Saturday, September 20, 2014

Texas Blood Testing: A Racket

First, let me start off with a very important fact that many may not know: for every single DWI conviction in the state of Texas, Texas DPS sends a separate bill (outside of all the fees and punishment in court) called a DWI surcharge that ranges from $3,000 to $6,000 (depends on the type of DWI) to the convicted citizen. They have even tried to do it to people who possess out of state licenses although they don't qualify for the surcharge. Anyone who thinks Texas DPS does not have a financial interest in DWI convictions is sorely mistaken.

My story is just one of many across the state and it is shameful to share. This week I went to court to discuss a ".09" blood test, first time DWI with a prosecutor in Dallas. I explained that my client and I had the blood retested with a better qualified lab, one which is well respected in private industry and whom the federal government uses (Department of Health and Human Services). The result cameASCLD (American Society of of Crime Lab Directors) certification. ASCLD certification is fraught with problems. For example, a "blind audit" is not random at all. These huge deviances from proper standards has caused several states to disassociate with ASCLD, including the U.S. Army. Also on record is ASCLD's continued support of substandard forensic labs despite the reporting of serious lab errors it has failed to take proper corrective action on, some of which have resulted in litigation. The bottom line is that the proper standards of operating guidelines and procedures are necessary. This is seriously lacking in the Texas DPS- ASCLD certification process. To deprive a citizen accused of the right to have their blood independently tested is a ploy to insulate itself from scrutiny while rubber stamping essentially substandard work if one factors in the ASCLD issues versus industry peer review.
back .07. Once you consider a margin of uncertainty of .02, my client's blood ranges from .05 to .11 depending on which sample you rely on. The assistant district attorney told me she would not consider the retest as this lab was not "Texas DPS certified" (which is the law). Most forensic labs in Texas get their state mandated Texas DPS certification by paying the fee and applying for

The new "Michael Morton" discovery law forces DA(s) to hand over all the evidence. A law had to be passed to make this happen. Enacted this past January, previous to this prosecutors willingly withheld evidence that could prove someone not guilty (Michael Morton spent 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit). There is no difference in withholding evidence and denying one the right to have evidence independently tested. It is a farce to create a subterfuge (requiring a "Texas DPS" certification) for the district attorney not to consider all the evidence. This law cannot withstand basic due process arguments in appellate court. Until then, it is necessary to repeal this "Texas DPS certified" only law where no citizen of Texas can get blood testing outside a Texas DPS approved lab. Just a short time ago, Texas DPS was still using a"single point" ethanol control in test batches despite legal ramifications at both .08 and .15.

The only thing that Dallas prosecutor was interested in that morning was how to convict my client, not the truth. No one cares until the injustice happens to them or a loved one. It is time to make Texas fair for everyone. A false conviction is a travesty, not something politicians should be proud of or we the public allow. If the government labs were so good, why are they scared of having their work retested? Here is an article on problems with Texas DPS, representative of the lax standards in forensic labs that exist still today in way too many places: Texas DPS Lab Problems

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Illegal DWI Study Done in Fort Worth

Last year I walked into my office one afternoon and was asked by my staff, "Hey, did you hear cops are pulling people over for no reason on Beach Street (block from my office) and asking for breath tests ?" I was shocked. Sure enough, word spreads fast. It was on the local news that night.  Guess what ? It was a $7.9 million National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) grant for a "2013 Roadside Survey" which turned out to be illegal. Why ? It is not legal for law enforcement to pull citizens over with no reasonable suspicion of a crime or no probable cause for a traffic violation. It was being done by "data takers" (armed with police vehicles) contracted out by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) under the guise of "voluntary roadblocks" where motorists were waived to restricted areas, given surreptitious passive alcohol tests (PAS tests) and asked to give a specimen.  PIRE's goal was to pull over 8,000 motorists in 60 cities. Only problem is, in Texas roadblocks are illegal and despite where roadblocks are legal, "voluntary roadblocks" are not.  In response to a public outcry, Congress initiated an investigation. The subcommitee in the House on Highway and Transit determined NHTSA's conduct was not appropriate (comments from Congressmen in attached picture).  Due to a temporary restraining order in Reading, Pennsylvania, testing was suspended. In Fort Worth, the "data takers" were off duty Fort Worth police officers. On November 20, 2013, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead made a public apology and announced they would no longer participate.  NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman, had to announce on March 12, 2014 that the nonconsensual passive alcohol samples would be terminated.   Bottom line, DWI concerns have risen to illegal and unconstitutional proportions, laws have been broken and civil rights violated.  Shame on the government.

Special thanks to Gil Sapir and Mark G. Giangrande for writing a 12 page report on this illegal activity in the July 22, 2014 issue of  Drinking/Driving Law Letter.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lying Expert Witnesses: The Shabby State of Criminal Justice in Our Country

The American Criminal Justice System: “Houston, We have a Problem.”

James Ferguson
Mark Fuhrman, convicted of a felony perjury after the O.J. Simpson trial, is now a national Fox legal analyst, an “expert witness” on police matters. Last week, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, ruled “Dr.” James Ferguson, a state toxicologist, convicted of perjury, could NOT be sued or found liable for lying in a murder case where his expert witness testimony was relied upon by the judge for the conviction. Fred Zain, toxicologist at the West Virginia Department of Public Safety, falsified lab results which resulted in as many as 134 wrongful convictions. Once under investigation, he merely picked up and moved to San Antonio, Texas to work as a toxicologist where an investigation found at least 180 cases in which fraud may have led to wrongful convictions. He died in the comforts of his Florida home in 2002. Picking up the pieces in Boston, Massachusetts, over 34,000 lab results are now in question after state toxicologist Annie Dookhan pled guilty to crimes related to falsifying results. These cases are just the recent ones. They are only the tip of the iceberg. If an athlete is caught cheating in the Olympics, he or she is stripped of their medal and the opportunity to compete. In the criminal courts of America, if a police officer or expert witness is lying to obtain a conviction, they get promoted and receive raises. If their lies are caught, the Courts protect them. The 6th Circuit Court rationalized, “Dr. Ferguson deserves absolute immunity in the case because all testimony, even if perjured, is protected to ensure witnesses will be candid without fearing lawsuit.”

Mind you, this absolute immunity protection ONLY applies to government witnesses. It‘s the same type of logic as preventing poisoned customers from suing a chef because this would stifle the chef’s creativity in the kitchen. How many chefs would poison patrons? An illegal and unlikely scenario as restaurants would shut down and there would be health code compliance complaints. These safeguards do not play out in the criminal justice system. Quite the opposite: convictions win elections, including in the appellate arena, and look great in the media while those successful earn job promotions. 
As for a forensic regulatory body, NONE with any regulatory powers over the criminal justice system exist, although the first National Commission on Forensic Science has just been created. What is currently in place is a scandal ridden “pay as you go” certifying agency environment where groups like the American Crime Lab Directors (under major fire and litigation) can issue board certifications and certificates for a fee despite not adhering to scientific peer review recommendations; e.g. blind audits, true proficiency tests.

Annie Dookhan
How does this happen? It starts with deception and a lack of qualifications with no one caring enough to check. “Dr.” James Ferguson, did not have a doctor’s degree, nor a master’s degree and it is questionable that he even posses an undergraduate biochemistry degree (the University records showing how he was able to finagle this degree are “missing.”). According to an Ohio State University Biochemistry professor since 1965, Mr. Ferguson is missing six of the 15 required courses in his major. He failed chemistry courses seven times. His grades are poor. The same deception unveils with Fred Zain. Mr. Zain claimed to have graduated from West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University) with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. Records show he never minored in chemistry. He had only taken a few courses in chemistry, all of which he either flunked or barely passed. He also failed an FBI course in forensic science including the basics of serology (blood testing) and bloodstains. Annie Dookhan also feigned credentials. She claimed she had a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. School officials have confirmed she has no such degree, nor has she ever taken any master’s courses there.  Amazing how one can’t even qualify to get into a nice apartment complex without a background check, yet the government can lock you in prison based on fraudulent toxicology reports by fake experts. The “fact checking” only seems to work one way. Before even negotiating a plea bargain, a district attorney always runs the criminal history of a defendant. Most district attorneys’ offices employ multiple investigators to locate witnesses, verify witness accounts and check backgrounds.  Wouldn't it be most prudent to spend a mere pittance on ordering academic transcripts from “expert witnesses” and running background checks before we set them loose on lab tests ? As far as tax payer dollars are concerned, it costs roughly $45k a year to house an inmate. The taxpayers don’t get that money back once it has been spent housing a wrongfully convicted person. In Fred Zain’s case, West Virginia alone shelled out a combined total of $6.5 million to the wrongfully convicted- all while the guilty, prevaricating witness is lucky to even be prosecuted.

Fred Zain
Let’s face it, nobody wants to hear of a lying government expert witness who has managed to defy all the common sense odds and get away with convicting innocent people with the seeming approval of all the cogs in the justice system from the prosecutor to the judge.  So, the only way to calm the ruckus down is to distract and “whitewash” the problem. In James Ferguson’s case, the media reported he had merely misreported his graduation year of 1988 for 1972. Sounds harmless enough, right? Except, this fails to account for the fundamental problems lurking under the surface. The fact that it took Mr. Ferguson twenty five years to obtain his degree also explains why he could not produce the gc-mass spectometry chromatograms (if in fact he even knows how to run a gas chromatograph) in Benjamin Uselton’s case alleging intoxicating dosages of alprazolam, where the coroner, a phD, had already reported the absence of such findings in the original autopsy. Mr. Ferguson’s unconventional scientific methods were also key in Virginia LeFever’s murder conviction where he asserted the deceased had lethal dosages of strychnine in his rectum, despite reports to the contrary by medical personnel who treated the deceased when he was brought into the hospital for an antidepressant overdose. While a special panel of lawyers, scientists and West Virginia Senior Circuit Judge James Holliday were investigating Fred Zain’s misconduct, he managed to hoodwink Bexar County, Texas into letting him take over their toxicology. The untimely for Texas, West Virginia report when finally issued, concluded his misconduct was so egregious, any testimony he offered “should be presumed as prima facie invalid, unreliable and inadmissible.” In Annie Dookhan’s case, she was too busy churning out guilty convictions for her satisfied prosecutors for her supervisors to acknowledge that her 500 lab analysis per month (five times the national average) was a glaring red flag. They also conveniently glossed over the fact no one had ever seen her work a microscope and that she had a bad habit of misidentifying samples.  It seems she subscribed to, “A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanations." (Saki)
As incredulous as these sordid tales are, the aftermath is even uglier. They will continue to happen unless decisive measures are taken. It took drug testing in the major league sports to prevent cheating. The “honor” system was just not working, ask Alex Rodriguez. The Tour de France can reclaim the seven Tour de France medals Lance Armstrong won while taking performance enhancement drugs, but a lying “expert witness” cannot restore the years lost to prison of someone framed by an uncaring and negligent justice system that turns a blind eye. Bo Bennett said it best, “For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” That reason should be the fear of repercussions. If a person can have their probation revoked for something as simple as missing a report period or failing to take required classes, we should require our government “experts” to prove their worth and work.  It’s one thing for a charlatan preacher or carnival barker to line their pockets disingenuously, a whole other to allow unqualified and unethical government “experts” to play God with people’s lives based on shams.
Here is a simple and common sense roadmap that doesn’t take a college genius to figure out. We must start off with safeguarding the integrity of our country’s most precious institution, the justice system.  First, we must separate police work and its prosecution from toxicology. The only bodies that scientists should be reporting to are other scientific bodies (legitimate, of the academic and scientific peer review variety). Currently much police miscegenation occurs, right down to the divvying and mixing up of funds and paychecks. Forensic results should be reported to the government, not controlled by the police or prosecution (as the Virginia LeFever murder conviction demonstrates where the prosecutor told James Ferguson what they were looking for despite the coroner’s findings). Second, although ethics is the new corporate “it” word, it seems to be staggering behind in the world of the police state.  We must make it an essential minimum and reality in the HR of government personnel hiring. Proper screening of candidates and reference checking should be mandatory and commonplace. Our government experts should not only demonstrate the highest academic credentials, but they must also possess character beyond reproach; for their opinions don’t favor the highest bidder of a government contract or the buying power of widgets, but directly affects the value and experience of human life, a far more precious commodity and one that our Constitution was designed to protect. The type of character of one to whom so much power is given must be circumscribed with honesty, meticulousness, and trustworthiness.  Third, we must not “trust” that local governments can ferret out frauds. There needs to be uniform national and consistent standards, protocols, and mandatory  continued  professional education akin to what lawyers, accountants, doctors, nurses,  architects and engineers are required to take to take to keep up with developments in the field. All experts should be subjected to national certifications testing their proficiency before they can practice, akin to passing the FBI forensics courses to prove they possess the minimal aptitude and skills with which to handle and report laboratory evidence before doing so.  Hopefully, the time has come where enough shame and disgust can propel us forward to reclaim what in theory should be the world’s best justice system, but is currently a far cry.


Mimi Coffey Founding Father Reading List

Understanding the Founding Fathers and the circumstances surrounding the American Revolution makes one a better lawyer.

Mimi Coffey Reading List

Mimi Coffey's 2007/2008/2009/2010/201/2012 /2013/2014 Reading List

My favorite thing to do outside of work is read. Just give me cold, hard facts, no spin… My favorite books are on the lives of our Founding Fathers. To understand those who formed this country and its constitution gives me the inspiration and guidance I need to carry on with those principles as I seek justice through the law to help others. Here is a list of books I have completed this year. The astericks mark my favorites. They are close in order to how they were read. Before television and radio, the intellects of generations past prized their books and shared their reading lists. To understand the books one reads is to have a window to their soul. Most of the Founding Fathers read the classics, I read them in turn as classics. Here is a bird's eye view to my soul and required reading for my children in their adulthood (and hopefully my descendants) if they are to understand diplomacy in whatever walk of life they should so choose:

Reading List 2007:

1*Joseph Ellis: Founding Brothers-the Revolutionary Generation. Pulitzer Prize Winner
2.Joseph Ellis: Passionate Sage: the Character and Legacy of John Adams
3.Joseph Ellis: His Excellency: George Washington
4.Joseph Ellis: The American Sphynx: the Character of Thomas Jefferson
5.Richard Brookhiser: Alexander Hamilton, American
6.Thomas Fleming: Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr & the Future of America
7.*Nancy Isenberg: Fallen Founder: the Life of Aaron Burr
8.Walter Stahr: John Jay
9.*H.W. Brands: The First American: Benjamin Franklin , Pulitzer Prize finalist
10.Richard Brookhiser:Governeur Morris: the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution
11*Craig Nelson: Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution and the Birth of Modern Nations
12.Jeff Broadwater: George Mason: Forgotten Founder

Not only have I derived factual basis to understand our laws, these books have brought to life in my mind the cities of Philadelphia, New York, Paris,Boston, London and Washington D.C. as they existed in those times.   It is with great excitement that I look forward to visiting (& revisiting for some but now with new knowledge) these cities to see monuments and tombs of those I most admire. Cicero once said: "Not to have knowledge of what happened before you were born is to be condemned to live forever as a child." Long live democracy through all it ugly aches and pains. – Mimi Coffey, Sr.

Mimi Coffey's 2008 Reading List
*1. General and Madame de Lafayette: Partners in Liberty's Cause in the American and French Revolutions by Jason Lane
*2. Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution by Mark Puls
3.A Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry and the American Republic by Henry Mercer
4. James Madison: The Struggle for the Bill of Rights by Richard Labunski
5. John Hancock: The Picturesque Patriot by Lorenzo Sears
*6. John Marshall: Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith
7. Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution by Robert H. Patton
*8. Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan
**9. The Great Upheaval: 1788-1800 by Jay Winek (my favorite book covering the Founding Fathers period thus far, very well written and hard to put down)
10. American Creation by Joseph Ellis
11. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham

2009 Reading List
1. Matthew Lyon "New Man" of the Democratic Revolution, 1749-1822 by Aleine Austin
*2. Rochambeau by Arnold Whitridge
3. Financial Founding Fathers by Robert E. Wright and David J.Cowen
*4. Two Fighters and Two Fines: Lives of Matthew Lyon and Andrew Jackson by Tom Campbell
5. Jefferson THe Scene of Europe 1784-1789 by Marie Kimball
6. 1776 by David McCullough
7. Revolutionary Characters by Gordon Wood
8. (Obama is a Founding Father on his own terms, hence his acceptance into my reading category) Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
9. Forgotten Patriots by Edwin G. Burrows (the untold story of American Prisoners duringi the Revolutionary War)
*10. Adopted Son:Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Nation by David A. Clarey

2010 Reading List
* 1. Undaunted Courage (the Lewis and Clark expedition) by Stephen Ambrose
2. The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming
3. Libery to Lucy Moore (the Founders were influenced by France, this is a book on the French Revolution)
4. Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence by Denise Kiernan & Joseph D'Agnese
5. The Traitor and the Spy: Benedict Arnold and John Andre by James Thomas Flexner (no doubt Benedict Arnold would have been a huge Founding Father due to his military successes had he not lost his way, a sad tale on how he became a traitor)
6.Travels in North America in the years 1780-1781-1782 by The Marquis de Chastellux (fascinating to see the new America through the eyes of a French nobleman who fought our Revolution and was friends to everyone powerful at the time from Washington, Sam Adams , Thomas Paine to Madison...just proves that birds of a feather truly flock together)
7. Franklin and his French Contemporaries by Alfred Owen Aldridge 1957 New York University Press: great insight on how the French was influenced by Franklin and his attachments both scientifically, philosophically, diplomatically and socially with them. Amazing to know the French as a whole value Franklin even more than Americans.
8. The WOrks of Dr. Benjamin Franklin consisting of Essays, Humorous, Moral, and Literary: with his Life, Written by Himself, a rare book printed in 1835

2011 Reading List
1. The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family by Claude-Anne Lopez adn Eugenia W. Herbert 1975
2. The Secret Loves of the Founding Fathers by Charles Callan Tansill
3. Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove
4. The American Revolution 1763-1783 by William Edward Hartpole Lecky, M.P. arranged and edited by James Albert Woodburn, copyright 1898. This was a very interesting book as it is the American Revolution seen through the eyes of a British historian. Amazing to study our country's founding through this perspective. The British made way too many wrong assumptions and blunders. Had it not been for these, like Canada we probably would have remained British for a very long time.
*5. Aaron Burr: The Years from Princeton to Vice President, 1756-1805 by Milton Lomask, a great book on understanding how the natural cycles of politics work
6. A Magnificent Catastophe (the tumultuous election of 1800) by Edward Larson 2007, 2 valuable lessons from this book: 1) No way was Aaron Burr ever a traitor, he could have cinched the 1800 election easily and despite the tie vote did not for the good of the party (no wonder he was later found Not Guilty of treason in the western conspiracy). This proves that good character always pays off particularly in politics. 2) John Adams was hated by his own Federalist party for not declaring war on France when the country could least afford it but is respected for it now. Always do what is right in the situation, not what is politically expedient.
7. The Founders on the Founders by John P. Kaminski, a very interesting book on how the founders of our great country viewed eachother in their own words as found in their letters and writings
*8. Jefferson and Hamilton by Claude G. Bowers, 1925 Houghton Mifflin Co., so well written that you feel as if you are a fly in the room as Bowers takes you back in history and you witness so many great Founders in their bravery and wisdom as they interact between Hamilton and Jefferson. A true depiction of the genius of both of these two men.

2012 Reading List
*1. Stevens Thomson Mason: Misunderstood Patriot BY Kent
Sagendorph. Turns out he was the grandson of the first Stevens Thomson Mason of
Virginia who fought for freedom of the press when Congress voted to forbid
printing of the controversial Jay Treaty. This Mason was the boy Governor of
Michigan. An incredible story. He led the charge for Michigan to become a state,
built railroads and personally would rode around the state helping people when
cholera broke out and many people died. He truly loved Michigan and did
extraordinary tasks while it was still a wild west territory.

2. Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, great read. It's inspirational to read how the mother of 2 Founding Fathers ran 3 plantations all alone at age 16 and that a woman was brave enough to print the Declaration of Independence and also signed her name on the bottom willing to die with the signers themselves if caught.

3. Philip Freneau, the Poet of the American Revolution by Mary Stanislas Austin. Frenaua's poetry deeply moved the country at a time when emotions were all we really had in the lopsided battle. He also fought for the country on our seas and was captured and nearly died on a British war ship. He ended up living a long and productive life creating newspapers that assisted the political agendas of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Makes you understand the power of the written word, you can move mountains.

*4.John Paul Jones by Lincoln Lorenz,published in 1943 by the US Naval Institute. A powerful and inspirational read of  a man who made miracles happen. When everyone said it could not be done, he made it happen: from capturing the Serapis while his ship was sinking to sailing the ice waters from Denmark to Russia. He was noble and principled, you could tell this from his friends (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson). Thanks to him we have a navy with the highest principles.

5. Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans by Winston Groom. An inspiring read on a battle that can best be described by the words of Matthew Arnold "Only two things are needed, the power of a man & the power of the moment." Andrew Jackson was that man. The battle looked unwinnable. Andrew Jackson was a man who would never quit, never considered defeat, always worked towards victory and had the heart of a lion. It is refershing and healthy to see the Baratarian privateer Jean Laffite and his brother get his due as well. The British tempted him with great riches to sell his ships and weapons (the most in all the region and necessary to win the battle) and he didn't flinch due to his patriotrism that history has largely questioned. Rich in enjoyable prose, Groom does an excellent job in bringing one of the US's most inspiring David versus Goliath stories to life. It is no wonder that the winning this battle made Andrew Jackson the 7th President of the US.

6. Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye. Robert Morris sacrificed everything he had: wealth, credit, & time because he was dedicated first and foremost to helping our young, fledgling country in the most important way which was financing the American Revolution and new country. Despite all his hard work, many jealous politicians tried to accuse him of finanical impropriety but nothing could stick because the truth was if anyone owed anything it would be this country owed Robert Morris. Reading this book was inspirational and he belongs in the parthenon of most well respected Founders, without his financial genius our country could not have come into existence.

*7. Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright and a Spy Saved the American Revolution by Joel Richard Paul. This book is a joy. Silas Deane sacrificed everything to secure funding for the American Revolution: his business, his family (his wife died while he was in France, he never got to speak to his son again before he died with his political issues astrife while he was in Ghent). If Steven Spielberg ever got ahold of this book, it plays out with more drama than the HBO John Adams series (which was excellent). Once again, like the jealousies that surrounded Robert Morris some of the early Founders were jealous to an insecure point of making false accusations against Deane (accusing him of financial impropriety). Congress totally later vindicated him and paid his descendants the money his estate was justly due and restored his great reputation. He lived in France securing money for arms at a time when he had to secretly hide all his transactions as a merchant lest Britain start a war with France. He was the first unofficial ambassador to France from the US working at a time where he would go long months with no correspondence from Congress due to confiscated ships seizing mail, etc. Imagine being an unofficial envoy from an unoffical country. When I think of Silas Deane, all I can do is smile huge and be so ever grateful for such a true American hero back before it was known we would be a country. Cheers to Silas Deane.

8. The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army by Paul Lockhart. An inspiring read on how a foreigner with great military experience down on his luck immigrated to America and by giving it all he got, brought together an army that Washington could actually use by teaching it discipline and creating the first 'blue book' of rules and became one of Washington's most respected officers (Washington's last act as General was commending the Baron). To this day he is considered the favorite German immigrant in our Revolutionary history with German cultural parades around the country (in Chicago and New York) still honoring him.

9. John the Painter: Terrorist of the American Revolution by Jessica Warner.  Although "John the Painter" was not a Founding Father, he had contact with Silas Deane who was. While the Founding Fathers were trying to figure out how to end British rule, "John the Painter" was fighting fire with fire. He was burning seaside British towns in retaliation for the British burning down American seaside towns.  Whether rightly or wrongly, he proves that in war "fighting fire with fire" can be effective. Many British came to the opinion that burning seaside American towns was not right.

10. Benjamin Franklin: "Fart Proudly" a collection of Ben Franklin works edited by Carl Japikse. These writings show a humourous and witty side to the great Franklin.  Works that show not only was Franklin a genius, he was the kind of guy you would truly enjoy having a beer with.

11. Memoirs of Aaron Burr by Matthew L. Davis published in 1838.  Before Burr's death, he brought Davis all his writings, letters and works he wanted the world to judge him by. These included legal documents he created, intimate letters between him and his wife and others close to him.  These letters prove he was truly one of the greatest Founding Fathers of our time often overlooked or misjudged due to political jealousies of the time (eg. Jefferson's masterminded treason trial that was ridiculous and wholly without merit). Thank goodness this book was written. It sets the record straight for all future American generations to learn from one of the most brilliant Founders of our country.

12. Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Volume 2, by Mattehw L. Davis published in 1838. Volume 2 expounds upon the ridiculous trumped up treason trial in which he was found Not Guilty and the duel with Alexander Hamilton. In his later years he was crushed by the death of his daugher but took on two young ladies who lacked money for education and funded and encouraged them. He died with a dream that America would expand to the west.. it did. A true visionary and commanding Founding Father.

2013 Founding Father Reading List

1. Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling. Interesting insights into John Adams' character as he experienced the loss of his reelection. Was disappointed in the lack of development of Aaron Burr's role as he could have single handily won the election but backed down in the era of gentlemanly politics. Quick light read beneficial to understanding the labyrinthian role of politics.

2. Moreau de St. Mery's American Journey 1793-1798 translated and edited by Kenneth Roberts and Anna M. Roberts published in 1947. The American Revolution inspired the French Revolution and at one time the Vice President of the French Commune (Congress) Moreau de St. Mery managed to escape France just before all the guillotining of powerful leaders. He fled to the US for 5 years and opened a bookstore in Philadelphia and became a member of the American Philosophical Society (which Ben Franklin was a member of), thereby getting to know personally some of the Founding Fathers including John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. It is interesting to view the Founding Fathers from a French diplomat's view. His American awakening is quite enlightening and a cultural enlightenment in many ways.

3. John Laurens and the American Revolution by Gregory D. Massey , 2000 by the University of South Carolina. They ought to make a Hollywood blockbuster out of this biography. I was truly moved. Young John Laurens, son of Henry Laurens- President of the Continental Congress, was born and raised in South Carolina. Due to a very cultured and visionary father, he was sent to Geneva, Switzerland and England for higher education including formal law school training (at a time when American lawyers just apprenticed under someone). He was almost finished when he returned to America to serve as General George Washington's secretary. He left behind a pregnant wife (too risky for her to travel due to fear of capture as his dad was even captured and made a prisoner of war in the Tower of London). He sacrificed everything and never asked for pay both serving in the military and as a diplomat to France to help Ben Franklin secure much needed loans. He was the epitome of honor and integrity in advancing this country's best interest. He died before 30, after the war, in a skirmish in South Carolina (the British were still raiding and foraging for food before complete evacuation). A very sad ending, but moving and inspiring to us now as we fight to try to keep the wonderful opportunities and freedoms for our fellow countrymen alive. May we all live to honor and fight for the good of others as he did. Hallowed is the name of young, noble John Laurens.

3. Redcoats and Rebels by Christopher Hibbert published in 1990. I have read so many books on Founding Fathers that I have now expanded into the military arena. What is particularly interesting about this book is that it is written by a well respected British historian. He is very accurate on facts right down to correcting the fact that at the decisive battle of Yorktown, the British did not play When the World Turned Upside Down in surrender (the song had not even been invented yet despite most American schoolkids being taught this). What was heart wrenching was discovering the extent of torture that happened to both sides in the Carolinas (particularly South Carolina) as the British abandoned the civil rules of war by slaughtering innocent civilians, etc. It is interesting to see how the ineptness of the Howes and Clinton probably cost the British the battle. As Ben Franklin always said: In order to persuade, you must use interest over reason. Clinton owned 4 estates in New York, and made protecting New York a priority rather than helping Cornwallis in Yorktown. Why choose a military leader soft on the Americans ? Fascinating read. One thing is for sure, the British have always had (even then) big fans of true democracy. Great read on leadership, lessons on how to be strong....

4. George Washington's Generals, edited by George Billias published in 1964. The book is divided into 12 chapters including one on George Washington and all his generals.  Every chapter was written by a different scholar. It exemplifies how it takes many different personalities on a team to effectively tackle a colossal problem. Knox was the artillery man, planner. Greene- the team spirit captain that kept everyone's spirits high. The Marquis de Lafayette- the young, eager "nothing is impossible" adored "adopted son" of Washington that he trusted most. The bravest- Anthony Wayne and Daniel Morgan. Gates- the professional soldier who brought training.  I really felt that there should have been a special chapter to include Baron Von Steuben who brought Washington's ragtag army much needed discipline and rules. We would not remember the Founders if it were not for these guys that made winning the Revolutionary War a reality. Any parent wanting to teach lessons on leadership should read through this book and share its stories around the dinner table. Great stuff.

5. Swamp Fox by Robert D. Bass, published in 1959. Marion Francis, otherwise known as the
Swamp Fox is the quintessential leader, much like George Washington, both professionally and personally. They say he created guerilla warfare in America. It is important to note however that he was never careless, reckless or bravado. He always placed the best interest of those fighting under him first. He skirmished when battles could not be one. He retreated to let his men live and fight another day. He was always merciful. When South Carolina later passed laws to protect military leaders like Francis from liability when they had to take property and provisions for their troops, he demanded to have his name left off saying that he had always lived his life to do right by others under all circumstances. Truly, one of the most remarkable men of character America has ever had.

6. Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Woman and the First Great Scandal of 18th Century America by Alan Pell Crawford published in 2000. Gouverneur Morris who wrote the majority of the US Constitution, was the ambassador to France during the French Revolution, and was much like today's modern day George Clooney (in terms of a reputation of a much sought after playboy who refuses to marry)- quite the debonair ladies' man and successful businessman chose to marry Nancy Randolph late in life. Nancy was accused of miscegenation (having a slave as a lover, unacceptable in that day), murder (not formally but by her brother in law a powerful Virginian congressman) of her sister's husband, and rumors of killing an infant born out of wedlock to her brother in law (she was found Not Guilty). This book was a fascinating tale into the life of Nancy (Anne Cary Randolph), a girl who suffered much although born into a very wealthy family (her mother dying and she leaving the home young due to strained relations with her father's new wife). Through all her trials and tribulations she gained strength, perseverance and died a very wealthy woman who left much to her son with Gouverneur who became a successful businessman of New York who built a church, which still stands today, that entombs her remains. It is an inspiring tale of the strength of the human spirit and what it can overcome with goodness, charity and forgiveness to others, and hard work.

*7. The Extraodrinary Mr. Morris by Howard Swiggett published in 1952. After reading Unwise Passions, my interest in Gouverneur Morris was piqued yet again and I wanted to delve into his life once more. This biography proved to be a hundred times better than a previous one I read on Morris (more factual and dry). Swiggett really brings the idiosyncracies of Morris to life. One really feels as if you know him intimately after this exciting and page turner read. Morris was envied by many of the Founding Fathers he worked alongside because he was so much younger yet brilliantly talented. He was raised wealthy and this was the lifestyle he was both accustomed to and comfortable with. This came in handy when sent to France during the French Revolution, he helped many French nobles from certain death by guillotine. He was extremely educated and well read. His life is a most fascinating one.  He loved exercise and insisted on walking much despite his peg leg. His political popularity took traditional ups and downs and no matter the condition or party in power, due to his noble character and respect for all he was always asked to deliver eulogies of well respected Founding Fathers despite party affiliation which he did.  He died with  a political legacy  that proved patience and open mindedness for all views and party positions is necessary and important, no matter how passionate you feel about yours. He was one of George Washington's favorite friends.

8. Famous Queens of History: Marie Antoinette by John S.C. Abbott (published in 1910 or earlier by the Werner Co., date not listed).  In studying the Founding Fathers and American Revolutionary History, one becomes keenly aware that independence from Great Britain was not possible at that time without the tremendous funding of the French Revolution so I wanted to understand better the actual lives of the King and Queen of France who made it possible. This is indeed a very sad tale. Much of the stereotype of Marie Antoinette is not true. The French at that time had taken royalty to new heights (much ceremony in getting dressed, eating while visitors paraded by and watched you eat every morsel). Raised by a powerful Austrian Queen mother in Vienna, she had much distaste for all the French pomp and ceremony (most people think the opposite from the line of "Let them eat cake"), this offended her French ladies in waiting and from there the rumors proliferated. The country went broke and the French Revolution broke out due to its starving populace. She lamented her whole life that she was not educated properly. Maybe if she had, her and King Louis might have been able to avoid the low depths that brought forth both of their heads on a guillotine. This book shows her to be quite the doting and affectionate mother. Lucky for America, the French provided much needed funds. Unlucky for France, this cost came at too great a price for the happiness and security of their own people. Democracy is great, but as the tales of woe and mass beheadings tell in this book, rule of mob is never balanced.  A great history lesson for the world to remember.

9. The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged American's Newfound Sovereignty by William Hogeland. Great read on politics. The impetus behind the Frontier Rebel movement was the fact that the tax scheme benefitted the merchant class (larger and bigger manufacturers of  alcohol) versus the small frontiersmen brewers. Great lesson on politics. Leave it to the frontiersman lawyer leading the movement to be the skilled, deft one able to compromise versus the violence of the angry masses. Lessons in what not to do: the Alexander Hamilton approach versus George Washington who eventually pardoned the two ringleaders sentenced to death.  Bottom line: there must be fairness and equity in our tax laws. True today as it was back then.

10. Blooding at Great Meadows: Young George Washington and the Battle that Shaped the Man by Alan Axelrod. This book is key to understanding the real George Washington. As a young man he was highly ambitious both in surveying which led to real estate business interests and in politics. He also followed the Washington tradition for generations of marrying into serious wealth. At the age of 16 he went into the Virginia wilderness for 33 days surveying with a very small band that taught him self reliance, wilderness smarts and bravery. At 22 he led his men to victory in the Great Meadows skirmish with the French and Indians only to capitulate to embarassing defeat at Fort Necessity on July 4, 1954. Batlling alongside British General William Braddock 22 years before July 4, 1776 Independence Declaration he learned firsthand the weaknesses of the world's strongest army at the time and gained invaluable wisdom and insight that would prepare him to lead victoriously the troops in the American Revolution. Branded an assassin for  the death of a French officer at Great Meadows, he learned to endure and overcome great obstacles. An inspiring read on what truly defines the great American can do spirit.

11. Revolutionary Management: John Adams on Leadership by Alan Axelrod. After the Revolution was over, hard to believe- but that's when the hard part started. Many a society has seen the rise of one revolution on top of another (look at the parties that rose to power in the French Revolution one on top of another amidst massive and constant bloodshed). This is because a society can't be stable without good government. Adams was the one key Founder who kept asking "What now ?" and make things happen. He had the right credentials that gave him keen insight into management. Before he was a lawyer, he was a teacher (understood education from a policy perspective), delegate to the Continental and Constitutional Conventions, ambassador to the Netherlands securing important loans America needed, a member of the delegation that wrote the Peace Treaty (also one of the 3 on the Declaration of Independence Committee), Ambassador to Great Britain once we became a country, a Vice President, a President. He also was an author of important pieces that were considered by our statesmen when they were shaping our government. So well rounded in so many important facets of policy making. This book contains from his writings (both of a public nature and private through his personal correspondence) in snippet form with analysis following his wisdom in management. To lead, you must at some level also be a good manager. So glad he existed when he did. He brought many unique gifts to the table which helped create an ideal framework of government. (this book read while on my honeymoon)

12. John Paul Jones Commemoration at Annapolis on April 24, 1906 compiled and printed in 1907 as a Resolution of Congress and reprinted in 1966. This 210 page book traces the journey General Porter undertook to find the body of John Paul Jones, navy hero extraordinaire of the American Revolution. It is a fascinating read as historical documents conflicted on important facts such as his burial location. When one reads the part about opening up his 113 year old casket and the description of what his flesh hand felt like (he was buried in a sealed lead coffin with alcohol and was surprisingly quite preserved) to the solemn and reverent joy of the festivities honoring his life on both sides of the Atlantic (Paris, France where he was found and Annapolis, Maryland) one is very touched. The whole event and all its details are truly surreal. So uncanny how such a hero was buried like a pauper in an unmarked grave only to have proper respect paid 113 years later. The book includes speeches made at the ceremonies from the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt and French dignitaries. It was very satisfying to me to read about  proper homage finally made to one of history's most incredible military heros and a personal hero of mine.

13. The Young Jefferson by Claude G. Bowers, copyright 1945. Jefferson was influenced early on by great characters- he hung out and studied law under Virgina's great George Wythe, included in the circle was the royal Governor of Virginia. One traces his love of music, architecture, fine wines, and books to his early  years as he cultivates himself with the finest minds of Virginia, goes abroad to Europe enriching his mind and tastes while representing our fledgling new country facing its' challenges as our French Ambassador. One sees the trials and great patience he had to grow to help our country become successful. The romance of his wife is a beautiful love story and she instills in him the love of family that he never forsakes even after her death.  Very enlightening read, great account of the mind and events that created the Declaration of Independence.

14. Monticello: A Family Story (an intimate portrait in depth of Thomas Jefferson and his family) by Elizabeth Langhorne, copyright 1989. Thomas Jefferson had two motivating great loves: democracy and family.  Of course he had other cultivated hobbies such as architecture, gardening, landscaping. philosophy and a dabbling into the sciences but all his life choices were premised on a furthering creating and strengthening our yound democracy and taking care of his family. In this book one sees a very soft side of Jefferson- the ever vigilant father taking care to give his daughters' excellent education, the doting grandfather, the helpful and guiding father in law sacrificing everything including what amounted to all his finances to care for his large extended and growing family when the son in law (later governor of Virginia) ran into obstacles.  One's heart is touched by the depth and solidity of his love of family. This kindness always also factored into his decisions regarding the treatment of his slaves he considered family members.  True to his deceased wife Martha's promise he never married again after her death dedicating everything to the family he brought into the world. He was a man of solid character when it came to family.

15. First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph Ellis. It was a natural segway to go from reading Monticello to First Family as the lives of Jefferson and the Adams family interwined much. What is striking from this read is to relive the amazing accomplishments of John Adams and to see his son John Quincy Adams parallel much of it. Some of those amazing highlights both father and son shared: both were sent to negotiate a treaty at the end of a war (Revolutionary and 1812), both were US Ambassadors to Great Britain after war with Great Britain (Revolutionary and 1812), both served as ambassadors to the Netherlands and both became Presidents. One becomes acutely aware of the personal sacrifice that all members of this great and illustrious family made in the cause of always putting the country's needs and interests first. John and Abigail would spend years apart as he served the country both abroad and at home. Their letters and legacy evidence a true love story, one for which Americans can make claim to as the type of character that formed and sustained this great nation when other revolutions like the French came and failed. Proof that for democracy to succeed there must be good characters in leadership as well as good ideals.

1. Colonel William Smith and Lady: The Romance of Washington's Aide and Young Abigail Adams by Katharine Metcalf Roof in 1929. This old book is a rare find and I hope my analysis of it keeps twinkles of Adams precious history flickering otherwise lost to the dustbins of garbage refuses where old books too often find themselves. President John and Abigail Adams had one daughter: Abigail who married  the dashing, charming American Revolutionary officer Colonel William Smith whom she met while she was in Europe as her father served as Ambassador to Great Britain. This marriage was both a blessing and curse to Colonel Smith. Although George Washington recommended him for high office due to his devotion and bravery, many like Congressman Timothy Pickering manuevered to prevent high office and just rewards to Colonel Smith (Pickering tried like Smith his hand at land merchant speculating but did not prove as successful; John Adams always attributed it to his marriage with his daughter). Without reading this book, one would most likely form the wrong impression of how the Adams felt about their son in law (as I did by reading the above First Family by Ellis). The intimate letters tell a whole different story. John Adams was always recommending his son in law to higher office due to his achievements not patronage- but politics can be a tricky business as most often this failed. Abigail Adams, his mother in law, adored him. Colonel Smith came from a New York enterprising merchandising family and he brought that entrepreneurship ambition with him to the Adams family. Although some of his land speculations did not pan out, many did. John Adams encouraged him to enter law, this was never an interest of his. He preferred military sacrifice and business. He worked hard and honestly. In charge of troops when Washington died, he arranged a memorial service and monument erected to his honor in a highly esteemed manner in which Washington would have been proud. One side note of this book is the political melodramas that come to light regarding Burr (too often we only read the other version preserved by the Jeffersonian faction). Like Burr, although at one time very close to Jefferson (while they served together in international delegations in Europe) Col. Smith finds himself also at odds with Jeffersonian politics. The result of which produced him being dragged through a treason trial like Burr on unfounded charges (both found not guilty). He was very prescient about people and could distinguish noble men from traiters or posers. His warnings about General Wilkinson (hundreds of years later, discovered documents proved Wilkinson to be a double spy) manifested true although even this met criticism from President Adams his father in law who disagreed with him on this point. The great message of this book is his perseverance. One will always have political enemies and obstacles in life- just do the right thing and be good to those you encounter, write your history and the true history will bear you out. He was elected to Congress his later years in life and served admirably contributing much needed military guidance to Congress. His wife Abigail Adams patiently and loving served and beared well.  Beautiful story of good character, sacrifice, love and family.

2. Adventures of Jonathan Corncob: Loyal American Refugee written "by Himself", London, printed in 1787, newly reprinted by David R. Godine, Boston.  This is not the typical book on my Founding Fathers list but I read it because shortly after the American Revolution this was the hit fiction book read in Great Britain. It is still to this day a mystery who wrote it (although theories exist). This book's purpose was to expose to the British the "redneck, uncouth" American of that day. The story line is wild, hard to follow and of course Jonathan (whom I found out was a name the British thought described an American Forrest Gump of that day) describes his ridiculous escapades with women, the seas and military punishment observations.  The pleasure in the book is when the mystery author at the end explains all anonymous, so much of this sordid and outlandish tale is true.  I can't even fathom how a true Briton perceived Americans after this read.  It makes you wonder how much of American-British  history may have been colored by such extreme perceptions.

3. Barbary General: The Life of William H. Eaton (The amazing account of a flamboyant hero who was truly America's Lawrence of Arabia) by Samuel Edwards, 1968.  I honestly wasn't sure after reading and studying John Paul Jones in depth, if it was possible for there to be such another hero of the American Revolution time period defined by such blatant bravado and success (we know the generals had their share of defeating obstacles). Lo and behold, I found him- it is William H. Eaton. During early America, American ships were (much like the Somalian pirates of today) being pirated in the Barbary Coast. This was a huge problem to the early Presidents. Most European countries just paid the ransoms in the form of yearly "tributes" which were outrageously expensive. President Adams started building a navy, very nascent at that time. President Jefferson was not so keen on a big military so he was trapped in the ransom quandary while American seamen were being captured, and impressed into slavery.  William Eaton on his own came up with the brilliant idea of solving the problem by handling the politics from within.  With permission of President Jefferson he led a hardy group of adventurers (from different countries) and marched 600 miles across the Libyan desert from Alexandria to Derna, coordinated with the US Navy and defeated the Arabic Derna city defenders, deposed the dey's power and set up rule. Spectacular bravery, sacrifice and leadership on an unimaginable scale. He even self taught himself Arabic. The discipline he had to enforce on the march, the respect he had to earn from cultures foreign to his own to lead all point to the brilliance of a larger than life man.  Fascinating tale, inspiring read. Eaton- a true hero that defined the American can do on a grand scale.

4. The Barbary Pirates by C.S. Forester, originally printed in 1953, updated with new material by Flying Point Press in 2007.  After the spellbinding Barbary General read (see above) I wanted to get some background on the pirates off the Coast of North Africa. What struck me most in this book was the sad tale of the 307 American shipmen of the ship Philadelphia who were captured as slaves and held for over 3 years while our country tried desperately hard to win their freedom back and secure the seas. This was an informative read on the history and events that caused us to sing in our U.S. Marine Corps Hymn "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli; We fight our Country's battles in the air, on land and sea..." It took great bravery for our American seaman (both military and merchant) to sail halfway across the world away from ready resources and supplication to ensure justice on the Barbary waters.  My hat is so off to them.

5. Jefferson and the Gun-Men: How the West Was Almost Lost by M. R. Montgomery published in 2000. The book parallels the Lewis & Clark exploration (for this I recommend Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose) and Zebulon Pike's western exploration into Spanish territory alongside the "Burr conspiracy." The author is uninformed on important Burr details (I recommend he read Burr's 2 biographies by Matthew Davis full of direct correspondence) such as WHY the Supreme Court led by Marshall heard the nonmeritorious treason trial and rendered a Not Guilty (not because the federal system was "so small" but because law requires it and this after Kentucky and Mississippi dropped the bogus charges due to lack of evidence).  It would behoove the author to study what did and did not constitute treason  (for eg. Congress told John Paul Jones after Independence he was welcom to fight  for Russia's Queen Catherine the Great because it was legal and there was no war in the US, much like Burr exploring the western territories and action if in fact Spain declared war against the US). His case against Burr relies chiefly on General James Wilkinson whom history has proven to be a double spy, yet he refers to him as "that loyal Democratic-Republican" (p.284). The narrative on Pike proved interesting. It was disappointing to learn Pike (unlike Lewis & Clark) did not take care of his men (left 2 to freeze in the wilderness), lied to his men about the reason for the expedition and where they were going. He never even climbed Colorado's Rocky Mountain's "Pike's Peak." I have, and am very much impressed with it- just not the name sake. Inspiring read on the hardiness of what it takes to cross the western territory on horse and canoe, especially in the dead of winter without enough supplies, food or clothing.  Sad tale how Lewis committed suicide years later as Congress was fighting him on his expenses (which they eventually paid). Great perception by the author that adventurers enlighten but it is hard core economics of mines, land for farming and cattle that expanded our country's borders. " the long run picks and plows far outweigh guns and glory. Work defeats adventure, every time."

6. American Traveler (The Life and Adventures of John Ledyard: The Man Who Dreamed of Walking the World) by James Zug, 2005. Before the Lewis and Clark expedition, young John Ledyard had already expressed to Thomas Jefferson his dream to walk across the American continent. He was a hardy, adventurous visionary. He was on Captain Cook's third and final voyage.  Very insightful (Captain Cook was murdered by angry Hawaiin natives) he wrote in his journal witnessing Captain Cook's "disgustful behavior" in Tonga "Perhaps no considerations will excuse the severity which he sometimes used towards the natives... he  would perhaps have done better to have considered THE FULL EXERTION OF EXTREME POWER IS AN ARGUMENT OF EXTREME WEAKNESS." In his college years he went to Dartmouth and made an extreme canoe voyage of 220 miles down the Connecticut River which is still a tradition on campus today. He hiked across Siberia and was on  an African adventure when he died. Ironic how his portrait was hung in the Somerset House, the headquarters for the Royal Society in London, the same building where eight years earlier he had went to collect his pay for the Cook voyage. From a sailor to world celebrated hero of the Royal Society, John Ledyard teaches us what it means to follow your dreams.

7. John Dickinson: Conservative Revolutionary by Milton E. Flower. Known as the "Penman of the American Revolution, he wrote The Farmer Letters (much like Thomas Paine's Common Sense which helped turn the tide of political feeling towards Revolution), Letters of Fabius (much like the Federalist Papers that helped convince the states to vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution), and the majority of our first form of government, The Articles of Confederation.  He rose to the the executive governor position of both Pennsylvania and Delaware. Many know him infamously as one of the Founders who voted against the Declaration of Independence; however, this fails to take into account that after being on the wrong side of that vote (calculating  at the time that our country did not have the military might and resources) he dedicated his life to winning the war effort and serving our country quite nobly.  Ironically, one of his political adversaries in the royal Penn government, Joseph Galloway (who eventually fled to England to live after the Revolution) attacked John on the streets of Philadelphia one day only to have the colonial government insist that while serving as governor, John live in the mansion he built. A fascinating and most impressive read on one of our most least celebrated Founding Fathers who deserves his rightful place in history.

8. George Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager. A great read on how we won the American Revolution because we had the better spy network. It is very well researched. I was inspired by two great life lessons: Benjamin Tallmadge was smart enough to embrace new spying techniques against tradition and that is why Washington promoted him and put him in charge (it is always smarter to go with expertise and stay abreast of new developments). Go with the guy/gal whose heart is in the right place. Although Robert Townsend was quiet and understated and on paper would not look the best part for his role, he would turn out to be Washington's best spy because despite all outward appearances, when it mattered most his heart was rock solid in the right place.  This book makes me appreciate all the undercover Americans who have and still risk their lives for our country's security. Thank you to you...

9. The Treason Trials of Aaron Burr by Peter Hoffer. I wrote a blog about this book: .I was very inspired by the strength of Aaron Burr to withstand and fight back against false treason charges that were the convenient result of a symbiosis of double agent (paid Spanish spy) General James Wilkinson and Thomas Jefferson's political animosity towards Burr. Wilkinson needed to stop Burr from settling the American West (Spain's interest) and after a casting of ballots 36 times in the contested election of 1800 (in which Burr refused to canvas or campaign for votes as was the gentleman way of the times) Jefferson wanted to rid himself of Burr's political threat. This case has been cited 383 times in federal court since 1807 for basic principles such as the right to an attorney, to bail , to view and inspect the evidence, to cross examine your accuser but most importantly for the principle that the executive branch can't use the judicial branch for its own political purposes.

10. Glory, Passion, and Principle: The Story of Eight Remarkable Women at the Core of the American Revolution (2003) by Melissa Lukeman Bohrer. This is an inspiring read on eight women who defied the odds from Deborah Sampson, who dressed as a man to join the front lines of the Revolution to a poweful Indian Cherokee leader Nancy Ward who exhibited the kind of wisdom and compassion we often see so little of in time of wars amidist inflamed prejudices.  An interesting historical note, the story of Phyllis Wheatley, a slave who became one of the greatest poets of that generation at a time when most slaves and free blacks could not read or write, was not believed by Thomas Jefferson (quite disappointing, George Washington on the other hand was most impressed and her and saved her letters and poems).  The power of the pen is sometimes mightier than the sword as Thomas Paine proved, but few school children can appreciate it was the mighty pen of Mercy Otis Warren and her supreme use of effective sarcasm that also fueled the Revolution. Great quick read.

11. Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin by Bill Kauffman (2008). After reading The Treason Trials of Burr, I was inspired to read about this great criminal defense lawyer and Founding Father. It turns out he was quite the Anti-Federalist (a very important ideological group at the time needed to argue for the balance of state versus federal powers). He was instrumental in not only being responsible for the Not Guilty treason trial of Aaron Burr and Not Guilty impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase (both political retribution trials); he was the delegate at the Constitutional Convention who defined the treason statute correctly knowing that this would be used by politicians against others for political purposes. He argued strongly against the federal government being able to have constitutional powers to summon up state militias. Unfortunately, his predictions have come true as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was wise before his time. Although he did not prevail on many good points that would have wisely limited the federal government, his contributions were colossal. We can thank his efforts in large part for the fact that we have a Bill of Rights.  The original Martin Luther is credited with leading a religious reformation. Martin Luther King's efforts have been rewarded with a national holiday. Yet, the Constitutional Convention delegate Luther Martin, who took up unpopular views of limiting federal government at a time when George Washington could easily have been made a king, is a forgotten founder. Thank you Bill Kauffman for writing this tremendous piece on a great and largely unknown founder. Our country would be better off remembering Luther Martin's cogent arguments that keep freedom alive in the face of an exponentially growing federal government. Our roots are our history, and his- some of the best.

12. The Making of a Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit by Dr. Sheila Skemp (2013). First, this book was exciting to me as it was written by Dallas' County Criminal Court no. 3 Judge Doug Skemp's sister. She is a colonial history professor at the University of Mississippi. Her history expertise is spot on. This is the story of how Ben Franklin went from a cool and level headed diplomat acting as a go between into a passionate rebellious incendiary all basically because of the beratement and humiliation he suffered from the British at the "cockpit." The hearing that was suppose to be a perfunctory act, turned into a public mockery of Ben when the British found out he had leaked Massachusetts' royal governor's Thomas Hutchison's correspondence in an effort to explain American frustrations.  King George got mad at this secretive act of Ben's and stripped him of his American postmaster job.  All the while, Ben was working hard to turn Pennsylvania into a royal colony. Very interesting read, it definitely shed light on aspects of Ben Franklin most Americans don't know. If it wasn't for the cockpit incident, Ben might have been successful in getting England to concede to American demands. When they finally did by sending Admiral Richard Howe to concede all American requests, Ben Franklin (after the "cockpit" debacle) said it was too late. A great practical life lesson in never making someone a spectacle- a poor taste in politics can sometimes start a revolution !!!!!

13. For King and Country: The Maturing of George Washington 1748-1760 by Thomas A. Lewis 2006. Want to know George Washington's least favorite day of the year ? Yup, July 4. Why ? Because way back before he led the Continental Army to freedom he surrendered in defeat Fort Necessity on that date.  Not only did he surrender in defeat, his killing of Lieutenant Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville sparked the 7 year French Indian War all over a mistaking a band of French/Indians who claimed they wanted to talk for a war party. Washington teaches us that we all make mistakes. It is learning from them and overcoming them that makes great leaders. An insightful read on what formed his incredibly resilient and strong temperament. A book that teaches all good things come at a price. Nothing great ever happens easy although it may appear so. It is years of discipine, learning from our mistakes and forging ahead with courage and hope that builds a great people. Thank you George Washington for never giving up on yourself and thus your country.

14. The Family Life of George Washington by Charles Moore 1926. This is a very old book, a true relic and  treasure. When the author was a child he had a visitor that shared he used to sit on George Washington's knee as a child. The author goes into great detail about his Washington's family. I dare say many of the details are probably not known by Washington scholars unless they have read this book. It was very interesting to read about Daniel Parke, the paternal grandfather of Martha Washington's son (George Washington's stepson) John Parke Custis. Daniel Parke's life's story is an important one to learn from. He had a fiery temper, although he rose to extreme success despite it (becoming a favorite of Queen Anne and awarded with a Carribean governorship) he died a most gruesome death (dragged out of his house, back broke and left to die on the street) at the hands of his very dissatisfied subjects. Parke's daughter (Washington's stepson's mom) apparently inherited her father's bad temper as her husband was so happy to be free of her, his tombstone declared the years he lived away from her in his "bachelorhood" to be his happiest (making his tombstone that still stands today one of the most bizarre ones where it lay). It just goes to prove two principles: what goes around comes around and the apple does not fall far from the tree. Funny how throughout history the names change but the stories repeat themselves.  As for George Washington, this book gives keen insight into his solid, moral character and how he was most magnimous with friends and family.  As a salient political note and lesson, when he discovered that his mother, Mary Ball Washington, was petitioning the federal government for a pension, he put an end to that by continuing to suppport her needs till her death rather than burdening the government. This is a great book with true, rare historical jewels.

15. Desperate Sons: Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, and the Secret Bands of Radicals Who Led the Colonies to War by Les Standiford 2012 (Harper Books). The Sons of Liberty were not just in Boston, but in New York, South Carolina and all throughout the colonies. They arranged the Boston Tea party, rebellion from the ground up against various acts like the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts, and galvanized the people's heads and hearts towards independence. They were both of the learned class as well as artisans. They rallied around symbols such as the Liberty Pole and strategized in taverns. Paul Revere is one of the greatest success stories, as his business flourished and Reverware remains to this day.  Several others, with a flair for risk taking and disregard for the law, died in poverty and with tragic tales.  A good moral to the story is: rebellion for the right reasons can be productive but the ends as a way of living never justify the means.  Principal is key and sometimes calls for actions outside our comfort zone, but solid living based on character and respect for others is the only true map for success. Thanks to these brave and daring souls, we live in this great country founded on liberty and justice for all.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Judge Punches Defense Lawyer- The Big Picture

What is wrong with this picture? On the surface of it, it looks like a judge challenged a defense lawyer to a fight and they both mutually agreed to duke it out behind the courtroom. However, this is NOT the case at all for MANY reasons. When you watch recent news clips, you don’t see defense lawyers telling news reporters that Judge John Murphy has “issues.” No, of course not ! How could they expect to get good plea bargains, rulings and judgments from the judge once they go on the news criticizing him? Let’s get real. So what does the public really know for those who don’t know the judge and who don’t practice criminal law. Here is why this is SO important.

First of all, the venue. A courtroom has rules of decorum. There to enforce the rules are bailiffs. One cannot yell, demean people, or physically fight in court. To make sure it is a safe environment, the public, including defense lawyers, must go through metal detectors. Judges do not. If a defendant, witness, prosecutor, defense lawyer or member of the public were to fight in court they would promptly be escorted out by armed law enforcement. There would also be assault charges if the fight was unprovoked or not mutual combat. A judge may throw someone in jail for contempt for unacceptable behavior. The judge in this case made the following comments to the public defender in open court unprovoked: “You know if I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now.”
“If you want a fight, let’s go out back and I’ll just beat your ass.”  
Anyone else making those comments would beheld in contempt, admonished or possibly be charged with terroristic threat. A judge is not above the law. All of this was in response to the public defender stating he would not waive his client’s right to a speedy trial. How can you maintain proper decorum in the courtroom when you can’t maintain proper decorum over yourself? This erodes public confidence in this judge’s courtroom.

Second, the assault. This was not mutual combat. Mutual combat is when two people determine under normal circumstances and on equal footing they will resolve their differences in a fight. Mutual combat is also an understanding that the fight will begin on fair grounds. Even in the duels of the 18thcentury, ex. the Aaron Burr versus Alexander Hamilton duel, there were “seconds” (emissaries) designated to negotiate time, place and rules. Normally a duel involved a flipping of a coin to determine who chose sides, gun, position, etc. Here, as soon as Mr. Weinstock went through the door, the judge grabbed him by the collar and started punching him. His was a total cheap shot and underhanded.  There was nothing fair about waiting by the door to spring on him unexpectedly.

Third, the “mutual” element. It is common practice for judges and attorneys to iron out differences back in chambers. No lawyer goes to a judge’s chambers expecting a physical brawl despite any heated words or exchanges (in this case, the only heated words were the judge’s). Judge Murphy has even admitted there was “one” occasion he and a lawyer in chambers resolved such in a normal manner. There is a hierarchy in court much like in the military. When an officer or judge makes an order, the lawyer or enlisted man/woman must follow command. When a judge rushes off the bench and heads towards chambers threatening, it is rationale for the lawyer to expect he wants to talk in chambers, in private. Andrew Weinstock even said as much.  Mr. Weinstock is a veteran public defender of thirteen years. News reports confirm he does not have any type of bad reputation with judges. 

Fourth, the laws. Had the shoe been on the other foot and the public defender assaulted the judge he could be charged with a felony assault on a public servant. Furthermore, with Judge Murphy’s age, he could have been charged with a felony assault on the elderly. This rendered Mr. Weinstock powerless to defend himself. He could not strike back, lest he risk a felony and his law license. The judge knew this. Had the judge been hurt, with no cameras, the judge could have easily feigned being a victim, with his position and influence. Naturally the local district attorney’s office would stand to benefit by prosecuting the public defender. By causing a scene, the judge actually achieved his intended effect. Immediately after this, the Public Defender’s office moved Mr. Weinstock to another court. This is just wrong. It is virtually impossible for a defense lawyer to have a judge removed from his cases, yet so easy for Judge Murphy to get rid of the public defender not willing to waive his client’s rights. There is something morally wrong with taking advantage of power. That is why crimes of moral turpitude include an assault by a man on a woman and we penalize assaults on children and the elderly where there is an imbalance of power.

Fifth, the irony. It is clear that Judge Murphy is an elderly man. Yet it turns out that Judge Murphy served in the U.S. Army Special Forces. Despite his age, here is a trained fighter attacking a career, middle aged and out of shape defense lawyer.  I am sure Mr. Weinstock did not choose a career in the law to hone his jujitsu or aikido skills. Thankfully, the armed bailiffs  broke up the melee. Who knows how far Judge Murphy would have gone with his unsuspecting victim? After the fight, true to the nature of an Army Ranger or Navy Seal, he just shook it off and got right back on the bench declaring to the packed courtroom “I will catch my breath eventually. Man, I’man old man.” Talk about being the textbook example of how to resolve differences. Not a good influence in the least. I wonder how many defendants were in court that day for assault?

Which brings me to the last and final point: respect for defense lawyers. See the attached picture of a passage of a 1939 Principles of Criminology textbook by Edwin H. Sutherland, a sociology professor at Indiana University. In it, every part of the judicial system is explained. When it comes to the defense lawyer, it reads “Criminal lawyers are generally in disrepute in the legal profession… they make use of every possible subterfuge and trick to secure acquittal. These include bribery of jurors, intimidation of witnesses, instruction of witnesses in perjury,….” He later extols the public defender system because “technical motions  are seldom made." Yet sixty five years later, Judge Murphy exemplifies how little we have come. When I became a lawyer, I received the same training as all the other lawyers. When I took an oath to practice law, it was the same oath all lawyers, including prosecutors and judges took. Our American justice system was founded on principles of fairness and equality. The criminal justice system would be tyranny without defense lawyers. There would be no one making sure the rights of the accused were protected. It is not right to demean defense lawyers for the role we play. Despite the outlandish characterization of the 1939 textbook, defense lawyers uphold the law as much as the prosecutors and judges. The means in which we defend our clients are lawful and integral to the judicial system. The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission should take immediate and authoritative action against Judge John Murphy to restore faith and confidence in the judicial system. No lawyer should fear going to court and being assaulted by a judge with improper judicial temperament. It is important that we set a precedent that this won’t be tolerated in the future. The defendants in his court or in any court should not fear being ruled upon by a judge unfit to serve. Every day Judge John Murphy administers punishment and holds people accountable according to the law. He too must too submit and be held accountable for unlawful conduct most unbecoming for a judge, otherwise confidence in the entire judicial system collapses. It is not an excuse nor is it acceptable for society to sanction such behavior on the basis it was directed at a defense lawyer or public defender, but this is not surprising given the clamor  to elect “tough on crime”prosecutors to the bench. It is time to honor not “tough on crime”judges but “smart on crime” judges who treat everyone in the courtroom with respect. Judges are not fit to serve if the refusal of a lawyer to waive his client's rights or any rights for that matter  results in improper rulings, much less an unprovoked physical assault. The assault just brings this judge's bad behavior to light. One wonders how much justice he has actually dispensed to those in his court.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

From Dirty Politics Rises the Rules of Law

A History Lesson in Aaron Burr

When it comes to Aaron Burr, history has it wrong. I asked my son Spencer to show me his American History book this year so I could inspect its reportings on Aaron Burr. As suspected, there was a short blurb void of facts and a speculative conclusory statement referencing Burr's dubious ambition in separating the American west from the east, even though this is not true.  The Texas School Board, is not alone, despite its notorious criticisms. One can go back to real time obituaries of Aaron Burr and read such innuendos.  History is for those who write it. History does not always add up to facts.  That is why I decided to get down into the complex minutiae of the actual Aaron Burr trials so that I could grasp the issues clearly.  I had no idea that his case was the definitive case that gave our citizens in practical reality the right to counsel, the right to bail, the right to confront one's accusers, the right to inspect evidence. My concern that a great Founding Father be properly remembered and honored in truth morphed into an inspiring illumination of how so many essential rights of an accused came into being. In fact, U.S. v. Burr has been cited in courts  383  times since 1807 solidifying the basic doctrines of citizens accused ever since the original Not Guilty verdict.

As background, before reading this book (The Treason Trials of Aaron Burr by Peter Hoffer), I was well aware of the political animosity Jefferson had towards Burr from the contested election of 1800 in which it took the casting of ballots 36 times before the tie was finally broken. I was also aware that Jefferson had paid muckrakers throughout his political career to anonymously smear his political opponents. I was not prepared however for the lengths Jefferson would be willing to go to prove his  political points and rid the country of his political enemies.  Chief Justice John Marshall said that Jefferson did not have the proper moral character to be President.  To put Jefferson's role in the Burr trials in a nutshell, here is a cursory summation.  He directed that Burr be arrested and prosecuted on the basis of a letter Burr wrote to General James Wilkinson of the New Orleans territory. Wilkinson claimed Burr wanted to "levy" a war with Spain, which was a neutral country, and that constituted treason.  Furthermore that the act of levying war was the men and arms Burr had gathered in preparation of war on Blennerhasset Island.  Here is why two juries rendered quick Not Guilty verdicts: the alleged Burr letter was not written by Burr at all but by Wilkinson and Burr was not even on Blennerhasset Island when the alleged "levying for war" took place. What we now know after Wilkinson's death is that Wilkinson was a paid spy for Spain. He obviously had to get rid of the threat Burr posed to Spain in colonizing America, at the time in possession of the Floridas.  Truth is Burr had arranged for men, ammunition and boats to gather at Blennerhasset Island to help settle the west against Indians. Burr had specifically purchased financial interest in a large tract of land out west known as his Bastrop purchase. He was also helping other men speculate out west  for financial gain (paper currency at the time was highly inflated and of little value). It was necessary to have boats and ammunition to settle the land.  In Burr's own words, before treason was a sparkle in Jefferson's creative mind, he wrote on Nov. 27, 1806 to William Henry Harrison "I have no wish or design to attempt a separation of the Union... it is true that I am engaged in an extensive speculation and that with me are associated some of your intimate and dearest friends." Wilkerson's concern was that Burr would indeed settle the American west and this would threaten Spain's interest of retaking New Orleans and more of the western territories.  Wilkerson's double dealing and necessity of getting rid of Burr fit perfectly into Jefferson's plan of having Burr hung for treason and thereby ridding himself of his most formidable political contender. 

To ensure a conviction, Jefferson had Burr arrested without bail (he suspended writs of habeas corpus declaring a threat to national security), sought to deny him access to a lawyer, sought to deny him the right to examine the evidence (the letter Wilkinson forged), and sought to have him convicted (on the basis of the forged letter) without the right to confront his accuser (Marshall ruled Wilkinson had to testify).  Jefferson directed George Hay, his prosecutor, to pay witnesses out of his funds (letter dated May 26) and gave him six pardons (three were blank) in an attempt to sway witnesses (the others Jefferson had arrested as coconspirators for treason, none of which were found guilty). He instructed Hay that if Bollman (a Burr friend also attempting to settle lands out west) "rejects his pardon... move to commit him immediately for treason..."  Chief Justice John Marshall in both the Bollman and Burr trials, set bond, allowed them lawyers and access to the evidence and the right to cross examination (with Jefferson sighting executive privilege fighting all the way). After the Not Guilty verdicts (Jefferson had Burr tried twice on two different treason counts), Jefferson unsuccessfully attempted to have Chief Justice Marshall impeached. Not learning a lesson, Jefferson attempted again to use a  treason charge to prove a political point when he had a smuggler caught shipping goods to Canada during the Embargo Act unsuccessfully prosecuted for treason.

What historians fail to recognize is that Burr had every legal right to fight Spain once war was levied (as it later was as Mexico fought to retain Texas), Burr was just waiting for Spain's first move as he settled the American West. The Burr treason trials are very important to American history and criminal jurisprudence in that it proves the executive branch cannot usurp the judicial branch for political purposes.  In the early days of establishing the relations between the three branches of government, it is sad that Aaron Burr was the scapegoat and test case for Jefferson politics gone awry. To survive those ghastly trials, he had to be strong and in doing so he made sure that our American justice system could  not be used as a tool against against anyone for political reasons. That is why his case keeps coming up whether it is Nixon fighting to hand over evidence that would impeach him or a Vietnam War protestor (Watts v. U.S) being safe and free to speak his mind without threat of treason.

Was Burr an ambitious man ? Yes, no different than most of the Founding Fathers. How he did differ was that his character did not allow him to viciously attack his political foes or abuse his power. His parting speech as Vice President and President of the Senate (where he established rules still in use today) brought tears of admiration from his fellow Senators. He was championed  for fairly and adeptly handling the Justice Samuel Chase impeachment trial as President of the Senate, making sure politics did not trump the rules of law (Not Guilty as it was a political attack), little did he suspect that the example he set would later benefit him.  True to his generosity of heart and spirit, when Luther Martin  (one of his defense lawyers in the treason trials) approached him in old age needing shelter, Aaron Burr took care of him inhis New York City home  till Martin passed.  Burr from youth on, spent his entire life advocating against slavery and promoting women's equality (his education and training of his only child Theodosia exemplifies this).  I think it is about time the history books get it right.  Aaron Burr is a true American hero with the kind of fortitude this country desperately needed at at time where our experimental democracy could easily have gone the road of despotism.