Definition of “commercial instrument” (Shipp v. State).

According to the Texas Court at Appeals blog, the CCA will take up the issue of whether forgery of a “commercial instrument” includes a store receipt.

The Sixth Court of Appeals (Texarkana) didn’t think so, limiting the definition to instruments that affect a legal relationship or convey some sort of future benefit, and excluding a store receipt because it simply memorializes a transaction that has already occurred. Here’s the court of appeals opinion: Allen Ray Shipp v. State.

Representing the Wretched

I’ve written about representing the guilty. Now, via Defending People and from Preaching to the Choir, I’ve come across a wonderful treatment of representing the wretched:

So I was perusing an internet comment board this afternoon. (I know, I know. Stay away, those internet message boards are filled with crazies. Nothing good comes from reading, etc. I know. Meryl’s staging an intervention, but in the meantime, I learn interesting things about the general populace.)

Anyway, I found this comment on an article about a capital murder case:

The Constitution does a lot to protect fools, the undeserving, and pieces of human trash.

Reading that made me grin. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. And I said with pride, “Hell, yeah, it does!”

I’m willing to wager that’s not the reaction the writer was expecting. Based on context, I’m fairly confident the writer wrote those words with a rueful shake of the head and a sense of outrage that the Constitution does protect those folks. I suspect the writer would think it not such a bad thing if we added an asterisk to the Bill of Rights indicating these rights do not apply to fools, the undeserving, and pieces of human trash.

But, me, I think it’s awesome. (Yes, I’m a lawyer with an extensive vocabulary and that is the word I choose.) It’s easy to respect the rights of the pretty people, the popular ones, the charming folk, the nice guys. No one’s going to run roughshod over Mr. Rogers’ rights. We probably don’t need a Constitution to protect the Prom Queen. It’s the assholes we need to write the rules for. It’s harder to treat them well, to be fair to them, to refrain from punching them. So 200-some years ago, we wrote a contract with ourselves to make sure we would always respect the rights of the worst among us.

It’s easy to treat the good people well. But the true measure of our character is how we treat the bad ones. We choose to treat them fairly and with respect. And I think it’s awesome.

Here’s that link again from Preaching to the Choir, in case you think this is as “awesome” as I do.

Police Notebook: Former Sgt. Michael Olsen (APD)

Officer:  Former Sgt. Michael Olsen.
Agency:  Austin Police Department.
Alleged Misconduct:  Excessive use of force and demonstration of poor judgment and tactics, leading to the fatal shooting of a man in 2007.
Disciplinary Action:  Fired.
Other Information:  Currently under investigation by APD for improper use of force against a 13-year-old in a private security capacity. Olsen is the Austin branch manager for a private security company that coordinates and assists patrols at about 60 apartment complexes (including the East Austin apartment complex that is the site of the 2007 shooting), strip centers and other sites throughout the city.
Source:  This Statesman article.

10/22/10 Update.  A Travis County grand jury declined to indict Olsen in a criminal case brought against Olsen as a result of the allegations of improper use of force against the 13-year-old boy.

Update re. Briscoe v. Virginia (SCOTUS)

Back in November, I posted the following blurb about a case on this month’s argument calendar in the SCOTUS:

Briscoe v. Virginia (07-11191) — Scope of crime lab analysts’ role in a criminal trial; sequel to Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts,on Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause rights. The Melendez-Diaz case,which was decided earlier this year, requires the prosecution, when itpresents a lab report as evidence in a criminal trial, to make theanalyst who prepared it available for cross-examination by defensecounsel. Sadly, the 5-4 decision may already be in jeopardy. More….

Thankfully, the SCOTUS remanded Briscoe (pdf) for further proceedings “not inconsistent with” the Melendez-Diaz opinion (pdf).

1/29/10 Revision. Changed category from “Cases of Note” to “Case Law.”

Seven Bullshit Police Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies)

Came across this amusing but mostly true rundown of seven bullshit police myths. The myths it debunks are the following:

Myth #7. Forensic Science is Magic
Myth #6. The Insanity Defense Lets You Get Away With Murder
Myth #5. Not Talking To Cops Equals Obstruction of Justice
Myth #4. Undercover Cops Have To Identify Themselves If Asked
Myth #3. Tracing a Call Takes a Long Time

Myth #2. Criminals Must Be Read Their Miranda Rights or They Will Go Free

Myth #1. Everyone Gets One Free Phone Call

Follow this link for an entertaining and informative explanation for why these are strictly myths (note that it contains a paranoid big-brother-is-listening-through-our-cell-phone theory that I’m not sold but otherwise seems accurate and is definitely worth a read.)

1/26/10 Editing Note: Added a line to (hopefully) clarify that the list alone isn’t what’s worth reading; you really need to follow the link.

Mismanagement results in new police commander position.

Earlier this month, I posted a Police Notebook entry about APD’s Lt. Wayne Demoss, who was appealing a decision by Chief Art Acevedo to deny Demoss a promotion to the rank of commander because he had visited a brothel during a December 2007 trip to Panama, where prostitution is legal.

Demoss didn’t deny that he’d visited the brothel but claimed that the purpose of the visit was merely to satisfy his curiosity about such establishments and that he didn’t actually pay for sex (okay, Clinton). Whatever the truth is, he won his appeal.

Meanwhile, Patrick Ockletree was promoted to fill the open commander position. Loathe to make Demoss wait for another opening or demote Ockletree through no fault on his part, the city council decided that the only logical thing to do was create a new police commander position just for Demoss.

In case you were wondering, the typical annual salary for an Austin police commanders is $113,000.

For more, see these Statesman articles:

Police Notebook: Sgt. Craig Martin (APD)

Officer:  Sgt. Craig Martin
Agency:  Austin Police Department
Alleged Misconduct:   Arrested for illegal use or inhaling glue or paint in December 2009 by Kyle police and again in January 2010 by Cedar Park police.
Other Information:  Martin supervises  current assignment is  currently is assigned to supervise detectives in South-Central Austin. He has been placed on restricted duty. .
Disciplinary Action:  Martin was placed on restricted duty at some point prior to January 13, 2010 (presumably as a result of the first arrest) but was still in a supervisory position. Further disciplinary action is unknown.
Source:  This Statesman article.