Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer has never been a big fan of criminals. But that may all be changing after two of his officers were arrested and one-third of his department’s drug squad came under suspicion for stealing cars.
Archives for January 2009
In today’s Fresno Bee, Dan Walters comments (2015 update: as with many Bee stories, this link is now gone) on the need to lock down prison spending. This paragraph contained a rather stunning set of statistics:
“Corrections,” an ironic misnomer, has jumped from less than $5 billion a year to more than $10 billion [a year] in the last decade, more than twice as fast as school spending, the biggest budget item. It now costs about $45,000 a year to feed, clothe and medicate each of the state’s 170,000-plus inmates, or roughly five times what taxpayers spend on a typical public school student. And that doesn’t count what it costs to supervise tens of thousands of parolees.
Frankly, this is ludicrous.
During my undergraduate years, I was particularly interested in philosophy, cognitive science and linguistics. Over the years I’ve learned (and forgotten) almost half-a-dozen languages. About the only two I still remember are sign language and Spanish. I even wrote a paper which must have gotten a lot of play in other universities, because when I once took it off the Internet, I received several emails from university students and even a professor, asking where it went. (It’s here now and, by the way, for some time has shown up first on a Google search for language contact and historical linguistics.) I was particularly fascinated with the concept of semantic drift.
So it’s no surprise that I pay particular attention to words and phrases within the legal framework in which I work today.
What I see disturbs me.
Mary was angry as she waited in line at the grocery store in the rain. Ahead, she could see the cause of the delay: some stupid older dude with long gray hair, struggling to empty his pockets into the bowl before going through the metal detector.
Where did he find jeans with pockets in the first place?!
Miami criminal defense attorney Brian Tannebaum writes about people who fear that hiring an attorney will make them look guilty. I see this, too, although by the time people call me, they’ve usually gotten past that point.
More often what I see is people who become uncomfortable after I tell them to stop talking to others. In particular, I want them to stop talking to the police. That’s when I tend to hear, “But won’t I look guilty?”
And my response to them is the same as Brian’s response to people who think they’ll look guilty just by hiring an attorney: “No. You already look guilty.”
And that’s just one of the reasons innocent people need lawyers.
Break a law that you did not know existed. It doesn’t matter how vaguely worded that law is. If a police officer wants to arrest you for it and if a Deputy District Attorney decides she wants to prosecute you for it, you will be prosecuted. You will, unfortunately, almost certainly lose: you’ll either realize that you’re going to lose and take an offer, or you’ll be convicted. Even if somehow, some way you win, you will lose, because you will have paid an attorney, or posted bail, or — in the event you were too poor to hire an attorney and the offense did not require you to post bail — you will have lost time, effort and sleep over the case.
Unless you’re a police officer.
Many years ago, before I was an attorney, I was involved in a then-infamous fight with a quite well-known but also quite obnoxious technical writer. The details are unimportant, but due to the influence he had over numerous 12-to-14-year-old wannabes (for which I believe he remains immensely proud), he was able to prevent my access to a certain Internet Relay Chat channel for quite some time.
The crux of the reason for my long-term banishment was that I mentioned the impact the supposed adult — I’ll call him “Jack Merridew” — was having on my ability to perform some of my work and that I suggested continued interference by Merridew might provoke a legal complaint. And that threw everyone into a tizzy. I had unknowingly committed the ultimate sin: I “confused RL with IRC”; that is, I ignored the unspoken (and idiotic) belief that “real life” and “Internet Relay Chat” are two separate things.
Today, we know better. Or do we?
Two days ago, several websites began reporting that United States Attorney Pat Fitzgerald accidentally released the names of at least twenty — yes, twenty! — confidential snitches witnesses in a government fraud case. The fraud allegedly involved $15 million dollars.
I wonder if those witnesses are feeling at all nervous right now.
“Douglas Tinker died on November 10, 2008….”
Someone “tweeted” the link to Douglas’s obituary. I tried reading it out loud to my wife and actually made it almost three-quarters of the way through before breaking down.
My wife paid me a great compliment. And I hope I truly find a way to live up to it. She said, “He sounds like you.”
Rest in peace, Douglas. Although I never knew you, I miss you. I really miss you.
More than once recently, I’ve written about Submitizens. Several criminal defense attorneys in Fresno, California, where my office is located, simply shrug. Among other things, they can’t understand why this bothers me so much.
But it does bother me. Immensely. And, frankly, it seems to me that it should bother any right-thinking true-blooded American citizen. At the very least, it should bother criminal defense attorneys; we should understand the implication of this latest governmental insult.