Welcome to The Briefcase

Commentary and analysis of Ohio criminal law and whatever else comes to mind, served with a dash of snark.  Continue Reading »


Friday Roundup

An entendre, bartender, and make it a double.  Only in Texas:  in 1990, Charles Dean Hood was sentenced to death for killing his boss and the boss's girlfriend.  There wasn't much doubt of his guilt; his fingerprints were found not only on the garbage bags that covered the dead woman's body, but on the note he had left in an attempt to throw the police off his trail.  The note, purportedly from her, claimed that she had gone out jogging.  The attempt failed because Hood had misspelled her name.

But Hood wasn't the only one in the case operating with his Brainpower Switch set on "dim."  Last year his lawyers discovered that the trial judge in his case had been sleeping with the prosecutor who tried him.  According to this article, after a 6-3 decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals holding that this didn't warrant a stay of Hood's execution, the case may be heading to the Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, Judge Verla Sue Holland, who presided over Hood's trial, is not taking all this lying down.  As the article notes, with a stiff upper lip,

In her deposition, Judge Holland said she had lately become angry with Mr. Hood’s lawyers for “annihilating my reputation.” She said she had asked the attorney general’s office to represent her in Mr. Hood’s challenge to her conduct because she thought she needed to fight back. She was “tired of laying over,” she said, and “getting licked without any input.”

You can't make this stuff up.

No quarter asked, no quarter given.  I used to practice domestic relations law, but I wasn't very good at it.  I always felt that, because of the emotional trauma surrounding divorce, it was incumbent upon me to remain objective and above the fray.  I found out two things.  First, divorce clients don't like that; they want someone who's going to extract the last pound of flesh and ounce of blood from their soon-to-be ex-spouse.  Second, there are plenty of lawyers willing to do that, and even to goad their clients on in that sentiment.

That's not limited to domestic practice, though, as evidenced by David Justin Lynch & Associates, a California firm which advertises itself as "attorneys who kick butt!"  The only thing missing from the firm's web site is the smell of napalm and a sound track of Ride of the Valkyries

Unlike other attorneys who groove on friendship and politics when dealing with the other side, we’re for you, all the way. For us, the other side is not merely an opponent---they’re the enemy!

For us, litigation is war. We’ve given the term “scorched earth litigation” new meaning with unusual, but effective, actions and tactics—sometimes unpleasant, but all within the law. Our letters feature down-to-earth street language to get our point across. We carpet bomb the other side with discovery, and our deposition questions are like hellfire missiles. Opposing lawyers hate us—but our clients love us, and that’s what counts.

Emphasis in original, as if you had to ask.

Well, Mr. Lynch, you probably make more money in a week than I do in a month, but that doesn't make you any less of an asshole.  The reason they call this a profession is because we're supposed to be professionals.

The law in these parts.  The Anthony Sowell case here in Cleveland keeps chugging along.  For those cavebound for the past six months, Sowell stands accused of luring eleven women to his Cleveland abode and murdering and raping them.  The case has been covered in lavish detail by the local fishwrap, prompting Sowell's attorneys to move last month for a change of venue.  The trial court denied that, concluding that if Timothy McVeigh could be tried in Oklahoma City, Anthony Sowell could be tried in Cleveland, putting the defense attorneys in the unenviable position of figuring out how to delicately remind the judge that McVeigh's case had been moved to Denver.

Money's always a problem in death penalty cases here in Cleveland.  Last year, the administrative judge decided to cap the fees of mitigation experts at $3,000, a sum so penurious that it's become more difficult to find one willing to work on a case.  (How this will play out when these cases hit habeas review in the 6th Circuit five or so years from now is anyone's guess.)  The judge in Sowell's case has been more generous, recently allocating $15,000 for a psychologist.  To press this issue, a few weeks back Sowell's lawyers filed a "Motion to Have Defense Counsel and Experts Paid in Compliance with ABA Guidelines Section 9.1 and the Federal Constitution."

That's a bit of a stretch; as I pointed out then, back in December the Supreme Court pretty much trashed the idea that the ABA Guidelines represent the minimum standards for effective representation of death penalty defendants, holding that the Guidelines were... well, guidelines.  The State in its response to Sowell's motion went well beyond that, though, arguing

In that the Court of Common Pleas derives its jurisdiction and is bound to follow the law of the Ohio Revised Code, State of Ohio Constitution and Rules of Ohio Criminal Procedure, the ABA guidelines as well as the Federal Constitution would not be applicable to this case.

Yes, that is my emphasis.  And no, you can't make up stuff like that, either.


Recent Entries

  • February 23, 2018
    Marsy's Law -- Restitution
    How the Victim's Rights Amendment passed last November affects restitution
  • February 20, 2018
    What's Up in the 8th
    A search decision, more "policies," and why a seminar for muni court judges on taking pleas might be a good idea
  • February 14, 2018
    Two more to death row
    A couple of death penalty decisions from the Ohio Supreme Court
  • February 12, 2018
    En banc on sentencing
    The 8th looks at the appellate court's role in reviewing sentences
  • February 8, 2018
    SCOTUS and the Fourth
    A couple of upcoming Supreme Court decisions on search and seizure
  • February 5, 2018
    What's Up in the 8th
    The benefits of appealing muni court cases, lecture time, and when you absolutely, positively, cannot raise arguments about manifest weight and sufficiency
  • February 2, 2018
    Friday Roundup
    School specs and sovereign citizens
  • January 31, 2018
    A tale of three cases
    The Ohio Supreme Court decides one case, and decides not to decide two others
  • January 29, 2018
    What's Up in the 8th
    Getting rid of an attorney, no contest pleas, and probation conditions
  • January 26, 2018
    Friday Roundup
    Information society. Last week I did a post about Aaron Judge and the lack of hard data in the field of criminal law. We have mainly anecdotal information on what kinds of sentences judges hand down, we have no idea...