Author Archives: Michael Froomkin

On Testilying

Joseph Goldstein has an interesting NYT article, ‘Testilying’ by Police: A Stubborn Problem, which updates a 1994 article which introduced me to the term.

TL/DR: Lots of NY cops lie in police reports and on the stand even about behavior that was recorded on camera.

The article does, however, leave two big questions unasked and unanswered. Unanswered is why is it (as the article reports) that NY courts routinely seal the evidence of cops lying? I’d like to know, because it could be that either a rule of court or other change might help reduce or eliminate the practice.

Unasked is why doesn’t the DA’s office have a zerohttp://www.nytimes.com/1994/04/22/us/new-york-police-often-lie-under-oath-report-says.html?pagewanted=all-tolerance policy for police making false statements on official documents, not to mention in court? Here, we can guess the likely answers: First, DAs think that because they have to work with police, they dare not anger them. Second, to the (partial) extent that testilying is designed to get around that pesky 4th Amendment, the police perjury is helping put away ‘bad guys’. Even so, the DA should be put to some prevarications.

And think about what terrible reason those two hypothesized justifications are: some of the perjury is about actual elements of the offense. In those cases, by their cowardice, the DA is allowing substantial numbers of innocent people to plead to, or be convicted of, offenses they did not commit.

As to the cases where the police perjury is about probable cause, it may be true that the victims are in some moral sense guilty of the underlying offense but even so the social consequences are not worth the candle: Police perjury breeds contempt for the Constitution and legal rules on behalf of the police (and the state’s lawyers), and fuels the belief of the arrested that the law is a sham, the police a unconstrained army. (And, worse, it’s only a step from planting evidence. Which I remind you could happen to anyone.) All this is very bad for the country at the best of times, and Trump’s America is not currently enjoying the best of times when it comes to lawfulness.

The rotting of the rule of law runs both up and down.

NOTE: Paragraph 2 above lightly edited for clarity

Posted in Law: Criminal Law | Leave a comment

When the Featured is the Whole Feature

I recently spent three minutes and forty-two seconds of my life that I will never get back listening to DJ Khaled – I Believe (from Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME) ft. Demi Lovato on YouTube. (In my defense, it autoplayed.)

I admit I totally don’t get the appeal of either artist, especially DJ Khaled–and not because of some non-existent aversion to rap either. But de gustibus non est disputandum and all that. So my question is not why does this basically uninteresting song have more than 1.6 million views — autoplay, right? or maybe movie tie-in — but rather, how can this possibly be called a song by DJ Khaled featuring Demi Lovato, when by my very rough count (I will not make myself play it again) he supplies the audio for less than 15 seconds and appears on the video doing his arm-wavy thing for at most a little more than that.

She does all the work, it’s his song with her ‘guest’ vocal?

By the way, Chloe x Halle’s Warrior from the same soundtrack, while in no way ground-breaking, is much nicer and the video also better-looking:

Yet as of this writing it has only under 400K views, less than a quarter of the other one.

Posted in Kultcha | 1 Comment

I Guess This Is Progress

Fusion Power is Only 15 Years Away, we’re told. I guess that’s progress since in just the last few years people have said its Always 50 Years Away, or maybe Always 30 Years Away, or maybe formely 30 years away, now its more like 50 years away, or maybe just forever 20 years away, or 13 Years Away.

So ten years away is progress, right? Then again three years ago it ten years away so maybe we’re going backwards?

Or maybe we’re looking at the wrong scientific advance here: what we really have is an odd form of time travel?

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Weird Al does Hamilton

The genius of Weird Al Yankovic is marrying sympathy for the material he parodies with a childish (sophomoric seems too grown up) comedic sensibility. His Hamilton medley featuring an accordion was I suppose inevitable.

Posted in Kultcha | Leave a comment

What Are they Hiding? (Turkish Edition)

Marcy Wheeler is very smart. And while she’s not giving to mincing words, she is also not a wild-eye conspiracist. So I sat up when I saw Meanwhile, Over In Turkey . . ., her blog post on Secretary of State Tillerson’s super-secret meeting with Turkish President Erdogan–the only other person in the room being the Turkish Prime Minister, who personally translated.

This is a huge breach of not just protocol, but standard and very sensible operating procedures at the US State Department (not that Tillerson cares).

Let’s go back to that no-staff-allowed element of the meeting once more. In general, it is in the interests of both parties to a conversation like that to have interpreters and notetakers present, so that in the public discussions that follow (like the one above), everyone agrees on the basic facts of what was said and you don’t getting into a “but you said . . .” and “no I didn’t” back-and-forth. For the meeting to exclude such staffers means that there is something else that overrides this interest.

In this case, the Turks had to have demanded that Tillerson not bring anyone with him to this meeting. There’s no way he would have told his staff “I got this – you take a break while I talk with Erdogan” on his own. The question is why, and all the possible answers I can come up after reading the Turkish Foreign Minister’s reply to that last question involve Vladimir Putin wanting Erdogan to pass on some kind of message to Trump — a message that he did not wish to be delivered within earshot of interpreters and notetakers.

It reminds me very much of that May 2017 Oval Office meeting that Trump had with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and outgoing Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. That was the meeting where we later learned that Trump revealed Israeli intelligence to the Russians about their source inside ISIS and told them that he just fired “that nut job” James Comey which took the pressure off of him because of Russia.

Oh, and the US press were kept out of that meeting as well, with the only reports of it coming after the Russians told us about it. As Politico’s Susan Glasser noted about that Oval Office meeting, it came at the specific request of Putin

But like we say in blogland, read the whole thing.

Posted in Politics: International, The Scandals | Leave a comment

Micropayments of a New and Pernicious Type

Many of us predicted long ago that the future of journalism was online micropayments – pay fractions of a cent an article instead of being bombarded with ads.

What we didn’t see coming was this strategy by Salon: if you want to keep your ad blocker, let us use your computing cycles to mine for cryptocurrencies.

The security issues are left as an exercise for the reader.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments