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Zimmerman and society and the future

Zimmerman and society and the future

Zimmerman and where we go from here (or hopefully – don’t)

We’re unhappy with the verdict. We wanted a verdict that closed our nation’s cultural chasm and let families, American families, let their children walk the streets safely at night. We didn’t get that.

We didn’t get that because it is entirely too much to ask the jury system to produce.

Here we’ll discuss a few changes people are clamoring for, and at the end I’ll ask for you to submit yours to discuss in the future.


There’s talk about the system being broken. Something’s wrong with the system and there needs to be a change. I want to address that for a minute because I that is very, very dangerous talk. There’s an old saying in the law that “good cases make bad law”. (“Good” here meaning big or interesting or juicy to a lawyer.) What this saying means is high profile or emotionally charged cases cause people to induce changes in the law that would affect that one particular, peculiar case the way it happened. In many of my other posts I’ve been resistant to law changes. Mainly because these law changes don’t consider the other one thousand, ten thousand, or one million other cases for whom the law was designed, for whom the law was working correctly.

Remember the “We’d rather have ten guilty people go free than one innocent person go to jail?” We all agree that fundamental bedrock of our judicial system when we’re the innocent person, and despise that saying when the guilty person is someone we abhor.

HINT: Not the right answer

There’s three things I could’ve gone wrong in this case three. Three moving parts that always get looked at when something like this happens.

    1. The judicial system or the court: was the court unfair in this case?
    2. The police: the police, or for that matter the prosecutor, do such a poor job that they were negligent in their duties and that caused a guilty man to go free?
    3. The law: is the law in this case so unfair that it needs to be changed?

One by one: I don’t think anyone is suggesting the court itself in this case was unfair. If anything the court was hard on the defense. That’s not a bad thing, if courts are generally hard on the defense, it’s in the nature of the work. A defense attorney is supposed to ask for more than he is supposed to get and the judge is supposed to tell them “no”. This case in particular the judge has been commended as to her adhesion to the law.

What about the police? Did the police do something wrong? Let me put my biases on the table: The police are always always ALWAYS my favorite scapegoat when I have a trial. The police didn’t investigate something, or look at something, or turn over that rock, or if they did, they shouldn’t have turned over that rock. And then I get turnt up. There are some suggestion that the police chief was fired soon after Zimmerman was not arrested in this case. I see all that as a distraction.

That only leaves #3, the law.

What’re we going to do about the law?

Answer: “I don’t know”.

Racial impact of Stand Your Ground law

Laws are going to change because of this. The infamous “stand your ground” law is sure to be looked at with a fine tooth comb. That law itself is not the worst thing in the world.  Basically it says you are not “required” to retreat from someone attacking you, that you may defend yourself. (Hawaii is considered a “stand your ground” state for all except deadly force. In Hawaii you can only use deadly force if you are unable to retreat, among other conditions.) There’s some discussion of “Stand your ground” laws being racist in application.  I can’t find fault with that study.

I’m betting money there are going to be a rash of new “failure to follow the lawful order of a 911 operator”. The problem with those being, that opens a can of worms with liability for the 911 operators being properly trained. They are not psychic, and are often encouraged not to tell you what to do in their training. It would also limit the number of people we would have working at the 911 call center. 911 should operate as a clearinghouse to get police and ambulance to where they need to be. It shouldn’t be a helpline.

The third option I’ve heard is that people want to change the burden of the self-defense statute. Currently only Ohio has Self-defense as an affirmative defense.  What that means is, the burden of proof (see my last post for a graphical representation) is no longer borne by the Prosecutor, but that a Defendant would have to say, “Yes, I did it but…”  Let’s understand what an affirmative defense is: at its very definition, its burden-shifting. Remember our fifth amendment, that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”, an affirmative defense turns that upside down. No one shall be compelled against themselves, “unless the government thinks you did it, now prove otherwise” is no where in the constitution and shouldn’t be written in there now. If the government can’t prove you guilty with all the powers of the police, the FBI, Homeland Security, and now PRISM, should we really make it easier for them?

Marcus, answer my question: What should happen?

If you guessed an increase in a call for gun laws, you are correct. The chance if it working is none. There’s no chance that stricter gun laws are happening after this if it didn’t happen after Sandy Hook. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t cause more people to buy guns.

Because it’s not safe out there.

Trayvon Martin may still be alive if he owned a gun.

Of course, he would probably be in prison.

Which begs the question, do you think the outcome would be different if the races were reversed? Let’s ask Matthew McConaughey what he thinks (start at exactly 4 minutes in):

I’m interested to find out what my readers think is the proper “fix” of the law. What law would you add or change to, well, to keep more people alive? And keep the right people alive, both of which are the goals of the law. Answer below, answer on twitter @landsberglaw, or go to the contact us and answer anonymously. Would love to hear your thoughts!


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Zimmerman as a trial explained

Zimmerman as a trial explained

I don’t think I was shocked by the verdict. Usually, by the end of opening statements experienced attorneys can predict, with reasonable certainty, the outcome of the trial. If you are heavily emotionally involved with the Zimmerman case, this article is not for you.  But I’ve been asked so many times what happened, that I would be wrong if I didn’t discuss, at least from a trial-work and rhetorical point of view what happened, so here you go (click more):

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Shaming as strategy

So there is a new imaginary problem that people are complaining about on the Internet.  A summary of the complaint for context, but I really don’t want to engage in it. Understand, based on my calling in life I have no problem defending misguided people,

Racist Misogynist Poster

The Poster in Question

but what is happening is that a few people are angry that an insensitive person used specific imagery designed to “shock and awe” in order to get attention for his event. He used what is understandably called a racist image to promote a completely ordinary, otherwise uninteresting music show. He did this with the goal of getting exactly what he is getting: attention!

And to be clear, there’s no suggestion that he is consciously racist or misogynistic, simple that he is insensitive.

I’ve already talked about that more than I want to. As this blog has long been centered on *how* to argue, or *why* to choose certain rhetorical strategies more than *what* to argue, the interesting part to me is the techniques in the arguments, not against the racist, misogynistic poster creator, but against the people who say “Racism?  I Just don’t see it!“  I want to talk about the shaming of the people who are simply saying “it’s art”, “it’s stupid, not racist”, or “it’s really unimportant”. Because the argument against these people spueaking is very very scary to me. what’s more so, it is much more frequent than I imagine it should be.  Look at these screen captures so I don’t take anything out of context (to be clear, these are two separate comments — click more):



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Thank you for 2011. Look out 2012!

KHON Legal Expert News Hawaii Lawyer Attorney

Thank you for the most amazing 2011.

Just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy New Year from the Landsberg Law Office. In 2011 we went, in a short time, from Zero to the Penthouse. We made successful appearances in front of the Liquor Commission, Family Court, and Military Court (in addition to Circuit and District). We beat the same cop twice. The only time they let us go to Jury trial, we won on the first vote. The very first case we consulted on was a murder in the news, and this week we again were assigned a murder, and again in the news!

We launched our social media presence. We made great contacts and partnerships throughout the legal community, and more importantly we made great friends from everywhere.

I just wanted to take a moment to be thankful to each and every person who reads, responds, and shares this page. Thank you ever-so-much for taking this ride with me. I can’t aim for anything except being the best. I appreciate you riding shotgun as, in 2012, we aim to be better than the best.

Happy New Year!

Honolulu Attorney Lawyer Hawaii Criminal Defense


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Bishop Street Address — Hawaii Lawyer

Playing the law like a harpsichord since 2004

Eagle-eyed observers have seen the address on the sidebar has been updated.  Yes, the new physical location of the Landsberg Law Office has opened!  It is a soft open: we’ll slowly be making the house a home, but during that time, we’re celebrating!

It’s been a long time looking for just the right office.  We’ve looked at more than one, some we were ready to settle on. But:

This one’s perfect.

Come check it out.  Now taking appointments!

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Choosing the right attorney — Hawaii Lawyer Today’s Story

Hawaii Criminal Defense Lawyer, best criminal lawyer, honolulu, hawaii

The Choice is Yours

“You can’t do that” the Prosecutor told me, but I expect her to say that.  She gets paid to say that.  Exasperated, but not obnoxious.  She simply doesn’t need one more thing to do.  The manila folder on her desk, three inches thick with paper slammed shut as her index finger ran along the edge of the table. “I don’t know what you want me to do, it can’t be done.”

I just need you to let me address the judge.  I don’t care how, but I need to address the judge.

Yeah, you can’t do it Marcus.

Now this second voice I didn’t expect to hear.  Another Defense Attorney had chimed in, to tell me I can’t do something?  He doesn’t get paid for that.

It’s an interesting life being a Defense Attorney.  It’s an interesting camaraderie.  On one hand, we’re in precisely direct competition with each other: every dollar I make is a dollar he doesn’t; every time he drops his price, I lose money across the board.  But on the other hand, no one else can relate to what we do.  It’s very hard to be required to descend into the bowels of humanity for X hours everyday.   Our goal is to find that small slice of innocence we can hold up as an example of redeemable good.  But to find that slice, we wade through a lot of muck.  It is impossible to do it and come back unchanged.

And so Defense Attorneys become some kind of a fraternity.  There’s certain stories I don’t tell on my blog.  There’s things we’re required, by law, to do that I don’t brag about in public society.  There’s one case in particular I’ll probably never explain on this blog.  Surrounded by Defense Attorneys it becomes almost my rank or insignia.  If anyone questions my merits, another attorney who knows will mention the ten word synopsis, and the response will be, “What? You were able to do THAT?” And they’ll be no more questions.

You can’t do it, Marcus, you’re going to have to get it done another way…

I tuned out.  Why was this guy even talking?  On one hand he wasn’t kissing the Prosecutor’s butt in order to curry favor.  That was an option, but I didn’t  believe it.

See Marcus, you can’t do it.  What you need to give us…

Give us? Give US? You’re a Defense attorney!  And I tuned out to the rest of his speech as I tuned in to the problem.  He wasn’t one of us.  He hadn’t joined, in his own mind, the fraternity of the Defense Attorneys.  Don’t get me wrong, he collected money to “defend” people.  He stood next to them as he pled them guilty to crimes they may or may not have committed.  He explained to them their right to plead guilty, the right to throw themselves on the mercy of the court.  The right to pay him a flat fee that includes nothing but showing up.

“Give US.”  See, he was an ex-prosecutor, but something worse.  He still self-identifies as a Prosecutor.  He still self-identifies as someone who wants MORE people in the system, rather than less.  But people pay him for it, maybe I’m wrong.

And I turned to the real Prosecutor, “I just need to get before the judge”.

I stepped outside and made a phone call down to the Beretania Police Station to get my facts straight, then came back inside.  I sat in the front row and waited. Long. I had to wait until the rest of the calendar was done.  When the judge got to the end of his schedule he asked the Prosecutor if there was anything else they could take care of before the break.

As I jumped to my feet, the Prosecutor dismissively allowed me to address the judge. I would have yelled had she not.  The judge heard my request and  said, “Well, Mr. Landsberg, that sounds like a reasonable request to me. Granted”.

120 seconds. Done.

And as I looked around the court, the “Defense Attorney” was not there. Too bad, I wanted him to see me win.  I collected my things, placed them in my bag, and on the way out the door I saw him in the hallway talking to his client with a familiar refrain:

I understand you think you can win this case, You can’t do it. It can’t be done.  You can’t win here…

And I shook my head, And sung to myself:

You can get with this, or you can get with that.
You can get with this, or you can get with that.
You can get with this, or you can get with that.
I think you’ll get with this, for this is where it’s at.

Recommendation Hawaii Lawyer — Lawyers recommend Marcus Landsberg

Lawyer Referrals Hawaii, Recommended Hawaii lawyers
SO recently I’ve been engrossed in a jury trial (we won!) and now I’m turning my attention to a CPS custody case, and I don’t normally want to “tweet” my own horn.
But today my twitter tweeped and I checked it and I saw this recommendation from Hawaii State Representative Della Au Belatti, I definitely wanted to put it up here and let everyone who follows my blog know.  It’s very easy to know who is currently sitting on top of the attorney mountain, but it’s not everyday that you see one attorney publicly declare another attorney is a future “leader in the profession”.
And being that Representative Au Belatti is a woman of great foresight, there’s a very good probability she’s right!
Big Teeze Recommends lawyer Marcus Landsberg, Big Teeze, 808 HoesAnother person who got on twitter to support my private attorney life is my old friend Big Teeze.  You all know Big Teeze from as a veteran of Hawaii Radio, currently on 93.1 Da Pa’ina Radio station Afternoon drive time.
I cannot guarantee everything he says, but Big Teeze has always had a way of saying the truth by speaking his mind.  I always appreciate the love from my Bredren, from the Capitol, to the courthouse.
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Exciting Changes Coming Soon!

Well, we’ve been building up to this point!

Keep checking back to this webpage for the announcement. but there should be exciting changes coming soon. The webpage for one thing should have a complete overhaul. We’ve already announced our Facebook page (please like us):


And follow the twitter at @LandsbergLaw where I post

The latest updates in Hawaii Law.
The latest news I receive on roadblocks or potential police infractions.
Anything I’m in the mood to post!

A good way to get started is to follow the twitter and go back and read some of my favorite posts. Already, my research shows I’m the highest Klout ranked lawyer in the State of Hawaii, and that was within about two days of joining Twitter.

Soon I’m launching “Free Legal Advice in 140 Characters” Any question you can ask in 140 characters on twitter, I’ll do my best to answer in the same. We have to pick a day. Or maybe one random day a week? Not sure. Feel free to start with questions now though.

It’s an exciting time at the Landsberg Law office. Recently work has picked up, and that means less time spent on the website. See you in Court!

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Judaism and Defense Lawyers

Judaism and Defense Lawyers

Today I had two people ask me, at completely unrelated times “How do you defend people when you know they are guilty?”  And people don’t realize how 1. Clearly insulting that is, and 2. they have no concept how the system works.  OR I should say, how the system is supposed to work. And they always have one other thing in common:

They’re not Jews.

Bagel timeI’m not saying you have to be a Jew to be a defense attorney, don’t misunderstand.  What I’m saying is that Jews never question the necessity of constant and regular vigilance and questioning of their government.

The Genesis of Justice : 10 Stories of Biblical Injustice That Led to the 10 Commandments and Modern Morality and Law

Bibilical bibliography: Alan M. Dershowitz The Genesis of Justice

One of the most interesting things I learned from this book is the Jewish interpretation of the command “To do and to believe”.  Traditional sources imply that the doing is more important than the believing.  Compare this to the Lutheran “Justification by Faith Alone”.  Jewish custom stresses the performance of the commandments, over the belief in what they signify.  The Lutheran concept stresses the belief in the holy, but discards the necessity to follow the rules.  (Of course, this is a simplistic view of a massive dichotomy, but it’s interesting.)  Put in legal terms, being Jewish demands you follow the letter of the law even if you disagree with it, being Lutheran means you believe the public policy behind the law is more important than the particular elements you are charged to uphold.

It starts to make sense why you have so many Jews who can recite the “Four Questions” from the Haggadah, but self-identify as atheist.

I’ve written previously about the Jewish view of the Torah, (or the Old Testament) being seen as a Covenant, or a contract with God.  Jews see God wrote it, so when they find a loophole within the Covenant, and God means all things, then God put that loophole in the Covenant.  God meant for you to exploit the loopholes in the Torah, because he purposely put those loopholes in there!  How does that relate to Jews as lawyers?  You have a people who have been trained for Six Thousand years to look for loopholes!

Now who do you want as an attorney?

But none of this has to do with why Jews instinctively understand the need for Criminal Defense attorneys.  Attorneys whose sole purpose is to make sure the police, the judge, and the prosecutor are taking no shortcuts.  The reason why is this:

  • Russian Pograms
  • Christian Crusades
  • The Spanish Inquisition
  • And before all of this, The Egyptian killing of the newborn sons. (Exodus 1:22)
And of course, the Holocaust.  All of which were run by governments.  By people wearing that period of time’s military, or police uniform.  The need for healthy suspicion of your government is so ingrained in people raised Jewish, even if not religious, that it is just naturally understood.

Yes. Jews put God on Trial. Watch the movie to see the verdict, and maybe more importantly, the sentence.

So when people ask me, “Marcus, how do you defend someone you know is guilty,” I give a variety of answers:

“Because even if I do my job perfectly, all the government has to do is do their job competently and they will win. I will lose.”

“I want to give the Prosecutor practice, so when she has the big case with the really bad guy, she doesn’t screw up when it’s really important.”

“Because I had a particular client tell me, y’know Marcus, you’re the only person in my life who ever took my side.”

I hate to say “Because when I finally get the innocent client, I don’t want that to be my first case I try for real” because that implies most of my clients are not innocent.  And when we go to trial they often are wholly innocent.

“He’s not guilty unless I lose.” Is probably my favorite when I’m in a good mood.

But underlying the principle is this:  All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.   Because in all of the examples I gave, the Jews being killed were surrounded by good men doing nothing.

And no matter the rap, I strongly feel Defense Attorneys are often good men doing something to stop the tyranny of evil.  I have no problem if the State wins, fairly and honestly.

But my role is to make sure they do it,  fairly and honestly.  And the more I do it, the more I realize what a necessary, fundamental role that is.

Body Count

Ice-T looking like a serious Honolulu criminalHere’s a story I choose to believe is true, about one of the original “Gangster Rappers” named Ice-T.  Now he is an actor on Law and Order:

Ice-T had a meeting with a record exec once. The exec said he wanted to hear a sample of a proposed song before signing a contract. Ice-T says, “If I was selling hand grenades in an alley, I’m not gonna let you throw one to see if they’re any good. You either believe I’m selling good grenades or you don’t! So you either believe I can give you good records or you don’t!”

The exec says, “You’ve got good business sense. Did you go to business school?”

Ice-T replies, “Naw, but I did sell hand grenades in an alley once.”

So, as clients come in my office, I try to let them know exactly how well I can perform in court.  Ethically, it’s illegal for me to guarantee a client anything.  I am not allowed to tell them how many trials, or jury trials I’ve done.  I am also not allowed to tell them my win-loss record.

My feeling is, these ethical rules were created by someone not as proud of their record as I am.

The two or three most important questions any of my potential clients have for me, the two or three top sales points I absolutely have (and would like to put on a billboard) are the two or three things I am absolutely not allowed to say.  Hopefully, they believe what I’m doing is upholding justice and enforcing the rule of law to their benefit.   Unfortunately more often the defendant starts to think I’m hiding the ball and that I’m in bed with the prosecutor, the police, and the judge and that I’m trying to lock them up.

Only nothing could be farther from the truth.  What I want to do is set them free so they can tell their friends, “Wow, this guy the best!”

I can show them the newspaper articles I have around the office. I can tell them about the “Oh Wow!” cases Daryl Huff covered on KHON and that they remember.  I can explain to them the “Oh Wow!” cases no one ever heard about because our plan was to keep them as low key as possible.  I say that no results are guaranteed, and each one of these cases had a peculiar situation that I was able to ferret out.  That their case may or may not have these situations, but that’s what I’m trained to find, or expand if these situations are microscopic.  And we won’t know what that situation is until they hire me, and I’m able to read the police report and go through their entire case, page by page.

And the whole time I feel like:

Ice-T believes in the First Amendment in Honolulu Hawaii

And I’m thinking:

Wow, I never realized being an attorney was so much like selling hand grenades.

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Hawaii Criminal Defense: The Legal Blog

Issues in Hawaii Law.

Below is a collection of Articles I've written about Hawaii law.  Most are about criminal defense, Honolulu trial work, or future legal trends. Courtroom experience is probably the most common.  Others are comments on local or national law.  Hopefully there is something for you to find and enjoy.  If nothing else, you'll see the way I feel about certain issues, and the thought processes I put into legal problems we solve.

And some stories are just too funny NOT to tell.......

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