Follow by Email

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.


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.


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!!

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?


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?


You conducted the test on asphalt with gravel?


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


You conducted the test on a wet, muddy surface?

Yes (shrugged shoulders again)

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


You told Mr. Client to walk an imaginary line?


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.


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.)