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July 29, 2015

Taking stock of the tough-on-crime crowd's "resolute oarsman, pulling with all his might against the current"

150728_CRIME_Otis_Bill.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2A number of helpful readers have already made sure I did not miss this terrific lengthy Slate piece by Mark Obbie profiling Bill Otis.  The article is a great read, and it generally gives Bill the respect he has earned and deserved in modern debates over modern sentencing.  The piece is headlined "Last Man Standing: Nothing can stop the bipartisan coalition pressing for criminal justice reform. Nothing, except maybe Bill Otis."  Here is one of the many great passages from the piece:

In congressional hearings, seminars, and news stories heralding the bipartisan reform movement and the practical inevitability of changes in federal law, Otis serves as the go-to voice for maintaining tough-on-crime sentencing.

Pundits, policy wonks, academics, and journalists seem in lockstep agreement that there really is no debate anymore about whether it’s time to pull back from the extremes that gave America its distinction as the world’s prison warden. As names like Meese, Gingrich, and Koch speak up on the other side of the divide, Otis seems increasingly isolated, the only man fighting a war that ended a long time ago.

But there are compelling reasons — strategic and substantive — not to count Otis and his views out just yet. For all the talk that criminal justice reform has finally reached critical mass, the last Congress failed to act, even when offered the low-hanging fruit of the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would only tinker modestly with the length of sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. This week, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a longtime opponent of reform, signaled that he would finally bow to pressure from all sides and deliver a bipartisan reform bill by the time Congress takes its summer break. But a wide gulf surely separates Grassley’s version of reform from practically everyone else’s, and none of the proposals before Congress are more than a tentative first step toward undoing decades of harsh sentencing policy. Reformers’ best-case scenario is a long slog ahead, with Otis and his arguments dogging their every step.

July 29, 2015 at 09:19 AM | Permalink


With respect, every time Prof. Otis opens his mouth more people are drawn to the cause of criminal justice reform.

Posted by: Jeremy | Jul 29, 2015 9:23:15 AM

Doug, thanks for your kind words. I'm eager to read the comments here and at Crime and Consequences (and no, I'm not expecting uniformly ecstatic reviews!).

Posted by: Mark Obbie | Jul 29, 2015 9:27:50 AM

How much of "Pundits, policy wonks, academics, and journalists " believing that reform is inevitable is due simply to living in an echo chamber?

Admittedly, Otis' views are mild when compared with mine.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 29, 2015 10:41:05 AM

I think Bill Otis overreaches plenty. But the Slate piece exemplifies many of the problems of the other side.

1) The Slate piece smugly asserts as uncontroverted facts things that are quite the opposite. For instance, the writer says that experts all agree that incarceration has little responsibility for drops in crime. In fact, some reputable studies put the contribution as high as 25%. I'm guessing that in any other field, such a contribution would not be seen as insignificant. (Imagine if Obamacare was only responsible for 25% of a drop in child fatalities, for instance.)

2) The Slate piece makes Otis seem like an extreme outlier. In fact, he may accurately represent the views of a very substantial portion of the American public. The fact that legislators share the moral judgements of vast segments of the American public is not surprising. That's what representative democracy is about.

3) The Slate piece makes Otis's inside-baseball insights seem virtually conspiratorial. Normally, reporters aren't all that shocked (shocked!) to find out that DC think-tankers have inside sources in Congressional committees. Even if some of the info is coming from a committee chairperson. (Would the writer be so upset if FAMM was getting inside info from the staff of a chairman Durbin? Obviously not.)

In other words, the Slate writer may be right about the direction criminal justice should go. But the article itself is a typical hack-job that adds nothing to the dialogue.

Posted by: Unimpressed | Jul 29, 2015 12:44:59 PM

As a complete aside, that is the first time I have ever seen a picture of Bill O. In the same vein I have no idea what Doug B. look like. "To a man, another man is but a mind." as the poet has it.

While I understand why he left I do miss him from time to time. He and I surely had our share of disagreements but as attentive observers will note we had our share of agreements too. Overall, I respect Bill even if I think he is misguided at times.

Posted by: Daniel | Jul 29, 2015 4:35:10 PM


I miss Bill Otis as well but do understand why he departed. The vitriol leveled in his direction was more than a little unhinged.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 29, 2015 4:54:43 PM

If interested:


One can listen to Prof. Berman on Youtube as well, including debating Bill Otis. Watching him, Otis comes off as quite theatrical at times, which is not surprising given his character on this blog.

I generally strongly disagreed with him but he seemed to in time found me woefully wrong but at least somewhat agreeable. Compare this to another person who generally agreed with Mr. Otis who was let's say a bit more angry at me throughout. Anyway, if change is proper, it should be able to hold up against strong criticism. Such is after all the Millian way many of the reformers suggest is appropriate.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 29, 2015 7:12:44 PM

Dear Unimpressed,

The most authoritative meta-analysis of incarceration's effects on crime suppression, the one that I linked to, does not buy the 25% estimate by a long shot. http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18613/the-growth-of-incarceration-in-the-united-states-exploring-causes

As for Otis' outlier status, I thought the whole point of the piece was that while he is indeed an outlier by the standards of the inside-the-bubble class, he represents mainstream thinking on crime and punishment. Yes, I believe that thinking to be demonstrably wrong, but I hardly portrayed Otis the way you say.

Finally, I see nothing conspiratorial in what Otis does, and didn't try to portray it as such. It's just that he and Grassley's staff played hide-the-ball so effectively that I had to show the evidence that he does indeed have influence, even if he won't admit it.

Posted by: Mark Obbie | Jul 29, 2015 7:13:17 PM

BTW, in regard to the "vitriol," I think Mr. Otis could take it & he repeatedly provided quite strong criticism, often with some sense of the personal distaste for the other side. The vitriol was not merely a case of people strongly disagreeable to his conservative views.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 29, 2015 7:16:15 PM

It’s true, absence makes the heart grow fonder (and blurs most memories). If I recall most of the "old" comments correctly:

Mr. Otis made almost everything a liberal vs. conservative issue. He used the conservative mantle to suit his purpose (often ad hominem attacks based solely on perceived political inclinations). He inappropriately used these terms to deflect attention away from his opponent’s arguments.

When Mr. Otis asked a question and it was answered, when asked for his follow-up response, he frequently did not respond and dodged the question.

Mr. Otis responded and “condemned” others based solely on his incorrect perceptions of what he believed people to be “really” saying and not on what they had actually written.

When I was misquoted by him in one set of comments and pointed out the incorrectness of his reference by citing the actual article and date, he refused to acknowledge it.

I do miss his references to the "Freakonomics" studies as being the best empirical evidence for many of his positions.

BTW, I am a real conservative, whatever that means nowadays!

Posted by: albeed | Jul 29, 2015 9:32:39 PM

Mr. Obbie:

You can say all you want that stiff sentences and the drop in crime was a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc and point to studies which purport to show that harsh sentences don't contribute to crime reduction (and yes I agree that, for example, better crime detection techniques are a big driver). But the bottom line is that many many criminals do the crime thing for a living--in other words, muggers mug, burglars burgle etc. When those people are taken out of circulation, the crimes that they would have committed don't happen. You can cite all the studies you want--but the bottom line is that we see instance after instance of awful crimes committed by those who should have been locked up. Let's take but one example---Komisarjevsky's appalling crimes. He burgled 12, yes 12 homes (with people inside when he went in) and got basically a slap on the wrist. The rest is appalling history. Or what about the guy who killed Jennifer Hudson's family members---he served 7 years for a carjacking and attempted murder. Or what about Kenneth Macduff? A triple murderer released and at least 5 dead women. Obviously, these are anecdotes, but I have read thousands of stories about horrible crimes, and what do many many of them have in common--they were committed by a career criminal. Now, it may be the case that many career criminals never graduate to bad crimes, but society is not required to exactly calibrate punishment so that only that much punishment is meted out to a particular criminal that will result in safety to society---rather, the question is one of risk allocation--some criminals will be overpunished, but when it comes to public safety, aren't we entitled to a healthy margin of error? What's your answer, Mr. Obbie to the Cheshire murders? Shouldn't someone who burgles 12 homes (with people inside) get more than what Komisarjevsky got? And Mr. Obbie, even if say 10% of the reduction in crime was attributable to harsh---how many awful awful crimes were prevented?

Joe, surely you jest---Bill was called fascist and all sorts of names. His criticisms of others were directed at arguments, not personal attacks. Having your arguments eviscerated isn't cause to name-call. Me, I don't really care about what people say about me in here--I just notice how few people really take me on, and taking me on doesn't mean the pivoting nonsense pulled by Professor Berman.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 29, 2015 9:58:32 PM

Love the reference to "pivoting nonsense," federalist, after a paragraph that itself is full of pivots and nonsense -- e.g., do not cite any more studies and evidence, Mr. Obbie, I have a couple high-profile anecdotes. We can all play an anecdote game aided by hindsight -- i.e., gun control advocates can say tougher gun laws would help prevent "thousands of stories about horrible crimes" committed with firearms.

Your affinity for long imprisonment to incapacitate is understandable, federalist, but what are the limits in a society committed to human freedom. Rather than name calling here or elsewhere, federalist, I hope you will join Bill in being a public advocate for all the harsh laws you wish to defend, and I am especially eager to hear what principles you would propound to limit the denial of freedoms in the name of possible improvemet in public safety --- should we imprison for decades all muggers and burglers upon a first offense? All drunk drivers and even speeders?

Posted by: Doug B. | Jul 29, 2015 10:54:13 PM

"Joe, surely you jest---Bill was called fascist and all sorts of names. His criticisms of others were directed at arguments, not personal attacks. Having your arguments eviscerated isn't cause to name-call."

Yes, that sort of thing would be the "vitriol" aka "cruel and bitter criticism" that I spoke of. As to what his criticism "were directed at," perhaps your response is more apt to be in respect to albeed. That reply was stronger than mine. I think that reply has some basis at least; suffice to say, "directed at arguments," full stop, is not really to me a complete accounting of the Bill Otis we saw here.

I also did not justify name-calling merely out of disagreement. Again, see albeed for a bit more context on why some people found him disagreeable.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 29, 2015 11:29:28 PM

Debating Mr. Bill Otis and his willingness to debate provided the opportunity to respect him, this blog, and the constitutional right to free speech at an elevated level. He was a very powerful man who had control over many lives in many respects, but he was willing to go into the trenches here before moving on the Crime and Consequences, which stopped him from debating us mere earthlings. The video of him debating Prof. Berman is very good, and I thought he might have won that one. Not sure. There is video of him testifying before congress, too, which is fascinating.

And I learned a new term today, just in time it seems: "The tyranny of the anecdote." I filed it away with the last term to hit me so hard in a Eureka sense: "cognitive dissonance." Put the two together and it explains much.

I guess what all this is meant to mean is thanks for the blog and the opportunity to debate. Seemed as good a time as any to say so.

Posted by: George | Jul 29, 2015 11:42:42 PM

Bill was the only licensed lawyer commenting on this blog, speaking on behalf of the genuine interest of crime victims to not be victimized.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 30, 2015 1:20:27 AM

pivoting---remember the "obsesssed with procedure" thread or the whole thread where you garbled the federal sentencing statute on a post that talked about sentencing generally? Ugh. Chimerical arguments aren't fun.

In any event, it's curious that you rip my post as nonsense when it clearly is not. Yes, I used anecdotes, but they really do prove up the dangers of lenient sentencing. I am not (and never have) advocated the wholesale locking up of minor criminals. But the three instances I cited are not examples of minor criminals. And I pay enough attention to enough stories of crime to have seen thousands of awful crimes committed by people who had no business walking the streets.

You don't address my point about risk allocation or margin for error, and, quite bluntly, your example about gun control is simply inapposite. Gun control laws impact the law-abiding and their constitutional rights---what I am talking about is punishment for serious criminal activity, i.e., affecting people who are blameworthy.

As for limiting principles, because yes, we cannot simply lock up everyone who commits a minor offense---and that's where blameworthiness comes in. That's the principle. And yes, it's general, but more concrete than some invocation of freedom, as if someone who commits a burglary crime spree like Komisarjevsky deserves to get a light sentence---remember, he broke into occupied homes---that's a dangerous criminal and a serious transgressor---do notions of "freedom" really play here? Maybe. But good grief---not that much.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 30, 2015 4:28:38 AM

Federalist, I attempted to answer the kinds of points you make -- about incapacitation as the be-all, end-all answer -- in the story, where I wrote about the need to search for a fair, proportional balance between these competing interests. No one can deny the brutal logic of incapacitation, but neither can we deny the impossibility of locking up every theoretical threat forever (not to mention the social devastation of incarcerating enormous segments of society). It's hard work trying to calibrate our system, and searching for a mix of solutions, but I submit the answers won't be found at either extreme. I can't pretend to know exactly how to do that. My story's point was a narrower one, which is: Otis makes arguments that must be grappled with because they matter outside the Beltway bubble.

Posted by: Mark Obbie | Jul 30, 2015 6:13:24 AM

As I recall, the final straw for Bill Otis was the inexcusable attack on his wife and family.The ad hominem attacks on this honorable man and the epithets directed at him brought dishonor on all of us who remained silent and did not rise to his defense. On the merits, sometimes I agreed with his conclusions,but often I did not. That's called debate and should be the lifeblood of this blog. Regardless, I miss his forceful, coherent, and often brilliant arguments. This blog is much the poorer without him. Bill, come back!! We promise to be good.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Jul 30, 2015 8:34:11 AM

Did anyone say that incarceration was the be-all end-all? Nope. In my post, I noted that better detection was helping, and there are clearly other reasons. But many people are trying to pooh-pooh the "brutal logic" (read effectiveness) of incarceration.

And it's funny how the "search" for a balance (and if youve read my posts at C & C, you'll note that Bill and I are not always on the same page) but I don't see any balance. Far too many criminals, particularly in urban areas, get off far too easy. I didnt see a lot of "balance" in anything you wrote.

Your response is more of a rearguard defense--you pooh-pooh the 25%, but can't respond to the "how much is 10%" nor can you acknowledge the immense human suffering caused by lenient sentencing in cases that have no justification.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 30, 2015 8:50:57 AM

Mark Obbie. Please, submit your home address to the parole board. The houses surrounding yours will be seized under Kelo. Each will be filled with the released, non-violent drug dealers, up to 12 without a zoning hearing.

Then, try selling your house. Report back.

Here is the biggest story of all.

There are 20 million FBI Index felonies a year, not including drug dealing. There are 2 million prosecutions. There is a 90% chance that after committing a serious crime, the law will never inconvenience the criinal in any way. The criminal law is nearly irrelevant to crime.

I do not believe the 25% effect since it counters intuition. Pass a law. It takes 5 years to have an effect. Right on time, there is a 40% drop in crime rate cross the board.

Beyond, personal incapacitation, the inmate could not spawn 10 super-predators by 10 crack whores. So the effect of reducing the fecundity of the criminal has never been measured but appears to be exponential. It is that effect that is suppressing crime today. The criminals are missing because they were not conceived.

The lawyer is not stupid, well, yes the lawyer is stupid. But why does the profession support the criminal so much? Why does the left support the criminal so much? The criminal generates massive government make work jobs. The victim generates nothing for the lawyer, and its interests may rot.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 30, 2015 9:25:14 AM

Mark. Bill was frustrated by personal and family attacks. But there was a bit more. Prof. Berman should privately discuss that aspect with Bill.

There is always a lively debate between those two at C & C, if you want to pick up where they left off. I find them funny, and so technical and beside the point of public safety.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 30, 2015 9:30:43 AM

When a felon moves back next door, the real estate value of the block drops by $million. Then he resumes committing 200 crimes a year, each causing damage of $10,000. So you invest $30,000 on housing the criminal in prison. Get back a reliable, guaranteed $3,000,000 back a year. Find me a better ROI.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 30, 2015 9:37:10 AM

I'll say this about Bill -- I've gotten into many discussions and arguments and debates with people, both face-to-face and online, about the propriety of sentencing laws and the nature of our criminal justice system in general. He stands out as among the most determined and frustrating (and I mean that in a good way) people I've ever engaged with. Though we obviously come from very different sides of the criminal justice system, I can't help but respect and admire his determination and resolve, even if we disagree about most things.

Posted by: Guy | Jul 30, 2015 9:48:30 AM

A distinct advantage of this blog over the Crime and Consequences blog is that this one allows the free exchange of ideas in the comments section. Crime and Consequences does not. Comments there are hand selected for publication; those that raise points that Bill would rather not acknowledge mysteriously never find their way into print. It's easy to "win" the debate when you mute the opposition.

Posted by: Jim | Jul 30, 2015 9:51:22 AM

Michael R. Levine, is albeed wrong?

Any shots at family are wrong. To state what should be obvious. And, strong debate from a knowledgeable source is beneficial. But, it doesn't warrant some sort of hagiography either. albeed warrants a reply.

I'm also not a big fan of vitriol though being human and all, at times I can see people doing that. If someone, e.g., is strongly in support of the death penalty and thinks victims are being harmed, I can see them making it personal, to use some vitriol. At some point, this becomes too much, but on a limited basis, I'm not going to get the vapors about it. And, at times, sorry, Bill Otis was not responsive, while making it ideological and adding in shall I say Bill Otis schtick. This is liable to annoy people.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 30, 2015 9:51:56 AM

All personal or family attacks mean surrender in the traverse. In a tribunal, they would be stopped and criticized by the judge, signalling the puzzled jury which way to go. Inducing such remarks is a good trial tactic.

The facts abandoned the left 100 years ago, so personal attack is all they have. The left killed 100 million people, and still failed to persuade. They landed on the dust heap of history. The people here did not get that memo.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 30, 2015 11:06:59 AM

I remember his description of Obama's 46 commutations as "criminals are cool week," and his reference to advocates of sentencing reform as "the-drugs-are-nifty-crowd." I found a large portion of his arguments to be childish and shallow.

Posted by: Jim | Jul 30, 2015 11:32:01 AM

I found the article exceedingly fair and balanced, to coin a phrase. I hardly think it was a "hack job," as someone put it. On the contrary, I thought it portrayed Otis and his arguments with fairness and respect.

That being said, I think Bill's online commenting style, which ranges from sneering condescension to bellicose hostility, does nothing to help his cause. He also is a frequent user of transparent rhetorical tricks like ad hominem attacks and false attribution. That's certainly his right, but it makes him sound more like a radio talk loon than a serious thinker on criminal justice policy.

Posted by: vachesacree | Jul 30, 2015 5:15:26 PM

Apparently, because Bill was somewhat forceful in his comments, the unhinged (and silly) Nazi commentary is somehow sauce for the goose.

What's also interesting is the facile conclusion that Bill's views are extreme. Um, how so? Barack Obama's views are far more extreme and pernicious.

I have to call out a mischaracterization of Joe's upthread--the whole, gee, it's easy to see how those in favor of capital punishment can take out their feelings on the anti-crowd. That's unfair. I don't think Bill or I have equated opposition to capital punishment as deserving calumny. What I have said, forcefully, is that people like Judge 'rat Dennis votes for stays without articulating the standard for such stays that does show disrespect for victims (as well as utter lawlessness). It is not wrong to call out that 'rat judge, and the failure of anyone to defend the 'rat judge's opinion seems weak to me. Nor is it unfair to point out the "wise [sic] Latina's" pig ignorant opinion on speedy trial, which went against a judgment winner below with her position in Maples v. Thomas, which allowed Maples to revise his arguments in mid-stream. It's fair to ask why the succor in bending the rules for an obviously guilty capital murderer.

Perhaps Joe is referring to my harsh criticism of Hickenlooper.

And it is funny, isn't it. No one seems to be able to show why, even if incarceration were responsible for only 10% of the drop, that is insignificant give the absolute numbers of victims that simply did not happen.

And where is acknowledgment that a lot of people have died because ridiculously low sentences were given for heinous crimes.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 30, 2015 7:40:18 PM

Joe criticizes others for not responding:

He couldn't respond to this:

Joe, you may not like it, but speculation doesn't get it done. Baze doesn't doesn't condition a state's right to execute a prisoner on some intrusive discovery based on mere allegations. But don't believe me--believe SCOTUS in Brewer v. Lnadrigan:

"But speculation cannot substitute for evidence that the use of the drug is "`sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering.'" Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 50, 128 S.Ct. 1520, 170 L.Ed.2d 420 (2008) (quoting Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 33, 113 S.Ct. 2475, 125 L.Ed.2d 22 (1993)). "

"The litigant here obviously didn't win but this assurance Baze ends things obviously is far from apparent. Including to three justices and more than one judge below. FWIW." That statement is pathetic. Instead of conceding the logic and argument of those who are citing law, you sniff and point to the fact that three 'rat Justices voted your way. Those 'rat Justices embarrassed themselves.

Bye's opinion is a joke, and any lawyer with an IQ above room temperature would know it (and that category would include the "wise [sic] Latina").

Let's start with the obvious--Bye doesn't even bother to cite Landrigan, which, by its terms and citing Baze, doesn't allow stays based on speculation. And that's all Bye offers--maybe the compounding facility sucks etc. etc. etc. Bye simply points to the unknown and argues (with no citation to relevant authority) that bare allegations and information unknown to the condemned entitles the condemned to a stay.

Then Bye descends into moonbattery. "However, Missouri has a storied history of ignoring death row inmates' constitutional rights to federal review of their executions." Wow. I didn't know that the US Constitution had an open courts provision similar to some state constitutional provisions. Maybe I missed that day of law school. What Bye is getting at, of course, is Missouri executing Smulls while yet another last minute appeal was pending. Never mind that Missouri was well within its rights, under unimpeachable SCOTUS precedent (Barefoot v. Estelle). Of course, what the learned judge doesn't explain is what business is it of his to complain.

Or get a load of this idiocy:

"Indeed, it is surprising Missouri has not been more transparent during this process, as it, too, has a strong interest in ensuring its executions conform with constitutional requirements. Thus, since Taylor asks for nothing more than information about the chemicals set to be injected into his own body, no undue burden has been placed on Missouri."

Missouri also has a strong interest in enforcing its judgment, and, by the by, the victim's family has a strong interest in enforcing the judgment. Funny how the learned judge seems to have missed that.

And then there's the citation of the Oklahoma execution--hmmm, I wonder what relevance an execution with a different protocol has. One thing is clear, Taylor (the Oklahoma killer) did not suffer KCl burning 12 seconds into the execution. Bye doesn't explain the relevance. Gee, I thought judicial opinions were supposed to be more than throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.

I could go on and on, but the point is clear--Bye is a lawless judge, and a stupid one too.

But of course, the three 'rat Justices have vouched for this drivel. So they own it too. Can someone please explain how Bye's opinion is consistent with the rule of law. And while you're at it, could you explain how a Supreme Court Justice could sign off on such a lawless exercise.

We'll see what the libs on here are made of. Come on, Joe. Defend this twaddle. I dare you.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 30, 2015 8:31:46 PM

Fed. Do you believe in my famous cousin, Santa? There is a much higher chance he deliver you a toy for being good boy, down your chimney, than a fact will persuade big government left wing ideologues to give up the government make work jobs generated by the criminal. Their precious criminal cannot be harmed, intimidated or even criticized. When they call you racist, they are really protecting their government jobs.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 30, 2015 11:16:56 PM

Sometimes, not "really taking you on" is more akin to the phenomenon that no one fights with the court jester, or similarly, how few seek personal interaction with a delusional and disoriented street person. To think that an anonymous keyboard neo-nazi somehow intimidates others is almost comical if it weren't so pathetic.

Posted by: Mark M. | Jul 31, 2015 12:26:47 AM

Mark Obbie's piece is more than fair to Mr. Bill. He doesn't seek out Achilles heels but offers instead Mr. Bill's overall view. In fact, he could be too generous in that he reports without concentrating on Mr. Bill's masterful Achilles heel hunting. But that is possibly the essence of the tyranny of the anecdote from all sides. Some argue it is merely human argument. Get used to it.

Where Mr. Bill's argument fails though is in his argument that to error is human and that we should always error on the side of victims. The problem with that is for every wrongful conviction a victim did not get justice and the person wrongfully free is letting someone else take the blame. From all points of view that is both anti-conservative and anti-liberal, not to mention anti-libertarian. As long as those conviction errors are condoned and tolerated reality will not prevail and something uncanny will always fog the system -- because the tyranny of the anecdote rules in jails and prisons as well.

Posted by: George | Jul 31, 2015 1:17:00 AM

Mark M. I demand that people like you disclose the fraction of your income or that of your employer coming from government. We may then discount your inappropriate personal remarks by that same fraction.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 31, 2015 8:33:44 AM

Awww, Mark, my itty-bitties are hurt. "Neo-nazi"?

The bottom line is that my post above (copied from an earlier thread) is cogent and unimpeachably correct. And the harsh conclusions about Judge Bye are as well. You guys cannot beat me, so you call me names. Cute.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 31, 2015 8:58:31 AM

"Last Man Standing: Nothing can stop the bipartisan coalition pressing for criminal justice reform. Nothing, except maybe Bill Otis."


Incarceration Nation was the result of a sustained bipartisan effort over the past 40 years. Mr. Otis played a part, but his part was insignificant - he was one of millions. Moreover, Incarceration Nation is not going away. It doesn't need Mr. Otis to defend it. The "bipartisan coalition pressing for criminal justice reform" is nothing but optics to make politicians look good.

What this article best depicts is how to create a personal brand. When Mr. Otis commented here, the rest of us saw this process in real time. He was 100% faithful to his brand, notwithstanding he had never practiced in state court, had never defended, and had only tried a handful of jury trials.

Yet he is described in the article as the "resolute oarsman".

Posted by: Fred | Jul 31, 2015 10:59:07 AM

Not sure the criteria for "resolute oarsman" but "personal brand" is quite true.

A valuable tool for many a public figure.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 31, 2015 11:41:13 AM

Go upthread Joe---criticizing Bill for non-response, but you rarely, if ever, respond to legal analysis or defend, on anything other than a results-oriented basis, what people like the "wise [sic] Latina" vote for. Weak.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 31, 2015 11:46:43 AM

If Mr. Otis ever comments here again, I will address him as the Resolute Oarsman.

Posted by: Fred | Jul 31, 2015 12:03:09 PM

And guys, I was just called a "neo-Nazi"--anyone going to note the lack of civility?

Posted by: federalist | Jul 31, 2015 12:35:29 PM

federalist, I'm curious - why do you put an apostrophe in front of "rat"? Like in the phrases "rat judge or "rat Justices"? Does that signify something? Sorry, it's lost on me.

Posted by: vachesacree | Jul 31, 2015 4:15:03 PM

'rat = Democrat.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 31, 2015 8:41:22 PM

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