Further deepening my growing suspicions that life may best be described as a series of random events comes this news via Discover Magazine, “Justice is served, but more so after lunch: how food-breaks sway the decisions of judges”. Yeah, that’s right, food breaks.

A Ben Gurion University researcher tracked over 1000 parole hearings over a ten month period, and then plotted this graph:

Think of the X-axis(labeled ordinal position) as stretching from 9 am to 5 pm, as the day goes by*. The Y-axis(proportion of favorable decisions**) shows the likelihood of being paroled. The enormous upward spikes that prevent the parole percentages from falling to less than 0%? Well those are the times the judges ate. Snack and lunch breaks were always documented, and the results speak for themselves.

Continue Reading The Way To A Judge’s Heart Is Through His Stomach

I use one of the world’s most complicated and sophisticated voir dire note taking systems, consisting in no small part of adding plus and minus marks in each venire person’s allotted space on my sheets, and sometimes adding short annotations.  It can be from something on the juror sheets, or something they say in voir dire.  Or perhaps a squirm here, a glare there.  I preassigned juror #8 five plus marks for the following answers at impaneling:

  • Injuries Requiring Medical Attention: Yes.
  • Description: Hit over the head by an asshole cop and had to have my head flesh stapled.

Sigh. Must you have made it so obvious? Well, at least they only have two preemps left. (If it had been a felony, it would have been nine left.)

I was set on a jury docket yesterday morning and the case was going to be reached. It was my day to go. Of course, as usual, there were probably 30-40 cases set, but mine was going to be the one. How did I know this?

  • I had taken the case over from another lawyer, about a year after the arrest, so it was old, old, old. And the previous lawyer had used several defense continuances. I burned a few myself after that.
  • After taking over the case, I asked permission to put it back on a contested pretrial docket, and had a pretrial hearing. Significance? If the prosecutors were likely to cut us a deal, it would have been before they had to “do all that work”.
  • I had been contacted by the prosecutors about the case last week, and they re- (or, re-re-re-) iterated their position that they would not offer anything close to what my client would accept – in this case, a reduced charge. The case was not going to settle.
  • Also, the fact that they bothered to contact me at all meant it was high enough up on their radar to be concerned that it was in the top few cases likely to go.

Continue Reading Rip Roaring Rarin’ And Ready For Trial

OK, OK, I have provided an update/answer to the riddle in the last post. Such an addendum is unnecessary for my first two commenters, who found the riddle beneath them. I hope they find this one slightly more challenging. At any rate, it’s more difficult than 2 + 0 = 2, which was the solution to the verdict riddle.

Let’s begin. It’s not uncommon when you excuse yourself to the bathroom in a restaurant to find a sign posted somewhere near the sink and soap dispenser that reads:

Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning To Work

If I ever open a greasy spoon there’s no way that sign will be in the restroom. Why? Because that sign does two things, at least to me.

Continue Reading A More Sophisticated Jury Trial Puzzle: Employees Must Wash Hands

Lance Stott and Dax Garvin (disclosure: my professional roommates/suitemates, and personal friends) started two separate jury trials a few months ago on a Monday.

Let me digress a bit, and for the sake of clarity, define separate. Each individual lawyer represented one and only one client. They were not co-defendants. Their charges were not related in any way. They had never met each other.

Their cases were assigned to different courts, with separate prosecutors, judges, court reporters, etc., etc. The fact that both lawyer’s cases started the same day was a complete coincidence. There’s not some hidden secret there that will help explain the puzzle.

By Wednesday afternoon, both trials were finished. Now, to the riddle…

Defense lawyers talk of one-word verdicts (it’s a euphemism for a loss) and two-word verdicts (wooohooo!). AKA, “guilty” and “not guilty” if you want it literally spelled out.

In this instance, if you combined the number of words in all the verdicts in their cases, the total was two. Two words total, when added together. Seems like two bad results from the clients’ perspectives, eh?

Yet neither client was convicted. Solve away… (Answer now provided after the break)

Continue Reading Verdict Riddle

There are two kinds of reactions to the following statement, made by Andrea Mitchell on Morning Joe, about Elena Kagan’s qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice:

If you can run Harvard, and the Harvard Law factory, then you can run almost anything.

Reaction number one… nodding head in silent (and unthinking) approval, and reaction number two… “What’s that again?”

Seriously? Anything? As Dean of the law school, she proved adept at fundraising, no doubt. But this qualifies her for almost anything? What about vetting mergers and acquisitions, negotiating a contract, representing someone in a divorce, not to mention running a bakery or a bank…

Continue Reading Qualified For Anything

A scene from “Marijuana Inc.: Inside America’s Pot Industry” included a mini-tour of Oaksterdam University, which promotes itself as the first cannabis college, providing entrepreneurs with the “highest quality training” to enter California’s burgeoning marijuana dispensary business. On several walls were large red signs with yellow letters proclaiming:

Jurors Can Not Be Punished For Their Verdicts

An advertisement for jury nullification, albeit when considering the location, most likely preaching to the choir, or viewed more cynically, meant to assuage students’ doubts about the likelihood of a successful federal prosecution.

Continue Reading We Could Have Stayed There For Another Week

From my recently kindled copy of Eating the Dinosaur, Chuck Klosterman is interviewing Errol Morris, the documentary filmmaker, on the subject of interviewing people:

What’s more interesting to you: someone who lies consciously, someone who lies unconsciously, or someone who tells a relatively mundane version of the truth?

Here’s a snippet of Morris’ answer:

…I read a piece about modern forms of lie detection – methods that go beyond the polygraph. The writer’s idea was that we can actually record activity inside the brain that proves who is or who isn’t lying.

Continue Reading Conscious Mendacity

Via an @arsenicjulep tweet of a Newsweek article, “Why We Believe Lies, Even When We Learn The Truth”:

Some people form and cling to false beliefs about health-care reform (or Obama’s citizenship) despite overwhelming evidence thanks to a mental phenomenon called motivated reasoning, says sociologist Steven Hoffman, visiting assistant professor at the University at Buffalo.

Continue Reading Arsenic Julep, Motivated Reasoning, 8 Simple Rules, and Pornography

The jury instructions in U.S. v. Lori Drew read, in part:

In order for the defendant to be found guilty of the lesser crime of accessing a protected computer without authorization or in excess of authorization, the Government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

First, the Defendant intentionally accessed a computer without authorization or in excess of authorization.

Second, the Defendant’s accessing of that computer involved an interstate or foreign communication; and

Third, by accessing the computer without authorization or in excess of authorization, the Defendant obtained information from a protected computer.

You remember Lori Drew, don’t you? She’s the woman who set up a MySpace account to harass her teenage daughter’s former friend; her messages no doubt contributed in large part to the eventual suicide.

Continue Reading Please Violate Our Terms of Service