I admit, I don’t really miss having trials every week. As a Public Defender, I only had one case go to trial, but when I switched to Juvenile Court, I had trials every week. Wednesday was just trial day, and it wasn’t just one. It was usually three or four. Juvenile trials went pretty quickly. The police didn’t exactly spend a lot of time gathering evidence, and most of the crimes involved friends, family members, or school officials. And most were completely unnecessary, but had to go forward because we hadn’t gotten anything like a good deal.
My longest trial was 2 days. It was a crazily long debacle where a few boys decided to pull a prank on another boy, but the DA decided their stupid act was best charged as a litany of felonies. It was really frustrating, especially when I was 95% confident we’d end up only with the charges we would have pled to anyway, and when the only eyewitness was a girl who was about 8 and who couldn’t endure any questioning without bursting into tears. But that trial worked out well. And I’m pretty pleased even with my most serious and violent felonies. (Two stabbings, count ’em.)
One of those stabbings gave me one of my sweetest Not Guilty’s. It was a crazy case where there were five boys all together when it took place and each one gave a completely different version of events. And my only adult trial also ended up with a wonderful victory. Two separate sets of charges, and evidence was presented of two previous similar incidents. I knew we’d eat one of those charges–the misdemeanor–but I was shocked when the jury came back (in 45 minutes, usually a kiss of death for the defense) and acquitted on the felony. (One juror, a woman who looked in her 50’s, patted me on the shoulder as they filed out and said, “Good job.” That was a little surreal.)
Since leaving the PD’s office, my trial caseload has shrunk severely. I’m pretty okay with that. As much as I enjoy the rush, I also enjoy avoiding it. Because even though I was trying cases on a weekly basis, my hands always shook and I always got a little nervous. Yesterday I had a trial, albeit a minor one. Once you work in an office where you have regular clients, you end up handling all sorts of smaller issues. This one was for a county code noise violation and I was covering for a co-worker. But boy was I ready to go. We had a big motion but weren’t allowed to argue it. Still, I shrugged it off. I literally wanted to look over at the prosecutor, and say, “Bring it.”
Our trial was done in about 5 minutes. Possibly a new record. And yes, it was a big fat not guilty. All I had to do was object a couple times and it was over. Not quite the same as my glory days, but I’ll take it. And I must have looked tough up there, because my client–who’s a huge guy with dreds in a hiphop/metal band–said I was “badass.”