Sometimes the best defense witness is a police officer. Occasionally, the police will write something in their report that is quite useful in establishing that maybe the accused didn’t do the crime for which he or she is accused. So, the defense attorney calls that officer to the stand before the jury. Then, sometimes, the officer will respond to the defense attorney’s questions with ‘I don’t remember.’ In this case, there was a video of the portion of facts that the officer ‘couldn’t remember.’ However, pursuant to evidence law, that video could not be offered itself to the jury. So, Mr. Beach asked for a break in the trial and for the officer to review the video so that he could ‘refresh his memory.’ After that, the officer belatedly testified to what he did and saw and heard as was recorded in the video. The prosecutor then got her turn for cross examination of the officer. Her first question was a statement that the defense attorney was hiding evidence from the jury by not giving the video to the jury (something Mr. Beach could not do). Of course, the judge had to end the trial due to the statement of the prosecutor. We thought we should include this trial here.
At birth, a child tested positive at the hospital for methamphetamines. However, nothing about the mother appeared to fit the normal experience of a methamphetamine using mother. So, the hospital retested the sample. The result showed no drugs present. The first test was in error. Nine months later, DHS contacts the family and told them they must now submit to DHS decisions regarding their child’s placement (where the child may live) and they must engage in drug treatment pursuant to DHS instructions. The family told DHS the hospital’s initial test was a mistake (as the hospital said). However, DHS still filed for a court order to remove their now nine month old baby and place that child in foster care. Mr. Thiesen challenged the legitimacy of everything DHS was doing to this family at the ‘shelter care hearing’ - this is the first court appearance when DHS wishes to enforce power over a family. Mr. Thiesen won and the family was allowed to stay together without DHS control of their lives.
The prosecutor filed a Harassment charge against Mr. Beach’s client because he was accused of throwing one of the toddler’s toys at his wife during an argument. “Intentional offensive physical contact” was the allegation. Due to this flying stuffy, the government wanted to keep him out of the home for a minimum of three months for a domestic violence no-contact order and to require him to attend a minimum of thirty-six sessions of domestic violence interventions. Mr. Beach convinced the jury that when his client threw the stuffy, his client did not intend it to be ‘offensive physical contact’. After 26 minutes of deliberation by the jury, a Not Guilty was announced and this family was restored!
Ms. Johnson’s client was accused of contempt of court for not paying money as required by a prior court decision. For that allegation, he was facing up to six months of jail. However, Ms. Johnson proved that ever since that prior judgment, her client had been ‘chronically homeless’. People without any income, who live under bridges, and eat from dumpsters do not have a lot of money to pay court ordered judgments. Those facts didn’t stop the prosecutor from prosecuting Ms. Johnson’s client; but, by proving those facts, Ms. Johnson obtained a dismissal of the charge from the judge.
Mother and father of a child are divorced and the father was awarded custody of their daughter in the divorce. This occurred in Mexico. Father is a Mexican citizen and mother is an American citizen. During a visit, mother took their daughter and came to Oregon (without Father’s knowledge). Once in Oregon, mother claimed father was abusing their daughter and that is why she ran with the daughter to Oregon. Father is not allowed to enter the United States. Oregon’s DHS (child welfare division) supported mother and asked the court to litigate an abuse allegation based upon what mother claimed happened in Mexico.
Mr. Thiesen represented the father in Mexico. Mr. Thiesen immediately reached out to the Mexican child welfare office and asked them to investigate. They found no evidence of abuse. Of course, neither father nor the witnesses in Mexico could come to the Oregon courtroom from Mexico. So, if this went to trial in Oregon, none of father’s witnesses could have testified. However, Mr. Thiesen convinced the judge that under both Oregon law, US law, and international treaty obligations the court that should be dealing with allegations of abuse in Mexico should be the Mexican court. Accordingly, the Oregon case was dismissed and the daughter was returned to her father.
Mr. Beach’s client stood accused of the crime of Harassment in a domestic violence situation. This particular type of Harassment meant that his client could receive six months of jail should he have been convicted. On the day of trial, the prosecutor arrived missing a witness to ‘authenticate’ the 911 call recording. That recording was massively important to the prosecution’s case against Mr. Beach’s client. Mr. Beach therefore made a motion to ‘exclude’ the 911 recording because there was no evidence that the recording had anything to do with this case. The argument centered on whether the prosecutor had done his work. The specific argument is whether the prosecution made the proper attempts to obtain the witness. If the prosecutor had, then the witness was ‘unavailable’ and the 911 recording would be allowed as evidence. If not, the recording was not proper evidence. Mr. Beach prevailed and convinced the judge that witness was not ‘unavailable’ and therefore the 911 recording was not admitted as evidence. After the prosecution rested later that day, Mr. Beach made a ‘motion for judgment of acquittal’ and prevailed. Accordingly, the case against Mr. Beach’s client was dismissed.
Mr. Beach’s client was drunk. Mr. Beach admitted that to the jury. The person who called 911 to report the drunk driver testified that he was 99% positive that Mr. Beach’s client was the person he saw driving when he called to report a drunk driver. However, Mr. Beach delved through every detail of that identification during his examination of that witness. Less than an hour after the evidence ended, the jury returned a unanimous 12 person vote of Not Guilty!
Ms. Johnson’s client tried to obey the order of his sentencing judge. At his sentencing, the judge listed out his obligations and those things he was prohibited from doing. Should he violate those instructions, he is expected to go to prison for 18 months. When the judge’s staff produced the actual ‘judgment of conviction’ it differed from what the judge said during the hearing. So without knowing it, he was violating the rules in the ‘judgment’ immediately even though he was complying with what the judge had said. The prosecution wanted him to be found in violation of his probation and sentenced due to this. Ms. Johnson obtained the audio of the hearing and offered it to the prosecutor to prove what the judge had actually said; but, the prosecutor didn’t want to listen to it. So, at the hearing, Ms. Johnson made the prosecutor and judge listen. Accordingly, the allegation against Ms. Johnson’s client was dismissed
When someone doesn’t pay the full amount of child support that has been ordered, one of the options for the government is to pursue an allegation of ‘contempt of court.’ This is when someone is accused of knowingly disobeying a court order. A finding by a court that someone has acted in ‘contempt of court’ can be punished with up to six months of jail for each finding of contempt.
The prosecutors will often only look at one case of underpaying child support when they bring these charges against people. They often do this without considering the total circumstances of an individual. This was the issue for Mr. Goldman’s client. His client had five children – each with a child support order. His income was less than the total he was ordered to pay for all of the kids when those orders are combined. So, there was mathematically no way for his client to pay all five support orders in full. So, the prosecutor picked one that he was not paying the full support on and prosecuted the case.
At the hearing, Mr. Goldman had his client testify about all five of the child support orders, totaled up what those required him to pay each month, had his client testify about what his monthly income was, how that money was distributed, and compared the numbers. The judge agreed that for Mr. Goldman’s client to be paying in full for some kids he would have to pay less than ordered for other kids and alternatively that for him to pay all kids something he would be paying less than ordered for all of the kids. Accordingly, Mr. Goldman’s client was found Not Guilty of Contempt of Court.
Mr. Beach’s client was accused of the crime of Harassment with a child witness in a domestic violence situation. The alleged victim and a ten year old claimed that Mr. Beach’s client kicked the alleged victim. However, upon cross examination, Mr. Beach proved that it was a mutual shoving over a TV remote. Therefore, the defense was that there was ‘no intent to harass or annoy.’ Accordingly, the jury heard the actual circumstances and returned a verdict of Not Guilty.