The 5 Most Common Police Attitudes – #4

May 12, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Today, I’m continuing my series on the 5 most common police attitudes which I see case in and case out in the many, many cases I handle as a criminal defense lawyer.  As noted before, these opinions are due to my amateur police psychology.

#4 — Undecided

Police get complaints all day every day about wrongdoing.  They also see things while they are on duty which arouse their suspicion or curiosity.

It goes without saying often times when they approach a particular problem they are undecided about the outcome going into their work.  Normally, the longer a police officer is undecided in their investigation the more objective they will be.

Being undecided about an outcome is an extremely healthy attitude for someone making big decisions about another person’s life.  It causes the officer to investigate in detail and in doing so — to test alternate hypotheses, to review both favorable and unfavorable evidence in a balanced approach, and to understand the weight of their decision.  Obviously at some point an officer is likely to move off the undecided bubble one way or the other with the more information they assess and gather.  What is important is when they are undecided — they are better able to view the evidence neutrally.

I often see police who are extremely conscientious and do their very best to make the important decisions they are charged with making.  An officer should be undecided entering into every investigation undertaken.

But the equation breaks down a bit from here.  Police would have you believe they are undecided when approaching or investigating a case 100% of the time.  My experience is it is more like 20% of the time.

In fairness to police — I usually won’t see cases they don’t file unless I’m brought into the case very early.  The 20% could easily be much higher because I don’t know how many cases are put right in their trash-cans.

What I can say is by my best guestimation of the cases I do see — probably about 80% of the time the officer has a particular preferred outcome going into their investigation of cases they do ultimately file.  This can apply to DWI arrests, sexual assaults, or even white-collar embezzlement schemes.

Police are human too.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.

 


Aggressive Criminal Defense Lawyer

March 6, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

My name is Jeremy Rosenthal.  I eat nails.  I crawl on broken glass.  When I’m not screaming at prosecutors or judges for my clients, I’m having a 30 Lb. medicine ball slammed into my abdomen like Rocky Balboa training to take on the planet.

Not really.

I suspect all lawyers – let alone defense lawyers – are regularly asked by prospective clients if they are “aggressive,” “tough,” or if they are “a fighter?”

Truthfully, I’m not the best person to answer the question.  I’d say go ask some prosecutors how fun I am in trial.  I’ve been at this long enough to be pretty sure I’m not the path of least resistance for them — but again — this is for them to answer.

I’d like to make two points in this blog.  The first is the question itself assumes being aggressive is the right approach in any given case.  Second, is being an aggressive, tough fighter isn’t mutually exclusive with other skills which make an excellent lawyer.

It would be interesting to be asked if I was “thorough,” “meticulous,” and “calculated…”  Just once I’d like to be asked if I was “sensitive,” “encouraging,” and “thoughtful.”  Maybe today someone will try to see if I am “charismatic,” “clever,” and “crafty.”

It takes all these skills — and more — on many cases.  There is a right time to turn up the aggressiveness and toughness.  There is a right time to be calculated,  a right time to be sensitive, and a right time to be charismatic (to the extent I can turn that one on and off).

Ultimately a person needs to choose a lawyer which makes them feel comfortable.

But your lawyer needs to have a complete game.  They need to be a Swiss Army Knife of skills because each case is it’s own snowflake.  There are cases where I’ve made courthouse enemies for decades and there are cases where we need to pay attention to the carpenter’s rule – measure twice and cut once.  Sometimes both are appropriate given the case.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.

 

 


A Small Habit Which Contributes to Convicting the Innocent

October 17, 2017

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

Police agencies have public relations personnel.  Their job is to issue press releases.  Normally the press releases answer relevant questions the public has demand for.

We all want to know about bad crimes which affect our safety or our community.  We need to know if a killer is on the loose or if an elected official is a crook.

But police agencies and their PR people are human.  They are trying to paint the agency, their investigative abilities and their protection of the public in the best light possible.

Look at the DUMB Criminals!

I’m not sure why, but sometimes you get press releases which result in articles like this.  Two people were caught with methamphetamine on a routine traffic stop and one claimed he was wearing pants that weren’t his.  Hardy har har.

I’m assuming this was from a press release.  I don’t know how else a beat reporter would get such specific details from a crime blotter.  Normally this degree of detail would require access to a police report, PR person or press conference.  I don’t blame the reporter for running with it.  They’re just doing their job.

This is what I call a “look at the dumb criminals” release.  I’m not going to lie.  The defense this guy used is amusing.  For about 30 seconds.

Blake Long and his girlfriend aren’t city council members, aren’t celebrities, and aren’t law enforcement officers.  They’re the punchlines and the foil of today’s joke.

What I See in the Article

What I see is two things:  First is a mother and father somewhere with a broken home and with broken hearts because of their adult child’s self-inflicted disease… and second I see readers (jurors) who are being taught to presume anyone sitting at Defendant’s table guilty and not innocent.

The Same System of Justice

The same system of justice is responsible for apprehension and conviction of Blake Long and Michael Morton — wrongly convicted of murder and released after decades of confinement.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this fact.

We like to pretend these two arrests happened in different worlds, on different planets, in different justice systems.  But they didn’t.  They happened in the same one.

So how are they connected?

They display polar opposite concepts in the criminal justice system.  Between the Long arrest and the Morton arrest are tens of thousands of other arrests where guilt and innocence are more blurred.

When we win cases, we don’t typically make a big deal about it in the criminal defense world.  Our clients want anonymity.  They want the thing over.

Do yourself a favor next time you see or hear a “look at the dumb criminals” story and look deeper.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation contact an attorney directly.

 

 


My Main Enemy: Cynicism

November 7, 2016

By Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

Cynicism is defined by Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary as, “believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest,” or people are”selfish and dishonest in a way that shows no concern about treating other people fairly.”

I’m writing about cynicism today because it is the cancer from which our criminal justice system suffers most.  The cynicism I’m writing about today is all too often from law enforcement, probation officers, prosecutors, Judges, and even my own which I battle like everyone else.

When I talk to clients, I describe cynicism as a “headwind” which makes our fight tougher than it might appear.  On a DWI, for example, I tell people everyone in the Courthouse will treat you like an alcoholic even if you had your first drink of alcohol the night you were arrested.

World Views

Everyone has their own world view – especially related to their job.  I understand everything I see and experience through my practice shapes my view of how people are and the world around me.  When dealing with people, it is important to know how their every-day job and life experiences shape their views.

As an example, I remember being a waiter during college and falling into the mental trap of occasionally judging people based on how they tipped.  I knew in the back of my mind then — as I am sure today — the judgments I was making were of only an ever-so-thin slice of my experience with a person.  A big tipper might otherwise be a total jerk.  A bad tipper may be a great mother, father or neighbor who just wasn’t carrying as much cash as they thought they were going to need that day.

I feel lucky to meet with people who need help when they come see me.  So I tend to see people and their families when they are reticent, respectful and often in desperate search of hope and guidance.  My view of “the system” then, is someone charged with a crime is vulnerable and in great need of counsel and support.

But I know not everyone sees it that way.

World Views of Those in the Criminal Justice System

I have to remind myself the people dealing with my clients only get a thin slice of them.  To some police my client might be just the crime they were accused of instead of a person.  To some prosecutors my client might just be another file.  To some judges my client might just be another schmo needing mercy.  Many of these professionals can allow cynicism to get the better of them.  Everything they hear and see can be a lame excuse.

Fighting Cynicism

Fighting the pre-existing views of someone can not only be daunting but sometimes downright impossible.  Think of how impossible it can be to change someone’s political, religious or even sports opinions.  Instead of attacking the cynicism head on (and losing), it’s often the better play to incorporate the strengths of our arguments into what the prosecutor or judge already believes.

An example might be showing a prosecutor who is convinced everyone charged with certain crimes are drug addicts my client is clean and has a plan to stay clean.  This out-flanks the opponent and takes away all the oxygen from their fire.  If they’re still going to be mad at the accused then they could be exposed as being unreasonable to a Judge or Jury.

Sometimes the cynicism we are dealing with is too great.  No matter what I say or do I can’t convince someone “who knows it all” otherwise.  Sometimes we have to fight in court and see what a jury thinks.   Even if the prosecutor and judge don’t get it — a Jury still can.

My Cynicism

Did you catch it?  I have to remind myself that even though others I deal with might disagree with me… or seem to know it all… I have to carefully listen and be mindful of their point of view before I get cynical about their views.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For advice on any situation contact an attorney directly.

 

 


What Does a Jury Do?

December 16, 2014

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

There are two core questions which a trial resolves.  The first question is what is the applicable law given the charges and the second question to be answered is what are the facts we accept as true.  When you put those two together, you have a verdict.

A judge decides what the applicable law is in any case and the jury decides which facts are true.  If the parties “waive” a jury, then a judge can decide both the law and the facts and render a verdict on his/her own.

Let’s take an assault trial for example.  Typically an accuser will testify x, y and z happened to them.  Let’s just say for argument sake they say the defendant pushed them into a wall and hit their face with an open hand.

Perhaps others present during the incident testify as well and maybe a police officer who came later too takes the stand.  Let’s also suppose for our hypothetical the defendant also testifies and admits to the conduct — but says they did so in self defense.  The Judge will monitor the testimony, rule on objections of the parties and allow the jury to hear evidence and testimony lawfully admitted.

When the evidence is complete, the Judge will issue a Jury Charge to the jurors which guides their deliberations.  The charge will contain the applicable law and will request the jury to answer one or more questions based on what they saw and heard in court.

In an assault case like the one described above, the judge would give the jury the legal definition of assault and possibly the definition of self defense — depending on the specific facts Defendant testified about.  The jury charge is typically three or four pages long and in a criminal case only has one question to answer — is the defendant guilty or not guilty.

If the jury finds the defendant guilty, they may also decide the punishment, again based on jury instructions from the judge.  Criminal defendants in Texas have the right to elect a judge or jury assess punishment in the event they are found guilty.

As lawyers we take for granted everyone knows what a jury does but we sometimes forget that unless you went to law school — or have served on a jury — the entire process can be a bit fuzzy.  I hope this helps!