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» Entries tagged with "prosecutor"

Real Change

For the first time in a little while, I left court this morning feeling like everything turned out okay. The whole experience was quite surprising, honestly. A lot of things could have gone wrong, but they didn’t. In most cases, even a positive result has some major downside. Not today. My client had absconded from probation long ago. He left the state and started a new life. There was nothing for him in Arizona but bad memories and worse influences. The new life he created for himself, on the other hand, was filled with stability, good people, and direction. He had been sober for a long time. He had a job and a support network. He finally knew what he wanted … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Prosecutors

Winning Without Trying

My fantasy football team is really kicking some ass this year. In fact, I haven’t lost yet. Not once. Even when I have a bad week, my opponent somehow manages to do worse. In all the years I’ve been playing fantasy sports, I’ve never seen anything approaching this kind of success. Admittedly, I have a secret this year. The secret started when I forgot to do any preparation for the draft. Hell, I actually forgot about the draft. The system’s defaults picked a great team for me based on its internal formulas. I was quite pleased. Since seeing the immediate success of the team I played no part in creating, my strategy has remained hands-off. I rely entirely on whatever numbers happen to … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prosecutors

Looking for a Lesson

You’ve probably heard about what happened with Michael Marin. It’s not every day that a Mormon grandfather and amateur pilot, a former Wall Street trader, Japanese business executive, and graduate of Yale Law School who also climbed Mount Everest and collected works by Picasso, supposedly kills himself in court with a poisoned pill after being convicted of arson for burning down his mansion and narrowly escaping in a scuba suit. You can find more background here if you’re interested. On top of its general bizarreness, the whole thing brings up some fascinating issues. Michael Marin presumably killed himself because of the verdict. Had the jury found him not guilty, he would have probably gone out to celebrate. Although I have not looked into the specifics of … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prosecutors

Abusing Science

The government loves science. It should be quite obvious why, as science can very easily be twisted to serve the state’s nefarious purposes while maintaining the illusion of being undeniable and absolute. Science is the smoking gun in many cases, regardless of whether it really is or not. DUI cases in particular are often built on nothing more than government pseudo-science, something without which the state would only be able to prove in many instances that defendants were bad drivers who did a poor job performing parlor tricks for a cop. The results of a supposedly scientific test can instantaneously change a minor civil traffic ticket into a DUI conviction along with all of the accompanying social stigma and various draconian punishments. Most lawyers and judges are … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, DUI, Government Rants

This Ain’t Texas

D.A. Confidential put up a post yesterday about the role of a judge and the widely held belief among criminal defendants that speaking to the judge might somehow help their case. The judge he appears in front of apparently gives a speech instead of taking a side in plea negotiations. D.A. Confidential concludes his post with these words: A long docket this morning, and I bet at least one inmate will ask to speak to the judge, hoping he’ll sweeten the deal and take the defendant’s side in plea negotiations. The judge won’t, of course, he’ll give his usual speech. But think about it the other way around. Imagine if the judge weighed in on our side, pressured the defendant to take our deal. That possibility, I trust, makes it … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts, Prosecutors

Rethinking the Plea

I work with all kinds of different prosecutors. When it comes to plea bargaining, the differences often become particularly apparent. A lot of prosecutors send out a letter with the first plea offer saying how any subsequent offers will be substantially harsher. They tell you the first offer goes away as soon as they have to do work, and they may view counter-offers as rejections. They have to think about your proposal, don’t they? Plea negotiations are a game where the plea isn’t intended to fairly resolve the case based on its unique facts and the unique history of the defendant, but to minimize workload and maximize the efficient use of state resources. Some prosecutors make offers that plainly indicate they fear trial and will do almost anything … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prosecutors

The Makings of a Great Tragedy

I once received very wise advice to take caution when writing about things close to home. I took it to heart. Years of being told “don’t shit where you eat” didn’t sink in, I guess, but that more subtle, specific advice did. Things far away aren’t so clear, however, so they may be a different story. Circumspection be damned? If I lived in Texas, I would have had a little more background when I read this post by Murray Newman. I was skeptical about what he perceived as a double standard even reading it without context, but that by itself didn’t seem worth a post on my part. When a prosecutor gets charged and defense lawyers don’t just rant about the presumption of innocence, I … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI, Practice in General, Prosecutors

Case against DeCosta Dismissed

The case against David DeCosta has been dismissed. Here is the story, and here is the minute entry. I haven’t seen the state’s motion to dismiss, but Arizona Criminal Attorney Russ Richelsoph tells me the state moved to dismiss without prejudice because there was “no reasonable likelihood of conviction.” I summarized the facts of the case here, but Mark Bennett explained it best: DeCosta was set up by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the Phoenix Police Department, and he was almost certainly factually innocent. When I found out the criminal case against DeCosta was dismissed, my first thought was “it’s about damn time.” My second thought was “what’s he going to do now?” In my daily practice, I see how destructive criminal charges can be. I … Read entire article »

Filed under: Uncategorized

A Tricky Situation

Article 2, Section 22 of the Arizona Constitution says that “[a]ll persons charged with crime shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except . . . [f]or felony offenses committed when the person charged is already admitted to bail on a separate felony charge and where the proof is evident or the presumption great as to the present charge.” Knowing that, what do you say when you know your client’s new offense was allegedly committed while he was out on bond for another felony offense and the judge asks, “counsel, do you have any recommendations regarding bond?” Does it matter if the same judge is assigned to the client’s other case and presumably knows that the client was out on bail when he or she supposedly committed the new offense? … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Constitution, Clients, Courts, Ethics, Practice in General, Professionalism, Prosecutors

Mandatory Minimums, Maximums

Arizona’s sentencing statutes contain ranges of permissible prison sentences for different classes of felonies. Defendants with historical prior felony convictions face ranges with longer minimum and maximum sentences. If a defendant has more than two historical priors, the additional priors may be considered aggravating factors which merit a longer sentence within the statutory range, but there aren’t any special statutory sentencing ranges for people with three, four, or five historical priors. Usually, the most a judge can give someone with two historical priors will be the same as what the judge can give someone with three or more historical priors. Prosecutors regularly get that wrong. I recently had a prosecutor argue that my client, who had a ton of historical priors and was charged with a class two felony, … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Statutes, Practice in General, Prosecutors

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