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Forensic fraud

If it was just a lack of knowledge, then our task would be so much easier. If it was merely a failure to live up to a standard of care, then the fix would be straightforward. However, it’s so much worse than that. What we actually have is wide-scale fraud. A deception which is firmly entrenched within forensic science.

The principle forensic deceiver doesn’t even work in a lab. The greatest con artist of them all is….you.

Who are you? You’re just like everyone else. You’re a law-abiding citizen that works hard to earn a living. You probably have high moral standards and a tremendous respect for authority. You have only the best of intentions. By almost all measures you’re good.

Then you get called for jury duty. You embrace this civic responsibility. And this is where it happens. Things change once you’re picked to hear a criminal case.

Here, in this place, faced with this task, you become unmindfully selective. You adopt an unearned imbalance in weighing what’s placed before you. Facts that should resonate now fail to even register. You hear everything, but only intermittently listen.

You’re serving what was until now an almost indiscernible need. A need to believe that we live in a world that’s just. It’s a constant craving that can’t ever really be satisfied. It turns a supposition into a hypothesis. It lives just beneath consciousness.

People get what’s coming to them.

Being put in the position to decide guilt or innocence triggers this need like few other things could. Somewhere deep inside, you know. The accused must deserve to be here. Without realization, your judgment becomes driven by this hypothesis of the world.

The moment you’re told the government’s case rests upon the results of a forensic test you feel something. It’s almost comfort. So close to comfort that any result, which merely appears to decide the accused’s fate, is good enough for you. Regardless, of what the test actually tells you. Regardless, of its quality. Regardless, of whether the results are worthy of your trust.

You don’t even need to hear the results. You already know them. You wouldn’t be here if he was innocent. Your world has to be this predictable.

Now, you’re primed.  The results will conform to – your conviction.  You will find a way to fit them in what you must believe.  Your belief that the person on trial deserves to be here. He deserves to be found guilty. The results will conform to – his conviction.

You’ll accept whatever that test results say, as long as it’s guilty. As long as, the results tell you everything you believed about the world was correct. That’s the only reality you can comprehend. It’s the only way you can get out of bed in the morning.

This process will overwrite any directions, rules or edicts given by the person wearing the black robe. No matter how loudly they’re delivered. Those types of safeguards have little value in what John Adams called “[t]e Labyrinth of human nature.”

This is your fraud. Your forensic deception. It’s hard to believe there are so many of you.

Is this you?

Most importantly, will you, let it be you?

 

 

 

 


 

The case for Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman Rebirth, #1 DC Comics


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is the world’s greatest superhero?

Batman is a great detective. The Flash is really fast. Superman can basically do anything (as long as he is not near a green rock). However, I have come to believe none of them is the greatest superhero. As a matter of fact, they’re not even close. It’s Wonder Woman.

Let me make the case. The analysis begins with defining our criteria. We don’t judge a superhero’s greatness by the color of their cape. Couture doesn’t help in the fight against evil. Nor do we judge a superhero’s greatness by their ability to throw or take a punch. A superhero must be more than a blunt instrument.

Most of us merely judge a hero’s greatness by there superpowers. That’s too simplistic of a methodology. It fails to address, what they call in algebra class, a type of confounding variable. A thing outside of a hero’s superpowers that may affect the results of their actions.

Just as important as a hero’s power is why they use them. Character is fundamental to our analysis. Not just acting beyond the call of duty. Not only putting the well being of a stranger before their own. Those are the job’s minimum requirements. I am talking about their worldview.

What value do they put on things that are essential to us everyday people? Like freedom, liberty and dignity. Do they have a moral core that guides their actions such as, in the case of Wonder Woman, “[i]t’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe.”

We should want heroes that act in the name of justice. We should want more, heroes that actually do justice.

Once we establish that a hero has the proper belief system, then we must ask a fundamental question: how well do a hero’s powers effectuate their values? Batman’s intellect, self-discipline, and fortune plainly help his quest for justice without bullets. Superman’s x-ray vision, strength and ability to fly certainly help him to win his fights for truth justice and the American way.

However, no hero’s powers better fit her values and empower them, than Wonder Woman. While Superman strives for the principles of truth and justice.  Those are actually Wonder Woman’s powers.

With her Lasso of Truth, she can ensure she always gets the person that did the crime. Unlike any other costumed hero, she has the power to compel honesty. She is a super lie detector. Unlike with any other hero, we can feel certain there are no innocent people sitting in prison because of Wonder Woman.

She has the power to get it right. What ability or power is more super than truth? Perhaps, the worst thing to happen in the name of justice is convicting an innocent person of a crime. Perhaps, preventing such a tragedy is the greatest thing. What hero can ensure this will not happen…other than Wonder Woman?

I rest my case.


 

 

 


 

By Lawkop on January 11, 2018 | Legal Storytelling, OpEd | A comment?
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Lawstruck

 

I believe…we want to believe…that our justice system protects our rights. As a matter of fact, there are times I have to believe it. We have to believe it. Of course, many times it does. That’s what makes America exceptional. Then there are the other times.

Too often the justice system appears to work against its own supposed values. However, systems don’t have values, only people do. Systems just reflect them.

We created our constitution based on beliefs we declared self-evident. However, what many of the people in-charge of the system believe, is not as self-evident as we expect. Accordingly, neither are their values.

Don’t believe me?  The proof is in their actions. Let’s take a quick look at just a few products that have recently come out the end our justice system’s production line:

The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). This decision might be the biggest gut punch to our democracy in the last century. The case is the personification of the belief corporations are people too. It holds the government can’t stop corporations from spending money to persuade voters to support a political candidate or discredit them. To reach this result, the decision redefined corruption in a way that is hardly self-evident.  I love my Iphone but I don’t think Apple (or any other corporation) was the intended recipient of First Amenmdent rights.

State of Arizona v. Voris, a decision in the State of Arizona (my home turf), which appears to completely violate the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee to the Right to Confront your accuser. This despite a United States Supreme Court case that mandates the complete opposite.

Davis v. United States, which you really have to get into the weeds to see the consequences of, is a case where the United States Supreme Court may have ended the Fourth Amendment’s protection of individual liberty as it was intended.

Reading each of these cases left me awestruck. Not in the more modern sense of the term. More in it’s old school definition: overwhelmed by reverential fear. This combination of law and awe, in the words of Colonel Nicholas Fury, well…It’s stuff like this that gives me trust issues. It’s hard to even find a word in the dictionary to described my reactions. I’m just Lawstruck.

These legal decisions are not ideological or political difference of opinions. These are the legal equivalent of determining bacon is vegetable. Believe it if you wish. Just don’t be surprised at your cholesterol levels.

At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that these are not the products of bad people. The problem is much more nuanced and and complex than just putting black cowboy hats on the authors. On the contrary, I would bet these decisions, and the so many others that follow suit, were likely authored by very well intended people. They just either can’t, or are unwilling to, see that their actions are often at odds with why we created the system in the first place.

These decisions reveal what many people in the system value most. It’s not individual rights. That’s self-evident.

What leaves you Lawstruck?

 

 

 

 

 


 

Guilt Free

No jury has ever found a person innocent. They’ve voted “not guilty”. They’ve been unable to decide guilt. But they’ve never given a verdict of “innocent.” Why would they? It’s not an option. If we want justice…it can’t be.

Before I explain, consider the following from founding father John Adams. You might remember him as our second president. You may recall his role in the Boston Massacre Trial. Perhaps you just know that his cousin has a beer named after him:

We are to look upon it as more beneficial, that many guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should suffer.

The reason is, because it’s of more importance to community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in the world, that all of them cannot be punished; and many times they happen in such a manner, that it is not of much consequence to the public, whether they are punished or not.

But when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned…the subject will exclaim, it is immaterial to me, whether I behave well or ill; for virtue itself, is no security. And if such a sentiment as this, should take place in the mind of the subject, there would be an end to all security what so ever.

~ John Adams, opening statement in the 1770 Boston Massacre trial.

These words may have been the seeds from which our justice system grew.

Adam’s embraces the inevitability that innocent people will be mistakenly charged with a crime. All governments, even well-intended ones, make such mistakes. Thus, we must protect against the inevitable.

We start by recognizing that innocence is hardly ever knowable. Almost never provable. Regardless of your methodology. To task people with determining, what is likely undeterminable, is not justice. It’s no protection for the innocent.

We also don’t ask people to determine what’s in a person’s heart. A jury is not democracy’s sorting hat. It’s intended to be more about the evidence of an event than the evidence of a person’s life. A trial is not intended as a test of moral character.

Perhaps most importantly, instead of determining innocence, we only ask people to decide guilt. To accomplish this we define it particularly. We define guilt in a courtroom differently than we do out of it. The law says a guilty verdict is only when, every juror has been convinced by the government, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the accused has broken the law.

There’s no justice without these values firmly held within its machinery. Justice requires a distinction between “not guilty” and “innocent”. When rendering a verdict people are given two choices. Innocent is not one of them. Rather, we only permit a choice between guilty or not guilty. Proven or not proven. If we depart from this, we depart from our own safety.

At least, that’s what Adams believed. At least, that’s what I believe…justice requires “many” guilty people must go free. As crazy as it might first sound, that’s the only way to protect the innocent. Otherwise, there is no value in innocence.

What do you believe?

 

 

 

 

 


 

The best bad

Lawyering sometimes requires the continuing process of making the best bad choices…to get to best good. Most of us can survive the best bad, but not its opposite.

Failure

 

Vincent Van Gogh’s Red Vineyard at Arles

A terribly effective method of avoiding success is to grade it based on a fantasy.

It’s a fantasy to think the best team always wins. It’s a fantasy to think everything, or even most things, in life are fair. It’s a fantasy to think the best performance always wins or even gets immediate gratification.

Vincent Van Gogh is considered one of the greatest artists of all time. It’s a shame no one ever told him.  As many historians report, Van Gogh only sold one painting during his life – Red Vineyard at Arles. He never knew what would be his future recognition.

There is a truth from Van Gogh’s life worth remembering.  Did Van Gogh’s work only become great after he was dead?  Of course not.  We just didn’t see it.  It was great the whole time.  I wonder what would have happened to Van Gogh if he could have seen then – what we all see in him now. 

 

 

 

 

 


The lines on the page

A good lawyer spends their time mastering the lines on the page. But the lawyer I want to hire, is the one that spends their career obsessing on what’s between them.

By Lawkop on | OpEd
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Fairness

Fairness is a complicated picture to paint.

If you put a group of people in a room, they could probably agree upon a definition of fairness.  However, it is unlikely they will all agree what fairness should look like in any given situation. Thus, when a person says they can be “fair” that doesn’t reveal much.  Other than they believe they are fair.  Don’t most of us think we are fair people?

A meaningful search for a someone that can be a fair juror requires more than obtaining their affirmation of words from case law. The investigation starts with differentiating the common definition of fairness from the requirements of “fairness” in a courtroom.  For most people, fairness includes the concept of equality. However, “fairness” to a person charged with a crime requires inequality.

Outside a courtroom, if you have to decide which of two people is telling the truth, it is unlikely that you presume one of them is innocent. It’s even more unlikely that you would require one person to prove their case beyond all reasonable doubt. That would not seem equitable.  Such favoritism certainly doesn’t seem fair.

However, in a jury trial where a person is accused of a crime, these inequitable rules are the cornerstone of our justice system. Because the government has so much power, because the risk of wrongful conviction is so great (even when the prosecution is well intended), the only way a person could ever get a fair trial is to require such inequities.  A juror’s ability to be fair is dependent upon their ability to see “fairness” this way – not their own way.

 

 

 

 

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Seeing the world remarkably

 

Every now and then you see someone who creates something which changes you.  Their novel way of expressing an idea – alters a previous and maybe even a precious perception.

When this happens, we might think “Wow, she sees things differently.”  When you really think about, we all think about things differently.  We all bring the sum total of our life experience and put it in front everything we see.  Looking through this custom lens is how we give things meaning.  

I think what we really mean when we say, she thinks differently is: she thinks remarkably.  The way she framed, narrated and colored something made you change how and where you perceived it from.  Her expression was not only worthy of your attention but made you rethink a prior belief.  Now you see it connected to something inside you.

When she does this, it’s true that she sees the world differently.  However, it’s more than that.  I think what we really mean is she sees the world remarkably. 

Of course, I am not the first person to make such an observation: Here

 

 

 

 

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The Fourth Amendment…In the beginning

Legal Coffee has a new YouTube channel! In our first video, we tackle the Fourth Amendment.

To understand the Fourth Amendment you need to understand “why” it was created by the Founding Fathers. Before the American Revolution, England’s debt swelled from fighting the French and Indian War. To solve the problem, England decided to tax the American Colonies.

While the Colonists were unhappy about the taxes, it was “how” the King enforced them that truly sparked the American Revolution… and the creation of the Fourth Amendment.

 

 

 

 

 

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