March 28, 2011

Double Jeopardy Outrage Continued

Continuing on from my post last week about the passage of the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill, I came across this news story over the weekend:
An inquest has returned verdicts of suicide for Derrick Bird and unlawful killing for each of the 12 people he shot dead in West Cumbria last year. A jury of six women and five men sitting in Workington, Cumbria, returned the verdicts after listening to four weeks of harrowing evidence.
Unless I am missing something, this "inquest" seems to be completely pointless and a waste of time and money. As far as I can tell, there is a separate inquiry which is also wrapping up soon on how the police response could have been better. Why did a second one need to be held with a jury?
  1. Why did this take 4 weeks and required 70 some people testifying? There was no question he did it. If this was required by some legal technicality, couldn't they wrap it up in an afternoon? Why did so many people need to relive the events for no obvious purpose?
  2. Suicide is a actual crime you can be found guilty of? Is there a punishment for it? Who defends you? How much does the British government spend each year trying people for suicide?
  3. Unlawful killing? As opposed to lawful killing? (I actually read this is the English term for homicide and manslaughter which makes more sense, but I still wonder what the point of jury's verdict is since Bird is dead.)
  4. Going back to my double jeopardy post, if this had happened in Scotland, could you now be retried for suicide if you were acquitted the first time around? Could a dead person be retried for unlawful killing?

March 25, 2011


I have uploaded my pictures from Athens. Here are a few of them:

The Parthenon

Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Acropolis

March 24, 2011

Where is the Double Jeopardy outrage?

Hours before dissolving itself, the Scottish Parliament passed the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill and the bill is currently awaiting royal assent. The Scotsman summarises the bill as allowing "exemptions to the centuries-old principle that no-one should be tried twice for the same crime." I am shocked that not only has there been no form of public outrage, there seems to be support for it. The Daily Record notes that Scots Law has provided protection against double jeopardy for over 800 years but they then go on to support getting rid of that protection saying how great it will be to retry some people 30 years later. Even the Law Society of Scotland supports the bill.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law lists five principles which underpin double jeopardy:
  • preventing the government from employing its superior resources to wear down and erroneously convict innocent persons;
  • protecting individuals from the financial, emotional, and social consequences of successive prosecutions;
  • preserving the finality and integrity of criminal proceedings, which would be compromised were the state allowed to arbitrarily ignore unsatisfactory outcomes;
  • restricting prosecutorial discretion over the charging process; and
  • eliminating judicial discretion to impose cumulative punishments not authorized by the legislature
A government's ability to require anyone to answer to the court and to submit to its judgement is one of its greatest powers. Without protection against double jeopardy, this power would go largely unchecked. This power is entirely one sided. The state would have the power to decide how often to charge an individual and could do so until it received the verdict it wants. The individual has no choice. He must continue to defend himself until he loses. The individual will never win and the state will never lose.

The judicial system is based on finality. Once the court has decided a matter of fact, it is not reconsidered, res judicata. The integrity of the judiciary demands this.

Prosecutors have the responsible to use their powers with great care and only after consideration. Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, the burden of proof rests on who asserts, not on who denies. It is the responsibility of the prosecutors to decide when the evident is great enough that the State will bring charges against an individual. By prohibiting double jeopardy, the prosecutor makes sure his case is sound and is forced to not make premature accusations. Without this, the quality of the judiciary will suffer. Knowing that you could possible have a second chance at trying someone completely changes the dynamics surrounding criminal procession.

What makes the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill worse is that it applies ex post facto. This is coupled with a vague general "new evidence" exception so that anyone acquitted of a crime in Scotland ever now faces the uncertainty of their acquittal and faces the worrying prospects of a second trial.

One of the hallmarks of an advanced civilization is a fair and just legal system. These recent developments cause me to question if Scotland has this.

I have supported the SNP in the past on this blog, but this is clearly a huge error of judgement on their behalf.

March 5, 2011


Last weekend I went to Köln, Germany. I visited the Cologne Cathedral and got to climb the one church tower. Before the completion of the Washington Monument, the cathedral in Cologne was the tallest building in the world. The day was a little overcast but you still got a great view of the Rhine and the city. I also went to the Chocolate Museum. It had a working Lindt production line so you could watch up close while they made little chocolate bars and Lindor truffle balls. I ate a couple of really good pretzels and bratwurst and had some Kölsch.

I also went to watch FC Köln play SC Freiburg. Köln won 1-0 with a late goal by Lukas Podolski. The atmosphere at the game was incredible. Possibly the best I have ever seen. The fans in the south stand were chanting/singing the whole game and were incredibly loud at times.

Kölner Dom

March 4, 2011

Cell Phone History

Engadget recently published a story where their staff writers wrote about the first cell phones they owned. It's an interesting read and definitely says something about American culture in the 90s/early 2000s and the evolving role that technology plays in our lives. It is also interesting to see how technology, in the way of mobile phones, provide us with a set of common experiences. Their story prompted me to think about the phones I have owned and used over the years. Read on after the break.