Jarvious Cotton is a Murderer

"Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like so many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole."  (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (2010) at p. 1.)  That is a frustrating and misleading way to start a frustrating and misleading book.  And the worst part isn't the... Continue Reading →

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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 Mercy Rule

When I used to play ping pong in the garage, we followed the "skunk rule".  If anyone went up 7-0 on their opponent, they clinched the game and won early, without needing to go all the way to 11 points, like normal.  I've heard other people call it "the mercy rule." I just finished a... Continue Reading →

Too Much Hart

Three years into my job as a prosecutor, I still feel shockingly ignorant about the big picture of criminal law.  I don't mean the nuts and bolts of doing trials, I've figured that out, and I don't mean criminal procedure and evidence, I'm doing fine there.  What are they saying about the purposes of criminal... 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.)

232 Burglaries

If you google "individual offense rates", you're going to get a lot of basketball statistics.  But the phrase is used in Thinking About Crime, a book I've been reading in order to educate myself on criminology.  It's funny that no formal information about criminology is given to prosecutors in my office.  More time is spent on... Continue Reading →

Surrounded by the Worst

"Most big city officers see the citizenry as at best uncooperative and at worst hostile."  That's a line from Thinking About Crime, which I heard about on a podcast and decided to read.  It's written by James Q. Wilson, who also wrote my government textbook in high school (and probably yours).  The author is most famous... Continue Reading →

She Told Them I’m The Devil

You see a lot of the same things, doing trials over and over again: the same jury instructions; the same oath; the same admonitions.  Sitting in jury selection, the defense attorney will invariably explain the burden of proof and point at me.  She'll say, "the government, the accuser, they have to prove my client is... Continue Reading →

The whole point of justice consists precisely of our providing for others through humanity what we provide for our own family through affection. -Lactantius

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