Tuesday, April 27, 2010

No Matter What, It's Still Sad

Upon hearing of the outcome of my trial last week, a few people made a comment or two which ruffled my feathers, if you will.

For those of you that do not know, my client was on trial for 1st degree murder. After a week long trial & at the age of 20, he was convicted of 2nd degree murder. As I passed the news of the verdict on to some of my friends, I began to hear such comments as "Well, he'll have plenty of love in jail," and "He better watch his back." There were more but I won't get into them here & please keep in mind that I am not quoting word for word.

I only say this to make one point: not 1 but 2 families were torn apart by the events that lead up to that trial - the victim's and the defendant's. For those of you that think otherwise, I suggest that you find yourself a murder trial & go sit through it, beginning to end. As you do so, pay particular attention to the people sitting in the audience of that courtroom. I assure you - they would rather be anywhere else. There are no happy endings in murder trials, no matter the outcome. Even if the defendant is truly innocent & is found not guilty, there is still a victim & that victim had a family & that family is still grieving.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is it the Court's job?

So, I want to know who out there thinks it is the Court's responsibility to advise a witness of their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Just What Was I Supposed To Do?

I was in court Thursday, proceeding to enter my first plea when the Judge handed the court officer the affidavit of complaint for my client to sign the 3rd page, which has to be done no matter what is occurring in the case. What made this different is that the Judge required my client to sign in 2 different places. I knew this wasn't right so when the court officer handed the sheet of paper to my client, I glanced to see where the Judge had indicated for my client to sign & this is what the Judge had done: he had marked for my client to sign that she waived her right to a preliminary hearing & bound her case over the to the grand jury & that she was entering a plea of guilty. The problem is: you can't do both!!! This Judge is no spring chicken people - he should know how to fill out a judgment sheet.

So, I asked the Judge if my client should be signing in both places. The Judge responded by saying something to the effect of: "Of course she is. She's entering a plea & I'm going to find her guilty, so what exactly is your question Counselor?"

Uh-oh. This isn't good. You cannot enter a plea of guilty on the same day that you waive your right to a preliminary hearing & bind your case over to a grand jury (or have a preliminary hearing & bind your case over). But, this Judge has a beef with me. I just haven't figured out exactly what. I have a theory though - age & gender.

So, I respond to the Judge by saying: "If Your Honor indicates that is the correct way my client is to sign the Judgment sheet, then I don't have a question."

To which the Judge responds: "Well, it is."

Her plea is entered & we proceed to enter the rest of my pleas that I have ready & for all of those, the Judgment sheets are also filled out incorrectly. But, I had already called the Judge's attention to it & got nowhere so I let it go. Once I had my pleas entered, I left the courtroom & found a few other attorneys & told them what had happened. The consensus was that I had done the right thing in pointing it out to the Judge but once he 'overruled' me, there was nothing else I could do. I also let the DA know what had happened but the DA that I work the best with wasn't there. I will let him know what happened the next time I see him if he hadn't heard about it by then. I just want everyone to know (& I want to be sure) that I did what I was supposed to do.

And as if that wasn't enough -
It was 5:25 pm. The Judge had waited until 5:00 pm to call up the jail docket. I had 1 client left & he had to have a hearing. The only people left in the courtroom were pro-se litigants. I was standing beside the bench, which is where we attorneys stand to let the Judge know that we have something ready for disposition. Instead of acknowledging me & letting me dispose of my case, the Judge kept dealing with the pro-se litigants. Every time he would pause, I would move a little or stand up or sit down or something to call his attention to me (because I knew I needed to leave!!!). After about 5 minutes, the Judge looked at me and said: "Crystal, I will get to you in a minute, young lady."
I turned around & told Steve (the other Public Defender) that I had to leave for school, handed my last case to him, & left. By the time I got back to the office, unloaded my files from court & actually got to my car it was 5:45 pm. Thanks to traffic on I440, I made it with 5 minutes to spare.

I have to say, there is nothing like pissing off a Judge but knowing that you haven't done enough for him to hold you in contempt.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Apparently, I have time to waste

I was so mad at one of my clients yesterday that, had the hallway not been full of people I would have given him a earful. I picked up this client 3 weeks ago on a worthless check charge. First, he told me that he was in Metro jail on the date of the allegation. I made a few phone calls and 30 minutes later learned that he was a few days off regarding his intake date. After telling him that, he then said that he was not in Cheatham County on the date the check was written, had not been in Cheatham County in the last 5 years, had never met the victim, etc. The police officer or victim had not been subpoenaed and there was no copy of the check in the court file so I reset his case to yesterday and issued subpoenas.
Everyone showed up for court yesterday. Before I spoke with anyone else, I called my client out into the hall to speak with him. The case seemed odd to me. Normally, my clients will admit their guilt or admit that they were there but it wasn't them or something like that. This was the first time I got the amnesia story so I was suspicious. As soon as my client gets out into the hall he asks me what kind of deal I can get him. I asked him if he remembered what he had told me last time & he said yes but he just figured that there was enough proof to convict him. He now has an outstanding charge in Metro & this case is holding that one up so he just wants to get on with it & that he wrote the check.
So help me, if the hallway had not been full of people I would have told him more than he ever wanted to hear. Like I have all the time to just sit on my thumbs & think about his petty worthless check case. The Court has more important cases, the police officer has better & more important things to do & I have more pressing cases to work on. But no, we have to clog the Court's docket & take up every one's time to be a self-serving moron. What did he have to say for himself when I told him that I would have appreciated him being straight with me to begin with? A shrug of his shoulders. Gee, thanks. And what does my client get for all of this? Nothing, except payment of costs & restitution. And as his defense attorney I would not have cared had jail time been a part of his plea. Is that wrong of me? I can't help but think that it is, from a defense attorney standpoint.