I’m Goin’ to Trial

[A repeat from April 7, 2018] When I was in the Felony Trial Division at 26th and California, every day was “Let’s Make a Deal.” Each courtroom had about 400 felony cases on call – with perhaps 20 coming up each day for status or trial. There was no way we could handle trials on all these cases so we played let’s make a deal. A killing that took place in a bar fight might be reduced from murder to voluntary manslaughter if the guy plead guilty. But go to trial for murder? You’re looking at 14 on the bottom (and in a few cases after 1976 – the death penalty). Let’s make a deal [in the spirit of February 16, 2022].   Most everyone did.  

Isaac R. was charged with armed robbery. He walked into a rental car agency at Wabash and Lake in Chicago swinging a sawed-off shotgun along his right leg.   A car hiker – sitting in a chair leaning against the wall – saw Isaac walking towards the glass-walled office. And he called the police. Isaac entered, raised the gun and the 7 women who were behind the counter all raised their hands.

Police arrived on the scene almost immediately and could see the goings-on through the glass walls. Guns drawn. Aimed. A Channel 7 news truck was driving by, saw the activity, stopped and began filming. When Isaac walked out, he was immediately arrested — on air — and taken into custody.

When his case came up, we assumed Isaac would plead guilty (can we please make a deal?) but he wanted a jury trial. And he wanted to represent himself — pro se.  A lawyer was assigned to sit with him and help.  My partner Al and I put on 6 of the 7 women as witnesses.  Two were nuns from a local order and two were teachers with second jobs.  Al and I wanted to put the Channel 7 video on but the judge asked –  smiling – “why?”  So we didn’t.  The jury was out for an hour and 20 minutes.  The reason it took so long was — the jury had lunch.  And Isaac (who had 3 other felony indictments pending) went away for a long, long time.   I hope he’s still there. . . . . 

Pardon My Blooper

When I was (very) young, I would listen to and howl at a series of records my parents had — the “Pardon My Blooper” series — which was compiled by Kermit Schafer (1914-1979). “Pardon My Blooper” was a collection of “unintended indiscretions before microphone and camera.”

Schafer was a radio/television producer and writer who began collecting on air “bloopers” early on.  He then began cataloging them — and then synchronizing them into a series of records.   Bloopers came into major prominence in 1931 when veteran radio announcer Harry Von Zell introduced the President of the United States as “Hoobert Heever.”   Schafer offered this wonderful collection of bloopers in seven record albums.  Schafer was criticized for recreating a few famous bloopers but for the most part, what listeners heard is what they hear today on those albums.   Sit back and enjoy a few minutes of real bloopers . . . .  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvyISMXVrmY

Joe Biden will be featured on an upcoming collection of “Pardon My Blooper.” And Donald Trump will be a regular on “To Tell the Truth.”

The Lottery

(A repeat from January 4, 2015) In 1996, 14 members of my old law firm won the Illinois State Lottery.  All six numbers on a Wednesday night drawing.  $4.4 million over 20 years divided 14 ways.  I was one of two attorneys to participate (you can do the math).   My secretary had asked me for two dollars (okay). No one retired. . . .

I still play a $1.00 Lotto ticket to the tune of $104 a year.  For yucks.   Same family numbers each week.  I win a few bucks here and there but so far, lightning has not struck twice.  Why?  The odds of winning are one in 20,358,520.  The odds of winning the Powerball are 1 in 175,223,510.

I’ve always thought that states could reap a huge windfall of tax money by taking a new approach.  Instead of picking 6 or 7 numbers (between 1 and 52 or whatever) – pick one single number between 1 and 175,223,510.  You’re gonna have a lot of people picking “711” or their birth year or their child’s birthday (1252007).  But how many people will pick 12 or 147,996 or 174,224,011?   You probably won’t have many who pick in the stratosphere of numbers.  And yet — the odds remain the same.  What will happen?  The quick answer — no one will win.  State coffers will overflow.  And politicians will have to think up new ways to waste money. 

As for me, I’m gonna play 106,228,003.  And take it to the bank.  Ka-ching ka-ching . . . . .

American Sign Language

[In view of the success of the movie “CODA” at the Academy Awards, I thought it appropriate to repeat my post of February 23, 2014]

I was sitting on the train a few weeks ago — waiting to pull out of the station. Three young girls (probably high school) came in and sat in the 4 seater ahead of me. They began conversing animatedly. Laughing. Giggling. And I watched. Fascinated.  What caught my attention was — they didn’t make a sound. One of the girls was deaf. And the three were mouthing words to each other and using sign language. “Signing.”  They were fast.  And fluent. 

American Sign Language (“ASL”) originated in the early 19th century at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT.   Today, it is used by nearly a million people.  I have two friends who are conversant in ASL:  my partner Dave D. and my former priest, Fr. Bob M. (both Eagle Scouts by the way).  Watching these three young women “talking” was something of a wake up for me.  Since then, when I have lunch at my desk (which is often), I will sometimes log onto an ASL site just to stretch my small brain.  The site is http://lifeprint.com.  I can say “I am a grandfather” and a few other things in ASL.  It is pretty cool to creak open this door.  I even looked into the cost of a class at a Loop college a few blocks away. 

If you want to stretch your brain, this would be a great way to do it.  I guess I have a special reason to look into ASL.  You see my father was clinically deaf from World War II.  And he never learned ASL.  And neither did I. . . . .  

Tell Me Who Your Friends Are

We all grew up somewhere. In a home. Most with parents who shared with us their love, emotion, beliefs, work ethic and family values. I was an only child with great parents who both worked from the time I was 8 years old. Mom was quiet and reserved. My Dad was a hero – deaf since World War II, he was a Boy Scout leader, Sunday school teacher and role model for me.

My Dad was the one who inspired me with my collections of stamps, coins, rocks, fossils, campaign buttons, magic tricks, autographs and such. And he was the one who would provide words of wisdom – which for me were well-needed.

The one saying that he repeated often – while looking me straight in the eye – was “Son, tell me who your friends are – and I’ll tell you who you are.” Soooooo. . . . I tried to hang out with good guys. Fellow Boy Scouts and high school pals. Today – I am ever so fortunate/lucky/blessed to have great friends from the varied chapters of my life (why they hang out with me – I’ll never know).

When it comes to the international community – look at the United States. And the countries who are our friends. Someone could write a book on the “why” we have such friends but for the most part they are democracies who share a respect for life. Liberty. And for the human condition. And America shares those values.

And then there’s Russia. Syria. North Korea. China. Iran. Venezuela. Despotic, tyrannical, despicable leadership. With an approach to government guided by abuse, aggression, domination and suppression. Enforced by incarceration and murder. And these guys are “friends” with each other(!). Go figure. . . . .

Ukraine – Follow Up

On February 26th, I posted a letter that I had written to lawyers in Moscow – with whom I worked for nearly 30 years. In this interim, I have heard nothing from them. The Russian government discourages freedom of any sort. And I suspect that my prior email may have been intercepted by the gangsters who do the grunt work for Putin. So I just penned another letter – to these lawyer/colleagues. . . . .

Dear Colleagues,

In 3 weeks, Russia has lost over 14,000 soldiers – all sons of Russia.  The Russian people (as I am sure you know) never receive honest news as there is no freedom of speech.  And now many Russians are leaving your country.

Those who criticize Putin are jailed or killed because he (has privately told some) he wants to be Czar (or King).  Putin’s Army is now destroying hospitals (17 so far), schools and residences (“we want to break their spirit”). Putin has killed thousands of citizens and yet those who remain are solid in defending their homeland against this War against them.

Because so many Russian soldiers have been killed, Putin is now bringing in Syrian fighters (approx. 40,000) to kill Ukrainians. Only 4 countries support Russia’s War against Ukraine:  Syria, North Korea, Belarus and Eritrea.  A few countries are neutral.  And  87 countries oppose Russia’s invasion and War. 

Putin has talked of advancing into Moldova and now has hinted at the Baltic countries – which would start World War III.  I am sad.  Most of the world is sad at the poison Putin has brought upon the Ukraine and upon his own people. And the world.  

I apologize for writing again but I ask for you to reach out for news beyond what is being fed to you by Putin’s government. 

If I can answer any questions, please know that I am here.

With kind regards,

Scott Petersen

The Holy Grail of Law

Black’s Law Dictionary is the most widely used law dictionary in the United States. First published in 1891 by Henry Campbell Black – a 31 year old lawyer who rarely practiced law – it has been the holy grail of definitions, legal terms and maxims for generations of attorneys. As a young lawyer, it was the first legal text I purchased. Several pounds and 1,882 pages. I still have it on the shelf. . . .

With all of the bickering over the January 6th “event,” I thought it would be instructive to see how Black’s Law Dictionary explains the various terms that have been accused, denied, propounded and “defined” by politicians and the media.

INSURRECTION — “A rebellion or rising of citizens or subjects in resistance to their government.” “Insurrection shall consist in any combined resistance to the lawful authority of the state with intent to the denial thereof when the same is manifested or intended to be manifested by acts of violence.”

INSURGENT — “One who participates in an insurrection; one who opposes the execution of law by force of arms or who rises in revolt against the constituted authorities.

REBELLION — “Deliberate, organized resistance by force and arms to the laws or operations of the government committed by a subject.

SEDITION — “An insurrectionary movement tending towards treason but wanting an overt act; attempts made by meetings or speeches or by publications to disturb the tranquility of the state.”

TREASON — “The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance; or of betraying the state into the hands of a foreign power.

According to those involved in the January 6th invasion of the Capitol Building, the purpose was to overturn the election of Joe Biden. I read that Mitch McConnell – a Republican – called January 6th a “violent insurrection.” If it was, what – or who – inspired it? I’m just asking. . . . .

Life After High School

(A repeat from September 7, 2014)

Social studies. Reading comprehension. English Literature. P.E. Chemistry. Trigonometry (did I spell that right?). These are all courses I took in high school. But the best course I took in high school was typing. I can type flawlessly for about 60 words a minute. The other courses? Physical science?  Chemistry? What the heck is a “beaker”?

Okay okay. These are all good courses – and worth taking. But for my money, I think high school students should all be required to take a course “Life After High School.” It would be a one year curriculum and involve seminars on balancing a check book; shopping; simple first aid; spending money wisely; relationships and respect; job interviews; nutrition; cooking simple meals; raising babies; investing; and so on. Topics which help a young person acclimate and actually put to good use after high school. Many kids will go to college. Many will not. But learning how to respect a spouse, showing your best to a prospective employer, and dealing intelligently with a screaming baby will benefit everyone.

These are not topics that are in conflict with parents so there should be no pushback. And it might create a broader universe of students/grads who are more able to assimilate, interact and thrive.

U.S. Foreign Policy

“. . . wherever the American flag was planted, there tyranny must disappear.

We all have favorite books. One of mine – that I just read for the 4th or 5th time – is U.S. Foreign Policy by Walter Lippmann. It was published in 1943 in the dark days of World War II. A time when 80 million people were killed in the brief span of six years. Lippmann’s premise is that America had no foreign policy following the Spanish American War (1898) until after World War II began. This absence of policy led to the bloodshed in the first half of the 20th Century. President Woodrow Wilson wrongly faulted World War I on a system of alliances. He therefore decided to abandon all alliances (which led to Germany, Japan and Italy developing theirs). Here are a few Lippmann lessons:

Never volunteer to do or not do something — unless there is reason and reciprocity for doing so.

Treating all adversaries alike is a huge mistake. Each one is different.

America cannot escape its history but it can – at fearful cost – misread its history” — Abraham Lincoln.

Collective security can be a remedy and substitute for alliances.

America’s foreign policy must be solvent before it can afford to issue any more promissory notes.

The “vital interests of the nation” – national interest – should guide foreign policy.

China and Russia will be major forces to contend with in the future.

Survival of the nation, its independence and security are a greater end than peace.

When contemplating these and other salient points of Lippmann’s incisive essay, we can see that America’s objective has not been to subjugate other nations to statehood or territorial inclusion. One need only see America’s heroic efforts to raise Germany and Japan from the ashes of war to rebuild, develop economic success and to kindle friendship. America’s military objectives abroad (whether wise or foolish) have always been intended to repel tyranny and cruelty and not to rule over a country or territory. And then we have Russia – whose objectives are to plant the flag — crush opposition, destroy economy, enslave the people and control with an iron hand. And jackboot.

Just Turn it Off

We are all concerned about our environment and about the conservation of water and energy.  For several years, I have posed a slogan for conserving water, energy and emissions. All we have to do is  Just Turn it Off®!   In my opinion, abiding by this simple but catchy phrase can make a difference. I mean — what’s not to like?   

WATER . . . .  We can’t live without it.  But there’s only so much of it on our planet.  And more than 95% of the water on our planet is salt water.  Thus it is natural that we would want to conserve our precious supply of fresh water, to use it sparingly and to keep it potable. Most of the water that enters our homes literally goes down the drain – into the sewer.  So what can the average person do to conserve fresh water and to preserve this valuable commodity for future generations?  JUST TURN IT OFF® By just “turning off” the water when it is not in use, you save gallons of fresh water every day.  If every person in America saved one gallon of fresh water daily, that translates to a savings of hundreds of millions of gallons of fresh water. So what can you do to help?  JUST TURN IT OFF®

●  When shaving, instead of leaving the water run, JUST TURN IT OFF®.  And turn it on to rinse the razor as needed.

●  When taking a shower, turn on the water – get it to the temperature desired – stand under the shower and then JUST TURN IT OFF®.  Soap down while the water is off. Frankly you will probably get cleaner than if the water just continues pouring down the drain.

●  When rinsing dishes, instead of leaving the water run, JUST TURN IT OFF® and turn it on to rinse the next plate or pan. 

●  When watering outdoor plants and shrubs, make each drop count.  Use an on/off nozzle so that when moving from one plant to the next, you can JUST TURN IT OFF®

●  Toilets should provide a flushing choice for disposing of liquid and solid waste. And you don’t have to flush every time if you get my drift. 

●  Rely on Mother Nature to water the lawn.  Use sprinklers only when necessary.

●  Wash only full loads of laundry. 

Let me know of any ideas you have to conserve water or energy!