Thursday, June 26, 2003

I don't have a television in my house, for the simple reason that I'm addicted to it. I shouldn't be around television like some people shouldn't be around alcohol. (Okay, so I may be overstating that just a tad).

This week I found myself stuck at a laundromat without a book and caught a rerun of David Kelly's The Practice. I hadn't seen a full episode before, but while I was at home my dad was a big fan and as he blared the sound at full blast, I heard several episodes.

Despite it's liberal bias, "The Practice" is a great drama. It paints a very realistic picture of criminal defense attorneys and their clients (as realistic of a picture as you can paint without getting boring as a totally realistic lawyer show would spend 90% of the time working out plea bargains and 10% at trial). This episode I saw was about a prison inmate who killed his bunkmate in his sleep. A female attorney tried to get him to plead guilty as he'd signed a confession, his prints were on the murder weapon, and his bunkmate was sleeping.

The prisoner defended himself in court, claiming the common law defense of necessity. He testified that a man serving three life sentences for three prior murders had threatened to kill him unless he slayed his bunkmate. The story (inadvertently I'm sure) raises some very serious problems for the anti-death penalty crowd. What happens to a man when you can't touch him? If he's in for three consecutive life sentences, what else can you do to him with no death penalty deterrent?

The story ends with the prisoner escaping from the courthouse after killing a guard. One thing I do like from what I've seen/heard of the series is that Kelly isn't pretentious and doesn't glamorize criminal defense lawyers. He's quite honest that many of their clients are guilty, that if they are released they will commit more crimes, even against the attorneys that defended them. While it's more gritty than shows like Perry Mason and Matlock, it avoids painting an unrealistic picture of the legal profession and it's clients: Clean cut all-american kids who are wrongly accused were most of them. The degree of honesty Kelly shows is refreshing and it's important that people who may be interested in law get a proper perception of what they're getting into, rather than the glamorized notions provided by Lawyer shows past.

The media claims to be smart. Oftentimes, their own pretention finds them out. One of my absolute favorite sites is Generally, the authors are clever in making their point, even if they aren't right. This week, however, I found two really dumb comics.

One cartoon showed George Bush jumping on a map of America drawn as the Incredible Hulk screaming, "Me Save America by destroying it." and the caption read, "The Incredible Bush". That wouldn't be stupid, except the Hulk never said anything like that. Such statements belong to "Bizarro", the opposite of Superman not to the Hulk.

Another comic portrayed John Ashcroft as the INS officer who took Elian Gonzalez away but this time Ashcroft was saying he would detain Elian to find out what he was up to. Stupid! If your readers have a short attention span, they'll not know what you're talking about. If they don't, they'll be reminded of another attorney general. This Attorney General who used Gestapo tactics to seize a boy from his uncle's home in the middle of the night. It reminds us of the Attorney General whose impatience, recklessness, and many would say malice aforethought led to the deaths of eighty Americans at Waco, Texas. This same Attorney General turned a blind eye to President Clinton's violations of the law, refusing to call her lawless boss to account.

The comic reminds that as unhappy as I am with some of John Ashcroft's heavy-handed tactics, I'm so glad that he. and not our prior Attorney General, Janet Reno is in that office.