May 31, 2007

Preconceived notions

Former prosecutor's intern carries prejudices into the jury pool, former prosecutor's intern doesn't make it onto the jury. Any questions?

This snotty comment -

defense attorney HAD to be a public defender, he wasn't all that smart or picky about the jurors.. nor was he well put-together

- is almost offset by this choice of avatar: Bonus link goes to the image source: SLC Punk.

ID: in the heat of battle

In a post-conviction hearing, subpoenaed Kootenai County chief public defender John Adams tells it the way it was. From the Spokesman-Review:

Convicted killer, his public defender testify - Man found guilty in ax killing wants new trial

Gerald Barcella... convicted ax-murderer took the stand Wednesday... detailing the reasons he believes he is entitled to a new trial. Barcella claimed, among other things, that his attorneys didn't do a good enough job defending him in his 1997 trial.

Kootenai County Chief Public Defender John Adams was... called as a witness by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marty Raap. Raap said Adams was subpoenaed to respond to Barcella's claims that Adams didn't consider his wishes in defending the case, including arguing Barcella had diminished capacity.

Adams testified that his memory of the case – one of hundreds he's handled in the past 25 years – was hazy. He said he couldn't recall his discussions with Barcella in the months leading up to the trial. He couldn't recall Barcella asking to take the stand in his own defense.

When Raap asked Adams if he felt he made any errors in the case, Adams said he did – one being that he didn't win an acquittal. "I'm sure I made many, many errors," Adams said. "We all do in the heat of battle. I'm sure I did mess things up for Gerry's defense."

Adams said the state provides few resources for public defenders and noted that he was handling about 150 cases while representing Barcella in the death penalty case...

May 29, 2007

ID: Brink's done

From the Twin Falls Times-News, a one-time client:

Brink gets life in prison - Convicted murderer has no chance for parole for 30 years

A judge sentenced a convicted shotgun slayer this morning to life in prison without chance of parole for 30 years. The judge's words of condemnation in his sentence mirrored the feeling of the girl (Donald) Brink claims as his daughter. Yet Tiffany Muff sat in Tuesday’s sentencing with the family of the victim Brent "Spook" Lillevold -- the man she claims was actually her father.

"The judge said exactly what I was thinking," said Muff. She said Brink "expressed his apology for having to be put through this. His apology to us was only for show..."

ID: whatever it takes

From Poky, by way of the Times-News:

Idaho mother of five kicks meth habit to impress kids

It took three tries and a hard-won commitment to sobriety, but Meikel Sharp is finally getting her high school diploma. Ultimately, Sharp said, her desire to impress her five kids was stronger than her methamphetamine addiction.

The 31-year-old Pocatello woman is one of about 250 southeastern Idaho residents graduating with graduation equivalency diplomas from Idaho State University's Adult Basic Education Program on June 1. When she walks down the aisle... all five of her kids will be there, watching...

May 27, 2007

Slanted and enchanted

The bad news is, I'm on-call this long weekend, and up past 1:00 a.m. tonight answering phone calls from DUI arrestees. The good news is, right now KCTS is showing San Francisco public defender / unreal renaissance man Jeff Adachi's movie, The Slanted Screen, and it's really good.

May 23, 2007

ID: to the unknown public defender

From the Idaho Press-Tribune:

Drive-by gunman sent to prison

A man who pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated battery was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison and must serve at least six years of that sentence behind bars. Eighteen-year-old Luis M. Ruiz fired three rounds from a sawed-off shotgun out a car window last August, hitting two teenagers and sending them to the hospital...

Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Gearld Wolff called Ruiz a “gang-banger,” submitting a photo of Ruiz and others to 3rd District Judge Renae Hoff... Wolff asked for Ruiz’ incarceration... A Canyon County public defender said Ruiz was sorry for his actions and, considering that Ruiz had already spent 257 days in jail, recommended a retained jurisdiction sentence...

Just another day for Nameless Public Defender.

WA: YouTube notoriety for Tenino taser cop

I love south Thurston County - it reminds me of home! From The Olympian:

Tenino officer investigated for stun gun video on YouTube

A Tenino officer depicted zapping a man between the legs with a stun gun in what appears to be consensual horseplay on a YouTube video is under investigation by the department...

May 20, 2007

In re Gault at 40

From NPR:

Gault Case Changed Juvenile Law

In 1967 a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision gave juveniles accused of crimes the same due process rights as adults. The case involved Jerry Gault, who at 14 was given a seven-year sentence for a prank phone call. Gault's story didn't end there...

Listen here (Link via CrimProf Blog).

Bonus links
go to The Gault at 40 Campaign -

The goal of the Campaign is to raise awareness and draw attention to the problems children face in the juvenile indigent defense system and to ensure that all children will be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness...

- and for the youths, Know Your Rights (named after the Clash song I think), answering common questions such as:

* What do I do if I can’t afford a lawyer?
* Will that lawyer be as good as a lawyer who charges me money?
* But if I talk to my lawyer and tell her what happened, will the courts find out?
* But I’d rather just go home quickly. Won’t having a lawyer make it harder?
* Won’t police, judges, prosecutors and probation officers be nicer to me and think I’m a better person if I just cooperate with them without the hassle of a lawyer?

FL: p.d. in trouble

From the Pensacola News Journal:

Assistant public defender busted a second time

An Escambia County assistant public defender has been arrested a second time in less than a month on drug charges. Ronald Davis, 56, was arrested Sunday at 12:44 a.m. at a Whataburger... He faces charges of driving under the influence, possession of opium or a derivative, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and possession of drug paraphernalia said... On April 27, Davis was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, both felonies...

Read the comments for some perspective on this colleague's troubles.

Update (via PD Stuff): Assistant public defender fired

ID: 3 dead in Moscow shooting

From KXLY:

Three dead, two wounded in Moscow ambush

Timeline of the ambush in Moscow

Devoted church groundskeeper killed in Moscow ambush

Updates are available from Moscow bloggers Joe Huffman ("Shooting in Moscow Idaho," "Pictures from Moscow Idaho Shootings") and Submariner Dale ("Five shot, three dead in 'ambush'," "In Memory of First Presbyterian Church sexton Paul Bauer," "In Memory of Les Newbill: Husband, father, former Army Officer").

From the BBC:

Three killed in Idaho shootings - Three people have been killed and two wounded in a sniper attack in the town of Moscow, Idaho

From the New York Times:

Gunman Kills Officer in Idaho Courthouse

From the Seattle Times:

Church prays for shooting victims — including gunman

(besides going to the courthouse for legal aid clinic in third year, in my first year of law school I lived in an apartment on Van Buren right across from the church, as did Heather K. Poor Moscow)

Parents in the pen

One advantage of living with a seven-year-old: I know that tonight Nickelodeon is showing "Kids of Cons," a news program on children with parents in prison, including one kid from Tacoma.

The promo's up now, but after tonight the whole 22 minute feature should be available for streaming at the Nick News site.

(and now you also know whatever happened to Linda Ellerbee, now host of Nick News, and once co-host of the coolest TV news show ever, NBC News Overnight)

WA: Rock rock rock rock Rochester High School

From the Olympian:

Teenagers accused in Rochester

Seven teenagers ages 15 to 18 face charges of first-degree arson and burglary after a fire this week at Rochester High School. Juvenile prosecutors accuse the students of plotting to burn down the school. Some of them told Thurston County sheriff’s deputies that they were upset about their friend’s suspension, Chief Criminal Deputy Jim Chamberlain said Thursday. “The reason for the attack was to take it out on the school,” he said...

"They stacked up wood and propane tanks against the side of the wood shop and doused it in oil," (Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Wayne) Graham said. The oil failed to ignite, he said, "so they left and came back one hour later with gasoline and completed the mission..."

Bonus links go to "Rock 'n' Roll High School" by The Ramones and "School's Out" by Alice Cooper.

May 19, 2007

Gee, Officer Krupke

Thanks, KCTS, I needed that.

May 18, 2007

ID: "plot to kill took shape in text messages"

Back in my home town (which, parenthetically, sounds more and more like it's just going to hell), detectives say that two women accused of killing a man up in the Boise foothills planned their murder plot via text-messaging.

It's only a matter of hours before Sancho finds the women's MySpace pages.

ID: mi gente

From the Onion: Idaho Legislature Declares English Only Language They Know

GA: well, my brother-in-law for one...

From the Fayette Daily News:

Who will defend the poor?

Nearly two years after its inception, the state's Public Defenders office is taking a financial hit. With tight budget allowances, Georgia's Public Defenders agency slashed 41 full time jobs - 12 percent of its workforce - earlier this month. The layoffs, effective May 31, will increase the caseloads of the agency's remaining public defenders, officials say.

Fayette County's public defense team didn't feel the cuts directly from state budget restraints, but they are feeling the affects of increased workloads. Of more than 800 cases on the 2006 trial calendar in Fayette County Superior Court, nearly 80 percent were handled by public defenders...

(This goes out to my brother-in-law, private lawyer and defender of the downtrodden there in the Griffin circuit.)

May 17, 2007

WA: no more bribes for bargains

From the Tri-Cities Herald:

Prosecutors: New WA law prevents troubling out-of-court deals

Local prosecutors are praising a new law that bans out-of-court deals for criminal defendants like ones that got a city prosecutor and contract defense attorney in trouble last year. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the legislation that bars payments by criminal defendants to charitable causes in hopes of having charges reduced or their cases dismissed. The law takes effect July 22. "This is a very good thing," Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe said...

See also Governor puts stop to dollars for deals

The Herald's reports about Kennewick's missing donations from defendants -- which were intended for the city's Home Base youth program -- resulted in federal criminal charges being filed against former city attorney Tyler Morris and former contract public defender Jeffrey Finney...

"The ever present 'How can you represent a guilty person?' question"

From Running Down a Dream:

Straight Into the Night Our Hearts Were Flung

The client asked the attorney what he thought the client's prospects were, and the attorney decided not to provide a percentage approximation, but instead answered the question this way: "I can tell you this. I'll do the same thing for you that I would hope you would do for me if I were sitting in your chair and you were sitting in mine..."

May 16, 2007

WA: "the world is a lesser place without him"

From the P-I:

Robert Nickels, 1925-2007: Mayor's father defended juveniles in court

From the Seattle Times:

Mayor's father, 81, was advocate for children

While he is now best known as father of Mayor Greg Nickels, Bob Nickels established himself decades ago as a children's advocate and elder statesman in Seattle's legal community. Robert Charles Nickels, whom all knew as Bob, started the region's first public-defenders' group for low-income children in 1976. He named it SCRAP, both for the Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons, and to dash society's belief that those kids were scrap...

May 14, 2007

Sure, but it's JUDGE Wright to you!

Passing along today's e-mail:

Dear Mr. Wright,

Greetings. My name is Dwight Dyer, and I am an organizing fellow at Working Assets. I would like to invite you to join our campaign to protect our Constitutional principles and restore Habeas Corpus. As you may know, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 stripped habeas corpus rights for certain detainees under U.S. custody.

This legislation is injurious to our system of justice, and we believe the legal community should be at the forefront of the effort to protect freedom, fairness, and due process of law. For these reasons, we invite you to become signatories of our Lawyers for Habeas petition, which you can find at:

Also, we want to strongly encourage you to reach out to your colleagues in the broader legal community and urge them to become signatories. To this effect, we are asking progressive bloggers in the legal community to simultaneously post about this issue, on the morning of Wednesday, May 16th, when the House will consider a motion to restore habeas.

Join us in demanding Congress ensure that our laws reflect who we are as a society, a people committed to accountability and basic fairness. Also, we encourage you to join us in one of the upcoming district meetings with key Senators or their staff to deliver the message in person.


Dwight D. Dyer, PhD | Organizing Fellow | Working Assets

I think that the honorable Skelly would approve.

WY: Teton drug court

From the Jackson Hole News & Guide:

Drug court gives people a second chance at life

Will Wise shook hands with a newcomer to the drug court program Monday afternoon and told him not to give up. Wise, 40, speaks from experience... (O)n Monday, after 14 months in the program, Wise was one of three Teton County DUI Drug Court graduates honored at a ceremony...

“Even though it was not easy, I have a life that’s a lot more enjoyable than the one I used to have,” Wise said... "It’s nice to see success," said Greg Blenkinsop, Teton County public defender. "Before, all I saw was failure. I didn’t see people coming back buying houses. It was all negative."

May 12, 2007

Stay classy, U of I College of Law

Today was commencement at my old law school. It makes my old bones ache just to think of it: it's been twenty years since I was in that same gown with those same purple stripes. I don't remember much about that swirl of a day, which includes not remembering meeting my wife for the first time, there as the little sister of one of my graduating classmates.

However, I do remember the name of our graduation speaker, for whom my class fought with Bad - News - Bears - like tenacity: Judge Wapner. That was the year that U of I had two commencement addresses: one added-on for the status-anxious school administrators and the Boise BigLaw suits, and one for the rest of us of "The People's Court." Congratulations, Idaho law grads.

May 11, 2007

Still life in the old bear yet

In honor of Mark Corwin Bruce -

I think back to when I was 13 and visited a courtroom and was fascinated by the process, not the drama. I think back on my career and find myself strangely satisfied about the people whose lives I’ve helped—people whose cases might have turned out differently had they another lawyer who cared less...

- this bit of Roethke:

Is that dance slowing in the mind of man
That made him think the universe could hum?
The great wheel turns its axle when it can;
I need a place to sing, and dancing-room,
And I have made a promise to my ears
I'll sing and whistle romping with the bears.

The joys of getting fired

Well, bless your heart, Yodelling Llama!

(O)ne of the best things that can happen is getting fired. The defendant gets a less overworked... attorney. The public defender’s other clients get more attention. The public defender himself gets less overworked... And the prosecutor and judge continue to be hounded. Hooray!

Bonus links go to Naked Dancing Llama and the Llama Song.

ID: "Something that might not bring a nickel on eBay is worth a lot to Idahoans"

Well, maybe not all Idahoans. A good save for legal history, from the AP:

Documents from dumpster dive donated to ACI by 'Big Trouble' family

Haywood documents saved from trash donated to Idaho college

A century-old, leather-bound court docket from the murder trial that followed the 1905 assassination of Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg has been donated to Albertson College of Idaho by his descendants. The docket, rescued from a trash bin more than a decade ago, includes the original complaint that led to the arrest of Harry Orchard and union boss William "Big Bill" Haywood...

More from the Statesman:

Amateur historians rescue document from the Trial of the Century

"We jumped in the pickup and roared down to the courthouse," said Warren Widener, now 80. "We backed the truck up to the Dumpster and pitched things in without knowing what they were."

What they were was a gold mine, including a leather-bound court docket with clear, careful script, handwritten in the first days of 1906 when Caldwell was reeling from the assassination of ex-Gov. Frank Steunenberg. The murder and the 1907 trial of its alleged conspirators became a national sensation, drawing celebrity lawyer Clarence Darrow to Boise... The docket pulled from the garbage held the original complaint leading to Harry Orchard's arrest for the governor's murder...

Bonus link goes to the lucky recipient, my alma mater, the liberal arts school formerly know as The College of Idaho. Gratuitous bonus link goes to my old dorm and this quote:

For decades hall residents--starting in 1961, both men and women--have been known as "Voorheesians," a title that evokes both the pride of the original donors and the abiding romance of "Star Trek." Voorheesians obey the law of gravity, but grudgingly.

May 10, 2007

FL: Bartow's hidden wonders

From the "Order in the Courts" blog of The Ledger:

Things you wouldn't expect to find in the courthouse

Since I've been privileged, at various times, to tour the inner sanctums of the Polk County courthouse, I thought I'd let you in on a couple of things that I was surprised to find there.

1.) A virtual department store of clothing, for both men and women, including shoes, in all sizes, in the Public Defender's Office. You know how when defendants show up in court, even if they've been in jail for a year wearing an orange jumpsuit, they're generally decked out like a stockbroker who's about to go meet a new client? This is why: The Public Defender's Office, or their appointed attorney, spiffs them up so they look respectable.

2.) A box of confiscated Whizzinators...

May 09, 2007

IA: "This is our government, in our name, doing this, which to me is unacceptable"

From KCCI:

Gitmo Federal Attorney Speaks Out - Des Moines Woman Says Defending Prisoners Frustrating

"I was appointed to represent these gentlemen. They didn't even know they had a lawyer for a year because I wasn't allowed to write or visit them," said federal public defender Angela Campbell.

May 07, 2007

FL: talking for a living

Tristia has a new job that suits her:

Well, it finally happened. I finally got the job that everyone has said I'm suited for since I was an argumentative, self-righteous 6th grader. I've become a public defender...

Congratulations and welcome.

P.S.: Brother Feger (not Feige) got a p.d. job today, too.

May 06, 2007

"When kids get life"

An unsolicited unpaid advertisement: (Clicking on the picture will link to the show's PBS Frontline website. Coincidentally, on Monday I'm starting a trial where my 15-year-old client faces "juvy life": JRA incarceration until his 21st birthday.)

May 05, 2007

Weekend adolescent cat blogging

Because it's been a while - La Plum:

Letters and papers from prison

From soa - trial:

Imagine you are poor or lower middle class... you can't afford a lawyer so you have to settle for a public defender who, in many cases, does the bare minimum to fulfill his/her obligations...

I'm ordinarily quite impatient with this sort of slur against my p.d. brethren and sistren, but with respect to this prisoner of conscience I'll let it go, not the least because she quoted something that's stuck with me from my college boy Liberation Theology phase:

I so want to put up on my wall by my bunk Gustavo Guttierez's words "The least human being has ABSOLUTE value and hence an ABSOLUTE right to be loved, whatever the price may be." I know I would be yelled at to take it down.

(This one goes out to a fiery young Catholic I once hired, who also crossed the line in her time, at the School of the Americas ( now WHINSEC) and elsewhere. She and I have both moved on from Idaho, but I think of her whenever she pops up on this blog's statcounter.)

Bonus links go to "A Theology of Liberation" by Gustavo GutiƩrrez and "Letters and Papers from Prison" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

May 03, 2007

IL: pink slip

From Second Guessing in the Second City:

Today is day 4 of being unemployed. Thanks to the Cook County Budget cuts, I am no longer a public defender...

ID: Loebs won't prosecute Good Samaritan canoeists

Good news of common sense prevailing, from the Times-News:

Canoeists won't get ticket

Two canoeists who were given $85 tickets for not carrying life jackets as they recovered a suicide victim's body Sunday from the Snake River have had their citations dismissed. The Twin Falls County prosecutor declined to file cases Wednesday against Dennis Bohrn and Michael Futrell, both of whom were cited for failing to carry a personal flotation device...

Following the prosecutor's decision, Magistrate Roger Harris dismissed the two cases without prejudice. "(Brown) has dragged a lot of people without life vests out of the river," said Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs. "His citation was a legal citation. With regard to when he gave it, these people were trying to help out, and, given what they were trying to do and given the situation they were in, I think they get the picture and that justice is served by giving them a warning in this case."

Grant and Roger were my friends in Twin, and are uncommonly decent men.

Meanwhile, the City of Twin Falls would like to say, "hey, don't blame us!":

One of the finest attributes of Southern Idaho is the caring nature of the people who live here. Generally speaking, they are friendly, outgoing and ready to assist a neighbor in need. Please do not take the actions of the deputy in question as a reflection of the way the rest of the community may think or act. We would like to make a distinction between the agencies that provide services to our community. The deputy that issued the citation to the canoeists does not work for the City but rather the County of Twin Falls."

Update: Editorial - County citations a harsh reward for heroic actions

WA: liberalism without the police

From Olympia Independent Media Center:

Griswalds had been Taken

To our Local Government and its Police Force,

We have occupied Griswold's on 4th Avenue. We do not believe in private property and thus feel no remorse about reclaiming an unused, burnt out, abandoned buidling. We will not leave until the following demands are met..:




If these simple demands are not met, a group of us will remain locked down in the upstairs room of the building. You will NOT be able to remove us...

Link via OlyBlog.

May 02, 2007

School days

Yesterday I got to spend some good hours interviewing young male clients in the Chelan unit at Maple Lane School. By the time I was let out, it was free time, and with no rain the residents were outside playing basketball and softball, like any prep school. Take away the fences and the concertina wire and it would've been downright bucolic.

ID: a "not guilty" and a $500 check

From the Spokesman Review:

Cleared man got $500 from 'Jury' - 8-year-old girl accused man of kidnapping attempt

Tim Schuetz said he was shocked when the Kootenai County Public Defender's Office told him it had a $500 check for him and a letter signed "The Jury." The check was dated April 20, just days after a Kootenai County jury acquitted Schuetz of second-degree kidnapping charges...

"We the jury feel very badly that you have had to endure more jail time when you were innocent and tried so hard to prove it," the letter said. "We hope you will continue to do what is right and that this money will be used to build a new and better life. We wish you all the best..."

Via Huckleberries Online.

May 01, 2007

ID: law enforcement on the spot

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

Canoeists who pulled suicide victim to shore ticketed - Man says deputy could have used some discretion in issuing citations for having no life jackets

Dennis Bohrn paddled hard across the Snake River to get a suicide victim's body to land. When he and three others paddling canoes Sunday morning dragged the woman's body, they were stunned and crying - had she jumped? Had she been pushed? Had she slipped? And they were even more stunned when at the shore a deputy cited them twice for not carrying life vests in either canoe...

Update: Professor Childress at Legal Profession Blog takes this and runs with it - Why Prosecutorial Discretion Still Matters in a Democracy.

(He also draws a parallel between Sheriff Wayne Tousley (left) and the Wallace Shawn character in The Princess Bride (right))