The Criminal Defense Clinic has a case set for jury trial the week of April 1st. Motion hearings for that case were held this past Friday. The case involves a domestic battery charge and a resisting without violence charge. We moved to sever the charges in the belief that our client couldn’t receive a fair trial on the domestic battery charge if the resisting without violence charge was heard at the same time. The Judge agreed and now the charges are severed. One problem: the Assistant State Attorney has opted to try the resisting without violence charge first. . .and it’s going to be hard to get a not guilty verdict on that charge when 10 officers responded to the scene. . .akin to a SWAT call. Oh well, noone said this was easy. If it were, everyone would do it.
We currently have four cases set for jury selection. . . with the first one set to go next week; quickly followed by trials on 3/4, 3/18, and 4/1. I hear that there’s a thing called spring break in there somewhere. However, unless something drastically changes, my clinic will be spending quality time together during that week while prepping for these trials. Exciting, exhausting, and terrifying all at once. Motions in limine, redacting 911 tapes, prepping for jury selection, etc. etc. etc. The next month will be a blur.
While most of the clinics are quiet, the criminal defense clinic continues to handle hearings over the break. Although we only have eight carryover cases, we handled approximately 70 cases over the course of the fall semester. Yes, it is nuts sometimes, but never dull. Less than 2 weeks before the madness begins again.
The Criminal Defense Clinic had six (6) cases set for jury selection on October 29th. Five of those cases were set for trial due to speedy trial issues (only one of those cases had the charging document/information filed).
The State finally decided to drop four of those cases b/c of their inability to find their victims. One case was continued (b/c the State finally filed the charges on the preceding Friday. . .I guess they finally figured out that the victim was in jail in St. Augustine). So, by late Friday, we only had one case left for jury selection. Joey & Lisa picked a jury on Monday, October 29th, & did a fantastic job! And, by 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, the State finally realized that their case had problems (to put it mildly). They offered a municipal ordinance offense of fighting vs. a misdemeanor domestic battery. Since the client had a violation of probation pending in addition to the domestic battery, he decided to accept a plea to the municipal ordinance offense.
So, in lieu of doing opening statements on Halloween, Lisa & Joey entered a plea on behalf of our client. A lot of work went into this case from mock jury selection to mock run throughs to witness preps, etc. A number of our clinicians pitched in to help prepare this case from acting as mock jurors to sitting through witness preps to sitting as jurors in run throughs to doing case law research, etc. In general, the clinic operated as a unit. Nicely done!
Since we get our cases from the Public Defender’s Office, it’s normal to assume that we would end up with a lot of cases that they don’t want. . .for one reason or another. That can lead to interesting results. From the beginning dementia client who keeps trying to break into a house that was once hers, but no longer is. . .to the client who changes his “story” as often as he changes his contact information. . .to the client who just wants “to go back to Jacksonville” even though he’s already here. Some of the clients pull at your heart; others give heartburn, but that’s the world of criminal defense. Juggling their cases; researching speedy trial and Williams Rule and confrontation clause; trying to get discovery and offers from the State; and learning that everyone does not move at the same pace as you do.
Yep, time is flying by. Hard to believe that another semester is starting. We currently have one case set for trial the week of September 17th & another two that will be set soon. And I have new blood in the clinic (figuratively, not literally). Lots to learn in a short period of time; being thrown in the deep end; baptism by fire. However, you look at it, this semester promises to bring changes to all involved. Stay tuned.
Damian Cook and Wes Hunt were externs at the Jacksonville Ethics Commission this summer. Among their other work, Damian researched and wrote an extensive report on laws affecting lobbying by City Council members and City employees, while Wes researched and wrote an extensive report on Florida’s Sunshine Law and its affect on City Council members and City employees. Damian and Wes then presented their reports at an Ethics Commission meeting, as shown in the photos. Their reports were excellent and very well-received by the Commissioners. Wes and Damian did such fabulous work that they have been invited to spend another semester as externs with the Ethics Commission. Great work, gentlemen!
So close. We were set for jury selection this past Monday. So, talking about themes, defenses, the jury selection process. Having a mock jury selection. And then, by last Thursday, the State realized that the victim & witnesses were less than cooperative. So, our client decided to take a greatly reduced state offer in order to resolve his case. But that was Thursday of last week. By this Monday he was having second thoughts; and his clinician was close to a heart attack. If the client didn’t enter a plea, we would be selecting a jury & having a trial later this week. However, heart attack was averted. At the end of the morning, the client went ahead & entered a plea. The lesson learned: you have to be ready for anything and everything!
The beginning of a new semester is around the corner; and I still have a zillion things to do. Trying to close out the 35+ cases handled last semester. Trying to get grades done. Trying to update the syllabus. Trying to figure out how many cases to take to start off the summer clinicians. And, come next week, trying to figure out the new courthouse (and where to park) with students in tow. Never a dull moment in clinic land.
Okay, I don’t know if it’s actually going to be lucky, but I’ll put that thought out there. Court this a.m. to set a case for jury selection. . .of course it’s set for May 14th. Oh well. Hard to tell the Judge that I’ll be a little short of students that week. And we have another jury selection set for April 16th which should go. So, a bit of juggling going on, but it’s all good. Issues keep popping up: admissability of 911 calls, reverse Williams rule, stand your ground. And you thought evidence class was just an esoteric exercise. See, there is a reason to pay attention in class!