Defense lawyer: “I would put petrol on her and set her alight”

BBC, February 27, 2015 (H/T Talking Points Memo):

Mukesh Singh, the bus driver who admitted driving the bus during the incident, but denied taking part in the attack, was one of five men convicted of Jyoti’s rape and murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

 

. . .

 

Speaking about the appalling attack, which he refers to as “an accident”, Mukesh Singh suggested the rape and beatings were to teach Jyoti and her friend a lesson that they should not have been out late at night. And he criticised Jyoti for having fought back against her attackers saying: “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy.”

 

He said that executing him and the other convicted rapists/murderers will endanger future rape victims: “The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.”

To me, that’s not the disgusting part. It should be, but I am hardened to sociopathic violent thugs blaming others for their crimes. So I am not disgusted.

What does disgust me? This, from this Indian death row inmate’s attorney:

In a previous televised interview, lawyer AP Singh said: “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.” And he confirms to Udwin in the documentary that his stance remains the same: “This is my stand. I still today stand on that reply.”

I don’t know what offends me more: that an attorney would so depravedly risk his death row client’s case by endorsing his client’s capital offense, or that an attorney would so brag that he would defy Indian law and commit homicide by burning his sister to death. In Maryland, you can face attorney discipline merely for calling your client vulgar insults, but I guess in India bragging about one’s intent to burn a female relative to death during a death row appeal is not a professional responsibility concern.

The Enneagram: the least likely most useful thing I have encountered….

By temperament and culture, I am not given to “new age” thinking. If it came out of California and it isn’t a pair of Levi’s, it starts out with two strikes against it. There are no crystals in my apartment, unless I am indulging a nerd toy of a crystal diode radio (soon to be harder to find, since Radio Shack seems to be circling the corporate debt drain.) We speak Nerd in the Godfrey household, militantly so; bury us with our 20-sided dice.

Perhaps the only inside joke that my children’s mother and I still treasure from our marriage was our disbelief at fellow B&Bers in Canada sitting around the breakfast table talking, in all seriousness, about their “kundalinis rising.” For me, and I think for her, it had about the same level of dramatic irony that pervades the most hilariously indecent of SNL skits, but no one was laughing except me and my then-pregnant then-wife (laughing on the inside, to be polite.) She was at that time religiously conservative, I a secular-minded Nerd, but we found common ground at our near-inability to keep from bursting out laughing hearing our fellow guests holding forth on how their kundalini would rise up from their insides.

It is with this hard-nosed, woo-hostile outlook that I encourage (especially to attorneys) an open mind toward a model of human personality known as the Enneagram of Personality, and to examine the evidence for it and against it.

No single blog post can do justice to this model, but in summary, the model posits nine (Greek: ἐννέα) personality types with certain strengths and weaknesses, very roughly as follows:

  1. The Reformer – someone with a sense of mission (examples: Confucius, Pope John Paul II, Meryl Streep, Jimmy Carter)
  2. The Helper – someone with a desire to be needed by others (examples: Leo Buscaglia, Pope John XXIII, John Denver, Elizabeth Taylor, Dolly Parton, Mother Teresa)
  3. The Achiever – someone ambitious and highly driven for advancement (examples: Augustus Caesar, Muhammad Ali, Bill Clinton, Taylor Swift, Barbra Streisand)
  4. The Individualist – someone sensitive and seeking identity/personal significance (examples: Edgar Allen Poe, Sarah McLachlan, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holliday, Janis Joplin, Marlon Brando, Prince)
  5. The Investigator – someone intensely cerebral, eccentric, isolated (examples: Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, Bobby Fischer, Ursula LeGuin, Jodie Foster, Jane Goodall)
  6. The Loyalist – someone oriented towards security and relief of anxiety (examples: Chris Rock, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Allen, Sally Field, Jennifer Aniston, Ellen DeGeneres)
  7. The Enthusiast – someone extroverted seeking variety and new experiences (examples: Mozart, Richard Branson, Sarah Palin, Bette Midler, Robin Williams, Joe Biden, Timothy Leary)
  8. The Challenger – someone dominating, confrontational and decisive (examples: John Wayne, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Roseanne Barr, Tony Soprano, Humphrey Bogart, Susan Sarandon, Serena Williams)
  9. The Peacemaker – someone easygoing, conflict-averse, supportive (examples: Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Stewart, Sophia Loren, Homer Simpson.)

The nine enneatypes are typically portrayed in relation to each other upon an “enneagram” – a geometrical figure of nine points on a circle connected with nine line segments of uneven lengths, representing the purported tendency of personalities at their highest and lowest points to take on some characteristics of other personalities. In some cases, personalities may be on the frontier between types; the model posits that some people may have a “wing” to any adjacent personality type (example: 5 with a 6 wing.) The personality numbers are arbitrary and are NOT intended to rank the enneatypes.

The enneagram and its associated personality models are the creations of G.J. Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo. Some have identified the roots of these personality types in early Christian mysticism and, per one account, even within Homer’s Odyssey among the hazards that Odysseus encountered. Those familiar with Catholic theology may be familiar with the concept of “predominant fault” – the tendency of people to do the wrong things again and again.

There is much more to discuss regarding this personality model, but for my purposes I will state that being able to figure out, reasonably quickly, which personality type I am dealing with has helped me immensely to predict conduct and avoid unnecessary conflicts, to be more forgiving of other people in my life and, unexpectedly, of myself as well.  (I am probably 5 or a 5 with “6 wing”, if it matters to the reader.)  For me, it’s a efficient shorthand, comparable to dividing politics into “left” or “right”.

Rather than indulging further discussion here, I would direct inquiring readers to take an enneagram self-test and see what you think of the results. A common result of taking the test and getting the results is something like “Oh God they really did nail me, didn’t they!” But don’t trust me: see for yourself.  Don’t trust me on this; test and see.

To avoid: calling your client, in written correspondence to her, an obscene name

Sometimes I can be downright grouchy, truth be told; I have many faults and, sometimes, that’s one of them.

But I haven’t yet lost my cool so badly as to write a letter to a client calling her an obscenity in print, wishing her malice and insulting her progeny.

From page one of AGC v. Basinger:

After learning that Keys had denied that she had retained him, Basinger mailed to Keys letters in which he called Keys “A TRUE C[**]T” who had “finally f[***]ed up one time too many”; called Keys “a reprehensible human being” with “worthless progeny” and a “pathetic and dysfunctional world”; accused Keys of being lazy and dishonest, engaging in “defamation” and “absolute evil behavior[,]” and “trying to weasel [her] way out of paying the full amount of [a funeral chapel]’s bill”; suggested that Keys perhaps was responsible for her grandson’s death; stated that, if he ever saw her again, “it [would] be too soon”; and wished Keys “only the worst from here on out.”

If you are that unhappy with a client, you should simply terminate the relationship (in a manner consistent with, and to the extent permitted by, applicable Rules.) Some clients deserve to be fired and a few rare ones deserve to be chastised; none deserve to be hit with obscenities.

Reflect, return, refresh

Eleven years ago this winter, I started a political blog, www.crablaw.com. It was a source of great enjoyment to me and to my readers, all 6 of them (ok, a little wider than that, but not dramatically so.) The blog was a sort of rolling experiment in blog design, formatting, topic range (a lot about MD politics, a lot about law. etc.) I enjoyed it, and perhaps once or twice contributed something useful over the more or less 1500 posts that it ran – more, if you count the time when I ran it on Drupal as an experiment for maybe a year, I forget. Eventually I let it go to the dustbin of the dead domain scrapers; bought by some investor with an alleged address in Washington State, it now forwards to some German-language clickfarm, my own damn fault for letting it lapse.

Six years ago this week, I got up the gumption to go out on my own in solo practice for real, reserved BruceGodfrey.com (which I should have reserved 5 years before), got hosting and arranged for professional liability insurance. It wound up being the launchpad of my employment practice, starting with my unemployment appeals webpage in its various updated editions. That page soared high within Maryland searches within Google’s search algorithm, and still ranks quite high 5 years later.  That fact remains the ongoing joke of my practice: I wrote the page so as to provide something for visitors to read, not to bring the visitors in the door in the first place, but such is what indeed occurred.

Five months ago today, I joined with Jezic, Krum & Moyse LLC, a medium-sized firm with a sharp focus on the rapidly-growing Latino community of Montgomery County and nearby environs. During the last five months, I have had to learn more or less simultaneously:

  • the Spanish language, as spoken in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Wheaton, MD
  • cultural and practical realities of the law firm’s Latino client base
  • personal injury law, practice and procedure (not my first contact, but my first contact at this level and volume)
  • the practice management software Needles, which I had not used before (was a Clio partisan and am still a fan) and
  • the practical “easing-in” to-do items in a full-time+++ job in a medium-sized office

The firm is famous for its long hours; working until 8 PM is normal and all attorneys must work a half-day on three out of four weekends. Accordingly, time is scarce and what free time I have is easily consumed by the important people in my life (starting with my sons) and quotidian responsibilities of groceries, dry cleaning, etc. So the blog has been pretty quiet; this has been probably the first 5 month period of relative blog silence since January 12, 2004, when I registered Crablaw. What posts I have made have been pretty cautious (it’s worthwhile to discourage drunk driving but it’s not exactly a profile in courage either.) Out of respect for my employer and its claim on my time, and out of a desire not to be the mouthiest new hire in the mid-Atlantic after more than 5 years of answering in my content only to myself. I knew I would return to blogging, but I wanted to make it “safe” – not for me personally (I, one crank lawyer blogger with wi-fi in his apartment, am not Charlie Hebdo or Theo van Gogh) but more out of respect.

Seventy-two years ago, a proto-blogging hero died on a guillotine in Munich. Sophie Scholl and her resistance group The White Rose distributed scathing leaflets at the University of Munich condemning Hitler’s war and his Final Solution, i.e. the mass extermination of European Jewry. For a while they got away with it, but eventually she and others were caught, “tried”, convicted and executed (a few in her group were imprisoned.) Had she been Catholic rather than Protestant, she would probably appear in icons; her name is inscribed at Yad Vashem and a bust of her likeness appears at Valhalla in Regensburg, a hall of historically or culturally significant Germans. If a 21-year old woman could be that brave, I have no excuse when I have no real skin in the game. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with taking a respectful tone (as opposed to my historic irreverance or cheek, or worse) while writing forthrightly either.

Eleven years ago, blogging was an outlet when I was unhappy about other things in my life. Today, in much bappier times, it’s more like an old friend returning after too long. So expect to see a little more activity here, especially on the weekends, and thanks for visiting.

Please don’t drink and drive

There are two basic approaches for discouraging a motorist from drinking and driving, and likewise two basic strategies for avoiding committing drunk driving.

The two basic approaches are

DO NOT BE A SOCIOPATH

and

THE CONSEQUENCES CAN DAMAGE YOU EVEN IF YOU ARE LUCKY.

The basic strategies for not drunk-driving are “do not drive” or “do not drink”; these strategies are perfectly effective but not perfectly popular, as active DUI attorneys like me can attest.

Driving while under the influence or while impaired by alcohol is never safe, but especially unsafe on nights where the offense is going to be more common and the other drivers are likewise impaired. A decent non-sociopathic human being will decide not to drink and drive. A sociopath can keep his eye on “what’s in it for me?” and still avoid drunk driving, due to the catastrophic consequences like jail, fines, repair bills, lost income, cab rides to/from jail, eviction (got no license, got no ride, got no job, got no cash left, got no apartment), the costs of probation.

Legal fees, too; we charge actual green money for helping out with legal work for the defendant in State v. Drunk. Deductibles and the cost of increased premiums add up too; the Gecko and Flo from Progressive are going to take it really personally if you T-Bone your Corolla into the side of some factory worker coming off the 4-12 shift and break her left tibia, fibula and six ribs – drunk. Maybe you might also kill some teenager sitting on the driver’s side, maybe someone who – responsibly – didn’t ride with her worthless drunk boyfriend and called her Mom instead.  Your keys, your booze, your dice.

Think about the cost of the most expensive cab ride from downtown in your city (say, Baltimore) to the most remote suburb (say, Havre de Grace out along the “Land God Gave to Cain” on Route 40 past the pawn shops, peep shows and bankrupt liquor stores.) $150, maybe, and then maybe a lift back later to fetch your car? $150 plus lunch on you at Appleby’s for your friend for taking you to fetch your car is a much cheaper deal than a tow bill and a bail deposit in the aftermath of a high-impact DUI case – let alone legal fees.

No one should have to talk about the consequences on you from drunk driving. Warning you about the consequences to others ought to be enough. But if you are the sort of self-absorbed person who is listening ONLY to “WII-FM”  – “what’s in it, for me” – then consider this. You can keep on drinking more booze into the future if you avoid catching a no-alcohol-at-all probation order for 18 months.  You can avoid that scenario entirely if you either abstain (never a mistake) or secure a place to stay, a cab ride or public transit to your destination. You can keep on drinking (if that’s important) if you dump the keys, stay in, watch a marathon of The Big Bang Theory or what’s on Netflix.  Dump the car, stay at home and knock back a cold one.

I am tired of this being the n-th year in which I don’t get to say “Happy New Year” to my best friend from law school. Admittedly, it’s a little personal. If I come off as a bit preachy, so be it; the drunk who killed Nancy Yellin, Esquire, and three members of her familly didn’t have a preachy jerk convince him to stay home.  The killer is doing life in Florida now, but that doesn’t resurrect the dead.

Call a cab. Stay home. Get a lift from a SOBER driver. Catch the bus. Get a hotel, cheap or fancy.  Stay at an all night bar drunk listening to Nickelback if you have completely lost your dignity, but that’s better than trying to drive blitzed.

Call or text me if you must at 240-687-3564 and you are in Maryland; I will respect you for it and will try HARD to help. Do it because you are a decent human being or, failing that, because you want to keep looking out for number one.

Whether you “don’t drink” or “don’t drive”, either strategy will keep you much safer. If you must drive on New Year’s Eve, please be aware of the dangerous fools who were less wise than you in their planning and executive function.  Please be safe.

My best for a healthy, prosperous and responsible 2015.

Text of Letter to the Maryland Parole Commission

Note: names and file numbers are being redacted for privacy, but are publicly available by diligent search.  A paper copy of this letter, uinredacted will be send to the Parole Commission of Maryland

28 November 2014

Dear Mesdames/Messieurs:

I write to you as a survivor of a violent crime pursuant to the victims’ rights provisions of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, associated Maryland statutes and provisions of the Code of Maryland Regulations regarding inmate V_______ B____________ and his parole eligibility, if granted, in or after January 2017.

As your file should indicate, Mr. B_____________, his brother D______ B____________ and Mr. G_____ L____________  were all convicted of armed robbery and the use of a firearm in a crime of violence among charges of multiple crimes against me and two other Baltimore County residents during a series of armed robberies on pedestrians/residents in one night’s spree on January ____, 2012.  Mr,. D_________ B________________ pled not guilty but was found guilty on all of a larger number of counts; Mr. V________ B_____________ and Mr. L________ pled guilty to the two specific charges aforenamed.  Mr. V________ B____________, the candidate for parole at issue here, was sentenced to 20 years, all but nine years suspended.  Since the use of a firearm in a crime of violence carries no possibility for parole for 5 years, and since he was arrested almost immediately after the crimes and was credited for time served, he becomes eligible for parole in January 2017.

The cell phone robbed by Mr. B____________ and his co-defendants was a valuable tool for my solo law practice, and replacing its functionality unexpectedly without an “end of contract” upgrade at its maximum retail cost was a significant hardship on my budget. I do hold a money judgment against all three co-defendants, once they are released, as do the other victims of the other related robberies for their lost property.

I write to tell you that I am in no position to suggest now, let alone for three years from now, whether Mr. B____________ is a suitable candidate for parole.  I don’t get to make that judgment, nor am I burdened with the duty of doing so, nor will I be so burdened in the future.  To be blunt, it’s not my job and I am grateful not to have that job.

What I would like the Commission to know, however, is that I am more afraid of a world where people don’t get a second chance even after committing a serious, violent injustice, where there are people around who have NOTHING to lose, than I am of three men sticking a gun in my face outside my apartment. I do not know whether the Parole Commission takes into practical account the sentiments of crime victims/survivors.  To the extent, however, that the Commission cares about my perspective, I would ask to live in a world where people who have done wrong get a chance to turn it around, to put predatory behavior into the past and to build something positive – IF he wants a new lives and he proves he wants it.

When Mr. B________________ gets out of prison – with or without parole – he will be almost unemployable.  The longer he is in prison, the less unemployable he will become and the less he will have to lose by returning to crime as a way to survive.  It’s his fault that he’s there, of course; he could have found some less violent, ideally more lawful means to secure the cash that he and his co-defendants wanted from robbery. But I want a world where all people, even people who have done hideous things, have something to lose, have “skin in the game.”

If you know what you need to do with Mr. B________________’s parole petition, then please do what you know to be your duty. But if you are looking for feedback from victims, please consider my hope that Mr. B_______________ may acquire a stake in his future and the future of his community.  I am better off with the parole candidate having “skin in the game” in his future and the future of all of us.

Thank you for the opportunity to have my perspective heard on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

T. Bruce Godfrey, Attorney
Calverton, MD

New location pending for the law office

My law office will be relocating from 301 Main Street in Reisterstown to a new location, effective the end of September 30 August 31, 2014. I want to thank attorneys Susan Bell and Diana Denrich for being great landlords for the past two years.  There are several possibilities for the new location of the office depending on a number of factors.

August 16, 2014 UPDATE: Please see this Major Announcement Page for additional information about a major development.

Poor Advocacy Choices: “I am the [*******] lawyer”

Scene: Essex (“of course”, said every Baltimore area practitioner to her/himself), afternoon docket. I am there with my client, about whom I will make no comment.

The Court heard a “not guilty agreed statement of facts” (tantamount in general to a guilty plea) for a woman (not my client) who was accused of drunk driving and hit-and-run violations, in colloquial terms. The narrative was that she tied one on at a eastern Baltimore County bar (“of course”), tapped/scraped one or more cars on the way out and went home without doing a proper job of inspecting/notifying the owners.  Officer “responded to the scene” (“of course”), investigated the scene replete with witness statements and paint scraped, determined a suspect’s identity and home address and drove to that suspect’s home.  On the officer’s arrival, the suspect regaled the officer with a lot of helpful information, such as “I don’t have to f****** talk to you” (true) and “I am going to get off on this, I work for a f****** lawyer” (proven false in this case.) The officer ultimately arrested the defendant.  The Court found the defendant guilty of the lesser of Maryland’s alcohol charge, essentially by plea, and the attorney proceeded to mitigation.

The first words out of the attorney’s mouth were, in substance, “Your Honor, the defendant works for me; I am the f****** lawyer”, without euphemism. The Court was visibly taken aback and ultimately deferred sentence to near the end of the docket, citing her discomfort with the nature of the language used in court.

Why is this bad? Well, here’s why….

1) If you are the “f****** lawyer” to whom the defendant makes reference in her drunken tirade, and your employee/prospective client asserts you as the reason why she will not face consequences, don’t take the case.  Refer it out.  At a minimum, it has the spirit of a conflict if not a black-letter rule conflict, in that your own interest in keeping your good name as a working may conflict remotely with the client’s liberty interest. Refer it out.

2) If you do take the case, against advice, do not refer to yourself as the “f****** lawyer.” Why? Because it tells the Court that you find what happened funny when you shouldn’t. Because it’s a terrible thing to say in open court. Because you want the Court to FORGET that your client said that, and being that lawyer and reminding the Court of her words is directly counter-productive. Because your own dignity as an attorney mandates that you define yourself in professional terms, not the terms of your drunk client. Because your lack of dignity tells the Court that you don’t care enough about your client’s case to do even a minimally sensible job, and therefore perhaps your client deserves some severity. Because it proves that you are stupid when your stupidity doesn’t advance the interest of your client.

Don’t know what the Court ultimately did to the client or the attorney – had to step out with my client – but it was embarrassing.

R.I.P. Amira Milad

Last week I learned of the passing of Amira Milad, an IT administrator in a medium-sized law firm where I worked for many years in Pikesville. That firm and I severed ties some years ago, but I recall Amira warmly for her decency and generosity with her time on many technical issues that can arise in a working law office.  My condolences to her family and loved ones. R.I.P.