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Words, June 25

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The ones with tenure are especially vociferous:

 “When I said that our faculty is vociferous, I meant that our faculty is demanding reform and they're strong in those demands. They're insistent on those demands, and they're loud in those demands. … Vociferous is a good thing. Would you rather be vociferous or weak-kneed and Lilliputian?” — Rush Harding III, chairman of the University of Central Arkansas Board of Trustees.

However this UCA business turns out, Rush (To Judgment) Harding has made an impression. He may be wrong, a lot, but he's boldly and stylishly wrong. How many trustees of Arkansas universities could stuff vociferous and Lilliputian into one sentence? How many would engage in on-line debate with anonymous critics, some of them nasty? Chairman Rush is no Lilliputian.

 

n Alford or Not Alford?

“Brice McMillan of Tarboro, N.C., whose 13-year-old son died of dehydration and heatstroke after being tied to a tree overnight as punishment, entered an Alford plea to second-degree murder ... ”

I hadn't heard of an Alford plea until I saw this item last week. A criminal lawyer confirms that it's rare.

An Alford plea is a plea in which the defendant asserts his innocence, but admits that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to make his conviction likely if the case went to trial. Despite the defendant's assertions of innocence, an Alford plea is treated as a guilty plea. The judge imposes sentence, and an Alford plea on one's record results in the loss of certain rights, such as voting or carrying a gun, just as would a normal conviction. The name comes from a 1970 case, North Carolina v. Alford, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of such a plea. “It's mainly a face-saving device,” our lawyer friend says. In Arkansas, a judge can refuse to accept an Alford plea.

An Alford plea differs slightly from the plea of nolo contendere (“no contest”), in which the defendant doesn't admit guilt, but puts up no defense. A nolo plea doesn't weigh as heavily on a person's record as does an Alford plea.

 

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