Categotry Archives: Law

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Vincent Bugliosi

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Categories: Law, Writers/Editors

Vincent Bugliosi, the former Los Angeles attorney who prosecuted cult leader Charles Manson before becoming a bestselling true crime author, died on June 6 of cancer. He was 80.

The Minnesota native earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Miami and a law degree from UCLA. In the 1960s, the ambitious young lawyer joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, where he built a reputation as a top-notch prosecutor, securing convictions in 105 of 106 felony jury trials, including 21 murder cases.

Out of all his cases, Bugliosi was best known for prosecuting Charles Manson and four other defendants in the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, a trial he later wrote about in the book “Helter Skelter.”

Actress Sharon Tate was married to director Roman Polanski and eight months pregnant on Aug. 9, 1969 when she and four others — coffee heiress Abigail Folger, director Voytek Frykowski, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring and Stephen Parent — were killed inside a house she sublet from producer/songwriter Terry Melcher. Polanski was out of the country at the time of the slayings. The following night, the mutilated bodies of grocers Rosemary and Leno LaBianca were discovered bearing the same grisly crime signature.

With the help of a jailhouse tip, police linked the murders to Manson and his “family” of followers. They were arrested two months later and put on trial in 1970. The high-profile case, which involved dozens of witnesses, lasted more than nine months and cost the county a then-record $1 million. In the end, however, Bugliosi convinced the juries that Manson was a murderous cult leader who had masterminded the slayings. Manson’s followers Susan Atkins, Charles “Tex” Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten were convicted of perpetrating the crimes.

“I don’t think I’ve ever known anybody to be as hard a worker as Vince,” Stephen R. Kay, a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who worked with Bugliosi on the Manson trial, told The Los Angeles TImes. “He would go home after the trial every day, take a nap for an hour, get up and work until 3 or 4 a.m., sleep for a couple more hours and go back to work. And he always appeared fresh, never tired.”

Manson and his followers were originally sentenced to death for the murders, but those sentences were commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 1972, the Los Angeles Times reported. Atkins died in prison in 2009 while the others remain behind bars to this day.

“The execution of a condemned man is a terrible thing, but murder is an even more terrible thing,” Bugliosi told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. “They deserved to die, these people, and I asked for the death penalty and I would do so again…I’m disappointed, of course, particularly with respect to Manson.”

Although Bugliosi would spend the 1970s in private practice, writing books became his second career. “Helter Skelter,” which he co-wrote with Curt Gentry, was the first of his many bestsellers all of which he penned longhand on yellow legal pads. “Helter Skelter” spawned two TV movies, Variety reported, as did the books “And the Sea Will Tell” and “Till Death Us Do Part.” “Reclaiming History,” Bugliosi’s 1,600-page take on the Kennedy assassination and the book he considered his magnum opus, served as the basis for the 2013 film “Parkland.”

More recently, Bugliosi caused a stir with the 2008 book “The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder,” not just because of its controversial content, but because most print and TV media outlets refused to discuss it, The New York Times reported. The book, which laid out a legal case for holding President Bush “criminally responsible” for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, hit the bestseller list despite the blackout.

His son, Vincent Bugliosi Jr., told The Associated Press that his father simply had “an unflagging dedication to justice.”

Bugliosi is survived by Gail, his wife of 59 years, his son Vincent and his daughter Wendy.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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John Tull

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Law

 

 

The number of people in the U.S. diagnosed with the plague each year: 7.

The number of people who’ve had the bubonic plague in New York City in more than 100 years: 2. And that unfortunate pair was John Hugh Tull, Jr., 53, and his wife Lucinda Marker, 47.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the yersinia pestis bacteria is most commonly spread by infected fleas. People can also become infected by having direct contact with infected tissues or fluids, by handling an infected animal or from inhaling respiratory droplets from infected people or cats.

There are three forms of the plague: bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic. Bubonic causes fever, headache, chills, weakness and swollen/tender lymph nodes. If an infected person is not treated quickly, the bacteria multiply in the lymph nodes and spread throughout the body, causing an often fatal condition called septicemic plague. Untreated plague can also spread to the lungs; when it does, the victims get pneumonic plague. In the 14th century, the plague killed approximately 25 million people throughout Europe.

Tull and Marker were walking their dogs near their home in Eldorado, N.M., when they were bitten by fleas infected with bubonic plague. Then on Nov. 1, the couple visited New York City, where they had planned to watch the marathon, tour the Metropolitan Museum and visit with friends. Within 48 hours of their arrival, however, those plans were scuttled by illness.

At first, Tull and Marker thought it was something simple, like too much food and liquor, or maybe a bug. They certainly seemed to have flu-like symptoms, including fevers, headaches, exhaustion and swollen glands. But when Tull’s condition worsened, they called Ronald Primas, a travel doctor who was familiar with esoteric diseases. His first thought: Bubonic plague. At Beth Israel Medical Center North, doctors confirmed Primas’ diagnosis, and the couple became known as New York City’s first plague case in more than a century.

Although Marker responded well to the large doses of antibiotics doctors gave her, Tull did not. He developed septicemic plague and was given a 1 percent chance of survival. Tull was put on dialysis, hooked up to a respirator and spent the next 90 days in a medically-induced a coma. When gangrene set in, doctors were forced to amputate both of his legs below the knee. Throughout the horrific ordeal, Marker remained by Tull’s side.

“How do you tell someone you love that he has been in a coma for over two months, that he missed Thanksgiving and Christmas, that it is a new year and he no longer has legs?” Marker wrote in Salon. “He could not speak or move. His first words to me, mouthed in a faint whisper, ‘Rub my feet.’ I told him then, on my own, what had happened as I gently massaged what remained of his legs.”

Dealing with the plague wasn’t the couple’s only difficult experience in New York. Because they became ill so quickly after arriving in the city — and just 14 months after the September 11th terrorist attacks — Marker and the hospital staff were interviewed by officials from the CDC, the FBI, New Mexico and New York health officials as well as dozens of media outlets. With the city in a panic, authorities investigated the couple’s backgrounds and searched their N.M. home before determining they were neither the victims nor perpetrators of bio-terrorism. Despite the invasion of their privacy, the couple’s view of the city never soured.

“Love to all and we shall return to this fine city soon,” Marker wrote in a blog that kept friends and family updated about Tull’s condition. “Thank you for taking care of us.”

During the nine months Tull spent at Beth Israel, setbacks were faced with grim determination and small improvements were celebrated, both in person and online. At one point, the hospital staff even took to wearing “Free John Tull” buttons to encourage his progress.

The couple returned to New Mexico on Feb. 10, 2003, but Tull was still too sick to go home. Yet upon his arrival at Kindred Hospital Albuquerque, he was met by dozens of loved ones carrying signs and singing corny songs. After learning that Tull’s medical bills would eventually exceed $2 million, their friends launched the John Tull Recovery Fund.

The road to wellness was far from smooth. Once out of his coma, Tull suffered from numerous debilitating infections and countless painful sessions of physical therapy to regain basic motor skills like swallowing and breathing on his own. Yet throughout his long recuperation, Tull and Marker maintained a positive attitude: “We are not going to bemoan our fate, but celebrate our life, our victory over the plague, our health, and our friends. We are going to get a lot of caviar, a lot of ice-cold vodka, and give thanks for all that life has given us.”

Tull graduated from the University of Texas and South Texas College of Law. Prior to his illness, he worked as an attorney in both Texas and New Mexico, and served as the head of New Mexico’s state insurance fraud bureau. He was also general council for the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

The Amarillo native enjoyed reading, telling jokes and stories and volunteering with the Atalya Search and Rescue. Although the couple, who wed in 1998, did not have children together, Tull had three from previous marriages, and seven grandchildren.

Ten years after contracting the plague, Tull was retired and receiving disability pension. With the help of prosthetic legs, the tough and athletic Texan was able to hike, bike, drive and attend an annual fishing trip with friends.

“When life knocks you to your knees as it is bound to do with most of us at some point in time, we will go through what we must go through to survive or we will perish,” Marker wrote. “God knows John and I have gone through every imaginable device, vice, shrink, exercise, heart-to-heart discussion, argument, emotion, exertion of pure will and attempt to deny, but it all finally comes down to facing, accepting, and embracing the fact that life has changed. Period.”

Last month, Tull was diagnosed with cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, a disease that doctors believe was unconnected to his bout with the plague. He died on June 25. He was 65.

At the time of Tull’s death, the couple was writing a memoir, “The Plague: One Couple’s Journey To Hell and Back.” Marker intends to finish it.

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Edwin Kagin

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Categories: Law, Writers/Editors

Edwin KaginThe story of an atheist “finding God” while at the end of life is not new. Fear of death — and what may lie beyond — can prompt anyone to turn to religiosity. But not Edwin Frederick Kagin. He remained a staunch non-believer to the very end.

Born in Greenville, S.C., Kagin was the son of a Presbyterian pastor. He grew up in that faith, and spent many years reading the Bible and attending church services, but he eventually turned away from all forms of religion.

“I was born an atheist, just like you were, and every other human being who lives,” Kagin said. “The appropriate question is, ‘When did the god-talk get poured into your innocent little ear?”

Kagin served as a medic in the U.S. Air Force, then attended the College of Wooster in Ohio, Park College in Missouri and the University of Missouri–Kansas City. He earned his juris doctor from the School of Law of the University of Louisville in Kentucky, and became a self-described “lawyer poet” and secular activist.

In his professional life, Kagin championed the separation of state and church and was an outspoken advocate for atheists. Kagin won a federal court ruling in 1999 that required judges in Kentucky to let parents receive counseling from a non-sectarian agency, rather than exclusively from Catholic social services. In 2010, he convinced a federal appeals court to rule that the placement of 12-foot high crosses along Utah highways to honor fallen state troopers violated the First Amendment’s prohibition of government endorsement of religion. The Utah Highway Patrol Association had claimed the crosses were not a religious symbol.

However, his efforts in the court were not always successful. In 2008, Kagin tried and failed to block the ex-wife of his client, an atheist, from enrolling their son at a religious school. He was also unable to persuade a federal appeals court in New York to reverse a ruling allowing the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum to display a cross of two steel beams found in the wreckage of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Kagin called the inclusion of cross a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of separation of church and state; the judge said it was a historic relic.

Kagin will be remembered as a “legal strategist extraordinaire for the American atheist movement,” said David Silberman, president of American Atheists. “The country is a better place for him.”

Outside of the courtroom, Kagin practiced what he preached. He was the first state director for Kentucky for the American Atheists — an organization founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, whose lawsuit (Murray v. Curlett) prompted the Supreme Court to end daily prayer in public schools — and later served as the group’s national legal director. He was also one of the notable signers of the American Humanist Association’s Humanist Manifesto, which defined Humanism as “a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

“Atheism means without a belief in a god. That’s it. Within that shell are many many different points of view,” Kagin wrote.

Kagin and his wife Dr. Helen Good co-founded Camp Quest, a summer camp for children from atheist, agnostic, humanist and other freethinking families, in 1996. Camp Quest was created to counter the exclusion of nontheists from the Boy Scouts, and catered to young nonbelievers, ages 8 to 17, many of whom had been bullied for their lack of faith. Along with traditional camp activities like archery, kayaking, crafts and hiking, Camp Quest teaches campers about astronomy, biology, ethics and philosophy. Each session also includes an “invisible unicorn challenge” in which campers are encouraged to prove the existence of two fictional invisible unicorns and win a cash prize. Since the challenge began 18 years ago, the prize has yet to be claimed. The exercise is meant to teach the campers to think rationally and critically.

“He was gruff, and generous, and brilliant, and cantankerous all at once. Edwin will have the only kind of immortality that we get — his legacy will long out last him. Edwin’s legacy is thousands of happy campers who have a place to learn, laugh, and belong because of Camp Quest. We will miss him so much,” said Camp Quest executive director Amanda Metskas.

As “the candidate without a prayer,” Kagin unsuccessfully campaigned for the Kentucky Supreme Court in 1998 and the Kentucky State Senate in 2000. Kagin was also a founder and board member of Recover Resources Center, which provides an alternative addiction recovery program to the religiously-oriented Alcoholics Anonymous. In 2005, he and Helen were named “Atheists of the Year” by American Atheists. He received the honor again in 2008.

Kagin was a frequent speaker and debater, and appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. He spoke out against fundamentalist religious education, creationism and granting preferential treatment to religious groups in tax filings.

Described by friends and fans as kind, judgmental, irreverent, intelligent, funny, passionate and thought-provoking, Kagin developed a reputation for putting on (sometimes offensive) stunts to get his message across. He often donned priest or monk costumes and began lectures by referring to his audience as “sinners.” He would describe Mary Magdalene as a deranged hooker, call the Holy Eucharist “Swallow the Leader” and have female atheists perform the song “Back In Their Burkas Again” while wearing the full-body covering. Kagin even held mock communion services and gleefully laughed as he used a blow-dryer labeled “Reason and Truth” to de-baptize people.

A prolific writer, Kagin was a contributing author of the 2003 book “The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America.” Two years later, he published a collection of essays and poems titled “Baubles of Blasphemy.” When Helen, Kagin’s wife of 25 years, died in 2010, he penned a tribute in her honor on his online journal, Blasphemous Blogging.

Kagin was previously married to Sandra Graves who gave him four children, and was a step-father to one daughter. One of his progeny, Steven, became a pastor at a Disciples of Christ church in Kansas, but Kagin maintained they had an excellent relationship. “We just understand there are certain things we really can’t, at this point, talk about,” he said.

“In a movement noted for its large personalities, Edwin Kagin was one of the largest of all,” Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, stated.

Kagin died on March 28 after suffering for several years from heart disease. He was 73. His family plans to celebrate his life with a “fun-eral.”

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Demetrius Newton

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Categories: Government, Law, Politicians

Demetrius NewtonRep. Demetrius C. Newton dedicated his life to improving the human condition, first as a civil rights attorney and later as a politician and public servant. But his efforts were frequently hindered by the nearly implacable obstacle known as racism.

Newton was born in Fairfield, Ala., in 1928. At the time, blacks in America — particularly those living in the South — were forced to live segregated lives. Black children couldn’t attend schools with white children. They were unable to access goods and services, banned from playing professional sports or working in certain professions, denied the right to marry outside their own race, kept from serving on juries and barred from voting unless they passed “literacy tests” or paid poll taxes.

Amidst this environment, Newton knew he would have to leave Alabama to obtain a decent education. He traveled to Ohio to study economics and political science at Wilberforce University, the oldest private African-American university in the United States. When Newton decided to become a lawyer, the state of Alabama paid for him to attend law school out of state so it wouldn’t have to integrate the University of Alabama School of Law or create a separate one for black students.

After earning his Juris Doctor from Boston University in 1952, Newton returned to Birmingham with one goal in mind: to help protect the rights of the downtrodden. He became a civil rights attorney, and started a law firm with U.W. Clemon, who later became Alabama’s first black federal judge, and Oscar Adams, the first black Alabama Supreme Court justice and the first African-American elected to statewide office.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Newton represented icons of the civil rights movement — including Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — but he also aided the foot soldiers of the cause, the people arrested during demonstrations in Birmingham. He filed a number of lawsuits that sought the inclusion of African-Americans on juries and supported the rights of protesters to march in the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches. He also represented his friend Carl Baldwin, who was arrested by Birmingham police for trying to sit in the whites-only waiting room at the train station. That lawsuit challenged segregation in interstate and intrastate travel. These efforts were later documented in the film “Preserving Justice.”

Newton knew the law could only go so far, so he decided to delve into politics as well. He became the city attorney for Birmingham, then worked as a judge for the city of Brownville for six years. In 1986, Newton was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives, serving the 53rd district (western Birmingham in Jefferson County). He would represent the district as a Democrat in the state house for the next 27 years.

Newton was the first black person to serve as Speaker Pro Tem, the No. 2 position in the House behind the speaker, and held that position from 1998 until 2010. He was also chair of the Legislative Council for both the House and the Senate.

A champion of constitutional reform, Newton firmly believed that Alabama’s constitution, which an all-white, all-male assembly proposed in 1901, was both outdated and racist. He spent much of his lengthly political career pushing for lawmakers and voters to create a new one.

“Our constitution is sick and it is on life support and the time is near and we ought to give it a dignified death,” Newton said in 2006. Alas, his efforts were repeatedly defeated.

Although he often disagreed with Republicans on key issues, Newton was highly regarded by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

“Debates in the House often have to compete with noise generated by side conversations and members going about their business, but when Demetrius took to the podium, the Chamber would hush,” House Majority Leader Micky Hammon (R) stated. “That’s evidence of the respect he commanded.”

Another sign of respect was the fact that Newton was allowed to retain his seat in the front row of the Chamber, even when Republicans took over the majority. The seat was normally reserved for members of the Leadership, yet the newly elected Caucus unanimously agreed that Newton should remain.

“He was a fine gentleman, and we had a strong mutual respect for each other. He will be greatly missed, not only by his own constituents — but also by the entire state of Alabama,” Gov. Robert Bentley (R) said.

Newton was a member of the Alabama, National and American Bar Associations, the American Judicature Society, the NAACP, 101 Black Men and the Vulcan Gold Club. He was the former national president of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and the Wilberforce University Alumni Association, and past president and chief executive officer of the Birmingham Urban League. Outside of the office, Newton enjoyed traveling, golf, attending the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Birmingham and spending time with his two children from a past marriage.

Newton died on Sept. 11. Cause of death was not released. He was 85.

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Islam Bibi

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Law

Lt. Islam Bibi’s decision to become a police officer would not have raised eyebrows in the west. But signing up for such a dangerous job in southern Afghanistan turned her into a symbol of female empowerment.

Under the Taliban rule, women were banned from working outside of the home. They could not receive an education after the age of 8, be treated by male doctors or ride a bicycle. Women were not allowed to drive, vote, play sports, run for public office or appear on radio or television. On the rare occasions when women were allowed to leave their homes, they were required to wear a burqa, a garment that covered them from head to toe, and be accompanied by a close male relative.

Violating any of these rules, which were enforced by the Department for the Propagation of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice, could lead to verbal abuse, beatings and execution. The religious police even punished rape victims — who were considered guilty of adultery and fornication — by publicly flogging or stoning them for their “crimes.”

Experts believe that 60 to 80 percent of Afghan marriages were arranged by force. According to a report by UN Women and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, 56 percent of all marriages in Afghanistan occurred when the bride was under the age of 16. Domestic violence is endemic, and many women choose suicide to escape.

After the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, the Karzai administration relaxed policies concerning women’s rights. Afghanistan’s new constitution, which was adopted in 2004, also recognized the equality of men and women, yet much of the country’s male population clung to the Taliban’s ultra-conservative outlook.

In the past decade, Afghan women have slowly started to emerge from the prisons that were their homes. They have removed the burqa, opened small businesses and even sent their daughters to school. These actions involved a great deal of courage since the Taliban continued to wage war on them by poisoning water supplies, fire-bombing schools, killing teachers and throwing acid on female students.

Bibi was one of those brave women.

At 10, she was forced to marry a man who was 43. Bibi had the first of her five children when she was just 15. Then in 2004, she decided to join the Afghan National Police because she needed a salary and wanted to create a safer future for her three sons and two daughters.

“Firstly I needed the money, but secondly I love my country,” Bibi said in April. “I feel proud wearing the uniform and I want to try to make Afghanistan a better and stronger country.”

As a police officer, Bibi enforced security, searched passengers at the airport, trained other female officers and protected voters at polling stations. She even single-handedly stopped a would-be suicide bomber from detonating his explosives by throwing herself on top of him when he resisted arrest.

Over the next nine years, Bibi rose through the ranks to become the most senior female officer serving in the Helmand province. She commanded a team of nearly three dozen female officers in the criminal investigation department in Lashkar Gah, and was often profiled in the international press as a role model.

For this, Bibi was regularly intimidated by insurgents and opium smugglers, and received numerous death threats. Some of those threats came from her own family. Her brother was so hell-bent on killing her for having the temerity to work that the government eventually decided to take away his gun.

On July 4, the extremists succeeded in stopping Bibi. She was riding a motorbike to work alongside her son-in-law when two gunmen opened fire. Bibi was seriously injured in the attack, and later died in the emergency room. Her son-in-law was also wounded.

She was 37.

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