One Two Princes Stand Before You

When I was in college, one of my favorite things to do, when I came home to my room drunk, was to blast my stereo (I had a pretty nice stereo) and sing aloud to the radio.  I thought I had a really good voice when I was drunk.  (It never occurred to me that I had the auditory equivalent of "beer goggles," of course.)

It was more fun that my friends' idea of drunk fun, which was to stop at the computer lab (yes, we had those, no, most people did not have their own computers in their rooms) and send drunk emails that they didn't remember the next day.

I thought of that tonight when I came home tonight and heard Spin Doctor's Two Princes on the radio.  And before you do the math and figure I must have been 18 or 21 (depending on the legal drinking age wherever you are) in 1993, let me just say that I wasn't.  It's just that sometimes radio stations play song from a few years earlier.

But, seriously, I was really good at singing that song.

..that's what I said now...

Yo-Yo Papa

Something WotL wrote pulled me from my writer's block and reminded me of a story from earlier this summer.  I was in the courthouse, late in the day, sitting in the hallway outside of a courtroom, waiting for the prosecutor to come out so we could talk.
A guy sat next to me, with a big instrument in a case.  He asked me, "Let me ask you something, is this judge a good judge?" 

(I hate that question.  If I say "Yes, he's a good judge," and this guy or his family or whoever he's there for gets thrown in jail, it looks like (1) the lawyer, who is probably my public defender colleague, did a bad job and couldn't even get a good disposition out of a "good" judge and (2) I support, and think a judge is "good" who puts people in jail.  On the other hand, if I say "Not really, he's bad," I risk the guy (a) freaking out, worried that he or his family member will be going to jail, leading to many more questions for me and/or (b) saying something like "Even that blonde lawyer in the hall thinks you're an asshole, Judge.")

So, I said, "They say that he's fair." 

I figured the next question would be something like, "Let me you ask this, if someone got arrested for..." so I preempted that question with "What do you have there in that case?" 

"My cello," he said.

"You going to play a little concerto for the judge?  Music soothes the savage breast?"

The guy laughed, "Not a bad idea, but really I'm playing in a wedding tonight.  If this judge lets me out of here.  If he doesn't, well, I hope they'll at least let me find someone to take my cello home."

"Maybe you can tell the Judge that if he puts you in jail some poor bride's wedding will be ruined.  Or offer to play for him as your community service." 

Just then, the prosecutor I was waiting for walked out, and the man I was talking to said "They're calling me, I'd better go in there."  I wished him luck as he dragged his cello into the courtroom.

The prosecutor and I stood there in the hallway, discussing an upcoming case, when a few minutes later we heard the beautiful sounds of the cello come pouring out of the courtroom. 

And, amazingly, everyone in the busy courthouse hallway stopped, for just a few seconds, to look toward the courtroom door and to listen. A couple that had been arguing quieted.  Their kid, in his stroller, stopped crying for their attention.  For a minute, the sometimes inhumane courthouse seemed like an almost heavenly place.

I hope that the cellist got to leave the courthouse that night, and made it to the wedding.  Making the courthouse a kinder, softer place seems like an invaluable community service to me. 

Tin Foil Apartment

I had a client once who lived in a Tin Foil Apartment.

The foil, of course, helped to keep the Jews from reading his mind. Or so he told me. I kind of figured that if they had mind reading technology, a thin layer of aluminum foil probably wouldn't matter, but what do I know.

(image from Apartment Therapy)

My client ended up in a hospital, not on the Apartment Therapy website.

I'm not quite sure where he went wrong. Maybe because he didn't "tuft" the walls.

Stop Sign

One time, when I was in college, I was driving a friend in my car.  When I stopped at a stop sign, she said, "You stopped?   You didn't have to.  The ones with the white borders are optional."

I thought about it for a second. Could she be right? Were there other kinds of stop signs? Wouldn't an optional stop sign be a yield sign?

I quickly figured out that she was kidding.

Here's my problem.  My client actually believes it.  Well, not about the stop sign, but about whatever ridiculousness they're telling him in the jail law library.  And it is ridiculous.

I've tried to tell my client how ridiculous it is.  But, the thing is, he likes what he hears from them better than what he hears from me.  They tell him "Look here, here where the cop wrote 3rd Steret?  That means they have to throw this case out.  You're going home!"  I tell him things like "The fact that they spelled the word 'Street' wrong in one place on your paperwork does not really change the fact that they're going to be able to prove that you committed this robbery, and you're going to do prison time."   No wonder he believes them more than he believes me - he wants to.  Maybe deep down even he knows that this is too good to be true, but if he does, he doesn't let on.

So, now we're at a point where my client is turning down a pretty good plea deal because he's still caught up in the idea that this typo issue is going to somehow break his way.  In fact, he may be so caught up in this idea that he misses his chance at the plea deal completely, and ends up going to a trial that he's going to lose, and get stuck doing more time.

I've tried reasoning with him.  I've explained the trial to him.  I said, "You're right, I can ask the cop about that typo when he's testifying.  But the jury is going to hear from the old man who says you robbed him.  They're going to hear from the witness who says he saw you throw the gun.  And they're going to have the cop who searched you and found the old man's wallet in your pocket.  And they're going to have your videotaped confession where you talk about how you robbed that old man and you saying, nah you don't feel bad about it, 'because it's a dog eat dog world out there.'  And then I'm going to get up there and say 'See here where it says 3rd Steret?  What did Officer O'Brien mean by that?  Where is 3rd Steret? Because my client was arrested on 3rd Street.' I can call the cop sloppy, and say that maybe he put the same care into this investigation as he did into writing the report, and that means that they got the wrong guy.  But at the end of the trial, when the jury is deliberating, Street vs. Steret isn't going to be a big enough to discrepancy to outweigh all of the other evidence.  And the jury is going to find you guilty, and you're going to be facing more time that what you're looking at right now.  Right?" 

My client seemed to be listening intently, maybe I was getting through to him. He paused, like he was processing what I was saying.  Maybe he was going to come around.  But then he said, "Yeah, but the case will get overturned on appeal.  You see, there's no jurisdiction.  Because there's no such place as 3rd Steret anywhere in this state."

Cooking with Blonde Justice

A friend of a friend is a lawyer with a cooking blog.  I'm jealous.  I mean, I can cook a few things, but I'm more of a throw-together-whatever-is-in-the-fridge kind of cook.   I can't really see myself writing down the ingredients and typing it up and photographing the results.   I make a salad that comes together great, but it's like all week's leftovers thrown together, you know?

I'll give you an example of a recipe I've perfected this week.

1 packet Kashi GOLEAN Hot Cereal Hearty Honey Cinnamon
1 TB Nutella
1/2 cup water

Make the Kashi oatmeal the way it says in it the packet.
When it says to stir it, use a metal spoon.  This is important.
At the end, you have to stir it again.  Use the same metal spoon.
Then, take the warm metal spoon, and dig out a spoonful of Nutella.
Plop that same nutella filled spoon into the bowl and stir it all up.
You can use a little less nutella if you're not a nutella addict like me, maybe a teaspoon.
But if you're not into nutella at all, then obviously this recipe isn't for you. 

Because the spoon is hot, it can even be used to scrape nutella from the almost-empty jar.
You might consider just scooping your hot oatmeal into the almost-empty jar of Nutella and eating it out of the jar, scraping the nutella off the sides as you go.  But, I'm warning you, that would be going too far.

No photos available because I ate the whole thing.  No, I did not eat it out of the nutella jar.  But, yes, I thought about it.

See what I mean? My lawyer blog is just never going to blossom into a cooking blog, is it?

How to Prepare for Trial: A Note

(An occasional/sporadic series, with Parts One, Two, Three, and Four.)

Here's a tip, it's not really a step.  And it's something you already know, but it bears repeating.

Start early.  Stop procrastinating.

Sometimes you'll hear lawyers say, "Well, we'll get through jury selection and opening arguments today, so I'm ready for that, and tonight I can prepare my cross-examinations for the first few witnesses."  Yes, there are times when you get stuck "winging it" like that, but that should be the exception, not the rule.  That should be the last resort, not the plan.

Because things happen.  And if you leave your cross-examination until tonight, that means that if an unexpected issue comes up out of nowhere, and the Judge asks you "Why don't you write a short memo on that for tomorrow morning?"  Then you will spend the night frustrated, staying up later than you should, writing that memo and thinking "I still need to write my cross-examination!" 

Or, when your expert flakes on you, and you have to spend the night finding a new expert, or going out to check the scene for one more thing you hadn't thought of the first few times you visited it, or when your client starts talking crazy things during the trial (like "I think I'm going to have to testify, because you're not saying what I want you to say!" but you've only gotten as far as voir dire!), it's good to know you're already at least as prepared as you can be.

Sometimes trials don't start.  We've all been there for the appearances when the cop doesn't show up, the DA is out sick, and finally the Judge has some lame excuse of why the case can't start, and you start thinking, "Blonde Justice, I followed your advice and I wasted my time.  This case is never going to start and I didn't have to write my cross-examination written yet."  But, the truth is, it can always be improved upon right?  Each time the case is on, you will read through your trial prep materials and edit them and find something you can do, something you can investigate, something you can research, a question you can tweak to make it a little more descriptive.  And, if you end up spending a few hours researching something you can't use in this trial, you'll use that information that you learned somewhere, someday, for some other trial.  That time was not wasted.

And if you truly are completely prepared, and nothing unexpected happens, God bless you, you are luckier than me.  Get some good sleep, knowing that you are as prepared as you possibly can be.  Make something delicious to sustain you through the trial - I recommend a spicy soup like tom yum gai.  The way I see it, it's the perfect trial food:  It makes your throat feel good when you're doing a lot of talking, it unstuffs your sinuses so you can hear the witnesses, you can make a big batch and easily reheat it as needed when you're busy and hungry, and, well, if you don't have time to make it, you can pick it up fairly cheaply at the nearest Thai restaurant.

There you have it, two tips for the price of one:  don't procrastinate and eat spicy soup. 

The Non-Existent Appeal

I've mentioned it before, but it doesn't hurt to mention it again.  I love this new blog Public Defender Revolution. This latest post is basically about how all the trial mistakes and regrets don't matter once you get an acquittal.

I tried a case about a year ago where anything and everything that could go wrong did.  I kept thinking, throughout the trial "Gotta remember this for the appeal."   Of course, I also made written notes of all of the really bad (and wrong) rulings the judge was making.  In my mind, while the jury was out, I could already envision the appellate court giving this trial judge the scolding he deserved. 

The case ended in an acquittal.  A really surprising acquittal.  Surprising to both my client and me.  And the judge.  And the prosecutor.  The court officers, who always at least act like they knew what verdict was coming, later confided it me that they were really surprised too.

To this day, I still have moments where the trial issues creep into my mind in an I-almost-forgot-about-something-important way, and I think "Oh my god, I forgot to note that issue for the appeal lawyer!  Oh wait, did I ever write the memo for the appeal lawyer?  WHAT?  DID I FORGET TO DO THAT?  DID THE DEADLINE PASS?  Oh wait... he got acquitted."

Followed, of course, by "How the hell did that happen?"

Reading Random

Last week, I was sitting in court, waiting for my case to be called, when I happened to watch another case that the judge was handling.  From what I could hear from my seat in the audience, the defendant had been arrested for vehicular homicide.  It was unclear to me whether he had been intoxicated or otherwise driving recklessly, but he had apparently hit a young woman, and she had died.  The man had already pleaded guilty and was before the court for sentencing.

At a sentencing, the victim or their family may appear in court to make a statement to the judge.  The judge can take the victim's feelings or opinions or requests into consideration when deciding the sentence.

In this case, the victim had died.  For a reason I couldn't hear, her family did not come to court.  Sometimes in that situation, the family members might write letters that the prosecutor could read aloud to the judge at the sentencing.  Or, if they didn't, the prosecutor may just make her own speech about the loss the family had suffered, about the potential the victim had, about a life cut short, even without the judge hearing directly from the victim or her family.

In this case, the prosecutor did none of those things, but instead stated that she "would like to read something the victim had written prior to her death."  She then proceeded to read something that went something like this:

I like milkshakes, chocolate milkshakes are my favorite. 
I took piano lessons in fourth grade, but I never got very good.
I want to paint my bedroom red.
If I ever get a tattoo, it will be a butterfly on my ankle.

This went on for a few minutes as I tried to figure out where the prosecutor was getting this from.  What had caused the victim to write this list of completely random things before her death?  Then it occurred to me, this was a "Random Things About Me" list from her facebook page, myspace, or blog.  And this was no list of ten or twenty things, it must have been a list of one hundred. 

As she continued...
I'll do anything for a chocolate chip cookie.
I have been to Disney Land twice.

I looked up and saw a look of confusion on the judge's face.  I have a feeling that this judge, who is probably in his sixties, has never heard of a 100 Things About Me list, and had no idea how the prosecutor came up with these random things that weren't particularly sympathetic or convincing, in terms of a sentence.   The prosecutor continued...

I prefer men with shaved or waxed chests.
My favorite class at the gym is stripper aerobics.

Finally, the judge's expression went from confused to angry and he stopped the prosecutor, "Ok, I've heard enough.  Let's proceed."  

The lesson here?  Ten things about any one person are probably plenty.  The other lesson?  Know your audience. 

Now, feel free to go back and read the list of things about yourself that you've published and imagine the prosecutor reading it to a judge after your death.  Because that's a pleasant thought. 

Fantasy Living, the update

Guess what. My realtor never wrote back.  Guess I'm stuck in my "real life" for the time being.  With a bathtub instead of an indoor pool. 

Fantasy Living

I have this town, well, city really, that I imagine I'll move to.  Maybe everyone does this.  But when things get stressful, I like to load up Trulia Real Estate Search and search for the house I'm going to live in, when I move.

Maybe it's like when you go on vacation, and of course you think "I could move here."  It's kind of come to be an ideal, maybe even a fantasy.  If I moved there, things would be perfect, and my life would be better and I could own an ice cream maker.  (My current tiny apartment is much too small for me to reasonably purchase an ice cream maker, which will take up a substantial amount of my kitchen storage only to be used a few times a year.)  And a fancy cake stand with a glass lid.

So, of course, the house has to be pretty perfect, to fit this fantasy lifestyle and all of the kitchen gadgets and accessories that come with it.  Which is why, I was super excited when I found a house with an indoor pool.  Yup, an indoor pool.  Indoors.  I can just imagine pool parties in the middle of the winter.  Swimming laps during a thunderstorm.  And, seriously, even the worst day in the world has to seem pretty good when you can come home, no matter the weather, and take a quick swim.  Right?  Right.

And while I can plan my pool parties ignoring the fact that I don't know anyone in town to invite to my pool parties, I can also avoid googling "cost of maintaining indoor heated pool."  Which I imagine might be great, both financially and environmentally.  But we're not there yet.  I'm still in the excited-about-swimming phase.

I was so excited, I even emailed it to my friend who is on my plan with me.  I don't know whether I'm her enabler, or she's mine, but the plan is that we can both move to this city, and that makes it even more fantastic.  And if she moves there too, I have someone to invite to my pool parties, of course.

Anyway... bad news in fantasy world.  My house with the indoor pool is gone from the real estate search. It doesn't appear to be sold because the home information says "Last sold August 2005."  But it could be in the process of being sold.  Or, maybe the homeowners decided to hold onto the house a little longer, maybe paint it pink, so it could be ready and available for me when I'm ready to move. 

Here comes the part where you can call me crazy... I emailed the realtor.  Luckily, because I had emailed it to my friend, I still had the agency info.  I just inquired whether it sold or whether it is off the market.  Maybe I'll get some more information.  Does emailing the realtor on a house I have no intention to move to right away qualify me as delusional?   Probably.

But keep your fingers posted for me and my indoor pool.  Hey, a girl's gotta dream, right?

PD Revolution

Thank you, Sancho, for introducing me to this fantastic (new?) public defender blog:

Public Defender Revolution.

So good.

Hypothetical No More

Somewhere shortly after, "How do you defend someone if you know that he's guilty?" the conversation with curious friends and strangers sometimes proceeds to, "What if you defended someone, and he got off, and then he killed someone or something?  Wouldn't you feel responsible?"

Well, there's no more need to hypothesize.  It has happened to me, to a small extent at least, and now I can tell you how I feel.

First, the background.  I represented this client a few years ago.  I represented him on something where he wasn't really facing jail time.  It was more like a probation or parole hearing - if we lost, the terms of his parole would have been stricter, and if we won, the terms would have been more lenient.

The client had a very bad criminal record.  If I remember correctly, there was some kind of sex assault on his record, and there was also a homicide of some sort.  I don't remember if it was murder or manslaughter or whatnot that he had pleaded guilty to, but I remember that the homicide was related to the death of a witness in the original sex assault case.

Personally, this client was always nice to me - he was always a respectful, kind client.  And he was always accompanied by his girlfriend.  She was very pretty and nice, and just seemed to have it more "together" than he did.  If I relayed an instruction or a court date to her, I knew the message would get through or that my client would show up.

Throughout the case, I wondered if she knew how bad his criminal past was.  But, finally we had the hearing, and she sat in the audience through the whole thing as my client's whole criminal history was reviewed in great detail.  We won, and at the end, when we walked out, she thanked me profusely and was very appreciatively, and didn't seem the least bit shocked or confused at what she had heard. 

I heard recently from a former colleague that the client's girlfriend had been found dead, and that my former client had been arrested for her murder.  I haven't heard any update whether he has taken any guilty plea or whether he is going to trial.  I would guess, that, given his record, there probably isn't any plea offer on the table, but I don't know for sure. Now, obviously, he's presumed innocent, and I don't know whether he actually he killed her or not.  But, at this point, it's the closest I've ever come to the hypothetical, "represented someone . . . then they killed someone..."

So, how do I feel?  I feel sad.  The client's girlfriend seemed like a nice person.  I don't like it when people die, especially nice people.  I feel disturbed.  I guess even though I have represented a few people who have previously been convicted of murder or manslaughter (including this client), I still imagine that it takes a different kind of person to be able to kill someone, and that somehow I could recognize such a person.  That seems silly, I knew he had previously been convicted to killing someone (I never asked him whether he did it, or whether he felt that he had been falsely convicted, or anything like that), so it would be a fair assumption that he was capable of killing someone - but I guess that's just a false assumption that most people have - that if we met a murderer, we would know.  That every murderer would look like Charles Manson with a forehead tattoo or something.

Do I feel responsible?  Nah, not really.  It's hard to say whether I'd feel differently if my case had been responsible for him being released from jail, and that, but for my defense, he would have been in jail or prison and unable to kill his girlfriend.  But that wasn't the situation here.  (And I don't think the stricter restrictions he would have faced if we had lost the hearing would have made any difference either.)

I feel curious about how much she knew about his record, what explanations he gave her, and why she made the decision to stay with him even knowing about his record.  Obviously, she could have been killed by him even if he had no record, but it seems like she took more of a risk knowing his record.  She was a pretty girl, I'm sure she could have had a nice boyfriend without such a past, so who knows what went into her decision to date him.  Maybe she was blinded by love.

How fitting for a Valentine's Day post.  Have a good holiday, everyone.

Checking In

I have a little less to say recently.  I find that as I handle more serious cases, there is less to joke about. 

I have this funny case, where my client broke into this guy's house and...  See, there's just not that much set up for a joke there. 

The other problem is that I receive about 30 comments a day I need to moderate, almost all spam.  A while back, someone suggested that if I'm going to moderate comments anyway, I don't need to have the "type in the blurry word" mechanism, since I'm going to sort out the junk anyway.  So, I eliminated the blurry word thing, and there wasn't much of a problem.  But now the spam comments have increased exponentially.  Now when I have a few minutes, I log in to check on Blonde Justice, I spend ten minutes deleting spam, and then I've hit my wall or used up my time for that day. So I think I'm going to have to try bringing back "type in the blurry word" if I have any plans to keep this blog going.  (I wish blogger would do more to figure out what the spam is, and somehow sort it out for me, but it doesn't.) 

So, that's all for today.  Oh wait, I did have one stupid case, that inspired a funny exchange.  My client was charged with vending in a public park without a permit.  I noticed that the complaint said he was selling CDs, and I wanted to know if perhaps they were his own CDs, meaning his own performances, in which case I might have a First Amendment exception to the charges (I didn't know if it would fly, since the rule seems to be a content-neutral time, place, or manner rule, but I figured it didn't hurt to ask.) 

"Yeah, I'm a rapper," he said, and told me his rap name.  

"Oh, that's cool, I have a rap name too," and I told him my rap name. 

I don't think I've ever had a client look at me with such respect before.  Ok, so it's not really a "rap name," it's really just a nickname, but isn't that all a rap name is, really?