It Is Not Just Washington Which Has Voters On The Warpath

Elsewhere in this publication, I wrote about the week I spent covering the jury trial of the State of Nevada vs. James David Norrell, the young man charged with two felonies for the “crime” of defending himself, his pregnant wife and his 2 ½ year old son in their third floor Reno, NV apartment.

After a week of reversible error, feckless judging and the kind of things you never saw on Law and Order, the result was a hung jury.

To put it mildly, it was not newbie Judge Lynn Simons’ finest moment; and the Washoe County District Attorney’s office must also shoulder some blame for even charging this case, much less taking it to trial.

The judge arrogantly flouted the Nevada case law requiring her to instruct the jury regarding defense theory of the case, even when the jury ASKED for such an instruction. Nevada has a law on the books allowing a citizen to make an arrest in certain circumstances, and she refused to tell the jury. Twice.

And, frankly, that was the tip of her fecklessness. She allowed young ADA Sean Alexander to call rebuttal witnesses who had previously been excused—after the ADA was seen in the hallway discussing their new testimony. She allowed the prosecutor to question why Norrell DIDN’T say something in his testimony in his closing—a clear violation of Supreme Court case law.

And through all of this, the jury came back with no verdict because they were 12 Americans who did their jobs much better than the Judge and the prosecutor.

For the defense and Mr. Norrell, it was like trying to play the Lakers at Staples Center with three really good players while the refs continuously made bad calls.

Here’s the problem. Norrell probably spent between $20 and $50,000 with defense co-counsel Byron Bergeron and John Malone defending himself. And the DA’s office—in a wrongheaded attempt to save some face—may still attempt to retry him. That’s a lot of money for a kid starting a family who was living in Federally subsidized housing. But his future career in security depends on his ability to carry a gun.

Here’s the bigger problem.

Most people think that the criminal justice system is fair and even-handed and concentrates on violent and property crime. Until and unless they get sucked into the system like Norrell did, they maintain that belief for most of their lives.

You can’t put a cop on every corner, so our system largely depends on voluntary compliance. People have to respect the system, and that starts with the police, the judges and the prosecutors. If the average person reads about the conduct of cases like this, what then?

Well, the symptoms of “what then?” are the rise of outsiders like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Not that their initial success is a bad thing. But it’s a natural reaction to an increasing distrust of government at all levels.

District Attorney Chris Hicks was elected in 2014 with no opposition and virtually everybody’s endorsement. Judge Simons was also elected in 2014, and her endorsement list read like a list of everybody who ever had a reason to have their own personal judge on the bench.

District Attorneys are elected to maintain justice—not to win at all costs—and part of their job is to weed out bad cases before they are charged or proceed to trial. Hicks had plenty of chances here, and I don’t want to hear about how big the office is and how much bureaucracy it has. His name is on the door, and his employees are that bureaucracy; and he is responsible because the voters say so.

Judges are elected to call balls and strikes—not set the strike zone or the width of the plate. That is the sole province of the state legislature. Lynn Simons—despite the fact that she has only been on the bench about nine months—should know that legislating from the bench is not what District Judges are charged with doing, and she ought to be ashamed at her conduct of this trial.

This isn’t penny-ante stuff. People’s lives and liberty are at stake with the stroke of a DA’s pen and an arrogant ruling by a sitting judge. That is why it is appropriate to remind both Hicks and Simons that they were elected, and they can be unelected. As easily as Donald Trump can lead the Republican Presidential race because people are mad at Washington, Hicks and Simons can be in private practice in 2019 because of cases like the one against Norrell.

Respect isn’t something which the criminal justice system gets automatically. It must be earned by those who run it. And if the taxpayers have no respect for it, it is clearly the fault of the people who we have entrusted to run it.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

New Judge + New DA = Questionable Law

Author’s note: There’s a lot of legal inside baseball in this story. But if you’re tempted to think it is not important, consider this in the context of why outsiders are now leading in the Republican Presidential race. It is not just Washington that people mad at.

The criminal justice system in America is not perfect. But, when everybody involved does their jobs properly, it is certainly better than the star chambers in countries where many of our ancestors came from.

To work properly, it takes judges who limit themselves to calling balls and strikes, prosecutors who seek justice as opposed to a win at all costs, and defense attorneys who zealously represent their clients.

With that in mind, picture this exact situation:

You come home on a Friday afternoon to your third floor apartment, look out on your balcony and see your locked storage unit door standing open with containers moved and opened. Nothing appears to be missing, but you’ve been violated.

You call the apartment manager’s office, and the response is a collective shrug. There are painters on the premises. They do, however, give you the number of the painting company. You file a police report online, and you call the office of the painting company where the daughter of the owner tells you that the painters will be back but does not offer to investigate your complaint. You tell her to keep her people out of your leased property.

The next morning, as you are preparing to go to the gun range to shoot your brand new Glock .45 for the first time, you look out on your third story balcony just in time to see a man coming over the balcony. He could be a painter; he could also be a home invader. Since your pregnant wife and 2 ½ year old son are in the apartment, you grab your weapon, holster it, grab a pair of handcuffs which you carry in your work as a security guard, step out on the balcony and find that the man does not speak English. Deciding that prudence dictates a protective course of action, you effectuate a citizen’s arrest and call the police. The gun never leaves your holster, and it takes between 15 and 20 minutes for the police to arrive.

The police arrest you.

You are charged with two felonies: assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment with a deadly weapon.

That is the story of the state of Nevada vs. James David Norrell.

Last March, we wrote about the preliminary hearing, observing that Norrell was bound over by Judge Patricia Lynch, who practically slept through that hearing.

Norrell’s luck with the justice system improved only marginally in Judge Lynne Simons’ District courtroom.

In late May, Simons heard a writ of habeas corpus filed by Byron Bergeron, Norrell’s defense counsel, seeking to overturn the result of the Lynch hearing in March. Simons denied Bergeron’s motion, basing her decision on her presumption that the state’s burden for binding over a defendant is only minimal.

It was a portent of things to come.

The trial started on September 28 with jury selection. It took a half a day, and the jury seemed like a very smart group of 12 people (plus two alternates) who you could have found in a Walmart parking lot. Regular, everyday folks, many of whom said that they were honored or happy to be there. That’ll be important as this story goes on because the jurors did their job correctly.

Opening statements came Monday afternoon with the state, in the form of brand new Assistant District Attorney Sean Alexander, presenting its theory that Norrell knew the painter was coming and lay in wait, ostensibly because he wanted to make some kind of a statement.

Bergeron’s co-counsel, John Malone, presented two theories for the defense. One, that it was a legitimate citizen’s arrest under the Nevada Revised Statutes, and two, that it was legitimate self- defense.

Nevada has a statute which reads:

A private person may arrest another:

1. For a public offense committed or attempted in the person’s presence.

2. When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in the person’s presence.

3. When a felony has been in fact committed, and the private person has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.

It is NRS 171.126, and it has been on the books for many years in its current form. In fact, in 2009 in Las Vegas, the police department actually asked a restaurant owner to make such an arrest in their presence since they did not see the public offense and the restaurant owner did.

Self-defense is obvious since it is a third floor apartment, the man did not knock on the door (but, in fact, came over the balcony), and the lease called for 24 hours notice before such intrusions could occur. Except for some evidence, apparently fabricated a year after the fact, that 24 hour notice was not given.

After the opening statements came the witness testimony.

ADA Alexander presented testimony from the arresting officer, Jorge Aparicio; the owner of the painting company, Dan Viola; his daughter Ciara Viola; the painter who came over the balcony, Celestino Maldonado; and the property manager, Vikki Gutierrez.

To say the least, with the exception of Aparicio, it was a collection of people protecting their own interests. Maldonado, through a court interpreter, testified at variance to his sworn testimony in the preliminary that he was at work by 8 am, even though he had previously testified in the preliminary hearing that he, as a supervisor, didn’t show up until 8:30—presumably trying to tighten up the timeline. Defense counsel was also ordered not to inquire into his immigration status. He also testified that he was confronted with a gun pointed at him and that it happened when he had one foot on the balcony and one foot on the ladder, even though the balcony has a four-and-a-half foot railing which would make that virtually impossible.

Ms. Viola testified that she told Norrell during the previous afternoon’s phone call that the painters would be back.

Gutierrez testified that she had given Norrell the requisite notice, although she could not explain how it came to be that his apartment number was written over the exact apartment number of a defense witness who happened to come down to the office with Norrell and also asked for a copy of the notice.

The jurors visibly reacted to Gutierrez’s attitude the same way I did. I would rather be homeless than rent from that woman; and from the visible reaction of many jurors, they seemed to agree.

Officer Aparicio testified that he did not take a witness statement from Norrell, that he did not search Maldonado and that, in essence, he made up his mind that Maldonado was the “victim” without talking to Norrell–and in spite of the fact that the incident took place in a third floor apartment belonging to Norrell. He also testified that he did not talk to Norrell’s then-pregnant wife, who was present in the apartment.

The state’s witnesses were all excused, and the defense presented three witnesses: Norrell’s wife, Melanie; a neighbor, Amanda Sawyer; and Norrell himself.

It was at that point that Judge Simons lost control of her courtroom.

ADA Alexander decided to call both Gutierrez and Officer Aparicio as rebuttal witnesses. The problem was that both sides had excused them, and the ADA was able to coach them to tailor their testimony–which they would not have been able to do had they not been excused because the witness exclusion rule was in effect, precisely to stop that sort of thing.

Despite all that, the Judge allowed the testimony.

Then it came time for jury instructions.

Notably, the argument was mostly over an instruction detailing the Nevada law regarding citizen’s arrest.

Needless to say, the ADA did not want that instruction given, and the Judge agreed.

Irrespective of the fact that Nevada case law says the judge must instruct the jury as to the theory of the defense case, Judge Simons refused to allow that instruction. Perhaps she disagrees with the law, but she substituted her judgment for that of the state legislature which actually passed that law.

It got even worse when, during jury deliberations, the jurors ASKED for the law and she refused, again, to instruct them on the law.

The closing was predictable. ADA Alexander hammered his damaged case and asked the jury to look at who had motive to lie. Bergeron pointed out to the jury that every one of the prosecution witnesses, except the police officer, had a financial motive to lie because they were protecting their jobs, their business and the apartment complex from the wrath of the Federal government which subsidized those apartments. Bergeron also suggested to the jury that they should consider Norrell’s actions in the light of their own homes.

After a day and a half of deliberations, the jury came back without a verdict.

To sum up: a week long trial, a judge way off her game, and a hung jury.

That’s what happens when the system goes off the rails.

It usually takes a judge a few terms on the bench before he or she develops a case of what lawyers and journalists call ‘black robe fever.’ Simons has been on the bench for a hair over nine months, and she already has symptoms. She couched her bad calls from the bench as her “broad judicial discretion,” but those of us who regularly follow decisions of the Nevada Supreme Court know that this case would likely have been reversed promptly had there been a guilty verdict.

Judge Simons seems to have forgotten that in a civil trial, people are usually arguing about money; but in this case, the state charged a young man who was defending his family with two felonies that could have put him in prison for 11 years.


Because they could.

The District Attorney ought to think twice before he decides to retry this case. He has already wasted a huge amount of the taxpayers’ resources because one of those taxpayers made a decision that he would rather be tried by 12 than carried by six.

Bergeron says that he is pondering whether a decision to retry could be met with an immediate motion to dismiss the charges with prejudice since he believes the judicial error in this case may have created a double jeopardy situation.

Besides, if you are DA Chris Hicks, elected with no opposition in 2014, how many times do you want to tell your constituents that they have no right to defend their families and property in their own homes before the next election in 2018?

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Is Trump Morally Obligated To Defend Obama? Should There Be A Muslim In The White House?

So the chattering class of the mainstream media—and make no mistake about it, that includes Fox News Channel—thinks that it is somehow déclassé to either suggest or not “correct” someone who suggests that we have a problem with Islam here in the United States, and that that problem could be the clown in the White House.

Last week, at a campaign event, a guy asked Donald Trump:

“We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American, We have training camps growing when they want to kill us. My question: When can we get rid of them?”

Trump gave a general answer and moved on.

Ben Carson, responding to a question on Meet the Press said:

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

The chatterers went magpie wild. Batguana crazy.

But let’s look at the issue. Do we have freedom of religion in this country? Of course we do.

What differentiates a belief in Islam from most other religions?

The Quran:

Quran (2:191-193)“And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing…but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful.   And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone.  But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)”  (Translation is from the Noble Quran)

Now it is easy to say that Muslims no longer believe that. That it is a “perversion” of their religion.

It is obvious from world events, however, that many Muslims do see verses such as that as God’s law; and, on that basis, it is very difficult to know the difference between “good, peaceful” Muslims and jihadists.

Is Barack Obama a Muslim? Maybe, maybe not. But when the time comes to stand with the ally which we helped to create in 1947, Israel, he has done everything possible to follow the radical Islam line and pee all over the Israelis.

I don’t have a problem elaborating on Carson’s statement. We don’t need a President who will make decisions on affairs of state from the viewpoint of the Quran. Any more than we need a President who will take orders from the Pope, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Southern Baptist Convention, the President of the LDS Church or the ghosts of Jerry Falwell and Oral Roberts.

Now all of the aforementioned religious figures and organizations occasionally weigh in with their opinions (including the ghosts of Falwell and Roberts who left us Universities in their wisdom), but none of them advocate violence—especially against non-believers.

Apparently, within the chattering class, there is a list of things a politician cannot say, and the first thing on the list is talking about the list.

So these nimrods went nuts when Trump said that he is not morally obligated to defend Barack Obama and Carson said he would not be comfortable with a Muslim in the White House.

Fortunately, it appears that those same nimrods are no longer able to tell the voters what to think with any moral authority. Most Americans no longer take their knowledge from the Holy Trinity of the New York Times, CBS News and NBC News.  And their lesser acolytes at Fox, ABC and CNN.

And I’m guessing that in their heart of hearts, a majority of American voters agree with Trump and Carson.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Washington Hacks Can’t And Won’t Understand Average Voter’s Anger

OK, it’s time to look at what has been happening in the GOP Presidential field without being surprised or upset any longer at the huge national lead that Donald Trump is racking up.

Why do a lot of GOP voters like Trump?

Simply put, they are tired of being screwed and ignored by the professional politicians they have sent to Washington to do some very simple things which have not been done. They may not even agree with some of Trump’s positions, but they understand that Trump didn’t get where he is by being dogmatic and incompetent. Like those professional politicians they have voted for in the past—who are only slightly more competent and less dogmatic than the nation’s putz-in-chief.

Trump has two skillsets which people appreciate. He says what he thinks as opposed to what the Karl Roves and David Axelrods of the world tell him to say. And he is pragmatic. He solves problems as opposed to wringing his hands.

You don’t make the kind of money he has assembled by accident. To grow a multi-million dollar real estate empire inherited from his father to a $10-billion net worth takes pragmatic negotiating, decision making and problem solving. Those are the skills we should demand in a President as opposed to the ideological and petulant bloviating of a one term Senator.

And when people ask if Trump can do the job, you ought to ask “as opposed to what?”

We’ve tried the Washington Hackocracy—of both parties—and it’s not like that worked real well.

The truth is that government probably cannot be run as a business. A business must make a profit, whereas that is not what a government should do.

But a government CAN be run in a businesslike manner by business people.

As an example, look at what happens when government designs a web site. They usually don’t work. My guess is that in a Trump administration, a web site like would have worked immediately upon going live because, unlike the current schmendrick in the office, Trump would have made sure of it.

I don’t believe for a minute that Donald Trump is incapable of doing the job.

In order to do the job, however, he must first win the nomination and then win the election.

Can he?

The answer, in a word, is yes. He’s self funding, and he’s done a great job of distancing himself from the Washington hacks; and that alone could keep him in front for a long time.

As other candidates in the field drop out of the race, the big question is: will Trump be able to aggregate their supporters? If he can add that support to his already impressive lead, then yes. As Pat Buchanan said a month ago on Meet the Press: “Now look, Trump is ranked number one … in the Sweet 16. I think he gets into the final four. And if he maintains these polls, he’s going to be in the finals.”

Not only did he maintain the polls in the past month, he’s grown his lead and the people behind him today–and Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are insulating him from the rest of the professional politician set.

There have never been three non-politicians in any Presidential race who have done as well in the aggregate as these folks.

If, by now, you don’t think the challenge to the Washington establishment is real, you need to spend more time in flyover country coffee shops and diners.

Listen to what is being said and then look at Trump through the lens of the average voter. The Club for Growth—which just took its best shot against Trump on TV—and Bobby Jindal—who is barely showing up in the polls—are NOT average voters.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Black Live Don’t Matter Any More Than Any Other Lives

I’m not a fan of police overreach. Anybody who reads this space regularly knows that.

That said, I think the so-called “black lives matter” movement is pure and unadulterated bulls***.

No other word will suffice.

Let’s be clear. Not every time a white cop shoots a black person is murder. In fact, the statistics will show that most of the time, the decedent is just that—not a victim. He or she brought it on themselves.

I’m not talking about ticky tacky traffic stops or police misbehavior. I’m talking about exactly what got Michael Brown killed a year ago in Ferguson, Missouri. It has become pretty clear that was NOT a case of police overreach, but a situation where an officer felt in genuine fear of his life and responded in kind.

There is no excuse, however, for what the Department of Justice found in their review of exactly why there was so little trust in the Ferguson Police Department–which was that there was a clear pattern of stacking traffic tickets on black citizens like payday loans to raise money.

As we have said before, the way you solve that sort of problem is not by letting the Al Sharptons of the world incite violence. You organize, go to the polls and use your majority to throw the bums out.

That is eventually what happened in Ferguson; and, just recently, the NEW municipal judge threw out every traffic warrant that was issued before 2015.

None of that excused Michael Brown’s actions nor the actions of the thugs who came in after he was killed—and returned on the first anniversary.

Do we have bad cops in the United States? You bet we do. There are around 900,000 sworn officers in the United States. If only 1 percent of them are bad, that’s 9,000. It’s an astounding number of potential life and death incidents.

But open warfare against police under the rubric that “black lives matter” as if no others matter as much is exactly the kind of thing which will be very destructive, and the wise among us (whoever that may turn out to be) need to reject that sort of nonsense as soon as someone starts spewing it.

The killing of a Harris County deputy last week, the gunning down of the two New York officers last year—in fact any such act—is wholly unacceptable. Every bit as unacceptable as the police-involved shooting in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Here’s the problem:

Law enforcement has to make the first move. They didn’t lose their standing in the community overnight, and it will take a concerted effort for them to become the good guys in everyone’s view again.

Over the years, many members of the law enforcement community have developed an “us vs. them” mentality which goes a long way towards alienating communities of every color. We need to get cops out of the collection agency business. And the use of fines and fees to finance the system has to stop.

Nothing loses a police force credibility as fast as the feeling amongst the community that there are ticket quotas and a different attitude towards minorities.

The most recent example came from Dayton, Ohio, where an officer on video told a driver he pulled over that he stopped him because he made “direct eye contact” with the officer. The video made CNN and CBS, and the city of Dayton said that was NOT a legitimate reason for stopping someone. But it happened, nonetheless.

The fact is that law enforcement is a tough job. It’s made tougher by legislatures and prosecutors who campaign on “law and order” but leave justice out of the equation. And it’s turned into a powder keg by both bad attitudes and a small minority of bad cops which is big enough to give rise to enough incidents that there is almost always something to cover for the media.

On the other hand, it’s going to take an effort from the law enforcement community if the credibility the police had when my generation was growing up is ever going to return.

It may be easy for them to say it’s not their fault, but they are the only ones who can fix things; and that fix doesn’t necessarily have to include going soft on crime.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth