Media

Lawyers' smart move in hot car death
July 8, 2014

(CNN) -- Following the preliminary hearing of a Georgia father accused of allowing his child to die in a hot car, most legal experts agree that the prosecution will likely upgrade the charges from felony murder to malice murder after the presentment of the case to a grand jury.

For now, until those charges are upgraded, Justin Ross Harris is charged with felony murder, perhaps the most widely criticized legal construct in American jurisprudence. To many legal scholars, the felony murder rule is logically and morally indefensible. To many members of the law-and-order public, the ends of the felony murder rule justify the means. And in Georgia, like every other jurisdiction, it is liberally employed. It offers an end run around the very difficult standard of proof to find a killing was intentional.

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5 questions about mother in toddler's hot-car death
July 7, 2014

Cell phone ruling keeps cops out of your business
June 25, 2014

(CNN) -- On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous ruling in two cases testing the authority of police to conduct a warrantless search of an arrested person's cell phone, holding that police generally must obtain a warrant before searching the cell phone of someone they arrest.

For the most part, the justices' rulings in cases dealing with the Fourth Amendment go largely unnoticed by the public, but the court has reminded us in this opinion that modern technology is subject to the same original privacy rights that flow from the Constitution.

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Was Tracy Morgan crash a crime or accident?
June 18, 2014

(CNN) -- Recently, the venerable Mark O'Mara wrote an op-ed on CNN.com calling for a law against bullying. I find myself in an unenviable position, that of respectfully dissenting with a leading legal mind whom I greatly admire. O'Mara writes compellingly in support of anti-bullying legislation.

I am anti-anti-bullying legislation.

Let me explain. While legislation designed to stamp out bullying may make us feel better inside, such laws by definition encroach upon fundamental freedoms of speech and constitutional requirements that laws not be vague or overly broad. What's more, they may seek to outlaw that which may be beyond the purview of the crimes code: It may be the case that human law is simply no match for the law of nature.

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Was Tracy Morgan crash a crime or accident?
June 10, 2014

(CNN) -- Truck driver Kevin Roper has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto in connection with the crash last weekend that killed comedian James McNair and injured comedian Tracy Morgan.

The question has arisen: Why was he charged with death by auto and aggravated assault before we even know how he was driving? In this sort of crash, what makes the difference between an accident and a crime?

The answers lie in the criminal code.

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Should Marine be in Mexican prison?
May 6, 2014

(CNN) -- A Marine Corps reservist says he accidentally drove his truck across the U.S. border into Tijuana, Mexico, where he was arrested and charged with possession of three firearms and ammunition. All of the guns were legally registered in the United States. Surprisingly, however, in Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, firearm possession is almost completely outlawed.

Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, a decorated Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan, had a shotgun, a handgun and a rifle -- all illegal in Mexico. He also had 400 pieces of ammunition. He is being held on weapons charges in a prison outside a town near Tijuana.

I can imagine what some people might be thinking upon hearing this news.

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When Ducks Attack
May 6, 2014

(CNN) -- A Washington woman is suing her mother's neighbor in Oregon for more than $250,000 to compensate her for pain, suffering and other damages she alleges were inflicted during a traumatic ambush ... by a duck.

Cynthia Ruddell, 62, was visiting her mother's property when, she alleges, a domesticated duck belonging to Lolita Rose attacked her without provocation. In her flight to escape the factious fowl, Ruddell says she fell to the ground, breaking a wrist and spraining an elbow and shoulder. The case and subsequent media reports have highlighted common misunderstandings about tort liability for animals.

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CNN Video Opinion: Hands off our data
April 25, 2014

Would you want the police looking in your phone? Legal analyst Danny Cevallos talks warrantless cell phone searches.

Bring in the lawyers for Flight 370 families
April 15, 2014

(CNN) -- As the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues, both the Malaysian government and the airline have come under sharp criticism. Some say that all involved parties, including the manufacturer Boeing, are circling their wagons and bracing for a long public relations siege while the families of the missing passengers continue to grieve.

Meanwhile, others have stepped in to help the relatives of the passengers. One group of emissaries from the United States has traveled across the globe at their own expense to offer assistance to the grieving families. However, instead of being welcomed, their arrival was reported with thinly veiled revulsion.

I'm talking about the lawyers.

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Boy suspended for bringing own hand to school
April 9, 2014

(CNN) -- Recently a school principal in Ohio suspended a student for three days after the 10-year-old pointed his finger at another student in class and pretended to shoot.

This kind of harsh sentencing is not new. In recent years, we've heard of kids being suspended for pop-tarts chewed into "gun shapes," or for firing an imaginary bow and arrow.

In fact, school suspensions over things that could not possibly be guns have been going on for years. Last year, a Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, kindergarten student was suspended from school for allegedly threatening others and herself with a weapon -- her pink "Hello Kitty" bubble gun.

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Upskirting in Massachusetts: Gross but legal
March 6, 2014

(CNN) -- On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued an opinion in the matter of Commonwealth v. Michael Robertson, holding that it is not illegal to secretly photograph underneath a person's skirt on the subway, a practice widely known as "upskirting." The court, and the justice who wrote the opinion, have since weathered harsh -- and undeserved -- criticism. On Thursday, state lawmakers passed a bill banning upskirting, but that new law—which yet to be signed by the governor-- will still be subject to the same judicial scrutiny if it fails to adequately define the crime and the elements thereof.

No one, including the members of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, condones upskirting. But the court is not in the business of "condoning" activity, nor is it in a position to adjudicate the fairness of the outcome. The court is in the very limited business of applying the law enacted by the legislatures, and it did just that. In fact, it carefully applied the definitions provided by both the Legislature and Webster's dictionary. The problem isn't the justice; it's the statute itself.

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Can the state regulate religious activity - when that activity is dancing with snakes at church? First Amendment versus the Police Power.
February 26, 2014

Juror: Race not an issue in "Loud Music" murder Trial
February 19, 2014

Parallels between the killing of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis
February 17, 2014

CNN's Ashleigh Banfield: 'I've Had It' with Death Threats for My Reporting on Dunn Trial
February 17, 2014

Dunn verdict a win for prosecution, despite critics
February 18, 2014

(CNN) -- If trials were predictable, they wouldn't happen.

You can root for a jury to see a case your way and disagree with its ultimate verdict, but you cannot criticize the jury system for being unpredictable. In that sense, a Florida jury's recent verdicts -- and nonverdicts -- against Michael Dunn demonstrate a fundamental truth about trials. They are not only unpredictable; they are designed that way.

The case against Dunn stemmed from an incident on November 23, 2012. Dunn, a 47-year-old white man, arrived at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, and parked next to an SUV that contained Davis and other black teenagers. When Dunn complained about loud music coming from the SUV, words were exchanged and Dunn ultimately fired a gun that killed Davis. Dunn said he saw a gun barrel pointing out of the SUV, but the prosecution said there was no gun.

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Should American Samoans be citizens?
February 11, 2014

(CNN) -- American Samoans have every right to be frustrated.

The United States laid claim to these eastern islands of a South Pacific archipelago in 1900, and since that time, American Samoans have served in the U.S. military, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet, those born in American Samoa receive passports declaring the holder is only a U.S. national, not a U.S. citizen. Noncitizen residents complain they are unable to vote in national elections or to work in jobs that require citizenship status. They also claim their birth status renders them ineligible for federal work-study programs in college, firearm permits and travel/immigration visas.

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Defense attorneys attack key witness, lack of evidence in closing arguments in Wendell Williams Murder Trial - Virgin Islands Daily News - February 5, 2014

2014-02-03 (St. Croix Source) Jailhouse Witness Denies Any Knowledge of Williams Murder

2014-02-03 (Virgin Islands Daily News) Judge expected to rule today on photos of burnt car

2014-01-31 (St. Croix Avis) FBI, VIPD Testify in Murder Trial of Five Suspected Cop Killers [PDF]

Witness Recounts Horrors of Wendell Williams Slaying

2014-01-29 (VI Daily News) First Day of Trial Opening Statements [PDF]
2014-01-29 (St. Croix Avis) Gory Details [PDF]

Slow Jury Selection Pushes Lazee Williams Murder Trial Start to Next Week

2014-01-22 (VI Daily News) Jury Selection Weds [PDF]
2014-01-24 (VI Daily News) Witness Tampering [PDF]

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