Follow us!

    Post: Young Student Interviews Seasoned Lawyer

    Posted by Hardy Parkerson, Atty. - Lake Charles, LA on 12/21/06


    You Can't Keep a Good Man Down!

    - by Hardy Parkerson, Atty.

    As I sit at counsel table, I begin to write notes to
    my teenage client who is charged with armed robbery.

    "You have the right to plead guilty and to ask for a
    pre-sentence investigation.

    But if you plead guilty, you waive all errors (get no
    appeal).

    Some cases can't be won.

    We should have taken the offer.

    We did not.

    We just have to take our licks.

    At least we tried!

    I did my best to get you off.

    It didn't work.

    At least we tried!

    We need now to decide if we have anything to gain by
    going to trial.

    Our options are:

    (1) Try the case; get found guilty, sentenced; appeal.
    We might win the appeal.

    (2) Plead guilty, in which case we have no appeal.

    If you are tried, we probably won't win the appeal,
    however.

    Few people win appeals.

    Some do.

    There is no doubt about it: we were railroaded; you
    didn't get your legal rights.

    You were denied your right to a hearing on discovery,
    a hearing on your Motion for Bill of Particulars, a
    hearing on your Motion to Quash and one on your Motion to
    Suppress Evidence.

    To appeal, we must first get convicted and sentenced.

    If you plead guilty, you waive all errors; get no
    appeal.

    There is a beneficial effect to pleading guilty.

    It's like 'We showed him. He buckled under, admitted
    his fault/guilt.'

    Psychologists call it catharsis: a coming clean, a
    facing up to one's acts.

    In other words, a guy who is obviously guilty but who
    won't admit it, makes them (the Judge) mad.

    But if he 'fesses up,' comes clean, that's
    good. 'He's learned his lesson,' they say.

    What we are doing here is personalizing the
    defendant, letting the Judge watch you until she gets to
    know you. From time to time, look at her; let her see you,
    look you in the face! Look her in the face, but not in the
    eye, lest she know what we are up to.

    For all practical purposes, there is no jury that
    will find a defendant not guilty, unless the defendant can
    prove his innocence.

    We screwed up when we did not take the deal the
    prosecutor offered. We took our chances, played our cards.
    We had a bad hand. We lost. I'm sorry! I am as sorry as
    you are!"

    Whereupon the defendant writes "You did your job!" I
    feel good that he appreciates what I have done. I write
    him a one-word note: "THANKS!"

    I continue to write notes to him.

    "As a lawyer I try too hard sometimes. Trying too
    hard sometimes can hurt a lawyer's client. But I can't
    stand a weak-kneed 'plead-guilty' lawyer, afraid to go to
    trial, afraid to stand up to the Judge or to the D.A."

    My young client then adds a footnote to my note.

    "You have really helped me and my family out a lot
    and I am pretty sure they appreciate it as much as I do,
    Sir!"

    I almost cry as I add my footnote to his: "THANKS!"

    There is an art to picking a jury, but no science. As
    I voir-dire the jury panel, I try to get each of them to
    tell me their verdict will be "Not Guilty" if the State
    fails to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. Some of
    them just cannot bring themselves to utter these two
    words, and these I know I need to get rid of.

    As the jury selection continues, it becomes apparent
    that there are still more men called to serve on juries
    than women, and a disproportionate small number of Blacks,
    as compared with a cross-section of the community.

    The prosecutor is attractive, a knock-out, and
    banters with the prospective jurors during voir-dire,
    especially the men. I watch her look them in the eye, and
    I think "Yeah! Yeah! I know what you're doing. You know
    how men are. Just the thought that they might, well, you
    know, let's say, win your approval, is enough to get them
    on your side."

    Juries are a good thing! Picking juries gives the
    public a chance to speak out about its frustrations,
    beliefs, biases, political opinions, pent-up angers, and
    such. They talk. They're on stage. They get the attention
    they so much crave, the attention they are denied at home
    and on the job by spouse, family and fellow-workers. Even
    the greats of local government have to sit and listen to
    them; and they do so gladly, and show their appreciation
    and amusement at the jurors' witty and sometimes serious
    responses and comments. The jurors entertain the
    courtroom, the judge, the prosecutor, the audience, as
    well as their fellow-jurors. Their fellow-jurors laugh; a
    good time is had by all. It is like a party. It would be
    nice if we could break out a bottle of wine and have each
    a glass. Everybody gets his or her turn to say his or her
    piece, to sound-off, to tell his or her little story,
    always with lots of local color. Each juror waits with
    eager anticipation his or her turn to mount the soap-box.
    No one rushes the jurors. The judge does not cut off the
    jurors like she cuts off defense counsel. The prosecutor
    listens like a kid at the feet of his teacher as the
    teacher tells the afternoon story. All ears are turned
    towards the speaker. What performances! What soliloquies!
    What drama! What one-liners! Some of the humor would make
    Jay Leno envious. How the prosecutor palliates and
    palpates, massages and manipulates, coos and drools over
    each potential juror! Everyone gets his or her turn, and
    each tries to out-do the other. "Do you have anybody in
    law enforcement?" the prosecutor asks. Each knows some cop
    personally. Each has experienced some crime or another; if
    not directly, at least in his or her family; and each gets
    his or her turn to tell his or her story about it; to
    externalize it, along with all of his or her pent-up
    emotions and frustrations. Of course, none of this would
    ever make a juror not be fair. Of course not! Sympathy and
    compassion do not play a role, as each prospective juror
    will agree; and the school principal declares that
    he "will presume the defendant guilty, I mean, innocent,
    until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

    Now the teacher is on stage once again. Even the
    librarian makes her debut. While the other jurors were
    performing, she was rehearsing her lines. She gives her
    performance. What a tour de force! Certainly she can be
    fair!

    Only the old Black man is tight-lipped, as always. He
    has learned to keep quiet in the presence of such
    authority. He knows the power of the Judge, the prosecutor
    and even of some lawyers. But Breaux, the Cajun, says his
    piece, gives his performance. Like the teacher, the
    librarian and the others, he wouldn't miss it for the
    world.

    Throughout the morning justice moves.

    We picked the jury; whereupon we threw in the towel,
    entered a plea of guilty. The Judge sentenced the
    defendant to the minimum time: five years without benefit
    of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. She had
    no choice. She almost cried as she sentenced him. Talk
    about personalizing the defendant!

    The day is done. I am now at the coffee shop where I
    have retreated to lick my wounds. I am down. I write. I
    write to myself things that are too personal for me to
    relate here. I call the Judge and prosecutor and court
    personnel names not fit for print. It's my way of dealing
    with defeat, externalizing. I'll get over it; I always do.
    It reminds me of something I once read: "I am wounded,
    Father William, the young man said, I will lie me down
    and bleed a while and rise and fight again."

    I write to myself: "Don't get me for a criminal
    lawyer. The judges all hate me, and they'll take it out on
    you. I never understood how a judge got even with me by
    taking it out on my client. And instead of the reporter's
    writing about the real story, that the criminal justice
    system has broken down, that the criminal courts are so
    backlogged that hundreds, if not thousands, of felony
    cases die on the vine for want of prosecution, he'll put
    another slant on it, deal with personalities, not issues.
    He'll give me that old Black-lawyer job, the one the Black
    lawyer gets every time he goes to court and stands up and
    answers back to the White judges. Oh, yeah! They want him
    to cow-tow, to hold his hat in his hand and say 'Yazzah,
    Yazzah, Yo Honnah....' But he won't do it. He stands up
    like he has a right to be there; like he is as much a part
    of the court and the legal system as the judge; and they
    don't like that. Right now I'm so sick of it all! This
    judge thing has me so down I do not know what to do. I
    want to curse, but can't. The Judge can say what she
    pleases; I cannot. The law is too frustrating! Defendants
    have no rights, none. Judges can run over the law at will.
    One day I may look back and laugh, but not tonight."
    Finally, I say to myself, "Face it, Turkey! You lost! You
    were defeated! The game is over!" I tell myself, "This
    ain't my first rodeo, and it won't be my last." I kick
    myself. I tell myself that I have helped many, but this
    time I messed up my client when I turned down that plea
    offer. My client was railroaded. I would appeal but I have
    no confidence in the appeals court either. They just
    assign those appeals to inexperienced law-clerks who gloss
    over briefs with a broad brush and
    write "affirmed", "affirmed", "affirmed", "much
    discretion", "harmless error", ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
    I tell myself, At least I was in there fighting for my
    client; there is something to be said for that."

    I begin to sing to myself, "Life has its little ups
    and downs...."

    I tell myself that I'll make it through the night
    O.K. and tomorrow I will have forgotten it all, and I'll
    be ready to go again.

    As they say, "You can't keep a good man down!"



    Posts on this thread, including this one
  • Young Student Interviews Seasoned Lawyer, 12/21/06, by Hardy Parkerson, Atty. - Lake Charles, LA.


  Site Map:  Home Chatboards Legal Jobs Classified Ads Search Contacts Advertise
  © 1996 - 2013. All Rights Reserved. Please review our Terms of Use, Mission Statement, and Privacy Policy.