Internet

The Prosecution of Julie Amero

What the railroading of a teacher by technically inept police and prosecutors reveals about the criminal justice system

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In October 2004, Julie Amero, a substitute teacher in Norwich, Connecticut, was teaching a seventh grade language class. While Amero was using a laptop computer—one accessible to both students and teacher—the computer began spinning off pop-up ads for pornographic websites. Amero concedes she was checking her email and surfing the Internet while she was supposed to be teaching. Perhaps that makes her a bad substitute teacher (though she had taught at the school for a year and a half without incident). But it doesn't make her a sex offender.

Yet in January 2007 Amero was convicted on four counts on the ambiguous charge of "risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child." Her ridiculous prosecution is the product of a Puritanical, zero tolerance hysteria; stubborn, obstinate police and prosecutors; and a criminal justice system that hasn't adequately adapted to modern technology.

Prosecutors in the case improbably contended that Amero—who had no prior criminal record and was seven months pregnant at the time—intentionally exposed her class of seventh-graders to Internet pornography. She faced up to 40 years in prison.

Even if Amero had knowingly and willingly exposed her middle school class to pornography, she should at worst have lost her job, and perhaps faced a fine and revocation of her teaching license. That she could have spent most of the rest of her life in prison says she was either over-charged, or was charged with a ridiculously stupid law. Probably both.

But Amero insists she never intended for her class to be an Internet-abetted lesson in sex education, and there's plenty of reason to believe her. She says she panicked when a loop of unwanted pop-up ads from porn sites began to appear while she was using the computer in front of her students. The more Amero frantically tried to close the ads, the more they kept springing up—a problem not at all uncommon on computers lacking up-to-date firewalls and virus protection.

What's particularly troubling about Amero's case isn't necessarily the technical ignorance of the police and prosecutors—though that's troubling enough—but the fact that their ignorance seems almost willful. The state pointed out at trial that the school had put filtering software on its computers. But the school had also let the licenses for that software expire. It would have taken no more than a phone call with the Best Buy "Geek Squad" to learn that if filtering software isn't updated, it's quickly rendered useless.

Early last year, after her conviction, Amero's case caught fire on tech blogs and Internet message boards. Computer security experts across the country quickly recognized what had happened: Amero's computer had been infected with malware, invasive software that can take control of a computer, often redirecting web browsers to porn sites. Police and prosecutors conceded that they hadn't even bothered to test the computer for malicious software. Dozens of tech gurus volunteered to help with Amero's defense. When they were finally able to examine her computer, they found what they suspected—it was infested with malware.

But it gets worse. The state's expert witness, a computer crimes investigator with the Norwich Police Department, testified that because the URLs for the offending sites were "highlighted," Amero must have deliberately clicked on them. State's Attorney David Smith took it a step further. He told jurors that Amero actually would have had to type the URLs in for them to show up in the browser registry. Both assertions are flat wrong. Internet Explorer, the browser Amero was using at the time, requires neither a mouse click nor a typed URL to show that a link has been visited. Any address loaded by the browser will show up as "visited," even those uploaded in a pop-up window. Many of the porn addresses were hidden behind innocuous-sounding URLs, some disguised as hair styling sites. Amero would had to have been pretty determined in her mission to expose seventh graders to porn to memorize and deliberately key in sites like http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com, one of the offending porn sites.

None of this mattered to cops, prosecutors, or the media. Children had seen adult naughty bits, and someone had to pay. Amero was made a pariah. Local newspaper the Norwich Bulletin ran an editorial lauding Amero's conviction, declaring that her "intent was apparent" and "her deeds were disgusting."

But just in case Amero's lawyers did make a convincing case she didn't mean to upload the porn sites, Amero's prosecutors had a fall-back plan: They argued that Amero should have taken measures to block students from seeing the computer once the images started loading.

Once computer experts proved the existence of malware, however, and showed the registry testimony to be flat wrong, the "well, she should have done something" defense was all the state had left, and it's the case they pushed in the media. Fox News' Bill O'Reilly made that argument when he took up the case on his show, insisting that Amero should have turned off the computer. The Norwich Bulletin ran another editorial saying Amero should have "taped some paper over the screen." Prosecutors said at trial that Amero should have thrown a sweater over the screen.

But computer experts say Amero's panicked reaction—to try and close the ads instead of turning off the computer—isn't at all uncommon. At least one student testified that Amero did try to prevent him from seeing the images by physically pushing his face away from the screen. She also told a member of the school's staff about the problem. As a substitute teacher, Amero also didn't have a password to access the computer. The teacher who specifically logged her on told her not to turn off the computer, or she and her students would be locked out for the rest of the day.

Perhaps Amero did show bad judgment in leaving the computer on. But should that be a felony? These prosecutors were ready to ruin Amero's life by convicting her of a reputation-destroying sex crime—and possibly sending her to prison—because in their judgment, she didn't properly react to the consequences of the school's failure to keep its security software up to date. At worst, Amero is guilty of not knowing much about computers. And if that's a crime, Norwich ought to also lock up its cops, prosecutors, and the editorial board of its local newspaper. Because they're clearly just as ignorant about technology as Amero.

It wasn't until earlier this month, four years after the incident, that the state of Connecticut finally dropped the four felony counts against Julie Amero. But it's something of a Pyrrhic victory. In exchange for dropping the felony charges, Amero still had to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, pay a $100 fine, and forgo her teaching license in Connecticut. It's hard to blame her for taking the deal, even if she's innocent. The last four years have taken a toll on her health. Amero has been hospitalized from stress and a heart condition brought on by her case.

Incredibly, some public officials in Connecticut not only refuse to admit any error, they're still making their case in public. The same day the plea deal was announced, New London County State's Attorney Michael Regan told Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green that he's still convinced Amero is guilty, and was prepared to go to trial again. "I have no regrets," he said. "Things took a course that was unplanned… For some reason this case caught the media's attention."

Amero's case offers more evidence that the criminal justice system hasn't adequately adapted to a generation's worth of technological advances. Our courts are in bad need of some significant reforms, particularly when it comes to expert testimony. It's one thing to have two competent, qualified experts arguing over evidence that can be interpreted in several ways. It's something else to allow jurors to consider evidence that's objectively, provably false. That's particularly true when it comes from the prosecution's expert witnesses, whom jurors often give more deference to because they're seen less as hired guns, and more as objective public servants.

Here, a clueless "computer crimes investigator" was permitted to give clearly erroneous testimony in a felony trial. Jurors were instructed to give that expert equal consideration to Amero's own expert witness, who actually knew what he was talking about. It makes you ponder how many other local police departments have a resident "computer guy" who regularly testifies in criminal trials—and is in way over his head.

The solution is to work peer review, redundancy, and double-checking into the process of admitting forensic evidence at trial. Had three or four actual tech experts had the opportunity to review the conclusions of the Norwich PD's computer "expert," they would have quickly seen his errors and recognized the symptoms of a malware infestation—just as they did when the case hit the Internet. The crucial difference is that they would have noticed all of this before Amero was charged and convicted, not after.

The very foundation of scientific inquiry is rooted in the peer-review process. It's really an inexcusable failure that we haven't yet found a way to utilize peer review to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the scientific evidence admitted in criminal cases—particularly given what's at stake.

Radley Balko is a senior editor at reason.

NEXT: New Incarceration Record

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  1. Much of the problem is the continuing hysteria about crime, sex, and young people. Prosecutors wouldn’t bring cases like this if they weren’t confident the public would back them up.

    Sadly, the general public continues to show a largely knee-jerk reaction of any policy that is “tough on crime,” no matter how many innocent people suffer. The ridiculous and horrible obsession with sexual abuse of children, which led to so many wrongful convictions in the eighties, lives on in “zero tolerance” rules about anything sexual in schools. Oh, and throw in the general obsessions about drugs and violence in schools and it’s almost surprising that anyone wants to teach these days. And it’s also surprising that more teachers don’t end up in the slammer.

  2. Amero!?

    Paging Dr. LoneWacko!

  3. Amero’s case offers more evidence that the criminal justice system hasn’t adequately adapted to a generation’s worth of technological advances.

    No, I do not think so. Technological advancements notwithstanding, the case was tried in that draconian manner because the prosecutor was seeking to profit from it, following Public Choice Theory. This case resonates with parents and the community, since it involves children, so the prosecutor and the criminal justice system simply ignored the facts in favor of a high-profile case that offered big political points.

    To me, saying that the criminal justice system needs to “update” itself seems like a justification for their nastiness.

  4. Maybe I’d pay attention if Julie Amero were just a little bit prettier…

    Also, what Alan said (Damn it! Twice a day he’s right.)

  5. Yet in January 2007 Amero was convicted on four counts on the ambiguous charge of “risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child.”

    And we libertarians think that juries are just going to start nullifying drug cases. If we can’t get them to nullify a fucking sex-offender case under the most obvious technicality, we’re truly lost.

  6. It is very difficult to believe that even an inept “police computer guy” would think that you would have to TYPE in a URL for it to be “highlighted”. (Although pathetic, I can at least swallow the fact that he was clueless enough to think one had to click on the URLs at some point.)

    Unfortunately, even if he did willfully perjure, that would be hard to prove.

  7. Nick & Blago

    we’re truly lost.

    And we can’t find a map with both hands. But that’s been the case for a while.

  8. Also, what Alan said (Damn it! Twice a day he’s right.)

    So’s a stopped clock.

    (Sorry, Alan. Couldn’t resist.)

  9. So’s a stopped clock

    Duh. I must be too subtle.

  10. Sorry, ed.

  11. Let us hope SugarFree is making fun of himself.

  12. But Doctor, I am Pagliacci.

  13. Several years ago I was in a lab with a coworker, and I went to look something up on Google. I mistyped the the URL, and got a porn site instead. Whoop! I closed the window, and another popped up. At this point the VP of the company wandered into the lab. Click, click. Two more windows closed, four new ones popped up. We were starting to panic. By this time eight windows had popped up. The computer was under the lapdesk, it’s off switch in the back. The VP was turning the corner, heading straight towards us. I finally kicked the off switch on the UPS, and the entire row of computers switch off.

    “Hey what’s up guys?” the VP asks.

    “The product just crashed again, we’re trying to debug it…”

    Whew!

    p.s. Contrary to the article, this was not the result of malware or viruses. This was on a Solaris 6 system, where such things don’t exist. It was the fault of the browser popping up windows, nothing more. The default on most browsers is to allow webpages to open new windows, if you don’t explicitly turn that off.

  14. If you cherry pick cases like this one, you can make any justice system look bad. Put your blinkers on and look only at evidence that supports your beliefs, and you can be a libertarian.

  15. If we can’t get them to nullify a fucking sex-offender case under the most obvious technicality, we’re truly lost.

    They can’t, I think these crimes are strict liability. No mens rea is required.

  16. “Amero would had to have been pretty determined in her mission to expose seventh graders to porn to memorize and deliberately key in sites like http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com, one of the offending porn sites.”

    Uhhh… who doesn’t know like 30 porn sites like this off the top of their head?

  17. Very well said. I’ve seen many articles on Julies story and this one is one of the best. Congradulations on doing your homework. Alex Eckelberry at SunBelt software has some very interesting details on his site about this case. The injustice of this case inspired Alex and many friends to put together the JULIE GROUP to help others in similar circumstances.

  18. “Offending porn site” pagead2.googlesyndication.com is a Google image server that your broswer sends requests to when you visit any of, oh, a billion or so pages on the internet.

    A testifying expert who doesn’t point that out to the prosecutor isn’t “inept.” He’s knowingly assisting a railroading.

    But no one who understands that is allowed on a jury, so it’s fine.

  19. You’re truly a wretched human being, Edward. Please do society a favor and consider eating a bullet.

  20. Damn. Now I’m going home depressed on a Friday. This is ridiculous on so many levels.

  21. Bags, I hope you haven’t violated any of reason’s terms of service

  22. If you have a laptop PC that you take home from the office at night and watch a porn a video on it using a headset and put Windows into hibernation, when you turn it back on at the office the next morning the video continues playing as soon as the computer restores the hibernation file. But without the headset jack plugged in you can hear the video soundtrack throughout the office. You cannot even use the mute and volume buttons until the you are logged in. The power button does not turn off the computer unless you hold it down steadily for about 5 seconds. 5 very long seconds.

    Or so I’ve been told.

  23. I’m intrigued by the suggestion of including peer review in expert testimony. As a scientist, I’m pretty well acquainted with the peer review process, and in general, it works.

    The problem is that the prosecution has a witness who says one thing, and the defense has a witness who says another.

    The expectation in times past were that jurors would be able to listen to both witnesses and decide which one was more trustworthy, which one was more reliable, and so on.

    But if these are “expert” witnesses brought in specifically for very particular knowledge that they have (and that the jurors almost certainly do not have), then they are unable to determine fact from fiction. And the fallacy of the golden mean applies – if one person says one thing and anohter says a different thing, then barring some way to put one above the other, most people will assume the truth is somewhere in the middle of those two.

    And that utterly fails when one of the witnesses either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, is lying, is saying true things in a deceptive or incomplete way, or is expressing an opinion at the very fringes of accepted thought, or uses rhetorical techniques to make something sound more significant than it is. In other words, the jury only sees a 50/50 split, not the 99/1 or 99.9/0.1 split that may be more representative of all experts in the field.

    (This is similar to the tactic employed by creationists when they stage “debates” between themselves and respected scientists – the audience generally walks out convinced that the truth is somewhere between what the two presenters said, not that the vast majority of scientific evidence supports one side and not the other.)

  24. I’m reminded of a story told by a colleague of mine. As a physicist, he was called one day by a lawyer and asked to testify. Basically the case was that somebody went out a window and died. One side was trying to prove it was murder (the victim was pushed); the other was trying to prove it was an accident or suicide (i.e. fell or jumped).

    So, as a physicist, could he determine with certainty and testify as to which scenario was true? Of course, he said no; there are too many variables so you can’t determine what happened with any degree of certainty.

    I concur as to this opinion as a physicist myself, and I’d wager that if you asked 100 physicists, 95 of them would agree. Not only would they agree, they would tell you in excruciating detail just how difficult it is to perform such a calculation, and why it is so unreasonable to expect a certain result.

    So I imagine that these lawyers went right down the APS membership directory until they found somebody, who may well be a crackpot, who’d agree to testify for their case. (I hope this isn’t what happened, but I can imagine it being the case.)

    And this “expert” would testify as to the certainty of their calculations, despite the fact that the vast majority of experts in that field would vehemently disagree.

    But all the jurors would see is one expert saying one thing, and one expert saying another equally plausible (to their non expert minds) thing.

  25. Neither the article nor these comments mention the defense attorney even once. The case for appeal is strong in this one. Very clearly she was inadequately represented. But what do you expect from the state that originally defined Blue Laws?

  26. J.P. Carlo,

    Unlike the Big Bang theory or tossing someone out of a window, it would be possible to demonstrate what could happen to a computer infected with malware in a court room.

  27. jk,

    Yes, you are correct (except about the Big Bang, which is in fact strongly supported by multiple lines of evidence, but that’s a whole other story).

    My point was exactly that – even though the vast majority of experts may agree on something, all you have to do is find one who disagrees, and that becomes essentially 50% of what the jury hears.

    In the case of the defense, I don’t find it so objectionable (except insofar as whether a crackpot’s ability to raise doubt construes reasonable doubt), but it is particularly odious for the prosecution to use – not only because of Radley’s point regarding the view of many jurors of prosecutorial witnesses as impartial public servants, but also because the prosecution has to legitimately prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and having a crackpot witness do it falls even further short of the mark than it does for the defense to do so.

  28. J.P. Carlo,

    You can demonstrate the Big Bang in a court room?

    Cool, but please alert us before doing so.

  29. Ok, fair enough. That would be falling into the “creationist” trap.

    These are complex scientific arguments, lots of data from various instruments (each with their own systematics, each with their own strengths and weaknesses), lots of diagrams (i.e. depicting allowed regions of phase space for given parameters such as Ho, lambda, etc.)

    Anyway, such arguments are better suited for the pages of a scientific journal, where the claims can be sorted out, the data can be independently looked at and analyzed, complex arguments can be sorted through in due time, experts can discuss the issues amongst themselves to determine what holds water and what doesn’t.

    But that being said, I think I can make a fairly good case for the Big Bang in a courtroom. (Unfortunately you’d have to accept my word for the data saying what I claim it says, which is exactly why the oral format is inappropriate for such arguments.)

  30. From Bradybuck:

    p.s. Contrary to the article, this was not the result of malware or viruses. This was on a Solaris 6 system…

    From Balko:

    Internet Explorer, the browser Amero was using at the time…

    IE won’t run on Solaris unless its run from Windows that is running on a virtual machine that’s running Solaris. But this was a laptop PC. There’s something wrong here, Brandybuck.

  31. “A testifying expert who doesn’t point that out to the prosecutor isn’t “inept.” He’s knowingly assisting a railroading.”

    Just another day at the office. It is the job of the police, prosecutor, and court system to put people in jail. It is the job of the hired experts to assist in this. Truth doesn’t matter, so long as someone goes to jail. “Justice” is a word with no meaning, except when used by a politician trying to get elected.

    This is why people with a proven ability to think for themselves are removed from the jury pool during Voir Dire (a french term that means Jury Tampering).

  32. Obviously it’s all too ridiculous that she gets a criminal record from it… however, what I don’t understand, is if she was using a laptop in class for net surfing and not teaching, then how were students able to see it at all? I’m not implying it was her fault that some ended up seeing it, but usually web surfing at work you tend to hide your screen from others as best you can anyway no? I assume if the laptop was hooked up to a projector or other screen that the article or prosecution would have mentioned this.

  33. Maybe I’m different then most people. I wouldn’t charge her with a felony if she had another adult come in to have sex on the desk in front of the children.

    It’s sex. Get over it…

  34. Lefiti: No kidding, I mean what’s one attrocity, or even a few really? This woman should just learn to suck it up, and get over it.

    We should never show any outrage at the system, even which it shows gross negligence or incompetence.

  35. The PC was a desktop not a laptop.

  36. The laptop was in the court room where the prosecution used a projector to display very large images of web site’s that were never visited or seen by anyone to the jury .

  37. Balko-

    When are you going to run for public office? because you have my vote.

    (did I read somewhere you are from Indiana? in that case, I actually could vote for you!)

    Oh, and jk – Brandybuck was saying he was running solaris on HIS system when he had a similar situation, not that Amero was running it.

  38. Substitute teachers teach? When I was a kid subs were basically babysitters who just watched over the room while students did busy work. They were the ones who lost out on the substitute cafeteria lady gigs, which were more lucrative. Today where I live they are paid around $80 a day and required to be college grads- mostly those who could not or did not finish teacher certification or slackers looking for a flexible gig.

  39. My point was ( depending on the school district and expectations, I guess), I wouldn’t even level the “bad teacher” charge since subs often aren’t expected to teach or paid to.

  40. I find it interesting that the prosecutor argued Julie’s actions to protect the children were not sufficient, while his own idea, throwing a flammable object over a heat source, was a good idea. Julie had to react instinctively. He had over a year to come up with his great idea. So apparently in Connecticut it is OK to burn your children alive, but not to let them see ladies in lingerie.

  41. “deliberately key in sites like http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com, one of the offending porn sites.”

    This part of Balko’s article is wrong. That url is the url for Google Adsense ads and in the linked article it does not say that is “one of the offending porn sites.” The article just says that it is listed as one of the visited sites and uses it as an example that it is absurd to say that all of these visited URLS were “Typed URLs” since that url was listed and no one would type that in.

    From the linked article ( http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/434/3 )

    “It makes little sense that Amero would have “typed” a hair styling site intending to find porn. In fact, for example, one of the URLs in the cache was http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com – does the government really contend that the substitute teacher typed in that URL?”

    It’s just one of the URLS in the cache, and an example that not all URLs in the cache were deliberately visited and typed in.

  42. Some additional questions for you to ponder.

    Does it matter that the police may have been misled in their investigation by school officials who reported a crime and somehow didn’t bother to tell the police the whole story?

    At the behest of the Norwich Superintendent of Schools, the Norwich Police Department began an investigation of an incident in which students may have been exposed to inappropriate material at Kelley Middle School. The school administration provided computer evidence showing the material had been accessed and a list of students who police investigators subsequently interviewed. The investigators interviewed the Superintendent, the Principal of Kelley Middle School, and the school system’s IT director. But somehow no one interviewed bothered to tell the investigators that there was even a chance that the porn access was not intentional.

    Why should the school officials bother to tell the investigators anything that might cause the investigators to consider that Julie Amero was the victim as well? It looks as if the school found it more convenient to let the prosecutors tear into Julie than to reveal that that Ms. Amero was pleading for help with the out of control computer and the school failed to do anything about it.

    In the end, the Norwich Police department concluded their investigation and began the prosecution without the benefit of the information the school possessed but did not reveal.

    There is even evidence in the court transcripts that shows prosecutor David Smith was unaware of these facts until the middle of the trial. But by then it was too late. The prosecution train kept rolling.

    One might argue that the police and prosecutors office should have been smarter than to accept the notion that a 38 year old pregnant teacher would sit down at a computer and intentionally surf porn in front of a class of students.

    But would the police have sought prosecution had they known that Julie, in a state of panic, pleaded for help from four teachers including the school’s computer teacher and then reported the incident to the school’s vice principal on the day of the incident?

    Dos anyone think this foolish and misguided prosecution would have ever taken place had the police known the whole story?

  43. I want to see ONE case of a minor who has either died or been psychologically damaged for life by merely watching pornography.

  44. All that, and it’s nothing the kid hasn’t seen on his laptop at home, anyway.

  45. Expert witnesses have privileges denied to other witnesses – they can give hearsay evidence and opinion testimony, which Joe Blow witness can’t do.

    So the court better be sure that it doesn’t just certify any random loon as an “expert.”

    This is why the court should carefully vet a purported “expert’s” credentials – or even appoint its own expert (which federal courts can do, but unfortunately they rarely use that power).

  46. It was not a laptop…it was a desktop. Now, if anyone is wondering why the State didn’t just drop the charges after Julie Amero’s conviction was vacated, here’s some food for thought: Kevin T. Kane was State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of New London when Julie was arrested. (In CT, prosecutors are called “state’s attorneys”.) Sometime thereafter, he was elevated to Chief State’s Attorney for the state of CT. One Michael Regan was promoted to State’s Attorney for the New London District to replace him and was State’s Attorney for that district when Julie was tried. All of them – Kane, Regan and David Smith (the Assistant State’s Attorney who actually prosecuted the case) – are in this together and were jointly responsible for Julie’s nightmare. Because they were all tied to each other in this travesty of justice, they all had to stick together and they continue to do so. Neither Kane nor Regan can throw Smith under the bus without all three of them ending up under it. And, of course, none of them have or will ever go after Lounsbury, the prosecution’s so-called “expert”, because all three (Kane and Regan by implication and Smith directly) relied upon his “expertise”. To critcize him would be an admission of their own lack of competence, fairness, integrity and judgment. Julie’s arrest and prosecution was ill-founded and grounded in prosecutorial ignorance and self-promotion. Its aftermath and the steadfast refusal to just admit mistake and exonerate Julie was pure politics and self-preservation by all of these miserable dirtbags. Their intransigence and their need to save face coupled with Julie’s failing health finally resulted in the disgraceful extraction of the plea deal that practicality forced Julie to accept. This abhorrent torment of an innocent woman will forever remain a puss-oozing boil on the face of “justice” in Connecticut.

  47. Lefiti said: If you cherry pick cases like this one, you can make any justice system look bad. Put your blinkers on and look only at evidence that supports your beliefs, and you can be a libertarian.

    And all justice systems should be made to look bad. This isn’t a “libertarian” issue, this is simple citizenship.

  48. Lefiti: perhaps you can continue to view things through blinders and then you can be a repubelican or a dumocrat. Sounds like the nazi drug war mentality to me. Ignore all the evidence and then convict innocents despite real evidence to the contrary based solely on your deep ceded hate and fears. Good job keeping your eyes wide shut.
    Subs don’t have the SUPPORT nor the training they need and the school systems are devoid of real technologically savvy people in favor of using funds to lavish it on administrators…sort of like the Cornecticut State Prosecutors, eh?
    Wake up America, they’re stealing your rights away. We don’t need to be invaded..we’ve already fallen to fascism.

  49. ps..why didn’t her lawyer do a better job of refudiating their expert, or take it to the supreme court? It seems the only way Cornecticut gets the message is when they lose ALOT of money in a civil lawsuit. A outside federal court would have seen through this mess.

  50. Wow. It takes up to rob’s last comment to find any mention (outside of my earlier post) about the remarkably bad job the defense attorney did. All of these comments and the article focus on how justice is denied because the prosecution was performed by such assholes. Never any mention that the justice system depends on strong representation for the defense, which was completely lacking in this case. In our law office, if one of our attorneys had dropped this ball or performed so singularly incompetently as the defense attorney in this case had, they would be out of a job. The complete absence of a qualified defense is much more of a travesty than the prosecution’s actions, which are expected. Radley and y’all should be coming down hard on the head of the idiot who let these arguments enter the record without objection, rather than jump on the all-too-common “prosecutors are dickheads” bandwagon. It makes these commentors seem petty and uninformed about the legal process.

    And

    Voir Dire (a french term that means Jury Tampering).

    It’s probably a joke, but “voir dire” actually means something closer to “take a look at what will be said”. If the author of the above quote thinks voir dire is the equivalent to jury tampering, they should (a) attend a few voir dire sessions and (b) imagine assembling a jury without voir dire.

  51. rob asked: “ps..why didn’t her lawyer do a better job of refudiating their expert…”

    Julie’s lawyer was suffering from a degenerative wasting disease at the time and put in a truly appalling performance. Just get hold of the trial transcripts to see how badly he did, and the huge number of opportunities he missed to win the case for Julie.

  52. Sometimes I think the ‘voir dire’ process as it stands is the least bad out of a long series of horrible options. Something does need to be done to weed out those who have obvious, or in some cases less than obvious, biases. I say less than obvious, because not everyone will be willing to say that they start the case prejudiced against one side or the other, so that needs to be weeded out.

    Unfortunately, each side gets to try to bias things to their side. I remember one case where the prosecution tried to get all “gun nuts,” for want of a better term, off the jury to try and get them to convict a guy involved in a hunting property squabble because he had an SKS with him at the time. And then they focused on that. Since I didn’t own any firearms at the time, they didn’t have a problem with me, but two or three hunters were tossed by the prosecution.

    At least we didn’t have too many people blindly scared of guns for that case. Prosecutors tried to throw a bunch of stuff up there, but never actually managed to tell a coherent story, other than they met, something happened, both parties walked away physically unharmed.

  53. How much injustice does there need to be “for the children”?

    Prosecutorial abuse of power has run amok in this country… I wonder why people accept it?

    Maybe it has something to do with all of those “highly rated” cop/D.A./federal agent TV shows that falsely portray them all as infallible heroes.

  54. RE: …rather than jump on the all-too-common “prosecutors are dickheads” bandwagon. It makes these commentors seem petty and uninformed about the legal process.

    I would say you are right about those of us who are uninformed. Those of us in that category actually don’t believe prosecutors should be behaving like dickheads, regardless of the competency of the defense.

    If the defense was so miserable (I don’t have any reason to believe otherwise) shouldn’t the judge have acted to end an unfair proceeding?

    What is wrong with citizens expecting public officials to act like decent human beings?

  55. Lefiti: The eagerness of officials to defend outrageous actions like this could makes one skeptical of the charge of cherry-picking. The “few bad apples” defense would be more credible if it were backed up by a consistent practice of prosecuting the bad apples rather than covering them up and making excuses.

  56. A “few bad apples” in the justice system is no defense at all. Or would that be “a few bad cherries”? Hopefully, this is cherry picking, but the fact that there are few cherries to pick is no reason not to pick them.

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