When the "Grand Jury Roadshow" comes to your town, it's nothing but self-defeating to go around disrespecting the public defenders. Mike Morris, a real lawyer and Seattle "public pretender," provides a useful corrective to our erstwhile activist allies:
First, full disclosure: I am a public defender in King County (Seattle), Washington...
What does concern me is when I run into people with apparently progressive values, who don't seem to recognize the importance of providing court appointed lawyers to people who can't afford a private attorney...
I'm not commenting to air a personal grievance, but because I think activists concerned about the court system in general -- and public defense in particular -- should be well-informed and consistent, and should advocate effectively for positive change...
Activists should think critically about public defense, and they should educate themselves and take an active --- but not counterproductively antagonistic -- role in their representation... Activists should consider that, if they remain poorly informed, and simply join the chorus of ignorant people who bash public defenders, they risk providing a further excuse to those in government who want to cut public defense budgets and force people without money to go to court without representation.
Nothing to add here but, "What he said!"
October 31, 2005
When the "Grand Jury Roadshow" comes to your town, it's nothing but self-defeating to go around disrespecting the public defenders. Mike Morris, a real lawyer and Seattle "public pretender," provides a useful corrective to our erstwhile activist allies:
By e-mail from the Washington Defender Association:
Stories Needed by No Exceptions Campaign to Protect Rights of Accused
The No Exceptions campaign is a three-year-old communications initiative to remind states of their responsibility to promptly provide qualified counsel to anyone who is facing prison time for criminal charges and cannot afford an attorney, and that there are no exceptions to this rule...
The No Exceptions campaign is looking for story submissions from prosecuting or defense attorneys, defendants, social workers, family members - anyone who has a story to share. Stories may be about ways in which the justice system has failed, including mistaken convictions and exonerations. Success stories - of great training programs, lawyers with manageable caseloads, or good outcomes - are also welcome.
Stories may be submitted to robin "at" spitfirestrategies.com. More information can be found by going to the No Exceptions campaign website.
- 7:42 PM
By way of Bliss, more fun than blogging about Alito:
Go to Google Image Search and type in the city and state/province of the town where you grew up, no quotation marks. Then select the picture you like best from the first page of results and post it on your blog. Here's mine:
Next do the same with the town where you currently reside. My result:
Next your name, first and last, but no quotes. My result:
Next your grandmother's name. My result:
Next your favorite food. My result:
Next your favorite drink. My result:
Next your favorite smell. My result:
Lastly, your favorite song. My result:
- 6:44 PM
Former prosecutor starting work with indigent defense commission
Barnes County State's Attorney Robin Huseby is set to start work this week as the director of a new state criminal defense agency...
"When we talk about problems with the system, it's not due to the level of competency of the defense attorneys, because they're competent, hardworking people. But it's just the way the system is set up inherently — it's not working the way we want to see it work," Huseby said.
- 12:51 PM
October 30, 2005
Ken has spread a meme to me. The rules are:
1.Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.
This is what I found:
You'll recall the debacle surrounding the old chief's dereliction, reported to have included fighting harder for Anglo than Latino clients as a virtual office policy, and using in-house polygraphs to decide which murder clients deserved a vigorous defense and which didn't.
I choose to pass this virus along to Public Defender Investigator, Jaybeas Corpus, Peekaboo, Audacity, and A Young Whig.
- 9:15 PM
October 29, 2005
Hung jury # 1: The lab slip came back after the mistrial, so the prosecutor amended to add one count of possession of meth. Client agreed to plead to the drug charge in exchange for dismissal of Count 1. Six months county jail, minus credit for time served and 1/3 off for good behavior.
Hung jury # 2: Retrial is scheduled for the week of November 14.
Hung jury # 3: After the jury hung on the felony counts, the prosecutor made a most interesting offer: stipulate on each misdemeanor to a joint rec of six months straight time, concurrent, and plead to another pending misdemeanor, with the result that the felonies go away. My client took the deal. Six months jail, with credit for time served and good time.
- 12:27 PM
You know the drill: you bust your hump getting a good deal for a client to make a felony go away, and the main job the client has is to stay out of trouble.
Then the client leaves the courtroom and goes back to his little buddies, and you might as well have been Charlie Brown's teacher Mrs. Othmar saying, "mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah":
alot has happened lately. (X) got a plea deal from him public defender. 7:00 p.m. curfew until his 19th birthday, 6 months suspended drivers liscense, 25 + hours of community service, probation and drug counseling until his 19th birthday. buuuut they'll drop the felony charge and if he fucks it up this time, he'll spend a year in jail.
(X) and i tripped on acid after the secret satan party and it was awesome. the next day (X) bought $375 more acid and sold every single one of them in a matter of hours.
I'm not going to link to the post due to offensive content, and to a residual desire not to narc out a goddamn fool. You can find the post easily enough using one of the usual search engines.
Note to the blogger or the blogger's friend: you've got to ask yourself, do you feel lucky? Huh, do ya? Because if I can find this site using a search engine, don't you think the cops, the prosecutor and the judge in your town can, too? Enjoy that year in jail, pendejo.
- 11:57 AM
October 27, 2005
From the spring 2005 edition of BSU's Idaho Issues Online, scenes from the Idaho gulag, past and present:
Gallery home, including
Dangerous Place: the biohazard that was the first Idaho Penitentiary; and
Marked Men: getting ink done in the joint.
The Old Pen is a popular and somewhat odd tourist draw now. When I was a kid, I lived less than a mile from it, and I remember the night of the 1973 riot, seeing the glow from the flames in the sky above Table Rock.
- 6:56 PM
From the Boise Weekly, From the Street to the Cell - Criminalizing the mentally ill:
Idaho's largest psychiatric institution isn't either of the state hospitals in Blackfoot or Orofino. It looms behind barbed wire fences on Pleasant Valley Road, just a few miles into the desert south of Boise. Its entrance gate bears the title, "Idaho State Correctional Facility."
The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) estimates 26 percent of Idaho's 17,550 convicted offenders suffer from a diagnosable mental illness.. For unexplained reasons, Idaho's percentages are higher than the rest of the American state and federal correctional system...
See also "New Asylums: Prisons have become the defacto asylum for Idaho's mentally ill" from Boise State University's Idaho Issues Online.
Bonus links go to Prison Scene: Photographs by Herman Krieger and Postcards from Prison.
- 6:36 PM
October 26, 2005
I had felony arraignment duty this morning. It's a pretty formalistic assembly line: each individual is called to the podium with me, where we're handed a piece of intimidating-looking paper, and I'm expected to recite a rote incantation something along these lines -
"I acknowledge receipt of the State's Information, waive further formal reading of the same as well as further formal advice of rights on my client's behalf, request that the Court enter my client's plea of Not Guilty and request that the Court set the matter for jury trial in the fullness of time, yea, even unto the sixtieth day."
Or something. I'm not so good at sticking to the script. The litany is best delivered with no deviations, and in as flat a tone as possible, so naturally I try to mix it up and see if I can give the spiel differently for each different client.
This went better today. Last time I did arraignments, I became confused as to venue by the twentieth defendant or so, so instead of saying "I acknowledge receipt of the State's Information...", I began with "I acknowledge one baptism..." There's a recording of it somewhere.
- 12:31 PM
October 25, 2005
Jason lists his attributes as
"Public defendin' sheep tendin' fence mendin' money lendin' and animal befriendin'".
Court has him a little bit pissed off:
I was introduced to a young woman in the courthouse who learned that I was a public defender. She asked, "so are you really one of those public defenders who screws his clients, or are you an ok lawyer?"
Yeah, I guess I'd be swearing, too.
- 9:30 PM
October 24, 2005
Retrial for Owens to begin
Eight months have passed since a mistrial was declared in the murder case against a former Nome police officer. Tuesday, the second trial will start for 30-year-old Matthew Owens, who is accused of killing 19-year-old Sonya Ivanoff in August 2003.
It is an all too familiar road for all parties involved in the murder of Sonya Ivanoff. Her father says he hopes the jurors Kotzebue has to offer will be able to recognize the truth...
It was Aug. 13, 2003 when 19-year-old Sonya Ivanoff was reported missing. Her body was found the next night at an abandoned gold mine two miles outside of Nome. Nome police officer Matthew Owens, then 28 years old, was arrested in late October 2003, accused of shooting Ivanoff in the head.
His trial began in January 2005. After six weeks of testimony and six days of deliberations, a mistrial was declared, as 10 jurors voted to convict, two voted to acquit...
Another interesting twist: James McComas, Owens’ defense attorney during the first trial, is back as co-counsel. Owens was appointed a public defender with the office of public advocacy after it was said he was broke and couldn't afford to keep McComas...
Regular readers of the various p.d. blogs already know Owens' public defender. Wish them well on the task ahead.
- 8:44 PM
Once we in-court criminal defense types were urged by our professional betters to get beyond the whole gladiatorial image.
Now we're encouraged to take the combat in the arena thing to its logical extreme:
The job of the "public defender" is to strive manfully against the prosecutor in the bloody ring of gladiatorial combat, to the entertainment of the jury. (Refreshments will be served). The prosecutor will be armed with a gladius, a helmet, and arm protection, while the public defender will be armed with a net and trident, wearing only a loincloth and an annointment of olive oil over his gleaming body.
I'm not sure exactly how this "striving manfully" rule change would encompass my esteemed female colleagues. (by the way, does anyone know what became of Indiana PD? I used to link to her blawg, but it's undergone what you might call an extreme make-over)
As my old boss (the Republican one) used to say: come home with your shield, or on it.
(Bonus link goes to Rome)
- 12:36 PM
October 23, 2005
Zembla, "home of the trustworthiness camel," observes a few common threads in inmate correspondence:
3. Unintentional irony: Prisoners' letters are often filled with phrases that have been placed in quotation marks for no apparent reason. A message might read, "I am writing to request 'legal assistance' for my appeal. I have been 'unjustly' convicted due to the 'conspiracy' of the judge, the district attorney, and the public defenders office. If there is 'any way' you can help me, I would 'greatly appreciate' the 'assistance'..."
It's as if these prisoners are incarcerated hipsters, too jaded and cool to get their sentences reversed, but going along with the appeals process just for the ironic value. They might be onto something.. only about 5% of criminal appeals are successful.
- 9:01 PM
Rick, of course you can be a public defender and a Republican.
The job has room for more than a few traditional conservative values: standing up for individual freedom and resisting the encroachments of big government, for starters.
My first p.d. boss was a Republican, and I've hired recent law grads ranging from the Federalist Society to the National Lawyers Guild. Bring integrity and fire to your representation of each accused person, and the vast majority of us won't give a darn who you vote for. Join us - we p.d.'s and our clients can use the help.
- 8:44 PM
October 21, 2005
October 20, 2005
The jury's still out.
This morning an alternate juror replaced one of the twelve who went home sick yesterday and didn't come back. Factoring the size of the jury lounge and the rate of incubation, we'll be lucky to get a quorum tomorrow.
With the alternate seated, the jury required another listen to my client's tape-recorded conversation with the cop. At that moment, how I wished I could have summoned the ghost of my other New Orleans hero, Lamar Parmentel, to announce,
"Why, Your Honor, through an entirely unforeseen chain of coincidences, it would seem that a most powerful magnet was placed next to State's Exhibit # 12, thus most regrettably rendering it totally unusable."
- 8:29 PM
October 19, 2005
I've received permission from DePaul University College of Law Professor Susan Bandes to link to her most recent paper, "Repression and Denial in Criminal Lawyering":
Legal scholars as well as laypeople are fascinated by the question of how criminal lawyers can defend people accused of heinous crimes. This topic is commonly addressed as part of a well-established discourse about the morality and ethics of criminal defense. A separate conversation needs to occur. Its topic is how, in an emotional sense, one defends people accused of terrible crimes, and what toll such defense takes, both professionally and personally.
This article first explores the defense mechanisms employed by criminal defense lawyers, and how these mechanisms affect lawyers both as advocates and as people whose work is comfortably integrated into their lives. Second, it suggests that the mechanisms and strategies discussed are not unique to defense attorneys, but are common in legal practice generally. Finally, it argues that the legal profession needs to overcome its aversion to acknowledging and addressing the emotional aspects of lawyering, and suggests some possible paths toward this goal.
When Professor Bandes writes:
A number of those who have written about legal ethics and professionalism have emphasized the need for critical reflection, for talking over doubts and ambiguities with colleagues, and for acknowledgement of moral choices and moral claims that conflict with our professional roles. The first step is to create opportunities to come together. Collegial support is essential for several reasons. It enables consultation on legal issues, of course, but in addition it decreases isolation, contributes to job satisfaction, and permits the building of communities in which lawyers are able to explore ambiguity, admit uncertainty and gain emotional sustenance,
she could be describing our p.d. corner of the blawg-sphere, or at least what I get out of posting and getting comments here at A & C.
If you intend to do criminal defense for the long haul, you really owe it to yourself to set some time aside and read this article.
Bandes, Susan A., "Repression and Denial in Criminal Lawyering" Buffalo Criminal Law Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, February 2006 http://ssrn.com/abstract=789764
(I posted about an earlier version of this paper here.)
- 11:14 PM
Seven years out of law school, into the chief p.d.'s chair: a fourth - generation Alaskan has been named head of the state-wide Public Defender Agency.
Governor Murkowski announced Quinlan Steiner's four-year appointment this week. The 39-year-old Steiner has practiced law at the public defender agency for seven years. He earned his legal degree from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College in 1998.
He's probably a fine guy, but the news item leaves the impression that you can compensate for being a cheechako in one area of life by being more sourdough than thou in another.
- 8:52 PM
October 18, 2005
From the Olympian:
'You're a felon; the deal's off' - Opportunities are few for an ex-Fort Lewis soldier who has served time in prison
It was supposed to be his first day at a new job. Dave Lye put on his new steel-toe boots... Then, the phone rang. He answered. It was one of the men who had interviewed him at the company.
"It's the guy, and he says: 'You're a felon; the deal's off,' " Lye said, recalling the gist of a conversation a few weeks ago with a potential employer.
Lye, 34, has heard the same thing repeatedly as he tries to piece together his life after serving two years in state prison. A former Army Ranger, Lye was convicted in 2003 of vehicular homicide for a crash that killed his friend and fellow soldier, Aaron Page. The transition is rough. He is making his first footing into civilian life after 12 years in the Army...
He said he understands now why some criminals return to crime. "I don't have a criminal life to fall back on," he said.
- 12:35 PM
October 17, 2005
October 16, 2005
1. Twin Falls: Carr sentenced to life for murder
2. Idaho City: Woman Gets 10 Years in Idaho Teen Scalping
1. A Filer man was sentenced to (25 years to) life in prison Friday for running over a woman three times with his Ford Bronco and leaving her to die of exposure. Jody Randall Carr, 33, will spend 25 years in prison before he's eligible for parole, according to the sentence handed down by 5th District Court Judge John Hohnhorst. Carr pleaded guilty in June to the first-degree murder of Sheri Brookshier, the 31-year-old mother of four...
2. A woman who scalped a teenage friend for lying about being raped was sentenced to (four to) 10 years in prison for felony aggravated battery. District Judge Kathryn Sticklen on Friday ordered Marianne Dahle, 27, to serve at least four years before she will be eligible for parole. Sticklen said she had little confidence that Dahle would seek psychiatric help and avoid harming society on her own...
- 6:29 PM
In San Jose, a will of steel (may require registration).
Within a few months of being appointed Santa Clara County's public defender last May, Mary Greenwood fought a bureaucratic grass fire that revealed a steely will behind her affable exterior.
Her counterparts in the district attorney's office, believing that drug cases were taking too long to settle, decided to go directly to a grand jury for narcotics indictments.
Greenwood felt the move hurt her clients, partly because the indictments trigger warrants that disrupt the lives of people already on bail or court release. So she told her attorneys to counter by not agreeing to postponements on certain preliminary hearings.
In the bartering of criminal justice, the 48-year-old public defender was deploying a seldom-used weapon. By pressuring the prosecution to hold speedy hearings, she disrupted her opponents. But significantly, she stopped short of blowing up the system...
- 5:44 PM
October 13, 2005
Huzzah for the South Sound, beacon of enlightenment, respecter of humanity!
County's jail space gets grim review
Consultant says site is among most crowded he's seen:
TUMWATER -- Consultant Steve Carter has visited about 1,000 correctional facilities around the world.
For him, the Thurston County Jail stands out -- but not in a good way.
"Your jail is one of the most crowded jails I've been in," Carter said during Wednesday night's public meeting about a proposed new community correctional facility in Tumwater.
Carter has visited facilities in South Africa and Latin America that were less crowded than the Thurston County Jail, which houses more than 400 inmates a day.
The facility was built 30 years ago for 86 inmates...
Where's the ACLU when you need 'em? (They sent this letter back in 2001.) (PDF file)
- 10:31 PM
Caseload increases take toll on defenders, justice
Scott West knows being a public defender is a burn-out job. But preventing burn out of the lawyers he supervises is complicated by the state's growing number of people accused of crimes who can't afford a private attorney...
"I believe in what I do. I think everyone should have good representation," said West, directing attorney for the Murray DPA office that covers Calloway, Marshall and Graves counties. "I can see how people can burn out, but I don't have the luxury of giving them a light enough case load to keep them from getting burned out."
- 6:35 PM
October 12, 2005
They hung, the twelve of them. My first jury this week, as opposed to my second jury, who we picked this morning while the first group were out deliberating. And they hung on an element that wasn't in dispute, for which there was no conflicting evidence: the value of the motor vehicle. Two hold-outs were not convinced that the thing was worth over the jurisdictional amount. Car guys perhaps.
You know, the Holy Bible doesn't go into the jury room; neither does the Kelley Blue Book.
Shifting gears, tomorrow begins day two of trial two, fourth straight day of felony jury trial this week for me. Same judge, fresh new prosecutor. Different client. This schedule is just not right.
- 9:15 PM
Christian County, Kentucky public defender Thomas R. Snider died this past June in a car accident while on his way back from visiting a client in the Caldwell County jail. He was 26, graduated from law school in 2003.
He's been honored by the proclamation of "Thomas R. Snider" day by the local court, and by the planting of a tree in his memory in the courthouse lawn.
I like that. In the event of my untimely demise, scatter half my ashes next to the Salmon River, and use the rest to mulch the tree you plant for me at the courthouse. That way I can keep an eye on the prosecutors in perpetuity.
- 8:59 PM
October 11, 2005
It's to the jury now. Through the trial, my client has been at my ear pretty frequently whispering questions and suggestions, asking why I didn't ask a particular question on cross or when we'll take the next recess. Someone noticed.
We were in chambers going over final instructions. The judge mentioned that whenever he looked out at my client and me, he would think of one of the pictures on his chambers wall, and pointed to this:
- 7:16 PM
Yesterday we picked a jury before noon. By then my client and I had rebounded a bit from the morning's news that our co-defendant had flipped and was going to testify for the state; we sat with our backs to him as he changed his plea. By the time the pool was seated, we had our smiles back in place. Voir dire was all smiles from the potential jurors: we were connecting, we shared a few tales, we had a few laughs. The jury was chosen, and I took a bathroom break before opening statements.
That was the first time I saw the quite-obvious booger in my nostril.
- 7:46 AM
October 09, 2005
Practitioner Anthony Colleluori at Long Island (Criminal) Trial Law has put some thought and effort into developing a positive response to "virus motions," a Bill of Client's Rights for the Accused.
It's pretty decent - check it out. Somebody, start one of those Wiki thingies.
We're all invited to circulate it and tinker with it, too. For instance, in my state, I might add, "I routinely would give you copies of discovery (just like I did back in Idaho) if the rules didn't make it such a big pain in the butt."
(Circular blogrolling at work: he links to my original post, I link back to him.)
- 3:10 PM
New blog Justice Mountain takes exception to a recent article in the NACDL (National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) magazine:
Although the author also describes admiring some individual public defenders, he leaves the impression that career public defenders don't fight hard enough to keep the system honest. Public defenders have taken strong issue with the article. The reaction has been that this is another example of how many private lawyers, NACDL and the general public have a low regard for public defenders.
Here an excerpt from the article:
[T]hat’s one of the things I always thought was wrong with staying a public defender too long: you become too much a part of the process, and too much of a colleague with the other bureaucrats in the criminal justice system.
Although I admire some individual NACDL members, the article leaves me with an impression of NACDL. To catch the whiff of condescencion that's gotten up some people's noses, you'd need to read the whole thing, written by a lawyer who worked at the beginning of his career "as a law clerk to retired Chief Justice Earl Warren," then for two whole years as a federal public defender.
Between this article and the invitations to come to Aspen for some CLE hours, recently I've also read in The Champion that NACDL gave an award to one of its board members for outstanding service. One of my most well-prepared and tenacious former p. d. co-workers attended NCDC, where he had the bad fortune to draw this same board member as an instructor. Instead of being instructed, he was badgered pointlessly for being a rich white WASP from Boulder. True, so? My friend also has bullet-proof integrity and an unwavering commitment to justice. His hot-shot instructor from the top of the NACDL heap just turned out to be a creep.
I'm going into the office again tonight. I've done seven jury trials so far this year. Our trial court administrator has scheduled me to start one tomorrow morning, then a second one on Wednesday morning. There's a renewal notice for my NACDL membership sitting on my desk next to a pile of files. What do you think I ought to do with it?
Update: Indigent Journal says, it's not nice to disrespect public defenders.
- 12:59 PM
In Lee County, Public defender charged with DUI -
Car strikes vehicles from earlier wreck.
His boss says:
"It's been my policy since I've been public defender that if an assistant or employee is convicted of driving under the influence, they will be terminated, 'Convicted' being the operative word."
- 12:54 PM
October 08, 2005
Randi Hood, a Helena lawyer with 30 years experience representing poor, accused criminals, was hired this week to be the state’s first chief public defender.
Hood, currently Lewis and Clark County’s chief public defender, will take the helm in early November of the state’s new statewide public defender agency...
"It has always been my deep desire to be a voice for people who don’t have much of a voice, Hood said, "I try to do the best job I can for them and I get a lot of satisfaction out of that."
- 1:52 PM
Justice is blind; injustice is a poke in the eye
Life's not easy for public defenders. They are, by most accounts, underpaid, overloaded with cases and often have to represent some of the most incorrigible criminals. But most get by on the belief they are providing a service to society.
Dauphin County Assistant Public Defender Bryan M. McQuillan got a dent in those beliefs when his car was stolen Monday.
One day I will tell you about when I got one of those dents, sitting in court in Boise, watching my colleague Ed arguing for bond reduction for a client who years before had committed a very serious felony against someone who was very dear to me. But not today.
(Aside: if anyone knows my friend and old co-worker Jack M., now of the Dauphin County P.D.'s Office, ask him to drop me an e-mail.)
- 12:11 AM
So Teekayoh has been toying with going into criminal law, and goes to a law school panel discussion called "How Can You Do What You Do?", where public defenders and prosecutors muse on weighty issues, including upping the State's offer after the client rejects the first plea bargain, facing your murder client's mother, and answering the old reliable, "How do you deal with having to defend someone you know is guilty?", otherwise known as "How can you defend 'those people'?"
The panel's over, and Teekayoh still isn't sold on going into criminal law.
- 12:00 AM
October 07, 2005
Defender booted off murder case
A public defender said his client's rights had been "trampled" Thursday after one of the defender's supervisors unexpectedly announced the attorney was being pulled from a Redlands homicide case.
The decision, announced in open court, stalled proceedings involving three alleged gang members accused of murder, attempted murder, robbery and carjacking...
All four were in attendance when Supervising Deputy Public Defender Mary E. Logger asked for a continuance because Edward Stoliker, public defender for Tucker, was being taken off the case.
"Management has decided to reassign the case within the office," Logger told the judge. Logger declined to explain why Stoliker was being removed from the case and said instead that the reasons were internal to the office of the public defender.
Both Stoliker and prosecuting attorney Douglas Poston objected to the decision before the judge. They cited the amount of work Stoliker had put into the case to date, including familiarizing himself with 941 pages of discovery, and the delay that appointing new counsel would cause...
Outside the courtroom Stoliker said that Logger's announcement in open court marked the first time he heard anyone from his office say he was being removed from the case.
- 10:49 PM
"Train wreck" defense rests
David Roberson, (Neelish) Phadnis' most recent public defender who was assigned as standby counsel, said the trial has been a tragedy. "It's a shame because he has no idea what he is doing, and there is obviously something wrong with him. What can I say? It's not fun. It's like watching a train wreck."
Update: Black humor is not the exclusive province of criminal defense lawyers; we can only hope that there's a juror blogger on the panel:
Best jury duty ever! Murderous gang of 400-pound armed Samoans on the loose in King County!
Update 10/08/05: Guilty. Two life terms without parole:
"Nothing made any sense," juror Barb Duquette said.
"I had to work horribly to keep from laughing," Duquette said. "And it was torturous not to be able to talk [during the trial] about something this important, or this bizarre, even with each other."
- 12:07 PM
October 06, 2005
Welcome to new arrival Indigent Journal, with "views from the intersection of poverty and the law."
Sometimes there are collisions at the intersection (I love this post):
Some people in the area are lost and scared, while others search the wreckage for more victims;
There are kind and gentle souls, twisted psyches, sadistic tendencies, scammers, liars, con artists, psychopaths, sociopaths, countless personality disorders, and otherwise damaged and sometimes remarkably resilient individuals trying to find their way through the carnage.
The job: get people through it without doing further damage and without crashing and burning and becoming just another heap upon the pile.
With writing this resonant, Indigent Journal looks like it's going to be a permanent link, and I'm not saying that in a blogrolling Eddie Haskell sort of way.
(Thanks to Sancho for pointing this out)
- 7:26 PM
Idaho proposes new methamphetamine lab cleanup rules:
Under a proposed regulation, any home used for making methamphetamine in Idaho will be listed on a Web site to warn potential occupants that it may have been contaminated with dangerous chemicals.
I am so glad we sold our house before our neighbor's place went on this list.
- 12:46 PM
October 05, 2005
My client walked into the courtroom this morning looking at a likely denial of our motion to sever, to be followed by a jury trial featuring some unpleasant testimony to be elicited from his "co-conspirator," to be followed by three-plus years DOC if we lost. He walked out with an unranked felony and a maximum 365 days to serve in county jail after sentencing.
This client wanted a real lawyer and paid cash money to retain one, but the judge wouldn't allow the substitution so close to trial. He did call his private lawyer this morning, and accepted the latest offer after getting a second opinion.
Oh well, I'm content. It most likely was a better outcome than we'd get from rolling the dice at trial.
In the future, disgruntled clients might want to print out this ready-made "Motion Request for a New Public Defender". Adaptable for most jurisdictions, it comes with stock grievances against public defenders already filled out. Just change a word here and there, and fill in the blanks, and you're well on your way to getting conflicts counsel.
If one wishes to kick the attorney-client conflict up a notch, there's the "Form to fire your attorney if you need". Picture the look on your p.d.'s face when she / he reads this:
I require that you comply with the following instructions to insure I receive an adequate defense (these instructions are not negotiable).
If you do not believe I am innocent, I require you to inform me of that fact immediately so you can be replaced by the court.
You will request the court to replace you based on your inability to adequately defend me. If you do not believe you can adequately defend me, I require you to inform me of that fact immediately so you can be replaced at your request to the court based on your inability to adequately defend me...
I require you to expose every lie by the agents of the state during hearings.
I do not give you the authority to speak with the judge, prosecutor, social workers, GAL, or anyone else connected with this case outside of my presence where I cannot hear and participate in the discussion. This includes sidebar conferences in the courtroom, conferences with prosecutors/county attorneys and conferences in the Judge's chambers.
In the event that Judge orders you to participate in a discussion outside of my presence, I will view it as unethical behavior and act accordingly. I require you to object often and effectively during hearings and trials. I require you to raise appealable issues at every opportunity, regardless of whether you think the judge will rule against you or not.
In the event I lose and, if you have raise(d) sufficient appealable issues, I will not have to appeal based on in effective assistance of counsel or sue you for malpractice or file a professional complaint against you.
Be advised, I have outsiders monitoring your progress and actions.
(Y)ou are specifically prohibited from disclosing the fact of this document's existence or it(s) contents to anyone else, including any associates, partners or supervisors, and/or any judges.
I need to have you to reply to this instrument as reaches it you and your office today.
And they wonder why young lawyers these days aren't flocking to do p.d. work! I thank my stars that I no longer handle this particular sort of case, but I can still cringe to imagine receiving this sort of demand letter. It's called an attorney-client relationship, after all.
- 10:04 PM
People occasionally wander here from searches for "Skelly Wright," and at least one commenter seems to think that I am Skelly Wright, owing to the icon there in the upper right-hand corner. So, as a public service, here is a bit of history about this blog's patron saint, the Honorable J. Skelly Wright.
It was 1946, and New Orleans had won the war. After a "perfunctory" trial, Willie Francis, a 16-year -old African-American, had been convicted of murder of a white man by the State of Louisiana and sentenced to die in the electric chair:
But at the moment of electrocution, the chair malfunctioned: some current flowed through Francis’s body, enough to cause intense pain but not enough to kill him. Neither of the men who had installed the portable electric chair were electricians, and the actual executioners were probably drunk at the time they threw the switch. Prison guards dragged Francis off to his cell and called an electrician. Meanwhile the NAACP and others mounted a crusade to prevent the state from trying to electrocute him a second time.
His lawyer at the U. S. Supreme Court: New Orleans native J. Skelly Wright, age 35:
Skelly Wright, then in private practice, argued the case before the Supreme Court. He framed the issue as whether the electrocution retry would violate the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy provisions, the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, or the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process and equal protection requirements.
To no avail:
The state of Louisiana again electrocuted Willie Francis, this time effectively, on May 9, 1947. For him, the travesty of reason in judicial decision-making had come to an end, but the Justices were not yet done with the questions that his fate had placed before them so poignantly.
The Supreme Court bungled Willie Francis’s appeal as badly as the drunken executioners had bungled the first electrocution try. The resultant mischief lives on. Later courts recurrently cite Francis v. Resweber, along with In re Kemmler, as authority for the proposition that the Eighth Amendment does not bar death by electrocution, shutting their eyes to mounds of empirical and graphic data demonstrating beyond any doubt that, far from being "instantaneous and painless", as numerous judges have termed it, death by electrocution is horrifyingly violent, prolonged, and painful. Though no opinion in Francis addressed that issue, the case lives on, misapplied to perpetuate state torture.
Bonus link goes to "Professionalism: Lawyers as Heroes, Villains and Fools" by Roger A. Stetter (pdf file). Skelly Wright is in the first category.
- 12:30 PM
Submitted without comment: Barnes County prosecutor hired as director of criminal defense agency
Robin Huseby, the Barnes County state's attorney, has been hired as director of a new state agency that will provide criminal defense lawyers for defendants who cannot afford them.
The prosecutor begins the job Nov. 1, said Joseph Maichel, chairman of the Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents. The 2005 Legislature established the commission to take the job of providing criminal defense attorneys out of the hands of judges, for whom the task may present a conflict of interest.
- 7:07 AM
October 04, 2005
October 03, 2005
It's official: blogging jurors are on the radar.
But is it wrong? Well, consider the case of Josh Hallett. You are all welcome to visit this would-be blogging juror and tell him what you think of his anti-public defender attitude:
The last time I was selected it was amazing to witness the ineptness of the public defender. Sitting in the jury box I was saying to myself, "Why doesn't he ask...." Later during a recess some of the other jurors talked about how watching all the legal shows on TV made them think they were smarter than the PD. (Note to self, don't let a PD handle your case)
As for the PD I referenced.. you had to be there to see his mismatched tie, wrinkled suit and the way he constantly returned to his notes on the table because he lost his train of thought.
Any friends of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Public Defender (Orange and Osceola Counties, FL) might want to forward Mr. Hallet's illuminating post, so whoever's in jury trial next week can exercise a well-deserved challenge for cause on this self-satisfied superficial twit.
Update: Mr. Hallett, thanks for stopping by. Your posts didn't exactly leave me confident that you were able to see past the wrinkled suit to judge the merits and justice of the case on which you sat as a juror. Thanks to your perceptions, though, I will be hitting the dry-cleaners soon, just not in time for my next trial. We p.d.'s do a lot of trials, you know. Sorry if we offend.
And thanks for clearing up my navigational error. Now, will someone please inform the Tenth Judicial Circuit Public Defender that Mr. Hallett will be joining them in next week's venire pool. If he's not excused for cause, then perhaps he will be by a peremptory.
Blawggers respond: Juror may blog jury duty, but not during trial
Yes, Josh Hallett, you may blog about jury duty as long as you don't blog during trial, say blogging attorneys...
- 8:31 PM
A Gonzaga law school grad and good guy in general has been picked to lead the p.d.'s of Port Angeles:
A 15-year veteran of the Clallam Public Defenders office has been tapped to lead the group of lawyers tasked with giving legal representation to poor people accused of everything from drunken driving to murder.
Harry Gasnick, 48, was selected last week to fill the position of executive director.
"I'm looking forward to the challenges that this presents," Gasnick, of Sequim, said Saturday. "I hope I'm up to meeting those challenges," he added with a smile.
Here's what happened last year when Gasnick caught a Washington State trooper "pre-completing" his DUI arrest reports.
- 7:59 AM
October 02, 2005
William Thornton IV, age 18, was accused of two counts of vehicular manslaughter. His public defender Eric Evilsizer, (good Dickensian name, that one) persuaded him to plead no contest straight-up and throw himself on the mercy of the court.
It was the court of the same judge who'd sentenced Thornton's father to thirty years. The son's sentence: thirty years as well. The St. Pete paper calls on the Public Defenders Office to "focus all of its energies on trying to correct a grave injustice that it helped to create for its client."
It is also abundantly clear that the legal system, particularly the Public Defenders Office, failed Thornton. Now is the time for the judge, prosecutors and defenders to do what is necessary to right this wrong and to bring belated justice to this case.
The paper reports elsewhere:
Evilsizer has since resigned from the office to go into private practice. He has said his departure was unrelated to the case and has declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
Thornton's case caused controversy when Dale Merrill, the public defender assigned to the case, suggested the judge's decision may have sprung from racial bias and prejudice. Thornton, who is black, was given the maximum sentenced allowed under state law.
Shortly after Merrill said that, the chief public defender added David Norris to the case. Norris is a p.d. with a a 1994 conviction for cocaine possession. For Thorton's defense team, this apparently is seen as "things looking up."
- 10:40 AM
October 01, 2005
Somehow I would expect a progressive, client-centered public defender office to be a little less, oh, I don't know, anal retentive:
Service dog, owner booted from office:
Public defender offers apology
Paul Hinz... said he had been humiliated and his civil rights had been violated in a public office -- the home of the "people's lawyer."
Hinz, who has limited vision and movement, said he was thrown out of the Wake County public defender's office lobby because he was accompanied by his service dog, Sandy. "I don't deserve this," he said.
Public Defender Bryan Collins... said Hinz was asked to leave the West Martin Street lobby because the 70-pound chow-German shepherd mix was sitting on new furniture and shedding blondish hair.
Still, Collins called Hinz late Thursday to apologize.
Still? Is "creep" too strong a word here?
"I don't necessarily believe we have violated the law, but I think it's a close enough question that we owe the man an apology, and I've given him one," Collins said...
"The point was that the dog was sitting in an upholstered chair, and it was getting dog hair everywhere. My staff asked that the dog sit on the floor, which we thought was a reasonable accommodation," Collins said, also saying that the incident could have been handled better.
Dog hair! Everywhere! On our new furniture! You can't possibly expect us to uphold your right to counsel!
- 9:51 PM