After I wrote about the failures of the War on Drugs for BC Law Magazine last semester I waited anxiously for the backlash. I spent ten years in the U.S. Coast Guard before law school, six of them chasing international drug cartels at sea, and I had the opportunity to work with some of the most professional and dedicated military and law enforcement personnel in the world. I was terrified about how they’d respond when I called the drug war a “lost cause,” and it took less than a day for the responses to start flooding my inbox. The volume wasn’t surprising, but the content shocked me.
Behind Closed Doors
When people asked me about my summer (How was work? Did you like what you did?), I found it difficult to provide an adequate account of what I was doing. I spent my summer with the Child Protection Unit at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. The Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) there form part of the team that investigates and, if appropriate, prosecutes instances of child physical and sexual abuse in Suffolk County, which includes Boston, Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop. At the Superior Court level almost all of the cases they handle deal with allegations of sexual abuse involving children. To be clear, the following will include a discussion of those cases, and some of it may be difficult to read. Continue reading
A Film to Make Our Alma Mater Proud
I am pleased to host a guest post today from Vincent Lau, BC Law ’97. Alumni, please note that the Sung sisters will be special guests speakers for the Alumni Assembly at this year’s Reunion on November 3. If this is your reunion year, we hope you will attend! ABACUS will be screened earlier that day on the Law School campus, and the Rappaport Center will also host a panel discussion after the screening, open to all.
ABACUS premieres on PBS Frontline on September 12.
I was recently invited to a special screening of the new PBS documentary film ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail. First of all, a disclaimer: this is not a film review. I have no credentials to dissect whether ABACUS was well done from a technical or an artistic standpoint. What I can share are my reactions, and this documentary resonated with me on several fronts. The fact that the story (and film) involves several BC Law alumnae makes it even more compelling for our community. I would encourage everyone to go see it.
Abacus is a community bank located in the heart of New York’s Chinatown. Thomas Sung, an immigrant and a lawyer, opened the bank so that he could meet the needs of the people there. He later convinced two of his four daughters (one a BC Law alum) to join him, by arguing that working in a community bank lending money to local entrepreneurs is an important and effective way of giving back to the community. Continue reading
Unlock the Vote: Restoring Felons’ Rights
In April, I had the privilege of presenting a talk to the Boston College community as part of BC’s Graduate Student’s Association’s program GradTalks. It’s an annual event that provides a forum for a diverse selection of graduate students to present ideas that interest them. I spoke about felon disenfranchisement, and what we have to do in Massachusetts to overcome barriers to voting rights.
Watch the video after the jump.
Criminal Justice Reform Tackled at BC Law
At BC Law, your education does not only consist of the material you learn in your courses. BC hosts many conferences, functions, presentations, and discussions on just about every subject you can think of, from panels put on by professors addressing recent political actions to all-day events sponsored by BC’s journals and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy. Recently, the Rappaport Center sponsored an all-day conference on criminal justice reform in Massachusetts that was open to both students and practitioners. There were three panels as well as a keynote address by Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Crime Documentaries: Are They Really Helping?
I’m happy to be able to host a guest blog today from first-year student Christina Sonageri.
Technology has changed the way we do a lot of things—including the way we stream content. With the advent of platforms like Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime and Hulu, society has access to movies and shows at the click of a button. The change in how we are able to watch has helped to facilitate a more efficient way for producers and writers to share their stories.
One genre that I think has really flourished as a result is the crime documentary. Now, even when I hear the word “documentary,” my mind begins to swirl with mug shots of Steven Avery, the subject of Netflix’s Making a Murderer series, and images of the countless other subjects whose faces define the genre. Every time a new crime story is released, it seems it’s the only thing that anyone can talk about.
However, growing up the daughter of two lawyers initially made me skeptical of anyone who was trying to fit a whole case into just a few hours of television or film. So I decided to sit down and explore whether these types of documentaries are helpful or detrimental to the people involved in the crime—and what their impact on society’s faith in the justice system might be.
It’s Baltimore, Gentlemen; The Gods Will Not Save You
Let’s talk about Baltimore. Most people outside of the D.C. area know Charm City from David Simon’s The Wire. The Wire is a masterfully conceptualized piece of work that truly transcended television (full disclosure: I took an entire course on it in undergrad). Simon, in an interview, once said that:
The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. It’s the police department, or the drug economy, or the political structures, or the school administration, or the macroeconomic forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no decent reason. In much of television, and in a good deal of our stage drama, individuals are often portrayed as rising above institutions to achieve catharsis. In this drama, the institutions always prove larger, and those characters with hubris enough to challenge the postmodern construct of American empire are invariably mocked, marginalized, or crushed. Greek tragedy for the new millennium, so to speak.
Tinker Bell or Prison Time? (Paradigms of Criminal Law Part One)
“What do crime victims actually want?”
That is a question that sujatha baliga is asked quite frequently as a facilitator in restorative justice programs that focus on making a victim whole after a crime rather than punishing the person who committed the crime. “You can never really predict what will make a victim whole. Sometimes, it’s Tinker Bell,” balinga said. Continue reading
Passion Killing and Mercy
Finding one’s wife in the act of committing adultery, flying into a rage, and killing her or her lover is probably not a murder. At least that is the way American law has treated that scenario. Passion killing is an old term that used to designate small set of circumstances, like finding your wife with another man, in which intentional killing did not amount to murder. These circumstances, including such chivalrous acts as ‘mutual combat’ and ‘resisting illegal arrest’ were fixed, and they could drastically reduce your sentence.
The distinctions that structure our law are often also the distinctions that structure our shared values, and sometimes in the middle of a criminal law class, you can get an insight into those values. Continue reading