Archive for January 2007

D: The Person Who Put This Sticker On Their Car

January 31, 2007

Having heard rumors of these things for weeks, I just saw for the first time the newest version of what has got to be the all time most annoying bumper sticker: “S. The Coach.”

Good heavens, folks, enough is enough already! I’ll grant that the original “W. The President” was a cool idea. But it jumped the shark years ago. Around here we’ve already had “C. The River.”  While in Louisiana over the holidays, I swear to you I saw “K. The Governor.” Now it’s “S. The Coach.”

The only one of these I ever considered for my car was “F. The President.” I liked that one not so much because I disliked the president, but because I thought it was the perfect rejoinder to the ridiculous pretentiousness of the original. W, the Wife, though – who is usually very tolerant of my potty mouth and general lack of decorum – planted her foot firmly on the ground over that one. But even if she had caved, I think by now I would have taken it off the car. No matter what the initial, every one of those stickers says one thing: The owner of this car is a Dork.


Better Late Than Never, I Guess

January 31, 2007

Woulda been nice to hear him say this before he lost the last election, but hey:

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, who fought to keep his seat in what is considered one of the most expensive judicial campaigns in the country, said Tuesday that he does not favor electing judges.

“There is no perfect system for the selection of judges,” Nabers told the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club at a lunch meeting. “The rule of law is critical, and elections don’t help the public respect of the judges who keep the rule of law.”

I, as regular readers know, agree, even if it does sound like sour grapes from Nabers at this point.

Also, on public service in general, Nabers went on to say:

The lunch speech was his first public statement since leaving office earlier this month. He said retirement takes getting used to.

Nabers, 66, wouldn’t rule out the possibility of working again.

“Hopefully, opportunities to serve will come my way again,” he said after the meeting.

Anyone else out there think “Nabers For Attorney General” is a great idea?

Indigent Defense In Capital Cases

January 30, 2007

The Tuscaloosa News has had two recent articles (here, and here) discussing Alabama’s death penalty system. They don’t say anything new, really, but are worth emphasizing.

Basically, both articles discuss the inadequate manner in which Alabama provides defense attorneys in capital cases and the ways in which that problem is exasperated by the manner in which Alabama appoints lawyers for appeals.

The first thing to get straight is that if there is a systematic failure to provide adequate attorneys, that would be a major problem. Our legal system is adversarial. We trust that if both sides have an equal opportunity to argue their case that the truth will be the result. But if one side is somehow prevented from adequately presenting its case, then the system won’t work properly. The decision-maker (the jury) will only hear one side of the story. Maybe that side was the right one, maybe not, no-one will ever know because no-one ever heard the other side. The important thing is to make sure that both sides are fully and vigorously presented.

So the question becomes whether or not Alabama has failed to ensure that the defense’s side is adequately presented. That seems to be the common wisdom, and my experience confirms it. We’ve handled several post-conviction cases where trial counsel was obviously unprepared.

That is not to say the attorneys were bad attorneys. They may have been excellent attorneys. But trying a capital case requires an enormous amount of resources. The attorney has to be an obstructionist; she has to raise every possible argument against every move by the state. At the same time, the defense attorney needs to know everything about the client, and also needs to know the significance for trial of everything about the client. That requires investigations and experts. It is very expensive to properly try a capital case.  

Alabama, though, pays defense counsel forty dollars an hour for out of court work and sixty dollars an hour for in court work. As for experts, you’ve got to go beg the judge for extra funds. In order to adequately defend the capital case, the attorney needs to dedicate a huge portion of his time to it, and at those rates, that just is not possible. The result is cut-rate defenses.  

I do not think the solution is better pay. Rather, it would be to establish a centralized group whose only job is defending capital cases. Then the attorneys will not only have the expertise to properly defend, but they will have all the time and resources they need to carry out that defense. They won’t have to worry about bringing in enough money to pay for secretaries, and electricity, and still put food on their tables.

The Tuscaloosa News has another article discussing how this type of program has worked in Georgia:

Firefighters pulled four charred bodies out of the wood clapboard flophouse on Troup Street in/sValdosta, Ga., after a white-hot blaze in October 2005 melted windows up and down the block and left the house a smoldering heap.

Within hours, Cynthia Allen was arrested for setting the fire and thrown in jail.

Georgia prosecutors soon will present a jury with a simple argument: She did it. She must die.

It would be an easy case if it weren’t for Boyd Young and his colleagues. They intend to make the jury’s choice — life or death — much more difficult.

As Allen’s lawyers, they’ve spent months combing through the wreckage of her life, trying to follow clues that might demystify her behavior.

What explains the vacant look in Allen’s eyes, and her tendency to answer the simplest questions with rambling incoherence? Is there more to the stories in Valdosta/sthat cast Allen as an aggrieved tenant of the flophouse and a constant target of violent physical and mental abuse?

These hints point toward a dreadful existence for Allen, stretching as far back as her childhood in a dangerous New Orleans housing project.

Chasing down those clues is taking Young and his colleagues on an arduous and emotional journey through a world thick with poverty, dysfunction and tragedy.

They’ve essentially become Allen’s biographers, documenting every important facet of her life and preparing to explain it — and why it matters — to a jury.

This is how they’ll defend her, because it’s the only choice they have.

“Cynthia is just not somebody who belongs on death row, not even close,” Young said. “That’s what we’ve got to prove.”

This is the new face of capital defense in Georgia.

Allen’s lawyers work for the Office of the Georgia Capital Defenders, a state-funded, centralized operation of well-trained lawyers and investigators who were assembled in 2005 to handle nothing but the state’s death penalty cases.

In each case, the office assigns at least two attorneys and a full-time investigator. One attorney is on staff; the other is typically a private practice lawyer from the town where the case is being tried.

They spend what’s necessary. They do what’s necessary. They work every case as if it were their only one. . . .

Their record: 23-0.

Some may object to this because it means fewer executions. There is no point arguing with a person who raises that objection.

Others may question the cost of such an office. To that, I say I do not know. The state would no longer be spending money on individual appointments. It would also save on appellate litigation, as the better representation at trial will make the appeals much less complicated. But I’m sure the expenses would exceed these savings. So the question becomes how much we are willing to spend to make sure the death penalty is fairly administered?

By fairly administered, I don’t mean simply making sure we don’t kill innocent people. I mean making sure we kill only people who are guilty and who truly deserve to die. When Alabama executes someone, that person’s blood is on all of our hands. I, for one, am willing to pay a fairly high price to make sure that blood is justified.

Troy King Does It Again

January 29, 2007

Displays his amazing ignorance for all to see, that is:

Alabama Attorney General Troy King asked Roy Johnson last year to provide money to a victims’ advocacy group while his office was investigating the state’s two-year college system, headed by Johnson as chancellor.

Miriam Shehane, executive director of Victims of Crime and Leniency, said King accompanied her to a meeting with Johnson to ask the two-year college system to provide grant money for VOCAL.

The meeting, in March 2006, came months after the attorney general’s office and federal prosecutors began investigating the two-year college system. A spokesman for King said the request was not improper because King was not asking for anything for himself.

Really? He’s comletely disinterested in VOCAL? He could not care less whether or not the group received the grant?

Than why did he bother with the request in the first place? Perhaps this statement by King’s spokesman Chris Bence might explain it:

Bence said King was happy to help Shehane because VOCAL had lost some critical funding and it was going to be a crippling [loss].

“Victims are one of his priorities, if not his top priority,” Bence said.

This is not hard: The AG cannot ask for favors from people whom his office is investigating. It reeks of bribery, extortion and just plain ‘ol corruption. Why Troy King can’t understand that is beyond me.

Random Updates

January 26, 2007

First, I’ve written a lot about the death penalty lately. (E.g., here, and here). I’m pretty wishy washy on capital punishment, but if anyone out there deserves it, it’s folks like this:

Each day, administrative law judge Elving L. Torres decides whether people are disabled enough to receive Social Security benefits.

Sometimes he puts himself in the shoes of people who appear before him: He parks his luxury import car in the handicapped spaces outside the building where he works.

A handicapped parking placard appears on the dashboard of his silver Mercedes-Benz AMG coupe. But it was issued to an 86-year-old woman from Bradenton, according to state motor vehicle records.

At least once this week, by parking in a handicapped spot, Torres, 62, may have denied a woman who uses a wheelchair and works in the same building the ability to park there. She had to park at the far end of the lot and propel herself up an incline to get to her office because there were no empty handicapped spaces.

“Shame on him,” said the woman, Raquel Fruchter, 55, who works as a program coordinator for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and has polio.

Second, the B’ham News today collects random opinions about the elevated 280. Unfortunately, none of them address my questions about the bottleneck at the Red Mountain Expressway.

And finally, Dispatches from the Culture Wars recently directed me to a site I’m sure Roy Moore will want to investigate. You will remember Roy’s New Year’s Resolution:

Each year the American Civil Liberties Union and other liberal organizations continue their efforts to destroy traditional values that we once assumed were self-evident and beyond question. And each year we sit quietly by doing nothing to stop their relentless assault on our culture and our religious heritage. As our resolution for the New Year, let us join together to defeat the ACLU’s anti-Christian agenda and restore our civil and religious freedom.

If you wanna help ‘Ol Roy out, then head on over to The ACLU Fights For Christians:

The ACLU fights just as hard for INDIVIDUAL free exercise of religion as the ACLU fights against GOVERNMENT endorsement, sponsorship, or establishment of religion. Despite this fact, many people spread misinformation about the ACLU around the internet, innocently and maliciously, falsely claiming the ACLU is anti-religion or anti-Christian.

This list of FACTS counteracts that misinformation. These links represent just a few of the many examples of the ACLU defending the free speech and free exercise rights of Christians (for purposes of this list, the word “Christian” means a person who self-identifies as “Christian”).

In every example, the ACLU is defending the right of a Christian to speak as a Christian or to practice Christianity.

Here is the current version of this EVER GROWING list:

That Roy Moore the individual has the right to put a ten commandemnts monument in his front yard, but Roy Moore the judge does not have the right to put a ten commandments monument in his courthouse, is a distinction the ACLU and every reasonable person understands. That Roy continually blurs that distinction means he’s either an idiot or incredibly dishonest.

Coloreds Only?

January 25, 2007

This is hearsay within hearsay, but I’ve now heard from two sources. First, from a commenter on my blog:

did anyone happen to hear John Rogers on the Matt Murphy radio show this afternoon during the drive time? Rogers was trying to explain why the House Black Caucus won’t allow new Rep. Patricia Todd to join the group, even though she represents a majority black district. When confronted by Murphy that his group was not about black interests or ideas but only about race, Rogers said, “Integration may have been the biggest mistake ever made.” He then went on to say that he never was so down on seperate but equal, just that he wished it could have been equal.

Second, from Flashpoint, in a post entitled “Integration is a Curse:”

Those are not my words. They are the words of Alabama state representative John Rogers, Jr. from the 52nd district – and he wasn’t talking about calculus. He also said that he is “not opposed to separate but equal.” Frankly, I would not believe it if I hadn’t heard him utter those very words with my own two ears this afternoon on the Matt Murphy Radio Program.

I picked up on the conversation with Murphy asking Rogers to explain why it was acceptable to have an exclusively black legislative caucus that refused to admit people based solely on the color of their skin (a topic I blogged just yesterday). Rogers’ only defense was that “those are the rules” – you must be black.

Murphy asked Rogers to explain the purpose of the Alabama Black Legislative Caucus (ABLC), to which Rogers replied that it existed to promote the causes of the black community. If that really is the case, then why wouldn’t Patricia Todd, a white woman who represents Alabama’s heavily black 54th district, be allowed to join the ABLC? Certainly she could better serve her constituents by caucusing with others who share similar legislative agendas. Rogers said no way because she is not black. . . .

That is when Rogers said that “integration” was “a curse.” He went on to say that he was “not opposed to separate but equal” laws and that blacks were (would be?) better off under that system. Murphy paused the conversation out of sheer surprise and asked Rogers to reiterate his assertions, which he did.

If this is accurate, Rogers need look no further than the mirror the next time he wonders why black people have not achieved greater success in this country.

I can understand the argument for a blacks only caucus. Our historical treatment of blacks certainly would help create, and justify, a strong group identity, and there is power in numbers, after all. Not saying I agree with the continued existence of such groups, or that excluding Patricia Todd is a good idea, but I can understand the basic idea.

But to say blacks were better under segregation? Holy historical revisionism batman. That’s just incomprehensibly idiotic. Why don’t we ask Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee whether or not blacks have it better now, or under segregation? Oh, wait, they’re dead, having been beaten, chained to an engine block, and tossed alive into the Mississippi river, because that’s what happened to blacks who tried to organize themselves back in what Rogers now calls the good ‘ol days. If John Rogers really thinks blacks had it better during segregation, than John Rogers is a damn fool.

Troy King Thinks Roy Moore Is Political Poison

January 24, 2007

Jeff has already highlighted this story, but I wanted to add some thoughts.

Basically, Troy King’s office is prosecuting a political consultant named Rick Spina because, prior to the last election, Spina allegedly took out an ad in the B’Ham news that included false and damaging information about Jim Carns, a candidate for the JeffCo commission.

Spina is accused of violating Code Section 17-5-6:

It shall be unlawful for any person fraudulently to misrepresent himself or herself, or any other person or organization with which he or she is affiliated, as speaking or writing or otherwise acting for or on behalf of any candidate, principal campaign committee, political action committee, or political party, or agent or employee thereof, in a manner which is damaging or is intended to be damaging to such other candidate, principal campaign committee, political action committee, or political party.

Right. In other words, what the statute is trying to prohibit is person A taking out an ad without authorization from candidate B, but that says something like: “I’m candidate B, and I hump donkeys.”

The paper sums up the charges against Spina as follows:

[Spina allegedly] Intentionally misrepresented that he or an organization with which he was affiliated spoke on behalf of Carns, and did so in a manner that was damaging to the candidate.

Now here is where this story gets really, really funny (unless you are Rick Spina, anyway). What dastardly, disgusting, humiliating, act did the ad accuse Carns of committing? What horrific, unimaginable, donkey-humping individual did the ad associate with Carns?

According to a statement issued by King, investigators found Spina was behind a fraudulent ad linking Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Carns to Roy Moore and several Supreme Court candidates. The ad was published May 31 in The Birmingham News while Carns was a member of the Alabama House but was running for election to the county commission.

Carns defeated his opponent in the November general election. Before election results were tallied, though, Carns said the ad had hurt his campaign. . . .

The May 31 ad copy read, “Vote for our slate,” and included pictures of the former Chief Justice Moore, and several candidates for chief justice, associate justice and lieutenant governor.

Do you get it? Not only is Troy King essentially saying that linking a candidate to Roy Moore is just as bad as saying a candidate humps donkeys, but Troy King is saying it! Roy Moore is anathema even in the eyes of our Attorney General. Wow.

Man I hope this goes to trial. They have to introduce evidence that linking Moore to Carns was damaging. Someone’s got to take the stand and explain that Moore is a joke. The closing argument will have to emphasize that Moore is such a well-recognized idiot that the mere association of his name with a candidate would cause that candidate to lose. This is just too awesome. I promise you I will think of some reason to be at the courthouse that day.