Modern Day Human Sacrifice In Iran

Stoning Execution of Woman In Iran

Are there any tribes, cults, cultures, etc. within which human sacrifice is still performed as a religious practice?  The depictions of human sacrifice under the Aztecs, for instance, never failed to stir my imagination as I would feel nauseated and terrified by the thought of how it must have felt to be one of the victims who would be taken to the top of a temple, laid down on a stone slab, and then have their abdomens sliced open as their beating hearts were taken out.  The Aztecs performed these sacrifices to appease specific gods.

Let me not only pick on the Aztecs.  Upon browsing through Wikipedia, one will find that human sacrifice was practiced within several different cultures or religious groups throughout the world.  However, Wikipedia treated human sacrifice as an ancient rite which no longer finds acceptance in modern religions.  While there is considerable violence around the world in the name of religion, the recognized religions of today condemn human sacrifice as a barbaric practice.  Although I believed that the last vestiges of human sacrifice disappeared over a century ago, I recently discovered that it was still being practiced and legally recognized in “modern” day Iran where Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani was sentenced to die by an ancient ritualistic practice under the pretense of religion.

Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani, a forty-three year old mother of two who was convicted of adultery by an Iranian court, was sentenced to death by stoning.  Stoning is a recognized form of execution under Iran’s penal code which is based on Islamic Law.  Considering that the Quran, unlike the Bible, does not mention stoning as a prescribed method of execution, the practice finds its legality under Iran’s debatable interpretation of Sharia law which is considered by Muslims to be God’s law.  So how is stoning carried out?  After the convicted individual who is a female in the vast majority of cases is wrapped in a white shroud from head to toe and buried in a hole up to her breasts, rocks are then thrown at her head until she dies.  Article 104 of Iran’s Penal Code specifically states that the appropriate stones for carrying out the killing “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones”.  While I am not aware that geologists or lawyers are employed for the purpose of selecting and defining stones that fit the proper legal standard, it is obvious that death must be inflicted by extremely painful means.  Apparently, according to reports of such stoning executions, anywhere from ten to thirty minutes of pelting the victim’s head with rocks by a group of citizens usually accomplishes the goal.

Based on international pressure, Iran appears to have modified the means of execution for Ashtiani to the more internationally accepted practice of hanging.  While Ashtiani may dodge the stone, only to be caught by the noose, there are still others in Iran who are condemned to die by stoning.  At this point, I will not discuss my views against the death penalty or whether the means of execution are irrelevant because Ashtiani is sentenced to die one way or the other.  However, I want to return to the assertion that human sacrifice is practiced in Iran.  While I oppose the death penalty regardless of whether it is recognized in democracies such as the United States, Japan and India or in autocracies like China, North Korea and Zimbabwe, none of these nations bring religion into the picture to justify taking one’s life.  Religion is supposed to be about higher values despite all the violence that takes place in its name.  To kill someone to appease the gods or God not only flies in the face of religious idealism , but fits the basic definition of human sacrifice.

Wikipedia defines human sacrifice as “the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual”.  As Iran recognizes and carries out the act of stoning specifically under the dictates of “God’s law” and for the purpose of fulfilling or abiding by God’s will, the ritual is cloaked in religion.  Human sacrifice is therefore well and alive in Iran.  So what is the point of proving that such a gory relic exists in the country?  For those who think that the ritual is an extinct practice which may be read about in history books or a sensational event that is covered by Hollywood action flicks, today there exist human beings who are set to be sacrificed in Iran for the purpose of fulfilling or abiding by God’s will.

The purpose of referring to Iran as a state sponsor of human sacrifice is not really to stick it with an “evil empire” or “axis of evil” label, but to demonstrate just how far the country has fallen from the norms of decency.  While the country is joined by the human rights challenged nations of Saudi Arabia and Somalia in the stone casting club, Iran is in the spotlight due to all the international attention on the Ashtiani case.  The level of shock around the world is such that even President Lula of Brazil took the unusual and diplomatically unnecessary step of going out of his way to offer Ashtiani asylum while he embraces and forges closer relations with Iran.

In the midst of hearing about Ashtiani’s horrific ordeal, I somehow felt a strange sense of pity for Iran.  In considering the great history of the Persian Empire, it is difficult to believe that the Iran of today actually exists.  While civilizations may have their highs and lows, for an act such as stoning to have official sanction in modern times is difficult to fathom.  Under the country’s present circumstances, it is comical to hear Iran barking out moral protestations against the West and the rest of the world when it has no shame about how it treats and yes, sacrifices, its own citizens.

Ashtiani’s children are bravely making an international plea for help in saving their mother’s life.  One can only hope that she is granted asylum in Brazil along with her children.  While Iran is well recognized for its human rights abuses, stoning one to death, and that too for an offense such as adultery, is such a savage and barbaric act that it should completely soak up ones conscience.  So long as the practice of stoning continues in Iran, Iran will continue to live in the Stone Age.

 

I, like everyone else, spend a lot of time attempting to decipher facts from fiction.  Whether I am looking to purchase an automobile, trying to determine which stain remover will work best on my berber carpet, or reading a news report, I am attempting to figure out the facts so that I can make an informed choice as a consumer or citizen.  Most businesses and individuals will claim that they are giving you the facts; indeed their credibility will depend on it.  Therefore, when I recently read David Brooks’s op-ed piece about the cheap, unnecessary, and “got you” nature of the facts that were reported by Michael Hastings in his article published in Rolling Stone Magazine on General Stanley McChrystal, I was flabbergasted.  Rarely do I have the chance to encounter someone in such a respected position as Brooks who openly assaults the truth.

I, like Brooks, am not always a big fan of facts.  Michael Hastings, who had a privileged position as an embedded journalist with General McChrystal, dared to expose some unpleasant facts.  As a trial lawyer, I often had to deal with unpleasant facts concerning my clients.  In my personal life, I sometimes have to face unpleasant facts.  While I can choose to ignore or disregard any undesirable information, I will not openly admit that I want to avoid the truth.  For justice to prevail and society to progress, the facts must come out.  On a personal level, I generally feel that to improve my life I need to search for the facts.  Therefore, I pour over newspapers, consumer reports, blogs, and other sources of information to find them.  So what do I discover?  Truth appears hard to get.  Facts appear scarce.  The world is full of spin.  It therefore makes your trusted sources of information that much more valuable.

What I found most disturbing about David Brooks’s op-ed piece is that rather than showing any regard for facts, he fears their consequences.  Facts may lead to, as Brooks would say, another scalp on the wall.  But if journalists are not expected to report facts then why not read the National Enquirer or watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report on the Comedy Channel to get the news?  Without a reasonable expectation of getting the facts, news becomes nothing more than mere entertainment.

In our free speech happy and First Amendment proud society where we read and hear countless stories, the public, the judges, render a verdict on the multiple versions of the facts before them.  Brooks could have chosen to dispute the facts presented in the Rolling Stone Magazine article.  Instead, he appears to accept the facts and then lament that they were ever exposed.  He champions silence as the best and most dignified exercise of First Amendment rights by an embedded reporter due to the perceived inconvenience that the journalist’s story may create.  Does Brooks have a compelling point?  Maybe he does.  But as one who is trying to discover the facts, he just made it on my blacklist.

David Brooks is an outstanding writer; this is probably one reason why he has a job with the New York Times.  I am sure that English professors would laud his ability to construct sentences and paragraphs.  However, if I want facts, I will view his columns with great suspicion.  Whose back is he covering and what interests is he protecting?  What I do know is that if I ever need to read quality fiction, I can always count on David Brooks.

Uncle Sam Is My Legal Representative

Although I am a lawyer, when I face a legal problem I first look into the possibility of obtaining free help from the government over retaining a fellow attorney.  Yes, I realize that we, as taxpayers, pay for the government assistance that we receive.  I, however, use the term “free” in the context of a situation where one has a choice of paying an attorney for legal assistance versus using the services that the government offers its citizens, who are presumably taxpayers, at no additional cost.

Considering that our democratic government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people, the government in its local, county, state, and federal levels has established several agencies and departments which look after the public interest.  Victims of crime, for instance, depend on prosecutors who work for the government rather than private attorneys to prosecute the alleged offender.  It is important to note that the government technically does not represent the victim, but rather the health, safety, and welfare of the public on whose behalf the defendant is prosecuted.  While victims are free to hire their own lawyer, they usually do not spend a penny on a private attorney as they rely on the government to take legal action against the alleged perpetrator.  What many individuals do not realize is that the government also offers several other forms of free legal service.  I will now share some general and personal examples of how the government can provide free legal help.

A while back, I was facing an abusive landlord who was attempting to squeeze as much money out of me as possible after I requested an early termination of my lease.  Although another party had already indicated an interest in taking over my office space, the landlord demanded that I pay three months of advance rent to get out of the lease.  While financial concerns definitely played a role, I also sought to terminate the lease due to serious doubts about the structural integrity of the building and my personal safety within the office space.  There were cracks that were expanding in this very old and not well maintained building and I periodically felt tremors or a strong shaking sensation while working at my desk.  To make matters worse, the landlord had a bad habit of not responding to my requests for service which included the failure to timely address a fire code violation within my suite that the landlord was responsible for.

Initially, the landlord indicated that he would agree to a mutual termination of the lease as soon as a new tenant was found for the office space.  However, upon finding a prospective tenant who was willing to immediately take over my office space, but was also flexible as to the actual move-in date, the landlord then changed his tone and added the further demand that I pay the three months of advance rent as part of our mutual termination of lease agreement.  The landlord apparently figured that I was desperate enough to pay the additional rent to get out of the lease while the landlord would double up his profit by also collecting rent from the new tenant.  Having reached my tolerance threshold for dealing with the landlord, I decided to play hardball.  I began by investigating whether my safety related concerns about the building in general and my suite in particular were legitimate.

After conducting some background research, I discovered that the landlord had a long history of committing code violations.  I further found out that the landlord had not secured any of the necessary permits for reconstructing my office suite in preparation for my commencement of the tenancy.  Who knows what other shortcuts the unscrupulous landlord may have undertaken in building out my suite?  The landlord was clearly in breach of our lease which required us to abide by all applicable laws concerning the maintenance and safety of the leased space.

I now had to decide on what to do next.  I could have hired an attorney to enforce my rights as a tenant.  Instead, I reported my findings to the city’s code enforcement department which stated that the landlord would be subject to a relatively large fine for each code enforcement violation.  The code enforcement department stated that they would notify the landlord concerning my complaint and proceed with an investigation.  I also found out that the state government had a workplace safety department which would separately and independently investigate my concerns to determine whether any action should be taken against the landlord.

When I informed the landlord that I intended to report my concerns to the relevant government entities, the landlord attempted to dissuade me by stating that he would hire a structural engineer to evaluate my safety related concerns.  I replied that there was no need for landlord to spend money on a structural engineer when the government would do the same evaluation for us for free?  Before I could report the matter to the state government department which handled workplace safety issues, the landlord’s attorney who had been corresponding with me for some time promptly informed me that the landlord had a change of heart and would, based on good faith, agree to a mutual termination of the lease without demanding any further rental payment.  I accepted the offer.

In acting on my grievances, I could have hired a lawyer and easily spent hundreds or thousands of dollars in attorney fees.  Instead, I used the strong arm of the government to take action against the landlord who was the only one that ended up using an attorney (and paying attorney fees I presume).  Other than paying taxes, I did not pay a cent to essentially have the government serve as my legal representative.  When one retains a lawyer to take action against an opponent who appears to have an unlimited budget for attorney fees, such as a large business entity or organization, then one may end up on the short end of the attorney fees spending game.  Forget about fairness, one can essentially lose a legal battle by mere financial exhaustion.  With the government’s role as one’s legal representative, it is only one’s opponent who will be forced to pay attorney fees.

The dispute with my former landlord is not the first time that I have successfully used the government to assist me in what could easily have been an expensive legal matter.  Because our democratic government is supposed to look out for our or the public’s interest, it has created many agencies and departments to investigate complaints by the public and enforce the law.  Sometimes the government entity’s powers may be limited in terms of enforcement or may not involve much more than investigating a complaint. For instance, I once filed a complaint with consumer rights department of the Attorney General’s Office for the state that I resided in against a telecom company which refused to refund me despite never providing my firm with the answering services that we had contracted for.  After the company denied my charge, the representative for the government stated that they could not assist me any further.  I therefore had no other option than to hire an attorney if I wanted to take further action against the company.

While I did not have any luck with my state’s government to take action against the telecom company that ripped me off, some of my friends have, based on my advice, gotten businesses to refund, replace or offer them other remedies for defective goods or services after simply making a threat to file a complaint with their state’s consumer rights division.  The threat to report a matter to the government often carries greater weight than the threat to take legal action through a private attorney.  Additionally, with the government option one does not have to pay expensive legal fees.

As I have stated, there are situations when you have no other choice than to hire an attorney (ie, if the government is after you!).  And if you have an excellent attorney, you might be better off to forgo the government assistance option even if it is available.  It is also important to realize that certain kinds of cases may involve contingency fees where an attorney does not make any money until the client recovers something.  I have seen enough outstanding attorneys achieve amazing results for their clients.  However, a client needs a good attorney who can obtain a cost effective result.  Paying an attorney does not guarantee any kind of recovery.  And if one’s claim does not reach a certain monetary threshold level, many attorneys may not be interested in taking the case.  There are many unfortunate situations where individuals forgo legal action because they are unable to find an attorney.

So how does one figure out if the government can help them in a legal matter?  This can be complex as each level of government such as the federal, state, county or local branches may have exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction over the subject matter.  Of course, one may also have a completely personal problem for which no government assistance is available.  To begin with, one may simply visit the website for the various levels of government that they fall within (ie, in addition to the federal government, look up the website for your local, county, and state government).  One can then either type in a relevant key word related to their problem in the website’s search box or view the list of agencies and departments to obtain a clue as to whether any of them cover the legal matter of concern.  For instance, a state government may provide a department of insurance which oversees insurance related problems and complaints of its residents.  After a former colleague of mine felt that his employer was not properly compensating him, I found out through a general key word search on Google that our state had a Department of Labor and Industries which provided information on and investigated wage and compensation related complaints.  Some states may provide unique departments which its citizens may be completely unaware of.  The state of Washington, for instance, has its own human rights commission which investigates a broad cross-section of discrimination related complaints.  Once one discovers a department or agency which may cover their legal subject matter then they should contact the department and present their legal inquiry.  Even if the agency or department is unable to offer assistance, they may still be able to refer one to the appropriate government entity.

As I stated, legal assistance from the government is not available for many kinds of problems.  However, many individuals fail to realize just how many situations it is available in.  An awareness of where and how the government can provide legal help can save one from needlessly spending considerable money in attorney fees.  Considering that we are the nieces and nephews of Uncle Sam, we are legally entitled to some nepotism.

Even The Best Attorney Can Bungle Up Your Case

What's Up With My Case

Many years ago my mother was involved in a car accident in Arizona during which she suffered from some very painful back injuries.  She ended up hiring an attorney who had a reputation as one of the best personal injury lawyers in the state.  The attorney failed to take any action on her behalf as the time limit for filing a suit in her case expired.  My mother did not collect a cent.  Several years later, she was involved in a less serious car accident.  By now I had become an attorney.  Although I was a young lawyer with absolutely no experience with personal injury cases, I volunteered to represent her.  With some advice and tips from a colleague who was considered a good but not great attorney, I followed the basic principles of timely action and made sure that I crossed all my t’s and dotted all my i’s.  I managed to collect the maximum sum of money that was allowed under the other driver’s insurance policy.

So what is the moral of the foregoing story?  Is it that one should just hire any attorney and pray that things work out for the best?  No.  Good attorneys almost always bring about optimal results.  However, hiring a good attorney to represent you should not lead to an “I’m on auto pilot” mentality.  Yes, even the best attorneys can bungle up your case.  Therefore, regardless of who you hire as your attorney, always remain on top of your case.

In a previous post, I discussed the common complaint about attorneys who fail to return client calls.  In that post, I encouraged clients to periodically contact their attorney if for no other reason than to remind the attorney about their case.  Make sure that you attorney provides you with updates concerning your legal matter.  Clients should always inquire about the goals the attorney has established for their case, the legal strategy in place to achieve those goals, and what filing and other deadlines may exist relating to the caseThe client should also request a copy of all documents that are in their file so that they are aware of the attorney’s work. A vigilant client usually results in a more vigilant attorney who is less likely to commit errors or omission such as missing an important deadline.

Had my mother’s highly reputed personal injury attorney done nothing more than met the filing deadlines relating to her case, she would have recovered something.  Ironically, an attorney who knew nothing about personal injury law ended up settling her case for the maximum possible compensation by simply showing up on time.

New Innovative Online Legal Service Is Launched

Got Justice?

Unlike traditional lawyer referral services, M. Varn Chandola desired to offer individuals the opportunity to obtain legal help from an unrestricted choice of legal service providers.  He, therefore, launched The Right Legal Help LLC to help find the best possible legal services for individuals.  The service is offered online to anyone in need of legal advice or representation within the US.

Whether one is looking for low cost, high cost, or no cost legal service, The Right Legal Help according to Chandola will connect the customer to legal help that they both need and want.  “Our service essentially opens up the legal services universe to customers to offer them an unlimited choice of services that they can choose from.”

While Chandola acknowledges that there are other attorney referral services in the market, he maintains that he offers a different model which is geared towards helping individuals rather than lawyers.  “An average referral service will simply refer you to an attorney who has paid the referral service to get clients” states Chandola.  “Because our service takes no money from attorneys, we are not obligated to provide them with any clients.  We are, therefore, able to offer our customer with the best possible attorneys or other sources of legal help that we can find without any restrictions on who we can refer them to.”

One obstacle that The Right Legal Help faces for not taking money from attorneys is that it must charge the customer a small fee to survive.  Chandola asserts that in the long run, the fee does not amount to much given that even a free referral service will refer you to an attorney who will charge the client attorney fees.  “Our service will not really add much to your total legal bill when you consider that the customer will eventually have to pay the big bucks to an attorney”.  However, according to Chandola, his service not only offers an unrestricted choice of superb attorneys, but also searches for nonprofits and other entities which may provide free or low cost services to certain individuals.  “What we offer for a very small cost are outstanding attorneys, nonprofits, or other entities which directly address the specific needs of our customers”.  For those who seek an attorney, Chandola adds, “If you are going to spend considerable financial resources on an attorney then you better get the right attorney, not just any attorney”.

Prior to launching his innovative legal service, Chandola had spent over twenty years in the legal field which includes experience as an attorney, legal recruiter, legal researcher and legal author.   One may learn more about The Right Legal Help at http://rightlegalhelp.net.

Does Your Attorney Return Your Calls?

Where Is My Attorney?

A common complaint against attorneys is that they do not promptly respond to client inquiries.  Whether an attorney fails to return a client’s call or does not take the time to sufficiently explain a legal matter relevant to the client’s case, a key aspect of a successful attorney and client relationship is that the attorney is able to effectively communicate with his or her client.  Indeed, an attorney who is delinquent in communicating with the client is subject to disciplinary action.

The American Bar Association (ABA) provides a set of rules known as the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct which provide a standard of ethics for attorneys to follow.  Although these rules do not impose mandatory guidelines for attorneys (therefore they are referred to as “model rules”), states throughout the United States have interpreted and adopted them in developing their own rules of professional conduct for lawyers.  Attorneys are subject to discipline under their state’s rules of professional conduct.  To view these rules, one may simply visit the website for their state bar.

Rule 1.4 of the ABA Model Rules which outlines the attorney’s obligation to communicate with his or her client states as follows:

Rule 1.4 Communication

(a) A lawyer shall:

(1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(e), is required by these Rules;

(2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished;

(3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;

(4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and

(5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

Many states simply cite Rule 1.4 along with its underlying language verbatim.  Upon reading the rule, one may infer the nature of the complaints that are made against lawyers who do not properly communicate with their clients.  An attorney’s failure to return a client’s call is a situation which falls within the scope of the rule.

Under Rule 1.4, section (a), subsection (4) an attorney is expected to “promptly” respond to “reasonable requests” for information.  This rule may be interpreted to imply that while attorneys are expected to promptly respond to client inquiries, the client must also be reasonable in his or her requests for information.  For instance, if a client calls the attorney on a daily basis to request updates on a legal matter even after the attorney has clearly explained that no developments will take place for at least several days or weeks then the client is most likely not making a reasonable request for information.  While section (a), subsection (3) requires an attorney to sufficiently communicate with a client concerning the client’s legal status, a client should never take it for granted that an attorney will always engage in timely communication.  While there may exist justifiable reasons for not immediately getting back to a client, lack of communication by an attorney may also indicate that the attorney is either too busy with other cases or simply lacks proper time management skills.  An attorney who fails to timely respond (or not respond at all) to client inquiries may also end up being delinquent in other ways as well such as missing filing deadlines or neglecting to inform the client of important developments.  While a client should not needlessly contact his or her attorney (the client should allow the attorney to spend valuable rather than wasteful time on the case), it is important for a client to periodically communicate with the attorney if for no other reason than to remind the attorney that the client exists and that the client has an important legal matter which is second to none!

When the client must leave a message for an unavailable attorney, the client should not leave a general “please call me back” message, but provide a brief, but specific, description of what information is sought.

So what should a client do when an attorney fails to call back?  When an attorney does not respond to reasonable requests for information then the client must consider options such as retaining a new attorney or filing a complaint against their attorney with the state bar.  There are many good lawyers in every jurisdiction and one should not continue to have the misfortune of being stuck with one of the few bad ones.

There are many sources available for finding a good attorney including our service, The Right Legal Help.  Please feel free to visit us at www.rightlegalhelp.net.