Tuesday, August 2, 2011


More often than you think, events, over which you have no control, determine the outcome of a criminal case. Especially when your client is "connected". Moves will often be made without your knowledge and consent, for two reasons. What is done is illegal and he therefore knows that you will not approve. If, somehow, you do know, you immediately investigate all avenues of self-insulation, even if it means seeking permission to withdraw from the case. Naturally, the attorney-client privilege, and your desire to remain amongst the living, prevent you from using the discovered imminent illegality as the reason for wanting out. You, therefore, tell the judge that "irreconcilable differences" have arisen, and hope that he is hip enough to scent the seriousness of the situation and won't break your balls. But, more often than not, your understanding of an unanticipated development comes after the fact, and you're clean.

A murder case in The Big Apple. I was prepared and ready to go. The prosecutor had been, was now, and would always be a consummate pr-ck. A mean, true-believer, sonovabitch who was out for blood. On the day of trial, as I entered the courtroom, the clerk advised that the judge wanted to see me in his chambers. As I entered the lobby, the D.A. was already there. Bad sign. The judge, looking very somber and distressed, told me that the D.A. was prepared to reduce the charge to assault and battery by means of a deadly weapon and would agree to straight probation if my client pled guilty. Unbelievable! I said I would talk to my client.

I immediately knew what must have happened. The state's percipient witness had been "gotten to". My client was a card-carrying member of a notorious and feared crew. Of Irish descent, and therefore not made guys, but connected up the ying-yang. I explained the prosecution's offer but the client seemed perplexed. I said,"Call someone." This was the time of telephone taps and he demurred. I had a heavy decision to make. Should I take the too-good-to-be-true deal or rely on my instincts and call the D.A's bluff. At stake were two lives. Dig it? Business from New York had been good to me but an obituary doesn't accept referrals. I went with my gut.

"Your Honor, the defendant stands ready for trial." The judge looked at me, incredulously.
"Do you believe you are acting in the best interests of your client?"
The D.A's face was crimson. I pulled the trigger. "I do, Your Honor".

We went back into the courtroom. The prosecutor stated that The People were not ready to go forward. and asked that the case be dismissed. I insisted that the dismissal be "with prejudice" (no retrial possible). And, so it was, that the client's crew became repeat clients.

This kind of stuff is not taught in law schools. It comes with that amount of experience which produces an inner barometer for grasping intangibles and acting upon them. No timetable for this.

Every trial teaches you a lesson and leaves its own mark. An accumulation of these battle scars eventually makes you a veteran. Then, and only then, might you be endowed with this sixth sense. Don't get me wrong. The journey is a ball.

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