Zimmerman Reading Material

Thanks to an online friend,1 I learned of a great blog post about the Zimmerman trial / verdict … which then resulted in a couple more posts. Read and be enlightened about our criminal justice system and how it works:

It’s worth reading the posts’ comments, too.


  1. Thanks, Ron Coleman

My Zimmerman Verdict Reaction

The Zimmerman verdict is an outrage, some would say. I’m not so sure.

No, really. I have no idea. All I know about Zimmerman I learned from the popular media.

Maybe a little background is in order.

I did criminal defense and had the occasion of being involved in a “high profile” case. The local TV, radio, and newspaper media all jumped on the case. They interviewed one side1 and created a story that sounded good. And sold papers. And ads.

Their story had a great narrative with clear good guys, bad guys, and a tragic plot. But that’s all it was — a story.

It wasn’t true.

When the verdicts were announced, the public was outraged. How could the jury have been so stupid?

It was a long time before a local, independent newspaper reported the real story. By then, no one cared. Everyone had moved on to the next outrage.

Times have changed. The professional media doesn’t have the same lock on the news market it once had. But the desire to tell a good story and confirmation bias still exist. Those supposed independent news sources have the same problem.

Caveat emptor.


  1. Not surprising, as the defense attorneys advised our clients not to talk to the media. Which the media all knew. 

Elena Kagan: Please Bork Me

Elena Kagan

In the category of “be careful what you write” comes the following from Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan:

The problem is not that the Bork hearings have set a pattern for all others; the problem is that they have not.

Elena Kagan1

Looks like we’ll learn, at a minimum, Kagan’s position on “advice and consent.”

Can we stop genocide?

David Kopel (of The Volokh Conspiracy), Paul Gallant, and Joanne D. Eisen have posted a law review article, Is Resisting Genocide a Human Right?, as a working paper draft. It discusses the history and effectiveness of various methods used to stop genocide.

Kofi Annan observes “the developing international norm in favor of intervention to protect innocent civilians from wholesale slaughter.” Unfortunately, the norm of intervention to stop wholesale slaughter is extremely underdeveloped in practice. Neither the Security Council, nor any other multilateral body, nor any nation(s) acting unilaterally have stopped the genocide in Sudan. Nor are they stopping the genocide by government-caused starvation in Zimbabwe. Nor did they stop the genocides in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Guatemala, or Rwanda. Even when a genocidal government (such as Hitler’s Germany, Amin’s Uganda, or Pol Pot’s Cambodia) made the error of provoking a stronger nation and prompting an invasion, that invasion eventually stopped the genocide, but did not prevent the genocide from being initiated.

A policy that relies on the Security Council to prevent genocides has historically been proven to be ineffective. A policy that relies on unilateral invasions to prevent genocide may save lives, but such a policy has, historically, resulted in action that, at best, came far too late to save millions of genocide victims. Moreover, humanitarian, non-defensive unilateral intervention is, by the dominant interpretation of international law, illegal.

In other words, multilateral bodies have a terrible record on stopping genocides. Unilateral action to stop genocide is illegal. What’s left?

For one answer, plus a good background on the Darfur genocide, read the whole paper.

The authors also invite your comments by e-mail.

This Stop May Be Recorded For Customer Assurance

Chicago’s new police cars will have video cameras and sensitive microphones to record vehicle stops. I say, about time!

Of course, the ACLU’s up in arms about the alleged privacy infringement. But what privacy invasion are we talking about here? What’s more invasive? The officer standing by the car peering into the back of the car or the camera in the police car parked behind? 

I say this is a win. The recordings will provide objective data on supposed acts of police brutality. They will expose what is termed by the defense bar as "testilying." That’s good for honest citizens and honest cops both.

And having represented those charged with driving under the influence, I welcome the cameras. They’ll add some fun to trials. What’s more humorous, the defendant performing field sobriety tests or the officer trying to demonstrate them? Some times, it’s hard to tell who’s having more difficulties.

Congratulations, Chicago! Now let’s not have any "unexplained technical difficulties" during selected stops, okay?

Microsoft Proposes Patent 2005

Microsoft wants a new version of the U.S. patent system. On March 10, 2005, at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith proposed several changes to the current U.S. patent system.

Among the proposed changes are:

Patent fees stay in the patent office — Because patent fees are diverted to other governmental uses, the patent system suffers and fees no longer have any connection to the cost of examining and issuing patents. Keeping the fees in the patent office would fund more and better-qualified examiners plus the infrastructure needed to competently examine patent applications

Third parties able to submit “prior art” during examination — If interested third parties could submit “prior art” before a patent issues, the patents that ultimately issue would be that much stronger. Some patents would never issue (and never should).

Post grant administrative challenge procedure — Allowing administrative challenges to patents after granting could short-circuit expensive patent litigation.

Single patent trial court — The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit hears all patent appeals, eliminating forum shopping and regional variances in patent law interpretation. Having a single District Court to try all patent case would result in expert patent judges at the trial level and minimize uncertainty.

“Willful infringement” redefined to egregious behavior — Those who willfully infringe can be liable to pay treble damages, that is, three times as much. The current system rewards those who are intentionally ignorant about others’ patents.

First-to-file system — Currently, if two inventors file for patent protection on the same invention, the patent is issued to the inventor who invented first, not who filed for protection first. Changing to first-to-file would simplify the process and bring the U.S. in line with the majority of other countries.

No filing fee for “small entity” inventors — Those who can show “small entity” status have their patent fees cut in half. Microsoft proposes eliminating the filing fees (though apparently not any other patent-related fees). Not only would this make the patent system more accessible to individual inventors, but would also increase the patent office’s files of prior art. Individual inventors willing (reckless enough?) to write their own patent applications would have virtually no barrier to filing applications.

Microsoft isn’t the first to propose these changes. Some of the proposals have been resisted before being perceived as favoring large corporations at the expense of individual inventors. Eliminating filing fees might tip the balance.

Hat tip: Robert Scoble, Microsoft Watch.