Wednesday, December 16, 2009

White Supremacy Part II

The other day was the day I met the alleged white supremacist (I stress the word "alleged"). I was a little nervous. Not that I thought the defendant would have any violent or extreme reaction, but I had never met a real-life white supremacist before!

I saw a rather gruff looking character right outside the courtroom, and for some reason I had the feeling that this was the guy. Physically, he was not imposing. He only stood about 5 foot 8. He had an average build. Middle-aged. Gray, thinning hair. He kind of looked like a worn out guy who had worked on a farm for most of his life. I approached him and asked, "John?" He looked at me with a raised eyebrow and asked, "Are you a Chinaman?" Just kidding; he didn't say that. He just responded, "yes." He had no negative reaction to seeing my very Asian face. We had a firm handshake. I introduced myself. His father came too and the first thing I thought was, "Oh, here is the head honcho of the Klan."

We went into a conference room and talked about the case. It was clear that they had major beef with the police. What a surprise! I mean, we're talking about Officer Hoppie ... I listened to them carefully, and we combed through the police report to look for discrepancies. He pointed out numerous things that he thought were complete lies by the police. The interesting thing was that he never denied the white supremacist allegation by his co-defendant. As we talked, the father kept interjecting with things like, "Yeah, what is wrong with the police these days?" He also said things like, "Now, this is a good attorney. This guy really listens. A lot of attorneys don't care." I appreciated the compliment.

Overall, I found them to be pretty normal people, and in fact, I thought the guy was innocent (although I think that of most of my clients).

I took my newfound knowledge of the case and let the prosecutor know about the flaws. He agreed the case was weak, so he reduced the charge from a misdemeanor to an infraction (which is pretty much equivalent to a traffic citation). Unfortunately, because infractions are so low on the totem pole of crime, the defendant no longer had the right to an attorney; the judge took me off the case. A trial date was set.

So that's it. Kind of anticlimactic, huh? Well, I guess that's a good thing. He didn't call me a chink and I didn't call him a honkie. I followed the advice of what some readers suggested, and I made no mention of race and just treated him like I would anyone else. I think it worked out. They expressed a lot of appreciation for my help. And I was actually sad that I couldn't continue to work with them.

What I learned from this is to never prejudge a white supremacist. They're people, too!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

White Supremacy Part I

I've got an interesting dilemma. I was recently appointed to a case where I would have to defend a guy who, according to the police report, has "ties to white supremacy." At first glance, I was ok with this. I've always told myself that for the sake of justice and upholding the Constitution, I could defend pretty much anybody (except for maybe a child rapist who I know is lying through his teeth). However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized the potential conflict. I haven't met the guy yet, but when we meet next week at a court hearing, I wonder if he would even want me to be his attorney. Would I be the subject of his anger and hatred (assuming that he is angry and drinks haterade)? Would I eventually hate the guy myself if I find out that the allegations are true? Should I fear for my own life?

Oh, and here is an interesting twist for all you drama queens. The police officer who arrested my client was Officer Hoppie. He ain't going to be too hoppie when he sees me (see last post).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Racial Profiling? You decide

This is the police dashcam video of me getting pulled over by the Alpine/Highland Police a few months ago. The officer's name is Hoppie. Don't expect any Rodney King action to go down, but I believe there is a strong case for a violation of my civil rights. Especially pay attention to when he is back in his car checking my driver's license.

Background: My two friends (white guys) and I were driving to go to a restaurant for a midnight snack. I was perfectly driving the speed limit. It was at night and my back window was tinted, so I didn't realize that there was a cop following me for over a minute. We are all pretty clean-cut looking guys and I didn't have a single thing to drink or puff on that night. I was not tired or on any medication. I was perfectly sober. Any normal civilian would have seen that. The town we were driving through is Highland. It is a predominantly white area with a median household income of over $100,000.

While watching the video, I want you to keep in mind all the things that cops look out for when suspecting a potential DUI/DWI. They include but are not limited to the following: driving pattern (a cop will usually look for 2-3 missteps in driving before suspecting a DUI, or maybe one really bad traffic offense), how quickly and smoothly car pulls over, odor of alcohol or weed, fumbling of wallet, bloodshot eyes, watery eyes, dilated pupils, slurred speech, fumbling of wallet or car registration, attitude, nervousness, how he answers the cop's questions, etc. There usually has to be a combination of two or three of the above in order to have reasonable suspicion. Only when there is reasonable suspicion can a police officer have the right to proceed with further investigation like conducting field sobriety tests (walk the line, one-legged stand, etc.).

Also, keep in mind the following: I start to get pretty nervous with this cop breathing down my neck, I comply with everything because I don't want him to give me a ticket, and I also comply with everything because I know I am perfectly clean.

Enjoy the show!