Archive for October, 2011
If you watch TV at all you know Fox TV’s “Special Report With Bret Baier,” the number one ranked news show. I will be the first to admit that I am not a big fan of politics – I find it frustrating and inauthentic. However, if the politicians had as much integrity and charisma as Bret Baier, our Country would be in a better place.
Here is how my moment started…It was a Thursday afternoon and I was on my way to the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix to attend a luncheon hosted by Harris Private Bank and M&I Wealth Management (a part of BMO Financial). My girlfriend, Dr. Tara Brodkin, had invited me to attend several weeks earlier but I hadn’t taken the time to see who was speaking or what the lunch was about. I was just happy to be going to an “adult lunch.” When I walked in I first noticed how incredibly full the lunch was and that the only seats available for us were at the table – at the very front of the room. Normally this would not be ideal – however, this time was perfect.
As I sat down I noticed the title of the lunch and who the speaker was. I was intrigued because of all the work I have done with both Fox National and Fox Local. Even though I have met and spoken with many of the anchors and hosts such as Shepard Smith, Neil Cavuto, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Martha MacCallum (to name a few) I had not had the opportunity to meet or speak with Bret. I was pleasantly surprised.
In a crisp blue suit, white shirt and smart blue/navy/white striped tie, Bret started his discussion with his resume and how he got to where he was today. Normally some may see this as bragging but he explained it in a way that was fascinating. He turned his resume into a story starting with his first TV gig and going through how he was involved with the coverage of 9-11, his trips overseas, his White House gig, and the start of Fox News Channel – Fair and Balanced. When he was done I would have been willing to buy a copy of the book he has yet to write about his life since I can only imagine the stories he has to tell. I was riveted, even though I am not a fan of politics.
Bret has made his career covering political events and world events. He has been in the right place at the right times and you can see him today not only on Fox but also moderating several of the political debates of the 2011/2012 campaigns. One thing I found interesting is that when he was asked his opinion by someone in the audience, he bluntly stated, “I rarely give my opinion” since it is his job to cover the stories. That has to be difficult – but what a great line! One nugget he gave us was that he thinks our economic future revolves around what is happening with the European market and that we are “one world event away from slipping.”
Bret was here in Phoenix to entertain us due to a college friend that lives in the Valley. I believe that the hosts paid him, however, I believe he donated the money to his favorite charity, The Children’s National Medical Center . If you have the opportunity to see him or to listen, I recommend you do so.
At the end of his discussion I took the opportunity to go right up to him, introduce myself, and tell him how much I enjoyed the lunch. He may not, but I will remember by moment with Bret Baier.
As you know by know, the State has charged Dr. Conrad Murray with involuntary manslaughter for the death of Michael Jackson. Basically the State has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Dr. Conrad Murray unintentionally caused the death of Michael Jackson. It will attempt to do so by showing that the Doctor deviated from the standard of care employed by other doctors in the same locale.
Most of the State’s case was fairly routine and boring in that it consisted of paramedics, ER staff and investigators. It waited until almost the end of its case in chief to bring out the heavy artillery. Dr. Steinberg and Dr. Kamangar was the one two punch that really hurt the Defense and may have caused a KO. The State will follow both of them up with their “propofol expert.”
Cardiologist Dr. Alon Steinberg testified that by just reviewing Dr. Conrad Murray’s interview with the police, that he found no less than 6 deviations from the standard of care. Not just deviations but gross deviations. He also dropped the bomb that Michael Jackson would still be alive if Dr. Murray had not waited to call 911 when the medical emergency first became apparent. “If these deviations would not have happened, Mr. Jackson would be alive.” It would have been great for the State had they rested their case on that very last statement, wow.
About all the Defense can do to rebut these assertions is to attack the credibility of the expert, offer various hypotheticals and present their own expert that disagrees. Good luck with that. Dr. Steinberg was a very effective witness that exuded class, intelligence and conviction. This is essentially what he said that really puts some nails into Dr. Murray’s coffin:
• The use of propofol isn’t normal for insomnia
• Dr. Conrad Murray did not have any monitoring equipment such as an EKG
• It wasn’t a hospital setting and there wasn’t enough backup
The State also had UCLA sleep expert Dr. Nader Kamangar testify that Murray’s use of propofol to treat Jackson’s insomnia was unethical and that “it is beyond comprehension,” and “it is frankly disturbing.” Wow – those are powerful words.
And the hits just keep on coming – Dr. Steven Shafer, an anesthesiologist, will also testify for the State and will stated that he believes Dr. Conrad Murray’s medical treatment of Michael Jackson was criminally negligent.
At this point it is not looking good for the Defense. However, at this point it should look bad for the Defense, if it did not, then the State should never have brought the case. I am curious to see what the Defense hits back with.
An argument I often hear is “Why put these people in jail since it just costs us money…” And, I find myself agreeing with them to some extent.
Last I heard Maricopa County is the 5th largest county in the Country, which essentially means that Phoenix and all of its suburbs is the 5th largest city in the nation. With all those people the obvious observation is that there will be a lot of crime. Recently reports came out that Arizona is one of the top states in terms of longest and harshest prison sentences. This does not surprise me at all. Our DUI laws are the toughest in the Country with the mandatory jail time, loss of license and use of an ignition interlock device.
Apparently our tough sentences result in Arizona having to pay approximately 1 Billion dollars to maintain our jail/prison system. This is a significant amount; especially in today’s economy when everyone, including the government entities, have to cut spending. This could result in a new proposition on the ballot to eliminate mandatory sentences.
Back in 1993 this issue came to the attention of the voting public through Proposition 200. The powers that be noticed that defendants convicted of simple possession cases (aka personal possession) were filling up the jails and prisons. This resulted in a significant amount of tax money being channeled to paying for housing these defendants of so called “victimless crimes.” Simple possession of marijuana is a class 6 felony with a punishment that ranges from probation to prison. Simple possession of narcotics is a class 4 felony with a punishment of probation to prison. So, the voters passed Proposition 200; which limited the punishment. Under this law, a person convicted of simple possession for the first time CANNOT receive a jail or prison sentence – they MUST be put on probation. Even if the defendant violates their probation they still CANNOT be sentenced to a jail or prison term. Now, if a person is convicted of simple possession for the second time, they CANNOT be sentenced to a jail or prison sentence; however, is they violate their probation they can be sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment. Lastly, if a person is convicted for simple possession for a third time, then they can finally be sentenced to a jail or prison term.
What the voters did in 1993 makes sense to me since a number of the simple possession cases are just that, simple possession. However, I would argue simple possession cases are not “victimless crimes.” Although I do not know the exact statistics, a drug user is more likely to commit shoplifting, theft, burglaries and theft of vehicles for the simple fact they are spending their money on drugs. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule such as that banker that smokes pot recreationally on the weekend, but again, that is the exception and not the rule. In my experience of 13 years as a prosecution and defense attorney, a number of simple possessors “graduate” to more serious crimes.
I heard the question by Bruce St. James on KTAR “do these harsher sentences make us safer?” He opined that they do not. I disagree because in fact, they do. If we sentence an offender to 5 years in prison (ignoring the fact that they can be paroled before that) that keeps that offender off the streets for 5 years, so yes, we are safer from that person. They cannot commit another crime and hopefully cannot encourage others to do so. Do 10 more take his place while he/she is in jail? Possibly, but, that doesn’t change the fact we are safer because he is locked up.
These are just a couple things to think about next time you hear how much we are spending on jails and prisons in our state, a different perspective.
Day #6 in the Dr. Conrad Murray trial (Michael Jackson Death Trial) mostly consisted of ladies. To be specific, Dr. Murray’s ladies. The prosecution called 3 of the doctor’s girlfriends, past and present. Apparently all 3 are or were strippers and/or servers. Now, as a former prosecutor, I am sure the prosecution was salivating at this information and tried everything it could to get this information in. After all, if you are a stripper you can’t be believed right? If you like strippers you can’t be believed right? If you have a baby with a stripper you are definitely not a good person, right? (insert sarcasm)
Well, the prosecution scored on this one. Each of the three ladies are what you would call “timeline” witnesses. Dr. Murray had communications (phone call or text message) with each of them the day Michael Jackson died. As such, they are witnesses. As witnesses, certain information about them and their proclivity for telling the truth is now relevant. In comes the “stripper” information. Hold up, not so fast, the Judge in this case correctly saw the prejudicial nature of having their professions known by the jury and thus ruled this information could not come in. However, they could mention “social club.” Oh please – as if the jury won’t figure that one out. I have yet to see the relevance of what their chosen profession is and more importantly, I fail to see the relevance that Dr. Murray goes, or went, to strip clubs. BIG DEAL. It doesn’t prove any element of the prosecution’s case and is more prejudicial than probative in my opinion. (That is the test of relevancy; does it have a tendency to prove a material fact in issue – if so, is the probative value outweighed by the prejudicial impact.)
In the end does it make a difference, that he likes strippers, to the issue of whether his gross deviation from the standard of case caused MJ’s death? No. But, considering the social taboo surrounding strippers and those who socialize with them, he could be convicted just because of this.
Wow! After 4 years Amanda Knox is finally free and the case is done (well, almost). I have been commenting on this case since it happened in 2007. Even from the beginning I thought the prosecutor had a tough case and couldn’t understand how there was a conviction with such little evidence. You have to ask, whose fault was it that she was convicted in the first place? A crooked prosecutor, an inferior defense team, a powerful media?
For those of you who don’t know what happened, Amanda Knox was an American exchange student living and studying in Italy. One night her roommate was murdered. Amanda and her boyfriend claimed they were not present but the prosecution and the fact finders in the first trial believed differently. The main evidence was the fact that Amanda’s DNA was on the murder weapon, a kitchen knife. She argued that this evidence wasn’t enough since she lived with the victim and of course her DNA would be on the evidence. She, along with her ex-boyfriend, were convicted of murder and sentenced to prison. Interestingly, the actual murderer was also convicted after he was caught leaving the country after the murder.
I cannot remember all the stories that were floating around in the media but some claimed there were deviant sexual behaviors that she was involved in that just went too far, that she planned the death of her roommate, and that it was a drug deal gone bad.
The commentators are now suggesting that Amanda Knox was basically a victim of character assassination by the media. I believe there is some truth in that statement. In today’s world the media is quick to jump on these big cases and horrific stories. We always want someone to blame so the media does what the prosecution cannot do, at least not as quickly. The media can investigate, interview and interrogate friends, family and acquaintances of the potential defendant to “create” the story. It can get away with a lot more than the government can. This results in the majority of the viewing public already having an opinion on what happened and who did it. Granted, as a legal analyst I am guilty of helping this along.
However, is it the media or is it the viewers? Yes, this question is akin to what came first, the chicken or the egg. But, without the thirst and desire of the viewers to see the commentators and the interviews and the information, the media would not supply it. After all, the media is going to give the viewers what they want since that is what reels in the advertisers. To suggest differently is to suggest that the viewers are mindless robots that just digest whatever is fed to them. Well, this might be true for some, but I would venture to say that it is the desire that drives the result.
Anyway, Amanda Knox is now free and is on her way home to Seattle. I think she will now be held out as a type of hero that suffered at the hands of another country whose justice system is inferior to ours. One thing to note, in the Italian appeals process there is essentially a new trial; that does not happen in our system. Had Amanda been convicted here, the result would likely not be the same and she would be considered a villain and not a hero.