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Catching up

Today we'll just update some things I've commented about in the past, and comment on some other stuff I came across, so that six months from now I can write a post updating them...

A while back I mentioned the case of Genarlow Wilson, an 18-year-old Georgia youth who'd received a 10-year prison sentence for having consensual sex with a girl two years younger.  She was fifteen at the time, which made it statutory rape, normally punishable by a maximum one-year sentence, but since this wasn't "normal" sex -- i.e., vaginal intercourse -- it was aggravated statutory rape, making it subject to a 10-year sentence.  Which is what Genarlow got.  He's done two years of it, and the absurdity of the case has been commented on in detail, and even led to an ESPN special.  On Monday, a Georgia judge freed Wilson, amending the crime to a misdemeanor while stating that "If this court or any court cannot recognize the injustice of what has occurred here, then our court system has lost sight of the goal our judicial system has always strived to accomplish ... justice being served in a fair and equal manner."   

The state immediately appealed.

And here's a hypothetical case from Tortdeform.com, a blog devoted to lampooning the arguments of the tort reform crowd:

A 79 year old man tripped while trying to step onto a foot-high platform.  He fell and hit his head and leg, but was able to give a speech and leave on his own.  He has minor surgery and some physical therapy.  A year after his injury, he sues the restaurant where he fell for over $1 million dollars plus punitive damages.  What reaction do you think most "reformers" would have to such a case?

Except the case isn't hypothetical:  the plaintiff is actually Robert Bork.  Yes, that Robert Bork, who's spent the time since the Senate voted against his nomination to the Supreme Court by penning books telling us how the country's going to hell in a handbasket and, back in 2002, writing an article published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy arguing that frivolous claims and excessive punitive damage awards have created such a crisis that Congress should be allowed to enact tort reforms that would have been unconstitutional at the framing.  (So much for originalism, eh?)

Here's one way to avoid a Bruton problem:  dual juries.  Mother and son are on trial for murder, their convictions got reversed in 2003 because the statements of the two inculpated each other, and thus shouldn't have come in.  Instead of just granting separate trials, the prosecutor's plugging for the case to be heard by two juries, one for each defendant:  "One jury would leave the room when evidence admissible against one defendant but not the other was presented."  Betcha that works out.  Thanks to Ken Lammer at CrimLaw for the tip. 

You might want to tip your clients off about this:  Barry Cooper, a former Texas narcotics cop, who was hailed by his commanding officer as "probably the best narcotics officer in the state and maybe the country during his time with the task force," has produced a video called "Never Get Busted Again," with helpful hints for how to conceal a drug stash and fool drug-sniffing dogs.  Cooper decided to do this after concluding that the war on drugs was needlessly destroying families.  Full details here

Finally, if you're going to quote Beatles lyrics to a judge, it helps if you spell the group's name right, and if the judge knows less about them than you do.  In response to a a question on the pre-sentence investigation report asking the defendant, 'Give your recommendation as to what you think the Court should do in this case', the 20-year-old who'd just been convicted of breaking into a store and stealing 18 cases of beer replied, "'Like the Beetles say Let It Be."  The 56-year-old Montana district judge (and if anybody can figure out how a heist of beer wound up in Federal court, please let me know) wrote a two-page sentencing memorandum which included references to no fewer than 42 different Beatles' songs, and concluded with 

As a result of your Hard Day's Night you are looking at a Ticket to Ride that Long and Winding Road to Deer Lodge.

Hopefully you can say both now and When I'm 64 that I Should Have Known Better.

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