The ‘My client is an ignorant idiot’ defense did not work well

Kevin Seefried was sentenced to three years in prison for carrying a Confederate flag into the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 and threatening a police officer with the flagpole. His lawyers tried to find some way to mitigate his actions.

Kevin Seefried, 53, teared up before U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden in a Washington, D.C., courtroom. The judge told him that bringing the flag into “one of our nation’s most sacred halls” was “outrageous.”
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A puzzling feature of Tesla stock

Today in San Francisco, Elon Musk went on trial because he has been sued by some Tesla shareholders over this Tweet he sent out on August 7, 2017.

This Tweet that he was planning to take Tesla private by purchasing all the shares at $420 and that he had secured the funding to do so caused the stock price to rise sharply but the deal did not materialize and the stock price plunged a week later when it appeared that he did not have the funding deal.
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A true MAGA head never gives up

Kari Lake is the former TV personality who ran for governor of Arizona on a full MAGA platform, embracing all of Donald Trump’s insanities including that his loss in the 2020 election was due to fraud and that he is the rightful president. Well, she lost her election too but in true MAGA style refused to concede and declared that her loss was also due to fraud and that she should be declared governor.

When the election was certified by Arizona election officials who declared that Democrat Katie Hobbs had won, Lake sued because that is what MAGA heads do. The judge was not impressed.

An Arizona judge on Saturday rejected Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s lawsuit attempting to overturn her defeat, concluding that there wasn’t clear or convincing evidence of misconduct, and affirming the victory of Democratic Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs.

Thompson previously dismissed eight other counts alleged in Lake’s lawsuit prior to trial, ruling that they did not constitute proper grounds for an election contest under Arizona law, even if true. But he permitted Lake an attempt to prove at trial the two remaining counts involving printers and the ballot chain of custody in Maricopa County.
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The January 6th committee hearings end with criminal referrals for Trump and others

The hearings have just wound up with a unanimous vote to make criminal referrals to the department of justice on four counts:

I. Obstruction of an Official Proceeding (18 U.S.C. § 1512(c))
II. Conspiracy to Defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. § 371
III. Conspiracy to Make a False Statement (18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1001)
IV. “Incite,” “Assist” or “Aid and Comfort” an Insurrection (18 U.S.C. § 2383)

While the department of justice is not obligated to prosecute based on these referrals, they will add to the pressure to do so. These charges all carry length prison sentences if found guilty and Trump in particular would be disqualified from any future federal or state office if found guilty of the insurrection charge.
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Congress passes bill protecting same-sex and inter-racial marriages

This law might seem unnecessary but given that the US Supreme Court just overturned the precedent of a constitutional right to abortion and one of the justices signaled that they might want to do the same to same-sex marriage, it seemed like a federal law to protect those hard won rights was necessary.

The House gave final passage on Thursday to landmark legislation protecting same-sex marriage, in a bipartisan vote that reflects a remarkable shift in public opinion just over a quarter-century after Congress defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The final vote was 258 to 169, with 39 Republican members joining every House Democrat in supporting the bill. One Republican, Burgess Owens of Utah, voted present.
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Same-sex and inter-racial marriages get an extra layer of protection

The US Supreme Court has said that bans on same-sex marriage and inter-racial marriage are both unconstitutional. So why did the US Senate yesterday by a 61-36 vote pass the Respect for Marriage Act that protects what seemed to be already legal? It is because the overturning of the Roe v. Wade precedent that gave constitutional protection to abortions had created fears that the current US Supreme Court might overturn those other hard-won freedoms as well. Justice Clarence Thomas has openly voiced his disagreement with the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

All Democrats voted in favor of this bill, and it was supported by 12 Republicans. The House of Representatives will now have to pass a similar measure so that Joe Biden can sign it into law.

While the bill would not set a national requirement that all states must legalize same-sex marriage, it would require individual states to recognize another state’s legal marriage.

So, in the event the Supreme Court might overturn its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage, a state could still pass a law to ban same-sex marriage, but that state would be required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state.

That is a good move. It is disappointing that 36 Republican senators voted against it.

John Oliver on the need for bail reform

On the most recent episode of his always excellent show Last Week Tonight, he focuses on the abuses of the cash bail system where people can be held in jail for a long time before trial simply because they do not have the money to post bail. This hurts poor people the most. One of the worst abuses is to use the system to coerce people who have been held in jail for a long time before trial to confess to crimes they did not commit with the promise that the time they have already spent in prison will be sufficient punishment.

I think that people should be released on their personal recognizance unless they are a risk to society or have the means to flee. Most poor people who commit petty offenses can easily be caught if they do not show up for their trial. Bail in such cases is punitive.

Alex Jones ordered to pay $965 million

That pitiful excuse for a human being who benefits from the suffering imposed on the bereaved families of slain children has been ordered by a jury to pay $965 million to some of those families. Twenty six children and six adults were massacred in the 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school.

The verdict is the second big judgment against the Infowars host over his relentless promotion of the lie that the 2012 massacre never happened, and that the grieving families seen in news coverage were actors hired as part of a plot to take away people’s guns.

The Connecticut trial featured tearful testimony from parents and siblings of the victims, who told how they were threatened and harassed for years by people who believed the lies told on Jones’s show.

Strangers showed up at their homes to record them. People hurled abusive comments on social media. Erica Lafferty, the daughter of the slain Sandy Hook principal, Dawn Hochsprung, testified that people mailed rape threats to her house. Mark Barden told how conspiracy theorists had urinated on the grave of his seven-year-old son, Daniel, and threatened to dig up the coffin.

The lawsuit accused Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, of using the mass killing to build his audience and make millions of dollars. Experts testified that Jones’s audience swelled when he made Sandy Hook a topic on the show, as did his revenue from product sales.

Jones’s motivation to do this thing can be put down to the desire to make money. But what makes Jones’s followers do these despicable things to the families? Even if you think the whole thing is a hoax, what motivates you to go to such elaborate lengths to make your point? Don’t these people have lives?

The problems with crime reporting in the US

I have written many times before about the serious problems with the (in)justice system in the US in the way that police department and prosecutors tend to value getting convictions more than justice, with the result that many members of poor and minority communities tend to get disproportionately arrested, charged, convicted, and imprisoned.

But there is another problem and that is the way that crime is covered in the media which, in addition to giving the distorted impression that the level of crime in the country (people who watch the news tend to think that crime is rising each year when it is in fact dropping) adds to the biases in the system.

In another excellent episode of his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver looks at the problems with the media coverage and what can be done.

The problem of junk science used as evidence in courts

Because science and its associated technology have been so successful, there is a danger that anything that can be dressed up in the language of science can carry more weight that it merits.

One example is with the use of forensic science in court cases. The ability of modern scientific techniques that can analyze microscopic traces of items at crime scenes and link them to victims and perpetrators (DNA being a good example) has led to the ability to both convict the guilty and exonerate those falsely accused. TV police procedurals also lead to the impression that forensic science is very accurate and even judges can tend to give it greater credibility than it sometimes deserves.

This can result in new techniques being accepted as evidence even when the ‘science’ behind it has not been properly evaluated and is possibly useless, sometimes referred to as ‘junk science’. One example is the so-called science of bite marks.
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