Silicon Valley De-Bug Presents
ON THE COVER: Rebecca Rivera sits with a picture of her son Josh. Josh was facing a life sentence due to an overly punative sentencing scheme. But through Rebecca and her supporting community’s efforts, the life sentence was taken off the table, and Josh will be able to come home to his family. The Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project (ACJP) — comprised of a network of families, organizers, advocates and lawyers — is a community organizing model aimed at equipping impacted communities with the tools and information needed to meaningfully impact their local criminal justice system. The principal means of accomplishing this goal is by bringing a community organizing ethic to the court process; encouraging the active engagement of families and communities in the defense of a loved one who has had contact with the criminal justice system; holding the public agencies that make up the criminal justice system accountable; and bringing a community presence to what is usually an isolating court process. The ACJP is program of Silicon Valley De-Bug.
Based in San Jose, CA, Silicon Valley De-Bug is a grassroots non-profit enterprise that produces community-based media projects, initiates community organizing campaigns, and incubates entrepreneurial projects launched by its own membership. De-Bug’s multi-media platforms produce a bi-lingual magazine, a weekly radio show, a weekly television show, and assists in developing media infrastructure for other community organizations. De-Bug is a part of New America Media, a national network of ethnic news outlets. De-Bug is also the host organization for the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project.
This publication has been made possible with the support of the Soros Justice Fellowship.
INSIDE Introduction..............................................................................................................1 How Family and Community Involvement Influences Every Player In the Courtroom....................................................5 Six Actionable Steps a Family and Community Can Take to Impact a Case..................................................................................7 E-Mail Tips............................................................................................................... 10 Feature Stories Ramon: Falsely Arrested for Murder, Proved Innocent By Family.. 11 Jeysson: Stopping Deportations Before They Start............................ 16 Martha: Tales Of A Tasing.............................................................................. 20 Rosie: Light At The End Of A 17-Year Tunnel......................................... 23 Blanca: The Police Took Him From School; We Freed Him From The Hall............................................................................................... 27 Julio: HipHop Is Not A Crime....................................................................... 31 Carnell: Photos Of Freedom........................................................................ 35 Gail: Standing Up To A Racist Court.......................................................... 38 Setting Up the Infrastructure For Your Organization To Impact Cases . ..................................................................................................... 42 Steps of a Felony Case........................................................................................ 43 Points of Intervention......................................................................................... 44 Contact Information............................................................................................ 47
Recently, a member of our group – a mother whose teenage daughter was facing criminal charges for the first time in her life – was called a “court warrior” by the attorney representing her daughter. The mother had reviewed all the paperwork available to her, identified inconsistencies in the allegations made against her daughter, gathered witness statements, enlisted the support of community groups she was a part of, and refused to accept any punishment for her daughter without being able to challenge the charges against her. The turn of phrase was not intended as a term of encouragement, but rather was part of a sobering message from the attorney that the mother and daughter should just take the offer in front of them, instead of continuing to challenge the allegations. The implied message was that a mother with no legal training, or license to practice law, should leave the courtroom to the professionals. But mother, daughter, and their supporting community who believed in the young girl’s innocence took the description as the highest of praise. She smiled when recounting the story. They used the expression as fuel to embolden them to remain even more committed in their pursuit for justice. Within days, the attorney had a follow-up meeting with the family, and the attorney told the mother that after hearing from various probation officers and prosecutors regarding the case, she did not think the charges against the young girl would continue, in part due to all the community attention the case had drawn. At De-Bug’s Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project (ACJP), we like that term “court warrior.” We know families that would proudly wear the term as a badge of honor, and have their loved ones home, instead of being incarcerated, as a result of them taking on that persona. Indeed, every family and community who has a loved one facing charges are potential court warriors that can change the fate of a case. One need not be a lawyer to assist in the defense of a loved one, and in fact, it is the family and community that may end up being the determining factor in shifting the outcome of a case. In the time we have been doing this work, we have seen how an intentional, well-organized community input strategy can free a man from a false murder charge, allow a family to beat a deportation order, stop a juvenile from receiving a felony strike, release a woman from a life term in a mental state hospital after 17 years, many other victories. All these remarkable stories started the same way as the mother who was called a “court warrior” – families and communities having the audacity to want to do more than wait for the criminal justice system to take a loved one away from them. In some ways, this guide is as much testimonial as it is a sharing of a 1
One need not be a lawyer to assist in the defense of a loved one, and in fact, it is the family and community that may end up being the determining factor in shifting the outcome of a case. The remarkable stories shared in this guide prove that truth.
practice. In the following pages, you will read the stories of some of these cases, but more importantly, also see specific action steps the community took in particular points of the case. You will read powerful summaries written from a parent who beat charges against her child, and of an extraordinary win when a mother, battletested through a case of her own family, came to the assistance of another family. You will also read from those who were facing charges, and are home now due to their resolve and their family’s involvement. Some of those writings started while they were detained, and were finished when they were released. The point though is not to hold these stories up as unique wins, but rather to say such accomplishments can be achieved by any community or family who asserts their inherent power. And despite whatever particular realities define the specific makeups of various counties and states, the common denominator that families and communities face regardless of location is the staggering failures of the criminal justice system nationwide. The backdrop to these stories is that despite the popular perception of the criminal court process, very few people accused of a crime actually get their “day in court.” In fact, nationwide,
less than five percent of all felony cases, for example, ever reach the trial stage. Consequently, one of the most fundamental rights afforded to the accused – to have a public hearing – is circumvented on a daily basis. In counties across the country, it is clear that one primary cause of ballooning incarceration rates can be found at resolution stages well before a trial, where the truth of the matter may be sidelined in the interest of expediency. The majority of cases are resolved through a legal device called a “plea bargain” – an agreement between the prosecutor and the accused in which the individual pleads guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence or a reduced charge. Certainly, some of the cases that are resolved through a plea bargain involve an authentic and complete decision-making process. But oftentimes, defendants who “choose” to take a plea, often are making no choice at all based on their feelings of innocence or guilt, or a fully informed assessment of the case against them, or appropriateness of the given sentence. Rather, they are being forced into the decision based on a sense of being overwhelmed and alone. Couple that sense of isolation with the common 2
practice of being over-charged by prosecutors and the odds stack quickly against a fair and balanced deliberation by the person facing the charges. And in all statistical probability, family members are going to be represented by a court-appointed attorney – a public defender or a private attorney who is contracted with the county or state. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics data collection on indigent defense systems, publicly financed counsel represented over 80% of felony defendants in the 75 most populous counties. These attornies, while often more trial experienced, and having access to county resources for important tools such as investigators and motions experts, often have an excessive caseload, and are juggling numerous cases at the same time. With this web of systemic pressures, individuals plead guilty early and often to charges they would have fought if the context of the decision was not so coercive. And while the fallout on communities of having fathers, sons, mothers and daughters incarcerated is immeasurable -- those left in the wake of a biased criminal justice system are the very people who can change it. Indeed, it is these same families and communities targeted by the system who can organize to transform what is fundamentally flawed. The irony of the isolation of the criminal justice system is that the individuals facing incarceration have families, and are valued members of larger communities – neighborhoods, community centers, unions, faith-based institutions – that are all invested in their success and freedom. Communities often say “we are all doing the time” after a sentence has been doled out on a loved one. But the impression of direct impact and participation need not only by after the fact, and rather can be used to stop the incarceration in the first place. The organizing and support systems are already in place, and need only to be activated. These community hubs that families and individuals are already a part of, the places they go to when in a time of crisis, are the very institutions that can be the most effective agents of change. Most hubs would participate in a case if they knew they could, and if they knew how. Unfortunately, the courtroom is perceived as a space only for lawyers, and caring communities sometimes relinquish power at the most critical time – when the case of a loved one enters the court system. Consequently, those who may call for justice for a friend or family member are regulated to being passive observers as the machinery of the court system hand-delivers a loved one into the prison or jail system. Yet what if family and community played an active role in supporting an individual facing charges? What would happen if a community organizing ethic – the basic premise that we are stronger together than we are alone
– penetrated the court process? What if the same know how that has allowed communities to significantly and measurably improve workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, were applied to the courts? In short, the introduction of a new player into the courtroom – the community – would dramatically change the landscape of power in the criminal justice system. Individuals who are charged with a crime would no longer be alone in the court system, but rather part of a large supportive team that can effectuate a more fair process. The Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, housed at Silicon Valley De-Bug, is an example of what is possible. As any community organization across the country, we felt compelled to protect our members from the dangers they faced. It is arguably the most important of barometers for a grassroots organization – how it responds to the needs of its members. As an organization that was made up of youth and families of color, that meant we had to find ways to matter when our members would face criminal charges. We had no experience, but were duty-bound to learn and act. And as community organizing has always done when faced with problems they must overcome, our group simply drew upon the natural ingenuity of the community and developed a road map. A weekly meeting that began with just a few families is now called the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project – comprised of dozens of families, being housed at multiple locations. It is named after one of our pioneering members, Albert Cobarrubias, who defined justice and integrity for us, and unfortunately lost his life in 2010. We named the project after him, so he can continue on with us, and so his named is called upon with every step we take for justice, and every victory the commuinty earns. The ACJP is volunteer-driven, led by families who initially came for their own cases and are now assisting other families based on their own experiences with the system, and illustrates how a community hub can definitively effect the tragectory of a case. And the specific case wins expose policy changes that can impact a broader number of people. At ACJP, we now have policy reform aims in our local criminal justice system that we never would have known about had we not been informed by our experiences in the courtroom. And since this work is a result of the families who are interacting with the system themselves, we have the collective power to enact those policy reforms. The ACJP is based on the culture and values of De-Bug, but we know even more inventive and effective models will spring up that we can learn from as other organizations give themselves the license to act in the criminal justice system as we have. We are sharing our model, stories, and lessons learned in hopes of initiating that conversation. t 4
How Family and Community Involvement Impacts Every Player in the Courtroom Here is what we know after working numerous cases, from misdemeanors to serious felonies – family and community involvement can dramatically change the outcome of the case of a loved one. In the following chapters, you will read stories exampling that truth, and see what these community members did to support themselves or the person they cared about who were facing charges. By just the very basic level of involvement, family and community participation in the defense of an individual changes the odds, and the very environment of the criminal court proceedings – impacting every person involved, from the person charged to the presiding judge. For the individual facing charges: The support makes it so they don’t feel isolated, thus they are able to make decisions around their case, such as to take a plea or not, without the coercive impact of feeling alone. Particularly if the defendant is detained, knowing that there is a team of people who are supporting them can provide the strength they need to continue to stay vigilant in a pressure-filled atmosphere. As Jeysson, who was incarcerated, and ultimately facing deportation if found guilty, said, “I knew I could continue to fight because I knew I had people on the outside that were fighting for me.” Though facing some initial recommendations from his defense attorney to take a plea, Jeysson took his case to trial and won. For the Family//Community Group: Family and community groups can bear witness to their own power to change the fate of a loved one. They can be the main vehicles that show the rest of the involved parties of the court system that the person facing charges is more than a case file. They can also be important sources of information for the defense strategy, and can assist in holding defense counsel accountable to their client if necessary. Mitri Hanania, an attorney contracted with the San Mateo County Private Defender’s Office, says it’s vital to have both family and community support. He says, “The saddest thing is when you walk into a courtroom with a client and there is no family support, and it sends a message. That’s why it makes such a huge impact to have community involvement in a case, because the courts are sensitive to the fact that the community is watching, and it adds to the credibility of the client.”
For the defense attorney: They get the support of those who care about their client, who can let the attorney know about the person, how they are important to others, and are more than simply the charges against them. Personalizing the case can motivate the attorney, and in practical terms, family and communities can be a well of knowledge and information the attorney can draw from when developing a defense. If need be, the community can also be an important
voice to hold the attorney accountable, or making sure they are communicating well with their client. Paula Canny, an attorney who defended one of De-Bug’s family members, says, “The service De-Bug provides, like finding me a gang expert and getting transcripts from other cases, levels the playing field with government prosecutors who have so many more resources.” For the prosecuting attorney: The prosecuting attorney knows that they are not only attempting to convict a singular person when filing against a defendant, but that he or she is taking on an entire community. This can change the perception of the defendant, as well as signaling to the prosecutor that the community will be watch-dogging their actions.
“When courts, DA, jurors see family there, or lack of family, there is a psyche that follows. Family involvement makes an impression upon a court. It says your ruling is not just impacting the person in the box, but that it’s affecting a whole family, and it says that your client is being supported, and will ensure that they succeed.” – Mitri Hanania, San Mateo County Private Defender Attorney
For the Judge and Jury: They will know that the defendant is part of a community that is invested in their success, and is committed to their well-being. This changes the depiction of the defendant, and lets those who are deciding the fate of a defendant know that the person whose future they are deciding is supported by a caring community. The impact of community support on a judge was made most noticeable in the case of Joshua Herrera, whose mother came to us after conviction and before sentencing. He was 24 years old, had no prior criminal history, but was convicted of a felony with gang enhancements. Gang enhancement charges dramatically increase sentences, so he ended up facing a life sentence. After his mother and the community packed every court appearance, gathered hundreds of letters of support for Josh, the presiding judge did something very rare and took the gang enhancement – thus the life term – off the table. When reading off his sentence, Judge Bocanegra stated his decision was in part due to the community support, the letters he received, which confirmed to him that Josh would be returning to a supportive environment. As a public defender told us during one of our very first cases, “It is important to let the jury know he is not some guy who sits alone in a cave, but is a loving father, an involved community member, and is just like them.”
The following steps le Steps ty b a n are common practico i t c SIX A mmuni o C es used by the famid n a e y s a C a t a Famil c lies in the stories a p to Im listed in this guide. While there Can Take are certainly many more, and case-specific approaches, the steps below are general ones families and communities can take to intervene in a case.
Step One: Document the Incident If charged with a crime, it is important for you to document the incident that the alleged crime is tied to as soon as possible. Court processes are often slow and labored, and by the time you may end needing to share your recollection of an incident, a significant amount of time may have passed, and important details may have been forgotten. By capturing your full and complete statement of the incident – through writing it or doing a video recording – you are giving the defense of your case a head start. Sign and date the statement, write “Attorney-Client Privilege” on it, and give it to your attorney in a sealed envelope. Step Two: Have a consistent time to check in on the status of the case Court cases can be battles of endurance. Having a regular and consistent check-in time (say weekly) when the person facing charges and his/her supporters can meet to get updates on the progress of the case and think through next steps is crucial. Each meeting can be broken down along these two simple, yet vital, conversations – Updates: This could be talking through the last court date, the last correspondence or conversation with the attorney, and following up on the previous week’s to do list. Next Steps: This list should be the specific activities that the person facing charges and their supporters can do. Upcoming court dates should be identified, and any actions that can be done in preparation to the next important stage – whether that be a meeting with the attorney, or reviewing material. Typical To Do’s can be sending emails to the attorney around specific questions, or making sure every relevant document to the case is obtained and reviewed, such as a police report. It also might be gathering important information to present to the attorney at the next meeting. Notes should be taken so the group can ensure that they are clear of the directions of activities, and the communication history of the case can be memorialized.
Step Three: Contact your attorney as soon as possible The defense attorney is the advocate that all information, effort, and attention must flow through. It is vital that the person facing charges, and their
supporters, contact the attorney as soon as possible to set up a meeting time, and ask the relevant questions. Timing is important for a number of reasons. One, court appointed defense attorneys often have a huge number of cases they are working on, and it is important to put a face to a case file, and to make sure the attorney knows how important this case is to so many people. Secondly, without any other information, all the defense attorney knows about a client is their charges and the description of the alleged offense by the police. Reaching out early gives the attorney a first impression that can go beyond the charges. Thirdly, the person facing the charges or their supporters may have key, time-sensitive information that can greatly impact the future of the case â€“ things such as witness lists, alibis, recollections of the incident, or injuries that need to be documented. Lastly, it is important to meet with the attorney as soon as possible so the person accused has clarity as to what they are facing, and is given instructions on how best to conduct themselves inside and outside of the courtroom, such as what to do if contacted again by law enforcement. Note: Most people charged with a crime will be assigned a court appointed attorney if they do not retain a private attorney. If you think you qualify for a court appointed attorney due to finances, a way to expedite the process is to contact the felony or misdemeanor department supervisor (based on your charges) and let them know you will likely be a client of their office, and are anxious to meet with the assigned attorney. This also has the advantage of bringing the attention of supervisor of the department to your case. Note: All communication should be done through email when possible, rather than over the phone. This helps so there is a record of your communications, thus limiting miscommunications. Legal language is oftentimes confusing, so having your attorney respond to you over email allows you to better understand what is being said. Also, attorneys are often in court and very short in time, so e-mails allow them to give full attention to your questions and concerns at the times most convenient for them. If you do have a phone conversation with the attorney, just restate the exchange in an email to make sure both parties understood correctly what was agreed to. You can ask at the end, â€œIf this was not an accurate recollection of what we discussed, or if there was something left out, please do inform me in an email response.â€? Emails also allow you to keep track of the chronology of the conversations, and if need be, can be documentation to show a supervisor, or to be submitted as a motion to the court, evidencing a problem with the relationship with the attorney. Step FOUR: Build a social biography of the individual facing charges It is important that the defense counsel understand who their client is, and why it is vital that they advocate for them. A simple tool -- which may play a role later in lowering bail, helping move a prosecutor to dismiss a case, or to mitigate a sentence -- is to create a social
biography packet. This is a packet of information, photos, certificates, showing all the contributions and reasons why the person you are advocating for is an asset to their family and community. Step FIVE: Involve the supervisors if the relationship with the assigned attorney is not working to your satisfaction Court appointed attorneys, such as lawyers from the Public Defender’s Office, are publicly accountable. They are paid for by public dollars, and thus have a responsibility to be responsive to their employers – the people of their county or state. Line attorneys, meaning the ones who represent clients in the courtroom, have supervisors, and ultimately, there is one director of the office. Even if they are a private attorney on contract with the county or state, there is an assigning manager. If your community is not getting adequate responses, or if you have some concerns with the attorney representing your loved one, it is important that you notify and involve their superiors. That may be the supervisor of their respective department (examples: juvenile unit, misdemeanor unit, felony unit) and/or the head of the office. The quality of the defense of the line attorney can improve when they know their supervisors are monitoring, or involved, in the case. Also, even independent of a particular case, meeting with the Public Defender’s Office (or the respective indigent services agency) can be an important precursor to working on cases. Having that office know who you are, and your intentions, can preemptively resolve issues with defense counsel before a case has started. When their office starts to receive emails coming from your organization, they will already know the context, and they may alert the line attorneys that they should be working with your organization. Step SIX: Stay on it until your community gets to the place you are trying to get to While speed is important to ensure all steps are taken early by a community to support an individual facing charges, in the criminal justice system, so is staying power. The amount of time a court case can take – the number of court dates and the distance between them – can be so taxing, individuals may feel pressure to resolve a case early. By staying committed to the long run, victories can come about that otherwise would not have, had the case ended early. Even after jury trials, appeals are possible, can be aided tremendously with community support, and can yield the successes families have long waited for. 9
As stated in the action steps, e-mail corresponE-MAIL TIps dence is the best way to initiate a relationship with an attorney. Below is a sample e-mail of a situation that frequently comes up. A person knows they are charged, they have an attorney, but has not communicated with him or her so has no idea as to the scope of the charges or the plan of action for the defense. The email below was drafted by a young man with the aid of another ACJP mother who went through a similar process with her son.
From: Marcos DeBug fender To: Assigned Public De : 9.22.80) OB (D Subject: Your Client To Mr. Attorney,
, which is very ncerned with my case th, and I have co am I e us ca be u Hello, I am writing yo court date on April 27 ted a number I have an upcoming ow kn u yo se. I have lis As . us rio se you to discuss my ca th wi t ee m tion for you to ce an ace under each ques not had the ch sp t lef ve ha I u. yo r ve fo before the next of questions that I ha uld also like to meet with you at a date wo I eparing a background to provide answers. ore detail. I am also pr m in se ca y m ss cu court date to dis nse of who I am. you have a better se packet on myself so TIPS e • Write “Your Client,” and identifying information like name, 1) What exactly are th and case number, or date of birth in the subject line. charges I am facing, g • If urgent, like you have court late that week, indicate so in the cin en nt what is the se e subject line. th is t ha W ? they carry n- • If this is a second email, because you did not get a response se ble ssi po um im max in a timely manner the first time, indicate that as well in the ed ict nv tence if I was co subject line, using such language as: “Second Request”. ? es on all charg • After the first email, if there has not been a response, cc (carbon copy) the supervisor. 2) What is the status • You can also cc the supervisor if the communication is not as productive as you would have liked. of my case? Will I be • In the body of the e-mail, give each question a number and asked to plea at the space for response for each one. This allows for the specificity next court hearing? in reply that you may need to have a clear undertanding of the case. 3) What is the pur• Be timely with your emails (meaning don’t wait until the day t ur co xt ne pose of my before court to send an email.) )? th 27 il pr date (A • Keep the communications going on the same e-mail string, so the previous correspondence is included. on ati 4) What investig y has been done for m If so, ned an investigator? sig as u yo ve case? Ha what is their name? time available When is the earliest . et ck pa r ve co dis y of m 5) I would like a copy ? py co a t ge to for me go over my case? t for you to meet to ien en nv co is e tim d 6) What day an h, Thank you very muc g Bu De s rco Ma
Falsely Arrested for Murder: How a Family Proved the Innocence, and Won the Release of, a Young Father Facing Life
Ramon, a 28-year-old father of two, was falsely arrested for a gang-related murder. Ramon had no criminal history, was not at the scene of the crime, and was picked up based on the detective’s matching description of an “average Hispanic male” with a tattoo on his neck. Ramon was picked up at gunpoint at his work. Ramon was completely innocent of these charges. Although initially having a public defender he felt confident with, the attorney got replaced, and Ramon ended up with an attorney that he felt unsatisfied with. While facing a life sentence for a crime he did not commit, at one point the attorney told him he should take a plea. Ramon’s family came to De-Bug’s ACJP once Ramon was detained. The family, with the community support, immediately took the first steps to get an assessment of the attorney’s investment of time and effort into the case. They sent emails to the attorney asking what investigation had been done so far on Ramon’s behalf, what witnesses had been interviewed, what review had been done in the discovery (the evidence used in the case) and asked what his general defense strategy was going to be. They also emphasized the knowledge the family already had of the case – details of how Ramon was picked up, what happened when police confiscated items from the home, and information and proof of Ramon’s distance from the scene at the time of the incident. Eventually the repeated emails forced a series of meetings with the attorney. Timelines were set for the attorney to take certain steps, ones that could be identified, and inquired about if passing without the expected work product. The family received a copy of the discovery of the case against Ramon. On a weekly basis, the family and supporting community members spent hours meeting and scouring over the materials – comparing notes and observations. The group found contradictory statements by police and witnesses, glaring holes in the investigation, and identified how the evidence actually pointed to Ramon’s innocence, rather than guilt. The group then processed that material into a list of “Ten Evidence Based Reasons That Prove Ramon’s Innocence.” The list also came with a request from Ramon and the family – to conduct a polygraph. Though generally not admissible in court, a passed polygraph can be used when the defense attorney is in discussion with the prosecutor. The attorney followed the family’s wishes and ordered the polygraph. Ramon passed the polygraph – twice. The lawyer then met with the prosecutor, presented his material (which included the findings of the family and community) plus the two passed polygraphs. After six months of detainment, the prosecutor then asked the judge to release Ramon, and dropped the charges, “due to insufficiency of the evidence.” t termined mily were still de for a fa s hi d an on est ased, Ram rney file a requ ce that After being rele He had his atto vi e. de l nc ga ce le no d in te s rarely gran to prove hi a ate e,” nc ce at no in of affirm ively st e “factual finding ’s name and record, and can th d te on on was gran can clear a pers was innocent all along. Ram e case said it al th that an individu d the attorney who presented had won. at an th e, e nc on part of of innoce factual finding in 25 years that he had been a e ed, and had was the first tim n he was arrest b back, he w er iv dr y er a deliv m his jo from his job as is efforts got hi Ramon was fired agement to get his job back. H Ramon is currently pursuing ren. an ful arrest. 12 to fight with m full time and raising his child tment for wrong ng ar ki ep or D w e lic Po se and he is Jo n ainst the Sa a civil lawsuit ag
The Day I Was Released By Ramon The following is an excerpt of a larger piece by Ramon recounting his experience of being wrongfully arrested. This segment is about the day he found out that charges were being dropped, and he was being released. The rest of Ramon’s article can be found in the online version of De-Bug Magazine, Issue #21, online at: http://issuu. com/svdebug/docs/dbeng21 It was a Tuesday morning about eleven am. I was laying on my bunker style bed cold as always thinking about the days to come. I was in a daze deep in thought when all of a sudden the Correctional Officer came to my cell door and unlocked it. “Ramon, get up and get ready. You have court!” I told him it couldn’t be me; I had court yesterday and I have court on Thursday. He looked at me like I was stupid and said, “I don’t know. They just called for you so let’s go.” I was led through the hallway to the elevator then to a waiting holding cell. I was placed with some other guys that were going to court as well. We were all talking and I was asked, “What do you have today”? I replied, “I don’t know, I’m not supposed to have court until Thursday.” Then some scruffy man in the back said, “It’s bad news, it’s more charges!” After I heard that, my heart just stopped. Then the Sheriff came to the holding cell and called out, “Ramon, let’s go!” I was placed inside another elevator then guided to another holding cell by myself. As I sat there, I was shaking and my mind was racing. My attorney walked in this room that connects to my holding cell: he’s on one side and I’m on the other side of the graffiti marked window. He takes one look at me and said, “Don’t look so sad. Didn’t I tell you I would take care of you?” Then he just walked out. At that time the Sheriff, an older lady, unlocked my cell door and took me inside the courtroom. When I walked in the courtroom I look to the right and I saw my friends and family, some crying, some smiling. The judged came in as we all stood up, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up as well. The District Attorney read off all the charges against me, and finished with, “We the people drop all the charges due to lack of evidence.” As I heard that I dropped my head down with relief and finally let my guard down for the first time in five long months. The nightmare was over. I started crying and looked directly at the judge and he gave me a smile. As I was being removed from my seat, I looked at the D.A. and said “Thank you Mr. Boyd.” He just said, “Yah, I bet.” I was then led to my holding cell and the Sheriff said, “You can smile now, you’re going home.” That’s when it really hit me. I fell to my knees in tears and thanked God for this miracle. I was led back to my floor and eventually my cell. The night, the time when I would be released. could not come any slower. When I was finally released at about three in the morning, the first person I saw was my brother. He walked up and gave me the tightest bear hug I’ve ever felt. I was eager to see my fiancé, and the woman who fought so hard for my innocence. She jumped out of the car and gave me a loving hug that was from her heart. That’s when I knew my freedom was real, and I looked up at the jail in disgust. To watch the video on Ramon entitled, “Wrongfully Charged — San Jose Man Who Once Faced Life Sentence Now Free,” go to www.acjusticeproject.com 13
SAMPLE EMAIL: This email was written by Ramon’s family and De-Bug members to Ramon’s attorney sharing with him their reasons of why the charges against Ramon should be dismissed. To: Mr. Steve Avila From: Ramon’s family Re: Supporting your letter for dismissal//bail reduction Hello Mr. Avila, We are very pleased with your plan to request a dismissal on behalf of Ramon by his next court appearance on July 24, 2008. After having looked at the discovery material ourselves, as well as the results of your investigation, we feel the request is certainly warranted and timely. Here are some thoughts we have that we feel may assist you in your advocacy to prove Ramon’s innocence and to support your letter for dismissal. While we are likely seeing the same major points that have already brought you to the decision to make the dismissal request, we thought we would list our observations for you to use at your discretion. We are fully confident in your ability to make the most compelling argument, and we are sharing our thoughts only to support your efforts on behalf of Ramon. We have prioritized our list, starting with the most convincing reasons why the charges against Ramon should be dismissed. Please do let us know if you have any questions, concerns or other ways we can be of assistance. Enumerated Reasons Supporting the Dismissal of Charges Against Ramon: 1) Passed two polygraph tests – both supporting claim that he: a) Did not shoot victim. b) Was not at the scene at the crime. 2) DNA results support Ramon’s claim he was not at the scene. 3) Co-defendants admit they don’t know Ramon. a) Sworn statement by co-defendant’s wife that she does not know Ramon. 4) Ramon was picked up due to a car description that is vague and varied: a) Police reports describes a variety of very different vehicles that left the scene which may have been the getaway vehicle of suspects according to witnesses -- none which match Ramon’s vehicle. b) Even the BOL had multiple vehicles, none of which describes Ramon’s Charger. 4) Only one singular witness statement connecting Ramon to the incident, and even that statement is problematic: a) In the Statement of Facts, the Officer states that one witness made a statement that Ramon looked like the shooter, then another witness also made a similar statement. But the police report shows that there was only one 14
person, who made both statements. b) The identification procedure which apparently led to the identification of Ramon appears flawed and overly suggestive. (Please refer to section of the police report where the identification procedure re: LLLL is outlined. LLLL says, “Looks like the shooter”, Officer writes “was the shooter” – which is not what LLLL said.) 5) Ramon has an alibi. a) Fiance´ willing to take polygraph to support alibi. b) Has alibi evidence – signed receipts for activities surrounding time of incident. (Anchor Blue, Metropark, Pay Per View order) 6) Even the vehicle used to implicate Ramon has evidence value pointing to Ramon’s alibi. a) Sworn statement that the vehicle was in the custody of Ramon’s brother’s friend AAAAAA. b) Several statements supporting the claim by AAAAA. c) Police never took the vehicle in for an investigation, even though it was used to implicate Ramon in the crime, so obviously are following different leads. 7) Character evidence that suggests Ramon raises reasonable doubt. a) Absence of a substantial criminal record. b) Volunteered with Police Athletic League as a coach. (Also consequently passing a background check for the position.) c) Even at time of arrest wanted to be a police officer. d) Good long standing employment history – worked at same delivery company for seven years at the time of arrest. e) Is not a gang member and no history being one – no police field identification card. 8) To date, no physical evidence to tie Ramon to the crime. We are still in the process of making our way through the discovery and will keep you updated with our observations. Again, we are confident that there is no substantial reason for continuing to detain Ramon, and appreciate your advocacy is resolving this enormous mistake. Ramon’s family De-Bug
J e y s s o n
STOPPING DEPORTATIONS BEFORE THEY START How an Immigrant Family Beat a Deportation Order By Taking THEIR Criminal Case to Trial 16
For four years, Jeysson fought deportation orders that threatened to separate him from his wife Katya, and two children. His mother, Luz, came to De-Bug to seek community support. The criminal act that got Jeysson in the scopes of Homeland Security was vandalism. As a younger man, Jeysson was a graffiti artist and had pled to a felony charge of vandalism. Immigration and enforcement claimed that vandalism is a ”crime of moral turpitude,” thus being a deportable offense, even though Jeysson was a legal resident. Had his previous criminal defense lawyers informed him that a guilty plea could lead to deportation, he may not have been in detention for four years. But, after gaining community support to navigate through the complicated nexus of criminal and immigration law, Jeysson did not plead guilty to his more recent misdemeanor criminal charge. As a result, he was able to eventually win another green card and a new start in the United States in immigration court. Had he pled guilty to the seemingly innocuous misdemeanor charge, one that would have carried no extra jail time, it would have been equivalent to an immigration death sentence triggering permanent deportation and separation from his U.S. citizen wife, two children, mother, and siblings. Instead, Jeysson took his case to trial, and was found innocent. The win gave his immigration attorney, Angie Junck of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a shot to keep him in this country. Luz met weekly with De-Bug, and held regular meetings with Ms. Junck around legal strategies for Jeysson’s immigration case, mainly about how to ensure that the public defenders were advocating for Jeysson in a way that would help him in immigration court. By having each criminal defense legal strategy vetted by the immigration attorney, Jeysson received a defense that complemented his future efforts at immigration court. When Jeysson was detained in Eloy, Arizona, De-Bug members created an affidavit and went down to Eloy to explain to the lawyers and courts at the bond hearing why Jeysson’s act of graffiti was about art, not criminality. Jeysson won his bond hearing, and returned to San Jose. And when Jeysson discovered that he had a serious medical condition and needed surgery on his heart – a medical procedure detention centers are not equipped to properly handle – Ms. Junck, Jeysson’s family, and De-Bug collected the medical documents evidencing the severity of the issue, and collected letters from doctors. When presented to Homeland Security, Jeysson was again released from detention. t
The collective teamwork – Jeysson, family, community, immigration attorney, and public defenders – allowed Jeysson to ultimately beat both criminal charges and the deportation order. He is now living at home and raising his children with his wife Katya. In a video produced on Jeysson’s story, when asked how he persevered throughout such adversity and against such odds, he said, “I knew I could continue to fight because I knew I had people on the outside that were fighting for me.” 17
My Odyssey Through ICE Detention Centers By Jeysson The following is an excerpt from a piece Jeysson wrote while in federal immigration detention, and before he eventually beat the deportation order. The rest of Jeysson’s story can be read on the online version of Silicon Valley De-Bug Magazine, Issue #21 at: http://issuu.com/svdebug/docs/dbeng21 My detention by immigration became an odyssey that I thought would never end. And to this day, I still don’t know what padilla will ultimately happen with vs. kentucky me. When I ended my time In March 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled in criminal custody, I was in Padilla vs. Kentucky that immigrants living detained and transferred by in this country must be told by their lawyers ICE to an immigration facility whether pleading guilty to a crime could lead in San Francisco. In this facility, to deportation. Jose Padilla was a longtime lethey took my fingerprints and gal immigrant living in the US for over 40 years. some mugshots and told me He pled guilty to the charges he was facing that I was not eligible for bail only because he was told by his attorney that until I saw an immigration pleading guilty would not have an effect on his judge who would approve me immigration status. The lawyer was wrong, and for bail. Kentucky Supreme Court would not let him I got locked up in a take his plea back. His case went all the way to waiting cell, and I was told I the US Supreme Court where the Justices ruled was going to see the judge 7-2 in Padilla’s favor. From now on, lawyers the same day, which never cannot remain silent on the effect a guilty plea happened. They only gave me may have on a defendant’s immigration status. a sandwich and orange juice In clear cases, a lawyer must advise his or her for the whole day. Later on, client that the guilty plea triggers automatic they brought more people deportation. In less clear cases, the lawyer must and in a couple of hours, the still advise that an immigrant’s status could be cell got crowded. It became in jeopardy. so crowded that it was even difficult to breathe, and there was no room to sit. They had us standing up the whole day. During the night, they got us on a bus to be transferred to Yuba County. When we got there, they took our chains off, and we got pulled in a cell for a couple of hours and were told we were going to be transferred to the ICE agency in San Francisco. We were supposed to see the judge that day but we couldn’t, so we had to wait until the next day. That morning we got back to the agency, and once again, we couldn’t see the judge. Afterwards, we were taken to the Oakland airport where a Homeland Security airplane was waiting for us to take us to Arizona. The guards and the people in charge of the airplane were extremely hostile and very disrespectful. The ICE agents treated us worst than animals. They would kick the little belongings that we had, and they would talk to us in a very disrespectful way. What’s more, their actions and bad ethics were tainted with racism 18
and abuse. We made a lot of stops in California before we got to the airport in Arizona. A bus came to take us to our final destination -- the ICE’s Federal Detention Center in Eloy, AZ. After two days in a row without getting any rest, the only thing that I wanted was to get somewhere, even if it meant being detained for a long time. Eloy is not too different from a county jail or prison, and the treatment is almost the same. They even have similar ways to abuse us. The only good thing about Eloy is that the food is a little better. The health services in Eloy are low, just like the ones that we received in the county jails and prisons. Inmates who needed medical attention seemed to never receive them. I even saw a man die in front of my eyes in the exercise yard. The staff eventually came to help him, but they were too late, and the guy died. The first thing that crossed my mind was the guy’s family and how ICE was going to have to explain to them that their loved one died because of ICE’s incompetence. My point of view on being detained by ICE is that we are treated like criminals and put in very bad conditions when the only wrong thing that we are accused of violating is immigration laws. For that, we are put in county jails, state prisons, and places like Eloy, and after all this, we still have to explain why we deserve to stay here and not get deported. For people like me, legal residents who have been convicted of a crime, the punishment is double because we have to pay for the same punishment twice. We have to go and serve our time in a county, and after we are done with that sentence, we still have to go and serve time with ICE for the same infraction. I think Obama and his administration should listen to our complaints and start working on amnesty. And while immigration reform is being debated, they need to find an alternative to the way immigrants are treated who face criminal charges. To watch the video on Jeysson entitled, “No One Can Do This Alone: How a Young Immigrant Family Beat Deportation,” go to www.acjusticeproject.com
martha TALES OF A TASING HOW A VICTIM OF POLICE MISCONDUCT BEAT A FALSE RESISTING ARREST CHARGE
Martha, along with her brother Sergio, were facing charges of resisting arrest and battery upon a police officer. The thick slew of police reports described her and her brother being belligerent and uncooperative with the police, thus prompting them to tase Martha, and tase and beat Sergio to the ground in front of their own home and families. They came to De-Bug a week after the incident. At that point, Sergio had been arrested and pled to resisting arrest (all without an attorney present since the Public Defender’s Office did not staff arraignment court in Santa Clara County at that time), while Martha was arrested but released without any charges. That same week, De-Bug members took video statements of Martha and other people at the house who witnessed the incident, including Martha’s then 11-yearold sister who saw the police tase Martha and Sergio. Martha and Sergio’s father also videotaped a portion of the incident itself via camera phone of the police beating his son and holding his daughter to the ground. Martha had also seen the police reports and had diligently read over each page, noting places where there were contradictions between the police accounts, her account, and other witnesses. A key point of departure was the police officer’s description of what led to her tasing vs. her own account of what happened. The police report made it seem as though Martha instigated the incident, whereas her account -- as well as the video --- showed the reverse of the story. It wasn’t until four months later that Martha was charged with resisting arrest and battery upon a police officer. She was arrested by San Jose Police. What was key to her defense was the video statements that she and her family members made fresh after the incident. Upon learning who her public defender was, De-Bug staff contacted her and gave her the video statements, her father’s video, as well as Martha’s notes detailing the contradictions and her own statement. This exchange happened well-before Martha’s first court appearance, which then provided the public defender information to help Martha’s case. The public defender was incredibly responsive, and immediately ordered a transcript of all the video statements and communicated with Martha frequently as well as her family and De-Bug. Martha was also able to be released on supervised OR, and met with her public defender while she was out of custody. t
I won my case because the cop told a major lie and I proved the truth. I’ve seen so many people get screwed over by the system. You have to try to fight the injustice in front of you. Even if you don’t win, you stood up for what is right. -- Martha
Sample Email: Upon being released on supervised OR, Martha sent an email to her public defender. She reminded her who she was, recapped some work she did on her case, and gave more evidence on her case. In this email, she gave a list of witnesses and their contact information. This is important in that the PD can then send their investigator to talk to people who can speak to the incident that took place. It is helpful to identify why those people are key to your case so that your attorney can better understand the case in front of them. To: Smith, Sonia M. Cc: De-Bug Subject: Your Client Request for a meeting Hi Sonia, This is Martha, the short Latina that you are representing in Santa Clara County court. I left you a voicemail today and wanted to see if I could meet with you about my case. I’ve gone through the police report and several witnesses have typed statements on what happened. Here is a list of witnesses: XXXXXXXX (my uncle who saw the whole incident with me and Officer YYY): (408) XXXXXXXX
t OU me co
XXXXXXXX (my dad who saw the whole incident): XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX (my sister -- she didn’t see the taser incident but saw my injuries): (408) XXXXXXXX Please let me know when your available. I am available in the afternoons after 2PM. Thank you, Martha
Because Martha had done so much work in the front-end of the case (such as writing her account of the incident, having witnesses memorialize what happened through video, and reading police reports), and because her family and De-Bug were able to respond quickly when Martha was tased by the police and then subsequetly arrested, and because the public defender assigned to her case, Sonia Smith, was incredibly tenacious in her defense, Martha’s charges were all dismissed in the interest of justice. What happened to her has inspired her to pursue being a lawyer.
LIGHT AT THE END OF A 17-YEAR TUNNEL daughter released from potential life term
R o s i e
by Gail Noble
Pamela is an African-American woman in her late thirties who spent most of her adult life locked in a mental institution. Initially, Pamela was charged with two felonies, and was advised by her attorney to take an insanity plea, which she did and was placed in a state mental hospital. If she had fought and lost at trial, she would have served a likely four year sentence according to her current attorney. Instead, she has served 17 years, with no sign of release in sight, meaning she could spend the rest of her life locked up in a mental hospital. Rosie, Pamela’s mother, heard about DeBug from a friend and they both came to an ACJP meeting one Sunday afternoon. At our meetings, we write the names of the people we are here for on a board and go through the list. Pamela’s name was next on the white board, and when called, her mother Rosie told us Pamela’s story. Rosie had been fighting and hoping for Pamela’s release alone for 17 years. I offered to work with Rosie. I contacted the supervisor of the San Mateo County Private Defender’s Office, introduced myself, and told her I was with De-Bug and Pamela’s mother had came to us for support. The supervisor was familiar with De-Bug and Pamela’s case. She gave me her attorney’s contact information. I contacted him to let him know that Rosie had came to De-Bug for support and my plans were to go and meet Pamela and to see if Rosie and I could
attend an upcoming annual evaluation. He gave me the updated version of Pamela’s case and I offered to assist him with her case in any way I could. Pamela was due for a yearly evaluation by the hospital, and this report is given to the District Attorney’s Office, who in turn would put forward a recommendation to the court. This process happened every two years, and Pamela was always recommended to stay in a closed unit, and could never move towards freedom based on the opinions of the doctors and District Attorney’s Office. For years, Pamela was being held in a closed, locked facility, with little privileges or freedoms. If she could get into an open unit, she could eventually transition into an independent residential living situation that would assist in employment training, allow her to leave at her free will, and essentially get back into society. I suggested as a next step to meet Pamela and her doctors. Pamela gave authorization for her mother and I to attend her yearly evaluation. It was a hot day in July. It would be my first time meeting Pamela. I picked up Rosie and we were on our way. The ride took at least two hours from San Jose to Napa. Once I saw the place, the reality hit me that this is where Pamela had been for 17 years, and where her mother had made so many trips up here to visit her - alone. I could only imagine how hard it must have been to
Once I saw the place (Napa State Mental Hospital), the reality hit that this is where Pamela has been locked away for 17 years.
leave her after every visit, year after year. It was clear that the doctors were making their assessments of Pamela with little communication to each other, and no accountability. I asked when Pamela could go to an open unit. The psychiatrist said she was off the list to go to an open unit for half a year. Her medical doctor did not even know she was off the list. And the reason they gave as to why she was off the list made no sense. They initially said she was not taking her medication. But after reviewing her file, it turned out she had been taking all of her psyche medications, but had only missed taking some of her diabetes medications. When I looked at Pamela, who is smart and pleasant to speak with, she was very quiet, and I could see hopelessness in her face, like she was never going to get out of this place. As the meeting came to a close, I stated that we needed to set some goals collectively, which would be about getting Pamela to an open unit. The doctors did that, and we finally had something measurable to assess Pamela’s progress. She had an upcoming evaluation, and if things didn’t change this round, she wouldn’t get a shot at improving her condition for another two years – she would have then done 19 years in a locked unit. The meeting with the doctors haunted me, and Pamela’s attorney saying it wasn’t looking good for Pamela. So I decided to do my own research on cases where the insanity plea was used and how to get a person released from mental institutions. I found two cases that applied to Pamela – Foucha vs. Louisiana, and Jones vs. United States. In both cases, the people were no longer a threat to themselves and needed some pathway to get out, even if it meant them staying on medications. The courts ruled that in both cases their eighth amendment and the fourteenth amendment rights were being violated. They ruled that it is unconstitutional to hold someone in custody in fear of them committing another crime, and that people cannot be held in a mental institution indefinitely. I shared my research information with Rosie at our ACJP Sunday meeting, and then the attorney. Rosie and I met with Pamela’s attorney again. Before her court hearing, he decided to use the information I found. That was great news. t
OUtcome At the evaluation hearing, everyone had their say – the doctors, the District Attorney, Pamela’s attorney, and the judge. Pamela’s attorney presented the case of Jones vs. United States in closed chambers. When they returned, the Judge mentioned the Jones case, and ordered Pamela to be released into a transitional living facility where she will remain there for 90 days. This is the preparation training needed for CONRAP. He then looked at Pamela and said, “You are taking the first steps towards your freedom.” Pamela had a smile from ear to ear. Tears filled Rosie’s eyes and mine. We had finally achieved the hope Pamela needed. If she succeeds in this residential program, she will go to another, even less restrictive environment, with the only condition being that she take her medications. Rosie is an amazing mother. She never stop seeking or believing her daughter would be released from this mental hospital one day. And she was!
sample email: Below is the initial email introduction that Rosie wrote with the assistance of Gail. Just months later, all of Rosie’s ambitions stated in the letter would come true. Dear Myra Weiher: I am Rosie, the mother of Pamela XXXXX, d.o.b. #####. I have contacted Silicon Valley De-Bug regarding Pamela’s case. Pamela was facing criminal charges that could have resulted in 4 years of jail 16 years ago. In that situation, Pamela agreed to go to Napa State Hospital--where she has remained for 17 years. Our family is interested in obtaining information about Pamela’s status and would like to find out what can be done to secure her release. She has a supportive and concerned family. I would be interested in being Pamela’s guardian. Pamela’s attorney is Mitri Hanania with the Private Defender Program. I would like to find out specifically what can be done to bring Pamela’s institutionalization to a conclusion. If Pamela were released, I would ensure that she would take any necessary medications. We feel that with community resources and agency help, Pamela could function as an outpatient. I would be interested in setting up a meeting to discuss Pamela’s situation with you. Pamela has a hearing in Redwood City coming up which is to determine whether she will remain at Napa another two years. I would like to assist Mr. Hanania in preparing for this hearing. I would like to know why it has taken 16 years to stabilize Pamela’s condition and whether an expert can be sent to examine her and potentially testify at her hearing. Therefore, I would like to confer with you at your earliest convenience. Rosie
To watch the video on Rosie and Pamela’s story, go to www.acjusticeproject.com
THE POLICE TOOK HIM FROM SCHOOL: WE FREED HIM FROM THE HALL How a mother rallied A community to protect her speciaL needs son
By Blanca Bosquez
My son was being accused of a felony strong armed robbery. Upon being detained by officers at his school, he was denied contact with me, even after he asked for me. I obtained papers from the school where the detectives who questioned my son instructed school administrators not to contact his parents. He was then taken to the police station and interrogated for several hours. At the detention center, my son supposedly confessed to the crime of robbing a taxi driver and being the mastermind behind a team who conspired to rob him. What complicates this case, and why such an allegation could not be possible, is that he was only 15 years old and has struggled with mental disability ever since he was born. His developmental issues are at the level that he receives support and care from county agencies, and essentially requires 24 hour supervision to function adequately. As a result of his challenges, he cannot verbalize much due to a speech impairment, and is currently learning to sign. This is why the notion of an “admission” seemed ridiculous. After viewing the tape, it was clear the officers were deliberately trying to take advantage of my son’s condition. I came to De-Bug the Sunday after my son was taken into custody and placed in the worst unit that any juvenile could be placed in due to the charges. My son had not spent time alone anywhere, much less in juvenile hall. At DeBug, we collectively discussed a gameplan, and I sent an email to the head of Juvenile Department of the Public Defender’s Office to ensure that my son was being well-watched in custody and instructed her to send the most prepared attorney to the detention hearing. The next day at court, during my son’s detention hearing, I was able to fill the courtroom with family and community supporters. The purpose of the hearing was to decide whether my son was going to be continue to be held in detention. While most juvenile proceedings are closed to the The case was eventupublic, the entire family as well ally dropped. Blanca’s as community supporters bore son did not have any witness to the court proceedof those false charges ings, and my son’s six sisters and hanging over him. She brothers, grandparents, and myalso moved him out of the school where he self all testified to his character. was initially arrested, and is now developing The result? My son was immedia program in collaboration with the presiding ately released that day. judge of juvenile court and Gail Noble, another What followed while De-Bug/ACJP organizer, on finding ways to my son was out of custody was support parental involvement in juvenile cases. about another four months of fighting for his innocence and the dismissal of the charges. I made sure I had access to reviewing the discovery, and that was key in the end result of all charges against my son being dropped. I was able to view the interrogation, and also provide the attorney with the documents that proved my son’s developmental issues. I would regularly email the attorney questions about the case, thoroughly read all the police reports and evidence, and met with the attorney. t
Sample Email: Sometimes, the elephant in the room is the probation department. With juvenile cases in particular, they hold a lot of control and power. So as an agency, they need to be held accountable as well. In this case, Blanca felt that her son’s assigned probation officer was being unprofessional and was trying to paint a picture that Blanca was an unfit parent. Blanca sent this email to the PO’s supervisor to talk about the way the PO was treating her son. The actions of the PO stopped shortly after the email was sent. Dear Ms. Mitchell, I would like to set up a meeting to talk about the actions of Probation Officer Alvarez, who is my son’s current probation officer. CONTEXT: My son, XXXXX, 15, is currently facing a juvenile case. The Judge will be making a decision on whether the appropriate setting for XXXXX’s case is in dependency court or juvenile court. Since XXXXX’ was born, he has been represented by an attorney from LACY and an attorney from the San Andreas Regional Center. He is currently classified as “mentally delayed” and has been receiving mental health services since he was able to walk. He has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) at his school and has been in the same class (special ed) for several years and I am told will be on SSI for the rest of his life. He was interrogated by the police at his school, placed in juvenile hall where he suffered tremendously mentally and emotionally. While it was only three days, XXXXX has had trouble sleeping and coping with the incident. Furthermore, while he was in police custody, he was denied contact his LACY attorney and his attorney from the San Andreas Regional Center even though they were both present. This, despite a judge’s order approximately 3 years ago saying that youth in dependency proceedings who are represented by counsel should not be denied their attorney. My son is being charged with a 211 and use of a gun. However, even the judge has noted severe competency issues with XXXXX. Regardless of his competency to stand trial, there is no possible way XXXXX could have even committed this crime and there is not just a LACK of evidence that XXXXX did the crime, there is NO evidence, and the evidence they have do not point to XXXXX. MS. ALVAREZ’S UNPROFESSIONALISM I am very concerned about Ms. Alvarez’ lack of professionalism in handling XXXXX’s case. 1) She interrogated XXXXX knowing XXXXX had a lawyer. 2) At the last court date, when the judge granted an extension for her to produce the report, she did a “power pump” which was witnessed by XXXXX’s LACY attorney. 3) At another court date, she told the judge that I cancelled on a meeting with 29
her. However, she failed to tell the judge that she cancelled on me TWICE. She also asked the judge at the end of the court to mandate me to meet with her, implying that I was negligent in fulfilling my duties or demonstrated reluctance to cooperate. Before the judge could respond, I told the judge he didn’t need to mandate me because I had tried to meet with her. In addition, at that court date, Ms. Alvarez still had not received the police report. So, either way, she would not have finished her report. 4) Ms. Alvarez produced a ridiculous and baseless recommendation that XXXXX be charged with the crime he allegedly committed. XXXXX is clearly incompetent, has an IQ of 46, and even by talking to him, one can tell that there is no possible way he could have said by force to someone, “Give me your gun.” He is barely audible in court, even when the Judge asks him his name. The way Ms. Alvarez wrote her recommendation presumed XXXXX’s guilt. As a mother who has had contact with the juvenile justice system, and as a former organizer with Civil Rights for Children, I have had contacts with the probation department before and have seen very respectful probation officers who understand the difficult nature of what parents and children have been facing when caught up in the system. To be faced with a probation officer such as Ms. Alvarez who is rude and unprofessional does not elicit trust. I would like to meet with you as soon as possible. Sincerely, Blanca
HIPHOP IS NOT A CRIMe HOW A COMMUNITY BEAT A GANG ENHANCEMENT CHARGE BY PICKING APART A DETECTIVE'S REPORT
Julio is a local music producer who was facing over 20 years. He was arrested at his home where there were alleged complaints of a domestic disturbance. When the police came, they immediately took Julio to the ground. Police also pushed his then 8-month pregnant wife, which Julio was upset about, but because he was already in police custody, he could not do anything. He was taken to jail. What he thought was going to be a drunk in public charge turned out to be charges of resisting arrest, making threats to an officer and gang enhancement. Police officers charged that Julio threatened the arresting officer who drove him to the jail. Furthermore, police officers and the district attorney wanted to add on gang enhancement charges, claiming he was part of a gang – despite the fact that in addition to being a businessman that gave opportunities to young people to pursue their music, Julio was in fact a youth counselor who advised youth against violence. The fact that one of the most secured and vetted institutions possible – the California State Prison – has repeatedly allowed Julio to come in should be indicative that the system that would be most wary and sensitive of any gang activity obviously felt Julio was not a gang member. Julio approached De-Bug during the preliminary phase of his trial. He had a vigorous attorney on his side – Paula Canny – who defended him passionately. She was sharp, open to community, and an amazing attorney. Paula fought aula anny from the start of the case, J ulio's Defense Attorney, launching investigations as told to the Mercury News and requesting paperwork that would ultimately reveal how Julio was targeted by the police department for his music. With De-Bug’s assistance, Julio read through all his police reports and discovery – including a thick “gang packet” that made Julio out to look like he was the county’s most wanted. Julio and De-Bug put together our own analysis of the gang packet, helped organize community support, attended Julio’s hearings, and met with his attorney. The information that was put together also helped his attorney when challenging the gang allegations -- which carried the most time. t
“The service De-Bug provides, like finding me a gang expert and getting transcripts from other cases, levels the playing field with government prosecutors, who have so many more resources.’’ - P C ,
All this hard work resulted in Julio beating the gang enhancement charges and threats on an officer. He is now back with his wife and son, continues to produce music and counsel youth who are at-risk of joining gangs.
Sample Gang Dissection Report: The following is an excerpt of the analysis of the gang dissection report in Julio’s case. Altogether, it was seven pages of critiquing the report on Julio that Julio and De-Bug members took apart. Notes from County Gang Intelligence Unit Intelligence Report Below is a point by point dissection and defense against the gang report. Main Thematic Arguments: 1) Julio is businessman that found a market in what has been labeled as “gang culture”. The paraphernalia and imagery in the media, including some of the language in the songs, are marketing tools to expand his business. It is a music and media market and Julio has simply capitalized off playing a media characterization that he knows will sell. This does not constitute a gang member nor can be mistaken for criminal activity. 2) Julio’s criminal history and street activity lacks the basic and essential elements that make up even a low-level gang member. He has no prison record, has not “put in work”, has earned no stripes – especially of a gang that the gang detective describes as one of the parent gangs of the Bay Area. The fact that one of the most secured and vetted institutions possible – the California State Prison – has repeatedly allowed Julio to come in should be indicative that the system that would be most wary and sensitive of any gang activity obviously felt Julio was not a gang member. Not only does he deny gang membership, but he promotes anti-gang and violence prevention through his community work with young people. Opinion and Gang Relatedness: “In this case, the persons he perceived as being disrespectful to him were the three members of the San Bruno Police Department that participated in arresting him.” -- statement form the gang detective. Points/ questions: • The gang expert is claiming that this is based on 3 police officers when only one police officer claimed to have heard the alleged threats during the police transport. He is referring to the incident that took place in the house when the incident in question is what allegedly took place in the police car. “Julio maintains a sort of celebrity status among gang members due to his production of gang-related rap music and related internet videos on websites such as Youtube.com “ Points/ questions: • Having fans doesn’t make the music producer a gang member. That is reverse logic. If someone is a fan of Scarface or the GodFather, it 33
doesn’t make Al Pacino or Francis Ford Coppola a gang member. “Word of his actions/ arrest will likely spread through the local gang community. Julio’s status and notoriety will only benefit by his violent resistance, non-cooperation and threats towards the officers that “disrespected” him.” Points/ Questions: • If Julio really wanted to increase his status as a gang member and bring him notoriety, Julio had all the media outlets he had control of to do so – DVD production, CD production, artists to rap about his acts. He would have had the most opportunity more than anybody. Were there any songs that Julio produced or wrote that bragged about this incident with the police? No. Were there any videos produced that bragged about this incident with the police? No. • In fact, Julio continues on his anti-gang efforts and encourages young people to not join gangs. He also visits prisons to talk about how he has been living righteous – nurturing a relationship with his wife, raising a family, doing community work, and running a business that brings “Raza” together.
carnell PHOTOS OF FREEDOM HOW A FATHER'S PICTURES AND STORY OF FAMILY LIFE SAVED HIM FROM DOING FIVE YEARS iN PRISON
Carnell was facing charges of possession for sale. Allegedly, he sold drugs worth $20 to an undercover officer. While he admits doing so, what he was unwilling to accept was an extremely harsh five year prison sentence. When he came to De-Bug, he was unhappy with his public defender who he felt was pushing him to take a deal of 5 years. At the time of the incident, Carnell had been the sole provider for his children, the sole caretaker of his disabled mother, and had been on a steady path of rehabilitating his life since he was released from prison in 2000. He admits to having a recent stumble with drugs, all the while being able to meet his responsibilities as a father and as a son, and was focusing back on his recovery. His children’s mother had not consistently been in his or the children’s lives for years. If Carnell were to be sent to prison, it would mean his children being sent to the foster care system and his mother possibly being conserved, left with no one to care for them. Carnell really wanted the judge to know how much prison was going to be devastating for his children. “I can handle the environment itself,” he says, “but I don’t want my kids to have to go through it.” To actively work on his case, Carnell and members of De-Bug’s ACJP supported him by developing a mitigation package that would help inform the court of the factors they should consider when deciding his sentence. While he had already pled, there was still discretion by the judge as to the eventual sentence. Even before his sentence, without any prodding from his attorney or anyone, Carnell himself enrolled in AA classes, joined parenting and anger management classes, found a steady job after months of looking. The main point of the mitigation package was to give the court a full picture of who Carnell was. He and his supporters wanted to show that while he did take responsibility for the incident, he belonged in the community, not in prison. His mitigation package included: • Letters of support from his mother, father, stepmother, community organizations and leaders, his pastor, and his children’s school psychologists who testified to how vital Carnell was to his kids’ lives; • Certificates of completion and progress in his drug rehabilitation classes/ anger management/ parenting classes; • High school completion certificate; • Paycheck stubs showing consistency of holding down a job; • Transcripts of his children’s participation and attendance at school that show how under Carnell’s care, the kids did well (getting straight A’s, student of the month, participated in afterschool programs, etc) • A photo journal showing how Carnell takes care of his children from waking them, feeding them breakfast, taking them to school, taking
My kids and their futures gave me the courage to fight for my freedom, to do what I needed to do and be the father they need me to be. - CARNELL
them to afterschool programs, doing homework with them, spending time with them, and putting them to bed. t
What started out as an originally thin packet grew into a binder that he then presented to his probation officer that would create the report for the judge to determine his final sentence. This packet, along with well-thought out and prepared essays answering questions posed to him by the Probation Department, resulted in a recommended sentence of 2 months county jail time, an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and a 5 year suspended sentence. This was then later modified to 3 months in county jail, and an outpatient drug and alcohol program that allowed him to go back home and care for his family. His pro-active steps took a five year prison sentence and turned it into a short term outpatient program. Carnell innovative use of photos when compiling a mitigation packet has become a useful model for ACJP. Carnell now advises others on how to construct mitigation packets. Sample Email: This email was written by Carnell to his attorney in preparation for a meeting with him the next day. Dear Mike, I am looking forward to meeting with you tomorrow. I am cc-ing some community members who are helping me with my situation. I had some questions about my case that I would like to discuss tomorrow: 1) I would like to get a copy of my police report. Please have that for me tomorrow. 2) I am putting together a full mitigation packet of support letters, proof of participation in school and work and counseling programs. I will have it ready for you by next week. 3) For the last few meetings, you have told me about the different ways that the DA can prosecute my case. I would like to know how you would defend my case if it were to go trial. 4) What discovery requests have you made to investigate my case? 5) Like I told you the first meeting, the police told me there was a video tape of me. I’d like to know if they’ve been able to produce it. As I’ve told you since the first meeting, I am the sole breadwinner of my 3 children, in addition to taking care of my mother. I currently have a job, am going to school, and raising a family. Going to prison disrupts everything and I am committed to fighting as hard as I can. I can own up to mistakes, but for the sake of my 3 young children, I need to be in the community, and I have a community that is and has been willing to support me. Thank you, Carnell
To watch the video on Carnell, go to www.acjusticeproject.com
G A I L
STANDING UP TO A RACIST COURT HOW A MOTHER AND SON CALLED OUT THE DISCRIMINATION BY A JUDGE AND THE FAILURES OF AN ATTORNEY
by Gail Noble
On a summer evening, I received a call from my 17 year old AfricanAmerican son that he was arrested. There was an altercation over a stolen bike and the owner was trying to take the bike from one of my son’s friends, and in the process, the man’s finger was broken. Even though there were witnesses at the altercation that could clear my son’s name, the police that arrived were uninterested. They arrested my son along with his friends. My son was charged with a felony assault with the intent to do great bodily harm. The charge carried a strike. The attorney my son had wanted him to take the plea deal for a battery charge, but it still came with a strike. My son declined and maintained his innocence. On the morning of his trial, I remember his attorney telling me, “I am prepared to go to court today,” when I asked her about her preparation. My reply was, “How can you be ready for court today when you haven’t done an investigation? You haven’t even talked to the witnesses?” I knew my son was in trouble with this attorney. I told her I wanted a copy of the investigator ‘s report. This was my way of making sure she assigned an investigator to his case. My son had a court date coming up and I decided to go. I saw his attorney and she said I didn’t have to. I told her I needed to know what was going on with my son’s case. The attorney was going to tell the judge about my son’s summer job, which was collecting signatures for Indian gaming. I was waiting for his attorney to come out of the courtroom and she told me, “I was telling the Judge about your son’s job and he said he is probably going door to door selling drugs, and the District Attorney repeated what the Judge said.” I started to go in the courtroom and she grabbed my arm. “They said it off the record,” she said, and added that he “might have been joking.” I was so furious and hurt. My son found a summer job paying good money and this is what the court thinks of him. My son ended up with a sustained petition – which is essentially a guilty verdict in juvenile court. There is no jury in Santa Clara County juvenile court, so the same judge that had that stereotype of my son was the one who decided the case. I had met De-Bug community members and shared what the attorney told me about the judge’s statement. They were outraged, and supported my efforts. My son’s attorney refused to communicate with me in the days leading up to my son’s sentencing, seemed unprepared to find better sentencing options, did not call witnesses on his behalf that testified to his in-
It was important to get all the issues my son had on record and for us to feel that we could speak and say something, instead of just allowing the racist behavior of the courts to continue, unchecked.
nocence during the criminal phase of the trial, and did not challenge the felony strike enhancement and sex-offender registration (despite the fact that the incident was not related in any way to being a sex crime. She would later go on to say that it was a computer malfunction, and not to worry about it). Most egregiously, she refused to file a conflict of interest when she told me that she heard the presiding judge say that my son had a job that was drug-related when she told the judge that he had been doing good and working. Filing a conflict of interest would mean the attorney recusing herself from the case because she would have to testify to what the judge said. While the attorney for a second questioned whether the statement the judge made was racist, she said nothing, and thus allowed my son to be tried in front of a judge who, from jump, had a racial bias against him. After much consultation with each other, my son and I decided to file a Marsden Motion - which is the official way to fire an attorney in California. Although a judge can deny the motion, and chances are he would, this would in effect, allow my son to address the court and get the judge’s alleged comment on record. Plan “B” was for me to address the court and get the statement on record. With De-Bug’s help, my son and I wrote a Marsden motion and planned to file it next day at court. When the judge called the court to session, I said I want to address the court. Upon informing the court of my son’s intention to file the motion, my son’s attorney, the district attorney, and the judge were dumbstruck. The judge denied making the statement saying, “The information is not true.” He said that whoever told me that he made such a statement was wrong. He also said that my son’s request was out of order and inappropriate. He asked my son, “Do you even know what a Marsden motion is?” My son calmly replied,” It’s when I feel I was not represented correctly.” The judge said that he will nonetheless hear him out. Even though the judge refused my son’s motion, it was important to get all the issues my son had on record and for us to feel that we could speak and say something, instead of just allowing the racist behavior of the courts to continue, unchecked. t
Gail’s son initiated a habeas appeal that required sworn testimony from the defense attorney and the presiding judge. Gail’s case was a front page article in the Silicon Valley Metro – the most read weekly in Silicon Valley. The attorney is no longer working juvenile cases, and the presiding judge is no longer working in juvenile court. Gail has initiated a campaign to challenge the District Attorney’s Office practice of giving strikes to juveniles.
Sample Marsden Motion: This motion is usually verbally delivered. The judge will clear the courtroom, except for the person facing charges and the defense attorney. Though not frequently done, it can also be submitted as a written motion, so that it can officially be part of the court records. The following is an excerpt of the Marsden Motion Gail and her son wrote with the assistance of De-Bug members. IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA JUVENILE COURT People of the State of California V. Y Motion to discharge Counsel Pursuant to People v Marsden (1970) 2 Cal. 3d 118 (Request motion be heard) In camera pursuant to People v. Dennis (1986) 177 Cal App. 3d 863). Please allow me to mark my exhibits with the clerk of the court and to include said exhibits and a copy of this Marsden Motion as part of the Court’s file in this matter, People of the State of California v. Y. I request that the Court filestamp a copy of this motion and include it in the court file of this matter, and that the Court filestamp a second copy for my records. Counsel failed to consider the following: • 170.1 • Motion for a new trial • An Alternative, Independent Probation report • A Polygraph on myself despite my consistent denial of the accusation • Motion to request the judge to recuse himself based on a biased statement made by the Judge referring to my job collecting signatures for petitions as drug-related • Motion to request to vacate the strike conviction (sustained petition) • All the grounds listed in this motion and attachments On xxxxxx or as soon thereafter as this motion can be heard the defendant, Y, who is currently convicted (sustained) for violations of California Penal Code Section 245(a)(1), a felony, with 12022.7(a) and 1203(e)(3) enhancements (a strike offense), and California Penal Code Section 242-243(d) requests the opportunity to bring a motion to discharge his currently assigned court appointed attorney. 41
Setting Up the Infrastructure for Your Organization to Impact cases At a moment of limited resources and time, adding new programs to an organization can be a daunting proposition. But support work for a member, constituent, congregant, or loved one can change the trajectory of a case -- and can be done without draining the resources of the organization, or require any major organizational expansions. Effective support work can be done efficiently, simply, and consistently without disrupting the overall work of the organization. Below is a sample way ACJPs have been run in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County that have been housed in community centers, churches, and ethnic commnuity hubs.
Basics of an ACJP Meeting SPACE Have a space -- a center, a home, a religious institution -- where families can meet regularly to work on their case.
meeting flow Meetings styles will be defined by the culture of your organization. We suggest having the following roles to help move the meeting along: FACILITATOR: Have someone asking the key questions, and moving the discussion forward, then moving on to the next case. Typical ACJP discussions have been broken down into two parts: 1) Updates: meaning the family or individual bringing the group up to speed with the case -- what stage it is in, how the relationship with the attorney has been going, and/or current questions they may have. 2) To do’s: This is a list of activities that the family and community can take during the week to assist in the case. In the following week, the family can report back on what steps were carried through with, and the results of those actions. NOTE-TAKER: Have someone take notes, so your commnunity can be clear as to the next steps, and the collective knowledge of the case. FLOATERS: After families work on their case, or even during, they may offer to assist with another family -- going to court, helping draft emails, gather material, or attend meetings with attorneys. Volunteers of the organization may play this role as well. During the meetings, identify who in the room can work with particular families. We have called them “floaters” because their role is fluid, and they can move around the meeting. For efficiency sake, the floater may assist the family in sending an email to the attorney during, or directly after the meeting if requested by a family. Identify these key partnerships, so the group knows that everyone who came for assistance has a lead person that they are working with. A mother we worked with, who beat a false “resisting arrest” charge after a year and a jury verdict, coined the phrase “Buddyguard” when describing this role. She said she felt more confident knowing she had someone who was looking out for her interests, and at the same time, that person was a friend.
Steps OF A FELONY CASE The following flow chart and definition of terms is from the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office. ARREST | ARRAIGNMENT | ERC/FAR HEARING | PLEA | PRELIMINARY HEARING (10 Court Days) | SUPERIOR COURT ARRAIGNMENT (15 Calendar Days) | TRIAL Definitions ARRAIGNMENT: Typically, you are advised of your charges and asked if you have a private attorney or need a public defender. If you need a public Defender, indicate so at this time. ERC/FAR HEARING: Early Resolution Calendar (ERC) or Felony Advanced Resolution (FAR). It is a way to settle your case more quickly than going to Preliminary Hearing. Your ERC/FAR attorney will discuss your case with the District Attorney to see whether a mutually agreeable resolution can be reached. Your attorney may also discuss your case with the court to discuss sentencing options in the event you decide to plead guilty. PLEA: This is where you plead “Guilty”, “Not Guilty”, or “Nolo Contendere” (No Contest). Your attorney can explain the differences to you. PRELIMINARY HEARING: This is when the court will determine if the District Attorney has enough evidence against you to hold your case over for trial. This hearing must occur within 10 court days of your plea, unless you waive time to give your attorney more time to prepare. Court days do not include weekends and holidays. WAIVE TIME: You have the right to a preliminary hearing and trial within certain statutory time limits. If it is necessary to continue your case beyond these deadlines, you will be asked to “waive time”. Waiving time means that you will allow your attorney more time to prepare your case. It is very common to “waive time” in criminal cases because it is important for your attorney to have sufficient time to prepare. SUPERIOR COURT ARRAIGNMENT: This is when you are read your charges in Superior Court and your case is set for trial. This must be done within 15 calendar days of your preliminary hearing. Calendar days include weekends and holidays. 43
Source: Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office
INTERVEN POINTS OF
Rather than waiting for the next stage in the felony case flow chart, community can take pro-active steps to impact the case during the transitions. As Cesar Flores, an organizer for ACJP, says, “The community work comes in the blank spaces of that chart – all the time between the defined stages.” Listed are activities families in ACJP have taken to assert influence on their case, or the case of a loved one. It is not an exhaustive list, but is a sharing of potential actions community can take along the life span of a felony case.
ARREST - Document everything that happened related to the arrest (A written statement of the incident, list of potential witnesses that could be important to your defense, how the individual was picked up, any issues of potential illegality of a search by police, and any other details in that important time frame.) - There is usually an office that prepares a report that will be presented to the judge that will determine release options during the court process (bail, released on own recognizance, or detained.) In Santa Clara County, it’s called the Pre-Trial Services. Contact them to so they know your community member has strong ties -- that information could determine what they recommend to the court. - Create a social biography of the person arrested to submit to the attorney. - Contact the Public Defender’s office (or the respective indigent defense services agency of your area) and notify them that you or your community member will be assigned to their office and that you have already prepared material important to the defense. - Community organizations may need to be aware of the local bail schedule and other related bail issues to understand whether the bail amount is excessive and thus the basis for demanding a bail hearing/motion.
ARRAIGNMENT - Find out what charges are being brought against you or your community member (The initial charges by the police are not always the same charges that the District Attorney uses to file. The allegations you will have to defend against are the District Attorney’s charges.) - If you have had no contact yet with the Public Defender’s office, then ask to be referred to a court-appointed attorney. - Request a meeting with the attorney well in advance of the next court date. - Request a copy of all discovery (items such as police reports, physical evidence, statements, etc.) from the attorney and review them. Note your observations and dissection of the material. - Go through your reading of the discovery, go over penal codes with the attorney, and help formulate a defense strategy. - Inform the attorney of any possible mitigating or crucial information that may determine their approach to the case (such as mental health history) - Ask the attorney what motions can be filed at this stage that may be important to the case. For example, in California, a Pitchess motion can be filed that could expose a police officer’s history if the case has a police of- 44 ficer’s actions as a key part of the incident.
EARLY RESOLUTION HEARING
- If the attorney is recommending a plea, ask them about their assessment of the case against you or your community member (strengths, weaknesses, evidence, investigation, and strategy if taken to trial). - The offer a client is likely to obtain at an early resolution calendar is directly related to how well the attorney knows the case: how much investigation has been done, how much mitigation has been worked up, etc. - As the person facing the charges, the decision to take a plea is theirs -- and can only be informed by the attorneyâ€™s recommendations.
PLEA - If you or your community member are going to prelim, meet with the attorney to go over the strategy going into prelim, (witnesses that may be called, how he or she will challenge the case presented). Though rarely used, defense attorneys can put on affirmative defenses, and can bring in their own experts to challenge the charges. - In preparation for prelim, get as much community support ready to be present in the courtroom. Ask them take notes of what happens and any observations they have during the prelim.
PRELIMINARY HEARING - Meet with the attorney to discuss the outcome of the prelim -- review statements made, evidence presented, notes taken by community supporters -- and how it will determine trial strategy. - See what motions the attorney can file that are important to this stage of the case. For example, in California, an attorney can file a 995 motion after a preliminary hearing if the evidence was legally insufficient at the prelim or the client was denied a substantial right (such as the attorney was not being allowed to properly cross-examine witnesses put on by the prosecutor.) - Ask for a copy of the prelim transcript for review in preparation for trial.
SUPERIOR COURT ARRAIGNMENT
- Meet with the attorney to see what motions they could file to strengthen the case at the trial stage (motion to suppress evidence or statements made in interrogations, bringing in specialists relevant to your case as expert witnesses.) - Discuss with the attorney what evidence and witnesses that will be presented on you or your community memberâ€™s behalf â€“ request copies of any material you can review. - Based on previous notes and review of the discovery, give the attorney cross examination questions of witnesses, and ways to point out inconsistencies or untruths of the evidence presented. - Make sure community supporters are ready to be present at court at the start of trial -- including jury selection.
- During trial, you and your community support should be taking diligent notes - observations of the cases presented by both the defense and the prosecution, the actions taken by the judge, and the demeanor of the jury. Communicate the information to the attorney at the end of each trial day. - If convicted, meet with the attorney to see what grounds may be presented for a motion for new trial. - If motion for new trial is not granted, the last stage of this process is sentencing. - In preparation for sentencing, gather as much community support (through letters, testimonials, any awards and certificates, proof of employment or educational pursuits, and showings of community ties) and bring that to the attorney to present in court. -- Meet with the attorney to see what their strategy is to mitigate the sentence, and what discretion may be used by the judge based on the specifics of the case. Attorneys can take actions such as motions to remove priors, and the presentation of the material your community has gathered, and potential witness testimony.
- Make sure the attorney files a notice of appeal within the time limit, and request a copy of the notice. - Request a copy of the trial transcripts. - Ensure all the paperwork is organized (notes, email correspondence, meetings, etc.) - Contact the appellate attorney that will be assigned to the case and arrange for a meeting. 46
Special thanks to ACJP families who contributed to this guide and whose vision make this work possible.
If your community organization has any further questions, would like further assistance, or would like to collaborate in starting support systems in your location for community members facing charges, please contact us at ACJP.
701 Lenzen Avenue, San Jose, CA 95126 Phone: (408) 971-4965 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.siliconvalleydebug.com www.acjusticeproject.com
The Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project (ACJP) â€” comprised of a network of families, organizers, advocates and lawyers â€” is a community organizing model aimed at equipping communities with the tools and information needed to meaningfully impact their local criminal justice system. The ACJP is a program of Silicon Valley De-Bug. For more information, contact us at: E-mail: email@example.com Phone: 408.971.4965 Address: 701 Lenzen Avenue, San Jose, CA 95126 Websites: acjusticeproject.com // siliconvalleydebug.com
Published on May 7, 2015