February 2004

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Delma Banks, a man who killed his 16 year old co-worker and stole his car in 1980. Prosecutors had withheld evidence that refuted the case that the man, who had no prior criminal record, would be a continuing danger to society, a factor juries take very seriously when considering whether to impose the death penalty. In 1999, the man’s new legal team tracked down one of the witnesses, who admitted that he’d set the guy up. He also admitted lying on the stand when he said that he was not being paid by the government for his testimony. The government never corrected that lie. The second witness gave damaging testimony and said that he had not been coached by the police. But after the new defense lawyers got a judge to force the prosecution to turn over the district attorney’s files, they found a transcript from 1980 that showed the witness was exhaustively rehearsed before testifying.

People complain about the long period of time between conviction and execution. But it took 19 years for the new lawyers to get access to the proof that the prosecution not only withheld important evidence at the trial, but continued to lie about the information well into 1999. Prosecutors lie, about the most important things. And sometimes it takes years to discover that. What would have happened if these prosecutors had simply removed the transcript proving the witness was coached from the file?

What’s scary is not how long the appeal process takes, but how close Banks came to being killed.

And its worth keeping these lies in mind when we hear about how people held in Guantanamo Bay will be held indefinitely.

I learned that my commenting function was not working so I’ve gone to another service. Apologies for all those who commented and deserved replies, and all who made good comments that are now lost in the switchover. I was thinking that no one writes back!

“All of my work is about the sadness that normal people feel because they are not involved in Show Business.” — John Waters

I’m really disappointed in my Senator, Barbara Boxer. After four days of San Francisco issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, on February 20th, Boxer declared that our mayor should have asked the courts for permission first and that she thinks the current state law is fair. Her spokesman says she’s for civil unions, but not marriages. Why is Boxer speaking out about this four days later? Turns out the public opinion polls came out the same day. Fifty percent of Californians oppose gay marriage, and only 43% or so support it. I guess Boxer knows what side of history she wants to be on, the popular side.

In any case, that polling statistic is pretty strange, since 62% of Californians voted for the Knight Proposition that made gay marriage a violation of state statutes.

My friend Richard Thieme has been visiting my old haunt, Sarasota, Florida. He’s sent me nostalgic pictures of one of my favorite places, Capt’n Curts restaurant on Siesta Key

and he’s ordered my favorite dish, the shark sandwich!

Tell me, Richard, is it still $4.99? I think I hear Auld Lang Syne in the background….

My blog is now Atom-enabled. Let me know if this form of syndication is a reasonable alternative to RSS. And thanks to Graham at Blogger for helping me work it out.

There’s a funny discussion about our stolen car going on on Fark. A substantial number of the posts concern the name “Honky”. El Chinchilla del Sur opines, “With a name like “Honky”, I bet George Jefferson took it. Although that wouldn’t explain the Pantera CD.” Meanwhile, Lenny_da_Hog says people who name their car Honky “better darned well be of European-American heritage.” The most political email so far says, “In today’s politically correct world, and with today’s politically correct definition of racist, that particular name highly offends me; therefore, you must be a racist.” Yes, you over there. You highly offend me, you racist! Meanwhile, a secret master key theory seems to be developing a critical following….

BoingBoing blogs our car story.

When our Honda Civic hybrid went missing last Christmas, Brad and I wondered if we’d ever see it again. What we didn’t realize was that while cars get stolen every day in San Francisco, our car’s disappearance was a technological impossibility. The finest cryptography went into making our car’s micro-chipped ignition key, so in principle it should be impossible to hack and hotwire. Nevertheless, we found the car, emptied of gas, filled with cigarette butts and Pantera CDs, parked about 5 miles away, clearly in a post-joyride daze.

How did it happen? Following Brad’s story on the Newsweek website, readers have contributed many theories, which Brad will follow up on with Honda and write more. My favorite so far is below (Read Brad’s story first):

I think that Honky, tired of being so socially and environmentally respectable and upstanding, decided to cut loose and raise hell around town. Knowing that converting to a standard gasoline internal combustion engine would have been far too time consuming, expensive, and not to mention, horribly painful, Honky started herself up, drove to the nearest convenience store and bought a pack of cigarettes, which she immediately began chain-smoking as the quickest way to generate more air pollution. Feeling herself loosening up, I would assume that she switched the radio settings to dance, went to the nearest gravel parking lot, and spent the night doing figure eights, possibly intoxicated on a fifth of Bacardi 151, which once consumed in the gas tank, would have been ejected out the window. Obviously Honky and the Acura have a little action on the side happening, what with going in and out of each others glove boxes.

As for leaving your wife’s red leather jacket untouched, obviously it’s a bad fit, unless she is a extraordinarily big and tall woman, if it had been a car bra, you would have found it sloppily secured on the front (Or burned).

Sated and tired, Honky drove to the ocean, breathed the salt air, and passed out, probably hung over and annoyed to be woken up by you.

Meanwhile, I’m interested in collecting other stories of technological mysteries. Email me, or comment below.

Hooray for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom! Newsom is pressing the civil rights issue of gay marriage by authorizing the City to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This will ensure a court battle, since the practice conflicts with California law, but we’ve had great legal success in Vermont, and now Massachusetts. In twenty years, people will look back on people opposing gay marriage the way we look back at the segregationists of the 1960’s. Newsom is brave and right to take this stand.

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