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Jack Rice - Blog
I appear on MSNBC on Saturday, April 19th with Alex Witt to talk terrorism and law. A tape has recently surfaced involving Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The question is about the threat, their capability and whether the U.S. intelligence community is doing what is necessary to counter that threat.
This should be an interesting conversation. Hope you can watch.
An interesting conversation with Alex Witt. What is going on in Yemen highlights the difficulties faced by the U.S. government around the world. It can be very difficult to figure out who your friends are and who your enemies are. Further, if they make mistakes, and they frequently do, you can easily turn that friend into another person who hates you.
Seriously, one of the stranger trials I have ever experienced. It is a weird thing that I do for a living to begin with. As a criminal defense attorney and trial lawyer, much of what happens is completely unknown until it all begins. In trial, you never really know what is going to happen. This case was certainly no different.
My client is charged with an Felony Assault 2. This charge essentially means that the government thinks that my client attacked somebody with a box cutter. If he goes down, he will go to prison for years. The State also claims that they have a victim and anywhere between 3 and 7 eyewitnesses. We will see. My client says he didn't do it so we simply decide to make the State prove their case. And we want a jury trial.
Here is where it gets weird. Or should I say weirder.
We start by picking a jury. Always 12 people plus an alternate in felony cases. The State gets 3 strikes while I get 5. This means that we look at the jury pool and the State gets to exclude 3 while we get 5. To tell you the truth, what the prosecutor is trying to do is get a jury that will convict while I'm looking for one that lets my client walk. I should add that this is far more art than science. People make decisions for a lot of reasons and trying to get people to be honest about how they make those decisions is sometimes not too easy. In the same way, people will regularly hide who they are for a bunch of reasons. Sometimes, they are trying to impress and sometimes they are trying to hide things. For instance, the racist will never say so just like the person who things the government is always right even when they aren't. Just wild. Like I said, more art than science.
So, we get through jury selection and through opening statements. Of course, the State lays out all of these allegations like they are already proven. However, I learned a long time ago that the State's case is freqeuntly at its best when they write the complaint. Getting all of that information before a jury without massive things happening in the meantime is so commonplace that it is almost laughable.
The State to come out of the shoot with their star witness, their supposed victim. To put it lightly, it was crazy. He identifies my client on the record for the prosecutor but the jury hates him and doubts him. He is arrogant and condescending. I don't like him either so when it is my turn, I tear into this guy with a gusto. Eventually, the witness just blows apart under my cross. He starts to get more and more angry to the point that it feels like he is going to jump out of the box and come at me, the prosecutor or anybody else in range. Finally, he starts yelling at me that he never saw my guy. He has no idea what happened and who attacked him. He actually flips his testimony on the stand. I have to take a double take to make sure I hear what I think I hear. So does the State. The State tries to fix their witness during redirect but to no avail.
Then, strangely, the State doesn't seem to have any of those other witnesses. All seem to have disappeared. Interesting. So, as a result, they have absolutely no positive identification of my client. The State has nobody to stand up and point at my guy and say, "Yup, that was him." Nobody. And the State knows it.
To the prosecutor's credit, rather than continue forward with this train wreck of a case, we approach the Judge and the prosecutor dismisses the case outright. There is nothing he can do. The case is over.
My client looks at me and smiles. I shake his hand and he walks out of the courtroom. I sit back down at the counsel table and look down at the table. I'm shocked but maybe not totally surprised. Trials are strange and you have to do a lot of them before you realize that relaxing and letting them play out is sometimes the only thing that you can do.
So, I pack up my case, walk out the door and know that I will take this experience with me the next time that I am in this very same place.
I'm thrilled to be filling in for Mike Malloy on his nationally syndicated talk show on April 7th and 8th. This will be a lot of fun for me and I haven't been doing that much of this for some time. After leaving Washington DC, I have continued to do my own show on AM 950 in Minneapolis but not an open phone politically driven show like this one. Instead, I primarily am a criminal defense attorney. Takes me back to my time doing my own nationally syndicated show on Air America in Washington DC. I suspect that most of his listeners have never heard of me so this should be as much of an introduction as anything else.
Gonna be fun. Click her for links to listen.
It just about broke me. Back to Back to Back trials. It certainly wasn't my idea. Rather, these were old cases that had been sitting around for a year and I was simply appointed and told that these were going to happen, one two three. I laughed at first, thinking how ridiculous that was. After that, I started thinking about these three cases as the three people they were and stopped laughing.
Thinking about that them as people and not as cases actually has an upside and a downside. If they are people, you care. You empathize. You want what is best for them. But it isn't really that simple. The decisions they make throughout the case and ultimately whether or not they should go to trial are not mine to make. Those decisions are entirely theirs. Regardless of whether those decisions might be the smartest or most idiotic on the planet. So, seeing them people is harder. However, seeing them as people is the only way to connect with them and also to help a jury connect with them as well. And a connection is critical. After all, we are claim that a presumption of innocence is supposed to exist but we also know that people generally don't give a damn. They don't care and won't care unless you give them a reason. And at a baseline human level is always the best place to start so that is how these trials all began.
One interesting struggle as I started these trials was pacing. I knew that if I expended all of my energy during the first trial, I would have nothing left in the tank, so to speak. Normally, I use up everything during a trial and have nothing left but don't need it. Under these circumstances, it wasn't really an option. I had to have enough, more. And yet, I also thought about each person individually and knew that each deserved everything that I had to fight for them.
I sit at the conference table in front of the jury as the prosecutor does his closing argument. He is very smart and very capable. He's also a lot younger. (When the hell did that happen?) He runs through all of the evidence that has been presented and, of course, tweaks and twists it to support his claim that my client committed the crime. I understand that he is doing his job.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice my client listening. I look down at his hands as they grip the table. His knuckles are white. And yet, I see the sadness around his eyes. He seems slightly defeated, like he has given up. As I look closer, I can also see something else, hope. He looks at me.
I turn back to the prosecutor as he is finishing up. He points directly at my client and tells the jury to find him guilty. He then sits. The Judge looks at me.
I stand . . . And I'm here again. It's funny and confusing how this little scenario has played out so many times. Nobody outside of the courtroom probably even cares what is going on in here. In fact, I know that I have had many cases before this and will have many after this. This is also true for the prosecutor and for the Judge. Actually, the only person who really, truly cares about at the deepest most profound level is my client. He is the only one who will be called a criminal if the jury decides, well, wrong.
So, I hit them between the eyes with the most glaring problem the prosecutor has with his case. I roll around in this facts, imagining whether I would forget crucial details that allegedly took place. I notice one of the jurors in the back looking straight into my eyes and noddingly along with me, slightly. And then two. And then . . .
When this happens, I know to shut my mouth quickly. Don't screw it up. Ridiculous. Maybe, but it's the truth.
The jury is out for an hour and we finally get the call. We sit and wait for the answer and it comes back . . . Not Guilty! We breath out and I see my client start to relax. He asks me to come into the hall. I follow him out and he throws his arms around me. Wild.
It is a strange thing that I do for a living. So inconsequential on one side and so incredibly important on the other. Just wild.
I appear on MSNBC on Saturday, September 28th with Alex Witt to talk terrorism and law. In the aftermath of the attack in Kenya, what is the future of terrorism in the region and is it possible that these attacks could expand, even in the United States. Considering the large Somali population in Minnesota, does this change the calculus at all? This should be an interesting conversation.
I hope you can watch.
I appear on Al Jazeera America on September 26 at 10:00 p.m. to talk about Al Qaida and Syria. The West is struggling to determine how to support opposition groups while at the same time being hesitant to do so because they might be Al Qaida. As a result, some in Syria see the opposition as unable to acquire support to fight Assad. So, what is the West to do? What are opposition groups to do? What do the Americans do?
I appear on MSNBC's Ed Schultz Show on Friday September 20th to talk media and law. I will appear on the program as part of a panel of guests to get my take on a whoe series opf issues. It is always interesting and you never know where the conversation will go. I have been lucky enought to have been doing this for years and it still shocks me sometimes.
Hope you can watch.
I appear on the Carl Wolfson Show on Tuesday, September 10th at 10:45 a.m. e.t. With President Obama talking to the United Nations about the growing crisis in Syria, exactly what are the political and legal ramifications of going in? I will have a long conversation with Carl, one of the smartest guys in radio, about this topic and more.
Hope you can listen.
I appear on The Joe Madison Show on Monday, September 9th at 8:40 a.m. e.t. With President Obama continuing to try to convince the U.S. to strike Syria, whyy is it the lefties aren't buying it? The right frequently rejects the President because he is of the opposing party but what about the left? I'm looking forward to this converasations for a lot of reasons but also because I'm a big fan of Joe's. We traveled to Euope and Africa together years ago!
Hope you can listen.
I appear on Fox 9 today at 9:30 p.m. to talk Syria. President Obama is trying to convince Congress to support an attack on Syria. With more than 1400 dead from an apparent chemical attack, he claimed that this was a bright line. Well, is it? It is a real question and difficult for Americans because of more than a decade of war.
Hope you can watch.
Click HERE to check out the interview.