Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Curse of The Mostly Innocent Client

I am in the midst of an impossible month. Not because I am so busy (though I have been running.) Not because every Judge in my life wants to start a trial with me (though I would love to know where everybody was when I wanted to try a few cases in the early spring and early fall.) And not because I am so tired I could sleep in the passing lane of Queens Boulevard (also known as the Boulevard of Death.) No, the real reason I am having an impossible month, is because e I have been Cursed With Mostly Innocent Clients.

Now most days, I am relegated to representing one of two types of clients. Innocent, or Guilty. Of the two, guilty is easier. They often set a lower bar and are more realistic about what the system will accomplish. Often they are more "professional" about the issues too. They have usually "been here before", know what to expect and can manage their emotions better.

Completely innocent is not bad either. It just means that there is a greater chance I am going to trial. Not much of one however. Usually, if completely innocent, the truth is going to come to light early enough to keep bad things from happening. It helps if I cross and re cross every T and dot and redot every I, but for the most part, though the stress level is higher among both client and lawyer, a job well done is rewarded.

The Mostly Innocent Client is usually a victim of circumstance, mixed in with a lack of legal training and judges/prosecutors who cannot see the forest for the trees.

For example: Client is in the armed service of state X which neighbors New York. He gets off work and puts his gun in his car picks up his girlfriend and goes to a concert on Long Island. While leaving the show 3 young males in a late model SUV get into a road rage beef with him. By his report they are dressed "ghetto tuff." As they approach his vehicle he remembers the gun. He takes it out and lays it across his chest in view of the guys who scramble away and back to their SUV. He leaves the concert happy he didn't have to defend himself. The three guys in the SUV stop a passing cop. They tell him they saw a gun. They do not Identify themselves. Realizing after they stop the cop they will have to identify themselves and further realizing the cop might find the drugs and or weapons they have in their SUV, they "beat feet" and take off. Cop meanwhile has no (and I mean no identifying information on these hoodlums.)

Now they stop the clients car and arrest him for the gun. Now it is loaded and that's a felony. Our guy is on active service with the national guard of another state. A sister state. If he were to be active in the US army we do not arrest him. But because he is a guardsman not a reservist, NY makes the arrest.

We learn that our client is an absolute hero whose record of personal sacrifice moves people to tears. He has often put his own goals and opportunities asunder to care for his mom and younger sisters. We find that already a guardsman on 9-11, while enrolled in College he immediately gives up his education to serve his unit full time. That until the semester ended he was going to school then pulling shifts at the tunnel and bridge entrances. This is all during the time we think someone is going to pull up with a panel truck and send everyone to smithereens. We also find out he has requested to go to Iraq on two separate occasions. Both times his attempts were thwarted because his specialty is so needed here.

The alleged victims of his crimes are still selling their poison to kids in the hood. Our guy was pulling him and his family and literally hundreds of other kids out of the hood and giving them hope. When not working for the guard our guy is out working in one of America's most dangerous High Schools starting a Jr. National Guard unit. But Good Ole Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, she is going to be sure to drum him out of the Corp with a felony record because hey she has a policy to uphold.

Now some of you may be asking how in the hell did the arrest get past the suppression hearing. That is the issue on appeal. The court's decision flies it the face of the decided law of the nation not just the department. However by the time I get in front of an appellate bench our guy is already out of the Guard. In the meantime I convinced our chief judge (not the one who decided the suppression issue)not to put our client in jail if he should plead guilty which was what he had to do.

Weigh the equities. Our District Attorney Kathleen Rice had the opportunity to help a guy who spent a lifetime helping others get over a mistake he made in 15 seconds in his life. She could have charged a misdemeanors and plea bargained the case out. Instead she supported the drug dealing, anger outraged thugs who didn't have the guts to give their names because the realized they would be charged should they hang around. She acted sanctimoniously, arbitrarily and capriciously. I will not forget. Hopefully our military guys won't either. Maybe others who can understand what it means to serve in harms way and the pressure even those stationed at home face in a time of war, they won't forget either.

The Curse of the Mostly Innocent Client. Today it perplexes me... Tomorrow, it may come back to perplex Ms. Rice. I certainly hope it does. Next Election for Nassau County (NY) District Attorney is just under three years away...and counting...
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