Follow by Email

Monday, December 1, 2014

Three years

Today is my three year anniversary with the public defender's office. The anniversary of my continued participation in the United States justice system, small as it may be, is a discouraging one.

I was always the first to pipe up and tell anyone willing to listen that I became an attorney to help people, I never expected to get rich because (let's just be honest) the careers where you can make a difference in someone's life AND make a great living are few and far between. Here lately though, I find myself wishing I would have just "chased the money." "But why?" you ask?

Well,

this, this, this, this, thisthis and this.

It is so disheartening, discouraging and scary to know that these things are happening. Any small victory I may have is only a drop of clean water in an ocean of oil and muck. I wish I could say it's just the police officers, but it isn't. I get tired of seeing the same names pop up on new files, I get tired of clients giving me excuses about WHY they committed their new offense, I get tired of prosecutors who think the solution is to lock up everyone and I get tired of feeling like my client will come out worse for the wear if they actually have a decent case and need to demand a trial. I am tired of phone calls from mothers and drop ins from girlfriends.

It breaks my heart that I am not as excited and gung-ho about my role in this machine called the "justice" system, but I'm not. I want off, I want out.

Sorry no roses and rainbows today folks.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Moving on up....

https://www.blogger.com/%3Ca%20href=%22http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/13212225/?claim=v7ccwg4xm46%22%3EFollow%20my%20blog%20with%20Bloglovin%3C/a%3E

....I am moving on up like the Jefferson's in the blogosphere. What I mean by that is I am committing to being more active with gathering readers/commentators/followers/minions.....lol


step one? Joining Bloglovin  if you have a blog, or just enjoy reading blogs, visit the site, sign up, find me and follow me.

Until next time,

well....you know.

Monday, November 10, 2014

How NOT to get arrested--Sex Offender

The first installment of 'how NOT to get arrested' was inspired by a man who handed me his business card the other day. While I applaud his entrepreneurial spirit and his willingness to go out and create a business opportunity since they are not knocking down his door, it is also cause for great concern.

What, prey tell, is this man's business? He is a handy man. His card indicates that there is no job too big or small. Whatever your needs, he can handle them. Electrical issues, plumbing problems, carpentry needs, back killing yard work to be done? Sit down, let your local handyman handle it all for a small fee.

The problem with that is he is a convicted sex offender. It does not matter the circumstances surrounding the underlying charge, the fact of the matter is-if he takes a 'job' that places him near a school, daycare, university, playground, park, children's center or any place frequented by kids, he is going to pick up a new felony.

I understand that job opportunities are tight out there for people WITHOUT a felony conviction, I cannot imagine how hard it is to find steady work, not only as a convicted felon but as a sex offender, but you have to find another way. All it takes is ONE person to be nosey, do some digging, realize who you are and call the police. Now you have another felony conviction and are one step closer to the system trying to throw you in prison for good. All because you are trying to work and support your family.

Are the sex offender registration notification act rules ridiculous? Absolutely. Are they impossible to comply with at all times? Sure. Does the law make it easier to live as a convicted murderer or spouse beater than as a 19 year old that make a stupid decision and decided to date a 16 year old? Yes, but until we get someone in power that is brave enough to say "hey, let's look at how some of these laws are affecting people's lives" it is a fight we are set up to lose. 

So my "How NOT to get arrested" tip for the day? If you are a convicted sex offender, do NOT pass out cards asking people to invite you into their homes. Especially across the street from a church daycare center.




Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't consent and don't confess.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gracepoint

Tonight's episode of Gracepoint was a great example of why people should not just to conclusions when they hear that someone has been convicted of a sex offense.

Please check it out and really listen to Nick Nolte's characters story.

Gracepoint

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The real cost of a 'paid' attorney


I try real hard not to knock private attorney's too badly. I have friends, acquaintances and even mentors who are private attorneys. But every now and again, a "real" attorney in court does something that makes me want to turn to my client and say 'see? THAT's what a "paid" attorney will get you.'

I am sitting in court at a preliminary hearing docket. The judge calls the next case up and it is a case being handled by a private attorney. I sit down to watch because you can almost always learn something from any attorney you get to observe in court.

I hate when I am proven wrong.

The first sign that this hearing was going to go horribly wrong was when the attorney kept referring to his client as 'Defendant' and the COP was calling the defendant by his name.

          RA("real attorney"): So when did you see the Defendant?

          Narc: I didn't see Thomas until I got out of the car and walked closer to the                             group.

         RA: And what did he say to you?

         Narc: Who? Thomas?

         RA: Yes. What did the Defendant say to you?

I wanted to throw a stapler at the back of his head. If someones family takes the time to call you, set an appointment, come into your office, slide into your leather chairs and write you a check with a comma in it, the LEAST you can do, is learn your clients NAME and then use it!

The second sign that this hearing was going to go horribly wrong was when I had to excuse myself before I regurgitated all over the seats. The attorney was setting his client up to get beat to death in the county jail and he either didn't know it. Or he didn't care.

The way that preliminary hearings are set up in our county is meant to help ease the burden of having transport issues all day long due to non-stop drug cases that are pending. One Friday a month everyone hauls on over to the jail and we have hearings in the makeshift courtroom there. Rather than dealing with transport officers who can only transport two people at a time, they can bring up 10 at a time because we never leave the jail. At any given time a person can have their preliminary hearing with at least 9 other people charged with a drug offense sitting there listening to the evidence against them. So why the sick feeling? Well:

          RA: What did you and the Defendant discuss?

          Narc: He said that the drugs weren't his and he didn't know they were there.

          RA: Is that all the two of you discussed?

          Narc (looking nervously at the defense attorney, prosecutor and judge): ummm..

          RA: Didn't the defendant tell you he wanted to talk to you about working off his                   case?

         Narc (still confused as to why the DEFENSE ATTORNEY is asking this                               question) umm...when I initially arrived he said he did not know drugs                           were present.

         RA: Right, but at some point, didn't he tell you that he wanted to help set some                    people up?

         Narc: Do you want me to answer that?

         RA: Yes sir. Didn't the Defendant tell you he wanted--

        DA: OBJECTION judge, relevance?

        Judge (who looks at the RA): Do you want him to answer that question again?

        RA: Yes your Honor.

NO lie, the judge pulled one of these:



I should take this time to point out that EVERY one of the other 9 people sitting on the side wall with orange jumpsuits on are in jail on drug charges because someone working with the narcotics division set them up. And they are paying attention.

I had to get up and walk out. I felt sick, for that attorney, for his client and for the person at the jail that would have to clean up the blood.

And THAT my friends, is the real cost of a 'paid' attorney.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't consent and don't confess.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Confused gif's

I received the call at 8:30 a.m.

"Ms. PD I just got off the bus. I am on my way to court now."

I told him to come straight to my office and we would go before the judge together.

He arrived by 8:47 a.m. and we were in court before 9. Unfortunately, the prosecutor was not. We sat, we waited. We sat, we conversed. We sat, I stewed.

````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````

Months earlier I had a motion to suppress hearing (I promise to one day finish that blog rant) which was granted. I told my client he did not need to come to court for the upcoming docket (which was last week) because...well...the state has no case if the state has no evidence!

Well she says she would like my client to actually come to court before she dismisses the case.


I bring to the courts attention that my client HAS come to court and the prosecutor must be thinking of the co-defendant. Not only has the co-defendant NEVER come to court, but he has never contacted his attorney.

*crickets*

So after several awkward moments the judge looks at the prosecutor and says 'do you still want him to have to come to court?' To which she replied, 'yes.'


She's...kidding right? WRONG. The judge turns to me and says 'Ms. PD, have your client here Monday.

I walk out of the courtroom a toxic mixture of confused and angry. I say toxic because the level of angry is quickly out weighing the level of confused. I can slowly feel myself wanting to do some damage as I storm out of the courtroom.



Fast-forward to this morning and my client is present. He had to ride a Greyhound bus through 3 states to get here but he made it. The entire situation, which you would think would have cooled off over the weekend, just got my blood boiling again this morning.

At 9:47 the prosecutor finally decides to grace us with her presence. I let the judge know that she is here and then I take my seat back in the courtroom. A few minutes later one of the senior attorneys in my office motions for me to come into chambers. I enter and when I do, the prosecutor is on her phone and the judge is looking intently at something on his computer. I will admit that for a brief moment I had a scary thought.

"Oh isht, did they find something to hold my client on?! Is THAT why she wanted him here? Oh God please don't tell me I convinced my client to come back only to be arrested."

Alas (yes, alas), there was nothing new on my client. The case being dismissed went something like this:

Judge: 'what about Ms. PD's case is it for dismissal'

(while on the phone, never looking up) DA: yes



I just stood there. 

Really?

That's all we're going to do?

I made my client borrow money from friends and family, pay for a Greyhound bus ticket, catch a cab and then turn right back around and go back to his home state and he isn't even going to be addressed by the people that compelled his appearance?


On a positive note, my client is happy that his case is finally behind him. He was very grateful for the fact that this case ended without him becoming a convicted felon. He appreciates that fact that he had an attorney, a PUBLIC DEFENDER no less, that actually cared enough about him and his case to look for issues, fight the good fight and be angry at the court system on his behalf. He does not EVER have to step foot in this state again, I can still say I won my motion to suppress AND I had enough self-control to leave before knocking anyone upside the back of their head.

Sigh...it's only Monday.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The mind of a child

Imagine a young man, when he was born his mother held him lovingly as she looked down on her new bundle of joy. In that one little being she imagined all he would bring to the world and all that he could be. When he turned six he was in an accident. Her little bundle of joy was hit by a car and the accident left him in a coma for months. When he woke up, he was not the same.

He would never be the same again.

The body of that six year old continued to mature, his voice deepened as it should, hair grew where it belonged and he sprouted up over his elders. But the mind of that grown man? It stayed six years old.

One day this young man climbs into the car of a 'friend' who takes him to the country, gets him high and then leaves him. The young man walks until he gets to a service station and he asks for a ride. The young woman he asks for a ride says 'no.'

The young man asks if he can use her phone. The young woman says 'no.' What the young man does next lands him in jail.

"Well, that's where he needs to be!" you say?

In jail, a six year old can't prevent a grown man from taking his clothing, his sheets or his food.

In jail, a six year old won't know how to stop someone smuggling in drugs from shoving it into his property, or even his hands when the threat of a cell search looms.

In jail, a six year old will not survive, and if he does, he will not return home the same.

When people ask 'how can you represent those people?' I think of that young man, the one with the body of an adult and the mind of a child. I think of what he can't do, what he won't do, what he couldn't possibly survive.



How can I not represent him?

Until next time, 

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess

~LT 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The least of these

She wobbles into my office on the arm of her much healthier and burly friend. I pull out a seat for her and sit across from the woman who has been charged with a host of drug offenses.

At the end of our meeting I am thankful that the prosecutor on her case is one that will at least listen to me without me resorting to cursing and name calling to get her attention. I explain, with my client permission, my clients situation and why the offer the prosecutor made needs to be tweaked before my client can accept it. My client wants to settle her case, for a host of reasons, all her own, and that is her right. But I can't stand next to her allowing her to enter into an agreement I know she can't uphold.

Luckily, the prosecutor agreed to do what I was asking of her so I called my client to relay the good news. After discussing with my client what the next step in her case was going to be, she also shared some good news with me. Her son has made it on to a sports team. She is so proud of him and he is so happy. But then she found out something that broke her heart.

The sports team has an optional warm-up/training suit that all of the guys on the team will be getting. All of the guys, except one. Her son. The thing that broke her heart wasn't that he wasn't getting the suit, it was the fact that he didn't come home and ask. She feels as if she has done such a poor job as a mother that her son knows not to even come home and ask for anything. They can barely afford the bare minimum. Because the state has granted her an amount of child support (that she is not collecting) that the SAME state deems is more than enough for two people to live, she gets less than $60 in food stamps to feed herself and her growing, sport-playing, teenage son. They are barely making it from day to day. Her son, old enough to realize this, did not want to burden his mother with a request for something that was not a necessity.

I made suggestions, talk to the coach, speak with the principal, request help from the PTA, but truthfully, what I wanted to do was ask her how much the suit cost so I could write a check to the school. I was raised, at home and in church, that you feed, give drink and clothe the less fortunate if you are in a position to do so. I know her son isn't going to school naked but I can also imagine the negative feelings, and possibly negative comments, he is going to have to deal with when the team walks into a venue and he looks like the water boy, not a member of the team. Those feelings will bleed over into his attitude, how he responds to people and, ultimately, authority. Too many bad experiences with a teacher and he is labeled a trouble-maker in school. A label that is hard to shake once it has been placed on you. It won't take long for him to not want to go to school because everyone there expects the worst from him, so he will find some friends he can skip school with. Those same 'friends' will give him something to do in order to occupy his time during the school day. It may be stealing, it may be drinking, it may be getting high.

It may be all three.

He will, inevitably, come into contact with law enforcement. He will either run and get another charge placed on him for resisting arrest or trying to elude a police officer. Or he will cooperate with his arrest and willingly walk into his first felony.

I know what you are saying-you got ALL of that from a kid you have never seen not getting a training suit? I grew up with guys who are now convicted felons because they got tired of wearing K-mart tennis shoes to school. Yes, I got all of that from a kid not getting a training suit.

Despite my christian conviction and my personal moral compass saying 'buy her son the suit', the state bar forbids it. For some reason, I'm sure you could guess a few, the state bar does not permit assisting your client in anyway beyond covering the expense of filing fees in their court case. Thanks, I believe, to the actions of those who have taken advantage of their position and the power they feel comes with it, attorneys who really just want to help their clients in their time of need, cannot do so. I worked with an attorney that broke the rules and would pay his clients electricity bill, rent or grocery bill, state bar rules be damned. But he did not have the discernment to see when he was being taken advantage of. It got to the point where clients would be waiting outside of the office for him to get off work so they could ask for some money. He always relented.

I understand it can be a slippery slope. I know it could possibly get out of hand. But if I want to buy all of my clients' sons a training suit in order to prevent them from becoming future felons, I think I should be allowed.



I still haven't decided what I'm going to do.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sometimes my clients are part of my #100

98. Of #100daysofhappy I went to jail to see a client today. I walked in SO angry because 1) I just got him out of jail 4 months ago & 2) I am sick and don't want to be at the friggin jail. He walks in and asks if I received his letter yet. With a sniffle I say 'no' and ask him what it says. He wrote to apologize, to tell me that he knows he disappointed me and he was worried I was mad at him. He then (facing 2 new felonies) goes on to say that he can tell I don't feel well and I should go home. After discussing his upcoming court date, the discovery I have so far & fussing at him like he was my little brother, our visit was over. As the detention officer is taking him away, my client calls over his shoulder "Ms. Williams I know you're disappointed in me but I know you're gonna work hard for me. When you get me out I'm gonna take you to Olive Garden." His hard-headed butt made me smile. My clients work my nerve but they are definitely one of the #100thingsthatmakemehappy#100thingsthatmakemeweird


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stand

I was sitting in my office, looking through the jail list, comparing it to my case list to ensure I didn't overlook someone when this song came on:

Stand

For some reason the song made me think of this foolishness:

Public Defender taking a stand

Several of my public defender colleagues have applauded the attorney in the video. They comment on how he was standing for his clients rights, he wasn't going to just 'bow down to the system'; they talk about how he wouldn't let the judge 'bully' him and how his actions are to be commended.

I contest each one of those positions and any other similar to them. In December 2011, when I started my public offender/public defender journey, I embraced the reality that there were going to be some times that I offended people (Day 1) and I was OK with that. I fully embrace that the judge, the prosecutor, local law enforcement and (in some cases) even my colleagues will be angered, offended or flat out pissed off by my actions or words when making a stand for my clients' rights. I would like to think that, if placed in the position, I would have no problem being held in contempt for upholding my clients Constitutional rights.

That is not what I see when I view this video of Mr. Andrew Weinstock and Judge John Murphy. Unlike my colleagues, I see two idiots, not one.

I won't even bother to discuss why the judge was an idiot. Although they are not above reproach, I believe judges should have some extra level of professionalism when they take the bench. I know from experience not all of them do. If I were a judge, I would expound more. I am not. I will leave that topic alone.

But what I will do is dissect the actions of 'one of my brethren. There are many reasons the video of the "Brawl in Brevard" leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Here are the top 4:

1. His initial response to the judge.
          Judge: What do want to do?
          PD: What do YOU want to do? I'm not waiving.
                    Maybe there was a portion of the video that was cut out between Mr. Weinstock standing up
                    and the judge addressing him. Even if that is the case, I do not, under any circumstances, see
                    how Mr. Weinstock's response to the judge started their exchange off on a good note. You can
                    barely hear Mr. Weinstock explaining that the prosecution has created some kind of situation
                    and now they are looking at the defendant to waive his rights for their convenience.
                    Unfortunately, he does not attempt to make that argument until the judge is pissed at his lack
                    of response.

2. His tone and volume.
          I have had clients hug me, mothers hug me, girlfriends and baby mama's hug me. I have had judges
          commend and prosecutors comment on me NOT backing down about a particular issue with the
          court. I have stood my ground, I have continued to make my argument, I have refused to stipulate to
          evidence, I have required the prosecution to bring a witness 'all the way' from the other side of the
          state. There is very little that I will agree to and I will most definitely NEVER agree to anything that
          eliminates an element of the alleged crime that the prosecution has to prove. With that being said I
          have never, never, NEVER raised my voice to a member of the judiciary.

3. He took the judge up on his offer.
          Really? I don't even think this one needs explanation, but just in case. In the jurisdiction I work in I
          can be called before six different judges.While I do not believe any of them would even extend the
          invitation for me to step in the back so they can kick my ass, you had better believe I would not take
          them up on it. For what? One of two things is going to happen...I am going to kick the ass of a local
          member of the bench and then life for me and my clients (if I got to actually keep my bar card) would
          be hell on earth from that point on. Or....the judge is going to kick my ass and then the local bar, the
          members of the bench, that judge in particular AND future clients (again, supposing I actually got to
          keep my bar card) will see me as a joke. Unless "you want to step in the back so I can kick your ass"
          is the judge's code for "I have some gin in the back and we both need a break from this hellish
         docket" I'm. Not. Going.


4. He left his client alone.
         This is the most important point to me. Maybe I would have a different position if the client had not
         been left in the position Mr. Weinstock left him in. After the "Brawl in Brevard" the judge took the
         bench, the docket kept going and Mr. Rumples (?) is left standing there. In court. Alone. The judge
         comes back and wants to know the answer to the same question he just asked Mr. Weinstock, a
         question that Mr. Rumples now has to answer on his own, assume that he is answering appropriately
         and leave court not clearly knowing whether he has an attorney or not. At the end of the day, for all of
         the applause Mr. Weinstock is getting for 'taking a stand', he did so at the detriment of his client who
         needed him in that moment. Mr. Weinstock, despite popular opinion, was not fighting for his client, he
         was fighting Judge Murphy. Yes, in this case, there is a difference.

Sigh.....we live to fight another day was not supposed to be taken literally in all situations.

Until next time, be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess.

~LT

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sigh...SNL and Leslie Jones

I try to stay away from politics and religion talk on Facebook, mainly because-well, it's Facebook. And I have a tendency to get angry, and type words that I mean but shouldn't say. But I feel like I am calm enough to throw my 2 cents into the fountain on this topic.

Leslie Jones' skit on SNL wasn't funny past the part where she asked the host who he would rather have with him if he walked outside and there were some gang members out there. Even that part, the 'I-need-a-big-black-woman-to-help-me-with-these-gangsters' message, was teetering the line. Beyond the point where I personally did not find any of it funny, it was also inappropriate for a number of reasons that I believe Ms. Jones (not as a star, famous person, role model, comedienne, or even a black woman but as a human being) should have taken into consideration before she slid her chair behind that desk.



1: Clivin Bundy just said the same thing she said. Sure, his words were different but the sentiment was the same. The idea being that something, anything that black people went through as slaves, is better than our current condition. It doesn't matter whether it is said by a white man or a black woman, being a slave will NEVER be better than being free.

2: Unless she has been living under a rock, Ms. Jones undoubtedly has heard that hundreds of little black girls have been kidnapped in Nigeria and are suspected to be (right now, today, as you read this line) raped continuously and daily. To compare 'master' wanting to rape you or allow/permit/force other slave hands to rape you to being "wanted" is disgusting and despicable.

3. I have read quite a few people who support Ms. Jones by stating, "we do not get angry when members of our own race call each other Nigga and degrade women in rap songs and shoot each other and don't care about getting their education." To those people I would say two things, first you're stupid-I learned in kindergarten that two wrongs don't make a right, have you not had that lesson yet? Second, get yourself a new group of friends, no one in my circle thinks it is ok for black people to call each other 'nigga', no one in my circle celebrates women being degraded, no one in my circle shrugs at black on black crime and everyone in my circle believes that continuing to educate yourself-either formally or informally-is crucial to self-preservation and self-improvement.

4. As Ms. Jones said, as a comic it is her job to take things and make them funny. One would think that, as part of her job, she would weigh and determine whether something CAN be made funny. I would venture that, no matter how hard you tried, a grown man raping a young child so hard and so often that their intestines stick out of their anus, can not be made into a joke. I am going to go out on a limb and say you would be hard-pressed to find an audience that would find a joke about 9/11 or the bombing at the Boston Marathon funny. Sure, you CAN make a joke about anything. That doesn't mean you SHOULD.

5. Ms. Jones made herself (and, unfortunately by extension with other races who have no or little interaction with black people, US) look like a fool. She, for the time being, has become the First Lady of Coonery. If I could only say two words to Ms. Jones, they would be "Willie Lynch". I highly doubt Ms. Jones truly believes she would be a hotter "commodity" as a slave than she is now but she still put the idea out there. I challenge you to read Mr. Lynch's letter, let your heart and mind resonate with these two lines:

"You know, language is a peculiar institution. It leads to the heart of a people."
"...being a fool is one of the basic ingredients of and incident to the maintenance of the slavery system."

Sigh. Let's cut out the foolishness people.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess.

~LT

Friday, May 2, 2014

2 Wow's in one day

Every year I take a break from Facebook during the month of my birthday. I find that it is a nice gift to myself, I declutter my mind of the "going's on" of other people's affairs and take the time to deal with me, who I want to become and what I am doing to be that person. As much as I enjoy the time off, I also enjoy the return, I get to see how people's lives have developed, changed, improved (or sadly, declined) over the last 30 days. As I am scrolling down my feed, seeing new babies and wedding pictures and engagement announcements, THIS stop me in my tracks:


My response to this picture?

I am not THAT defense attorney who believes anyone and everyone that has committed a crime should just run wild and free. In my opinion, those kinds of defense attorney's are just as guilty of wiping their behinds with the US Constitution as the cops and prosecutors who believe that everyone ACCUSED of a crime is guilty until proven innocent (and in some cases, they still don't want to believe it.).

HOWEVER, Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon, Ray Krone, John Thompson, Leo Jones, Paul House, Cameron Willingham, Johnny Garrett, Carlos DeLuna, Levon Jones, Glen Chapman and MANY others like them make it hard for me to see killing a human being compared to putting down a dog.

***steps off her soapbox to prep for trial***


This picture and the statement on it hurt my heart. 

As I am sure I have mentioned before, I have five brothers. All of my brothers are young black men ranging in age from 32 to 20 years old. At any point in time, despite what I know in my heart of hearts about my brothers, any one of them could be sitting in a chair, wearing an orange jumpsuit, sandwiched between two suits, looking at twelve strangers with 'please-save-my-life' in his eyes. I am not ashamed to tell you that I would be sitting in the front row, tissue in hand, tears on my face, knots in my stomach and the same message in my eyes.

What people don't understand is that the justice system is F L A W E D. Majorly flawed. People who should be locked up are not, people who should not be locked up are, mentally handicapped people are thrown in prison and expected to fend for themselves in general population, people are on death row who do not belong there and while there are plenty of people serving time for crimes they DID commit, there are SO many that are serving time for a crime with no evidence they are the person who is guilty.

Life is not Law & Order. If there was one thing I could get the general population to understand, it would be that. I was channel surfing a few days ago and I happened across an episode of Law & Order starring Viola Davis. I love her, I think she is a marvelous actor so I stopped to watch. I changed the channel within 10 seconds. 

1. She leaned on the jury box while doing her closing argument-you can not do that.

2. She told the jury what her client's sentence is going to be if they find him guilty-you can not do that.

3. She told the jurors to put themselves in her clients shoes-you can not do that.

In 10 seconds she committed at least 3 of the cardinal sins of arguing in a jury trial and THAT is what people use to measure our justice system. Guess what people? The state does not always figure out, RIGHT BEFORE the trial commences that they have indicted the wrong person. The state does not always have hoards of DNA evidence and jail house phone call recordings with the defendant confessing his sins to his girlfriend. 

Sometimes all they have is the word of one person, the shoddy police work of dirty (or lazy) detectives and a host of lemmings in their ear shouting 'YEA, KILL THE BASTARD!'

Wow.

I know I said I have 2 wow's in one day. Well, hours after I saw the above-referenced picture, a friend of mine posted this link

Wow...just....wow.

I guess we should do the only humane thing and put him down like a dog. smh

Until next time my beautiful people,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess,

~LT


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Theme song of the week: "Tell me what you want me to do" by Tevin Campbell

After reading yet ANOTHER letter with my client begging and pleading with me to give them another chance, as if it is all up to me, I started humming this song in my head. I never realized how fitting it was and I have decided it is my "Public Defender Song of the Week."  I have not typed out the lyrics in their entirety, but there are some that hit pretty near and dear to my exhausted heart.

"You called me up, and I came to see you."--My client's know that I am busy, they like to tell me that in between projects they assign to me as their personal assistant on the outside. Nevertheless, this first line hits home because it wastes no time getting straight to my duties as a public defender. You call me up-I come. Even though I just spoke with you yesterday. Even though I just sat on the phone with your mama for 20 minutes. Even though I just had your baby mama in my office and wrote the answers to her questions on a sheet of paper so she could recite them to you when you call her later that evening. I come even when I know you have nothing to talk about. I come even though I know you don't like me. I come even though I know the only reason you want me to come is because you do like me. You rub that damn lamp and I come. Aladdin has nothing on you.


"It hurts me deep inside, when I see you crying."--I don't have many female clients, most of my clients (and almost all of my incarcerated clients) are men. While tears usually do not move me, I cannot stand to see a grown man crying from anything other than physical "I-just crashed-my-motorcycle" pain, or when they find out their mother or child has passed away. Anything else just makes me feel uncomfortable; so while it may not hurt me deep inside, it makes me want to leave the jail even quicker. I can't offer you a tissue, I'm not allowed to bring them in. I can't give you a blank sheet of paper, that's uncomfortable for you and it looks suspicious to the C.O. watching us on the security video. You can't clean your tears (or your snot) on my sleeve so, I just sit there. And awkwardly watch you cry. While trying not to get caught stealing a glimpse at my watch.


"Whatever's wrong, I'll make it right."--sigh...I will TRY, I will TRY to make it right. This is what I want (but do not [often]) say to my clients. Think of your case as a totem pole; do you know where I am?
Believe it or not, sitting at the very top is YOU-I do not have any power over you being in a place, being with people, possessing a thing, using words, engaging in actions that cause you to get arrested. I can try with all of my might to fight any Constitutional violations made when the proof of said actions/words/things were obtained, but as Smokey the Bear would say, "Only YOU can prevent" your life from being set on fire.

Next up is the law enforcement officer-they make the decision to arrest. Do I wish I could be a little devil/angel combination sitting on the shoulders of every law enforcement officer with arresting power so I could convince them NOT to arrest you? With all of my little heart! I wish it more than Pinocchio wished to be a real boy. Oh, if only wishes were fishes....

Next in line is the warrant clerk, the prosecutor's office, the grand jury, any witnesses or victims and THEN me. Really, when you take a look at the visual, I feel even worse for you than I did before. I can promise you I will try my best to shake things up at the bottom of the totem pole, but that's about all I can do from this view.

And finally....

"Tell me what you want me to do ooo-oooh-oooh"--you write me and say "I know I did wrong", "I need one more chance", "I'm begging." This is the line that made this song the song of the week; because this is my client. This line covers both sexes, all races, all nationalities and backgrounds. Once my clients are incarcerated, especially after it's an incarceration that occurred AFTER I just got them out of jail, they become Tevin Campbell. "Ms. Public Defender, tell me what you want me to do", "Ms. Public Defender, I will do anything", "Ms. Public Defender, I just made a mistake"...und so weiter...

I want so badly to tell them "Oh Mr./Ms. Campbell, there isn't anything you can do right now, no amount of begging ME is going to get you anywhere. See, you have me so that I can beg the judge on your behalf. I am at the bottom of the totem pole, remember? I have no power. I have the United States Constitution and, depending on what the judge had for breakfast, even that may not be enough. I will proudly and boldly stand in my uncomfortable heels and my uncomfortable suit, donning an uncomfortable smile....all for you. I will fight for you, But I can't promise you that it will get the result you desire. 


Begging me just makes me feel even worse when things don't go our way. So please stop.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess.

~LT







Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lion versus swan

Growing up as the only girl with five brothers, you learn to be tough. Oftentimes it has been harder for me to be nice and soft than it has been for me to be hard-headed and bad-ass. One of the greatest things that could have ever happened to me was making the trial team and getting under the tutelage of my trial coach. He helped me to realize that rather than attacking like a hungry lion going in for the kill, some witnesses would be better approached in an "I'm-a-gentle-swan" like manner.

(http://www.cracked.com/article_15853_the-6-cutest-animals-that-can-still-destroy-you.html)

People like the swan; they hear that word and they think of Disney and the ballet. The swan is a beautiful animal that represents grace and love. In fact, when a swan is head to head with their mate, they even form a heart-the universal symbol of love. Taking the swan approach paints a fantasy of the kind of person you want the witness to think you are; but once the witness has gotten comfortable with your style, your grace, your charisma, just like the swan....

you attack!!
(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9240768/Violent-swan-Mr-Asbo-finally-removed-from-Cambridge-river-after-attacks-on-rowers.html)

Honestly, once I learned the swan attack technique, it became just a tad bit more fun than the lion approach. However, every once in a while, you may intend to approach a witness with style and grace and they....well, they just won't let you.

This morning, I was watching a colleague of mine in a motion to suppress hearing, question a state trooper about the bang-up job he did on a DUI stop and the guy was a jerk. Not just a little bit of a jerk but a real live, "yeah-so-I-didn't-do-my-job-and-why-are-you-making-a-big-deal-out-of-it" kind of jerk. This colleague of mine approached the trooper with swan-like grace, with no intention of attacking the trooper but he BEGGED for it.

The manual says you are supposed to conduct the test on a flat surface?

Yes

You conducted the test on a slope?

Yes (with shrugged shoulders)

The manual says you are supposed to conduct the test on a sturdy surface?

Yes

You conducted the test on asphalt with gravel?

Yes 

The manual says you are supposed to conduct the test on a dry surface?

Yes

You conducted the test on a wet, muddy surface?

Yes (shrugged shoulders again)

The manual says you are supposed to use an actual line?

Yes

You told Mr. Client to walk an imaginary line?

Yes

Keep in mind that through all of this, the Trooper is looking at my colleague like she is a chicken with a dog head. He is answering questions like he cannot believe he has actually been called into court and he is being an asshole. 

I can't wait to see him testify in front of a jury.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't consent and don't confess.

~LT


****************UPDATE******************
Motion for mistrial granted, then judge advised the prosecutor he was going to move the case to his admin (where cases go to die) docket and he wanted them to seriously consider whether it was a good idea to try this case again because he highly doubted it would get past a motion for judgment of acquittal. I'm counting that as a win! (I ended up sitting in for my co-worker so it counts.)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Side-tracked; no pun intended (well..maybe just a little)

I created this blog for two important reasons. First, I wanted to chronicle my 'life' and growth as a public defender. Honestly, when I started the blog I wasn't sure how long I was going to last in the public defenders office. Though it has not quite been three years yet I must admit I have been at it a lot longer than I thought I would and I have learned way more than I ever realized I never knew (pause for a minute and re-read it. I know it looks wordy but it makes sense. Promise.)

The second reason is because I love writing. As a little girl I wrote, as a teenager I wrote, as a young adult I wrote and now, as an early thirty-something still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up 'for real', my dream, my passion, my love and my life has always been and continues to be intertwined in writing.

It is for the second reason I am blogging today. Amtrak has opened up an amazing opportunity to writers and as green as my writing and I may be, I would regret it forever if I did not jump at the opportunity to be considered.  By creating the #AmtrakResidency Program the company will award up to 24 writers with a 2-5 day overnight trip in a sleeper car in order for them to focus on their craft with limited interruptions. As a public defender, as a single mother and as a full-time worrier, this is an opportunity that would bring me to "I-just-met-Johnny-Depp-AND-Dolvett-Quince" tears.

While this is not an opportunity that will be determined based on the number of votes someone receives, the terms and official rules do state "[t]he ideal candidate will possess strong writing skills as well as extensive social media connections." My hope is that, if there are any of you out there actually reading and enjoying the thoughts, gripes, fears and worries of an anonymous public defender, that you will 'like' them on Facebook, 'follow' them on Instagram and blow up their Twitter feed with support for yours truly.




I cannot promise you that the trip will end with me in possession of the next great American novel, but I can promise you I will spend every single minute in that car striving for just that.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess (what? I'm still a lawyer lol)

~LT

Friday, March 21, 2014

Preliminary Hearings (or, The three sweetest words)

In my jurisdiction the first time a client will be in front of a judge, with their lawyer, getting substantive information about their case is at the preliminary hearing. Most of the time, attorneys (usually private attorneys, sadly) will waive their clients hearing without consulting them, especially if they are not in jail (more on that later). Not as frequently, the client will demand their hearing and the defense attorney will actually have one. These hearings are usually held for a variety of reasons, none of which is to actually get a 'no probable cause' finding from the judge. While it would be ideal to have a judge declare, in open court, in front of the prosecutor, your clients family and the officers that there was not probable cause to arrest your client, the reality is that it just doesn't happen.  Since 'no probable cause' is not expected in my jurisdiction, preliminary hearings are essentially depositions. They are a tool to get the officers' testimony recorded so they can't change their story later on the day of trial, they are an investigative measure to find out what other evidence or witnesses are out there that you can work on securing now, or they sometimes serve as a reality check for your client who swears the officer/victim/witnesses isn't going to show up in court and testify against them.

Oh but miracles do happen.

I sat and watched a colleague of mine hold a hearing and from the very beginning things were not looking great for the case agent. He showed up 15 minutes late in front of a judge that runs a pretty tight ship.

(http://bcbha.wordpress.com/author/dcule/page/24/)

When the agent arrived he tried to sit behind the prosecutor and just watch the agent filling in for him continue to trip his way through testimony. The judge eventually saw said agent sitting in the gallery, stopped testimony and called him up. After the judge thoroughly chewed out the agent, embarrassed him and pissed him off the testimony continued. It only got worse.

Apparently, the client was involved in a drug transaction with a confidential informant (CI). This informant was searched, their vehicle was kind of searched and their passenger (yes, passenger) was not searched at all. As my colleague confirms the presence of a third person who was not searched by any member of law enforcement before being permitted to participate in a ride-a-long, the judge couldn't contain him self any longer and just had to clarify the series of events for himself:

You met with a CI? 'yes'

You searched the CI? 'yes'

The CI did not have any drugs on them? 'no'

The CI was going to buy some drugs from the defendant? 'yes'

But the CI had another person with them? 'yes'

This person was NOT a CI? 'no'

This person was NOT searched? 'no'

There was no other law enforcement in the vehicle with the CI and their buddy? 'no'

The wire on the CI does not clearly show the defendant handing the CI drugs? 'no'

No lie, this is how the judge looked at the prosecutor:


Strike 2 (http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2005/10/the_umpire_and_his_discontents.html)

The judge calls my colleague and the prosecutor up to the bench so they can have a candid discussion about what the judge is willing to entertain. Earlier I mentioned that preliminary hearings are waived if a client is out of jail; well, in our jurisdiction if a client is out on bond and they still demand their preliminary hearing, the prosecution can declare 'no probable cause'. For some reason, some people believe this means their case is over with and it goes away. The only thing it is successful in doing is taking the client from under the bond restrictions while their case is pending indictment. All cases, whether there is a probable cause finding at the preliminary hearing or the hearing is waived, proceed to the grand jury for presentment. If the grand jury indicts a defendant that is already on bond for said offense, nothing happens, their arraignment is scheduled and the case continues through its life cycle in the court. However, if the grand jury indicts a defendant who is NOT on bond for the charges, a bond is set and the client is picked up by local law enforcement and re-booked so they can post bond.

Ok, back to the topic at hand. It is safe to say the judge is pissed but he knows if he declares no probable cause the defendant will be released today but just get picked right back up later. The judge wants to know if there is ANY bond amount the client's family can afford to post. No. They state they can't afford to post even a nominally set bond amount. The judge inquires of the prosecution (regarding what I don't know since this is taking place at the bench) but is none too pleased with her response because the next thing I hear is :

"Let me make this PERFECTLY clear, jail is not to be used as a tool to force someone to plea!"


So what's up with the title? I'm glad you asked. The three sweetest words I have heard all week: 

"no probable cause"

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess!

~LT


Friday, February 28, 2014

Trial butterflies

I have a jury trial next week. It is not my first trial but it is my very first jury trial where my trial coach is the presiding judge. I am expecting a silent critique throughout the trial and will spend almost as much time worried about disappointing him with my 'performance' as I am worried about disappointing my client. It does not help that I believe, deep down to the bottom of my soul that my client should be found 'not guilty.' Not only do I believe he should be found 'not guilty', I believe the evidence is so blatantly clear that he is not guilty that a guilty verdict would be my cue to quit my day job. Literally.

(http://mygratitudelife.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/day-221-butterflies-in-your-stomach/)

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never confess and never consent.

~LT

*******3/05/2014*******UPDATE

Case dismissed!!!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My top priority

I must admit I do not know what it is like to close my eyes and open them the next morning, still inside of a county jail. I do not know what it is like to lay my head down and get back up the following day with my child still behind bars. I, thankfully, do not know what it is like to be housed in a treatment facility for mental health, drug abuse or alcohol abuse. I do not know what it is like to be my clients so I try to take that into consideration when they work the very last nerve I have left for the day. However, if I could be so small as to say, they don't know what it's like to be me either. They don't know what it's like to have hundreds of lives depending on you each day, they do not know what it is like to be awakened by the sickening feeling that they have forgotten something that may cause hell in the life of another. They do no know what it is like to have over 200 pairs of eyes looking at you for the answer, each one believing that they are last on my priority list.

I know there is a lot my clients wish they could tell me. Well, I wish I could tell them something also...

If you are in jail--you are a priority to me

If the judge told me to report back about you--you are a priority

If my boss asks about you--you are a priority

If you are facing prison time--you are a priority

If you are facing probation revocation--you are a priority

If you are pending youthful offender status--you are a priority

If you are pre-indictment--you are a priority

If your offer is about to expire--you are a priority

If you do not have an offer in your case yet--you are a priority

If you are a mother--you are a priority

If you have a mother--you are a priority

If your mother calls and calls and calls to bug me--you are a priority

If your mother could care less about you--you are a priority

If you are a first-time offender--you are a priority

If you are facing habitual offender status--you are a priority

If I have all of the discovery in your case--you are a priority

If I have yet to receive the discovery in your case--you are a priority

If you are a father--you are a priority

If you have a father--you are a priority

If your father calls and calls and calls to bug me--you are a priority

If your father could care less about you--you are a priority

If your parents are also felons--you are a priority

If your parents swear they didn't "raise you this way"--you are a priority

If your spouse is sick or disabled--you are a priority

If your parents are sick or disabled--you are a priority

If your child(ren) is (are) sick or disabled--you are a priority

If your kids are well--you are a priority

If you are the sole income in your home--you are a priority

If you stay at home to take care of the house--you are a priority

If you have mental health issues--you are a priority

If you have been set up--you are a priority

If you want a trial--you are a priority

If you just want to plea and get on with life--you are a priority

If you are innocent--you are a priority

If you are guilty--you are a priority

(http://www.csuchico.edu/~nwylde/250/digpaint/JakespsySelf.jpg)


The moral of the story is you are a priority to me, no matter your situation, I understand you have a situation. The problem is you are not my only priority.

Sigh...I need an assistant.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess!

~LT

Friday, February 21, 2014

$66.00

In our jurisdiction is it not uncommon for prosecutors, city and state, to make conditional offers of dismissal. Usually it's something akin to "dismiss upon payment of court costs, dismiss upon completion of anger management, dismiss upon (fill in the blank), etc." Typically, clients are grateful for getting these offers because either (1) they have admitted to you they are guilty and they are grateful to have the opportunity to guarantee a dismissal, or (2) they are maintaining they are not guilty but they feel as if the evidence in possession of the prosecutor is enough to convict them and they do not want to risk being convicted at trial.

Typically clients are grateful.

This week I witnessed the funniest, the most shocking and the most heart-warming thing I have seen in a courtroom in a long time.

A co-worker walks over and has a seat, informing those of us sitting there that his client is going bezerk. He claims he never agreed to a conditional dismissal and he isn't paying any money. For the next 20 minutes, he paces. He keeps glancing over at us, mumbling to himself and moving his belongings from one seat to another.

His case is called and my co-worker warns the judge that this particular person may be a bit of a problem. He was not wrong. This guy starts talking about the shit storm that is coming, the money he isn't paying, the judge is just going to have to put him in jail, und so weiter. The judge dismisses him in order to avoid disruption in his courtroom and tells my co-worker that he will just give him another court date. Hopefully one that falls after the client has been regularly taking his medication.

My co-worker walks back over to where the defense attorney's, public defender and private bar, are sitting and someone asks how much the client owes in court costs.

$66.00

"How much has he already paid in court costs?"

Nothing.

"Wait, all he EVER owed was $66.00! Are you serious?!"

Yup.

The private attorney next to me pulls out his wallet and hands my co-worker $10.  The private attorney sitting behind him pulls out another $10.  The first donating attorney gets the attention of another attorney and says "hey, all this guy needs is $66 and this shit is over." Private attorney number three pulls out a $20. The judge looks over and sees people essentially throwing money in my co-workers lap when he calls over one of the private attorney's.


The private attorney comes back from the bench and takes his $10 back from my co-worker as he relays the message that the judge is dismissing the case and my co-worker can tell his client that he doesn't have to come back.

The moral of the story?

Tell your clients to stop taking their meds about 2 weeks before the next docket. Miracles will happen. lol...I joke, I joke, I kid, I kid.

Seriously, seeing how the private members of the bar stepped up in order to help out a fellow defense attorney (trust me, they did it for him, not his client) was very heart-warming.

I share a lot of gripes and bad news, I figured I would share a little ray of light.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Imagine...

It's Friday night and your friends are bugging you about going out again. You have said 'no' for the last 3 weekends but they just aren't getting the hint. You know they are just worried about you because you and your girlfriend broke up last month but you really haven't been in the partying mood.

You're on your way home from work and you get a call from yet another friend.

"You need to come out, if for no other reason than to keep (fill in the name of the friend you have that you are always bailing out of trouble) from getting into trouble" your friend says. You sigh, roll your eyes and agree to meet up with them later.

Fast-forward a few hours and you are at the club, the crowd looks pretty nice, no one is starting any trouble and the music selection has been good. Then you see her, the most beautiful female you have seen in the place all night. Not only is she beautiful but she is sexy too. Coke bottle figure, form fitting dress, heels that make her legs look like they go on for days and a smile that could melt Antarctica.

Miss Sexy Beautiful sits next to you and says 'hello.' The two of you strike up a conversation at the bar as you watch your respective friends get drunk and dance. You assume she is the designated driver for the night because she never orders a drink and turns down your offer to buy her one.

The night is coming to an end so you and Miss Sexy Beautiful exchange names and phone numbers. You're not about playing games so you call her that night and the two of you talk all night long.

Fast-forward to next Friday, Miss Sexy Beautiful has asked to come to your place to 'hang out.' Of course you said 'yes'...she's MISS SEXY BEAUTIFUL! She comes in wearing jeans and a local University sweater and before you know it, the two of you are in the bed, the jeans are on one side of the room, the sweater is on the other and she is pulling your jeans off as you admire her matching Victoria's Secret underwear.

You and Miss Sexy Beautiful have had sex. She doesn't want to stay overnight, she makes some excuse about getting up early for something or other, kisses you and leaves.

Two weeks later you have not heard from Miss Sexy Beautiful and whenever you call her you are sent to voice mail. Your texts either go unanswered or she is very brief. You're chalking it up to a one night stand when you answer your front door to find the county deputy there ready to serve an arrest warrant.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fast forward 5 years, the case involving the warrant the deputy was on your doorstep to serve has been resolved. At your attorney's advice, you plead guilty, paid your fines and attempted to move on with your life.

You lost your apartment, it was too close to a park;

You lost your job, it was too close to a school;

Your friends don't want to hang out with you, your face is in the $1.00 circulars sold at gas stations;

It has been hard for you to get a job because not only do you have a felony, you have the worst kind of felony.

                                                                      Rape.

No one really cares that it is rape in the 2nd degree which means you didn't force yourself on anyone. No one is bothered to find out that the young woman you allegedly raped looked, acted like and SAID she was 18 years old. She wasn't. She was 15...

You met her in an adult club?     So what?

You conversed with her at a bar?    Who cares?

She told you she was 18?    And?

You believed her when she told you she was 18?     That's your problem.

She looked 18?     Well, she wasn't.

Guess whose problem that is? YOURS.

Welcome to the life sentence that will make you more of a leper in society than women beaters, child abusers and murderers.

                 YOU ARE NOW A REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

While the facts may not be exactly the same, the general gist of the Rape II story is. Rape in the second degree (most of the time) means that some little girl lied about her age, and some horny man believed her.  But think about this for a moment...even if the man didn't believe her so he demanded to see her driver's license and her driver's license said she was 18, he spoke with her mother and her mother (trust me, I have had it happen) said she was 18, he demanded to see her birth certificate and the date on what looked like an official birth certificate said she was 18 so he figured he had covered all of his bases but lo and behold that young lady is NOT 18, but 15.....Mr. Triple Check'em can still be convicted of Rape and forced to register as a sex offender.

This is the state of our system today because no one wants to be the one politician that is viewed as being soft on 'sexual predators', no one wants to hold the lying underage female (or male) accountable if it can be proven they lied about their age; no one wants to say to parents 'hey, how about you tell your daughter to take her breasts and her butt off of instagram and facebook.' So men and women who were 'tricked' get lumped into the same category as men and women who held someone down and forced them to do something against their will...smh...I keep saying it-I should have been a nurse.

I'm just on my soapbox today for some reason, no real moral to the story.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT