Media

Charges in hot car death are strong
September 9, 2014

(CNN) -- Justin Ross Harris was indicted last week on eight counts in the hot-car death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. Harris could face the death penalty if prosecutors decide to seek it and he's convicted of the most serious charge.

However, the felony murder charge predicated on second-degree child neglect -- which was the original charge at the probable cause hearing months ago -- still poses the biggest threat to Harris' freedom. That, and, of course, the sexting charges, which will likely be the easiest to prove.

But make no mistake: That felony murder charge will be how the prosecution can convict Harris of his son's murder, even if the killing was unintentional, and, in Georgia, if the underlying felony was unintentional.

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Are feds showing bias in Brown case?
August 25, 2014

Is the Attorney General biased in the Michael Brown case? Or are they serving their federal civil rights mission? Mr. Cevallos discusses on CNN.

Why keep prosecutor on Brown case?
August 23, 2014

(CNN) -- As the investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics, including Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, have questioned the prosecutor's efficiency and impartiality.

Some residents and community leaders contend that St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch has deep ties to law enforcement, and reason for bias against the deceased Michael Brown in this case.

In Missouri, county prosecutors may be disqualified by interest in a case or by relationship (by blood or marriage) to a defendant. In that case, a court where the case is pending may appoint a special prosecutor, which is usually the attorney general.

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CNN Analyst Denounces Ferguson Speculation: 'Everyone Becomes an Expert' in Crises
August 18, 2014

Ethics of Covering Moving Media Targets Opens Bench-Bar Conference at Borgata
August 14, 2014

(Philadelphia Bar Reporter) -- Jodi Arias, George Zimmerman, Donald Sterling, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and the South Korea ferry disaster are just a few of the moving media targets with which we are all familiar. While news media and law are separate areas of business, the court of law and court of public opinion overlap in theory and in practice.

Members of the media are often charged with covering a story with very little detail to go on. The overarching ethical standards are fairness and accuracy above all. But who really determines what is "fair" and at what point do we measure a story for "accuracy"? On the other side of the coin are the attorneys who have an ethical obligation to their clients to preserve attorney-client confidentiality while providing zealous counsel.

Both professions require critical thinking, research and communication skills, along with an ability to grasp how laws and ethics shape the delivery of news. Nationally known lawyers-turned-media correspondents will address the ethics of covering a moving media target in today's society.

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When a monkey takes a selfie ...
August 8, 2014

(CNN) -- Selfies are everywhere. Even Indonesian macaques are getting into the game. In 2011, two of these Old World monkeys borrowed photographer David J. Slater's camera and reportedly snapped some pictures of themselves. One of the selfies by a female macaque has since gone viral, making its way to Wikipedia's free-to-use website.

Slater asked the site to take down the photo, but Wikipedia asserts the photo is uncopyrightable because animals can't own copyrights.

It raises two interesting questions...

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Confederate flag doesn't belong on license plates
August 5, 2014

(CNN) -- Can a state ban license plates that display the Confederate flag?

A court of appeals in Louisiana recently ruled that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board violated a nonprofit organization's free speech rights when it denied the Sons of Confederate Veterans' application for a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate flag.

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Pull up those saggy pants
July 28, 2014

(CNN) -- A Florida town has banned people -- let's face it, young people -- from wearing saggy pants.

A councilwoman for Ocala pushed for passage of the law, but the town's Mayor Kent Guinn may ultimately veto the fashion police.

If the law goes into effect, it's unclear what measuring tools the Ocala Police Department would use to determine whether citizens' pants are within the 2-inch legal limit of a theoretical waistline. It's even more unclear how they will determine where the waistline actually lies on an individual.

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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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