Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday news and notes

1.  John Goodman is testifying right now...  

Dressed in a dark suit and dotted tie, Goodman recounted the events of the night of the crash that led to the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, gesturing often with his hands and stammering at times through his responses in a syrupy Southern accent.
Goodman said he had two shots of tequila and two shots of vodka over the course of the night. He said he left the Players Club shortly before the crash on a quest for a Wendy's frosty. After the crash, he said, he didn't know where he was and certainly didn't realize that Wilson's car had tumbled into the canal, where he drowned.
"If you knew someone was in the canal, what would you have done?"
"I would have done whatever I could have done to help," Goodman said, over the objection of prosecutor Ellen Roberts.

2.   A federal prosecutor was commenting anonymously about a case.  Not a good idea:

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten confirmed this afternoon that Sal Perricone, one of his top prosecutors, has been using the handle "Henry L. Mencken1951" to bash landfill owner Fred Heebe and a raft of other local and national figures, including federal judges, in the comments section on Perricone "'readily admitted" using the psuedonym, and the matter has been referred to the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, Letten said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone 'readily admitted' using the psuedonym, and the matter has been referred to the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, his boss, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, said.
It will be up to that office to determine Perricone's punishment, Letten said.
Perricone -- whom Letten called a "fine veteran attorney" -- has been recused from all matters that he discussed in comments on, Letten said. He said he could not enumerate which cases that might include.
He added that Perricone, 60, the office's senior litigation counsel, "knows the restrictions and laws under which we operate."

3.  The Supreme Court decided today in a pair of cases that defense lawyers can be ineffective at the plea stage before trial. From Lafler v. Cooper:

Where counsel’s ineffective advice led to an offer’s rejection, and where the prejudice alleged is having to stand trial, a defendant must show that but for the ineffective advice, there is a reasonable probability that the plea offer would have been presented to the court, that the court would have accepted its terms, and that the conviction or sentence, or both, under the offer’s terms would have been less severe than under the actual judgment and sentence imposed.

4.  The NY Times says that the Armed Career Criminal Act is no good:

The Armed Career Criminal Act has long been a source of confusion for federal judges who are required to apply it in criminal cases. The act ratchets up sentences to a mandatory minimum of 15 years for felons who illegally possess guns and have three prior violent felony convictions. Some judges have misinterpreted this statute, with grievous results, as happened in the case of John Joel Foster. He could end up serving 15 years in prison rather than 27 months for possession of a firearm because the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit wrongly categorized 20-year-old crimes as violent felonies. 

5.  The Supreme Court is going to determine whether Apprendi applies to fines:

Supreme Court argument on Monday was how large a role the jury must play in setting fines against corporations found guilty of environmental crimes. But the real issue in the case, as the justices’ questioning made clear, was whether the court remained committed to the logic of a 2000 decision that said the Constitution sometimes bars judges from making factual findings that lead to increased punishments.

The case arose from the conviction of the Southern Union Company for storing mercury, a hazardous waste, without a permit. The law the company violated allowed fines up to $50,000 a day, and the government contended that the company had violated the law for 762 days. That would have added up to about $38 million. The trial judge imposed penalties of about $18 million.
The company objected, contending that the jury had found only that the company violated the law for at least one day. The federal appeals court in Boston accepted that view but said it did not matter. The trial judge, it said, was entitled to determine how to calculate the penalties.
In asking the Supreme Court to hear its appeal, the company said the appeals court’s analysis could not be reconciled with the 2000 decision, Apprendi v. New Jersey, which said that “any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”


Rumpole said...

Anonymous blogging always leads to no good.

South Florida Lawyers said...

So true.