Incompetent Lawyer is Grounds for New Trial: Or is it?

GeorgiaLeeLang009You have surely heard the time-worn adage “You get what you pay for”? Often that is true, but not always.

The decades-long investigation into the death of 15-year-old Martha Moxley of tony Greenwich, Connecticut in 1975 ultimately led to the  2000 arrest and  2002 conviction of Michael Skakel, infamous as a Kennedy cousin.

Over the years, Skakel, with the help of cousin Robert Kennedy,  battled to reverse his conviction, but was largely unsuccessful until 2013 when he persuaded Mr. Justice  Thomas Bishop of the Connecticut Superior Court to overturn his conviction, based on the incompetence of his trial lawyer.

Skakel’s trial lawyer was no junior schlep, but celebrity attorney Mickey Sherman whose reputation as a skilled, albeit flamboyant criminal counsel, was well-established.

Sherman’s successful law career was fast tracked when he became a legal commentator and analyst for  MSNBC, CNBC, HLN, Fox News, CBS, and CNN.  But his courtroom prowess took a huge hit after representing Michael Skakel in his  2002 murder trial.

Skakel’s new counsel argued that attorney Sherman spent more time basking in the limelight and charming the media than putting his mind to an aggressive, comprehensive defence of Mr. Skakel. From the outset, it was Michael Skakel’s older brother, Tom, who was suspected of sexually assaulting and beating neighbour girl Martha Moxley  with a golf club.

He was a plausible suspect who had a history of  emotional instability, anger and violence and  had admitted to consensual sexual relations with Martha on the night she died. Ms. Moxley’s diary confirmed an ongoing sexual tension between her and Tom Skakel.

Another young man, Ken Littleton,  who  worked as a tutor for the Skakel family and lived with them, also attracted the attention of police investigators. In finding that Mickey Sherman did not properly defend his client,  Judge Bishop noted Mr. Sherman’s failure to argue that either or both of these suspects was the more likely perpetrator, introducing an element of reasonable doubt, was a serious error.

Skakel also had an independent alibi witness that Mr. Sherman did not call to testify. Sherman advised the court that he had not been told about this witness, however, if Mr. Sherman had read the transcript of the  grand jury hearing he would have known.

A particularly strong prosecution witness was vigorously cross-examined by Mr. Sherman,  who  later bragged of his decimation of the witness, but Sherman failed to call witnesses who could  actually impeach his testimony.  Mr. Sherman’s excuse was that they couldn’t be found, although later Skakel’s appellate counsel easily located them.

Among the  litany of instances of ineffective assistance of counsel was Mr. Sherman’ s acceptance of two jurors who Mr. Sherman could and should have declined to seat on the jury panel.

The first was a police officer who knew Mr. Sherman and was a motorcycle buddy of one of the investigating officers.  The juror reminded Mr. Sherman that he had effectively defended a client who had assaulted the juror and had on another occasion angered this juror’s wife when he aggressively cross-examined her in another case.

The second juror that Sherman should not have approved was a woman who admitted that her good friend’s mother knew Martha Moxley’s mother. She said she thought it would be a little awkward for her to explain an acquittal to her friend and that she might feel defensive about an acquittal, given the friendship with Mrs. Moxley. She also indicated that a friend’s father had been murdered and she testified that it could be difficult for her, as a juror, to separate herself from feelings that might arise because her oldest child and Ms. Moxley were the same age. Shockingly, Mr. Sherman saw no reason to eliminate these jurors from the panel.

Yesterday a new page in this murder mystery was written when the Connecticut appeal court overturned Judge Bishop’s  judgment ending Mr. Skakel’s short-lived freedom. The court found that attorney Mickey Sherman, despite accusations to the contrary, represented him effectively and thus earned his $1.2 million dollar legal fee.

No doubt further appeals will follow.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

It All Seemed So Good: Toronto Neurosurgeon Arrested for Murder of Wife

GeorgiaLeeLang025Mohammed Shamji had it all:  a beautiful wife, who was herself a family doctor, three lovely children, and a PhD from Duke University in biomedical engineering, which paved the way for his reputation as a world-renowned neurosurgeon. But the family was hiding a secret…according to news reports, the Shamji’s had visits from the police more than once for allegations of domestic violence and neighbours reportedly heard them fighting.

Tragically the ultimate weapon for men that engage in family violence was unleashed when Dr. Sahmji, age 40, allegedly murdered his wife, Elana Fric-Shamji last week in their garage. He was arrested on Friday and is in police custody charged with first degree murder. The media reports that Dr. Shamji placed her body in a suitcase and dropped her  beside a river in suburban Toronto, where she was found the day before her husband was arrested.  The coroner determined she died from strangulation and blunt force trauma.

It is impossible to pigeon-hole Dr. Shamji as he does not fall within the typical profile of a husband (or wife) who murders their partner, which includes severe mental illness, previous felony convictions, lower intelligence, and more cognitive impairment than in other types of murders. However, eschewing political correctness,  it may well be that his cultural upbringing played a role.

The killing of a female intimate partner or spouse is referred to as “uxoricide”. Statistics reveal that of 2,340 partner murders in America in 2007, female victims made up 70%. In South-East Asia 55% of all murdered women died at the hands of their partner, in Africa it is 40%, and 38% in the Americas. It is reported that approximately 7 women are killed per month in England and Wales, 4 women per month in Australia, and in the United States it is 76 women per month.

Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji had recently filed for divorce and expressed relief that she was on her way to a new life. This stage of separation is the most dangerous time for women. Her last tweet on November 27, 2016 was lively and upbeat, displaying a photo of her and a fellow female physician. Her children have now been placed with their maternal grandparents. How very sad…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Threatened With Removal From the Bench for Her Religious Beliefs

GeorgiaLeeLang057Pinedale, Wyoming is a town with a population of just over 2,000 people. It is considered a gateway to the more famous Jackson Hole and sits surrounded by over 1,300 lakes. In such a small town everyone knows everyone else, and their local judge is beloved by all.

Her name is Ruth Neely and her career is in jeopardy after she gave an interview to a local newspaper admitting that her religious beliefs would prevent her from officiating at a same-sex marriage, an interview she gave shortly after Wyoming legalized same-sex marriage in 2014.

Mind you, Judge Neely is a municipal judge and circuit court magistrate whose cases involve traffic offences, bylaw breaches, and the like. Her judicial role does not include performing marriages of any kind, and she has never been asked to perform a same-sex marriage.

Nonetheless, the Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics is seeking to remove her from her position and wants her to pay $40,000 in fines as well, because they allege her media comments manifest a bias and make her unfit to be a judge.

The Casper Star Tribune reported that the Wyoming Commission told Judge Neely  they would drop their prosecution of her if she would resign, admit wrongdoing, and never again seek a judicial position in Wyoming. Later the Commission suggested she could stay on, but only if she publicly apologized, and agreed to perform same-sex marriages. Judge Neely declined their offers and is now fighting to maintain her religious convictions.

Judge Neely’s dilemma has engendered a groundswell of support, including from members of the local LGBT community.  An oft-repeated sentiment is that “it would be obscene and offensive to discipline Judge Neely for her religious beliefs about marriage.”

The Commission’s persecution of Judge Neely is particularly egregious as they admit she has served the community well for twenty years,  and is a well-recognized and well-respected judge.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington, D. C. have come to Judge Neely’s aid. Their mission is to “protect the free expression of all religious traditions. Their clients have included Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians.

Lawyers from the Becket Fund filed a brief on the judge’s behalf which declared “This would be the first time in the country that a judge was removed from office because of her religious beliefs about marriage.”

It seems wrongheaded to oust a judge for her religious views when those views do not interfere with her judicial duties. There is something very strange going on here.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missouri Politicians Vote in Favour of Equal Parenting

GeorgiaLeeLang025The State of Missouri can truly boast of their “enlightened” political representation as state legislators took a bold step this week and passed legislation to engrain the concept of shared parenting into their family laws. The next step is for Governor Jay Nixon to sign the bill into law.

You may ask: Is this another one of those “watered-down” efforts we have seen before, where the change does not remedy the age-old “dad can’t be an equal participant in parenting” philosophy?  Not at all.

The changes contemplated in the new law are exciting for Missouri fathers who have for too long been marginalized by antiquated twentieth century traditions of stay-at-home moms and working dads, operating to advance a maternal preference for parenting after separation. The old way of parenting was shored up by untested psychological theories about mothers and fathers that unwittingly led to a template of a “visiting” parent, usually relegated to every second weekend for a total of four nights of access per month.

The primary caregiver model became the default position without consideration of the quality of parenting, the psychological functioning of each parent, or the history and nature of the parent/child relationship.

Good parents were lumped together with dysfunctional parents because judges relied on precedent, a straightjacket that we now know has hurt generations of children and needlessly disempowered parents, usually fathers.

The proposed Missouri law challenges those outdated assumptions by injecting language that directly addresses the inequality that has reigned for decades in North America.

For example, the definition of joint custody will read:

” Joint physical custody means an order awarding each of the parents approximate and reasonably equal periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of substantial, frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents;”

The bill also includes the following passage:

” In determining the allocation of periods of physical custody, the court shall presume that a parenting plan that equalizes to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent is in the best interest of the child. The state courts administrator shall modify the Form 68-A Parenting Plan, also known as “Schedule J”, to reflect the provisions of this subdivision and to include that the default parenting plan shall include alternating weeks with each parent, unless the parents submit an alternative parenting plan.”

It is encouraging to see politicians embrace the most up-to-date research which overwhelmingly supports parents as equal partners in parenting after separation. Hopefully, other jurisdictions will wake up and recognize that conflict during divorce should not be used to eliminate what hundreds of social scientists say is the best outcome for children. Shared parenting. It’s good for kids and parents.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

BC Judge Allows 11-Year Old Girl to Continue Treatment to Transition to a Boy

GeorgiaLeeLang025A British Columbia  Supreme Court judge has appointed a lawyer for an 11-year old Prince George girl who is undergoing hormonal treatment to transition to a boy, a process encouraged by the girl’s mother, but opposed by her father. The child’s parents are separated.

Children diagnosed with gender dysphoria are no longer staying in the shadows, as we read about child gender transitions around the world, including the United Kingdom and Australia. Below is an article I wrote in January 2011 entitled “Children Born in the Wrong Body”.

A Family Court Judge in Australia has approved sexual reassignment surgery for a 16 year-old schoolboy who suffers from a mild form of autism. Justice Linda Dessau heard evidence of the boy’s desperation to escape his gender prison and start his life over as a girl. The Court listened to testimony of significant distress, anxiety and depression, including at least one suicide attempt.

The boy’s family, six specialists and his independent lawyer all confirmed the boy’s maturity to make this life-changing decision. The Court also heard that the boy’s father enjoyed dressing in female attire while he was a young man, but had abandoned this practice as he matured.

The protocol for sexual reassignment treatment of children is to give them hormonal drugs which arrests their journey into puberty, thus delaying the development of breasts in girls and the growth of hair and a deeper voice in boys.

Experts believe this initial treatment gives a child the opportunity to decide if they wish to move forward with further hormonal treatment and later surgery. In this case the Court also ordered that the boy’s sperm be collected and stored in the event the female hormones impeded his ability to have children.

Sex change surgery is highly controversial, particularly for children, but it is not without precedent. Six years ago an Australian Court’s decision to permit a 12 year-old girl to begin hormonal treatment was met by public anger. At the age of 17 the Court also approved a double mastectomy as the girl moved through her reassignment treatment.

While it is reported that most people who complete the surgery are happy with their new lives, for others the surgery is anything but positive. The director of Australia’s only sex change clinic has been under fire for several years as a result of former patients suing her, the Clinic, and the Clinic’s other doctors, alleging negligence and errors in diagnosis.

After allegations were made in 2009, psychiatrist Dr. Trudy Kennedy of the Monash Gender Dysphoria Clinic in Melbourne, was forced to close the clinic for a time. It is reported that eight former patients have complaints against Dr. Kennedy and three lawsuits have been commenced.

One former patient who had surgery when he was 21, maintains that he was misdiagnosed as a transexual by Dr. Kennedy. He underwent surgery to reverse the original procedure and says he now lives as a “mutilated freak”. He received a damage award.

Another 66 year-old man settled out-of-court. He had been sexually abused by his mother for seven years and received the sex change surgery in Dr. Kennedy’s Clinic, despite an opinion from a psychiatrist that the surgery would not help him.

Dr. Kennedy believes that the desire to change gender is biologically based and thus, surgery is the only cure. Other experts say that child abuse and psychiatric ailments may cause gender confusion, which should be treated with psychotherapy, not surgery.

Transexualism is generally misunderstood and public education is lacking. Vancouver human rights lawyer barbara findlay Q.C. remarks:

“Transgendered people-both transexuals who are born in
the wrong body and other people who identify as neither,
or both, male and/or female, continue to suffer
horrendous discrimination.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Ghomeshi Verdict: Part 4

GeorgiaLeeLang100Ghomeshi kept trophies to manipulate and prevent women from going to the police.”

You know how some people keep everything they ever got? They call them packrats, and that’s one reason why former CBC golden boy, Jian Ghomeshi, was able to beat the sexual assault charges in late March.

Jesse Brown, the Canadian journalist who first broke the story about Ghomeshi’s dismissal from CBC, has compiled and interviewed an interesting group of additional Ghomeshi victims.

Many of the successful challenges to the alleged victims/witnesses’ evidence at his recent trial were based on Mr. Ghomeshi’s retention of letters and emails from the women in his life.

For example, former actress Lucy DeCoutere’s courtroom downfall was due in part to a letter from her to  Mr. Ghomeshi that he retained for 13 years; a letter that contradicted her evidence at trial. Why would Ghomeshi keep this letter from a woman who was not his girlfriend and whom he had no sexual relationship?

Mr. Brown believes that he kept files on women in case they would later accuse him of violence… a shocking suggestion, but one based on multiple candid interviews conducted by him.

In 2013 Mr. Ghomeshi sent a letter to a woman, 20 years his junior, after she confronted him about non-consensual violence during their sexual tryst. He wrote:

“Dear _______, ….it IS about sex. it WAS…..i have text messages from you saying you want this…the ‘rough sex’…was something you were very interested in…you WANTED it to continue the next day and in subsequent messages and notes…reread our texts and re-examine our conversations if you wish… i wish for good karma into 2013. yours, jian”

When Mr. Brown interviewed the young woman he asked her what had occurred on their date. She described being slammed against a wall, choked from behind, and repeatedly punched in the head. When asked if she expected this behaviour from Ghomeshi she said there had been an online flirtation concerning rough sex and submission, but she had no idea what she was in for. She said, “I didn’t know men hit women like that during sex.”

The pain was so bad she considered going to the hospital, but Mr. Ghomeshi pleaded with her to give him another chance. He also admitted he was raised in a violent family. She spent another evening with him where he “behaved”, but later she accused him of manipulating her. That’s when he aggressively responded “I have text messages…you WANTED it.”

Investigative reporter Jesse Brown confirmed that he spoke to 23 victims in total and at least three of them described similar scenarios. Ghomeshi would engage in email conversations with his “dates” about BSM (bondage, sadism and masochism) but suggest it was all fantasy. He told them that sexual experimentation was healthy and when they resisted, taunted them as not being “ready” for a guy like him. He asked for nude photos demanding explicit, pornographic poses.

Mr. Ghomeshi kept emails and photos as “trophies”, evidence he would rely on if needed. Mr. Brown reports that his tactics have effectively muted many of the women who would like to speak out, but will not.

Ghomeshi has another trial in June 2016 with another victim. Let’s hope justice prevails….

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

 

 

American College of Pediatricians Say Gender Switches in Kids is Child Abuse

GeorgiaLeeLang025The American College of Pediatricians, a conservative Judeo-Christian group of pediatric professionals, has declared that “fiddling” with children’s genders is a form of child abuse. The College’s statement includes the following:

“1. Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of health – not genetic markers of a disorder. The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sexual differentiation (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs do not constitute a third sex.

2. No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one. No one is born with an awareness of themselves as male or female; this awareness develops over time and, like all developmental processes, may be derailed by a child’s subjective perceptions, relationships, and adverse experiences from infancy forward. People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.

3. A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such. These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V). The psychodynamic and social learning theories of GD/GID have never been disproved.

4. Puberty is not a disease and puberty-blocking hormones can be dangerous. Reversible or not, puberty- blocking hormones induce a state of disease – the absence of puberty – and inhibit growth and fertility in a previously biologically healthy child.

5. According to the DSM-V, as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty. 

6. Children who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex will require cross-sex hormones in late adolescence. Cross-sex hormones are associated with dangerous health risks including but not limited to high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke and cancer. 

7. Rates of suicide are twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden which is among the most LGBQT – affirming countries. What compassionate and reasonable person would condemn young children to this fate knowing that after puberty as many as 88% of girls and 98% of boys will eventually accept reality and achieve a state of mental and physical health?

8. Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to “gender clinics” where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will “choose” a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang