Patterico's Pontifications


Another North Carolina Legal Ethics Question

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 9:08 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Legal ethics is a difficult topic. For one thing, not many people believe lawyers have ethics. (They do. Really.) For another, the application of ethics rules sometimes results in outcomes that don’t seem to make sense.

The Duke lacrosse/Nifong case is a good example of a case that made people wonder about legal ethics. Now there’s another North Carolina case that deals with ethical questions. It involves a lawyer named Staples Hughes, who like Nifong is a NC lawyer, but he’s an appellate defender rather than a prosecutor:

“Lawyer Staples Hughes was trying to do the right thing when he disclosed information that could help prove a man innocent of murder. Now it may cost him his law license.

Hughes, the state’s appellate defender, disclosed earlier this year that his client, a co-defendant in the murder, had confessed 20 years earlier that he alone killed Roland and Lisa Matthews in Fayetteville.

After his client, Jerry Cashwell, died, Hughes spoke up. The confession, coupled with challenges to how bullet evidence was analyzed, could get a new trial for Lee Wayne Hunt, who was convicted of the slayings 21 years ago and sentenced to life in prison.

It also puts Hughes in a fight for his career. During a hearing to seek a new trial for Hunt, a Cumberland County Superior Court judge said he would file a complaint with the N.C. State Bar over Hughes’ testimony about the confession. As Cashwell’s attorney, Hughes was bound by attorney-client privilege to keep the confession secret. But Hughes believed that his duty to Cashwell died with his client.

Judge Jack Thompson rejected Hughes’ testimony, and Hunt’s bid for freedom. Hughes was later notified that a bar grievance had been filed against him.

“It crossed my mind a thousand times that somebody might report me to the bar,” Hughes said. “I’m sure he thought he was doing what he thought was right, and I thought I was doing what was right under the circumstances. It was a sobering moment.”


Cloaking Comments at the San Francisco Chronicle Website (and ThinkProgress) [Updated]

Filed under: Blogging Matters,Media Bias — DRJ @ 3:44 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Note this Updated Post dated 11/30/2007.

Update 11/26/2007: The blog discussed below, Investigate the Media, makes the following claims [emphasis supplied]:

“Why would SFGate do such a thing? Because ever since public input was first allowed at SFGate, many commenters who had their comments deleted would come back onto the comment thread and point out that they had been silenced for ideological reasons — i.e. they weren’t sufficiently “progressive” — or because they had pointed out ethical lapses at SFGate and the Chronicle. Or any number of other reasons that the Chronicle did not want known. So, to pacify these problematic commenters, the SFGate moderators came up with a very clever and underhanded coding trick to prevent deleted commenters from ever finding out that they had been silenced.

Now, I’m certain that there are plenty of comments on SFGate that indeed merit deletion, and plenty of commenters who say patently offensive things. No question about that, and no one is questioning the Chronicle’s right to delete such comments. But there are many other comments that get removed for no apparent reason, except for their political stance, or because they strike too close to home — pointing out flaws in the article’s reporting or writing itself, or ethical or moral misdeeds on the part of the Chronicle editors or management. Deleting comments such as those would be bad enough, but the Chronicle really crossed the line with their new technique of essentially lying to any commenter who has been deleted by not allowing them to even know they were deleted — so they don’t subsequently complain.”

I thought this was important although I did not do a good job making that point. (Touche’, Christoph.) Today, however, I realized that Investigate The Media only has one post. That makes me curious and, as a result, I’m updating this post to reflect my concerns.

I also have a new post here.


The Instapundit notes a hilarious World of Warcraft commercial starring Mr. T and Star Trek’s William Shatner. I guess the Star Trek reference was still with me when I read this entry about mysterious comment deletions at the San Francisco Chronicle’s website, because my first thought was that the Chronicle has discovered a cloaking device for comments:

“The San Francisco Chronicle has recently activated a devious system by which it deceives commenters on its website, Here’s how it works:

If you make a comment on an article posted at SFGate, and if the site moderators then subsequently delete your comment for whatever reason, it will only appear as deleted to the other readers. HOWEVER, your comment will NOT appear to be deleted if viewed from your own computer! The Chronicle’s goal is to trick deleted commenters into not knowing their comments were in fact deleted. I’ll give evidence below showing how they do this.”

A graylisting feature apparently deletes some comments automatically:

“[UPDATE 2, Sat., 11-24-07, 2:20pm]: Anonymous Reader Documents “Graylist” of Banned SFGate Users Who Don’t Know They’re Banned

An anonymous commenter has just documented that, at least in some cases, the comment-deletions on SFGate are automated; that all comments from certain users who have been secretly banned from the site are immediately deleted automatically; but that such deletions are not visible to the banned commenter himself. Thus, he never knows that he has been banned.”

LGF says ThinkProgress does it, too.

How ironic that champions of free speech would use technology to block speech they find offensive. It reminds me of the criticism of President Bush and the Secret Service for “quarantining dissent” in free speech zones reserved for protesters at Bush speeches.

So if you’re keeping score:

Quarantining protesters for security purposes = Bad.

Cloaking comments to shield readers from dissenting views = Good.

Automatically graylisting commenters who regularly submit dissenting views = Priceless.


Monkey Meat is Good for the Soul

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 1:44 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

That’s a title I never envisioned writing but if West African Mamie Manneh wins her criminal case in New York federal court, eating monkey meat for religious reasons may get a partial legal stamp of approval:

“From her baptism in Liberia to Christmas years later in her adopted New York City, Mamie Manneh never lost the longing to celebrate religious rituals by eating monkey meat. Now, the tribal customs of Manneh and other West African immigrants have become the focus of an unusual criminal case charging her with meat smuggling, and touching on issues of religious freedom, infectious diseases and wildlife preservation.

The case “appears to be the first of its kind relating to that uniquely African product,” defense attorney Jan Rostal wrote in a pending motion to dismiss. “Unfortunately, it represents the sort of clash of cultural and religious values inherent in the melting pot that is America.”

The case originated when customs inspectors found monkey meat hidden in a shipment from West Africa destined for Manneh’s importing business:

“The monkey meat case dates to early 2006, when federal inspectors at JFK Airport examined a shipment of 12 cardboard boxes from Guinea. They were addressed to Manneh and, according to a flight manifest, contained African dresses and smoked fish with a value of $780.

Instead, stashed underneath the smoked fish, the inspectors found what West Africans refer to as bushmeat: “skulls, limbs and torsos of non- human primate species” plus the hoof and leg of a small antelope, according to court papers.

Three days later, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents were at Manneh’s door, where she told them she ran a smoked fish importing business. According to the agents, she initially denied ordering any bushmeat from Africa or ever eating it while in the United States. But after she consented to a search, the agents came across a tiny, hairy arm hidden in her garage.

“Monkey,” she explained, claiming the arm was sent to her out of the blue “as a gift from God in heaven.”

The government’s criminal complaint notes that illegal importation of monkeys encourages the killing of protected animals and increases health risks to humans from “diseases like Lassa fever, Ebola, HIV, SARS and monkeypox.” The defense response focuses on cultural and religious issues:

“Defense attorney Rostal has countered by accusing the government of picking on a poorly educated immigrant. Her client’s only offense, she said, was her inability to grasp Western attitudes and highly technical regulations regarding bushmeat.

Defense papers also argue that the U.S. demand for the meat involved in the Manneh case—from Africa’s green monkey population—is “too small to have any significance for conservation.”

Manneh testified last year that before arriving in the United States more than 25 years ago, monkey meat was critical to her religious upbringing. At age 7, “I was baptized and they used that for the baptizing ceremony,” she told a judge. Baptisms, Easter, Christmas, weddings—all are occasions for eating monkey, Manneh’s supporters said in a sworn statement filed with the court.

The statement was vague about how the meat is obtained, but explains that it always arrives dried and smoked. Once blessed by a pastor, “we usually prepare it by cooking it for several hours into a stew,” they said. For them, the exotic import is more than just food. “We eat bushmeat,” they said, “for our souls.”

Another congregant likened monkey meat to the American tradition of eating turkey at Thanksgiving. Manneh’s husband also made an emotional appeal for his wife’s release (she is currently incarcerated on other charges), despite their “history of marital discord”:

“At the center of the case in federal court is a modest woman with nine children and a history of domestic discord. Manneh, 39, is serving a two-year sentence in state prison for trying to run over a woman she suspected of sleeping with her husband, Zanger Jefferson. If convicted of the federal charges she faces up to five more years in prison and deportation.

“The government’s taking a woman away from her children,” complained Jefferson, who’s struggling to raise the children alone. “It’s very depressing, especially with the holidays right around the corner.”

Manneh’s criminal history and her efforts to hide imports undermine her claim that she sells monkey meat for religious reasons. It sounds more like a black market money-making venture than a religious belief. However, the cultural and religious claims will affect the legal issues in the case.

This reminds me of the controversy over the right of Native American Church members to use a psychedelic drug, peyote, in religious ceremonies. The Supreme Court refused to allow the church to use peyote in contravention of valid state and federal drug laws but Congress subsequently passed laws authorizing use of peyote on federal tribal lands.

I doubt Congress will do the same for monkey meat.


The Kindle

Filed under: Books,Gadgets,General — Patterico @ 11:35 am

I have to say, Amazon’s Kindle looks pretty cool. Check out the promotional video here.

Some of what it does is nothing new. I already read blogs on my Treo — and I read the ones I want to read, not just the ones some corporate types have picked for me.

But the idea of reading books on a light portable electronic device, with a no-glare screen, sounds very cool. I’m waiting to see more reviews from people who have actually bought it, to see what people think of it. Is the screen really as readable as the video claims? Is it as user-friendly as it appears from the video? Etc.

They should have some way of allowing people who already own books to download those books for a reduced price. I can see wanting to own a hard copy, but spending a couple extra bucks per book to have the option of having the book loaded into the Kindle for when I don’t want to carry the whole book around with me.

One “downside” that doesn’t bother me in the slightest: the idea that I won’t be able to brag to others about what I read.

If you have used this device, please tell us about it.

P.S. One more thing: it shouldn’t require a “fee” for Kindle users to put their own documents on the device. You should simply be able to download them to an expansion card and put them on yourself. It would be very cool to be able to put work-related documents on this device and carry them around easily.

My Platform: Tasty Earwax for Everyone!

Filed under: Humor — Patterico @ 10:54 am

Kevin Rudd is the new prime minister of Australia:


He was apparently elected on an obscure platform having something to do with eating earwax.

Not for weak stomachs.

UPDATE: Apparently the video of Rudd eating his own earwax has been taken down.

Fire in Malibu — Again

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:33 am

It has burned 35 homes so far.

Do me a favor and refrain from the “serves them right” comments.

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