Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Free in Kentucky: Death of Gay Roommate in Spying Case

Free in Kentucky: Death of Gay Roomate in Spying Case:   MSNBC reports that Dharun Ravi could...

Death of Gay Roommate in Spying Case 

MSNBC reports that Dharun Ravi could face a decade in prison over charges that he used a web camera to spy on the romantic encounters of his gay roommate, who later took his life.
Ravi’s roommate and fellow first-year student at Rutgers University, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010. Authorities say that was three days after Ravi watched Clementi kiss another man via a web camera and one day after Ravi tried to do it again.  Closing arguments wrapped up Tuesday in a New Jersey courtroom where Ravi faces 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy. The jury would need to find him guilty of that in order to convict him of bias intimidation.

The presiding judge in the case has expressed some skepticism about the bias intimidation law, The Associated Press reported. "I could be wrong," Judge Glenn Berman told lawyers on Monday after the jury left. "I said this statute to me is muddled. It could be written better."

The defense said Ravi was immature but not homophobic, while the prosecution said he intended to intimidate Clementi and the man who visited his room – known by the initials M.B. – because they were gay.  For a bias intimidation conviction – which carries a 10-year sentence – the jury has to unanimously agree that one of three criteria has been met: There’s evidence that the victim felt he was being intimidated or evidence that the defendant purposely or knowingly attempted to intimidate based on biased motivations.

What is interesting about this case for me, is that a lot of evidence seems to be missing.  For example [I’m analyzing this from news reports and without the court record] I haven’t seen any evidence of Ravi’s motives.  He is accused of setting up a camera to spy on his gay roommate, but it doesn’t say why.  With the victim of the alleged crime now deceased, any statements of actual intimidation toward the victim, if they existed at all, wouldn’t be available for the jury to hear.  If the reason for his videotaping was simply "curiosity," wouldn't we need some more evidence?

Obviously the circumstances of this case are absolutely tragic.  It is such a shame that Clementi’s life ended prematurely, and the reasons for his death are heartbreaking, even for a robot like me.

But the devil’s advocate [or maybe just the criminal defense attorney] in me has to probe this case a little further.

And what about the invasion of privacy issue?  When I was living in the dorm in college, my roommate and I lived in a single room the size of a large walk-in closet.  The beds were bunked because if they weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to walk through the dorm room.  In such a small place, where both roommates share ALL of the living quarters, there really wasn’t much of a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Why wouldn’t a person be allowed to set up a camera in their own living quarters? 

I know what you’re thinking – if Ravi set up a camera and didn’t tell his roommate, doesn’t that mean that Clementi might have reasonably expected some privacy when Ravi wasn’t home?  Maybe you’re right.  Let’s see if the jury believes beyond any reasonable doubt that Ravi is guilty.  I just wouldn't be surprised to hear a Not Guilty verdict or a hung jury in this case.  We’ll see…

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Free in Kentucky: Pit Bull Attack Leaves Piece of Tooth in Girl's Ch...

Free in Kentucky: Pit Bull Attack Leaves Piece of Tooth in Girl's Ch...: WLKY reports A 10-year-old girl is recovering at Kosair Children's Hospital after Metro Animal Services said she was attacked by a pit bull....

Pit Bull Attack Leaves Piece of Tooth in Girl's Chin

WLKY reports A 10-year-old girl is recovering at Kosair Children's Hospital after Metro Animal Services said she was attacked by a pit bull.  The owner of the dog is charged with possession of a potentially dangerous animal, but it's the 8-month-old dog, Playa, who is behind bars.
The little girl's mother, Christina was quoted, saying, "She has stitches all up her face. She has bite marks all up her arms and everything...They said there was a little white speck, which is probably a piece of tooth or something, but it didn't hit no arteries and she won't need surgery,”
According to the report, the girl was playing with the children next door who had just recently moved in. As they played, the new neighbor's pit bull puppy, which was chained on the front porch, started to get agitated.  The neighbors took the dog inside, but as the children continued to play, the family said the dog broke through the front door of the house and attacked the girl, first grabbing her face and pulling her to the ground, then grabbing her arm and dragging her further.

Personally, I think dog bite cases provide some of the most terrifying circumstances of personal injury cases.  It's scary to think that your child could go next door to play with neighbor children, and in the blink of an eye, have permanent scarring.

Dog bite cases are very unfortunate cases.  Especially when the victim is so young, and especially if the attack leaves permanent disfigurement or scarring.  Often, the owners of these dogs know or should know that their dogs have vicious tendencies.  In such a case, it is extremely important to have a Louisville dog bite lawyer who has experience with these type of cases.

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, call 502.618.4949 for a free consultation with a Louisville dog bite injury lawyer, today.  You may be entitled to compensation for damages caused by the dog bite.  Speak to a lawyer who will fight for your rights.  Call Simms & Reed, PLLC, today.
Results.  As fast as the law will allow.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Free in Kentucky: How a Mediocre Lawyer Can Convince Others They are...

Free in Kentucky: How a Mediocre Lawyer Can Convince Others They are...: Thanks to my peers, I have been named in Louisville Magazine’s Top Lawyers of 2012 . Specifically, I was listed in the DUI section. There ...

How a Mediocre Lawyer Can Convince Others They are a Great Lawyer

Thanks to my peers, I have been named in Louisville Magazine’s Top Lawyers of 2012.  Specifically, I was listed in the DUI section.  There aren’t a lot of lawyers under 40 years old in this particular publication (the March issue, BTW).  So, it is truly an honor.  I appreciate all of you who voted for me.

On a related note, I’m going to teach you how a mediocre lawyer can convince others that they are a great lawyer.  This is a crucial skill to learn if you want to be in Louisville Magazine’s Top Lawyers, but don’t actually belong there.  So, without further adieu, here are the ways a mediocre lawyer can convince others that they are a great lawyer:

1) Client Expectation Management.  This is extremely important.  Let’s say a guy walks into your office with a new DUI charge.  He has a clean record, and a BAC of only .085.  From the looks of the citation, the stop was legal, and you have no reason to believe that the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests were performed in any way other than in conformity to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration guidelines.  You automatically think you can probably get this guy diversion.  There are 2 ways to handle the conversation.
            A) Tell him only part of the truth.  Tell him you think he can get diversion.  If you handle the conversation this way, the client just shows up at the courthouse - you get him diversion - and he walks away thinking he got what he deserved.  He thinks he got an OK result.
            B) Tell him the whole truth.  Tell him that he is facing up to 45 days in jail and a fine of up to $500, a license suspension of up to 6 months, court costs, and Alcohol Drug Education Classes.  Tell him that you cannot give him an accurate assessment of what should be done in his case until you review his citation, the police report, any witness statements, and the in-car video (if it exists).  Only then you will be able to speak intelligently about his case.  But you’ve handled many DUIs before and that you have been able to get favorable results in the past
            [Let’s assume you later determine that there are no glaring constitutional issues in his case].  If you handle the conversation this way, he shows up at the courthouse - you get him diversion - and he walks away thinking he got an amazing result.

            If you fail to manage a client’s expectations, you can get them a good result – but they believe it isn’t a good result at all.  You have simply MET their expectations.  But if you inform the client of the full breadth of punishment associated with the crime, and temper their expectations, you can get them a good result and have the client walking away thinking the result was phenomenal.  Not expected.  Happier clients will boost your reputation.  And you don’t have to get better results to have happier clients, if you do proper client expectation management.

2) Work Harder.  Working harder is not nearly as important as client expectation management.  Seriously.  But it is pretty important, especially if you are like me and you aren’t as smart as the other guys named in Louisville Magazine’s Top Lawyers of 2012.  If you’re like me, you have to work harder to keep up with the really smart guys.
            Look at the Law.  Immediately get a copy of all of the statutes that your client is charged with violating.  Read them.  That sounds like a smart aleck comment, but it really isn’t.  We get “comfortable” as criminal defense lawyers, and we think we know the statutes.  So we stop reading them.  That’s a mistake.  What happens when you forget about a subsection?  Or when the law changes, like it does constantly.  Getting comfortable is dangerous for any lawyer.
            Review all of the Evidence.  Don’t walk into court cold.  This sounds like pretty basic advice, and it is.  But you’d be surprised at the amount of lawyers who walk into court and read the citation and police report for the first time, right before they walk into court.
            Make Motions.  If you can find even the slightest glimmer of hope on a constitutional issue, make a motion to dismiss the case, and in the alternative, to suppress evidence.  And file the motion with the court.  Don’t make oral motions.  This shows your client that you are actually DOING WORK.  I’ve found that the more paperwork clients get, the happier they are.
            Have Hearings.  Put the cops under oath, and cross examine them.  Maybe you’ll actually get a case or 2 dismissed, which is always great.  Even if it doesn’t work for this particular case, you have showed the client that you actually give a damn, and are willing to fight for them.  When you present them with the possibility of a guilty plea, they’ll understand that you are still on their side.
          Don't be Afraid to Try Cases.  This is something that is much easier said than done.  All I can tell you is that trying cases in front of a jury does a lot for your professional reputation.  It shows prosecutors you mean business.  It shows clients you are willing to fight for them.  And (shock) you might actually win some!  If you get a client a Not Guilty verdict, they will be telling everyone about you and your legal prowess, whether you deserve it or not.

3) Charge What You are Worth.  If you have done the above things, don’t dilute your brand.  If a lawyer takes $300 for a DUI case, the word will get around.  Now, if you don’t do DUI work and you just want to “dabble” in the genre every so often, then fine.  Charge whatever you can get.  But if you actually have experience, and you actually do good work, why would you charge an amount that isn’t reflective of your talents?  Remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”  People truly believe that.

            I’m sure there are other ways a mediocre lawyer can convince other people that they are a great lawyer.  If any of you have any other suggestions, please feel free to share.  I hope this has been informative.

            If you have been charged with a DUI in Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, Elizabethtown, or the surrounding areas, you should have a good lawyer on your side.  Why not one of Louisville Magazine’s Top Lawyers of 2012?  You deserve someone who understands that your case is serious.  You deserve someone who will fight for your Constitutional rights.  Call the Louisville DUI lawyers at Simms & Reed, PLLC.  Call 502.618.4949 today for a free consultation.

Results.  As Fast as the Law will Allow.

Simms & Reed, PLLC.