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Christy Mack Wikipedia

How to get the worst possible sentence… as illustrated by “War Machine”.

“War Machine” seems to be doing everything he can to make sure he’s not only convicted, but locked up for a long, long time. He’s got to be driving his lawyer nuts.  This is a classic case of how just about everything you do can and will affect what happens in court.
I’m not saying he’s guilty or innocent. I am saying that, a lot of times, truth is secondary. War Machine has done a great job of digging himself so deeply into a hole on this Christy Mack thing that there will be no happy ending. If you’re sitting out there wanting to emulate War Machine and get the worst possible sentence you can, here are some great tips to follow:
  • Change your name. Take your boring, bland, common name and change it. Especially when it conjures images of violent, serial killers.  Jurors might hear John Paul Koppenhaver, but they think John Wayne Gacy.  Changing it to something like “War Machine” can only help. Then get accused of violent crimes.

“The jury hereby finds ‘War Machine’ not guilty of…” are words nobody expects to hear.


  • Wear that bad attitude with pride. Don’t just call yourself War Machine, be War Machine… and let everybody know in a way you can’t hide. Nothing says, “I deserve a fair trial” like a hand grenade neck tattoo. The judge will love it.


  • Publicly promote a dumb clothing company with a stupid slogan. Make sure it’s something that says “nobody ever gets the better of me… I’ll kick your ass every time just to prove I’m top dog.”

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Screenshot from 2014-11-17 11:11:48

I’m working on an appeal.  The case was major- with the defendant sitting on a $950,000 bond (meaning, in Illinois, he has to post $95,000). There was a bond reduction hearing because just about nobody sitting on a $95,000 bond can pay that, and the statute says the amount should be only one to reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance at court. Keep Reading →

Brittany Maynard on her wedding day

A few posts back I wrote about Brittany Maynard, her brain cancer, and her choice to die with dignity.  Of course, she won’t be making that choice in Illinois- we like laws and regulations almost as much as we like imprisoned lawmakers.

She’s released another video. If you’re not aware, she had originally set this weekend as the date to pass on under her own terms.  This video it tough to watch.  She seems to imply at the beginning that the date may change, although that seems less likely the further you watch.

There is, obviously, no  happy ending to her story or any other similar stories.  Perhaps, some day, Illinois will lessen its regulations on death. While that still can’te be a happy conclusion to Brittany’s saga, it certainly would be a positive step.

Light the tree, set off the fireworks and pass out the candy… it’s Columbus Day in America!  Today is more than just the day we get to watch Bears/Lions on Monday Night Football.  In Canada, of course, they mistakenly call today Canadian Thanksgiving.  Although, we don’t really care what they’re doing up in America’s Hat.  As I’ve already explained, Canada is backwards.  I guess this Thanksgiving/Columbus day mix-up is just Exhibit #2 to that effect.

When I was just a little tyke (eager to learn and foolish to believe what anybody told me) I was taught that Columbus “discovered” America.  Much to my shock and horror, I have subsequently read on  Al Gore’s Internet that Leif Ericson discovered North America 500 years before Columbus suckered Spanish royalty into funding his fantastic voyage .  While you might take that to mean that Columbus did not “discover” North America, I choose to believe it means we were discovered twice.  My first grade teacher wouldn’t lie to me.


What I don’t recall any of my teachers telling me was that Columbus was later arrested and dragged back to Europe in chains.  He was subsequently released without any real trial.  Times were different then.

If you take a look at all of the information my first grade teacher didn’t have, shutting down most the government offices in honor of Columbus might not make as much sense as it once did.  He was a five centuries behind Leif Ericson getting here, he likely tortured people, and he ended up getting incarcerated by the people who employed him.  Is that “paid holiday” worthy?

People always ask me “how” I can do what I do.  How I can defend “those” people.  How I can spend all day “trying to get them off.”

Fortunately, I get that people asking those questions lack the overall perspective of the criminal justice system.  That perspective is that the law is not black-and-white. It’s complicated.  Very complicated.  People aren’t black-and-white, either.  They’re complicated.  Extremely complicated.  Court is where those complicated people and legal issues converge and get sifted through the process in an attempt to produce yes-and-no answers.  This is, unfortunately, partly why the comparisons between making sausage and law are too true. Keep Reading →

Brittany Maynard on her wedding day

Update: 10/30/14- Brittany has a new video out. You can find it here with less commentary than appears in this post. Although, there is still some commentary… because Illinois’ regulation of death is still nonsense.

Isn’t there some sort of saying about how dreams do come true? Maybe not right away, but eventually? Sadly, I think that today is “eventually.”

Back in 2011 I wrote a moderately sarcastic (for me) post about what I wanted to see out of the world in 2012.  Titled, “A look ahead to 2012: How about less Lindsay Lohan (or Sam Hurd) and more physician assisted suicide.”  The post was aimed at mocking the recent crime news and wishing for a return to when there were more pressing news stories of public concern.  It was a smashing success that earned three “likes” on facebook and one twitter mention.  The crush of publicity was hard to live with, but I managed.

Of course, that “dream” didn’t come true until late 2014.  Yesterday, I stumbled upon an opinion piece on the CNN web page.  It’s written by Brittany Maynard who, at 29 happens to be both recently married and recently diagnosed with brain cancer.  It’s difficult to read:
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Earlier this week somebody forwarded me the Economist article on eliminating plea bargaining.  Like most mainstream suggestions on how to “fix” the system I ignored it because… well, because I don’t care what the Economist has to say about criminal law.  I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

It’s popping up in all of my “regular reads” now, so it’s not easy to ignore.  The premise is the ground-breaking idea that prosecutors hold all the cards, the system is unfair, and defendants can be easily intimidated into taking a plea no matter how spurious the government’s evidence is.

Despite the general consensus that the system is royally jacked, the internet is abuzz with common-sense, obvious, “the-devil-you-know-is-better-than-the-devil-you-don’t” solutions.  Scott Greenfield thinks the system can’t handle the justice it really needs:
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Police k9 by the Sheriff's

Look like I missed a great opportunity to learn a little about the next Kane County Sheriff last night. According to the Kane County Chronicle, there was a “forum” that covered all sorts of interesting stuff.  Compelling topics like who was hired by who’s dad to be a deputy in the Sheriff’s Office in the 1970’s, and how many degrees everybody has:

Each touted their advanced degrees and extensive experience as reasons why they should be sheriff – but also exchanged a few barbs.
Kramer’s father George Kramer was sheriff from 1978 to 1986 and hired him in 1979, giving him his start at the sheriff’s office. 
Kramer said he was one of 12 who passed the test and all were hired. 
“We both talked about our fathers who were previously in law enforcement. At the end of the day, they are not running for Kane County Sheriff,” Mayes said. 
“We talk about master’s degrees – I could make as compelling an argument about experience,” he said. “A degree without experience is nothing. But experience with a degree really allows you be able to work and continue moving forward.”

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When I think of local papers who don’t care about actually “reporting” local court news but would rather cut-and-paste from State’s Attorney press releases, I don’t normally think of the Daily Herald.  They’re doing everything they can to change that, though.  When catching up on my local crime news today, I first came across this article about a man in Geneva who, the paper says, admit to some fairly serious sex crimes and underage porn charges:

The Daily Herald article:

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Screenshot from 2014-09-15 11:31:59

People ask me if I went into criminal defense because I don’t trust the police.  Oddly, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I went into criminal defense for a lot of reasons- mostly because I’ve always been concerned about my rights and how to protect them.  Also, because the “cool kids” always wanted to “put the bad guys away” and if the cool kids are doing one thing, I’m doing the opposite.

Even when I first went into criminal law, I wasn’t necessarily suspicious of what the police did/said/wrote. Keep Reading →

Screenshot from 2014-07-29 22:20:04

I like twitter. It’s fun. Not just fun because you can “interact” with Nancy Grace, but also fun because you can “interact” with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  I like to think he gets as much out of our exchanges as I do. I could be wrong, though.

Twitter can can get a little repetitious.  Sometimes all you want to do is scroll through and learn if the Iron Sheik would prefer to watch “White Chicks” or “Ghandi” and people are blowing up your timeline with 65 straight tweets about #DanceMoms.  Reading all of the repetitious stuff can give a man a fairly distorted view of reality- Especially if you are “subjected” (which, I put in quotes because you really don’t have to follow anything on twitter you don’t want to… but I can’t help myself), to the tweets of the “justice system.”

“Justice system” means, of course, police, prosecutors, and those of the rest of them that are just trying to keep the world safe… As opposed to us who are just trying to “get all those guilty people off.”  Because all that they want is for the truth to come out. We’re immoral, hired guns, doing whatever our obviously-guilty clients tell us to do.  We don’t care about truth, right?

One day I’m flipping through the tweets from one of my favorite prosecutor’s offices and I noticed an unusually high number of convictions getting “tweeted” about.  As a tax payer, I suppose I should be grateful for a one-billion-percent conviction rate.  Call me ungrateful, then, but I couldn’t help but inquire about the hall-of-fame batting average they were putting up: 

They never responded because, well, I’m not worth responding to.  So, I let it go. They do their thing, I do mine, and who really cares what happens on Twitter, anyway?

Then a crazy thing happened. Today, while I was doing some work, minding my business, and trying to get pumped I got a text from a friend.  Turns out he was not intimidated by the prosecutor’s office lifetime undefeated streak and he went to trial.  Apparently, the trial wrapped up, the jury went out and, a short time later, the jury returned a “two word” verdict (HINT: “guilty” is only one word).

Immediately I turned to twitter. I was interested to see how their twitter account would deal with the first loss ever in the history of the office. Would there be a link to a press release?  Maybe just a 140 character statement?  Would they explain this inexplicable verdict? “Congrats to the defendant… the evidence wasn’t there and the system worked.”  Would it be like Lou Gehrig, with absolute grace in the face of horrific news?

We’re never going to know.

It’s the unfair fight, again. Police and prosecutors frame the news. We don’t.  We win something, and we walk away. We have to.  Just like I said in February:

If I won a trial today and issued a press release naming names and pointing fingers, it might be fine today.  Tomorrow, though?  Tomorrow I’m right back at it (probably with the same prosecutor) but for a different client.  What I don’t want is this client to get a bad (or no) offer because I embarrassed the prosecutor on the last case.

I guess I won’t have that to look forward to seeing on Twitter any time soon. Thankfully I’ve still got Nancy Grace and Sheriff Joe.  And, thankfully for them they’ve still got me.