November 30, 2006

Heightened awareness

Yes, I was aware that today was National Meth Day. I celebrated by giving thanks that so few of my young clients have gotten caught up in the stuff.

This morning in court I had a rude reminder of the importance of client communication. It seems that, after discussing all the facts of the case, including the video-taped admission that's definitely coming in, the statement "I guess I'm totally screwed" does not always mean "I'm guess I'm going to plead guilty." Majorly disgruntled client, even after getting four days to serve instead of the state's offer of ten.

November 27, 2006

UT: iron bars, big hearts

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Inmates knit to help children worldwide
Jail charity: From Cache County jail comes warmth in the form of hats, blankets and hearts

Cache County inmates have found themselves bound in a work of the heart. These hardened, tattooed men are spending their hours with yarn unraveling at their feet, knitting stocking caps, blankets and booties for children in need...

"We might all be criminals, but some of us have big hearts," said David Evans, 25, of Blackfoot, Idaho...

ID: "something different' for Boise police shootings inquiries

From the Idaho Statesman:

Coroner will not call inquests - Sonnenberg plans on ‘trying something different' in the DiPaola and Lowery cases

Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg doesn't plan on calling public coroner's inquest hearings on two fatal shootings by police officers this fall... Sonnenberg said he is going to "try something different" to look into the deaths of Jonathan DiPaola and Tyler Lowery.

He said he plans to work with special prosecutors from outside Ada County and the local multiagency police task force to release a public report when the investigations are completed... The coroner's decision to ditch the inquest hearing comes about a year after the controversial inquest into the death of 16-year-old Matthew Jones...

Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower recused himself from the two current officer-involved shooting cases, asking Twin Falls Prosecutor Grant Loebs to review the Dipaola shooting and Bannock County Prosecutor Mark Hiedeman to review the Lowery shooting...

Bower, Loebs and Hiedeman have entered into an agreement to handle investigations into officer-involved shootings for each other so the impartiality cannot be questioned, Bower said. "I think we recognize the perception might be we are too close to officers involved," Loebs said...

Bruce Jones, Matthew's father and the only witness to the shooting, said he thinks the changes — getting rid of the inquest process, having a visiting prosecutor review evidence and publicly releasing a detailed report — are good.

I do too. In my home town, police seem to shoot people with some frequency, and could stand some outside scrutiny. Bully for Sonnenberg, Heideman, and Loebs.

Either they are or they aren't

While one site says,

Public defenders usually work in “niched” areas of legal specialty, such as DWI or domestic violence defense. So they tend to be up-to-date on new law and legal theories in their area of specialty.

another site says,

this lawyer, known as a public defender, will not necessarily have any expertise in the field in which he is defending the client. For this reason, it is to the benefit of the client to hire a criminal lawyer with expertise in defense, as it is an extremely specified field.

(Sure, the first site is sponsored by LexisNexis and Martindale-Hubbell, but the second site cites Psalm 146, you know, the one about the One who executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, and frees the prisoners. That's worth something.)

November 22, 2006

Giving thanks

From our private colleague Brian Tannebaum, A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Thanksgiving.

We public defender types are on his list of things to be thankful for - twice. But don't just click over there because of that: read the list, add your own reasons to be thankful, and feel some gratitude. To my U.S. colleagues and readers, a most happy Day of the Turkey to you.

If you don't know me by now...

L' Audace gets the "how can you defend 'those people'?" question.

And from her mom, no less.

November 21, 2006

ID: with malice or without

From the Times-News, another murder in Twin:

Suspect faces second-degree murder charge in shooting - Twin Falls man’s bond set at $250,000

What police called voluntary manslaughter Sunday, prosecutors boosted to second-degree murder Monday.

The leap from the police’s account to the prosecutor’s charge hinges on whether the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Luis Carlos Ramirez early Sunday morning was the result of malice. The significance to James M. Steel, measurably engraved on his face at his arraignment Monday afternoon, could be a possible life sentence...

But what to make of this?

Defense Attorney Jeff Stoker (no relation to the judge), who represented the defendant in court Monday, suggested to his client’s family in the hallway a pick of other attorneys to hire for future hearings. When appealing for a lower bond, he also told the court the defendant’s family lacked many resources...

Dependency p.d. vs. 'real lawyer'

From a mom involved in a child protection case, courtesy of MySpace:

Without weed I become manic ... If I'm manic and NOT able to think ...I can't even save myself let alone my kids. Hence the need for weed. Understand?

So peeps need to stop telling me they don't understand how I can ask for money for weed but not for money to get a lawyer to get my kids back... I'm asking for $50 bucks here for smoke. Not the couple grand it takes to get a real lawyer... So I have no choice but to go to a public defender.

I understand: $50 here, $50 there, months gone by and kids still gone, and who'll be to blame? The public pretender, of course. Sad.

November 20, 2006

"Now he's gettin a tattoo, he's gettin ink done - he asked for a 13, but they drew a 31"

These kids are so going to show up in my caseload:

Via BoingBoing and Neatorama, it's the GR8 TaT2 Maker!

Open up your very own pretend play tattoo parlor. This easy-to-use tattoo maker kit includes an electronic tattoo pen and funky stencils...

Says one happy shopper:

"I bought this for my 6 year old son's birthday who LOVES tattoos! It's great, gives the look and "feel" of a real tattoo..."

Only $14.99. No deliveries to juvenile detention addresses.

Defining Deviancy Down Update: I stand indicted of failing to accept tattooed people unconditionally, not because I don't embrace the marketing of adult pasttimes to way-too-young kids, but because I'm an ancient white guy. Guilty as charged: didn't they see my picture up in the right-hand corner?

Maybe I blog too much

Developmental milestone for the son today: first CT scan, after a nasty tumble during second-grade PE.

At the pediatrician, before heading to the radiologist, Joe's lying on the examination table, and he chirps, "Daddy, you can blog about this!"

So I have. Get well soon, brave boy.

November 19, 2006

A night out with the PD's

Georgiana has an Animal House experience after work with some p.d.'s:

I was out with a couple of public defenders... These guys don't open doors... They talk about drugs. They talk about when they almost got arrested. They talk about their courtroom antics that, while acceptable and admirable for criminal lawyers, make a civilized civil lawyer shudder. [While I tend to view litigation as a series of surgical interventions, each carefully prepped and practiced, these guys seem to wade into the carnage with a chainsaw, yelling "bring on the f*cking bloodbath!"]...

Oh, to be a young public defender again...

November 18, 2006

WA: prosecutors vs. prosecutors trial ends

From the Olympian:

Sex bias lawsuit in jury's hands

A Mason County jury starts deliberations Monday to decide whether three female ex-Thurston County prosecutors were the victims of sexual harassment on the job or whether they magnified workplace dysfunction into sex bias allegations in order to make a stronger case for damages...

Holm testifies in bias case

Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Holm said he had to clamp down on his once-favored "queen bee" and "shining star" when the top female deputy refused to lend her staff to cover a workload crisis in District Court...

From the comments:

"The more I read, the more it sounds like it was a workplace fully of bullies. And, it was bullying from both sides of the lawsuit..."

November 16, 2006

"I knew this job was busy, but..."

Frolics and Detours has crossed the bar:

I have jumped from the frying pan into the flame... While I was nervous, the judge understood they were my first pleas and took it easy on me. Even though he didn't know my name, he didn't call me out in front of my client as a new attorney. This helps in not perpetuating the rumor around the jail that public defenders are not lawyers...

November 15, 2006

WA: civilized workplaces and others

From the Olympian, continuing coverage of the lawsuit alleging a hostile work environment in the Thurston County prosecutors office:

Attorney defends yelling at workers

Thurston County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jack Jones said Tuesday he regretted yelling at several female co-workers, but he said the need for precision in dealing with felony criminal cases "sometimes brings out high emotions..."

"Would you say that if you're soft-spoken, that you're probably not going to be a successful criminal prosecutor?" (attorney Pat) Buchanan asked. "Yes," Jones said. "You have to be able to make a point, and not be shy about it..."

Bonus link goes to The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't by Robert I. Sutton (reviewed here).

Update 11/16/06: Men: Women made sex jokes

WA: parents just don't understand

From OlyBlog, this interesting video made by teens, some of whom are involved in the local juvenile justice system:

Youth of Olympia: Accused Innocence

It's 15 minutes long, and provides a good sounding board for some local teenage angst. It was produced in collaboration with Thurston County Media's Yaya Media ("Taking media production to the streets to help young people share their voices") and Community Youth Services, an organization that does an admirable job helping out my under-18 clients.

As fits a piece of advocacy, the subtitle "Accused Innocence" begs a question or two. Those of us who represent juveniles, or who once were juveniles, will recognize some of the dialogue, and some of the rationalizations, or as noted by one of the less supportive Olyblog commenters:

To myself, and evidently others, I saw the statements in the video as a giant I didn't do it, I'm never guilty, people pick on me for no reason...

No matter. I like my kids, innocent or not, and was interested to see some of their cohorts in a nicely-produced show of their own.

WA: crime wave, now with extra mousse

From the Olympian:

Hair dispute now a legal matter

A bad hair day could turn into potential jail time for Dana Kelly, a 39-year-old mom from Rainier who refused to pay for a $37 haircut at Audrey's Elements of Style.

Kelly said her stylist botched the job, and she received poor service. But the police report alleges she was trying to get the haircut for free. Kelly is to be charged with misdemeanor theft...

November 14, 2006

An honest juvenile

The court commissioner was trying to engage one of the probation-violating kids in meaningful in-court conversation.

His Honor: "So, are the smoking marijuana and the skipping class working for you?"

PV Kid: "Well, maybe not in the long term..."

November 12, 2006

WA: port protest trial on hold

From the Olympian:

Judge delays trial of port protesters

A judge's ruling has postponed the trial of more than a dozen protesters charged with trespassing during the May 30 protest over a military shipment at the Port of Olympia...

At issue is an Oct. 3 ruling by District Court Judge Susan Dubuisson that allows protesters to use the "necessity" defense to win acquittal...

Bonus link goes to a post from one of the participants, via Oly Blog:

Victories and setbacks as the Oly 22 trial gets postponed

November 11, 2006

Veterans Day

With respect to all veterans today:

In particular I'd like to single out the American and Canadian members of IFOR and SFOR, the Implementation Force and Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Hercegovina, 1995-2005.

November 10, 2006

The private lawyer magic wand

Latest scorecard from Public Pretender:

1. private attorney charges you $30,000, get an offer to waive rights you can't understand, go to jail, have a felony, register, for something you did not do,
2. public defender is free, gets your case dismissed and keeps you in the community...

And from Gideon's Guardians:

"Man, my co-defendant on this case is getting the exact same deal!... I've got a paid attorney, so I should get a better deal!"

Meanwhile, this week I overheard this from a client to a private attorney:

"You're the lawyer, get me out of this."

ID: “It’s difficult to fathom..."

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

Three life sentences - Judge weeps while delivering sentence to triple murderer

The morning after Jim Junior Nice killed his three children, Twin Falls woke up with a scar. All parties roundly rejected a lengthy trial. Nice pleaded guilty in September and promised never to appeal his case. Nice would be sentenced, handed over to the Idaho Department of Correction and forgotten.

But at his sentencing Thursday afternoon, 5th District Judge John Butler wept and it was clear Nice’s actions still haunt Twin Falls...

November 08, 2006

Viewer discretion advised

This is just about the scariest TV-related thing I've seen since Nancy Grace was on Jeopardy: a green-lighted series "following the lives, relationships, cases and careers of a team of public defenders" from someone who brought us "Law and Order".

"Why you should hire me..."

"When you hire me, I am on the case. When you hire me you get individual attention. When you hire me, I return your calls and address your concerns. When you hire me I represent you as a human being, not a case file or docket number. You won't get that kind of treatment from many lawyers, and certainly not a public defender."

Update: the private attorney who posted these words has commented below and revised his original sales pitch here.

All I'm going to say about the election

"Washington State is to the left of Idaho..."

"...but then, who isn't?"

- Almost Live

November 07, 2006

ID: Ninth Circuit to Idaho County - release or retry death row inmate

Via Sean Serrine at Objective Justice, this news from the home state:

Retrial or release ordered for Idaho death row inmate - Federal court says his attorney was ineffective

Court rules in case of Conroe man on Idaho death row

A Texas man sentenced to death for the 1983 slayings of a young Texas couple camped in the Idaho wilderness must be released or retried, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today. Mark Henry Lankford has been on Idaho's death row for more than two decades... The appeals court ruled that Lankford received ineffective assistance from his attorney, and that the state must "retry Mark Lankford within a reasonable time or release him..."

Lankford and his brother, Bryan Lankford, were arrested, but each blamed the other for the crime. Prosecutors offered Bryan Lankford life in prison in exchange for his testimony against his brother...

Mark Lankford's attorney, Gregory FitzMaurice, told the jury they could consider Bryan Lankford's testimony even though it was uncorroborated, the appellate court found. Though federal law allows uncorroborated testimony, Idaho law forbids it, the 9th Circuit found, so FitzMaurice's instruction prejudiced the jury against Mark Lankford and effectively denied him his right to effective counsel...

"There was ample evidence that either one or both of the Lankfords killed the Bravences, but there was no evidence that Mark attacked and killed the Bravences other than Bryan's testimony," the 9th Circuit noted in its ruling...

FitzMaurice was a part-time public defender whose only felony case experience before the Lankford trial involved cattle rustling... "FitzMaurice simply overlooked important differences between Idaho law and federal law," the court wrote. "FitzMaurice's error is perhaps understandable, given his limited experience and resources, but it is constitutionally inexcusable..."

Today's Ninth Circuit opinion in Lankford v. Arave is here (PDF file).

November 05, 2006

WA: Olympia port protest pre-trial

From Olyblog:

Port Protesters Pre-Trial

The last pre-trial extravaganza for those arrested during the Port War Protests is scheduled for Monday, November 6th and the trial is scheduled to begin on the 13th...

If you would like to come to support these 17 cases, come Monday, 11/6/06 at 9am to District Court. Wear red to show your solidarity. Otherwise, be well-behaved, quiet and civil to not complicate the cases. Directions to the court are on the website... and the names of our protesters will be printed on the dockets...

Come witness the process. Some of our protesters are represented by attorneys, some are represented by Public Defenders...

Again with the excluding of public defenders from the category of "attorneys..."

November 04, 2006

WA: prosecutor in-house hostility

One of the many benefits of Googling is that if a person were contemplating applying for work with, say, the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney, that person could read this - from the Olympian:

Hotbed of hostile language alleged

Before she quit the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Vonda Sargent's ex-boss threatened to send her "back to District Court with the rest of the girls," she testified Friday. But attorneys for Thurston County said Sargent also had some choice words, calling a county judge a "short-legged hyena," and identifying a fellow prosecutor as an "equal-opportunity d--k..."

"There was no future there for me," Sargent, 42, of Tacoma, said in explaining why she left her post as a deputy prosecuting attorney in October 2001 to become a civil litigator with State Farm Insurance Co. in Seattle. "I took the job to get me out of that environment..."

To go to work for an insurance company... shiver on that for a minute.

November 02, 2006

ID: manslaughter mistrial in Idaho Falls

What does it take to keep some jurors awake?

From KIFI:

Mistrial Declared in Mother's Trial

An Idaho Falls mother charged with the death of her own son has a new trial. Thursday after more graphic evidence and powerful testimony, Judge Anderson declare(d) a mistrial. The defense filed the motion after continuing concerns that some of the jurors were not paying attention.

From KPVI:

Savannah Berrey Mistrial

After three days of testimony, the trial ended before all witnesses took the stand and a verdict was reached. The judge declared a mistrial in the involuntary manslaughter case against Savannah Berrey. Berrey's public defender said his client was not getting a fair trial because of numerous jury concerns...

The three reasons explained by Judge Gregory Anderson were these: ...a female juror was seen nodding off Wednesday afternoon; she was later warned to stay alert. Today, it was brought to the court's attention about a relationship between a juror and Public Defender Jordan Crane's secretary. Also today, another female juror was seen asleep or being inattentive...

WA: Indefensible world tour coming to Seattle

David Feige is coming to speak in the Pacific Northwest Metropolis on November 16 about eyewitness identification issues. Sources say that there will be "some other excellent speakers, too":

Hot Topics in Criminal Law: Witnesses

* Eyewitness Identification Issues: A moderated debate regarding new developments in eyewitness identification and double blind sequential line-ups.
* Dealing with Children as Witnesses
* New Developments in the Right to Confront Witnesses: Davis v. Washington and its ramifications
* Moderated panel discussion regarding new developments and challenges in dealing with witnesses in the criminal context

November 16, 2006 - 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Washington State Bar Association
2101 4th Ave., Suite 400 in Seattle
$40 for 4.5 General CLE Credits
Registration Deadline: November 13, 2006

November 01, 2006

WA: prosecutor's toxic workplace

From the Olympian:

Plaintiffs set scene of sex-bias allegations

Three female ex-­employees of the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office were "rising stars" knocked off the fast track after suing the county, their lawyer said Tuesday. "They hurt from the inside," Tacoma attorney J. Richard Creatura said during the first day of their sexual harassment trial...

Former Thurston County deputy prosecuting attorneys Audrey Broyles, Vonda Sargent and Susan Sackett-DanPullo were retaliated against for making claims of alleged sexual bias and for complaining of a hostile workplace where they were regularly humiliated with off-color jokes and lewd language, Creatura said.

But Seattle attorney Mike Patterson, representing Thurston County, said he will show the jury... that Broyles and the others were as loose-tongued as their bosses, were top players in office "turf wars" and generated the sexual harassment claim later, only on the advice of their lawyers...

Creatura and Patterson spoke during opening arguments Tuesday in the five-year-old case that targets the administration of Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Holm. Holm... is not named as a defendant but is accused of sex bias in doling out pay raises, plum assignments and responsibilities and of using inappropriate sexual language...

In his two-hour opening statement Tuesday, Creatura... gave an elaborate history of the prosecutor's office and attempted to show a work culture spinning out of control.

The three women filed suit only after no one took them seriously when they complained about intimidation and threats from Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jack Jones, Creatura said. Among other complaints, the women said they were afraid of Jones - then a large man who allegedly screamed at staff, threw files on the floor and carried a gun that he cleaned at his desk in front of them.

The women met with Holm in November 2000 to ask him to do something about Jones, who they said was a bully. "They were waving a huge red flag to Holm, but nothing was done," Creatura said. "There was no investigation, nothing..."

Creatura asserted that Holm and his male supervisors made sexual comments and told off-color jokes that caused the women to feel humiliated. That included suggesting a woman employee should "give me a hand in the men's room" or that "I would like to take you home if I didn't have a wife." Other comments were about women's breasts or other parts of their appearances, with one woman called a "fiery redhead," or "a long drink of water."

"It was a male-dominated culture that didn't support women," Creatura said...

Any resemblance between this Thurston County prosecutor story and that other story is surely coincidental.

Update: day two - Bias trial tests woman's character

ID: some justice for abused cats

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

Judge’s verdict: For cat resort owner, the horror of the crime deserves jail, not rehab

The woman responsible for what has been called the worst animal abuse case in Idaho history will spend the next six months in jail.

Janet Rasmussen was living in fecal squalor at her cat boardinghouse along with 323 cats, including some dead, when an army of sheriff’s deputies and veterinarians entered her business April 20 with a warrant. Rasmussen, the former owner of Rocky Mountain Cat Resort... pleaded guilty in August to 19 counts of cruelty and 51 counts of neglect, each count a misdemeanor carrying a maximum six-month sentence and $1,000 fine.

Under questioning from her lawyer, Mick Hodges, she pleaded for help, not jail. But when Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Wright cross-examined her, Rasmussen returned punches with punches.

Why had she never attended to several dead cats lying about in her home? Wright asked against Hodges’ objection. Rasmussen retorted with a host of excuses ranging from not having enough time to not knowing they were dead. She intimated how the winter chill and a broken light bulb kept her from cleaning up drying feces from the garage floor. She said heavy furniture blocked her from cleaning it in other parts of the home.

“I got to take care of the living today. I’ll get there when I can,” was ultimately her most succinct explanation...

The site has a link to in-court video of Rasmussen's testimony during the sentencing hearing.

All is well...

...all is well.
Thanks much for the comments and the e-mails.