Punishments for Crimes through the ages – from the bizarre to outrageous, from the sublime to the ridiculous. We don’t know how lucky we are!
Many of us are apt to complain about sentences handed out by our Courts for crimes these days – too harsh, too lenient. But a quick look at some punishments for crimes through the ages, including in some countries today, we should really consider how much we really have to complain about.
Not only have punishments been truly shocking (and in some instances still are), but even some of the crimes are truly unbelievable.
Many Sydney criminal lawyers would have had their work cut out for them if some of these historical crimes were still on the statute books! Lucky for us that our complaints about the justice systems these days are limited to whether an offender should be given a jail sentence or community service, or whether a 2 year sentence is sufficient or whether 5 would have been better, and so on.
Thank goodness we don’t have to contend with crimes for which the penalty is being tortured to death by some truly unimaginable means. Criminal lawyers in Australia, as in Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and others, these days don’t have to plead for the type of mercy that offenders of times gone by had to. And of course, some of these barbaric practices do still exist today in other parts of the globe, as you can see below.
Some Crimes and Some Punishments You Won’t Believe
Considering bitcoin’s origins as a decentralized technology designed to disrupt the world banking system, it’s no surprise that the cryptocurrency community has a rather tepid relationship with financial regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Meanwhile, alleged cryptocurrency scams like Centra Tech — which the SEC believes raised $32 million in a fraudulent initial coin offering last fall — have done little to help the relationship from the regulator’s perspective.
Add this complicated background to the fact that the SEC is still developing its official policy on how to regulate cryptocurrencies, and you’ve got an incredibly vague and shaky legal environment from which to try to run a business.
Now, as companies big and small compete for a piece of the cryptocurrency pie, much of the ground work is being done by an invisible force in the C-suite: the general counsel — which is to say, cryptocurrency companies’ in-house lawyers.
Many of the lawyers on this list have spent their careers in finance law or in-house at other tech companies. One lawyer went in-house just one year after finishing her law degree, while another held senior-level roles across three different presidential administrations before finding his way into the world of bitcoin.
Whatever their experience, these 9 lawyers are helping some of the biggest names in cryptocurrency navigate the shaky and ever-changing landscape of blockchain regulation and compliance.
Undergrad: Mills College Law school: University of California, Berkeley Why you should know her: Llyr’s career has spanned both tech and finance, making her uniquely qualified to work in cryptocurrency.
“I joined Ripple in 2016 for the company’s technology and vision,” Llyr told Business Insider. “Improving the efficiencies with payments helps real people around the world – many of whom are either shut out of the banking system altogether or are subject to high fees and poor visibility into the payment system.”
Prior to joining Ripple, she was at PayPal and eBay for a combined total of five years and managed a range of issues from litigation to patents. Before that, she was at a law firm representing both corporate and individual clients in regulatory investigations, among other things.
But one of Llyr’s most defining experiences may likely be one that happened before she had a law degree at all. Llyr spent seven years as a project manager and stock broker at Charles Schwab, which gives her unparalleled understanding of the financial systems that Ripple is trying to conquer.
Mike Lempres — Chief Legal and Risk Officer at Coinbase
Undergrad: Dartmouth College Law school: University of California, Berkeley Why you should know him: Lempres’ career has spanned both public and private sectors, including time in senior government positions under three different presidential administrations.
He joined Coinbase in January from a similar role at another blockchain company, Bitnet Technologies. Before that, he was assistant general counsel at Silicon Valley Bank’s financial group.
“I first heard about cryptocurrencies from friends who were on it very early. Later I was working at a bank that focused on technology companies in the Bay Area, and a few crypto companies were looking for a bank,” Lempres told Business Insider. “The space was fascinating to me, and I began to believe it could change the world […] I still love the technology and the legal art in this space. No looking back!”
Lempres also has a less conventional item on his resume — mayor of Atherton, an affluent Silicon Valley town and the most expensive zip code in America, which is home to influential tech billionaires like former HPE CEO Meg Whitman and former Google chairman Eric Schmidt. He still sits on the Atherton city council.
Marco Santori — President and Chief Legal Officer at Blockchain
Undergrad: University of California, Berkeley Law school: University of Notre Dame Why you should know him: Santori is likely the crypto lawyer with the most name recognition among his peers — and with good reason. In addition to practicing law, he has been a central figure on the foundation level, helping bring legal clarity to a developing field.
Santori joined Blockchain from Cooley LLP, where he was head of the financial technology group. While he’s spent most of his career at law firms, Santori started building a name for himself in crypto around 2013, when he joined the Bitcoin Foundation as chairman of the regulatory affairs committee.
He even co-authored the authoritative white paper on Simple Agreements for Future Tokens (SAFT) — a new investment vehicle which has given venture capitalists and other investors a way to invest in blockchain startups outside of the traditional equity model. The SAFT model is used by top investors, like Sequoia Capital’s Matt Huang, today.
Netflix has a popular and compelling new docuseries in its recent original series, “Evil Genius.”
The four-part series explores the wild criminal case surrounding the 2003 death of Brian Wells, a pizza-delivery man who died after robbing a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“Evil Genius” has a 73% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it has drawn significant buzz from audiences as another captivating entry in Netflix’s true-crime catalog.
Netflix has another captivating docuseries in its recent original series, “Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist.”
Over four episodes, the series explores the criminal case surrounding the 2003 death of Brian Wells, a pizza-delivery man who robbed a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania. Wells died shortly afterward when a bomb strapped to his neck detonated in front of police.
The robbery was planned and executed by a group of four “fractured intellectuals,” including a woman named Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong — a “middle-aged mastermind” grappling with mental illness — and her former fiance, Bill Rothstein, who are the focus of the series.
Diehl-Armstrong died in federal prison in 2017, serving a life sentence for planning the heist and murder.
But “Evil Genius” complicates the narrative of the heist and case with new evidence and a noteworthy confession.
Executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass (the producers of Netflix’s “Wild Wild Country”), “Evil Genius” has a 73% critic rating on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, but its 88% audience rating is reflective of the significant buzz the series has drawn since its release last Friday.
CNN’s Brian Lawry had one of the more laudatory reviews of the series, writing, “With Evil Genius there’s actually a sense of discovery, and a crime spree so unusual that it genuinely approximates a Coen brothers movie, down to the quirky assortment of culprits and stooges.”
Watch a trailer for the series below, and find “Evil Genius” on Netflix.
A federal judge in Washington DC is proceeding with the criminal case brought forward by special counsel Robert Mueller, regarding Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman.
US district judge Amy Jackson declined to throw out the case against Manafort, who faces two indictments from the special counsel.
“Given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest,” the ruling said.
A federal judge in Washington DC is proceeding with the criminal case brought forward by special counsel Robert Mueller, regarding Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman.
US district judge Amy Jackson declined to throw out the case against Manafort, who faces two indictments from the special counsel. Manafort is charged in Virginia and Washington with tax and bank fraud connected to his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia interests in Ukraine.
The judge deemed that the indictment “falls squarely within that portion of the authority granted to the Special Counsel.”
“Given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest,” the ruling reads.
Judge Jackson previously dismissed a civil case Manafort filed against Mueller, in which Manafort’s attorneys argued that the scope of Mueller’s investigation was too broad.
Manafort’s lawyers’ previous push for dismissal hinged on the argument that because the crimes in question do not directly relate to Mueller’s core mandate — investigating whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow — he was not authorized to charge Manafort with them.
Judge Jackson added that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein followed the appropriate rules and possessed the judicial authority when he appointed Mueller to investigate the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.
In appointing Mueller in May 2017, Rosenstein gave him broad authority not only to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated” with the Trump campaign, but also to examine “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
Earlier this year, it surfaced that Rosenstein also sent a memo to Mueller in August outlining the full scope of his mandate and specific threads he was allowed to investigate.
Per the memo, Mueller is authorized to investigate two threads related to Manafort:
Whether Manafort colluded with Russian government officials as Russia was trying to meddle in the 2016 US election.
Whether he committed any crimes “arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych.”
Manafort pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
HBO and Sky Atlantic are making a documentary series that will “closely re-examine” the murder case of Adnan Syed, the subject of the popular podcast “Serial.”
The four-hour series, directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian Amy Berg, is titled “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”
The series promises “new discoveries, as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case” in Syed’s trial.
HBO is teaming with the UK’s Sky Atlantic to release a documentary series following the murder case and conviction of Adnan Syed, the subject of the first season of the popular podcast “Serial” from 2014.
Directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian Amy Berg (“Deliver Us From Evil”), the four-hour series is titled “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”
The series will “closely re-examine” the 1999 disappearance and murder of 18-year-old Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of Syed, her ex-boyfriend.
A press release on the series states that the show will present “new discoveries, as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case.”
Syed was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2000 for Hae Min Lee’s murder. In March of this year, Maryland’s court of special appeals granted a retrial for Syed’s case. The Baltimore Sun reported this week that Syed’s prosecutors had asked the court to reverse the retrial ruling.
Berg has been working on “The Case Against Adnan Syed” since 2015, per the release. The show will also feature original music from singer-songwriter Nick Cave.
“We’ll be offering viewers a compelling window into one of the most talked about murder cases in recent years,” Sky director of programming Zai Bennett told Variety of the series. “The hugely talented Amy Berg has unprecedented access to those closest to the investigation, which is sure to make unmissable viewing.”
HBO has not yet announced a release date for the series.
Fox News reportedly reached a $10 million settlement for several discrimination lawsuits filed by 18 current and former employees.
The ranged from claims of racial, gender, and pregnancy discrimination.
The settlement would force the plaintiffs to drop their claims and find employment elsewhere, never to return to Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox.
Fox News reportedly reached a $10 million settlement for several discrimination lawsuits filed by 18 current and former employees, according to The New York Times.
The lawsuits ranged from claims of mistreatment based on racial, gender, and pregnancy, including one that alleged no action was taken after repeated complaints about what was described as “abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination.”
“When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox,” Douglas Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen, representatives of the plaintiffs, previously said in a statement cited by BuzzFeed News.
Fox News denied the allegations.
“We believe these latest claims are without legal basis and look forward to proving that Fox News at all times has acted appropriately, and lawfully,” a spokesperson said regarding a pregnancy discrimination allegation in 2017. “[Fox] is committed to a diverse workplace that is free from all forms of discrimination.”
The plaintiffs included Fox News reporters who appear on radio and television, including Kelly Wright, a black employee of the network since 2003.
Wright claimed in his filing that he was marginalized by the network’s so-called “plantation-style management.”
The settlement would bind the plaintiffs to drop their claims and find employment elsewhere, never to return to Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, according to The Times. The parties would be barred from disclosing their respective settlement amounts, but will not prevent them from discussing their allegations.
The settlement marks the end of another chapter in the network’s history of scandals. A string of sexual-harassment allegations have ratteled the network previously — which led to the ouster of several influential figures in 2017, most notably Bill O’Reilly, and then-chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.
Nicki Clyne has got a criminal lawyer. She made soon need one.
On May 4, Assistant US Attorney Moira Penza told the Federal Court in Brooklyn that, in addition to indicted co defendants, Keith Raniere and Allison Mack, the US Attorney’s office would likely be bringing charges against others in the NXIVM sex cult case.
Penza told the court that new defendants may be charged within the next few weeks.
Although Penza did not name the targets, it is believed that Clyne, the former actress, who became a sex slave follower of Mack and Raniere, may be one of these.
Clyne has now retained New York criminal lawyer, Edward Sapone, a founding partner of Sapone & Petrillo, LLP of New York City.
According to an online profile Sapone “focuses his practice on handling state and federal criminal defense cases that involve the following matters: white collar, financial, fraud, violent and narcotics crimes.”
Since Clyne appears to have little or no money for a retainer for a top shelf lawyer – she works in a vegan restaurant, – it seems likely that cult leader, Clare Bronfman is footing the bill for her attorney.
According to his online profile “Mr. Sapone has been named in The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100, and he holds an Avvo ‘Superb’ rating. He has received a Citation of Honor from the president of the Borough of Queens, the Hon. Helen M. Marshall, and from New York state assemblyman Francisco P. Moya, as well as a Proclamation of Honor from New York state Sen. Jose Peralta.
“A faculty member at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Mr. Sapone has taught at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. In demand as a legal analyst, he has appeared on a number of media outlets, including Court TV, MSNBC, CNN and Univision. Mr. Sapone is the president of The New York Criminal Bar Association, and he is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the Federal Bar Council and the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.”
He has been selected to “Super Lawyers” from 2014-2018.
Bronfman – the enormously wealthy Seagram’s heiress who, along with her sister, Sara Bronfman- Igtet – have funded the criminal cult for 18 years – is likely paying at least 12 lawyers to defend members of the cult.
Bronfman is believed to be paying Keith Raniere’ five lawyers, [Marc A. Agnifilo, Paul DerOhannesian, II, Danielle Renee Smith, Jacob Kaplan, Teny Rose Geragos];
Allison Macks’ three lawyers [Sean Stephen Buckley, Steven Gary Kobre, William F. McGovern];
The team of medical malpractice attorneys representing human fright experimenter Dr. Brandon Porter and human female brander, Dr. Danielle Roberts. (Abrams Fensterman Michael S. Kelton lead attorney);
India Oxenberg’s civil attorney, Carla DiMare, [retained to sue India’s mother Catherine Oxenberg and others]
Bronfman’s own lawyers [Dennis Burke, William Savino and others].
Mamaroneck Police attorney John D'Alessandro speaks out on process and procedure of the officers. John Meore, email@example.com
Mamaroneck police have come under scrutiny in the aftermath of Gabriella Maria Boyd’s death, primarily because a lawyer for the girl’s father accused them of failing to enforce a court order that gave the father custody the day before she died in her mother’s home.
Now a lawyer for the police union is turning the tables, assailing the father’s lawyer for not doing enough to protect Gabriella.
“He may not be a criminal lawyer but he knows damn well the Constitution doesn’t give cops the right to break down the door and take a child,” John D’Alessandro said of Martin Rosen, the lawyer for Stephen Boyd. “He’s recklessly pointing fingers but can he look in the mirror and say he did his job to the best of his ability?”
The focus has not been on the violence that occurred when police arrived too late to save Gabriella on April 28. Rather questions have swirled about whether enough was done the previous day, when two officers went to the Chestnut Avenue home to serve the court order but were turned away by Cynthia Arce, Gabriella’s mother.
Before becoming an attorney and joining the Quinn Law Firm, D’Alessandro was a Yonkers detective for years. When he retired in 2005, he was commanding officer of the department’s child abuse investigation team. He had previously spent time heading the county’s child abuse team and following his retirement he was the coordinator of the county’s child fatality review team.
He said Rosen should have done several things that might have convinced police the girl was in danger:
Rosen should have gotten an order of protection.
He should have included emergency language directing police to act.
He should have provided an official copy of the order — with the affidavit detailing the underlying concerns — to police, D’Alessandro said.
D’Alessandro said there was no sense of urgency on the part of police because there was nothing that led them to believe she was in danger.
“I can’t think of any cops who would have knocked down the door in this circumstance,” he said. “There just wasn’t enough there.”
Asked in an email Friday about D’Alessandro’s criticism, Rosen said he would respond after he returns from a vacation in Europe on Tuesday.
He did insist that it was “obvious that the judge felt (the) child was in danger. That is why the Order to Show Cause was signed in the form that was submitted.”
Just after 1:30 p.m. on April 28, police responded to 507 Chestnut Ave. on a 911 call from the owner, Gabriella’s grandmother. They found the 2-year-old unresponsive and tried CPR. Arce allegedly attacked two officers with a pair of knives. An attempt to subdue her with a stun gun failed and another officer shot and injured her.
Gabriella later died at the hospital. The cause of death is still undetermined as the Medical Examiner awaits test results.
Arce was charged with attempted aggravated murder of a police officer and remains held without bail.
Two days after Gabriella’s death, Rosen held a press conference criticizing the police and District Attorney’s Office for “refusing” to enforce the order.
Village and police officials were mum in response, leaving police frustrated, D’Alessandro said. The Village of Mamaroneck Police Benevolent Association put out a statement two days later saying the officers had no indication that Gabriella was in danger and that they were told they had no authority to enter the home to take the girl.
The document police presented to Arce was a Family Court order granting temporary physical custody of Gabriella to the father, Stephen Boyd, and barring Arce from having contact with Boyd and the toddler.
Rosen had crafted the language as part of an Order to Show Cause he submitted to Judge Hal Greenwald on April 26, the day that Stephen Boyd received a disturbing phone call from Arce that led him to believe she was going to harm herself.
Greenwald signed the order on April 27 and Rosen sent a copy of it to Boyd, who went to police headquarters to get them to serve the court order on Arce so he could get his daughter.
Everyone seems to have assumed that Arce would comply. Nobody planned for what would happen when she didn’t.
Stronger court order language?
Because Rosen wrote out the order that the judge signed, he could have written in language that police were directed to take the child, D’Alessandro suggested.
Then if the judge crossed it out, that would have said something about how serious he thought the situation was. If the judge kept that language in, that would have been the guidance police needed.
“That would have done the trick,” D’Alessandro said. “If the judged signed an order with that, it would have given cops the clear authority to take action and get the girl.”
Rosen did not directly address D’Alessandro’s point that Rosen should have included emergency language in the court order or language directing police to remove the child.
Even though police did not suspect Gabriella was in danger, they didn’t give up immediately.
They contacted a supervisor, who told them to reach out to the District Attorney’s Office. It was a Friday evening, so they reached out to prosecutors who were on weekend duty. They eventually heard back from Assistant District Attorney Mary Clark DiRusso, of the domestic violence bureau, who told them they had no authority to enter the house to get the girl.
“They’re cops, they have high school degrees, they’re not lawyers, they call the people who are supposed to have the answers,” D’Alessandro said. “And Mary made exactly the right call with what they had.”
Abuse hotline called
Police also called the state child abuse hotline, which triggered a notification of Westchester Child Protective Services. CPS initiated an investigation and reached out to the Mamaroneck police officers.
CPS investigators went to the house late that night but there was no answer. They did not ask for police to accompany them.
Police never went back to the house on Friday night or Saturday morning.
In refusing to comply with the order, Arce told the officers that Boyd had visitation with Gabriella the following day and they would handle it then.
D’Alessandro said the officers asked to see Gabriella but that Arce told them she was sleeping.
“If there was some belief that she was in danger, they would have said, ‘I don’t care if the child is asleep, wake her up and let us see her,’ ” D’Alessandro said. “But there was none of that.”
The visitation never took place as Arce told Boyd Saturday morning that Gabriella was sick and that she was taking her to the pediatrician. When Boyd checked with the doctor, at Rosen’s urging, he learned no appointment had been made.
Saturday morning actions questioned
If Rosen was fearful that Gabriella was in danger, D’Alessandro asked, why didn’t he or Boyd reach out to police Saturday morning to let them know Arce wasn’t going forward with the visitation and had lied about the pediatrician?
Asked whether police could have pursued an arrest warrant for criminal contempt because Arce was refusing a court order D’Alessandro said that was possible.
But he said that might not have been appropriate because they only had a copy of the order not the original and that might not have been proper service. There would have been some question about whether Arce could have intentionally violated a court order that she wasn’t properly served.
But D’Alessandro wasn’t certain that avenue was even explored by police and prosecutors.
He said the officers involved remain saddened by Gabriella’s death but are confident they did what they could with the information they had.
“The Mamaroneck cops have become the villains here but they had the least control in this whole situation,” D’Alessandro said. “We strongly believe they did everything they could. They didn’t blow this off. They took it very seriously and tried to do everything they could do within the law.”
John Oliver on Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight” mocked AT&T for paying Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, for “insights into understanding” Trump’s thinking.
“They put their trust in a political novice who turned out to be a total moron and was actually just bilking them for personal gain,” Oliver said of AT&T and the several companies that admitted to paying Cohen.
“You want to know how the Trump administration works? Congratulations, you just got a f—ing master class,” he continued.
John Oliver turned his attention, on the latest episode of “Last Week Tonight,” to the series of controversies surrounding President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
“Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and a lawyer so sh—y, he made Trump say, ‘I need someone good — get me Rudy Giuliani on the phone,'” Oliver joked.
In January, a Wall Street Journal report revealed that Cohen had facilitated a $130,000 hush payment to the porn actress Stormy Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 election campaign to prevent her from coming forward about an alleged affair with Trump.
Last week, Cohen drew further scrutiny after a report from Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, alleged that Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, accepted payments from corporations that included AT&T, Novartis, and Korea Aerospace Industries.
Oliver proceeded to mock AT&T, which is currently in a legal battle with the Justice Department over its proposed merger with HBO’s parent company, Time Warner, for the company’s statement addressing the controversy, saying that they paid Cohen to “provide insights into understanding the new administration.”
“If you want to understand this president’s thinking,” Oliver said, “simply have a donkey kick you in the head five times and then watch Fox News for 72 hours straight. That would give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on his mind.”
“These companies got exactly what they paid for, because they wanted to understand how the Trump administration worked, and think about it: They put their trust in a political novice who turned out to be a total moron and was actually just bilking them for personal gain,” Oliver said of Cohen.
“So, you want to know how the Trump administration works? Congratulations, you just got a f—ing master class.”
As usual, the renewal of veteran crime drama Criminal Minds came down to the wire with CBS and lead studio ABC Studios going back and forth on terms. Making things less complicated this time was the fact that all Criminal Minds veteran cast members already had deals for next season.
Also as usual, CBS is not confirming the size of the order or any other details. There had been speculation that the network may renew Criminal Minds for a final 13-episode season but for now, that is just speculation. We will get a better sense when CBS releases its schedule on Wednesday morning.
After a long run at 9 PM, Criminal Minds moved to 10 PM this season. It has improved the time period and is doing well in delayed viewing.
The crime drama ended its 13th season on a cliffhanger, I hear with the blessing of CBS. A cancellation would’ve robbed its loyal fans of a proper ending and would’ve deprived the series of hitting the 300th episode milestone, ending its run with 299.
Now Criminal Minds‘ Season 14 premiere will also mark the show’s 300th episode, giving it an extra promotional juice.
Criminal Minds revolves around an elite team of FBI profilers who analyze the country’s most twisted criminal minds, anticipating their next moves before they strike again. Joe Mantegna stars as David Rossi, along with Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss, Matthew Gray Gubler as Dr. Spencer Reid, A.J. Cook as Jennifer “JJ” Jareau, Aisha Tyler as Dr. Tara Lewis, Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia, Adam Rodriguez as Luke Alvez and Daniel Henney as Matt Simmons.
ABC Studios produces in association with CBS Television Studios. Long-time showrunner Erica Messer, Mark Gordon and Breen Frazier executive produce. Jeff Davis was the series creator.
The Supreme Court decided two key criminal-justices cases Monday that upheld individual rights.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
The Supreme Court handed down five decisions Monday, and one that could pave a path for legalizing sports gambling throughout the country got most of the attention Monday morning. But the court also decided two important criminal-justice and personal rights cases.
In one, McCoy v. Louisiana, the court ruled by a 6-3 margin in favor of a defendant whose lawyer told a jury that his client was guilty, disregarding the explicit instructions of his client. His lawyer wanted him to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.
“Guaranteeing a defendant the right ‘to have the assistance of counsel for his defense’ is the defendant’s prerogative, not the counsel’s,” the court said in its ruling.
In other words, it’s up to the person accused of a crime how they want to plea, not a lawyer.
In the other, Byrd v. U.S., the court unanimously decided that a driver of a rental car, whose name wasn’t on the rental agreement, still has a reasonable expectation of privacy during a traffic stop. Police found 49 bricks of heroin and body armor in the man’s trunk.
McCoy v. Louisiana
Robert McCoy’s defense attorney told the jury his client was guilty of a triple murder despite the fact that McCoy expressly maintained his innocence. The Supreme Court decided that violated the client’s constitutional right to counsel.
“Guaranteeing a defendant the right ‘to have the ASSISTANCE of Counsel for HIS defence,’ the Sixth Amendment so demands,” the court wrote. “With individual liberty—and, in capital cases, life— at stake, it is the defendant’s prerogative, not counsel’s, to decide on the objective of his defense: to admit guilt in the hope of gaining mercy at the sentencing stage, or to maintain his innocence, leaving it to the State to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
McCoy, was charged with killing three family members in a vain attempt to find his estranged wife, Yolanda. With the help of police, she had fled her Louisiana home after McCoy, at knife point, threatened to kill her. She brought her infant daughter along but left her 17-year-old son with her parents so that he could finish high school and graduate.
A month later, McCoy was arrested and charged with killing his wife’s parents and her son. A 911 tape recorded Yolanda’s mother screaming: “She ain’t here Robert. … I don’t know where she is. … The detectives have her.”
After the sound of a gunshot, the line goes dead.
Despite overwhelming evidence against him, McCoy steadfastly maintained his innocence, alleging that the killings were the product of a drug deal gone bad and that police conspired to frame him, because he supposedly revealed their involvement in drug trafficking. Five months later, state psychiatric experts found McCoy mentally competent to stand trial.
His first lawyers were public defenders, but he fired them for refusing to subpoena his alleged alibi witnesses. His parents then hired Larry English for $5,000. He advised McCoy to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison instead of the death penalty, but McCoy repeatedly refused, insisting that he was innocent. He also refused to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Finally, English embarked on a strategy of conceding his client’s guilt, in hopes of avoiding the death penalty. Indeed, in his opening argument, he told the jury, “There is no way reasonably possible that you can listen to the evidence and not come” to that conclusion. And in his closing, he told the jurors that he had taken the burden of finding and proving guilt off of them and the prosecutor.
The defense lawyer was hoping that the jury would not sentence McCoy to death if he could convince them that McCoy suffered from diminished mental capacity and should therefore only be convicted of second-degree murder. But, as the prosecutor would soon explain to the jury, that defense was legally unavailable to McCoy, because Louisiana allows a diminished capacity argument only if the defendant has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
In any event, the strategy didn’t work. The jury ultimately sentenced McCoy to death. The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the decision and an infuriated McCoy, aided by a new lawyer, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that the state had deprived him of his right to counsel.
Byrd v. U.S.
In the age of Zipcar, it’s hardly unusual for a car renter to let his friends or family members drive a car he has leased, without listing those names on the contract.
And the Supreme Court on Monday unanimously agreed with a driver not listed on one of those agreements that he still maintained a reasonable expectation of privacy — and that police needed a warrant to search the vehicle.
Police, who found dozens of bricks of heroin and body armor in the driver’s trunk, argued the man, Terrence Byrd, had no right to privacy given he was not on the rental agreement.
The court disagreed with that argument.
Byrd’s fiancée gave him permission to drive a car she rented, but didn’t list him as one of the drivers.
When police stopped Byrd for a minor traffic violation outside Harrisburg, Pa., he gave officers the rental contract. When they ran his name, they found he had a criminal record and a warrant out for his arrest in neighboring New Jersey.
Without a warrant, they searched the locked trunk of the car, where they found 49 bricks of heroin among Byrd’s possessions.
The Supreme Court held that the man maintained a reasonable expectation of privacy. The court, however, remanded the case to the lower courts to examine whether Byrd had used subterfuge in renting the car and whether that mattered.