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And The Machine Keeps on Running…

Adrian likes to call Maricopa County Superior Court “an enormous machine of injustice.” I think that’s a perfect description. To some extent, every Arizona court hurriedly shuffles criminal defendants through one after another, but Maricopa County is especially cold and impersonal. Each person being prosecuted is one little thousandth of a percent added or subtracted from some number Andrew Thomas hopes to brag about come next election. Unavailable deputy county attorneys and a crowded master calendar serve to ensure that no defendant’s voice gets heard prior to trial, if at all. More than anyone else, illegal immigrants find themselves on the conveyor belt heading straight into the machine. When sheriff’s deputies pick up a van full of illegals driving through the county, the wheels of the machine … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, immigration

Another One Bites The Dust (Updated)

*** I wrote this post after reading about the case in the news and hearing courthouse gossip about what happened to David DeCosta. The police reports reveal a very different set of facts, which I discuss here. *** About a year ago, a defense attorney named Jason Keller got busted smuggling heroin to inmates. The Maricopa County criminal defense bar was abuzz with talk of his supposed meth addiction and involvement with the Mexican Mafia. At the time, he represented a client named Jesse Alejandro in a murder conspiracy case. His client became his co-defendant. A few weeks ago, another defense attorney, David DeCosta, got busted for doing more or less the same thing. Apparently, he was trying to sneak drugs to a client … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, jail, lawyers, News

Shameful

Texas likely executed an innocent man. That man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was represented at trial by David Martin, a man I now believe to be the most disloyal and generally shameful defense lawyer I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing speak. If you want to hear what he had to say about his former client on CNN, watch the video below. I wouldn’t recommend viewing it if you think you might have problems stomaching a faux cowboy in a deep state of denial proclaiming the guilt of a dead man whose life was once placed in his undeserving and likely incapable hands. The video mostly speaks for itself, but you can read some great blog posts about it here, here, here, and here. Willingham’s appellate lawyer even wrote … Read entire article »

Filed under: Death Penalty, Ethics

Jail: US v. Mexico

I recently met with a potential client who is a Mexican citizen. He doesn’t reside in the United States and is absolutely terrified of doing any time in jail in Arizona. That isn’t exactly an unusual feeling for a person to have, but this guy should be capable of holding his own in a tough situation. He is familiar with our country. I don’t want to say what he does for a living, not because it is illegal, but because I don’t want to impact his career in case someone starts snooping into his life. Suffice it to say, this guy shouldn’t really be worried about a few days in the county jailhouse. It got me thinking. Do people in Mexico fear our jails … Read entire article »

Filed under: jail

Judges Aren't Always Right

A week or two ago, I saw a judge make a ruling completely contrary to the law. It happens, but usually not so obviously. The judge was hearing a number of pleas at once. Two of the defendants were in custody and pleading to aggravated DUI. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 28-1383(D) and (E), certain types of felony DUI require that a defendant spend a certain amount of time in prison before being placed on probation. In Arizona, prison and jail are different. Jails are run by counties and cities, and felony defendants spend their time in county jail pending resolution of their criminal matters. Prisons are run by the state. You can only go to prison if you are sentenced. Both of those pleading defendants were … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, Arizona Statutes, Courts, DUI

Plea or Trial?

In Arizona, criminal defendants have no constitutional right to a plea agreement. The state does not have to offer one and can discontinue plea negotiations at will. If the state does offer one, it can take it off the table anytime before the court accepts it. That puts a lot of criminal defendants in a very difficult situation. Many defendants have no desire to go to trial. Some want to avoid trial at all costs. A big problem arises when a client doesn’t want to go to trial, has a weak case and a lot of risk, and feels they have a right to a plea they’re willing to accept. The problem is sentencing. Some Arizona crimes carry extreme sentences. If the state is … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Practice in General

No Public Defender's Office?

I found this post by Murray Newman at Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center fascinating. I’ve been thinking about it and figured I’d write something. I’ve never practiced in a county that doesn’t have a public defender’s office. I can see how it might work in a very small, rural county, but it’s incredible to me that one of the biggest counties in the US doesn’t have one. I think it’s natural that voters begin demanding that a giant, bureaucratic, government agency take over a task the moment they realize it’s sufficiently daunting. Indigent criminal defense for an entire major metropolitan area seems pretty overwhelming, so I’m amazed the people of Harris County haven’t insisted that committees of politicians be created to form an … Read entire article »

Filed under: public defenders

They Don't Mean It

I’ve been noticing a lot of signs in court buildings saying something to the effect of “if you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, please be courteous and stay home.” I guess the whole swine flu scare is just now reaching the courts. The signs aren’t a bad idea, but I find them misleading. I doubt many judges would be willing to excuse a defendant from court because of flu-like symptoms. Last week I saw a tribal court judge issue a bench warrant for a terminally ill defendant who missed court because she was too sick to leave the hospital. Does a defendant with flu-like symptoms, someone not even verifiably suffering from a full-fledged case of the flu, really have a chance of having his or her absence … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants

Too Good to Last

You may remember an old post about whether you can get a DUI in a car that doesn’t work. The issue came down to “actual physical control.” That’s because you don’t have to drive to get a DUI in Arizona; you just have to have actual physical control of a vehicle. When Arizona’s Court of Appeals, Division Two came out with a related opinion in State v. Zaragoza, I put up another post about actual control. I was pretty negative about whether the opinion would make a difference. It turns out I was right to be negative, but for the wrong reasons. This summer, the Supreme Court of Arizona vacated the opinion of the Court of Appeals. In Zaragoza, the defendant staggered to his car and … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, DUI

The Motorcycle That Could Not Be

I recently finished working on a pro bono forfeiture case. The short story is that a guy puts a new engine and forks on a 1970s Harley Davidson in California in 1991. He registers it in California, and they give it a new VIN because the new motor serial number doesn’t match the frame. This is a common practice for motorcycles. My client enters the picture in 1992 or 1993, when he buys the motorcycle. He registers it in California and operates it for years with no issues. He moves to Massachusetts and registers it with no problem. In 2004, he moves to Arizona to be closer to his children and grandchildren. When he takes the bike to the Arizona MVD in 2007 (he didn’t … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Statutes, Bikers' Rights

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