90% of life
Mark looked up from the folder of the case that he was set to try against me that morning. "New look?" he asked as I sat down at the table. I hadn't shaved since I came back from Vegas five weeks ago, although I got a nice little trimmer (with seven attachments, $19.99 at Target for those needing some last-minute gift tips) to keep it neat. "Yeah," I said, "I figured I'd try for the manly look."
Mark mulled that over. "Think that ship already sailed, don't you?" I nodded. He had a point. "So, you got good news for me?" I asked. His turn to nod. "Yeah, I think so...
Our story actually begins a couple of months back, when I'm appointed to represent Shawn. Forget what he tells me. That's confidential. What Mark has told me is that Shawn drove a couple of other guys around the city of Euclid in a stolen car, tried to break into an SUV, and then led the cops them on a high-speed chase, up to 70 mph, through the streets of Euclid. Then they got on the shoreway, where Shawn revved it up over 100. He tried to head up an exit ramp, but couldn't make the turn and crashed into the barrier at the top of the ramp. He and the others took off, but Shawn was apprehended a little while later with the help of the Euclid Police dog, K-9. Apparently, imagination doesn't rank highly on the policeman's test there. And self-control doesn't rank highly on the police dog's test there, either: K-9 also chewed up some other guy who just happened to be walking by.
I tell Mark at the first pretrial that Shawn really wasn't the driver, despite the fact the cops say so, and he laughs, because we both know where that's going. Shawn doesn't have a record, which isn't as impressive as it might be if he were 29 instead of 19. We go back to talk to the judge, and I pitch him on the possibility of probation. He says something about how if I talk him into that, I only need two more miracles to become eligible for sainthood. "It's always better to plead," he says. I know what he means. I did a post once about the "trial tax" -- the additional penalty that some (most) judges impose for going to trial, rather than pleading. Let's put it this way: this judge believes in taxes.
I explain all this to Shawn, but his mother's there, nice woman, pleads with me to do something to help her son. I'm tempted to tell her that if I try the case and get her son off, I'll only need two more miracles to...
Ya gotta love technology. A couple of days after that, with trial just a few weeks away, Mark tells me that the chase was recorded on the cops' dashboard camera, and sends me a copy. It's nothing you wouldn't see on "Cops," but that's the problem: Shawn's looking at five years just for the chase, which has to run consecutive to the sentence for the receiving and attempted vehicle theft charges. There's no doubt that after the judge views the tape, Shawn's going to be looking at the high side of that equation.
But I watch the tape a few more times. After the car crashes, the camera catches the driver jumping out of the car and running off. It's a side shot, only a few seconds, and you can't make out the face. But I notice the driver was wearing shorts. I call up Shawn and ask him what he was wearing that night. I can't tell you what he said, but as a result of my investigation I learn he was wearing blue jeans.
I always uncritically accept anything my clients tell me, so a week before trial I go out to the scene of the crash and walk the route the police claim the driver went. It's very clear that the cops lost sight of the driver at some point, hence, the dog. I then drive down to the Euclid Police Department and ask for Shawn's booking slip. The cop brings out a copy, all it has is height, weight, eye color, etc. "Would you keep any record of what the guy was wearing when he was arrested?" I ask. The cop smiles brightly. "Oh, that's on the back of the booking slip. Let me go make a copy of that." He does. It contains a full description of the clothes Shawn was wearing that night. Including the blue jeans.
So last week I gave Mark the booking slip, told him to look at the video again, that my guy wasn't the driver, and I want the charge dropped. And this morning he tells me that's exactly what he's going to do. I can't wait tell Shawn the good news.
Which is what I would have done, if Shawn had shown up. Never did. Nor did his nice mother. Phone number I have for him is "temporarily disconnected."
But the morning wasn't a complete loss. I had a pretrial for Charlene, who's got a drug trafficking charge because she drove her boyfriend to a place in Brooklyn, one of the local suburbs, where he sold drugs to an undercover agent. She's got no record, and was completely unaware of what he was doing. In fact, the whole time the buy was going down -- she pulled up, parked, some other guy walks over to the passenger side, talks with boyfriend -- she was on the cellphone talking to her sister. When the other guy leaves, boyfriend tells her to get going, she starts the car up, and just then remembers that Brooklyn has a law banning cellphone use while driving. At that exact moment, two cop cars pull up and the vice squad spills out, guns drawn. And she tells me her first thought was, "Gee, these guys are really serious about this cellphone stuff."