What Do Prosecutors Owe Defendants?

It's always seemed a little funny watching a defendant who broke the law insist on strict compliance with the law by the police and prosecutor.  It's kind of like someone covered in mud asking you to wash your hands before you touch him. Or watching a naked man insist that you cover up a little... Continue Reading →

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People who know no self-restraint lead stormy and disordered lives, passing their time in a state of fear commensurate with the injuries they do to others, never able to relax.  After every act they tremble, paralyzed, their consciences continually demanding an answer, not allowing them to get on with other things.  To expect punishment is... Continue Reading →

Imagining What Didn’t Happen

Most people think cross-examination is all about badgering the witness into admitting the crime. Others think closing argument is about is about tricking the witness into a damning admission. Both of these views are wrong, in my opinion. A defendant who chooses to testify is going to come up with a story that he thinks... Continue Reading →

Perils of Plea Bargaining

“Justice and liberty are not the subjects of bargaining and barter.”  (Shelton v. United States (5th Cir. 1957) 246 F.2d 571, 579.)  This noble statement is simply not true: 90% of all convictions in the United States are obtained by plea bargain, rather than by trial.  The system of plea bargaining, therefore, has almost overwhelmed the... Continue Reading →

"The criminal law stands to the passion for revenge in much the same relation as marriage to the sexual appetite." (James Stephen, General View of the Criminal Law of England, p. 99.)

What’s At Stake

Whatever view one holds about the penal law, no one will question its importance in society. This is the law on which men place their ultimate reliance for protection against all the deepest injuries that human conduct can inflict on individuals and institutions. By the same token, penal law governs the strongest force we permit... Continue Reading →

Safety is the First Human Right

On 10 December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Article 3 of this Declaration states, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."  The right to security of person, therefore, was elevated to the most fundamental of all rights protected by... Continue Reading →

Foster v. Chatman

On the morning of August 28, 1986, police found Queen Madge White dead on the floor of her home in Rome, Georgia. White, a 79-year-old widow, had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled to death. Her home had been burglarized. Timothy Foster subsequently confessed to killing White, and White’s possessions were recovered from Foster’s home... Continue Reading →

Losing and Releasing

Lawyers talk a lot about wanting to win cases and not wanting to lose them.  It's something that seems pretty standard for anyone involved in trial work.  "Did you win your case?" is a common question in both social settings and at the office.  But the wording around this issue isn't great.  As we are told ad... Continue Reading →

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