02 May 2006

Conversations I'm Sure Some of My Clients Have

Inmate 162534 walks back into the pod and starts talking with inmate 435261:

435261: Where you been?

162534: I was messing with my lawyer.

435261: :-)

162534: He had a new offer for a plea agreement which would make 4 of my 5 felonies go away and 2 of my 3 misdemeanors. I'd have to serve 6 months in jail on the felony and 6 months on the misdemeanor. I told him I wouldn't agree to anything more than 6 months total.

435261: You have two bank robberies in your past. You'll never get that short a sentence.

162534: Yeah, I know, but it was fun watching his face turn red and then pretending that I didn't understand when he explained that the deal is the best I'm going to get with my record. Then I started complaining that I was going to have suspended time and probation.

435261: But everybody gets suspended time and probation.

162534: Yep, and you should have seen his eyes bug out. He spent 15 minutes explaining to me that everybody gets suspended time. I finally let the guy off the hook and said I understood the third time he explained it. Then I asked him if he could get the judge to run the two six month sentences concurrent.

435261: *chuckle*

162534: He started trying to explain how the deal as it stands is the least time I could get, but I cut him off and said that other people in here are getting deals on 14 or 15 felonies which are better than the deal he got for me.

435261: Really? Who?

162534: Nobody, it was just fun watching him splutter. And then, just as he started to recover and try answering, I hit him with "but they've all got paid lawyers."

435261: LOL - What'd he do?

162534: His face turned purple. I thought his head was going to explode. He started telling me how he is a paid attorney 'cuz all the attorneys in this county are court appointed. So then I hit him with "You only take cases because the judge makes you and you don't work hard on them 'cuz you don't get paid."

435261: OMG! What did he do?

162534: He started explaining to me his ethical duties and how he doesn't short appointed clients . . . blah, blah, blah. It was boring so I hit him with the next thing. I told him I wanted a jury trial.

435261: ROFL - And he believed you?

162534: He about panicked. I led him on for about another 10 minutes while he went over how overwhelming the evidence is and tried to explain to me how bad a sentence the jury would probably give me.

435261: Did you ever let him off the hook?

162534: Not exactly. I let him explain it all to me again and then I told him that I had to think about it. I'll string him along until the morning of the trial and then I'll tell him I'm taking the deal.

435261: Dude, you are just mean.

162534: Yep, but it was fun and killed two hours.


Ken Lammers said...

Anonymous said...
Serious question: Why do you care? If some dumb[] criminal wants to ruin his life, let him ruin it. It's better for society he stay in jail, in any event. I realize you have an ethical duty to advocate zealously for your clients, but hey, it's their choice.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous: This isn't a personal shot but your comment appears to me to be spoken by someone who's never been there - while the folks we represent usually aren't bright enough to do this just to entertain themselves (but I've had those that do *seem* to do so), what I take from the post is that Ken had "one of those days" with a client. What happens is you spend more time that you really should, getting paid less than you really should, for someone who doesn't appreciate either of those facts.

To Ken I say "Amen Brother"! Got a chuckle from this one. Nice work.

Anonymous said...

Ken - I too jsut got back from jail with a client, and I think you must have been eavesdropping on our conversation. Thanks for a laugh - dead on funny!!!

Anonymous said...

What a waste of time, time that is paid for by the public purse.

You know I think there ought to be a law. One that states that if a defendant wastes the time of a publicly appointed attorney that constitutes theft of services. The charge is added to whatever other charges the miscreant has and then he is abandoned to serve as his own attorney.

Ken Lammers said...

Anonymous said...

This isn't a personal shot but your comment appears to me to be spoken by someone who's never been there.

Nope, I've been there. I told one person: "If you want to be a dumb[*] and go to trial, it's your life, man. Go ahead and spend the next ten years in prison. Later." The client took the deal. Clients need a certain amount of hand-holding. That's cool. But if they want to make stupid decisions, well, that's their right.

Ken Lammers said...

Yes, I've looked more than one client in the eyes and said something to the effect of "Well, if you want that trial you'll get your trial. I'll do the best I can for you. I've told you what I expect to happen and I'll do everything I can to defend you but you're taking a huge gamble." Depending on the client that can be done with various phrasing and various conversational tones - up to and including yelling (though this has, thankfully, been very rare).

Do I care? Sure I do. It hurts to watch people making decisions which you think going to hurt them. It's frustrating - especially when you cannot get the client to understand either because he's not bright enough to understand, he refuses to accept reality, and/or he believes what the idiots back in the cell block are telling him. I suspect that when you made the statement you report it wasn't because you were calm, collected and rationally explaining things to your client. That's the kind of statement which is made because you're frustrated because he's refusing to make the best choice for the situation.

Do I lose sleep over this sort of thing? It may be a sad commentary on me, but no I don't. As we all know, you must develop a degree of emotional separation or you will go insane. It's a matter of survival when you deal - day in and day out - with people who have made poor choices which put them in your hands and then insist on making more poor choices. If I got emotional every time I'd be locked up in Central State by now.

Anonymous said...

I loved this. I have worked for twenty years in the county jail as a nurse. Inmates not only do this to the lawyer they do it to us.

I love it when they are really creative. Contrary to popular opinion while most inmates lack formal education, many are quite intelligent and have lots of time to play games.

We see this scenario with new staff all the time. However, I agree with the last comment. You earn respect when you are completely honest. They may not like what they hear but they will respect you for having the courage to tell it like it is.

My favorite inmate story is about a guy who thought he was God. The therapist asked him how he knew he was God. He told her it was because he had special powers. She replied, "How do you know I don't have special powers?" He replied, "Because I didn't give you any."

Ken Lammers said...

"Indigent defendant is accused of a serious felony that is less than murder. Moreover, the case looks sufficiently complicated that any jury trial will take more than three days. Prosecutor makes an offer for a plea bargain that clearly requires thought. Court appointed council advises accepting the offer, but defendant insists on some time to consider the offer. While supposedly considering the offer defendant writes a letter to the judge complaining that since court appointed council's compensation for the trial will clearly be inadequate, council has a conflict that keeps the defendant from trusting council's advice. Therefore, he has been denied effective assistance of council and the judge should do something."

Interesting. Why the hard breaks Tom? Where'd the hypo come from?