Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Archive for August, 2007

Court Update

Posted by Maggie on August 28, 2007

Convictions Affirmed: 2

Not much is new in Georgia.

In the 11th Circuit yesterday, a U.S.C. 1983 case affirms summary judgment for defendants in a case where the jail didn’t properly process bond records.  Plaintiffs were held in jail improperly for weeks or months.  Dismissed on grounds of qualified immunity.  West v. Tillman.

I haven’t had a lot of time to look over the recent 11th circuit opinion on the Fulton County Jail strip search policy.  Hopefully I’ll get to it eventually.

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The Blog Is Not Dead. Hopefully GPDSC isn’t either.

Posted by Maggie on August 28, 2007

I know blogs have a tendency to wither and die within a couple weeks.  That is not the case here.  It’s just been a busy few days.

I’ll have a court update later today. For now, Southern Criminal Law & Justice brings up the Fulton Daily Report’s article on the continuing troubles of the Georgia Public Defender System.

It’s an issue close to my heart, having once been a part of GPDSC. I am anxious to see how the new director approaches the issue. I’m pleased to see they’ve asked for more money than expected. It is sorely needed. I hope they can convince the Appropriations group that an office of salaried conflict attorneys is a much better investment than bringing in outside counsel at hourly rates, a la Brian Nichols.

I admit, though, it’s getting a little tiring to see all the negative coverage. Never do I see in these articles any praise for the hard work the PD’s are doing. I never hear about how great they are. And in large part, they are. We’re bringing in eager young blood that really believes in the cause and a decrepit system is not going to keep them there. (My own departure was not due to these larger woes, but I know how antsy it makes everyone feel.) Maybe if we focused a little more on how important the work is, how well it is being done, and how meager the compensation really is, we might make some progress in a system where a lot of people are wondering whether you even need PD’s.

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Court Update Catch-Up

Posted by Maggie on August 24, 2007

Deprivations Affirmed: 1

Convictions Affirmed: 2

Convictions Reversed: 1

Motions to Suppress Granted: 1

Motions to Suppress Denied: 1

Of Note:

Talmadge v. State:  A provocation defense in a “fighting words” disorderly conduct case should allow evidence of prior dealings, not just contemporaneous provocation.  Personally, I just hate these types of charges in general.

State v. Lanes: Officer had no reasonable suspicion for a Tier Two encounter when defendant was found in his car, late at night with red eyes messing with his contact lens case.  No smell of alcohol or marijuana.  Slow speech.  Court says that Lanes’s explanation of the contact lenses (supported by him actually having the case in his hand)  was sufficient and gave no cause for suspicion.

 Carter v. State: Cops get anonymous but specific tip of armed man in parking lot.  Officers see man fitting description.  Man responds to sight of officers by getting briefcase out of his car and walking towards the officers.  Cops ask man to put hands on head, man does not.  Frisk is allowed.  The Court thinks that his response of getting the case and walking towards the officers heightened fears that they may have been in danger.  I’m  not really with them on that.  They also say a tip without any indicia of reliability may be corroborated by circumstances at the scene.

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News in Brief

Posted by Maggie on August 24, 2007

There’s been lots of crazy news from the metro area lately and I was too busy yesterday to get to a lot of it.  But today I’m going to show the AJC some love for doing some pretty good reporting.

 First, nice follow-up to the Saggy Pants Ban that’s been all over the news lately.  (The story even has a request to “send in your baggy pants photos,” which made me crack a smile.)  Most of my concerns with the ban are well-expressed here.  My favorite comes from rapper Yung Joc, an ATL native:

“That’s attacking people’s freedom of expression. When Woodstock was around did they tell people not to wear their hair long, or hemp clothing? Are they telling the skateboarders they can’t wear the jeans so tight? Or those little shirts? This is targeting a certain group: Young black males. And this will only give them more of a reason to pull them over; more of a reason to detain them.”

Also addressed are the problems with women in jogging bras. And the on-the-street-saggy-pants-wearers interviewed all seem to understand that there are places where their clothes may not be appropriate.

As for me, my response is, “We’re living in a city where there is a serious crime problem with our youth, a problem with getting our kids to finish high school and get them educated, a problem with keeping their families together, and you want to talk about boxers? Why don’t we address the real problems here.”

More articles after the jump…

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News of Note

Posted by Maggie on August 22, 2007

A couple updates for the day. I’m going to try and do something on the GA Photo ID case when I have more time later along with a court update.

I’ve seen this story about drug testing entire cities floating around the web. It notes an unusually high use of methamphetamine. Now, please correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s my understanding that testing for methamphetamines will also indicate use of legal prescription drugs used widely within the population, such as Adderall. Nothing in this article tells me whether the finding for amphetamines is specific to meth, or whether there is such a test. Let me know if any of you have seen drug testing that could flag specific amphetamines.

It’s not surprising to see the media go crazy on a meth story. For a really awesome write-up of actual statistics vs. media coverage on meth, see last year’s write-up by The Sentencing Project.

Thanks to ACS Blog for the link to an NPR story with print and audio on the continuing problems of the Orleans Parish Prison.

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Craigslist and Prostitution

Posted by Maggie on August 21, 2007

A rather incoherent article today cites Atlanta’s mayor as blasting craigslist for promoting child prostitution. The evidence? Photos of a woman requesting money for sex who claims to be 21. They don’t think she’s really 21. But they don’t know who she is or how old she is.

My brief perusal didn’t turn up anything that they’re claiming to have seen. Of course, if they followed craigslist’s policy, they would have to immediately flag anything that was illegal or violated the terms of use. No mention in the article about whether they did so.

I admit I’m getting a little weary of all the political outcry against social networking sites. If myspace wants to cooperate with states as it’s been doing, that’s fine, I guess. But this particular instance seems pretty far-fetched to me. The mayor’s website for this campaign is pretty scarce on facts or policies. For better info about the problem, go to the Juvenile Justice Fund, where there is a summary along with a full report on their findings. Their recommendations include stricter law enforcement measures, additional care for children affected, and additional research.

I look forward to a more thorough discussion with better research data to address the issues. Such a difficult and complex problem should be handled with more care and thought by the city. I don’t know what this kind of announcement is supposed to accomplish.

The article has thankfully been revised.
A much more thorough write-up. Now we get response detailing the 1st Amendment issues addressed. We also hear that “some of the best lawyers in Atlanta” were involved in the writing of the letter. But there’s still nothing concrete about what craigslist is supposed to do beyond its current terms of service, which seem to cover these types of issues. The internet is impossible to guard in its entirety, and sites like myspace and craigslist present extremely difficult monitoring hurdles. There’s still no information about whether this really has anything to do with child prostitution.

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Monday at the GA Court of Appeals

Posted by Maggie on August 21, 2007

Denial of Motion to Dismiss: 1

Suppressions Reversed: 1

Of Note:

Bell v. State: Motion for Speedy Trial filed 13 months after arrest properly denied.  Defendant was in jail for 24 months pending trial.  Lead officer was on active duty in Iraq for nearly two years.  However, officer had been back in the country on leave during this time, and had been back in the country for 5 months at time Motion was heard. 

State v. Stafford: Everything you ever wanted to know about O.C.G.A. 40-6-202, which involves stopping or parking in a roadway.

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Just Talk to the Kids, That’ll Take Care of It!

Posted by Maggie on August 21, 2007

Thanks to Sex Crimes for this story. There’s now a push in reaction to the Genarlow Wilson case to educate teens about sex laws in Georgia.

“We do a disgraceful job of educating kids about the very real consequences that they face,” said former DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan, who has a new book coming out, “Ignorance Is No Defense: A Teenagers Guide to Georgia Law.”

Of course he has a new book coming out. More after the jump…
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Mistrial in DeKalb

Posted by Maggie on August 21, 2007

I spent quite a while this morning trying to get the whole story on the mistrial in a case involving the murder of a liquor store owner in an Atlanta suburb.  The AJC and other news outlets had only a paragraph or two, and none of their previous articles have really ever examined the case or its testimony.  Except, of course, when the victim’s wife “collapsed” in the courtroom.  Then they were all over it.

Happily, I finally found a local news outlet who actually covers the story in decent detail. To the jury’s credit, they didn’t just accept a witness ID at face value and seem to have considered the facts at length. From the story, it looks like nice work by defense counsel. Wish local news would cover these things better.

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SCHR Sex Offender Suit

Posted by Maggie on August 20, 2007

As promised, I did the tiniest bit of digging to find out more about the lawsuit challenging Georgia’s 1000-foot rule for sex offenders.  It’s being litigated by the Southern Center for Human Rights and they have helpfully put up an information page with updates on the case as well as a listserv. They’ve also got a link to the most recent order in the case, a response to the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. While the Judge seems pretty sympathetic on some claims, others seem to be dismissed without much thought. Personally, I think he was too harsh on some of these claims and should allow the facts to play out. But he does helpfully suggest ways to amend the complaint to allow some claims to go forward.

I’ve joined the listserv and will provide updates when I get them.

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