Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blog Remnants


I got a lot of feedback regarding "The Moose"--specifically, that my moose story was not historically accurate. In my defense, I'll say that 1) I've heard so many different versions of the moose story over the years that I doubt a historically accurate version of the parable exists; and 2) I am a defense attorney, remember? I twist massage the historical facts of stories for a living.

Nevertheless, I consulted the Keeper of the Moose Memories. I know that he is the Keeper of the Moose because he is the PD who was quoted on the Moose Mug, and because his office features the following Guard Moose:

The Keeper of the Moose told me that my moose story was OK--that I had captured the essence of the Moose. The Keeper also mentioned that one of the reasons the original moose story took hold was because the super-obnoxious prosecutor kept telling people, in all seriousness, "there are only about 5,000 moose in This Here County, and thus killing one moose is like killing 10,000 people."

Anyway, I'm glad that a guy whose office features a decorative depiction of a moose sitting on a toilet in an outhouse doesn't think I defiled the myth.

I have to admit that if the Keeper of the Moose had demanded it, I would have retracted my moose story, because besides moose paraphernalia, the Keeper of the Moose has a Big Can of Whoop Ass on his shelf.

(And why, oh why the bottle of rubbing alcohol?)

An anonymous reader relayed a tattoo story:

I had a client get a new tattoo on the back of his neck a week or so after I was appointed to him on: Misd. Battery, Kidnapping, Grand Theft, and Rape. The tattoo: 'REDRUM.' Later it looked like he scratched the second 'R' so that it looked like a 'B.' We agreed that if the case went to trial he would wear something to cover it.


Izaak wrote:
The copyright ran out on Monopoly's get-out-of-jail-free cards two years ago. I've had them printed on the back of my business cards. Almost everybody I know thinks it's totally awesome or totally juvenile, but I think that reflects people's opinions of me generally.
Coincidentally, I had been planning on making a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Holiday Ornament for next year's Holiday Party, based on this: (via craftzine)

But I like Isaak's idea of a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free business card even better. Now that I think of it, Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free may indeed be the ultimate public-defender business card.

I also discovered some Ecological Business Cards . . .

. . . and found that I have long been ahead of this Eco trend:

It is seriously embarrassing how often I do this.

At least it's Green.

(Here's how these scrap cards happen:  Client asks for my card in court, I dig in my bag and find chocolate, a bottle of hot sauce, and 12 kinds of sticky notes, but no cards.  I rip a piece off whatever paper is handy, and write "Carol" on it.  I'm the only Carol at my office, and people often think my last name is a kind of beer, so I leave my last name off.  But then I think about all of the trials I've had where the cops claim that names on little scraps of paper = drug dealer, and I don't want the cops finding it and thinking I'm a dealer, but I also don't want my client to forget who wrote the card and call me for a fix.  Hence, the arrow from "Carol" to lawyer, just so every one is clear on that.  And then because reaching me by telephone is a total crap-shoot, "ask for my paralegal if you can't reach me and you're freaking out."


A reader sent a link to an article by Gene Weingarten, a Washington Post writer who recently sat on a jury.  Mr. Weingarten wrote a clear and damning account of police officers lying in their testimony on the drug delivery case, stating that he would have voted to acquit (he ended up being an alternate), even though the case had been proved BRD to him, because he found the police misconduct so abhorrent.  Here--he says it better than I do:
"I believe they had the right guy, too. But the willingness to cheat, I think, is a poisonous corruption of a system designed to protect the innocent at the risk of occasionally letting the guilty walk free. It's a good system, fundamental to freedom. I think a police officer willing to cheat is more dangerous than a two-bit drug peddler."
As much as I want to find this man and hug him, what struck me was his wide-eyed processing of the incident--the cops testilying and wasting ridiculous amounts of money for nothing was clearly not what Mr. Weingarten expected.

Almost every one of us--public defender or private defense--however, would expect this.  Cops lying to convict someone they have decided is guilty happens every day, we just don't always catch them.  A bazillion dollars wasted on Cowboy Drug Units to bust small-time addicts happens every day every where in this country, as well.  Why do we know this and reporters don't?

In thinking about this disconnect, I noticed that over the years, I have changed how I tell some of my stories.  My criminal-defense lawyer friends get the whole, straight story.  But I stopped telling "normal" people about parts of the system, because they clearly didn't believe what I was saying--if I would try to describe how some cops and prosecutors are, the normal person's eyes would glaze over and I would be dismissed as a radical.  Meanwhile, I'm living in this crazy world and I know what's happening, but "normal" people prefer to believe the TV version of our court system, rather than the reality that is wasting billions of dollars, and worse, our clients lives. (Not to mention the toll on the spunky defender-gals!)

It was all of that--the disconnect between the perception and the reality of our court system, combined with the public-defender issues--that spurred me to write this blog.  I hope you can imagine how I felt when a lawyer who had just transferred to a defender job wrote to me:
"I thought I was prepared for what this work would feel like -- but I was not at all prepared for the Alice-down-the-rabbithole experience of my interactions with judges and other attorneys. Your blog is a great, sanity-inducing voice in the wilderness! So thanks for that."
I hope you can imagine how it felt to read that, because it was pretty awesome--not just because someone finally said that I am sane--but because we can only cure this disconnect by talking about it, blogging it, reporting, tweeting, texting, whatever--and if we don't do it, who will?

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