Class Notes

Class Notes 4/18/17


Separation of Church and State- Justin Scott (Atheist)

Atheist- reject the God belief, Justin- not enough evidence that God exists, he doesn’t hate God

up there with LGBTQ and Muslims in terms of marginalization and hate

“I don’t care what you believe as long as you don’t push it on other people”

he doesn’t stand during the Pledge

given 5 minutes during the Waverly city council meeting- offended by prayer in city council meeting, “although it’s common to think that we are a Christian nation, that this is a Christian town, it’s not”, big deal to have city council challenged like this

Timi Brown-Powers sponsored him when he went to Des Moines to give invocation

try to model conduct after MLK

“committed to maintaining the separation between Church and State”

“the minority viewpoint is just as important as the majority”

“it’s about the fact that not all of us are religious”

try being the minority

in independence, got a local atheist to speak to the city council about implementing a day of reason

lucky to live in a place where people can go up to their elected officials and express themselves and their dissent

test of free speech is speaking up when you disagree but still respect the other side

if your belief system leads you to hate or oppress somebody, that’s when I have a problem but if it leads you to do good for other people, by all means do as much good for as many people as you can

religious freedom for believers is just as important as it is for the right to not believe

Supreme Court Case dealing with separation of Church and State- McCollum v Board of Education, in 1945 she filed lawsuit that would change relationship between religion and public schools, endorsed view of 1st amendment that pushed religion and public life into separate spheres- wall of separation between church and state, took a lot of courage for her to stand up and say you can’t bring God into public school, took place in Champaign Illinois, her sons didn’t take religious classes at school and then her sons were mistreated, she filed lawsuit, said the schools broke the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment, after trial life became impossible for them in Champaign, court ruled that the classes didn’t violate Constitution, went to state Supreme Court and they upheld the ruling, “I never thought of giving up, I was obligated to go on”, June 2 1947 the US Supreme Court agreed to hear case, Supreme Court decided on March 8 1948, decided in her favor 8-1, religion classes ruled unconstitutional, beginning of separation of church and state in public schools


Class Notes 3/28/17


Joan Becker- write profile

mother of Mark Becker who murdered Ed Thomas

publicly speaking for 6+ years

how will you ever heal completely if you keep opening up that wound- personal story gives her strength, “I so know that it is helping other people” “I don’t want any other mother or father sitting in our shoes” “we have nothing to lose by sharing our story”

hearing back from families and individuals that have gotten help because of their story keeps her going

never shied away from any question

June 24th 2009, 8:30 in the morning, wasn’t safe to be at home with Mark, was in Ames, cell phone started going crazy, Mark released early from mental health institution

went to Sunday school with Thomas’ for 30 years, Thomas was one of a few people who knew what was going on with Mark, pulled Becker’s aside and asked how Mark was doing and prayed for them

live out in the county, neighbor called and told Dave to get home and police were in their yard and looked like Mark was involved

Mark “believed that God was telling him to take the life of Ed Thomas and his parents” “he believed in his whole mind and heart that he was doing this for the better”

very difficult for jury to say “not guilty”, Iowa doesn’t have “guilty but insane”

spoken to college classes of judge in the case

“it’s difficult at best”

saw Mark last week, diagnosed and treated, medication, therapy, direct line to team of doctors, in Coralville, doing fairly well in general population, working hard to give him privileges, he read a book by a psychiatrist who had paranoid schizophrenia and finally admitted that he had an illness, “once he recognized that, we have seen such strides in his progress”, blessed to be able to visit him, making the most out of his life, works full time, mentors other inmates

proud of him, was under suicide watch for a long time, he will say “I love the Thomas family and there is no way I would’ve done that”

what caused it to culminate? don’t know the answer to that

never believed that he would take the life of anybody, only one time Ed Thomas’ name was mentioned, 9 months before during first blow psychotic episode but it was not just Thomas, believed they were all out to get him and wanted to talk sense into them, never did he talk about killing anyone other than himself

when did you notice shift?- easy to look back now, kept journals, stats that came together were frightening, so immersed day to day they couldn’t step back and look at the big picture, 16 years old was first sign, got caught with marijuana, first question was “why”, went along, were pretty naive, went to out patient program, never got the answer as to why, should’ve gotten into counseling right then, he was losing reality, voices started to take more control, when he was little wanted to sleep with parents, cried himself to sleep, voices had always been there and they scared me, he didn’t know what to say to his parents

urges to screen for mental health when speaking to school districts, could blow open success of right treatment for people with mental illness

“I didn’t want to admit that I was hearing voices because I didn’t want to be labeled as crazy” -Mark

drug usage- patterns: enrolled and dropped out of college 3 times, wondered if he was depressed, felt like he was a failure, he decided to self medicate- took heavy drugs, didn’t work- didn’t fix the issue, moved 12 times and had 11 different jobs during that time

when you as a parent are trying to love and support your child, you become so weary not knowing where to turn next

the first time he saw a psychiatrist was when he was in prison, 2 mental health committals within a few months, having horrific psychotic episodes, very dangerous for him and Joan, very physical during episodes, looked and sounded different during episodes, didn’t know what he was going to do

high speed chase in June

“shouldn’t have taken prison to get our son the help he needs”

working with crisis intervention training- need law enforcement to understand that there is so much going on with the families that when they call for help they’re exhausted and don’t know where to turn

no communication between agencies involved with mental health, need to treat the whole person, not just a piece- facility in Colorado that has all the pieces

“grueling” to sit in courtroom and listen to testimony, “really hard because they didn’t tell the whole truth”, no doubt that he did it but

couldn’t believe how people responded to questions on the stand, hard to be on the stand, everyone did their best but it’s still hard

Dave confirmed Mark was involved, wanted in sheriff’s office for questioning, spent hours there, “God was there with us, no doubt about it”, 17 year old son Scott praying out loud for his parents

DCI agent told them not to blame themselves, all of the law enforcement agents said the same thing

impressed by the support of law enforcement for family

family took them away for the night and protected them, not let them saw a tv, Jan Thomas said that they’re separating what Mark did from your family, they watched Aaron when he asked people to pray for the Beckers

easy as a mother to forgive him because she knew that he had no idea what he had done, harder to forgive the people who they felt had let them down when they were trying to get help for their son, Thomas family will have to forgive in their own time, Aaron has asked about how Mark is doing, personal decision for each of them to forgive Mark in their own time, Mark’s brothers have forgiven him

did Mark acknowledge it?- been a process, kept fighting the idea that he did anything wrong, didn’t really remember everything until the trial and he read the transcripts, took until the psychiatrists book, felt terrible, incredibly sorry, found some peace about it now

“why me, why Ed Thomas, I can honestly say I wasn’t myself when this happened” still hasn’t forgiven himself, hurts deeply, has apologized to his family many times

in shock right away, “how could this be happening” “we have tried so hard to get our son help and no one listened to us, how could this be happening to Ed now” took a long time for them to move beyond, wrote the book for her family, helped her put it to bed, something she needed to do

“my best friends in life are my family”

had to switch churches because of the reminders of Ed Thomas, could not heal with the constant reminders

terrifying to go to the first football game after it happened, on ESPN, media was crazy, “faith family football forever” was going to be proud of and supports Scott, the community supported them, shaking walking onto that field, it was surreal, ESPY’s was surreal

family has healed in different ways in different times but has always been glued together, “God kept us together”

treated with respect by media, no one demanded interviews, after the trial wanted them to know the rest of the story, no one had dry eyes by the time interviews were done

written and done art about his experiences, beautiful but tormenting, amazing but weird, explains his experiences, you won’t understand it

“learned not to disagree with him but we didn’t agree with him either, we just listened to him because we didn’t know what else to do”

“I don’t think I have to forgive the jury because I don’t blame them, they were just doing the best they knew how”

writing the book and speaking helped a lot

goal: want people with mental illness to have parity with treatment, got to get people to the right doctors, they go to the doctor and they get a diagnosis and treatment plan and the help they need

Mark feels safe in prison, our world frightens him, blessed with how well he is treated, Mark loves being an uncle, brothers visit and keep in touch (email a lot)

Ed Thomas hated lawsuits, Becker family would never feel right pursing a lawsuit

carries herself with such dignity, grace, strength, and faith

if one family could be prevented from going through this, it’s worth it, yes this is a tragedy but good can come out of it

as a parent, you don’t have to love what they did, but they’re still your kid so you love them


Class Notes 3/21/17


Aaron Thomas Victim Impact Statement

Aaron Thomas’ victim impact statement is raw, emotional, and powerful yet it is also composed. Aaron has a lot of grief and anger but he also has an extreme amount of faith that really shines through his statement. Obviously he is hurt, his dad was taken away from him but I think he shows true strength in what he writes. He writes the statement as if he is speaking to Mark Becker and that makes it extremely powerful and emotional. Aaron also gives insight into the legend that was Ed Thomas. The anger is clear and so is the grief. Aaron writes: “I would like to tell Mark Becker how my goodbye to my father went… I walked in to see my dad with a breathing tube in him, blood stains still around his ears, and near his gunshot wounds. I could see his eyes that were black all the way around from the head trauma. I could see the kick and stomp marks on his chest and head… This was my goodbye to my dad”. Aaron also expresses how his life was turned upside down. As if losing a father wasn’t enough, he was approached to replace his father as head football coach and athletic director at A-P.

My heart broke when Aaron talked about his three sons, ages 6, 4, and 2, and how he would like to hear what Mark would have to say to them about why their Grandpa wasn’t around any more. The impact of Ed Thomas was clear when Aaron states: “You have robbed my three kids of a man they loved. You robbed my mom of her loving husband, you have robbed Todd and I of a dad who we admired, loved, and learned from. You robbed so many young people of the opportunity to learn and become the best they could be”.

Perhaps the most inspiring part of this statement is the true strength that I saw in the words. “the bad news for Mark Becker is my dad’s message still rings… The message of continuing to do your best, to help others in need, to give everything you got, to be accountable and dependable, to be substance free, those messages are still being spoken… So while you thought you were ending my dad’s message of being good people, you have only spread it all the more! Through your actions the entire nation now knows what Ed Thomas stood for… You and Satan had a well designed plan to kill my dad but no vision of how your ruthless act would spread the word of God and the message of my dad all the more. Once again Mark, you have failed!”. It is truly inspiring to see this type of a response from a young man who just lost his father. The fact that Ed Thomas’ lessons and legacy lives on through him and that Aaron had the guts to say that even in committing murder, Mark Becker failed shows a lot of courage and strength.

The faith that he has is truly special and no doubt he got that from his father. Aaron’s final words are: “We will continue my dad’s message… We will see my dad again in Heaven. We will not let you and Satan win by filling our hearts with sin and ask God why us. God does not do evil but he does allow it. Through my dad’s murder HIS God was glorified!”. Again, this just shows his faith and his strength. I don’t think I could be strong like that. I would certainly want to be but I am amazed by Aaron Thomas’ faith and strength through this unimaginable tragedy.

Supreme Court Justice Nominee Hearing

Neil Gorush’s Statement

Grassley swore him in

3 things I learned about him

“I am honored and humbled to be here”

met with over 70 senators, warm welcome

thank a lot of people

“long before we’re democrats and republicans, we’re Americans”

wants to be faithful servant to the laws and constitution

“success in life has very little to do with success”

“lawyers exist to help people with their problems, not the other way around”

“judges can disagree without being disagreeable”

“a case isn’t just a number or a name, it’s a life’s story”

“sometimes the answers we reach aren’t the ones we prefer”

“putting on a robe does not make me smarter”

“putting on the robe reminds us that it’s time to lose our ego and open our minds”


Class Notes 2/28/17


Spotlight- Movie based on true story

Boston Globe investigated Catholic Church priest abuse started in 2002

Hollywood version is very close to what happened in real life

Investigative techniques

role of insider and role of outsider

sometimes when you’re inside a story it’s hard to see the big picture

how does an investigative story like this get reported?

Boston, Mass.1976

jump to 2001

Spotlight team- 4 person investigative team, keep work confidential

reality of business- shrinking readers, financial problems

“we can do better”- great philosophy

Eileen MacNemara’s column led to the investigation

Baron doesn’t think they’ve done a thorough job investigating the case- outsider

started by talking to lawyers

need to be more discreet than usual

pulled clips from files

wants to sue the Catholic Church

53% of subscriber base Catholic

face to face with Cardinal

interaction between journalist and lawyer who doesn’t want to talk- lawyer doesn’t want to talk, journalist uses influence of paper, gets to talk to some of the victims

80 plaintiffs, allegations against cardinal law

SNAP- victim support group, talked to Salviano (leader) about past abuse from priest- you just go along with it because he made you feel special, robbed of innocence and faith

find another priest in old clips from own archives- story comes from their own history, individual stories are nothing compared to the whole

Church settled old cases

trying to find a pattern

Salviano sent stuff 5 years ago and they didn’t do anything with it- they run checks on him to make sure he’s a credible source

journalist following lawyer around the street to try to talk to him

lawyer gets interested when Spotlight is digging

asking permission to take notes, not using name unless victim wants to

interview victims to get their stories

correlating priests to god

victim seems surprised that the journalist really wants to hear the story

victims lives spiraled down after that- drugs/alcohol/suicide

trying to keep it quiet

look through old priest directories

no records of settlements, never filed in court

“it takes an outsider”

“if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”

work backwards

6% of all priests

editor-outside wants to focus on institution not individual to make a difference

going after the system

going door to door to find victims

one of the priests admits it to reporter (packwin)

think that because judge was catholic, she would side with the church

everything stopped because of 9/11

business is very competitive- want to get things first and timing is right

got public records that proved law knew about the priests

“the trick is, to keep asking”

600 stories published in Boston globe

249 priests and brothers accused

1,000 survivors



Class Notes 2/21/17


Historic Civil Rights cases in Iowa

born and raised in Waterloo, (West High)

married and 3 kids

law school-Drake

law firm in CF then sole practicioner

assistant district attorney

1999-District Court Bench (1st district) 11 years

2011- appointed to Iowa Supreme Court by Brandstead

term goes until 2020

proud of heritage

1834- 1st case. Ralph was slave in MO (slave state), owner agreed he could move to IA and buy his freedom, worked in lead mines in Dubuque and fell behind on payments, owner came back to get him, 1839 Iowa Supreme Court ruled he couldn’t bring him back b/c Iowa was free, few years later US Supreme Court ruled other way- Dredd Scott case.. IA ahead of the time!

“A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Lincoln)

1868- Clark v Board of Directors- 12 yr old black girl, school board refused to admit her in public school, Iowa Supreme Court “the law makes no distinction for the right of children to attend the common schools” (IA Constitution), US Supreme Court went other direction again- Plessy v Ferguson (separate but equal) stood until Brown v Board in 1954 (separate is not equal)

Coger v NW Union 1873- black teacher who wanted to take boat across river, couldn’t buy ticket with meals, meal ticket said “colored girl” had someone else buy her a ticket and she showed up to dinner, was asked to leave and refused and was forcibly removed, Iowa Supreme Court- plaintiff entitiled to same rights and privileges as whites on the boat “all men are by nature free and equal” (IA Constitution), not outlawed in US Supreme Court until 1964 (Civil Rights Act)

most proud of how Iowa was ahead of its time in terms of Civil Rights

Decision Making process- everything that is appealed in district court goes to Supreme Court, then they decide what cases to take another look at, screening panel every month (15-20 cases) to decide what cases to keep, if they don’t want it to goes to court of appeals, 110 cases each year (1000 for court of appeals), oral or non oral argument on cases, 7 members on Iowa Supreme Court, each case is randomly assigned to justice to work up, all read and prepare for every case, conference the case after oral argument, if you’re not in majority someone else will right it, circulate draft opinion to other members of court, then vote, “leave your ego at the door and have a thick skin”

Becker- very very high profile, looked at more closely by everybody, look at entire record and entire court file, case was very complex

you have to stand up for yourself and what you believe in

always multiple points flowing around the conference table when discussing a case, everyone gets a chance to speak

most difficult cases they argue about are progression of juvenile sentencing

now on term system like US Supreme Court- hear and decide cases from sep 1 to june 30

“like a treadmill” before term system

july and august is admin term

court system is 180 million dollar business

not bound by what US Supreme Court says

“we’re always accountable to the public”

Tough cases where he dissented: ineffective counsel case- 2004 HIV case defendant pled guilty, 2012/14 science had changed; sexually violent predator, juvenile sentencing cases, murders are difficult

in Des Moines about 10 days/month (where IA Supreme Court resides), “courts on the road”

most interesting case- trial judge in Michelle Kehoe case, more difficult subject, insanity defense, trial moved from independence to grundy center, court tv live streamed the whole trial

“someone’s life in the balance and you want to get it right”

expanded news media coverage- Iowa on leading edge, everything is open, there are rules but there is still full access, try to keep up with modern technology, zero problem with transparency, try to make it as transparent as they can, “what’s wrong with everybody seeing whats going on?”

least favorite thing is probably disciplining fellow attorneys, “most of the people who get disciplined really deserve it” ex: stealing $ from client, play around with clients $, some people like to play/ignore the rules, difficult but common sense things that you shouldn’t do

95% of budget is people

Dentist Assistant fired for being “Too pretty”

she was fired from her job in Fort Dodge, Iowa, as a dental assistant, after 10 years, simply because her boss found her irresistibly attractive – and a threat to his marriage.

In August 2010, Nelson filed a gender discrimination suit against Knight, seeking damages and lost pay, in Iowa District Court. The judge dismissed the case before trial

In September 2012 the Iowa Supreme Court heard Melissa’s appeal. In December the seven justices ruled that although the one month’s severance was “ungenerous,” it is OK to terminate an employee “simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.” Especially since the boss’s wife felt her marriage was threatened.

“She was fired because he felt that their relationship was affecting his marriage,” and that’s not a strictly gender issue


Class Notes 2/14/17

journalists kept asking questions and it led to big things

“the sources caused journalists to dig for more and more details about Flynn’s calls. One story became 10 stories, and 10 became a hundred”.

“Evan Osnos of The New Yorker tweeted, “The Flynn story is a reminder of a big truth: Journalism lives. And principled public servants who got the story out are hidden heroes””

Flynn called the Russians multiple times

Flynn resigned

The move comes less than a month into the job, making him one of the shortest-serving senior presidential advisers in modern history

Flynn was a white house national security adviser

“More than whether he really had a conversation with the Russians about sanctions, the key issue internally was whether he told the truth to Pence”

“We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security”

“Flynn was not able to definitively refute a Washington Post story late last week that his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak included communication about the sanctions. It is illegal for unauthorized private citizens to negotiate with foreign governments on behalf of the US”

“Many expressed concern at the idea that Flynn, a retired lieutenant general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency, would discuss sanctions with a foreign official”

Shane Moreland Channel 7 KWWL

Saturday Night Live- Melissa McCarthy: Sean Spicer Press Conference

“fake news”- political, look at trusted sources, what was trusted 10 years ago might not be trusted today, look at lots of media for a long haul,

Brian Williams left NBC for fake stories

Trump admin calling on local affiliates not just big news orgs

norm turned upside down

people are tired of media complaining about not getting picked

journalists get extremely close to the president- too close? cloud your judgement?

“good to shake up the status quo”

makes you think about why they do what they do (journalists)

trust in journalists is about as low as it can get tonight

need a balance of news stories

people are interested in lots of things

“people buy the paper because of the headline”

Video- shooting, murder, dead person, no info from sherrif’s office; if there is a problem people look to the news source first; 3 days to get info, let news help to let people know they’re safe, if you can see it from a public place you’re fine to take pics/videos, when media is clearly in the right and it goes before a jury- 50/50 chance of being right- media has to be very careful

as journalists you represent the people- the sheriff/police represent the government

the public needs to know

RTDNA code of ethics- minimize harm particularly to vulnerable individuals, responsible reporting means considering the consequence, right to to report does not always mean its right to do so, obligation is to pursue truth and report, not withhold it, shying away from difficult cases is not ethical

“journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations” gorge orwell

“job is to be reporters not repeaters”

stories that are hard to confirm- “come do a story on me” red flag!! need cooperation and facts, when someone calls their own news conference its very suspect

a lot of this is a judgement call

don’t believe anything anybody tells you; believe they’re lying; they have to prove it; don’t take things at face value; fact check; hold them accountable; challenge them on their answers; use your common sense; ask questions

just go and you’ll find a story; news doesn’t happen in the news room, it happens out there

if you don’t talk to the media, it looks like you’re hiding something

do everything you can to protect identity of sexual assault victim- rape shield law in Iowa

hard to do a story on sexual assault

if you do something wrong, make amends first and foremost not excuses


Class Notes 2/7/17


“live and learn”

what to do and what not to do

all info in an affidavit is public record

when in doubt leave it out

is a journalist responsible for the decisions of the people they write about?

have to put yourself in the shoes of the people you’re writing about

the only person you really have a responsibility to is the victim

should always be the victim’s choice to share their story

leave out identifying information to protect the victims from retraumatization

Rolling Stone rape report


Class Notes 1/31


A look at the Story County Judge Evaluations in District 2B showed that Judge Stephen A. Owen ranked between 4 and 5 on every category in both performance and personality.

For performance, Judge Owen received above average-outstanding performance rankings in the following categories: Knowledge and application of the law (4.34), Perception of factual issues (4.32), Punctuality for court proceedings (4.58), Attentiveness to arguments and testimony (4.39), Management and control of the courtroom (4.42), Temperament and demeanor (4.55), Clarity and quality of written opinions (4.34), Promptness of rulings and decisions (4.55).

Owen also received very strong personality evaluations from the following: Avoids undue personal observations or criticisms of litigants, judges and lawyers from bench or in written opinions (4.57), Decides cases on basis of applicable law and fact, not affected by outside influence (4.56), Is courteous and patient with litigants, lawyers and court personnel (4.56), Treats people equally regardless of race, gender, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or disability (4.7)

His retention Percentage was 94% and there were 77 respondents.


Reference: Iowa Bar Association:

Covering Iowa Law and Courts: A Guide for Journalists: Chapter 2 Criminal Cases

“The criminal justice system exists to deal with those who commit wrongs against society… Iowa’s criminal laws, as enacted by the Iowa General Assembly, are collected in volumes known as the Code of Iowa. The U.S. Congress also passes criminal laws, collected in the United States Code” (p. 1).

“Iowa’s criminal statutes have been classified into seven different categories, based upon the maximum punishments for each offense. There are four classes of felonies (ranging from the most serious, Class A, down to Class D) and three classes of misdemeanors (aggravated, serious, and simple)” (p.1).


Arrest and Release/Bond Conditions

“If the charge filed is a simple misdemeanor, the defendant is ordered to appear personally before either a magistrate or district associate court judge to enter a plea. If the defendant pleads guilty, the judge typically proceeds directly to sentencing, usually by imposing only a monetary fine; however, certain simple misdemeanor charges (domestic assault, for example) have mandatory jail penalties. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date is set” (p.2).


“The defendant is guaranteed the right to have a lawyer present at all proceedings, and if the defendant cannot afford an attorney, one may be appointed by the court” (p.2).

Preliminary Hearings and Trial Informations


“The trial information is a document prepared by a prosecutor and approved by a judge. The trial information must be filed within 45 days of the defendant’s arrest. The trial information sets forth the specific charge or charges against a defendant and lists the witnesses the State plans to call to testify against that defendant” (p.3).

“Trial informations for serious and aggravated misdemeanors and Class D felonies may be approved by either district associate or district court judges. Trial informations for the more serious Class A, B, and C felonies may only be approved by district court judges, as they are the only ones with jurisdiction over those classes of cases.

Arraignment and Pleas” (p.3).

“The grand jury is a specially-drawn panel of citizens who convene in special circumstances. The grand jury meets in secret, and after reviewing only the testimony and evidence submitted by prosecutors, determines if charges should be brought against a defendant” (p.4).


Arraignment and Pleas

“It is at the arraignment that a person accused of an indictable offense enters a plea.

Pre-Trial Process” (p.4)

“The vast majority of the time, a defendant enters a plea of not guilty at arraignment in order to preserve all of her/his rights” (p.4)


“Note, however, that a plea (or even a jury verdict) of not guilty is not the same as saying the defendant is innocent. Not guilty merely represents that the State cannot prove the defendant guilty of the charged offense, and can include affirmative defenses of diminished capacity (due to intoxication or mental illness) or justification (commonly known as self defense)” (p.4).


Guilty Pleas

Jury Trials/Bench Trials

The Trial Process

Post-Trial Motions


Monetary Fines and Restitution

General Comments—Reporting On Criminal Cases


Iowa Supreme Court

one job is to address attorney behavior

Jesse Marzen

“it’s not just the person that pays the price, it’s everyone around them”

“it’s really about humanity that binds us all”

Mauer Divorce Case

“starts with a story and it becomes another story, it becomes a circle”

“all these stories are bound together in a court of law”

State of Iowa vs Mark Becker

Applington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas murder

arrived in 1975 coach at 25, 292 wins 2 state titles, national hs coach of the year

turn generations of boys into men, make them better men

May 25, 2008 tornado hit Parkersburg, killed 8 people, destroyed hundreds of homes

“Ed Thomas guided Parkersburg out of the wreckage”- narrator

September 5, got the field back together 11-1 record

started just like any other day, weights in the morning

Mark- diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, shot Thomas 7 times

kid he taught and coached

“how are we going to live to tomorrow”- joan becker

press conference hours after- asked them to pray for Becker family

“lead by example”- aaron thomas

“right away they said we’re here with you”- joan becker

“compassion is the driving force in their family”- dave becker

“i know coach wasn’t there, but he was there”-dave

“faith family and falcon football”-narrator

“no doubt we’ve been faced with adversity, but how we react to it is what matters”-aaron thomas

state argues that it was premeditated- malice and intent

have to prove 4 elements of murder in the 1st degree


Class Notes 1/24/17


Judge David Staudt

Lyric Cook-Morrissey’s dad going to prison for at least 30 years

Judge Grants New Trial for Waterloo Man Convicted of Murder

Rhoades v. Iowa, No. PCCV 112123 (Iowa Dist. Ct.), Ruling on PCR Application, Dec. 23, 2011

Officer admits to crass remarks at black teen’s death scene

Morrissey trials to move to Davenport

Morrissey trials to move to Davenport

Teenager charged with killing his sister, emotions run high

Teen gets prison for bringing gun to school


why enter the law?

toughest cases?

most rewarding part?

how do you do it?

why become a public defender? how could you defend someone you knew was guilty?

how long does it take you to come to a decision/ how do you come to your decisions?


Iowa Courts:

District Court Judge in State of Iowa

US-Federal Jurisdiction

State court jurisdiction- Supreme Court of the State of Iowa (7 justices, further review, majority vote), Court of Appeals (9 judges, 3 panels, hear appeals- affirm or overrule), District Court ($10,000 or more, felonies, and anything below, divorces, civil- car accidents, contracts, workers comp appeals), Associate District Court (OWI, possession, simple assaults, money judgements up to $10,000), Magistrates (simple misdemeanors and civil/small claims-money judgement less than $1,000, 51%)

supreme court and court of appeals never hear an original case (only review)

each court has it’s own jurisdiction

“the state of Iowa vs…”

bankruptcy is a federal case

Felony- serious crimes (4 kinds: Class A, B, C, D)

Class A- life in prison no chance for parole (1st degree murder, 1st degree sexual assault, 1st degree kidnapping, 2nd degree murder- 50 years and must do 70%)

Class B- 25 years (attempted murder, robbery in the 1st degree, burglary in the 1st degree, kidnapping in the 2nd degree)

Class C- 10 years (

Class D- 5 years

breaking and entering- “breaking the seal”

have to move someone to kidnap them

false imprisonment- holding someone against their will

drug cases can be B,C, or D

poss of marijuana is a serious misdemeanor

delivery or possession with intent to deliver is class C

giving marijuana to a minor is a class B felony

receives calls at home to sign search warrants

search warrants are generally public record, sealed until they are served/executed

warrants get police around 4th amendment

specific intent to kill and malice and forethought is difference between 1st and 2nd degree murder

very hard to determine difference between 1st and 2nd degree murder

involuntary manslaughter- up to 5 years in jail

sexual assault- committed against person’s will

adult (over 18) cannot have sex with someone less than 16

your duty to find out age- no excuses

cannot give consent hammered

prove beyond a reasonable doubt

reasonable doubt- no serious doubt, firmly believe it, not proof beyond all doubt, much more than 51% or 75%

undisclosed HIV can lead to being charged with a crime

if you are attacked- self defense (if you don’t have an assured way to get to safety)

first duty (in Iowa) is to retreat/ avoid conflict

must use a reasonable amount of force in retaliation

everything is factually driven

generally speaking for assault government doesn’t get involved without a complaint

sometimes charges can be filed without a complaint

assault must have intent

circumstantial- set of facts that adds up to give certain story

direct evidence is best

Memorable Cases:

guy guilty of first degree murder granted a new trial (can’t show gang signs at trial-influences people) and jury found him not guilty

represent all kinds of people “it’s just what we do” to the best of their ability

most public defenders do it because they’re committed to helping people who are in trouble

most people who he represented weren’t bad people, just did dumb things

sometimes they over charge the crime-plea bargains

public defenders office can choose not to represent someone only because of a conflict (of interest or too many other cases)

hard to represent someone you know closely on a serious crime because lawyer has to make decisions based on things other than personal feelings- co counsel is a good solution

rights of a regular person in court- open courts, can watch almost anything except mental health and some juvenile cases, can take notes (on paper and pencil), cannot use phone to take videos (no electronic devices)

rights of media member in court- press has every right to be there, different rules (expanded media coverage request- gets you notice to hearings, can’t cause trouble, can have laptop, phone, can tweet during trial (which can cause problems), just gotta work together, never take pictures of the jurors

criminal jury trial starts on tuesday- morning is jury picking, 1:30 is when trial begins (opening statements), just walk right in, 3rd and 4th floor is where felonies are,

there are certain elements that have to be proven that all must be proven beyond reasonable doubt

“very few absolute rights in this world”- there are always limitations

defendant and state both have a right to a fair trial

8 districts in the state of Iowa

ever lawsuit is the same- 2 parties that can’t agree and someone has to decide



Class Notes 1/17/17


  • “Don’t write a story that you don’t want to read” (if it doesn’t grab your attention, move on)
  • “A well written in document has all the elements of a good news story written in a similar style of a news story”
  • “Many people don’t succeed in life because they don’t pay attention to details”
  • Burke interview with Dr. Phil: socially awkward, strange affect, smiling throughout, unsettling to watch, something is off, very public stage, not a coincidence that he talked to Dr. Phil (legal strategy)
  • Headline: sums up the story
  • Lead: summary lead: gets you into the story at hand
  • Context: what is he asking for, why is he claiming defamation,
  • Why is this important to the reader
  • Basics need to be there
  • Direct quotes (attributed) (the complaint, lawyers, original document that you read)


Article 1:

Headline: JonBenet Ramsey brother files lawsuit against CBS over murder miniseries

Lead: The brother of JonBenét Ramsey, the slain child beauty queen whose grisly murder captivated the nation 20 years ago, filed a defamation lawsuit on Wednesday against CBS and several others over a televised special about the mysterious death

Context: Burke Ramsey, 29, is suing the network, a production company and a host of contributors behind “The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey,” a four-hour miniseries that aired over the course of two days in September. He says the program falsely accused him of murdering his sister, who was six years old when she was brutally killed inside her family’s Colorado home; The complaint refers at one point to previous lawsuits filed in the late 1990s against tabloids and other media companies that published claims that Burke Ramsey was a suspect in the murder. The outlets settled those lawsuits with Ramsey out of court; Ramsey is seeking no less than $250 million in compensatory damages and no less than $500 million in punitive damages, according to the complaint; Other defendants include Dr. Werner Spitz, an investigator for the series who was the subject of a separate $150 million defamation lawsuit from Ramsey in October. That lawsuit, which is still pending, stemmed from a comment Spitz made in a radio interview. Spitz’s lawyer filed a motion for dismissal, arguing that the First Amendment protects such comments on a matter of public concern.

Direct Quotes: In a complaint filed in Michigan court on Wednesday, a lawyer for Burke Ramsey asserts that law enforcement has “repeatedly, publicly and unequivocally” cleared his client of any involvement in the death, and that “CBS perpetrated a fraud upon the public.”; “Since the time of the above accusations against Burke in 1998 and 1999, no member of the tabloid media or the mainstream media has ever again accused Burke of being involved in—or suspected of—JonBenét’s murder,” the complaint said. “That is, until CBS aired the Documentary.”; The complaint added: “While Defendants’ false accusations against Burke echo the accusations made against him by supermarket tabloids years ago, the key difference is that this time, the accusation was published by the most respected member of the American broadcast media, CBS.”

Article 2:

Headline: Burke Ramsey, JonBenét’s brother, sues CBS in $750 million slander suit Lawsuit says documentary slandered JonBenét’s brother by accusing him of killing his sister

Lead: The brother of JonBenét Ramsey has filed a lawsuit seeking $750 million against CBS Corp., saying the broadcast company produced a fraudulent documentary that slandered him by accusing him of striking and killing his sister with a flashlight in 1996.

Context: Burke Ramsey’s lawsuit was filed Wednesday in 3rd Circuit Court in Wayne County, Mich., by Atlanta attorney Lin Wood on Ramsey’s behalf. It claims CBS slandered him during a prime-time, four-hour documentary Sept. 18-19.; The defendants in the case also include Critical Content LLC, a California programming studio; former FBI profilers Jim Clemente, James Fitzgerald and Stanley Burke; forensic expert Laura Richards; former Boulder district attorney’s investigator A. James Kolar; forensic scientist Dr. Werner Spitz; and celebrity pathologist Henry Lee; Ramsey, who was 9 when his sister was killed, is seeking $250 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages. Ramsey, now 29, lives in Charlevoix, Mich.; The lawsuit says Burke Ramsey is a private citizen and has never attained the status of a public figure, which is relevant in a slander claim.; After decades of silence, Burke Ramsey came forward only this year after he learned CBS was working on a documentary that identifies him as a suspect in his sister’s death. He granted one interview to Dr. Phil McGraw from the “Dr. Phil” show.; The lawsuit includes a long list of facts that dispute the theory that any member of the family was involved in the murder, including DNA from an unidentified male found under JonBenét’s fingernails and on the crotch of her underwear. Although the CBS program indicated JonBenét’s death was caused by the flashlight strike, the autopsy report said the cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation with the garrote associated with craniocerebral trauma, the lawsuit says.; The lawsuit says there were fingernail abrasions and scrapes near where the garrote was embedded in JonBenét’s neck, indicating that she was struggling with her attacker, the lawsuit says. Wood fragments from a paintbrush used to create the garrote were found in JonBenét’s vagina, it says. Her hymen was injured during the sexual assault, causing her to bleed onto her underwear.; On Oct. 6, Burke Ramsey filed a separate $150 million lawsuit in the 3rd Circuit Court in Michigan against forensic pathologist and CBS media expert Werner U. Spitz. The lawsuit cited statements Spitz made in a Sept. 19 CBS Detroit radio program that also were used in the CBS TV miniseries.

Direct Quotes: “CBS and Critical Content knowingly and intentionally published false and defamatory statements conveying that Burke killed JonBenét, engaged in a criminal coverup with his parents and lied to the police,” the lawsuit says.; “CBS perpetrated a fraud upon the public — instead of being a documentary based on a new investigation by a so-called team of experts, ‘The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey’ was a fictional crime show,” the lawsuit says.; “Defendants knew that the majority of the … theories presented in the documentary were taken from ‘Foreign Faction’ and did not, as represented to the public, result from a complete reinvestigation by new experts,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants created the illusion of a new real-time reinvestigation by using individuals with law enforcement credentials as actors to play the role of the pseudo-experts and support and act out the accusation of Kolar’s book and the basis supporting its accusation.”; Kolar’s theory that Burke Ramsey killed his sister was viewed as early as 2006 by members of Lacy’s office as “ludicrous,” “total smoke and mirrors” and “speculation based on hearsay,” the lawsuit says. His employment at the office ended shortly after his presentation of the theory in 2006, the lawsuit says.; “No evidence suggesting Burke’s involvement in JonBenét’s death has ever been discovered and, because he is innocent, does not exist,” the lawsuit says. “As far back as 1998, law enforcement authorities responsible for the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation have repeatedly, publicly and unequivocally cleared Burke Ramsey of any involvement in the death of his sister.”; The lawsuit quotes the forensic experts who appeared in the CBS documentary including Clemente as telling various newspaper reporters that the show reaches a conclusion about who killed JonBenét. Clemente was quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as saying it “explains who did what to whom and when and how.” Fitzgerald proclaimed, “we solved it,” during a promotional campaign, the lawsuit says; “There was no evidence developed prior to or during the law enforcement investigation and the grand jury investigation that in any way links Burke to the killing of his sister or that caused the Boulder PD or the Boulder DA to consider him a suspect in the investigation of her murder,” the lawsuit says.

Article 3:

Headline: JonBenét Ramsey’s Brother Sues CBS for ‘Extraordinary’ $750 Million Over Docuseries

Lead: Burke Ramsey has filed a second defamation lawsuit over a recent CBS docuseries that advanced the theory he killed his younger sister, JonBenét, more than two decades ago, PEOPLE confirms.After suing forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz in October for $150 million in damages, lawyers for Burke on Wednesday filed another civil suit — this one, naming CBS as well as Critical Content LLC, the production company behind The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, and seven experts and consultants featured in the special, which aired over two nights in mid-September.

Context: PEOPLE obtained a copy of the second suit, which seeks $250 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages.In addition to listing Spitz as a defendant, the suit filed Wednesday names retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent and criminal profiler Jim Clemente; criminal behaviorist Laura Richards; Jim Kolar, a former lead investigator in the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation; forensic linguistics expert James Fitzgerald; statement analyst Stanley Burke; and forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee.; JonBenét was found dead in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado, in December 1996. Though the Ramsey family long faced suspicion, including from police, in JonBenét’s death, they have never been charged and have always maintained their innocence.On the CBS special, the team of seven experts theorized that Burke, who was 9 at the time of his sister’s death, may have accidentally killed JonBenét.

Direct Quotes: “CBS perpetrated a fraud upon the public — instead of being a documentary based on a new investigation by a so-called team of experts, The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey was a fictional crime show based primarily on a preconceived storyline scripted in a self-published and commercially unsuccessful book, Foreign Faction, written by Defendant James Kolar and published in 2012,” the suit alleges.;

Article 4:

Headline: JonBenet Ramsey’s brother files $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS

Lead: JonBenet Ramsey’s brother, Burke, filed a $750 million lawsuit against CBS Corp. and consultants in Wayne County, Michigan, on Wednesday, the latest development in the unsolved murder of his sister.

Context: In September, CBS broadcast “The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey” a two-part documentary series. Burke alleges that the documentary suggests he killed his sister 20 years ago when he was 9-years-old.; In 2008, Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy officially cleared JonBenet’s family, including Burke, from the murder case. Lacy cited DNA evidence that pointed to an unknown male. Earlier this month, KUSA reported that new DNA testing was planned following its investigation that there was suggested faulty interpretation of previous testing.

Direct Quotes: In the 108-page defamation complaint obtained by NBC affiliate KUSA, Burke Ramsey alleges that CBS and other defendants damaged his reputation through a “false accusation that he killed his sister.”

Article 5:


Lead: JonBenet Ramsey’s brother has filed a $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS for broadcasting a docuseries that theorized he killed the child beauty queen.

Context: The television network’s The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey featured a group of investigators attempting to solve the 20-year mystery surrounding the death of JonBenet, a six-year-old beauty pageant contestant who was found dead in her home in Boulder, Colorado, in December 1996.; In October, Ramsey’s lawyers sued one of the seven investigators in the series, pathologist Dr. Werner Spitzer, after he alleged JonBenet was killed by her brother in an interview with a CBS radio station.

Direct Quotes: The lawsuit said the “accusation that Burke Ramsey killed his sister was based on a compilation of lies, half-truths, manufactured information, and the intentional omission and avoidance of truthful information about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.”; Writing for Newsweek in September, Ramsey’s lawyer L. Lin Wood said the docuseries was a fraudulent “lie for profits.”; “After living the past 20 years under the shadow of his sister’s murder and false accusations against his parents in periodic media frenzies, Burke will now live the remainder of his life with Google searches proclaiming, ‘CBS Proves Burke Ramsey Killed His Sister JonBenet.’ Every professional and personal interaction and relationship Burke has from now until his death will be tainted by this false accusation,” Wood wrote.


Notes 1/10/17

JonBenet Ramsey case

Who are the sources?

How are they assembled?


Who is involved?

People assembled: forensic scientist, forensic linguist, da investigator, statement analyst, forensic pathologist, retired FBI profiler, criminal behavioral analyst

cold case review

complete re investigation

what’s the timeline or sequence of events?

Go where evidence takes you

So much evidence just not put together

Speak to people who knew them

Huge investment by CBS to do this

What we know– john 2nd marriage with 3 kids, patsy 14 yrs. younger, trophy wife, worked for john, perfect family exterior, 2 kids (JonBenet and Burke), Dec 26 1996, Note left daughter gone, 6 yr. old, found dead in home, never found killer, 20 yrs. later = unsolved, not kidnapping bc body found w in 8 hours

911 call: 5:52 AM, note left and daughter gone, ransom note “s.b.t.c. victory” 6 inaudible seconds, “we”, doesn’t mention name, “the mother”, why hang up the phone? Phone call is hope, hung up while dispatcher was calling her name, voices in background, enhancement reveals man says we’re not speaking to you- john? Talking to child? Female voice- Patsy? What did you do? Help me Jesus. Another voice- what did you find? Brother? Statements said Burke was asleep

Talk to 911 operator- Kim Archuletta– been under gag order, no one heard her side, no one asked for her opinion, initial reaction- sunken feeling like something wasn’t right, frantic in voice immediately stopped, tone shift, bothered by what sounded like she said “ok we called the cops now what”, seemed rehearsed, stayed with her for 20 years, she didn’t testify in the grand jury, someone needed to know what she heard

Ransom note– 1st piece of physical evidence, 380 some words, unprecedented that both note and body left behind, $118,000 in 100s and 20s, note seems really long, “listen carefully” but it’s a letter, multiple motives, really specific, 118,000 close to John’s bonus, quotes from movies, keep reiterating her death, 76% is extremes, could’ve been done in 4 lines, less info is better because more leaves clues but this note leaves lots of clues, investigator found pad and 2 practice notes and pen, go to time and trouble to write note (about 21 minutes or longer) when they could’ve been caught, letter is clearly staged but by whom? Linguistic profile- high writing ability, purposeful misspelling, native English speaker, age- adult 30+, gender- female/maternal

Ron Walker– only FBI agent to visit crime scene, went as behavioral analysis, murder case not kidnapping, build timeline: 5:54 call family and friends, 5:59 officer arrives, friends arrive, crime scene arrives, 8:10 cops arrives, 11J) FBI gets call, 11:45 FBI talks to police, length of note caught his eye, “small foreign faction” not conveying authority and power, red herring (staging), wasn’t really concerned about Patsy leaving, but detectives need to keep an eye on the people, 12:00 John left for about an hour and then his demeanor changed, wanted to keep him busy in presence of detective, John makes beeline to basement with friend when told police will be searching, they find body and John brings her upstairs and put her on the floor, 1:10 body moved again, crime scene contamination, forensic nightmare, 1:20 FBI searches basement, 1:40 john calls for a plane (RED FLAG)

Crime scene reconstruction– JonBenet’s bedroom, spiral staircase, kitchen, wine cellar: letter found on staircase (not logical place), noticed in basement broken window and suitcase by window, did things move to quickly? Room where body was found: odd feeling, feels like a tomb, lights were on, duct tape and white blanket, statements made said john called out that she was there before light was on, hard to do with lights off… treat them as victims not suspects (lots of power), Ramseys didn’t get interviewed by police, extremely detailed

community intelligence to find things out, people don’t want to talk about it, fearful to speak out, try to talk to people who knew them, worked with them, etc.


Fleet and Priscilla White– best friends of Ramseys, why invite them over in time of crisis? Fleet told John to stop hiding behind lawyer, no cameras allowed in interview with Fleet, lots of knowledge and pain, had reservations, don’t want it to happen again, thinks they have important information,

gardener: hired by Patsy, never really saw John but saw JonBenet, she wanted to jump in leaves, seemed like normal kid, Burke was introverted, Patsy came out and told him she thought OJ got away with murder,

Judith Phillips: photographer, social friends, softball team together, good hosts, welcoming home, Patsy was show girl, daughter and JonBenet played together, JonBenet in pageants but trophies belonged to Patsy according to her, Christmas party and JonBenet had bleach blonde hair (dyed) and Patsy lied about it, looked exhausted after murder, no interaction with them after the murder, circle of friends: don’t talk to reporters etc., Ramseys felt betrayed by her for talking to cops and reporters, felt they were hypocritical, asked mayor for protection for her family and mayor said no because there was no murderer out there, angry that there hasn’t been justice


Autopsy– asphyxiation and blunt force trauma (concussive impact), Warner Spitz- Nov. 5th 1997 reviews autopsy, didn’t get permission to enter house, blow to head on right side, perfectly rectangular blow- flashlight fit to perfection, frustrated to not be allowed in, alive when struck on the head, virtually dead when choked, strangled to make believe that was cause of death when she was dead from blow, hands tied with slip knot, rope over sweater, no ligature marks, duct tape on her mouth, this was staging, why need the contraption? It’s too complicated and takes time, make believe type thing, tissue and blood hair on flashlight? Didn’t find anything on light, skin is elastic so blow broke skull but not skin, so that is plausible, they found a flashlight that was never claimed,


Forensics- did an impact test with the flashlight to test it, patterns open the door, flashlight would not cut the skin, tests show flashlight was weapon, didn’t need much force to break the skull of a 6 year old, brought in a kid to test the flashlight on a skull, and the kid did it and the pattern was extremely consistent (broke skull but not skin), no doubt that flashlight was weapon and that a kid could’ve done it,

Media Appearances– Ramsey’s spoke to CNN w/in days of murder Jan 1 1997, invite the media in, still haven’t sat down with the police, “have to find out who did this not because we’re angry but we want to move on”, changes head from no to yes when asked about where daughter killed, want people to believe that they’re gentle, want to know the why, likely they know who did it,

National Interviewer: thought it was odd, weren’t nationally famous so no reason why it should be so national, videos of JonBenet in pageant circulated, media circus within days, other cases influenced cops and DA (?) 4 months later they finally met with cops May 1, John states that he didn’t kill her, Patsy says same thing, very convincing, when asked about someone close to them they’re not very convincing, what aren’t they saying?