Saturday, September 03, 2011

And You Thought You Had a Difficult Case.

In New Orleans, they do things FAST. And some of the details tend to get blurred. Read this newspaper article from New Orleans:

The gist of it is that Luhron Gorman was in New Orleans with a friend, and they were running from the police. At one point Mr. Gorman and friend went into someone else's house to hide, wherein the friend robbed that family at gunpoint. The friend got away with $60. Mr. Gorman was arrested 2 weeks after the crime from a crimestoppers tip, and he starts confessing. He says he had no part in THIS robbery. He merely went in to make sure his friend did not hurt the 97 year old resident, and he never displayed HIS gun. But he also confessed that he had stolen the gun that he had on him from somewhere else.

Mr. Gorman was tried for 4 crimes within 24 hours, among which is the home invasion robbery and the possession of a stolen firearm. Although it is not evident from the article how it happened, his attorney, Public Defender Jessica LaCambre, "tried unsuccessfully to stop the testimony" of Mr. Gorman. I assume that that means that she told him not to testify, and objected when he insisted on taking the stand, etc. It appears that Mr. Gorman felt it necessary to testify, against the advice of his attorney, and that he didn't do well enough in testifying to save himself from being convicted. The jury convicted him of everything. Mr. Gorman now faces 99 years for the robbery, and 10 to 20 for the gun. At some point Mr. Gorman accused his Public defender, Jessica LaCambre, of having an inappropriate relationship with the prosecutor (I don't know what that means, but it always sounds bad), and of failing, I guess, to negotiate him a better plea deal. The article speculates that Mr.Gorman did this to either get a mistrial or lay the groundwork for an appeal.

Look, Mr. Gorman sounds pretty guilty of SOMETHING, because he confessed to numerous things. And he likely slit his own throat when he confessed to the police. Who knows how much he hurt himself by testifying, often a difficult proposition. I don't know anything about Public Defender Jessica LaCambre, but I will assume that, as a PD, she was doing what she thought was right for Mr. Gorman, trying to dodge one or two icebergs on what was obviously the Titanic. I've been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with DDA's before by clients because, God forbid, I was talking to the DDA about their case when they couldn't hear (or someone else's case, for that matter). Clients facing years in prison may be a bit paranoid, or even a lot paranoid, but, WOULDN'T YOU BE? I mean, if someone you don't know, who you don't trust, who you don't pay, is defending you it is reasonable to distrust that person. And with the horror stories defendants tell each other (too many of them true) about overworked PDs with no time, no experience, no compassion, no competence, it is all understandable. I don't know if Public Defender Jessica LaCambre, Mr. Gorman's PD, did anything wrong here. But I can say, WITH CERTAINTY, that this was a difficult case, a difficult client, difficult facts, and no client control. Bad day for the attorney, worse day for the client. I think we've all been there.


Here's the things that interested and bothered me about the article. 1) The article states that the (bad) verdict capped off a contentious "Daylong trial." Really? All this was in a single day, so large a day that it had to be "capped off?". I don't know how things work in New Orleans, but wasn't there other things she could have done? If Mr. Gorman was going to testify, was there some mental defense that might have been pursued? Were there perhaps some legal flaws with the confession? Wasn't there SOMETHING that would have militated more than one day of trial? If 1 day is all that it takes in New Orleans to get, in essence a death sentence (by incarceration), then this is a bad jurisdiction indeed. That is a freight train that moves WAY TOO FAST. I my guy's getting that much time, I will make the DDA will earn it, thank you very much. And earning it means taking more than one day.

2) The jury convicted Mr. Gorman of the home invasion robbery by a vote of 10 to 2. The robbery that's going to get him 99 years. 10 to 2. 99 years. DO YOU HEAR WHAT I AM SAYING?!? A non-unanimous jury gets him 99 years? That's outrageous!!! What the fuck?!? And maybe Mr. Gorman had something going here, because two jurors surely DID buy what he was saying. I am being a little petty here, but maybe Public Defender Jessica LaCambre might have devoted a wee bit of time challenging this rigged procedure. It boggles my mind that a guy can get 99 years from a non unanimous jury. Oh, and since this was a grueling daylong trial, perhaps more time might have been spent picking the jury. Pure speculation here, but since Mr. Gorman is Black (his photo is in the article), and since New Orleans went through massive racial changes in its jury pool after Katrina (lots of African Americans left New Orleans after Katrina), maybe, just maybe, there were some Batson v. Kentucky issues here worth exploring? It's speculation, but I'm willing to bet 10 to 2 that I am right.

3) At one point Mr. Gorman was removed from the court because he was "disruptive," probably because of all those accusations he made against his Public Defender. According to the newspaper article, no explanation was given to the jury for his absence from the courtroom. Later, during that same (grueling) daylong trial, he was brought back into court so that he could be ID'd by the victim, after which Mr. Gorman testified. That sure doesn't sound right to me. Seems like there should have been a mistrial here, or at least a really strong admonishment by the judge.

Dennis R. Wilkins
The New PD Dude


matthew whitten said...

Although I applaud the defense for not playing the race card (Batson), I agree and believe one day is extremely short for a trial where a defendant is ultimately sentenced to 99 years. However, it may be that there simply wasnt a plethora of evidence to present fro either side. In that case, it sunds like the defendant pushed for trial against the advice of counsel, and testified against the advice of counsel as well. I see no reason to jump to concluaions that the defense was epjneffective, but, then again, on post conviction if I would certainly make that argument.

in addition, it would be appellate counsel's job to argue Batson, not the trial counsel, right? Correct me if I'm mistaken.

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