The Make Or Break Freddie Gray Trial

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial

After one mistrial and one acquittal a lot is riding on the prosecution of the van driver facing the most serious charge in the death of Freddie Gray. During opening statements Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow promised to show that Freddie Gray had been given a “rough ride” in the police van without the benefit of a seatbelt result in the spinal injury that caused his death.

I missed most of the trial last week but from what I’ve read, especially the judge’s remarks during motions, a conviction on the charge of depraved heart murder seems a stretch. We’ll know soon enough. I’ll be there to sketch closing arguments Monday morning.

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial


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Guccifer In Alexandria

I don’t get down to the U.S. District court in Alexandria much anymore. It used to be a regular trek during the early days of the Bush administration’s war on terror. But this morning I was back at the Albert V. Bryan courthouse to sketch a Romanian email hacker whose nom de guerre is Guccifer (Gucci + Lucifer).

Marcel Lehel Lazar pleaded guilty to two counts related to his breaking into the email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and members of former President Bush’s family. He also claims to have hacked Hillary Clinton’s private email server – “It was like an open orchid on the Internet. There were hundreds of folders.”- but has not produced any proof of that.

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First Freddie Gray Verdict Not Guilty

Not a good day for the Baltimore State’s Attorney. The first verdict in the trials of police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray found officer Edward Nero innocent of all charges. That outcome seemed likely from day one in this unusual trial where a police officer faced criminal charges for the kind of arrest that is usually defended by city prosecutors.

The trial of officer Caesar Goodson, the driver of the van in which Freddie Gray sustained the injuries that killed him, will be a different story. That trial begins June 6.

Here are the rest of my sketches from the first day of the trial.



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Monday’s Undecisions

The big news of course on Monday was the Supreme Court’s per curiam opinion in Zubik v. Burwell (and other consolidated cases) that decided nothing but encouraged the two sides to reach a compromise.

The other case left hanging is Spokeo v. Robins. In a 6-2 opinion the Court asked the Ninth Circuit to take another look at the “concreteness” of the harm to Thomas Robins when posted inaccurate information about him.

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

Opinion: Ocasio v. United States

An interesting case, and not just because I live in Baltimore.

Majestic Auto Repair was paying up to $300 for each damaged vehicle Baltimore police would steer their way from the scene of an accident. By the time the FBI broke up the deal some sixty officers were involved.

One of the officers, Samuel Ocasio, was tried and convicted on three counts of extortion and one count of conspiracy to commit. He appealed the conspiracy conviction on the grounds that in order to conspire to obtain property “from another,” conspirators must agree to obtain property from someone outside the conspiracy. Since the conspiracy was between Ocasio and the owners of Majestic Auto Repair who were paying the bribes out of their own pockets, and not “from another”, there was no conspiracy.

The Court didn’t buy it. Justice Alito delivered the 5-3 opinion, sketched above. For an in-depth explanation of the opinion go here.

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

Hastert Sentencing

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was sentenced Wednesday on one count of “structuring” bank withdrawals to which he had pleaded guilty last year. But of course it wasn’t at all about a financial technicality. Hastert was confronted in the courtroom with testimony from one of his victims, and from the sister of another victim now deceased. The hearing lasted about two hours, with Judge Thomas M. Durkin taking the last forty-five minutes to explain his sentence of fifteen months, far more than prosecutors recommended.

Hastert, who sat in a wheelchair through most of the hearing, was helped to a walker and apologized from the podium. “The thing I want to do today is say I’m sorry to those I hurt and misled,” he said, “I want to apologize to the boys I mistreated when I was their coach. What I did was wrong and I regret it.”

Judge Durkin then asked Hastert if he had in fact sexually abused his victims. After some hesitation Hastert answered, “Yes” to sexually abusing victim B. For two other victims he said he couldn’t remember, and that it was “a different situation,” but didn’t dispute the accusations.

“The defendant is a serial child molester,” said Judge Durkin. “Some actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works. Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.”

Posted in Congress, Courtroom Tagged with: , , ,

Copyright Fee Awards and Patent Law Arguments

The Supreme Court heard their last argument of the term yesterday, an appeal of former Virginia governor McDonnell’s conviction for accepting gifts and favors in exchange for “official acts”. I wasn’t there to sketch it. Instead I was covering the sentencing of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (those sketches will be posted soon).

The last day of argument for me was Monday when the Court heard two cases related to copyright and patents, not usually the most exciting. I could follow the first case, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., which first came to the Supreme Court a couple of terms back and now returns on the issue of awarding attorney fees.

But the second case, Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee, left me so confused I’ll just post the sketches.



Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

Arizona Redistricting Opinion and DUI Argument

On Wednesday the Supreme Court released three opinions, two of which made news, one of which – Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission – I sketched. I would’ve sketched the opinion in Bank Markazi v Peterson, that upheld a law directing Iranian assets to go to victims of terrorism, except I really couldn’t see much of Justice Ginsburg’s tiny figure hunched behind the bench as she delivered the opinion.

Sketches of the argument in Birchfield v. North Dakota, actually three cases concerning state laws that make it a crime to refuse a warrantless blood-alcohol test when stopped for DUI, are below.

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

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Admissions To The Bar

iPads and smartphones are not normally permitted in the courtroom but an exception was made for members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association at the Supreme Court on Tuesday for the swearing in ceremony. American Sign Language interpreters were also present, seated in front of the bench right below Justice Kagan.

After the lawyers were presented Chief Justice Roberts used sign-language granting the motion to admit them to the bar. I wasn’t able to actually see the Chief signing as my view was blocked by the lawyers standing in front of me.

I also sketched the argument in United States v. Bryant.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with:

Deferred Action For Parents Of Americans . . .

. . . and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, was before the Supreme Court today.

A very large crowd supporting the president’s immigration policy was gathered in front of the Court’s plaza. Some had been there since Friday hoping to get a seat inside the courtroom for the arguments in United States v. TexasAnd the courtroom was in fact packed with spectators full of anticipation, hoping to get an inkling as to which way the Justices may rule.

But at the end of the hour and half of mostly technical argument there was little to glean. You an read about it here.



Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,
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