Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis
Right to counsel
These days, the right to counsel, and the right against self-incrimination are things we pretty much take for granted. it wasn’t always so. Gideon’s Trumpet is a book about a major legal case that was decided by the US Supreme Court in 1963. The case involved a man in Florida, Clarence Earl Gideon. A court in Florida refused to appoint legal counsel for Gideon, because Florida law at the time only allowed for court-appointed defense lawyers in capital cases. Gideon was convicted of burglary, and sentenced to five years. After submitting a hand-written petition to the US Supreme Court, that body took up his case. That resulted in a 9-0 SCOTUS decision in Gideon’s favor. He was retried and, with the help of counsel, was acquitted by a jury after an hour of deliberation.
In 1965, Author Anthony Lewis wrote a book about Gideon v. Wainwright, the case. The book became a TV-movie in 1980.
There was a time, right around when my younger sister was born, that we were “between houses.” My parents wanted to buy a lot and build a house, so they decided to sell our house, and we lived in an apartment complex for a while. One of the things that I liked about apartment living was the bookmobile. The library came to me rather than the other way around, so that was a fun thing.
One of my dad’s friends was a librarian and drove the bookmobile. While I picked stuff to read, Mr. Jim would regularly choose a book for me. He checked it out in my name, and put it in my hands, on top of anything else I’d picked. Gideon’s Trumpet was one of those books.
The book fascinated me. The legal principles weren’t all that hard for a fifth-grader to comprehend. Lewis presented the background of the story, offered an interesting portrait of Abe Fortas, the attorney appointed to represent Gideon before SCOTUS. (Fortas went on to become a Justice himself.) I love pomp and circumstance. Lewis’s descriptions of oral arguments before the court were fascinating. The decision was landmark.
All defendants have the right to counsel. It’s a Big Deal, and it resonated with ten-year old me. I watched all the cop and lawyer shows on the teevee. I went on to join the debate team in high school. The notion of going to law school crossed my mind.
I didn’t forget that concept. It’s one of those things that stuck with me, through the years, just like the times when a friend who is an attorney would point out that bail is not punishment. Bail backs up a promise to appear for trial.
Other than traffic tickets, I’ve been fortunate to have never needed defense counsel in a criminal proceeding. I’ve had friends, colleagues, and others in my life who have been in that position. When I taught high school, one of my students was accused of murder in Jefferson Parish. I was 23 at the time. The case sent me reeling. There wasn’t much I could do, as I wasn’t directly involved, yet it still tore at me. He had representation. Still, the case was very upsetting for me.
There have been other cases, other people, who weren’t so fortunate. The idea that capital cases happened where lawyers slept through trial, and their clients ended up executed was incredibly disturbing.
Every defendant should have competent defense, even if, no, especially if their crimes will put them on death row or they will face life imprisonment. I knew this when I was ten. Clarence Earl Gideon made that much of an impression on me.
Inmates exercising at Orleans Parish Prison (Bart Everson photo)
Suicide at Orleans Parish Prison
Seventeen-year old Dexter Allen is in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Facility in Gretna. In the city, the incredible mess that is Orleans Justice Center took another life. What makes this particularly sad is that this latest jail suicide was a juvenile.
Jaquin Thomas was pronounced dead at University Medical Center at 10:11 p.m., OPSO spokesman Philip Stelly said, after using a mattress cover to asphyxiate himself in his cell. The teenager had been jailed inside the Orleans Justice Center since his July 28 arrest on suspicion of second-degree murder and aggravated burglary, records show.
No Place for teenagers
Any suicide or attempt is a sad affair. Worse yet, locking up a teen in this prison is a terrible thing. Yes, he was charged with second-degree murder as an adult. That’s a serious situation. Jarvis DeBerry nails it, though, in his article on the suicide:
Jaquin was suspected of committing a crime more serious than Jerde’s, but if jail was considered inappropriate for the 21-year-old, it should have been considered the wrong place for the teenager. Charging a child as an adult does not magically transform him into an adult. It does not make that child any less vulnerable when thrown into a facility with people who are bigger, older and more hardened criminals.
Jailing teens in an adult prison is wrong. Still, it’s not a good idea to toss an alleged murderer into a juvenile facility. Teens accused of much more minor crimes are totally different. There has to be a way to balance this. Perhaps isolating serious juvenile offenders in one type of facility or the other.
Read the full article–Jarvis compares the situation Jaquin Thomas was in to that of a twenty-one-year old Tulane student. He demonstrates what #whiteprivilege gets you these days in New Orleans.
The National Rifle Association as mainstream GOP PAC
Democrats see the NRA as the face of the gun lobby. It’s an accurate, but incomplete view. Digby points out that the relationship between the NRA and the Republican Party is so much more. Not only that, but the pair have a long history. Two elections in the 1990s illustrate how the pairing works. In 1992, when the NRA helped go after Oklahoma Congressman Mike Synar:
This lesson came about from a previous Oklahoma race in 1992 when they became involved in the race against Rep. Mike Synar, a very outspoken liberal Democrat and enemy of the NRA and other GOP-affiliated special interests.They worked with other organizations to run ads against him about flag burning and other issues but also ran against him on guns. It backfired on them when Synar fought back against the NRA as an extremist organization and won. They came after his again in 1994 by recruiting a Democratic primary opponent and helping him win with a whisper campaign that said Synar supported the banning of hunting rifles. A Synar aid is quoted in the piece saying “They were smart. It was like boxing ghosts.” That primary election was an earthquake that foreshadowed the electoral rout that was to follow in the fall.
The NRA vs. Dave McCurdy
The OK GOP, with the help of a lot of NRA cash, chipped away at Synar’s credibility in 1992, and defeated him in 1994. The NRA then threw money at the Republican in the general, Tom Coburn. Coburn spent ten years in the House, moving to the Senate in 2005. In the 1994 OK Senate race, the NRA directed some of the $70 million they spent nationwide in an effort to oust Senator Dave McCurdy. The GOP/NRA didn’t go after McCurdy on guns, but rather by calling him a “Clinton clone”.
This hasn’t stopped for over twenty years. Remember this when your Fox News-watching aunt tells you that the NRA is all about “gun safety” and “Second Amendment rights”.
It’s going to take years to put out the dumpster fire that Jindal left behind, but fully implementing Obamacare is a good start:
“Expanding Medicaid in Louisiana was the easiest decision I’ve made since taking office in January, and I meet people from all walks of lifewho will be positively impacted by expansion,” said Gov. Edwards. “All the research shows that people with insurance coverage, including Medicaid, fare much better than those who are uninsured. Although my goal was to take immediate steps to get people health coverage, the more important goal is for people to have better health. Coverage is the important first step, and in the process, we are saving Louisiana taxpayers more than $180 million in this year alone.”
Accepting the Medicaid expansion and committing to fund programs that extend proper healthcare to everyone are essential. They’re compassionate. They’re the right feckin thing to do. When I travel to Europe, one of the common questions I’ll get asked is “Why don’t you Americans want to care for your sick?” I now tell them about my State Senator from #themetrys, Conrad Appel. Appel is currently my number-one “malaka”, as Adrastos affectionally refers to incredibly terrible people. Conrad here believes giving black people health care is a “luxury” that Louisiana taxpayers can’t afford. Such a shitty human being.
For all that John Bel Edwards is not a liberal, he is compassionate. There was a friend-of-a-friend comment on Lamar White’s Zuckerbook page where a #nonpartisanprogressive went on a rant about how un-progressive JBE is. Given that Lamar thinks rather highly of this individual, I was a bit confused. Nobody in Louisiana ever thought Governor Edwards was progressive. He’s a ConservaDem, and that’s not a bad thing. The Democratic Party is indeed the big tent, and JBE is an excellent example of how that works. Don’t like his position on abortion? Fine, work to re-establish the party outside of Orleans Parish and let’s elect more progressive Dems.
In the meantime, the poor get Obamacare. Go JBE!
Listened to a great edition of the Slate’s “Working” podcast–an interview with Ms. Fiona Reeves, who work for President Obama as his Director of Presidential Correspondence. I just love any inside-the-White-House content, and this lady’s job is fascinating. Some takeaways:
- It takes three weeks for a paper letter to get to the Office of Presidential Correspondence. Reeves calculates a week in transit (assuming regular first class postage), then two weeks for the letter to be screened for threats in the envelope.
- The Obama Administration is the first to process email, forward it to the President, and respond
- The Obama Administration discontinued accepting faxes as Presidential correspondence
- Reeves and her staff select ten letters and/or emails a night to include in POTUS’ evening briefing book
It’s fascinating to see Barack Obama through the eyes of someone who has worked for him since OFA set up shop in New Hampshire, for the 2008 campaign. In some ways, Reeves fits the “Donna Moss” archetype from The West Wing, working for the campaign since the beginning, then going to a position in the White House, and staying for two terms.
The discussion about accepting email started the wheels in my mind turning. In “Enemies Foreign and Domestic” (West Wing S3E18), Charlie Young receives a letter routed to the Oval Office directly, because it had a private code number in the address that presidents use to bypass correspondence processing for truly personal mail. In the story, Bartlet chose the same private code number that FDR used. A letter from a boy who’d seen FDR speak in 1932 was delayed for decades, and made it all the way to the Oval because of that code. I assume that POTUS still uses a similar system, but I also wonder if President Obama has a private email that goes straight to him, or someone close to him, the electronic equivalent of that mail code? Sometimes I wonder if the issues of “private mail servers” that go back to the Bush43 administration start out with just the notion of a place where POTUS, or SecState, can talk to folks about simple things without someone reading everything they do/say. The rest becomes unintended consequences.
One final observation, totally off the topic of the interview: POTUS didn’t re-model the Oval upon taking office in 2009. They’re standing on the rug from the Bush43 administration in that photo. President Clinton had a dark blue rug–the Bartlet Oval was modeled off of Clinton’s. It will be interesting to see what Hillary does with the room.
Marine firing his rifle in training.
On The Gist podcast yesterday, Pesca remarked on changes the United States Marine Corps is making to 19 Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) designations, to make them gender neutral. They’re replacing “man” in those designations with other descriptors:
- Basic infantry Marine.
- Riverine assault craft Marine.
- Light-armor vehicle Marine.
- Reconnaissance Marine (to include three other recon-related jobs that include the word “man”).
- Infantry assault Marine.
- Basic field artillery Marine.
- Field artillery fire control Marine.
- Field artillery sensor support Marine.
- Fire support Marine.
- Basic engineer, construction and equipment Marine.
- Basic tank and assault amphibious vehicle Marine.
- Armor Marine.
- Amphibious assault vehicle Marine.
- Amphibious combat vehicle Marine.
Pesca’s take was two-pronged: he naturally had some snarky comments about the awkwardness of some of these titles, as well as a few comments about reactions folks had to the changes in comments to posts on Facebook. As Pesca noted, it appears that Marines object to being called “Marine”.
Not being in the military, I can’t say I have an opinion on these designations, but they did bring me back to how Star Trek: The Next Generation handled gender-specific pronouns in Star Fleet. The writers basically punted, having subordinates call all superior officers, “sir”, regardless of gender. At the time, I thought it was an interesting concept. Now, given that more and more women serve in our Forces, and the ban on transgendered folks openly serving has been lifted, this is a good thing.
Still, I keep thinking about LT Firstborn and his use of a very specific spoken-word convention on the submarines. Like ST:TNG, I could see the language of war remaining as simple as possible, monosyllabic where possible. Maybe “man” and “sir” are still the right way to keep it short and simple?