Patterico's Pontifications

8/24/2007

The ACLU & the Bush Administration are “On the Same Side”

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Constitutional Law,General,Law — DRJ @ 9:51 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The ACLU and the Bush Administration are “on the same side” in a religious freedom case:

“The Justice Department is joining the American Civil Liberties Union in backing a student who lost his state-funded merit-based scholarship because he left college to serve a two-year church mission.

The department’s Civil Rights Division filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday in U.S. District Court in Charleston on behalf of David Haws, a student at West Virginia University. Haws, a Mormon, is suing a state scholarship board, alleging it violated his First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion. His attorney argues that by denying Haws’ request for a leave of absence, the board forced him to choose between his religion and his scholarship through a state program, known as PROMISE.

The Justice Department noted that the PROMISE Board grants deferments for military and community service, and that by denying a deferral for religious purposes, the board was placing a lower value on religious deferments.”

Understatement quote of the day:

“Haws’ attorney, John Matthews of the West Virginia chapter of the ACLU, said he was surprised by the federal government’s support. “Obviously you don’t always see or think of the ACLU and the Bush administration being on the same side,” he said.”

This case may ultimately be decided on narrow grounds. For instance, it’s conceivable the Court’s holding will be limited so that it essentially applies only to missionary students. I’ve only read the press reports but I think it has the potential to end up as a legally significant case on the issue of freedom of religion.

Update — and Edification — on the Vick Plea Deal

Filed under: General — WLS @ 2:18 pm

[Posted by WLS]

There seems to be some consternation and teeth-gnashing over the revelation that Michael Vick is not going to be admitting to gambling on dog fighting or participating in the killing of dogs as part of his plea. 

Vick is charged only with a single count of conspiracy to commit certain crimes.   The crime of conspiracy has at its core a “agreement” to engage in certain criminal conduct — not the actual commission of that conduct. 

 The legal elements of the criminal charge of conspiracy are 1) an agreement between two or more persons 2) to commit one or more crimes 3) with a present intention at the time of the agreement that the crimes are to be committed, and 4) an overt act by one or more persons towards to commission of the agreed upon crimes.

The “facts” alleged in the indictment are meant to establish the factual basis to show that each of these four elements is present, thereby showing that a crime has been committed.  But, its not necessary to prove — or for a defendant to admit — that each fact alleged in the indictment is true.  So, while it is alleged in the indictment that Vick gambled on the dog fights, and that Vick participated in killing dogs, there are other facts that would also prove his involvement in a conspiracy without him having to admit that he did either of those two things.

What is being reported is that Vick will admit that he provided the money to fund the operation, and that he was present when dog fights took place. 

When a defendant pleads “guilty”, he is admitting that he committed a crime, not that he admits every fact supporting the charge against him. 

A defendant must only admit sufficient facts necessary to satisfy the judge that there is a factual basis to support the plea of guilty to the crime. 

The crime charged is an agreement with others to do certain criminal things. 

Vick is going to admit that he entered into such an agreement, and he provided the money — that is an “overt act” on his part to see the object of the conspiracy fulfilled. 

He’s also going to admit that he was present when dogfighting took place.  That establishes knowledge of the illegal object of the conspiracy.   

That is as far as his “admission” needs to go to be both the admission of a crime, and the admission of facts sufficient to establish an evidentiary basis that the crime ocurred. 

The prosecutor has no interest in making Vick admit every fact in the indictment.  The prosecutor’s interest is in getting the admission of guilt concerning the crime.

The judge MIGHT want Vick to admit to more, but at the end of the day Vick doesn’t have to admit to anything more than the crime with which he is charged — and he’s not charged with gambling on dog fights or killing dogs. 

He won’t admit that, and his failure to do so will have no impact on the outcome of the federal case against him.

Another Kitty Genovese

Filed under: Crime,General — DRJ @ 5:38 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

St. Paul MN prosecutors said a “security video from an apartment hallway shows at least 10 witnesses ignored a woman’s cries for help” as a man beat and sexually assaulted her for nearly 90 minutes:

“It shows one person looking out of her door probably three times,” [Police spokesman Tom] Walsh said. “It shows another person walking up, observing what’s going on, then turning and putting up the hood of his sweatshirt.”

This reminds me of Kitty Genovese, the 28-year-old New York resident who was stabbed and left to die as her neighbors did nothing:

“Kitty Genovese: It was a name that would become symbolic in the public mind for a dark side of the national character. It would stand for Americans who were too indifferent or too frightened or too alienated or too self-absorbed to “get involved” in helping a fellow human being in dire trouble. A term “the Genovese syndrome” would be coined to describe the attitude.

Detectives investigating Genovese’s murder discovered that no fewer than 38 of her neighbors had witnessed at least one of her killer’s three attacks but had neither come to her aid nor called the police. The one call made to the police came after Genovese was already dead.”

I think these cases are anomalies. Most Americans are not this callous or cowardly.


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