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A Low Threshold for Probable Cause

Natty Shafer Law

Two weeks ago the FBI arrested Paul Kevin Curtis for sending letters laced with ricin to President Obama and Senator Wicker of Mississippi, and it has been another week since the charges were dropped. Now the FBI has a second suspect in custody who may be responsible for sending the letters.

One lesson to be learned from the episode is the importance of letting the judicial process take its course and realizing that it is not just a cliche that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It is a central concept of our judicial system that until a person is convicted, they are still innocent under the law, and travesties will happen if we let mob mentality undermine that.

However, the episode also shows the depressingly low standard that it takes to arrest someone or for a judge to issue a search warrant. The Supreme Court has said that…

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George Carlin – Wisdom

“Now, there’s one thing you might have noticed I don’t complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There’s a nice campaign slogan for somebody: ‘The Public Sucks. F*ck Hope.”

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Prosecutors with Weak Cases

Natty Shafer Law

One the frustrating things about being a defense attorney is the presumption that prosecutors only bring cases when they are sure the defendant is guilty. Unfortunately, prosecutors just do not spend a lot of time pondering whether each individual defendant is guilty. Now an interesting study from earlier this year found that one of the predictive factors in having a case later overturned was the prosecutor having had a weak case. The study compared the overturned convictions with what they called “near misses,” or cases where an innocent defendant was indicted but released before a conviction. (To determine that the near misses were actually innocent, the study examined the evidence to see if the person was actually innocent.) Overall in the near misses, the prosecutors actually had stronger cases. This is counterintuitive as we usually expect weaker cases to be dismissed sooner and stronger cases to have a higher chance…

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