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Ferguson is burning. The first night's casualties are in: dozens of burned and looted businesses in Ferguson, two police cruisers burned, bottles and rocks tossed at police officers and reporters alike, riots, sixty-one arrests, and more National Guard troops on the way, reports CNN and The New York Times.

And the riots weren't confined to Ferguson: reports of riots and looting popped up in even the most far away places, like Oakland, California, where protestors shut down the I-580 freeway, looted, and set fires as well, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Why? The disputed tale of the death of Michael Brown, alternatively portrayed as an aggressor who attacked a police officer or as the victim of an execution-style murder. After an unusual grand jury featuring "all the evidence" and testimony from Office Darren Wilson, there is no indictment -- only pain, protests, riots, and unanswered questions.

Hopefully, all of us know that jailhouse phone calls are recorded. This presents a problem for attorney/client communications, which are privileged. Iowa has a statute requiring police to inform an arrested suspect in jail of his right to a confidential, in-person conference with his attorney once the suspect requests privacy for the communication.

That didn't happen in the case of David Hellstern. After he was arrested for DUI, an officer denied his request for privacy during a phone call and didn't fulfill his statutory obligation to tell Hellstern he had a right to a private, in-person conference.

It's hard for most people to feel sorry for Mark Christeson. According to The Associated Press, he teamed up with his cousin to rape a mother of two, then, when one of the kids recognized him, Christeson and his cousin murdered the whole family before taking off with their car and electronics.

Of course, there's often more to the story -- murderers don't often emerge from the womb without a conscience. Often, there's mental illness, or some sort of childhood tragedy, that makes you wonder if this person really deserves the death penalty.

Christeson never got the chance to tell that story because his attorneys, who still represent him and refuse to admit fault, missed the habeas deadline. He's scheduled for execution by the State of Missouri at midnight tonight, unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in and grants relief.

The police rolled up on Warnell Reid's place to arrest his girlfriend, Earnestine Graham, who had herself violated the terms of her federal supervised release. When they got there, the front door was slightly open and Graham was standing inside in her pajamas. She was quickly arrested without incident, a protective sweep of the house was done (because of the presence of minors), and then she was allowed to change.

When police officers escorted her into the house, they noticed an SKS rifle in plain sight. Graham told police that the rifle belonged to her boyfriend, who himself showed up and was detained moments later. Graham also gave police permission to search the home, which led to the discovery of two more firearms and ammunition.

Reid was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and sentenced to a term of 188 months' imprisonment as an armed career criminal. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit upheld the conviction but vacated the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) sentence.

"When I took my oath of office as a federal district judge in 1992, I knew that someday I might condemn an innocent man to die. I willingly accepted that risk when I took that oath, and I willingly accept that risk now. I will have to live with my knowing choice if such a horror comes to pass. I will have no one to blame but myself."

Early this month, a death row inmate was exonerated, thanks to a little DNA that was recently uncovered and tested. This was not particularly remarkable -- there have been many DNA-based exonerations over the last couple of decades. But the case drew attention because of a passing reference to the crime by Justice Antonin Scalia, who mocked the inmate's appeal while discussing Justice Blackmun's famous "tinker with the machinery of death" dissent.

At the time, we noted that both Justice Scalia and Justice Blackmun were assuming that the defendant was guilty -- Blackmun later argued for leniency because of the inmate's IQ, not factual innocence. But because Justice Scalia has a way with words, he himself was mocked by the press, including a particularly harsh take by "Digby," a blogger writing for Salon. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf, a trial judge for the District of Nebraska who imposes the death penalty, penned an equally harsh (and hilarious) response in his usual, frank style.

And then, in a follow-up, he wrote something even greater: insight into what it is like to be a judge who imposes the death penalty, sometimes, maybe, on innocent defendants.

"Has the Eighth Circuit gone nuts?" It's a fair question, one posed by the venerable U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf after the Eighth Circuit affirmed a downward departure of between 135 and 168 months Abby Rae Cole.

The trial court, which sentenced Cole to three years of probation, noted that she was part of "one of the largest corporate frauds in Minnesota history" (a $33 million rip-off of Best Buy) and "was also a significant tax fraud" (she dodged $3 million in taxes).

Nonetheless, both the district court and the appeals court felt that she deserved leniency. Why?

Raphael L. Donnell was convicted of conspiring to distribute ecstasy. His career offender sentence enhancement was upheld on appeal to the Eighth Circuit, but while the appeal was pending, King v. United States was decided by the same circuit court. King would have nixed the sentence enhancement, but his attorney didn't notice the opinion because it was handed down after briefing in Donnell's case, but before his sentence was affirmed.

King holds that when two concurrent and equal sentences are handed down, and one of them doesn't qualify for criminal history points, there's no way to determine whether either can qualify as a predicate for career offender status. In these rare instances, the benefit of the doubt lands in the defendant's favor thanks to the Rule of Lenity. King is now on shaky ground, rejected by the neighboring Sixth Circuit, and treated to a multi-page dicta rant here.

Is King dead? And was Donnell's counsel ineffective for not reading our blog and studying every opinion that came out of the Eighth Circuit while his client's case was pending?

When is a bank liable for a customer's Ponzi scheme? Tom Petters started a company called Petters Capital, which he claimed purchased excess merchandise and sold it to companies like Sam's Club. Sounds great -- except he never did that. He faked purchase orders and paid old investors with the money he received from new investors. You know, like you do in a Ponzi scheme.

Petters defrauded a lot of big banks and investors in his $3.65 billion scheme. Palm Beach Funds, a private equity firm, lost $700 million, and it sure wasn't going to get it from Petters. Instead, it sued the bank where the money was kept in escrow before Petters transferred it to Palm Beach, on the theory that US Bank breached its fiduciary duties and committed all the kinds of negligence. The Eighth Circuit disagreed.

Missouri doesn't use the two-drug protocol that left a man in Ohio gasping and convulsing during his execution, and stretched an Arizona man's execution to nearly two hours. And it doesn't use propofol, the drug that killed Michael Jackson, though it tried. (The drug manufacturer threatened to stop selling it stateside before Missouri backed down.)

Since October, the Show-Me State uses only one drug, pentobarbital, which it obtains from a compound pharmacy at $11,000 a hit. And so far, it works: seven executions this year so far, which according to Time, is a record-setting pace for the state.

In 2012, M.A., an 11 -year-old girl in Nebraska, began to receive unsolicited sexually explicit messages on Facebook from a fictional individual named Bob Shepard. Local law enforcement investigated and soon discovered that Bob Shepard was actually Jeffrey Anderson.

Anderson is M.A.'s half-brother.

An officer took control over M.A.'s Facebook account and, sure enough, Anderson continued with his dark, incestuous fantasizing by sending a sexually explicit image to M.A.'s account. The image, which originally depicted two adults engaged in consensual fornication, had Anderson's half-sister's face superimposed on the adult female's body. The image was captioned: "This is what we will do."

Needless to say, he was arrested, convicted, and given a very long sentence of 120 months. He now argues that his conduct was protected speech under the First Amendment.

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