Brown & Little, P.L.C. » Entries tagged with "plea"

Sucks Not Eating That Cake, Huh?

I covered a pretty amazing hearing recently. It wasn’t amazing because of anything I did. It was amazing because it perfectly showcased the disastrous impact of mandatory sentencing rules and a culture of punishment and cruelty not just on defendants, but on victims. The client was accused of taking money from a family trust. He was left out of it, but his cousins weren’t. He allegedly drained the trust using forged checks. At his first sentencing, the victims said how they weren’t going to get to go to college. He took their college fund, apparently, and now they had to take out student loans. At least one of them wanted to punish him with a long prison sentence. All of them wanted him to repay … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Prosecutors, Victim's Rights

Veterans Court

In a lot of ways, I really like the idea of a special court for veterans. Treating any group or any individual in accordance with the fundamental concept that some sense of dignity and worth should be afforded to criminal defendants is a great idea in my book, even if most other defendants don’t have the same luxury. I’m not willing to slam a program that does something a little closer to right just because the rest of the system treats people totally wrong. On the other hand, it’s tough to stomach a system that superficially kowtows to people whose lives have been directly ruined by the government, whether voluntary or not on their part, while destroying the lives of those whose lives have been less overtly ruined by … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts

An Epic Pinal County Scandal

A little more than a week ago, Scott Greenfield wrote a post at Simple Justice about how a deputy at the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office shot an unarmed man in the back despite the fact the man had his hands in the air and was clearly surrendering. If it hadn’t been caught on camera by a bystander, it would never have been news because the sheriff initially lied about the facts, insisted the deputy was justified, and let the deputy return to full duty after only three days of paid administrative leave. Luckily, the footage couldn’t be clearer: CBS 5 – KPHO Scott wrote about the deeper message the sheriff was sending by approving of the officer’s clearly unjustified actions, which is indeed the more important thing to consider. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants, Police, Prosecutors

He Was Screwed No Matter What

In a recent Supreme Court of Arizona case, State v. Duran, the defendant tried to plead guilty but the trial court rejected his plea. The trial court then royally messed up by saying the prosecutor could use statements Duran made in connection with his change of plea if he testified inconsistently with them at trial. It’s important here to keep in mind the fact the trial court was wrong. Duran’s statements never, ever should have been used against him. The trial court made a mistake, and as a result, the defendant was confronted with the dilemma of testifying and bearing the disastrous brunt of the court’s mistake or not testifying and probably making the best of a really bad situation. A conviction would pretty much be guaranteed … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, Courts

The Life Of A Private Public Defender

Jamison Koehler put up a post this week about prosecutors and professionalism. Here’s the paragraph that resonated with me the most: I am always annoyed by prosecutors who stroll into the courtroom moments before the judge takes the bench. This results in a rush of defense attorneys toward counsel table seeking to speak with the prosecutors before our cases are called. It makes our job that much more difficult. And then the judge chastises us for not having worked out more of these issues in advance. His post was more about prosecutors being discourteous, but I am more interested in the effect on defense lawyers and some major problems with the system in general. There was a time in my career when I took appointed cases and carried a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Judges, Practice in General, Prosecutors, public defenders

Except For That, Of Course

The silliest part of any guilty plea is the part when the court asks if anyone has threatened or coerced the defendant into pleading guilty. People are inclined to say no when it’s obviously the answer the judge wants to hear no matter what the circumstances happen to be. The desire to please is intense enough when the person asking the incriminating question has a badge and gun, but it’s even more powerful when the person asking sits high above the fray wearing a robe and keeps getting called “your honor” by everyone in the room. Several of my clients have given an admirable hell yes and briefly tried to elaborate before being cut off by others suddenly made aware of the absurdity of the question. I respect the clients … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts

Jerk or Chump?

I trust very few people to do their jobs competently; it’s the product of a wealth of experience watching people suck at the simplest of things. Indeed, it is often the simplest things that people mess up the most, and of all those things, few are simpler than doing what you say you’re going to do. If you don’t want to do it, don’t say you’ll do it. If you say you’ll do it, then go ahead and do it. It’s so easy, but it’s practically impossible for many. A few months ago, I was dealing with a prosecutor for the first time, and she said she would run something by her boss and get back to me. As time passed, I figured she had either … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Practice in General, Prosecutors

The Shame of Doing Wrong

If you’re ashamed of what you’re doing, maybe you should reconsider doing it. It seems simple enough, right? I frequently deal with people who have serious substance abuse and mental health issues. They are usually fairly aware of their problems. Although many are incapable of fixing them, I see complete denial less often than I would have expected before I began practicing law. The shameful rock bottom moment, typically the moment that led to them needing my services, is the sort of thing that makes most of them shudder. The embarrassment can help commit them to change, but it can also depress them, leading right back onto the destructive path that caused the problem in the first place. Whether awareness of the need to change … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prosecutors

Trusting Judges

For most felony offenses in Arizona, a person sentenced to a term of probation can be ordered to serve up to a year in the county jail. When prosecutors intend to seek jail time as a condition of probation, they usually say so up front. If it’s a guarantee, the plea will say “defendant shall serve…” before describing the amount of time, whether it’s a deferred term, and whether the defendant gets credit for time served. In other instances where jail is possible, the plea will say “the state anticipates requesting an initial jail term” or something along those lines. Occasionally, the prosecutor changes his or her mind between plea and sentencing. They will also say so if that’s the case. Other times, the probation department’s presentence report … Read entire article »

Filed under: Judges

Demanding Lies

Starting out, I had a long talk with a public defender who’d been fighting the good fight for decades. Here’s a quote I won’t forget: Nobody is too innocent for a misdemeanor. I heard this one from someone else I still respect: Nobody is too innocent for unsupervised probation. Neither person would ever shy away from a fight or do anything to force a client into something they didn’t want to do, so it wasn’t advice from plea salesmen who built their reputations on fancy billboards. Taking them as nuggets of wisdom forged from experience, they’re important lessons about human nature and the nature of the beast we call the criminal “justice” system. Most defense attorneys don’t trust the system. Our clients often don’t trust it too, but it’s usually just the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Prosecutors

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