dna – a little bit more…

A wise man can see more from the bottom of a well than a fool can from a mountain top.  ~Author Unknown

Today was cloudy and rainy.  Good for another piece of dna..






Remember the genetic code?  It determines each person’s individual characteristics and in so doing dictates that no two persons (with the exception of identical twins) are the same.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid – got that?)  analysis began in medical research. (1953 was a milestone)

DNA is a polymer which is a long molecule composed of only a few simple units.  Deoxyribose (a sugar), phosphate and four different organic bases. Those units taken together are nucleotides, which are the raw building blocks of DNA. The DNA structure has been likened to that of a long ladder that has been twisted along its axis. The sugar and phosphate together form the outside support of the ladder and the four different bases are the rungs or steps of the ladder. Simple…





(taken from Google dna images)


Seems to me that anyone even remotely interested in the criminal justice system should have some sort of understanding of DNA, as it is sought, collected, and talked about in virtually every serious criminal case, whether pre-trial, at trial or post-trial.  However, any discussion of DNA gets complicated pretty quickly- especially for those non-science grounded folks. Having said this, let’s get started with some basics.

The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step  – Lao Tzu







Genetics is the study of genes, and tries to explain what they are and how they work.  (What follows is from Wikipedia)

Genes are how living organisms inherit features from their ancestors; for example, children usually look like their parents because they have inherited their parents’ genes. Genetics tries to identify which features are inherited, and explain how these features are passed from generation to generation.







In genetics, a feature of a living thing is called a “trait“. Some traits are part of an organism’s physical appearance; such as a person’s eye-color, height or weight. Other sorts of traits are not easily seen and include blood types or resistance to diseases.

Some traits are inherited through our genes, so tall and thin people tend to have tall and thin children; such traits which result due to inheritance alone are called genotypes. Other traits come from interactions between our genes and the environment, so a child might inherit the tendency to be tall, but if they are poorly nourished, they will still be short; such traits which are manifested due to the combined action of inherited genes and environmental circumstances are called phenotypes.






Genes are made from a long molecule called DNA, which is copied and inherited across generations. DNA is made of simple units that line up in a particular order within this large molecule. The order of these units carries genetic information, similar to how the order of letters on a page carries information. The language used by DNA is called the genetic code, which lets organisms read the information in the genes. This information is the instructions for constructing and operating a living organism.

The information within a particular gene is not always exactly the same between one organism and another, so different copies of a gene do not always give exactly the same instructions. Each unique form of a single gene is called an allele.

In criminal justice and DNA analysis, you hear alot about DNA and allele.  So, we will come back to them.

 Time to stop!!

Flying and color…

I’m not into lecturing kids about the reasons they should not be smoking dope, selling drugs, stealing, fighting, etc…but, if asked, I would say that staying out of jail is certainly one of them.






In fact, I think (legal) activities worth pursuing often involve two things:

(1) recreating the sensation of flying






and (2) color.









Petty hard to argue with that… 






“The earth laughs in flowers.”   ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Art again…

If you can find it, the time between trials is a good chance to rest, regroup and think about other things…







(Art gallery in Santa Fe during a family trip)

And speaking of art…and movies…. let’s not forget ol’ Walt Disney.

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
– Walt Disney







“If you can dream it, you can do it.”   – Walt Disney

Habeas Corpus and the theatre…

The term “habeas corpus” comes up quite a bit in criminal law, often in the context of prisoners requesting a review of the proceedings that resulted in them being incarcerated.  So, here’s a short definition:

Habeas Corpus, literally in Latin “you have the body” is a term that represents an important right granted to individuals in America. Basically, a writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate requiring that a prisoner be brought before the court to determine whether the government has the right to continue detaining them. The individual being held or their representative can petition the court for such a writ.

So far, so good. 

And then  there is Shakespeare…. 





My clever friend Paul sent me an entertaining piece on the history of habeas corpus he came across on a blog on the internet. Here it is – with the site at the end:

“Gray’s Law Dictionary: On the Hilarious History of Habeas Corpus”  (Feb 2, 2007)

The term habeas corpus enjoys a lofty stature among jurists, commonly known as the “great writ.” It is often trod out as the ultimate item of appeal, when a lawyer questions the legality of his client’s imprisonment. Classicists will often relate the literal translation, “you have the body,” as an explanation for the term’s origin. This is a fair enough translation, but the term’s actual conception occurred well after the Roman Empire’s demise – 1500s London, to be exact.

Christopher Marlowe is sometimes credited as the “Real Shakespeare,” but it was early London playwright Bartleby Cruikshank that might be described as the “Real Marlowe.” It was Cruikshank’s experiences in London gaols – he being a constant debtor – that gave rise to “Marlowe’s” first popular play in 1581, a comedy of errors entitled, “The Forgetful Warden.”

The play revolved around Hollis Borden, keeper of Newgate Prison. Borden was the cause of several comedic episodes within the prison because his constantly failing memory meant some prisoners, intended to stay for one night, would often languish in the cells indefinitely.

In one instance, Jenny Prattleswell pleads to Borden for the release of her lover, William. Borden, after finding William dead for want of food, serves up his long-lost and newly imprisoned twin, Hampton. Jenny is oblivious to the swap, attributing William’s memory loss to a stay in gaol – Hampton merely happy to be free. Keen audience members, however, recognize that where William was missing his left ear, Hampton misses a right one.

The raucous appeal of the play usually peaked at the end of every act when Borden would, at the behest of the inquiring families, retreat to his prison officials and deliver the refrain:

“Have we his corpse?!”

Thus, the more familiar and Latin-ized term habeas corpus devolved from the Cockney pronunciation of this catchphrase, as the play was performed at the Rose Theatre, frequented with the more slovenly-tongued, lower-income crowds of Southwark.

We, of course, would find this warden’s practice repulsive today. However, it seemed quite parodical to denizens of London at the time. It was quite common practice for family members to inquire at local gaols and have the existence of their imprisoned loved ones denied entirely.

Indeed, Alexandre Dumas romanticized this longstanding tradition in 1845 with The Count of Monte Cristo, seemingly offering hope to thousands of families that their relatives might one day return from prison. We know now, of course, that Dumas was doing no such thing, having instead been commissioned by the real Count of Monte Cristo to write the novel as a promotional tool for his many elaborate fêtes.

As for the term’s legal inception, it was only when the play’s revival nearly 300 years later grew in popularity among the learned – and therefore political – crowd that questions about the legality of this habit started being asked. Member of Parliament Lord Hailsham remarked to the House, “You may, my lords, have seen Shakespeare’s recent play ‘The Forgetful Warden,’ and asked, much like myself – what if we were to produce a corpse!”

Eventually, the sentiment gained momentum and found its way into courts as a useful tool for resourceful lawyers. Stories are often told of barristers of the late 20th century serving the writ in front of Lord Denning – a lover of the theatre – and hearing him reply with another of Borden’s famous phrases:

“Jenny Prattleswell but her lover don’t ‘ear it!”


Singin’ in the rain…

Saturday and it is raining…so much for taking a spin on the Blue Ridge Parkway…

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.  ~Roger Miller

Sometimes it takes a while to unwind from the previous week in the criminal justice system. I’m not quite sure what to do with this gift from my client’s daughter. She’s from Louisiana and told me it’s a common gift…






I am certainly grateful for the thought (I think)…and feeling glad she didn’t bring me the whole thing!

Settling a case…

Today I settled a case and so it will not go to trial. A great relief in many ways, but it involved difficult issues and no happy solutions.

When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.  ~Friedrich Nietzche






“Victory isn’t defined by wins or losses. It is defined by effort. If you can truthfully say, ‘I did the best I could, I gave everything I had,’ then you’re a winner.”
– Kai Greene

I think tomorrow, I’ll go for a ride…