Wednesday, May 31, 2006

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE :Trial Attorney Kidnapped at Gun Point in Alabama IS FOUND

A heroic rescue of Sandra Eubank Gregory by Birmingham (AL) Police today at 5:30pm. I have no details other than the man gave up peacefully and the lawyer is alive. Police tracked Ms. Gregory's ATM card and found it was used 3 times during the day in areas around Birmingham Alabama. That helped narrow the area they had to search. They then found the SUV and did a quick canvass. They found Sandra in a Comfort Inn "conscious and upset"

Sandra Eubank Gregory age 34, a family law lawyer from Birmingham Alabama was kidapped on camera from in front of her apartment.
The getaway car is a silver Lexus SUV with a license plate number IC4850G check out the video and if you see this woman or the man in the black pants and white or striped shirt and white tennis shoes who took Sandra please call 911 immediately.

Sandra was last scene wearing a red tank top with capri pants and silver earings. Now further details but CNN is tracking the story on their website and on the news.
Our prayers are with her and her family.

Even in Miami Beach, That Lawyer Dude is Haunted By The Bizzare: "The Case of the Man With a Dangerous Weapon Up His Bikini Skirt..."

I am in somewhat sunny South Beach in Miami. I have been here at least once a year in the past three years and I really love it. To bad my little Dudette is Florida phobic (she says being in hotels in Florida in summer is worse than winters in NY. Last night the thermostat read 58 in the room so she may be right. They fixed it this morning.)

I am attending the 15th Annual National Seminar on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.(Click here to see the amazing brochure and check out the speakers.) I am always amazed at how hard Congress can make what otherwise should be an easy task. I will be blogging about the conference tommorrow and Friday (this time even though I am staying off site I will try not to not break any portion of my body) so look for updates over at our sister site Long Island (Criminal)Trial Law".

While down here I ran into this story. As many of you know I seem to handle a lot of bizarre cases and fact patterns back home. This guy seems made for my practice.

Without further ado, enjoy "The Case of the Man With a Dangerous Weapon Up His Bikini Skirt..."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Some Legal Toys for the "Non"-Lawyer Dude

Check out this review (by Al Nye the Lawyer Guy)of a new legal thriller written by retired lawyer Grover Alexander (writting under the nom de plume Jim De Fee)entitled Flawed Judgment. Al says it's a good read but very steamy... I didn't know things could get steamy in Maine.

The American Bar Association's Division on Public Education has a new website out to teach Americans about "How Courts Work" (now if we could only teach the NYS Office of Court Administration...Just a joke guys, ease up.) You can access the site here. It is filled with useful information, including how a trial proceeds and interviews with judges about their views of their jobs.

Be Spacific turns us onto Amnesty International's website against Internet Censorship. Titled " it will seek to use the power of the world's citizenry to make governments back off the net. Given the mainland Chinese response to the internet, and American companies complicity in the actions, this doesn't come a moment too soon.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention's announcement of the nine winners of their 2006 Brick Awards. These awards are for young people (under 25) who make a real difference in the lives of others by acting on a local level. Check out the winning projects and their leaders here.

Well that's it for this weekends edition of That Lawyer Dude. Don't forget to check out our sister blog Long Island (Criminal)Trial Law where we are discussing the new Nassau County NY DWI Court.

I will be spending the rest of this week in Miami Beach taking a seminar on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines given by the Tampa Federal Bar Association and the USSG Commission. I will try to blog from down there but the schedule looks pretty full. I will more than likely have a few posts over at Long Island (Criminal)Trial Law about the CLE and other items so check us out over there too.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Do You Believe in Miracles? Ernie the Attorney Does

In the aftermath of Katrina, I found the reports of fellow attorney Blogger Ernie Svenson to be heartfelt, accurate and soulful. He was giving a first hand account of what the people he observed were experiencing. Having spent the months after 9-11 going to a number of funerals and memorials, and moving about NYC and LI in the aftermath of the disaster I found in Ernie's reporting a feeling of truth as I understood it.

After the 9-11 disaster, NYC Mayor Rudy Guilani really stepped up and showed me a leadership that I had not seen in him before the planes had struck. Rudy had been a mayor who, though I often agreed with his goals if not his implementation, was not able to bring the city together. In 9-11 Rudy performed like never before and earned the title of America's Mayor.

In the aftermath of Katrina, from afar, I was not very impressed with the leadership of Ray Nagins the Mayor of New Orleans. Frankly like Ernie, I was hoping Mitch Landrieu would win the election. However, that was not to be. Instead of anger and disappointment, fear and desolation, Ernie still is looking hopeful for his city and his friends and neighbors. I commend his post today as an understanding of hope and what form miracles can take.

Strip Search of a High School Co-ed Ruled to be Unreasonable

Over at our sister blog Long Island (Criminal)Trial Law, I am blogging about the results of a civil rights case being reinstated against a Conneticut school district whose Principal ordered the strip search of an eighteen year old girl to find marijuana. The search yielded nothing but an hysterical High School Senior and a lawsuit which now is reinstated. It also is an opportunity to show how much less rights the Supreme Court of the United States has taken from school kids. At least the Second Circuit is aware that students have a right to some privacy even in school.

I do not think that the right to privacy, which SCOTUS has found in the Fourth amendment should be trumped by the right of the school to administrate, but according to the Rehnquist Court (and by extension the Roberts Court) it does. I am sure that probable cause is necessary in at least some circumstances. Especially when it comes to the strip search. It seems to me, that is the one place a kid most expects (and needs to have)privacy. The Second Circuit gets it right even though I am not entirely in accord with the legal reasoning. Go over to LI(C)TL and catch the analysis.

Update: For the original story click on this link.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

New York Lawyer Uses DNA To Overturn Murder Conviction Based on False Confession. Renewed Calls For Mandatory Videotaping of Confessions in Homicides

Rochester, New York Criminal Defense Attorney Don Thompson and a team of lawyers working with the Innocence Project (funded by the Benjamin Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University in NYC, has overturned the conviction and won the immediate release of Douglas Warney.

Warney, who confessed to the crime after being fed non public information about the crime scene by now deceased (in March 2006) Rochester Police Detective Sgt John Grop, suffered from dementia and aids. He was interviewed by Grop alone in an interrogation room and was suffering from pain and dementia when he was arrested. Warney has but an 8th grade education. He has spent more than a decade in NY prisons for the murder of Community activist William Beason. Warney originally faced the DEATH PENALTY for the crime which was committed by another man who is incarcerated on other charges.

Warney's other lawyer Peter Neufeld of the Innocence project called the behavior of Rochester Police and prosecutors "criminal". Warney's confession was filled with inaccuracies yet with little more than that and the word of Grop the District Attorney's office had Warney sentenced to 25 years to life. A sentence the AIDS ridden man was never expected to live out.

Thompson and Neufeld went to prosecutor Monroe County Prosecutor Michael Green with proof of the wrongful conviction over 2 years ago but Green refused to test the DNA with new stronger DNA Probes. His arbitrary and capricious decision cost the taxpayers of the State of NY over One Hundred Fifty Thousand (150,000.00) Dollars for unnecessary incarceration and health costs. Not to mention the wasted money trying to force Green to act.

Now wheelchair bound, Warney was rolled into the Monroe County Court to hear the words he has waited over 10 years to hear. The judge released him immediately. Upon the release, NY Criminal Defense Lawyers throughout the state have renewed their call on the Legislature to require mandatory videotaping of all confessions in homicides and other major crimes.

In a letter to his colleagues on the NYS Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers listserve(which I reprint here [in full] with the permission of Mr. Thompson) Don Thompson reveals eloquently the struggles of the everyday non-celebrity lawyer. He also graciously acknowledges the support of his friends in NYSACDL. I hope this victory is one Don can savor for a long time. His words express his emotions and feelings far better than I can. Here they are:

"I have eaten your bread and salt,
I have drunk your water and wine,
The deaths you died I have watched beside,
and the lives you led were mine. Rudyard Kipling

It's been quite a day. To you, who have lived my life, and whose lives I have lived, thank you for your kind words and support. How often I've said "This sucks, f--k it" then someone - Marty or Cappy or Bill or Gary or Greg or Jim or Ray or Dan or Janice or Howard or Dennis or Beth or some other of our merry band - my heroes - will say something intelligent, or inspirational, or just damn funny, on the phone, or in the hall, or on the listserv that leads to reconsideration and then "Oh what the hell, I'll give it one more day. Let's see what happens tomorrow." Your support made this victory possible. We share in it together.

I don't know what the other counsel involved in this case got from it, but I can tell you what I got - as we sat in court this morning and heard the DA admit that Douglas Warney was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit and as we heard the judge vacate his conviction and order him immediately released, in those few moments every shithole apartment, every can of tuna fish (dry), every night shift at the steel warehouse followed by an 8:00 a.m. class, every fight with a creditor, every broken relationship that it took to get here; they were all worth it.

"Whosoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the whole world; and whosoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world." This may be as much as we can hope for.

Still not guilty,

Donald M. Thompson
16 West Main Street, Suite 243
Rochester, New York 14614
Phone: (585) 423-0060
Fax: (585) 423-0890"

Congratulations Don

I will update this story with links as soon as I can. I have Court in an hour and have to go. Till then take a minute and call your NY State Assemblyperson or State Senator and tell them you will not stand for the state wasting anymore taxpayers dollars on wrongfully convicted people. Tell them you support Mandatory Videotaping of Confessions and Mandatory DNA retesting.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Even For Iraq, This Is An Outrage

There is so much I want to say about this outrage that I am speechless.
I want to get this out, because it has barely been reported in the US MSM outlets.

Reporting however seems to be such a little gesture. I do not want to fall into the part of me that questions whether anyone raised in a culture that can believe that God approves of this cruelty can ever be part of a world community. Neither do I want to be an apologist or think that this is a minority of Muslims. It may be a minority, but it is a big minority. I will not agree with the guy from the London Times who in part lays this off as an atrocity resulting from three years of war, because this garbage has been going on in the middle east for years.

I am not only shocked because they treated a woman this way, because the treatment of a man would be just as inhumanely sick. I am not judging this by Western standards. I believe there is one God. I am told by my Muslim friends, that it is the same God for them as for me. It cannot be. My God does not countenance this from anyone. There is no way that Mohammad could claim to be from the same line of prophets as Moses, John and Jesus. Not if He preached this type of terror, not if He said words that could lead anyone to this naturally.

The next question is: what do we do about it? How does it effect our foreign and war policy. Should it? Do we have the backbone to stick this out much longer? Do we have any ability to change this way of thinking in 5 10 or 25 years? This concept of murder as a Godly thing is ingrained in over 1000 years of teaching. On the other hand, can we live in an ever increasingly tight knit world where this is allowed and even fostered, hoping that they will just kill themselves out?

Is it possible to isolate these people, with the proliferation of nuclear arms and WMD? Do we encourage a change in our whole concept of thinking about freedom and the nature of man because of a rouge interpretation of a religious document?

Are we doing better in Afghanistan than we are in Iraq? It seems so, but why?

Questions abound. Answers are few. Reporting is all I can do today. I feel very inadequate.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Those Are The Breaks: That Lawyer Dude Learns The Surprise Is On Him

I now understand in a most painful way, two things:
A. Why W.C. Fields always made fun of Philadelphia Pa. and
B. Why it's called "The City of Brotherly Love."

I came to Philly to attend the NACDL Conference on Jury Communications and White Collar Crime. I was hoping to see old friends and to learn a few new things, not to mention to get a few interviews on tape for the "Surprise" I had promised you all two days ago. (If you haven't figured it out, I am really up and ready to start a weekly podcast.)

I have been on something of a health kick as of late, so I decided to stay a few blocks away from the convention site at The Morris House Hotel. The Morris House is a lovely little Bed and Breakfast, housed in a group of post revolutionary war colonial historic landmark buildings near Washington Square on the outer edge of the Society Hill section of the city. I figured I would walk over to the convention site everyday to get some exercise in. I have been exercising a lot more seriously as of late and I wanted to get some extra walking in on a daily basis. What better way to do it? WRONG.

Walking home to the Morris House, just as I passed the Pennsylvania Hospital (I am told it is the first hospital in the USA)my right foot twisted in a curb where the concrete had cracked and fallen apart. My shoe caught the end of the small divot and stayed there with my foot, the rest of me kept going. Result? Broken bone in the ankle. Unbearable pain. End of conference. (I am still working on getting the podcast done though. More on that later.) OK so I am a little ticked at the City of Philadelphia...but...

Then there are the people I have met here. The Pennsylvania Hospital (on 8th and Spruce streets) emergency room staff could not have been better. I have been in Hospital emergency rooms in big cities. I hate how people look right through you when you are standing there. How you can wait forever while coffee breaks are taken or personal phone calls are made.

That was not my experience in the Penn Hospital ER. I want to single out the people who helped me. My RN's Carlene and LeeAnn, and my orderly Stan (you are the Man even though you abandonded me for the really sick chick the cops brought in)and the two ER Docs who couldn't do more for an out of towner clearly down on his luck Dr. Connolly(really nice guy very competent, was kinda quite but I think he has a wild side) and Dr. McCormack (I especially love this lady, smart, down to earth, a sense of humor and bedside manner, beautiful and in addition to being an ER Doc in a very busy hospital, is the mother of 5 with one on the way!! Gotta watch out for those Irish red heads. Good luck Doc. Your husband is a lucky fellow.)My friend and collegue Ted Simon who was chairing the meeting here, was really helpful and picked me up and brought me back to the Morris House that night. A great lawyer and a good friend, not in that order.

Then there were the people at the Morris House Hotel. Now the first thing you need to know about the Morris House is, it is a modern facility housed in an historic landmark. The 15 rooms (suites actually) are spacious. Being a B & B there are beautiful common rooms a library and conference room. The price per room is unbelievably reasonable for a big city. I paid the same rate as my convention friends did and got twice the room. The second thing you need to know about the Morris house is... it has no elevator. So of course my room is on the third floor.
That's where the people come in.

Before I had even arrived back from the Hospital, Anthony had moved me to a first floor suite. Not as spacious as the original one I had planned on being in, but now I couldn't walk anyway and this was far more convenient. He moved all my stuff and bought me dinner from a local Chinese place. (Note... as my luck would have it on Tuesday May 9th, Morris House is opening up a gourmet resturaunt so you can get lunch and dinner, I hope they keep the B & B feel though.)Anthony checked on me a bunch of times (it seems we had something in common, he manages a busy criminal practice for a talented young attorney here in Philly) and let my family know I was alright.

The next day Brandon was on duty. In addition to his regular work checking people in and other duties, he found time to bring me breakfast; he ran out to Quiznos and brought back lunch (excellent recommendation of the steak sandwich, kid)and made a special stop for me to Starbucks. At night he came by with a superb dinner prepared by Edward the chef at the new restraint. Great meal. A perfectly prepared white fish (I think it was Grouper very tasty) with a southwestern inspired rice dish and green beans. Dinner was finished off with a delicious piece of chocolate cake (of which I only had two bites, I am not letting this injury throw me off that health kick.)Best of all when his shift was completed, Brandon came in to check on me one more time and spent some time talking with me. He is a tremendous young man who is working hard at two jobs. He truly inspired me with his humor, and his story.

Today I am leaving Philadelphia. My son Salvatore is taking a train down with my Associate Amy Hsu to pick me up and drive me home. (Seems like only yesterday I was driving around to pick him up and take him home...)Morris House has sent Angel to work with me. I am sorry I will not have the time to get to know him better. He to has a wonderful way about him.

Anyway, I am very grateful to the people I meet at Pennsylvania Hospital ER and to the beautiful people I met and who helped me at the Morris House Hotel. I hope I get to come back to Philly in the near future and stay here again. I want to walk around the neighborhood and get to know this beautiful city. But even if I never get here again I will remember what kind and thoughtful citizens live here, and how much they helped me while I was in need. I am very, very thankful.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Announcement: A Suprise Is Coming Next Week.

That's right. I have a suprise for those of you who like to read this blog. Keep your eyes pealed for it. I will send you a link for it soon. It will be new and hopefully fun and educational too. Stay tuned and keep on reading.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

John Kenneth Galbraith and William F. Buckley: How A Literate Lion Say Goodbye

John Kenneth Galbraith is dead. A seminal figure in American economic thought throughout most of the second half of the 20th century, Galbraith was best known by most Americans as a top advisor to President John F. Kennedy and later served as his Ambassador to India. A rabid Keynesian, Galbraith would come to be largely criticized by the "Chicago School of Economics" theorist in the 80's and 90's. His liberal, big spending, social welfare laden vision of America would be discredited by the works of Milton Friedman, George Stigler, and Richard Posner among others. Nevertheless, his work and teachings inspired John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert and Eugene McCarthy, as well as countless other post New Deal Democrat thinkers (and sadly still ladens that political party's thought process.)

I met Galbraith twice during my time at Tufts University in the mid 70's and early 80's. Both times, he was a well spoken professor and I was an undergraduate. The first meeting was when he attended a party in Cambridge that I too was invited to. I was introduced by my host, and we engaged in a bit of small talk, mostly his asking about friends of his at Tufts. Our second meeting was in a small restaurant in the North End of Boston. Our tables adjoined one and other. I reintroduced myself, and we again spoke of mutual acquaintances. Our conversation then turned toward other plans I had for my education and then toward politics. Galbraith was a liberal. I was strongly supporting the soon to be President Ronald Reagan, seeming anathema to Galbraith. Our conversation however was among the most fascinating and stimulating of my life. Galbraith was as truly engaged with me, a lowly undergrad, as he was if he were speaking with a president. Moreover, he treated me with respect and dignity, though I have no doubt he could have ravaged my economic theories had he wanted to. The point was had he done so, it would have ended the debate, quite clearly the opposite of what he wanted. He was neither pompass or condesending. Respect for others ideas in the marketplace was a practice of John Kenneth Galbraith.

I was reminded of these times so long ago, when I read the obituary written by Galbriath adversary and friend William F. Buckley. Buckley was another of my heroes in the 70's and he remains someone I greatly admire even today (although I wish he would take a much harder look at the neo-cons he supports, and return more toward his libertarian roots.) In reading the obituary, one learns both the concept of academic and adversarial friendship, and respect for another great mind. The obituary is not maudlin. It certainly takes on the late professor and does not mince words. It is neither however a personal attack nor is it a piece filled with platitudes driven by the old saw that it is bad form to speak ill of the dead.

Instead, it is erudite prose. It both sums up Buckley's negative opinion of the theories of the late Galbraith and yet mourns the loss of a friend, an adversary, and a colleague. I can't help but think it also is a bit of a cry for a lion gone to rest, by another equally powerful lion of a bygone era.

There once was a genteel passion in politics. Politics and it's close sister rhetoric was practiced by people who engaged in it with an understanding that decisions and opinions defined philosophies not individuals. A political position in opposite of yours did not require a personal vendetta. It rarely, if ever became an appeal to base instinct. In fact name-calling and foul language were looked upon as beneath the writer. To engage in such "garbage argument" told the listener/reader that the speaker's position held little weight.

I could learn more about the mysteries of the English language by reading one of Buckley's columns than I could in a year of English courses taught by most college professors today. But that I could say the same of a column by Ann Coulter,or Al Frankin...

I commend William F. Buckley's obituary of John Kenneth Galbraith to you. I recommend you read it with a dictionary at hand. I ask that you remember its quality, for I fear writing like that of Buckley's, or for that matter Galbraith, is a fading art form.