Category Archives: Aidan

Marriage Equality in New Jersey

Following the defeat of the marriage equality bill in the New York state legislature, gay marriage advocates have shifted their attention to New Jersey where state legislators are working hard to put a bill on Governor Jon Corzine’s desk before he is replaced with Chris Cristie who has said that he would veto any form of the bill if given the opportunity.

New Jersey’s marriage equality bill was expected to be put to a vote last Thursday after it had left the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, but its chief sponsors Senators Ray Lesniak and Loretta Weinberg asked for a postponement until they were able to secure enough votes to pass the bill. The legislation is now sitting in the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Lesniak courtesy of njleg.state.nj.us

Advocates are pushing for the bill to be voted upon in the state assembly, the chamber which they believe is more likely to pass the measure. “If it had gone up for a vote last week, it wouldn’t have passed and it would’ve died,” said Deborah Francica, Chief of Staff to Sen. Weinberg. “The only way to save the bill is to refer it to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.”

Sen. Weinberg courtesy of njleg.state.nj.us

The bills’ sponsors hope that once it passes the assembly, the state senate will be more likely to pass it. “I guess that’s the train of thought,” Francica said. “That’s what the sponsors are saying.”

Even those close to the process don’t know how long it will take. Francica was unsure when the bill would leave Judiciary and make it’s way to the floor for a vote. “I have no idea,” she said. “They’re still working that out now.”

The primary effort of the bill is to legally define marriage as the union of two consenting adults, revising what is previously thought to be the definition being the union of a consenting man and woman. “‘Marriage’ means the legally recognized union of two consenting persons in a committed relationship,” the bill reads. “Whenever the term ‘marriage’ occurs or the term ‘man,’ ‘woman,’ ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ occurs in the context of marriage or any reference is made thereto in any law, statute, rule, regulation or order, the same shall be deemed to mean or refer to the union of two persons pursuant to this amendatory and supplementary act.”

The Empire State Pride Agenda was unable to be reached to comment on how the bills passage could affect the New York LGBTQ community.

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Gothamist Answers: Bike Lanes Painted Over

http://gothamist.com/2009/12/11/bye_bye_bedford_bike_lane_dot_black.php

Repainting Bedford Bikelanes

Occupyeverything, a youtube user or users, seems to have become to documentarian of minor activist revelry throughout the city. They recorded the Nov. 19 demonstration near Washington Square where two NYU students were arrested. Two weeks later they recorded another two arrests in a Times Square anti-war protest.

When I asked Occupyeverthing how he or she is able to be at every minor direct action, he or she e-mailed back, “Pure luck.”

Courthouse

Jacques Dorcinvil (Daily News)

The docket at the Criminal Division of the Kings County Supreme Court is actually pair of scrolling blue computer screens, the kind you might see at an Off-Track Betting site. They list all the Court’s ongoing cases–without reference to the alleged crime–in a long slow loop, in a tight little hallway between the elevators and the sunny security checkpoint in the lobby. If you miss your case, you have to wait for it to come around again.

Not having a case to miss, fellow Metrosection courthouse reporter Aidan and I picked the defendant with the most interesting name. “Jacques Dorcinvil.” Barring extraordinary circumstances, all the criminal cases are open–once you’re through the metal detectors you can go to any one you want. We went up to the 15th floor.

I had been expecting a sad little shoplifting or vandalism case: an empty courtroom, a public defender overwhelmed by his caseload, a trial going through the procedural motions. Instead, the first thing we got was a discussion of whether a pool of blood could obscure fingerprints on the handle of a kitchen knife. I passed a note to Aidan: “We picked a real winner here.”

Jacques Dorcinvil, 33, stands accused, in the case we were watching, of murdering his then-girlfriend Claudette Marcellus outside her apartment at 2665 Bedford Avenue. It turns out—though we didn’t know it at the time—that he’s also accused of slashing the throat of Marcellus’ 12-year-old son, and of murdering another girlfriend, in 2003.  A Haitian national, he was arrested last year in Miami, at the Haitian consulate, trying to secure passage out of the United States.

He seemed nice enough, though, slouched next to his attorney, his wispy goatee graying before its time. Everyone seemed nice, actually. When the ADA called the only witness we saw testify in full, she treated her like an old friend. When Dorcinvil’s lawyer raised objections, the judge would smile, looking genially stumped: “Hm…yeah…sustained,” or “er…no…I’ll allow it.”

That witness we saw was named Nancy Palermo, a young-looking Hispanic detective, and twelve-year veteran of the force. She was obviously an old hand at trials like this, and had obviously worked with this ADA, a dumpy woman in her fifties, before. She robotically denied that her job had anything in common with the show CSI (“no, absolutely not”), and explained how police investigators look for evidence, emphasizing that it was done without a suspect in mind.

They hit a rhythm with these opening exchanges, so much so that the judge saw fit to place a phone call, talking for a good five minutes under the testimony. No one seemed to mind.

Eventually the questions started to focus on the case at hand. Palermo and her partner had arrived at the scene and found a woman’s body outside the apartment building. Her feet were under a parked car. She was wearing only a nightgown, which had been rolled up above her waist. There was blood everywhere. They spent 14 hours at the scene.

They had recovered the murder weapon, a 10-inch kitchen knife, covered in blood. Then a repeat of the exchange on fingerprints. There weren’t any on the knife. “But it’s possible that all that blood would mean that no fingerprints would be recoverable.” The ADA had her explain the different types of fingerprints: latent prints you can see with the naked eye, painted prints you have to dust to see. It didn’t seem relevant. There weren’t any prints on the knife.

The ADA finished the questioning by having Palermo display and identify the knife. People’s Evidence #15 (The knife must have been displayed before. By the time we got there the people were on their 33rd piece of evidence.) It still didn’t seem relevant, but it was impressive, the sort of thing you think only happens on TV dramas.

The whole thing was dramatic, actually. For all its collegiality, it was still a murder trial. Watching it, it didn’t really matter that the jury seemed bored, or that the case had barely made the papers. This detective on the stand had spent fourteen hours examining blood-soaked lobby and sidewalk, and the ADA was a professional at getting her to describe what she’d found. There was the bloody knife, a trail of bloody fingerprints leading back to the victims apartment, a mass of clothes lying down in the lobby. And coat-hangers. “There was blood on those items?”

The question didn’t feel procedural. “Yes.”

The cross-examination was quick. Dorcinvil’s lawyer got up, leaving his briefcase open. You could see his Burberry umbrella sticking out. He started with soft questions, like he was trying to apologize to the jury for what he was going to try to do to this detective. She was nice; you could tell they liked her. They smiled when she did.

He went after her credibility, focusing on the fact that her partner, not her, had actually led the crime-scene investigation, and that she hadn’t actually signed any of the reports. It was weak, but I don’t think he’d have got much out of her. And it couldn’t have helped to go after her too hard.

As soon as he was done, the judge turned to the jury. That was it. “I told you I’d get you out of here before lunch, didn’t I?”

Dorcinvil got up. It didn’t seem like it’d been a particularly good or bad day. Looking like it was a habit by now, he put his hands behind his back; the bailiff handcuffed him. He turned and mouthed something to a woman leaving the gallery, and wiggled his fingers. The bailiff picked up his papers and a hardcover book and put them in his hands.

After Judge D’Emic adjourned the days proceedings, we left the courtroom to whatever documents and records we could. Every trial, criminal or civil, leaves a paper trail that touches on every aspect of the case. If you know who to ask you can read every court transcript, filing, motion, and complaint.

On the elevator down to public records on the 13th floor, a man poked fun at a security guard carrying an electric fan. “That thing looks fantastic,” he said. “You’re a fanatic.”

The guard smiled. “I’m just a fan fan.”

Public records was small, with a low ceiling and drab walls. The desk was tall enough to obscure the woman behind it but for her for her head. She told us any trial records would only be available after the completion of the trial.

We then tried the 25 floor, the offices of the court reporters, the stenographers who write down every trial word for word, but found Kelly Swasey, the reporter for the Dorcinvil trial, was out.

After a series of phone calls and voicemails, she told us that we could receive copies of the transcripts of the entire trial, but that it would cost upwards of $1000.

We’ve been unable to get in touch with her since.

Spot Photos: Two NYU Student Protesters Arrested

Maria Lewis, NYU student, is escorted to a squad car by police officers.

On November 19, a group of New School students and some NYU students held a solidarity demonstration for student protesters in UC campuses across California. When they began dragging trash cans into the street and obstructing the flow of traffic, police exited their cars to apprehend some of the protesters.

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Justice Kennedy Strong-Arms School Newspaper

Then-Hon. Anthony Kennedy here pictured being announced by President Ronald Reagan as the next appointee to the Supreme Court in 1987.

Following his speaking engagement at the Manhattan private school Dalton, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s office insisted on reviewing an article by the school’s newspaper covering the event prior to it’s publication. The Daltonian was forced to replace the article with an editorial note in that weeks issue. “We are not able to cover the recent visit by a Supreme Court justice due to numerous publication constraints,” the note read.

Kathleen Arberg, the supreme court’s public information officer, told The New York Times that the Justice’s office had wanted to review the article to ensure it’s accuracy. After receiving the article she said his office sent it back with “a couple of minor tweaks” and “tidied up” quotes in order to better reflect the intention of the Justice behind his remarks.

Ellen Stein, the head of Dalton, defended Kennedy’s office saying that the review was justified. “This allows student publications to be correct,” she told the Times. “I think fact checking is a good thing.”

The Daltonian doesn’t have a website and was unable to be reached by Times reporters. It remains unclear whether their bylaws permit sources to review articles in which they’re quoted prior the piece’s publication.

The faculty adviser for the Daltonian said that even prior to the event the paper’s editors were under the impression that they would not be permitted to publish any article about the event without Kennedy’s approval.

The Times which was given a copy of the article said that it contained only a cursory summary of the topics discussed without any controversial comments from the Justice. According to Kristian Bailey, the reporter, Kennedy touched on the importance of the separation of powers, federalism, George Washington, and Isaac Newton.

Gay Marriage Bill Stalled In State Senate

A bill in the New York State Senate to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the state has been delayed by senate procedure which has forced senators to indefinitely put off an up/down vote.

Fred Armisen as Gov. Patterson on Saturday Night Live

During a special session on Tuesday convened by Governor David Patterson senators meant to produce a plan to close the current budget deficit and vote on the same-sex marriage bill. Senators were unable to come to a conclusion on the budget plan which they felt should be decided before any vote on the same sex-marriage bill could take place. Because Wednesday is Veterans day and senators were returning to their districts any vote has been pushed to next week. Proponents of the bill worry that the delay will damper the momentum.

“Honestly, I don’t know what the Senate is going to do with this,” Patterson told The New York Observer. “I implored them that I would rather see an up or down vote than no action at all.”

Democrats also felt that they didn’t currently have enough votes to push the bill through. They only have a two vote majority in the senate. According to The New York Times, all but five Democrats have said they support the bill. The slim majority will force Democrats to be more bipartisan. The Times said that the delay could provide proponents more time to gather votes from both sides of the aisle.

Last week, Patterson announced that he would convene the special session which would call for the senate to vote on his political wish-list of initiatives including enacting tougher penalties on drunk drivers, reform the pension system and public authorities.

Patterson has said that he will try to keep the momentum alive during the delay. “We’ll continue the dialogue,” he told The Observer. “I’ll probably have a leaders meeting in the interim to keep us where they are, and bring the legislature in next Monday and Tuesday to complete this deficit reduction program.”

Despite the delay, Patterson remains optimistic. “Well next week’s another week,” he added. “You’ve only seen the first act.”