Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ghosts of Cases Past

Something that occasionally arises when you are a former or current Assistant District Attorney is the scenario where you are out and about in town and get flagged down by someone who recognizes you. I'm not talking about somebody that recognizes you from the TV or the newspaper, but recognizes you from a case that you worked on that involved them.

When a current or former prosecutor gets the question "Aren't you a D.A.?", one thing flashes through your mind very quickly -- "Does this person love me or hate me?"

Odds are that if you are encountering someone you once prosecuted or one of their family members, you could be dealing with a potentially dangerous situation (depending on the outcome of the case). Luckily, this situation has yet to happen me.

But if you are seeing someone who you had as a victim or a witness on a case, the results can usually be very pleasant, or in some cases pretty funny.

Coming back from lunch today, I was flagged down by a guy that I didn't recognize who asked me "Aren't you a D.A.?"

After running through a couple of names and the facts of the case, I realized he had been the victim on an aggravated assault case that I had used during the punishment phase on a case back in 2001. The defendant on the case had ultimately gotten 60 years.

I told him that I was the prosecutor on his case, and he nodded, very satisfied with his own memory.

"I thought so," he said. "But it's been awhile back, and you've put on some weight."

Um, thanks.

Gotta love the life of a (former) public servant.


Anonymous said...

I had a woman come up to me while I was eating and hugged me. I had no idea who she was. Then I remembered that she was a victim from a few years earlier who was charged in a bunch of JP courts with hot checks. She claimed someone had stolen her purse. She had copies of the checks, maps of where they were used, police reports from a few different agencies - everything. You know the victim I'm talking about with her tattered manilla envelope containing 3 copies of every letter, notice, bank statement, etc mailed to her for whoever was willing to listen to her. This woman had done her homework and I believed her. As I made my way around the JP courts I kept running into her and was dismissing her cases until one memorable day when a judge didn't believe her and I went to bat for her. I guess it made an impression. Out of a whole book of checks, I bet I dismissed more than a dozen in four different courts.

Anonymous said...

It is always heartening to have victims, witnesses and former jurors remember you fondly or even thank you for helping them and being nice to them.

One such recent encounter led to me also being told I've put on a few pounds, or as the country gentleman phrased it, "you look like you could weather a hard winter."


Anonymous said...

Do you not serve the public now?

Still having a hard time making the mental transition, I see.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Nope, 7:16 a.m.,
I'm not a public servant anymore. I do a job that often benefits the public, but when I'm truly doing my job, the only person I'm serving is my client.
Let's look at a theoretical situation where a defense attorney is representing a murderer who is factually guilty. There is the interest of the public versus the interest of the individual. I highly doubt the defendant to have his attorney pleading him out to life, because that would best serve the public, now would it?
I'm still proud of the job I do, but I do it from the private sector now. I'm no longer a public servant any more than a business owner is.
And I'm completely comfortable with that. I did public service for 9.5 years which is a lot longer than a lot of people. I'm proud of that service.
Your argument is over semantics, anyway, and I'm sorry you don't have anything better to do so early in the morning.
By the way, did anyone ever tell you that your writing style sounds a lot like Bubba Joe Six Pack? Maybe he's having some trouble with the mental transition, as well.

Anonymous said...

A little testy this morning, Gooch?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I'm a little testy every morning, Junior.

BLACK INK said...

You're a good man Murray Newman.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 1:37's story reminds me that all ADA's are not out for convictions only. I appreciate him/her for making the effort to see that justice was done, and not blindly believing that the cops got it right.

Anonymous said...

One time, when filling my car at a gas station, a burly biker wearing leather came up to me and asked if I was a prosecutor. Looking nervously back at my kids in the car, I said yes. He said I prosecuted him and sent him to prison (after also originally putting him on probation).

Then he thanked me, saying it was the best thing that ever happened to him. Seems it got him to realize he really did have a drug problem. Decided to stop all that nonsense and stay in the free world.

Jason said...

Funny you should mention it. I was eating at Denny's one morning when the waiter walks up to me and asked if I remembered arresting him for burglary the year before!

Anonymous said...

Oberg just did a story on Murray's last blog:

Good job Ted and Murray. Finally some light being shed on the shennanigans at the office by the media!

Anonymous said...

You're a good man Murray Newman.

I didn't say he wasn't. In fact, I was probably giving him too much credit, based on his response.

No idea who Bubba Joe Six Pack is though.


Anonymous said...

a juror once recognized me, but i guess prosecutors are more memorable.