pageok
pageok
pageok
Is Tom DeLay's Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?:
Daniel Solove takes a look at headlines around the MSM, and finds that it depends on the organization doing the reporting.
b.trotter (mail) (www):
It reminds me of an old Bush/MSM joke that circulated the net a couple years ago.

George Bush is nearby the Pottamac river when he sees a man drowning. Thinking nothing of himself, he ran out onto the surface of the water, literally walking on it, pulled the man out of the water, and walked back to shore.

The next day, the Mainstream media reported the following headline:

Bush Can't Swim
12.6.2005 3:47am
llamasex (mail) (www):
The New York Times seems to have the most accurate headline of the bunch.
12.6.2005 3:53am
James of England:
Other than the Washington Times, which I didn't check, the NYT was also the only publication to report on the election in the Honduras.

I'm doing a paper of Free Trade and, although I didn't start off the paper admiring the media, now feel a repulsion considerably greater than when I started. It's amazing to me that you can get headlines like the BBC's "No Trade Deal At Americas Summit" when there was a series of trade deals at the Summit, including an historic US-Uruguay BIT. Still, despite the powerful loathing I was feeling at their complete inability to understand or care about trade, I was shocked by the election of a nearby country, an election with impact, not being shared. They may have covered it since Thursday.
12.6.2005 4:25am
James of England:
Other than the Washington Times, which I didn't check, the NYT was also the only publication to report on the election in the Honduras.

I'm doing a paper of Free Trade and, although I didn't start off the paper admiring the media, now feel a repulsion considerably greater than when I started. It's amazing to me that you can get headlines like the BBC's "No Trade Deal At Americas Summit" when there was a series of trade deals at the Summit, including an historic US-Uruguay BIT. Still, despite the powerful loathing I was feeling at their complete inability to understand or care about trade, I was shocked by the election of a nearby country, an election with impact, not being shared. They may have covered it since Thursday.
12.6.2005 4:25am
Medis:
llamasex,

I thought the same thing. "Judge dismisses 1 of 3 charges against DeLay" would also have worked.
12.6.2005 7:02am
ajf (mail) (www):
to paraphrase an old joke about engineers: delay's glass is twice as large as it needs to be.
12.6.2005 7:42am
MIchael Zimmer (mail) (www):
b.trotter: I think that "[NAME] Can't Swim!" joke originated back in the 60s with LBJ.
12.6.2005 8:22am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think the reason that I see most of these headlines as misleading is that for the most part, judges don't squash indictment counts prior to trial over the objections of the prosecutor. What was noteworthy was that the judge threw out this count and not that the others were not thrown out. Prosecutors are assumed to be unbiased and competent, and, thus, that the prosecutor here would not have brought that dismissed charge if it weren't legitimate. This is indication that the prosecutor here is neither unbiased nor competent.
12.6.2005 8:34am
Public_Defender:
Bruce,

Judges do sometimes throw out parts of indictments before trial. It doesn't happen all that often, but it does happen. It could easily be a sign of prosecutorial aggressiveness, not incompetence.

Also, many defense lawyers will tell you that it's unwise to file a pre-trial motion to dismiss. Instead, you should wait to the close of argument at trial and ask the court to dismiss the charge then. Why? Because jeopardy attaches at trial. Thanks to the tactics of Delay's lawyers, the prosecutor likely can appeal the decision. I don't know if it's an immediate appeal under Texas law, or if the prosecutors have to wait until after trial.

One irony is that Delay waives his speedy trial rights every time he files a motion. If he really wanted a quick trial, he would drop the motion practice and just say, "let's get it on." He's doing everything he can to, well, delay his trial.
12.6.2005 8:46am
Anonymous Jim (mail):
Thank you for that fair and balanced analysis Bruce. Are you saying that any prosecutor who has had a count thrown out prior to trial is both biased and incompetent?
12.6.2005 8:48am
Medis:
I think one can make a good "newsworthiness" argument both ways. For example, it is clearly newsworthy as well that DeLay is now precluded from serving in the House leadership indefinitely.

So, what makes the most sense is something like the NYT headline, or my alternative, where all of the newsworthy information is summarized.
12.6.2005 8:54am
Some Guy (mail):
This is like Christmas! I despise DeLay, so I get to see him caught up for sleaze. But wait, I'm a conservative, so why would I be happy with that? Here's why, the charges that Democrat prosecutor is drumming up against DeLay also apply to every labor union in the state of Texas, so I get to see the Texas Democratic Party and their money men go down in flames if the charges against DeLay set precedent! Heck, some of them may even go to jail. I can see the ledes now, "Yet another labor union official with close ties to Democratic politicians pled guilty to conspiracy and money laundering today."

Yippee!
12.6.2005 9:10am
frankcross (mail):
Medis, that was the headline in the Austin paper.

Bruce Hayden, it's not uncommon for judges to throw out charges before trial in high profile cases, where the defendant has excellent quality legal representation. Prosecutors have little incentive not to overcharge.

But Delay doesn't want delay. He wants his job back and he doesn't want to run for reelection while being tried. The defense thought they had a shot at getting the whole case thrown out and I don't believe they are counting this as a victory.
12.6.2005 10:06am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
I have some familiarity with (much lower profile) criminal cases, and have seen counts tossed out before, with limited portent for the other charges. So, the NYT headline seems to be best by offering the most info.

I thought I read somewhere that this means that Delay's trial won't begin till ... sometime later, and that this is bad news for him? Maybe?
12.6.2005 10:07am
Justin (mail):
I think people here are reading this wrong. The question the newspaper company has to figure out is in what way does this "matter", and in what way does this change from the expected course of business.

From what I can tell of the case, the conspiracy charges were not the primary indictment of the case and were not expected to be maintained anyway. The case goes on, and the facts were in dispute are still, if found against DeLay, going to give him a guilty verdict. I don't think this was huge news, but I think that "DeLay going to trial" is more news than "DeLay quashes the conspiracy portion of the indictment" and I think it fair for the media to portray it as such, particularly given that the readership is not expected to understand the nuances of motions to dismiss.

That being said, I don't think this was front page news, either, though I rarely get media in print and do not know whether it was portrayed as such either.
12.6.2005 10:41am
Aaron:
Judges dismiss counts from indictments all the time--furthermore, the charges are dismissed without prjudice, so that a prosecutor may return to the GJ to amend or supercede the indictment. In this case, the problem is that the specific law under which Delay was charged was not in effect at the time of the events, so the prosecutor has an ex post facto problem. However, I read that the prosecutor believes that he could probably re-indict on CL conspiracy.
12.6.2005 1:01pm
groggy1 (mail):
Majority Leader Boehner -- get comfortable with the idea, because it's going to happen. The irony of the Delay indictments is that he was the very politician who engineered the redistricting farce in Texas (see the Justice Dept. memo leaked last week) to oust Democrats, yet he is too full of pride to recognize that his seat is going to be won by a Democrat. Nick Lampson can only win that district by running against Delay. Any other Republican would win the district b/c they don't have to carry such high unfavorables into the race. I say good riddance to Delay. He smacks of arrogance, and frankly, the Republicans can offer MUCH better leaders.
12.6.2005 1:20pm
Public_Defender:
Bottom line: Delay is a public official, and he still has an indictment hanging over him. The glass is empty.
12.6.2005 1:31pm
Humble Law Student:
If the allegations that American politics is becoming more polarized, is it possible that we may see more such prosecutorial misconduct in the future? Will partisan DAs maybe start to indict based on politics? I know as a law student, I need to have great respect for the system, yadda yadda. But is this an area which could easily be abused?
12.6.2005 2:04pm
Humble Law Student:
more polarized [is true], is it possible
12.6.2005 2:05pm
Dick King:
The fact that there are consequences for a mere indictment has always struck me as bad for independence among the three branches, and fundamentally wrong.

-dk
12.6.2005 2:08pm
Public_Defender:
Prosecutorial misconduct? I'm surprised it took this long to indict him for something. Delay has been walking so close to the legal line of bribery and money laundering for so long that it would be shocking if he had never crossed it.

Delay has always done what everybody else did, plus a little more. That "little more" was a secret to his success. It might also be his downfall.
12.6.2005 2:19pm
Aaron:
HLS,
Are you arguing that there was NO basis in law or fact for the DA to pursue these charges (bearing in mind that a GJ did indict)? If not, then claiming prosecutorial misconduct is not only inappropriate, but unethical as well.
12.6.2005 3:00pm
Aaron:
And by unethical, I mean in the "frivolous suit, Rule 11" kind of unethical.
12.6.2005 3:01pm
b.trotter (mail) (www):
Zimmer, I knew the joke was old, the names change, but the MSM spin doesn't.

I don't believe a single one of the headlines was accurate or free from spin (i.e. both sides spun it to look the way they wanted). Now in the case of the Delay story... It really is a mixed bag. The charge that led him to resign his post as Majority Leader was dismissed, but he still faces charges.
12.6.2005 3:37pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
The fact that there are consequences for a mere indictment has always struck me as bad for independence among the three branches, and fundamentally wrong.


I disagree, this was strictly a requirement imposed by a party on its members (that you have to step down from a party leadership position if indicted) and not a case of the judicial branch imposing a requirement on the legislative branch.

Seems to me that the House GOP Caucus is free to set their own terms and conditions for leadership -- such as term limits for leadership positions -- without it compromising the independence of the legislative branch.
12.6.2005 4:19pm
Humble Law Student:
Public Defender,

Oh Please. The original charge that Earle brought against Delay was a farce. Delay's actions weren't even illegal at the time Delay did it. The law that made it illegal in Texas was passed a year later. During which the Texas Democractic party was doing the exact same thing. How come little Earle doesn't go after them?

It doesn't even take a 1L to discover there is something wrong with that.
12.6.2005 6:12pm
Humble Law Student:
Aaron,

Earle only got his indicment after two juries he had impaneled refused to indict.

Lol, last time I checked the FRCP didn't apply to blog arguments.

Also, didn't the judge just throw out the conspiracy count? Hmm, maybe Earle was a little overzealous...

Delay is a slimy SOB. However, I really doubt he has done anything that he can be convicted of.
12.6.2005 6:16pm
TL:
Half empty or full? Full, look at the mug shot. Thread closed.

Did anybody read how Kathleen Sullivan failed the CA Bar? I love that. Sense of humor is essential.
12.6.2005 11:41pm
Milhouse (www):
Justin, the conspiracy charge was the primary indictment, indeed it was the only indictment the first grand jury would give Earles. Having considered the evidence for six months, they refused to indict on the other charges. After getting the headlines for the indictment that has now been thrown out, he convened a second grand jury, to try again on the other charges, and it refused to indict. So he took a third try, and this grand jury indicted after just a few hours. At least, those are the grand juries we know about; I'm not so sure he didn't present it to a few more that we don't know about.

Oh, and as far as I know there are no facts in dispute. Which right away makes it highly unusual for a criminal trial. Delay's position, as I understand it, is that he did everything Earles says he did, and it was all conducted under legal advice. He maintains that what he did was completely legal, and that the Texas Democratic Party was doing the exact same thing, also openly, because they didn't think it was illegal either.

Even if Earles's legal theory is right, and the money shuffling was illegal, surely the fact that he sincerely believed it to be legal, and that his belief was reasonable, precludes a criminal conviction. As far as I know this is not a strict liability crime, so mens rea is required, and it was very clearly lacking, even supposing that there was an actus reus.
12.7.2005 6:19am
Medis:
Milhouse,

Ignorance of the law is generally not a defense to criminal prosecutions. There are some exceptions, eg, when the statute makes intentional violation of a known legal duty an element of crime, as in some tax violations. But the mere complexity of the law alone will not provide a defense unless the specific intent to violate a known legal duty is an element.
12.7.2005 6:50am
Aaron:
Medis beat me to it.

Mens rea simply means a particular mental state is required. This can be intentionally, knowingly, purposefully, or recklessly.

Intent: A person acts intentionally when his/her conscious aim or objective is to obtain that objective or to achieve a particular result. This is to be distinguished from specific intent, which adds that the actor know that his objective is unlawful. Unless the crime charged has a specific intent element (and very few crimes do), then DeLay's stated position makes it easier for the prosecutor to prove the mens rea element beyond all reasonable doubt, let alone the "reasonable cause to believe" standard for securing GJ indictments.
12.7.2005 12:48pm
Aaron:
HLS:

I was objecting to the overblown charges of prosecutorial misconduct, which to prosecutors (and former prosecutors) is a VERY serious offense.

Anyway, since you're not a member of the bar yet, I can't very well ask for sanctions (being in law school is punishment enough ;^) ).
12.7.2005 12:53pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
The amount of gloating here by some seems inordinate given that the fat lady hasn't yet sung. The least serious charge was dismissed, two stand, and we have yet to see how the merits of Earle's case will stand up.

In response to Orin's point, the fact that the two charges that survived were the more serious gives at least colorable support to the editorial choice in headlining that aspect of the case.
12.7.2005 2:11pm
corngrower:
Three grand Juries in four business days to get an indictment. The major charge is tossed by a judge. People do the math. TWO Grand Juries refused to bring an indictment. The third Grand Jury brought an indictment in less than three hours, and did not even partake in the 'mandatory' training that takes a whole day!
12.9.2005 11:10am