Ipso Facto

supremecourt 2013wap150This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burt v. Titlow that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did not apply the correct standard of review when it decided that advice given Vonlee Titlow about her plea bargain was inadequate.

Titlow had been living with her uncle Donald Rogers and his wife, Billie Rogers, in Troy, MI, at the time of his death in August 2000.

Titlow's boyfriend told police that Titlow and Billie had discovered Donald passed out, and then tried to pour vodka down his throat while holding his nose shut. Titlow allegedly stopped the vodka plan and left the room, at which point Billie apparently smothered Donald with the pillow.

The boyfriend had Titlow recount these details sometime later while wearing a wire.

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20121224 pasupremecourtlogo 150This week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided Commonwealth v. Ian Cunningham. The 4-3 decision ruled that Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory life in prison for juveniles, is not retroactive.

The deciding fourth vote was cast by Justice Correale F. Stevens who was not on the Court when Cunningham was argued.

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Panic Street Lawyer: One day goodbye will be farewell

Sunday, 27 October 2013 06:00 AM Written by

20131027 sunrisepittsburgh490

In a week of departures, I promise not to be emotional like Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland. But, unlike that rubber yellow duck at the Point of Pittsburgh, I will say something.

A lot happened the last 156 weeks, and I have written about some of those happenings: in free speech, same-sex marriage, marijuana (medical and non-medical), health care (for athletes and non-athletes), fracking, voting (for politicians, movies, and music), Native Americans today, and relocated Philadelphia art museums. I have experienced the thrill of election victories by candidates I supported. I have also experienced the agony of defeatism after Tucson AZ, Chardon OH, Aurora CO, Oak Creek WI, and Newtown CT.

The last three years have seen some colossal falls from grace in the world of sports: Joe Paterno, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Oscar Pistorius. It has also seen some remarkable comebacks in the world of media: Keith Olbermann alone had two.

I will also have a comeback of sorts: I come back to teaching undergrads at Carnegie Mellon University’s business school starting in January after a 19-month hiatus (I will continue to teach my Disability Discrimination course this coming semester at the University of Pittsburgh Law School).

After becoming a “Community Voice” for the Post-Gazette, I signed up for Twitter. More than 8,000 tweets later, I join outgoing Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl in saying: I wish I knew how to quit you. But I am quitting Ipso Facto.

What convinced me that the time was right to leave this space? When I started writing Panic Street Lawyer, I had no idea how long I would continue to write it. As time went on, I began to think that it would take something truly monumental to occur in order for me to justify hitting the “pause” button on PSL.

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supremecourt 2013wap150The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to define mental disability for the purpose of imposing the death penalty.

In 2002, Atkins v. Virginia established that subjecting a mentally disabled individual to capital punishment would violate the Constitution. But the court left it to the states to define the parameters of who qualifies as mentally disabled for purposes of capital punishment.

Ultimately the question is whether a defendant’s mental deficiency is so significant that he is unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct. If so, his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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Panic Street Lawyer: Maz, Bing and Jammie epilogue

Sunday, 20 October 2013 06:00 AM Written by

20131020rd jollyroger490pi·rate

1. One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation.
2. One who preys on others; a plunderer.
3. One who makes use of or reproduces the work of another without authorization.

As I mentioned at the end of last week’s PSL, I have one final Pearl Jam/Pittsburgh sports story to relate. As reported in this newspaper, leader Eddie Vedder came into Pittsburgh a few days before the band’s October 15 Pittsburgh concert at Consol Energy Center and hung out with a few former Pirate baseball players, including Bill “Maz“ Mazeroski.

It is this happy story about batting Buccos, and not a serious story about those who really rob at sea in October 2013, which prompted me this week to update the very first Panic Street Lawyer column that I wrote in October 2010. Entitled “Maz Bing and Jammie: Not A New Law Firm,” I compared the reproduction and use of the work of another without authorization by Bing Crosby and Jammie Thomas-Rasset. We learned back then that Crosby – gone since 1977 – had used an advanced technology in 1960 to tape-record the seventh and final game of that year’s World Series (you know, the one the New York Yankees lost when Mazeroski hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning on October 13 at gone Forbes Field). Thomas-Rasset was in the news back in 2010 for the third civil trial she had lost against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), who claimed she had illegally shared copyrighted songs online in 2006.

Where are those three, three years later?

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