01 September 2006

At least he's not your lawyer.

Joseph Caramagno, that is.

A Nevada trial judge notices that a criminal defense lawyer representing a defendant facing life imprisonment on a kidnapping charge is slurring his words and orders him to take a breathalyzer test. The lawyer blows a .075 and the judge declares a mistrial[.]

Via the Tax Profs Blog, which has a video clip. The rest of the facts, including multiple instances of apparent lies to the judge on the record as the attorney tries to explain himself, just add insult to injury.

This particular lawyer was a successful criminal defense lawyer with a good track record who appears to have been retained privately in the case. Sadly, this kind of thing happens more often than you would expect, although usually in places like Texas, in cases where counsel is not privately retained, where indigent counsel is often ill paid and ill qualified. Usually, however, the issue is raised by defendants' appellate counsel in habeas corpus proceedings many years after the fact, rather than by the trial judge.

Depending upon the court recorder involved, details like the slurring of words by an attorney might not even make it into the trial transcript that is part of the record on appeal in a case at all, as minor irregularities in speech of often corrected for clarity by court reporters (and everyone else who does transcription -- even ordinary speech is full of irregularities). Yet, appellate judges are ordinarily not allowed to consider matters outside the official record of the trial.

No comments: