Five Check Boxes

In 2008 I convicted a man of shooting at his ex-girlfriend and several other people, nearly killing them all and wounding one in the stomach. He shot at them from the second story of a flower shop in a charming but blighted downtown neighborhood. He lived with his mother on the second floor of this once attractive building, in a filthy apartment overflowing with clutter and unsecured guns. At trial, the man claimed that the people he shot threatened him, but this claim was so outlandish and contrary to the facts that not a single juror believed him. His mother was a constant presence at the trial and would later die in a car crash on her way to visit him in prison. He used her gun to do the shooting. The crime stuck in my mind because of the mother’s death, a tragedy that seemed to follow tragedy, like one domino falling on another.

I recently received a Petition for Resentencing from this same defendant. The form was just two pages long, with blanks for the defendant’s name and check boxes for his claim. The shooter checked each of the five boxes and mailed the form to the public defender and to me. Even though I left the assignment long ago, and no longer live work anywhere near the old flower shop, I am responsible for post-conviction litigation on all my trials.

The defendant ticked off some check boxes on a form. Sadly, in this small space, he showed me that he was still trying to lie his way out of trouble. He claimed that he was “convicted… of attempted murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine.” He was not. He was convicted of murder under the “fired bullets into the body of a person he intended to kill” doctrine, which is not actually a doctrine, it’s a fact that I proved to twelve people beyond a reasonable doubt. This evident even without looking at the evidence: the jury made a specific finding that he personally fired a gunshot that caused great bodily injury to another human being.

As a result, of the shooter’s five check boxes, I have to write a legal brief that will end up about 10 pages long with several additional pages of exhibits and a proof of service. The whole process of drafting this response, in contrast to the mere seconds it took him to draft the petition, will take me hours. Because I have regular duties that took up my work day, I have to draft it now, after hours, with no overtime available and only the old-fashioned and obsolete idea that a position of public trust requires small sacrifices. A sacrifice of a few hours of family time by me, but a sacrifice by you too. The fifth box asked the court to appoint the defendant a lawyer, at your expense, to argue his frivolous claim.

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