Law Abiding Citizen – What is Justice?

You ever seen a movie where you don’t know who to root for? Are you behind the Law Enforcement guys or the Law Abiding Citizen out for Justice? Well this crime thriller will make you wonder, when the justice system fails, are you above the law?

This well done thriller was written by Kurt Wimmer, whom you might remember, wrote the screenplay for the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair, another superb thriller. Directing chores were handled by F. Gary Gray, The Italian Job 2003. The talents of these men is obvious in this taunt, fast paced, edge of your seat thriller.

The story line begins with a double murder, as you might well guess. Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is a retired business man whose house is broken into, he and wife and daughter are taken captive by two men. Unspeakable things are done to the wife and daughter while the Clyde is forced to watch. These unsavory types end up murdering his wife and daughter and leaving him for dead. The good news is the villains are caught and charged with murder.

Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) a crusading Assistant District Attorney takes the case. He and his boss decide the case is not strong enough and decide to turn one criminal against his partner with a plea agreement, for ten years in prison. The other guy gets the death penalty. Clyde Shelton is not happy with the idea but is told it is a done deal.

The action really begins when the bad guy gets out of prison. Clyde has not gotten over his rage and decides to do something about it. He chops the guy up with a chain saw and sends a video of the event to Nick and his family. Pretty gruesome event, you will be shocked. You better believe, Nick arrests Clyde and tries to illicit a confession from him, because they don’t have enough evidence. No go. Clyde kind of says he will confess if he gets a T-Bone steak dinner, from a fancy restaurant, delivered at 1 PM exactly to his prison cell. Nick gets bent out of shape but eventually gives in to clear the case. The steak dinner is late and Clyde shares with his cell mate. Clyde then calmly murders the guy, stabbing him to death with the steak bone. Meanwhile, Nick is acting on the information Clyde gave him, and finds the attorney for the chopped up guy, dead. If they had been on time with the dinner, they could of saved the attorney before his oxygen ran out. Clyde is sent to solitary.

The police start finding people who were involved with the case start showing up dead. All while Clyde is in solitary confinement. Nick is trying to figure out how this is being done, does Clyde have an accomplice. During his investigation he finds out Clyde was tech savvy assassin who worked in the Black Ops department for our government, he is also rich from his inventions. Furthermore he is told if Clyde wants you dead, you are dead. The bodies are piling up and Nick knows he is on the list somewhere. He still is trying to figure out how it is all being done. Who could be his accomplice?

The conclusion of the movie is great, with Clyde planning to blow up the Mayor and her staff. While the creative ending is unfolding, you are on the very edge of your seat. Hold on for dear life.

Jamie Foxx adds another fine performance to his resume. He plays the role with intensity and verve. It is interesting to watch him re-evaluate his sense of justice and his tendency to plea bargain to clear his cases. Although he is living in fear, he sticks to his principles. Gerard Butler turns in an excellent performance. Redeeming himself somewhat for his late role in a romance/comedy, which shall remain nameless. He plays with a laconic rage and that drives the movie. He deserves kudos for his layered performance.

Law Abiding Citizen really is a must see movie. You will be asking your self, whose side are you on? Put yourself in Clyde’s shoes.The central theme, when justice fails, what are your choices and what would you do in that situation. You might surprise yourself with the answer.

The Law Schools of Famous Lawyers

Choosing a Law School can be a difficult decision. Besides the obvious things such as ranking, expense, location and reputation many potential law students are interested to know what famous attorneys came from the schools they are thinking of attending. Yet, unless someone does independent research on numerous institutions or wants to research the backgrounds of a particular attorney they are a fan of there is no real good resource that provides such information. To remedy this, I thought I’d pick out a handful of my favorite attorneys and list where they got their Juris Doctors from.

My personal favorite attorney has to be former California Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi of ‘The Manson Murders’ fame. Mr. Bugliosi was able to convict Charles Manson despite the fact that Manson never was actually at the crime scene and committed his crime by brainwashing and planning the Tate/La Bianca murders from afar. He has since gone on to be an internationally acclaimed writer beginning with the legendary ‘Helter Skelter’ and including the more recent ‘Outrage’ and ‘The prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder’. Vincent Bugliosi attended UCLA Law School and graduated in 1964.

Next up is the famous ‘country’ lawyer and tv commentator, Gerry Spence. Mr. Spence is well known as a commentator during the OJ Simpson trials and has the distinction of having never lost a case in 40 years. He attended the University of Wyoming Law School gaining his degree in 1952. He is known for pioneering the ‘Matlock’ style of ‘narrative’ lawyering. He uses stories, allegories, metaphors and carefully crafted emotional hooks to convince a jury of his convictions.

No list would be complete without Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School. Besides his role in the OJ trial, Mr. Dershowitz has obtained a reputation as a great civil liberties lawyer. He graduated first in his class at Yale Law School and was Editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. He has one of the most prestigious client lists of any attorney including such notables as Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley, Mike Tyson, Penthouse, Patricia Hearst, John Landis and even fellow attorneys F. Lee Bailey(Boston University Law School 1960) and William Kunstler(Columbia Law School).

Speaking of the OJ Simpson trial, Johnnie Cochran attended Loyola University School of Law in Los Angeles as did the fiery tv and radio commentator Gloria Allred. Barry Scheck of the ‘Innocence Project’ at Cardozo Law School got his degree at UC Berkeley School of Law. Robert Shapiro, OJ’s lawyer through much of the early stages of the trial attended UCLA Law School. On the other side of the court, Marcia Clark attended Southwestern University School of Law and Christopher Darden attended the University of California, Hastings College of The Law. Last, on the other side of the bench, judge Lance Ito obtained his law degree from UC Berkeley (1975).

Finally, I thought I’d throw in some of my own personal favorites mostly based on their accomplishments and personality. I’m a big fan of the radio host Larry Elder and Larry got his JD from the University of Michigan School of Law in 1977. His sometime rival on KABC radio is civil rights attorney Leo Terrel who attended UCLA School of Law. Since Larry’s been off the air I’ve become a fan of Mark Levin who got his JD from Temple University. Mark has achieved tremendous success over the past two years and most recently authored his best selling book ‘Liberty and Tyranny’.

Limits of Human Laws

The evolution of man necessitates that he form communities where he can live in relation with his neighbors. And since human beings are of varied in nature, it became pertinent that each community must organize itself to take care of both the weak and strong, and therefore a legal system gradually evolved in each society based on the spiritual maturity of the people. But the more mankind fell from grace, the more removed the laws became from natural laws that govern all creation. Thus it is that these laws became so different from one community to the other, that what is unlawful in one country may be accepted in the next country.

This was possible because man, in his evolution, succumbed to the Lucifer principle of letting himself go, where they try to accommodate their weakness in their mundane laws. But in actual sense, there ought to be one law in existence, the law of nature, which, if all people chose to follow it, could manifest differently in different parts of the world based on the spiritual maturity of the people involved. But the intellect insists on discrepancy in the legal system, where arbitrariness rules. For example, the natural laws insist that whatever a man sows, that shall he reap. This the legal system ought to have followed up in their administration of justice, but it is not so. This is partly their fault and partly not their fault.

Take an example. A man commits murder. He is arrested and brought to court. Every evidence, real and circumstantial, points to his guilt. The judge has no option than to find him guilty and sentence him to death. But in actual sense, the Judge does not have all the facts. For one, the murderer is only an executor and not the originator. All over the world, far away from the seat of justice, people who have experienced similar issues like the ones that provoked the murderer may have wished their victims murdered silently. All these wishes rises up as thoughts to a power center where they are intensified. The murderer happens to be the person who was just in a position to execute his own action. So he drew strength from the power center and physically carried out the deed.Every other person involved in the thought are also guilty. But because we believe that thoughts are free, they cannot be tried. But in the eyes of Natural laws-some would say eyes of the Creator, it is one and the same-they are guilty and must reap what they have sown according to the Law of sowing and reaping.

That is why keeping the thoughts pure at all times is the only way we can be free. For every action must begin with a thought. As a Man Thinket…

Learning Criminal Law – The Disparate Elements of Criminal Culpability

Mens rea within the law dates back centuries. See generally Paul H. Robinson, A Brief History of Distinctions in Criminal Culpability, 31 HASTINGS L.J. 815, 815-853 (1979-1980). This article will briefly address the historical periods and the common law processes involved in developing these distinctions between culpable mental states.

Robinson traced the legal trends over a period of about thirteen centuries:

  • 6th Century: Crimes defined without a culpable mental element
  • 10th~11th Century: Crimes differed as “wilful” and “accidental” conduct
  • 12th Century: Crimes differed as “wilful,” “careless” and “faultless” conduct
  • 17th~18th Century: Crimes differed as “intentional,” “reckless,” “negligent,” and “faultless”
  • Late 19th Century: Crimes differed as “purposeful,” “knowing,” “reckless,” and “negligent”
  • Id. at 822, 851.

Robinson also explained the common law processes during these centuries. Initially individual courts recognized new categories of culpable mental states. Subsequently, individual courts selectively exercised discretion in applying the burgeoning principles in particular cases. As each new concept spread, more courts applied it with increasing frequency, leading to entrenchment and institutionalization until common law adopted the concepts for general application in all cases. Id. at 822.

In what may seem counterintuitive, common law depended and at the same time progressed based upon precedent. The law grouped crimes with the above described characteristics as Specific Intent crimes. Crimes that did not possess these characteristics were General Intent crimes.

“Crimes involving a specific intent var[ied] as widely with regard to the requisite intent as with the requisite act… [so] the specific intent required for one such crime is of but little assistance in determining the precise mental element necessary for another. It is hopeless to find any universal concept of mens rea applicable to all such crimes alike.”

[Francis Bowes Sayre, Mens Rea, 45 HARV. L. REV. 974, 1020 (1931-1932).]

The following list illustrates this problem:

  • Crime: Murder.Mens rea: “malice aforethought”
  • Crime: Arson.Mens rea: “specific intent to burn a building” (“malitia”)
  • Crime: Burglary.Mens rea: “specific intent to commit a felony”
  • Crime: Larceny.Mens rea “specific intent to permanently and fraudulently deprive an owner of his property without a claim of right.”
  • Id. at 994-1004.

The foregoing illustrates inconsistency within the criminal law as to the definition of each specific intent crime with respect to mens rea. Significantly, as Sayre explained, this prevented reasoning by analogy.

Another area of ambiguity revealed other problems within common law. “Murder” was “the killing of a human being by another human being with malice aforethought.” The mens rea element of murder was “malice aforethought.”

With respect to “aforethought,” early English common law probably defined it as premeditation long before the killing. But this necessarily begged the question how much time established premeditation. As Sayre suggested, common law definitions did not allow courts to reason by analogy. This unresolved issue eventually lead modern English and American law to relegate “aforethought” as meaningless.

Without a way to reason by analogy to other crimes, its persistent meaninglessness resulted in its appearance in cases of “spur of the moment” killing. This occurred despite other homicide laws that were not defined with an element of premeditation, such as voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary manslaughter was “intentional killing in the heat of passion as a result of adequate provocation without adequate cooling time.” Involuntary manslaughter was “unintentional killing resulting from an act, lawful in itself, but done unlawfully, and without due caution and circumspection.”

Both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter precluded the element of premeditation long before the killing. Nevertheless, with the meaning of “aforethought” rendered meaningless, juries were rendered incapable of ruling out murder where the evidence did not establish premeditation.

“Malice” posed similar problems because of its ambiguity. Without a means to analogize to other specific intent crimes, courts permitted juries to deliberate about “malice” based on evidence of either actual or implied malice. Eventually, the law distinguished between first and second degree murder.

The distinction in degrees turned on mens rea. First degree murder, a specific intent crime, required “wilfulness, deliberation, and premeditation.” Second degree murder retained the vague element of “malice aforethought.” The foregoing analysis demonstrates the inherent ambiguity in the mens rea element in homicide crimes.

These analyses demonstrate the problems that arose from the absence of a mechanism to reason by analogy in areas of legal ambiguity.

Drunk Drivers Kill = Murder One

I have been stopped several times on the way home by the multitask force to stop drunk drivers. I do not know other locations they sit at around the county, but I am grateful for the one on a well traveled road. Officers were making arrests each time my wife and I were stopped, a job well done by the combined police forces of our communities. This last time however, I thanked them for doing a great job, but then I added a value I have spearheaded since the early 70’s. To my surprise he, and other officers agreed, and I decided to share this view with you.

The state claims a motor vehicle is a dangerous weapon. Actually all states in the continental U.S. have done so, therefore it stands to reason: if a motor vehicle is a dangerous weapon, and a drunk driver operates one, then any crime committed during that operation, becomes a class One, or ‘A’ felony, depending upon the State you are familiar with. Where is the logic?

Drinking is not a crime. Driving while intoxicated however is premeditated. They choose to drive period, there is no accident in drinking while driving. Getting in the drivers seat after you “had one or a dozen” does not matter. Drinking booze of any kind before or during driving is premeditated. Drunk Drivers kill, they destroy families, they cost the taxpayers money, they cause property damage in the billions in the United States.

Although every so often the Governor tells us the laws are more strict concerning drunk drivers, and no doubt there have been minute laws passed, the fact remains that we are in the top ten nationally for drunk drivers. We might not be able to prohibit alcohol, but we can elect sober congressmen and senators, and get laws passed that fit the crime. While people are dying, or maimed for life, we are attacking businesses and wait-persons for serving it, instead of attacking the drunk driver themselves.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t pay part of the damages.. and this might sound logical to you, and great for drinking representatives, but not to most of us. When a person has been drinking and operates a motor vehicle it is premeditated. Therefore if someone dies, it always has, and should be, murder one. He or she knowingly drinks, purposely gets in a vehicle, and starts a deadly weapon and therefore anything that happens in that commission is either attempted murder or murder one if anyone is hurt or killed. That my friends is no accident, it is called premeditated. It’s time we elected sober representatives to make sure the right people are tried and convicted, not the businesses that serve them.

It doesn’t matter how bad they feel after the death of someone else, or how long they have to live with it, judges should not be lenient on this issue, it is time for putting things right in America. A drunk driver who kills someone, is murder one, a drunk driver that maims someone, or causes them any hospital visit should be attempted murder and prosecuted as such. Property damage should be paid by the drunk driver and insurance companies should be reimbursed, forcefully with no ability for either to file bankruptcy on it. It must be paid even if funds from spending prison time are used to pay it, and only after that, in cases where the driver had no insurance, go after the businesses and wait people.

Let’s put the drunk driver back where he belongs, and begin charging them with destruction of property over $1000, that is a felony, theft of property (taking away the rights of others use of their property over $1000) another felony, Attempted murder if anyone is injured, murder one if anyone is killed. It’s time to put it back on the drunk where the fault lies. Things may not change, surely not in time to save another life, but it is the best hope we have. The police officers, and Highway patrolmen I have spoken to have overwhelmingly agreed with this outlook, and I encourage those that do agree to write.