Friday, October 29, 2010

In defense of defense lawyers

After my little movie earlier this week I got many nice compliments -- people saw it for what it was, a touch of truth mixed in with a whole heaping of satire. One or two thought maybe I was being mean to defense lawyers but, just to prove how much respect for them I have, I give you this, my second movie:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Trial verdicts from last week

Busy time in the courthouse last week. Here are the trial results :

Defendant: Derrick Davis
Offense: Injury to a child / Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
Prosecutors: Allison Benesch and Crystal Leff-Pinon
Defense attorneys: Bill Browning and Tamara Needles
DISPOSITION: Jury found defendant guilty. Sentencing on 11/8/10.

Defendant: Ismael Kino Flores
Offense: Tampering with government record / Perjury
Prosecutors: Greg Cox, Susan Oswalt, and Matt Foye
Defense attorney: Roy Minton
DISPOSITION: Trial still in progress.


Defendant: Aubrey Lubojasky
Offense: Aggravatedsexual assault of a child / Indecency with a child
Prosecutors: Anna Lee McNelis and Stephanie McFarland
Defense attorney: Steve Orr
DISPOSITION: Jury found defendant guilty. Jury sentenced defendant to 60 years.


Defendant: Bobby Johns
Offense: Aggravated sexual assault of a child / Indecency with a child
Prosecutors: Leslie Booker and Yvonne Patton
Defense attorney: Amanda McDaniel
DISPOSITIOn: Jury found defendant guilty. Jury sentenced defendant to 40 years.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A window into plea negotiations

This is how it works.

For real. (And for those who asked, I did indeed make the film, using free software.)

(And for the commenter who mentioned it, here's the YouTube link. Embed away.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My turn for an intern: Jordan the Brit.

We have a very active intern program here, welcoming law students in their first year, as well as those who have graduated and are waiting for their bar results. Some might say we ruthlessly exploit young people who are desperate for work experience in order to work them to the bone for absolutely no money whatsoever.

Those people are astute.

This Friday I want to give a nod to the finest intern I've ever had. Probably because he's English, which isn't necessarily his fault. Seriously, though, it's nice to take a young man whose not seen this part of the world and expose him to everything that is Texas.

For example:

He ate pancakes the size of his face . . .

. . . he fired a (1930's mobster) gun . . .

. . . he saw a young lady in Daisy Duke shorts (who was firing a gun) . . .

. . . and he got arrested.

I'm sure there are some Texas experiences he missed,* but heck, the boy was only here a week!

Thanks for coming, Jordan, it's been a pleasure!

*He also ate barbecue at Kreuz's, Mexican at Guero's, and a Danish from WholeFoods.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You say illegally seized, I say. . . okay. Or do I?

I'm finally getting around to responding to a Skribit question:

An investigator seizes evidence illegally, do you decline to press charges or go forward?

I quote the question as asked because I don't want to be accused of not answering it, or misrepresenting the question. I say that because it's a little ambiguous so I have to make some assumptions.

Firs, the word "investigator." When I hear that word I think of Mike, the former cop who is the DA investigator assigned to my court. But I'm going to assume you mean "policeman."

Second, when you say he seized evidence "illegally" I'm going to assume he did so in violation of someone's Constitutional rights, as opposed to, say, breaking into someone's car or home and rummaging through their stuff (some might say the difference is negligible!).

Third, it's not 100 percent clear whether in your hypo I'm pressing charges against the investigator or the person from whom the evidence was taken. I shall assume the latter.

The other problem with the question is that it assumes the evidence was seized illegally. It's a problem simply because it renders the question fairly easy: if it's blindingly obvious the evidence was seized in violation of someone's Fourth Amendment rights I will acknowledge that fact and, almost certainly, not go ahead with the prosecution.

The most common situation, though, arises when it's not completely clear that the seizure was illegal. That's when the defense lawyer files his motion to suppress and we have a hearing in front of the judge. Now, sometimes one side or the other will push for that hearing even when the answer is pretty clear, one way or the other. That's because they might want the issue to go up on appeal so a higher court can write an opinion and make that area of the law more clear.

I should add that I don't see blatant violations very often, thankfully. Hardly ever, in fact. A year ago the law changed with regard to searching vehicles after an arrest and for a while the cops were not completely au fait with the new rules but they caught up fast. And until they did I didn't wait for the defense lawyer to point out what was now a violation of the Constitution.

Hope that answers the question, if not, let me know.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

State v. Federal

Thanks to the kindly reader who asked me to address the interaction between state and federal law, from my perspective as a prosecutor.

First, the law: you can be prosecuted for the same offense by the state and by the feds. Yep, I know, seems a little unfair, doesn't it? Smacks of that double jeopardy thing. But no, turns out that because the state and federal governments are separate sovereign entities, double jeopardy doesn't apply. (Peruse the case of U.S. v. Koon, if you wish to explore the logic.)

Now then, no need to get your knickers in a twist: in practice it rarely happens.

What happens is that the feds cherry-pick the easiest cases to prove. Aw shucks, that sounds churlish but there's some truth to it, and I don't mind in the slightest. Really. I always think of them as very serious folks in dark suits conferring with equally serious, sunglass-wearing FBI agents. So it makes sense they get the more serious cases.

Anyway, the overlap comes in two types of cases: drugs and guns.

Drugs: the feds are interested in larger amounts of drugs, that's pretty much the decider, frankly. Pretty straightforward.

Guns: I'm not totally sure of the honey that draws the feds in for these cases. Gun cases are usually "felon in possession" cases. State and federal statutes provide for this offense and whether or not we keep a case or it goes fed is . . . not clear to me.

So what's the difference? Well, federal penalties tend to be a lot stiffer, and whatever sentence you get, you tend to serve almost all of it. Not big on parole, those guys.

Interestingly (to some, I hope) if you are facing both a state and federal sentence, make sure you get your federal one handed down first. State sentences almost always get run concurrently (at the same time) whereas if you get your state sentence first, the feds will wait for you to finish it before they come get you for your federal time.

On the other hand, I've heard the food is better in the federal pen. Let's hope I never find out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We're Number 1 !! (Erm, in serial killers)

As a loyal and faithful reader, you will know about my interest in serial killers (purely an intellectual fascination, of course). And I posted a while back about an FBI seminar I attended that addressed the Bureau's Highway Serial Killer Initiative (HSI).

Back then, I learned that there were approximately 200 serial killers zooming around the U.S. (mostly driving trucks) and roughly 500 bodies have been found along the nation's highways.

Well, guess which state is number one in highway serial killers? Yes, it's Texas!! Okay, I know I shouldn't be excited but it makes a change from leading the nation in uninsured, flooding deaths, repeat teen births, workplace deaths, non-political hot air, and erudite English prosecutors.

Of the 459 homicides over the past 40 years, 38 were in Texas. Those crazy Californians were close with 37, and Florida came in third at 33 (although I'm betting half those were old people who wandered into the road while looking for golf balls).

In real kill-joy fashion, the Statesman tries to make us look good by saying:

"Some of the grimness here can be explained by Texas’s vast highway system: The state has more interstate miles, by far, than any other state — 306,000 miles in all, according to the Census Bureau. That’s about 135,000 miles more than No. 2 California. Which seems to indicate our serial killing per mile (SKPM) rate is relatively low."

What stands out from that analysis, of course, is that there's an acronym for "serial killing per mile."

Which makes me picture this scene, one truck driver selling his rig to another:

"How much you want, Bob?"
"Forty thousand."
"Oh, sounds like a lot to me. It's a 1999 Volvo, right?"
"Yep. 250,000 miles on her."
"Not too bad, comes to what...?"
"Almost 30,000 SKPM. Pretty decent, you gotta admit."
"Yeah, sure is. My old rust-bucket barely gets me 15,000 SKPM. Course, that's my fault, not hers. Throw in a ski mask and hatchet, I'll take 'er."

Now, let me be clear. I am fascinated by serial killers and I am afflicted by a need to share black humor. But I am horrified that so many young (mostly) people are being killed in Texas and beyond, their bodies dumped by the roadside like trash. It makes me wonder how many other people are out there, listed as missing but their bodies lying, as yet unfound, in ditches and deserts, woods and lakes. Pretty disturbing.

That said, having met a couple of the FBI guys spearheading this initiative, I am reassured. They are using incredible pieces of technology (like I'm gonna tell you what exactly!) to catch the buggers responsible and I can guarantee that in the near-future we'll all be reading about the apprehension of some of those murderers in the media.

And, by all accounts, a fair few will be popping up in the Texas newspapers.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy Anniversary! (to me)

Sunday will be the first anniversary of D.A. Confidential, a whole year of blogging and, more importantly, a whole year of blogging and not getting fired!

My thanks to you for coming here, together you've notched up more than 30,000 visits in the past twelve months. Is that a lot? I have no idea, but I would never have predicted it such a number. After all, it's just me.

My purpose in starting the blog was to share what we do here, maybe have a giggle while we do it. Education and entertainment, what a fine mix.

And, in a rare moment of self-indulgence, I'd like to share a recent interview a fellow writer did with me, for her new blog. Check it out here.

Otherwise, let's make a deal: if you keep showing up, I'll keep blogging. And don't forget the little gizmo on the right that let's you suggest topics for me to discuss.

Up, up, and away!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The bad-boy effect

Another kind reader made a suggestion, wondering if I'd explain:

"Why do hot looking women fall for jailbirds?"

First of all, I believe your sentence contains a tautology, or at least a redundancy. I refer, of course, to the phrase "hot looking" (which, even if proper English, should be written "hot-looking"). I also object to the implicit endorsement of the objectification of women.

That said, I have no bloody idea.

I'm guessing you should ask a female of the womanly persuasion that answer, rather than an English chap who wears a suit and tie to work every day.

That said, you must have been at one (or both) of my last trials.

Not knowing the answer, of course, won't stop me from giving one: I would assume it's the classic "bad-boy" effect. You know, tough dude on his motorbike tearing up the neighborhood with a ciggy hanging out of his mouth, soccer moms throwing their underwear at him as he roars past.

I expect some clever scientist/psychologist will posit a link between the charismatic charmer and the aggressive criminal, both perhaps fueled by an excess of testosterone or possessing a particularly large 'Y' chromosome. Of course, that hardly explains the popularity of Justin Bieber. . .

Any of my female readers care to chip in with their theories?!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Such silly, silly people.

So I have a fairly new dedicated email address for the blog, after someone pointed out it was hard to contact me directly. I check it once or twice a week, I usually forget to do so. But I looked this morning and I think. . . think, maybe someone has stumbled into my lair, and may live to regret it.

Several someones.

First is Mrs Helen R Oscar. She would like me to help her redistribute $18 million in funds to various charities. Poor woman, she is childless and her husband died six years ago. And she was the president of Con Oil International. Yes, "Con Oil." I know what you're thinking, it's an ironic name, right?

Because I'm totally responding to her email, and I'm gonna steal her $18 million!

Next is Brenda Bosco, who says "sorry for my distraction and please patiently pay me a little attention."

Okay, I'm all ears.

"From my search of friendship i saw your contact and it really interest me to contact you and would like you to be real with me as I come to you with open mind, My coming to you is real and sincere."

Pffft, what a loser. I'm totally not sincere and I'm posting your message on my blog! She goes on:

"My coming to you is real and sincere. I believe you will see a clear picture of my true thoughts and aspirations."

Real and sincere? So, like, you're saying I have a chance with you? So cool!

"Remember; Age, Distance, nationality or color does not matter but true love matters in love."

Not sure what "true love matters in love" means, but overall the sentiment is quite true. The difficulty lies with falling in love with you as a result of one, grammatically-repulsive email.

So, in short, we have a con artist and a love-sick desperado targeting a married prosecutor.

A fine start to the week.