Monday, July 30, 2007

Another promotion

Today, I found out that I am being reassigned to felonies, which are prosecuted in the uperior Court, here. I defended felonies before I came to the South, six years ago. I've almost forgotten what it's like, now.

I've been pretty well unsettled for the past month and a half, first going to the supervisor's position a week early, while I still had trials set. Then getting used to the role of supervisor. I had planned on covering for a friend who will be going on maternity leave next month, so I was beginning to get my mind wrapped around that.

And now I am where I wanted to be when I first started. I think I just need to let the dust settle some. It's going to be a great position -- the Judge, I hear, is on senior status and has a reduced caseload. So, while a lot of my colleagues have 150+ open felony files, I'll have less than 100. Not a bad way to get reaquainted.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bomb threat update

Well, I came to work today to be greeted by a very visible police presence. There were deputies in the parking lot, turning non-employees away. Which was nice, because there aren't ever any parking spots, because of the probationers. There were police officers inside of the building, just hanging out and observing. And I understand that there were undercover FBI officers present.

Of course, nothing happened. I did happen to bump into one of the fellows in charge of terrorism preparedness on the local police force this morning. He pretty much affirmed what I was thinking, pointing out that the threat wasn't specific.

I was kinda hoping we'd get a new building out of the deal. Alas.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Empty threats

Our office is located in a building across the street from the courthouse, which is nice, in many ways. It reduces the appearance that we're "working for the State" and keeps us a little bit out of the loop, in a good way. We're in a big county, the second most populous in the State, I'm guessing. And we're located in a relatively major urban area, so its a good thing to lie low on the radar.

Pre-trial services is on the same floor as us. They monitor folk who are on bond, but need a little more supervision than the average criminal defendant. They get a fair amount of foot traffic. Oddly, the county's family law clinic is also on the same hall.

Last week, an employee of either the family law clinic or pretrial services discovered a legal pad which had a relatively long, rambling letter written on it. A warning, of sorts. I read a copy of the letter myself, and the writer stated that he was ready to die, and would be carrying out a suicide operation in which "hundreds of thousands of white people" would be killed. The date of this supposed operation is tomorrow, July 26. The person signed the letter with an Arabic name.

I call bullshit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Title change

In my haste to begin blogging, I couldn't think of a good title for this space, so I went with the obvious. I'm a public defender, I'm writing about day-to-day work, hence, "A Public Defender's Journal." However, this title was always provisional, until I could think of something better. I've finally found something that I think fits. Granted, it is going to change where I stand in the listings at Public Defender Stuff, but sacrifices must be made.

As I blogged about last November, I have become interested in the things that lie under our daily practice. I have become intensely interested in the Common Law as we inherited it from England. Granted, this project is moving very slowly. And I mean very slowly.

Nonetheless, I was reading about Henry Bracton, a systematizer of the Common Law in the thirteenth century, and a forerunner of the more famous Blackstone, in my old copy of Bryce Lyon's Constitutional and Legal History of Medieval England, when I ran across an old Common Law procedure designed to encourage the accused to embrace trial by jury.

It is also known as crushing. If the accused elected to stand mute, then he would undergo La Peine Forte et Dure. According to Lyon, the accused
were loaded with heavy chains and placed on the ground in the worst part of the prison; they were fed a little water one day and a little bread the next. We also learn that more iron or stones were put upon the individual to make his imprisonment more painful and to persuade him to accept trial by jury. Under such hideous conditions many men chose to die rather than to take their chances by trial with jury.
You see, if the defendant lost at trial, his entire estate would escheat to the King. Because his family would be left without any means of support, the accused often opted to be crushed to death.

Thus are the origins of our most hallowed institution in the criminal justice system, the trial by jury. Needless to say, the next time I hear a client demand that I "crank up the jury," I will be chuckling silently at the irony.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Promotion update

Things with the new position are going swimmingly. Mostly, I backup inmate arraignments and arraignments, and triage mental health clients. And, of course, I am a sounding board for the division attorneys on motion and trial tactics.

I've had this position for three (?!) weeks now. The first week, however, I was finishing up my division assignments, including trials, which made for a very busy week. But, since then, I'm settling into a groove.

Oddly, I had a stress dream this morning. I dreamt that I was in bed and sleeping, and I had to get to the office to prepare jury charges for the trial that I had today! I remember thinking to myself, "well, its awfully late -- I guess I'll wing it!"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Things not to wear to court

Walking passed security and out of the front door the courthouse yesterday, I saw a lady walking in with a t-shirt that caught my eye. It was black, very tight, and across the chest said, "I WOULD NEVER FUCK YOU." I had to take a second glance, because the "NEVER" was in much smaller print than the rest. My first thought was, "why the hell would you wear that to the courthouse?" Then I heard a deputy say, "she can't wear that" and my second thought was, "First Amendment issues?!"

I kept walking.