Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ineffective assistance as an effective defense strategy?

I have often wondered why trial defense counsel aren't more receptive to "ineffective assistance of counsel" based appeals. Sure, you hate to admit making a mistake, and no one likes criticism, but then again, it's neither your life nor your liberty which is at stake. Here's one defense counsel who embraces the idea.

WEST PALM BEACH -- Nathaniel Brazill, serving a 28-year prison sentence for fatally shooting a Lake Worth Middle School teacher in 2000, will get a new hearing at which he will claim his trial attorney did not effectively represent him, an appeals court ruled Wednesday. *****

Brazill, who filed the motion on his own behalf, has an unlikely advocate in his bid to get a new trial."I'm glad to see he got a new hearing and I hope he does get some relief," said Robert Udell, Brazill's trial attorney. "I'd love to see him get a new trial.

"Ineffective assistance of counsel appeals - as they are commonly known - are standard post-conviction motions brought by inmates. Udell said he understands this and that any lawyer who takes such an appeal personally is "a weenie."

"I've been doing this for 30 years and I've never understood lawyers who get up on their high horse when clients file (ineffective assistance of counsel) motions," Udell said. "If my client is in jail for anything I did or didn't do, I'll be the first one to say they deserve relief from the courts."

Of course, embedding a trial with ineffective assistance should never be a trial strategy, should it? Here's the whole story.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Go George! Clooney confronts the U.N. on Darfur

This story really impresses me. George Clooney is actually doing something about the Darfur emergency. His strong words to the U.N. should be yet another wake up call to the world.

Inside, Clooney told the U.N.'s most powerful body that it must send replacements for the African Union's 7,000 peacekeepers in Darfur when its mandate expires at the end of the month. If it did not, aid workers would have to leave and the 2.5 million displaced people who depend on them would die.

"After Sept. 30 you won't need the U.N. You will simply need men with shovels and bleached white linen and headstones," the 45-year-old actor warned. The Sudanese government has refused to approve the replacement of African Union peacekeepers by a U.N. force, saying it would violate the country's sovereignty.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and over 2 million have fled their homes since 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government. A May peace agreement signed by the government and one of the major rebel groups was supposed to help end the conflict in Darfur. Instead, it has sparked months of fighting among rival rebel factions that has added to the toll of the dead and displaced.

"The United States has called it genocide," Clooney told council members. "For you it's called ethnic cleansing. But make no mistake _ it is the first genocide of the 21st century. And if it continues unchecked it will not be the last."

In stark words he told the U.N. diplomats: "In many ways it is unfair, but it is nonetheless true that this genocide will be on your watch. How you deal with it will be your legacy, your Rwanda, your Cambodia, your Auschwitz." "We were brought up to believe that the U.N. was formed to ensure that the Holocaust could never happen again. We believe in you so strongly. We need you so badly. If not the U.N., then who?" Clooney asked.

Clooney is telling it like it is. In this post 9/11/2001 world, we have become preoccupied with our own security. The poor people of Darfur have not made it on to our radar screen in any meaningful way. How can this happen??? Again I ask, where are our real leaders? I'm ready to vote for George Clooney.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

All gave some. Some gave all.

On behalf of everyone who has ever given even an hour of time pro bono publico, I salute the memory of the heroic public servants who died five years ago on September 11, 2001. If there were a pro bono Hall of Fame, it would stand at Ground Zero with tributes to each of these men and women at the entrance. The story below is but one of many.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tour guide Ann Van Hine is rewarded with tears, not tips, and frequently reduces visitors to an awed silence when she tells them how her husband, a firefighter, died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

"Sometimes I feel bad because I look at people's faces as I'm telling my story and it's like I've just blown them away," Van Hine said after leading 25 tourists from as far afield as Italy and Australia on a tour around the perimeter of the gaping hole known as Ground Zero. She says younger visitors often chat freely with her before the tour, but afterwards, "They don't know what to say to me."

As she is about to climb a steep flight of stairs to a walkway over the highway west of the site, Van Hine asks visitors to imagine climbing stairs loaded up with firefighting equipment. "The firefighters got up to about the 70th floor, so it would have been like doing what we're doing 35 times."

She and her husband, Richard Bruce Van Hine, had two daughters aged 14 and 17 at the time of the attacks that killed 2,992 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. "Ten days after, I asked my girls where they thought Daddy was and they said they thought Daddy was in heaven," she said, adding that she visited Ground Zero on September 28, 2001.

If you see a firefighter, police officer, or emergency worker this Monday, September 11, take the time to thank them for what they are doing. If you know any men or women in uniform or any members of their families, you might also thank them in any way you deem best. We owe them big time.