Tune in for another batch of true crime stories from my days as a Public Defender. Some details have been altered to protect identities. Click here for the first few crime stories if you skipped over those ones. And the latest ones are here.
Next Case – “The Mother and Child Reunion is only a Motion away” – Paul Simon
Not all the my crime stories are about bad people. When you first started with the office, they stuck the new lawyers in Neglect and Abuse. Because nobody else wanted to work there. This is where families have their children taken away by the State because they have done something wrong. Family court is considered less glamorous than straight up criminal court. Ironically, it is often more important for making a noticeable difference in people’s lives.
Little man’s name was Bryon. He was sucked up into the system because his drug addled mom was using him to steal stuff from stores. She was also coming dangerously close to trading him for drugs. At the root of this problem was mom’s drug addiction and poor parenting skills. The Courts offered mom a chance to get her child back if she progressed through counseling, drug testing, and parenting classes. She stuck it out. Little Man came back home and for once (it does not happen very often) mom was very grateful for the time and energy spent by all parties in the case trying to reunite her family.
For years afterwards, I would get a Xmas card from Bryon, in his suit and tie, growing up with his mom, in a better place. That really was a big deal to me. Sometimes things do work out and the system can help. This is probably why I go out of my way to thank people who do a good job at their workplace. You never know when your thanks will mean a great deal to them.
Next case – Too Many Eyewitnesses –
The next case involved a gangland shooting at a park in mid day in front of a large gathering of people. The suspect’s defense was TODDI (This Other Dude Did It). Problem was the array of eye witnesses who were all pointing the finger at him. They included; his 3 aunts, his own Momma, his own Gandmomma, and 5 of his own cousins.
He gave us the name of a friend that would say it was not him, but after meeting with this friend, we opted to not put him on the stand. You can not suborn perjury. Guilty verdict under 5 minutes. Sometimes the stars just align against you.
Sidenote; One real problem in cases involving gang members is that many times, rival gang members will offer eye witness testimony to help convict an enemy. Problem is many times they are lying, same with your corroborating witnesses. Some people have no compunction against lying under oath. It is a very real problem for some jurisdictions. Gangs will also offer up younger members to ‘do the time’ for older members under the theory that juveniles will get less hard time.
Next Part – By Any Means Necessary
Illinois has a particularly stubborn law for trying to replace a bad judge. It is called a retention vote. You have to get more people to actively vote to remove the Judge than vote to keep him/her. It is nearly impossible. My courthouse had a problem Judge. He would routinely put the assistant public defender in jail over the lunch hour for talking in his courtroom. He was a total tyrant. The sheer disrespect to fellow members of the bar was without precedent in all of my dealings with the judicial branch.
I however have an overly developed sense of deference when I know the attacks are not personal. What I mean by this, is that his rules were clear, no talking in his courtroom. If you wanted to make a different rule than you should get elected Judge and then you can make a ‘talking allowed’ rule in your courtroom. So I sat there quietly doing my job and leap frogging over many of the more senior attorneys in my branch. I became First Chair at a way younger age than normal and was all set to really make my mark in that office when….
We decided to move to a different state, sell our house, quit out jobs, find new jobs, build a house, and have our first baby all inside of 6 months. Maybe not our best idea.