There are times when the truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes that happens in actual legal cases, when you just have to ask what a court was thinking when a decision is entered.

Man Asks for a Lawyer…Or Does He?

Just last week, a court in Louisiana had to determine a very serious issue—whether a suspect had properly invoked his constitutional right to an attorney. He was not provided one, although he said he asked for one while he was being interrogated by police. The transcript of his interrogation shows that he said, “I know that I didn’t do it, so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog ‘cause this is not what’s up.”

Do you remember the game you used to play in school as a kid called Telephone? It was the game where everybody whispered a word or phrase to each other, and by the time the phrase was whispered to enough people, the last person’s version of the original word or phrase was completely skewed and inaccurate.

We have our own real life version of Telephone when it comes to police investigations and arrests, and it is called police sketches. These are the sketches of wanted individuals that are put out in the media when police are looking for a suspect or a fugitive.

Communication Breakdown

It is illegal to commit a crime. That simple statement would seem straightforward enough. But do you really know what the words “commit a crime” mean? On the surface it would appear that the crime must be completed. That is, if you commit a robbery, you must actually follow through and rob someone.

That definition leaves out an entire category of what are known as inchoate, or incomplete crimes. In common language, we call these “attempts,” and you have probably heard of people convicted of attempted murder or attempted robbery.

Inchoate Crimes

The law is blind to all but the facts and justice; at least that is the way it is supposed to work. Both our constitution and the integrity of our legal system depend on courts being blind to issues outside the courtroom, particularly when it comes to race.

Race should never enter the courtroom, but when it does, it is particularly egregious when it gets injected into cases that involve the death penalty. The United States Supreme Court may be set to hear an appeal of a death penalty conviction when this is just the question that will be addressed.

Juror’s Statements Show Racial Hostility

The words driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) are often used synonymously. Usually, when people use either phrase, they default in their minds to drunk driving, and massive amounts of money have been spent on trying to educate people on the dangers of getting behind the wheel after having alcohol.

DWI and DUI are not limited to impairment by alcohol. Drugs and other illegal substances also are included, and driving while under the influence of narcotics like marijuana is as much a crime as driving while drunk.

How the Law Differs

Sometimes technology moves so fast that the law does not have time to catch up to it. Judges and courts end up dealing with novel issues that they did not anticipate. Sometimes new technologies come about and we can see the potential legal issues that may arise far in advance. Such is the case with the newly released iPhone X.

Facial Recognition Technology

The new iPhone X will have a unique facial recognition technology, where the phone recognizes its own owner’s face. The phone unlocks when it is held in front of the user’s face. But many privacy experts and civil liberties organizations have concern about how this kind of technology may be used by law enforcement at the scene of a potential crime.

What is a prosecutor’s job? That often depends on whom you ask. Like any attorney with a client, prosecutors represent the state or the government, and the government’s mission is to punish those who are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing crimes. To serve a client, a prosecutor must have this goal also.

A prosecutor’s job also is to seek justice and, like all attorneys, to do what is ethically and morally correct. The interests of a client cannot compel a lawyer to misrepresent something to a court, or to ignore vital evidence even if it is against the interests of the client.

This begs the question of what a prosecutor does when evidence shows that a defendant is innocent? Although the duty of the prosecutor is to refrain from prosecuting without probable cause, unfortunately, in the zeal of representation, this is not always what happens.

Many areas of the country, including Maryland, have leaned towards lighter sentences for certain criminal convictions and have begun to understand the value of rehabilitating those convicted of crimes. The rising crime statistics in Baltimore have begun to turn that tide around, however, and the Governor is now proposing legislation that would result in harsher, stiffer penalties.

Rising Crime Leads to Discussion on Sentencing

Violent crime in Baltimore is increasing by 15% every year. At a recent meeting, The Governor pinned blame for rising crime rates on those who are released from prison too early. Many of the city and state’s top law enforcement officials attended. Baltimore judges were invited, but declined, citing laws that require judges to remain impartial, and to avoid being swayed by public opinion.

Battered spouses face difficult challenges when they take actions to defend or protect themselves. Many courts do not understand the psychological difficulties that battered spouses face, and laws are only recently evolving to provide some protections to those who act in self defense to avoid further domestic abuse.

Battered Spouse Charged With Murder 

A recent case involved a wife who testified that she had been beaten with belts, wooden boards, and stabbed, among other horrific attacks from her husband. She testified that she was afraid to leave him for fear that he would follow and harm her. He repeatedly said he would kill her. She said that she was terrified of him every day.

Can you be convicted of a crime for doing nothing more than talking? Surely, you can—we all know it is a crime to threaten someone with violence. What about being held responsible for the death of someone else simply because of the words that you use? Could you be guilty of murder or manslaughter?

Texting Leads to Manslaughter Conviction

You certainly can when it comes to suicide, as a recent case in Massachusetts demonstrates. A young woman was recently convicted of manslaughter for allegedly sending a series of texts encouraging a young man to kill himself. The young man was her boyfriend, and evidence showed numerous intimate calls and text messages that prosecutors say encouraged or drove the young man to commit suicide.