Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Promotion!

Well, not exactly a promotion, as I don't get paid. But I've been somehow voted principle second violin at our little community college orchestra. Which, I think, is good for everyone involved. Mainly because it doesn't seem like any of my fellow second violins have the ability to watch the conductor and play the music at the same time. I also have a rudimentary understanding of what are helpful bowings and fingerings. The main problem previously, though, had been the section had no leader. The prior principle would not figure out bowings, and he would not pass them back if he did. So we always looked discombobulated, even if we were playing things right. I took it upon myself to arrange a meeting with all the string section-leaders to come up with bowings that actually make sense. And we actually sounded pretty good at our last rehearsal! We're playing 2 masses with the chorus, one by Puccini, and the other an American (whose name I always forget) who simply loves to change time-signatures every other bar. Also, there's a guy who wants to start a string quartet. Fun!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Court Craziness

So, my DWI trial for my deaf-mute client actually occurred yesterday. It was quite strange. First off, I was quite surprised when there appeared four interpreters to interpret the proceedings for him. (Too many cooks in the kitchen, anyone?) One of the interpreters had worked with him at all his prior proceedings, so I was comfortable that she would at least be able to communicate reasonably effectively with him. An additional issue my client has is that in addition to being deaf and mute, he does not read or write English. This is a problem, as a lot of sign-language has to do with spelling words where there is not an "official" sign for them. And obviously court proceedings have a lot of words without signs. (e.g. plead, witness, jury, testimony, etc.)

I knew this was going to be interesting when, before the trial even started, one of the interpreters expressed concern with my client's understanding of the proceedings. She told me she thought I should raise competency. She also expressed concern about interpreting for my guy's wife, who would be a witness, something about divided loyalties to the client. Now first of all, my client is not her client. Her client is the court, for which she is interpreting. (And I hate it when people uninvolved in the proceedings try to tell me how to handle my cases. Especially people who are not lawyers and who have known my client for about 3 minutes.) My second problem with this conversation was that there was no way I had a basis for raising competency, even had I wanted my guy to stay in jail another 6 months waiting for an evaluation. Now, the guy isn't a brain surgeon, but he had previously understood the basic concept of witnesses testifying, jurors making a decision about whether he was guilty or not guilty, and the roles of the prosecutor, the judge, and me. While he didn't necessarily know those terms, he could definitely grasp the concept once explained with terms he did know. He also had no problem assisting in his defense, as he had made it very clear that he was not driving, his wife was, and he was therefore not guilty of DWI. So, rather than taking the time prior to trial actually starting to help me explain to my client how things like picking a jury actually worked, they spent their time arguing with me about what my client did or did not understand and what I should do about it.

So, voir dire started without my being able to speak with my client at all. Then, in the middle of voir dire, it became clear that one of the interpreters could not use signs that my guy understood. So, rather than simply not using that one, the interpreters wanted to stop the proceedings to confer. The judge, of course, would not. So they had their conference after voir dire. I thought at that time that they were probably going to walk out. They were from an advocacy group for the deaf. Normally, in my opinion, a laudable thing. However, they seemed unable to grasp that their jobs as interpreters is to interpret, and not to advocate. That is my job. So rather than a conference to discuss a manner in which they could accurately convey what was occurring to my client, they apparently conferred about how they could yell at me for not getting the judge to dismiss the case. They kept trying to explain about the "bigger picture" and how I was violating my client's right to due process. Now, obviously the judge was not going to dismiss a case because the interpreters are unable to interpret. He might declare a mistrial, resulting in my client being in jail an extra 6 months waiting for retrial, which I don't want to have happen. He might also grant a continuance to allow the interpreters time to figure out how to interpret, again meaning my client is in jail longer.

So, as calmly as I could manage, I explained to them that if they wanted a continuance, they could ask, but I would not. The judge had made it clear to me that the trial was going to proceed, whether there were interpreters or not and whether they were effective or not. And that it was not my job to advocate for the deaf at large, it is my job to advocate for my client in his criminal case. It is also my job to get him out of jail as quickly as possible, and that would only happen if the trial occurred sooner, rather than later. So, no, I would not ask for a continuance, and I would not ask for a mistrial. If they wanted one, they could ask, but they would not do this. Given that, I told them that it would be better for my client if they got their heads together and figured out a way to interpret accurately, rather than how I should be handling the case. I mentioned that my clients due process rights would also be violated if his case kept being delayed due to ineffective interpreters who obviously had some other agenda, and that if they walked out there would be no interpreters, thus violating my client's rights even more.

Apparently, this was not an effective speech, as they actually did walk out after the first witness. They went on a rant to the judge about not having notice that my client is Navajo (which they did, as I had told his original interpreter before he even had his first appearance) and they would be violating their ethical code by interpreting in a way that my client did not understand. The judge threatened to throw them in jail for contempt if they left, and I reminded them that if they did leave, there would then be no interpreters at all, violating my client's rights even more. I almost wish the judge had gone ahead and thrown them in jail. Maybe that would have straightened them out on what their roles are as court interpreters!

In any case, we ended up getting my client's daughter to interpret, rather than having a mistrial and delaying the proceedings even more. She wasn't the greatest, but she did manage to convey enough of what was going on so my client was able to follow reasonably well, and the wife's testimony (who is also deaf) didn't go too badly, either. After all that, they ended up convicting my guy. According to the foreman, it was because my guy went into the drivers' seat to wait for his wife and daughter to get out of the Wal-Mart, rather than the passenger seat. Oh well. It's not like we don't have appealable issues in this one!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No, I Haven't Quit My Job

It just seems so much more interesting to talk about fuzzy puppies, than the doings of the criminal justice system in Podunk, NM. But there are things going on. The first is that my second murder case pled out Wednesday. It was a horrible plea offer, and he would not have gotten a worse sentence if it went to trial. But the idea of the State filing for the death penalty scared him, even though there is only the minutest of possibilities that the DP filing would make it past the judge, never mind the jury and the appellate process. But it was what he wanted, so now he's going to die in prison, in all probability. How many people do you know that can make it to 75 years old in prison? But I don't feel nearly so bad for him as I did for my last murder defendant.

More news is that mental health court is underway. It is as I feared. The judge simply wants to create a program so she can say she's created a program, rather than creating a program that can really help the situation. In other words, her belief is that we should go the easiest possible route and have mental health court as part of probation, so we don't have to actually do any planning or come up with new ideas. She just wants it to be exactly like drug court, and have drug court running it, since that program is already in place. She turned a deaf ear to my suggestion about a diversionary program, and pretty much has ignored me since. There's a new ADA participating who can't even tell the difference between the competency docket and mental health court, knows nothing about mental illness, and spends her time screaming at the rest of us about such things as dress codes and whether the participants in the program should be called "clients" or "defendants." And we still have no services here that can actually help the mentally ill. The service provider we are using has only 2 therapists, no psychologists, and a psychiatrist that comes once a month to write scripts.

I had only one trial since I last posted. It was exceedingly strange, as the state "found" the surveillance video of the incident at about 9 the morning of trial, they had to send someone to get it, which took until about 10. Then we both had to watch it and argue about whether to exclude it, declare a mistrial, or what should go on while the jury was sitting there. No one could ID my client other than that he "strongly resembles" the guy on the tape, and my client went crazy in the middle of trial. (Talking to himself, laughing, etc.) He had previously been found competent, but had obviously decompensated while in jail.

And I have a trial Thursday that involves a deaf-mute that cannot read or write English, who was found parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot and got charged with DWI. We've been trying to have the trial since May, but there are recurrent problems getting an interpreter. I really hope to win this one, as he really didn't do it. His wife had driven to the Wal-Mart and was inside when the cops showed up. She comes out and tries to tell the cops that she was driving, but this is difficult, as she's deaf, too!

Anyway, that's the latest with work. I also am continuing to play my violin. We're thinking of getting together a string quartet! But for now, I am going to go to the grocery store, watch the rest of the football game, and work on my tandem-socks.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Observations on a Puppy

So, never having actually had a puppy before, I'm finding it absolutely amazing just to watch Betsy grow and learn and discover the trials and joys of life. We're discovering each other, which is immensely fun! With help, I've narrowed down the breeds I think she's composed of. Australian shepherd is definitely in the mix, as is Rottweiler. Probably chow, as well. There's almost certainly nothing in there smaller than aussie, as her feet have come close to doubling in size in the three weeks I've had her. I took her to the vet's and she weighs thirteen pounds. Fairly good sized for a 9-week-old puppy, wouldn't you say?

She's also got quite the interesting personality. She's quite shy when being taken to new environments or being exposed to new people and dogs. But she does not run away, whine, bark, or bite when she is shy. She sits and watches. (A rott thing, I believe.) If she sits there long enough, and nothing extremely bad happens, she eventually gets up the courage to investigate things, usually by trying to eat them or play with them. (A puppy thing.) She was extremely good at the vet's. After her initial fear of the building itself, she only wanted to play with the vet. Even after having the shot and her temperature taken! She's also made friends with the dogs next door, all except an extremely ugly chihuahua mix, who tries to attack everything. She loves the labs, and tries to get them to play games with her through the chain-link fence. The younger lab will sometimes oblige, while the older one supervises, and disciplines the younger when he feel things are getting out of hand.
I also gave her a bath last weekend. She didn't care for the whole idea, but once her initial attempts at escape were foiled, she sat and took it. And then compensated by trying to get as dirty as possible immediately thereafter while giving me dirty looks.

She's also displaying distinctly aussie characteristics. She loves to hide her toys, and I have yet to find her cache. I think she's buried them. She herds me, as well as attempting to herd such things as ants, and she herds her toys as well. She collects the toys, and they must be within a certain distance of each other. She believes herself to be a mighty hunter. Her favorite toys are those at least twice as large as herself. There's this pillow that Bo used to sleep on that Betsy loves to pounce upon, shake, and drag about the house. It's at least three times her size. Weren't rotts cattle dogs at some point?
As with all puppies, once she has chased, played with, and chewed on all things she can locate, tried to behead them, and put them in her special spot, it's nap time!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A New Addition

Everyone, meet Betsy!

She's about 6 or 8 weeks old, I think. German Shepherd mixed with at least one other breed. Maybe some rott. After a busy day of riding in a car, going to the pet supply store, and investigating my house, she's now sound asleep on my bathroom floor. How could anyone resist that face?

She was pretty shy at first, but after the initial shock, she started doing regular puppy things like playing with chew toys and stuff. It was impossible to get her to sit still for a picture, but after chasing her around with the camera for a half-hour, I got a couple decent ones. And she likes me, too. She's been following me around since we got here.

I've never had a puppy before, so I hope I do a good job with the training and stuff. She's obviously not potty-trained yet. She's been at the animal shelter her entire life. But I get the general idea, and bought a crate and everything. Bo never was trained to use a crate, so it seemed silly to start when he was 8 years old.

I'll say this, though: There's nothing that can cheer a person up better than a happy, boundy, fat-tummied puppy!