It's Time to Outlaw Bullying

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

I got involved in the conversation about bullying after a young Central Florida girl, Rebecca Sedwick, leapt to her death from a water tower in an abandoned industrial plant on September 9, 2013. She had been aggressively bullied by other girls. After one of the girls commented about the suicide on Facebook -- essentially admitting to the bullying and showing no remorse -- Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd arrested the girl. The charges were soon dropped, however, as bullying is not a crime.

In my practice of family law and criminal defense, I know firsthand that while bullying may not be a crime, it can have devastating effects on young victims.

I've seen bullying victims' grades sharply decline. I've seen victims have to change their class schedules -- or change schools completely -- because a school was unable or unwilling to address the behavior of the bully. And, of course, there have been suicides.

Bullying is not name calling. It's not a little harmless schoolyard razzing. Bullying is the systematic harassment of an individual with the intent to cause substantial emotional distress.

The important elements here are "systematic harassment" and "substantial emotional distress." It can include social ostracism, "slut-shaming," extortion, sexual extortion, and more.

Racist Remarks Cost L.A. Cops Trust

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

A Los Angeles Police officer was caught on an audio recording allegedly making racial slurs during an encounter with some young black men outside a bar in Norco, California.

The incident took place in 2012, according to a report this week by CBS-LA reporter David Goldstein, which included audio of the the officer's remarks. And a panel assembled to conduct a formal disciplinary hearing subsequently recommended that the cop, Shaun Hillmann, be fired. But LAPD Chief Charlie Beck overruled the decision, issuing a 65-day suspension instead.

Apparently, Chief Charlie Beck thinks it is tolerable to have officers on the beat who use the N-word -- as a bar security guard alleged Hillman did -- and refer to young black men as "monkeys," as Hillman can be heard doing on the audio recording.

Smart Gun-owners Shouldn’t Fear Smart Guns

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

I’d like to buy another gun. Most people don’t know that I own more than one firearm--and despite some unfounded suggestions that I’m a “ban and confiscate” gun-control guy--I’m actually a supporter of the Second Amendment.

I’d like to buy another gun, but this time, I would like to buy one of those new smart guns. It’s the type of gun that has a radio chip in it, and you can’t pull the trigger unless it’s in very close proximity to a reciprocal chip -- perhaps one embedded in your watch.

The first time I saw something like that, it it was in a movie with Sylvester Stallone called Judge Dredd. His weapon, The Lawgiver, was programmed with his hand print, and only he could fire the gun. What a cool idea that was: a gun that could never be taken and used against you. Back then that was science fiction, but now such a weapon is a reality.

I'm a gun owner and I want gun control

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

A friend of mine predicted that the United States would suffer probably 10 such shootings in 2014. I didn't want to believe him, but I knew it would be true.

It turns out we will suffer far more than 10. We've seen a shooting where an assailant targets multiple people somewhere in this country every week this year, according to the website Only a small number -- such as the recent FedEx shooting in Georgia, or those at Fort Hood, Texas, or Jewish facilities in Kansas -- will gain national attention.

We have a problem with gun violence in this country. I think this much is not in dispute. The real debate is this: What do we do about it? Unfortunately, most answers to this question involve greater governmental regulation and intrusion into our lives.

Execution, a 19th-century relic we still can't get right

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

This is an absurd problem for states to wrestle with -- this notion of how to kill someone properly. If anyone deserved the death penalty, it was Lockett, but the real debate is whether we need to be in the business of trying to find the least cruel and least unusual way to kill anyone voluntarily. It seems clear that the death penalty is a 19th-century relic, and our ridiculous struggle to figure out how to do it properly in the 21st century is a signal that perhaps we should join the rest of the civilized Western world in abolishing executions.

Even Russia hasn't had an execution since 1999, and I wouldn't exactly call Vladimir Putin soft on crime.

But please understand that I am not some left-wing, dyed-in-the-wool liberal who simply believes all criminal behavior is the fault of a system that fosters deviance. Not at all. I believe that if you take somebody's life with premeditation, and if a jury, after hearing all of the evidence properly presented by competent counsel, finds you guilty, then you should die -- but in prison, at the end of a life sentence.