Sunday, February 19, 2006

On A Cold Sunday Afternoon

Writers’ Block? Not Exactly.

I’ve come to the conclusion that, unlike Kevin Smith I really do have a boring-ass life. I am sitting here, at a loss for something to write about. Not that there are all that many of you looking in these days, but for the occasional lost soul who drifts by, I’d like to think there is something worthwhile, or at least mildly amusing/interesting/diverting on these pages. Preferably something related to the Law. But I just keep coming up dry.

Sex Crimes. That’ll Wake ‘Em Up!

Well, here’s one. For the lawyers and enthusiastic amateurs out there -- How does your state handle other acts evidence in sexual assault/child molestation cases? That is, how do you cope with “lustful disposition” evidence, as some states call it? I refer, of course, to evidence of similar acts.

Does your state have either a formal rule, like FRE 413 and FRE 414 that explicitly allows evidence of similar acts to prove the defendant’s propensity to commit such acts, or a court made exception, often referred to as the “lustful disposition” exception, to the general rule that evidence of a defendant’s character may not be introduced to prove he acted in conformity with that character? See FRE 404 for the usual codification of this rule.

Or do you fall back on the state equivalents of FRE 403 to generally bar such evidence as more unfairly prejudicial than probative?

This is a topic near and dear to the hearts of sex crimes prosecutors everywhere. Particularly those who specialize n crimes against children. When you’ve got a recidivist on trial for sexual assault on a child, evidence that he (it’s almost always he in these cases) has done the same thing before is a powerful tool in proving the case. That’s why the general rule is to bar such evidence. We worry that the jury may convict on less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt because the defendant is a very bad man and shouldn’t be walking around. This is the reason courts are leery of other acts evidence in the first place. Particularly when the other act is a similar crime.  They worry about the natural tendency of jurors, as reasonable human beings, to say to themselves “well, he did the same thing before, it’s likely he did it this time, too.”


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Two Days In A Row!

Watchin’ The Tube On A Saturday

Yesterday was pretty laid back. Put the final touches on an appeal from arraignment court to the general trial court and then started on cleaning off several months accumulation of stuff from the ol’ desk. My desk is one of those ‘U” shaped numbers with the computer monitor in the middle of the base of the U. This gives me writing/stacking room on either side. This also means, that there is a fair amount of dead space to the extreme front right and left corners where low priority stuff tends to accumulate. Like training monographs, pocket part updates, bar journals, loose-leaf updates, etc. Part of the problem is I’m the clearinghouse for all the incoming library related stuff. Like half a dozen updates for the court rules pamphlets. Now the double sets (i.e. state and federal) are easy. I get one, my secretary gets one, and the library gets one. Three show up, I hand out three. The state only subscriptions are a bit harder. Anyway, I actually made some inroads into the various stacks.

Today, other than a load of laundry, has been devoted to watching old TV shows on DVD. Finished off the first season of Hill Street Blues and started in on the first season of X-Files. Now, I was a big fan of Hill Street when it first aired and managed to watch most of the episodes up to the point where I started law school. But that’s still over 20 years ago. Watching these episodes is just amazing -- you can see the beginnings of any number of conventions that have become so common in TV dramas that they are approaching the status of clich├ęs. And then there’s the story and the acting. What a delight compared to so much of current TV fare.

After finishing Hill Street, I started on the X-Files, which I didn’t watch, other than one or two episodes here and there, when it first ran on Fox. Odd. Very much a series of slightly connected stand-alone episodes in this first year. And, surprisingly, not all that interesting. Other than finding out what weird damn outfit the consume designer is going to inflict on poor Gillian Anderson this time. My God, the woman is, like 5’3” and they insist on putting her in these pant suits with legs suitable to wear over waders and shoulders padded out to the point where she looks almost square. No wonder it took Mulder years to make a move on her.

I was watching a really bad episode involving NASA, the space shuttle, and the “face on mars” and efforts by some sort of ET to sabotage the shuttle program by either possessing COL Belt, the former astronaut who was in charge of the program and making him do nasty things (or maybe forget to do good things) or by becoming some kind of smoke wraith and actually flying up to orbit and physically damaging the orbiter. Query - if it can do that, what the hell does it need with Belt? I had to ask myself, how did this survive for almost 10 years on Fox when Firefly barely aired 10 episodes? (I only count the first pilot “Serenity” as one episode even though it aired as a two-parter.) Maybe the X-Files picks up a bit more substance in the later seasons. Maybe it picks up in the second half of season one. I guess I’ll find out.

Friday, February 10, 2006

What The Hell Was That?

TGIF!

Well, it’s been one of those weeks. I kid you not! Take a look at Sergeant Saunders down there -- that’s pretty much my week. Except the boss frowns on submachine guns in the office. Between the drug prosecutor, the intern, and me, from Tuesday to today we finished four briefs on appeal, and one application for cert to our state Supreme Court. Not to mention the usual run of little things - like helping a trial prosecutor figure out how to approach a fairly serious witness problem, and installing the updated model jury instructions on our server.

UPDATE!

Forgot to come back and actually post this. Sigh. That was written on January 21, coming up on three weeks ago.  Not much changed up to yesterday. Through yesterday, four more brief for me (two of them abuse and neglect appeals, so not so much work as a criminal appeal) one more for the drug prosecutor, and one for the intern. She gets to slack off a bit, having just passed the state bar and getting sworn in and all that. You may well wonder how the heck long it takes my state to grade bar results, assuming the usual summer and winter examination dates if she’s just being admitted. The usual time. Results showed up in November and she missed the cut by one point. So, rather than take it lying down, she wrote her own appeal to the bar examiners and contested nine of the points they marked off. She won five of them! So, a belated admission ceremony and congratulations all around. Now, if we can just find her a job.

I see law school applications are down for the second or third year in a row. Good thing, because the legal job market is pretty grim. This is the first time in my memory that our graduating interns don’t have jobs waiting for them upon graduation or bar admission. It doesn’t help that most of them want jobs in prosecution. While the economy, in a national sense, seems to be doing fine, government, as a rule, is not. I think I wrote about the county budget process a while back, in terms of how the county raids the departments at the end of the fiscal year. Expect to see some screedy rants on the subject of the whole budget process in the near future.

A BREAK IS IN SIGHT!

My in shelves are now empty save for one habeas petition the trial court wants us to answer. Which I’m going to foist off on the intern so she’ll be able to add that weird sub-set of appeals skills to her resume. Me? I may take a day off for something other than doctor’s appointments for a change. Spending today cleaning off my desk of the accumulated filing and library updates. And the usual junk from the trial attorneys.