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Friday, September 28, 2007

My Week - In and Out of Courtrooms

The interpreters are striking for higher pay - have to continue two cases. While waiting in court I talk to an acquaintance.
I tell him about my final capital case. He shrugs. He’s done 18 and has 6 on death row. He’s just been divorced, has joint custody of his 2 kids - alternating weeks with his ex so can’t afford to stop doing them.

Sitting in court all morning waiting, I am forced to watch a preliminary hearing.

A man with a thick middle eastern accent testifies that he owns a “smoke shop” on Ventura Blvd in Sherm’ Oaks. A man came into his shop and asked “to look at bongs, I mean tobacco pipes.” The owner showed the man several and the man took one and ran out of the shop. He chased the thief down the street. The thief got into a car and it drove away. He identified the public defender’s client as the thief.

On cross-examination, the witness admitted that when he first came to court he saw the defendant and said that he didn’t think that was the man. When asked by the PD why he now was sure of his identification, the witness said, “the police officer told me he confessed.”

My client is a 20 year old girl, about 5 feet tall if that. She’s in the basement lock-up, her tiny body swimming in the jail blue jumpsuit. She met her boyfriend (call him Rory) at Birmingham Hi when she was 17. He wooed her with heroin and a friend (call him Doc) who had a plan.

Together they ripped off Starbucks and Jamba Juice places of their tip jars and other stuff to buy dope and gas for her car.

The cops were waiting at one place and when they came out, they jammed her car. She panicked and backed into a police car and bruised a policewoman’s leg as she jumped out of the way.

She confessed, apologized and said she didn’t mean to do it - she hit reverse instead of park.

She’s charged with 2 counts of assault with a deadly weapon on police officers and 8 or 9 counts of burglary. The DA offer if she pleads guilty is 5 years, 4 months. She begins to cry when I tell her this.

The probation officer recommends a year in jail and 5 years probation. I may be able to persuade a DA to come off a prison sentence IF the cops aren’t still pissed and if I find a DA who still has some warm blood in her veins.

The Spector trial, as expected, results in a hung jury. David Letterman: “... weird celebrity emerges from house with blood on his hands & says, ‘I think I killed someone,” equals ‘reasonable doubt’ in L.A. This is news?”

I call DA’s on 3 of my cases, leave messages. One returns my call. I move files from one side of my desk to another, make copies of things for my investigator. At 3:30 he calls, still in Lancaster on another case. We reschedule for Friday. I’ve got to go to Van Nuys and then to San Fernando, but I’ll be back by noon - I hope.

It’s misty in L.A. The traffic is unaccountably light. There are no accidents on the freeway. My Van Nuys case goes smoothly and so does my San Fernando case. I am gone by 11. Is it the end of the world?

At 11, I get a call from a court clerk. Judge refused to appoint an investigator on one of my cases because my declaration didn't give details to prove my client is indigent (and couldn't afford to hire one).

I respond that he is in custody unable to make bail and I am appointed because he couldn't afford a lawyer. The judge says to put it in a declaration and resubmit.

I smile. Oddly, I feel better now that something stupid has happened to wrap up the week. I call my investigator and cancel our appointment.

Max comes over instead. We kick around some new ideas about reincarnation and pets and parenting.

Overall, not a bad week. I've managed to delay 17 decisions (14 case related, 3 personal), made 2 choices that seemed to turn out okay, and survived.

1 comment:

  1. your recitation of a 'week in the life' is steeped in such atmosphere (that inimitable 'borenstein's law' mix of cynicism and nobility) that the dull stuff takes on radiant meaning. beautifully done!