Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Justice Served, Finally

Last June I wrote about a case of mine. Please take a minute to read the prior post so what's to follow actually makes sense. And yesterday I barked a little about how sometimes justice is elusive to those that need it most. I am happy today to report that my client, Mike, got justice. Here is how it happened:

The day I wrote the post last June, Mike's case was set for trial. The State didn't answer ready. The trial was reset for July. On the date of trial in July, the police didn't show up. Trial reset for August. In August the police were there. There were four of them. Two were the State's witnesses and two were mine.

When I stepped into the room where officers subpoenaed for court wait, I saw a number of cops. I didn't know who any of them were. And they didn't know me. But they knew I was a defense attorney. I asked if my two officers were present. I was told they were not. Being the friendly fellow I am, I stayed in the room and began chatting with a couple of the cops.

As it turns out, two of the cops were indeed the two I subpoenaed. They both had lied to me. They initially had no idea why they were there. They hadn't arrested anyone that had court that day. From talking with me, however, one of them figured out why they were there: to help my client's case.

The two officers I subpoenaed had responded to the domestic call between Mike's lady friend and her boyfriend. They were both on scene when Mike showed up to help the woman move out. And they both stood there and had a conversation with Mike while the woman loaded her things.

These police officers were also the ones that arrested the boyfriend for making a false police report. You think they had relevant testimony that supported my theory of the case? You betcha.

The one officer that figured out what was going on quickly pulled a prosecutor out in the hall and closed the door. The next thing I know I am being told the State cant' answer ready. Really? Why not? Everyone is here?

Unfortunately the courtroom this case was assigned to was so backed up that nothing ever got litigated. I saw guilty pleas and continuances. That was it. The judge readily continued the case until October.

When the October trial date rolled around, the prosecutors assigned to the courtroom changed. The guy now running the courtroom hadn't looked at the file. He couldn't answer ready. Wow, shocker. Case continued until December.

Due to the retirement of the judge, the was was reassigned. Great. Now I am on the 3rd set of prosecutors. But at least cases move through the new courtroom. And it's a very good judge. I set the case for a bench trial in early February. But the trial didn't go. No cops.

I pulled one of the prosecutors aside and told her about this case. And I threw my playbook on the table, opened it up to my theory of this case and told her how I was going to win at trial. I wasn't arrogant about it. I wasn't a jerk. But she knew they had a loser.

Long story short, over the next couple months we discussed a disposition that would keep my client from getting a felony conviction. Even though I liked this case at trial, I couldn't guarantee a not guilty. My client initially balked. He didn't want to admit to something he didn't do. But he eventually agreed to go along with what the State and I were trying to put together.

I ended up writing a letter to the ASA in charge of this courthouse. This guy doesn't come to courtrooms. He's the boss. I told him who my client is and explained what I felt the facts were. I explained my theory of the case and added I wasn't afraid to try it.

I walked into the courtroom this morning and was told the case was being dismissed. I can't describe how hearing this made me feel. It was awesome. My client wasn't there yet. I stood outside the courtroom and waited for him to arrive. I felt like a child waiting to tell my dad I had got straight A's on my report card. The giddiness was at that level.

He showed up. I told him. He smiled. We shook hands. 10 minutes later we were in front of the judge. The case was dismissed. He thanked me and left. Mission complete, I thought to myself.

There are two points to this post. First, is that the system can and does at times work. Justice can be delivered. Second, this story should illustrate how damn hard and frustrating it can be to deliver that justice to the criminal defendant. There are numbers of people trying to get justice for The People of the State of Illinois.

But for the criminal defendant, just one: his lawyer.



  1. Nice post. Congratulations on the win!

    I do not consider this an example of a system that works. The case should have never come to trial at all, and in fact I think the police are on thin ice for the original arrest. The multiple continuances due to police not showing up and the prosecutor not being ready is just so much BS. The judge should have thrown the whole thing out.

  2. Congratulations. Sorry the State felt like they had to dick you around so long before finally admitting the case was a dog. I get that a lot, too.

    "Well, your witness has recanted her identification, my guy has an airtight alibi, and someone else has not only confessed to the break-ins, he was found with the stolen property on him."

    "Okay, we'll offer your guy a misdemeanor."

  3. I don't know how come I'm just now reading this post--i really do try to keep up. Great f'n post. Sometimes, perseverance is all we've got. We can't force 'em to go when they're not ready, we can't make 'em dismiss on our time-line--all we can do is hang in. Great job, Brother.


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