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Whatever their moral character before becoming lawyers, working with criminals day in and day out can have a reciprocal effect on some lawyers the way married couples start to resemble each other. In other cases, lawyers can fall prey to the same sorts of dangerous scenarios they prosecute over. Luke Meiners, 38, fell prey to a murderer named Cleophus King, 46, back in 2008, when King befriended him and asked for a ride to his lover’s house to do laundry. Little did Meiners know that he was set up, and that King’s lover, Ronald Johnson, 25, and he had sought to rob Meiners.
 
Surveillance recordings from their neighbors show a 140 minute struggle in which Meiners was beaten, stabbed, strangled, and ultimately murdered; he repeatedly called for help.
 
“Meiners suffered a terrifying several minutes as he fought for his life,” said Assistant Circuit Attorney Rachel Smith. “Luke Meiners had a long time to know he was going to die.”
 
After his bitter end, he was wrapped in sheets, duct taped shut, driven in his own Jeep to a vacant lot in Venice, and summarily dumped. Meanwhile, they looted his apartment and stole his credit card.
 
King avoided the death penalty much as his lover did, by playing ball with the court. He pleaded guilty to first degree murder and in exchange was given life in prison. Among his charges was plotting to kill a prosecutor involved with the case as well.
 
In cases such as these, in which a St. Louis County lawyer became the subject of the sort of case he might otherwise litigate over, we are reminded that lawyers live in the same dangerous world they fight to seek justice in.



05-23-2013


“More money, more woes,” conventional wisdom tells us – which is somewhat of a comfort for those who have less money. The old saw at least holds some relevancy for good old Steven A. Cohen who is still fighting a divorce suit after 20 years! Former wife Patricia Cohen has moved on to her fourth lawyer in her revived claims against SAC mogul Cohen. She first sought the modest sum of $300 million, but later reduced it to $10 million, and also withdrew her initial accusations that the SAC was a bunch of racketeering inside traders.

Lingering on a divorce twenty years later seems annoying enough; their kids are all grown up and they’ve both moved on with their lives, but when there is so much money at stake, lawyers can be fed and cajoled to keep the drama alive.

“These decades-old allegations by Mr. Cohen’s former spouse are patently false and entirely without merit,” said Jonathan Gasthalther, an SAC spokesman. “We will continue to defend against them vigorously.”

He is referring to her claim that Cohen hid assets during their divorce two decades ago, minimizing his estate by millions to cheat her out of her divorce settlement.

The latest lawyer to join her team is Joshua L. Dratel, who more often defends terrorists, and also has been advising Katharine Russell, widow of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Her previous lawyer removed himself from the case on Monday, though he claimed it was “by mutual agreement.”

The new lawyer, at least, has some experiences with racketeering cases.


05-15-2013


It’s about time some of the cool internet hipster lawyers get into integral government positions. The White House has invited Nicole Wong, Twitter’s legal director, to be the first chief privacy officer’s legal director. Nicole is one of these cool cats who hung out as vice president and deputy general counsel at Google for eight years before going on to manage a team of lawyers at Twitter, being nominated as “The Decider” as she reviewed products before they were launched.
 
It only makes sense, after all, that the White House would start inviting staff in that have experience with this new-fangled technology that so dominates the rest of the world nowadays.
 
Wong will replace Todd Park as senior adviser to the chief technology adviser, and will advise on Internet and privacy policy. It is imagined that since she has worked with Twitter on these matters, she will bring a wealth of relevant experience to the front, and perhaps help instigate legislation that works well in the technological world we live in.
 
It is perhaps the start of a new type of hiring for the White House, as they have not included such technologically savvy legal picks before. Perhaps now that IP is the way it is, such picks will become inevitable in the future.



05-08-2013


Celebrities have no right to secrets. This is all the more clear in a new case opened by Michael Jackson’s family in which they expect to be paid as much as $5 billion by AEG Live, Jackson’s tour organizer, in a wrongful death suit. AEG allegedly hired Jackson’s doctor, who has already been charged and convicted for involuntary manslaughter, and the burden of the trial is to prove that they pressured the doctor to get Jackson in performance mode, despite his own health needs.

The trial began Monday, and AEG Live’s lawyer said “we’re going to show some ugly stuff.” If you are a celebrity with an unusual death, you might roll in your grave indefinitely. Among the things likely to come up is how the trial about Jackson’s alleged pedophilia caused the rock star to use more drugs. Indeed, his addictions seemed to play a part in his death, which was ruled to be caused ultimately by sedatives and propofol, an anesthetic his doctor proscribed for Jackson to sleep each night.

The smoking gun on the Jackson side of the case is an email AEG Live Co-CEO Paul Gongaware composed a little over a week before Jackson's death, which read that “We want to remind [Murray, Jackson’s doctor] that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary, We want to remind him what is expected of him.”

That Jackson’s family members are seeking upwards of $5 billion, despite all the windfall they’ve already had from the troubled rockstar’s career, reminds me of the story from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the Fisherman’s Wife, where a Fisherman is made to request more and more wealth to assuage his wife’s insatiable greed. When is enough enough? Why not open up a trial that will last months and expose all sorts of dirt and “ugliness” – just for the sake of more money? Jurors deciding, meanwhile, will make $15 dollars a day for their time. There is no privacy for celebrities. Their very lives are as entertaining as their songs, and because we pay them to be entertaining, we expect to know all their business.


04-30-2013



 
“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” So said Frank Lloyd Wright, and though he is probably wrong about doctors – their mistakes come back to haunt them -- the case can be just as bad for lawyers. The attorney for Kennedy cousin Michael Shakel who represented him in a 2002 murder trial is now being called incompetent. Because the lawyer, Michael Sherman, did not win the case, he is open to the recrimination that Shakel lost the case because he was poorly represented.
 
Shakel was on trial for the murder of his neighbor. Sherman was lambasted by Shakel and his new attorney for not doing more to bar a tape that admitted Shakel had masturbated in a tree on the property of his neighbor the night she was murdered.
 
The new defense attorney, Hubert Santos, said, “You knew up to that point the general consensus was you were going to get an acquittal. You knew at that point you were in trouble.”
 
The tape reveals Shakel to seem guilty and defensive, but he explains that this was because he had masturbated in the tree, not because he murdered anybody. The lead investigator, Frank Garr, showed up at the property of an author, Richard Hoffman, who was writing a book on the murder, and demanded the tape.
 
“He said we can do this the easy way or the hard way,” said Hoffman. Garr also said, “I’m not returning to Connecticut without what I came for.”
 
Sufficiently intimidated, the author handed over the tape, which Shakel says ought to have been barred from the trial. He believes it ultimately cost him the case.
 
As for another recrimination against Sherman, he did not let Shakel take the stand. Sherman said that Shakel is intelligent, “but he does have a temper and he does get excited,” and he thought putting him on the stand would have done more damage than good.
 
In his defense, Sherman was also able to bar Shakel’s ex-wife from writing a book about having married a killer.
 
“It would be very damning,” said Sherman. “Somehow we were able to stop that.”
 
A lost case may cost more than the immediate disappointment: it may linger to haunt a lawyer.



04-19-2013


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