Finally, the trial that would. not. end. is over. Three weeks to try a case that should have taken no more than five days. In the case that just would not end, either. The arrest was more than three years ago — that’s plenty long to have a felony case hanging over your head.
Especially one as over-charged as this one. A responsible prosecution team would have charged maybe 3 counts in this case. But for reasons unknown, the folks who originally brought the case in 2006 went into insane overkill mode, charging 18 counts.
Now, finally, 15 of those original 18 counts have been acquitted or dismissed. A lesser-included thrown in there at trial, to give them a second bite at the top count, was also dismissed. All the big charges got kicked, along with most of the little ones. The jury only said “guilty” to three of the b.s. minor charges that had been tacked on to this bizarrely over-charged indictment.
We’re calling this one a win, because this is precisely the outcome the client wanted on day one. It’s what he’s repeatedly asked for over the three years this case has been going on. And yet, from the get-go, this prosecution team has obstinately insisted on a plea to the charge, from day one. (They did so even after the judge, after their main witness had been pretty much destroyed in a day and a half of cross, firmly suggested that the offer be made.) It took three years, and three weeks of trial, to get to where this case should have been at arraignment. Where it would have been, had these prosecutors done the right thing.
Why didn’t they? Good question.
We come from the Manhattan DA’s office, where this sort of thing just isn’t done. This was not the crime of the century, there were no victims, nobody got hurt. The defendant didn’t commit perjury in a grand jury, not having testified. In a halfway decent DA’s office like Manhattan, the prosecutors would have exercised their prosecutorial discretion, as is their duty, and extended an offer.
But here, the prosecutors abused their discretion, by not exercising it in the first place. If you think that sounds like misconduct, we’re not sure we don’t disagree with you. But we’re still not sure, so we’re not identifying the office in question.
The likely reason is that there was a clash of personalities between the original prosecution team and the original defense team, which then became institutionalized over time.
The official reason, however, is just as unjustifiable. The official reason is that the defendant did not let the prosecutors break the law.
In New York, when a defendant hasn’t made bail and so remains in jail after arrest, we have a “speedy charge” rule. The government has six days to get an indictment, or else he gets released so he can do the rest of the case without posting any bail.
These prosecutors wanted the client to waive that requirement. They wanted him to agree to stay in jail for as long as they needed to get their act together and get an indictment in their own time. Because he didn’t, they said they would never make any plea offer whatsoever.
This is their official office policy, it seems.
And yet that is totally improper. It is nothing more than a policy forbidding the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, in retaliation for the mere refusal to give up one’s rights. That’s wrong on at least three levels.
That retaliatory aspect probably also explains why they over-charged this case so dramatically in the first place. And why they persisted in refusing to make an offer even after it was perfectly clear that they’d never get a conviction on any of the felonies.
Whatever the reason, they lost big-time here. The jury threw them a bone on some of the little stuff, but they can’t see that as a win. It’s nowhere near what they’ve wanted for three long years, what they got so invested in.
So yeah, we’re calling this a win. Not an epic win, but definitely a win.
Well, now we’re back, and we’ll have more time to blog on what’s going on out there. Plenty has gone on in the past three weeks — from the Bear Stearns acquittal, to Lynne Stewart starting her prison sentence, to a cop tasing a 10-year-old girl who wouldn’t take a bath. But it’s too late to blog in a timely fashion on those things. Sigh.
Oh well, there’s always more! Criminal law does not disappoint.
(Okay, we can’t resist. The girl who got tased? What’s up with that? We’re not talking about the cop using such extreme force on a little girl. We’re not all that concerned that he only got disciplined for not having a camera on the taser. We’re not even perturbed that he responded to a call of, essentially, “come arrest my kid who won’t take her bath.” We’re angered at the mom who made the call, and all the other moms out there just like her. This is a common symptom of the what Big Government programs and entitlements have done to ruin the very classes of people they were meant to help. We now have had generation after generation of people in inner cities and elsewhere who have been raised to expect government to do everything for them. They never have personal responsibility. Government provides all, does all. It also controls all. It takes charge of everything. When that’s all you know, then you reasonably expect government to take charge all the time. So moms commonly call the cops to make their kids clean their room, go to school, etc. The same moms (almost never raising these kids with a dad), lacking in a certain quale of personal responsibility, seem also to share the inability to properly rear and socialize their offspring. So these kids sometimes wind up getting locked up after the police arrive. And then the moms call their public defender in tears, unable to believe why their kid is locked up. Unable to comprehend the inevitable answer: “Ma’am, you put him there.” This is of a piece with the reasons why projects turn into ratholes, because it’s nobody’s responsibility to take care of them, it’s the government’s job. Why the schools suck, because the single factor affecting the quality of a school, parental involvement, is entirely absent because it’s not the parents’ job to educate, it’s the government’s job. This is a mindset that does not naturally occur in Americans. Maybe in Europe, where they are used to thinking of themselves as subjects rather than citizens, where the government has all the power and thus all the responsibility. But not in America. The only reason this mindset exists is because our well-intended big-government programs and institutionalization first removed the incentive to take care of oneself, and then destroyed the ability to do so. Rant off.)