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A Better Look At Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

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After two days of just barely seeing Tsarnaev through the glare and reflections in the plate glass wall of the jury assembly hall I finally found the sweet spot. For the first time I could plainly see that his left eye is partially shut or swollen.

I’m also certain he uttered something, perhaps under his breath, as the judge mentioned the death penalty. His mouth opened as he stroked his beard and his lips moved.

The lawyers will now review the questionnaires that the prospective jurors have been filling out for the past three days. Next Thursday individual voir dire will begin, and if enough jurors are found opening arguments are expected the final week in January.

Posted in Courtroom Tagged with: ,

Day Two Of Jury Selection

For a second day we watched through plate glass as another group of prospective  jurors was instructed on the duty and privilege of service. It was a chance to concentrate on capturing some good likeness of Tsarnaev, or as best I could through the glare and reflection in the glass.

 

 

More of the same tomorrow.

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Jury Selection Begins In Marathon Bombing Trial

 

 

Hundreds of eastern Massachusetts residents reported for jury duty his morning in the Boston Marathon bombing trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

 

Tsarnaev entered the jury assembly hall with his lawyers. It was difficult to make out through the glare of plate glass that separated the press from the proceedings exactly what he was wearing, but it seemed to me he had on a dark collared shirt with a dark pullover and light pants. At the afternoon session he was wearing only the sweater with no shirt.

 

Tsarnaev appeared alert as he sat between two of his lawyers, Miriam Conrad on the left and Judy Clarke on the right.

 

Judge O’Toole instructed the jurors on what to expect, and introduced the lawyers and the defendant.

 

 

Two more days of the same, then in the later part of next week we should move on to individual void dire in the courtroom.

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Michael Phelps In Court For DUI

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps pleaded guilty in a Baltimore courtroom yesterday to driving under the influence. He was stopped for speeding in the Fort McHenry tunnel about 1:40 a.m. September 30 after leaving the Horseshoe Casino.  District Judge Braverman gave Phelps a one year suspended sentence that now hangs over the 29 year-old swimmer should he slip up. Phelps had a previous DUI ten years ago in Wicomico county.

Phelps’ lawyer, Steven A. Allen, told the court that the swimmer attended a 45-day in-patient treatment in Phoenix and is continuing after-treatment at a facility in Towson. “Mr. Phelps has not been treated differently because of his celebrity status.” Mr. Allen said,  “He has really stood up to what has occurred, accepted responsibility and, of course, there is a level of humiliation involved,”

Phelps was accompanied in court by numerous supporters including Ray Lewis and, of course, his mom.

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Boston Marathon Bomber Back In Court

The last time Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in court, at his arraignment in July 2013, he looked and sounded quite different. He was wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, his left hand was bandaged and his face swollen from injuries he suffered during the manhunt that followed the Boston Marathon bombing. He spoke with a Russian accent and displayed a certain arrogance or swagger, at least it appeared that way to me. Yesterday was a different story. He was dressed in a dark zip-up sweater, shirt and belted chinos. He seemed quietly interested in what was happening, speaking softly to the judge when questioned. The Russian accent was gone even though an interpreter was present just in case.

All signs point to the trial beginning with jury selection on January 5, as scheduled, though the defense is still asking for a delay. It’s sure to be a long and emotional trial.

I sketched the scene outside the courtroom before the doors opened. There was a tall woman in a long fur coat who talked incessantly with whoever would listen to her. I didn’t pay attention to what she was saying. But later, at the conclusion of the hearing as Tsarnaev was being led from the courtroom, this same woman started shouting in Russian.

It turns out she is the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, who was killed by the FBI under very odd circumstances. At one time Todashev was, along with Dzhokhar’s brother Tamerlan, a suspect in a bizarre murder in the Boston suburb of Waltham. There’s a lot to the story that has yet to be explained.

Posted in Courtroom Tagged with: , ,

Two Opinions and Multi District Litigation

Here are some sketches from Tuesday at the Supreme Court.

 

The Court heard arguments in Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., a case from the Second Circuit which turned down an appeal of a case in a Multi District Litigation because the other consolidated cases were still pending, at least that’s what I think it may be about. It’s complicated.

Opinions in two cases were also announced. Warger v. Shauers, about the admissibility of one juror’s testimony about another juror’s statements (above), and Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, about compensation for employees who have to go through security screen after completing their shift (below).

Posted in Arguments, Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , , ,

All Aboooard . . . the Amtrak Limited

The Supreme Court today heard arguments testing the regulatory authority of Amtrak, a quasi-private for-profit company created by congress in 1970 to prop up passenger rail service. The tracks are owned by the rail-freight companies but Amtrak gets priority to keep its trains on time.

The case is Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads. You can read Lyle Denniston’s reporting on the argument here.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , , ,

The Ambiguous Pregnancy Discrimination Act

United Parcel Service came to the Supreme Court this morning to argue that it is pregnancy-blind, that it treats expectant female employees the same as any other employee injured off the job.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act 1978 says, “. . women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” The language sounds plain and the intent of the law obvious, but when applied it seems to be ambiguous.

When Peggy Young became pregnant and her doctor ordered her to not lift heavy objects she asked her employer, UPS, to put her on light-duty. Instead UPS placed her on unpaid leave, so she sued.

Young’s lawyer, University of Michigan law professor Samuel Bagenstos, argued that UPS made accommodations for three similar groups: those injured on the job, those covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act and employees whose driving licenses were suspended or revoked.

“Well, Ms Halligan, for the democratic process to work as it should, the PDA has to be given a fair reading,” said Justice Kagan. “And what we know about the PDA is that it was supposed to be about removing stereotypes of pregnant women as marginal workers.”

The lawyer for UPS, Caitlin Halligan, was questioned aggressively by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan. They asked so many questions that it was hard to get a sketch of Halligan since she was turned away when facing the two justices.

Lyle Denniston’s SCOTUSblog analysis of the argument is here.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , ,

The Hapless Bank Robber

While it poured outside the Supreme Court yesterday morning the Justices inside heard arguments about a statute that imposes a minimum ten year sentence on a bank robber who “forces another person to accompany him”.

Larry Whitfield and an accomplice, armed with an AK-47 and a .357, tried to rob a Gastonia, North Carolina credit union but were foiled by a metal detector that automatically locked the bulletproof lobby doors. Fleeing in a Crown Victoria they crashed into the median. Whitfield got away, while his accomplice was caught.

The would-be bank robber, who had ditched his firearm, first broke into a vacant house but when the owner showed up he threatened her with a knife and ran. Next, he entered the home of 79-year-old Mary Parnell. He forced Parnell to accompany him a few feet into a room where he called and texted a friend, telling a terrified Parnell, “Ma’am, just calm down. I’m probably more scared than you are, and I’m actually just trying to leave.”

Mary Parnell was having a heart attack and died. Whitfield got 20 years for the robbery plus five for forcing Parnell to accompany him to the other room.

The case is Whitfield v. U.S.

Read Amy Howe’s SCOTUSblog account of the argument here.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Facebook and Ginsburg’s New Jabot

After a sudden hospitalization last week, Justice Ginsburg – who I think has never missed a day of work – was back on the bench this morning to hear arguments.

Of this morning’s two cases the second, regarding a Pennsylvania man’s threatening rants on Facebook, drew the crowds. During the first I could see a few new members of the bar struggling to stay awake, although the Justices seemed to enjoy it.

The case, Elonis v. United States, was brought by Anthony Elonis who was convicted and served more than three years in prison for threatening his estranged wife with Facebook posts such as this one, “There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”

Restrictions on First Amendment speech are permitted if that speech constitutes a “true threat”, but that can mean many things. Elonis’ lawyer, John P. Elwood’s position that his client had no intent to scare his wife, much less follow through on his threats, that he was only venting in a rap style caused Justice Ginsburg to ask, “How does one prove what’s in somebody’s mind?”

When it came the government’s turn at the lectern, Chief Justice Roberts asked, “So how do you start out if you want to be a rap artist? Your first communication you can’t say, I’m an artist, right?”

“I think you have a perfect freedom to engage in rap artistry,” replied Deputy Solicitor Dreeben. “What you don’t have perfect freedom to do is to make statements that are like the ones in this case where, after the individual receives a protection from abuse order from a court which was based on Facebook posts that his wife took as threatening, he comes out with a post and says fold up that PFA and put it in your pocket, will it stop a bullet?”

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , ,
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