Sleeping with the enemy
There was little subtlety to the text message: "State quoted your godforsaken blog in their motion to reconsider Goodson..." It was sent by my friend - well, up to that point, anyway - Erika of the Public Defender's office, who'd done a masterful job of getting Cassandra Goodson's plea vacated. I'd talked about State v. Goodson a couple of weeks ago. Goodson had been a coach at a juvenile residential treatment facility, and had fooled around with two of the residents. The judge had hammered her with a 44-year sentence, but the court vacated it on the grounds that the judge hadn't advised her of the possibility that he could run the sentences consecutively.
The problem with the opinion was that the judge had told Goodson he could do that. He didn't tell her what the maximum penalty was, but he unquestionably told her that he could run the sentences consecutively. As I said at the time, "Basically, the judge's only failing was that he didn't do the math for Goodson."
And that's exactly what found its way into the State's motion for reconsideration.
It's happened before. The first time was about eight years ago, and they've done it several times since.
So, this is for the guys and gals over in the county prosecutor's appellate division:
First, I'm flattered. It's your tacit acknowledgment that I write better than you do, and can summarize a point in one sentence that it takes you three pages to get across.
I'm not sure what your point was, though. I don't have illusions that first thing each Tuesday morning, the judges of the 8th cluster around their computers, eager to learn which of them has earned my praise and which my scorn. Still, there's a pretty good chance that if I say something about a case, it's going to get around over there, if only in the context of, "Did you see what Bensing wrote on his godforsaken blog?" I'd be willing to bet that the first time the judges on that panel read those words was not in your motion.
So the only apparent reason you quoted me was because you regarded me as an authority. You were essentially telling them, "This is what Bensing says, and you should listen to him." Not much point in quoting me if I'm of no significance.
I will be honored to accept the role that you have thrust upon me: an authoritative source in the 8th District.
I'm not sure this arrangement is going to benefit you. I'm a fair guy, but I do come at things from a defense perspective. I will provide far more ammunition to the defense than I will to you. I wouldn't be surprised if some defense attorney didn't plop a paragraph of my analysis on something or other into a brief, preceded by the phrase, "In The Briefcase, which the State itself has relied upon as an authoritative source, see Motion for Reconsideration, State v. Goodson, the author points out..."
Just a thought.
Now, I again have no illusions that the judges of the 8th will march in lockstep to whatever my particular thought is on any particular day. But since I'm now an authority on Goodson, here's what I think the court should do: Deny the motion for reconsideration. You guys want to take it up to the Supremes, good luck with that. Worst case scenario is they take it (highly unlikely; they don't do error correction), reverse, and send it back to the 8th for consideration of the other assignment of error, that the sentence was disproportionate.
And it was. Goodson got 44 years for having a non-forcible sexual relationship with a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old. Certainly not commendable conduct by any stretch, but if she'd brutally raped those two, and two others, she couldn't have gotten more time, and that's wrong.
Now, as long as we're talking.
The other day I was assigned to the appeal in State v. King. Ms. King was convicted of a fourth degree felony trafficking charge. That requires a mandatory driver's license suspension, but occupational driving privileges are allowed. The judge put on a journal entry saying King "may drive from 6:30 AM until 4:00 PM Monday through Friday as well as for medical appointments, paying bills, and grocery shopping."
King didn't appeal. The State did. Here is their assignment of error:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING DEFENDANT DRIVING PRIVILEGES FOR THE PURPOSES OF PAYING BILLS AND GROCERY SHOPPING.
While I'd stab myself in the head before I'd write an assignment of error like that, I do take solace from the fact that crime in Cleveland has plunged to the point where the prosecutor's office has time for bullshit like this. But really? What was the roundtable on this like? "What? The judge gave her driving privileges for grocery shopping?" Oh, the humanity!
I'll have to figure out how I want to use my newfound power to tell the 8th District what to do on this one. I'll come up with something, I'm sure.