Wednesday, May 27, 2009
As I was waiting in court for my case to be called, I sat there watching as three lawyers were "addressing" the court and each other. For a moment I felt like a tv viewer who happened to flip to an unfamiliar sitcom and stick around to see what it was all about. It took a minute or two to figure out that these two defense attorneys and one prosecutor were simply trying to pick the next court date for their case. There was always a problem with a particular date. "No that's not good for me - I have a conflict on that day. What about the 4th?" "Bad day for me counsel, it's my nephew's grade school graduation." And on and on. Everyone in that crowded courtroom, including the defendants in custody, the court reporter, the clerk, and the people and lawyers waiting for other cases to be called had to listen to this. Every once in a while the judge would think there was a date agreed to and eagerly say - "So that's it? It's Thursday, the 6th?" - but no that wouldn't actually do for one of the attorneys - "I'm set for trial in Compton that day and Judge Cheroske ... well you know Cheroske." There's more blither and blather back and forth. At some point it reaches some plateau where it's clear to all that some major point of existential absurdity has been reached. The judge looks down from the bench with a look like "would someone please give me the air bubble?"
Okay, I'll admit it, I too have participated in this kind of special Olympics for lawyers event of "picking a date". I had no idea I was so amazing.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
One of those words I can never remember. I always have to use it too. Because there's always something that needs "redacting" - always - your guy's statement - a crimey's statement - a witness. Hate it when my client tells me the word. I'm the goddamn lawyer I know the word - it just takes me a while to get it out.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
For some reason this Judge is giving it to this young cocky DA at a preliminary hearing. I say, giving it to him because being stupid and cocky in a DA doesn't usually get you in trouble with a Judge. But there must have been some bad shit between these two. Because she really got on his tail. She interrupts him as he questions his witness - in a voice like she was talking to a 4th grader – "Mr. So & So – look at the jury instructions before you present your case so you’ll know the elements you have to prove. I am tired of having to do your job for you." Man she was mad. And my client's boyfriend lets out a whoop from the audience. One for the oppressed yeah! He's thrown out of court. I have to say I enjoyed it too. As long as it wasn’t me. And then, of course, the Judge held my client to "answer"* and put her in jail.
*answer enough evidence to hold defendant for trial.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Somebody asked me if I ever asked my clients to tell me "the Truth". "The Truth"? Why would I do that? Why would I want to hear something that could burden the both of us? I never do. I tell them what they’re being charged with. I tell them what the cops say. And then it’s their turn. If they want to tell me “the Truth” then, o.k., what am I gonna do? Sometimes I believe their story and sometimes I don’t, but I know one thing. I never ever "know" for sure if it’s really "the Truth". Besides, it’s the DA that’s supposed to be "seeking" "the Truth". Honestly. That's how it's supposed to work. I defend my clients legal rights and the DA seeks "the Truth". Somewhere it's written in the DA rules or laws or canons, whatever, that they are supposed to do that. I’m sure there are those DA’s who take that very seriously. But I don’t think all of them do. I think they are human and they want to win. And that usually means that they "believe" my guy is guilty.
Lots of time my clients never even attempt to tell me "the Truth" which I appreciate. Then I can concentrate one hundred percent on doing whatever I can to do my job.
Believing your client's story is usually a big risk because that might not be enough to get him acquitted. For instance, kidnapping someone and demanding $50,000 to release them because the person "fucked my wife" is not actually a full defense, although it may be the truth. Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough for the job at hand which is staying out of jail.
Monday, May 11, 2009
there's the judge that is always kvetching from the bench (how this friend owes him money and won't pay him; how a contractor screwed him; how you can't trust people anymore - this is during jury selection).
then there are the jurists who:
go crazy when you walk into the "well"*;
go crazy when you "approach a witness" without asking "may I approach the witness?";
go crazy when you ask "may I approach the witness?" and yell at you for asking;
go crazy when you call them "judge" instead of "Your Honor";
go crazy when you wear a sweater that obscures your tie and they think you're trying to pull a fast one and not wear a tie in court;
go crazy when you don't stand up when you address** "the court".
*area in front of the judge's bench - where His Excellency sits
**you never talk to a judge - you always "address the court"
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I am at Twin Towers jail waiting for my guy. Through the glass of the visiting area I see, all of a sudden, 20 deputies with helmets & shotguns & protective gear appear in the open area outside the cellblocks. And then they swoop down on the cells. I don't know what's going on. I buzz the help buzzer in the wall. A voice comes on and announces that there's going to be a delay in my client coming since there was a search being conducted. And then the voice cuts off. I'm watching the deputies running this way and that way. I'm thinking I'm the only one in the outside world watching this (there's nobody around because there's only visits for attorneys this day). And I start having a little paranoid moment. Am I supposed to be seeing this? What if I'm not? What if I was watching something they didn't want me to see? They could see me watching them. And they were pumped. I started looking away - like I wasn't watching. That felt stupid.
When they finished they all gathered in the open area outside the cells. They were lined up in formation listening to someone give them a speech. Was this a show and tell? "so & so found a shank in cellblock 3." Was it a Victory oration? "Today we made history." I couldn't hear anything because of the thick glass. I did notice how happy and excited they all looked - like they were about to break out into song.
"We are Deputy Sheriffs and we found a couple of shanks
- we're the Deputy Sheriffs & we don't expect no thanks."
I asked my client about it - he said this was a "mellow" place.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Being a lawyer is similar in one respect, at least, to being a cab driver. You got to hustle for fares.
When I drove cab I used to sit in the cab in the middle of the night with my finger on the two way motorola radio listening intently for the dispatcher to announce an open trip and then pounce on the button like a Jeopardy contestant. All so I'd respond before my fellow cabdrivers. You wouldn't know where the fare was at. You wouldn't know where they were going. You wouldn't know if it was a short or long trip. You wouldn't know if they were good tippers. And you wouldn't even know if they had the money to pay you. You just knew you had to get the fare.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
"What are you jammin* me for?" DA says to me.
My client had refused to waive time**.
"I'm not jammin you." I tell him. "My client wants to have his trial already." (I'd like to add but I don't "he doesn't know anything aobut your plans to go scuba diving off the reefs in Hawaii next week, asshole - he's in jail - he's not thinking about screwing your trip up but if he knew I'm sure he would love to do just that."
What's wrong with some DA's thinking is they think we're on the same team - when we're only in the same league - on different teams. (unfortunately alot of my clients think the same way - "You're in bed with the DA!")
*jammin" the act of not agreeing to a continuance for your colleague's convenience [colleague can be co-defense counsel or DA] "jamming" is considered very non collegial - very like "civil" lawyers)
**"waiving time" means the defendant says it's okay with him to postpone the trial
Friday, May 1, 2009
What is probation? The dictionary says:
1. the act of testing.
2. the testing or trial of a person's conduct, character, qualifications, or the like.
3. the state or period of such testing or trial.
a. a method of dealing with offenders, esp. young persons guilty of minor crimes or first offenses, by allowing them to go at large under supervision of a probation officer.
b. the state of having been conditionally released.
5. Education. a trial period or condition of students in certain educational institutions who are being permitted to redeem failures, misconduct, etc.
6. the testing or trial of a candidate for membership in a religious body or order, for holy orders, etc.
7. Archaic. proof.
That's heavy shit. But the people who get probation don't have any idea of any of this. It's mainly - "oh I'm getting out of jail" or "oh I'm not going to jail". They give you probation and you figure it’s done. But it's a trap. Cause to the judge it's a big favor he and the system are doing you. And most people are gonna fuck up for sure. You gotta report to the probation department which can be a trial in itself. You think you know what BUREAUCRACY is - try the County Probation Department. They actually charge you a monthly fee - money - for being on probation and then when you don’t pay it - which happens an awful lot - cause - "what? They actually expect me to pay for this?" And missing an appointment with your probation officer? "What's the big fucking deal?"
The big deal is the judges take it personally when you fuck up under probation. "It's as if you slapped me right in the face. Do you know that, sir?" The big deal is you end up in state prison.
I couldn't do it.