a lot of money, so he doesn't really need the $25K.

The next round requires each of the contestants to answer questions about hot button issues like affirmative action and gun control. One of the jurors continuously says, about almost everyone, "I think he (or she) could be gay."

Finally, when it is down to only 2 contestants, the jurors get to meet the 2 remaining contestants and ask their own questions (anything but "What will you do with the money?"). And then they have to vote between the contestants.

After they ultimately choose someone, they get to hear from both of the final contestants what they will (or, from the loser, what they would've done) with the money.

It wasn't the most riveting show ever. It was also a 1.5 hour premiere, so I don't know if it will be better when they boil it down to a one hour show. But I thought it was interesting to see how quickly people think that they can size someone up.

It's also good reality check, as a lawyer, that jurors are always being told "Don't prejudge the case," but knowing that the reality is that humans are always judging one another.

I just wish my clients would watch the show. Maybe then they'd think twice before, I don't know, fighting with their girlfriends or spanking the bejeezus out of their children in front of the courthouse as all of the potential jurors stream in, ready to be selected for my client's assault case jury.