July 20, 2005

Ronnie Paris Jr. Is Going to Jail

I'd say a life term without parole is appropriate, though I realize he won't get that. And, honestly, given the way they apparently view the world - I'd feel better if his parents, wife and public defender were behind bars too (though I presume only his wife will join him). This is just sickening.

Posted by armand at July 20, 2005 02:47 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Law and the Courts


easy on the public defender. he's just doing his job.

Posted by: joshua at July 20, 2005 04:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not buying into that kind of bullshit for one single second in this case. That's about as odious a thing as I've ever heard - he's arguing for a pro-beat-little-kids-to-death position. There's no way that kind of thing has any business being said - I mean if successful it means he's found people who support that position on a jury - and possibly even changed their minds to get them to adopt that view.

Posted by: Armand at July 21, 2005 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Armand, I'm surprised at you on this one. This is the extent of the article's commentary on what the PD said / argued:

In closing arguments, assistant public defender Kenn Littman said Paris' rough play didn't amount to homicide.

``He wanted his son to be strong and tough,'' Littman said. ``That doesn't make him a killer.''

He also pointed out that Nysheerah Paris didn't call police or her caseworker after any of the beatings she witnessed. She didn't mention the abuse to police until Feb. 1.

Add this up and what you don't have, based on the article at any rate, is some sort of defense of beating a child to toughen him up. What you have is a good-faith effort to generate reasonable doubt. Homicide comes with intent requirements, or a finding of "reckless heart" misconduct (knew or should have known). He seems to argue that there was no ill intent here, and that the non-maliciousness of the conduct is further supported by the fact that mother, a principal witness for the prosecution, had nothing to say about the conduct in question until long after the fact.

Do I have a problem with Paris? Sure. Is he guilty? Sure sounds like it. Should he rot? Yeah, as much as anyone else deserves to. Did the PD somehow do something wrong? Not based on what I just read.

It is incumbent on defense counsel not to argue in favor of the defendant's conduct on moral grounds, but to test the prosecution's case and ensure that no one goes away unless the state proves every element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Nothing, but nothing in the article suggests the PD did anything other than his job, or anything more odious than criminal defense attorneys do every day of their lives.

The law isn't there for choir boys. Though it occasionally happens, choir boys tend not to end up in jail awaiting trial on homicide charges. Furthermore, public defenders don't even get to choose their clients as private criminal defense attorneys do.

The PD appeared to argue that misguided or even abusive parenting does not, ipso facto add up to homicide, even when a death results. Hate to be the one to break this to you, but that's an accurate statement of the law. What argument would you have had the PD mount?

Posted by: joshua at July 22, 2005 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know what argument I would have found appropriate. I don't know all the facts. But my seething disdain was a result of the "He wanted his son to be strong and tough" line which, no matter how you slice it, sounds to me like the PD is arguing that some beatings are a child's own good - and that is, to me, a dispicable argument to make. I get that it's his job, and I get that that job requires making what a PD judges to be his best case. But I don't think that means it's appropriate to make just any argument. Or, at least, I couldn't do that.

Posted by: Armand at July 22, 2005 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

my point is, it's not just any argument. it's one of the very few available to the PD under the circumstances there related. it's a closing argument, which tend to entail over-the-top rhetorical flourishes. go to a dozen murder trials, tried by the same DA, and you're bound to walk away confused: in each closing argument, the DA is bound to present the defendant to the jury as the worst thing since atilla. it's what lawyers do, and i find it no less despicable when it's done by a prosecutor; indeed, i find it far more so, since a) their duty of zealous representation, given the nebulousness of their "clientele," requires restraint that the corresponding duty of defense cousel does not, and b) as a matter of course, most juries hold DA's in higher esteem than they do defense counsel, and to feign disproportionate fear, outrage, or whathaveyou, skews the perception of the prceedings. which is of course what DA's want to do, just as defense counsel does: to drive the jury away from what it really is there to do: determine whether the prosecution carried it's burden.

taken in isolation (please try), corporal punishment is thousands of years old, and something parents in this culture and others continue to swear by. you may not. i do not. but it's conceivable -- indeed, i'm sure it's happened -- that children have been permanently injured or even killed by well-meaning (if misguided) parents during the process of punishing children.

i've little doubt that this case reflects something far more heinous. but the fact remains, where a child is killed in connection with corporal punishment, without a clear malintent, there may be a legitimate legal flaw with finding homicide. and defense counsel isn't wrong for clinging to the only argument he's got; indeed, the alternative may lead to a finding of ineffective assistance.

it ain't the best system, but it's ours.

Posted by: joshua at July 22, 2005 12:36 PM | PERMALINK
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