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The Massie Trial in Hawaii

This is the story of a historical trial that took place in Honolulu, Hawaii. According to Wikipedia, it was known as the Massie Trial or also the Massie Affair. It first began with a rape trial that then led to the Massie murder trial.

Thalia Fortescue, had come from a “well-to do” family and married a rising United States Navy officer named Thomas Massie. They attended a party in September 1931. There, Thalia Massey, apparently got drunk, got in a fight which resulted in her slapping an officer at the party. Then, she raced out the door and home alone.

Later that night, reportedly her officer/husband, Lieutenant Massie, found her at home where she made the claim that she had been raped by several Hawaiians. When she described the event later to police, she described her attackers simply as “locals”.

In short, several charges were brought based on some questionable evidence, including the fact that the police told her several pieces of critical evidence because she could not provide even basic identification of some of the defendants, and even a purported license plate number which she originally did not know. A fabrication of evidence was later suggested.

Eventually these defendants were brought to trial on the rape charges. This, despite her questionable testimony that did not hold well under cross examination.

The jury  included two Chinese and two Japanese jurors. Closing arguments in the trial were made on December 1, 1931.

Throughout the trial, the newspapers had been rife with rumors of Thalia having an affair with another officer before all these events. In addition, it was speculated that she originally had never in fact been raped. Instead, the claim was that it was her own husband who had come home and beaten her up and broken her jaw.

Compounding all this, her well-to-do mother arrived to support her daughter. Practically, she was really there to conduct a public relations campaign to salvage the family name.

After ninety seven hours of deliberations the jury announced that they could not reach a decision. They were deadlocked at six to six. The jury was dismissed without a conviction.

Racial tensions were high after the hung jury.  Across the island, there were fights between whites and non-whites.

Her officer/husband, Tommie Massie, was afraid that a second trial might also fail to bring a conviction. He conceived a plot  to obtain a confession.

He and three others kidnaped one of the defendants, a local well-known boxer named Joe Kahahawai. He was the darkest-skinned of all the original defendants who had been found not guilty in the original trial. These white men held him at gun point with the intent of forcing him to confess to the rape,.

When he would not confess to the rape, they beat him and then one of them shot him, in a fit of rage. They then wrapped his body in a sheet with the intent of dumping the body in a desolate place.

A police motorcyclist saw their car and thought that it looked suspicious. He pulled them over and discovered the body. All four were then arrested for murder.

Now, racial tensions were even worse because the killing was seen by the locals as a lynching. Conversely, the white community was in sympathy with Masssie and his friends.

A grand jury indicted all four. Famed defense lawyer, Clarence Darrow, who was seventy- five-years old and in retirement, decided to come out of retirement to defend the four.

He was promised a fee of $40,000; a very substantial amount of money in those days. He was assisted in the defense by attorney George Leisure, who arrived by ship on March 24, 1932. They were met by crowds of people, reporters and curious onlookers, at the Honolulu dock. This was a front-page case in Hawaii.

The trial began on April 4th in a packed courtroom. Throughout the trial, Thalia Massie attempted to portray herself as having no knowledge of the events or anything that her husband might have done.

However, the prosecution managed to prey on her feeling of superiority above the islanders; which led to her losing her temper, and ripping up a piece of evidence, and storming from the witness stand.  On that, the prosecution rested.

Defendant Thomas Massie was Darrow’s first witness. His defense was temporary insanity. Darrow called two psychiatrists to testify that the defendant had been temporarily insane at the time of the killing. He also called Thalia Massie who testified about the original alleged rape.

Darrow’s final argument was  carried live on local radio. He argued that the mental suffering of the rape and hung jury had driven the defendants to do what they had done. He occasionally wiped away tears while emphasizing the “black gates of prison” that they would face if convicted.

He argued all morning and into the afternoon. In his conclusion, he praised Hawaii as a “kindly and dispositioned people” and ended his closing with,  “I ask you to be kind, understanding, considerate – both to the living and the dead.”

The jury began deliberations on April 27th. After 47 hours,  their verdict for each defendant: “Guilty of manslaughter. Leniency recommended.”

Again, racial tensions were high. Martial Law was considered.

Hawaii Governor Lawrence Judd received a call from the President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, who urged that they be spared jail time. The governor agreed. He commuted their original 10-year sentence “to one hour, to be served in the custody of the sheriff.”

Wikipedia concludes with the following:

After a flurry of diplomatic maneuvering between Washington, D.C. and Honolulu, martial law was avoided. Instead, under pressure from the Navy, Territorial Governor Lawrence M. Judd commuted the 10-year sentences of the convicted killers to one hour, to be served in his office. Days later the entire group, including the Massies, the two other Navy men, Fortescue and Darrow, boarded a ship and left the island in turmoil. Thalia and Massie divorced in 1934; she committed suicide in 1963; he died in 1987.

Like an ending to a movie… In 1966, Albert O. Jones admitted that he was the one who had actually shot Joeseph Kahahawai.

Even though the blog is so long, I still include pic o’. This has its own curious bumper sticker evidence!


Irsay Money

Even if you are only a casual NFL football fan, you probably have heard that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested (Sports Illustrated) on March 16, after an Indianapolis police officer noticed his erratic and slow driving. According to the Indianapolis Star, after Irsay was stopped by the officer, he had trouble standing, his speech was slurred and he admitted to taking several medications.

I have attached the story for more details. However, one specific detail of the arrest has raised specific questions. According to the police report,  police found $29,029 in his vehicle which included,  $14,516 in a briefcase, $2,513 in Irsay’s wallet and $12,000 in one of two “laundry” bags on the passenger’s side floorboard.


As a lifelong Colts’ fan, I was saddened by the news. I met Jim Irsay a few years ago and was left with a profound feeling that he is a very nice man. Also as a fan, I have always appreciated his actions as an owner.

Currently, Mr. Irsay is in a care facility undergoing inpatient treatment. So, no one knows why he was carrying that much cash. Fans have speculated. From Stampede Blue, one writer guessed the following with tongue in cheek:

1) The Highlander wasn’t enough trade in equity for the downpayment on a Mercedes S600 AMG.

2) His clothing launderer messed his order up and gave him a bag from the money laundry.

3) He was answering a Craiglist ad for a full collection of Affliction shirts. Cash only.

4) He was on his way home after losing the silent bid auction for the flute from the Marshall Tucker Band.

5) He was still picking up the $100 dollar bill breadcrumb trail he left behind to help him find his way home.

6) You never know when the tamale guy will magically appear at Kroger.

     Because I am known to be a rabid fan, I have been asked why he was carrying this much cash. Maybe because he is a billionaire, it didn’t seem like that much cash to him as it does to the rest of us. That’s my hope. For now, we can only look on the bright side; hope and pray that he recovers, and look forward to the day that he returns to his chair as active owner. The words of a true fan!

DID YOU KNOW that there are 158 verses in the Greek National Anthem? Seems like a long time to stand during a song!

And for pic o’ daY:

new rug

Justin Bieber’s Deposition

Sometimes I am asked if I am related to Justin Bieber. Sometimes I am asked if I get tired getting asked about Justin Bieber. All I know is, that his fame has not hurt business. Now, people usually know how to spell my name when I say it.

It is true, I could not name one of his songs. However, I admit that I perk up when I hear him in the news. That’s why a news story about his recent four hour depostion caught my attention. (CNN)

The deposition was taken as a result of a Florida lawsuit that was filed by a photographer, with a claim that Bieber ordered his bodyguard to attack  him. Because the deposition was being videotaped, it became available to the public. In it, Bieber is shown to initially wink and smile at the camera.

At one point during the deposition, plaintiff’s Miami lawyer asked Bieber if he had ever dated Selena Gomez. That drew an objection from Bieber’s lawyer. When the lawyer asked Bieber if he had ever discussed his feelings about paparazzi with Gomez, the video shows Bieber wagging his finger at the lawyer while saying repeatedly, “Don’t ask me about her again”.

At one point, Bieber became agitated and told the lawyer, “I don’t have to listen to anything you have to say.” At times, Bieber would even close his eyes for periods of time, appearing to tune out the lawyer.

Bieber’s combativeness also extended to the court reporter when he angrily responded to her by cursing at her and lecturing her on the difference between yes and no. Bieber also confused the lawyer’s use of the word “instrumental” when the lawyer asked whether the singer Usher was instrumental in starting Bieber’s career. “I was found on YouTube,” Bieber replied. “I think that I was detrimental to my own career.”

As the article indicates, Bieber is expected to gain more experience in the legal system. In the coming months he probably will face questions from other lawyers in other legal matters.

DID YOU KNOW that in 1968, singer and activist Abbie Hoffman played with a yo-yo while testifying before a Congressional committee. He was found in contempt.

And for pic o’ day, here is cheese dog:

Cheese dog

A Pastor’s Shooting Death

From the Atlantic-Journal Constitution comes a tragic story that has led to a lawsuit. Stephens County Sheriffs were conducting an undercover drug sting. Kayla Barrett was under surveillance by two sheriffs as she traveled to a convenience store parking lot. There, the store parking lot camera captured the entire events that transpired.

Barrett, got into the car of 28-year-old Jonathan Ayers. That’s when the deputies thought that they had discovered Barrett’s drug supplier. They had already made plans to arrest her on drug charges that afternoon. As soon as they saw her get into that car, they moved in to make an arrest of both parties. At the time, they were in plain clothes.

Ayers was not a drug supplier. In fact, he was the minister of Shoal Creek Baptist church and was meeting Barrett in his capacity as a minister. When he saw two men come rushing at his car with guns, he thought he was being robbed and tried to drive away from the scene. The officers fired two shots at the car and killed the minister. Now, his wife has filed suit.

In December 2009, a grand jury decided that the shooting was justified. The defense attorneys for the deputies claim that the deputies believed that Ayers was attempting to use the car as a deadly weapon. Mrs Ayers still hopes that this civil suit will serve to clear her husband’s name. Her lawsuit claims that the deputies used excessive force in making a false arrest.

Friends will testify that Ayers had been ministering to the woman for a period of time. At the time of his death, his wife was pregnant with their first child.

DID YOU KNOW that cigarette smoke contains over 4800 chemicals. 69 of those are connected to causing cancer. Even if a person who smokes 20 cigarettes a day  decides to reduce that number to only 2 per day for health reasons, they only reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease and lung disease by 5%.

For pic o’ day, a “dinner guest”.

Bear and

This and That From the Notebook

A Franklin, Tennessee lawyer named Drew Justice was in a word battle during a criminal trial. The prosecuting attorney filed a motion with the Judge that sought to keep defense lawyer Justice from referring to the prosecutor as “the government” during the trial. Justice filed his own motion that requested that the prosecutor only refer to him as “Captain Justice” or “Guardian of the Realm”. I think the Judge just told both of them to move on… Motions denied!

The NY Times reports that Florida Governor Rick Scott intends to appeal a recent decision of U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven, who overturned a Florida law that required welfare recipients to submit to drug tests. The state had argued that there was a special need to test welfare recipients because there was a perception that the welfare population are drug users. The opposing argument in ruling against required drug testing, per the Judge’s ruling was that it “would allow the rule against warrantless, suspicionless drug testing”.

The drug testing requirement was in effect from July 1, 2011 through October 24, 2011. During that time, 4000 people were drug tested and only 108 tested positive for drug use. Some have also pointed to recent members of Congress for using drugs and driving while intoxicated. The question is then asked, “Since they are being paid by the government, shouldn’t all Congress be drug tested as well?”.

A blog note… I won’t be able to blog next week but I intend to be back the week after. I promise to be back with my pen (well, maybe it’s my typing fingers) in full research and writing mode!

DID YOU KNOW that President William H. Taft had a bathtub installed in the White House that was big enough to hold four people. He did so because he was unable to fit in the one that had already been installed. Yes… he was a big man.

And for pic o’ day and feeling good with appearance:

looking good

A Bootlegger Trial

The ABA Journal had an interesting trial story from Christmas season 1931. Then Governor Franklin D Roosevelt was hopeful that justice would put Jack “Legs” Diamond away for a long time, on charges of kidnapping and assaulting a driver who was not part of his organization.

Diamond was a popular gangster who was known for handing out bills from the large wad of cash that he carried. As he walked into New York’s Rensselaer County Courthouse each morning for his trial, he was greeted with cheering throngs.

Not surprisingly, Diamond had hired two well-known lawyers, who as part of their strategy, had gotten the trial moved to Troy. One of his defense lawyers had previously been a well-liked District Attorney in that very courtroom. During the trial, the tabloids continued to portray Diamond as a local hero.

Diamond trial

Over the course of several trial days, it became increasingly clear that the jury was going to have a hard time returning a guilty verdict. On December 17, 1931, the verdict of not guilty was announced. Diamond reached for his wad of cash, ready to pay his attorneys’ bill of $30,000. In today’s money value, that is roughly $500,000. His attorneys told him to go celebrate and to bring the fee by their office, in the morning.

In the wee hours of the morning, Diamond was killed in a still-unsolved homicide. As soon as the lawyers heard the news, they sent a runner  by Diamond’s room to try to locate the $30,000. Unfortunately, all of Diamond’s money had been stolen. Looking back on that case now 82 years later, the common theme of lawyers discussing it is “In a criminal case…always get your money up front!”

DID YOU KNOW that the number “57” on a Heinz ketchup bottle represents the number of different kinds of pickles that the company once sold?

And for pic o’ day… realization

inside the house

Eyewitness Credibility

This is one of those blogs that is intended to make you think about the reliability of testimony evidence. Consider that there have been defendants that were sent to death row because of eyewitness testimony.

In 1998, researchers from Harvard and Kent State decided to test the reliability of  truly seeing what you see.   Here is the study for full reading (here). The researchers decided to study pedestrians (their test subjects) to determine whether people really notice what is around them. In the experiment, an actor would come up to a pedestrian and ask for directions.

While the pedestrian was giving the person directions, two men carrying a large door would walk between the actor and the pedestrian. For a moment, neither the person giving the directions nor the actor could see each other. While the door fully blocked their view, one actor was replaced by another.

The researchers decided to even add some additional significant differences to the study. The “new actor” was a different height and build, and had noticably different hair and a different voice. Over half the participants did not notice the actor substitution.

This 1998 study was the first experiment to study the phenomenon of “change blindness”. The premise of the study was to show that we are selective about what our consciousness may take away as a memory from any given visual scene. The researchers concluded that individuals rely on memory and pattern-recognitions more than we think.

Does that give you any concern about how some evidence is relied upon in criminal trials, or is this just a select study that is just more about human nature than something as serious as a criminal trial?

DID YOU KNOW that the term “throw your hat in the ring” comes from the sport of boxing where throwing a hat into a ring signified a challenge. Today, it is now associated with politics. Although, I think that I have heard politicians also mention that they are now “taking off the gloves”.

And for pic o’ day how about some rebellion encouragement?


The Interest Catches Professor

     A true “if only” story from Or, it could simply be called a story about stealing and getting caught.

     In 1975, James Hardigan became a dental professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 1980, he became the associate dean for administrative affairs for VCU’s Dental Faculty Practice Association. In 2004, he retired from VCU and subsequently moved to Florida. What happened in between just caught up with him.

     Records show that in 1995, Hardigan opened up an investment account in the Dental Association’s name using the Association’s funds, for an initial deposit of $500,000. In 2004 when Hardigan retired, he transferred the account balance of $137,553 into his own personal account. The discrepancy of the 500K used to open the account versus what was transferred is still unclear.

     At the time of the amount transferred, apparently there was still a few cents that had not been credited for the monthly statement. Those pennies remained in the account after the transfer. In 2013,  the investment firm where the account had originally been opened contacted VCU and the Dental Association about the account. By now, 63 cents of interest  had accrued in the account. 

     Because the Association knew nothing of the account, school officials began looking into it. Soon, they learned about the funds and the transfer that went into the retired professor’s account.

      This past Thursday, Hardigan was in Richmond Circuit Court where he pled¹ guilty to felony embezzlement of $137,553. The details of his past caught up with the 69-year-old former professor. He probably once thought, “if only I had waited until the end of the month to get those remaining cents”. Or, maybe now he is saying, “If only I had not done it”.   The retired professor now awaits sentencing on August 9, which could be as much as twenty years.  

(¹ ABA Journal says that pleaded is also correct.  In US Supreme Court opinions “pleaded” was used 3,000 times and “pled” was used 26 times )

     This pic o’ seems appropriate for a Monday morning:


Criminal Case House of Cards

     The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes the disgusting case of a man who is accused of downloading pictures of minors, and then being charged with possession of child pornography. Normally, I would not blog on this kind of case except that the reporter’s description shows a course of events from denial to finally admitting criminal conduct. An anatomy of a criminal investigation.

     A vice president of computer network security  has been charged with downloading and sharing images of minors. It surprised me that his position included computer security. As a background,  45-year-old Duane Amity is married with two children.

     The FBI first began its investigation when it received a tip that someone was using a specific Internet provider address to share documents, with files names that suggested child pornography. The FBI then subpoenaed Verizon Communications for the IP address, and based on that information then executed a search warrant at the indicated address.

     In response to the subpoena, nearly 3000 files were flagged. In the text of the files, investigators found the term “PTHC” in several search returns; and file descriptions similar to the ones that possibly contained child pornography. Now the evidence was taking shape.

     In one folder, investigators found more than 900 images, which had been deleted or were no longer “active” on that computer. Some of the images appeared to be of young girls. When questioned, Amity told investigators that he did know that “PTHC” often stands for “pre-teen hardcore”, because of his personal computer investigations at work.

     At that point, Amity did deny ever seeing anything relating to the text file, at first, and also said that he “did not know anything about child pornography”.  As the investigation proceeded, Amity then admitted that over the last ten years, he had looked at child pornography only to then delete the images (The walls starting to crumble)

     Then, Amity could not explain why he would look at these images except that he claimed that he had been molested as a child. Subsequently, he volunteered that he denied ever improperly touching a child or sharing any child pornography photos, but that something could have happened accidentally.

     Then, Amity told investigators that he decided that he needed counseling. He apparently emotionally exhaled by stating that, “although it sounded odd, this investigation was a God send to him and his wife”.

     His attorney then told the Pittsburgh reporter that, “I would say based on his cooperation so far, I see a young man who is a victim in his own way from (past) experiences, who just wants to put this behind him. So I don’t see any reason why he would stop cooperating.”

     Here are a few observations after reading this article. First, I see that this man admits that he did these acts. However, I do not see where he ever accepts responsibility. His blame never points inward. Second, his admission that something might have happened “accidentally” builds on that thought. Third, I am not sure how he thinks that he is simply going to put this behind him. Finally, I wonder how old his attorney must be,  if he is calling his 45 year-old client a “young man”.

    After this type of blog topic, I didn’t think Pic O’ would be appropriate.

Police Negotiation with Blog

This time of year brings lots of activity at the Firm. We have a new South Carolina attorney just starting, who is visiting the Richmond office today; There are jury trials this week; I always have to come prepared for our Monday morning attorney meeting; Plus, clients remind me to try to get their cases settled, if possible, for “Christmas money”.

In the midst of all that, we did not get the law firm November e-blast sent out. A couple of weeks ago, I met with our marketing committee at the Firm and we went over our November ideas. Then, completely separate from that, that whole group was with me in the South Carolina office last week. I think that it caught them in the busy cycle and we never got it sent. Still, we know how important social media is to our firm as we now turn our attention to the December version. I guess it won’t include our Thanksgiving recipe!

The importance of blogging was used in an unusual method in a Baltimore news story this week. A Baltimore man had a court issued warrant out for his arrest. It had been outstanding since June. He had been hiding from the police so that they could not take him in.

Finally, the police located him at his house. The warrant related to the man’s violation of probation on an earlier gun charge. So, the police were taking it very seriously when they located the man at this house and could not get him to come out.

Soon, the house was surrounded with a police tactical team that included a law-enforcement negotiator. The man began blogging inside his house that included sending broadcast by Internet radio. He expressed frustration with the police by screaming on the Internet, “I am surrounded by a bunch of men with guns”.

The police later indicated that they had called the tactical unit to the house because the man had been using twitter to send threats against the officers. In fact, he had been using social media to proclaim that he had been improperly classified as a “fugitive” after he missed a court date that he had not known about.

In his talks with the police negotiator, he continued to express concerns about his safety. He then began to berate the negotiator by broadcasting that, “he needs to be battling bad guys, not spending his time talking to the Baltimore Spectator”. At one point, the man then thanked CNN through twitter message. Finally, he emerged and was taken into custody. He had used Twitter, Internet, blogging and broadcasting instead of firing a gun.

Pic o’ day was sent by our media team as a reminder of positive thinking. Maybe it will make it in the December e-blast!

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