Patterico's Pontifications


Making the Great Leap: PC to Mac

Filed under: General — Jack Dunphy @ 10:46 pm

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

I bought my first PC back in 1984 and have been working on one ever since, but yesterday I took the great leap and bought a MacBook Pro. I’m stumbling through the transition process, and this is my first post produced on the new machine. I’d be grateful to hear advice and recommended resources from any readers who have made the same transition. Thanks in advance.

–Jack Dunphy

Scarlet Letter-Style Sentences

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 8:43 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A Houston couple that stole over $265,000 from a crime victims’ fund has been sentenced to jail, restitution, lengthy probation, and carrying “Thief” signs on weekends for 6 years:

“DA’s spokeswoman Donna Hawkins says the wife, when freed, must hold a sign in the Galleria area every Sunday, for six years, indicating she is a thief. The husband, when freed, must display a thief sign every Saturday during the period.”

Six years of weekends is a long time to carry a sign, but if they don’t I assume that would violate their probation and they could go to jail.


Disaster Preparedness, HEB-Style

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 8:01 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

South Texas HEB grocery stores are finding alternatives to FEMA that help people after hurricanes and similar disasters:

“In a battle of nature versus big business, H-E-B is fighting to win by adding power generation systems that will operate several stores immediately following hurricanes and other storms that knock out power.

The company, which has more than 315 stores in Texas and northern Mexico, began installing the system in its Rockport location Tuesday, H-E-B spokeswoman Shelley Parks said.”

Rockport is on the Gulf Coast and exposed to Gulf hurricanes.


Radley Balko Mischaracterizes Court Decision

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:08 pm

Radley Balko:

A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has rejected an Oregon man’s petition for habeas corpus relief (PDF). This despite acknowledging that the man has established actual innocence for the crimes for which he’s being imprisoned (sexual abuse and sodomy of a four-year-old). The reason: He was late filing his petition.

That is a very dramatic assertion. Not particularly accurate, but dramatic.

Balko would have you believe that there was new evidence presented after the trial that established the defendant’s innocence, and that the court “acknowledged” this to be the case. (If there was no new evidence, this would simply be a question of whether the evidence adduced at trial was sufficient to establish guilt.) But it is quite clear that the Ninth Circuit panel “acknowledged” no such thing. While a lower court apparently did make such a finding, the appellate court did not rule on the accuracy of this finding.

The decision is here. Let’s start with the concurring opinion, which is the only opinion that actually discusses what the “new” evidence was, and the lower court’s inadequacies in its analysis:

The district court does not discuss how any of this “new” evidence establishes, by clear and convincing evidence, the existence of a constitutional error resulting in Lee’s conviction.

. . . .

The district court primarily relied upon two pieces of new evidence: (1) expert testimony regarding the reliability of child witnesses and a critique of the techniques used in this case; and (2) additional details regarding Robert Nachand and the police’s investigation of Lee. Neither of these pieces of evidence truly appears to be “new.” The jury had evidence before it, at the time of rendering its verdict, that there existed a second molester and that the victim was experiencing some confusion between the second molester and Lee. Lee knew about the unreliability of child testimony and was allowed to explore through examination and argue in closing argument about the victim’s confusion between Richard Lee and Robert Nachand.

Further, while an Oregon court may have appropriately denied the request, it appears that Lee never even requested to call an expert witness on his behalf to support an argument that the victim’s testimony was unreliable. Lee’s later presentation of expert testimony to the federal district court does not constitute new evidence; instead, it was further development of existing evidence. See Griffin v. Johnson, 350 F.3d 956, 962-63 (9th Cir. 2003). Thus, the evidence upon which the district court relied in holding that the jury would have changed its verdict, was before the jury. Here, the jury had evidence of the victim’s confusion and the second molester before rendering its verdict. We presume the jury to have considered the evidence before it when rendering a verdict.

Therefore, the district court erred in holding that Lee was entitled to habeas relief on this ground.
It is not enough that the district court disagreed with the findings of the Oregon state courts.

Ah, I can hear Balko saying, but that is only a concurrence! Surely the other two judges who joined in the main opinion “acknowledged” that there was new evidence that showed the defendant was innocent?

Not so much. Instead, they didn’t even address this argument. Footnote 19 states:

Because we decide this case on statute of limitations grounds, we need not reach the state’s other arguments, including that the district court refused to give AEDPA deference to the state court findings and that Lee did not present any new evidence in the federal evidentiary hearing.

So, to be clear: the state argued that the defendant presented no new evidence in his habeas hearing, and the court didn’t address that in its majority opinion. A concurring judge said: I’ll address it: he didn’t present new evidence.

And that is characterized by Balko as the “three-judge panel acknowledged” that the defendant had established his innocence.

The panel addressed no such thing. Balko ought to acknowledge that.

That would be less dramatic, no doubt. But it would be more accurate.

BY THE WAY: I am very disturbed by a state of affairs that would use a deadline to deny a valid claim of actual innocence (which is not proven to be the case here). The issue is whether that should be fixed by Congress or by the courts. The current panel’s conclusion that it is an issue for Congress is hardly an outlier; as the opinion notes, several sister circuits have reached the same conclusion. I’d have to study the issue more to reach an opinion on the question of whether it’s a judicial or legislative issue, but it should be fixed regardless.

Texas Psychologist Accused in GTMO Torture

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 1:45 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The American Psychological Association is working to strip a Texas psychologist of his license, claiming he helped torture a Guantanamo detainee. The APA sent a letter on July 1st to the Texas licensing agency alleging Dr. James Mitchell committed unethical conduct and should be stripped of his license:

“Mitchell is a retired Air Force psychologist who participated in the 2002 CIA interrogation of detainee Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Mitchell is not a member of the American Psychological Association.”

This is the only time in the APA’s history that it has sent a letter of this type.


L.A. Times: Gee, Maybe Familial DNA Searching Isn’t So Bad After All!

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 1:40 am

Maura Dolan of the L.A. Times has an article that explains how familial DNA searching caught “The Grim Sleeper,” a serial killer who was charged Thursday with 10 counts of murder.

Familial searching has been done for years in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, but technical, legal and ethical concerns have kept the FBI from pursuing it in the United States, where California and Colorado are the only two states that have embraced it fully.

. . . .

Skeptics have argued that familial searches invade the privacy of people who happen to have a relative in the database and may violate constitutional guarantees against unwarranted searches. So far, however, no one has challenged the use of familial searching in California, and an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that the state’s handling of the Grim Sleeper case made the group “more comfortable” with the process.

“From our perspective, if you are going to use familial DNA searching, this is the kind of case you should use it for, and the kind of precautions they took in this case are the kind that should be taken,” said Peter Bibring, staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California.

My, my. It sounds like everyone is pretty much hunky-dory with familial searching!

Well, nothing succeeds like success. I hate to be the guy who has to remind you how Dolan and Jason Felch, the L.A. Times‘s self-appointed “experts” on DNA, had a hand-wringing article in November 2008 that whined and moaned about the allegedly horrific privacy violations involved in familial searching:

But the idea of scrutinizing families based exclusively on their possible genetic relationship to an unknown suspect makes privacy advocates and legal experts nervous. They argue that it effectively expands criminal databases to include every offender’s relatives, a potentially unconstitutional intrusion.

“There is kind of a queasiness about having the sins of your father come back to haunt you,” said Stanford University law professor Hank Greely, who supports familial searching despite those concerns. “It feels like we’re holding people responsible for the crimes of their family.”

Because the technology isn’t perfect, families with no connection to the perpetrator inevitably will be investigated, some scientists and legal experts say.

Oh, my God! Innocent people might be investigated, in a criminal investigation, just because there is some reason to suspect they might be involved!

As I said at the time:

I have news for you, L.A. Times: as with any other human endeavor, criminal investigation in general isn’t perfect. People with no connection to the perpetrator will inevitably be investigated at times.

Does that mean we should stop investigating crime? Since when do we not investigate leads just because they could initially point investigators in the wrong direction?

Understand clearly what is going on here. We’re talking about searching people who are already in the database, to see if they might be a sibling of the person who did the murder.

If there is a close enough match, then — as with any other lead based on evidence — the lead may pan out or it may not.

Here’s an analogy. Let’s say that a young woman is kidnapped, held in a home, sexually abused, and eventually released. During her ordeal, she sneaks into a room and overhears the suspect saying to someone on the phone: “Take the money to my brother James. He just got out of prison and he’s living over on Cedar St.”

An investigator could search property records databases, to see if anyone named James lives on Cedar St. If he finds one or more such people, he could attempt to learn whether any of those Jameses has a brother. He could search criminal databases to see whether any such brothers were recently released from prison.

Or, he could just do nothing, out of deference to some insane phantom privacy concern on the part of innocent people with brothers on Cedar Street named James.

Searching the database for one’s relatives seems less intrusive than, say, knocking on doors in a neighborhood where a murder has occurred. Can you believe the incredible privacy violation involved when authorities with badges and guns come knocking on the door of your home — your sanctuary! your castle! — merely because you happen to live near the murder?!?!

Oh, the intrusion! Oh, the invasion of privacy! Privacy advocates are nervous! It feels like we’re holding people responsible for living near the scene of a crime!!!!

Yet homicide detectives routinely do door-knocks to look for witnesses, and no rational person objects. What’s the difference here?

Now that we have a serial killer in custody, everyone is singing a different tune. The privacy advocates are pretty much keeping their mouths shut — and Dolan and Felch, who have screwed the pooch on too many DNA stories to count, are keeping the whining to a minimum.

I guess they hope that the next time they want to bitch about this effective crime-fighting technique, you will have forgotten about the murderer it caught.

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