News Roundup

The trial of former Senator John Edwards has begun in federal court in Greensboro. In the federal cases I tried, jury selection took about as long as it takes me to read the newspaper in the morning, but in the Edwards trial, it’s scheduled to take a week or more. Meanwhile, a number of articles critical of the prosecution have appeared, including some in unlikely places. I’m trying to withhold judgment until at least some of the actual evidence has been heard. In other news:

1. A recent review by a panel of experts has conclusively determined that the evidence on whether the death penalty deters crime is inconclusive.

2. In general, I’m with those who believe that political ignorance is rational for most people. Still, I shuddered to see these polling results, which show that only 28% of Americans can identify John Roberts as the Chief Justice. 8% named the deceased Thurgood Marshall, while 4% named Senator Harry Reid.

3. What tough legal job market? There’s been a notable recent increase in lawyers billing over $1,000 per hour.

4. I’ve written about cell phones in prison before. The potential for a technological solution is apparently about to be realized. This Los Angeles Times story sums it up this way: “A private company has agreed to pay millions to install technology in California prisons to block Web searches, text messages and phone calls by inmates using smuggled phones. The deal won’t cost taxpayers a dime . . . because the company, Global Tel Link, also owns the traditional pay phones prisoners can legally use. Company officials are betting that once the contraband cell devices are disabled, demand for pay phones will skyrocket.” Talk about protecting your market share!

5. I often end these news roundups with stories that lean toward the ridiculous. This week, I’m going to conclude with two such stories, because I was simply unable to choose. First, there’s this story, about a Michigan woman who won a million dollars in the state lottery but continued to receive food stamps. Charged with food stamp fraud, the woman reportedly said “I feel that it’s OK because, I mean, I have no income and I have bills to pay. . . . I have two houses.” Must be tough! The second story comes from Kentucky, where 20 year old Michael Baker posted on Facebook a picture of himself siphoning gas from a police car. Surprise! The picture came to the attention of law enforcement and Baker was charged criminally. He took down the picture but posted “yea lol i went too [sic] jail over facebook.” To quote the editors of Gizmodo, “yes, lol indeed.”

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