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    Re: Young Student Interviews Seasoned Lawyer

    Posted by Bradford Cohen on 12/27/06

    On 12/21/06, Hardy Parkerson, Atty. - Lake Charles, LA wrote:
    > 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!"
    We have all been there. I used to talk about a kid in school
    who never lost a fight. My grandfather used to say to
    me, "then he hasn't fought in enough fights".

    Posts on this thread, including this one
  • Young Student Interviews Seasoned Lawyer, 12/21/06, by Hardy Parkerson, Atty. - Lake Charles, LA.
  • Re: Young Student Interviews Seasoned Lawyer, 12/27/06, by Bradford Cohen.

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