09 August 2004

A Week in the Life of Criminal Defense Attorney (sorta)

Actually these are selected days from the last two weeks. The rest of the days were either light days or had things occur of which I cannot write.

Wednesday: In the afternoon I go court for Client's preliminary hearing on his felony discharge of a firearm in a house. The only problem is that Client hasn't shown up. After waiting for a while I finally go up have the clerk call the case. The prosecutor and I point out that one of the court papers has a different date and it's possible the client got confused. The judge isn't having any of it. He remembers Client standing in front of him and telling Client the correct date. Still, he allows that he will withdraw the capias for arrest if Client shows up at court prior to 4:30.

So I run across the hall to call the various numbers I have for Client, hoping that one will work. Finally someone picks one up and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Ma'am, is Mr. Jones there?

Female: Who is this?

Me: Ma'am this is his attorney and he's supposed to be in court today The judge has agreed not to have him arrested if he turns himself in by 4:30. But he's got to turn himself in by 4:30.

Female: That's going to be kinda hard since he's dead.
And you know what? When I check the local paper online it has his obit. So I print it out and take it to the judge and he decides to withdraw the capias.

Thursday: In the morning my first case is a possession of drugs in a jail. I talk to the prosecutor and he agrees to drop it to a misdemeanor 12 months with 6 months suspended (3 months to actually serve). Client jumps all over that. Then I drive off to another county where I have a felony trial. I arrive at 9:45, 15 minutes before circuit court starts in that county. Then I walk into the courtroom and it's in full swing. I look up at the prosecutor and he flashes me nine fingers; then he signals that everything is fine. Then I point to the back to let him know that I am going to the lockup area to see my client and I turn to leave. At that moment a voice comes from the bench: "Mr. Lammers, either sit down or leave the courtroom." I say "Yes sir" and scoot out the back door. Client is in the witness room and I go talk to him there. Then I go talk to the witnesses he had me subpoena from the juvenile detention center.

Client's case is a forlorn hope. The teacher from the juvenile facility is called and testifies that my client attacked him. Some of his testimony is a self-serving but it's clear that he and my client got in a fight. In my cross I screw up and ask one question too many and some pictures of the injuries get in which should not have (still kicking myself for that one). Then I call two of the kids from the detention center and my client. Their testimony varies as to exactly what occurred after the fight began but they are all clear in that they state the fight started when the teacher shoved the kid. So it's a swearing contest which the judge decides in the favor of the teacher. Yeah, I know, you're shocked.1

---------- ---------- ----------
1 The weird thing about these cases is that because my client was found guilty he will probably be held for less time then he would if he just remained in juvenile detention until he was 21.
---------- ---------- ----------

In the afternoon I go to another county's circuit court to ask that my client be released from a drug treatment program. Client has been kicked out of his residence and is living in his girlfriend's car so that he is close enough to attend the mandatory meetings. After hearing this from client and confirmation from his counselor at the drug program the judge decides to let him out so that he can move in with his mother in NYC.

Next stop is Federal Court. Client got probation but hasn't been making his meetings and turned up hot for marijuana (twice). The probation officer recommends work release, the prosecutor recommends work release, I ask for work release and the judge sends Client away to jail for 60 days specifically denying him work release.

Monday: In the morning I have a preliminary hearing scheduled for a client who used his brother's name in order to avoid a driving with a suspended license charge. The problem is that in so doing he signed his brother's name to a bunch of papers and swore to the magistrate that everything was true in those papers. He is charged with 6 counts of forging a public document (2-10 years), 1 count of perjury (0-10 years), and 1 count of driving suspended. There is no defense (client confessed) but the prosecutor agrees to drop all but two felonies if we waive the preliminary hearing and agree to plead guilty. Client jumps at the offer.

Then I go up to circuit court for sentencing for a client who has been found guilty of uttering and carrying drugs into a jail. She didn't show up for her sentencing hearing previously and just got picked up recently. She's been rejected for the drug treatment program I wanted to get her into because she never went to the interview. So I get up and do my best tap-dancing in an attempt to get the judge to allow her a continuance so that she can go get evaluated for the program. The judge decides to continue the case for a week but revokes my client's bond because he "knows she'll get interviewed quickly if she's in the jail."

In the afternoon I go the circuit court for a sentencing but Client has not come to court. The case gets continued for a month and a capias is issued for Client. Then I go to the court next door for a show cause. Client has 20 years suspended over his head on each of 4 charges (2 X B&E;2 X grand larceny). Ordered into a drug program he failed out and was previously show caused at which time the judge resuspended all the time and reordered him into the drug program. He failed out again and this is the show cause I'm representing him on. I'm up there giving it my best talking about his obligations and angling for the least amount of jail time possible when I look up at the judge and realize that not a thing I'm saying is impacting. He is not happy that he gave Client two opportunities (on B&E's, no less) and both were wasted. Still, when all is said and done, he only sends Client to prison for two years.

After finishing that I scoot downstairs to general district court for a client's trespassing charge. Client should be found not guilty because he was sleeping over at a friend's house when the police came to arrest his friends because they were evicted two days previous. Client didn't know and told the officers but he had a number of other warrants so they just added the trespass into the mix. When I get to the courtroom I find out that client's case has already been called and Client agreed to 90 days suspended. I'm a little perturbed that is case was handled without my presence so I go talk to the clerk about it. She is beside herself for having called my case without me and it turns out that happened is that when all the other charges had been handled on a different date that paperwork had been seperated and my name was on the other papers. So then I go back to see if Client wants me to reopen the case and I find a client who is jubilant that he is getting out of jail today and doesn't want anything to mess that up. So I don't do anything.

Tuesday: The only case I have today is a felony petit larceny (0-5 years). Nothing too out of the ordinary. The witnesses told police that Client went to the meat department with an empty cart and just started throwing steaks in it; they found this a little interesting (1) because most people look at $20 steaks before they decide to buy them, and (2) because most people buying steaks aren't obviously homeless. Then Client wheeled the cart off to a corner where no on could see him and when he came out of the corner the cart was empty. Being of a suspicious nature the store manager then confronted Client who pulled over $100 worth of various meats out from under his shirt. On top of that he confessed. I get the prosecutor to offer misdemeanor petit larceny, 12 months - none suspended. Client balks so I go back out and with a little more persuasion get the prosecutor to offer 12 months with 2 suspended. Client finally agrees to this.

No comments: