December 31, 2005

That was the year that was

(image from Belgrade's Radio B-92, by way of East Ethnia)

P.D.'s under fire in 2005

Maybe in your jurisdiction, but definitely in Lake County, California -
Public defenders office under fire in 2005:

Normally when defense attorneys are successful, it's the people they represent who win acquittal. But in Lake County in the year just concluding it was the defense attorney, himself, who got a "second chance."

It happened this way. In a hail of controversy generated by a negative Grand Jury report over the county's public defender system, the Board of Supervisors terminated the contract of the Indigent Representation Administration (IRA) for which attorney Steven Carter was a co-principal.

Then, not much more than a month later, the board concluded a request for proposal (RFP) competitive bidding process that attracted six proposals by awarding a new contract to the newly created firm of Lake Legal Defense Services Inc. sole principal Steven Carter. In essence, it meant that the company that Carter had just created succeeded the one that he and co-owner Erik Bruce had just dismantled...

Off-topic: the Idahoan and the anti-teacher bully

I wanted to pass along this post in honor of a fine lawyer I once hired, a Declo High School grad who truly knew his Constitution. Here is Tara Rowe, another Idahoan, who as a high school student took a public stand against a local blowhard and public-schools-basher - "The Cowboy, Cassia County, & The Constitution" :

The motivation behind Mr. Bell's question is pretty simple--he despises teachers. Having lived in Cassia County for a good chunk of my life, Zeb Bell's radio show was nothing new to me. I had listened several times over the years as he ripped apart teachers for what they were teaching in the classroom and for what they were not. I had listened for years to a man dead set on running the reputation of public education into the ground and frankly, I had had enough...

It reminds me of the boastful small-mindedness that keeps rural Idaho under-educated and under-prosperous, and of the handful of local freedom fighters who kick against that attitude. Kudos to Ms. Rowe for staying on and fighting back.

As for myself and my family, we bailed out at exactly this time last year. My son was in a fine Catholic school back in the Magic Valley. Now here in the South Sound he's in an amazing top-of-the-tests public school, a bit crowded to be sure, but crowded with kids whose families are fully invested in educational success. I'm glad that my boy will never have cause to write a letter to the editor like Ms. Rowe's.

December 29, 2005

P.D. went down to Georgia

P. Paladin re-wrote this song in honor of Jason, who's heading to GA to be a P.D.:

Public defender went to Georgia
He was looking for a soul to free
And he was in a bind
‘Cause he was way behind
And was willing to make a plea...

Well, it's something. Paladin says that this song was created with Audacity - Audacity, who knew?

Bonus links go to videos - original and extra-crispy - for those deprived city-slickers unacquainted with the tune's majesty and power, then some review questions for the over-educated, e.g., question # 8: If the Devil went down to Georgia 'cause he was looking for a soul to steal, why does he arrange what appears to be an honest competition?

NC: he's finished

Durham public defender resigns after allegations:

A week after being suspended for alleged sexual harassment of an employee, Durham Public Defender Bob Brown resigned Wednesday. Brown's resignation follows a filing by Danielle Bruno, an assistant public defender who stated that Brown pushed her for a personal relationship, sometimes suggesting that her job was tied to her relationship with Brown...

Looking slothful, feeling wrathful

It wasn't when the private attorney substituted in.

It wasn't when the private attorney went on about the Mercedes that Santa just brought.

It wasn't even when the private attorney asked me to agree with my now-former client's description of my sloth and indifference.

No, I think it was when the private attorney asked me for legal advice...

WA: a certain ratio

From the front page of the Daily O:

Budget could aid public defenders

Thurston County’s cash-strapped public defenders would receive more money under a budget plan proposed by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

The governor’s proposed supplemental budget includes $27 million for the state Office of Public Defense, which predicts that $478,000 of it would go to Thurston County.

The county’s District Court has the worst defense-lawyer-to-new-case ratio in the state — with one District Court defender handling 115 new cases a month, compared with the maximum of 25 recommended by state guidelines...

December 28, 2005

Learning curve

Wow, for such a fledgling public defender, Woman of the Law sure is figuring things out fast:

I guess my biggest observation about it right now is that I'm shocked how much it looks like my job is just to shovel shit as quickly as it gets dumped on me...

Let's see. It's like being Bambi, trying to get up on wobbly legs, and then trying to walk - unsuccessfully sometimes, wobbling, getting a few scrapes and bruises along the way. And then having your mother shot in front of you. (Just kidding. Ok, that's not funny. Yes, I am going to hell).

Much more insight along these lines at "On being an attorney: how being a new PD is like being a Disney cartoon character or a drunk college kid"

December 27, 2005

CA: role model

Defender Lawrence Never Lost His Passsion

Not many public defenders get sued by their clients, especially clients who are acquitted of murder.

It happened to Michael Lawrence, but he shrugs it off with an ease gained by 33 years of work in Monterey County's criminal justice system.

Friday mark(ed) the last day for Lawrence, 65, as the county's public defender. Since 1979, he has been the county's third public defender and, in the process, he became the longest-tenured public defender in state history...

Product safety warning

Fluids associated with feline hairballs may cause catastrophic and fatal computer monitor damage - may require replacement by new flat-screen monitor with non-cat-warming surface.

December 26, 2005

WA: novel bank robbery theory

From the Olympian:

A bank by any other name...
- Judge reduces term for Heritage robber on a technicality

A legal technicality saved a bank robber from a four-year prison term Thursday when a judge ruled that prosecutors hadn’t proven that Heritage Bank is a "financial institution." Judge Paula Casey overruled the jury, which found Scott M. Liden guilty of first-degree robbery during a trial earlier this month...

The ruling outraged the prosecutor, who openly criticized the judge and accused her of "letting a bank robber out in the community."

"I think this is a poor result in this case," Casey said to the courtroom. "There’s no question Mr. Liden robbed a bank. But the state has been put on notice that it needs to show some legal status to prove it’s (the bank) a financial institution. You’ve heard my frustration with the circumstances as well," she said...

Liden’s attorney, Sharonda Amamilo, argued that the law made the "financial institution" definition an element of the crime, which meant it needed to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. She asked the court to overrule the verdict because prosecutors had not provided any witnesses, such as a bank manager or state official, to testify that Heritage Bank fits the legal definition...

Heritage was founded in 1927 and has its headquarters in Olympia. It’s licensed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, according to the company’s Web site...

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Wheeler said he was stunned by the ruling... "This would be calling the jury irrational to say the finding they made that this occurred in a financial institution didn’t happen," Wheeler said... "I’ve talked to other attorneys, prosecutors and defense attorneys, and none of them think this is an issue."

December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

We beg you, Lord, to help and defend us.

Deliver the oppressed. Pity the insignificant.
Raise the fallen. Show yourself to the needy. Heal the sick.
Bring back those of your people who have gone astray.
Feed the hungry. Lift up the weak. Take off the prisoners' chains.

May every nation come to know that you alone are God,
that Jesus is your Child, that we are your people, the sheep that you pasture.

- Clement of Rome (1st century AD)

December 23, 2005

And now for something lighthearted

The latest from the preternaturally patient Gentle Eleos: "In Which Being a Public Defender Has Its Moments".

And have you checked out Public Defender Wear?

Finally, a new blog debuts, Thoughts on Justice, from a fellow Idahoan, currently a prosecutor, formerly a p.d. Yes, that happens.

NC: chief p.d. under harassment cloud

Durham Public Defender Accused Of Sexual Misconduct

Durham's lead public defender is temporarily off the job, suspended with pay after an assistant public defender accused him of inappropriate conduct.

In an affidavit filed in Durham County Superior Court Wednesday, Assistant Public Defender Danielle Bruno alleges that Robert Brown Jr. used his authority as public defender to make sexual advances toward her.

In one case, Bruno claims Brown, after asking her to share something personal about herself, told him "in graphic details about his anatomy and a personal experience." She also accused him of asking for personal details about her marriage and her life...

This is not the first time that Brown, who was appointed legal defender in 1991, has faced allegations of sexual misconduct. In 1996, he pleaded no contest to soliciting sex from a client.

Hmmm, I remember having my doubts about this guy.
(have to scroll down if you click)

ID: the children were poisoned

The Twin Falls Times-News article about the murders is here.

The newspaper article links to a PDF file containing the criminal complaint against Jim Junior Nice, the affidavit in support of complaint, the notice of hearing setting Nice's preliminary hearing for January 4, 2006, and arraignment minutes.

In a separate news story, the Times-News reports that with the deaths of the three children, there now have been six homicides in Twin Falls in 2005. The other victims' names are Jesse J. Naranjo, 33; Brent D. Lillevold, 50; and Victor B. Capado, 15. Eternal rest grant unto them.


Their names have been disclosed:

Raquel Anna, age 2
Justin, age 6
Spencer, age 6

My son is 6.

I saw the TV coverage of their father's initial appearance. I recognized the courtroom, Judge Stoker, the back of Grant Loebs' head at counsel table.

The thing I dreaded every night for six years came to pass nearly a year to the day after I left Twin Falls. I'd watch the local news and go to bed with a feeling of foreboding, knowing that as long as I was chief public defender, one morning I would be called on to defend a client who it would be my duty to defend, and who I just could not. No amount of death penalty CLE's and anti-depressants would make a difference: I wouldn't be able to bear the autopsy photos or the nightmares, I couldn't sit in the holding cell commiserating with the accused, I couldn't be sure I wouldn't let the client down. G d help me, I couldn't be sure I'd want the client's life to be spared - not the only reason, but a significant reason I had to move on.

My grief goes out to the children's mother and grandparents and to the first responders. My heartfelt regards go out to Grant the prosecutor and to Marilyn my successor for the hard work ahead. I am sorry, but at the moment I can't manage any compassion for Jim Junior Nice.

December 22, 2005

Songs on the death of children

In this weather, in this storm,
I would never have sent the children out;
Someone took them out,
I could have no say in it.

In this weather, in this turmoil,
I would never have let the children go out;
I would have been afraid they might be hurt,
Now these are idle thoughts.

In this weather, in this horror,
I would never have let the children go out,
I was worried they might die the next day,
That is now not a thing to worry about.

In this weather, in this storm,
I would never have send the children out;
Someone took them out,
I could have no say in it.

In this weather, in this turmoil, in this storm,
They rest as if in their mother's house,
Not frightened by any storm,
Protected by the hand of God.

Rückert, "Im diesen Wetter" from the Kindertotenlieder (1834)

Our hearts built to spill

Christmas Twin Falls, Idaho
is her oldest memory

She was only two
it was the first time she felt blue

December 21, 2005

ID: horrible

Three Children Murdered in Twin Falls; Police Have Suspect in Custody

News conference video here.

This hits much too close to home, and has put tears in my eyes. If you have children, or a niece or a nephew, give them some affection and reassurance tonight.

December 20, 2005

WA: gimme back my sentencing discretion

From the Vancouver USA Columbian -

Judges eye more say over penalties:

The state's Superior Court judges want back some of the discretion they had to impose stiff sentences for violent crimes before the U.S. Supreme Court took it away from them two years ago.

They want the 2006 Legislature to make Washington's mandatory sentencing guidelines nonbinding, and they seek authority to double the maximum sentence the guidelines allow in "exceptional" cases. Without that discretion, they say, they are being forced to mete out sentences far too lenient for some heinous crimes...

Thanks for the link to "The echoes of Blakely where it all began" from Sentencing Law and Policy, my authoritative Ohio-based source for Washington State legal analysis.

December 19, 2005

MT: therapeutic community with concertina wire

In Montana,

...the state Department of Corrections is hoping to become a big player in the treatment of methamphetamine addiction. Not everyone is convinced that is a good thing, but department Director Bill Slaughter sees it as something that needs to be done. The state is asking private contractors to submit proposals by Jan. 10 to build a lockdown meth treatment center, with 80 beds for men and 40 for women.

A dissenting view:

(Treatment provider Mona) Sumner said the basis for any successful treatment is establishing trust between counselors and clients. In a prison program, it is difficult to build trust because the patients will be afraid that information they divulge will be used against them, she said.

"A punitive setting doesn't promote a therapeutic setting," Sumner said. "They think that by hiring someone who's a licensed addictions counselor, that somehow makes a program."

And a cryptic response:

"We're 72 percent successful," (Slaughter) said. "I'm sorry, Mona. We ought to have a parade."

WA: gifts from the big house

From the TNT:
Santa’s unlikely helpers

The men bear little resemblance to Santa’s elves. Their workshop is just a quick jaunt across the Puget Sound, not oceans away at the North Pole. But children all over the South Sound won’t be able to tell the difference when they unwrap their presents.

About three dozen inmates at the McNeil Island Corrections Center are busy much of the year crafting gifts for those in need. The program donates around 1,800 presents a year, most during the Christmas season. The gifts include race cars, puzzles, crayon holders and jewelry boxes. Many go to children who otherwise wouldn’t get anything...

Generosity and holiday spirit from, you know, "those people."

December 18, 2005

ID: stretched thin? tough!

In Sandpoint, Idaho, two contract public defenders warn the judge that they're a little overstretched by getting assigned to two murder co-defendants, and the prosecutor says they should have thought of that when they bid on the contract. Helpful, that:

Murder suspects to be tried together - Defense argued combining cases would be prejudicial

Court-appointed attorneys for Thurlow and Lewers objected to joining the two matters.

"I agree with judicial economy, but due process and trial rights would be inhibited," said Linda Payne, Thurlow's defense counsel...

Both attorneys said the terms of their respective public defender contracts have them spread thin and pointed out Robinson has additional counsel in Deputy Prosecutor Louis Marshall. "That's simply to level the playing field," Payne said.

(Prosecutor Phil) Robinson objected to the Woods' request, arguing both had entered into contracts and should have realized they could wind up with a murder case. Robinson also downplayed the complexity of the cases.

So we'll be putting you on the witness list for the post-conviction proceedings then, Mr. Robinson?


The A&C odometer rolled over shortly after 6:00 pm Pacific tonight with a visitor from Lansing, MI. Who would've thunk it?

December 17, 2005

WA: more $ for Grant Co. p.d.s

Somewhat old news, but in the spirit of the holiday, Grant County public defenders receive a $400,000 boost:

Rep. Bill Hinkle sponsored legislation last session to provide nearly $400,000 to Grant County's public defender system for use in dependency and juvenile offender cases. "Grant County was identified as one of the counties absolutely overloaded with these types of cases," Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, stated in a Dec. 13 press release. "This legislation created programs with state money to help the overburdened public defenders..."

Love power

Here's Public Defense with a romantic comedy about a passion more powerful than jailhouse bars.

Reminds me a bit of a lawyer I used to work with, now in private practice and now married, of whom was said (professionally and personally), "You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him."

December 15, 2005

Pobres defensores

Doesn't it just make your p.d. spirit cranky to hear another insult from a putative progressive - an ACLU board member, say, or another "open minded, left leaning, otherwise intelligent, public spirited, trained lawyer"?

It sure rankles David Feige of Indefensible:

In other words, the big problem with failing to abide by a treaty our government has signed (the Vienna Convention) is that foreign nationals wind up having to be represented by PD's? I find this insinuation particularly galling given that Levitt is writing in the context of the prosecution of Mexican nationals--does he have any idea just how good the Federal Defender programs in San Diego or Southern Arizona (which handle a highly disproportionate number of those cases) are?

No, I don't think he does, nor do I think he bothered to look any further beyond the public defender stereotype.

A couple of years back, I had a professional experience with the Vienna Convention and the Mexican government when I was appointed to represent a Mexican citizen accused of murder. Officials from the Mexican consulate in Salt Lake took an active interest in my client's case, as part of their government's increased emphasis on "provid(ing) consular assistance to Mexican nationals abroad, particularly to individuals sentenced to death." I appreciated the assistance and the opportunity to work with Mexican diplomats and lawyers, and together I think we eventually got as good an outcome for my client as could be, considering the facts of the case.

However, even they harbored some of that anti-p.d. skepticism, I think. At least I inferred as much the day when I got a call from one of my less-liked private bar colleagues. Seems that the Mexican consul called to find out how much he'd charge them to take the case off my hands. ¡Ay, qué lástima!

CA: you can take the boy out of BigLaw

A "litigation boutique" lawyer gets to play DA in The City, or, how some prosecutors talk about us when they think no one's listening:

The jury was waiting outside to be seated. I knew all their names. I had my peremptories ready. My witnesses were prepped. My opening statement was polished. I had just won a tentative ruling on a major evidentiary issue admitting the defendant's prior felony conviction for armed robbery. I was going to skewer him on the stand.


The Public Defender pulled the "I'm pregnant, and I can't proceed." IN THE MIDDLE OF JURY SELECTION. Her doctor said that this was supposed to be her last trial--there was no medical emergency preventing her from going forward. She's just chicken. Chic-KEN!

This BigLaw boy isn't fit to shine Jeff Adachi's shoes, yet he's quite full of himself. Scroll around his site, and then click through to his firm bio, which states that he has served on the boards of directors of the ACLU of Northern California and the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom. Yeah, he's a real prince. Or maybe another one-syllable word that starts with "pr-".

(I haven't got the hang of LiveJournal netiquette, I suppose. If I (or anyone) can find an offensive and public post through Google, Technorati, or IceRocket, is it supposed to be off-limits because it's on LiveJournal?)

Update 12/17/05: In a blow for shame-based sanctions, the temporary prosecutor has taken down all his offensive public posts and is switching his journal to members-only, but not before he picked up a raft of new readers in the San Francisco p.d.'s office. I suspect that instant karma's gonna get you, Mr. Kuo.

Accursed precursors

His home state's #2 in something, but Kemplog isn't exactly proud:

Not good. The Pal Item reports today on Indiana's place in the US Methamphetamine manufacturing ranking. We are the number 2 state, behind Missouri, in discovered meth labs.

My guess? The main ingredient, anhydrous ammonia, is plentiful in farming states like Indiana, so, since we can make it here, we do.

He links to the news article, and features this comic from Unfit:

WA: a criminal defense resource

Among the several good things that the Washington Defender Association provides for public defenders and others are these Misdemeanor Case Law Updates.

Felony lawyers like them, too!

The updates are maintained by Magda Baker, Misdemeanor Assistance Attorney at WDA. Thank you, Ms. Baker.

December 14, 2005

IL: it was a day like any other

How would you like to be the reporter on this courthouse beat? This article is unusually mundane as far as crime news goes. Nothing gory or exciting happens. Instead, we're plopped down in a routine-sounding arraignment docket:

A talkative defendant required the intervention of Sheriff Tim Crippes during the Dec. 12 criminal and traffic call in Edgar County Circuit Court.

Phillip A. Scott, 60, was in custody and he started talking as soon as his name was called.

“Yes sir,” said Scott, responding to his name from Judge David W. Lewis. “God bless you and this court and the state’s attorneys." Lewis instructed Scott not to speak unless responding to a direct questions...

Colley W. Thomas, 25, was in custody and charged with a Class 3 felony of aggravated battery alleging great bodily harm. According to the charging document, Thomas struck another man in the head with a baseball bat... Asked if he intended to hire counsel, Thomas replied, “Yes, if I can get out.” However, Thomas asked for the appointment of a public defender after the court ordered a $15,000 bond with 10 percent to apply...

Roger Dale Baugh Jr., 22, failed to meet a Dec. 10 deadline for making a $200 payment toward fines and costs. “I didn’t have the money,” said Baugh, intimating that he would still make the payment. “Mr. Baugh, you tell me that you are going to do things and you don’t,” responded Lewis. “I don’t have any reason to believe you. You haven’t made a good faith effort.” Lewis ruled that Baugh was in contempt of court and continued the matter for a sanction hearing...

Adam McCoy, 32, appeared to ask the court to quash a warrant that was issued when he missed a prior court date. McCoy said he had mechanical problems on the way to court and was unsuccessful in attempts to reach both his attorney and the state’s attorney to advise them of the situation. He presented a receipt from a towing service as proof of the break down. Lewis accepted the proof and quashed the warrant.

Arrest warrants for missing court were issued for Joseph L. Budd, 18, and Roy A. Smitley, 34.

The article does give a decent slice-of-life sense of an un-extraordinary day in court. Perhaps it could be instructional for aspiring d.a.'s and p.d.'s. Perhaps one of them could explain why you'd want to cut off a defendant who's saying, "God bless you and this court and the state’s attorneys." That seems extraordinary.

Good cheer

As I met with one of my clients at the jail today, I slid his discovery through the pass-through under the plexiglass between us, and waited while he read through the many pages.

Police here are issued digital cameras and take lots of snapshots. When my client got to the photos of himself and his co-defendant in the process of being cuffed and stuffed, he laughed and laughed and laughed. He wanted reprints.

It really was an unexpected and uplifting sound there in attorney visiting. Maybe it was a comment on the evidence, but this made my afternoon.

ID: "BSU prof helps right a wrong"

You know about the man who was cleared by DNA testing after 24 years in prison. Fairly cool to find that the exoneration had an Idaho contribution:

Boise State’s Hampikian Plays Key Role in Freeing Man Wrongfully Sent to Prison for 24 Years

Thanks to New West Network for the hometown link.

December 13, 2005

ID: fat, so?

As a criminal defense guy and a person of size, this takes the cake:

Obese Man Loses Appeal in Assault Case

An appeals court has upheld the aggravated assault conviction of a 610-pound man who said the victim's injuries were at least partly the result of his weight, rather than an intent to cause harm.

The case is State of Idaho v. Patrick Macias, Idaho Court of Appeals, 12/07/2005 (PDF file)

Somehow Macias is approximately 500 pounds when weighed by the Idaho Court of Appeals, and 610 pounds when weighed by the Associated Press.

WA: олимпия мафия

From the Olympian:

Rape suspect says he's tied to mob and murder

...[A] judge set bail Monday at $1 million for the suspect, Jamey V. Ball. Ball, a 33-year-old convicted sex offender, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of third-degree child rape and unlawful drug delivery to a minor. He was being held on suspicion of 13 counts of child rape involving four 14-year-old girls...

Ball... surprised law enforcement officers by claiming to be responsible for four murders in Pierce County and to have connections to the Russian mob...

The first rule of mafiya is, you do not talk about mafiya.

Much ado about something

How long has it been since I posted about devil meth? If you google "moral consequences Methamphetamine" as a recent visitor did, this silly blog comes up # 4.

At # 1, from the American Enterprise Institute, Much Ado about Meth?, by Sally Satel, M.D.:

Now I enjoy a good moral panic as much as the next person, but I think methamphetamine deserves its dreadful reputation...

The prickly journalists are probably fed up with the drug war. For the policymakers, though, part of the answer may be demographics. A social problem that fails to afflict major Northeast cities is not as attention-grabbing. Also, poor rural whites, one of the major subgroups afflicted, wield weak political leverage...

... [N]ational statistics can mislead... [I]n some states meth is big. For example, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, meth accounted for as many as 20 to 40 percent of all treatment admissions in 2003, easily surpassing alcohol admissions, the next biggest category...

The fact is that meth is a devastating drug for those who abuse it, casting a vast halo of destruction across communities. To say so is not crying meth.

December 12, 2005

No me dump truck I

What're you looking at me for? I'm not a dump truck! So we folded right on the brink of trial, but hey, we got a deal to dismiss three out of the four felonies. And two gross misdemeanors. Yes, with prejudice. No, no problem.

WA: prosecutors bailing out

Plenty of job openings up in Mount Vernon, if you could work for this guy:

Prosecutor’s Office losing many lawyers
- Some point to hefty workloads, interoffice tension as factors

As caseloads have increased in the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office over the past three years, so has the departure of staff attorneys. Much of the blame is directed at Prosecutor Tom Seguine, who took office in January 2003 with an ambitious agenda that saw about a 50 percent increase in criminal filings that year.

The recent wave of resignations brings the total office turnover for the past three years to 12 lawyers — nine deputy prosecutors and three civil attorneys...

Seguine’s critics say his policies on charging and plea bargains have created the difficult work environment. Dennis Scott, a lawyer with 30 years of experience as both a prosecutor and defense lawyer (said), “If you have a prosecutor’s office that refuses to see the benefit of resolving cases equitably, then you have crushing caseloads... Morale is so bad that people have difficulty finding the time to be civil to each other. My experience was that there was no collegiality, which is necessary to sounding out good legal strategy and making reasoned decisions.”

Defense lawyers say deputy prosecutors tell them they want defendants to plead as charged, leaving little room for negotiation. “From a defendant’s standpoint, what exactly would be the benefit of pleading guilty when you can take your chances and end up with the same result at trial?” said Scott, who previously worked for the Skagit County Public Defender.

Seguine’s plea bargaining policy has made a critic out of a former supporter from his own office. Former deputy prosecutor Ron Costeck said Seguine’s philosophy got in the way of his stated goals. “The rigid approach to some of the plea bargaining is not victim-friendly or victim-oriented,” Costeck said. “That neither caters to the community nor to the victims.”

Surmising from the photo accompanying the story, once they're dog-tired from handling the 50 percent increase in criminal filings (curiously enough, not tied to anything approaching a 50 percent increase in local crime), it looks like deputies also are being put to work doing construction on the elected prosecutor's house. I'm probably wrong about that detail, though.

December 11, 2005

Moral lawyer

A New Jersey reader arrived here today from the Google query, "are lawyers amoral?" That's good, because going back to the same page pointed me to an essay by one of my favorite answerers of this question and that other perennial, "how can you defend someone who's guilty?"

Here's Professor Joseph Allegretti with, The Lawyer As A Professional - Christ and the Code: the Dilemna of the Christian Attorney

Once there was a first-year (law) student who had to deal with a pompous and overbearing professor. One day she was called upon, and after the usual amount of pressure and pain, she succeeded in stating the holding of the case. As she finished she blurted out, "But it's just not right!" To which the professor responded cooly, "Listen, if you want to study what's right, you should have gone to divinity school..."

Several questions come to mind. Does it make sense to talk of a lawyer's vocation? In what ways can a lawyer's work be a vehicle of service to God and neighbor? More concretely, how would viewing law as a vocation affect the attorney's relationships to clients, courts, and adversaries?...

My guess is that such a model will lead to some surprising results. At times we may find ourselves less committed to the single - minded pursuit of our client's interests, while at times we may find ourselves more deeply committed to the client than ever before. For example, maybe the hard question is not "How can an attorney defend the guilty?" Maybe the hard question is "Given the example of Jesus, why don't we do it more often?"

Thanks, Professor. Thanks, Google.

Bonus link: then there's this joke about amoral lawyers -
"Two public defenders were walking down the road..."

Update: a murder trial and a Sunday School lesson

WA: banished from courtroom 208

From The Olympian:

Judge refuses to sit on prosecutor’s cases -
Hicks, Soukup had disagreements in past court cases

For the second time in six months, a Thurston County judge refuses to hear any cases filed by one of the county’s deputy prosecutors... Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks is maintaining his ban against Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dave Soukup... The judge abruptly recused himself from any of the attorney’s cases, saying his decision was because of “prior actions” for which he had sanctioned the prosecutor... The judge’s decision means special arrangements have to be made for another judge to hear Soukup’s cases. It’s a small inconvenience for a court system already short on space and judges, and a subject of courthouse gossip...

Hicks said his decision relates, in part, to a case earlier this year that Soukup handled involving a woman accused of forgery. Soukup had filed a declaration accusing the defense attorney of recording interviews with two of the state’s witnesses without their consent, which is illegal in Washington. Soukup based his accusation on information that one of the witnesses relayed to him but he did not verify it independently, court documents say. The defense attorney, Bruce Finlay of Shelton, produced interview transcripts and statements showing the contrary. The judge was asked to rule on the matter.

In January, Hicks sanctioned Soukup, finding that the allegations were false and pursued without a “scintilla of investigation.” He noted that the accusations needlessly sullied the defense attorney’s image. “Such an unverified allegation that another attorney engages in unlawful activity is an abuse of the judicial system and hurts us all,” the judge wrote in his findings...

Submitted without comment (for reasons that are not mysterious - I have to work in that courthouse, you know)

December 10, 2005

Fate had other plans

When I left the chief p.d. job in Idaho last year, I breathed a sigh that I wouldn't be representing another murder defendant for a long, long time.

Time's up.

My new client was sentenced last spring, after which he filed a bar grievance against his counsel. Officially my representation of him is restricted to assisting with a restitution hearing. We'll see.

ID: a shame about Ray

Back in the Magic Valley, criminal defense lawyer Ray Peña's troubles are multiplying:

State Bar considers complaint against Rupert attorney

The Idaho State Bar is considering disciplinary action against Rupert attorney Raymundo G. Pena,who has been charged with four felony counts of bartering legal services for sex. Jury trial was originally scheduled to begin Tuesday but has been postponed. No new trial date has been set.

The Bar proceedings stem from a complaint filed by one of the alleged victims,a former client who complained to authorities that Pena offered to reduce her legal fees in exchange for sex. According to court records,the woman has filed a Client Assistance Claim with the Bar...

December 08, 2005

TBogg on p.d.

"Um. No thanks. I'll take my chances with the public defender."

I'll let this one slide - it's more about mocking Powerline than putting down my people.

CA: no more monkey

You know me, always on the lookout for positive, upbeat stories about convicted felons, and from the county of my birth no less:

Ex-cons get chance to turn it around with clean record

For much of his young life Amani Bullock had been straddling the line. Then he crossed over it. Landed in jail at 19. Did his time, returned to his home in Marin City. Sought God. Turned his life around.

But he still had a problem stemming from the 1990 bust for stealing to get the drugs and booze he needed for the life he was trapped in. A criminal record, a monkey on his back that kept him from getting to where he wanted to go: helping kids, sharing his hard-earned spotlight of redemption, letting them know about the ephemeral craziness of drug highs, showing them that a state of grace is there for the taking.

Now, because of a new program of the Marin County Public Defender's Office, Bullock's monkey is history, his record has vanished. So, since July, have the criminal records of more than 99 others in Marin, said Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Berg.

What this means, she said, is that those people can now seek jobs, or promotions or more sensitive positions - like working with children, as in Bullock's case - because their past is no longer an intractable barrier to an improved life...

"Most of the 100 or so coming through have had employment but want a better job," she said. "They already have come a long way and now they want" something they cannot get with a record.

For example, she said, many who have fought and won a battle with drugs and alcohol "want to be (drug and alcohol abuse) counselors but do not want to be turned down from the job just because of a record."

When Berg talks of the program her voice is animated, her commitment infectious. "I love it," she said. "Most of the time we are delivering good news to people who deserve it, who should get a second chance."

I'm a big fan of just about any opportunity for ex-cons to turn it around. Yay, Elizabeth Berg! Good for our colleagues in Marvellous Marin! I hope they get lots of applications from ex-cons and aspiring p.d.'s alike.

Though when they said that the client's monkey is history, I hope that they didn't mean, you know, a real monkey.

WA: violate plea deal, consequences follow

The last time I posted about this mess up in Sno. Co., a commenter asked, "What am I missing? How is there no double jeopardy here?" Fair question.

Twist in slaying case brings admitted killer back to court

Nearly four years ago, Daniel Larson told a judge and jury how he used a necktie to strangle Anastasia King while her husband held her down...

For that testimony, Snohomish County prosecutors reduced Larson's charge to second-degree murder in the 2000 death of King, a mail-order bride from Kyrgyzstan. And it helped convict her husband, Indle King Jr., of first-degree murder.

But Larson, 25, is back in Snohomish County Superior Court, scheduled to be arraigned today on a first-degree murder charge for the crime. Prosecutors filed the new charge after the courts ruled Larson violated the terms of his plea agreement by petitioning to withdraw his original plea.

Neither side has seen a case like Larson's, and they agree trying a man for a crime he's been convicted of will be tricky. Typically, the constitutional protection against double jeopardy prevents a person from being tried twice for the same crime, but Larson waived that right in his plea agreement, prosecutors say.

"Tricky," as in, something bad and weird that happens when you persist against your p.d.'s advice. Technically, I suppose that previously pleading guilty and not actually going through his own trial, and then trying to withdraw the plea, might account for the tricky pickle in which Larson finds himself, but as regular readers know, I'm no expert.

ID: threaten a dog, go to jail

If I still lived in Twin, I would have a hard time explaining it to my shepherd-heeler mix if I defended the accused in this case:

Man faces felony for allegedly threatening police dog

A 38-year-old Twin Falls man, bitten by a police dog when he was arrested, faces a felony charge of intimidating a witness for allegedly threatening to kill the animal... Philip Allen Warren made the threat to Twin Falls County Sheriff's Deputy Morgan Case, the handler of Croix, a 4-year-old German shepherd... Warren made the threat after being taken to the Magic Valley Regional Medical Center for treatment of a dog bite...

According to Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs, ...Idaho law protects potential witnesses against retaliatory threats against property, including pets or family. "He made a threat against the policeman to kill his dog," Loebs said.

My cat on the other hand would start a legal defense fund.

December 07, 2005

AK: verdict

Steve of Alaskablawg got a heartbreaking guilty verdict in his Kotzebue murder trial, and now is going to take some time to be with his kids before starting his next trial by ordeal.

Stand up, readers, our colleague is passing.

December 06, 2005

WA: help is on the way

Top story in the Olympian:

Public defenders office gets crucial dose of aid
- Money will help ease caseloads

Thurston County's misdemeanor public defense team will get nearly half a million dollars to help the office avoid what some critics said was an impending malpractice lawsuit.

The state Office of Public Defense will offer the county's public defense office between $400,000 and $450,000, enough to hire at least two attorneys and a paralegal...

December 04, 2005

CLE, Koolhaas, and Winco, oh my!

On Friday, a fine day out to the Jet City! We woke to genuine snow here on the South Sound, then I made it up to Seattle for a WACDL CLE.

Not too bad, but a few of the sessions illustrated the Trial Lawyer's Paradox: being able to sway a jury doesn't automatically make you an effective or even interesting lecturer. The better presentations mixed visuals, anecdotes, and stats, like this one from the Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel: in 2002, Pierce County (Tacoma) had the highest per capita consumption of lithium batteries in the world - due to a local abundance either of photographers or meth labs.

The best presentation was pushed to the last. I listened to a real public defender hero, Robert Schiffner of Moses Lake, Grant County, a small-town lawyer with enough backbone to take a leading role in exposing the public defense scandal in his own county.

(I also saw another great p.d. who passed on me once before, but we're cool now. The lesson I learned from that experience was, if you want to shine with a potential employer, it's better not to spend the night before the job interview getting stuck in the snow in the Cascades and spending a few hours trying to dig out, then hitchhiking to the top of the pass and sleeping about five hours there, then riding back to the scene in the morning in the first-available tow truck, extracting your vehicle, and hauling ass to your interview town. Even if you arrive with minutes to spare, you don't exactly arrive fresh or impressive.)

Another good thing about the CLE was this cool house down the street, where Seattle stores most of its library books and some of its pretensions of being a "world-class" city. I spent the lunch hour there navigating the place, being impressed and perplexed in turn, and I guess I'll have to check out S M L XL to learn whether the cheap-ass aspect of much of the $165 million building resulted from Koolhaas' post-modern assault on the privileging of quality materials and workmanship, or just from a lack of funds after the dot-com bust.

Then from the high-brow delights of downtown Seattle to south King County and Winco! Every southern Idaho expatriate in the Puget Sound needs to make a pilgrimage here! Friday night in the Winco in Kent combined highlights of Idaho and Western Washington: Falls Brand meats, bulk food bins and white guys with garments visible under their shirts sharing the polyglot camaraderie of working-class Seattle. I loved it.

I know, I know, it's not a union shop, but it's closer in spirit and practice to Costco than to Walmart. Thinking of Winco's ESOP eases my mind as I feast on made-in-Idaho Basque chorizos and reflect on my continuing education, legal and otherwise.

December 01, 2005

WA: nice present

And now, some good news for future p.d.'s and others:

UW law school gets $33.3 million gift from Gates Foundation

Scholarships will go to students planning public-service careers

But perhaps not such great news for current UW law students planning public-service careers.

GA: chief p.d. resigns under fire

Arthur English has resigned from his post as Chief Public Defender for the Griffin Judicial Circuit, near Atlanta.

"The best thing for me and the public defender system as a whole is to step back out of the limelight," said English... "This whole year has been a nightmare for me personally."

A kind public defender in the Flint Judicial Circuit, Henry County, has taken him in.

November 30, 2005

So much for professional distance

Monday in court, one of my in-custody clients motioned me over to the box. "Come see me," he said, "I've got something to tell you that will blow you away."

This afternoon I saw him, and he gave me one of the most gratifying client moments I've had in a good long time. I can't tell you details, but somehow he has made a huge breakthrough in his thinking and his heart that might just save his life, inshallah, even if his path takes him back to the pen.

He cried and I cried with him. Remorse and hope poured out together. He talked about G_d and how disappointed he was in himself. I suggested that G_d wasn't through with him yet.

It was an all-around good day at the jail.

A true statement

I am indebted to a recent client for this insight:

if a client says to you, "I can't see how I could possibly be found guilty," at that moment if at no other, you can be assured that your client is telling the truth.

ID: fatal shooting near St. Edward's

Yesterday afternoon, a guy was shot and killed about two blocks from the school where my boy started kindergarten. The principals of the two schools in the neighborhood moved quickly to partially lock down their students, locking the doors, calling the parents and so on.

Of course my wife and I felt a chill. Joe's kindergarten classmates are first graders now, and we know their moms and dads, as well as other families through church and work. I feel for them all. I hope that the kids didn't see anything awful.

Through work I also know the name of the deceased, and the persons of interest sound familiar somehow. I feel for their families. What a world. Poor Twin Falls.

And to think that when I took my family from small-town Idaho to Pugetopolis, we might just have moved to a safer neighborhood... For those of my fellow Idahoans who go on and on about how Idaho is what America was, and how safe and sane rural life is: wake up now, please.

November 29, 2005

The p.d.'s kid

Being a dad to a six-year-old and all, I find it very reassuring that this son of a public defender turned out all right:

When I was a kid, I loved going to work with my dad.

I would have to get nicely dressed to court, or to hang out in the Public Defender’s office. It was always so fun to watch my dad argue a case in front of a jury, a judge and that mean looking guy in the orange jumpsuit. To me, it was just like they did it on TV. Since my dad was often defending criminals who had committed the most heinous crimes, he always managed to talk his way around my “what did he do?” questions. If I had believed him, I would have thought that people only went to jail for stealing bikes.

Pleading the innocent "guilty"

Blonde Justice has a thoughtful post on a part of the job that sucks. It's when good people, to the extent of being factually innocent people, plead guilty to get out of jail, to avoid something worse happening if they reject the plea bargain, or to meet some unstated private need. And then you're their facilitator, and you feel like the lowest sort of dumptruck:

Our job, as public defenders, is less centered on guilt or innocence, plea or trial, and much more centered on our clients' priorities. And, rarely are our clients priorities as straightforward as "Clear my name, prove my innocence, go to trial no matter what it takes" or "Admit my guilt, take my plea, no matter the consequences." Almost always there are other factors...

Go over and leave her a reassuring comment.

ID: job openings in Twin

Twin Falls County, Idaho is hiring a new chief deputy public defender and a new public defender investigator. Job descriptions in PDF format are here for the attorney and here for the investigator. Deadline is December 2.

It's a good place to work, with good values. For instance, one way to tell is by what comes first in the job duties section for the investigator position:

Assists attorneys with setting up and locating individual treatment resources & programs, as well as assisting with placements for clients which are alternatives to incarceration.

November 28, 2005

Professional consultations

Lately I've had appointments with two contrasting styles of client, both enjoyable in their own way, each coming at the problem of being charged with a felony from a different direction.

One client might give me a factual background leading up to "the incident," answer my rambling "then what happened" questions, and help me keep the chronology of events and the names of witnesses straight, as a clearer understanding of the case and some initial themes of the defense begin to emerge. We go over discovery, talk about what trial could be like, and discuss a few options short of trial.

Another client might bring a prepared written statement emphasizing the factual areas which will be most important, a helpful list of cites from the RCW's, and perhaps some pre-prepared motions that I might want to file. We go over discovery, talk about what trial could be like, and I am instructed as to which pre-trial issues and tactics I should pursue.

I've come to be okay with either type of client, only one puts me in mind of the advice Doc Cochran gave his patient on "Deadwood":

"You don't be the doctor! You will describe the symptoms, and I will determine their significance!"

WA: ragged edge

First with an article, then with an editorial, the Olympian scrutinizes the misdemeanor caseload of the Thurston County public defenders office. The editors say it's gotten out of hand:

The real answer rests with the state Legislature. Counties struggling to provide adequate public defense to indigent defendants need some state funding to do the job.

For lawmakers and local officials to turn a blind eye to the problem is an invitation for a lawsuit and injustice.

November 27, 2005

ID: when life hands you lemons

I remember this classroom. From the Twin Falls Times-News:
Inmates gain self-confidence, pride through GED program

When the door slams behind you it's obvious you're in jail...

...Annette Jenkins sits in stark contrast to the inside of the Twin Falls County Jail. Jenkins -- a General Education Development (GED) instructor at the College of Southern Idaho -- has been helping inmates earn their GEDs for more than seven years.

It feels like an awkward place for a classroom, but to many in the county jail it's an opportunity they have been waiting for.

Best wishes to all of them.

November 26, 2005

ND: how many cents per mile?

And I was complaining when my client was housed 30 miles away:

Some public defenders have to put on the miles to see clients

The public defender for a LaMoure County man accused of murder says it's difficult to work on the case when his client is 150 miles away.

Steve Allen Thomas, of Marion... is jailed in Jamestown; his lawyer, Don Krassin, is in Wahpeton.

"I got assigned a very difficult case," Krassin said. "This makes it even more difficult."

(on the map, the client is the dot under the last letter "A" and the lawyer is the lowest dot in the right-hand corner)

Then of course there's Alaska.

November 25, 2005

4th amendment fun

You loved him as a thermal image, you'll dig him as a website:

Danny Lee Kyllo is online.

(link via Crime and Federalism).

CA: 33 years a p.d. (!)

Defender nears retirement - Michael Lawrence's 33 years of service as public defender sets record for longevity

The lawyer who defended California's poor and indigent longer than any other will soon retire from a life spent in and around the Monterey County courthouse.

Asked why he stayed on the job so long, Public Defender Michael Lawrence said, "Fear of a retirement party," with his usual deadpan delivery.

"Time just goes by," he said. "I really love the job."

November 22, 2005

WA: pathogenesis?

A description of one of the things that criminal defense lawyers do, or try to do - make sense of the senseless. From the continuing coverage of Tacoma mall shooter Dominick Maldonado:

Defense attorney Staurset said part of his job will be to figure out why it happened.

“Anything as horrendous as this must have some genesis,” he said. “It’s my job to make sense of something that’s not easy to make sense of. How does an otherwise attractive man of 20 years old end up with a gun at the mall on a Sunday?”

The attorney said he thinks things in Maldonado’s background – “worse than ridicule” – will explain the shooting.

The veteran defense attorney said he doesn’t yet know Maldonado well, but he knows the kind of client he is.

“I think this is the Columbine client,” Staurset said. “I think his background is exactly like all the high school shooters.”

November 21, 2005

WA: a companion to a pariah

By now you've heard about our shopping mall shooting spree. No one died, thank G d.

I liked this photo from the TNT: there is the accused, Dominick Maldonado, for the moment the most despised man in Western Washington, and next to him is Sverre Staurset, the public defender assigned to his case, with a hand on his shoulder.

That is what p.d.'s do, when no one else will.

Robot zombie blogs vs. p.d.'s

Splogs are of the devil, but this one hit a nerve:

Tired of public defenders? STOP right here public defenders. We’ll help with public defenders.

"Trial: the aftermath"

Gentleeleos has such a good post for you to read:

I represented a client in a murder case last week... The evidence did not support a murder first. More than that, the evidence actually proved it was a murder second. I gave the work-performance of my life in that courtroom. I won. My client was still sentenced to life in prison.

November 20, 2005

WA: down and out in Grant County

Grant County public defender out — after big case

When Grant County recently settled a class-action lawsuit alleging shoddy work by its public defenders, it agreed not to rehire two attorneys whose work was condemned by plaintiffs.

But one of the two attorneys, Randy Smith, will apparently keep the court-appointed clients he already has — including Evan Savoie, a teenage murder defendant facing trial in April in one of the most highly publicized cases in Grant County history...

The identities of Smith and the other attorney named in the class-action settlement were to be kept a secret, at the county's request. But the ACLU of Washington, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, attached a sealed document to copies of the settlement agreement it e-mailed to several media outlets, including The Seattle Times. An ACLU spokesman says that was inadvertent...

WA: Thurston County blues

The top story today from The Olympian's online edition -

Need an attorney? Get in line: County’s misdemeanor public defenders face daunting workload

With as many as three times the cases recommended by the Washington State Bar Association, Thurston County’s misdemeanor public defenders are the most overburdened in the state, according to the chairman of the state Bar Association’s committee on public defense.

The public attorneys who represent defendants in misdemeanor cases in Thurston County District Court handle as many as 900 cases per attorney each year...

The attorneys agree the workload has reached a ridiculous point. Public defender Kate Graham recalled the system at its worst: one day, she was scheduled for two trials at the same time. She tried to reschedule one, but was told she couldn’t. She chose a jury in one room, then dashed into another courtroom to choose the second jury. Sprinting between rooms to make her arguments made the grounds for a sitcom, but it wasn’t funny, she said.

“It was awful. That was the worst possible moment I had at this job.”

November 19, 2005

AK: discrete mid-trial p.d. blogging

Alaskablawg has reported in from the midst of a major (re-)trial with a new post, reflecting on the logistics of a 70-witness trial in the bush, and the reflection of the moon on the frozen Chukchi Sea.

November 18, 2005

X's and O's from the gallery

A colleague had a brief due by 5:00, so I agreed to cover prelims. Prelims here are not the contested hour-long (or four-hour-long, depending on the attorney) adversarial mini-trials of my home state, but something more like initial in-custody appearances for felony defendants. I hacked around with the majority of the clients, then a decent local private attorney played through. His client was in the high-security color of jail coveralls / jumpsuit, and was charged with some seriously assaultive gunplay. Dude had a bad similar prior, too.

When it was time for setting bond, a woman in the bleachers stood up and asked to speak. She was the defendant's mom. She explained to the judge that her son was never ever involved with violence or guns, and that he would never have got that prior conviction if the family had just hired him a real lawyer instead of leaving him with a public defender.

Hey, if I was in his shoes, I'd want my mom to stand by me too. However, I must have been shuffling my files a bit too emphatically, because the in-court deputy came up to me during the spiel to say in my ear, "I'm sure she's not talking about you public defenders."

November 17, 2005

WA: Grant County settlement details

I mentioned that Grant County just settled a class-action lawsuit accusing the county of providing inadequate public defender service. You can find a copy of the actual Grant County Settlement Agreement here as a PDF file.

IL: Andrea Lyon and the ex-governor

Andrea Lyon is known for representing clients facing capital punishment. Now she's on the defense team for a former Illinois governor facing federal corruption charges:

If George Ryan hadn't emptied Death Row and pardoned her client, former Death-Row inmate Madison Hobley, would she be volunteering her time today to help the Ryan legal team?

She was candid. "No," she said. But, she went on to explain, she had become friends with Ryan after he left office in the context of his advocacy for abolition of the death penalty. And it was that friendship, along with her belief in his innocence, that inspired her to help him.

Interesting enough. Also worth clicking on for the republished Chicago Tribune story, "Angel of Death Row: For Illinois prisoners facing execution, Andrea Lyon is the last line of defense" (scroll down), and this takeaway quote:

"After you've defended someone's life, one rich man suing another seems so unimportant."

LA: a good man passes

EBR public defender dies at 62:

Longtime public defender Bert Garraway died Wednesday... from an apparent heart attack.

A 20-year veteran of the East Baton Rouge Parish Office of Public Defenders, Garraway litigated many death-penalty cases and murder cases and... a variety of clients, from the black Muslims in the 1970s North Street shootout to Barbette Williams, who slashed the attorney with a razor blade in the East Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse last year.

November 16, 2005

WA: my beautiful wickedness

The coppers have caught my neighborhood bank-robbing witch.

Detectives think Vanessa D. Molina, 22, is the woman whose face was captured by security cameras... On Halloween, two banks were robbed, including one by a woman in a witch costume who dropped the loot when a security dye pack exploded on her.

Update: An accused bank robber who allegedly dressed up as a witch to elude capture was apparently helped by a California felon who tricked Pierce County officials into setting him free.

The quality of mercy

From The Wretched of the Earth, thoughts on trying to meet clients' mental health needs:

Something tells me if I would've been callous and said, "Screw them, they're faking it because they doesn't want to go to jail," I could've seriously harmed my client. Thank god for small miracles, right?

Yes, and also thank you, poverty lawyer.

November 15, 2005

Why p.d.'s blog

Blondie takes an undeserved hit from a pissy judge, and achieves a higher state of public defender consciousness:

(S)ometimes you have to suck it up, and get yelled at for nothing at all. Responding would've just made things worse for my client.

That's our shared reality with martinets on the bench from Kotzebue to San Juan. As for following the commenter's advice to give it right back to the judge: write me from jail and let me know how that went.

Lawyer Lammers feels the love

Here's Ken's latest installment of "Moments in the Life of a Criminal Defense Attorney." It's a disquisition on affection, of a DV client for his victim, a prosecutor for his hornbook, and a couple of inmates for Ken's slick courtroom skills.

November 14, 2005

AR: a good juvy p.d.

Hey! An upbeat, positive portrayal of a public defender! Meet Lora Noschese of Bentonville, Arkansas.

Deputy public defender’s mission is to help children:

"We sometimes forget to mention the good things that kids do and only focus on the negative," she said. "Some kids may never have received any praise. I try to give them positive recognition for the good things. A simple pat on the back can be a powerful thing."

Yay, juvenile public defenders!

Meanwhile, in Fayetteville, the public defenders are busier than ever.

November 13, 2005

ND: profile of DA turned state's chief PD

Robin Huseby - From prosecution to defense:

After 20 years as Barnes County state’s attorney, Robin Huseby is now heading the newly created Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents. In her new role... Huseby finds herself sitting on the other side of the aisle.

"It’s a different mindset," she said. "It’s a little unsettling to sit in meetings with defense attorneys now, and hear them talk about state’s attorneys."

OR: a well-rounded life

Commercial fisherman, crabber, pilot, soldier, diver, sailor, deputy sheriff, public defender.

"I’m never bored in the practice of law," said the 63-year-old (Earl) Woods, who just came out of retirement to work as a defense attorney for the Intermountain Public Defender’s office. He started at the Pendleton-based office Nov. 1 at the request of IPD’s director, Doug Fischer...

He’s tried 26 murder cases as both a defender and prosecutor over the years.

November 11, 2005

Centralia IWW massacre

Thanks to OlyBlog for the reminder that this is the anniversary of the 1919 Centralia Massacre, which took place to the south of here, and for pointing me to a digital collection of pamphlets, leaflets, and letters concerning the shoot-out. The UW site also includes some legal history with your labor history:

Local lawyer Elmer Smith, sympathetic to the Wobbly cause, suggested going public about their fears of being raided in an attempt to gain public sympathy... Local IWW leader Britt Smith returned to lawyer Elmer Smith (no relation) for advice on defending themselves. Elmer Smith advised that it would be legal for the Wobblies to defend themselves, if attacked first... Elmer Smith was jailed as well, on the grounds of his sympathy to the IWW, and for his disapproval of US involvement in WWI.

No lawyer in Lewis County would defend the IWW members facing trial, so Ralph Pierce came down from Seattle... The trial was held in Montesano, since it was quickly agreed that a fair trial could not be obtained in Centralia. Vanderveer did not believe a fair trial could occur in Montesano either, but his motion to move the trial to Olympia was denied...

As time passed, and tempers and memories calmed, more and more people, though certainly not a majority, began to realize that an injustice had been done to the convicted men.

It's an interesting experience to go to Lewis County and see the big memorial with a doughboy from the 1914-18 war, only to walk closer and see that the inscription marks the deaths of four local members of the American Legion in 1919. In the last 15 years or so, Centralia has come to a public acknowledgement of the historical event for which it's most known. I can't claim a relative who was a veteran of that particular fight, though I did have a great-uncle (my father's uncle) who was a Wobbly in the woods of Western Washington back then.

Veterans' Day

Today my thanks in particular go to:

- CDR My Dad, USNR (Ret.), and all the WWII generation; and

- the veterans of SFOR, especially the men and women of Camp McGovern, who held down the fort in Brčko District, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

WA: ignore your p.d. at your peril

Okay, let's go over this consequences thing one more time. Blow off your public defender's advice, and you know, things will go from bad to worse, and it won't be your p.d.'s fault:

New lawyer for bride's killer

The man who strangled a Kyrgyzstan mail-order bride five years ago... told a judge Thursday that he has no confidence in the public defenders representing him.

Daniel Larson, 25, faces a new charge that could land him decades of additional time in prison... Larson, who received a 20-year sentence in 2002 for his part in Anastasia King's death, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder... However, Larson later violated the plea agreement with prosecutors by appealing his sentence. Despite warnings by prosecutors and public defenders, Larson continued the appeal.

The state Court of Appeals in August agreed with prosecutors that the door is now open to prosecute Larson for first-degree murder. He could be sentenced to well beyond 30 years in prison. Moreover, the court concluded that the second-degree murder conviction will stand no matter how the new trial turns out.

November 10, 2005

MT: update on the "she's done" p.d.

Polson attorney quit murder trial after questions arose in unrelated case:

The Polson attorney who suddenly withdrew as counsel for murder suspect James A. Couture last week quit the case after being cited for contempt of court in an unrelated probate case that is now subject to a criminal investigation.

Court records show Rebecca Dupuis was held in contempt last Thursday... for failure to provide District Judge Kim Christopher financial records and a check for residual assets of the estate of...a Lake County rancher...

On Tuesday, Christopher said that during the contempt hearing Thursday Dupuis agreed to withdraw as attorney of record for all criminal defendants she was representing in the Lake and Sanders counties, at least while the investigation of the probate matter was pending.

Dupuis has not surrendered her license to practice law.

OR: pro se gamble

I'd missed this news story last month, but still wanted to pass it along for educational purposes. It's a good illustration of the way clients can dig themselves a deeper hole, fighting with their public defender, relying on legal advice from their cellies, and expecting to be released from jail immediately when up on a serious charge:

Accused gambles for speedy trial - A murder suspect fires his court-appointed lawyer, who urged patience as he prepared a defense

Domenicke Sanders stood in the... courtroom one recent afternoon to again tell the judge he did not need a lawyer and was ready to face a jury and stand trial on a charge of murder.

The Multnomah County circuit judge, Nely Johnson, had fretted for weeks that Sanders was willing to bet his life by rejecting legal help provided by the state. She decided to gauge his preparation for trial.

"Do you know what jury selection is?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied.

"What is it?"

Sanders said, "I'd rather not answer that question."

Puzzled, Johnson tried again. "Do you know what goes into a jury selection?"


"How would you do it?"

"I'd rather not answer that."

Johnson: "Do you know what motions you are entitled to file?"


"What are they?"

"I'd rather not answer that."

The exchange continued in that vein, and at the end of the hearing, Johnson said to Sanders, "I can't say that you understand what you're doing."

Sanders' case illustrates a common theme within criminal justice: Judges appoint taxpayer-funded lawyers to represent people who cannot afford legal help. But while officially on the same team, court-appointed lawyers and their clients sometimes do not get along...

Sanders' unhappiness with his lawyer led him to seek the counsel of a man who seemed to have all the answers -- a man who was also in jail. The man said Sanders could represent himself, and if he messed up, an appeals court would overturn the conviction.

Within days, Sanders fired his lawyer. His family tried to talk him out of it, and when they failed, they promised to pull together their assets to hire a private lawyer. Over their objections, Sanders told Johnson he wanted a speedy trial...

A Multnomah County circuit judge appointed Kenneth Walker, a veteran Portland criminal defense lawyer, to represent Sanders... Walker counseled Sanders to be patient because the lawyer needed time to prepare the case, especially since conviction could mean a life sentence. But Sanders wanted to be freed from jail immediately, and he grew frustrated with Walker.

Walker said he thought he had a good rapport with his young client, so it came as a surprise when Sanders told Walker he was fired for not getting him a speedy trial... Like most criminal defense lawyers, Walker has for years endured complaints that court-appointed lawyers work for the system.

"I've heard a couple of people say, 'I don't want a public pretender,' " he said. "I know people who work in the public defender's office who are personally committed to making the world a better place by making sure that people's rights are protected. People dedicate their lives to this... To be ragged on about working for the state is really difficult to hear."

In mid-July, Sanders went before Judge Johnson to fire Walker. By then, though, he had lost his "jailhouse lawyer"...

The full article is here.

WA: de mortuis nil nisi bonum

Video from Tacoma: Brawl Breaks Out In Courtroom

A shocking scene at the back of a Pierce County courtroom erupted just moments after a killer was sentenced to 30 years for murdering a 69-year-old man during a robbery.

Families of Darrel Johnson and the man going to prison for his murder let their emotions spill out as a small fight erupted inside the courtroom Thursday.

(A)s (Andrew) Brown was being sentenced, emotions boiled over into a pushing and shouting match at the back of the courtroom after a member of Brown's family made a derisive comment about the victim.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum (as we always used to say).

Update: NWCN reported the derisive comment as words to the effect that the 30 year sentence was too harsh because the victim already had lived a full life:

"The man was 69, he wasn't going to live forever."

Alrighty then.

No mistrial this time

Another trial this week, yesterday and today. This jury didn't deadlock - they took less than three hours to convict my client of eluding a police officer. At least they waited to finish their county-provided sandwiches before they came back with the verdict.

November 09, 2005

WA: recent murder sentences

No attempts at funny punchlines here, just news of sentencing hearings for two deeply messed-up murderers:

Kent man gets life for killing his parents

A Kent man was sent to prison for the rest of his life Tuesday for the shooting deaths of his parents despite his plea that "a lifetime in prison is going to be painful."

Neelesh Phadnis -- who maintains a group of thugs killed his parents after kidnapping him and beating him up -- asked the King County Superior Court judge for leniency as "some lessening of my pain."

But the 24-year-old's sentence had already been decided under state law: A conviction of aggravated murder means a mandatory life sentence. A jury convicted him of two counts of that charge last month.

Judge Helen Halpert told Phadnis, who acted as his own lawyer, that the crime was terrible and "whatever happened to you, the murders of your parents make that pale."

Man who said cat's behavior persuaded him to kill gets 50 years

A man who said he was convinced his cat's behavior showed who should live and who should die has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for first-degree murder, the top of the standard range.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen J. Fair accepted the recommendation of prosecutors on Tuesday in sentencing Clayton Edward Butsch, 40, of Lake Stevens, for the shooting of Chad J. Vavricka, 30, of Snohomish.

Prosecutors said Butsch was delusional and high on methamphetamine but knew what he was doing when he killed Vavricka on Jan. 24, 2004. Vavricka's body was found the next day in some illegally dumped garbage.

Butsch believed his cat Sam was the reincarnation of a kitten he had baked to death in an oven 10 years ago and thus could show him who was evil and who was good. According to testimony in his trial, Butsch shot Vavricka, who was asleep at the time in Butsch's fifth-wheel trailer in Lake Stevens, after the cat refused to go near him.