30 October 2010

Pitbulls and Parolees

I was just flipping through channels and came across Animal Planet's Pitbulls and Parolees.  It's pretty much exactly what its name says it is, an animal rescue for pitbulls which employs parolees. They show the typical problems with dogs (training, aggression, adoption) and the typical problems with parolees (which seems to primarily be not showing up).

It's an interesting enough show, but they spent half the show going to court in Las Vegas trying to get a bond hearing for the main protaganist's husband. They got shifted through four different judges and spent an entire day in court before the hearing got continued to a different day. The main problem is that they kept estimating the time for the bond hearing to be two hours . . . three hours . . . four hours (it seemed to increase as the day went on).

Good gracious. A bond hearing in Virginia takes an hour, at the very most. What the heck do ya'll in them there other states do during a bond hearing? Translate every question into Latin and the answers into Greek? I mean, how long can it take to call the defendant's Mom to say he's a good kid who shouldn't be held responsible because he has ADHD, have the prosecutor point out the defendant has been convicted of 7 prior felonies, and hear the judge say yes or no?

28 October 2010

Ah, the Good Old Naive Days

Back when men of character roamed the Earth:

"Evidence of larceny involves the perpetrator’s character for truth, and stealing is a crime of that character which men generally are not found to commit unless when so depraved as to render it extremely probable that he will not speak the truth."

This is the rationale, dating from the early 1900's, behind allowing a defendant to parade 20 people in front of a jury who don't know anything about the facts of the larceny case, but who all testify that "Yeah, yeah. Rat Face Louie, he ain't never told a lie to no one, ya see."

Of course, the witnesses are only actually supposed to testify about the defendant's reputation in the community. Talking about specific instances of behavior or about the witness' personal opinion about the defendant is forbidden. Still, when the witnesses include the defendant's mother, father, 2 brothers, sister, 3 guys on his bowling team, etc. etc. etc. one begins to suspect that no matter how much they swear that they are only testifying about community reputation, they might, maybe, perhaps be allowing their personal opinions, sense of loyalty and desire to keep Bob out of jail color their testimony (I mean, for goodness sake, he bowls a 234 average. If Bob goes to jail the league championship is blown).

24 October 2010

I Need Someone to Translate Statisticianese

I'm researching for an article I'm writing and seeking an answer to whether pharmaceutical advertising leads to more pill distribution. From the amount of money they spend on it, it's pretty obvious that pharmaceutical firms believe it does, but I was was looking for empirical data (or at least someone explaining the empirical data in terms I can understand).  I found an article in an Indian news site and from Reuters talking about a new study out that reviewed a bunch of other studies and indicated that doctors "prescribe more expensively, less appropriately and more often" because of pharmaceutical advertising.  However, I was a little suspicious because no US news sites seemed to have picked this up and I prefer original sources anyway, so I looked up the study.

As best I can tell the article's conclusion is that it is a definite possibility that pharmaceutical advertising might perhaps have caused increased cost and decreased quality in prescriptions (maybe). There is "some evidence of increased costs and decreased quality of prescribing." So, I dug into the article itself, trying to find the basis of the two news reports and I think that this portion may be what they focused on (primarily I base this on Reuters talking about the same numbers as are found in this paragraph, albeit probably terribly misconstruing them):
Of the 58 studies included in this review, 38 studies reported a single unit of analysis with 25 (66%) finding significant associations between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, frequency, and cost of prescribing and eight (21%) finding no associations. The remaining five (13%) had multiple measures and found significant associations on some measures but not on others. The 20 studies with more than one unit of analysis reported 49 units of analysis of which 21 (43%) found significant associations, 24 (49%) found no associations, and four (8%) found mixed results. The difference between the results of the single versus multiple unit of analysis studies is significant (p<0.05 Freeman-Halton extension of the Fisher exact test). This difference may have been caused by publication bias against publication of single unit of analysis studies when no association was found. We believe the pattern of results suggests that there was little or no reporting bias for the multiple unit of analysis studies. Because the multiple unit of analysis studies found no association more often than the single unit of analysis studies, multiple mentions of the former studies in our narrative synthesis will not exaggerate the frequency of findings of significant associations.
Okay, I need some translation for the following terms: "single unit of analysis", "multiple measures", and "multiple units of analysis." I have in my head what I think those mean, but shan't give my thoughts here because I'd rather have someone tell me fresh, rather than tip-toeing around any misunderstanding I might have.

As well, am I right in understanding that the authors applied their own perceptual, unsupported bias to deprecate the "single unit of analysis" results?

18 October 2010

18th Annual Capital Defense Workshop

Today, after four years of working at a Commonwealth Attorney's office, I yet again got an invitation to the Capital Defense Workshop. I'm tempted to sign up as there seems to be only one restriction.
This program is provided for attorneys seeking qualification for capital defense cases and willing to accept appointment in such cases and for mitigation specialists and investigators employed by the Indigent Defense Commission capital defender offices. Part-time prosecutors may not attend
Great, I'm a full-time prosecutor, so I guess it's okay for me to go.

Pill Seekers

From a Rough Draft of a Paper I'm Writing:

On the other hand, while there are some local distributors and street level dealers in the pill trade, the provision of multiple legal outlets for prescription pills has led to aggressive abusers. Sometimes this manifests itself in a form of criminal activity which is bent toward the use of force to take pills, such as robbery or burglary. More commonly abusers seek to defraud a doctor or pharmacy in order to get drugs.

However, the most aggressive act taken by abusers is the seeking of pills from doctors and pain clinics several states away. As pain management clinics coalesced in states which are not properly regulating them, particularly in Florida, abusers sought them out with a vengeance. People drive from Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia to mob these clinics. There is even a flight from West Virginia to Fort Lauderdale that is so notorious for carrying drug seekers that it is called the “O.C. Express.” As one law enforcement official in Kentucky stated, “We're just seeing a phenomenal amount of people from Kentucky going to Florida for these pills. They drive down there to Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, and they're getting bags full of pills, and they're driving back the same day.” Another Kentucky law enforcement official was more blunt. “We're inundated with it. Florida is killing us. There's a carload that leaves here so often -- hell, every week or so -- to go to Florida.”

16 October 2010

I'm Famous!!!!
or at least on Topix

So, I'm sitting in my office, diligently working my Friday away, when I get a call: "Ken, you've got to come see this." It turns out that one of the attorneys has been checking out Topix, which is a nationwide community bulletin board system and has a significant following in our locality. Everyone checks it out at least once in a while to check on the gossip (of course, those in my office are only checking it to make sure no information dangerous to ongoing investigations and prosecutions is leaking).

The topic of discussion on one thread is who the hot local law enforcement types are. They are sniping back and forth and then, out of the blue comes this comment:
I hear about one that works in court house they call him the hammer, he must be hot.
Ain't but one Hammer at this here courthouse.

Now the only question is whether it is Wintertime Bearded Hammer which is hot or Summertime Bald Hammer?

13 October 2010

The Winnder of Last Week's Name That Pic

Bear claw or eclair?

Broward, 454, & the Judge is Gone

Admittedly, I don't know much about Broward County other than the fact that it is the center of the pill abuse universe. I was actually doing some research on that very subject when I ran across the story of a judge being removed from his position because the prosecution had moved for him to be recused from 454 cases (all the cases involving the prosecutor in his courtroom).

Wow. That's simply amazing. Admittedly, the guy had been acting, from the one sided accounts presented to the media, as a prima donna. He basically talked a defendant out of pleading guilty and getting time served because the defendant would lose his license. He significantly reduced three plea agreements. He made the prosecutor sit at her table.

And if that's all that it takes to get a judge removed, I could get about half the judges I've practiced in front of removed. I've been in courtrooms where you didn't sneeze without the judge's permission, much less leave your table (whichever side you were on). I've fought, and lost, the "but, judge, the plea agreement says" battle from both sides of the bench. I've also seen judges at least seem to try to talk defendants out of the plea agreement. Yet, none of these judges have I asked to be recused or relieved of their duties. It's just part of life as an attorney that there are judges you won't appreciate and will have personality conflicts with. Disagreement generally doesn't (outside Florida) mean you get to choose a new judge.

This was an elected judge. However, apparently in Florida you aren't elected to a specific bench - or at least if you are you can be changed to another. This is the solution the chief judge opted for, moving this judge to juvenile court.

12 October 2010

CLTV: The Legalized Drug Plague



Tried a new format, but I'll probably go back to the old, behind-a-desk format next week. This episode was also thrown together a little quickly so it it's a bit disorganized . . . live with it. ;-)

11 October 2010

Sometimes Criminals Make it Too Easy

Y'know, as a prosecutor, I am generally not opposed to the defendant making the conviction easy. However, there are times when it is almost too much like shooting fish in a barrel.

1) When you burglarize a pharmacy it's best not to imbibe a bunch of the cough medicine you've stolen and fall asleep in the ceiling.

2) When you plan to rob a pharmacy for oxy's the statement "robbing pharmacies for OxyContin is the only way to go" is going to hurt you when you go to trial.

10 October 2010

Grover is my Hero

Yeah, I know it's not crimlaw related, but some things are just too good to ignore.


07 October 2010

01 October 2010

Avast Ye Scurvy Dogs! It Be Art Time!

All hands on deck and these here be yer marchin' orders. Ye're all to go to My View from 15021. When ye get there, if ye don't want the black spot, ye'll reach down into the darkness of ye dark hearts and find the last little bits intellect in ye and say kind words  to the artist.

Lest ye think to say even a small bit of blaggardness, know ye that it'll be Davy Jone's Locker for ye!


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1 The title is an homage of Renaissance painters and specifically in memoriam of Alvise Vivarini who passed away in 1502. This is because Valerie thinks that the height of artistic achievement was achieved during the Renaissance and everything has been downhill from there. ;-)