Three dumb things people say to the police… all the time.

So, you’re sitting in my office and you’re mad that you got a ticket or were arrested for DUI or are charged with murder. You’re going to fight this thing all the way. You’re mad.  They never read your your rights.  They never showed you the radar.  If they didn’t do that, you must be “not” guilty, right?

For whatever reason, there seem to be a large number of people who, between the time they’ve last talked to the cops and the time they walk into my door, have convinced themselves they’re not guilty.  That’s just fine.  If you want to take the best shot at winning at trial, though, there are some things you probably said to the police that you shouldn’t have.  Those things are going to make it really hard for a judge or jury to see just how not guilty you really are

When the police first pulled you over or started to talk to you: “Yes”.

Do you know how fast you were going? “Yes.”  Do you know why we’re at your house with this warrant looking for a dead body? “Yes.” Do you have any idea why the neighbor says you were swimming naked in his pool at night and creeping out the entire neighborhood? “Yes.”

When the police ask those initial questions, they obviously know something. They’re not going to tell you what it is, but they’re going to try to get you to talk about it. After all, you may “know things only the killer would know.”  If you answer “yes” to any of these initial questions, it’s going to start a dialogue- a dialogue that’s only going to get harder to stop.

Probably the only worse answer than “yes” would be to lie.  Like, telling an officer at a traffic stop that you were going 47 when his radar says you were going 89.  Lies are either going to frustrate the officer or (in a more serious case) make you look even more guilty when you’re busted.

A better thing might be to say, “I’d like to talk to a lawyer before I answer any of your questions.”  Nobody seems to ever believe me on that, though. It’s sort-of a free country, I suppose.  You go ahead and do what you want.

When they want to search: “Yes”

When it comes to car searches, this is almost always a follow-up to “do you have anything you shouldn’t in the car?”  Of course, if that’s what happened you must have skipped the section above and either lied (hoping he’s not smart enough to know all the drugs are “hidden” in the trunk of your Chevy Vega), or answered “yes”.

So, now he wants to take a look. He’s asking you, and you don’t want to “look guilty” so you’re going to let him search.

Look, I know it seems a bit extreme, but no police officer is ever searching my car, house, body or other property with my consent. I have nothing to hide- just like you (except for those apples you’re illegally smuggling into Canada), but my stuff is nobody’s business and I don’t care how they think that makes me look.  I’d be somewhat offended if they even asked.

Getting sucked into “not wanting to look guilty” is the best way to look absolutely guilty. Nothing says “this guy is probably guilty” like the weed the cop found in your pocket or the headless corpse in your crawl space.

If they ever ask to search, you can always tell them you’d like to talk to a lawyer about it first. Just saying.

When the police are interrogating you: “Yes”

You’re in some small room at the police station. The room is simple, without decor or anything but a small table and some chairs.  There’s one cop- maybe two.  They’ve read you your rights, and they’re asking you questions.  They want to know how long you had “beef” with the guy who was just found stuffed in the back of a burned-out AMC Gremlin down by the river.  “You’ve hated this guy since before that day at the Bieber concert, right?” They ask.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nq3FHm6DZ0

Wait a minute. You’re in custody.  They read you your rights. They just told you that you had a right to an attorney.  They told you that they’d get you one before any questioning.

Now you’e sitting there, without having talked to a lawyer, and you’re about to agree that you didn’t like some guy that they found dead?

Brilliant idea, Einstein.  Especially if you didn’t kill the guy (or if you’re going to tell your lawyer you didn’t, anyway).

Just another crazy thought, but if you’re planning to contest the charges and try to avoid spending the rest of your life in prison, it might make sense to talk to a lawyer first. Probably.

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There you have it. You’re in my office. You want to fight this to the end. You’re mad that your rights have been violated. They can’t prove this case… except, of course, for the fact that you admit you knew why they were looking at you, let them search wherever they wanted and confessed after they read you your rights.

Can’t wait for your trial.

You Can’t Turn Over Police Reports You Haven’t Written.

Between pondering how the courthouse bathrooms were trashed within 10 minutes of the place opening, and hoping that the cooler temps mean we’ll see less than 80 people shot in the city this weekend, I managed to come across a great post on Simple Justice.  The post was Mr. Greefield’s ruminations on the pervasive practice of prosecutors disclosing evidence on the eve of trial.  By “eve of trial” I mean years after they were ordered to disclose it.

If you’re unfamiliar, this happens all the time. It happens with such frequency that it’s not even surprising… to the judges.  By-and-large, judges may act frustrated with the practice, but nothing ever really happens about it.  Greenfield’s post, titled “When the Judge Says ‘Meh'” sums it up better than I ever could:

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This would be an excellent place to point out the irony that the prosecution puts a person on trial for violating the law, while it simultaneously violates the law, but that only plays to the naïve. Reality is that we, the players in the system, both know this and live with this all the time. We have for as long as I’ve practiced law.
The prosecution holds a special place in the system, a combination of low expectations of competence and efficacy, and facile excuses for its neglect and failures.  They are the systems saviors, and while any defendant or defense lawyer would be led out of the courtroom in cuffs if we did a fraction of what the prosecution does regularly, they get a free pass.

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You can spend years getting ready for a trial, develop a great theory, work towards gathering and presenting evidence and at the last second a prosecutor turns over something new (to you, of course, not them) that you’re neither expecting nor ready for.

To quote Mr. Greenfield, the judge says “Meh.” It never seems to matter.

In the past year, I’ve twice had cases set for trial and, within days of the trial date the prosecutor turned over police reports.  Obviously that’s not new.

What is new is that in both of those cases the police reports had not even been written until a year after the offense.  In one of the cases, the prosecutor talked to the cop and told him to write a report. Of course, the report was directed at defeating the motion to suppress arrest that was headed for an evidentiary hearing.  Nothing shady about that, right?

In the other case, the prosecutor didn’t even know the cops had info they “hadn’t gotten around” to writing up in a report.

So, you’re about to go to trial, the prosecutor was ordered to get you any and all evidence he intends to use at trial over a year ago, all the decisions you and your client have made to this point are based on the evidence that you had been given, and now you are getting police reports that were written only because your client is contesting the charges against him.  What happens now?

You’re outraged. You’re shocked. You’re asking for the “new” evidence to get barred. You’re asking for a continuance.

The judge, though? What’s the judge say? Mr. Greenfield nailed it.

Just how the system is supposed to work. If it isn’t, then why does it?

McHenry County Branch Court is Closing. Interesting.

If you’re not aware, McHenry County actually holds court in two “courthouses”.  There’s the main courthouse at 2200 N. Seminary (right on Route 47) in Woodstock. There’s also a “branch” court that meets on Wednesdays in the City of McHenry village board meeting room.

Most counties have these branch courts.  In fact, most counties have many more of them than McHenry County.  The de-centralized court systems are more convenient to the public.  As they often times pop up in odd, inexpensive-to-rent places, the costs to operate can be relatively low.  How much can it really cost to use village board meeting rooms (like Carpentersville and Elgin branch courts, Mchenry branch court), strip mall store fronts (there used to be a whole bunch of these in Lake County) or VFW Halls (like Downer’s Grove Field court) to rent?   Continue reading “McHenry County Branch Court is Closing. Interesting.”

The Unfair Fight.

I’m not willing to let this press release/social media campaign issue die yet.  Like I wrote about a while back, an inordinate amount of your local crime news is cut-and-pasted directly from press releases issued by police and prosecutor’s office.  Don’t believe me?  See for yourself.  I’m not the only one who’s written about this.

Tonight, while I’m minding my own business and getting gnawed on by the dog, I took a look at the Kane County Chronicle to see if there was anything interesting I didn’t catch while at the courthouse.  It doesn’t appear that there was.  On the other hand, I did find this interesting article which got my little brain churning:

Aurora man convicted in North Aurora home invasion
Published: Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST
 By KANE COUNTY CHRONICLE – editorial@kcchronicle.com
ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – An Aurora man will be sentenced this spring for his role in a North Aurora home invasion that left a couple terrorized and a dog dead, according to a news release from the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office…
Then it goes on, of course, to essentially re-hash the Kane County State’s Attorney’s press release.  The highlight is the following quote from the Kane County State’s Attorney himself:
“Mr. Mullen took advantage of his friends for his own personal gain by threatening and inflicting violence them,” McMahon said.
Before you get on my case for clearly omitting either the word “upon” or “on” before “them”, let me assure you that I left nothing out.  Read the article yourself, that’s exactly what it says:
newspaper
Of course, it only says that because that’s also exactly what the press release says:
mediarelesae

We’re not here to talk about lazy reporting and sloppy editing today though– certainly I’ve missed my fair share of mistakes in posts here.  So, I won’t judge.  On the other hand, we are here to talk about the substance of these reports.

Therein lies the unfair fight.  Every time I read through my twitter account and see police department and State’s Attorney’s offices patting themselves on the back and bragging about their heroic victories, I’m caused to wonder (and sometimes tweet) if they’ll ever let the public know the other side of the story- about the cases they’ve charged, prosecuted and lost.

Of course they won’t.  You assume I will, though.

Not a chance.

Being a criminal defense attorney is a lot like playing in the defensive backfield in the NFL- you  may have been burned for a touchdown or you may have intercepted a pass on the last play. It doesn’t matter, though.  You need to get the last play out of your mind because the next play is coming up… and you might just get burned for a touchdown (or intercept a pass).

Sadly, most of the cases in criminal court get resolved through deals.  Nothing can mess up an attorney’s ability to work a good deal for their client than too much ego- on either side of the case.  If I won a trial today and issued a press release naming names and pointing fingers, it might be fine today.  Tomorrow, though?  Tomorrow I’m right back at it (probably with the same prosecutor) but for a different client.  What I don’t want is this client to get a bad (or no) offer because I embarrassed the prosecutor on the last case.

That’s not to say that defense attorneys don’t beat their own drums on occasion.  It is to say, however, that there’s a practical reason it’s a lot less prevalent than what we’re seeing with police and prosecutors right now.

That’s just another reason you’ve got to be skeptical whenever you’re reading local crime news.  Those news articles are often a battle for public sentiment and support.  It’s largely a one-sided battle. It’s an unfair fight.

Crime News… Whose Perspective?

Obviously I love to troll the press and media releases for local crime.  They amuse me.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  What’s not really amusing, though, is how much they influence what shows up in the newspaper…. and how they get there.

If you read a newspaper article and don’t know what’s going on, you’d think a newpaper reporter was sitting in a courtroom watching trials as they unfold.  That certainly does happen a lot of the time.  What happens more often is that a reporter sits in for parts of a trial.  That’s exactly what was going on when the back of my head made the Huffington Post last year. Of course, in that case, the parts of the trial the reporters weren’t sitting in on were the ones where we presented our side of the case.  Crazy how that works.

Anyhow, what seems to be happening more often (especially in Kane County) is that media and press releases are pushed out to media outlets, who then write stories based largely on the reports.  Of course, those reports are coming from the Kane County State’s Attorneys office, and the police departments.

For example, take this story in the Elgin Courior News:

South Elgin woman guilty of filing false child abuse reports

From Submitted Reports December 6, 2013 4:42PM
Updated: December 9, 2013 12:30PM
A South Elgin woman has been found guilty of making a false report of child abuse that included coloring her young son with ink and claiming it was bruising caused by the boy’s stepmother, the Kane County State’s Attorney Office said.
Kimberly Carlyle, 47, of the 200 block of Nicole Drive, was convicted Friday in a trial before Circuit Judge Susan Clancy Boles of two counts of disorderly conduct, each a Class 2 felony

This story says it’s from “submitted reports” on December 6, 2013.  I wonder what “submitted report” that might be?

It’s not hard to find, really.  On December 6, 2013 the twitter account for the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office posted as follows:

If you follow that link, it takes you right to a prepared, pre-formatted press release from the Kane County prosecutor’s office.  If you go ahead and look through the Kane SAO twitter account, you’ll find all sorts of links to press releases, too.

It doesn’t take much investigation to figure out that that press release was a major source for the newspaper story.  According to the press release:

Kimberly Carlyle, 47 (d.o.b. 7-29-1966), of the 200 block of Nicole Drive, South Elgin, was convicted today by Circuit Judge Susan Clancy Boles or two counts of disorderly conduct, each a Class 2 felony.

Carlyle waived her right to a jury trial.

According to the newspaper:

Kimberly Carlyle, 47, of the 200 block of Nicole Drive, was convicted Friday in a trial before Circuit Judge Susan Clancy Boles of two counts of disorderly conduct, each a Class 2 felony.

Carlyle waived her right to a jury trial.

Press release:

On Sept. 6, 2009, Carlyle called the Kane County Sheriff’s Office to report that her young child had been physically abused during a visit with the child’s biological father and his wife. Carlyle claimed that bruises she said appeared on her child were the result of physical abuse. When a sheriff’s deputy told Carlyle that she had contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate further, Carlyle acknowledged that the bruises were actually ink that had since washed off. When contacted later by DCFS, Carlyle apologized, acknowledged that the bruising marks were actually ink and said that she had no reason to believe that the child was being abused.

Newspaper:

According to prosecutors, on Sept. 6, 2009, Carlyle called the Kane County Sheriff’s Office to report that her young child had been physically abused during a visit with the child’s biological father and his wife. Carlyle claimed that bruises she said appeared on her child were the result of physical abuse. When a sheriff’s deputy told Carlyle that she had contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate further, Carlyle acknowledged that the bruises were actually ink that had since washed off.

When contacted later by DCFS, Carlyle apologized, acknowledged that the bruising marks were actually ink and said that she had no reason to believe that the child was being abused.

I could keep going on, but I won’t. You get the idea- the article is practically a word-for-word regurgitation of the Kane County State’s Attorney’s media release.  It’s not so much an article as it is a rebroadcast of a prosecutor’s statement about the outcome of the case.  If the defendant had been found not-guilty, then what would the Kane County State’s Attorney’s press release say?  There wouldn’t be one, of course.

This happens nearly every day, all over Chicagoland.

So, when you’re reading the news are you really reading the news? Or are you reading propaganda from a prosecutor or police department?  I certainly have my opinion on that.