February 28, 2005

Idaho teen on trial for murdering her parents

I don't know if you've been following this trial, but a teenager is on trial in Idaho for murdering her parents. Sarah M. Johnson was 16 when her parents were killed in September 2003. Court TV has been providing full coverage here.

The trial has not been going well lately. In fact, it's turned pretty ugly.

On Wednesday, a jailhouse snitch claimed that Johnson admitted the murders through "a slip of the tongue." "One time, she said, 'When I killed...'." Then she stopped herself and was like, 'When the killers ...'." The defense lawyer tried to rattle the snitch by asking if she thought this trial was funny, only to get back a face-full of "you're a joke to me, Mr. Defense Lawyer." Advantage: snitch.

On Thursday, trial was halted for two hours when prosecutors spread out blood-covered bed sheets and court officials became concerned over "body pieces" falling to the floor. Fault: prosecution. On Friday, a blood-spatter expert put on a pink bathrobe to demonstrate his theory of how the killer stood while shooting the victims. Point: expert.

It's been fairly compelling to follow as a spectator. Please spare me from ever having to do another murder trial as a participant.

Central Washington 14-year-olds to be tried as adults for 1st-degree murder

It's been a long, long while since I've talked about the state of the law in Grant County, Washington.

The latest news is that the Washington Supreme Court will allow two 14-year-olds to be tried as adults in the 2003 death of an Ephrata boy. They will be the youngest ever tried as adults for murder in Washington.

...(T)he court will not hear a defense motion for discretionary review. The decision means that Jake Eakin, 14, and Evan Savoie, 14, will be charged as adults for first-degree murder. Superior Court Judge John Antosz made a decision to try the two boys as adults, following an eight-day declination hearing in March.

Eakin and Savoie have been accused of beating and stabbing Craig Sorger to death on Feb. 15, 2003 in Oasis Park. The two were 12 years old when Sorger was murdered, and both have denied committing the crime...

Savoie co-counsel Randy Smith said that following the decision by the state supreme court, his case has two avenues with which to take the case. Smith said (they)... could file a motion to have the state reconsider the case, or... a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court...

Grant County Prosecutor Edward Owens said Thursday that the case will continue as scheduled... April 12. "We're just chugging along," Owens said, "trying to get ready for trial."

"Chugging along": an unfelicitous turn of phrase, evoking steamrollers and railroading...

Update 4/29/05: Jake Eakin pled guilty to second-degree murder.

February 25, 2005

It's a shame about Ray 2

Friday's Twin Falls and Burley newspapers list more detailed allegations about this week's arrest of an Idaho criminal defense lawyer:

...(H)e allegedly asked for or compelled female clients to engage in sexual acts, according to a court affidavit. Pena allegedly asked a female who... had retained (his) services as an attorney, to trade sexual favors with him and in exchange for a reduction of his fees by $5,000...

(A)nother female client who told officers Pena had compelled her to engage in sexual activity. She told an Idaho State Police investigator Pena had asked her to try to recover a tape he believed had been made by the first victim...

The second victim contacted law enforcement officials about the advances and it was her report that prompted the investigation.... the second victim was fitted with a listening device before she met with Pena.

Pena allegedly offered to reduce the victim's $4,500 attorney bill because of the times he had groped her... Pena agreed to take $250 off the victim's bill.

Bonus link: Thanks to the Lemonheads and Emptyman for the title, and for a story about a client named Ray: "If I was asked to go speak to school children about the evils of excessive drug use, I would just bring Ray with me... Ray has the IQ of hummus."

February 24, 2005

It's a shame about Ray

Back home, criminal defense attorney Ray Pena was arrested yesterday on two counts of procurement. Procurement is defined as an act of inducing, compelling, enticing or procuring another person to engage in an act of prostitution.

He's a happy, life-loving guy, and I hope this turns out better than it sounds. I prize my Ray-bestowed nickname, El Tlacuache, which translates as "Possum." I knew that Ray carried large amounts of U.S. currency with him, because I once watched him flash a big grin and a big roll of $100's while trying to recruit one of my Spanish-speaking p.d.'s to the private defense bar, but beyond that, I can't say. He's presumed not guilty. Suerte, Ray.

February 23, 2005

More p.d. job advice from a man with a checkered resumé

Ambivalent Imbroglio has asked some good questions about how to spend the summer between 2L and 3L:

Should I go back to the same PD office I worked in last year, or will that look bad to future public defender employers? If you were looking at hiring a new PD, would it matter whether the candidate had spent two summers in the same PD office, or would that make no difference?

Being a slothful person, let me take the easiest question first: no, going back to the same p.d. office where you worked last summer will not look bad to future p.d. employers. As a past p.d. employer (for six years before I gold-sealed to Washington), I can tell you that working summers in a p.d. office never looks bad to an employer. It shows commitment. What looks bad is the person who's gone through law school and life with no prior demonstrated interest in public defender work, criminal defense, or working with poor people, who then writes me that "I'm very interested in a position with your office." AmbImb, you don't have that worry; actions speak louder.

Now, as to the question of whether it matters if you spend both summers with the same p.d. office. Originally, I was going to come down on the side of trying a different office this summer, preferably in a different jurisdiction. There's something to be gained by seeing varying ways of dealing with similar courtroom or client problems. After all, I spent my first summer with Idaho Legal Aid in Boise, and my second summer with Utah Legal Services in Salt Lake, and look how well I turned out!

On second thought... I spent only my first year out of school doing legal services, and the next 12 out of 17 as a public defender. I also read this post by Blonde Justice in response to AmbImb. She's quite persuasive about the advantages of working another summer in the same office. As I am after six weeks still flailing with new acronyms and personalities, I think she has the stronger argument, particularly if you'll be building on last summer's experience to do work of greater independence and responsibility this summer. Especially if you're that much closer to solo'ing in court, there's nothing like handling your own cases.

Either way, working in the same office both summers or working in two different p.d. offices will put you miles ahead of the job applicant crop. Blonde Justice is right: most PD's offices would take someone who has shown a consistent interest in the work over someone who hasn't. We look for someone who has worked with the clients in the system, and still wants to come back for more. In which office you do the work is much less important than the fact that you've done the work. Don't worry too much about which office - just do p.d. work anywhere this summer, and you'll shine.

Finally, check out this Ambivalent Imbroglio post about how much weight p.d. employers may give to the supposed prestige of the law school you attend. In this case, AmbImb is right and Orin Kerr is wrong:

Public defenders, for example, certainly care about your school and GPA, but they care just as much—or often more—about your extracurriculars, your demonstrated commitment to social justice, public service, and the kind of work they’ll ask you to do (in this case, criminal defense).

Let me go further: in six years I didn't care about your school or your GPA. I cared far more about all the other factors that AmbImb mentions. In my time, I hired excellent graduates, from all parts of the grading curve, from the following law schools:
- Boston College
- Brigham Young University
- Hamline University
- University of Cincinnati
- University of Minnesota
- University of Idaho
- University of Texas
- University of Tulsa
- University of Utah
- University of Wyoming
(okay, so we had a high turn-over problem - I hope it wasn't because of me!)

February 22, 2005

This is not wonderland

So I take my bride to British Columbia to get away from it all, hang out and not think about criminal defense (or criminal defence) for a long weekend. Here's the front page headline that arrives with our Sunday morning crumpets:
 Posted by Hello

33 Deaths in BC Linked to Crystal Meth

Methamphetamine: It's Everywhere You Want To Be.

(Bonus link goes to "This is Wonderland," a dramedy about public defenders with one familiar face from U.S. movies and TV, on CBC tonight.)

February 21, 2005

Peace arch

 Posted by Hello

"The world needs more Canada"
- seen in a Canadian chain bookstore, Vancouver 2/20/05
(More later - the family's tired and the cats are complaining.)

February 18, 2005

The lady or the tiger

The owner and proprietor of Crime and Federalism is back to posting more and more on his site, and a good thing too! For a while, it seemed that C&F had been hijacked by a guest blogger with his own agenda, who just didn't care to write about crime, the first word in the title of the blawg be damned. Mike, we've missed you, man!

Here is a new quality post by Mike, inspired by David Giacalone: Public Defenders or Court-Appointed Attorneys? Giacalone recently blawgged that Too Many Assigned Counsel Don't Give a Damn. My new county's responded by taking more indigent defense in-house, and creating five brand-new p.d. positions, which is the only way I could've scored the sweet job that I now enjoy.

I've thought a bit about this issue in my professional capacity, and I might have more to say about it in the future, but for now, go read the thing and the comments, while I go off to drop the boy with my folks and take my wife up to Vancouver to mark our tenth anniversary. Cheers!

The Law Courts, Vancouver, B.C.
(Arthur Erickson, architect 1979)

February 17, 2005

More "Things I Wish My Clients Knew" from Blonde Justice

Just like it says, another public service announcement from the estimable Blondie.

Advice from the front lines on interviewing for those coveted p.d. jobs

Not Guilty and Woman of the Law both have just gone through interview hell to find public defender jobs.

Man, do I feel for them!

If I could convey just one thing here, my sistren, it's this: however you do in that kind of interview is NO indication of how good you'll be as a p.d.

Their interviews sound like some kind of ego-fueled hazing ritual. Me, I've never figured out the interview-by-ordeal approach. Why humiliate a potential ally, especially when the law schools aren't really cranking out that many people who aspire to be p.d.'s? Particularly in a small state or jurisdiction, if you aren't going to hire me, you and I will end up in the same courthouse or CLE eventually, or you'll need a favor or an assist, and I will remember how you respected or disrespected me back in my job interview with you. So, interviewers, knock it off! Thank you.

Back when I was the guy doing the hiring, I wanted to make up for some of the tsuris I'd received earlier on the receiving end of the process. Therefore, easy on the hypotheticals, no role-playing or abuse, no attitude or asking about grades ("Grades are less important than commitment and a sense of humor."). None of that "let's see how you perform under pressure" b.s. or "you and I have never met, but I'll pretend I'm your client and now you advise me to plead guilty to manslaughter." Give me a big heart and a glowing phone call from your clinic professor instead, and you were in.

Back in Twin, I wanted the job interview not just to give me a sense of a law student's character, but also to sell applicants on the prospect of working at my office over others. Of course, back when the office was an old and overcrowded little house, when I gave people the choice of in-person or telephone interviews, I wasn't doing it merely as a convenience to starving law students. Also, phone interviews helped me to keep from new hires the knowledge that the air of our town frequently smelled like frying tater tots until after they'd committed to work for me.

So to all of you looking for public defender jobs this semester, best wishes and more power to you. Don't be too afraid to take a job out in the country - the experience will be worth it, even if only to tell the tale later on. Hang in there and keep the faith.

(Remind me to tell you some time about my own flaming car wreck of a job interview, the one and only time I interviewed to be an assistant federal p. d. By the time my role-playing, brow-beating tormenter turned to me and asked, "Now, do you have any questions for us?", all I could come up with was, "Yeah... what the hell?" Then things really started to go downhill... True story.)

February 16, 2005

Postcards from lotus land

 Posted by Hello

On my commute to work

 Posted by Hello

Over the estuary and through the woods...

 Posted by Hello

My commute home

Green is good. My high desert self truly has taken to conifers and water, even the type that falls from the sky. It's a beautiful place. Back home, for instance, I wasn't able to hop in the car and fifteen minutes later show my boy a harbor seal. A cow, perhaps; not quite a harbor seal. Happy to be here.

February 15, 2005

Assistant D.A...

(deleted by me by request)

February 14, 2005

Everybody get off the bus

Here's a good true-life tale of search and seizure from Woman of the Law:

Every Bus Needs a Public Defender

Black-cowboy-hat-wearing P.D. cited for DUI

They might have his driver's license, but they'll never take his style:

A longtime Cass County public defender was arrested this weekend on suspicion of drunken driving. A Highway Patrol officer stopped Steven Mottinger about 10:30 p.m. Saturday about two miles east of Casselton, N.D. Recognizable for the black cowboy hat he often wears to the courthouse, Mottinger began public defense work in 1983.

Clint Black, Tim McGraw, Clay Walker and Kenny Chesney are planning a benefit concert for his legal defense fund.

A most happy Valentine's Day from Puget Sound!

Love - the ultimate in arbitrary and capricious!

Letourneau, ex-pupil plan to wed

Mary Kay Letourneau and her former sixth-grade pupil, Vili Fualaau, with whom she had two children, have set the date for their wedding, according to an online bridal registry. Letourneau, 43, and Fualaau, 22, plan to wed April 16, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported today. Letourneau served 7 1/2 years on a 1997 conviction for raping Fualaau. ``It's been long overdue,'' said Noel Soriano, a longtime friend of the family who confirmed Sunday that they will marry this spring. ``It's going to be fabulous, seeing them get hitched finally.''

(They're registered at the Bon - Macy's if you want to send a gift.)

February 10, 2005

"Sittin' on the docket today, watchin' my client go away..."

You might lose your public defender contract if you sing your closing argument:

Singing Public Defender Barred

(District associate judge Mary) Howe alleged that (singing public defender Sally) Machetta talked out loud to herself in the courtroom while cases were in progress. During one court hearing, Howe said, Machetta asked if she could sing "Looking For Love (In All The Wrong Places)." Other court officials said that in a Black Hawk County case, Machetta sang her closing argument. They described her as "an embarrassment" and "marginally competent, at best."

(O)ne defendant asked that Machetta be removed from his case because she was "nuts."

It is unclear whether the ruling was based on the quality of the performance or the choice of material. While singing "Looking For Love (In All the Wrong Places)" is per se unreasonable, "I Fought The Law (And The Law Won)" may have resulted in a lesser sanction, while "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under" certainly would have brought a reprimand from the Bar or worse. It remains to be seen whether Marchetta can keep any money that jurors may have placed in her tip jar.

"First they came for the nutty lawyers..." - Machetta speaks out!

February 08, 2005

An officer and a public defender

We're not all Kerry-voting anti-war hippies:

Local public defender has hand in bringing democracy to Iraq:

As a Riverside County deputy public defender, Mark Johnson strives to protect the rights of those individuals he defends within America's court system.

As a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, the Murrieta lawyer spent eight months in war-torn Iraq, where he helped draft historic documents that will protect the rights of more than 7 million people living in and around Baghdad.

Sounds like a job for Ken Lammers.

Update: Ken also is an excellent story-teller.

Yet another reason I left Idaho

One of the big Idaho tourism slogans is, "Idaho is what America was."

Like that's supposed to be a good thing:

Idaho Teen Survives Scalping. No, I'm not making this up.

Here's the suspect:
"If you see this suspect, do not try to apprehend. Instead, contact the Ninth Cavalry."

Police are looking for a woman they say scalped a 16-year-old Nampa girl. Boise County officers say, 26-year-old Marianne Dahle allegedly tied the girl up and cut away her entire crown and back portion of the scalp. The girl, who had a punk-style mohawk haircut before the attack, is recovering at home. Although authorities were able to recover the scalp, doctors were not able to reattach it.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAGH! (Insert your own macabre punch-line here.)

Update: Idaho bloggers are freaked out, grossed out, and urged to get out.

February 05, 2005

News flash! Judge found to have been intemperate and disrespectful

If only we'd had an effective Judicial Commission back home like this one they have in Washington State:

Judge reprimanded for temper and sarcasm

It's In re Judith R. Eiler, CJC No. 4148 -F- 116. The official Stipulation, Agreement, and Order of Reprimand, plus (and these are kind of fun) actual audio exhibits of the judge's offending conduct are here.

Listening to them, I'm having some flashbacks! This tone from the bench is far from unusual, and we lawyers and our clients are expected to suck it up. Good for Washington for spanking the judge here.

Oh well, I'm sure that Idaho has had a good fiscal reason for failing to pursue such cases. If Idaho had ever vigorously disciplined judges for "rude, impatient and undigified treatment of... litigants" and "addressing them in an angry, condescending, or demeaning tone of voice", they'd have been paying the judicial commissioners a buttload of overtime.

February 04, 2005

Chock full o' meth

$250,000 to $300,000 estimated street value worth of methamphetamine hidden into one car zipping north into Idaho on U.S. 93. Nearly eight pounds of the stuff, translating into a whole lot of hair-trigger wide-awake tweakers roaming the Magic Valley. Interdicting it means that my old clients and the rest of their neighbors might sleep a little more soundly this week.

It was bad timing for the drug lobbyists and the Sudafed-on-demand interests up at the legislature in Boise, though. The House Judiciary and Rules Committee passed a bill Thursday to restrict sales of over-the-counter cold and allergy products containing pseudoephedrine.

If the bill eventually becomes a law, you'll have to ask a pharmacist for permission to buy those products. You'll have to show your ID and sign for the medicine. You'll also be restricted to buying no more than nine grams of pseudoephedrine within a 30-day period.

In the great scheme, this doesn't seem so unduly burdensome. Back to the hero of our tale now, who was found "gripping the wheel tightly and looked as if he was frozen in place."

A couple of things I've never understood about narco-trafficantes: if you are going to transport your contraband on the highways, I can see hiring a drug mule with a prior drug trafficking conviction - he probably beat out the applicants with no prior experience. Why, though, to transport your precious cargo would you hire a driver with seven drivers' license suspensions ? And if you are that drug mule, and you know you're carrying over a quarter-million dollars' worth of something naughty, why do you drive nine miles over the speed limit?

And then "(a) drug dog was called to the scene and 'showed interest' in several areas of the car." Well, of course he did! Have a nice 20 years in the pen, pendejo!

Bonus link: News Flash! "Police applaud Supreme Court decision on K-9s"

(Links to the Twin Falls newspaper will expire in seven days or less)

February 03, 2005

Throw rocks at a cop, go to jail

One seems to follow the other, huh? Then why does new blogger colleague Steanso's client have to have it spelled out for him?

"Throwing rocks at a cop. Let that just roll around in your head for a minute and try to imagine how young and stupid you have to be to think that throwing rocks at a cop is a good idea."

Sadly, Steanso has fallen prey to an eternal foe of the criminal defense lawyer - The Other Dude Who Got A Better Deal:

Oh yeah, and client thinks the case should be dismissed b/c he knows some kids who were juveniles who threw rocks at cops and their cases got dismissed (this is one of those recurring themes of criminal defense work- no matter what you do for your clients, they've always heard of some dude who got a better deal. "Well, there's one guy I knew from when I was in the county [jail], and he cut some guy's head off, and he got probation, man.").

Go meet Steanso.

I'm not crazy, you're just sane

"You're out of order!"

Public Defender's Insanity Plea Gets Client New Hearing:
A district court judge should reconsider a child molester's habeas corpus petition in light of evidence that the man's former public defender suffers from a debilitating mental illness, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

"I'm outta order? YOU'RE outta order! This whole damn court is outta order!"

Lv SanJoseHomies

February 02, 2005

A day to be proud to be an Idahoan

My contrary, beguiling home state: I was drafting a post earlier cursing the Idaho legislature for voting yesterday essentially to tear down a nifty WPA-constructed part of downtown Boise and of my personal history, the Ada County courthouse.

Then the Ledge redeems itself today: A proposal to ban same-sex marriages has failed to pass the Idaho Senate for the second consecutive year. "The measure was defeated 21 to 14 after conservative supporters could not muster the two-thirds majority needed to send the measure to residents, who would have voted whether to write the ban into the state constitution."

What do you know - "the Senate of the most Republican Legislature in the nation rejected it." Old-style Idaho live-and-let-live conservatism trumps the newer crusading variety.

I may have moved away, but I'm still stuck in a love-hate relationship. The minute I think I've gotten over it, it pulls me back in. Doggone you, Idaho.

New blogging colleagues

Submitted for your approval:

Indiana Public Defender. In the trenches every day.

Ruminations of a Country Lawyer. Up among the apple trees where it smells so sweet.

PhilosphicaLawyer. As the Frenchies said of Saint Yves (PhilosophicaLawyer's namesake), "A lawyer and not a thief? / Such a thing is beyond belief."

February 01, 2005

Making the connections to mitigate meth

Last fall, the Portland Oregonian published an intriguing and provocative series on methamphetamine (I only found it just now thanks to a link to a gallery of tweakers' before-and-after mugshots posted at the end of a blogger's post about his speeding ticket).

"In fall 2002, Oregonian staff writer Steve Suo set out to answer a fundamental question: What was fueling the rapid growth of methamphetamine abuse across the West? The search turned up something surprising. While meth abuse had exploded to epidemic proportions during the 1990s, it also had inexplicably subsided at times. The newspaper's investigation asked why."

Legislators and judges railing against meth and taking out their frustrations on our clients' backs may want to take a few minutes instead to read about this possible supply-side answer: it's the pseudoephedrine, stupid. Even they could follow this logic:

* "The methamphetamine supply is uniquely susceptible to disruption by government." (PDF graph) Whenever new legislation has limited access to the chemical precursors used to manufacture meth, production has slowed.

* As restrictions on meth precursors took effect, the purity of meth, and consequently its potency, decreased. (PDF graph)

* Major declines in meth purity and potency have been matched by falling rates of meth abuse, traumas and overdoses. (PDF graph)

Were there the political will, we could make some headway on this thing. The title of the series: Unnecessary Epidemic.

Update: More pictures of folks on crack and crank this way, courtesy of "Law school and other neurosis inducing endeavors."