Media Coverage

It will be interesting to see how things turn out for Rupert Murdoch

It will be interesting to see how things play out for Rupert Murdoch. Not off to a good start…
#NewsCorp #WireTap
http://ow.ly/5Ia9M

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Mosque debate shows our true colors

The proposed construction of a Muslim community center with a mosque in lower Manhattan near Ground Zero has given birth to a stunning amount of controversy. The furious debate over whether a building that houses the same religion as those who murdered almost 3,000 Americans a few blocks away is surprising and reveals a disturbing downturn in the mood of our country and a weakening of our core values.

America is a symbol of religious and political tolerance and this attack on the Mosque, which amounts to an attack on Muslims everywhere in America, undermines those ideals. “Yes – the 4th amendment guarantees your right to worship freely, but just not here, not at this time.” It doesn’t work like that. Let’s ignore the fact that the constitution clearly favors those who want to build the mosque. Those against the construction of the mosque cite the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, but that’s simply camouflage hiding a sentiment that has invaded a large part of the American psyche: our fear of people who are different. Exemplified by recent Arizona legislation, among other things, this irrational mindset is threatening to undo all the moral progress this country has made, and is so worldly renown for.

Keeping a Muslim facility away from Ground Zero because of the events of 9/11 is an irrational act of scapegoating. We can’t associate all who practice Islam with the actions of the 9/11 hijackers, just as we can’t associate the work of the Nazis with the entirety of ethnic Germany.  It seems the debate boils down to the vague sense that having Muslim buildings and motifs near Ground Zero is an unpleasant reminder of terrorism and the horrible events of that day. But this outburst of religious intolerance and a broad generalization of the character of a few to the character of the whole are exactly what brought about the anger that fueled the 9/11 attack in the first place.  We need to teach tolerance by being tolerant, and trust the law. Compromise is frustrating, but if we are to truly embrace the ideals by which this country was built on and by which the 4th amendment was written, the debate over the mosque should end now.

Huckabee Liberal Minded?

Under intense criticism by bloggers and political opponents for granting clemency to suspected cop killer Maurice Clemmons, I think it’s time to defend former Gov. Huckabee for a courageous decision.  Clemmons  had served 11 years in prison after being sentenced at the age of 18 to 60 years in prison for burglary and theft and was set to serve the 60 years, in addition to the 48 years he was already serving on five felony counts.   Huckabee made these comments are noted in Prof. Berman’s blog

Huckabee defended his choice to grant the Arkansas felon clemency by insisting that Clemmons original sentence went too far. “If he were a white kid from an upper middle class family he would have gotten a lawyer and some counseling,” Huckabee said. “But because he was a young black kid he got 108 years.” Huckabee said the sentence was “far disproportionate from any other punishment in Arkansas at the time for a similar crime.”

“It’s a lot easier to be a pundit or a commentator or a blogger than to govern the state and have to make tough decisions,” he said. “People are talking about this from a political standpoint, but what they need to be asking is how did the system break down?”

So is Huckabee a closet liberal or just a man of conviction that sees the broken and often racist criminal justice system in this country for what it really is?  I noticed that this clemency grant generated little notice when it was originally ordered.

The Race To Incarcerate Continues

This National Journal article has me saddened that after literally decades of evidence that massive incarceration does not work – i.e., promote safety or advance the general welfare.  After noting that the Supreme Court just heard arguments on the “cruelty” under the 8th Amendmental of locking up juveniles for life in non-capital cases, our lust for prisons continues:

That is our criminal-justice system’s incarceration of a staggering 2.3 million people, about half of them for nonviolent crimes, including most of the 500,000 locked up for drug offenses.

Forty percent of these prisoners are black, 20 percent are Hispanic, and most are poor and uneducated. This has had a devastating impact on poor black families and neighborhoods, where it has become the norm for young men — many of them fathers — to spend time in prison and emerge bitter, unemployable, and unmarriageable. (These numbers come from studies cited by Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a reform group.)

America imprisons seven times as many people as it did in 1972, several times as many per capita as other Western nations, and many more than any other nation in the world.

Prison for OWIs not the answer

Apparently the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has been purchased by the Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers. For the last two weeks, the state’s largest newspaper has run a series of very long articles detailing the tragedy of drunk driving – especially the loss of life. The articles reviewed Milwaukee County criminal convictions for 5th offense operating while intoxicated from 1999 through 2006, resulting in a detailed analysis of 161 cases.

Just 70 defendants, or 43%, went to prison, receiving an average sentence of 18 months. Seventeen of those had an opportunity to shave substantial time off their sentences by completing boot camp or a treatment program. At least one defendant got out early after petitioning the judge. More defendants were sentenced to probation than prison. Although 70 of the 71 who got probation terms served between three and 12 months in the Milwaukee County House of Correction, about half were allowed to spend their days in the community on work release. Twenty more defendants received jail sentences, 11 with work-release privileges. The blood-alcohol level of a drunken driver was consistently cited as an aggravating factor by sentencing judges. And while the analysis showed that defendants with higher blood-alcohol levels were sent to prison more often, there was no clear relationship between blood-alcohol level and sentence length. For example, among the 16 offenders who were sentenced to 18 months in prison, blood-alcohol levels ranged from 0.10 to a potentially poisonous 0.41.

The entire drift of the article was that Milwaukee judges are softies on repeat drunk drivers and that if we can only toughen the law and penalties we will solve this problem. This is same MADD line that has been floated since that group was formed in the 1980’s. Back then, the most a 5th offense drunk driver could get was 1 year and that was usually with work release. Now it is a felony punishable by up to 6 years in prison – not jail.

The talk now is to make even 3rd and 4th offenses felonies, begin “sobriety checkpoints,” seize more vehicles, and make the 1st offense criminal (it is currently a civil offense for which you cannot get jail).

What is left unsaid here is that it is our culture of drinking that leads to drunk driving and increasing penalties will do nothing to curb that. The increasing criminalization of human behavior has proven time and again to be a failed construct. We have seen it in the atrocious War on Drugs where we have imprisoned literally millions of our citizens – most of whom are nonviolent addicts. It is this same failed mentality that has taken hold in the War on Drunk Driving that is currently being waged.

Many policy makers have finally recognized that drug addicts (offenders) need treatment. A wise and valuable program in Milwaukee has been instituted to divert drug offenders into treatment and out of the criminal justice system. That system is already strained to the breaking point.

I would propose that a similar program be created for drunk drivers. The advantages are obvious – alcoholism is the same addiction as with drug use. Why wouldn’t we use the same treatment logic with drunk drivers?

John A. Birdsall, Attorney at Law
Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Suite 214
Milwaukee, WI 53203
414-831-5468 – Fax
414-831-5465 – Telephone
800-257-4799 – Toll Free
www.birdsall-law.com

Proving a crime is a real “burden”!

Two cases currently being given an inordinate amount of hysterical media attention demonstrate how the public can have a twisted view of justice in America. More importantly, they are left with the impression that the cops always get it right and ignore the vast number of wrongfully convicted people in this country.

OJ is at it again! Or is he? Was he set up? Even some commentators think so as discussed on CNN InSession BLOGs. The hysterical reaction to OJ over the years is explicitly played out here. After his arrest for trying to get his own property back, who were the first to be interviewed? The Goldman’s!! How’s that for getting a fair shake? The actual evidence – available for those who care to look – shows a judge who let in tapes secretly recorded that even the FBI expert admitted could have been altered, the witness who did the taping selling them to a gossip website (TMZ) BEFORE he gave them to the police and then writing a book well before the trial and the arresting cop admitting that he normally arrests people before making a complete investigation! There is little doubt that OJ was trying to get his stuff back himself (without the police) to avoid any proceeds from going to pay the $33 million dollar judgment against him, but that does not mean he knew that a gun was brought to the party. His rat/snitch friends know that but will say anything after the frantic rush to cut deals with the government.

On the other side of the country, a young woman is being crucified daily in the press. Casey Anthony reported her daughter Caylee missing in July – a month after she went missing. Since then, she has been vilified as “unstable,” “perplexed” and that she had long ago tried to give Caylee up for adoption. The authorities then claim to have found Caylee’s hair, an “odor” and “stains” (which can only be seen with a black light) in the trunk of Casey’s car. There is reportedly evidence of a “decomposing body” and traces of choloform. Never, however, have any of these supposed scientific tests been confirmed. I have seen countless instances where DNA and fingerprint “evidence” has been debunked because of faulty sample collection, messy lab work or flat-out corrupt technicians. But the media plays it like undoubted fact and then engages in salacious smears to paint this woman in the most evil light possible. Enough already!!! Can’t the media allow the process to work without poisoning the jury pool before someone has a chance to defend themselves. The paper thin case they are trying to build reminds one of the Manhattan Beach sex abuse case (day care worker acquitted of molesting hundred’s of preschool children) or the Duke LaCrosse case (where the DA was ultimately disbarred for abusing his position by manipulating the stripper “victims” of a claimed sexual assault).

Trying someone in the press is not what this country, or a criminal justice system, is about. It turns into entertainment for those that can’t get enough of Britney, Paris and Lindsay. If anyone has any doubt about the need for an experience and aggressive defense lawyer, these cases ar explicit examples of that need.

John A. Birdsall, Attorney at Law
Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Suite 214
Milwaukee, WI 53203
414-831-5468 – Fax
414-831-5465 – Telephone
800-257-4799 – Toll Free
www.birdsall-law.com

Dangers of Hysteria

john-on-channel-4-for-blog1

Here is yours truly appealing to the media and public to lay off my client whowas the victim of false accusations and hysteria by both the media and witnesses.

He was a youth coach of many sports and beloved by both his players and their parents. During football season, he was coaching a rec league team when his son (age 12) was hit by a larger, older (age 13) player from his own team during a scrimmage with an illegal “chop block.” This is a hit from behind that is very dangerous and often, as here, results in serious injury. While is son was writhing on the ground, and the other boy (who had done this before to others and was warned about it) was laughing about it, my now angry client rushed to attend to his son. In his way was the other boy who he pushed aside and injured him. Both boys went to the hospital but the attacker was back practicing the next day. My client’s son was out for a week.

The day it happened, blanket media coverage ensued because one parent went on the news and claimed (falsely per many other witnesses – including the other coaches) that my client picked the other boy up over his head, spun him around and slammed him to the ground – WWF style. The ever hungry local media went for it in a big way and the false story stuck. Ultimately, despite all evidence to the contrary, he was forced to plead to battery and was sentenced to 24 days jail. He felt he had no choice because the coverage was literally ruining his life – he was threatened at home, his children were harrassed at school and he lost 2 jobs. He was also banned from ALL coaching and even attending school events his own children were involved in! There is no doubt that had the media circus not ensued, none of this would have occured.

The real message here? If you are caught up in the passion of a media storm….the “witnesses” who make it onto the news are more important than the supposedly calmer, rationale court process. I did my best to blunt this affect but the public’s limited attention span is going to believe the first thing they hear and inquire no farther….DA’s and court’s, ever mindful of news coverage of their actions, are undoubtedly influenced by this. It’s a steep hill I hope no readers of this blog ever needs to climb!

Read the story on WTMJ 4’s website here.

John A. Birdsall, Attorney at Law
Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Suite 214
Milwaukee, WI 53203
414-831-5468 – Fax
414-831-5465 – Telephone
800-257-4799 – Toll Free
www.birdsall-law.com