Saturday, March 12, 2005

Courthouse Shootings

Today's news has been dominated by coverage of the shooting at the courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia. It seems pretty clear that the shooter, a criminal defendant in custody who was being transported from jail to the courtroom, took a gun from the lone deputy who was escorting him. The incident may have been prevented or the carnage lessened if the deputy had no weapon, or if the handgun was concealed.

I've been in many courthouses over the years & it always amazed me that while everyone had to go through security to get into the court building, many police officers appeared in court with guns hanging outside their uniforms. I can see a state trooper brushing by me in court one day as I sat in the attorney area in front of the bar, his gun at my eye (and hand) level as he passed by. I could so easily have reached out & grabbed that gun, not that I had any desire or intention to do so.

I don't think that court officers in Massachusetts wear sidearms. {5:10 p.m., just heard on NECN that I am correct; court officers in Massachusetts do not carry guns.} I recall seeing batons, but no guns. However, the deputy in Georgia who was escorting this man was wearing a gun.

In addition, and I hesitate to say this, most (not all) of the court officers I have known were not the sharpest knives in the drawer. If they were, they wouldn't have been court officers. It's the lowest level job in law enforcement, one step above security guard. Many court officers, in Massachusetts at least, are patronage appointments -- brothers-in-law of state representatives, etc.

99% of the time the court officers sit around & do nothing. They're processing prisoners from the jails, escorting them into court, then sitting in the courtroom waiting for something to happen. Not much does. I think they get complacent sitting around while nothing happens.

When I was a law student, I worked for the public defender's office. I handled arraignments & cases where the penalty was a sentence of less than 6 months. One day I was assigned a client for arraignment who had been in a bar fight. My client was a big man, a Vietnam veteran who'd been in & out of trouble for years, disheveled, obviously hung over, and angry. I met with him in lockup & explained what would happen at his arraignment, including, as my supervisor had informed me, that he would likely be granted bail of a few thousand dollars. While I was meeting with him, the probation department discovered that he was wanted on several outstanding warrants. When he was brought into the jury box, instead of the simple arraignment I had explained to him, he was "popped" (to use the court vernacular) and the judge ordered he be held on the outstanding warrants, and transferred to Walpole immediately.

My client became enraged. I was standing next to the jury box where he stood. He turned towards ME and lunged at me, his hands reaching for my throat. Suddenly I was flying in the air, over the bar towards the spectators' section. One of the court officers had picked me up & put me down out of harm's way. I was a little put out to be treated so cavalierly -- would a MALE law student have been thrown around like that? -- but also appreciated the rescue.

My client was furious with me. Like I had failed to show up for court after being granted bail on his old cases. Completely misplaced rage. Like the poor judge & court reporter & deputy who were killed today, I was the object of great anger, totally misdirected. I shudder to think what would have happened that day if someone were carelessly standing next to my client, wearing a sidearm.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Why Joe Biden Sold Out Working Class People & Voted for the Bankruptcy Bill

Because he's in the pocket of MBNA & the credit card lobby, natch.

Delaware: America's First Democratic sellouts

It's especially disgusting to learn that MBNA has also bought off Biden's son, to the tune of a $100,000 "annual retainer" to "advise" them on bankruptcy issues.

His first advice was probably, "Buy off my dad. We're both for sale."

Paul Krugman said it best: [A]ny senator who votes for the bill should be ashamed.

Christopher Lydon returns

UML to Produce National Christopher Lydon Radio Show

Oh how I've missed Christopher Lydon. I usually keep my radio set to WBUR, the Boston public radio station which formerly carried his excellent show, The Connection. He always had smart guests & brought out their best with his witty commentary.

Jane Christo, the recently deposed WBUR tsar, dumped Lydon 4 years ago when he wanted licensing rights for his show (like the Car Talk guys have). While objectively I could understand that WBUR didn't want to give him money it could keep for itself, I always wished some compromise could have been reached.

Instead Lydon was canned and we got a parade of inferior hosts, culminating in the current ANNOYING host, Dick Gordon. Gordon over-enunciates everything he says, even his own name. I can listen to him for a few minutes, then I start shouting at the radio. I've just stopped listening to The Connection, I hate him so much.

And he's one of those "one the one hand, on the other hand" fake journalists who thinks that giving both sides of the argument equal time & stature contributes to public debate. Like he'd do a report on global warming and give some crackpot that says there is no global warming equal time, without even noting the huge scientific evidence for global warming. Please.

So, welcome back Chris. I'll change my radio pre-sets for you.