Category: Criminal law

The Loki Effect: How Crime Became the Latest Crisis Blamed on the Pandemic

Below is my column in The Hill on the rise in crime, particularly “smash and grab” operations. This weekend, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was hit by business groups for denying that there is a rise in such crime. Absent such denials, however, the cause of the rise in crime remains a matter of fierce debate. The White House and others have reached for a familiar culprit: the Pandemic. Call it the Loki Effect.

Here is the column: Continue reading “The Loki Effect: How Crime Became the Latest Crisis Blamed on the Pandemic”

The Crumbleys Captured in Detroit But Will the Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Succeed?

The parents of Ethan Crumbley, 15, were arrested in Detroit after allegedly hiding out in a warehouse as police searched for them. Both James and Jennifer Crumbley face involuntary manslaughter charges. The police are suggesting that they were assisted in their alleged flight and may charge third parties.  There was a $10,000 reward posted for their arrests.  The question now is whether the involuntary manslaughter charges will survive challenges at the trial or appellate levels. Continue reading “The Crumbleys Captured in Detroit But Will the Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Succeed?”

Smollett Lawyer Reportedly Demands Mistrial After Accusing Judge of Lunging At Her

If you thought that Smollett case could not get more bizarre, think again. CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller is reporting that defense attorney Tamara Walker had a sidebar conversation with attorneys from both sides and Cook County Judge James Linn. She reportedly accused Judge Linn of some improper comment and then said that he lunged at her in the courtroom.  She was crying during the sidebar.  Another Smollett attorney accused Linn of snarling and making faces during the trial. In thirty years of practice as a criminal defense attorney, I have never heard of such allegations in a criminal trial.

Continue reading “Smollett Lawyer Reportedly Demands Mistrial After Accusing Judge of Lunging At Her”

The Gun Did It? Baldwin Denies Pulling The Trigger in Fatal “Rust” Shooting

Recently, I noted the curious scene of actor Alec Baldwin insisting with reporters that he has been given clear legal instructions not to discuss the shooting of Halyna Hutchins at the set of the movie “Rust” . . . and then making detailed statements about the shooting. Now, with an ongoing criminal investigation and various civil lawsuits expected to be filed, Baldwin has given a detailed statement to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, including a surprising claim that he never pointed the gun or pulled the trigger.  That interview may be one of his most watched scenes, particularly if he is charged criminally or sued civilly. Continue reading “The Gun Did It? Baldwin Denies Pulling The Trigger in Fatal “Rust” Shooting”

“We Were Just Trying to … Find Any Leads about the Case”: A Police Video Raises New Questions About NBC’s Rittenhouse Statement

In the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, proceedings were disrupted by what Judge Bruce Schroeder considered a major breach of security after NBC was found to be following the van of jurors. Given the threats in the case and the concern over jury intimidation, Schroeder was irate. In response, NBC released a statement that some of us found vague and misleading. Now a police video at the scene with NBC freelancer James Morrison confirms that the statement was intentionally misleading on the critical question of whether Morrison was ordered to follow jurors. Continue reading ““We Were Just Trying to … Find Any Leads about the Case”: A Police Video Raises New Questions About NBC’s Rittenhouse Statement”

“I’m Glad this is on Video, I’m Very Glad:” Texas Shooting Raises Difficult Questions Under Texas Self-Defense Law

Chad Read’s widow files petition to take custody of his children from their mother, releases...

“Rittenhouse Should Pay for his Crimes”: ASU Students Demand the Expulsion of Kyle Rittenhouse

President Joe Biden and media figures are not the only persons who are “angry” after a jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on all charges. Despite a jury with the same racial makeup convicting the defendants in Georgia in the Arbery case, many have denounced the entire legal system as racist. It does matter that there was evidence supporting Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense that was largely missing from prior coverage of the case. Now students and groups at Arizona State University are planning a rally and demanding that Rittenhouse be expelled. With leaders like President Biden calling Rittenhouse a “white supremacist” before any investigation was completed and legal analysts calling the entire trial “white supremacy on steroids,” there is a sense of legitimacy in demanding such extrajudicial punishments.

Continue reading ““Rittenhouse Should Pay for his Crimes”: ASU Students Demand the Expulsion of Kyle Rittenhouse”

Antifa Member Who Took Axe to Senate Office Given Probation and his Axe Back

 

We have been discussing the continued incarceration of many individuals for their participation in the Jan. 6th riot.  Despite claims that the riot was an insurrection, the vast majority of defendants have been given relatively minor charges. Nevertheless, the Justice Department has insisted on holding many without bail and some have received longer sentences, like Jacob Chansley (aka “QAnon Shaman”) who was given a 41-month sentence for “obstructing a federal proceeding.”

Thomas “Tas” Alexander Starks, 31, of Lisbon, N.D., faced a strikingly different approach by the Justice Department. The self-avowed Antifa member took an axe to the office of Sen. John Hoeven’s in Fargo on Dec. 21, 2020. Federal sentencing guidelines suggested 10–16 months in prison but he was only sentenced to probation and fined $2,784 for restitution . . . he then reportedly mocked the FBI for returning his axe.  Others declared him a hero and Democratic politicians pitched in for his legal defense. Continue reading “Antifa Member Who Took Axe to Senate Office Given Probation and his Axe Back”

Georgia Defendants Convicted in the Ahmaud Arbery Case

With their conviction in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, three defendants (Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.) are now looking at life in prison. The trial was a testament to two key elements in the criminal justice system: the integrity of the American jury and the power of videotape evidence . Continue reading “Georgia Defendants Convicted in the Ahmaud Arbery Case”

Now That Rittenhouse is Acquitted, Can Officer Kelly Have His Job Back?

Norfolk Police Department

The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse produced a number of immediate changes beyond the custodial status of the 18-year-old himself. GoFundMe lifted its ban on people contributing to his defense . . . after his defense was over and the verdict was in. Some media outlets finally reported on evidence that supported his self-defense claims and one critic called for “revisiting” the clearly biased reporting in the case. However, there is one person whose status has not changed: Norfolk Police Officer William Kelly who was fired for simply donating to the Rittenhouse defense fund and writing a supportive note as a private citizen. He made the comment and donation anonymously. The only thing more shocking than Kelly’s loss of his job is that Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer and Police Chief Larry Boone have retained theirs. Continue reading “Now That Rittenhouse is Acquitted, Can Officer Kelly Have His Job Back?”

Unrequited Rage: The Demand for Mob Justice in the Rittenhouse Trial

Below is my column in The Hill on the aftermath of Rittenhouse verdict and how the jury functioned as design to rule on the evidence and the law rather than public passions. Many have called for self-defense laws to be curtailed in light of the verdict. We can certainly have that debate. However, this jury was tasked with applying these facts to existing law. They did not have the luxury of reframing the legal standard to achieve their own concept of justice.

Here is the column: Continue reading “Unrequited Rage: The Demand for Mob Justice in the Rittenhouse Trial”

Verdict First, Funds Second: GoFundMe’s Red Queen Policy on Rittenhouse

GoFundMe appears to have lifted its ban on fundraising for Kyle Rittenhouse . . . after he was acquitted.  Of course, those funds were most needed to put on a defense and many demanded that the site cut off access to fundraising. The site yielded to the pressure and refused to allow people who believed Rittenhouse to be innocent from donating on its site. GoFundMe has been repeatedly criticized for political bias and conservative sites have objected that the site continued to allow fundraising for Black Lives Matter protesters accused of rioting. The company appears to have embraced a Red Queen policy from Alice in Wonderland: This “sentence first — verdict afterwards.”

Continue reading “Verdict First, Funds Second: GoFundMe’s Red Queen Policy on Rittenhouse”

Rittenhouse Revisited: How Media Misinformation Can Fuel Social Unrest

Below is my column in USA Today on the Rittenhouse trial and the role of media coverage in fueling anger in such cases by misrepresenting or ignoring key evidence. After the verdict, a riot was declared in Portland and protests erupted around the country.  Fortunately, there was not the type of arson and destruction seen in Kenosha last year. While the media often denounces “misinformation” or “disinformation” (and even supports censorship in some cases), it rarely acknowledges its own distortions from the Russian collusion scandal to the Hunter Biden laptop controversy to the Lafayette Park incident. Indeed, after the verdict, many of these same figures doubled down in denouncing the decision without acknowledging the evidence supporting the reasonable doubt of these jurors.

Here is the column: Continue reading “Rittenhouse Revisited: How Media Misinformation Can Fuel Social Unrest”

Arbery Trial Judge Delivers Massive Blow to the Defense on the Eve of Closing Statements

In the Georgia trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Judge Timothy Walmsley delivered a haymaker to the defense on the very eve of closing statements.  The court ruled that Georgia’s prior citizen’s arrest law is only applicable if a person sees a felony committed and acts without delay. The ruling could be “outcome determinative” in the case by stripping away the core defense that these men were chasing a person suspected of a series of crimes over the last year. Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan are likely to make this ruling the heart of any appeal if they are convicted. Continue reading “Arbery Trial Judge Delivers Massive Blow to the Defense on the Eve of Closing Statements”

Rittenhouse 2.0: Threats of New Litigation Fly in the Aftermath of Rittenhouse Verdict

In the aftermath of the Rittenhouse verdict, figures on both sides of the case threatened new filings and investigations. It seems likely that the case will move into a new stage of litigation, particularly civil litigation. However, advocates on both sides may be overstating the basis for a Rittenhouse 2.0.  These lawsuits can come with risks and considerable costs. That is why Voltaire once lamented “I was never ruined but twice: once when I lost a lawsuit, and once when I won one.” Continue reading “Rittenhouse 2.0: Threats of New Litigation Fly in the Aftermath of Rittenhouse Verdict”