Friday, January 23, 2004

Evil Prosecutors, Stupid Defendants

Alright, for those of you reading this site for the first time, a recap. Last fall I did a special circumstance trial. I was convinced that the defendant was innocent, and that they were charging the wrong person (this is a conclusion I almost never reach, I'm not a true believer who thinks everyone's innocent, the police always lie, and the system's so screwed up that everyone is getting the short end of the stick by being charged). There were two eyewitnesses who knew my client from before the shooting (they denied knowing him, but there was pretty compelling evidence that they at least knew who he was and discussed him prior to viewing a series of photos and picking him out as the shooter). The eyewitnesses insisted that they had never seen the shooter before. The decedant (who was with 3 of the other eyewitnesses) certainly knew my client, and never said anything during the incident which would indicate he knew who he was. A final eyewitness, a sort bizarre older guy who lived at the location insisted that my client didn't do the shooting, and picked someone out as the shooter, who, as it turns out, lives in the area and had been named in a tip as a suspect.

There was DNA found at the scene, and the prosecution never did anything to try and find out whether the DNA at the scene matched this 3rd person (my client was excluded from the DNA). The police did nothing to investigate this 3rd party until I startd making noises about him, and only then they did a half-assed job of it, and neither the police nor the prosecution ever tried to get his DNA to compare it to the sample at the scene, or ever try to run the sample through the state database.

The case hung, the guilty jurors said that as far as they were concerned, if two people came in and said my client did it, that was all they needed (I'll probably call an ID expert next time who can talk about how their IDs were tainted by discussing my client before making the ID, and how they would naturally pick out the most familiar face). My client was clearly a suspect because he had a prior record, but never for shooting anyone. He did have a few robberies from the early 1990s, though.

After the case hung, the DA has basically gone out to, no, not try and see if he really is the shooter and test that DNA, but to do whatever it takes to nail my client. Now she has filed a new case on him for possessing a shank in the jail. This is where I talk about stupid defendants. I don't know if he really did have the shank in the jail, but if he did, that would be incredibly stupid. You see, as the DA so gleefully pointed out in her message to me (she actually had a little laugh in her voice), my client is now looking at a 3rd strike possession of a shank case. This means he could be acquitted of the murder and freed on that case, and get 25 to life on the possession of the shank case. And let's face it, it's much easier to fight a murder case where the evidence your client did it is scant, than it is to fight the possession of a shank in jail case. I mean, he doesn't live in a mansion where someone could be stowing things around his house without his knowledge, this is a little jail cell (albeit one with 4 cellmates, so that's clearly an issue).

But think about this, last October/November I'm doing this special circumstance murder case, convinced I have an innocent client, it hangs (which is, I guess, a pretty good result), and now the DA may very well dismiss the murder, get 25 to life on him for the shank (and it would really be a life sentence, here in California, at least), and then hold the murder in abeyance over his head for the rest of his life on the off chance that the prison system ever lets him out or his case is reversed. I mean, he may have actually been wrongfully incarcerated for the last 2 years, but may never get out. In fact, they could now test that DNA, find it's not him, and still give him 25 to life on this case.

Absurd. I'm not even angry about this, I'm just exhausted. Give me a break already.

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