Sunday, July 14, 2013

The George Zimmerman Verdict

George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in February 2012. That is a sad fact. But, yet Zimmerman was found not guilty and people can’t seem to figure out why and are mislabeling the verdict as racist. That assertion is nonsense. It could have been argued as racist had Zimmerman never been charged. However, he was charged with 2nd Degree murder and faced up to life in prison had he been convicted.

Why Zimmerman wasn’t convicted was because the prosecution’s case was weak. Here is what happened. Zimmerman sees Martin and thinks he looks suspicious. Zimmerman is probably racially profiling Martin, which is deplorable but not illegal. Then, Zimmerman gets out of his car and follows Martin, though he’s advised not to. Again, that’s not illegal but doesn’t look good for Zimmerman.

At some point, verbal and then physical altercations erupt that are witnessed by no one. The State was unable to prove who the initial physical aggressor was. This might have been the most fatal flaw in their case. Evidence showed that Zimmerman’s nose was struck hard and the back of his head was cut at least twice. Thus, Martin obviously got some blows in.

But whom touched whom first? The State couldn’t prove this and in a self-defense case, this is an extremely important point. Also, no witness was able to positively identify the person heard yelling during the 911 call. There was opinion testimony but that’s it. Opinions.

The jury is left with a dead kid and the guy that shot him. But the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was not acting in lawful self-defense. And I imagine, that’s why Zimmerman was acquitted.

Zimmerman was wrong for profiling Martin and he was wrong for following him. And those acts might have been racist. But in no way was the verdict racist. The State had the opportunity to put on all of its evidence and the jury appeared to do a very thorough job of evaluating that evidence before reaching a verdict.

To suggest that the outcome of the Zimmerman trial was racist would mean that the prosecutor’s office conspired with the jurors to have Zimmerman acquitted and that’s simply nonsensical. A number of us may not like this verdict because Zimmerman was responsible for Martin’s death. And his acts that night may have been racially motivated.

The trial, however, was not racist and properly so. The jurors witnessed the evidence. Most of the people complaining about this verdict did not. For many, that a white (sort of white) man was acquitted for killing a young black man, just has to be racist. The actions that led to Martin’s death might have been racist, but the verdict was not and was the right verdict.

However, it’s easy to understand the confusion. The media portrayed Zimmerman as a racist and he might be. But that’s not what he was on trial for. This whole mess was simply sad. A young black man minding his own business was killed. And for that, people rightly felt his killer should be held accountable. However, the law often doesn’t fit the views of a society that’s been pumped full of media spun stories.

You can dislike the verdict as a society that rightfully felt Trayvon Martin deserved justice. I wanted Zimmerman convicted because I believe he was in the wrong. He should have stayed in his car and not followed Martin. But exiting his car is not illegal and the jury determined that him shooting Martin was also not illegal because the State of Florida simply could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman did not act in self-defense and thus, reached the right verdict.

It’s understandable that many cannot get their heads around the verdict, but labeling it as racist is misguided. And it needs to stop. The Martin family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, in his post verdict statements, likened Martin to Medgar Evers and Emmet Till. I find that statement highly reckless and far off the mark. The only purpose that comment could have served was stirring up more racial discontent over the verdict.

George Zimmerman may be a racist, but it was a fair and just trial in the eyes of the law. Dislike of the verdict is understandable, but playing the race card isn't justified and only makes things worse. This mess was sensationalized due to race and I find that sad. Black man killed by non-black man and it looks like the killer is a racist, thus he must pay. As a society, we can feel that way and perhaps, rightly so.

In the courtroom, however, there is no media spin. There are only facts derived from proper evidence. And in the case of George Zimmerman, the prosecution simply did not have enough evidence to convict. It was an extremely fair trial that was judged quite well. The prosecution just didn't have a strong case and racism played no part in their failure to secure a conviction.

Had Trayvon Martin been white, George Zimmerman likely never gets charged. But the media spun this story as the racist murdering of a young black teenager, which sounds horrible and cannot be allowed by our society. If this trial stands for anything it's how dangerous and reckless the media is in its never ending hunt for stories that shock us and this one certainly did so. 

Due to the media frenzy, Zimmerman was convicted before the trial began. Thousands gripped tightly to their beliefs about the case, only to have them shattered by the verdict. By swallowing the media spin, you've lost the ability to consider the case objectively, which is what jurors must do. Thus, it's no surprise that the legal verdict, which was inconsistent with the media's verdict, caused such an uproar.

The blame should focused on the media, not the State of Florida.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Current Update-Future Plans

I realize it's been a long time since I've updated this blog. In 2009, when I began blogging here, it wasn't to attract readers. At the time, I was new to the practice of criminal defense law here in Chicago and needed a venue to air out frustrations and thoughts. Thus, Chicago Criminal Defense was born.

In the beginning, I blogged regularly and my blogs tended to be lengthy. When necessary, I tried to explain complex legal concepts in a way that almost anyone could digest and understand. This was, in part, practice for speaking to jurors in courtrooms. I was trying to learn how to discuss the law without resorting to legalese. I was also developing myself as a writer, though it wasn't intentional nor was I aware that it was happening.

It's fair to say that in 2009 I was hungry and had a lot of passion for the work. However, in the spring of 2010 when my client was convicted of murder something in me changed. Then a couple months later, another client was convicted of attempted murder. By the end of 2010, I had begun to grow cynical about the work. In short, I was forced to admit the criminal justice system is horribly broken. I also was forced to admit that I had failed two clients in a time of desperate need. As a result, fueling cynicism consumed idealism and I hardened. This was a blog I wrote as I brooded over 2010.

In the summer of 2011, the stunning verdict in the Kenneth Green trial restored my faith in juries and myself as a trial attorney. It wasn't that I felt I was deficient in 2010, but I did lose two big trials, which created sporadic palpable amounts of self-doubt in my abilities. Then in March 2012, I secured a not guilty verdict for a client charged of murder in a cold case from 1984.

However, that same month, another client was convicted of attempted murder in one of the worst jury trials imaginable. The judge helped the prosecution through a lack of knowledge of the rules of evidence. Additionally, the judge refused to inquire about prosecutorial misconduct--communication with a juror--that my co-counsel witnessed during the trial. However, despite terrible judicial rulings, my closing argument made the case close.

On a Friday evening at 7:00 p.m., and after several hours of deliberation, the jury sent a note to the judge indicating they were deadlocked, were not going to be able to reach a verdict and requested to come back the next day. Over my objection, the judge ordered them to continue to deliberate. An hour later, the jury came back with a guilty verdict. I did not blog about this case because I was simply too pissed off.

In a way, that case was the last straw for me doing this job in Chicago. In the summer of 2012, I decided I needed a change of scenery and no longer wished to practice law. I can't fully explain it, but I began to feel unhealthy, though physical fitness is a cornerstone in my life. It was my mental health about which I worried. I was on medication for anxiety, depression and had to take pills to sleep. Chicago, and this job, began to make me feel sick inside.

But there was more to it.

Initially in 2009 and 2010, my business was a success and it was profitable. However, in 2011 and 2012, I saw final figures in the red and a resultant escalation in debt as I scrambled to keep things afloat. At the time, I couldn't understand why business went from great to poor. The eventual answer was marketing. My initial marketing plan worked until it didn't and I failed to understand why. If I made any errors in running the business, it was this.

That my fiscal problems coincided with my burn out was rather fortuitous. I could have borrowed money and revamped my marketing but I chose not to. It was time to move on.

I'm okay with how things have ended up. I had opportunities and accomplished things that changed the lives of people who I doubt will ever forget me (not that I care). I had a career case with Kenneth Green and knew that there would never be another case anywhere close to it. I represented about 300 people in Cook County felony courts. I won some trials. I lost some trials. I won some 4th Amendment motions. And I lost some. But I fought the good fight and am getting out on my terms--though aged considerably all around.

Moving forward, in the fall of 2012, I began freelance writing articles and ghost blogging on a variety of topics. The work doesn't pay well, but it does pay. In February and March of 2013, I wrote a novel titled, .40 Cal Sayulita and in May I wrote a second novel, Concealed Carry. I have a literary agent whose job it is to sell my books to a publisher; however, the book business moves at a turtle's pace. 

I plan to leave Chicago in September for a far southern destination where I can enjoy wide open space, quietness, a slower pace and a greater sense of personal freedom. I believe I have what it takes to make a living as a novelist and found that I love writing fiction. Thus, herein lies my current focus. If this doesn't pan out, however, I'll find something else to do. I really like ranch work. I'd maybe like to teach some day. Maybe I'll take up fishing. Maybe practice law in a different state. I really can't predict anything beyond this next year.

But for my experiences here in Chicago, I wouldn't have been able to write either novel nor the ones that will surely follow. After all, the first rule of writing is to write about that which you know.

I have always tried to blog in an honest, transparent way and I hope this last posting meets that standard. If you follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn you'll surely know when my writings are published. And I hope at least a couple of you will consider reading them.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Closing Argument From Cold Case Murder Trial

About two years ago, someone in the county jail (I can't remember who) gave my business card to his cell mate. Around here we call them 'cellies'. A short time after that, I was called by a woman who told me her brother was in the county jail over a murder that happened in 1984. My ears immediately perked.

The next day, I went to the jail to meet this person, who I will call Steve. First impressions make an impact on me, especially when meeting new clients on very serious cases. Steve was in his mid 40's, short, and sort of round. But he had a very engaging smile and was very gentle. I asked Steve to tell me what he knew (at this point he's only been indicted but had yet to appear in a trial courtroom).

He explained to me (based on conversations with the police) that a woman was stabbed to death back in 1984. He said he knew her and had been having a consensual sexual relationship with her. They had met in the early 80's when they lived on the same block. Even though I didn't know the evidence per se, I did know there had been a DNA match for the local media covered the arrest. I thought well, that explains the DNA, why are you locked up?  He continued telling me the story.

His good friend in 1984 had a child with the woman who was murdered. There was a custody issue and apparently the father had taken the 1 year old child for a weekend and never returned him. It was the police theory of the case that my client's friend murdered the woman and my client was accountable under accomplice liability.

That's a nice theory. But just that.

Reviewing the police reports from 1984, I learned the police department developed 3 suspects: my client's friend, the woman's current boyfriend, and the janitor in her building. The boyfriend and the janitor were cleared as suspects within a couple of weeks. But there was no documentation that the police ever spoke to my client's friend. After 3 weeks, the case went cold and nothing more happened until 2008 when a phone call came into the Cold Case unit of the Chicago Police Department.

It just so happens that sometime around 2005 (I think), the Department of Justice launched a grant program titled "Solving Cold Cases With DNA". The money pumped into that grant program exceeded 10's of millions. The application process was pretty simple. A law enforcement agency that had legitimate cold cases for which there might be DNA evidence, were given a lot of money to pay for working up the cases.

The grant money was allowed to be used for new equipment, new employees, and to pay for work performed by outside sources. In other words, the Federal Government paid for all of the DNA lab work, which is not cheap. The Chicago Police Department was awarded a grant in the amount of about $750,000. You can look all this up. It's how I found out about it.

At the time of the murder, spermatoza was recovered from the victim. It was frozen. When the case was reopened, the biological evidence was sent to a very well known DNA lab. The lab was able to extract a profile of an unknown male. The profile was sent back to the Illinois State Police crime lab, who ran the profile against the CODIS database.

For a long, long time people convicted of felonies in Illinois have had to submit a DNA sample to be kept on file. I think this is done in every state. It's done by a buccal swap, which is nothing more than a long Q-Tip being rubbed inside the mouth on the cheek wall. When the DNA profile was ran through the system, it indicated my client was the donor. Ok, not surprising.

But the police had no idea who my client was. He was never mentioned in the original case file. However, my client's friend who had fathered a child with the victim died in 2005. Though the DNA match came back in June 2009, detectives working the case waited until February 2010 to seek out my client.

They found my client on the street. The detectives identified themselves and told my client they were investigating a murder from 1984 and wanted his help. He voluntarily went to the police station and was advised he was not under arrest.

What happens next is anyone's guess.

According to the detective's, within 2 hours, my client admits being there at the time of the murder and claims he was paid $2,000 to be a lookout. They claim he said that his friend (father of victim's child) told him he was going to go kill her. He allegedly had sex with the woman while his friend watched, who then had sex with her but out of the presence of my client. Then the friend comes out of the room and says he's going to kill her, goes into the kitchen, gets a knife and goes back in. The client hears screaming but never sees what's going on in the room.

A short time afterwards, the would-be killer emerges from the room with no blood on him or his clothes. The crime scene photos were macabre and very disturbing. The poor woman had been stabbed/cut 23 times. Her jugular vein and carotid artery were severed. There was a lot of blood in the immediate area where she was found, including the wall adjacent to the bed on which she was apparently killed.

In Illinois, it's required that all homicide related interrogations be electronically recorded. It's been the law since 2005. The 5 Area Headquarters from which the detectives work have several rooms equipped with video and audio recording equipment. The problem with my client's alleged statement was that it was not recorded per statute. He was eventually put into a room equipped to record, but at no time did he say what the detectives claim he did that inculpated him.

In fact, there was an argument about whether or not he had been properly Mirandized. As soon as the detective reads the Miranda rights from a pre-printed card, my client asks to speak with a lawyer. But it didn't end there. What happens on this video is troubling. The detectives blatantly ignore two separate requests for a lawyer and an invocation of the right to remain silent. If you're in my line of work, the video would have stunned you. It was that bad.

Eventually the interview ends and my client is indicted. I filed a motion to suppress the alleged oral statement since it was evidence that did not comply with the statute. Convicting someone of murder on hearsay evidence should NEVER be allowed, thus the statute in Illinois. The hearing on my motion lasted an entire afternoon. The judge ruled that the statement had been taken in violation of the statute, but ruled it admissible anyway.

A very lengthy Motion to Reconsider was filed and argued by me and denied. The statement was coming in. I did get a sense that the judge had some serious problems with the State's case and especially after I played the video at the hearing. My instinct told me a bench trial was the right way to go.

The trial began on March 13, 2012. The State put on evidence the 13th, 14th, and 15th. But the state still had one more witness and therefore the case was continued till today, March 27, 2012. Today the State put on one witness and rested. I put on no case and rested.

This morning at about 5:30 am, I got up to write the following closing argument. Since I usually write my closing argument the night before or the morning that it's to be delivered, it's impossible to commit it to memory. During the trial I keep a running list of points to make during closing. I take those notes, sit down, and I write it, usually in just one draft (though I fix typos and might change an occasional word). I also scribble additional material when I get to court or when the state is closing.

For some reason, it occurred to me years ago that the content of my closing arguments is more important than the style in which it's delivered. The President always uses a teleprompter when delivering the speech, for it is the President's message that's more important. Of course, though it's being read, it has to be delivered in a way to obtain the maximum effect. In other words, Presidential speeches are not delivered like a 5th grade book report to the class. It's been written that trials are part theatre. I know this to be true because I realize that while conducting a trial, I am, in a sense, performing.

Based on this, I read my closing arguments to the trier of fact. And I've never seen another attorney do this. I am sure others do, but I've never seen one in person. I clearly remember from my trial advocacy class in law school that reading argument to the trier of fact was a no-no. I say bollocks to that.

Of course it's important to have a sense of style in a courtroom during a trial. If you're the defense attorney, you spend the entire trial advancing your theory of the case. By using cross-examination properly, it is the defense attorney's job to teach the trier of fact the defense theory of the case.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of defense attorneys that have never made this connection. Too many defense attorneys want to fight and argue with government witnesses and it accomplishes nothing but making you look like an asshole. And gives the trier of fact two opportunities to hear the same testimony which probably favors the prosecution.

My style of cross-examination is much softer but precise. I elicit questions that are answered with a simple "yes". While the witness is sitting there answering my questions which a "yes", it's me testifying and the witness agreeing with me. Example: Q. "When you saw my client, he did not a gun in his hands, right?" A: "Yes". There is no argument during my cross of anyone. And if a witness can't give me one answer that advances my theory of the case, I keep my butt in my chair and say "no questions".

But I digress. Below in my closing argument that I started writing this morning before the sun came up. This is not word for word what I said because I do change on the fly to coincide with my delivery of a point.
The State has attempted to establish that [ ] was the murderer of [ ] because it's essential to their theory of the case. If [ ] didn't commit the murder then Steve can't be the accomplice. However, this case is not about whether or not [ ] murdered [ ]. The proper inquiry is whether or not [ ] told the police what they claim he did, which inculpated him in [ ]'s murder under accomplice liability.

With the lack of physical evidence which might support an implication that [ ] had anything to do with [ ]’s murder, the only evidence that implicates [ ] in the crime for which he is being charged, is an alleged oral statement that was not electronically recorded per 725 ILCS 5/103-2.1. Thus, the issue before the court is the credibility of the Detective [ ] and Detective [ ].

When the legislature enacted 5/103-2.1, the purpose was to prevent defendants in homicide related cases from being convicted, in part or entirely, on hearsay evidence. This court acknowledged that the alleged inculpatory oral statement was taken in violation of 103-2.1, but that subsection (f) allowed it to be admissible. I disagreed with the court’s ruling, and respectfully, I still do.

Since the court has allowed the alleged oral statement into evidence in this trial, being the finder of fact, the court must determine the weight to be given to that evidence. When the court decides the weight, it must look to the source of the evidence. This is where the credibility of the detectives must be considered when determining the weight of this evidence.

Only one detective testified in this case, that was Detective [ ]. The court had the opportunity to listen and to watch this witness testify. When my cross-examination of the detective began to touch on the video recorded portion of [ ]’s interrogation, the detective, at times, became evasive and agitated.

The detective admitted that he was aware when Miranda warnings to be given. He also admitted that he knew that once a suspect invoked his Miranda warnings, the interrogation was to immediately cease.

When I further confronted him on cross-examination regarding the content of the he asked the court permission to give a very long answer to a yes or no question in an attempt to defend his and detective [ ]’s actions. At the end of this speech, he still had not answered my question.

Then the court watched the video. And what the court saw was [ ] denying that he was previously specifically told he had the right to an attorney. But as soon as Detective [ ] told him this right, [ ] immediately invoked that right. But the questioning continued. Detective [ ] testified that immediately prior to be taken into an ERI room, [ ] was Mirandized and told he was under arrest. And that no further questions came after he was Mirandized until they were all in the ERI room.

The video contradicts the detective’s testimony. First, if [ ] hadn’t been asked any further questions after he was Mirandized prior to being brought into an ERI room, there was no reason to establish on video that he had been already Mirandized. Just read him his rights again. But the court watched an argument started by Detective [ ] about whether or not [ ] had been previously Mirandized. In the conversation, [ ] denied being properly Mirandized.

It’s also curious that as soon as [ ] is told he has the right to an attorney, he immediately invokes that right. The testimony of Detective [ ] is not in agreement with what we saw on the video. But there’s another issue where Detective [ ]’s testimony was contradicted by the video.

Remember the testimony was that [ ] was told he was under arrest prior to being brought into the ERI room. But at a point in the video, detective’s ask [ ] (p. 12), “Were you ever told you were under arrest? Were you ever told you were under arrest”? Answer “Y’all got me in here.” Question “Were you told you were under arrest?” Answer “No.”

This is proof the detective testified inconsistently with the video evidence.

The video itself is very troubling. Once [ ] asks for an attorney, rather than stopping the interrogation per law and CPD procedure, Detective [ ] asked 23 more questions while Detective [ ] sat there and did nothing. [ ] again invokes his right to an attorney, but Detective [ ] continued, and asked [ ] another 28 questions. Then [ ] invokes his right to remain quiet, and 10 more questions follow.

During this all, there is clear understanding by Detective [ ] that [ ] has invoked his Miranda rights, because he asks [ ] 4 times if he wants to waive them. Both Detectives also indicate they are aware that [ ] has invoked his rights. At various times, both detectives tell [ ] that they can no longer talk to him, but they still attempted to question him. Detective [ ]’s claim that it was [ ] that kept the questioning going is absurd. The only reason [ ] said anything further is because he was continued to be unlawfully questioned.

What is troubling about the video is that two veteran CPD detectives did not follow the law or their own department’s policy. What was saw was police misconduct of the highest order. It was willingly, knowingly, and flagrantly committed. [ ]’s Miranda rights never existed on that day in February 2010.

It is exactly that type of conduct, for which 103-2.1 was created. The legislature obviously felt that in some cases, detectives could not be trusted to follow the law. This case is prima facie evidence of police misconduct in a murder case.

That the detectives were so diabolical while they knew they were being recorded, makes me shudder to think of what can happen when they are not being recorded. It should also be noted that at no time in the video recording did [ ] ever repeat or even agree with what the detectives allege he said. [ ] in no way implicated himself on video, though the detectives want the court to believe that he had just done so a short while in the past.

From the beginning of that interview, the detective asks [ ] a series of leading questions, in other words, the detective was giving a statement that was being recorded and asking [ ] to agree with what he said. But almost immediately, [ ] does not agree that he was told he had a right to a lawyer and then instantly asks for one. But even thought the questioning went on, [ ] never agrees with the detective regarding the statement which implicated him in this case.

In cases where it appears that an alleged admission of guilt occurred or that someone caved under pressure and gave a false confession, you have to look at the statement and compare it to the physical evidence.

And a couple of things that [ ] was alleged to have said, don’t make sense. Being a look-out inside an apartment with three locks on the door makes no sense at all. If [ ] had put himself out in the hallway or even outside of the building, that would make sense, but inside an apartment? That doesn’t compute.

It was also alleged that [ ] said that after coming out of the room which [ ] was in and ostensibly after [ ] had killed her, there was no blood on either [ ]’s clothes or himself. The court saw the crime scene photos and the tremendous amount of blood. Is it possible that someone could have committed that crime and walked away with no noticeable blood on him? It might be possible, but common sense tells you that it was highly unlikely.

According to police, [ ] heard [ ] screaming for help, but yet two very small children sleeping on the other side of a wall in a very small apartment are not awoken. Additionally the absence of any DNA or additional biological evidence that point to anyone else having sex with her after [ ] is claimed to doesn't make sense. Remember there was no additional biological evidence recovered from [ ].

The presence of the playing cards in the other room laid out as they were, suggests that [ ] could have been playing cards at some point that night. And you heard testimony from witnesses that indicated the [ ] was a regular card player.

In this case, the deck of cards were not found in its box. But rather they were found spread out on a pillow in an adjacent room. If the court has ever played solitaire, it will be clear that the arrangement of the cards is not consistent with solitaire, which someone can play by themselves.

Do we know for sure that [ ] played cards that night. No. But we don’t know that she did not. And if she did play cards, that puts at least one other person in her apartment that night.

The State has gone out of it's way to establish that [ ] didn't know [ ], but the testimony at trial was that they both lived on the same block in 1983. If she was indeed involved in a sexual relationship with [ ], it makes sense that she never disclosed this to her family, especially since she had a boyfriend at the time. The State has also tried to establish that [ ] would have never of had sex with a teenager. But at the time of her death [ ] was only 24 and [ ] was 19.

The state is asking this court to believe that [ ] was the murderer, and though he’s dead, they got his accomplice. But not only is there no real evidence that supports a theory of [ ] being an accomplice, there’s no evidence that [ ] was the person who physically committed the crime.

The absence of police records from 1984 pertaining to [ ] means one of three things. Either the police were unable to locate him, even though they were given two possible current addresses and a former address along with his mother’s phone number. Or he was eliminated as a suspect. Or whatever case they might have had against him was strong enough to bring charges.

But the point is that [ ] was never arrested in connection with this case. And testimony in this case stated that at the time in 1984, [ ] owned and operated several businesses. To imagine that he was not found, is impossible to believe. And as you heard Detective [that worked the case in 1984] say, a possible suspect in a murder case would have been investigated. The reason this case went cold is because the police ran out of leads. 

The State is attempting to boot strap [ ] under accomplice liability to a person that’s dead and was never charged in this case. And the state’s only clear evidence is that [ ] had sex with [ ] before she died. The court and both detectives at a hearing in this case stated the DNA was not proof that [ ] was in any way involved in [ ]’s murder. And the medical examiner admitted that the sperm could have been in [ ]’s body for up to a day before she was killed.

I am asking the court to give no weight to this alleged oral statement. The detectives clearly have serious credibility problems which was proven by their actions on the video. Those detectives cannot be trusted or believed. The video itself is proof of their dishonesty. If the court agrees with me and gives no weight to the alleged oral statement, then the proper finding is not guilty and that’s what I ask for. For it is the just verdict in this case.

The judge essentially adopted most of my closing argument in her finding of not guilty on all counts. What's bothersome about this case is the tremendous amount of time and money that was wasted. And in the end, it's my belief the police department cheated the victim's family. The family asked that justice be served over the murder of their loved one, but instead the police attempted to con them.

Had that grant money not been in existence, I doubt this case ever gets worked up. But there was money to spend and spend they did. For they had to spend the entire grant money within 18 months or return what was left. I highly doubt the Chicago Police Department wrote the Department of Justice a refund check.

In essence a well designed program was taken advantage of and misused. Looking back, however, they did have evidence that might contain DNA, and it did. But once the match came back, it took the detectives a while to figure out how to pin this case on my client. It is my firm belief that they learned prior to talking to my client that he and the purported murderer were friends.

Once they knew that, it was just a matter of construction to implicate my client as an accomplice. It must have appeared to be a nice, tidy investigation. They had a friend of an original listed suspect, whose DNA was recovered from the victim's body. Voila, case closed.

In these situations, it's the job of the defense attorney to step in and say "Wait a minute. Not so fast".

And that's all I really did.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why The Death Penalty Should Be Banned

The concept of being killed as a form of punishment has been around for a very long time. Individual societies have their own standards when it comes to deciding who deserves to be put to death and who deserves to live. In the United States, the death penalty is a state issue. Thus, each state can decide which factor(s) surrounding a crime have to be present before the death penalty option is triggered.

I don't claim to know the very large case body that covers the death penalty in the United States. Since it's a state issue, there has to be a long history of jurisprudence state by state. However, there are a couple of very important federal cases to be aware of.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia. In that case, the Supreme Court decided that imposition of the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments. After this ruling, no state carried out a death sentence.

Following the decision in Furman, several states amended their statues to comply with the court's holding. And after their laws were changed, they again began allowing the death penalty to be imposed, but there were no executions. But this wouldn't last long.

In 1976, in Gregg v. Georgia, the Supreme Court decided that the death penalty wasn't always cruel and unusual punishment. Furthermore, the framers of the Constitution were ok with the death penalty, and it had been part of the American criminal justice system since the country was founded [read about Stare decisis].

The Gregg decision, like Furman, consolidated several cases all with the same issue. In Gregg, the Supreme Court held that the states of Georgia, Texas and Florida had constructed death penalty statutes that abided by the constitution. However, North Carolina and Louisiana's death penalty statutes still violated the rights of the condemned because they had certain crimes for which, if convicted, the death penalty was mandatory.

It was also as a response to Furman that the bifurcated trial system came into existence for death cases. What this means was that a death case had two phases of the trial. The first was guilt/innocence (like a regular trial) and the second was for sentencing.

Georgia, Texas and Florida shared some commonality when determining who could be eligible for execution. Killing a cop, hiring a hit man, or committing murder while trying to escape from prison triggered the death penalty option in all three states but in different ways.

Following Furman, Texas narrowed its class of crimes for which the death penalty was an option. It created an objective guide for determining who could be charged for capitol murder, which simply means Texas intends to seek the death penalty at trial. Following a conviction for capitol murder, the jury then had to determine if special circumstances were present.

These special circumstances were, whether the crime committed was deliberate and with the intent to kill, whether the defendant would be a threat to society in the future, and whether the defendant's response to any provocation was unreasonable. If the jury found all three special circumstances to be present, death was automatic. If any were missing, the sentence was life without parole.

If you think about the special circumstances in the Texas model, it's easy to see why so many people have been sentenced to death and executed in that state. Special circumstance 1 is really a no-brainer. So is number 2. And number 3 wasn't applicable to all cases. Essentially, in capitol cases, all the state had to do was convince the jury the murder was deliberate with the intent to kill and the defendant would always remain a danger to society. This is a pretty low standard.

To this day, Texas still uses the special circumstances inquiry to determine sentencing in capitol cases but one rule has changed. The original number 3 has been replaced by a circumstance pertaining to a defendant that was convicted along with at least one other defendant. The inquiry was whether or not the defendant actually caused the death or intended that death would incur when helping commit the crime.

In Georgia, once a guilty verdict was rendered, the jury would then determine if the case was death penalty eligible by determining if any aggravating factors were present. An aggravating factor is simply something written into the law which could make a case death penalty eligible if present, such as killing a police officer. If the jury decided a defendant was eligible for the death penalty, it was allowed, but not required, to weigh any mitigating evidence against the aggravating factor(s).

You might ask what does mitigation mean in this context? Mitigation in a death case is any reason why the newly convicted should be allowed to live as opposed to killed. Examples are but not limited to: if the defendant was a victim of extreme childhood abuse, had a history of mental illness, or really had been a good person but made a bad choice. But keep in mind, under the Georgia system, the jury did not have to consider any mitigating evidence, and the Supreme Court held this constitutional.

The Florida system was similar to Georgia's, but in Florida, the jury had to consider any mitigating evidence. Another difference from Georgia was that the jury's determination about whether or not the defendant should be executed, was only a recommendation to the judge, who ultimately sentenced the defendant.

Since 1976, Texas has executed 478 convicts. Next in line is Virginia with 109 executions. In 10th place is South Carolina with 43 executions. In order, the top 10 states in total executions are Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina. Except for Missouri and Ohio, all of these states were part of the confederacy during the civil war.

Those states, by and large, have disproportionately executed blacks and arguably for racial reasons. Our country as a whole has a very disturbing history when it comes to racism. But it has always been worse in the south. I can say with 100% certainty, that racism is still very alive in the city of Chicago. But that's for another post.

The reasons for opposition and support of the death penalty varies greatly. Some see executions as immoral. Former Supreme Court justices Brennan and Marshall felt that all executions violated the constitution. Some oppose for religious reasons but some also support for religious reasons. But almost everyone has an opinion on this topic, much like abortion.

Prior to the last few years, I hadn't given this topic much thought. In other words, I hadn't done any critical thinking on my own. I lived in Texas for 4 years and executions were so regular, they never made the news, unless for some reason, the execution was stayed. But I was in college at the time. Thus, I was quite removed from this issue.

However, since returning to Illinois in 2002 to attend law school, things have happened that have made me acutely aware of the death penalty. In 2000, George Ryan, then governor of Illinois, put a moratorium on executions in Illinois. Since 1976, Illinois has executed 12 people on death row. However, 20 people were actually released from death row for various reasons. Governor Ryan was faced with the fact that the death penalty system in Illinois was horribly broken. He called a time-out and declared there would be no more executions until the system was fixed.

Ryan's interest in Illinois' death penalty largely arose over the case of Anthony Porter, who spent 15 years on Illinois' death row. A group of journalism students from Northwestern University uncovered evidence that proved Porter's innocence. He was eventually exonerated and released from prison and another person ended up confessing to the crime for which Porter had been convicted.

The fact that a group of undergrads righted this wrong was obviously troubling. The entire Illinois criminal justice system, which is supposed to keep the innocent from being convicted (let alone being sentenced to death) had allowed this to happen. From the local police department to the state's attorney's office to the defense attorneys to the trial judge to the appellate court and to the Illinois supreme court, this innocent man was scheduled to be killed.

No matter your view on the death penalty, I don't think anyone is comfortable with the idea of an innocent person being executed. Governor Ryan convened a committee to look into the matter. The committee uncovered significant problems and recommended changes. But the changes were never implemented. In response, 2 days before leaving office in January 2003, Ryan commuted everyone's sentence on death row to life without parole.

However, the death penalty was still in Illinois law. Thus, state's attorney's offices throughout the state kept seeking the death penalty and, in some cases, got it. In fact 15 people were on death row when Governor Quinn signed into the law the death penalty ban in March 2011.

My objection to the death penalty isn't on moral or religious grounds. I didn't have a problem with John Wayne Gacy being executed. My objection is simply this: the death penalty is an extreme punishment for which no margin of error can be allowed to exist in its imposition and it's been proven time after time to be subject to just that, or worse.

It's one thing for an eyewitness to mistake identification. That's bad enough. But when the police and/or the prosecutors break the law in bringing about any conviction and especially one that ultimately results in a death penalty being imposed, that's something that we cannot tolerate.

Police and prosecutorial misconduct are not a rare or isolated phenomena. In fact, it's a common occurrence. In death cases, it's just more magnified because it seeds the idea that someone was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. I think this would bother anyone if confronted.

If you want to learn about a case of extreme police and prosecutorial misconduct, read about Randall Adams. Adams was convicted and sentenced to death in Texas in 1977 for the murder of a police officer. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that jury selection in his case violated his rights.

Instead of re-trying Adams, the Dallas district attorney convinced the Texas governor to commute Adam's death sentence to life without parole. Clearly Adams didn't like this and appealed to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals (the highest state court in Texas), who ruled since the Governor had commuted the death sentence to life, there was no longer any error. I can't say that I really understand the rationale behind this decision.

Adams later filed a state habeas petition again with the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals. This time something didn't look right to the justices and they ordered that the trial court conduct a hearing on the petition and make findings of fact. This time, however, it was a different judge at the trial court level. In 1989, based on the factual findings from the habeas hearing, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and after 12 years, Adams was freed.

The rationale behind the reversal was largely, if not entirely, based on extreme prosecutorial and police misconduct. The court determined that the prosecutor had withheld key evidence from the defense, suborned perjury, and lied to the trial judge. Pretty bad stuff. The prosecutor left the Dallas D.A.'s office in 1981 and set up a private practice in Dallas. However, he testified under oath at the habeas hearing, where he continued to deny any wrongdoing. The appeals court didn't buy it, however.

On top of the shenanigans the prosecutor pulled in order to convict Adams and get him sentenced to death, he goes into court later as a witness in the habeas hearing and according to the findings of the trial court, committed perjury. According to the Texas State Bar, he is still practicing in Texas and has never had any disciplinary action taken against him.

There was a documentary made about the Adams case while he was still in prison called "The Thin Blue Line". Errol Morris created the film and it was released in 1988. It's a very engaging piece of film and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the death penalty and/or other issues mentioned in this posting.

Adams is but one case. But since 1976, there have been 140 death row exonerations in 26 states. Those are 140 people that were improperly sentenced to death. This doesn't mean that only 140 people were wrongfully sentenced. Who knows how many others were already executed or how many are still on death row that are actually innocent. But the point is that based on what we already know to be true, innocent people have been sentenced to death and some even executed. Thus, the death penalty is not perfect and absolutely must be.

However as long as humans are involved, it will always be subject to error both unintentional and intentional. How would you feel if you were sitting on death row for something you didn't do? And how angry would you be if the government had violated your rights to put you there? I can't really imagine what that would feel like.

When it comes to innate American concepts such as liberty, fairness, and due process, the constitution is a brilliant document. Unfortunately, since it was adopted and put into use over 200 years ago, much of it that deals with criminal justice, just looks good on paper these days. I have handled too many cases where the constitutional rights of my client simply vanished due to police and/or prosecutorial action or inaction.

The government should be the body most concerned with abiding by the constitution. But too often it's the body that cares the least and at times, acts as if it doesn't even exist. A government founded upon a constitution can never be just if it doesn't follow it. We citizens have to follow the law at all times. We are not able to pick and choose when we want to. Or what laws we want to obey.

If we don't follow the law, we are subject to prosecution. This is where the criminal justice system lies. And sadly, we are all subject to what happened to Randall Adams. But what about when the government breaks the law when we are prosecuted? Well, they are mostly immune because of their position and rarely are punished. But at the end of their violations of individual rights are innocent people that have been convicted and, in some cases, executed.

The constitution was created to prevent a tyrannical government. And if followed, it can accomplish just that. But if not followed, the thing that it was written to prevent, can run wild and unchecked.

Tyranny. Bad for everyone except for the tyrannical.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Playing Catch Up

Just yesterday, I realized I hadn't written a blog post since September. Every now and then, I do a Google search of my name just to make sure nothing false has been written about me. I am not paranoid, but an attorney is only as good as his reputation. To date, there's been no internet grenades thrown my way. I do always find it odd the corners of the internet where my name or something I've written pops up.

While Google hunting myself, I did find that I was mentioned on Scott Greenfield's blog, Simple Justice. Apparently I was nominated in December of 2011 for Criminal Law Blog Post of The Year by Mark Draughn of Windypunidt. I don't know Mark personally. We've never met. Somehow last year he learned of my blog and threw me a salute on his blog. I was not aware of this until I was informed by a friend. I know I sent Mark some appreciation for his kind words.

Scott Greenfield goes on to spread some niceness my way when he discusses some of the 2011 nominations. I like that Scott also considers 40 years of age to be 'young'. I also appreciated that I was considered for the award. However, the winner was Mark Bennett, a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney. Here is the winning blog post. I've never been much for reading blogs of any kind. I simply don't have the time. Even my Twitter activity has been reduced significantly.

In part, I wish I could blame my busyness on work. But it wouldn't be true. I am busy with life in general. My case load is actually pretty light and has been for over a year. However, the cases I do have are not simple guilty pleas waiting to happen. Nope. I remember those days when most clients had crap cases and chose to plead at the arraignment. I didn't earn a lot per case, but I had a ton of them.

For whatever reasons, at some point I stopped getting hired to negotiate plea deals but was actually retained to litigate cases that needed it. I remember back in the spring of 2009 (my first year doing this), someone called me on the phone and said "yeah, I heard you're a good 'cop-out' lawyer." I think I was a bit offended, but at the time, it was true. I had very litigation experience. I didn't conduct my first suppression hearing until September of 2009 and didn't try my first case until December 2009.

But what a year 2009 was. In early 2009, I was doing misdemeanor cases where I would go to court, the cops wouldn't show up, and the case would get tossed. To the worried client, I seemed like this awesome attorney and would get told as much. But inside, I sort of knew it was smoke and mirrors. To my credit, I never puffed any of that. I never told a client "see, I got your case dismissed. Love me now." No, I would just say "thank you" and walk away. I was just filling a suit and I knew it. But I also realized at the time, I couldn't do much more.

I spent so much time in the fall of 2008 and all of 2009 sitting in court and watching other attorneys conduct hearings and trials. It wasn't hard to figure out who was good and who sucked. I spent most of the time watching the jurors, noting what held their attention and what put them to sleep. I befriended the attorneys I felt were the best. And I am still friendly with them (not like it's been ages).

Though I hadn't tried a criminal case, something innate led me to believe that's what I was supposed to do.  Something told me that I would be good in front of a jury. And just 11 months into my criminal practice, I got my first shot at a jury. My client was charged with a Class X felony (6-30 years). I liked the case. I felt my client would make a very good witness. And I had enough police mess ups on the table with which to design some pretty effective cross.

Counting the day we picked the jury, it took 2 days. The jury came back in about an hour with a 'not guilty' verdict. My client cried. His mother cried. Back in the lockup, my client said "I love you". And that night, after sitting in the county jail for 5 months away from his fiancee and their three children, he went home. I am sure they all had a very nice Christmas.

Some might think I was wrong to take that case and they are welcome to their opinion. However, I wouldn't have taken that case to trial unless I felt I was fully capable of living up to my professional and ethical duties to my client. My ass might be dumb. But I ain't a dumb ass. I felt like I was ready. And I did it. All guts and glory. A little Patton-like perhaps. I never questioned my ability once and not out of arrogance. You see, I am my own worse critic. It keeps me in check.

I left the courthouse that night with a feeling like I was floating. And when I walked back into the courthouse the next morning, I felt like I was finally part of the club. In other words, my cherry had been popped. I was now one of them. One of the felony trial attorneys that have graced, or in some cases, disgraced what's locally known as 26th & California.

That building has a very long history. I admit when I first stepped inside to handle my first felony case, I was a bit awe struck. Somehow I had romanticized the Cook County main criminal courthouse. I actually wanted nothing more than to actually practice in that building. What's that careful what you wish for....Amen.

These days I see that old courthouse like a black hole that sucks in attorneys and never lets them out. It would be appropriate for a cemetery to be on the grounds where dead attorneys are buried. Yes, I am serious. On the right (or wrong) day, that place takes on a very dark character where it just feels nasty to be inside of it.

But back in the summer of 2009, Kenny Green came into my life. It was my blog posting about his case that was nominated for blog post of the year. When hired, everyone knew I hadn't tried a criminal case. No experience. But apparently I had something equally valuable to families: belief. The fact I was willing to take that case played a role as well. However, I don't think it was a large role. After meeting with Kenny and conducting some research into the case, I met with his family in the law library in the Court's Administration building that's adjacent to the old courthouse.

His family all knew what really happened and that he was not the thug that the media was describing. I am sure their biggest concern was whether or not someone else would believe what they knew to be true. At the time, I wasn't consciously aware of this. Apparently, I said the right things, because despite my lack of experience, they hired me to take Kenny's case. And Kenny, himself, wanted me as his attorney.

My unwavering belief in that case played a substantial part in Kenny's eventual acquittal. Of course, by the time the trial came around, 2 years later, I was no longer a total rookie. I am not going to claim I am some super duper experienced trial lawyer that has nothing but sage advice to shell out.

But I know how to try a case. And as it turned out, I think I am pretty good in front a jury. To contradict myself a little, there's two cardinal rules I follow when it comes to juries: never give them a reason to dislike me and never lose my credibility with them. It won't necessarily seal your client's fate, but it damn well might.

On that Friday afternoon when Kenny was acquitted, he told me he loved me. Knowing him like I do, he wasn't surprised at the verdict. For he knew he had done nothing wrong. He expected the right verdict to be given. Once upon a time, I was that naive too.

Kenny will never know the personal, mental hell his case put me through. He will never know how many nights I had trouble sleeping because I was thinking about his case. He won't know how frightened I was before that trial. He won't know of all of the anxiety and stress I took on by handling his case. He won't know that just a random thought about his case would cause my pulse to quicken, my blood pressure to rise, and make me feel like immediately vomiting. I've learned that all of that ickyness comes with the job. Or at least in my case it does.

After I walked out of that courtroom, his immediate family was in the hallway. His mother was a little teary eyed. I immediately broke down and cried. All of the emotion that had been built up in me was suddenly released. An emotional orgasm, if you will. All I could say was "thank you for believing in me and trusting me to handle Kenny's case." While hugging me, she whispered into my ear "Marcus, we always believed in you." Of course, that just brought more tears, but in a very good way.

I learned a lot through that case. I grew as a person and as an attorney. I realized that some fear is good. But too much fear can cripple. And I also learned that the belief stuff runs in both directions. There's nothing wrong with being an attorney with a heart.

That I regularly show so much of mine has bode well with some clients. Just recently one said "I'll say one thing about you Mark (that's what he calls me and I let him), you practice with compassion. You're not like most lawyers in this business."

Unfortunately, in this business, my compassionate side causes me a lot of grief. When I fail to deliver justice to a client so desperately in need of it, I always feel terrible. Despite all of the bullshit I see in the Chicago criminal justice system, there's still a palpable amount of idealism inside. Not as much as my law school days, but just enough that it still bothers me that our system is horribly broken and that, by and large, black and Hispanic citizens of Chicago don't have the same constitutional protections as I do. In fact, that still really, really, really pisses me off.

It saddens me that Kenny's trial may end up being the pinnacle of my career as a criminal defense lawyer. It was an extraordinary case. One of a kind. I was extremely invested in it. And there was a lot at stake. I was so completely unaware of that cases' magnitude, that the post-trial reactions, both good and bad, were hard to grasp and still are. I had a client with a case that needed to be tried in the right way. That's how I looked at it.

I hear from Kenny from time to time. Not too long ago, I got a text message from him that read "Happy New Year my hero!" I don't think of myself as a hero. I did my job. As expected, not much has really changed. I didn't start waking up wearing a cape. I had a nice weekend after that trial. But Monday came and it was business as usual. I won a suppression motion that week. And then lost one the following week. Up and down. Up and down. For someone that treasures stability and tranquility, I picked the worst job imaginable. Maybe I am a dumb ass, after all.

I want to take a few lines to thank a lot of people in no particular order. First off, thanks to DawnMarie White for leaving a husband in Indianapolis for a week to try Kenny's case with me pro hac vice and for damn near free. I couldn't have done it without you. Thanks to my dear friend, Annie, that stayed with me every night of the trial, brought DawnMarie and I dinner, did my laundry, went to the office store to pick up supplies for us, and kept me calm. Thanks to Mark Bennett for calling me out of the blue the day I was interviewed for the 6:00 news, and giving me advice on how to answer the reporter's questions. Thanks to all of my fellow CDL's on Twitter that shared in that win. Thanks to the bloggers that picked up this story and published it. Thanks to everyone that commented or wrote kind words. And thanks to everyone else fighting the good fight in a tireless effort to keep the constitution alive.

It always amazes me at how unaware I often am of myself. A couple weeks back, I was headed to court to litigate a motion. As usual, I was nervous. I always am. It's one of the worst parts of this job. It messes with my stomach. It jacks up my nerves. It's just not something that's really nice to experience.

I wrote my girlfriend a text message, expressing my nervousness and anxiety. Her response really hit me in the forehead: "You get that way because you care. Your clients are lucky to have you." That's great sentiment and all, but is it true? I think so.

I wrote back: "The only alternative is to just go numb and not give a shit. But then I'd really suck at this job."

In a nutshell, that's who I am. All I've ever been. And all I ever will be.

I'm cool with that.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Belief In a Tough Case & The Trial

In early August 2009, I was called by a young woman. Her brother was in the county jail and needed a lawyer. At this point, there's nothing unusual about this caller and the problem. I don't get many personal phone calls, so when my phone rings, it's typically someone with a loved one in jail. "What kind of case does he have?" I asked. "He shot two police officers," she answered.

This was no longer a typical phone call. I think I remember sitting down.

I wasn't the first attorney she called.  It seems the other lawyers simply wanted nothing to do with this case or wanted an obscene amount of money. I was told that the family didn't have a lot of money, but clearly had a pretty big problem. This phone call came pretty early in my criminal practice. At the time, this case was beyond anything I had handled. But I admit, I was intrigued.

I asked if she knew anything about the case. She told me what she knew, which made me really interested. I told the caller I would go to the county jail and meet with her brother. I looked up her brother's information on the sheriff's website. I quickly learned in which division he was being kept.

Then I Googled his name to see if there was a news story. There were several. Here is one of them and probably the one I read first. Not that I doubted what the caller told me, but reading this made me realize how serious the situation was. A cop shooter? Christ. And I admit the picture of Kenneth Green didn't make a good impression. He looked mean. He looked how I imagined someone that shot cops would look.

Probably the next morning, I drove to Division IX of the Cook County Jail. I showed my credentials at the desk and requested to meet with Mr. Green. After a cursory pat-down, I was taken inside the jail and escorted to the approximate location of Mr. Green's deck. Of all of the divisions in the Cook County Jail, Division IX creeps me out the most. You have to go underground to get to it and it reminds me of The Silence of The Lambs, where they kept Hannibal Lecter locked up.

I was lead to a room upstairs. It had a plastic table and two plastic chairs inside of it. That was it. I saw down at the table, turned to a fresh page on my legal pad and wrote "Kenneth Green, Div IX August 5, 2009" centered on the top line.

A couple of minutes past. I sat there staring at the blank sheet of paper while wondering who was about to walk into that room. Would it be some would be cop-killing thug? I told myself even before I left for the jail that day that if Mr. Green had really tried to kill a couple of cops, there was no way I was taking the case. No way. No way. No way. Not that I don't believe such a person is entitled to competent legal representation. It just wasn't the type of person I wanted to represent.

Eventually Mr. Green walked in. I stood up to shake his hand. I quickly told him my name, that I was a lawyer and his sister called me. He said "thanks for coming to see me, I'm Kenny." He was taller than myself, standing almost 6 feet. He was thin. Not sickly thin, but definitely not the body of someone who had overeaten regularly.

We sat down to discuss his case. It was pretty clear that he had grown up in the streets. But he was nothing like his picture made him appear to be. I detected no meanness. And he was certainly no thug. He hadn't been convicted of anything, I was told. I believed him. I work with a lot of criminals. Kenny wasn't a criminal. Rough around the edges, perhaps. But nothing more than that.

By the time Kenny finished telling me what happened, I knew I wanted his case. The story in the media was incorrect, which I was coming to learn was pretty typical when it came to crime reporting. For several reasons, I believed every word that Kenny told me. It just made sense. There was nothing bizarre about it. But the question remained: would the physical evidence support his version of the story? I would have to take the case to find out. And so I did.

The arraignment was the first time I appeared in court on behalf of my new client. Even though I knew this was an extraordinary case, two things happened at the arraignment that really drove this point home. The first thing that happened was that the prosecutors introduced themselves to me. The only thing out of the ordinary with these guys is that they were very senior in the State's Attorney's office. They were so senior, I had never seen them in a courtroom. They were big wigs and both of them taller than myself.

The second thing that happened is when the judge handed me the 48 count indictment. 48 counts? Really? That indictment was so thick, one of those giant industrial sized staplers had to be used to fasten it all together. The size of the staple was enormous. But I arraigned Kenny like he was any other client, "not guilty to all counts."

When I walked out of the courtroom that morning I knew I was in neck deep. Actually, at the point, I was probably in way over my head. I hadn't tried a case yet. You may ask if it was smart or even professional for me to take the case. All I can say is that Kenny's family knew I was inexperienced and so did Kenny. But they also knew I believed in the case. Also, I was the only attorney they could afford. Since they didn't want Kenny to be represented by a PD, I was the only option. In reality, I priced myself so they could afford me. I wanted that case. 

Even though at the time, I knew I was short on experience, I never doubted my abilities as an attorney. I knew it would be a long time before the case went to trial and by the time it did, I would have trial work under my belt. That assumption ended up being correct.

Every month when the case came up for discovery status, I got more and more documents. By the time discovery was complete, this file would take an entire banker's box to contain it. For a Chicago criminal case, that's a big file. Take my word for it.

And every month, I saw the same two prosecutors. I got to know them and even grew to like one of them a lot. The other one was eventually demoted within his office and was replaced on my case by another guy I also grew to like. As it turned out, we had a somewhat common military background. But I think the State kept thinking I was going to ask for a plea deal. I don't think anyone but myself, my client, and his family really believed this case would ever see a trial.

I began preparing this case for trial on day one. I guess in the long run, that gave me an advantage. And my theory of the case never changed: my client didn't know he was shooting at police officers and the drugs found in his bedroom belonged to his brother. I would ultimately have to teach a jury that this wasn't just a theory but was, in fact, the truth. If I failed in doing so, Kenny could be gone for life.

I never lost sight of what was at stake. But at no time did I ever think about seeking a plea deal. Why? Because I believed in the case. However, because of how people think, I knew it would be a tough sell to a jury. But I also believed in my ability to tell Kenny's story in a way a jury could understand. Or so I'd hoped. Also at no time did Kenny ever mention a deal. He wanted a trial. He wanted to take the stand and tell a jury what happened.

In the late fall of 2009, I went to see where this incident took place. I took my camera and measuring tape. I took pictures and measurements. I also made sketches. While I was inside of the apartment, my passenger side window was shattered with half of a brick and my GPS was stolen. This had been the first time I ever did not put my GPS in my glove box. I mean the absolute first. I was slipping and I got caught. I blame that one on myself.

This case changed judges three times due to administrative reasons in our courthouse. This was going to be a jury trial from day 1. I didn't want to put a judge in the position of having to find someone who shot 2 cops not guilty. No, a jury trial was the only option. I just needed a good jury. I needed jurors who would do their job.

It took well over a year for the State to complete discovery. The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) conducted an investigation of this case as they do in all situations where the police discharge a firearm. This investigation delayed the discovery process. I also used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain Chicago Police Department documents that pertained to search warrants, from obtaining them through post-execution.

In the spring and summer of 2010, three off-duty Chicago Police officers were shot and killed. It was obvious a trial even remotely close to those events time-wise was a bad idea. Thus, I continued to take my time but didn't intentionally delay.

The case was originally set for trial in April 2011, but the State wasn't going to be ready. It was rescheduled for June 2011, but I couldn't get ready. The trial was again rescheduled for August 2011. The judge firmly said "unless one of the attorneys dies, this trial is going in August." I took her for her word.

I also knew I was going to need help with this trial. I needed a 2nd or 3rd year law student at a minimum. There was going to be a lot of exhibits and I wasn't going to have time to keep track of them. I was also going to need help during final trial preparation. I needed someone to constantly test and challenge my theory of the case as we discussed the evidence.

I had a 3L that said she wanted to help. She would have been allowed to sit at counsel's table during the entire trial. It would have been great experience but she pulled out suddenly 2 weeks before the trial. Shit. I started to get into panic mode. In a last ditch effort I sent out a Tweet seeking help from a law student. I said I would pay.

I will admit that I was freaked out about this trial that was looming in the near future. Every day I got deeper in August, the trial got closer. Even though I was very confident in my case, I was scared. I was lining up against numerous members of the Chicago Police Department and two very senior prosecutors. I didn't even have a law clerk. But I did have a very powerful ally, the truth.

The trial was scheduled for August 22, 2011. On August 12, I left town for a long weekend. I needed to get away from Chicago and let my head clear before this trial. While I was out of town, I was contacted via email from a young lawyer from Indianapolis that I had some familiarity with through Twitter. She wanted to help with this trial. But there was a problem. I could not afford to pay her an attorney's wage for her work. She didn't care. I told her we would talk when I returned to Chicago.

When we spoke, I gave her a brief rundown of the facts of the case and my theory. I told her that I could pay her very little and she agreed. There were friends in Chicago she could stay with while here. And she really, really wanted to help with this trial. It wasn't hard to see why. These types of cases don't come along too often and she wanted in on it. Perfect.

On Saturday August 20, 2011 I had a 20 mile run that morning and ran sub 7:00 miles the whole way. Post-run found me relaxed and ready to do final prep work. My co-counsel, DawnMarie White, arrived Saturday afternoon having made the drive from Indianapolis late morning. She parked her car at her friend's house. I gave her directions to get to the nearest train station, got her on the train, and told her at which stop to get off. She texted me when she was close and I walked to the train station to meet her.

At the train station we exchanged hellos and a handshake. We made the 10 minute walk back to my loft and immediately went to work. I had the entire file spread out on the cabinet island counter. Earlier that week, I made a 3 page "To Do" list. I showed her the list and we began work.

It's amazing but as soon as DawnMarie arrived on Saturday, I felt much better about the task at hand. I think just having someone next to me as we went into battle got my head into a better place. I had books open all over my loft. I had to look up some rules of evidence in anticipation of objections I knew were going to come. I looked through the Bible that is the Trial Handbook for Illinois Lawyers (Criminal Edition). This is an absolute must have if you try cases in Illinois. A must have. All three volumes of the Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions (Criminal) were open and scattered about my place.

Fortunately, the actual case file was well organized. All of the discovery was broken down into manila folders. The FOIA documents were still in the envelope in which they were mailed. And the IPRA documents were already broken down by police officer and witness.

I originally planned to call 6 witnesses during my case in chief. I gave DawnMarie the statements from 4 of them. They had all given statements to IPRA. But my client's mother had also given a handwritten statement to detectives and a prosecutor on the day of the incident since she was arrested too. The mother had also testified before the Grand Jury. Her story never wavered once.

I wanted DawnMarie to learn what the 4 witnesses had already said and draft direct examination questions to elicit the same version of the story they already told. At that time, I hadn't thought about having her cross-examine any police officers. She was to help me prepare, keep track of exhibits, be my 2nd set of eyes and ears, and do the direct of our 4 female witnesses.

On Sunday we walked over to a nearby Fed-Ex/Kinos and made duplicate trial notebooks. They were large, filling a 3" three ring binder. Back at my place, we went through the police officers that were likely to testify. Unlike most cases, we had police testimony to the IPRA investigator. Thus, going into trial, we knew how they were going to tell the story. And therefore, we knew what facts we could get from each officer that would advance our theory of the case.

Separately, DawnMarie and myself made hand-written notes about each officer's likely testimony that would help us. From these notes, cross-examination questions/outlines would be prepared. We parted ways on Sunday evening pretty early, but both had work to do that night.

On Monday morning we went to court. Here is how we looked.

Monday afternoon we finally got to pick our jury. Voir dire is done pretty efficiently around here. Both sides are allowed to ask questions of the venire. But we are not allowed to pre-try the case. In other words, we can't ask them questions about issues likely to surface during trial. What's that leave us with?

I was never taught how to pick a jury. Or what questions to ask during voir dire. The judge asks each panel member separately a number of questions, such as occupation, marital status, children, know any cops or lawyers, been a victim of a crime (or anyone in their family), and so on. It gives us a decent idea of who they are. But keep in mind, our jury pool extends to the entire county of Cook. Thus, a lot of potential jurors are from the suburbs and usually are white. DawnMarie and I had discussed who our ideal jurors would be. But I believe voir dire is more about dismissing people I don't want on the jury as opposed to selecting those I do want on it.

When I get up to speak to the venire, I go through all of them one at a time and ask a question that digs a little deeper into one the judge already asked. For instance, if a potential juror told the judge he's a sports fan, I will follow up and ask him about specific sports and teams. I must have asked at least 6 this last time around, Cubs or Sox? I usually also ask if they follow the news and from where they get their information. I ask them if they read books. Where they go on vacation.

The importance of these questions isn't really the answer. What I am looking for is how that person interacts with me. Are they speaking to me willingly? Are they smiling? Are they relaxed? What's their body language look like? Typically, anyone that's cagey with me or doesn't appear to like me will be removed.

I can't figure out why, but the prosecutors ask very few questions of the panel individually. And I can't say the questions they do ask make much sense. I really don't think they are ever taught what to ask. In at least 2 jury trials, the prosecutors did not question the panel at all. A very skilled trial attorney once told me that you start to win your case during voire dire. I think he's right. You cannot put a price on having a jury that likes me. From that point forward, I do everything I can to not give them a reason to suddenly stop liking me.

Voire dire in this case took about 4-5 hours. We had our 12 and 2 alternates. Of the 12 there was 1 early 30's black male. And 1 early 30's highly educated Hispanic female. The remaining 10 were white and mostly from the suburbs, about half male, half female. But most of them had families. Having a family is one thing we wanted our ideal juror to have.

I spent most of Monday evening writing my opening statement. But I didn't spend much time preparing cross-examination. This would bite me in the ass on Tuesday in a way I couldn't have predicted.

Tuesday morning we gave opening statements. I was pretty relaxed and looked every juror in the eyes several times each. I had their attention. Score. I spoke for about 15 minutes and told them the story through my client's eyes, attempting to put them in his shoes before they heard any evidence. I told them what to look for during the trial. And finally, I told them that at the close of evidence they would, by using their common sense, conclude my client was not guilty on all counts.

Unfortunately, I never know what order the State will call its witnesses. And they just happened to call an Officer I wasn't really ready to cross-examine. Shit. The direct lasted until the lunch break. Thank God. During lunch I never left the courtroom. Instead I sat there panic-stricken trying to put together a cross-examination. My co-counsel never left my side and attempted to help but I was a bit of a mess. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Yeah, I said just that several times. Also as luck would have it, I began to feel physically ill.

By the time court resumed after lunch, I had some cross but it was not in order but rather scattered across 6 pages in my legal pad. Less than 2 minutes into my cross, I began to sweat heavily. I was extremely warm. I felt faint. I felt sick to my stomach. And my thinking was foggy. At some point during my cross, we had to have a sidebar in chambers. After the sidebar, I was the last one out just before the judge. She told me I looked nervous. In truth, I was nervous but also wanted to vomit and jump in a pool.

In total, my cross took maybe 20-30 minutes. It was disjointed, fragmented, sloppy, and just felt awful. It was the worst 20-30 in my career as an attorney. When I sat down, DawnMarie could now clearly see I was sweating heavily. She pulled out a travel size package of tissues and handed it to me. I must have gone through a dozen of them wiping the sweat from my face. I could feel my that dress shirt was soaked.

During the next break, I went into the bathroom right outside the courtroom and threw up. I hadn't eaten anything so it was that nasty stomach juice type of vomit. But I felt a little better. During the direct examination of the State's next witness (another officer) I asked DawnMarie is she wanted to do his cross. At that time, I was still a mess and wanted to be anywhere but in that courtroom. She answered "sure." She knew what we needed out this witness so I wasn't worried. However, there was impeachment evidence and I had no idea if she knew how to do it correctly. After all, this was her first jury trial. Yep, her first.

DawnMarie stood up to cross the officer. Where the officer I crossed got a little combative with me, this officer was actually pretty nice and respectful to her. I honestly think it's because she's a woman. Nevertheless, she began her cross and I sat back and watched. To say I was impressed in an understatement. Prior to trial, I told her how I cross witnesses and my general strategy. I don't know if she had that in mind or not, but she was fantastic.

She laid the foundation for the impeachment. She got the officer to admit to his prior statement, which was inconsistent with his trial testimony. She got a few more good facts from him and sat down. Perfect. There was no need to beat this cop up about an inconsistent statement. I would remind the jury of it during closing.

DawnMarie sat down. I leaned over and whispered "good job!". I relaxed a little. The next witness was an evidence technician that had processed the crime scene. He collected all of the firearm evidence (shells and bullets), marked the bullet strikes in the walls, and took a number of the crime scene photos.

After vomiting one more time, I pulled myself together to cross this witness. I got a lot of favorable facts such as how many shells were collected that were fired by police weapons. How many spent and live shells (4 spent, 5 live) there were in the revolver my client had fired. I put up a picture that showed bullet strikes in my client's bedroom that were caused my police weapons. He had put numbered stickers over each hole in the dry wall. I had him tell the jury how many holes he counted and marked. I also showed him a picture of the door the officer fired his M-4 carbine through and had him count the bullet holes as well.

But the singular best piece of evidence I got from this witness was this: it was the State's theory that in addition to shooting low twice initially and hitting two officers in the lower legs, that he shot twice more but higher through the door. The State would argue this proved he was attempting to murder the person on the other side of it. One officer had already testified he saw particles coming off the middle of the door as bullets came from inside the room my client was in. But curiously the wall opposite that door had no bullet strikes on it.

I showed the evidence technician a picture of the room which contained the wall that any bullets that came from the middle of that door would have hit. You could see the wall in the picture. I was displaying the picture on a projector so everyone in the courtroom could see the picture very enlarged. The witness was standing right next to me in front of the jury where the projection table was located.

I asked "You didn't find any bullet strikes on that wall (I pointed at it), right?" Answer: "No, we did not. If there were any bullet strikes on that wall, we would have marked and photographed them up close." This was a nice example of a witness helping me out by giving more of an answer then he should have.

Using the same picture, I asked "But you did find two bullets under that box spring or bed (pointing at it), correct?" Answer: "Yes, that's correct." Then I sat down. I told the jury during opening statements that my client fired through a hole (created by the cops trying to kick the door open) on the bottom of his bedroom door 4 times, thus he wasn't trying to kill anyone but was rather warning the unknown intruders he was armed and ready to defend himself.

With this one witness, the jury heard my client's revolver had 4 expended shells and that there was no physical evidence he shot through the middle-upper part of the door, but rather through the hole at the bottom, just like I told the jury. Having credibility with a jury is priceless.

But before we ended that day, everyone knew I had just been temporarily ill. I am sure part of it was due to not being fully prepared to cross that officer. I was also a bit nervous. But there was something that spiked a fever, which started to break while I was on my feet asking questions. As we were leaving the courtroom, both prosecutors told me they hoped I felt better tomorrow. And they were genuine.

DawnMarie and I returned to home base and began to prepare cross-examination for Wednesday's witnesses. Even though my cross of the evidence technician went well, I was still very upset about the first witness.

DawnMarie told me that at one point during that cross, she felt that I was a really bad lawyer. I would have thought the same thing. I can't imagine what the jury thought. I needed to have a strong Wednesday. But as we sat reviewing the facts we got from my dodgy cross, we realized I had gotten everything I needed to from that witness. I just got no style points. This was a small consolation. I knew I was better than that.

We prepared cross that night for 4 more police witnesses. I asked DawnMarie if she wanted to cross 2 of them, including one that had been shot. She readily agreed. There was one more officer on the potential witness list and we had no idea what he was going to say. Thus, if he did testify I would do his cross since there wasn't much he could add since he was outside and in front of the apartment when this happened.

When I woke up Wednesday morning I didn't want to get out of bed. I was still upset with myself over what happened on Tuesday. The dark side of me simply wanted to quit. Had the pressure gotten to me? Was I starting to show cracks? I slumped out of bed and made coffee. Then I went for a run. I normally run in the afternoons after court, but when in trial, I have to get up early and get the run out of the way.

Initially my run sucked. My energy levels were low and it didn't feel good. But after a couple of miles things turned around. I remember that morning being very sunny and cool. And as I ran on the bike path that runs along Lake Michigan, I began to pull my head back together. Tuesday was just a fluke. Probably happens to everyone. Hell, even Michael Jordan had off nights. By the time I finished my 8th mile and returned home, my head was back in the game. Let's do this.

We had a good Wednesday. With so many officers testifying, I predicted we would get inconsistent testimony because I felt they were all coloring the story. Or, in other words, lying. And we got some gems that day. DawnMarie's cross of one of the officers who was shot was pretty short but she scored points. Her and I would later say we felt sorry for that officer because he seemed like a really nice guy.

I crossed the other officer that got shot and with the use of pictures make him look like a liar in front of the jury. He testified to things that were simply impossible and I had the pictures to prove it. I would later nail this guy in closing. Then I questioned the Sergeant that was in charge of this search warrant team. Armed with the documents I obtained through FOIA, I got him to admit he hadn't followed correct procedure. He also gave testimony that was heavily inconsistent with the previous witness. Both points would be driven home during closing.

The State did not call one of the witnesses DawnMarie was supposed to cross. But they did call the officer who was outside and in front of the apartment. He didn't have a whole lot to add. He was in front, heard the shots, and immediately ran to the back. Once in the back he saw one of the officers that was shot hopping down the back stairs that led up to the entrance in the apartment (the door the police blew open).

On cross he testified that from the time he heard the first shot until he got around back was about 5 seconds. That was simply impossible. By the time the officer began hopping down the stairs, all of the shooting was over. The police fired 37 times into the bedroom my client was in. And one officer shot a few times through the door and then went outside and shot through a window. There was no way that all happened in 5 seconds.

But, it supported an argument I would make during closing: this whole thing happened so quickly and since my client was initially asleep, he had no way of knowing what was really going on. In other words, he couldn't have known they were cops since he couldn't see through a closed door. My client, in reasonable fear for his and his family's lives, acted in a couple of seconds. Now I had police testimony to support my argument that this whole thing went down extremely quickly.

Around 4:30, the State indicated it was done with their case in chief but wanted to wait until first thing Thursday morning to officially rest. DawnMarie and I left and again returned to home base. Due to logistical reasons, we were not able to actually meet with our witnesses to prep them. I had spent most of the previous Friday afternoon in the county jail with my client. I took 12 pages of notes and basically had his whole life on paper.

But Wednesday night, DawnMarie spoke on the telephone with the witnesses she was going to put on. I was supposed to put on my client and his brother. They would be our last two witnesses. We made a last minute decision not to call one of DawnMarie's witnesses. There wasn't much to be gained through her testimony.

When we got to the courthouse on Thursday morning, our witnesses were there. This was the first time we really spoke with most of them in person. Clearly I had spoken with my client's mother but never about her testimony. She just needed to stay consistent with her prior statements and Grand Jury testimony.

DawnMarie spoke with her witnesses individually very briefly. I spoke with my client's brother. I was very nervous about calling him as a witness. We opened our case Thursday morning and DawnMarie called 1 witness before the lunch break. She called 2 more after lunch. And then I decided on the spot not to call my client's brother. He did have good testimony, but we got most of it in with another witness.

I also felt he could come across as not too credible. I didn't want the jury to think I was trying to fly bullshit by them. It was my decision not to call him and no one, not even my client, knew I decided not to. DawnMarie and my client knew I was having 2nd thoughts about calling him, however. But as soon as I called my client to testify, it was clear I was skipping the brother.

My client was a good witness. I got in some very general background testimony to establish who he is, etc. Though it was objected to, I got in that he had been shot in the past three times. But the judge's ruling during that sidebar really tied my hands. She wouldn't allow me to really get into the specifics of each shooting. I told the judge that I feared if he simply said he got shot but not why or by whom, the jury might conclude he's a gangster living the gangster life, which often includes getting shot. The judge said I could ask 2 questions per shooting.

The first question I asked was when the shooting happened. The 2nd question asked about the circumstances of that shooting. Unfortunately, my client simply stated where in his body he was shot and any injuries he sustained. As soon as he started to answer the question that way, I looked at the judge. She wasn't pleased. But I had asked during the sidebar to be allowed to lead so the jury would hear no more or no less than what the judge wanted them to hear. Example: "you were shot the first time when three guys attempted to rob you, correct?" I thought that made a lot of sense. But the judge said no.

Through his testimony, my client told the story as it had happened through his eyes. This was exactly what I did during opening statements. He talked about being scared. Massive amounts of adrenaline. Fear for his life. Fear for his family's lives. And how he had been asleep and this all happened in a matter of seconds.

He stood up well to cross-examination. The prosecutor tried to trip him up several times but he was on to it and frequently corrected his questioner. He finished testifying around 6:00 pm. We rested our case. Court was dismissed for the day with closing arguments scheduled for 9:00 am Friday morning.

Walking to the parking garage that night, I told DawnMarie that if I delivered a solid closing, I thought we would get the verdict. I felt good. Now I just needed to close it. 

During the three days of testimony, we were supposed to begin at 11:00 am. This was so the court could run through its call, give continuances, and handle minor administrative issues relating to other cases in that courtroom. But we usually started closer to 12:00 pm.

The trial was not well attended. There were what appeared to be police officers here and there along with an occasional law student or junior prosecutor but that was about it. However, since closing arguments began at 9:00 am, we had a packed gallery. Everyone who had business in that courtroom that day was there. I imagine there were even some people out in the hall because there was no more room inside.

But when I stood up to close, I no longer noticed anything or anyone but the jurors. I already wrote about my closing argument here. The State's closing was, as usual, aggressive and slightly loud. But they were trying to sell the jury on things the evidence didn't support but in a lot of cases, contradicted. They had to argue around bad facts and that's never easy.

The jury got the case at 12:19 pm. We left our phone numbers with the deputy and left. I did not want to stay in the courthouse while the jury was deliberating.

On the way out of the courthouse, we ran into one of the alternate jurors that was excused from service as soon as the jury went into deliberations. This was the first time I had ever spoke to a juror and I found it to be a great experience. I won't repeat what he said, but it appeared he was leaning towards giving us the verdict.

A couple minutes later, the other alternate juror was pulling out of the parking garage, saw us all talking, parked his car, and walked up to us. His feelings were pretty much the same. We both thanked them for taking a few minutes to speak with us and headed home.

By the time we gathered our things, walked out of the courthouse, got in my car and drove home, it was about 1:30 pm. Given what the 2 alternate jurors told us, I hoped for a quick verdict. I told myself that if deliberations go into the evening, we might have a problem. As hard as it was, I tried to relax.

At 2:00 pm my phone rang. It was the deputy. They had a verdict. My pulse instantly quickened and I got a slight rush of adrenaline. We hoped back in my car and headed back. I called my client's mom and told her to head to the courtroom. I remember feeling pretty good during that drive but there was a palpable level of nervousness lurking beneath.

We were back in the courtroom pretty close to 2:30. Everyone was waiting for us. The deputy knocked on the judge's door and told her we had arrived. The gallery was now full of cops and my client's family. The judge came out, took the bench, and had the jury brought in.

When the jurors walked in, at least 3 of them looked directly at me. To me, that's a good sign. The foreman handed the deputy the verdict forms. The foreman handed them to the judge. The judge read them. My palms were sweating massively. After reading the forms, the judge reminded the gallery that no outbursts would be allowed.

The judge handed the forms to the clerk and asked her to publish the verdict. The clerk read 8 Not Guilty verdicts. The feeling was beyond describable. The State asked for the jurors to be polled. Individually they confirmed their verdicts. Case over. My client was ordered to be released from the county jail.

The prosecutors looked deflated. I walked over to both of them, shook their hands, and thanked them for a fair trial. Then I walked to the lockup where my client was changing back into his jail clothes for the last time. He said "I love you". I teared up and we hugged. Twice. DawnMarie hugged him as well.

Outside the courtroom my client's family awaited. His mother thanked and hugged me firmly. I said "thank you for trusting me with your son's life." I was teary eyed again. She replied "I always had faith and trust in you, Marcus." More tears. Another hug.

We all took the elevator to the first floor and headed towards the front door. A gaggle of police officers along with the prosecutors were just outside. I warned the family. "Don't look at them," I said. "Just walk on by," I added.

DawnMarie and I exited through a revolving door and stepped outside. All of the cops stared right at me. I don't know what they were thinking, but I am sure it wasn't good. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I pulled out my sunglasses and put them on. We strolled right past everyone and headed home. Time for celebration.

We walked to a pub down the street from me. Here we are....

We each had 2 frozen margaritas and were happily buzzed. I walked DawnMarie to the train stop, said thanks and hugged her goodbye. I came home and laid on my couch. Exhaustion took over. I didn't move much for the next couple of hours. I stared at the TV without realizing what I was watching.

At 10:30 pm, my phone rang. It was Kenny. He called to say thanks again as he walked out of the Cook County jail, which had been his home for the previous 25 months. Not many phone calls are better than one like this. I said "you're welcome. Now spend some time with your family." We said goodbye. I turned off the TV and got into bed. 

I slept well that night.