30 November 2007

Metal Theft

1) Christmas could go down the tubes.

2) Passing more laws isn't stopping the theft.

Makes No Sense: No Electronics in Court

I get excluding cameras and phones, but PDA's?

Strange, Silly & Interesting

1) Okay, I understand stealing 180 kegs of Guinness, but 180 kegs of Bud too?

2) If you steal $20 worth of pizza in Eastpointe, Michigan they will summon SWAT to break down your front door.

3) Grandma / heroin kingpin fesses up that she hid the heroin on her grandchild.

4) The FBI gets its man, errr boy, in New Zealand.

5) Hey kids, if you sell your debit card and pin you will get caught.

6) Grand Larceny Tree.

7) In the UK organized crime operates on a whole different frequency: stealing discarded clothes.

8) Hiding under the floor won't fool the cops.

9) Texas guards now look fashionable.

10) Want to catch America's Top Ten? Draw them as cartoons.

We Just Ain't Gonna Arrest Druggies

Ummm . . . Alec the question is "What do the police in Edinburgh not want to say where it can be reported to the citizens?"

Reports from the Front: The Pot Rebellion

1) Courts are ordering both Colorado and California to violate federal law.

2) The Grinch got this guy's Christmas present.

3) And the Feds are still shutting down State sanctioned marijuana clubs clinics in California.

27 November 2007

Yes, He Is Guilty

Beau Weston is a professor at Centre, my undergrad. I only took one of his classes because he didn't teach in the areas of my majors (Heaven forfend that I should have taken a class which delayed me from my three year, double major graduation – yeah, I was an idiot). It was a class which discussed Modernity and Post-Modernity and was probably the most interesting class I took outside of my majors.

He has a blog, Gruntled Center, which has been up for a while now and it's probably the only non-blawg that I try to make a point of checking in on fairly regularly. Its topics range from sociology, to religion, to politics, and even law. Most of the time I'm not really qualified to comment upon the subjects he raises – not that this always stops me (I am a blogger after all). However, last week (and in September also) Dr. Weston commented upon the trial and conviction of Warren Jeffs for rape. He implies that the conviction is on less than solid grounds and opines that it is "iffy" and "stretches the rape law beyond the plausible." This falls well within the area of my supposed expertise, so I thought I'd try to explain exactly why Jeffs is guilty.

One caveat: I am not an expert on Utah law so I will mostly rely on Virginia law and general legal knowledge to explain why Jeffs is guilty.


Warren Jeffs is the leader of a religious group. As such, he ordered a 14 year old girl to marry a 19 year old boy. He was charged with rape as an accomplice, convicted, and sentenced to 10 years to life (two consecutive 5 to life sentences).

The Objection:

"What's wrong with this trial is the charge. Jeffs is charged with being an accomplice to rape for ordering an underage girl to marry, and presumably have sex with, a man who was a legal adult. The charge stretches rape law beyond the plausible. The prosecutors might lose, and Jeffs would slip away. Worse, they might win. If counseling people to marry, or return to a marriage, which presumably would include sex, could be legally construed as assisting rape, then anyone offering marital advice could be liable for prosecution."

Explaining the Conviction:

First of all, let's distinguish this case from marriage counseling. There are two factors which clearly distinguish the case at hand. First, there was no counseling here – it was an order. Second, and more important, is that the girl appears to be under the age at which she can consent to sex; this age varies from State to State, but 14 is almost always under the line (in Virginia sex with a 14 year old is actually “carnal knowledge” - sentence: 2-10 years).

Virginia law varies from the common law norm in that a person who caused a rape is a principal in the first degree (actual actor). However, since Jeffs was charged with rape as an accomplice, it appears that Utah has maintained the common law doctrine that only the person who accomplished the intercourse is a principal in the first degree.

In Virginia accomplices are divided into two groups: principals in the second degree and accessories before the fact.

Principle in the Second Degree
A principal in the second degree is one who, with the requisite mental state, is actually or constructively present at the commission of the crime assisting the perpetrator in its commission.
Accessory Before the Fact
An accessory before the fact is a person who, sharing the criminal purpose of the perpetrator, encourages or assists in the commission of the crime, but is absent from its commission.
Definitions from Criminal Offenses and Defenses in Virginia

I'm going to assume that Jeffs wasn't present when the sex took place. This makes it unlikely that he is a principal in the second degree. While being guilty as a principal in the second degree doesn't require actual presence, its constructive presence seems to require a contemporaneous act like being a lookout or getaway driver. Overall, it's an ill fit.

On the other hand, accessory before the fact fits like a glove. Assuming a traditional understanding of marriage, consummation is a part of marriage. The 14 year old girl is unable to consent to sex. The criminal purpose of her husband is to consummate the marriage. By ordering the marriage, Jeffs is purposefully assisting in the commission of the crime even though he will not be present when it occurs.

That's pretty solid ground for a conviction. Under Virginia law the punishment for being either type of accomplice is the same punishment as being the actual actor because of the causal relationship. I don't know if the same is true under Utah law.

Now, before some of you legal eagles out there start pointing out the potential flaws in this fairly basic examination of the law in this type of matter, let me fall on my own sword first. I see three possible major flaws in the analysis above. The first is that Utah's law may set the statutory rape age below 14. The second is that Utah's law may have a marriage exception. For example, under Virginia law if the man marries the 14 year old, she lives with him, and he supports her the case is stayed until she is 16 and then dismissed. The third is that Utah might have an unusually long 5 year proximity rule (most States do not make it illegal for those within 3 years to have sex).

If any of those flaws are true the case becomes far more reliant on facts rather than legal analysis. A conviction would require a demonstration that Jeffs' power was such that there was no possibility that the order to marry – and, by implication, consummate – could be disobeyed. If he had his religious group as tightly under control as Dr. Weston describes this might not be all that difficult a case to make. It would still be a solid accessory before the fact case and it might even rise to the level of a case of principal in the second degree under a theory that when the involuntary sex occurred Jeffs was at that time maintaining an atmosphere in the group which watched out for and condoned the man undertaking the actual act.

Certainly, this is an unusual case and an analysis actually using Utah's statutes and case law would bring variations upon the framework I've set out above (every State seems to deal with accessories a little differently). Nevertheless, there's a solid case here.

26 November 2007

C.S. Lewis, Natural Law, Witches, & the Death Penalty

I've just started reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. So far, it's a series of short chapters about Natural Law, which Lewis refers to in various forms (Rule of Decent Behaviour, Law of Behaviour, Moral Law, &c.). At the end of one chapter there is a collateral discussion about the proper use of the death penalty:

"I have met people who exaggerate the differences, because they have not distinguished between differences of morality and differences of belief about facts. For example, one person said to me, "Three hundred years ago people in England were putting witches to death. Was that what you call the Rule of Human Nature or Right Conduct?" But surely the reason we do not execute witches is that we do not believe there are such things. If we did – if we really thought that there were people going about who had sold themselves to the devil and received supernatural powers from him in return and were using those powers to kill their neighbors or drive them mad or bring bad weather – surely we would agree that if anyone deserved the death penalty, then these filthy quislings did? There is no difference in moral principle here: the difference is simply about matter of fact. It may be a great advance in knowledge not to believe in witches: there is no moral advance in not executing them when you do not think they are there. You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house."

18 November 2007

Hint: If you're going to sell drugs . . .

. . . don't walk around wearing a name tag.


The NYT says the government kept files on Mafia guys.

Yeah, I'm shocked too.

A Judge Caught with Marijuana May Not be Convicted

But he sure won't be able to keep his job.

Stealing Wire Right Off the Poles

Okay, this takes moxy.

Hopefully, this will not become a trend. I live in a part of the world where copper theft is common and the mountains make it nearly impossible to bury the cable. Of course, the solution could be for the phone company to switch to fiber optics, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that.

Metal Theft

We deal with plenty of people stealing wire here in the US, but I think that the Scots may have us beat. They're stealing road signs.

Infinite Creativity: Columbia

They're building subs to be towed under ships while filled with cocaine.

Height Challenged?

You could always use your innate shortness to help you con a couple churches.

Co-Offenders Killed in Robbery = Murder

"A BURGLAR has been charged with murder after the homeowner he was trying to rob shot and killed his two partners-in-crime."

Thief Steals Food He Could Have Gotten for Free

If he'd just knocked on the door and asked.

Plumbing for Profit

I guess plumbers must not be making enough money - now at least one guy is stealing.

The Justice Equation: UK

882 offenses = 32 months in jail.

16 November 2007

Slow & Steady Doesn't Always Win the Race

Turtles might not be the first choice as cocaine smugglers.

OMG: Punishment for the Raped in Saudia

If a a lady who was convicted of being in a car with a male she was not related to appeals her case, she will get results. Bad Results.

Previous sentence: 90 lashes.

Sentence After the Appeal: 200 lashes, 6 months in jail, & her lawyer's license has been suspended.

New Zealand: Murder Confession Played on TV

The tape was supressed in court, but the tape was given to the press by the police.

Don't Steal from a Kenyan Church

80 cents is a year in jail.

Medicinal Heroin at Home

Honest, officer, the only reason I have it is to do a detox program.

Heroin in Magazines

If you mail drugs into a prison taped into magazines you will get caught.

Somebody Killed De Facto

"Murder of de facto."

Thief with a Heart of Gold

Or at least a fear of kids.

Civil Remedial Fees Fail in the UK

"A government scheme to force criminals to pay their victims is in disarray after forecasts suggest it will raise less than a tenth of its £16 million target."

12 November 2007


Hmmm . . . You can't be an outlaw any more in Virginia:
§ 19.2-10. Outlawry abolished.

No proceeding of outlawry shall hereafter be instituted or prosecuted.
So, the first thing that runs thru my head is that this could prove problematic to prosecuting people who have acted outside the law. Things like this must be checked out.

The first step is a quick run to my trusty old three volume Webster:
Outlawry - 1a: the act of outlawing:the act or process of putting someone outside the protection of the law. b: banishment, exile. c: the act or process of making something illegal. 2: the state of living outside the law.
Aha! It seems that while it is possible that outlawry is the act of outlawing an act, the more likely and dominate use of the word is to be put, and live, outside the protection of the law. But wait, that can't possibly be allowed under the federal constitution, can it?

Well, a computer search of federal supreme court cases doesn't yield much. However, Green v. United States, 1958, 356 U.S. 165 is somewhat helpful. For one thing, it tells us that outlawry came from Ye Olde English law and was adopted by the Several States, but not the federal government. For another it gives a quick description of how it worked:
[A]t early English law, courts dealt with absconding defendants not by way of contempt, but under the ancient doctrine of outlawry, a practice whereby the defendant was summoned by proclamation to five successive county courts and, for failure to appear, was declared forfeited of all his goods and chattels. 4 Blackstone Commentaries 283, 319.
OK, way back when, if you were a 98 lb. weakling, the authorities summoned you to court for trial by combat against Mongo, the 6'8" man-giant (don't shoot him with that crossbow, you'll just make him mad), and you make the prudent decision not to participate you lost your land. Let's see what that evolved into under Virginia law.

Pulling out my trusty 1873 Code of Virginia, I find this:
When judgement of outlawry entered, or corrected, &c.; what judgment in outlawry to be rendered.

27. Judgment of outlawry shall be rendered by the court of the county or corporation in which the prosecution is, and may be reviewed, corrected or reversed, on motion, or by writ of errorcoram nobis.

28. When a person is outlawed, the same judgment, execution and disabilities shall ensue and be awarded as if he were convicted of the offence with which he was charged.
That doesn't say anything about failing to appear in court. However, the sections around it are mostly instructions on what to do when criminally charged parties fail to appear in court, so I infer that it is, as the federal supreme court stated, a statute dealing with someone who didn't come to court.

It's interesting that there seems to be a very serious concern with the possibility of error expressed under Code sec. 27 and that, under Code sec. 28, the remedy seems to have changed from the English version in which lands are grabbed to a conviction of outlawry carrying the same punishment as the crime a person couldn't be convicted of because he didn't come to court.

Basically, it's a failure to appear statute. Don't show up for court to face your bank robbery charge and we can't convict you of bank robbery. We can, however, make a judgment of outlawry and sentence you to 20 years on that instead. We still have a failure to appear statute, Va. Code sec. 19.2-128, but you can only get 5 years under it and must be present when tried - not quite as convenient as outlawry appears to have been.

I wonder why judgments of outlawry were done away with. I see a federal constitutional issue, or two, with that kind of action, but the statute was done away with before the federalsupremes started enforcing the federal constitution against the States.

Anyone out there got any insights? How about knowledge about how this has been handled in other States?

07 November 2007

The Boss Gets Elected

No big shock here. Ron Elkins got 99.61% of the vote and is now the ELECTED Commonwealth Attorney of Wise County and the City of Norton. Actually, it's kinda hard to believe that .38% voted against him.

Congratulations, Ron.

06 November 2007

How do you do this?

Stealing a 2 ton air conditioner on a bicycle.

Reports from the Front: The Pot Rebellion

1) Somebody's upset that the police arrested a guy for manufacturing who had a State license.

2) California may say it's legal, but those pesky Feds could always show up and close your $50 million MedMar clinic and take everything you own.

3) Even the RCMP are busting grow houses.

4) If you are an officer involved in a drug ring you should not rob your partners.

5) Things aren't going to turn out well when your grow houses are in the middle of California wildfires.

6) A Californian who ain't buying the MedMar excuse.

7) Urging Oregon to grow marijuana directly for MedMar sales.

8) Marijuana skirmish (actual shots fired) at the Mexican border.

9) Kid finds bag of marijuana at home and takes it to his teacher.

10) Ummmm . . . Sorry to break this to you, but MedMar is legal in Virginia.
§ 18.2-250.1. Possession of marijuana unlawful.

A. It is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess marijuana unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription or order of a practitioner while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by the Drug Control Act (§ 54.1-3400 et seq.).
Of course, I wouldn't hold your breath while you looked for a doctor who'd prescribe marijuana here.

11) Denver trying to pass marijuana no arrest law.

12) Can a boss fire someone for something the State says is legal, but the Feds say is illegal?

13) The Rutherford Institute fighting for pot as a religious right.

14) The only reason to do this is that you want to go to jail.

15) Robbery of a grow house.

India: Bad Cheque Requirements

You can't just tell someone that they passed a bad cheque, you must tell them the amount of the cheque.

Yeah, I admit it, half the reason that I posted this one is so that I could spell check the strange way they do where English is spoken instead of 'Merican.

100 Pellets of Cocaine Swallowed

A heck of a way to pay off a debt.

03 November 2007

Snakes On A Bus

The disturbing part about this is that the postal inspectors figured out that the snakes were mailed, notified the local police, and they let the snakes be delivered to the guy and didn't pick him up until he finished riding the bus home with them.

You'd think the inspectors would have pulled them out as soon as they were spotted. At the very least you'd think the local police would arrest the guy as soon as he picked up the snakes at the post office.

Important safety tip if you ever plan on riding a bus in Indiana.

Shackled & On the Run

This guy is either real good at hiding or he knew a locksmith who was close at hand.

Run From the Police . . .

. . . while an officer is in your car and you won't get too far.

OJ: What Did the FBI Know and When Did it Know It?

Apparently, the FBI knew something was going on.