Monday, February 4, 2008

A Different Starting Point

You know, I think the reason that I disagree with Marky Mark and some of the other posters on a lot of the issues is because we begin on different starting points when we make our arguments.

While I start off talking about how the community needs good, talented and aggressive prosecutors on cases, I'm envisioning the ax-murderer and the baby raper.

When they start talking about mercy, compassion and a lack of arrogance in prosecution, they are envisioning the poor schlub who is walking down the middle of the street where a sidewalk is provided and the police find a crack pipe on him.

NOTE: Before using the term "schlub" above, I wanted to make sure it wasn't a code-word for anything offensive. The American Heritage Dictionary lists the following:

Slang A person regarded as clumsy, stupid, or unattractive.
Yiddish, from Polish zhób, trough, blockhead.

I hope my research was thorough enough.


Ron in Houston said...


You've hit on a very important point of human behavior. Our perceptions are greatly influenced by the perceived starting point of those perceptions.

I don't think "Marky Mark" (hmm, you calling him that is probably an interesting insight into your psychological makeup) wants some predator kidnapping his or anyone else's child.

Mark also understands that people who commit crimes are not necessarily evil and that life is not always as black and white as a lot of DA's wish it was.

You can't win with the PC crowd. Calling people schlub probably would be offensive to the mentally retarded crowd.

anonymous c said...

Great point, AHCL. I envision exactly what you do when I think about prosecutors. But, I'll tell you what! We need them. Plain and simple. We need them to be just as vigorous and passionate as the other side. It's unrealistic to expect differently. If you think that prosecutors don't take this stuff home with them and cry, hell! GRIEVE with the victim's family, you're insane. I’ve seen it firsthand. It's part of the human condition. They fight like hell for the victim and people like Mark fight for the defendant (by the way, does he even try cases anymore? Just curious!).

I honestly think that it's unrealistic and naive to think otherwise. You can spout all of the textbook b.s. that you want, people, but you can’t neglect the human emotion of the equation. Behind every accused criminal lies a family in pain. Try not to forget that as you spout legalese about what prosecutors should and should not be.

And, Ron in Houston, laws are there for a reason. If you don’t like the laws, take it up with the lawmakers. You have a perfectly legitimate right to do so! Meanwhile, if people don’t want to face the fightin’ end of a prosecutor, then they'd better not break the laws on the books. Pretty simple.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Ron in Houston,
I call Mark the name "Marky Mark", because he's a friend of mine, and I kind of like the guy.
Would I admit such a thing if it wasn't true?

Mark, are you going to back me up on this?

And Anon C, yes, Mark still tries cases. Much to the annoyance of prosecutors (just kidding, Mark). And I will try to keep in mind those things that a prosecutor goes through, for future reference. :-)

PJ said...

I don't think you've identified the correct diverging starting point. I think it is this: I (and I presume Mark) understand that crimes--even the worst ones imaginable--do not happen in a vacuum and do not reflect the entire character of the person who committed them. It's not that we think they cannot be judged for their actions, we just ask that they be judged fairly in their proper context. And, more than that, at least for me, that we all--each of us as a member of society--also accept our own responsibility for some of that context.

Whether we like it or not, crime is a social phenomenon. Our social reluctance to provide, for example, adequate mental health care to all those in need of it creates, ultimately, crime victims. As does our tolerance of poverty and the economic instability of the poor. (Economists have actually found a strong link between the incidence of violent crime in a society and its wealth/income inequality. The US, in case you are wondering, has one of the highest wealth and income inequalities for developed nations.) And these are policies we--you and I and everybody else who has political influence--consciously choose.

Going back to the individual, I don't think doing an inhumane act makes one inhuman. I don't think even people who do horrible things to other human beings are evil. Or animals. And, after having met such people, I know that they are every bit as human as you or I. Some, remarkably enough, I would consider in many respects to be even better people than you or I, despite having once done a terrifying thing. Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done.

It's easy to condemn, and it's easy to exact vengeance. But neither are virtues. If we are serious about wanting to save lives and protect people from harm, the ball our eyes should be kept on is reducing or eliminating the social and economic factors that result in crime victims.

anonymous c said...

Yes, could you puh-leaze try to do that from now on, AHCL? Jeez! Lay off already! M-kay?

Hehe! Sorry! Meant the general "you"! :)

Ron in Houston said...

Anon C

Oh to live in such a simple world as you've created in your mind.

The legislature writes the laws and we just enforce them. Black and white. So simple. Why didn't Chuck just enforce the laws against Hotze? Let a petit jury make the call rather than the secret DA led grand jury.

Chuck is the classic example of the fallacy of your argument. Here we have a guy who probably doesn't even have more than a few speeding tickets. He's spend his career trying to put away the "bad" guys and defend the "good." He deletes some emails. He probably lies about it. So charge him with perjury and tampering with evidence. Charge him and throw the book at him. Put him away for the max. After all your just enforcing the laws on the books, right?

Yeah, it's so easy. Just black and white. BTW, I don't want to make the decision nor do I really care if Chuck is charged. For me, it's a karma situation. Whatever happens to Chuck is Chuck's karma.

Ron in Houston said...

Anon C

Oh to live in the simple world you've created in your mind. It's all just black and white isn't it. The legislature just writes the laws and we just enforce them.

Chuck is the classic example to deconstruct the fallacy you've created in your mind. Chuck probably has never been in more trouble than a few speeding tickets. (He probably could have gotten more of those but being a DA, well you know the legislature just writes the laws and the cops just enforce them right?)

Chuck deleted a few emails and probably didn't tell the truth about it. So charge him with perjury and tampering with evidence and ask a petit jury to give him the max. After all your just enforcing the laws right?

BTW, I don't have any position on whether Chuck should be charged. I view it as a karma situation. Whatever happens, charges or no, is just Chuck's karma.

Ron in Houston said...


I'm sure you do like Mark. However calling him Marky Mark shows a certain level of passive aggression.

Now lest you think that's bad, I'm sure you two may have went "to battle" in court, so it's only natural that you'd have some competitive passive aggression toward him.

BTW - I don't know Siegler and you know her well. All I know is her reputation as a good and smart prosecutor. Even if you have your lips attached to her "posterior" (see I pulled out my PC dictionary), it's not something to be defensive about. The fact that your a fan says something about the woman.

PS - I submitted two comments because I didn't realize you'd turned on moderation. Pick whichever one sounds better and post it.

anonymous c said...

First of all,

Your = possession. You’re = a contraction of you and are. Just a friendly tip.

Secondly, yes, the world of moral clarity IS pretty glorious.

And, lastly,…

“Chuck deleted a few emails and probably didn't tell the truth about it. So charge him with perjury and tampering with evidence and ask a petit jury to give him the max. After all your just enforcing the laws right?”

…um, yes.

Ron in Houston said...

Anon C

Well, I can see that in addition to being a moral nazi you're also the grammar nazi.

Really, charge Chuck and seek the max? Yikes, I'm not voting for you. Even the worst enemy of Chuck shouldn't really ask for that.

As for the gloriousness of absolute morality be certain to watch out for your plank while you're prosecuting those with dust in their eyes.

anonymous c said...

Look, Ron, arguing the extremes, as you did with your example, is a juvenile way to debate. It’s like this…

- Do you believe in abortion?

- No.

- Well, what about the blind, deaf, dumb woman who gets raped by her five uncles??!!!

Of course I don’t think that they should seek the max. But, if he broke laws, he should be held accountable, just like we all should. It’s not our job to pick and choose which laws we like and don’t like, Ron.

You and Bennett go on and on about having compassion for the criminal. Poor criminal with “dust in (his) eyes”. It’s really so awful, isn’t it? Their mommy and daddy just didn’t love them enough, right? Well, that’s YOUR job to coddle their little feelings, if you so choose. Because, meanwhile, there are VICTIMS that they have raped, robbed and killed. What about their feelings? What about justice for them? The criminal HAS an option. The victim does not. Game over. I have no sympathy WHATSOEVER for people who make that choice and I, quite honestly, couldn’t give a flying cr*p about what kind of childhood they had. I find them repugnant on every possible level.

As I said to PJ, if you and the prosecutor both do your jobs right and to the best of your ability, Justice will, ideally, prevail.

I just don’t get why you defense lawyers whine so much about how prosecutors should feel sorry for your client. Are you maybe getting your a** whooped in court one too many times and are trying a new psychological approach?

And good job on using that “you’re” correctly! :-)

Mark Bennett said...

AHCL and I get along just fine. She can call me Marky Mark all she wants.

Isn't your so-called "moral clarity" an extreme, anon c? We're all entitled to compassion until we're accused of committing crimes? It's not hard to demolish that extreme position; you can probably even do it yourself.

Most people, when their lives go well, congratulate themselves on their choices. You sound a lot like a guy I once knew who didn't realize how fortunate he'd been.

Things are sometimes as black-and-white as you see them. But usually not.

We defense lawyers aren't the first to argue that we all should treat everyone with compassion. I think the point was made pretty persuasively about 2000 years ago, but not everyone concedes it, so you don't have to let it piss you off.

Ron in Houston said...

Anon C

Such anger. You must be one of those tough, smokin, drinkin, tough and gritty ADA's.

Last time I checked there was this thing called prosecutorial discretion. You know like the DA's office exercised on David Medina but failed to do on Bradford.

You can keep living in your glass house of the gloriousness of absolute morality. I'd just recommend that you watch all those stones your throwing.

Thank you for the grammar lesson. My proofreader being one of those repugnant morally defective persons has been summarily executed.

anonymous c said...

Oh, goodie! You brought in the reinforcements! Hmmm…where to start?

No, Mark, moral clarity is not an extreme. It's a goal to strive for, just like Justice.

And, Mark? I do congratulate myself on my choices. Every day, in fact. Here, watch me do it now…

“Hey! I chose not to rape somebody today! I chose not to rob a house or mow down some innocents today! I chose to not use my childhood as an excuse today! I chose to take my lumps, suck it up, put myself through college and make an honest living! Good for me!”

Yes, in a perfect world, everyone deserves compassion. In fact, I'd truly love it we could all run around barefoot in a field of flowers, blowing bubbles, quoting Lennon, making daisy chains and flashing peace signs with a smile all the live long day. But, unfortunately, we are talking about reality here…not The Good Ship Lollipop.

Newsflash! There are bad people out there, Mark and Ron. And, yes, indeed! There are even people who are (gasp!) NOT deserving of compassion. No ambiguity about it. Fairness? Yes. Justice? Yes. Compassion? Hell, no!

It is not a prosecutor’s job to give a single cr*p about the woe-is-me childhood of the accused, y’all. The idea is laughable. We are talking about a courtroom here. Not effin’ Oprah!

And, Ron, spare the poor guy! His mummy probably didn’t love him enough.

PJ said...

anonymous c wrote: "...the world of moral clarity IS pretty glorious."

Moral clarity? Is it moral to deny people adequate mental health resources? To deny people some baseline economic security and stability? To do this even while conscious that the result will be the infliction of otherwise preventable injury to innocent crime victims? Your high horse is more like a donkey, but you are no Jesus.

(By the way, I noticed you used the term "accused criminal" in your first post. That is an oxymoron. Persons are accused, criminals are convicted (unless it turns out they were innocent after all!). Shouldn't it be fundamental that prosecutors respect the presumption of innocence?)

anonymous c later congratulated himself: “Hey! I chose not to rape somebody today! I chose not to rob a house or mow down some innocents today! I chose to not use my childhood as an excuse today! I chose to take my lumps, suck it up, put myself through college and make an honest living! Good for me!”

Did you also choose to be born in a stable environment? Did you choose to have a mother who did not drink alcohol while pregnant with you? Did you choose not to develop mental disorders for treatment was beyond your means? Did you choose to have parents that were not alcoholics or that would not physically abuse you as child? Did you choose not to have environmental and direct trauma inflicted on you as a child?

Man, what great choices you've made!

anonymous c wrote: "Newsflash! There are bad people out there, Mark and Ron. And, yes, indeed! There are even people who are (gasp!) NOT deserving of compassion. No ambiguity about it. Fairness? Yes. Justice? Yes. Compassion? Hell, no!"

Responsibility is a function of choice. People who are poor and whose childhoods and adolescence are littered with trauma have much less freedom to choose their paths in life than do people like you. Before you go lecturing about choice, look at the ones you've made and their consequences. You probably have a far greater causative role in creating victims than any given individual person accused of a crime. For example, you would probably reject adopting a governmental policy of providing universal mental health care, condemning many more innocent people to violent deaths than any serial killer I could name. But you won't take responsibility for those kinds of decisions. It's much easier for you to set people up to commit violent acts, and then condemn them afterwards. Frankly, I hold people like you more responsible for innocent lives lost through violent crime than any person you've condemned to the fate of killing them. You have the power and influence to try to make people safe, but you almost certainly balk at it.

If you don't understand how the above-described factors are both (1) beyond the control of the individual on which they are inflicted and (2) causative factors in subsequent criminal behavior, then you may not be a "bad" person, just an incredibly dense one. But if you do understand, then I have more contempt for people like you than the "bad" people you condemn.

anonymous c said...

Oh, goodness, P.J.!

With every single iota of due respect (and I do, very sincerely, mean that, P.J.! I really do thoroughly respect your clearly heartfelt opinion. No sarcasm whatsoever! It’s quite obvious that you mean well and are coming from a good place.), you just make it too damn easy.

I can’t do it.

Mark Bennett said...

Anon c, I'm not trying to win an argument here (you know what they say about arguing on the internet), and Ron and PJ don't need my help; I'm right whether you and they agree with me or not.

This -- compassion -- is really a pretty deep ethical issue; I believe it may be deeper than you're accustomed to dealing with, since it's pretty clear from your bluster, sarcasm, and exclamation points that you're intellectually outgunned on all fronts here. I doubt that you're fooling anyone but yourself.

More than anything I like to help people. To that end, maybe I can make this easier for you and put it in a framework that you're more used to and can better understand. Tell me: do you have a religion you like to follow?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Goodness goodness.

I'm suddenly understanding the frustration in my parents' voices when they used to yell: "You kids knock it off!"

Anon C, Ron, and Mark,
You guys have fundamental differences in the basis of your beliefs. Not a one of you is going to change the perspective of the other. Please don't turn this into a pissing contest. Moral clarity is ALWAYS going to be in the eye of the beholder.

Let's move on to another topic. You guys are all great posters on the topics. Let's focus our energy on my next ultra-thought provoking topic.

NOTE: If this plea for peace is successful, I humbly nominate myself for a Nobel Peace Prize.

anonymous c said...

As you wish, AHCL. :)

"Gentlemen," (bows deeply), "until next time."

(Turns on a heel and strolls the next post.)