29 August 2012

Wednesday in Jasper County

I spent the morning in jail and the afternoon in court. That's more like it! Judge McCall was sitting in for Judge Mott today and court was held in the big, north courtroom which meant that there was confusion in the halls of the third floor of the courthouse. A sign was posted but very little attention was paid to it since most of the folk attending court have been there before either for themselves, family members,friends, or fiancees. This brings me to the word "fiancee". All, 100%, of my clients not married have fiancees--not girl friends, but fiancees. I occasionally ask a client when he plans to wed which draws a blank stare at best since the word "fiancee" is no longer associated with the words "wedding", "engagement", "engagement ring" or any other word or idea associated with marriage. Back to today, I saw a number of clients at the Jasper County Jail. They are usually happy to see me although they do have lapses in judgment. This was not one of those days though and we discussed family, alcohol, drugs, absconding, bond: the usual sort of things. Not much was accomplished. My repeat public intox violator believes he needs treatment and wants to ask the court for treatment. I did suggest to him that the court would inquire as to why he hasn't gone to treatment if he desires it so badly. I think the answer had something to do with time; he just never had the time to go to treatment. Another defendant had his bond revoked when he bailed out of treatment and picked up a new felony charge. He wasn't sure what his bond was, but he wanted it reduced so he could return to his family. A third defendant is charged with providing a controlled, prescription drug to a young lady in return for some sexual activity unspecified. His defense appears to be that since he is unable to perform any sexual activity, the charges should fail accordingly. And lastly my client who simply doesn't think he should be in jail. He has way too many responsibilities on the outside to be sitting in jail. A very impatient lad if I do say so myself. Impetuous too which is the major cause of his current incarceration. This ends my jail experience for the day and haven't time to discuss afternoon courtroom drama.

28 August 2012

Guilty Pleas

You would think it would be a rather simple thing to do a guilty plea. Afterall, your client wants to plead guilty, he says he did it, and he wants out of jail. You haven't had time to thoroughly investigate the case, you haven't viewed the videos allegedly showing your client committing the crime, and haven't been able to talk the county attorney out of anything but prison. Contrary to everything you have said to your client, he wants, thinks he will get, and expects a quick release and probation. Bond reduction was denied for the very simple reason that he had absconded and it took almost two years for the authorities to find him again. He needs to be out of jail because he has things to do and responsibilities. So we begin the guilty plea and arrive at the point of providing a factual basis and the defendant doesn't provide the factual basis required for the court to accept the guilty plea. Of course he doesn't understand what just happened as he is taken back to jail without his guilty plea, without his probation, and without his release from custody. This is an example of one of those moments when you ask yourself why you do what you do. Your client, the defendant, is nothing but trouble--nothing you do will be satisfactory and you will get no thanks for anything that you do for him. It could be discouraging; if you let it.

25 August 2012

Public Intoxication

Spent much of the day in Knoxville, Iowa on Friday. District Court handles felonies in the morning and Associate District Court handles misdemeanors in the afternoon. I have been blessed with an appointment representing a person with two charges of public intoxication enhanced in that he has had several prior convictions for the same offense. His crime, really, is being obnoxious. Although he receives social security disability he is homeless for all practical purposes. Due largely to the fact that he has nothing to do all day, he drinks a large quantity of beer and then, allegedly harasses motorists as they drive their vehicles on the streets of Knoxville. Under any definition, he would be found to be mentally unstable at a minimum; but he has no history of actually harming himself or others including damaging property. He is in fact a nuisance, alarming people by standing in the road yelling at them as they drive by. There have been no reports of any passer-by stopping to engage him in conversation or asking if they can be of assistance. The response appears to be to call the Knoxville Police to deal with the situation. One wonders where the horde of social workers are when they could actually be of some service. The Iowa legislature has made it a crime to be drunk in public. If you have been drunk in public more than two times the judge may send you to prison for two years. Now, I have it on good authority that the Iowa Department of Corrections does not want you if your crime is public intoxication. However, this does not restrain the Marion County Attorney's office in requesting the local judge to send defendants to prison for being drunk in public. I have requested a rationale for this position, but as yet have not had a satisfactory answer. I have also suggested to the county attorney that it should be a defense to public intoxication if you are homeless. I receive no response to this suggestion other than a chuckle, but it does make some sense. The real crime here is that of being obnoxious. America has a history of incarcerating people who make a nuisance of themselves. That practice continues unabated.

23 August 2012


My experiences in Polk County are consistently bad. We have a slew of prosecutors who personalize their cases. You know if you have practiced any time at all, you don't win them all. However, some prosecutors think they should and consider it an unacceptable affront to their dignity and professional capacity if defense counsel tells them that they won't stipulate, they won't plead, and if they want a conviction, either a judge or a jury will be required to decide whether the defendant did what he is charged doing. The idea that the defendant may actually not have committed the crime appears to be irrelevant. In my case yesterday, my client said he didn't do it, the witness with him said he didn't do it and I actually suggested that the prosecutor speak with the witness which offer was rejected out-of-hand. In addition we had the threat of filing a similar charge from conduct supposedly admitted by the defendant when being arrested, issuing a warrant, and setting a bond--this because we wouldn't plead guilty. As it turned out, the charge was dismissed and no new charge was filed. The recalcitrant prosecutor gives every appearance of now and in the future being difficult to deal with since we rejected every overture to bend over and take it like a man--so to speak. A good prosecutor will make his or her own determination as to whether a charge should be prosecuted. Because law enforcement has filed a charge does not mean it must be prosecuted. It is difficult for prosecutors, young ones especially, to tell the law enforcement official that filed the charge that it will not be prosecuted. In our case it appeared that the prosecutor was apologetically explaining why the charge was to be dismissed. Don't do that. If it is a bullshit charge, dump it. Law enforcement must learn not to personalize their cases just as prosecutors should.

20 August 2012

Well, we have several people in jail, a couple having been picked up over the weekend with one holdover from last week. The holdover really feels that he shouldn't be in jail. He wants to plead, get probation, and go on his way. The fellow is insistent that he have a plea offer to this effect. Unfortunately the plea offer on the table is prison which is something the fellow can not understand or either unable to mentally assimilate. Apparently it is not a real plea offer until the plea offer is the one he wants. There was also an issue with bond. The bond is set for cash only which, to his mind, is a serious and unjust breach of the rules. His disappearance for a year and a half should not be considered, especially since he has been employed and has a pregnant girlfriend who needs him desperately apparently. One has to wonder how a person can not accept facts. One must make a conscious effort to ignore them; it is an act of concentration and purpose to say that the ball I'm bouncing is blue when it is in fact red and "I don't care what you say, it was, is and will be blue until I say it is some other color." And, of course, what ever happens to him will not be his doing but his attorney or some other agency conspiring against him. There really isn't enough money to make an attorney want to represent someone such as this, but here we are doing our duty, helping the downtrodden, those without means, and the people in never-never land.