I have a preliminary hearing for Bobby. According to him, he and his pals are standing outside a store when the police pull up and, for no reason, frisk him and find drugs. No reason? No reason, he assures me.
The arresting officer is the only one to testify at the hearing. He tells us that Vice had sent an undercover cop in to make a buy, using a marked $20 bill. The cop had then flagged backup, which had taken down Bobby. The nice thing about a prelim is that there's no jury, so I can ask whatever I want. In this case, it's, "Officer, did you find the marked $20 bill?"
"Yes, we did," he says.
"And where did you find it?" I ask, pretty sure of the answer.
"On your client."
At which point Bobby leans over and whispers, in the anguished tone of someone who's been truly deceived, "They didn't tell me it was marked!"
Three months later we're at the sentencing. "Bobby," the judge says, "I'll give you a choice. You can do six months in prison, and when you get out, you're done." (This was before the SB2 reforms, when they had determinate sentences with no parole.) "Or I can give you probation, but if you violate, you'll do a year."
Bobby didn't hesitate. "I'll take some of that probation." Exact words.
He gave a dirty urine the first time he was tested.
* * * * *
Robert's got some 'tude. The first time I go visit him in jail, he asks me what the unit dose for cocaine is. I tell him there isn't one; either you've got less than five grams, or you've got more. He tells me I'm wrong. Also tells me that they just found residue in the crack pipe he had, and you can't be convicted for just residue. I tell him that's not true, and he tells me again that I'm wrong. I've been doing this for 33 years, I'm with someone who's been to the joint four times, and he's the bright guy in the room. He wants a trial.
He bonds out after a month or so, and the day before trial I go see the judge. She's a sweetheart. Won't put him on probation, because he's screwed up the three other times a judge has done that, but checks and sees that he's done forty-five days in county, so she'll give him time served: find him guilty, sentence him to the forty-five days in jail he's already done, no probation, no costs, no fine, out the door.
He comes to court the day of trial, and I explain it to him. "But we didn't have the drugs tested," he tells me. "I'm entitled to have the drugs tested."
"You sure are," I acknowledge. "And I can go in and tell the judge we want to do that, and she'll kick the case for three weeks and we can find out if it was really cocaine residue. If it turns out it is, you do six months or a year."
"And I don't think the cops had the right to stop me."
"You know what, I don't think so either. At least from what the prosecutor told me. So we can do a hearing on the motion to suppress I filed and find out what the cop really says. And if the search is bad, you go home, just like you're going to do anyway. But if it isn't, then you'll have to do some time."
It takes me twenty minutes to talk him into it. Well, not really talk him into it. I just keep saying, "Hey, you're right, let's try the case, find out what happens. I mean, I get to leave here today. Let's roll the dice and see if you get to leave, too."
So we're doing the plea, and the judge gets to the part where she asks Robert if he's satisfied with his lawyer.
Robert has to think about it.
He stares down at the floor pensively for a moment or two. The judge says, "Hey, he got you a pretty good deal, don't you think?"
Robert shrugs. "Yeah, I guess," he says after another minute.
While I'm waiting at the elevator, Robert comes over. "You do probate?" he asks me. "I need a probate lawyer."