I was in trial this past week, so I didn’t have a lot of free time. I found myself working into the night to deal with things I couldn’t address during the day. I only had enough time during breaks to respond to the things that seemed the most urgent. One of those things was a frantic message from a prosecutor. She wanted me to call her back as soon as possible.
I recently tried a case with her because the state wouldn’t budge one bit on the plea. My client faces the exact same thing right now having lost at trial that he would’ve gotten had he accepted the state’s offer. After three motions, a long evidentiary hearing, various oral arguments, a bunch of interviews, and a hard-fought jury trial, he may arguably be better off having been convicted by a jury than he would’ve been rolling over near the beginning. The case is set for a hearing during which the state must prove my client’s alleged prior conviction in order to enhance his sentence.
The prosecutor informed me that the prints the case agent took from my client before trial matched the prints for the prior conviction. She asked me to stipulate it was his prior. “Begged” might be the better word, actually. Small violins seemed to play sad songs in her head as she told me how the officers would have to come in and waste an afternoon. She stressed how the court is already backlogged. I didn’t care, of course.
I would be lying if I denied deriving a wonderful sense of satisfaction from her torment. In the beginning of the case, I’d worked my ass off trying to negotiate a non-trial resolution that was in my client’s best interest. She took one brief look at the case and told me she would win it. The law provided for a 120-day sentence for my client, and she told me she would get that when she won at trial. She would give my client the privilege of admitting to everything, making her life easier, and getting what she felt he deserved without having actually considered his personal circumstances and the issues with the case. She wouldn’t shave one second off the jail sentence. She was an inflexible bully.
I told her we would be going forward with the hearing on the prior. I informed her there will also be an appeal after that, at the very least, and very likely post-conviction proceedings. My client is a fighter. Because of her office’s shortsightedness, she put him in a situation where he had nothing to lose going down swinging. He’ll be swinging for years. My client has a right to a priors trial during which the state bears the burden of proof. He elected to exercise his rights because her office elected to play stupid political games with people’s lives.
It felt good to see the tables turned, but it was disappointing that she didn’t exhibit the least bit of understanding. The problem was that she believed she was in the right. She is the good guy. Anyone unlucky enough to find his name in a police report is the bad guy. Asking her to give my client a minor concession was an unreasonable request. Denying her demand for him to waive his life away to make her easy life a tiny bit easier was unforgivable.
Like she told me in the beginning, she isn’t the one who drank too much before hopping on a motor scooter. She’s the one who’s stealing a huge chunk of that guy’s money, stripping him of his driver’s license and therefore his ability to earn a living, forcing him to go through classes and counseling he probably doesn’t need, and sticking him in a cage for four months. See? She’s the good guy, obviously. She’s righteous. He’s an icky defendant. Why won’t he just accept what she thinks he should get?
Give nothing, expect everything. That’s how the game works to them.