Friday, March 19, 2010

The Sentencing Hearing

I was dreading yesterday for an entire month. The date loomed on my calendar like an albatross. I tried not to think about it, but it was always there. The sentencing hearing for the trial I lost in February was set for Thursday March 18, 2010.

If you read the prior posts regarding this case, we already knew the judge was going to sentence my client to the minimum of 6 years. Before yesterday I had to prepare a motion for new trial. It was my first such motion.

Apparently it's standard practice to draft this motion when you lose. They are rarely granted but any issues raised in the motion are preserved for appeal. Failure to mention an issue in this motion waives the right to appeal it, in most cases.

I didn't sleep well on Wednesday night. There is still a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach over this case. In my opinion, the wrong person is going to prison. But as I have written, it's by his choice.

I saw my client's mother first. She told me he was doing pretty well. That was nice to hear. He was a complete wreck the last time I saw him in the holding cell after his guilty verdict. He had been on bond for almost a year. Suddenly being taken back into custody has to be upsetting.

I went back to see him. He smiled when he saw me. Through the bars we shook hands. It felt odd. Things were different between us. Or at least I felt so. I feel in ways like I failed him. Seeing that he was doing much better about his situation than I was made me question why.

He's going to prison. For several years. I still go home everyday. Why is he smiling?

If I didn't give a hoot, maybe I would smile too. But I question why I do give a hoot. Am I so super compassionate that it breaks my heart that he's going to prison? Compassionate, yes, to a point. But not so much to account for how I feel. Not entirely.

Was my ego shattered because I lost the trial? Has my ego taken such a puncture and caused more internal damage compared to someone going down for some years? Have I made myself out to be the big loser in this case? I hope not. Am I in a worse place than he is? Probably not.

Of course I feel like I could have done a better job. Perhaps I could have argued the case differently, or used more effective analogies in attempting to reach the jurors. I admit my professional pride feathers got ruffled a bit.

Does any baseball player not feel bad after a strike-out? Or a pitcher that has a bad day and gives up 5 runs in the first inning? The difference is the result of professional failure in baseball doesn't cost someone their liberty.

I may need to switch professions. The Cubs always seem to be looking and I live within walking distance from Wrigley Field.

I did raise a genuine evidentiary issue in my motion. The judge denied it. We moved into sentencing. As promised, the sentence was 6 years. He will do less than 3 years real time if he behaves himself, which he will.

The judge said good luck. He turned, smiled, and waved at his mother and wife. We walked out of the courtroom together followed by the sheriff.

He turned and gave me one of those man-hugs that feel awkward. "We fought our asses off. Thank you" he said to me with a huge smile and a firm, parting handshake.

I told him to write me if he feels like it. He said he would. I rode the elevator down with his family. They thanked me and asked some questions that I tried to answer. On the ground floor I had to stop to take a phone call and they went ahead without me, but turned to wave good-bye.

As I stepped outside, I was blinded by sun and the gentle warmth of coming spring.

And then I smiled. Slightly.


1 comment:

  1. I understand, having gone through this experience many times. I think the important thing is to never give up, never stop believing in your client and yourself. Relentless effort and creativity can sometimes help a miracle occur. Sometimes not. But you never know which time victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat - at sentencing, or on appeal. So - we give it our all each time. Though exhausting, we'll bounce back quickly to fight the good fight another time. And success will come.


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