July 31, 2008

ID: Alisha Murphy murder verdict questioned

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

Murphy's attempt to overturn murder conviction moves on - Scientist says consulting several experts could have changed outcome of trial

Alisha Ann Murphy always said she didn't kill her husband... and has tried to overturn her own conviction for years... A judge in Twin Falls on Wednesday decided her second and latest attempt was premature... pending appeal with the Idaho Supreme Court. But Murphy's plight hasn't lost heat...

"Buzz 3 times when you’ve reached a verdict"

From Irrationalblog:

What I learned on a jury

# Public defenders are scary, cold-hearted women.

# The district attorney looks like this kid Ed that I know...

July 30, 2008

"Don't know what kind of jury these lawyers wanted, but it wouldn't be a cinematic one"

In "this real-life adaptation of Twelve Angry Men," Muffin MacGuffin lists a factor that might keep a person from getting cast as one of the jurors:

both my parents are public defenders...

July 27, 2008

WA: justice 64 years delayed

Overdue exoneration, and a vignette of a younger Leon Jaworski as an unethical prosecutor, from KING 5 News:

Army apologizes to WWII Fort Lawton soldiers

Sixty-four years after black soldiers were wrongly court-martialed at Seattle's Fort Lawton, the U.S. Army apologized Saturday. Honor was restored for 43 African American soldiers who were unjustly accused and 28 who were unjustly convicted in the largest U.S. Army court martial of World War II...

See also the Seattle Times, Vet wrongly court-martialed dies within hours of Army apology - Samuel Snow, 83, one of "The Fort Lawton 28" who received a belated U.S. Army apology on Saturday for a now-discredited court-martial, died early today

"A very pleasant picture of a man who committed a very serious crime"

From Bryon Houlgrave's photojournalism blog:

Jailhouse portraits

Do you remember your best school picture pose? Today I shot the pretrial hearing of a man charged with sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl...

Click the link, then scroll down for the photo.

MT: "a uniformity of quality from Ekalaka to Eureka"

From the Great Falls Tribune:

State's public defender overhaul earns Kudos

Two years after Montana overhauled its system for defending the poor in court — partly in response to an ACLU lawsuit — state officials and ACLU leaders say they've seen a major improvement. "I think Montana is actually viewed as a model nationwide for how reforms can be effected," said Robin Dahlberg, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU...

July 22, 2008

Toyota pious

On display today in the Family and Juvenile Court parking lot: a bumper sticker proclaiming "I DON'T SHOP AT WALMART" on the back of a shiny Prius (it's a popular accessory for this town's Volvo's and BMW's too).

That's bound to enlighten the families of my clients, who own the primer-gray beaters in the rest of the parking lot, and who don't know how they're going to pay the bill for detention and groceries and gas this month.

Ex-YU: he's finished

Even a public defender can celebrate the arrest of a war criminal; I'm foregoing the usual "alleged," having visited some of the scenes of his crimes. See you in The Hague, pendejo. Finding Karadžić and East Ethnia are good English-language blog sources for Karadžić-iana.

July 21, 2008

Archaeologists of human souls

From the Lehigh Valley Morning Call:

New specialists delve deep to keep convicts off death row - Mitigating circumstances: Experts in showing why killers should live are now crucial in capital cases

Mitigation experts, who can be social workers, educators, psychologists or anthropologists, are becoming crucial as state appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court continue to demand more of lawyers mounting a defense in capital murder cases...

The specialists are archaeologists of sorts who dig and sift through decades of a defendant's life to unearth clues to his personality and behavior. Was he sexually or physically abused as a child? Did his mother have a complicated pregnancy? Did he suffer brain damage? Was his father an alcoholic?

The answers might convince a jury that a defendant's life should be saved...

Here is the mitigation specialist I hired back then on my only DP case. Couldn't have done it without her.

(Via StandDown Texas)

July 20, 2008

Dogs at work

Okay, so in all the excitement of the McChord air show, I went and took dog pictures, of this fine schutzhund in particular. This military working dog reminded me of some fine working pups I once met who are a little closer to my workplace.

They're the true Courthouse Dogs, and now they have their own Northwest - based website, dedicated to "support(ing) the use of well - trained assistance dogs that provide emotional support to all involved in the criminal justice system." They're good good good doggies.

The fabulous thunderbirds

Joe and I went to the local airbase today to take in the USAF Thunderbirds and a few other planes.

July 18, 2008

Law student angst

From Ask Metafilter:

How can I use my law degree and still like my life?

I came to law school because I wanted to be a public interest lawyer - I like helping people. I have one year left before I graduate... I have spent the last two years learning about indigent defense and working at the public defender's office. Even though I think the work public defenders do is very important, I think it makes me miserable.

I admire public interest lawyers who fight for good, but the truth is that I just hate fighting! That is hard to admit, and it took me a long time to own up to it, but it's just true. Fighting just depresses me...

Check out the comments and maybe add your own.

July 17, 2008

WA: Cheech & Chong now constitutionally protected in Washington State

From the Olympian:

Court: Can't arrest all in car based on drug smell

The scent of marijuana wafting from a car isn't enough reason for police to arrest everyone inside, but officers can still follow their noses to search a vehicle, Washington's Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The unanimous decision overturns a nearly 30-year-old legal precedent in Washington and again recognizes the state constitution's robust privacy protections, which in some cases are stronger than federal privacy rights.

Officers still may search a car based solely on the smell of drugs, the court said, and justices indicated that a drug smell might be stronger evidence supporting arrest if there were only one person in a vehicle. But when it comes to multiple people in a car, the scent of pot alone isn't a cloud of probable cause that subjects everyone in the car to arrest, because police must have stronger evidence that an individual may have broken the law...

For a limited time, the opinion in State v. Grande is here.

Update 7/19/08: like, the Wall Street Journal ripped me off, maaaan! (via Simple Justice)

July 16, 2008

Lakefair... you know, for kids!

The boy and I just got back from Lakefair, Capitol Lake's yearly salute to algae and milfoil. The first day of each Lakefair is dedicated to the children of Thurston County, and to the men and women of the county juvenile probation department. For the P.O's, it's a great time to catch up with some of my clients, either right there on the midway or (sometimes after a short chase) afterward in detention. I saw a few of my own kid clients tonight, including an old one who's now employed in the carnival industry.

July 15, 2008

ID: fight the DP, kayak, hike, and ski

PD veterans and capital punishment combatants! Looking to keep fighting the good fight, but in a more outdoorsy setting? The Idaho State Appellate Public Defender is hiring:

The successful applicant will be representing indigent defendants in state capital post-conviction and appellate proceedings. This position will have a supervisory responsibility over a staff attorney, mitigation specialist and investigator...

Deadline is August 31.

(Also needed: someone to fix their website. Where is the pride of the old Capital Litigation page from the Rolf Kehne era? Or the over-the-top swagger of the old staff roster? At least the current SAPD offering is not quite this minimal. Links via the Wayback Machine.)

July 10, 2008

"Maybe we're all masochists"

Many of us have felt like this, from Eat, Drink & Be Married:

Right now, I'm dealing with an extremely difficult client... But the issue isn't just this one client. It's much more about what this client represents. There's a culture of abuse that most public defenders come to accept. Maybe we're all masochists. Anyway, we get used to having judges, prosecutors, witnesses, and our clients treat us poorly. I don't mean to generalize so broadly, but we make martyrs of ourselves on a fairly regular basis in the name of protecting our clients...

(P)eople who go to law school to change the world are misguided.

Prone to masochism and martyrdom? Check. Went to law school to change the world? Check. Misguided? Check. But hey, I'm still here in the job. Hang in here, colleague. And read some blogs by other p.d.'s, they'll help fight this feeling.

July 09, 2008

WA & ID: p.d. motörhead

Why not take a spin with this fast-moving member of the Spokane County P.D.'s Office? From Paralegal Gateway's Weblog:

Paralegal by Day - Motor Head by Night

By day, he's a paralegal with the Spokane County Public Defender's office. By night, his idea of fun is going fast and turning left. Yep, motor head. "It's what I do," said Post Falls driver Allen Tuckness...

Perhaps he would be willing to implement my sure-fire scheme to cut down the caseload - the Public Defender Car Repair Clinic. Think how many traffic stops (pretext or otherwise) and "consent" searches we could spare our clients if we could get to all those cracked windshields, broken tail lights, and wire-fastened license plates before the cops did.

July 08, 2008

And you wouldn't want to live there

More photographic proof of our public defender pariah status - we're even scaring off drop-in visitors!

Bonus link goes to Simple Justice and Scott Greenfield's (improvement on my) post on a similar theme, This Year's Loser Job.

July 07, 2008

DC: murderer of pd intern guilty

From WLJA:

D.C. Man Convicted of Killing Public Defender Intern

The U.S. Attorney's Office says a Washington man has been convicted of killing an intern with the Public Defender Service last year... Twenty-one-year-old Donnell Harris was found guilty Monday of second-degree murder while armed in connection with the death of Michael Richardson...

July 06, 2008

It's not just a job, it's an adventure

Once, my kind were as numerous as the mighty bison and the migratory hippie, and we roamed the courtrooms of this land armed with our "liberalism" and our concern for the "underprivileged." Now the younglings are explaining to me this new path that we trod. From the law student at I Immediately Regret This Decision:

As of 8:30 AM on Monday I will be officially employed. I'm working for a local public defender but I don't know whether to be excited or bummed... What's funny about all this is that I hope to be a prosecutor once I graduate...

... to the guest blogger at Public Defender Dude:

First, to be a PD you have to kind of fall into it. The vast majority of PDs that I know in this day and age in California were not necessarily raised as "liberals" who like helping the "underprivileged," code in my book for minorities. That is something that happened in the sixties and the seventies. Some of those PDs are still around, even in my office. But not many.

No, where I am from the majority of PDs fell into criminal defense because they wanted a job and the PD hired. We have a number of people who wanted to work for the DA but couldn't get hired. We have a number who were civil and got tired of it and came to the PD. As I said, most just sort of fall into it...

... to keep my middle-aged p.d. head from shaking, I'm thinking of all the cool young lawyers who, rather than fall into indigent defense work, strive for it heartily and dive into it enthusiastically. I know they exist - I've worked with many, and hired a few myself. Others I know from reading their blogs.

(something that happened in 1988)

July 05, 2008

"Restoring a bit of America’s lost luster"

Audio from Public Radio International's The World:

Defending a Guantanamo detainee

Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Air Force attorney Major David Frakt. Frakt is defending a Guantanamo detainee named Mohammed Jawad who's accused of the attempted murder of two US soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002...

See also Major Frakt's closing argument to dismiss the case against Jawad, from Discourse.net.

July 03, 2008

Getting back on the horse again and again

A practicum with Iowa Champion:

Dealing with disappointment 101

One of the hardest things to learn as a defense attorney (or a prosecutor for that matter) is how to deal with a bad outcome in a case. It is not taught in any classroom at law school...

July 02, 2008

Empathy, patience, and a game of chess

Interesting perspective from a still - relatively - junior colleague, from Newsweek:

Equal Before The Law - As A Public Defender, I Must Often Challenge Prejudices, Including My Own, For My Clients

When I first started my job, I thought like a social worker. I justified representing those who were guilty because I believe I could help them... After two years, my conscience no longer requires such justification...

Actually, in 20 years of practice, internally I've travelled in the opposite direction of this p.d. Your (and everyone's) mileage may vary, of course.

Via the ABA Journal, Representing ‘Those People,’ Young PD Seeks Justice.

July 01, 2008

MN: I heard the news today, oh boy

From Minnesota Public Radio:

A day in the life of a Minnesota public defender

The wheels of justice may move slowly, but some of the cogs, like public defender Lisa Kloster, are spinning at a dizzying pace...

She ain't no cog. Listen to the MP3 / podcast here.