Won’t you stand by me?

July 9th, 2015

There’s a story I read a while back about Jim Bowie. He’d gotten into a spot of trouble; after he got out of it, he asked one of his friends why that friend hadn’t stood up for him.

The friend told Bowie, “Well, Jim, you were in the wrong on this.”

And Bowie said, “Hell, that’s when a man needs his friends the most, when he’s wrong.”

What brings this to mind?

  1. “Cosby is just the latest in a long line of public figures on whom Goldberg has shone her light of forgiveness. In 2007 — on her first day on “The View” — she defended football star Michael Vick after he pleaded guilty to dogfighting charges.”
  2. “The line between business and friendship had always been blurred with Cosby and the Ali family. The star has never invested and has no ownership in Ben’s, family members have told me, and the family has never paid Cosby for his appearances at ribbon-cuttings, anniversaries and the like. Perhaps more to the point, I’ve heard this expressed by family members over the years: Cosby stood by them and helped them during their darkest hours. Theirs is a relationship not based on a business contract, with its need for legal obligations and remedies, but on a friendship that dates back more than 50 years.”

Notes from the legal beat: July 9, 2015.

July 9th, 2015

It’s Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save your job as police commissioner.

I’ve been sort of generally following the whole “illegal alien shoots woman on a pier” story, and there’s something I’m wondering about. Set aside for the moment the whole “five-time deportee” thing. Ignore the “gun belonged to a federal agent” thing.

The guy claims he was shooting at sea lions. So? Well, aren’t sea lions generally out to sea? Or at least in the water? Like at a 90 degree angle to the actual pier? Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly 90 degrees; it could be 45 or 30. But my point is, the sea lions would be in the water; you’d have to swing the muzzle pretty far around to “accidentally” shoot someone on the pier. Then again, your average drug addict is probably not exactly well known for muzzle discipline.

(Edited to add: Mike the Musicologist informs me that they guy has changed his story: “the gun went off accidentally”. Three times.)

(Hattip to Tam on the shirts. I’m planning to order one soon.)

I’ve written previously about Kelly Siegler, the former Harris County prosecutor (famous for re-enacting a stabbing during a murder trial) who helped get Anthony Graves off of death row and Charles Sebesta disbarred for hiding exculpatory evidence. I’ve never met Ms. Siegler, but I’d like to: I have enormous respect for her role in the Graves/Sebesta case, and she’s another person that I’d enjoy having some good barbecue and a large orange with.

So this makes me a sad panda, but honesty requires me to note it:

A Beaumont judge who decided that David Mark Temple deserves a new trial in the 1999 slaying of his pregnant wife cited 36 instances of prosecutorial misconduct in his ruling, most of which are tied to legendary former Harris County prosecutor Kelly Siegler.

“Of enormous significance was the prosecutor’s testimony at the habeas hearing that apparently favorable evidence did not need to be disclosed if the state did not believe it was true,” Gist wrote.

For example, the judge noted, Siegler specifically called only a small number of the many investigators who worked the case to testify in the trial. By doing this, the prosecutor would not have to give the defense team any reports from the investigators who did not testify.

This does raise a question in my mind (and please remember that I Am Not A Lawyer): is the prosecution required to disclose all evidence, even evidence that they don’t believe to be true? Or that is clearly not true?

The “don’t believe to be true” is kind of slippery; I’d tend to think that simple “don’t believe it” isn’t enough to bar disclosure. But let us say that the DA investigator is interviewing someone who claims to be a witness to the murder. And let’s say that witness has spent the past 30 years marinating every one of his brain cells in pruno, Sterno, Thunderbird, and anything else he can get his hands on. And let’s say the witness tells the investigator, “Yes, I saw that man stab the victim. And then the UFO came down with a bunch of little green men, and the guy with the knife climbed on board the UFO, and then it took off again.” Is the prosecution required to give that statement to the defense?

(And, if they did, would any defense attorney actually use that statement in court?)

Obit watch: July 8, 2015.

July 8th, 2015

Author John Maxtone-Graham.

Safe Return Doubtful: The Heroic Age of Polar Exploration is the book that sparked my ongoing interest in polar exploration.

Noted:

Mr. Maxtone-Graham married Katrina Kanzler in 1955; they later divorced. Survivors include their daughters, Sarah Francois-Poncet and Emily Maxtone-Graham; their sons, Ian, a longtime writer and producer for “The Simpsons,” and Guy, also a television and film comedy writer who worked on “Beavis and Butt-head”; two grandchildren; and a twin brother, Michael.

And:

He also claimed a more unorthodox cultural credit: an appearance as a lecturer on the fictional Royal Valhalla in Episode 505 of “The Simpsons” in 2012.

“I think we need to kill more people. … I think the death penalty should be used more often.”

July 8th, 2015

That quote is from Dale Cox, acting district attorney of Caddo Parish, Louisiana.

There’s an interesting profile of Mr. Cox in today’s NYT. I’ve observed before that my feelings about the death penalty are complicated, but ultimately I believe some people deserve to die at the hands of the state. With that said, there are some things in the NYT article that I think are worth highlighting.

Even on a national level Caddo stands apart. From 2010 to 2014, more people were sentenced to death per capita here than in any other county in the United States, among counties with four or more death sentences in that time period.

“Retribution is a valid societal interest,” Mr. Cox said on a recent afternoon, in a manner as calm and considered as the hypothetical he would propose was macabre. “What kind of society would say that it’s O.K. to kill babies and eat them, and in fact we can have parties where we kill them and eat them, and you’re not going to forfeit your life for that? If you’ve gotten to that point, you’re no longer a society.”

“Hey, Bob. Wanna bring the missus over tonight for a baby eating party? Great. Yeah, have Marlene bring her potato salad.”

Mr. Cox later clarified that he had not seen any case involving cannibalism, though he described it as the next logical step given what he at several points called an “increase in savagery.”

He describes this as a natural result of exposure to so many heinous crimes, saying that “the nature of the work is so serious that there’d be something wrong if it didn’t change you.” He went on to describe violent child abuse, murders and dismemberments in extended detail, pointing to a box on his desk that he said contained autopsy photographs of an infant who was beaten to death. He volunteered that he took medication for depression.

“The courts always say, ‘Evolving standards of decency tell us we can’t do this or that,’ ” he said in an interview at his office, where he had been considering whether to seek death in one case and preparing to seek it in two others. “My empirical experience tells me it’s not evolving decently. We’ve become a jungle.”

And here’s an interesting little bit of trivia:

…an incident in 2012, when two senior assistant district attorneys, both of whom continue to prosecute capital cases elsewhere in the state, were forced to resign from the office after they obtained machine guns from a military surplus program through what an inspector general found to be falsified applications. The men had belonged to a group of prosecutors who participated in firearms exercises as part of a unit known as the Caddo Parish Zombie Response Team, sporting arm patches around the office and specialty license plates on their trucks.

Reading that, I’m wondering if these were actual “machine guns”, or NYT defined “machine guns”. And I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: we’ve gone past peak zombie.

Wings clipped.

July 3rd, 2015

The St. Louis Cardinals fired director of scouting Chris Correa yesterday.

Why do I bring this up? Granted, it is sportsfirings.com, but I don’t cover every minor executive firing.

But this is special. Correa is apparently the team’s first sacrifice in the great hacking scandal.

St. Louis attorney Jim Martin, a former federal prosecutor who is conducting the Cardinals’ internal investigation, declined to say if Correa’s dismissal was linked to the FBI case.
However, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Correa acknowledged breaking into the database to determine whether the Astros had stolen proprietary data from the Cardinals.

If he actually did admit “breaking into the database”, I think being fired is probably the least of his problems…

Quotes of the day.

July 3rd, 2015
  1. “This isn’t the Grateful Dead,” Mr. Mande said of the current arrangement. “It’s just a huge, pathetic money grab.”
  2. The band’s universe “was never as clean and sweet, high-minded or hippie-dippy as it was thought to be,” he said. “It’s always been way more complicated and materialistic than that.”

(Obligatory.)

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#21 in a series)

July 1st, 2015

“…Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.”

Yes, I am chortling.

Indicted former California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee will soon be convicted former California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee.

Former California state Sen. Leland Yee pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering in federal court Wednesday, admitting that he “knowingly and intentionally agreed with another person” to take part in a criminal enterprise and commit at least two offenses and affect state commerce.

More from the SFChron:

In return for the payments, which totaled $34,600, Yee said in his plea agreement that he promised to vote for legislation his donors favored, recommend a software company for a state contract, arrange a meeting with another state senator over legislation, and illegally import firearms, including automatic weapons, from the Philippines. He said the transactions covered a period between October 2012 and March 2014, when he was planning his campaign for California secretary of state.

You may recall that Yee was a gun control advocate, and was honored by the Brady bunch.

Also pleading guilty to racketeering were Keith Jackson, a former San Francisco school board president who served as a consultant and fundraiser for Yee, Jackson’s son, Brandon, and sports agent Marlon Sullivan.

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

The racketeering charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

This appears to be the Federal statutory maximum sentence. As we all should know by now, this figure is misleading. But:

Yee’s plea agreement, as described in court, did not include a recommended sentence. But the agreement for Keith Jackson, who admitted the same charge, specified that prosecutors could seek a maximum of 10 years in prison, and the defense could request a minimum of six years.

And the judge can ignore those requests and recommendations.

The important question: what of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow? Still awaiting trial, but the judge “asked prosecutors to include Chow, who is still in custody, in the next group scheduled for trial.”

Related question that you may have been wondering about: does the plea deal mean that Yee is going to roll on Chow? I can’t deny it: I love using the phrase “Yee is going to roll on Chow”. But:

The plea agreements do not require any of the four defendants to testify or cooperate with the prosecution, said Brandon Jackson’s lawyer, Tony Tamburello. Both Brandon Jackson and Sullivan pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy involving the Ghee Kung Tong.

The Ghee Kung Tong was Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow’s organization, which is described as “…as a racketeering enterprise that trafficked in drugs, weapons and stolen goods” in the Federal charges against Chow.

Edited to add: Thanks to Ken at Popehat for linking to convicted former California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee’s plea agreement. I apparently can’t copy or paste stuff from the plea agreement PDF, so I’ll just note that Yee specifically admits to the gun running charges in his plea.

Have you ever said to yourself…

June 29th, 2015

…”Self, I wonder what it’s like to take photos with a three foot long, 36 pound, $180,000, 1,200mm camera lens?”

Don’t even think about taking a selfie. It will not focus on anything closer than about 46 feet.

I wish this had been a better article. It really doesn’t talk as much about the actual process of shooting with the lens as I’d like, and I’m not all that impressed with two out of three of the photos. But I still think it’s worth linking, even if it doesn’t push all of my photo geek buttons.

(Also, this is a used lens. For the record, and because I’m a Nikon guy, here’s their “equivalent” lens.)

Obit watch: June 29, 2015.

June 29th, 2015

Chris Squire, bass player for Yes. A/V Club.

Walter Shawn Browne, noted chess grandmaster.

Mr. Browne’s competitiveness extended beyond chess. “I can beat 97 out of 100 experts in Scrabble, 98 of 100 in backgammon and 99.9 of 100 in poker,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1976. “At hi-lo, table-limit poker, I’m the best in the world.”

Finally, Red Mascara. Mr. Mascara wrote a song, “I’m From New Jersey” in 1960 and spent the next 55 years on a quixotic quest to have it made the official state song.

He came closest to his goal in 1972, when the Legislature passed a bill recognizing “I’m From New Jersey” as the official state song. Mr. Mascara had hired a band to play it from the gallery of the Assembly chamber. But Gov. William Cahill vetoed it, telling reporters that the only thing worse than that song was hearing Mr. Mascara sing it.

After action report: Spokane, WA.

June 27th, 2015

The Smith and Wesson Collector’s Association annual symposium was in Spokane this year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Quick random thoughts.

June 26th, 2015

1.

Bob Willett, a Malone resident, also called 911 Friday afternoon when he found an opened bottle of grape-flavored gin on the kitchen table at his cabin, his cousin, Mitch Johnson, told CNN.

For me, the most amazing part of this breaking story is: grape-flavored gin exists? Because that just sounds god-awful, and I say that as someone who likes regular gin.

2. Apropos of nothing in particular (no, really), I’m thinking I’d like to own a Spiro Agnew watch. But it would have to be one that works: I’m not going to wear a broken wristwatch.

Random notes: June 26, 2015.

June 26th, 2015

Obit watches: Patrick Macnee. A/V Club. LAT.

Phil “Nick Danger” Austin, founding member of the Firesign Theater, passed away on the 18th, but the paper of record just got around to running his obit.

Shepard Fairey has been charged with two counts of “malicious destruction of property” for tagging buildings in Detroit.

The police say he tagged as many as 14 buildings with his signature images, which include the face of Andre the Giant. Nine of the building or business owners were interested in pressing charges.

Two things from the WP that kind of tickled my fancy:

1. How much water do California pot growers use? The answer is: well, that’s hard to quantify, for obvious reasons. But a group of researchers have made an attempt to come up with a number, and their estimate is that pot growing uses about the same amount of water as almond growing.

2. Don’t let your pet goldfish loose in the nearest pond, because they will become gianormous and screw up the ecosystem.

(Do I need a “Fish” category?)