days, newspapers and magazines are filled with articles on the secrets to living a long and purposeful life. Some well-considered advice can be culled from these writings.
One Los Angeles Times article, "Flexing the Mind, Body and Spirit," features an Ojai spa and fitness retreat owner who recommends 15 hours of exercise a week. The proprietor also suggests that eighty percent of the time people should make good food choices; for the remaining twenty percent, enjoy favorite things.
Jane E. Brody, author of the New York Times column "Personal Health," recommends reading the book "Healthy at 100" by John Robbins (2006). Taking issue with self-absorption, the volume underscores the importance of having other people in our lives. Brody quotes Baylor University psychologist Larry Scherwitz: "avoid 'I' and 'me'." Instead, "Listen with regard when others talk. Give your time and energy to others; let others have their way; do things for reasons other than furthering your own needs." In other words, get outside yourself and join a cause you believe in.
Brody reviews academic surveys showing that people in loving relationships with spouses and/or friends were healthier than those lacking this intimacy. This perspective urges a focus on connections to others; strong social ties; family, church, volunteer groups; social connectedness, feeling a part of things and having something to contribute.
Abigail Zuger, physician and frequent contributor of a New York Times column, "Books," recommends two books she finds especially interesting: Hillary Tindle's "Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging," and "Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging," by Lauren Kessler. There are some useful takeaways. Seventy percent of the disability of age may be caused by factors within our control (the other 30% is genetic). Optimists live longer, healthier lives than pessimists.
Fascinating feature stories of people who have reached or exceeded the age of 100 are also fairly frequent. They can be enlightening. One recent piece tells the story of Harry Rosen, longtime Manhattan resident, who is 103 but "doesn't look a day over 90." He read a long time ago that the "key to a long life is sleeping on your back," so he always did that.
His life story is worth relaying. He started a small office supply company in Manhattan and ultimately made a fortune, landing clients like Walt Disney, ABC, and the Hearst Corporation. Hammering out these deals always took place at the best restaurants. Even now, after retirement and his wife's death, nothing brings him as much "comfort and pleasure as a fine restaurant." "It lifts my spirits. The food and the ambience, it's my therapy – gives me energy." Luxuriating at New York's upper-tier restaurants must be delicious payback for the meager meals he ate growing up in Russia where, as a boy, he marched with protesters during the Russian Revolution, then came through Ellis Island and moved into a railroad apartment in the impoverished Lower East Side.
Lastly, famous author and neurologist Oliver Sacks has shared his views about turning 80 years old: "I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it's almost over." Yet for him, this stage is immeasurably more good than bad. He's grateful to have experienced many things, and "to enjoy what Nathaniel Hawthorne called 'an intercourse with the world.'" He's pleased for another few years to "be granted the liberty to continue to love and work, the two most important things, Freud insisted, in life."
Sacks relates how his father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. "At 80 one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time what one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together."
"Flexing the Mind, Body and Spirit," by Jessica P. Ogilvie
Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2013, E8
"Forging Social Connections for Longer Life," by Jane E. Brody
"In the Pursuit of Longevity," by Abigail Zuger, M.D.
"Dining Out With the Best of Company" (about Harry Rosen), by Corey Kilgannon
"The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.)," by Oliver Sacks
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/opinion/sunday/the-joy-of-old-age-no-kidding.html?_r=0 (with thanks to the ABA ElderLaw eNews, October 2013)
Symposium on California's Death Penalty
A Huge Success
by Kathleen Tuttle
The Section's continuing series of programs, Frozen in Time -- which highlights landmark legal topics and events -- recently focused on "California's Death Penalty: Past, Present and Future."
The program was held on November 21, 2013 and drew a full house. The evening featured eminent panelists, all steeped in capital punishment law. Former District Attorney Gil Garcetti served as moderator. He began the presentation with a summary of California's death penalty law, including an overview of the noteworthy prosecution against Caryl Chessman. That defendant was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in 1948 on the basis of 17 serious felonies including sex crimes and aggravated kidnapping (the "Little Lindberg Law," which carried the penalty of death). As heinous as the case was, it involved no murder. In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court held that capital punishment is excessive and disproportionate where there is no murder. Garcetti concluded the evening with his own prediction about the law's future.
Other panelists included former Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William R. Pounders; Joey Esposito, Assistant District Attorney and chair of the committee charged with deciding life or death in LA County; Bobby Grace, death penalty trial prosecutor; and Marcia Morrissey, longtime death penalty defense attorney.
Here are some highlights. "Struggling," is the word Garcetti used to explain how California's ultimate criminal penalty is faring. That's because Proposition 34, calling for its elimination and replacement with life without parole, was on the ballot in the general election of 2012 and "failed narrowly" (his words) by only 250,000 votes out of some 12 million votes cast. Garcetti supported the death penalty in the past, and has never been "morally opposed to it" especially for cases handled by his former office, known for its painstakingly fair decision-making process. But his view has changed, which he attributes to several things. One was a 2011 op-ed piece calling for an end to capital punishment written by a retired Orange County bench officer known as the "hanging judge." Garcetti said that even former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Ron George, longtime death penalty advocate, has concluded "this is not a fixable system."
Garcetti further argued that the "death system" is expensive, inefficient, and serves no useful purpose because it has no deterrent value. Moreover, he cited the unsettling fact that of those on death row nationwide, 143 people have been found, through various advocacy programs, to be innocent. "We have to believe in our system," he said. The final straw was when Garcetti learned that inmates get better privileges on death row than if they were serving life sentences. He hopes and believes the public will reject capital punishment the next time it appears on the ballot.
Judge Pounders, who served on the bench for 38 years and presided over 24 death penalty cases, provided a strong counterpoint to Garcetti. "There is a deterrent effect," he said. "There are certain crimes that are so horrific" that they necessitate the ultimate penalty of death. By way of example, the judge shared the grizzly facts of a capital case tried in his court that involved a female child victim. The facts are unprintable here.
The learned judge held a different view of Prop. 34's defeat. He is convinced that despite the decades of debate over capital punishment, it is significant that in 2012 California voters still demonstrated by a sufficient margin that the death penalty should be available in appropriate cases.
The two representatives from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office were informative and insightful, though declined to weigh-in on the morality or benefits of capital punishment. Instead, they simply view it as a law enforcement tool they are legally authorized to use, and accordingly do so in the most extreme cases. Esposito described his committee's decision-making process as "very elaborate," and one that "crosses the desk of many people." He discussed the ways that defense counsel may be involved in the process. Despite the involvement of many, the final decision rests with Esposito.
Bobby Grace, who has prosecuted numerous death penalty cases and received three death verdicts by juries, said that Esposito's committee has intensified the scrutiny of potential death cases compared with past practices. "Considerably more is asked of the trial deputies now, including a full-blown victim impact statement."
Defense attorney Morrissey, trial lawyer in seven state and nine federal capital cases, stated that her clients' crimes were so heinous that "no one wants to presume innocence." The cases are extremely challenging, not least because she must "develop a relationship of trust" with individuals very different from her. "I had advantages they never had." The mitigation factors she presents on behalf of her client in the penalty phase often reveal evidence of serious impairments, disorders that are inter-generational, and/or "emotional, raw stuff that may have happened in their childhoods."
Near the end of the program Garcetti noted that 78% of the nation's death row inmates are school dropouts. That startling statistic should give us all – regardless of our views -- something to ponder.
Donald A. McCartin is the Orange County judge referenced by Garcetti. His op-ed piece, available online, describes his transformation from an arch-conservative judge who sentenced 10 murderers to death row, to ardent opponent of the death penalty. Though he retired two decades ago, not one of his death sentences has been carried out. These inmates remain alive because the state has spent "millions upon millions" for appeals, writs and retrial.
By law, every person who receives a death penalty sentence has an automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court. Presently there are more than 700 inmates on California's death row. Obviously the Court can't consider all of these cases at once. This is a slow and careful process. As it is, capital cases already account for up to a third of the Court's annual docket. And even if the Court affirms the death sentence, the case may be appealed to federal court.
McCartin termed this unending appellate process as a "meaningless and ultimately fruitless pursuit of death." Most galling for him is that the victims' families are not getting the closure they were promised with the death sentence. The judge has called for an end to the charade, and to "use the hundreds of millions of dollars we'll save" to pay for crucial social services that the debt-choked state sorely needs. "Inefficient, ineffective, expensive, and emotionally costly" is how he describes the death system.
[Executive Committee members Lola McAlpin-Grant and Robert Schirn deserve deep thanks for making this program happen.]
The program subcommittee anticipates presenting the following in the new year:
"Nostalgia Night" will take place on February 27, 2014, at Taix French Restaurant, located at 1911 Sunset Blvd., just a few minutes west of downtown LA. Panelists will include retired Court of Appeal Justice Jack Goertzen and retired U.S. District Court Judge George Schiavelli. This will be a night to remember, providing members with an opportunity to share high moments and fascinating times.
• "Longevity is a painful process, especially towards the end."
• Granddad remembers:
"When I was a boy my Momma would send me down to the corner store with $1, and I'd come back with 5 bags of potatoes, 2 loaves of bread, 3 bottles of milk, a hunk of cheese, a box of tea, and 6 eggs.
You can't do that now.
Too many [expletive deleted] security cameras."
• A young lawyer, defending a businessman in a lawsuit, feared the worst. He asked a senior partner whether he ought to send the judge a box of cigars.
"The judge is an honorable man," the horrified senior partner exclaimed. "If you do, I guarantee you'll lose the case."
The judge eventually ruled in favor of the young lawyer's client.
"Aren't you glad you didn't send those cigars?" the senior partner asked.
"I did send them," the young lawyer answered, "I just enclosed opposing counsel's business card."
We urge our members, who are able to do so, to volunteer to participate in LACBA's many pro bono projects.
For a full list of LACBA's projects, check LACBA's website, www.lacba.org.
You can keep up with our section's doings between issues of the Dinosaur Digest by clicking here to visit our page on the LACBA website.
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