Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For Love of The Work

I went to a concert last week with a friend from law school. We hadn't seen each other in a couple of years. She asked about my practice. I told her I handle street crimes. She responded "so, drugs and guns?"

Yep, drugs and guns. I quickly explained that over half the weekly Chicago felony arrests are for drugs and there's guns everywhere. Adding in some robberies of various types, random burglaries, stray shootings, and an occasional murder will represent my entire practice.

We talked about the local police department. I told her about how in certain situations they like to take shortcuts on the street. Then I told her what she probably already knew: the overwhelming majority of accused felons in the city of Chicago are represented by the Office of the Public Defender. So most of them get a free defense.

The next morning a Twitter acquaintance from Florida, who is a public defender, mentioned a standing ovation rendered to PD's at a criminal law conference/seminar in Florida.I think this is great. We need the PD's. In fact, we need more of them but there's no money here for more. I don't see this changing anytime soon.

Our PD's (and I am sure most) have a thankless job. They are criticized and doubted by their own clients. The families yell at them. Judges push some of them around. And there are a couple of horrible rumors floating around here that couldn't be more incorrect. The first one is that PD's are not real lawyers. And secondly, they just work with the government to get everyone to plead guilty.

Rubbish on both accounts.

The city of Chicago PD's in felony trial courtrooms have more criminal experience than myself and I have told endless callers this. I have done everything I can do to dispel the above mentioned myths.

The PD's get the crap cases. It's a fact. Anyone with a decent case whose family can put two nickels together is going to hire a private attorney, like myself. Am I better in court than a PD? Some, yes. Some, no. We in the defense bar, PD or private, win some and lose some.

Here in Chicago, flashy lawyering won't win cases in criminal court. We are only as good as the facts of our case. It's really that simple. And I like it this way. This way I know going in how good of a shot I have.

Last week the most seasoned private homicide trial lawyer in the city lost a murder case. But yesterday, a PD got a not guilty on a murder case from a jury. It's case specific. Win some, lose some.

Our local PD's are in a union. They have good benefits. Some of them appear to love their job and others, not so much.

I, too, have my days when it must appear I love being in court. And I am sure on other days I can look a bit distracted. But to do what PD's do, day in and day out, and tolerate all the crap thrown at them, they must love the work.

They all deserve some respect. And a thank you. 



Sunday, September 26, 2010

Running Injuries

Almost every person I have ever known that was a dedicated runner has been injured at some point in their running career. If you have ever watched someone running in slow motion, it's not hard to see how this activity causes problems. There is some serious impact.

Some say don't run. I have heard of doctors giving this advice. My own mother has told me the same thing. But for someone like me who runs to maintain sanity, that's a very tough sell.

Running injuries come in a variety of aches, ailments, and structural defects. Injuries can be caused by improper shoes, lack of stretching, improper diet, and stupid training. I have had at one time probably been injured due to all of the above.

Nailing down the cause of an injury can be very tricky. The more experience a runner has, the more that runner should know his or her body. But one thing a lot of runners do that gets them in trouble is ignoring their bodies. And usually at their own detriment.

In 2008 I started running seriously again after an almost 10 year break. I rediscovered my love of it. I was reminded of how great I feel when I am in very good shape. And I trained like an idiot. I have a tendency to think if something is good, more of that thing has to be better. When it comes to miles and running them, this assumption often fails. It did for me.

I really started running in December of 2007 while in Japan, but I kept no log of distances, dates, and time. When I was in Japan I had no idea how far or fast I ran. I just ran and tried to find my way back to from where I started. I know I scared some citizens of Hiroshima by running through its streets at 4:30 am on one chilly morning. Not too many Gaijins around there.

But around February 2008, I thought about returning to racing. Why not? It would give my new running a goal. Could I be faster though 10 years older? That question lead me down the path of ignorant training.

By April I was in glorious shape, perhaps the best running shape of my life. And I quickly fell injured a few weeks before a marathon that I predicted at finishing time well under 3 hours.

Steroid injections into both knees brought no relief. Physical therapy failed too. One month of little running went by. Then another. I wasn't getting better. I couldn't run pain free for any meaningful distance. I had an MRI that didn't reveal anything structurally wrong. But I knew something was not right.

I finally convinced an orthopedic surgeon to go in my knee and have a look. As it turns out, I was right. The MRI missed some frayed cartilage at the bottom of my femur. My surgeon shaved it down. 3 days after the surgery and once the swelling was mostly gone, simply putting all my weight on the injured knee and feeling no pain, told me the procedure was successful.

I was told not to run for 6 weeks. I made it 2. It was mid August. The Chicago Marathon was in early October. I had missed 3.5 months of proper training. There was no way I was still doing this race.

But I did anyway. And ran a 3:04:40 with no speed work for 5 months before the race. How is that possible? It's possible because of the level of fitness I had obtained prior to injury back in April. And I was in the gym on ellipticals when I couldn't run.

It would seem that for me, supreme running fitness is found in the gray area between healthy and injured. I kept running after the marathon in October 2008 but dealt with bilateral lower leg pain (shin splints) until I took most of December off to heal.

2009 started slower than 2008 running wise. It wasn't until April that I started running with any real purpose. I signed up for races including the Chicago Marathon again that October. I ran well in April and even better in May and June. I was back in almost April 2008 shape. And then it happened all over again.

In 2009 my knees were fine. But both legs from the knee down were in extreme pain from running. I hate using the phrase shin splints, because it's not really a condition but rather a symptom that can be caused by a dozen problems.

I tried at least 6 different shoes. I incorporated more stretching and strengthening. Nothing worked. What I needed is the remedy that's almost impossible to sell to a runner: complete and total rest.

This is a perfect example of me failing to listen to my body and paying for it. In 2008, I trained ignorantly. But my injury did sort of just creep up on me, which is rare. I simply woke up one morning and could barely walk.

2009, on the other hand, was preventable. I ran through pain for a month. And for that one month I had to give my body back 3 months of no running. And so I sat July, August, and September 2009. And I was miserable. I wanted to be at the lake running in the sun.

I still ran the marathon in October 2009, but it was a jog. And I decided I was going to actually take part in that race on the Thursday of race week. I don't regret it.

I didn't run much late in the year of 2009. Instead I looked at reasons how or why I was injured 2 years in a row and was forced to miss months of running from each year. I had simply done too much too soon. I was forced to realize I am approaching 40. I had to be smarter.

2010 began. I had no plans of doing one race this year. I already wrote about this in a prior post so I won't repeat myself here. But let's just say this year was much more methodical.  Increases in running volume and intensity were done gradually. This was in stark contrast to 2008 and 2009.

This year I didn't regularly go over 30 miles per week until May. It's no coincidence that in May the weather was warm enough for me to run at the lake in the sun. I ran 40 miles per week in June. In July it was 50. August was 55.

My average per mile pace quickened as I ran more with no thought. It just happens. I imagine this happens to every runner. We all have a pace our legs find if we don't think about it. It takes concentration to run faster or slower. I know I am getting fitter when auto-pilot pace gets faster.

When I felt this pace was flattening out, I added some speed work. I didn't do my first tempo runs until August. And then it was only once per week. I ran some pretty tough workouts in extreme heat and all but one of them went really well.

On September 12, 2010 I raced the Chicago Half Marathon. The purpose of this race was to see where my fitness was. And with the results of this race, I could predict a time for October's marathon.

To say I went into this race 100% healthy is inaccurate. Back in July (I think) from out of no where, I developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot. It came on suddenly during the end of a 10 mile run. This is a condition I have had little experience with. But I learned how to train with it, though I took a full day off and reduced mileage for a couple of days. It is still bothering me, but I can live with it.

Prior to September, my last really good half marathon was a 1:21 in April 2008. That race would be my measuring stick. This year's half marathon wasn't great. I ran a 1:28:06 and fought myself every step of that race. I never got comfortable and found a groove. It just sucked. My per mile pace for the first 4-5 miles was 6:30 but I blew up and slowed down significantly.

1:28:06. Something was wrong with that. That's an average per mile pace of just 6:44. Back in April, when I wasn't in proper running form, I raced the Lakefront 10 miler and averaged 6:50 per mile.

Clearly something was amiss. Did I just have a bad race? Three days later when my legs were still too trashed to run more than 4 miles, I knew it was more than just a bad morning.

Since I couldn't run, I went back to the gym for some elliptical work. This was last Friday, September 17, 2010. And I did something I hadn't done in months. I weighed myself. I quickly knew why my race pace was so slow and my legs were trashed. I weighed too much. Simple.

The scale read 187 lbs. Wow. That was 10 lbs over what I would have guessed. But where was the extra weight? Those that know me will tell you I am incredibly lean right now. You can see my abs and lower ribs when I have no shirt on and there's no flab through the midsection. My clothes are very loose. I bought a pair of size 32" waist jeans a few weeks ago and they are way too big. What gives?

Does this look like 187 lbs? I stand 5'10" with shoes on.

When I saw race photos, it was clear where the extra weight is: the upper body. I am not skinny like a typical distance runner. Right now, I am carrying too much extra muscle up top.

I went back and looked at data from 2008. My race weight for the 1:21 half marathon in Springfield in April was 173. A month prior I was 170. A month before that 170. In January 2008, I was 167.

Apparently my body likes to add weight when I run more. This is sort of backwards from what one would normally expect. Looking at 2008 and 2010, I gained weight as I ramped up mileage and intensity. I am sure the same was true in 2009 but I haven't looked.

I think my body wants to be around 170-175 lbs when I am in shape. That's just where it wants to be. Or at least that's where it appears I can run well and still not weigh too much. Had I weighed myself back in July or August and seen a few extra pounds, I could have reduced calorie intake. That would have done it.

Since last Friday, I have lost 6 lbs and have ran very little. I adjusted food and supplement intake. I did a 20 mile run last Sunday but only ran once this week. I should be able to loose another 6-10 in the next 2 weeks prior to race day.

That's great, but sitting here on Saturday morning, September 25, I can't run. Well, I could. But it would make things worse. At this point, I doubt there's anything more I can do to make October 10, 2010 a reasonable shot at the 3 hour mark, except lose more weight.

Something is not right with my left, lower leg. I am being cautious. I am icing. I am stretching. I am resting. I am taking ibuprofen. I am doing elliptical work. And I am remaining positive. I don't want to think about not being ready on October 10.

My optimistic and positive side wants to think that even if Chicago is a no go, I won't talk about a wasted spring and summer of running. But my realistic side knows it will be a failure on some level. But right now, I am positive. I am saying to myself a little rest along with some weight loss might produce a great race.

I hope to get in a few workouts next week where I run at or slightly faster than goal marathon pace. I think mentally I need to know I can hit that speed and hope like hell it feels maintainable for 3 hours. I am not concerned about the total distance. I have put in the long runs. I am ok.

If October 10, 2010 doesn't go my way, it will be a learning experience. My body did not like racing at close to 190lbs. That's simply too much. And I am paying for it. I didn't think I had put any weight on. It never looked like it. And since my dress slacks were always just right or a little loose, why would I check?

But the Chicago Marathon won't be my last race of the year. I am headed to Dallas on the weekend of December 5 for the White Rock Marathon. The plan was just to have that race there to keep me from getting out of shape. But this assumed I would bust 3 hours in October and be headed to Boston in April 2011, thus an interim race would be a good idea.

But if I don't break 3 hours next month, what do I do? I can qualify for Boston no problem. Since I will be 40 by the 2011 race, I think I get an extra 5 minutes, or 3:20. Meh. It's sub 3 hours or no Boston. That's the deal I made with myself a long time ago. I am not backing out now.

Last year, the Boston Marathon sold out in November. If Chicago is a failure, but I come really close, do I go ahead and register for Boston in the hope that Dallas is a sub 3? I could always register for the Boston 2011 race and just not do it if Dallas is a bust too. This is the likely plan.

The act of running is pretty simple. We do it naturally as children. We're not taught. One day, we just do it. Some of us run, trip over untied shoe laces, and thrust our arms through glass doors, causing deep lacerations which scares the be-Jesus out of our mothers.

But I digress.

How did this get so complicated?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finding Justice?

Recently I have noticed that I am starting to become numb. From what? Work, in general. What two years ago would have shocked me now fails to raise an eyebrow. My reactions are becoming almost automatic. Am I slowly becoming an automaton?

I blame, in part, a couple of really heavy trial losses this year for my current funk. Yes, I have been forced to accept the system isn't perfect. My idealistic naivety is out the window. The cold hard truth has set in.

But I want to try and couch this so anyone reading can understand. Imagine your life today. Have a job? Family? House? Take vacations? Go out to eat? Sleep next to someone at night that you love? Think of everything you think you have that means something to you.

Now picture it gone. Just like that. And further picture yourself behind bars in a county jail or prison. Imagine, if you can, how miserable that might be. I doubt you come close to how horrible it really is. I wouldn't expect otherwise.

Imagine being accused of a horrible crime you did not commit. You would scream. You would cry. You would shake. You would be angry. You would demand justice. But what if you got no justice?

Imagine being told what to do 24 hours a day. When to eat. When to move. Where to move. How fast to move. How to move. When to shower. What to wear. What to read. I can say that to a degree, the Army is somewhat like that. But it's not prison.

If you're not a minority or you are fortunate enough to live in the good part of town, the idea of having something catastrophic like this happen to you has to seem pretty remote. And it probably is.

But for many people here in Chicago, this type of scenario happens with alarming frequency. If you live where most of the crime is being committed, your chances of being a victim of crime or accused of a crime increase rapidly.

And you would expect the system to sort it out, right? An innocent person has nothing to fear. Well, unless the innocent knows better, as I do.

Two clients of mine convicted of serious crimes this year were simply black and in the wrong place at the wrong time. No physical evidence tied either to the alleged crimes. What convicted them? Purported eye-witness testimony and a police department that was in a hurry to close the case.

I am still baffled at how some take the word of convicted felons when it helps a case against someone else, but call them incredible or liars when they are trying to help themselves. How does that work? So, they tell the truth as long as it's not their butt on the line?

In both cases I failed to convince the trier of fact that the State's witnesses were, in fact, lying. Apparently serial impeachments with bias, prior inconsistent statements, and significant felony criminal convictions along with drug addictions didn't do the trick. What would have?

Every day I go to court I see defendant after defendant in khaki jail clothes brought before judges. And I see lawyers. And I hear talk about this and that. But I so rarely see justice. The supply of new and repeat defendants appears to be infinite. Are we just moving them along like cattle?

The process for those that never break the cycle is well known. Catch a case. End up in county. Cop-out. Go downstate. Do some time. Parole. Repeat. I have had so many clients that don't think a stint in prison is such a bad thing. Or at least they don't show it.

When the conversation switches to "get me the least amount of time as possible, please", the client is already mentally gone. I can't get that.

I have been fortunate enough to have represented some factually innocent clients on very serious cases (murder, etc) who did get to go home. And I am still amazed at how composed they were sitting in this funky county jail and dealing with the gangs, the faux bologna sandwiches, the rats, cockroaches, MRSA, and more importantly, the unknown.

If I ever would have really stopped and realized what I represented to them, I might have cracked. Sitting here now, I can do it by putting myself in their place. If I walked out the door tomorrow and had the cuffs put on me, my lawyer would quickly become the most important person in my life. Perhaps of all time. Just think about that for a minute.

On a subconscious level, I must have already known this. It can only explain why I am so beat up about losing the ones I did this year. One client for murder. One for double attempt murder. Both sentences will be tantamount to life. One has a decent appeal. One has no appeal.

I am sitting here at the bottom looking up. Hoping to catch a ray of light. I need something to restore hope. I need to be re-motivated. I did find justice for a few clients this summer. I do win. In fact, I have probably won more motion hearings than lost this year.

But some losses are massive. And I fear they permanently damaged me. I immediately rebounded from one to not trust juries only to follow with not trusting judges.

My client trusts me. But whom am I to trust? Justice should be justice. Period. But it's not. Not even close. Justice in courtroom 205 is different than justice in courtroom 702. Justice today is different than justice tomorrow.

Buddhism would teach that justice doesn't exist since it's not permanent and unchanging. 

And herein lies the problem: justice isn't consistent. It can't be. I am talking about very basic justice: the guilty are guilty and the innocent are innocent. I am not even talking about a case the State can't prove. I am talking about factual innocence. You know, the people that should go free or how about never arrested in the first place?

This has been a huge wake-up for me. And probably my greatest struggle. For I have found justice to be elusive and slippery. That realization scares me. I cannot stomach the thought that I could end up convicted of something I didn't do only to be stripped of everything and everyone now in my life by being sent to prison forever.

The thought makes me ill. And yet, it happens everyday. I know. I have taken part in it.

And it will haunt me, forever.



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Blagojevich Trial

Note: This was really written while the Blagojevich jury was out. I didn't post it then because I felt it was a little smug. Then I forgot about it. 


The criminal trial of former Illinois Rod Blagojevich is almost over. Currently a Federal jury is deliberating over the fate of Rodney. I know his lead attorney, Sam Adam Jr. Let me preface that, I know him from around the courthouse. But I have never hung out with him socially, although we did talk about having dinner back before this mess started.

Sam's father, known as Senior (Sr.) has been a Chicago criminal defense lawyer for over 3 decades. Everyone knows him. Well, everyone knows Jr. too. Sr. and Jr. were on the R. Kelly defense team but Jr. did most of the work. Everyone thought with the video evidence in that case, a guilty verdict was a sure thing. R. Kelly was found not guilty on all counts.

Understand that I didn't come up in the Chicago criminal justice system. I just showed up one day. I didn't know who anyone was. Last summer I was in the Bridgeview courthouse and heard a couple of PD's talking. Sam Adam Jr. was trying a case in room 104. Ok. Who the hell is Sam Adam Jr.? He was R. Kelly's attorney, I was told. I thought to myself, he might be worth watching. So I wandered over to room 104 and grabbed a seat.

The defendant was charged with possession with intent to deliver several grams of cocaine. I only saw Sam in action for about an hour. But I saw someone that knew how to connect to a jury. You couldn't take your eyes off of him and it was impossible not to listen to him.

I saw him teach the jury his theory of the case through his cross-examination of a couple of police officers. Then I watched him put his client on the stand and walk him through a direct that offered his client up as the real victim in the case.

I left before closing arguments. A week later I saw him. I walked up, introduced myself, and asked about that trial. What was the verdict? Not guilty, he told me. I wasn't shocked.

From then on, whenever we saw each other we exchanged hand shakes and pleasantries. He's about the most gregarious person I have ever met. And he's physically large, with massive hands.

A couple of months later I saw him at the main courthouse at 26th & California. He was about to start a murder jury trial. But he had co-counsel. I won't mention the other attorney's name, but he's another lawyer everybody knows. He dresses loudly and attracts attention to himself constantly.

I haven't really seen his co-counsel live in action much. I have watched him lose preliminary hearings right before I lost one. But I have never seen him litigate a motion or conduct a trial.

They lost that trial. Guilty on all counts. I didn't ever get a post-trial report from Sam so I don't know what happened.

At the beginning of last fall, I started asking Sam for advice here and there. By some divine intervention, I bumped into him immediately before my first jury trial last December. I was a wreck. I asked him if he had a couple of minutes. Absolutely, he said.

We sat outside the clerk's office in the Court's Administration Building that's adjacent to the main courthouse. I ran down my case factually. I told him my theory and strategy. I highlighted my weaknesses and how I planned to handle them. He gave me a couple of ideas for cross that I ended up using.

He told me it was going to be a not guilty. I can't explain how much that relaxed me. I went next door. I did the trial. And I got a not guilty. I saw Sam the next week. I told him about the verdict. He got this huge smile on his face that only Sam can make.

After the first of 2010, I did speak with him a few times about Rod's case. I knew nothing more than what was reported in the media. Franky, it's the type of crimes that hold no interest for me. I never felt that the former governor was likely doing things no one else did or does. Rod just made a very powerful enemy and the witch hunt was on.

I am not defending the former governor. I don't know the man. I haven't seen the evidence in this case. And I have barely followed it on the news. Again, it doesn't really interest me.

But I will say that Sam has played this case exactly how he told me he was going to back in January.

Without hearing one second of testimony in this case, I won't be shocked if it's not guilty across the board. If my butt was on the line, I know who I would want talking to my jury. And it ain't me. 

Now we wait.



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Help Fight Diabetes While I Race The Chicago Marathon

On October 10, 2010 I will race the Chicago Marathon for the 4th time. This year I am running for the benefit of a charity, the Chicago Diabetes Project. And I need your help to reach my goal.

Cellmates On The Run is a group of runners raising money and awareness in the fight against Diabetes, to fund the Chicago Diabetes Project, and I am one of them.

I think we all know or have known someone with Type I diabetes and are familiar with how problematic this condition can be. The need for a cure is critical, and a group of world-renowned experts is racing towards a solution.

I am raising money to help this effort.
Click here to reach my personal donation page. Even as little as $10 will help. A cure is possible within our lifetime with the help of generous donations from people like you.

If you know anyone who might want to help me in this endeavor, please forward them the link to this blog entry.

On a personal level, I have hopes 2010 will be the year I break the 3 hour mark and find my way to Boston in 2011. As of today, I am injury free and my training is going very well. But I need your help to make it happen.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me at marcus@schantz-law.com

Thank you all!


Here is some basic information on this group:

Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions. In 1985 there were 30 million diabetics. Today the number has skyrocketed to more than 197 million. By the year 2025, diabetes will affect more than 300 million people worldwide if the epidemic isn’t stopped.

But a cure is coming. The mission of the Chicago Diabetes Project is to make islet cell transplantation the most viable option for diabetes treatment. This international collaboration of qualified researchers and physicians is dedicated to  finding a functional cure.

And here is the project's research focus:

With advances in islet cell transplantation, researchers are successfully replacing damaged insulin-producing cells  with healthy islet cells from a donated pancreas.  This pancreas comes from an organ donor the same as a kidney or liver for transplant would.  Most recipients in islet transplant clinical trials will reach insulin independence, maintaining this insulin independence and an improved quality of life for years.

How Does Islet Transplantation Work?

Using state of the art laboratories, teams of surgeons and scientists work to isolate insulin-producing cells from a healthy, donated pancreas. The cells are counted and tested to ensure they are high quality and are appropriate for transplant.

Three of the leading Chicago area hospitals are involved in this effort. Currently this proposed method of treatment is for Type I diabetes only.