Saturday, March 17, 2007

Just another day at the office...

After struggling for a couple of days coming to terms with the fact that my client, in my opinion wrongfully convicted, will likely be going to prison, I go back to work to try and get another client out of jail. She's had the third death in her family in three years. The funeral of this very close family member is in another state. But she is being held in jail with no bond. Lots of discussions with the prosecutor, begging two different judges to hear her case on an emergency basis, and waiting for the privates, who appear sometimes to believe they are paid by the word, and she is finally seen. Pleading to an offense she says she didn't commit, because it is the only way she can get out of jail to attend the funeral. She is grateful and thanks me for my help, as does her family.

This takes a little of the sting out of the guilty verdict in the trial earlier...but not much.

After court, I return to the office to read through discovery, and letters from my clients in jail. It doesn't take long for the minimal lift from a few minutes earlier to completely deflate. The please come see me letters, the suggestions for defenses and the requests for plea offers are routine. As are the next three letters I open, unfortunately.

"You ain't doing nothing for me." "You are working for the state, not me." "You get paid to send me to prison." "I need a lawyer, not a public defender." "Public Pretender." "I'm going to get my family to hire me a real attorney." "Why can't you get me out? get me probation? get the state to drop the charges?"

Thirteen letters. One "I understand you are busy, but please come see me." Every other one contains some derogatory comment or slur, even if it's not the entire letter.

And then the one that kind of cracks me up. The one that wants to know how the police could arrest them and the court could hold them when they have no evidence of a crime, much less that they committed the crime. Why is it that people who aren't new to the system believe that if they tell the police what they want to hear, the police will let them go? And why do they write letter to the prosecutor saying they know they did wrong but they have a family they have to support and need mercy? And then turn around and lie to the one person that cares if they get out of jail, the one person that is trying to help them?

Client: "I never told the police I did anything!"
Me: "Did you give them a statement? They say you did."
Client: "No way! I know better than that!"
Me: "Then what is on this tape that I got? The tape that says 'defendant statement'?"
Client: "I don't know."
Me: "Well, here's the transcript. This is what they say you said on this tape."
Client: "I never said that. They faked that transcript. I bet the tape is blank and they will say there was a problem with copying it."
Me: "Well, I've got a tape player. Let's give it a try."
Client: "Uh....ok."
tape starts playing
Client: "That's not me."
tape continues with client giving name, birthdate and SSN
Client: "Well, they didn't read me my rights! I didn't know I didn't have to talk to them!"
tape continues, Miranda, and "you understand you don't have to talk to me, right?"
Client: "Shit. I didn't know they were recording that. I was just trying to go home. None of that is true. They can't use it if it's not true, right?"

Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence. And the client wonders why the prosecutor feels they have a good case!

1 comment:

Salmon Chase said...

There should be public service announcements explaining why you should never tell anything to a cop...