Here are some of my contributions to Mimesis Law, including Fault Lines: Monitoring America’s Criminal Justice System, an experiment in criminal justice thought and writing spearheaded by Scott Greenfield, criminal defense attorney and author of the Simple Justice blog.
11 Sep 2015 – FAULT LINES – Michelle Carter, Free Speech & Shifting Perceptions of Suicide
Michelle Carter, now 18, has been charged with manslaughter for allegedly encouraging her boyfriend’s suicide plans. Massachusetts prosecutors seem unfamiliar with either the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” . . . as well as the First Amendment.
2 Sep 2015 – FAULT LINES – Texas To Cops: Get Your Fingers Out Of Women’s Bodies
Thank God that somebody finally passed a law telling police to stop sticking their fingers in vaginas and anuses on the side of the road. Because, unfortunately, we actually needed that law . . . .
27 Aug 2015 –FAULT LINES – Allison Parker Murder From The Killer’s POV
Bryce Williams live-tweeted murder . . . .
19 Aug 2015 – FAULT LINES – Ghetto or Enclave? How Perceptions of Community Influence Crime & Punishment
This week, I moved from a slick, overpriced downtown loft apartment to a tiny shotgun house in Freedmen’s Town in Houston’s Fourth Ward. The move means more than a change of address for me. It also means a subtly different point of view when looking at the complex relationship between crime, social justice, and community.
Is it scarier to see a couple of black kids leaning against a building in Freedmen’s Town than to see a pair of white teenagers on the sidewalk in Montrose?
Are black dudes smoking pot in a black neighborhood scarier than white dudes smoking pot in a white neighborhood?
Are poor people scarier than affluent people?
What makes us feel unsafe? Who makes us feel unsafe? Can we always explain why?
How often are our explanations pretense?
12 Aug 2015 – FAULT LINES – Judging Crazy: Wisconsin Struggles With Slenderman Stabbing Case
Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, the Wisconsin girls accused of stabbing a classmate last year, are a step closer to being tried as adults. In May 2014, at the age of 12, the girls allegedly lured their friend into the woods before stabbing her more than 19 times with a kitchen knife. Geyser and Weier claimed that they wanted to kill Payton Leutner in obedience to Slenderman, a fictional character from the Creepypasta horror stories.
Everyone seems to agree that the girls are, well, pretty much as crazy as you’d expect someone to be if they tried to murder a friend at the behest of a supernatural, faceless, tentacle-limbed, child-abducting dude they’d read about in internet fiction. What the girls’ advocates and the judge disagree on is what to do about all that craziness . . . .
5 Aug 2015 – FAULT LINES – Courting the Criminal Vote
This week California dropped its appeal of a decision allowing nearly 73,000 convicted felons access to the polls. Does felon disenfranchisement make sense?
29 Jul 2015 – FAULT LINES – Anybody Step Forward to Defend Bill Cosby Lately?
Bill Cosby suffers because Cliff Huxtable lingers in the public’s mind. Yet, heaping more scorn on Cosby for the roles he played is no fairer than cutting him more slack for the roles he played . . . .
22 Jul 2015 – FAULT LINES – Sandra Bland and the Irony of Jail Surveillance Cameras
The following are a few places where surveillance cameras have recorded video of me in the last day or so. At the gas pump where I refueled my car. At the counter of the convenience store where I bought a pack of cigarettes. At the Target store where I inadvertently spent too much of my paycheck.
The hallways and common areas of the law school where I work have cameras. The entrance to and common areas of my apartment building. The parking garages of both. I could go on.
So could you.
Where was there apparently not a surveillance camera recording video? In cell 95 of the Waller County Jail in Texas. Which is a shame, because that’s where jail officials found Sandra Bland’s dead body hanging by a plastic trash bag on July 13 . . . .
15 Jul 2015 – FAULT LINES – How Old Does a Homicidal Schizophrenic Person Need to Be Before Society Stops Offering Mercy . . . Or, At Least, Meaningful Treatment?
Comparing the criminal cases of Morgan Geyser, one of the Slender Man stabbing defendants, and James Holmes, the Aurora theatre shooter, might provide the answer. Or the comparison may prompt even more vexing questions . . . .
8 Jul 2015 – FAULT LINES – Mitchelle Blair and the Incomprehensible Horror of Filicide
The ancient Greeks recognized maternal filicide as the ultimate depravity, a sign of a woman gone mad, if not a woman gone wholly evil. When the playwright Euripides has Medea slaughter her children to get back at her perfidious husband Jason, the act is one of both vengeance and utter insanity. After all, by the time Medea gets around to boiling her babies, she has already poisoned Jason’s new lover. Never is a woman as crazy and broken as when she has murdered her own offspring . . . which brings us to Detroit and the case of Mitchelle Blair . . . .
1 Jul 2015 – FAULT LINES – Alito’s Payback in the “Guerrilla War” Over Executions
In Justice Alito’s majority opinion in Glossip v. Gross, the U.S. Supreme Court forced onto anti-death penalty abolitionists the consequences of guerrilla war. In war, there are casualties. In war, there is collateral damage. In war, there are strategies that backfire . . . .
24 Jun 2015 – FAULT LINES – Baby Rapists Are Bad, Still Deserve Due Process
The temptation to compromise core principles of justice and fairness is rarely as seductive as it is when considering civil commitment programs for sex offenders. Civil commitment by definition occupies a blade’s edge between criminal law and civil penalties, between what society wants and what society says it wants . . . .
18 Jun 2015 – FAULT LINES – Angola 3’s Albert Woodfox – Not Exactly The Posterboy for Reform
Solitary confinement is not always so solitary, innocence isn’t obvious, and other reasons why Albert Woodfox of the so-called Angola 3 makes a lousy symbol for what ails the criminal justice system . . . .
11 Jun 2015 – FAULT LINES – The Mess in Waco: How Prosecuting Almost 200 Bikers Crushes The System & Costs Taxpayers Big Time
When police arrested nearly 200 people after a shooting at a motorcycle rally at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas on May 17, it looked like a bad idea. When a Justice of the Peace ordered bail set for the arrested bikers at an exorbitant $1 million apiece, in blatant disregard of the criteria prescribed by Texas law for fixing bail, the situation looked considerably worse. Weeks later, as the local criminal justice system flounders, the aftermath of the Twin Peaks shooting has quickly become a legendary disaster. Whose bright idea was this anyway?
9 Jun 2015 – FAULT LINES – Leave The Gun, Take The Vibrator: The Perverse Reality Of Civil Asset Forfeiture
Civil forfeiture law allows law enforcement to seize assets it believes were involved in the commission of criminal offenses. According to Ginnifer Hency’s testimony, in her case, this evidently included household items, TVs, a ladder, phones . . . and, yes, even her vibrator . . . .
3 Jun 2015 – FAULT LINES – Sorry SCOTUS Didn’t Say What You Wanted It To Say In Elonis
Many Americans expected that before the end of this term, the Supreme Court would tell the nation just how much of a dick somebody can be on social media. After the Court released its opinion in Elonis v. United States, many may be disappointed. But here’s why what looks like the drab machinery of appellate law matters a whole hell of a lot . . . .
31 Mar 2015 – Anti-Semitic If You Do, Anti-Semitic If You Don’t: The Virginia State Bar’s Impossible Choice
Was the Virginia State Bar was right to cancel its meeting in Jerusalem? Yes. Arriving at the answer doesn’t even require a single invocation of inflammatory language. It just requires a little bit of empathy and a whole lot of pragmatism . . . .
20 Mar 2015 – Inefficient Markets Are Inefficient: What Behavioral Econ Says About Why Some Law Schools Fail
The percentage of a law school’s graduates who pass a state bar exam on the first try is a solid metric for basic law school fitness. Yet some schools perpetually lag behind on this metric, year after year. If insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results, then the faculty and administration at schools with perpetually low bar passage rates must be comfortable with failure or fucking nuts.
Unfortunately, faculty and administrators at these law schools are acting like behavioral economics predicts they will — selfish, short-sighted, and sometimes irrational. Fortunately, behavioral econ also lets us know what tweaks to the system are necessary for change . . . .
12 Mar 2015 – What Makes The Toughest Job In Big Law So Tough Has Nothing To Do With Law
A lot of what makes the job of mega-firm managing partners so tough has nothing to do with the practice of law and everything to do with high-level business management. The to-do list of today’s law firm leaders more closely resembles the duties of CEOs and COOs of corporations than those of the attorneys the managing partners lead . . . .