Saturday, July 30, 2016


I have said elsewhere that I once swore I would vote for Zippy the Chimp before I would vote for a Clinton. Donald Trump is making me eat my words. As a presidential candidate, he is not only less attractive than Zippy the Chimp, he is less attractive than a Clinton. The man is a foreign policy nightmare who appears to me to be firmly in Vladimir Putin's pocket.

Donald Trump reminds me of a cross between Howdy Doody and Don Rickles. Putin pulls his puppet's strings and Trump blithely rewrites the Republican Platform to give Russia the Ukraine on a silver platter. And when Trump opens his mouth, nothing of substance comes out--just insults. Is that how he's going to conduct foreign policy? by hopping every time Putin says "Frog" and spewing insults at the leaders of other countries?

He can't even make sure his brain is loaded before he starts shooting off his mouth. Witness the Tim Kaine/Tom Keane fiasco. His latest venture into the realm of talking about that which he knows not is his demeaning statement about Khizr Khan's wife. And those who are in line to drink the koolaid are applauding Trump's comparing his sacrifice of a few dollars from of his millions of dollars to Khan's sacrifice of his son.

If Trump had taken the time to watch the MSNBC interview of Khan and his wife the day after the convention, he would have learned that Mrs. Khan, who is very shy, helped him write his speech. Watching the dynamic between husband and wife, it seemed apparent to me that she was far from the stereotypical submissive wive. She was the one who decided that they were going to stay in the USA after Khan got his degree.

In what universe does spending money to make money constitute a sacrifice? Especially if you actually make money from the investment. In what universe does making a tax deductible charitable contribution to help build a monument constitute a sacrifice when your bank balance has six zeroes? And how does that compare to the loss of a beloved son? To suggest that it does also suggests that in Donald Trump's world, love of money is greater than love of children.

I titled this piece THE SACRIFICES OF THE SIBERIAN CANDIDATE.  Last night it occurred to me that Trump was like the fictional Manchurian Candidate, so I dubbed Trump the Siberian Candidate. This morning I googled "Siberian Candidate" and found myriads of posts calling him the Siberian Candidate. This one, for example: "Donald Trump: The Siberian Candidate." I don't agree with everything the author says about Republicans in general, but I whole heartedly endorse what he says about Donald Trump in particular.

If you're a Republican and just can't bring yourself to vote Democrat, then vote for Gary Johnson, but please don't vote for Donald Dunce, I mean Trump. If you're a Bernie Sanders supporter, don't vote Green. Do what I'm going to do. On election day I'm going to go to the polls with a clothespin on my nose and vote for Hillary Clinton because (1) as bad as she is, she is nothing compared to Donald Trump, and (2) Clinton is the only candidate with a ghost of a chance of defeating Trump.


Friday, July 15, 2016


It seems like a decade ago that Jim Dedman asked me if I wanted to collaborate with him on a book about the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case. Knowing absolutely nothing about the case, I said "Sure, why not?" The idea for the book was not to prove that Hauptmann was or was not guilty, or to prove that anyone else may or may not have been guilty. We were just going to look at the trial itself, the available evidence, and the performance of the lawyers involved and try to state a "learned" opinion on how well or poorly the case was tried.

We worked on the project through many fits and starts, with time off for illness and the demands of other projects, but we stuck with it and finally got it done. We pitched the book to The Lawbook Exchange/Talbot Publishing, and they liked it. We had been working with them for several months before I realized that the company was located in New Jersey. Now it's near done and set for publication in September of this year (2016). They're already taking pre-publication orders on their website. (See the hyperlink above).

The book is technical in nature, and it talks a lot about legal evidentiary requirements, trial strategy, and advocacy techniques, but (I think) it is written in non-technical language. You don't need a law degree to understand and appreciate the legal maneuverings that went on in the trial. At the end of the book you should be equipped to decide for yourself whether Hauptmann was guilty and whether he got a fair trial. These two issues are independent. It's possible for a guilty person to get railroaded, just as it is possible for an innocent person to get convicted at a fair trial. If you read the book, you'll have to make up your mind for yourself on these two issues. We don't give our opinions on those questions, and we've tried to be even-handed enough for fair-minded readers to be able to support a decision on either side of both issues.

Rather than describe the book myself, I'll let some of the advertising copy do that job:

The kidnapping and murder of Charles A. Lindbergh Jr. touched off one of the most massive manhunts in the history of American crime detection and generated so much publicity at home and abroad that it was touted as the "Crime of the Century." The arrest of Bruno Richard Hauptmann in connection with the kidnapping inevitably led to the "Trial of the Century." Although Hauptmann was almost universally detested at the time of the trial, the tide of public opinion began to change with his conviction. In the decades following Hauptmann's execution, writers have advanced one theory after another seeking to pin the blame upon various members of the Lindbergh household and others. Almost every aspect of the crime and the investigation has been examined and critiqued—with one exception. No one has written a critical analysis of the trial itself. This book seeks to remedy that omission by investigating with an investigation and evaluation of the marshaling, presentation, and arguing of the evidence, as well as and a study of the post-conviction litigation.

This innovative book includes:

- a thorough analysis of the evidence presented at trial by both the prosecution and defense
- a comprehensive critique of the performance of the lawyers
- a discussion of inculpatory scientific evidence available to, but not used by, the prosecution
- a section listing the major protagonists in the investigation and trial
- a timeline
- a modular analysis of the prosecution case
- a table of cases

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


When I was writing AbrahamLincoln’s Most Famous Case: The Almanac Trial I was struck by the fact that Lincoln had tried a lot of interesting murder cases. I decided to write a book about Lincoln’s last murder case, People v. Peachy Quinn Harrison, because (1) it contrasted quite nicely with the Almanac Trial, and (2) a transcript of the trial has survived to this day and is available in pdf online at the Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln website. With the Almanac The only evidence was the reminiscences of the participants; with the Harrison trial we had a transcript and numerous newspaper reports. The defendant in the Almanac Trial came from a family that was poor as church mice; the defendant in the Harrison case came from a rich and powerful family. The victim in the Almanac Trial was a poor dirt farmer; the victim in the Harrison case was the son of a rich and powerful politician. Both cases had about an equal number of witnesses, and both cases had about the same degree of complexity; but the Almanac Trial was tried in an afternoon and the Harrison trial took a week. Did Lincoln try harder when there was money to be made defending a case?

I soon realized that the Harrison case wasn’t going to make a very thick book, so I decided to expand the book to cover all of Lincoln’s homicide trials, both murder and manslaughter. Devoting a chapter to each trial, and taking the trials in chronological order, I tell the story of the killing, introduce the lawyers, and describe how they contested the cases. Trying a case back then was somewhat more primitive than today, but reading those cases brought back memories of my early days as a public defender in the Third Circuit of Florida. Believe it or not, the 1970’s Third Judicial Circuit was very much like Illinois’ 1850’s Eighth Judicial Circuit. The main difference was that I rode an un-airconditioned Dodge Dart around the Third Circuit and Lincoln rode a horse around the Eighth. Well, there may have been more differences than that, but the atmosphere of the two circuits was very similar. We tried cases just as fast and furious as they did back before the Civil War, and we did it with about the same amount of discovery. But I’m digressing.

We know very little about some of Lincoln’s cases, so I have three summary chapters to talk about the less-well-documented cases. And I look at some interesting non-murder cases, too, like the time Lincoln defended an organized crime boss. I couldn’t help but be struck with what a good trial lawyer Lincoln was. The conventional wisdom says Lincoln was first and foremost a politician, but looking at his cases tells a different story. Something else that struck me was how good some of the lawyers he opposed were. There was Leonard Swett, who was probably the best criminal defense attorney in Illinois; and T. Lyle Dickey, who could talk a judge into freeing a convicted killer; and Stephen T. Logan, who taught four future U.S. Senators, three future governors, and one future president how to practice law. 

And an amazing number of Lincoln’s colleagues at the bar went on to distinguish themselves as general officers in the Civil War. There was Major General John A. McClernand, who served as Grant’s second in command at Vicksburg; and Major General John M. Palmer, who distinguished himself at Stones River and Chickamauga; and Brigadier General William Orme, who contracted tuberculosis at Vicksburg. My favorite has to be Brevet Brigadier General Caleb Dilworth, who became a brigade commander because all the officers above him were killed in action. Dilworth distinguished himself at Kennesaw Mountain, Chickamauga, and the Siege of Atlanta. Then there was the tragic figure of Edward D. Baker, a sitting U.S. Senator who declined an appointment as Major General to serve as a Colonel, and was killed in action at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Lincoln cried when he heard of Baker’s death.

Just as the Third Circuit of the 1970’s had its share of colorful lawyers, Lincoln’s Eighth Circuit had some colorful lawyers, too. There was Ward Hill Lamon, who liked to engage in wrestling matches during court recesses; and Usher F. Linder, who didn’t care what the judge said, he was going to smoke in court come Hell or high water; and Josiah Lamborn, who thought that a prosecutor was an Avenger of Blood rather than a minister of justice, who once browbeat a man into confessing to a murder that never happened; and David Longnecker, who stabbed a client to death in an argument over a $40.00 legal fee. Discretion prevents me from naming or describing any of the colorful characters of the Third Circuit.

So I wrote Lincoln for the Defense: The Criminal Law Practice of Our Sixteenth President, and I had more fun writing it than any previous book I've written. Only the publisher didn't like the title. And they had some ideas for changing some other things about the book. So the thesis of Lincoln for the Defense met the antithesis of the Southern Illinois University Press, and the synthesis was Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln. I had to tighten the book up some, remove a number of irrelevant digressions, and give the book an actual structure rather than just having a collection of good stories about interesting cases Lincoln tried. And I have to admit that Prairie Defender is better than Lincoln for the Defense

Prairie Defender comes out in July of next year, but SIU is already taking pre-publication orders for it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


The following essay on the upcoming Presidential Election is purely how things look to me based on what I have seen in the media. I could be absolutely wrong, and I hope and pray that I am. I am not going to recite a litany of examples that tend to back up my opinion,[1] I’m simply going to state my opinion: 

When Donald Trump first started having success in the primaries I prognosticated that he would do for the Republican Party what he did for the USFL—that is destroy it.[2] It is beginning to look like he’s going to do for the USA what he did for the USFL. I can see no hope for the endgame in the current presidential election. We have one of two choices—Goofus or the Gangster. The chances that Goofus will get himself elected are vanishingly small, and they get smaller with each time he opens his mouth. But each time he opens his mouth he increases the odds that the Gangster will become president, and then God help us all. Of course, if Goofus should by some miraculous series of unfortunate events get himself elected, then God help us all.

One small glimmer of hope I see, and it isn’t much, is that during his first year in office Goofus will so thoroughly muck things up that he will get impeached. Or that during her first year in office the Gangster’s venality will become so patently obvious that she will get impeached. 

Three questions beg for an answer. How has Goofus hung on so long to so much of the money he inherited? How has the Gangster escaped indictment for so long? How could the primary voters in the Democratic and Republican Parties have done this to America?

A second small glimmer of hope is that Congress will step up to the plate and prevent whichever one of them who gets elected from doing irreversible harm to America. Which begs another question. How likely is that to happen?

I have agonized over what to do. How should I vote? Here’s my decision. I’m going to study the minor party candidates and try to identify the one who seems to be most rational and reasonable, and I’m going to vote for that one. I know that I will have wasted my vote, but I believe I will waste it voting for either of the major party candidates.

And that’s the way I see it. But I could be wrong.