Lady Justice's Occasional Friends

Law, Politics & Current Events

Sooner or later, criminal defense attorneys reach three depressing conclusions about their fellow Americans.

The first depressing conclusion is wow, most of these people don't really support the presumption of innocence or due process of law or vigorous protection of the rights of the accused, especially when presented with an unpopular defendant. This realization is not unique to attorneys; almost everyone interested in criminal justice reaches it.

The second depressing conclusion is wait a minute, sometimes people really do get how important it is to challenge the government's evidence and to protect constitutional and statutory rights! This conclusion sounds cheerful, but is actually depressing because it occurs so rarely.

The third depressing conclusion — following hard upon the second — is aw, shit, people only care about due process in that case because it suits their political narrative.

Today I'm going to pick on Wall Street Journal writer James Taranto as an example of this phenomenon. Singling Taranto out is arbitrary and capricious; he's no better or worse than anyone else who focuses on politics but dabbles in criminal justice.

Monday Taranto wrote a controversial-in-some-quarters column in which he criticized Senator Claire McCaskill's hold on the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms. Helms became somewhat controversial for a clemency decision in a military sexual assault case:

At issue is the general's decision in February 2012 to grant clemency to an officer under her command. Capt. Matthew Herrera had been convicted by a court-martial of aggravated sexual assault. Ms. McCaskill said earlier this month that the clemency decision "sent a damaging message to survivors of sexual assault who are seeking justice in the military justice system."

Taranto's column has drawn ire, in part, by design. He refers to a "war on men" and an "effort to criminalize male sexuality." Taranto is a skilled writer and no dummy; these self-indulgent flourishes strike me as deliberate trolling, part of the faintly mastubatory tactic of writing something incendiary and then crafting smug follow-up posts about how mad people got at you. That doesn't distinguish Taranto either; it's become banal.

Taranto's trolling is confined, like the opening joke to a speech, to his lede; most of the column is concerned with defending Lt. Gen. Helms by arguing that she was right to grant clemency in the sexual assault case, and that such clemency is "crucial protection for the accused." Taranto supports this thesis by exploring the evidence in the case, attacking the credibility of the accuser, pointing out that the case involved conflicting eyewitness accounts and a he-said-she-said dispute, and questioning (along with Lt. Gen Helms) how the conviction satisfied "basic principles of justice" in light of those flaws.

Does this warm my criminal defense attorney's heart? It does not, because it smacks of opportunism, of mere genuflection to due process and the presumption of innocence to suit a political narrative — in this case, a narrative about a mean Democratic Senator and the politics of sexual assault prosecutions in the military. If, next week, the rights of someone unsuited to Taranto's narrative are at issue, I will not be looking to him for support. I don't expect I'll meet this James Taranto, the James Taranto who questions the reliability of complaining witnesses and the adequacy of government evidence and the inconsistencies of proof. Rather, I suspect I'll meet the James Taranto who criticized New York courts for offering broader protections to defendants than federal courts, deriding them as extending "protections to criminal defendants far beyond those the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized, paralyzing law enforcement and endangering ordinary citizens." I expect to meet the Taranto who derided the "self-righteousness and simple-mindedness" of those of us who were revolted when a Republican primary debate crowd cheered Rick Perry's bragging about 234 executions. Some of those executions were premised on questionable and conflicting eyewitness accounts, but Taranto's skepticism of the government's evidence disappears when it doesn't promote his narrative. Those executions suffered from the taint of politics as surely as Sen. McCaskill's hold on Lt. Gen. Helms' promotion — witness Gov. Perry's thoroughly contemptible efforts to block investigation into whether innocent men were murdered by the state — but those politics do not draw Taranto's ire.

Again, Taranto is not unusual in this. Nor is criminal justice the only issue on which commentators display flexible devotion to constitutional principles. (Compare and contrast Taranto's devotion to freedom of expression in his fascinating story of how his university censored him with his glee at the prospect of deporting the spectacularly irritating Piers Morgan for his incorrect thoughts on guns.)

Should criminal defense attorneys just shut up and accept the occasional crumbs of goodwill towards the rights of defendants that drop, in the right cases, from the tables of the commentariat? No. We should not. Defendants don't deserve vigorous defense because they are emblematic of a political dispute. The government's evidence is not to be questioned because it represents part of a questioned social trend. Witnesses ought not be challenged because their behavior fits an archetype. We should do these things because the government's case against an individual should always be questioned, by the very nature of the relationship between state and individual. "Deserve" has nothing to do with it; the status as a defendant has everything to do with it.

We shouldn't reward people who discover the rights of the accused just because that accused happens to be a rape suspect or a Scooter Libby or a George Zimmerman. When we welcome them to the community of believers, we reduce that community's credibility, because the temporary and opportunistic nature of their belief is transparent. We should not welcome them any more than we excuse people who jettison fundamental notions of due process when the ideology is inconvenient to them.

Sorry, Mr. Taranto. Your skepticism about witness credibility, and your pronouncement about the rights of the accused, are well-written. But I'm not feeling the love.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

52 Comments

50 Comments

  1. naught_for_naught  •  Jun 19, 2013 @8:42 am

    most…people don't really support the presumption of innocence or due process of law or vigorous protection of the rights of the accused

    In large part because most people have very little faith in the justice system to begin with.

  2. David Aubke  •  Jun 19, 2013 @8:45 am

    @naught_for_naught, I think Ken is talking about the principle of due process while you're talking about its practice.

  3. Tom  •  Jun 19, 2013 @8:47 am

    Support for the presumption of innocence & due process, and lack of faith in the justice system, are two separate things. The first is principle, the second, implementation. I vigorously support the first, and wish the justice system did it better.

  4. mojo  •  Jun 19, 2013 @8:58 am

    "Juries are filled with layabouts and people too stupid to get out of jury duty".

    Yeah, ok, I denounce myself. Cynicism, in the First Degree.

  5. AlphaCentauri  •  Jun 19, 2013 @9:01 am

    Bravo for this.

    If it's any consolation, my college-age son recently had his first stint on a jury. The victim was a baby caught in crossfire, fortunately not too seriously injured. Everybody "knew" who did it, and the jury felt they were probably right. The defendant was not a very likable character. But the proof just wasn't there (dim lighting/long distance line of sight/unreliable witnesses), so they had to acquit. I think people are gradually realizing what the adversarial justice process implies and how important it is for the jury to be skeptical of both sides.

  6. mcinsand  •  Jun 19, 2013 @9:14 am

    Partisan tribalism has grown so much in this country that presumption of innocence as well as presumption of guilt have become common party-sensitive states of a lot of peoples' minds. People loyal to party A tend presume allegations against party A are false while presuming any allegations against party B are true. I've got friends that lean to the left as well as friends that lean to the right, and I cannot see either side being any better at sticking to fair-mindedness.

    This mentality that my party is right and your party is wrong has definitely affected me to the point that, if someone expresses loyalty to either, I start off presuming that I have to be very careful in believing that what they say is objective.

  7. Dan  •  Jun 19, 2013 @9:15 am

    "writing something incendiary and then crafting smug follow-up posts about how mad people got at you"

    I am guilty of this. So, so guilty. Mostly just with Clark, though.

  8. Mike  •  Jun 19, 2013 @9:16 am

    Personally I will take what support I can get, even though I despise the hypocrisy of the messenger. Our system is built on the principle.

    Many times your only ally against a given injustice is self-serving partisanship. Counting on the honor and principles of more than a few people at a time is to go looking for failure.

  9. Roho  •  Jun 19, 2013 @9:22 am

    Tangential to the main point of the article, but I have a dearly-held wish that I can do the following someday before I pass from this earth.

    I dream of being stuck in an elevator with one of those troll-then-act-smug types. Just the two of us. Elevator starts moving, and I cut the most noxious, toxic fart known to man. I mean, like, one can see the air visibly warping. Our troll turns to me, all pissed off, and asks me what the hell. I turn back, and with the most smug, condescending smile I can muster:
    "Touched a nerve, have I?"

  10. David Aubke  •  Jun 19, 2013 @9:27 am

    I just happened to have read this very column at lunch before opening Popehat. As soon as I hit "war on men" and "criminalize male sexuality", my BS detector went on high alert. My reading of the rest of the column was deeply colored by those two phrases. As you said, they were certainly added for effect but I why would a writer of a persuasive piece shoot himself in the foot like that? It's really just flame bait?

  11. dumbkraut  •  Jun 19, 2013 @9:34 am

    … rights of the accused, especially when presented with an unpopular defendant.

    It's always the same pattern of thinking, best paraphrased by Ayn Rand: "Every infringement of human rights has begun with a suppression of given right's least attractive practitioners."

  12. James Pollock  •  Jun 19, 2013 @10:10 am

    Look on the bright side: Partisan-motivated defenders of due process means that at any given time, roughly one-third of the population are motivated by opposition to the current government to support due process. (That bad side, that partisan motivated defenders of due process may make it onto the jury, where even AFTER the due process shows guilt, they won't see it, is a problem I don't know how you'd fix. I understand they're expecting to call 3500 potential jurors for the Zimmerman case.)

  13. Daniel Taylor  •  Jun 19, 2013 @10:22 am

    Most people don't want justice, they want revenge. They also don't particularly care if the person the revenge is inflicted on is the actual guilty party as long as they can convince themselves that they are.

    So in the eyes of people who believe that way the Justice system is broken if it is doing its job properly.

    I have nothing but respect for the defense attorneys that help make the system work, especially public defenders that take on the most thankless (and least lucrative) cases.

  14. Waldo  •  Jun 19, 2013 @10:27 am

    This is a first rate post!

  15. Craig  •  Jun 19, 2013 @10:41 am

    What this really gets down to, ultimately, is that the vast majority of people don't really have any firm principles or even understand the concept. They also lack intellectual honesty and consistency, along with any understanding of THOSE concepts. Even people who do show some understanding of these issues and some trace of integrity will often throw them overboard when they get in the way of reaching the desired conclusion. The idea of man as a rational creature is a great exaggeration.

  16. ShelbyC  •  Jun 19, 2013 @10:42 am

    The hold on Helm's promotion is problematic regardless of whether or not her decision was correct. It ought to prevent any sexual assault prosecution by the military.

  17. Rick H.  •  Jun 19, 2013 @10:51 am

    Mike: "Personally I will take what support I can get, even though I despise the hypocrisy of the messenger. Our system is built on the principle."

    But in these cases, the Tarantos etc. are not addressing the principles of fair play. Or rather, it is the fact that they're so plainly, obviously and aggressively lying for partisan advantage that's detrimental to the cause of justice. People tend to assign credibility depending on the messenger. If I'm trying to convince people of the vital importance of journalism, I don't want Stephen Glass in my corner. It looks bad for my case.

  18. ZarroTsu  •  Jun 19, 2013 @10:57 am

    A simple rule people should follow is "If something is unclear, question it yourself."

    A simple rule many people instead follow is "If something is unclear, answer it yourself."

  19. Erich  •  Jun 19, 2013 @10:59 am

    Great post, Ken. We are certainly in the age of hypocrisy and capriciousness. It infuriates.

  20. different Jess  •  Jun 19, 2013 @11:16 am

    @David Aubke: …why would a writer of a persuasive piece shoot himself in the foot like that? It's really just flame bait?

    For most professional writers, pageviews are of primary importance. They will gladly insert an off-putting paragraph if it will generate 10k more clicks. Besides, Ken's observation about "crafting smug follow-up posts" is spot-on. Those follow-up articles write themselves. There's nothing better on a lazy summer afternoon when one is under a deadline, than ego-surfing (Googling oneself, etc.) some choice feisty complaints, and tossing off a couple of "witty" rejoinders to each. Since it requires little thought, one can do it with the ballgame on the radio. If one finds oneself with a bit more energy, one can also intersperse a few more trollish opinions to keep the fires burning.

    (Although frankly I engage in a fair amount of trolling myself. I feel it is a perfectly valid rhetorical technique.)

    BTW, what odds are on offer for whether any of the many voices of "James Taranto" will show up on this thread? We know he'll read it, as pointed out above.

  21. Alex the Too Old  •  Jun 19, 2013 @11:25 am

    different Jess:
    >>>(Although frankly I engage in a fair amount of trolling myself. I feel it is a perfectly valid rhetorical technique.)<<<

    Er, could you unpack that a bit? And start by stating the definition of "trolling" that's operative in this statement? ^^;

  22. Oomph  •  Jun 19, 2013 @11:38 am

    "Defendants don't deserve vigorous defense" – Ken White.

    This supports my narrative.

  23. Bob  •  Jun 19, 2013 @11:55 am

    As soon as I hit "war on men" and "criminalize male sexuality", my BS detector went on high alert."

    It took you that long? For me it was as soon as I hit "by Ken White."

  24. Jesse from Tulsa  •  Jun 19, 2013 @12:21 pm

    Dear client – the government is being unfair and over playing weak evidence. You can take the deal, or you could always go to trial. Trial by jury is the greatest justice system ever developed. Which is sad… because it is basically a chess game, after which 12 people who don't know the rules of the game decides who won.

  25. Roscoe  •  Jun 19, 2013 @12:51 pm

    Ken – I really don't get your point. I have read the other pieces by Tarento that you link, and I don't see anything inconsistent with what he wrote in the Helms matter. I mean, it is entirely possible to believe that Helms is being unfairly punished for scrupulously carrying out her duty, while at the same time contending that judges in New York have, by fiat, imposed burdens for search warrants that are too high.

    On a larger point, there are very few commentators whose sole focus is arguing for greater rights for criminal defendants. Tarento is clearly not one of those guys, and he doesn't pretend to be. But as long as his positions are honest and sincerely taken, shouldn't that be enough?

    On a still larger point, I don't think people here see the ultimate impact of the Helms case. As someone who once served as a juror on a court martial, I can tell you that military justice is often pretty rough and ready (remind me to tell you sometime how I wound up on that jury). Review by the convening authority is an important protection for the accused.

    But colonels really, really, want to be generals, and they didn't get to be colonels without keeping careful watch on their careers. What is happening to Helms is going to pretty much guaranty that convening authorities won't be looking too closely at the results of future sexual assault convictions.

  26. Nigel Declan  •  Jun 19, 2013 @1:00 pm

    What makes this truly sad is that most of the partisans who selectively support the presumption of innocence and due process is that they fail to recognize this hypocrisy. Thus they can proclaim that alleged terrorists, say, should be denied proper defenses and convicted in kangaroo courts and support laws that make conviction and executions easier while simultaneously decrying injustices (real or perceived) resulting from such policies and attitudes when it suits their personal or political ends. Ideological fervor trumps any cognitive dissonance, sadly.

  27. k-lo  •  Jun 19, 2013 @1:06 pm

    Sounds like someone just lost a trial.

  28. gramps  •  Jun 19, 2013 @1:12 pm

    Sayeth Tom: "Support for the presumption of innocence & due process, and lack of faith in the justice system, are two separate things. "

    The latter is the best reason to support the former… specifically the presumption of innocence; due process can be the enemy. When actual innocence is not a legal ground to vacate a conviction or sentence, then something is terribly wrong.

  29. Anonymous  •  Jun 19, 2013 @1:38 pm

    Unrelated to criminal law, but semi-related… It's harder than it looks to maintain your high principles when it's YOUR ox being gored.

    Consider the two asshats in Atlanta who just got fired for making fun of Steve Gleason. My wife recently died of ALS, and my sisters both emailed me the story, sure I would be full of righteous wrath.

    My response? "Yeah, they're assholes. They have a right to be assholes. Yeah, I'm offended. But… my being offended does not give me the right to demand that they stop being assholes."

    It was very difficult for me to write that. When it directly affects you, it's much harder to stick to your principles.

  30. mcinsand  •  Jun 19, 2013 @1:59 pm

    Nigel Declan,

    >>Ideological fervor trumps any cognitive dissonance, sadly.

    I'm not sure that there is even a matter of ideology, so much as whether a position is taken by a partisan's adopted party. Many of both parties' positions disagree with that party's stated base ideological foundations, but, when the special interests holding the leashes demand tribute…

  31. TerryTowels  •  Jun 19, 2013 @2:12 pm

    As soon as I hit "war on men", I stopped and thought, true, but Taranto's got the wrong war: It's the millennia-old War on Women, and women are starting to fight back in the courts and with law. Suck it up, mister.

    Anyway, he reminds me of a fundamentalist Egyptian muslim I knew many years ago, who said that in his culture, it was up to women to hide from men, because it was well known that men couldn't control their passion. So, any problems women faced were of their own making and punishable by law.

  32. different Jess  •  Jun 19, 2013 @2:15 pm

    @Alex: Er, could you unpack that a bit? And start by stating the definition of "trolling" that's operative in this statement?

    When I troll, I attempt to disrupt a thread, a narrative, a chain of thought, a conversation, a community, a worldview, etc. by soliciting emotional rather than "reasoned" responses. Typically this takes the form of communications that are false, ridiculous, inconsistent, offensive, exaggerated, or some combination of those. The purpose is explicitly to destroy something fragile in my own mind and in the minds of others, in the hope (or is that fear?) that something stronger will replace it.

    I don't want you to question your opinions. I want you to question your reality. However, this is a difficult technique, so success is rare.

  33. His Shadow  •  Jun 19, 2013 @2:22 pm

    these self-indulgent flourishes strike me as deliberate trolling, part of the faintly mastubatory tactic of writing something incendiary and then crafting smug follow-up posts about how mad people got at you.

    You clearly have a read a lot of articles by putative technology pundits, specifically when they write articles regarding Apple…

  34. Tarrou  •  Jun 19, 2013 @2:54 pm

    Son, the day there is a war on women, it will be short. What absolute twaddle. Amazing how after millenia of war, those women, who are physically at a severe disadvantage in warmaking, somehow constitute over half of humanity. In the meantime, you keep on conflating the word "war" with things that aren't war. Might I suggest: Drugs, terror, poverty and pants.

  35. Mark  •  Jun 19, 2013 @3:24 pm

    Most people don't want justice, they want revenge. They also don't particularly care if the person the revenge is inflicted on is the actual guilty party as long as they can convince themselves that they are.

    These are the kind of thoughts that I have when I read some things Meredith Kercher's family has said about Amanda Knox being released from prison.

  36. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels  •  Jun 19, 2013 @10:19 pm

    (changed posting name for clarity)

    I'm not sure that Taranto actually does confine his trolling to his lede – or ledes once you throw in the other pieces.

    Changing ones emotion grabbing stance depending on what reaction you want – check.
    Inflammatory language in general – check
    That "you just don't get it" thing – check
    Allusions to some nebulous and possibly non-existent higher purpose for all of the above – check

    Top to bottom every article reads like trolling without a punchline.

  37. oldnumberseven  •  Jun 20, 2013 @2:56 am

    It seems to me most people only care about the rights of the accused and the presumption of innocence when they or someone they know are the accused.

  38. GuestPoster  •  Jun 20, 2013 @6:24 am

    Hmm. For my part, I actually want there to always be a vigorous defense. I'd be lying if I said I didn't usually have an opinion about any case I cared enough to know about – but I do base it on what evidence I have available. I think Zimmerman killed Martin, and that it never would have happened had he not taken it upon himself to follow Martin. I think Snowden definitely violated laws concerning security clearance, and only maybe falls under the protection of applicable whistleblower protections.

    But I care about the defense, and frankly for fairly selfish reasons – if ever sitting on such a jury, I want the defense to be top notch, to reduce my chance of imposing harsh penalties upon somebody who was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time when the cops stopped by. I want as much information as possible to come out, to prevent incorrect conclusions from being drawn. And I certainly don't want people punished BEFORE the trial ends – but for the grace of the flying Spaghetti monster, it could easily be me who looks just a bit too much like exactly the wrong person.

    But I'd be lying to say I didn't make up my mind about most of these matters well before the trial concluded. I can only happily say that I integrate new information to re-make my opinion as possible, and that much as I think e.g. Manning is guilty, I hate what was done to him before he ever had the luxury of his constitutionally guaranteed trial.

  39. Ken White  •  Jun 20, 2013 @11:39 am
  40. Not Claude Akins  •  Jun 20, 2013 @2:41 pm

    Having read this, I think you're being uncharitable, sir. If you read Taranto regularly, "gender and society," to use an appropriately new-age construction, is one of his regular themes.

    As far as denigrating Taranto for only being an occasional friend of justice – which I'm not sure I agree with – why worry about it? I mean, I know people on the left think Leviathan is benevolent, but it's still encouraging to find common ground on libertarian issues like state surveillance. You don't hold your principles re: justice in order to be part of some social club, I presume; you believe them. As such, why scoff at anyone who advances those principles?

  41. ChrisTS  •  Jun 20, 2013 @3:26 pm

    I would think most men would be as offended by JT's stream of icky-consciousness as women. Basically, he says you cannot control yourselves (and, therefore should be off the hook). Men such as he have often claimed that feminists believe all men are potential rapists, Seems to me that he is saying this, himself.

  42. Not Claude Akins  •  Jun 20, 2013 @3:48 pm

    Is he really saying that? I think he's indicting a culture in which men are presumed to be aggressors, simply by virtue of being men. Based on Taranto's telling of it, there's no evidence that this lady had her nethers stimulated against her will. Yet this guy got convicted of sexual assault.

  43. Ken White  •  Jun 20, 2013 @3:50 pm

    @Not Claude Akins:

    It's incorrect to say there was "no evidence." There was the testimony of the complaining witness. That's evidence. If you say — as Taranto seems to suggest — that it's facially very questionable to convict someone based on a he-said-she-said dispute, I am moved to ask, as I suggest in the piece, does he apply that thought even-handedly, or only to sexual assault? Some of those executed Texans were convicted on such questionable evidence — but Taranto thinks it is liberal hubris to be creeped out by applause at the executions.

  44. Not Claude Akins  •  Jun 20, 2013 @4:04 pm

    First, I was careless in stating that there is "no evidence." As you correctly state, there is the testimony of the complaining witness. There is also, however, the testimony of other passengers in the car, which corroborates the account of the defendant. In such an ambiguous case, how can you hand down a guilty verdict? I'm not familiar with the standards of a court-martial, but that certainly doesn't rise to the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt." Taranto infers that he was found guilty because of a prima facie assumption that, as a male, he is prone to aggression, especially sexual aggression. Now, his evidence for that is circumstantial, but it's also not germane to our own small disagreement.

    I have neither the desire nor the ability to speak for Taranto, but my reading of his death penalty comments differs from your own. The only thing I get out of that is an implied defense of the right of voters or their elected representatives to institute the death penalty. Further, Taranto takes several specific commentators to task for specific comments. The issue of guilt or innocence is never raised, either by Taranto or by the pundits he cites. In fact, all of his examples are of left-wing writers suggesting that the GOP crowd was OK with "torture, execution, and death." Taranto, rightly, in my view, draws a distinction between a legally applied penalty of death and the wanton administration of pain or slaughter or what have you. Again, none of the objections to Rick Perry or the debate audience addressed by Taranto mention guilt or innocence; they merely imply that those who applauded were gore-soaked barbarians. Whatever you think of the death penalty, and I am against it, likely for many of the same reasons you are, it's sophistry to conflate arbitrary violence with state-sanctioned capital punishment. The legal reasons for this are obvious, and I think the moral case rests on the concept of desert. I think only a religious code could morally equate John Wayne Gacy's acts of murder, and his being murdered by the state in retaliation for said acts.

  45. TheOtherMatt  •  Jun 21, 2013 @12:23 am

    Well the NYS constitution is rather paranoid about due process. A fact which I am proud of (now if we could have it enforced in Bloombergsvile) So why wouldn't we extend more protection than Federal Courts. States Rights and all that

  46. marque2  •  Jun 23, 2013 @10:43 am

    Seems like Taranto got a military legal person directly involved with the case to explain how military court is nothing like civilian courts in his Friday column. You would do well to read it before making your own misinformed comments about the subject. Score 1 Taranto 0 White.

  47. A6  •  Jun 23, 2013 @11:09 am

    Defense lawyers also come to the depressing conclusion that–except rarely, when it suits the prosecutor's political narrative–his clients are overwhelmingly likely to be guilty. Their day-to-day work is getting criminals off.

    The toll in subsequent crimes committed against innocents hardly bears thinking about.

    They deal with this by:
    (1) Denial or changing the subject.
    (2) Recasting themselves in their own minds as defenders of the constitutional rights of all of us.
    (3) Transparent excuses along the lines of "I play my role in a system" that we–that they themselves–would never accept from anyone else. (I note that the Nazis were fond of this one.)

    All this is without prejudice to the fact that, occasionally, some defense lawyers do incidentally protect people other than criminals from overweening government. The rise of the police state *should* make this more frequent, although a historical glance at police states suggest that it does not.

    (I use "police state" to mean a state in which the police organs–the IRS, for example–are used to suppress the government's political opposition.)

  48. Ken White  •  Jun 23, 2013 @12:35 pm

    All this is without prejudice to the fact that, occasionally, some defense lawyers do incidentally protect people other than criminals from overweening government. The rise of the police state *should* make this more frequent, although a historical glance at police states suggest that it does not.

    (I use "police state" to mean a state in which the police organs–the IRS, for example–are used to suppress the government's political opposition.)

    I appreciate your forthrightness in criticizing a piece about politically-convenient-interest-in-rights-of-the-accused by articulating a clear sentiment of politically-convenient-interest-in-rights-of-the-accused.

  49. twency  •  Jun 24, 2013 @9:52 am

    ChrisTS, I have to assume you haven't actually read the Taranto piece when you claim "Basically, he says you cannot control yourselves (and, therefore should be off the hook).". That's not even remotely what it says.

  50. John Rehwinkel  •  Jun 24, 2013 @8:28 pm

    I sat as a juror on a case with an unpopular defendant. And, sure enough, while deliberating, when we suggested finding them innocent, someone whined "but we don't like them!" This was my time to shine. Were it a TV show, patriotic music would swell and the camera would zoom in on me. "This is not a popularity contest," I intoned grandly, "this is a court of law." Happily, justice was indeed served and the annoying but innocent people were found innocent. Although we did have one misguided soul who asked "Can we find them innocent, and levy a fine?" No, idiot. You can't.

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