Thursday, February 28, 2013

Feeling better

Things have been better recently. Nothing has changed in any significant way but I'm just feeling better on a day to day basis.
Some things have changed, although not massively. I have coworker that I can carpool with now. That helps with the cost of gas and also cuts down on how often I'm alone during the long car rides to and from work, just me and my thoughts. I do most of my ruminating in the car bc it's not like there is much else to do. So cutting down on my alone-with-my-thoughts time has helped, I think.
And it just doesn't hurt so bad anymore. It still hurts. It probably always will at least a little. But it's  not the intense gaping wound it once was. It isn't even as tender as it was a month ago. This kind of wound has to heal from the inside out. It takes awhile for the healing to be visible on the outside, even for me to see it. But it is starting to feel like maybe the healing will be visible soon.
It feels good to feel better. Not 100% but working  my way there.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This is totally a win

So today I was scheduled to start my first jury trial in my new county. And it was against the county attorney, the head honcho of the county prosecution. It was a serious charge . 2nd degree drug sale. My client was looking at 96 months in prison if we lost.

But we had a really good case. Well, actually, the state had a really terrible case. So we were going to trial and I was going to have fun ripping apart a witness and an officer on the stand during cross exam.

So, we arrived this morning to do motions in limine (these are motions each side makes right before trial, asking for certain things to be allowed in the trial or not in. It can make a big difference in what sort of evidence can be presented and how.). I had many. The state had five. But four of those five, if they got them, would severely hamper my ability to attack the witness and would radically change the case. I had to make sure that the state didn't get what they were asking for.

I also had to make sure I got all mine granted, because I wanted to severely limit what the cop was going to be allowed to say. The more I could limit the cop from testifying about things he shouldn't, the stronger my trial arguments would be. So this was an important hearing on these motions.

State went first & made their arguments. I got a chance to respond to their arguments.

Court denied the first state motion. Score! And then, the second. And then the third! And then then fourth!! The fifth wasn't that important so I wasn't concerned with that one. But I was flying high after successfully arguing for the court to deny those four motions. My trial arguments were saved!

Then, my turn. I had seven highly important ones and some boilerplate ones. I started my arguments. State had a chance to respond. Then the court granted my first motion. Then the second. And third. And four, five, and six. He deferred making a ruling on seven for the time being.

Holy balls, I had just swept the hearing! I won on everything! I could hardly contain my excitement. I thought my arguments were good and solid but I didn't expect to get everything. Awesome possum!

So then we took a break for the morning. I met with my client to tell him what had happened, since most people drift off during this portion of their trial because it's lot of legal jargon and lawyers yakking. Then the prosecutor wanted to talk to me.

Turns out that the judge's rulings put a damper on the state's case. A big enough damper that made the state change their offer.

Previous offers were, in order:
51 months in prison (that was the offer for several months)
36 months in prison

Client had rejected both. He didn't want to go to prison.

Today's offer? 1 year in jail with credit for three months already served. Since Minnesota only has you only serve two-thirds of your time, the year becomes 8 months. Minus the 3 he already has done means he would have about 5 months in local jail, close to his family, with work release privileges.

Client ultimately decided to take the offer, since he was risking a conviction on a 96 month charge if we had lost. But the change to 5 months of local jail was enough to sway him.

We didn't try the case, but we didn't have to. The motion hearing sweep was enough to cause the state to change the offer to something my client was happy with.

He thanked me several times, saying I was the best public defender he had ever had and that even if we had gone to trial & lost, he would know that I had done what I could to help him. He said he knew I had been working really hard for him and he was really glad he had me. I had to laugh when he told me that some of his family had asked him if he would be ok with a public defender on his case and he told them that he "loved" his lawyer and that I was "busting my ass" on his case. He said, "My family and I are gonna be sending you a card or something. You did great. Thank you so so so much."

It never ceases to amaze me how much it means to people to have someone in their corner. Even if they are guilty, it always boils down to the same thing: they want to know that someone is on their side and willing to fight for them. All too often, no one has ever stood up and fought for them. And not only to fight for them, but to do it in a public forum, vehemently arguing the case in front of a courtroom full of people. I'm proud to be the person standing next to them and arguing their case against the world. They feel like everyone is out to get them and that they can't win no matter what. And having someone to do the fighting with them and for them means they walk away from the court experience feeling like they got a fair chance and they had their own soldier in the fight.

It was a good day. A trial win would have been nice. But I'm still calling this one a win. Obviously the state was so scared they just chickened out.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Anxiety FTW*!!!

If I have any skills as a lawyer, my best one would be an insane obsession for detail. This is due entirely to my anxiety about looking like an idiot. I obsessively prep & organize, lest I forget something in court w/ everyone watching. Shudder...

This works well for my clients. They think I'm diligent. They don't know I am a hot anxious mess in my head. And this obsessive fear means I pore through the file again and again and again, noticing every detail.

I have caught errors in lab kit numbers. I have gone frame by frame through a video the prosecutor said he wasn't using bc it was "useless." I used it bc I went slowly through each frame. I have spotted tiny inconsistencies & pounded on them @ trial. I am terrified of looking dumb so I make sure I have all my ducks in a row to lessen the possibility of screwing up.

At least for once in my life my extreme anxiety has a good use. Who would have guessed that having social anxiety would make me a better lawyer?

*FTW means "for the win."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This happens literally every morning

Why you should never help police (even when you're innocent)

All too often people willingly give up their rights bc they erroneously believe that those rights only apply to criminals. Let me clarify: they apply to innocent people too and you should guard them jealously. Here is why this is so important...
A. Do not agree to give a DNA sample. Ever. Do not fall for the "rule yourself out" line. If they need to ask for your consent it is likely that they do not have enough to apply for a search warrant. If they do have enough then make them go get one. Think DNA is always correct? Wrong. Those labs are operated by humans who make mistakes. I'm not talking theoretical. Labs have an "unexpected results" log where they keep track of problem results. This includes cross-contamination in the results and sometimes that contamination is the testing scientist's own DNA. This happens more often than people realize. If you give a DNA sample you introduce your DNA into the lab where it may end up mixed with some evidence. And once it's mixed it can't be unmixed. Do not risk it. Make them get a warrant.
B. Crime labs are not perfect. Google "Saint Paul crime lab" for one example of awfulness.
C. Talking to police w/o a lawyer is a bad idea even when you're innocent. Say you were driving your red sedan on Main on Monday by the local Target. You are a white guy with a blue sweatshirt and blond hair. You are stopped by police a day later and they ask where you were on Monday. You did nothing wrong so you tell the police where you were. But you don't know that on Monday a white guy w/ blond hair and a black sweatshirt was reported as robbing the Target of on Main. He drove away in a red car. Oops. Looks like you just made yourself a suspect despite not doing anything. Next thing you know you are in a line-up. Oh and eyewitness identification is really unreliable so you are ID'd by the witness. So don't talk yourself into a bad spot. If police want to talk to you the magic word is "lawyer." Use it.
D. Do not let them search your car, purse, bags, etc. A MN woman was charged w/ drug possession when police found an aspirin in her car. Don't do that to yourself. Again make them get a warrant.
E. If you are in an interrogation room or in a room at the police station you are almost certainly a suspect so don't talk. "Lawyer."
Rights are for everyone. Innocent people should use them and realize they are there to protect them. Do not give them up!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I made this

I made myself a bag for carrying my files to court. I have always had the problem where the straps break off due to carrying many files. So I made a bag with straps that go all the way under the bottom. Then my co worker asked me to make her one. So I did! Hers is a bit more fancy since it has a detachable inside purse/pocket. I'm happy with the way this came out!

My paperback is here!

So cool to see it in print.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

And he shall be called Grunter

I had to take Ward to the vet the other day bc he was having some trouble w/ his eye. The vet said he also sounded a little congested as well. While the tech was holding him and the vet was checking him out, Ward started to make a couple soft grunting noises that sounded like he was having trouble breathing.
The vet paused and looked slightly concerned. "Is that a normal noise for him?" she asked  me, listening more intensely to his grunting.
"Yep," I replied, "That's his 'I'm unhappy, stop it, I don't like what you're doing' noise." I hear this often when I have to administer medicine, clean his teeth, or basically make Ward do anything besides take a nap, so I don't really even notice it anymore.
The vet frowned in confusion and said, "He grunts like that when he's unhappy or uncomfortable? Cats aren't normally grunters."
"Well, he is a pretty tame guy," I explained, "He isn't one to ever bite or scratch at all when he doesn't like what is happening. He just grunts like that."
The tech grinned, as she was the one holding Ward in place as the vet poked and prodded and messed around with his eyes and congested little nose, and she would be the one who would most likely end up being bitten or scratched if Ward were to try either of those.  She said, "I'll take a grunting cat any day!"
Then the vet had to take Ward's temp. My grunting cat quickly became my pitiful yowling cat. Still no biting or scratching, but a simple grunt was insufficient to express his unhappiness w/ this procedure. Poor Wardy...
Got some eye drops (and some treats after surviving the temp-taking) and we were on our way home. And since Ward hates car rides, he grunted the whole way home. That's my boy!

Look what's available at Amazon

Monday, February 11, 2013

Um, no.

Every great once in awhile, I will run into a prosecutor who doesn't seem to totally understand how the rules of discovery work in a criminal case. Maybe it's because they don't do criminal work as their main focus?? I don't know? Thankfully, these prosecutors are very rare, and I've only run into them maybe 3 times total my whole legal career, but I always come away thinking to myself, "Um, so, no..." 

Here's the basic situation that I'm talking about. Say, for example, I am representing a client who is charged with violating a harassment restraining order. In the discovery that the prosecutor sends to me, I will find the police reports, a copy of the ticket or the complaint, and maybe a CD that contains the audio recordings of the interviews with the involved people. What I will not have is a copy of the actual harassment restraining order. Which is kind of an important thing in a case where supposedly my guy violated that order. 

When we get to court, I'll either move to dismiss for lack of probable cause (because, helloooo, the state has not provided any evidence of an actual harassment restraining order being in existence) or move to compel discovery of the order. It depends on what stage of the proceedings we're in. Keep in mind, by this time, I will have already asked for all the relevant discovery in a letter that was sent to the prosecutor's office. 

The response from the prosecutor will be that the harassment restraining order is available in the court file and that it is available to me so I need to go to the court administrator's office and get a copy for myself and my client. But, that's not the way it's supposed to work. 

See, as the defense attorney, I'm not supposed to go out finding things that hurt my client's case. And if I know of the existence of information that will hurt my client and/or the case, I'm supposed to keep my damn mouth shut--that's that whole "attorney-client privilege" thing. People don't really love that whole idea that a client can tell me, "Hey, I killed like 62 people and I've got all their bodies buried under my front porch!" and I have to take that shit to the grave with me, but that's the way the whole thing works*. So while the order is accessible to me if I went to the court admin office and asked for it, that's the exact opposite of what I should be doing for my client. So, no, I'm not going to go get it. 

I'm the defense. I don't have to prove anything. I can sit on my butt during a trial and do absolutely nothing if I want. That would likely not be the best trial strategy, but technically, I could. You, dear prosecutor, have the burden of proving my client broke the law. In this hypothetical example, that means you have to prove that there was a valid order in existence and the rules of evidence require that you present at trial a certified copy of said order. And the rules of criminal procedure require that if you're planning on using some sort of evidence at trial, you have to disclose it to the defense attorney before trial. Which means, you, as the prosecutor, must get a copy of the order from court admin yourself and you must have your staff make a copy of that order and then you must have it sent to me as the defense attorney.  You are not allowed to just tell me to go get it myself. Well, I suppose you could, but I would then object to that evidence coming in at trial because you failed to properly disclose it, and then you would likely end up losing the trial because you don't have the evidence you need to prove that the order ever existed. 

So, please, don't tell me that I can or should get it myself from court admin or ask me, "What? Do you need me to send you a copy of this?" or something else along those lines. It's really your call, but if you plan on using it against my client, you can't unless you're going to disclose it.  

*Fun fact: if the person told me they had 62 alive people in their basement that they were planning on killing at some point in time, I would then have the option of reporting that to police and breaking attorney-client privilege in order to prevent substantial bodily harm or death to those people, but I'm not required to do so.  It would be my choice if I wanted to tell the police. However, if the people are already dead, then they can't suffer any substantial bodily harm or death, so the damage is already done and I am not allowed to ever say anything to anyone. Crazy, huh? 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Life updates

Things are definitely in a state of flux. The management at work is completely changing. Big Apple retired, Chief starts a new job on March 1st and Golf is the new interim manager. So, that is a whole lot of change at work. It sounds like Chief's position won't be filled until May.
Also at work: many contested hearings. I had a lot of those in my old county but it looks like I'm on pace to have even more in my new county. Which is exhausting. So many briefs to write. So many motions to file. ugh.
My step-dad's condition has gone from crappy to extra-crappy. As if the clot in his femoral artery and the pulmonary embolism weren't bad enough, he then had his lung fill up with fluid, which required surgery on Monday. They cleaned it all out and he was recovering in the hospital when he took a turn for the worse by Friday and was bleeding internally. They went back in and found a torn artery. I'm not even sure how that happens.
I started writing my next book. It won't be done for awhile, but the title is "Depression-Flavored Mouthwash."
That's all for now.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Today's the day!

My book is available now as a paperback! Woohoo!

It's available for order now at:

In about a week, it will also be available on  

So cool! 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Well, now I feel kind of cool

Amazon sent me a tax document that looks like a W-2. Except instead of "wages" it said "royalties."
That feels kind of neat to see that.
Which reminds me...if you wanted to read my book but didn't have a kindle and/or don't like to read on tablets or phones or whatever and/or you just prefer to have a real, actual book, you'll be glad to know that my book will soon be available as a paperback.
And I'm working on my next book.