September 16, 2011 1:33:35 PM by
Two "pledging" controversies have come to the fore in the Boston area in the past couple of weeks. A Brookline group, led by my longtime friend Marty Rosenthal, has sought to move the Pledge of Allegiance out of the public school classroom. Across the river, the Harvard Freshman Dean asked incoming first year students to sign onto a pledge proclaiming such values as civility, kindness, and inclusiveness, to be on a par with academic achievement.
September 09, 2011 1:54:00 PM by
While I have not followed baseball since my beloved Dodgers left Brooklyn, a recent baseball-related story caught our attention. As many of you may know, Barry Bonds—the “home-run king”—was just convicted in federal court of obstruction of justice, and acquitted of three counts of perjury. At issue was whether Bonds lied, in 2003, to a federal grand jury about his steroid use and relationship with the Bay Area Lab Cooperative (BALCO). The jury failed to convict him of perjury, but due to a disturbing reading of the law, District Judge Susan Illston upheld the conviction of obstruction. It seems that, during the course of the Grand Jury questioining, Bonds rambled on, and failed, initially, to answer a given question directly. Even though he later gave a clarified, specific response to the question at hand, his rambling constituted, for 12 jurors and a District Court judge, an attempt to obstruct justice. For obvious reasons, every citizen—especially the more loquacious among us—would have reason to worry if this conviction stands.
August 25, 2011 2:03:43 PM by
In the vast majority of criminal cases, the defense faces a serious institutional disadvantage. The government has virtually unlimited resources, immense experience in playing to an attentive (and often subservient) media, the ability to intimidate witnesses into testifying, and a habit of plea-bargaining its way to victory. It also can grant immunity to witnesses, a gift that assures the prosecution of evidence when it needs it. The defendant, in contrast, ordinarily has no such weapon by which to enforce his subpoena to a witness who “takes the Fifth.” A recent federal court case in Philadelphia, about which I write in my Forbes.com blog Injustice Department, holds the potential for a partial un-stacking of the deck.