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 BrĨko 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.

November 08, 2005

WA: Grant County settles indigent defense lawsuit

Big news from Ephrata / Soap Lake / Moses Lake:

Grant County has settled a class-action lawsuit accusing it of providing inadequate public defense — agreeing to do everything from capping the number of cases public defenders can handle to ensuring they don't suffer financially for pursuing a case vigorously.

The settlement allows the county to avoid a trial that was scheduled to begin today. In pretrial rulings a judge already had determined that the county's previous system suffered from "systemic deficiencies" and that its current system had enough shortcomings to create fear that indigent defendants wouldn't be adequately represented.

Settlement provisions include:

• Minimum qualifications for public defenders.

• A case limit of 150 felonies annually per lawyer, plus restrictions on private work defenders do on the side.

• The hiring of one full-time investigator for every four public defenders, a full-time supervisor for defenders and provision of an interpreter for lawyer-client meetings in jail.

• Payment of $350 for each day a public defender is in trial, rather than a limit of payments to a flat fee of $650 per case.

The parties will select a monitor to ensure compliance by the county during the six-year term of the agreement – the first time a county public defense system in Washington will be subject to comprehensive monitoring.

The ACLU's press release is here.

November 07, 2005

For judges, a side order of grits

Excellent suggestions from Grits for Breakfast on how to reduce county jail overcrowding (and not just because one of the suggestions is, "Create more public defenders offices").

Now, if we could just get his posts read by the sort of judge who suspends 180 days jail on an invalid drivers license ticket, then imposes the whole amount when the poor schlub fails to pay the $78.50 fine.

Bad dad

No court today.

Or rather, there is court today, but I'm not there. As my wife's out of town, it's been quite clear who's the primary caretaker, and who's the heedless slacker who not only doesn't know enough to keep his kid out of the driving rain, but doesn't zip up his kid's coat and invites him to play in fountains while wearing canvas sneakers. Result: kid with cold.

Reminder to self: the Amtrak Cascades, Sound Transit, Tacoma Children's Museum, and Washington State Historical Museum are all fine entertainment options for a train-loving boy, but from Halloween to Easter, there are gonna be long stretches of perma-drizzle between them all.

November 06, 2005

Update on hung jury # 2

The client whose jury deadlocked on Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree accepted a reduction to Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree, and was sentenced to credit for time served, concurrent with the driving offense on which they convicted him.

This was the sentencing hearing my son watched. Interesting to have a six-year-old's perspective: "Daddy, does that man have children at home?" "No, Joe, he doesn't." Too early yet to tell my boy about my poor in-custody clients who do.

November 05, 2005

MT: she marched in and said, I'm done

This is like the scene in the movie where the cop throws down his badge, but not as cool. Or as voluntary:

Lake County public defender turns in law license:

A public defender removed from a murder case this week has handed in her license to practice law, Lake County Attorney Bob Long said Friday.

Long said Rebecca Dupuis likely faces theft charges, although he did not know when they would be filed.

"The surprising thing to us was that she marched in and said, 'I'm done,"' Long said.

This came about after

Lake County District Judge Kim Christopher abruptly replaced (her as) murder defendant James A. Couture's public defender Thursday, announcing that “Rebecca Dupuis will no longer be taking criminal cases at all.”


Lake County Attorney Bob Long said a criminal investigation into Dupuis' fiduciary responsibilities in her private law practice may be pending.

WA: inmate deaths in King County

The Seattle Weekly reports on "inconsistency or uncertainty regarding reported deaths of King County Jail prisoners," including

Two King County Jail inmates (who) died this year from suicides that could have been prevented,...another county inmate who, after just a few days in the downtown jail last year, suddenly died from a rare flesh-eating disease. And the death of a mentally ill prisoner found with a wad of gauze stuck in his throat last year was later ruled a death by natural causes.

MT & WY: methamphetamine blues

From New West Network, Meth's Grip on the Rural West:

The effects of Wyoming's meth problem (and the state is not the only one in the West fighting a similar battle) is trickling down into social services, prompting agencies to ask the state for a little back up. The increase in children placed in foster care and treatment programs has the Department of Family Services projecting a $6.5 million budget shortfall for this budget period. Meanwhile, in Montana, rural leaders are trying to figure out how to deal with the surge of meth labs in the Big Sky State's most remote areas.

Bonus links go to Mark Lanegan and "Methamphetamine Blues"

November 04, 2005

Developmental milestone

Joe's mom is in Idaho this weekend, so the boy came to court with me this afternoon. I had a sentencing hearing; I told Joe the man was not bad, but that he took a car that didn't belong to him, and that he had to stay in jail for a while, but that he was going to go home tonight.

When we called my wife, Joe announced, "Mommy, I saw real handcuffs!"

I do hope he's not scarred for life.

November 03, 2005

I smell bacon!

Pro's and con's of my county jail:

Con - It was built nearly 30 years ago for 86 inmates, and now holds nearly 400 routinely, in tense and occasionally unhealthy conditions.

Pro - Apparently the jail kitchen exhaust fan blows right into attorney visiting, and today they were cooking bacon. Mmmmmm, bacon...

November 02, 2005

WA: bubble, bubble, toil and dye pack

Ken picked up this scary Halloween story from my neighborhood:

Rarely do police see someone botch a bank robbery, lose their disguise and immediately try again. But police are confident that's what happened after an exploding dye pack foiled a witch-costumed woman's attempt to rob a Lacey branch of Washington Mutual Bank on Halloween. She got rid of the costume and hit another bank 7 miles away half an hour later, detectives say.

The suspect is described as having a large bump - perhaps a wart - on her nose. No description was given of the getaway broom.

Weird science

Infinity Ranch points to a Slate article by a law school dean who argues, "Prosecutors are from Neptune, defense attorneys are from Pluto."

Infinity agrees. I don't. To me, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys, particularly us public servant p.d.'s, live on the same planet: Planet Courtroom. Even if we occupy different sides of the courtroom, we still have this planet in common. It's a world seldom orbited or even viewed by BigLaw or academy types from Earth.

The dean makes some good points about professionalism and professional duties. However, he also suggests that the differences between prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers are genetic. Easy on the genetics metaphors, Profe; you never know where they might lead.