Friday, January 27, 2012

Holy S*&#!!!

Stumbled across this story yesterday. And, I have no idea what to say about this besides it doesn't really reaffirm my belief in humanity.

The story is that, apparently, this guy got arrested for driving under the influence and then proceeded to spend two years in solitary confinement without so much as appearing before a judge let alone having a trial on the charges. Now, as an experienced criminal defense attorney, it is baffling to me how this could happen. There were a couple of factors that appear to have complicated his case but nothing that explains this mistreatment.

First, he was apparently arrested in what was allegedly a stolen car. But, the article says, he borrowed the car from a friend. So, his friend lent him a stolen car or it was a mistake by the police? Not sure. Unfortunately, the story leaves out a lot of details that I would like to know. Maybe they are things only an experienced criminal defense attorney would ask, but things I would like to know anyway.

Another thing was that he was apparently not well mentally upon his arrest. He was placed in a padded cell for a few days, and then transferred to solitary. Again, my experience tells me that plenty of mental ill people end up in the jail system and get, how do we say, misplaced(?) for a time...but I have never heard of anything like this....two years?! And all without having a trial or seeing a judge!

Where was his family? I want to say where was his lawyer, but if he never saw a judge, he probably never had a lawyer. See, your criminal defense attorney, usually a public defender for those in custody, are appointed when you first appear before a judge so....

The other part is who was in charge of this jail? Are you telling me that ALL (or at least a lot) of the guards working in this jail must have known something about this guy and no one did anything!? Scary....

Finally, going back to an earlier post I wrote about people wanting tort reform and/or a cap on damages - what say you about this case? Would justice be served if he got capped damages? What are two years in solitary confinement worth? Read the article before you answer that question....Apparently this jury thought it was worth $22 million. But, if his damages were capped, the county (or whomever was in charge of this mess) could just offer him the maximum and be done with it. Nothing would ever have been publicized - there's much less deterrence for someone really evil or just sick in the head to do terrible things (things that some of us may have trouble believing people would do, but look above for the unfortunate proof that some people are just awful).

As an attorney, it would be hard to advise a client to try their case when they are being offered, pre-trial, the most a jury could award. So, these cases are supposed to deter others from doing these things....sorry, it's too bad taxpayers of that jurisdiction may be paying that money (though, hopefully, the county had at least some insurance), but I don't see how the system could work any differently. Can someone explain to me what else this guy should have done in this circumstance? How is the system to be set-up to properly rectify this? (I'm talking the civil system, not criminal - clearly the criminal justice system miserably failed this guy but that's a different story.) The bottom line is this - who among us is to decide how much two years of mistreatment in solitary confinement is really worth? The founding fathers thought a jury of his peers was who....and, until I hear something better, I wholeheartedly agree.

Oh, and if you happen to get arrested for drinking and driving (or anything else for that matter), call a lawyer for god's sake! I know some good ones if you need a referral...

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