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War stories

I was on the road this weekend, so we'll do the Case Update tomorrow.  Which won't take long, because there was absolute diddly out of the Ohio Supreme Court last week.  Instead, I'll update you on a couple of clients.

First up is "Jamie," the 46-year-old transvestite with 26 prior drug cases.  I got appointed to represent her on her 27th, and wound up trying the case.  That data point in what most observers had already concluded was an unremarkable legal career is chronicled here, a must-read for those unsure of the distinction between a "hand job" and a "head job."  After her conviction -- an event as predictable as the sunrise -- I managed to persuade the judge to put her on probation, for reasons even he couldn't figure out.

Well, the other day I ran into the cop who'd arrested her for the first case, and he told me she'd been busted again.  Wow.  Who could've seen that one coming?

The other story has a happier ending.  A couple weeks back, I told you about Leon, who got nabbed in a control buy of $60 worth of marijuana.  The ensuing search resulted in the discovery of several mason jars of the evil weed, plus nine profoundly healthy plants of the stuff, in what the prosecutor described as one of the most professional grow operations he'd ever seen.  Three guns were also discovered, which Leon wasn't supposed to have as the result of a previous drug conviction.  Plus, Leon was a believer in the "sovereign citizen" routine pushed by some militia types, believing that the United States and the State of Ohio had no legal authority over him.  He wound up being his own attorney, and pissing off the judge so badly that the judge gave him maximum consecutive sentences of more than 15 years. 

I got the case reversed because the judge hadn't gone the little niceties that a waiver of the right to counsel requires.  When the case came back, to a different judge, I got all the evidence thrown out because the warrant was bad.  Turns out the controlled buy, which was the centerpiece of the affidavit, actually hadn't occurred at the point the warrant was issued, even though the affidavit referred to it in the past tense.

The prosecutor still wanted to try the case on the 5th degree sale, punishable by 12 months in the joint, despite Leon already having done 15 months.  So last Monday I went over for the trial.  I'd put the municipal court judge (we'll call her Fitzhugh) who issued the warrant on my witness list, the prosecutor had filed a motion in limine, and when I got over to court I found the trial judge had granted it.  She explained that Judge Fitzhugh would only be a witness on a collateral matter.  I explained that it wasn't collateral:  the State had to put the cop on the stand to testify about how the buy went down -- searching the informant beforehand, finding the drugs afterward -- and that put the cop's credibility in issue.  If he had lied to get a search warrant on that very case, that would demonstrate bias, and I should be able to get into that.  Of course, if he admitted at trial that he'd lied in the affidavit, then I wouldn't need to bring in Judge Fitzhugh, but at the suppression hearing he'd insisted that he'd told her that the buy had yet to take place, and if he stuck to that story at trial, well...

The judge looks at me for a couple seconds, says, "You know what?  You're right.  I'll let it in."

The prosecutor fidgets in his chair.  I say, "One more thing, your honor.  As an officer of the court, I felt I need to bring this to your attention.  I believe the court may have a duty to inform the police officer of his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination if he takes the stand."

The prosecutor sags in his chair like he's taken a bullet.  "Well, I'm not going to do that," says the judge.  "I assume that the prosecutor's office has properly advised the officer of his situation."

I stand up.  Time to stick the knife in a bit deeper.  "I'm going to call my office and tell them to issue a subpoena for Judge Fitzhugh."  Judge gives it a twist, says, "Well, I think we should call her right now, and let her know it's coming, and find out what the most convenient time for her to appear would be."  She picks up the phone and starts dialing.

That took care of that.  The prosecutor did his best Jesse Owens impersonation running downstairs and getting approval to dismiss the case, and Leon, some six months after walking out of prison to face ten felony charges, walked out of court a free man.

Sometimes things work the way they're supposed to.


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