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Things I don't understand

Case 1.  You know you're in pretty good shape when, three days before trial, the prosecutor asks you if your client knows where the victim can be reached.

"Alleged" victim, I should say, in every sense of the term.  I was representing Bobby, who'd gone along with his Aunt Jane to get her stuff from the motel where Jane was staying with her boyfriend.  The boyfriend wasn't there, and things went without a hitch, so Bobby was nonplussed to later find himself (and Jane) charged with aggravated robbery.  Seems that Jane had just collected a fairly sizable personal injury check, and decided to use that to break things off with Boyfriend.  The latter wasn't happy with this turn of events, so he told the police that Bobby and Jane had broken in on him at gunpoint and taken his stuff.  I was pretty sure he wouldn't show up at trial, and the prosecutor's lack of enthusiasm confirmed that she shared my opinion.  She made a perfunctory call in the lobby for Boyfriend, and when no one responded, she took the file down to her supervisor. 

She called me ten minutes later.  "Would you take a misdemeanor?"  Bobby was 26 years old and had no criminal record, and I wasn't about to give him one for this.  I told the prosecutor no.  Five minutes later, she came back up and dismissed the case. 

The interesting thing is, when I told Bobby about the plea offer, he jumped to take it.

Case 2.  I got appointed to represent Jerry, who was charged with burglary, CCW, and weapons under disability.  He'd gone over to cut his cousin's hair, but the cousin wasn't home.  Jerry asked the cousin's girlfriend to use the bathroom, and she told him to use the place next door -- this was a duplex -- which had been vacant for about a year.  He did, and while he was inside the cops made a traffic stop of another car. 

It was a ghetto traffic stop:  guns drawn, police shouting at people to get out of the car, so Jerry figured this wasn't a good time to walk out of the house.  The cops spotted him in the window, though, and came in and got him.  While looking around the lot behind the duplex, the cops spotted a gun sitting on top of the front tire of the cousin's car.  Jerry had the keys to the car, because he had been working on it.

I had some questions about all this, but I went out to the scene and interviewed all the witnesses, and they corroborated everything Jerry had said.  Turns out the gun had actually been put there by one of the guys from the traffic stop.

So I gave all the names of the witnesses in my response to the prosecutor's discovery request, filed it, then went to the pretrial and laid it all out for her, explaining what each witness would say.  The gun obviously didn't belong to Jerry; given that he had access to the interior of the car, why would he try to "hide" the gun on top of the front tire?  The indictment indicated the property was owned by a mortgage company, and that "the offender knew that a person from XYZ was likely to be present"; fat chance of the State bringing in anyone from XYZ, let alone someone to say that he regularly stayed there.  There was nothing to show that Jerry had taken anything from the place, or tried to, and so the prosecution couldn't show that he'd gone into the place with the intent to commit a felony.  The bottom line, I told the prosecutor, was that the most Jerry had done was commit a criminal trespass, a 3rd degree misdemeanor.

At which point the prosecutor told me, "Well, if that's what you're looking for, let's set it for trial.  My office would never go along with that."

Not, "Well, let me talk to the witnesses and see if what you've told me checks out."  Not, "Well, we have other information that contradicts what you've been told."  The question is not what the facts establish, but what her supervisor will approve.

Case 3.  "Geez, you guys did a great job on that one," I tell Ron when I see him, a week after the verdict came down.  "Not only saved the guy's life, but got the jury to came back with a straight murder."

Ron shook his head.  "Know what the guy did?  Pistol-whipped him.  Goes into a house, robs a 70-year-old man, shoots him in the chest.  And then he pistol-whips him."  Ron looks at me, pained.  "Why would you do something like that?"

Defense lawyers get inured to a lot of things.  But not everything.  "Victim volunteered to teach the violin to poor kids at a school up on Buckeye."  Ron's really not talking to me anymore.  "Wife comes home, finds him lying in a pool of blood.  Married thirty-four years.

"'Why'd you pistol-whip him?' I asked the kid.  'You think the guy was gonna get up?'  Jesus... My wife says it would've taken her ten seconds to vote to give the guy the needle."  His voice trails off.  "My wife."

Not much I can say.


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