Friday, April 30, 2010

If I'm ever pathetic enough to revenge-blog on Huffington Post about how I fell for a 50-year-old guy whose divorce was "pending," spent almost $30K on fertilization treatments, then got pregnant and dumped, put me out of our collective misery.  That's an order.

I get it.  I understand how it could happen to the best of us.  She loved the guy, desperately wanted a child, and it seemed like the perfect situation.  Except that he was STILL MARRIED.  And yep, he sounds like a Grade A, card-carrying douche.  So now she's very publicly suing him, rightfully so if it's for child support.  But I couldn't help but notice he talked her out of working, and my empathy just dried right up.

Why anyone would give up their livelihood before their second (wedding) anniversary with someone promising lifelong support (while "divorce-pending"), is beyond my ability to comprehend.  And she's suing him for that, too, because now she can't support herself?  I would sooner pull my eyes out and soak them in lye than entrust my survival to someone who's married to someone else, for God's sake.  And if I ever did end up there (following a prolonged kidnapping, no doubt), you can believe no one would know about it, because I'd keep that shit as far under wraps as I could get it.  Have you no pride???

But that's not the most pathetic part.  This is.  And this.  On Huffington Post?  You know, if I had a blog on HuffPo, I doubt very seriously I'd fill it with humiliating revenge-posts that go on and ON about this dickhead.  I'm embarrassed for her.

This woman's a life coach?  Holy crap, I suddenly feel so...healthy.  Well, if that's how she made her living before all this dirty-laundry blogging, no wonder she can't find work.  Who the hell takes life advice from someone whose rage swallowed her pride?

Baby-hysteria turns smart women my age into pathetic, hystrionic banshees.  I feel blessed--my clock must be digital, cause I don't hear a damn thing out of it.  I hardly ever think about babies, despite the near-constant bombardment of messages from the media that there's something "wrong" with me for not having them at 39.  Why sit around and think about whether I'd like to have a baby, when I'm content with the way things have worked out for me right here and now, thank you very much?

This is one gift that keeps giving since I left the Army--all the little, "You're single?!?" spoonsful of shit, dealt out by military wives who hated me on sight because I worked and deployed with their sorry-ass husbands, they're gone.  I can't even remember the last time I remembered what I'm "supposed" to be doing.  This feels like what I'm supposed to be doing.

I just don't have any of that pressure here, no one reacts like I've just offered them a crack pipe when I tell them I'm not married, they don't immediately wonder if I'm gay.  "But why?" one guy asked me a couple of years ago, "Why aren't you married?"

Why? Well, I haven't exactly made marriage a priority.  I know plenty of women who just don't do well on their own, without a boyfriend/husband/married guy they're doing/whatever.  I'm just not one of them.  Never have been.

Then there were all the years I struggled with depression, during which I was surely no picnic to hang around.  And then, the ten years with the Department of Defense, during which I moved, deployed, or went off to training a couple of times a year, all the while surrounded by men with whom I had little in common, as many of them didn't think I belonged there.  Not a majority, but you knew that guy when you saw him, and there were several in any crowd.

Don't get me wrong.  I love men.  I would actually very much prefer to have one around.  But I live in a college town, there are no available men here.  Period.  What in the hell would I want with a college boy, and vice-versa?

One thing about getting older, though, is that I just care less and less what people think.  I seriously doubt anyone who knows me sees me as a spinster or a cougar or any of the other derogatory terms that keep popping up, referring to women over 35.  And I even more seriously doubt anyone I know would describe me as lonely or unhappy.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

What is that so hard for some people to understand?

Monday, April 26, 2010

One More Week of Sleep-Deprived, Zombie Law School Finals Hell

Well, it seems Blogger won't let me use the "below the fold" feature unless I ditch my template.  Which I like too much.  I tried adding the little piece of code into the template html, but I'm sure the instructions only contemplate a different kind of template, the sort they want me to adopt.

If they force you to give up your pretty green template, the terrorists have truly won.

Any suggestions?

If you're not a law geek, stop reading here. 

I'm writing a 30-page paper on prosecutions after Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, which put an end to prosecutors' introducing certificates of analysis at criminal drug trials without satisfying the accused's right to confront witnesses against him.  Doesn't sound like a big deal, but it really is.  Even though only around 5% of drug cases go to trial, states report huge spikes in demands for analysts at trial, posing a significant strain on state resources already reeling from record budget shortfalls.  Producing an analyst at every drug trial, especially when the defense so often opts not to call them to the stand, constitutes unconscionable waste.

On the other hand, every week seems to produce another crime lab scandal, another forensic method proved unreliable, another case of crooked crime lab employees, bad-faith prosecutors, and factually innocent people ending up with life sentences.  The best means for ensuring reliability of these all-important certificates is to subject the analysts to cross-examination, keep them on track and within industry guidelines.

And it's VERY important.  These certificates identify the substance the cops pulled out of your pants pocket, and the weight of the sample.  The substance and weight (among other factors) determine the range of sentence you may be facing.  A one-gram inaccuracy could get you 10-to-life for powdered cocaine under the federal guidelines, as opposed to 5-40 years.  How do you reckon you'd take it if some bozo just wrote up a certificate after eyeballing your baggie without subjecting yo' shit to a single test?  It's called "dry-labbing," and it's part of the reason we sorely needed Melendez-Diaz.

It's a tough balance to strike, and my paper tries to find ways to balance defendants' constitutional rights with the needs for states to utilize their scant resources efficiently. 

Just incidentally?  The Mississippi Supreme Court mandated confrontation for certificates of drug analysis way back in 1994, long before Crawford or Melendez-Diaz.  Every so often, my little backwards state gets things least, in the courtroom.

I will be highly amused if this pops up in Google searches next to some of the really excellent academic work out there that has saved me many hours of research.  Except that I only found these open-source pages after conducting all the analysis myself, on Lexis, painstakingly Shepardizing each case to get to the bottom of the Abiding Questions After Briscoe: 

Who Must Testify?  Probably someone who directly participated in the analysis, drew their own conclusions from tests that may have been performed by someone else.

Chain of Custody?  Probably not.

Harmless error when forensic analyst doesn't testify?  Great question, wish the Supreme Court would take it up.

What about notice-and-demand statutes?  That's a much longer answer, but it seems that Briscoe tells us these things have to happen:  Defendant must receive notice of prosecution's intent to use the certificate, a copy of it, a window in which he/she must object, and his failure to object constitutes waiver of his right to have that analyst appear, if that's the case.  If he does object, the prosecution must call the analyst during his own case in chief. 

And that's about all it really says.  The rest is up to the lower courts to muck out.

It's due tomorrow night.  I'm on page 23.  I haven't slept much and I'll probably delete this post tomorrow when I wake up.  It's too damn long for any right-minded person to read.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

End of Second Year

So it seems I've somehow made it through two full years of law school, with one to go.  And it's been one hell of a ride.

At this hour, I'm working on a 25-page paper on the Fourth Amendment--specifically, the Patriot Act's amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA).  FISA works as the vehicle for intelligence agencies to access the personal information, including electronic surveillance, of suspected "agents of foreign powers."

I began this paper with scathing commentary on the erosion of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure.  The Patriot Act amended FISA to allow approval of wiretap warrants without any real protective process.  Investigators can now attain virtually unlimited permission to invade the privacy of U.S. citizens through not just wiretaps, but physical searches (called "sneak and peeks"), access to any and all bank/financial records, placing bugs in your bedroom--you name it, they can do it.  Whatever information they gather, they can distribute to other federal agencies, and you can be prosecuted for crimes completely unrelated to terrorism.

And all they have to assert is that they *may* be interested in you for a terrorism investigation--no need to establish probable cause you've committed a crime, no need to specify limited places and things to be searched and seized, just pure carte blanche to comb through the most minute and intimate details of your life.

Most people argue, "Well, I haven't done anything wrong, what do I care if they listen to me talk to my mother?"  Which sounds innocuous enough.

But what about a listening device in your bedroom??  Think it can't happen to you?  Think again. 

As always, I'm ambivalent.  The Fourth Amendment has become a polite fiction in the wake of 9/11.  Most of us are somehow okay with that, as we don't fit the profile of folks most likely to suffer astonishing privacy intrusions.  Anything perceived as an aid to fighting terrorism has become a third rail in American politics--a "soft on terrorism" charge will sink many campaigns, even at the expense of our precious Constitution.

As I get deep into the federal court cases that seek to balance the interests of citizens' privacy rights with the ultimate governmental interest of protecting the nation, I'm getting less scathing in the analysis.  I have no question, on purely Fourth Amendment grounds, the current FISA configuration is unconstitutional.

On the other hand, having worked extensively in this field, I understand the need for near-instantaneous access to information in detecting and preventing terrorist attacks.  Brandon Mayfield's case represents a rare (albeit egregious) violation of a U.S. citizen's rights.  Is the occasional Brandon Mayfield the price we have to pay for protecting the nation?

I firmly believe there exists a middle ground, a means of doing a better job protecting Constitutional rights while still affording intelligence agencies the kind of quick access they need to accomplish their mission.

If I identify this middle ground in the course of writing this paper, I'll post about it.  Right now, I'm left with a glaring question mark hanging over my head.