It’s hard to believe that the semester has barely begun. Clinicians are busy with jail visits, calling/meeting with clients, following up with witnesses and/or victims, pulling records, trying to get a handle on the lingo and abbreviations used in this wonderful world of criminal defense, and trying to get prepared for next week’s calendar. All in all we have 36 cases on the calendar for next week. . .28 of them on Friday’s calendar. This is reality. No time to whine. It’s time to rock and roll!
Well, the semester is officially over as of today. . .and, yet, we still have clients, cases, court hearings. In fact, we have depositions tomorrow afternoon of two hospital employees. Should be interesting. This semester has been not only interesting, but energizing. . .a not guilty verdict for one client after a jury trial; and two dismissals after successful motions to dismiss were filed in two separate cases. So, this group of clinicians has seen the gamut; and didn’t run away screaming. So, it’s all good & the beat goes on.
The Criminal Defense Clinic appears to have 2 speeds: full tilt boogie and slow dancing. Right now it’s closer to a full tilt boogie. We have a jury trial beginning on Monday (currently scheduled to be tried on Wednesday and Thursday), as well as 17 cases on the calendar the 1st three days of next week. So, it’s a matter of getting the students ready to handle the 17 cases; and getting my co-counsel (who will hopefully receive her post graduate CLI prior to Monday) up to speed. Burning calories and putting in the hours. Life is good.
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!