It's Friday -- Let's Get Out of Here

Random Friday Morning Thoughts

A little fun fact that I had forgotten.

  • Let me explain why this is wrong. Stay with me here. 

    • Murder is an intentional act. Manslaughter is not. But let's first be very clear about the legal definition of Murder. It means you intended the "result" (a dead person). It's not that you intended your "conduct" (pulling the trigger.)  You have to focus on whether the defendant intended the result.   In law, that is why murder is considered a "result oriented" crime. I can't stress this enough.
    • There are situations where you could intend to pull the trigger of a gun (conduct) but not intend to kill anyone, yet someone dies (result).  That might be Manslaughter (more about that in a minute), but it's not murder. 
    • Take this situation. You wake up at night in your apartment and see an intruder. If you intend to kill the person, take your gun, and fire at him and kill him, you have committed the act of murder. Now there are a number of legal defenses available to you (self-defense, defense of property), but it starts out as technically murder.
    • But what if you didn't want to kill the intruder but just wanted to scare him? To do so, you fire your gun through the ceiling. Unfortunately, the bullet strikes and kills your upstairs neighbor. Did you legally murder the neighbor? No. Why? Because you didn't intend the result: your neighbor's death.
    • But have you committed Manslaughter? Maybe. Manslaughter is, by definition, an accidental homicide, committed with recklessness. If firing into the ceiling of an apartment complex is a reckless act, then it is Manslaughter if it results in death. 
    • Other manslaughter examples:  Drag racing though a school zone at 3:00 p.m.  but a child dies in a cross walk.  Forgetting your gun was still loaded and pointing it at a buddy and pulling the trigger during stupid horseplay. Screaming "boo" directly behind someone who is standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. In all situations, you didn't intend the death of anyone but you may very well have committed Manslaughter.
    • Now let's go to Aaron Dean. 
    • He testified he saw Jefferson in the home with a gun, thought it was a burglar who was going to kill him, so he shot at that person with the intent to kill them. He intended the result: Her death. That's murder unless he had a defense. The prosecution's case was based 100% on the allegation that he shot at her with the intent to kill her. 
    • And no one -- not the State, not the defense, not the witnesses, not the experts --  disputed he shot at her with the intent to cause her death. 
    • The whole trial was exclusively over the issue of self-defense to the act of murder. It was hotly contested. That's why the prosecutor spent her time putting this slide up during closing argument: 

    • But was Aaron Dean guilty of Manslaughter? No way.  He intended to kill her.  He didn't accidentally kill her by doing something reckless.  Now if he had said, "I didn't intend for my gun to go off" or "I just wanted to fire into the floor to scare her", then it might be Manslaughter if his acts of handling and firing the gun were reckless. But those aren't the facts here. 
    • Neither the State's prosecutors or the defense lawyers even argued to the jury that they should could consider Manslaughter. 
    • People get understandably confused by all of this and say it's Manslaughter because he was "reckless" for assuming the person in the house was an intruder.   While he might have been reckless in his decision-making, it doesn't make it Manslaughter because he still intended the result of death. The fact that he was reckless about determining the identity of who he was shooting at goes instead to the issue of-self defense. See that screenshot above? That's exactly what the prosecutor was arguing: She said Dean did not "reasonably believe" force was necessary because he was unreasonable in assuming it was an intruder he was firing at.
    • So if you been following the Dean story and want to argue "he should have known better!", you aren't arguing that he should be guilty of Manslaughter. Your really saying that his claim of self-defense to murder wasn't justified because he acted unreasonably. A murder conviction would be your only option. 
    • I think there's a good chance the Manslaughter conviction could be reversed and rendered on appeal for insufficient evidence for the reasons explained above. If so, he can't be tried for that again (or Murder, for that matter, because the jury implicitly acquitted him of that.)  Nerdy stuff: I don't think it matters that the defense did not object to the Manslaughter option being submitted to the jury -- they can still raise an insufficient evidence claim on appeal.
    • Final Aaron Dean thought: The jury can give him probation today. They might very well do it. 
  • Whew. Moving on.   
  • The pleadings in the Wise County lawsuit brought by Jacob Stand against Fed Ex and others also has a local lawyer on the pleadings in addition to the New Mexico lawyer: Paul Belew. 
  • In what may be the most embarrassing moment ever from Trump, his "big announcement" yesterday was an NFT scam. For $99 bucks, you can buy one screenshot of the following bad photo-shops. They aren't even real cards. No one grifts more than him. No one insults his MAGA disciples more than him. Even Steve Bannon said he can't take it any more. 

  • Speaking of grift for dollars. I'm sure you've seen the crash of the Lockheed Martin F-35B plane. It ends with the very confusing act of the pilot ejecting after the plane is on the ground. Video.

  • I hope you weren't using 114 through Grapevine yesterday. It was shut down for hours due to a truck fire.

  • Elon Musk went (more) crazy yesterday and started blocking his critics.

    • Hey, it's a private company. He has every right to do this. Just don't lie so badly. Flashback: 

  • This didn't get enough news for all the nutcases out there with their conspiracy theories about the brutal assault of Nancy Pelosi's husband. The video of it was played in court two days ago.

  • The establishment named Roastaurant on the square in Decatur is closing
  • Time which has passed since the Wise County Sheriff's Office, despite having a full male DNA profile, has failed to solve the murder of Lauren Whitener in her home at Lake Bridgeport: 3 years, 164 days.
  • Messenger: Above the Fold


Random Thursday Morning Thoughts

He eventually would get an 11 year prison sentence. As always, a detailed recitation of the facts can be found in the later appellate court opinion affirming his conviction. He was found to be incompetent three times before finally, and miraculously, being found competent to stand trial.

  • The jury is deliberating in the Aaron Dean case. I'm sure these two prosecutors are good, but they might want to ratchet their closing argument down a bit.  No jury wants to see a prosecutor acting like they are ruled by emotions.

    • Remember I told you what a big burden the prosecution has?  They are in a deep hole when they have to put this instruction in front of the jury during closing to try and explain it. Once again, they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that self-defense, or defense of the other officer, did not exist here.

    • The jury was also given the opportunity to convict on Manslaughter (reckless, not intentional, killing). Neither the State or the defense argued to the jury that it should be considered. If the jury convicts him on that, it was a compromise that wasn't justified.
    • Legal nerdy:  I am of the strong belief that the option of Manslaughter shouldn't have been given. No one disputes that the officer intentionally shot and killed Jefferson. It's a self-defense case. It is not a case about whether the death was the result of any form of an accident based upon recklessly handling or firing the gun. If there is no evidence of a reckless killing (there's not), then the option to convict on that lesser-included offense shouldn't have been given.
  • The case is filed in the Wise County district court under cause no. CV22-12-895.

    • The attorney is listed as R. Jason Bowles who lists a primary office in New Mexico. Running him through the Texas State Bar website reveals he is a solo practitioner but lists his practice areas as "Criminal."

  • Elon Musk, the self-proclaimed "free speech absolutist", has suspended the account of the Twitter bot that tracks his private plane as well as the account of the person behind it.  The plane information is all public record. You can track any plane in the air here
    • Flashback:

    • Yesterday, Musk cashed out another $3.58 billion in Tesla stock. That stock is down 51.50% for the year. 
  • What's the next step for our AG? Having them wear a yellow star on their sleeves or some other identifying info? Story.

  • The party might be over for Trump.  A new poll by the Wall Street Journal of Republican likely voters in the primary:
  • But Trump has ratcheted up the cringe. No one knows what this is about . . .  

  • This is the new District Attorney in El Paso now in charge of prosecuting the mass murdered. 

That caption is wrong. He doesn't need Senate confirmation.

  • The gun debate really did end with Sandy Hook. Once we decided that dead elementary school children were acceptable collateral damage, it was over. 
  • We just now getting around to this
  • Random chart of how almost all the bowl games are in the south half of the country.
  • Legal civil nerdy stuff: Is "suicide by cop" still "suicide" and thus excluded from life insurance coverage? Held, yesterday: Yes.  Side note: For some reason the beneficiaries in that case stipulated with the insurance company that it was, in fact, "suicide by cop." I don't know why they would want to concede that and not fight it. 


Random Wednesday Morning Thoughts

Still true.

  • What's the first thing the new Republican DA in Tarrant County wants to do? Increase the budget by creating four new higher up positions at a whopping price. "The total personnel cost of the proposal is $847,414 a year." The current county commissioners told him no. For now. 
    • And it's interesting tp guess who he wants to bring in: "I have people wanting to come back to this DA’s office to work these cases." 

  • The jury gets this case today. The most important thing I want to know is what's going to be in the Court's jury instructions.  I'll try to capture them this morning.

    • Think about how different this case is from the Amber Guyger case - but the key difference might not be obvious. What got her convicted was not that she went to the wrong apartment. Nope. It was that even if we believe she thought she was in her own apartment (she did), the jury found there was no need to use deadly force against an unarmed Botham Jean.
    • And there's the big difference!
    • Aaron Dean testified he saw Atatiana Jefferson with a gun (she undisputedly did, in fact, have one) and mistakenly took her for the intruder. Unless the State can disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that the last sentence is not true, the jury has to cut him loose. 
    • And he's in much better shape because we don't have the factual messiness of the Guyger case. He was on duty. He was responding to a burglary in progress call. He was where he was supposed to be. He was acting in good faith. Unlike Guyger, that backdrop sets him up to get a huge pass for making mistakes -- especially mistakes in the line of duty.
    • All the testimony of "experts" yesterday about "proper police procedure" was really irrelevant. It boils down to whether Dean was reasonably in fear for his life and, more importantly, whether the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not believe that. That's a hell of a burden of proof.
    • This should be a not guilty verdict. Ten years ago it wouldn't have even been indicted. 
  • Two thoughts about this story: (1) The recommendation needs the  approval of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and I'm not 100% sure that's going to happen. (2) What's up with the glamor shot of one of the Texas Seven?

  • The federal law guaranteeing that every state must recognize same sex and interracial marriage lawfully conducted in any other state was signed into law yesterday. The Supreme Court can no longer take that right away. The White House last night:

  • New Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' texts related to the Trump Coup are being released this week. The one below might be my favorite so far. Once the audio was released of Trump trying to strong arm the Georgia Secretary of State ("I just want to find 11,780 votes,") in order to steal the election (still freaking amazing), Congressman Fred Keller came up with a plan to lie about what Trump's crime. Yes, Trump was really just a secret double agent. It was a Confederacy of Dunces.

  • News began to circulate last night that death row inmates in Texas now have access to iPads and email, with some limitations. 

    • This was confirmed by the author of a book I just read who is a former drug-related inmate and now a criminal justice reporter.

    • I suspect not everyone is as thrilled as those two ladies. 
  • One faithful reader pointed out to me that I shouldn't have been surprised that Don Huffines would have been Kari Lake's chief of staff in Arizona. Huffines arranged for her to fund raise in Colleyville of all places in September:

  • Thinking about the old Texas Monthly cover.

  • Messenger: Above the Fold


Random Tuesday Morning Thoughts

Tomorrow is the 10 year anniversary of Sandy Hook. Above is what I posted that morning which was the first indication I had of how bad it was. Those numbers turned out to be exactly right. 

  • Athena Strand tidbits I've picked up.
    • It looks like Bill Ray of Fort Worth has been court appointed as the defendant's attorney per county records.
    • The feeling I'm getting is that authorities do not believe portions of the original confession are true -- I mentioned Friday that I didn't believe parts of it either. 
    • There is a subsequent statement given by the defendant.  I don't know what's in it. 
  • Nothing like waking up to a tornado warning. Decatur even fired off the warning sirens at 7:12 a.m. The official warning was set to expire at 7:45 . . . 

    • . . . but they refined and narrowed the area to east of Decatur around 7:20 a.m.

    • Edit: There are some reports of damage southeast of Decatur. This looks like a video of roof damage.  Here's a video with some very colorful Wise County language of what appears to be two guys filming a tornado this morning.
    • Edit: This is the bulletin from FEMA hot off the presses. We've got a possible serious injury.

    • Edit: 287 south of Decatur closed due to debris (?) per National Weather Service at 8:29 a.m.  And FM 703 south of Decatur is closed due to downed power lines and debris.
  • Two people were injured, but not killed, in a small plane crash in Carrollton last night. Honestly, I'm surprised these images are from the same story but they are

  • I told you I thought the officer in his Fort Worth murder trial should testify, and he did. This should be enough to obtain a not guilty verdict. But don't run off to Vegas to bet big money on it.

  • Crypto is a scam.

  • "Let me just have a grand jury indict a guy with two of the most heinous offenses imaginable, destroy his life, and then just dismiss the cases later for 'insufficient evidence'." - Some prosecutor's attitude in this case.

  • Even an arrest that doesn't result in charges causes immeasurable damage. From yesterday:

  • I thought I was keeping up with the chaos out there, but I completely missed that the El Paso District Attorney flat out resigned a few days ago. A capital murder case against a mass murderer is just languishing.

  • The Special Master is officially gone in Trump's Document Case after an appellate court had to tell a renegade federal judge she was out of her mind for not dismissing the case from the beginning. She dutifully complied yesterday. All she did was muck up the works for a couple of months. 

  • Holy cow. Crazy Texas's own Don Huffines would have become crazy Kari Lake's chief of staff.

    • And how crazy is Huffines? Here's a recent example: 

  • Wow. It was just announced Mike Leach has now passed away. He was 61.