A Call for National Conversation: The Voodoo Punanny Defense

When I first started writing this blog, someone told me that my writing should seek to do two things. First, it should provide helpful information to the profession as a whole. Second, it should contribute meaningfully to the legal conversation.

I haven’t always followed this advice, and my posts are often, at best, trivial and anything but significant. Today, however, is my intent to broach a subject that is both necessary and important to today’s legal environment.

This will not be merely one post. Instead, my ideas and the conversation will stretch over several posts over several weeks in an attempt to be as complete as possible. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for a list of anticipated future episodes.)

The subject of this series is one that I’ve seen weaved into the fabric of countless punitive actions, and I suspect other attorneys in other areas of law see it just as much, if not more. I’ve seen defense counsel explain it effectively in order to zealously represent their client, and others have completely missed it. I’ve never seen it addressed in an academic forum, though the issue is occasionally alluded-to. Most often, it is avoided, and understandably so.

I’m sure I’ll be vilified by some for what I’m about to write—especially by those with delicate sensibilities when it comes to discussing the power of sexuality among humans. I understand this and bear no ill will to those who choose to think ill of me. It happens, like excrement. Know that my advocacy of this concept as a defense, mitigation, extenuation does not apply to sexual assault or any other sex-based crime. None of what I’m about to say has ever, or will ever, apply to those types of offenses. As with everything, there are limits. Most are reasonable.

Note: For those who take umbrage with the use of certain terms, have no fear and be patient. Episode 4 is for you. This is truly an equal opportunity subject. There are differences, but the big picture is the same.

What I do ask is that you withhold all condemnation until the end. Hopefully, you’ll see that this issue transcends gender or orientation. Everyone is susceptible. Everyone has the potential of being a victim. It is magical. It is voodoo.

With that brief disclaimer/intro/blather, sit back and take this at a casual pace. By moving ahead in this post, you are joining a conversation about a subject that has vexed mankind since the dawn of our existence.

Episode 1: It’s time for a national conversation about the Voodoo Punanny Defense.

When I first found voodoo I was in my 20’s

I was workin’ at a club and tryin’ to be funny

Met a sweet girl named Ilene she had the nicest legs I’d ever seen

We had a few laughs and a few white russians

laughs turned into feelin’ and touchin’

We started to kiss and she said I think your nice

let me take you back to my place and ruin your life

It was voodoo

Just one night with her changed my world

Ilene was no ordinary average girl

she had ultra hot fox mammy jammy

nuclear hot powered voodoo punanny

—-Joe Rogan, Voodoo Punanny

Arriving at Fort Polk, Louisiana, I began my first job as a labor attorney and was mostly sheltered away from the folks who prosecuted and defended cases under the Uniform Code of  Military Justice. I was in an entry level job, which all new JAGs must do before being entrusted with the keys to the UCMJ machine. At the same time, we were out of the way and often able to observe goings-on without being a direct part of the action.

The work was generally mundane, steadily working through one’s inbox, hoping to transfer all paperwork to its brother, the appropriately named outbox. For this reason, we were always game for the latest bit of office gossip. Some more amusing than others.

After a few weeks, we learned of low-level punitive action being taken against a young paralegal. This was big news because it was one of our own, usually a fairly trustworthy lot. This particular paralegal (I’ll call him Pinto because I can’t remember his name.) was diminutive and hunched, with large, thick glasses. He shuffled around the hallways, searching, it appeared, for self confidence. He was quiet and relatively dependable, so I heard.

One day, I learned Pinto was in trouble and faced punishment. He used his government issued credit card for personal reasons. This was a big no-no, as the purpose of this card was well-known and emphatically explained to everyone who held one. It was only to be used for official government travel purposes. He used it at WalMart and a few other places around town, purchasing nothing having to do with government travel.

Pinto faced a relatively small slap on the wrist in the form of nonjudicial punishment, a tool used by commanders to punish lower-level infractions. Since this was his first mistake, and it didn’t involve harm to another person, chances were he’d get a second chance. That’s exactly what happened.

One month later, my colleague sauntered into my office mid-morning.

“Did you hear what happened to Pinto?”

“No,” I replied.

“He used his government credit card again.”

“On travel?”

“Would I mention it to you if it was?”

A second offense. What would drive him to commit a second, nearly identical offense after getting a sweet second chance?

We began to discuss how Pinto went from a quiet, dependable soldier to being a repeat offender and cautionary tale for one of the easier rules to follow.

My friend explained “He just got married to a woman with 4 kids.”

“Oh?”

“She works at New Orleans Ladies,” he stated.

Best I could tell, New Orleans Ladies had no connection with the actual city or women from there, but it was a catchy enough name to make it the best-known “gentleman’s” club in the Leesville, Louisiana metro area.

My friend continued, “He tells people she’s not a stripper, but that she just works there.”

We both chortled.

“Well, I hope his parents are buying the story, for his sake,” I replied. “You seen her?”

“Yup.”

“And?” I inquired.

“Probably average for strippers around here.”

“Well, that explains it,” I concluded. “Poor little guy never stood a chance.”

My peer nodded in agreement.

We both knew what happened to him. We knew what drove him to commit acts that reduced him from a Specialist to slick-sleeved Private.

His wife knew the route. Pinto had never even seen a map.

Voodoo.

you can’t resist the power it holds

so listen very carefully to the story I’ve told

Punanny got magic punanny got powers

It’s the only reason men buy flowers

—-Joe Rogan, Voodoo Punanny

I didn’t witness any of the proceedings against Pinto, and I never spoke directly to him about it. Yet, all of us (males and females alike) recognized a few undisputed facts.

o She was probably the best-looking woman he’d ever dated (and perhaps the only one).

o Vegas odds would say that she completely rocked his world. When she chose. How she chose.

o He powers placed Pinto in such distress that he was willing to abandon a free, single life for one with miss-works-at-a-strip-club-not-as-a-stripper and 4 kids that were not his (all on a pay grade E-4 salary).

o In order to keep the peace, he was willing to commit misconduct twice, with the second time after having been punished for the first. We knew that, after the first act, he was counseled copiously by the company commander about support services for young soldier families. Even with all of this information and promises of support, he whipped-out the government credit card at WalMart in order to buy supplies for his dysfunctional Brady Bunch. His actions suggested he didn’t have time to plan or react. He had to grab the first thing that could pay the bill. He was under duress.

As his case gained more in-office notoriety, several other soldiers confessed to witnessing the wife verbally berating Pinto in-person and over the phone. She was in charge. Such is the case when you’re the only one in the relationship who knows the route.

Only one thing could explain such a hold over a person. Voodoo.

It had absolute power over him.

He couldn’t think. He couldn’t feel. All he thought was how she made him squeal.

Did ya ever meet man with a bitchy wife ?

wonder why the guy wanna ruin his life

By bein’ married to a woman that’s mean to him

Well I’m gonna tell you somethin’ so listen kid

When the lights go down and the candles flame

i bet that woman doesn’t act the same

I bet you what she got is really sweet

Bet you that girl is packin’ heat

When he gets her alone whips out his bannana

She gives him a dose of the voodoo punanna

you ain’t gonna forget it You can’t ignore it

no matter where you look there ain’t no cure for it

don’t waste your time tryin’ to run and hide

voodoo haunts you every night

—-Joe Rogan, Voodoo Punanny

The kid was punished harshly on the second offense and processed for administrative discharge. If I remember correctly, he received a General Discharge, losing his most substantial veteran benefits in the process.

We all wondered to ourselves: Was his home-life adequately explained in his defense? Did the commander who punished Pinto know of all the facts and circumstances?

While perhaps not an absolute defense, we all agreed that the voodoo was, at a minimum, a healthy dose of both mitigation and extenuation. Though we understood this, we knew that it was not a subject discussed widely or with any emphasis. We couldn’t help but think that the commander didn’t know about the severity of the voodoo suffered by this sad-sack of a soldier. All the commander saw was a guy who violated the law twice, with knowledge.

No excuse.

 

you can’t resist the power it holds

so listen very closely to the story I’ve told

It’s the reason women drink free martinis

the reason old men buy lamborghinis

—-Joe Rogan, Voodoo Punanny

The goal here is not to belittle or shame or chastise. The goal is awareness and consideration. While it may not gain sympathy, we will settle for understanding. Ultimately, finders of fact, those who find guilt, and those who impose punishment need to know all facts and circumstances. An appropriate conviction or punishment should be one that considers all facts, factors, and stimuli.

Yep, the stimuli.

By the end of this series, you may feel moved to write your senator or member of congress and ask for statutory recognition of the voodoo punanny defense. At the same time, you may want to put a burning bag of dog shit on my front porch. I’ll respect whichever you choose. Just remember what this is about.

This is about the accused.

This is about victims.

This is about victimized accuseds.

This is about the future of our children in a just and fair society, and their protection.

Most importantly, it is about nuclear, hot, powered, voodoo punanny.

It has been present throughout history. It is currently all around us. So long as humans continue as a species, it will always exist. And, all we have to combat it is education, knowledge, and understanding. That’s why I’m writing to you.

Until the next episode. Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay aware. Never leave your wingman.

___________________________

Stay tuned to future episodes of our series on the Voodoo Punanny Defense.

Episode 2: A Brief History of Voodoo Punanny: From Eve to the Kardashians

Episode 3: In Defense, Mitigation, and Extenuation

Episode 4: The Thrust of Voodoo Banana (AKA The Richard Burton Effect)

___________________________

Popehat University

Even after earning over 7000 frequent flier miles on college visits, I still don’t understand the thought process of my college-bound senior, #63. During each college-related conversation, I seek to understand things a bit more, but they only serve to confuse me further. The latest:

#63 walks down the stairs, a rare exit from his lair. I do enjoy the occasional sighting of the elusive #63.

#63: Which college did that Popehat guy attend?

Me: Leland Stanford Junior University.

(I enjoy referring to Stanford by its full name. I’m annoying that way. He winces.)

#63: OK, how about the Simply Justice dude?

Me: SIMPLE Justice. He went to Cornell.

#63: The Texas guy?

Me: Rice.

#63: Did any of your lawyer friends attend Northwestern?

Me: No. Why?

(Without answering, he walks back upstairs.)

Hourly Rates

As a kid, I spent a fair amount of time at McAbee Body Shop in Topeka, Kansas. Several of my father’s close friends worked there, and he’d occasionally help to fix their welding equipment. Back then, nobody wore masks or any sort of protective gear (except the occasional welding mask/goggles), myself included. I realize this explains a lot.

Thanks to Clark at Popehat, I’m reminded of a sign that hung on the wall in Mac’s shop. This isn’t the actual sign, but it says substantially the same thing. I never fully understood it as a kid. Now that I’ve practiced law privately for more than 10 minutes, I understand it perfectly. Funny how closely our profession is tied to other, more blue-collar services.

$(KGrHqF,!jkE8F-NPZZdBPMZ1U4,9w~~60_35

Showing the military how it is done. Final Update.

The saga with Lt Col Jeffrey Krusinski is finally over. How? That’s a fair question. However, let me quote, for the third time, a statement by Ms. Petula Dvorak. She made it when the allegations against Krusinski surfaced and civilian authorities retained jurisdiction.

Hey, Pentagon commanders: Look beyond that 395 freeway on-ramp, just past the McDonald’s and Macy’s, and see how allegations of sexual assault ought to be dealt with. Like a potential crime.

After the initial charges, things changed further. We talked about it here.

That brings us to yesterday. Via the Washington Post:

An Air Force colonel accused of assaulting a young woman outside a Crystal City bar this past spring has been acquitted by an Arlington jury.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 42, was head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention branch when he was arrested after the May encounter outside a Crystal City bar. The incident was swept up in an ongoing debate over whether the military is equipped to handle sexual assaults among its ranks.

Well, there you go. Done and done.

Hey, Ms. Dvorak: Look beyond that 395 freeway on-ramp, just past the McDonald’s and Macy’s, and see how allegations of sexual assault ought to be death with. With calm heads and respect for the rule of law, regardless of how loudly you bloviate.

The Pocket Email Guide for Lawyers

For any lawyer considering the use of email communications, know the following two absolute and immutable truths.

The best thing about receiving email is that you have received something in writing.

The worst thing about sending email is that you have created something in writing, often in haste.