In Part 47 of Inside the Robe, Judge Mader brings to a close her tale of a love-triangle attempted murder trial, continues the story of a recidivist drunk driver and offers an anecdote about three self-represented defendants including one disruptive individual who chooses to disqualify her as the judge presiding on his case.
My Red Mass protest was the action of an elected judge. I do not answer to a governor or political party that appointed me. Elected judges can be more outspoken than appointed judges. My history of activism goes way back, however.
Challenging the status quo too forcefully may turn people off. I keep doing it. Knowing how my Jewish relatives and ancestors meekly submitted to government oppression has made me willing, perhaps too willing, to fight against abuse of authority. Critics may believe that rocking the boat is narcissistic, and they could be right.
The closing arguments in the attempted murder case were more dramatic and energetic than the trial. Each attorney has a PowerPoint presentation, and the defense attorney has a different photo on each slide. One photo is of a man looking into a bedroom and seeing a frightened and surprised couple in bed together. He argued, “My client was out of his mind with jealousy over his ex-girlfriend’s duplicity. She kept telling my client that they could possibly reconcile. My client did not come over to the apartment to kill the new boyfriend. How was he to know the boyfriend was even there?”
The prosecutor also made a strong argument. “There are many reasons to believe the defendant intended to enter the apartment at 1:00 a.m. and kill the new boyfriend. A week earlier, the defendant said that he wanted to kill him. The defendant went straight to the bedroom with the knife. He said, “Die, Motherfucker, die” over and over as he was stabbing the victim.”
Remember the alcoholic financial advisor? He had two more drunk driving arrests during the month of March but waited until two days before he was to return to court for violating his probation to check into an upscale rehabilitation facility. When his attorney showed up on April 18 without the defendant, I said that I would hold a bench warrant until today, and I strongly intended to bucket him (revoke his probation and put him in jail) today. The attorney and the client, dressed in a nice three-piece suit, were in court at 8:30 this morning.
Hospital documents were presented by the attorney verifying that after the defendant’s second DUI arrest in March, he was hospitalized with renal failure and wore a catheter for several weeks. According to the medical records, the defendant suffers from severe anxiety and is suicidal. The attorney said, “My client will do anything to avoid going into custody.”
I turned to the prosecutor. “Did you get the arrest reports from the defendant’s last two arrests? You said you’d do that after the last court appearance.” The prosecutor had not done her homework. I told her, “If I learned the defendant had provable new arrests, I would remand him into custody. Since I don’t know anything, I’m going to wait until the end of the defendant’s 30-day ‘detox’ at his rehab center, order him back, and make a final decision at that time.”
This system breakdown can cause major problems. The first prosecutors, called “filing deputies,” read arrest reports and decide whether cases should be filed and sent down the road for trial. They don’t communicate with the prosecutor in my court. The filing of new misdemeanors is “backed up.” How can I rely on new cases to put someone in custody when I don’t know if they’re solid cases? Jailing a man with serious medical problems including renal failure could kill him. Today is Friday, and I’m not sure they even have a doctor at the jail during weekends. Luckily, the prosecutor stayed off my back when I continued the case; she probably felt guilty about her lack of follow-up.
The jury returned. The defendant was convicted of premeditated attempted murder. The conviction will result in a life imprisonment sentence with the defendant’s first visit before the parole board in fifteen years. Before the trial began, he could have pleaded guilty, with a sentence of twenty-two years, served at 85 percent, but he wanted to gamble on the jury convicting him of a lesser charge, attempted voluntary manslaughter. The gamble never made sense to me.
Three separate defendants, each representing himself, were on this morning’s calendar. They used to be referred to as pro-pers (meaning they represented themselves) but the current politically correct terminology is self-represented litigants. I don’t understand why the term pro-pers has gone out of favor. My staff asked me to make sure I don’t set three self-represented litigants in one day in the future because they take too much time.
One of the pro-pers wasn’t mentally ill but was extremely hostile, loud, and angry. He kept calling me and the prosecutor racists and said that we were railroading him. Over and over he shouted. Finally, I told my court reporter, “Stop taking down what the defendant is saying because he is talking over everyone and repeating himself.” In the middle of one rant, he said, “I don’t want to appear before such a racist judge anymore and I don’t want this prosecutor either.” Magical words! I said, “It sounds like you want to file the form to disqualify me?” My clerk got out the form, he filled it out, and was transferred immediately to another judge in the building.
Some judges will goad pro-pers into disqualifying themselves to oust them from their courtroom. I swear that I wasn’t doing that. But I admit that I was happy to see him gone. Another pro-per will arrive in my court shortly, I’m sure, after disqualifying a different judge.