Mr. Thiesen’s client was a poor single dad. He was running behind on his payments to his day care provider. His day care provider, however, was willing to allow Mr. Thiesen’s client to run up a debt while the he was struggling financially. Unfortunately, DHS believed that an inability to keep current with day care expenses was a threat to a child’s safety and therefore this child should be removed from his father care. The fact that this child’s home was considered safe and he was receiving sufficient food and clothing – and that the day care provider was willing to continue to care for the child while his dad was unable – did not dissuade DHS. So, DHS filed a request with the court to remove this child from his father. At the shelter care hearing (the court appearance when DHS asks a judge to confirm a decision to remove a child from a family) Mr. Thiesen presented all the evidence showing that all the physical and psychological needs of this child were being met by his dad and also presented the prior case law on this issue pointing out that merely being poor is not a reason to have one’s child removed from home and place into the foster care system. The judge agreed, no removal was allowed and the case against this family was dismissed!
Ms. Johnson’s client was accused of assault in the fourth degree. This carries up to 364 days of jail (it used to be one year, but was reduced by one day). The case was a ‘he said, she said’ situation where the only witnesses to the event were the person claiming this occurred and Ms. Johnson’s client saying it didn’t. This is fairly common in domestic violence cases. This case, however, had a problem. The complaining ‘victim’ had a large goose egg on her forehead that she didn’t have before the argument. That obvious injury had to be explained. Of course, she said that Ms. Johnson’s client had punched her in the forehead causing that swelling and pain. Ms. Johnson’s client said he didn’t know how she was injured and that she must have self-inflicted it.
Preparation (as is always essential) won this case for Ms. Johnson. When it was time for the complaining ‘victim’ to be cross examined, Ms. Johnson tore into each of her inconsistencies and motivations. When it was time for Ms. Johnson’s client to testify, he was ready. He testified calmly, consistency, and clearly. Within an hour after the jury went to the jury room, they returned with a verdict of Not Guilty.
Mr. Goldman’s client was accused of shoving his former girlfriend against a car and hitting her. This was supposedly done in a public park in front of many witnesses. Having a group of strangers testify that they saw something, and that something was all the same, would normally be a problem for defense. Here, however, the police reports were suspicious in that all the statements were too prosecution friendly. Investigating the case, Mr. Goldman saw that this case needed to go to trial because these claims of uniformity of witness opinion did not match the physical reality of where people were at the time of the event. Since the prosecutor would not discuss the case nor talk to the witnesses until the start of trial (not unusual in misdemeanor cases), Mr. Goldman had to wait until the morning of trial. With all the witnesses there, the witnesses confirmed to the prosecutor that what they saw and said was not what the police wrote in the reports. Seeing the hopelessness of obtaining a conviction, the prosecutor dismissed the case rather than be defeated at trial.
Sometimes our role is not to avoid a conviction. Sometimes people are guilty and that is just what the evidence proves. When this happened, a defense attorney must pursue the strategy that best protects that client. Mr. Beach’s client was a driver of a car that was in a single car accident. The problem was that Mr. Beach’s client was drunk and had passengers. These facts were not good. The prosecutor’s position was that Mr. Beach’s client must do a minimum of 13 months of prison. Mr. Beach got his client into alcohol treatment immediately (two days after his arrest). By the time Mr. Beach’s client needed to enter a plea, the reports from his treatment providers were so good that the judge agreed to postpone the case another two months to see how well he would do by being allowed to finish that course of treatment. Two months later, the judge agreed that Mr. Beach’s client showed every indication of taking treatment seriously and dedicating himself to change. Accordingly, the judge agreed to allow probation rather that prison (with an obligation to continue treatment and to perform community service). Due to Mr. Beach’s work (and his client taking treatment seriously), his client avoided prison, changed his life to a better one, society saved the cost of imprisoning someone, and society gained a better and safer person.
The case involved an allegation that Ms. Johnson’s client hit her boyfriend with a hot hair straightener and when he then tried to call 911 that she took away the phone. Ms. Johnson didn’t challenge the factual allegation but rather spent the trial talking about why her client did those acts and encouraged the jury to decide the case upon what Ms. Johnson’s client intended to do through her actions. Based upon diving into the issue of ‘intent’ alone, the Jury returned a Not Guilty verdict!
This was another case where Mr. Beach’s client was accused of Assault 4 (364 days jail possible) and Harassment (6 months jail possible). The case involved arguing spouses throwing the toddler’s toys at each other. The prosecution wanted Mr. Beach’s client to attend a minimum of thirty-six weeks of domestic violence batterers intervention classes due to the allegation. Mr. Beach took it to trial. The jury took twenty-six minutes to return a verdict of Not Guilty!
Ms. Johnson’s client was arrested for DUII and the evidence showed that he had a 0.25 blood alcohol content. Her client had been found parked alone in the car. He said that he drank alone in the car while parked there but the police didn’t believe him. Since he was alone, it was his word against the police (and Ms. Johnson’s client didn’t have any alcohol bottles in her car) – not a great position to be in. Ms. Johnson went looking for a corroborating witness. There was a gas station by where her client had been parked. The employee who had worked the shift when her client was arrested, no longer worked at the gas station. But, Ms. Johnson found him anyway and obtained a detailed witness statement confirming her client’s explanation. Seeing the likely result from a jury, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case.
Mr. Goldman’s client was accused of opening the front door of his ex-wife’s home, rushing in, and threatening to kill her. When the police investigated, Mr. Goldman’s client explained that he went over there to talk with his adult son (who lived there), knocked on the door, and when the door was opened never even entered the home much less make any threats. At trial, the ex-wife’s story fell apart when Mr. Goldman cross-examined her; and Mr. Goldman was able to argue to the jury that not even his client’s toe entered the home. The jury returned a Not Guilty verdict.
Mr. Beach’s client has spent around half her life in the United State and all of her immediate family also live here. However, she was born in the UK and never obtained US citizenship. Her boyfriend claimed to the police that she hit him on the side of the face causing him pain. The prosecution filed a charge of ‘Harassment’ against her. This caries up to six months of jail. They classified the case as ‘domestic’ due to the relationship of boyfriend-girlfriend. We obtained an immigration evaluation which concluded that the only resolution of the case that would ensure her ability to stay with her family here in the US was to be found not guilty (no plea bargains would protect her). So, Mr. Beach never considered anything other than trial.
At trial, Mr. Beach argued that when his client was grabbing at her boyfriend, her intention was to keep him from leaving and that the boyfriend didn’t actually know if or how she had hit him in the face. The case was won during Mr. Beach’s cross examination of the boyfriend. Twenty-six minutes later, the jury announced a ‘Not Guilty’ finding.
Ms. Johnson’s client was the victim of domestic violence. Accordingly, to protect the child from domestic violence, the State (DHS – child welfare) wished to have ‘jurisdiction’ over the child. However, Ms. Johnson’s client left the abusive man and obtained a restraining order. Ms. Johnson pointed out that there wasn’t any more that her client could do – what did DHS want her to do to demonstrate that she was protective of the child?. Whether the abuser is prosecuted is a decision of the prosecutor, not Ms. Johnson’s client. Just before the start of the trial, the State gave up and agreed to dismiss the case against this victim of domestic violence.