Tuesday, August 16, 2005

So here's another little diatribe on the petty injustices of misdemeanor criminal representation.

I was appointed to this guy's case over two weeks ago at jail call (which is like a big clearing house for low level misdemeanor cases for people who are in jail) and my guy has a tiny little possession of marijuana case. I look at the police officer's report in the guy's file, and the first thing that I notice is that the search of the guy's car (in which the drugs were found) is completely illegal. The cops came across this car parked on 51st Street near a working construction site with the windows cracked (in the middle of summer) and the keys clearly visible on the center console, so they immediately (supposedly) determine that the car is probably stolen. They report that they run the plates and find that the car hasn't been reported stolen, but nonetheless, they proceed to not only open up the car and begin digging around under the seats, but they go into the glove compartment (allegedly to find out who owned the car, although their report indicated that they had already run the plates to check ownership and see if it was stolen before they began their search). In the glove compartment, along with the insurance, they find a small bag of marijuana.
At this point, and only at this point, it occurs to one of the officers to go ask around at the construction site next door to see if this car belongs to anyone there. Of course, this car ends up belonging to my client, who is not only on parole for burglary, but who is also being investigated as a suspected gang member. It's funny how the officers decided to look into the car to checkfor ownership information after initially running the plates, getting the name of the owner of the car, and then apparently realizing that the car belonged to someone who was suspected of having gang affiliations and who was presently on parole.
Anyway, I get this case assigned to me at jail call, and I approach the prosecutor, hoping for the Travis County standard Class C (ticket and fine) deal for Class B possession of marijuana. No way. My client is a bad guy. He's been to prison. He might be a gang member. And now he's smoking pot! Jail is clearly the only appropriate solution for him (which, incidentally, more than likely means parole revocation).
I plead that the search was undoubtedly illegal, but the prosecutor doesn't want to hear it (and rightfully so, probably- her job is not to make apologies for police screw ups). So I set it for a pretrial hearing so that I can try to prove to the judge that this evidence was obtained illegally, through police misconduct. My guy sits in jail for about two weeks, which is twice the amount of time that the prosecutor was asking for in the first place, but we can't plead him to back time or his parole will get revoked. Then, when I show up for my client's pretrial hearing this morning, they tell me he isn't going to be brought over from the jail because his parole hearing has also been scheduled for this morning. What a kick in the jimmy. The stupid parole board didn't even bother to wait to see if my guy was convicted. And I still had other issues to bring up at trial (such as whether my guy even knew the pot was in the glove compartment- my guy wasn't the only person who used that car and it sounds like there might have been another family member who like smoking pot a lot more than he did).
Anyway, I don't know what happened at the parole hearing, but I'll bet it wasn't good, and it just annoys me that they didn't even wait to let my guy defend himself in court before going ahead and having his hearing. I mean, we didn't even get a chance! This guy was on the receiving end of an illegal search by the cops, prosecutors who were ready to string him up for a minor crime on the basis of past convictions, and a parole board who apparently didn't even feel the need to afford him his day in court before reaching their decision.
It pisses me off, but like I said, these are the kind of little injustices that go on in the courthouse every day, and for the most part, go unnoticed.

What else? I had a nice lunch with Jennifer and Jeff. I'm still underemployed, but I'm working on it. My parents are coming to town this weekend for my dad's birthday. Anyone ideas for birthday gifts?


The League said...

Mom told me just to send a card. Apparently Dad doesn't want our crap presents.

Anonymous said...

That's terrible! i wish that the system some how allowed the guy to have an attorney represent him @ the parole hearing; then you could have asked to represent him @ the hearing, right?


J.S. said...

Many (possibly most) defendants do not have any legal representation at parole hearings. They definitely don't pay court appointed attorneys in Travis County to represent clients at parole hearings. Of course, I didn't even know my guy was scheduled for a parole hearing until it was already occurring on the other side of town...