"Lawyer: An individual whose principal role is to protect his clients from others of his profession."-Anonymous

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

It only took two and half years...

But I finally got it! My very first jury trial. Now previously I've been in Juvenile Court, and the only time Juveniles in my jurisdiction get a jury is when they are either certified or facing some type of adult prison sentence. I'd always get close to a jury trial...but what would always seem like the last minute, the prosecution decided to be more reasonable.

Anyhow, not this time! In my opinion, (which of course carries great weight with all of me, myself and I) the case (alleged domestic assault) never should've been charged and I wasted no time telling the prosecutor that and of course she listened to reason and summarily dismissed the case right? Of course not.

Here's the skinny, my client mid-twenties, engaged to be married, mildly mentally retarded , worked at a popular fast-food restaurant chain, lived at home with his mother, mind you in a small 2 bedroom home. The complaining witness (I don't like to use the term "alleged victim") was a teen aged run-away with an extensive history of running away, (usually for 2 to 3 days at a time). Who on the morning of the alleged event text her mother...summarily stating she was tired of being "assaulted" ...he's choking me I want to come home. " She had been gone for about a month. Now mind you, I did say text right?

Mother calls the police to pick up her daughter at a bus stop, which unfortunately happens to be within a few blocks of the clients home...and the story is set in motion. She tells tales of being threatened with machete's, choked, forced into prostitution...the whole nine for the duration of the month she absconded. "Officer Friendly" writes her a citation for being a run-away at the scene. She gives officer information of my client' s address where she claims this alleged activity and assault just took place (mind you several felony-type behaviors-including kidnapping) "Officer Friendly" takes her home.

SIX MONTHS Later (after a thorough investigation -oh wait, that didn't happen!), my client gets a complaint in the mail alleging domestic assault and disorderly conduct...you got to be kidding me? The prosecutor generous offer was for him to admit to an enhanced charge due to a prior and go through some programming. How about charging the complaining witness with filing a false police report?...needless to say that didn't go over too well.

Now being the cynic that I am, I'd love to imagine that race had nothing to do with this charge coming to fruition...but I knew better. I had to brace my client and his mother for the reality..."It's very likely that You, your mother and I will be the only persons that look like us, in that courtroom on the day of your trial." Unfortunately no truer words were spoken.

On the day of trial, I was a nervous wreck, didn't even know how to fill out the jury selection forms, I kept marking the wrong boxes, which I was sure didn't play well in front of the jury, I even made a failed Batson challenge on one juror who unfortunately couldn't keep his eyes open for voire dire.

In my mind, I felt like bumbling idiot the whole time...but what really grounded me was my client, I had a few bench trials before and generally I tell my clients don't talk to me just write down what you have to say or what you want me to ask the witness. Well my client kept on loudly whispering in my ear, during the trial...and I chided him saying just write it down because I have to hear what's going on. It was at that point, he looked up at me, paused and said..."I can't read and write that good." I could almost taste the look of shame on his face. I so wanted to die ...I could not believe that I had done that. I was so involved in this case that I didn't even realize he had no clue what I was writing to him all that time. This was about him, not me.


Right before the jury was excused, my client, bent over and whispered to me..."Is it over, am I going to jail now?"No, I whispered back, they're going to decide now, then they'll come back and tell us and if they do decide against us we'll have to come back again and argue about sentencing."

In the end, I centered my theme about the fact that she needed a story, just like the run-away bride from Atlanta, just like Susan Smith, and Tawanna Brawley. The jury agreed...and he was acquitted.

Not bad, for the first one...believe me I know, it could go all down hill from here... but I'll savor the 1-0 for the extremely short time while it lasts. But most importantly, I'm glad that my client went home. There are times that I absolutely love my job, can't hoop and holler about the pay...but it keeps me grounded nonetheless.