On November 16, 2022, Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow sentenced Waukesha WI parade attacker Darrell E. Brooks, Jr. to serve six consecutive life sentences without the possibility of extended supervised release/parole. These six life sentences were for 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide of six people who were marching in the parade.

Judge Dorow also imposed an additional 762 years for multiple counts of Intentional Homicide with modifier – Use of a Dangerous Weapon, 6 counts of Hit and Run-Involve Death, 2 counts of Bail Jumping-Felony, and 1 count of Battery/Domestic Abuse.

At his sentencing hearing, Brooks delivered a long-winded, circuitous, rambling, and convoluted statement where he, for over two hours, professed his devotion to God and his love for his children whom he doesn’t live with nor support. He professed respect for Erika Patterson, a former girlfriend, and mother of one of his children, who he abused physically and mentally, including running her over with the same SUV he used in the parade attack. He’s currently standing trial for that charge among others in another Wisconsin jurisdiction.

He professed respect for the court (what a laugh this was since he quite often disrupted the proceedings and berated the judge, calling her a joke and accusing her of treason). He professed respect for two members of the prosecution team, but expressed clear disdain and that he had no respect for District Attorney Sue Opper. He said she “wasn’t that bright.”

When speaking of and directly to DA Opper regarding her role the trial, Brooks said,

Screenshot of Brooks making the “Am I angry” statement toward DA Sue Opper

Brooks continued with numerous excuses for and reasons why he’s a career criminal—a bad childhood when his mother worked two or three jobs. That they lived in poverty and their apartment was infested with insects and rodents and that live bugs were often found in their morning cereal. He mentioned growing up without a father, standing with his mother in the “welfare line” to receive milk and cheese, and that he’d been bullied and made fun of and experienced mental health troubles throughout his life.

He told the court he needed help for mental illness and would like to be sent somewhere where he could receive it in the form of medication. His implication was to be sent somewhere other than prison.

For the first time since the parade attack, Brooks did finally mange to squeak out an apology for what happened at the parade but not for the fact that he was responsible for it. It was not an apology to the victims for what he did to them.

Comments made by Darrell Brooks during sentencing statement.

“Not only am I sorry for what happened, I’m sorry that you could not see what’s truly in my heart.”

“I apologize for not showing people what they wanted to see.”

“I have to look at my life going forward. Not looking backward. I have to look at reality.”

“I’ve moved past the day of the actual tragedy of the day of November 21, 2021, but I have not moved past uplifting this community in prayer and will continue to until it’s my time to pass on.”

“To clarify, so there’s no misconception, none of us can go back and change what happened. We can’t. But that doesn’t mean that my life has to be defined by that. I’ve moved past the actual day.”

“Regardless of how anyone feels I will continue to pray for them.”

“This was not an attack. It was NOT an attack.”

Brooks cried when speaking about his daughter not being able to talk to him when she wants to do so. No mention, though, of the parents and sibling of the 8-year-old boy he ran down and killed. No words for the other people he murdered and their family members who would never again be able to talk to their husband, wives, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts. No mention of the dozens of people who suffered brain injuries, compound fractures, loss of and damage to body organs, weeks-long comas, PTSD, nightmares, were dragged through the street by his vehicle, slammed by the SUV and sent flying 30-feet trough the air, landing on the pavement or curb.

His “speech,” as always, was all about “ME, ME, ME.”

Brooks cried when speaking about his children not being able to see and speak to him when they wanted, but no mention of the families of the people he killed

Brooks went back to the mental health issue several times. However, after cutting off Brooks once he’d begun repeating himself multiple times in what was likely a classic Brooks move to stall the inescapable, Judge Dorow read aloud portions of reports written by four mental health experts who examined Brooks and his case. Each of the four stated that while Brooks had a personality disorder, in no way did he suffer from mental defect. He, they said, knew right from wrong and that he clearly knew what he was doing at the time of the attack. Mental illness was not a contributing factor in his violent behaviors.

Judge Jennifer Dorow speaking to Brooks

“There are many times, many times when good people do bad things, but there are times when evil people do bad things. Some people, unfortunately, choose a path of evil, and I think, Mr. Brooks, you are of those such persons. Frankly, Mr. Brooks, no one is safe from you. This community can only be safe if you are behind bars for the rest of your life,” Dorow said.

Judge Dorow then outlined all the reasons behind the sentences she was about to impose., which was …

COUNT 1: 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide

Total length of the sentence is LIFE IMPRISONMENT; 360 Days Sentence Credit; Defendant is not eligible for release to extended supervision. TOTAL RESTITUTION: $47,193.29 to EMC Insurance Company on behalf of the School District of Waukesha and $124,220.65 to the Crime Victim Compensation Program; COURT COSTS: $268; DNA SURCHARGE: $250.

COUNTS 2-6: 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide

Total length of the sentence is LIFE IMPRISONMENT; 0 Days Sentence Credit; Consecutive to Count 1 and each other; Defendant is not eligible for release to extended supervision. COURT COSTS: $268, per count; DNA SURCHARGE: $250, per count.

COUNTS 7-67: 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide with modifier Use of a Dangerous Weapon

IMPOSED SENTENCE OF: 17.5 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT (Credit: 0 Days) 12.5 YEARS OF INITIAL CONFINEMENT 5 YEARS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION Consecutive to: To any other sentence and to each other; Defendant is not eligible for Challenge Incarceration Program. Defendant is not eligible for Substance Abuse Program. CONDITIONS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION: *No Contact with any victims listed in the Amended Victim Identification Key; *No Contact with Erika Patterson; COSTS: $268 per count; DNA SAMPLE AND SURCHARGE: $250 per count.

COUNT 68: Hit and Run-Involve Death

IMPOSED SENTENCE OF: 25 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT (Credit: 360 Days) 15 YEARS OF INITIAL CONFINEMENT 10 YEARS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION Concurrent to Count 1: Defendant is not eligible for Challenge Incarceration Program. Defendant is not eligible for Substance Abuse Program. CONDITIONS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION: *No Contact with any victims listed in the Amended Victim Identification Key; *No Contact with Erika Patterson; COSTS: $268; DNA SAMPLE AND SURCHARGE: $250.

COUNT 69: Hit and Run-Involve Death

IMPOSED SENTENCE OF: 25 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT (Credit: 0 Days) 15 YEARS OF INITIAL CONFINEMENT 10 YEARS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION Concurrent to Count 2: Defendant is not eligible for Challenge Incarceration Program. Defendant is not eligible for Substance Abuse Program. CONDITIONS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION: *Same as Count 68; COSTS: $268; DNA SAMPLE AND SURCHARGE: $250.

COUNT 70: Hit and Run-Involve Death

IMPOSED SENTENCE OF: 25 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT (Credit: 0 Days) 15 YEARS OF INITIAL CONFINEMENT 10 YEARS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION Concurrent to Count 3: Defendant is not eligible for Challenge Incarceration Program. Defendant is not eligible for Substance Abuse Program. CONDITIONS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION: *Same as Count 68; COSTS: $268; DNA SAMPLE AND SURCHARGE: $250.

COUNT 71: Hit and Run-Involve Death

IMPOSED SENTENCE OF: 25 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT (Credit: 0 Days) 15 YEARS OF INITIAL CONFINEMENT 10 YEARS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION Concurrent to Count 4: Defendant is not eligible for Challenge Incarceration Program. Defendant is not eligible for Substance Abuse Program. CONDITIONS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION: *Same as Count 68; COSTS: $268; DNA SAMPLE AND SURCHARGE: $250.

COUNT 72: Hit and Run-Involve Death

IMPOSED SENTENCE OF: 25 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT (Credit: 0 Days) 15 YEARS OF INITIAL CONFINEMENT 10 YEARS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION Concurrent to Count 5: Defendant is not eligible for Challenge Incarceration Program. Defendant is not eligible for Substance Abuse Program. CONDITIONS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION: *Same as Count 68; COSTS: $268; DNA SAMPLE AND SURCHARGE: $250.

COUNT 73: Hit and Run-Involve Death

IMPOSED SENTENCE OF: 25 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT (Credit: 0 Days) 15 YEARS OF INITIAL CONFINEMENT 10 YEARS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION Concurrent to Count 6; Defendant is not eligible for Challenge Incarceration Program. Defendant is not eligible for Substance Abuse Program. CONDITIONS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION: *Same as Count 68; COSTS: $268; DNA SAMPLE AND SURCHARGE: $250.

COUNTS 74-75: Bail Jumping-Felony

IMPOSED SENTENCE OF: 6 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT (Credit: 0 Days) 3 YEARS OF INITIAL CONFINEMENT 3 YEARS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION Consecutive to all other counts, but concurrent to each other; Defendant is not eligible for Challenge Incarceration Program. Defendant is not eligible for Substance Abuse Program. CONDITIONS OF EXTENDED SUPERVISION: *No Contact with any victims, or their families, listed in the Amended Victim Identification Key; *No Contact with Erika Patterson; COSTS: $268 per count; DNA SAMPLE AND SURCHARGE: $250 per count.

*COUNT 76: Battery/Domestic Abuse 

JAIL: 9 Months; 0 Days Credit. Consecutive to any other sentence; Costs: $243; DV Surcharge: $100; DNA Sample and Surcharge: $200.

*Restitution to be paid before Costs/Surcharges/Fees. Restitution/Costs/Surcharges and Fees to be collected from prison monies pursuant to statutory provisions.

*Court finds an order for an escrow account is appropriate under 949.165 for payment of restitution and court costs/fees/surcharges, and even for costs associated with prior or future legal representation, etc. under the statute.

Body Armor, Felony warnings, voting rights, and firearms warnings given. (Judge Dorow informed Brooks that as a convicted felon he is not permitted to possess body armor or firearms, and may not vote unless his voting rights are restored).

Clerk provided the Defendant with Notice of Right to Pursue Postconviction Relief with the case number filled in, as well as the Voter Ineligibility Notice and Acknowledgment.

*COUNT 76: Battery/Domestic Abuse – Brooks assaulted/battered his girlfriend Erika Patterson.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.  My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.” ~ President Joe Biden

 In February 2022, WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia for bringing to the country two vape cartridges containing 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, a total of 0.702 grams. Griner said the hash oil was for her personal use and that she’d mistakenly packed the cartridges with her other belongings.

Mistake or not, according to Russian law, bringing the 0.702 grams of hash oil into Russia is considered smuggling a “significant amount” of “narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.” The penalty for such an offense is a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.

At her July 2022 trial, which took place over four months after her February arrest, Griner’s attorney presented the court a U.S. doctor’s letter recommending she use medical cannabis to treat pain. However, both recreational and medical use of cannabis is illegal in Russia, and like the United States, ignorance of the laws is no defense in Russia. Griner pled guilty to the charges and was subsequently sentenced to serve 9 years in prison.

But more on Griner and her situation in a moment. First …

What Are Vape Cartridges?

Pre-filled THC oil cartridges are mini containers filled with oils extracted from marijuana plants. This extract is often referred to as hash oil. To consume the oil, cartridges are typically attached/screwed to vape pens or other similar devices. These gadgets contain a small heating element/atomizer that transforms liquid (hash oil, etc.) into airborne droplets.

To activate the battery-powered heating element, users simply press a button on the side of the pen. Some vape pens switch on automatically when the user inhales through it. With either method, embedded software and sensors take over operations the moment the element is engaged. The battery controls the temperature of the oil as it’s delivered to the user; therefore, all a user needs to do is press and hold the button and inhale.

Most vape cartridges hold approximately ½ to 1 gram of THC oil, which equals around 200-400 puffs, or so.

Vape Pen


THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is found in the resin of the marijuana plant. Secreted by glands within the plant, it’s the chemical responsible for most of the effects experienced by users. These glands are abundant around the plant’s reproductive organs, more so than on any other area of the plant.

The human body naturally produces cannabinoid chemicals—endocannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors situated within certain areas of the brain have a direct association with thinking, memory, gratification, dexterity.

When consuming marijuana products, users take in THC. THC then attaches to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. As a result, the THC activates those receptors which, in turn, affects a person’s sense of pleasure, sensory and time perception, movement and coordination, thought processes and concentration, coordination, and sensory and awareness of time.

In addition, THC incites cells in the brain to release dopamine, creating the sense of euphoria. It also interferes with how information is handled in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for forming new memories.

Hash Oil

DEA Image

Hash oil comes from cannabis plants and, like other marijuana products, it contains THC. However, hash oil contains greater amounts of THC than typical marijuana, therefore it’s far more potent. For example, a few common forms of hash oil by name whose THC content are above 60%:

  •  batter, budder – 70-80 +/- % THC
  • butane hash oil (BHO), AKA butane honey oil, honey oil – 60 +/- % THC
  • wax, AKA earwax – 80 +/- %THC content

*THC percentages listed above vary depending upon the source.

For comparison, the average THC content in other marijuana plant products and plant material is roughly 12-20 % +/-.

“Hashish oil (hash oil, liquid hash, cannabis oil) is produced by extracting the cannabinoids from the plant material with a solvent. The color and odor of the extract will vary, depending on the solvent used. A drop or two of this liquid on a cigarette is equal to a single marijuana joint. Like marijuana, hashish and hashish oil are both Schedule I drugs.” ~ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

Marijuana/cannabis is a Schedule I drug in the United States and, according to federal drug trafficking guidelines, any person caught traveling/flying/transporting hash oil is subject to arrest and incarceration.

Below is the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guideline for merely possessing one gram or less of hash oil (Griner carried/trafficked 0.702 grams into Russia). Keep in mind, though, that some U.S. state laws may permit possession of hash oil. But remember, as previously stated, it is illegal to possess any form of cannabis according to federal law. And trafficking it into the U.S. is a big deal.

Federal penalties regarding possession of small amount of hash oil

Hashish Oil (small amount)
1 kg or less
First Offense: Not more than 5 years. Fine not more than $250,000
Second Offense: Not more than 10 years. Fine $500,000

Now, with this said, let’s circle back to President Biden’s statement for a moment.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.” 

Griner violated Russian law. So why is she wrongfully detained? What’s different about Griner’s arrest and incarceration that sets it apart from the arrest and incarceration of people in the U.S. who committed similar or identical crimes?

Again, Griner clearly violated Russian law. Why are President Biden and other government officials not offering the same help to the folks serving time in U.S. prisons and jails for similar or identical offenses?

What is it that makes Griner deserve her freedom over an individual who’s not of high-profile status? Why are U.S. prisoners who are/were convicted of violations of cannabis laws not wrongfully detained but Griner’s arrest and incarceration is woefully egregious?

Is this not a prime example of the double standard of what’s good for some is not so hot for others?

The Double Standard

Some say when the rich and famous use drugs it’s cool and chic and fun. However, when poor people use drugs they’re a blight on society and, well, lock ’em up.


The criminal trial is over but the story of George Floyd and Derek Chauvin will continue for many years to come.

Chauvin was found guilty of all charges relating to Floyd’s death, including 2nd degree murder, and after being led from the courtroom in handcuffs he’s now tucked away inside a cell at Minnesota Correctional Facility—Oak Park Heights, Minnesota’s only Level Five maximum security prison. The former police officer is no stranger to the Oak Park Heights prison since it’s the facility is where he was housed until he posted bail and was allowed to remain free until trial.

Cell door (Minnesota DOC image)

Now awaiting sentencing , which is scheduled in eight weeks, Chauvin’s home away from home is a 7’x10′ cell inside the institution’s administrative segregation unit. He is under a “suicide watch,” which is not at all unusual in these types of high-profile cases.

For his safety, staff will also closely monitor Chauvin’s every move since he is a former law enforcement officer who likely played a part in the arrests and convictions of inmates within the prison. That, and the prison population are not likely to accept him due to the nature of his crime.

The facility is secure and as safe as they come (keep in mind, it is a prison). No inmates have ever successfully escaped and only one prisoner has been murdered there.

Since Chauvin resides in a restricted housing unit, officers are required to check on him, and other prisoners, at least every half hour. He’ll not have physical contact with staff, unless he acts out in some way, becomes ill or injured, or needs to meet with attorneys or has a visitor. He is allowed one hour of recreation per day, which is a real treat for someone who’s isolated from the world, fresh air, sunshine, raindrops, gentle breezes, grass underfoot, the sounds and smells of spring, the wailing yelps of police sirens in the distance and, well, you get the idea.

Staff conducts more frequent checks of prisoners who are violent, those with serious mental health concerns, and inmates who exhibit odd or unusual behavior. The warden or a senior staff member is required to visit the unit at least once each week.

Cells in the restricted housing unit contain a concrete bed/seat combination that’s equipped with a thin mattress (it’s no Tempur-pedic, believe me) that’s pictured below in use as a seat back. Also pictured below is a steel toilet/sink combo, a standard fixture in jails and prisons.

The only view outdoors from these cells is through an extremely narrow window that’s far too small for a human to pass through.

Narrow window (Minnesota DOC image)

Every thirty days, a mental health professional interviews and prepares a written report on each prisoner who is assigned to the restricted housing unit. Mental health staff also respond to the needs of inmates when requested by corrections staff or the prisoner.

Visiting rules at Minnesota Correctional Facility—Oak Park Heights include:

  • Visits must be scheduled no less than 24 hours in advance and no more than 10 days in advance.
  • Visits for Complex 5 and ACU will be scheduled through visiting NOT the unit.
  • COVID Safe Visiting will be limited to a total of 3 visitors.
  • All visits will be 1 hour in length.
  • All visits will need to be prescheduled by calling the number above or the Online Scheduling Option link above.
  • Visitors and inmates will not be allowed to have physical contact at any time.
  • Social distancing will be followed at all time.
  • Visitors will need to wear a mask at all times.
  • No photos will be taken

Visiting Schedule

Sunday – Wednesday

No visiting

Thursday and Friday

10:35 a.m. – 7:45 p.m.


7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.  Visiting Hours of Operation


There is no visiting on the following State recognized holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • President’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Memorial Day
  • July 4 (Independence Day)
  • Labor Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving and the following Friday
  • Christmas Day

Items Allowed

Per prison rules, Chauvin, like all inmates in the restricted housing unit, are allowed to possess only the following items, and nothing more – “clothing, footwear, towels, bedding, writing paper and pen, inmate communication forms, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, soap, shampoo, restricted housing information packet, and a comb.

These additional items are also allowed unless prohibited for safety or security reasons: personal mail, legal materials, wedding rings, approved religious items, shower thongs, address book, eyeglasses, dentures, prosthesis, approved canteen items, ear plugs, and envelopes.

Certain magazines, newspapers, publications, books, and education materials may also be approved as well as radios (in some cases).”

*Next: Eight Longs Weeks Until Sentencing: Why So Long After the Trial?

Only one day left to sign up to reserve your spot!!

Forensic Psychiatry, Murder, LAPD Lipstick, and Memorable Characters  


Guest of Honor – Charlaine Harris

Susan Hatters Friedman, MD 

Kathy Bennett

Robert Bruce Coffin



Schedule (Times are EST)

10:30 – Login and Test
10:45 – Welcome


11:00 – 12:20

Forensic Psychiatry and Crime Fiction: Correcting the Top 10 Myths 

Instructor,  Susan Hatters Friedman, M.D.


In this illuminating session, acclaimed forensic and perinatal psychiatrist, Susan Hatters Friedman, M.D., describes common misunderstandings about her field of forensic psychiatry when it appears in crime fiction. These include: 

-confusion between forensic psychiatry and psychology 

-misunderstandings about forensic hospitals 

-how confidentiality works in forensic evaluations 

-psychiatrists testifying about their patients 

-whether people look left when they are lying 

-how malingering is determined 

-how forensic psychiatrists get paid 

-what insanity means legally 

-what incompetency means legally 


12:20 – 12:50



12:50 – 2:10

Murder for Real—Adding Realism to Your Mystery Writing 

Instructor, Bruce Robert Coffin


Former detective sergeant and award-winning author Bruce Robert Coffin shares his years of experience as supervisor of homicide and violent crimes investigations. This workshop is filled to the brim with behind-the-scenes law enforcement information. This class, taught by one of the best in the business, is certain to help writers create stories that rise to the highest levels.

  • The CSI effect. What is it and why it doesn’t fly in high-end writing?
  • Evidence gathering (the real deal).
  • Cold Cases. What are they and how are they investigated?
  • First response vs. CID (two worlds-two goals)
  • Dealing with the media.
  • Hierarchy and chain of command.
  • Job stressors and how cops cope (or don’t).
  • Telling lies (everybody does it).

2:20 – 3:40

A Badge, a Gun, and Lipstick: A Female Perspective of Working Patrol on the Mean Streets of Los Angeles 

Instructor, former LAPD Senior Lead Officer Kathy Bennett

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in a high-speed chase and then be involved in a shoot-out at the pursuit termination? Do you think the cop who gave you a traffic citation was wrong? Do you know what it’s like to tell a mother her only child was killed in a traffic collision? Well, Kathy Bennett experienced all these things and more. In her presentation she’ll reveal candid information of the life of a street cop. Kathy is also happy to answer those burning questions you have but were afraid to ask. 

3:50 – 5:10

How to use Research” and “Making Characters Memorable” 

Instructor, Charlaine Harris

Author extraordinaire Charlaine Harris, whose Sookie Stackhouse novels were the basis of the television series “True Blood,” reveals the secrets to using research to craft unique characters. This is a rare opportunity for writers at all stages of their careers.



Final words

Presenter Bios

Guest of Honor Charlaine Harris is a true daughter of the South. She was born in Mississippi and has lived in Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas. After years of dabbling with poetry, plays, and essays, her career as a novelist began when her husband invited her to write full time. Her first book, Sweet and Deadly, appeared in 1981. When Charlaine’s career as a mystery writer began to falter, she decided to write a cross-genre book that would appeal to fans of mystery, science fiction, romance, and suspense. She could not have anticipated the huge surge of reader interest in the adventures of a barmaid in Louisiana, or the fact that Alan Ball would come knocking at her door. Since then, Charlaine’s novels have been adapted for several other television series, with two in development now. Charlaine is a voracious reader. She has one husband, three children, two grandchilden, and two rescue dogs. She leads a busy life. www.charlaineharris.com is her website.

Susan Hatters Friedman, MD is a forensic and perinatal psychiatrist. She has practiced in forensic hospitals, general hospitals, court clinics, community mental health centers, and correctional facilities. Dr. Friedman has served as vice-President of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (AAPL), and as Chair of the Law and Psychiatry committee at the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP). She has received the AAPL award for the Best Teacher in a Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship, the Red AAPL award for outstanding service to organized forensic psychiatry, the Manfred Guttmacher Award for editing the book Family Murder: Pathologies of Love and Hate, and the Association of Women Psychiatrists’ Marian Butterfield early career psychiatrist award for her contributions to women’s mental health. She has published more than 100 articles (including in World Psychiatry and the American Journal of Psychiatry) as well as book chapters. Her research has primarily focused on the interface of maternal mental health and forensic psychiatry, including notably child murder by mothers.  

She currently serves as the inaugural Phillip J. Resnick Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, where she also has appointments in the departments of Pediatrics, Reproductive Biology (Obstetrics/ Gynecology), and Law. Dr. Friedman also serves as honorary faculty at the University of Auckland (New Zealand). 

Kathy Bennett worked for the LAPD for twenty-nine years. Eight years were spent as a civilian employee, and she served twenty-one years as a police officer. While most of her career was spent in a patrol car, Kathy also worked at the police academy as a firearms instructor, promoted to the position of a field training officer, then worked in the “War Room” as a crime analyst. She promoted again, this time to the position of Senior Lead Officer—where she was in charge of a basic car area within a geographic division. She’s done a few stints undercover and was honored to be named Officer of the Year in 1997.

In her spare time, Kathy started writing romance books. However, she decided she wasn’t really cut out to be a romance author—she’d never write the romance but was always killing off one or more characters in the book. After a few years she realized she’d better write what she knew: Authentic Crime told in Arresting Stories. So, this retired cop started killing off fictional people…and she likes it! 

Kathy lives in Idaho with her husband and soul mate, Rick (also a retired LAPD officer.) They have two entertaining and energetic Labrador retrievers, and one cat who isn’t nearly as energetic or entertaining…but she’s loved just as much. Kathy likes to garden, exercise, and spend time with their daughter and her family. Kathy says, “Life doesn’t get much better than the one I’m living. Welcome to my world, and I hope you’ll feel comfortable enough to contact me and say “Hi”.

Kathy can always be reached at Kathy@KathyBennett.com.

Her website is www.kathybennett.com

Bruce Robert Coffin is the award-winning author of the bestselling Detective Byron mystery series. A former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Bruce spent four years investigating counter-terrorism cases for the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest award a non-agent can receive.

His novel, Beyond the Truth, winner of Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion Award for Best Procedural, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Best Crime Fiction. His short fiction appears in several anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories 2016.

Bruce is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. He is a regular contributor to Murder Books blogs.

Bruce is represented by Paula Munier at Talcott Notch Literary.

He lives and writes in Maine.



This is a truly must-attend event for crime writers!!

The Exclusionary Rule keeps police officers in check while conducting searches. It prevents prosecutors from presenting illegally obtained evidence.

The rule states that any evidence siezed during an improper search cannot be used, no matter how incriminating it may be (see Fruit of the Poisonous Tree below).

And, if this improper evidence the key piece to the entire case—the smoking gun—the prosecution may be forced to drop the case, sending a very guilty crook back on the street. The defendant may also have grounds for a civil suit against the officers involved, as well as the police department and the city.

The Exclusionary Rule is basically the Supreme Court keeping watch over search-warrant-serving cops.

There are exceptions to the exclusionary rule, such as:

When officers rely on a warrant that later turns out to be invalid. For example, officers search a house and find a large cache of illegal weapons along with a guy who’s in the process of grinding off serial numbers from an AK-47. Later, the court learns that the address on the warrant was incorrect because the detective accidentally typed River Avenue instead of River Road. Or, the landmarks used to identify the property to be searched were improperly, but accidentally, recorded.

“I meant the blue house on River Road, the first one on the right past the old oak tree, not the first one on the left. It was an honest mistake. Oops!”

In such cases, warrants may still be ruled valid and the seizure of evidence may still be legal. Or, the warrant may be ruled invalid but the seizure of the evidence could possibly stand. This is so because the officers were acting in good faith, believing they were on the property based on a constitutionally sound warrant (This is a weak example, but you get the idea).

However, if a police officer lies to the judge or magistrate, or if the judge or magistrate showed bias toward the officers when issuing the search warrant, the warrant is invalid and the exclusionary rule is in effect. The evidence recovered by the police may not be used. In fact, it will be tossed out of court, and possibly the officer, too.

Did you know??

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree – Illegally obtained evidence cannot be used against a defendant. Evidence illegally obtained is “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.”




2021 MurderCon takes writers behind the scenes, into places not typically traveled by anyone other than law enforcement and forensics experts.

I urge you to take advantage of this rare opportunity. It may not pass your way again.

MurderCon is a “killer” event!


Seats at this unique event for writers are LIMITED!

“Qualified immunity balances two important interests—the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.” Pearson v. Callahan 

Qualified immunity protects government officials, including police officers, from lawsuits alleging that the official violated someone’s clearly established statutory or constitutional rights. More about “clearly established” in a moment.

In the case of Harlow v. Fitzgerald, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the need for a qualified immunity defense to protect government officials, including police officers, from frivolous lawsuits that often stem from their official actions. However, the Court also made it perfectly clear that the vast majority of government officials, again, including police officers, are not entitled to absolute immunity. That privilege is solely reserved for a select few officials at the top of the food chain.

Qualified immunity lawsuits may proceed only when an individual’s “clearly established” statutory or constitutional rights have been violated.

When examining cases of qualified immunity, courts consider if a reasonable government official or police officer knew that their actions violated the rights of the plaintiff. Another factor considered by the court is if the law in question was in effect at the time of the alleged violation of a right(s). Of course, if the law is the same at both times, then that is the law that’s considered when determining an outcome.

The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, not in hindsight.

Qualified immunity applies only to lawsuits against individual government officials, again, including police officers, and not those against the overall government itself. Damages caused by a government official may be covered under qualified immunity, yes, but a government may still be held responsible. This is why we sometimes see damages paid by cities to individuals, or their families, as a result of, for example, a police action.

Police officers can act without fear of being sued as long as their conduct does not violate the victim’s constitutional rights. However, those rights must be so clearly established and apparent that a reasonable person would have known them. This is the intended purpose of Qualified Immunity.

An example of qualified immunity is when an officer reasonably but mistakenly concludes that probable cause exists, or when they reasonably believe that their action was constitutional.

Officer Real Lee Honest passed by a liquor store while walking his beat. He saw a man behind the counter holding the store clerk in a chokehold. The two men stood near the cash register. Officer Honest, believing the man was robbing the clerk, immediately called for back and then entered the store with his pistol in hand, aimed at the “robber.” The officer shouted for the robber to release the clerk and to lie flat on the floor. The man complied while loudly proclaiming innocence but allowed the officer to apply handcuffs to his wrists.

Lots of shouting between the officer and the suspect. The store clerk was also shouting something, but the officer whose adrenaline was in “Danger/Robber-in-Progress” mode was unable to process the words of the clerk due to auditory exclusion. His attention was on the “robber” and, of course a safe outcome of the situation.

As it turned out, the “robber” was a MMA fighter called “Snake” who trained with his best friend, the store clerk, and he was merely demonstrating a technique to his pal.

Snake felt his rights had been violated and he hired an attorney to sue the officer. The court, though, ruled that the officer acted in good faith and that no reasonable person would have thought the officer’s action were unconstitutional. An honest and reasonable mistake. Qualified immunity applies.

In the case of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with the killing of George Floyd, the victim’s family may have a difficult time proving their civil case against the officer due to qualified immunity. To prevail, they must cite precedents in which past defendants were found to have violated the law in exactly the same manner as the violations committed by Chauvin.

It’s important to know that qualified immunity applies only in civil cases, NOT in criminal trials. So no, qualified immunity is NOT a get out of jail free card for police. Qualified immunity helps officers to not second guess their actions when mere seconds count when in life or death situations.

The split second decision of protecting their lives or the lives of others should not hinge on the worry of losing everything they own in a civil lawsuit. Instead, their sole worry when in a life or death situation, should be on living to see another day. Still, the decision must be one that’s reasonable and does not violate constitutional rights.

When a person is arrested the court may release them under conditions commonly known as “bail.”

Bail typically includes a sum of money paid to the court, a fee that’s typically given back at the end of the case if the defendant follows court orders. It’s a cash guarantee used meant to ensure the defendant shows up at their trial and other hearings.

Should a defendant not meet their obligations to the court, which may include failure to appear, no alcohol and drug use, no driving, no internet use, no travel outside the jurisdiction, home confinement, etc., the court keeps the bail money. Subsequently, the court issues an arrest warrant, sometimes called a capias, a warrant for failure to appear, and the defendant is arrested and held in jail until trial.

In lieu of cash bail, if the defendant can’t afford the full payment, they often have the option of what’s known as a “bail bond.” There are several types of bail bonds, such as securing the bond using collateral, something of value that’s equal to or greater than the bail amount set by the court, such as a home, or land. The property, however, must have enough equity to satisfy the amount of the bond.

Like bail, collateral may be forfeited to the court if the defendant fails to appear for court appointments. Family members are not keen on losing the family farm so they typically keep a close eye on their defendant relative to make certain they appear in court.

Bail bond agents charge a fee to post a bond on the defendant’s behalf, such as 10% – 15% of the bail amount set by the court. They may also require collateral, something of value such as a home or land. The fee collected is generally non-refundable since it is a service provided by the bond agent to the defendant. It’s how they make money.

Bail bond agents guarantee the court that they’ll pay the entire amount of the bail if the defendant fails to appear in court. Therefore, they may send a bail enforcement agent (bounty hunter) to locate the defendant and take them into custody and then deliver them directly to jail. Once they’ve handed over the defendant to authorities the bail bod agent’s company may recover the forfeited bond. Bail bound agents receive a fee for their services that’s paid by the bail bond agent.

Judges typically have the power to deny bail, revoke bail. and to increase or decrease a person’s bail. Bail may not be used as a means of punishment, and the U.S. Constitution demands that bail amounts be reasonable. Circumstances, such as the severity of a crime or a chance that a defendant may flee, allow a judge to set bail at such an incredibly high amount that a defendant couldn’t possible assemble the funds needed. Those individuals remain in jail until their trial is over.


Defendant may be released from custody “on their own recognizance” (O.R.).

Typically, in order to be released on someone’s O.R., they must:

  • Be employed
  • Have a record of showing up on time for previous court hearings
  • No, or very minor, criminal record
  • Community ties, such as family, church, civic organizations, own a home, live in the area for many years, etc.
  • Not a flight risk

These factors go a long way in convincing a judge to allow someone to remain free, either on bail, with a reduced bail amount, or no bail.

“Sign here, please”

Did you know that a traffic summons is official notification of a pending court date at which you must appear to answer for the charges of which you’re accused, such as speeding, reckless driving, faulty equipment, etc.?

And, did you know that signing the summons/ticket is your promise to appear in court?

Yes, this is an actual arrest, and if you don’t sign the traffic ticket the officer could immediately take you into custody.

Therefore, by simply signing the ticket you are “released on your own recognizance” (OR) and allowed to travel on your way. Signing is not an admission of guilt. Again, it’s merely your promise to appear in court, or take care of fines in advance. Of course, paying the fine prior to a hearing is an admission of guilt and will become a pat of your driving record.

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Changing their pleas from not guilty to guilty in the college admissions scandal case, Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli sent the internet into a buzz of chatter. Why, many asked, did, after such a long battle, would the couple suddenly change course after vehemently professing their innocence?

Some say the pair likely feared the possibility of a 40-year sentence in federal prison. Others say their timing was well-calculated due to the mass release of inmates due to the current COVID-19 situation.

Per the terms of their agreement, Loughlin would serve two months in prison and pay a $150,000 fine. She would also serve two years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service. Giannulli, Loughlin’s husband, would serve five months in prison, pay a $250,000 fine, and after his release from prison would serve two years of supervised release and 250 hours of community service.

Loughlin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Giannulli pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and to honest services wire and mail fraud.

Due to COVID-19 … well, there’s a good chance that neither of the two will set foot inside a federal prison. Instead, it’s possible they’ll be assigned to home confinement for the duration of their sentences. I’m not say this is what will occur. Instead, I’m merely stating that it is indeed possible.

So how do judges decide the sentence for a particular crime? Since we’re talking about Lori Loughlin’s case, which is a federal crime, her sentence will be decided by a federal judge who relies on Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that determine how much, or how little, prison time a federal judge may impose on a defendant who has been found guilty of committing a federal crime. First, though, attorneys and probation officials must determine where the defendant fits in on the Federal Sentencing Table (below). To do so, they must assign the defendant to a criminal history category (I-VI), and to an Offense Level (1-43).

Federal Sentencing Table

A defendant’s criminal history points are determined by:

  • Assigning 3 points for each prior sentence of 1 year and 1 month
  • Adding 2 points for each previous sentence of 60 days to 13 months
  • Adding 1 point for a prior sentence of less than 60 days
  • Adding 2 points if the defendant committed a crime while already under another sentence (probation, parole, etc.)
  • Adding 2 points if the current offense was committed within two years of completing a previous sentence
  • Etc. (there are several other factors that add or subject points—too many to list here)

For example, using the chart above, a defendant who has a final total of 13 criminal history points will be in category VI.

Offense Levels

Next, officials must then decide the defendant’s offense level. To do so, they refer to Chapter 2 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, where they’ll find a a base number assignment for each crime. For example, First Degree Murder has a Base Offense Level of 43. Therefore, 43 is the starting point for determining the defendant’s final Offense Level.

Let’s say our defendant was convicted of Aggravated Assault, which has a Base Offense Level of 14. Officials must then determine what factors were in play during the commission of the crime, such as use of firearms, etc. For example, the use of a firearm during the assault would increase the offense level by 4 points, making it a level 18. If the assault was premeditated, add 2 points. If the firearm was discharged, well, that’s another 5 points. If the victim received serious injury during the attack…yep, that’s worth 7 points. A minor injury…3 points. Get the idea?

So, What’s the Damage?

Let’s add it up and see where our bad guy falls in the guideline.

  • Aggravated Assault = base level of 14
  • He shot at his victim = 4 points
  • The victim suffered a serious injury = 7 points

Total = 25 points

Therefore, our guy, a repeat offender with a criminal history category VI, and an offense level of 25, will be in Zone D, subject to receive anywhere from 110 to 137 months in the federal penitentiary.

Upward and Downward Departures

Easy enough, right? Well, it doesn’t stop there. Other factors are still waiting to be applied, such as downward or upward departures from the guidelines. For example:

  • Points may be subtracted if the defendant assists the government with ongoing cases (provides substantial information). There are, of course, many other factors that allow for a downward departure. Another example of a reduction of points is when the defendant accepts full responsibility for the crime. If so, the prosecutor may file a motion for a downward departure. This normally occurs when the defendant pleads guilty.
  • Points may be added for things like wearing a bullet resistant vest during the commission of a drug crime, and abuse of a position to further the commission of the crime (a politician who uses his position and power to commit a crime—a governor who uses his position to sell a seat in the senate left vacant by the president of the U.S.). Again, there are far too many to list here.

Guilty Pleas

Back to our crook who wound up with the offense level of 25. Well, let’s say he entered a guilty plea and accepted responsibility for his crime.

The guilty plea/acceptance-of-responsibility earned him a downward departure of up to 3 points. Take 3 points away from the original 25 and that leaves him with an offense level of 22. Back to the chart we go. His sentencing range at level 22 is a much lower 84-105 months…well over a year less. And that’s a nice little reward for owning up to the crime, which, by the way, saves the government a lot of money—no trial.

So, is this as clear as mud, or do you now sort of understand how sentences are handed out in federal court?

One thing’s certain, a 36/VI is going to prison for a long, long time.

Well, there’s that 3 point deduction, and that other 2-pointer … oh yeah, let’s not forget the four 1-point deductions. And our bad guy did help out by telling the government who sold him the machine guns.

I think our crook now has total of 6 points to the good. Hmm … with all those extra points, does that mean he can now commit one free crime?

separate the witnesses

Click the play button below to learn more about federal sentencing guidelines and about the Sentencing Commission

Courtroom Security

You’ve all seen the deputies and other officers who guard courtrooms. Yes, they’re highly visible and they’re there to protect everyone from harm. However, courtroom security is far more than just watching prisoners inside the actual room where the trial is held.

Courtroom security officers diligently monitor spectators, witnesses, and defendants. They also watch the victim’s family members for any signs of potential violence against the defendant(s). And they’re always on high alert for escape attempts by prisoners.

But what we see in the courtroom—stern faces, sharply creased uniforms, and holstered weapons—is the tip of the iceberg. Behind the solid oak door at the rear of the courtroom is a well-oiled security machine with wheels that begin to turn long before the judge, jury, and witnesses sit down to have their breakfasts. In fact, many security measures have been in place for months, maybe years.


Security starts with things like landscaping around the building and parking areas. Plantings and hardscapes must allow an unobstructed view and no potential hiding spots for snipers and others who may assist in an escape attempt during times of inmate and witness movement.

Outdoor lighting must be adequate, and prevent areas of darkness and shadow. Those yellow posts sticking up through the sidewalks and pavement? They’re in place to prevent a driver from rushing the building, or people. The barriers also prevent vehicles (those containing explosives, getaway vehicles, shooters, etc.) from getting too close to the facility.

Windows and doors are equipped with a shatter resistant film between the layers of glass. As a means of even greater protection some lower floor windows may be fitted with bullet-resistant glass. Doors are tamper proof and are connected to alarm systems.

Visitors to the courthouse, and their belongings, are carefully screened prior to entering secured areas of the facility.

Officer stationed at x-ray machine and walk-through metal detector.

Monitors for x-ray equipment.

Many judges have panic buttons hidden somewhere on their benches.


A quick press of the button and the alarm sounds in manned stations within the courthouse and in nearby police departments.

Help is on the way in an instant.

Designated parking areas for judges and other court employees is a standard. The same is true for police and inmate transport vehicles. Any unauthorized vehicle in those areas is cause for concern and would require immediate investigation.

To further prevent breaches of security, the public is not permitted in any unauthorized areas of the court buildings.

Courthouses also feature secure areas for weapons and other sensitive material.


Inmates are awakened, fed, and dressed long before the courtroom is open. All prisoners with hearings on a given day are transported from the county or city jail to the courthouse, where it’s quite possible they’ll each remain until the last trial of the day.

While at the courthouse prisoners must receive meals, bathroom facilities, etc. for the duration of their time there, which could be many, many hours.

Holding cells, where prisoners wait until the time of their trial, are located inside court buildings. After their time in the courtroom is complete, prisoners are returned to the holding cells where they remain until they’re transported back to the main jail, often at the end of the day when all inmates are transported at once.

*It is possible that transportation officers make trips to and from the jail and courthouse throughout the day. This depends on availability of staff members and vehicles. Remember, the fewer times inmates are out and about in the public, even in secured transport vehicles, reduces the opportunities for escape.

Inmate movement inside the courthouse is conducted through special hallways or passageways that are typically not available to the public.

FYI – Some courthouses are directly connected to jail facilities via underground/basement hallways.


In most areas, the duty of courtroom security falls on the sheriff of that particular jurisdiction. The sheriff assigns deputies to each courtroom, and each of those deputies receive specialized training that’s specific to the courtroom and inmate transportation.

In the federal system the job of courtroom and inmate security falls on the shoulders of the U.S. Marshals.

New Picture

Transporting prisoners via the U.S. Marshals’ Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS). JPATS operates a network of aircraft, cars, vans and buses. (U.S. Marshals photo).

Protecting our courtrooms, and shuttling prisoners to and from those facilities, is a tough and dangerous job, a job with duties many people never see.


In 1978, congress approved and enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In addition, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established to review applications submitted by the federal government regarding electronic surveillance (phone and wiretaps, etc.), physical searches, and other investigative needs pertaining to foreign intelligence. The applications to the court and their subsequent review and rulings are entirely one-sided (only the government may provide/offer evidence) and are conducted in secret.

Simply put, government officials file an application to the FISA Court requesting permission to conduct electronic surveillance or a physical search.

Applications must be filed, at minimum, seven days prior to the time the government desires to have the matter reviewed by the court. Emergency situations are the exception to the seven day rule. It is the Clerk of the FISA Court who receives the filings, not the judges.

Only one judge sits on the court at a time, in rotating seven-day shifts. Therefore, FISA applications are heard by a single judge, not a panel of judges.

It would not be unusual for the entire process to be handled electronically and/or by phone. In past years it was extremely rare that a FISA Court judge denied an application.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court consists of eleven district judges chosen by the Chief Justice of the United States. Each FISA Court judge serves for a maximum of seven years. Their times on the bench are staggered to ensure uninterrupted continuity. Judges are selected from at least seven of the circuits across the U.S. At least three of the eleven judges must live within twenty miles of Washington D.C.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court sits in a $2 million courtroom in the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.

Current Membership of the FISA Court includes:

Judge Judicial District /Circuit Date Designated Term expires
Rosemary M. Collyer  District of Columbia / D.C. March 8, 2013
(Presiding: May 19, 2016-Dec. 31, 2019)
March 7, 2020
James E. Boasberg District of Columbia / D.C. May 19, 2014
(Presiding: Jan. 1, 2020)
May 18, 2021
Rudolph Contreras District of Columbia / D.C. May 19, 2016 May 18, 2023
Anne C. Conway Middle District of Florida / 11th May 19, 2016 May 18, 2023
Louis Guirola, Jr. Southern District of Mississippi /5th July 2, 2019 May 18, 2026
James P. Jones Western District of Virginia /4th May 19, 2015 May 18, 2022
Robert B. Kugler District of New Jersey / 3rd May 19, 2017 May 18, 2024
Michael W. Mosman District of Oregon / 9th May 4, 2013 May 3, 2020
Thomas B. Russell Western District of Kentucky / 6th May 19, 2015 May 18, 2022
George Z. Singal District of Maine /  1st May 19, 2019 May 18, 2026
John J. Tharp, Jr. Northern District of Illinois / 7th May 19, 2018 May 18, 2025


The Process

Keep in mind that the main purpose of a FISA application is surveillance of a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.

The entire FISA application process is an interactive one, with the Court assigning a legal team to meet with government officials. Together they address issues and/or legal concerns. The Court’s staff may suggest the addition or omission of information to or from the application.

As a result of its secret nature due to the need to protect classified national security information, many today believe the Court “rubber-stamps” anything and everything that comes before it. Because the public generally hears of only the approved applications with high-profile outcomes and not those that were denied, there’s often a feeling that no real checks and balances are in place.

To the contrary, though, in 2017, for example, the FISA court did indeed reject twenty-six applications. In the same year they denied parts of fifty applications and modified 391 others sought by the government. 1,147 applications were approved without modifications of any kind. So not quite a rubber-stamping. Close, but not quite. It does make a difference when the Court works with the government in order to gain an approval.

Appealing a Decision

Should an application be denied by the FISA “judge of the week,” the government may not “judge shop” by seeking approval from one of the other sitting FISA Court judges. Instead, if still wanting to move forward, the applicant must submit an appeal to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review is composed of three federal district court or appeals court judges. Like the FISA Court judges, FISCR judge are selected by the Chief Justice of the United States. It is the responsibility of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review to review the decisions of the FISA Court.

Again, speaking of rejected applications, instead of denying them due to “problems,” a FISA Court judge sometimes opts to to allow applicants to revise their submissions, or to totally withdraw and resubmit with the information the court feels it needs in order grant an approval. It’s sort of like a school teacher helping a student achieve an “A” on a test by supplying the correct answers.

*This article contains just a brief nibble into the inner workings of the FISA Court. Trust me, one could spend days studying what they do and why they do what they do. It’s confusing to say the least. But one things is certain, if the the government “wants you” they’re gonna get you.

By the way, please do not interpret this post as one of a political nature. I do NOT discuss politics or offer opinions about politics or politicians. That’s a big NO, NO, and NO! Please save those discussions for other sites.

Thanks, and I hope your holidays are as happy as possible. So far ours have been quite pleasant.


I’m an voracious reader which means I’m rarely without a book close at hand. It’s an addiction. I have to have my word fix every day. I have books in my office, on my nightstand, in the kitchen (I sometimes read while I’m cooking dinner, between stirs and seasonings), in my truck, in bed, etc. Actually, my day ends with a bit of reading before closing my eyes to sleep.

I like different genres, especially literary and historical fiction, but a good mystery/thriller/suspense story is hard to beat. After all, who doesn’t love a well-written and convoluted whodunit?

Recently Read

I recently completed Ordinary Grace, a beautifully-told emotional tale by William Kent Krueger (highly recommended). It’s a literary novel that will linger in your mind for quite a while after devouring the final page.

Krueger’s Ordinary Grace takes us into a world where a boy becomes an adult far before his time. It’s murder, betrayal, and lies that send him on a convoluted path that bypasses what should have been a childhood filled with innocence.

And, speaking of innocence …

When Fiction and Real-Life Collide

I’m currently deep into John Grisham’s new book The Guardians, a tale about a group of lawyers who fight for the wrongly imprisoned—innocent men and women who’re serving hard time for crimes they didn’t commit. Along his journey, the lead character finds the paths leading to justice for his clients are pockmarked with danger.

The writing and voice in this novel are stellar.

As I plow through The Guardians, nearly every page reminds me of Ray Krone, a man who served 10 years on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. Some of you may recall that Ray wrote of his horrible experience here on this blog in an article titled Ray Krone: A Decade On Death Row. 

Ray’s story and Grisham’s fictional tale run parallel to the current state of courts in the U.S., where criminal suspects, due to massive caseloads, are pushed through the system at near blinding speeds, rates that move more quickly than the science that’s often used to place them behind bars.

Bite-Mark Evidence

In Krone’s case, his conviction was based solely on bite-mark evidence, “science” that, like hair comparison, has been found to be unreliable. In fact, approximately three dozen or so exonerations have resulted from a re-examination of cases whose basis or, basis in part, for conviction were on the forensic comparison of bite marks.

For example, the cases of William Richards in California, who spent 25 years behind bars for his wife’s murder, and Keith Allen Harward in Virginia, who was sentenced to 33 years behind bars for a rape and murder. And then there’s our friend Ray Krone, an innocent man who was was 35-years-old at the time of his arrest, and didn’t walk as a free man again until the age of 45. All based on what many now call junk science.

Grisham’s book is an eye-opening read. It’s also a tale that’ll keep the reader turning page after page, hoping the attorneys will find a way to have their clients’ cases re-examined (a larger than massive uphill battle). And with the turn of every page I can’t help but think of Ray’s ordeal, sitting behind bars waiting to be put to death for a crime he didn’t commit. Imagine being confined in a concrete and steel box without sunshine or fresh air, with no control whatsoever of your own life and how you’ll live it. Grisham, I think, captures a great deal of this, including bite-mark evidence, in the book.

I also wonder how many more innocent people are in circumstances similar to the characters in Grisham’s book, and those who, like Ray Krone, wake up each day one step closer to the electric chair, gas chamber, or cocktail of drugs designed to kill. And, even more horrible is to wonder not if, but how many innocent people have already been executed.


“Cullen Post travels the country fighting wrongful convictions and taking on clients forgotten by the system. With Quincy Miller, though, he gets far more than he bargained for. Powerful, ruthless people murdered Keith Russo, and they do not want Quincy Miller exonerated.

They killed one lawyer twenty-two years ago, and they will kill another without a second thought.”

“‘Ordinary Grace’ is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.”

  • New York Times bestseller
  • Winner, Edgar Award for Best Novel
  • Winner, Anthony Award for Best Novel
  • Winner, Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel
  • Winner, Barry Award for Best Novel
  • School Library Journal Best Book of 2013