Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Public Defender's Facebook Photo Causes Mistrial

Public Defender's Facebook Photo Causes Mistrial

"Recalde’s family brought him a bag of fresh clothes to wear during trial. When Miami-Dade corrections officers lifted up the pieces for a routine inspection, Recalde’s public defender Anya Cintron Stern snapped a photo of Recalde’s briefs with her cellphone, witnesses said.  While on a break, the 31-year-old lawyer posted the photo on her personal Facebook page with a caption suggesting the client’s family believed the underwear was “proper attire for trial.”

Obviously, this isn't how lawyers are supposed to behave, but public defenders are like any other government empoloyee in that they know they get paid by the government, not their clients.  So long as they keep the government happy, their paychecks continue.

Link to Full Article

- John

Judge Ponders Appointing Private Attorneys

Judge Ponders Appointing Private Attorneys

Too many cases, too little time.

Public Defenders are some of the most over-worked attorneys I know.  Taxpayers are legally bound to provide some sort of attorneys to represent the poor, but taxpayers provide as little as possible.  The result is often a Public Defender's Office with far too many cases than it can properly handle.

Sure, judges can appoint attorneys from the community to take up the slack, but those attorneys won't be paid anywhere close to what they customarily charge for a criminal case.  Thus, those clients appointed to them at bargain-basement prices with get the least attention.

If you want an attorney that takes you and your case seriously, YOU must first take your case seriously and hire private representation.

Link to Full Article

- John

Lesbian Sex Romp Between Public Defender and Judge

Public Defenders Gone Wild!

It is often said that "A Good Lawyer Knows the Law, but A Great Lawyer Knows the Judge."    I don't think this is what that means . . .

Link to Full Article

- John

Public Defender Arrested

I wonder how many innocent people trust this attorney because he was free?  When you are facing incarceration is not the time to start pinching pennies.   

ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C. -- The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has arrested both the former Anderson County circuit court defender and the assistant public defender.
Robert Gamble, 71, and Kristie McAuley, 32, have both been charged with misconduct in office. They have been booked into the Anderson County Detention Center.
McAuley is accused of taking approximately $5,000 from non-indigent clients while at the Anderson County Defender's Office between January 2009 and February 2011.
Gamble's warrant states he "habitually neglect[ed] his duties as circuit defender for the Anderson County Public Defender's Office." He is accused of using both county and state funds for personal reasons and approving fraudulent expense reimbursements.

- John

Missouri Addresses Public Defender Overload

All around the US, public defender caseloads are growing faster than public defender budgets and staff.  We are seeing something similar to the National Healthcare System in the UK where service and delay has gotten worse and worse even while consuming ever-larger shares of tax dollars.
I would hate to be caught up in a system like this.  If I were charged with a crime, I would find any legal way I could to hire a private attorney to represent me and give my case the attention it deserves.
A new rule set to begin Oct. 1 will permit the state's public defender system to defer certain criminal cases in a move that proponents say should give the state's low-income defendants quality legal representation that has been lacking during a decade of swelling caseloads and dwindling resources. 
. . . 
But a July 31 Missouri Supreme Court ruling says the Missouri Public Defender Commission, which oversees the state's 150 public defenders, has the authority to set maximum caseloads if the defender's office asserts that the caseload capacity was exceeded.
"The issue has been going on for a long time," said Cat Kelly, director of the state's public defender system. "The fact is there are too many cases and not enough public defenders to handle them."

- John

Pennsylvania Public Defender System Under Attack

The Pennsylvania public defender system has been a failure for years. 
As of now, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not provide funding to public defenders, according to a study released in December. By not providing the funding, Pennsylvania is ignoring a 49-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling saying states are obligated to provide those services under the Constitution.
Victor Scomillio, president of the Northampton County Bar Association, said the bar's decision to endorse the resolution is not a knock on the county's public defender's office, but an effort to equalize defense across the state.
In Luzerne County, for example, the chief public defender filed a lawsuit against the county earlier this year, saying county leaders were under-budgeting his office to the point it cannot meet constitutional standards.


- John

Washington Town Public Defender Can't Keep Up

The public defenders in Washington are so overloaded that the city is having to stop charging people with some crimes.
SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- As of September 2012, public defenders in Washington can have no more than 400 misdemeanor cases. Sunnyside's two public defenders have already exceeded that limit this year. So, the only options are to hire more attorneys and/or reduce the number of cases requiring appointed counsel.

"We are barred to go past our 400 case load limit so you're simply just going to have to go find someone out there that's willing to take the case and go into court for whatever fee and its going to be a heavy burden on the cities," said Sunnyside Public Defender Douglas Garrison.

The changes mean that rental violations, fireworks offenses, unnecessary noise and disorderly conduct will all become civil infractions. Those will result in nothing more than a fine if you are caught.


- John

ND Public Defenders Stretched Too Thin

Even out west in North Dakota, the public defender caseloads are piling up.
“We’re primarily facing a shortage of attorneys who are willing or able to take cases out in the west, coupled with rapidly rising caseloads,” Huseby said.

- John

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Woman Jailed For False Rape Claim

A UK woman was jailed for falsely claiming she had been raped. 
Jailing Dodd at Nottingham crown court, Judge John Milmo told her: ‘None of these three lads had seen the inside of a police station before.
‘They may well have been wrongly convicted if these charges had gone to trial. It was ten days before police managed to talk to you – and you admitted your allegations had been completely untrue. I am told, from your perspective, it was easier to tell lies rather than tell the truth. 
‘I have no idea why you decided to make these wicked allegations.’
Dodd went out drinking in Nottingham city centre in June, downing eight vodkas and ending up in a casino.
There she met one of her numerous ex-boyfriends and through him met the trio.
She and the three men took a bus to a house in the Clifton area of the city, and during the journey she began groping one of them.  In the house she willingly had sex with all three.
But afterwards she texted a friend saying that she felt ‘dirty’. With that in mind she claimed to police that all three of her partners had raped her.  Link

During the jury selection phase of a recent Gwinnett County rape case(which I won), a potential juror said that she would be biased towardthe accuser because "women don't lie about getting raped." The judge agreed with me that this juror wasn't fit to serve, and she was removed from the pool.
Nothing shocks me anymore. The blind bias that exists in jury pools used to shock me, but not any more. Any man accused of rape begins his trial with at least a third of the jury ready to convict him. 
It is a TOUGH FIGHT, but so far I have NEVER had a client convicted of rape by a jury.

How many of you remember Gwinnett's own famous "False Rape" case, Jennifer "Runaway Bride" Wilbanks?   

- John

Oh, So You Want To Defend Yourself In Court?

The person who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.  I can't name a single defense attorney who would represent himself  in court if charged with a crime.  I once took an attorney friend with me to traffic court as my lawyer.  It worked out well.

Quest to Defend Onself In Court Can Be Perilous
In a murder case drawing national attention, Daker, 35, is representing himself against charges he stabbed and strangled Nick’s mother, Karmen Smith, in her Marietta home on Oct. 23, 1995. Prosecutors say that after murdering Smith, Daker attacked Nick when he returned home from school.
Though the right to self-representation has existed since Colonial times, legal experts said that the decision to represent oneself in serious cases, particularly murder, is a perilous undertaking. Especially because of tense courtroom moments like these.

“It would be a disaster waiting to happen,” summed up legendary Georgian defense attorney Bobby Lee Cook. “To put a cross examination in the hands of someone like this would be, in my opinion, 99 times out of a 100, catastrophic to the defendant.”

I frequently see people who have decided to defend themselves in court. I've even prosecuted a few people who defended themselves and sat through some other trials where people represented themselves. With very few exceptions, it is a complete disaster for them.

The people who represent themselves tend to think very highly of themselves and their abilities. They refuse to acknowledge that someone else with years or decades of experience in the courtroom just might know more about trying cases than the defendant themselves.

Daker strikes me as such a man. By all accounts I've seen, he was a very intelligent guy. His intelligence gave him confidence that turned into arrogance. His arrogance turned into a murder conviction about a week after this article. 

Unless you can look me in the eye and tell me that you would perform open-heart surgery on yourself, don't tell me that you would represent yourself in court.
"Awww... it's easy. I just need to wear a suit and tell my side of the story and I'm certain everyone will believe me and disbelieve all of those other people who says something different. What could possibly go wrong?"

Prison.  That's what could go wrong.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Lawyer Glut

This is correct.  With the glut of lawyers out there, criminal defendants are flooded with letters and cards that say "Hire me!  Hire me!" and touting how cheaply they can be hired.  That's great, if they also have the experience that the client needs. 
Also note that even with a "glut" of young lawyers in the market, public defender offices still have more cases than they can handle because they lack the resources to hire the attorneys they need.
The nearly five-fold explosion in the number of law graduates between 1963 and 2010. The declining percentage of law graduates who have found employment (from 85% in 2011 to 62% in 2012, according to the chart). Quick explanations of how globalization and legal outsourcers have changed the playing field, etc. 


- John

Mom Arrested For Letting Kids Play Outside

Playing outside is child endangerment now?
LA PORTE, Texas -
A stay-at-home mom from La Porte has filed a lawsuit against the city's police department, an unknown officer and one of her neighbors.  
Tammy Cooper said she was wrongly accused of endangering her children and was even forced to spend the night in jail, all because she let her kids play outside.
She said her children, ages 9 and 6, were riding their motorized scooters in the cul-de-sac where they live while she watched from a lawn chair in her front yard just a few feet away.
"I was out there the entire time," Cooper said. "I never left that lawn chair the entire time."
Cooper said a little while later, a La Porte police car pulled up in front of her home.
"I went out there to see what he was here for and he said, 'Ma'am, we're here for you.' I said, 'Oh really? Why?' He proceeded to tell me he had received a call from one of my neighbors that my kids were riding their scooters unsupervised.
Cooper said she was handcuffed, put in the back of a police car and forced to spend the night in jail.

- John

Sunday, September 16, 2012

In Prosecutors, Debt Collectors Find a Partner

It's bad enough that merchants use prosecutors to collect on bad checks when that's really a civil matter that the merchants should handle for themselves. 
But then a few years ago, the merchants started sending out letters offering to "drop the prosecution" of a civil claim if the accused shoplifter sends money.  What they don't tell people is that "dropping the prosecution" of a civil case does not stop the prosecution of a criminal case.
I routinely advise people to ignore those letters.  Unfortunately, people get intimidated and pay up. 
But now, the letters are bearing the seal of the DA's office?  That's outrageous.  Fortunately, it isn't happening it Georgia.  Yet. 
The letters are sent by the thousands to people across the country who have written bad checks, threatening them with jail if they do not pay up.
They bear the seal and signature of the local district attorney’s office. But there is a catch: the letters are from debt-collection companies, which the prosecutors allow to use their letterhead. In return, the companies try to collect not only the unpaid check, but also high fees from debtors for a class on budgeting and financial responsibility, some of which goes back to the district attorneys’ offices.
The practice, which has spread to more than 300 district attorneys’ offices in recent years, shocked Angela Yartz when she was threatened with conviction over a $47.95 check to Walmart. A single mother in San Mateo, Calif., Ms. Yartz said she learned the check had bounced only when she opened a letter in February, signed by the Alameda County district attorney, informing her that unless she paid $280.05 — including $180 for a “financial accountability” class — she could be jailed for up to one year.

- John

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jeff Bezos And The End of PowerPoint As We Know It - Forbes

I'm a big advocate of using visuals in court whenever possible.  The unpredictable nature of trials sometimes makes that difficult or impossbile, but when it's possible, I try to do it.  Juries absorb your points more when they can also SEE things at the same time.

The next time you deliver a PowerPoint presentation that matters—a product launch, investor pitch, new client meeting— take a cue from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and ditch the bullet points. When Bezos unveiled the all-new new Kindle Fire HD this week, his presentation slides were light on text and heavy on images. This style of delivering presentations is fresh, engaging, and ultimately far more effective than slide after slide of wordy bullet points.

From The AJC Digest App

I found this article on the AJC Digest App:


Cobb County killer Marcus Wellons could not have received a fair trial because the same jurors who sentenced him to death also gave erotic chocolate "gifts" to the trial judge ...

Court once again considers bawdy gifts in death case

By Bill Rankin

Fri Sept. 7, 8:26PM

Cobb County killer Marcus Wellons could not have received a fair trial because the same jurors who sentenced him to death also gave erotic chocolate "gifts" to the trial judge and a bailiff, a lawyer argued Friday.

"This is a travesty," Wellons' lawyer, Mary Elizabeth Wells, told three judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. "This was a death penalty case. How can anyone say this was dignified?"

She added, "This is even embarrassing to discuss in open court. This is not dignified."

State attorney Beth Burton countered there was no evidence showing that a penis-shaped chocolate given to Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley and a breast-shaped chocolate given to bailiff Loretta Perry had any bearing on the jury's deliberations during the 1993 trial.

"Poor judgment?" Burton asked. "Yes. A partial jury? No."

Wellons sits on death row for raping and strangling his 15-year-old neighbor, India Roberts, in 1989. He abducted the Campbell High School sophomore on her way to school.

At the conclusion of Wellons' 1993 trial, jurors gave the candy to the judge and bailiff — revelations of which have caused Wellons' execution to be delayed for well over a year.

In early 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court put a halt to Wellons' expected execution, saying the disturbing facts of the case raised serious questions and further examination. From beginning to end, a death penalty case "must be conducted with dignity and respect," the high court said.

The case was sent back to Senior U.S. District Judge Willis Hunt, who allowed all parties and the 10 surviving jurors to be questioned about what happened.

Juror Mary Jo Hooper, who gave the anatomical candy to Staley, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a prior interview that during the trial she ordered a box of chocolate-shaped turtles from a friend who ran a candy store to give to fellow jurors and court personnel. The friend, knowing the jury was sequestered, included the penis-shaped chocolate as a joke.

When the package arrived, a bailiff checked it and saw the penis-shaped candy and reported it to Staley, who relayed that she wanted to see it, Hooper said. When the trial was over, Hooper said, she discreetly gave the "gift" to Staley.

The breast-shaped chocolate was sent by another juror to the bailiff after the trial and was apparently the result of a lighthearted conversation jurors had over dinner. No juror has claimed responsibility for this item.

In his order, Hunt said the attempts at humor "fell flat in spectacular fashion," but he added there was no evidence to show the gifts had any bearing on the jury's deliberations. "Nowhere does the Constitution guarantee a jury made up entirely of smart people," he added.

The appeals court, which considered Hunt's order Friday, is expected to issue its decision in the coming months.

During the arguments, all three appeals court judges — Joel Dubina, Gerald Tjoflat and Charles Wilson — seized on the fact there was no evidence to show that the lewd gifts had any influence on the jurors' decision-making. But Tjoflat and Wilson appeared disturbed by the jurors' conduct and questioned whether it tainted the somber proceedings.

An argument could be made, Wilson said, that "this is terrible what these jurors did. This trial was not conducted with dignity and respect. These jurors didn't take their jobs seriously enough." But he also questioned whether the gifts constituted a constitutional violation requiring a new trial.

Wellons' lawyer, Wells, said she did not know whether the lewd gifts influenced the jury's deliberations. "The question here," she said, "is whether the jury conducted itself with dignity and respect in a death penalty trial."

Learn more about the AJC Digest iPhone App at http://www.ajc.com/iphone

(Sent from my iPhone.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Man arrested a second time for filming police officers

Police officers do not like to be filmed, even when they are in a public place where anyone and everyone should be able to record them:
A man arrested on New Year’s Day for filming police officers was taken into custody a second time early Sunday, when he was taping officers detain an intoxicated man downtown, his attorney told reporters outside of Travis County Jail.

Antonio Buehler, 35, organizer of the Peaceful Streets Project, is facing a charge for interfering with public duty, his attorney, Joe James Sawyer, said Sunday afternoon. The lawyer said his client was detained about 2:30 a.m. Sunday on Sixth Street.

Austin police officials confirmed officers had arrested Buehler but did not release further information, saying they were reviewing the facts of the case. An official statement is expected to be released Monday.

Sawyer called Buehler’s arrest a “deliberate action and part of a calculated effort to protect the officer who arrested him New Year’s Day.”
If you or someone you know has been arrested for filming the police in a public area, give me a call immediately.

- John Steakley

Steakley Law - Stalnaker App Studios

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Maple Syrup Heist Leaves Quebec in a Sticky Mess - Businessweek

I've seen lots of things stolen, but I don't think I've ever see Maple Syrup stolen before.


- John Steakley
Steakley Law - Stalnaker App Studios