Being John Q. Prosecutor


You, the defense lawyer, get a client. You look at the information (or the indictment for those from other states), or you look at an appellate decision upholding some form of overcharging or prosecutorial misconduct. You are amazed. You go to your colleagues and ask: “What is this prosecutor thinking?”

Well, now we now – sort of. Thanks to Grits (who actually has been linking to this message board for quite some time – I just haven’t gotten around to posting about it) and the fine folks at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, we get a glimpse into the mind of a prosecutor. Their message board is public. There are lots of threads, some asking for opinions on pending cases, some discussing legal issues, some discussing news stories. There’s even one about the judge that banned the use of the word “rape” at trial. Here’s a recent goodie, titled “Good search?”:

Defendant was pulled over for traffic stop. Officer ran her name and a felony warrant came up from Oklahoma. Officer pulled defendant out of car. He told defendant that she had an outstanding warrant. Defendant says, “that is not me, it must be my sister. She is always using my name.” Defendant was very nervous when asked about narcotics. (She had a previous POM arrest.) She requested that she be allowed to get back in her car and sit down.

Officer was awaiting confirmation of the warrant and agreed to let defendant get back in car. He searched the lunge area of the vehicle (without consent) and found a tin can with some baggies of methamphetamine under the driver’s seat. He arrested defendant for POCS. When he returned to his office he got the pictures from the Oklahoma warrant that was issued in defendant’s name and it turned out that it was actually defendant’s sister.

The officer was acting in good faith and believed that defendant had an outstanding felony warrant when he initiated the search. It must be a good search, right?

Some thought it was a good search and some questioned the validity of it. What do you think? Grits is “annoyed with a bunch of lawyers sit[ting] around jawing after the fact about what legal theory they can use to justify it.”

If you want more, here’s the thread about an arrest for failing to obey a lawful order (refusing to exit the car when asked), when in fact there is no such crime. Here is Grits’ take.

Overall, I think it is fascinating. To see other legal minds at work – especially those that are our adversaries – is a treat. It shows us that there are those who will be bound by the law and those that might be willing to make whatever argument it takes to secure a conviction. Sort of what we do, but the implications are completely different.

PS: For those interested, this is the picture I had originally selected for this post. 😛

2 thoughts on “Being John Q. Prosecutor

  1. Pingback: Appellate Law

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