Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vocal Arts Fundraiser

So last night Vocal Arts has this fundraiser. One of our members is by avocation, a chef. And quite a good one at that. He offered his services, a member offered her house (what a house) and we served and entertained 50 people at a goodly price per plate.

But the dinner took awhile to be served and there were lots of people providing entertainment. So while the goodly people who opened their wallets for our organization ate themselves silly. We waited to perform.

One of our stalwart show-stopping acts in a group called The Bald Spots. They have been together for sometime and do do-wop songs. That is a far cry from our usual classical schtick. And they are good and they are funny. Five "over-the-hill" guys having a lot of fun.

But, well, they had to wait, too........

Brian will be happy to know that he did NOT snore. And someone did throw a blanket over him.

Please notice the letterman's jacket. All the Bald Spots have them. They are very spiffy. They go with these fashion statement shoes.......

 Now those ARE spiffy....

I must say the night went well. The food was great and we made some operating money.

Not bad for one night of looking at those shoes!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Green Hills

Living on the Central Coast of California has some real advantages. There isn't a lot of traffic, the ocean is REALLY close, and the weather is usually good,

But the real BIG advantage for me is the GREEN! Only in late summer do the hills go brown from lack of water.

When you see the deep emerald green dotted with the dark green of the coastal oak trees and sprinkled with the buds of early wildflowers....well, it takes your breath away.

That happened to me today and I didn't have a camera. Rats.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Brother Bill

He looks like our father. He has our father's mannerisms. He sounds like our father. But thank the gods, he is not our father. He is Bill.

I am 6 years younger than he. I didn't interact with him much growing up. He was my big brother. The REALLY big one. I don't know what growing up was like for him. I got stories but I wasn't a part of them.

By the time I hit adulthood, he had children. We didn't talk much. We only saw each other at family gatherings.

But somewhere along the line, I really don't know where, we started talking. A little here, a little there. I think it was when I went to law school but I can't be sure.That's when we lost our mother.

I didn't know it but he was working very hard to get ahead and provide for a growing family. I was just trying to feed my daughter as best I could. He was focused on what he needed to do and I was focused on what I needed to do.

I would occasionally go to his house for a family get together. Then our father died. Then Bernie, his wife, died.

I wanted to help but I had no idea how to do that. I didn't know him. He was just my older brother that I loved.

But gradually, over the last few years, the phone began ringing a little more. I began hearing more about his travels, his golf game, his work. I began to get a glimmer of who he was.

And then Dan died.

That changed everything. I call Bill alot now. Just to say hi. I know the names of all of my grand nieces and nephews now. I tease him alot. And he is beginning to do the same. He calls. Just to say hi. He comes to my concerts.

It is a lot of fun getting to know your older brother.

And I never say goodbye without saying I love you.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Ocean

I was driving home tonight. I went the back way.I just wasn't up to a freeway. Besides, after the recent rain, the back way is green and clean and beautiful.

But it was late. It was dark and I was the only car on the road.

At least I was until I came over the hill into Pismo Beach. The road looks straight down to the ocean. Coming over the ridge I am mesmerized by the waves that are breaking half a mile down the hill on an iridescent white beach. And I want to cry.

Dan would sit and watch those waves. Sometimes he would do it alone. Sometimes he would do it with friends. And sometimes, some very special times, he would do it with me. And a cup of tea.

I can't go to where we use to sit and drink tea but when I come home the back way and I see the ocean, Dan is all I can think about.

Day 4

"They didn't believe me?" says the client.
"They believed the officer" says the lawyer.
"Damn" says the client.

You can lead a horse to water......

There are times when a client feels that they can get 12 people to agree with them no matter what. You can explain the facts of the case and the law to them while they nod and agree with everything you say. Then they say, "But I have a right to a jury trial."

They do.

So you prepare like crazy, you bring in experts, you do everything possible, and you go to trial. And about 1/2 way through the first prosecution witness you know..... no matter what you do, your client is going down.

Now all through this process, the prosecution has been offering deals that are quite fair (given the facts) but your client wants a trial. So you explain using a cost/benefit analysis.

He still wants a trial. And you keep going.

It is my job and I do love it. Sometimes though, I just shake my head and thank high heaven we have a Constitution.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 3

"The prosecution is done?" asks the client.
"Yup" says the lawyer

"Geez, it took longer to pick the jury" says the client
"Yup" says the lawyer.

Welcome to my world.

Well, that weird part of my world.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 2

Act 1

"Is picking a jury always this slow?" asks client
"yes," says lawyer
"Nice dogandpony show" says client
"Thank You," says lawyer.

It takes a lot of energy to get 18 people to tell you that they really do not understand the presumption of innocence. They just think they do.

Back tomorrow for Act 2.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nights During Trial

We started picking a jury today. We did the pre-trial motions and took care of all the housekeeping before 60 bewildered, disgruntled people showed up in the court room. We went through the usual basic questions and broke for the day.

Then I go to work. I am re-researching the motions that I lost, researching the theory I want to use and how I can bring it across in voir dire without breaking any rules of court or evidence. I spent an hour on the phone with the expert and, believe it or not, I went looking for voir dire questions.

I have been doing this for 25 years. I have over 250 jury trials under my belt and I still go looking for the magic questions. The ones that will get that jury, as a group, to open up and tell me what they are thinking rather than what they think they are suppose to say they are thinking.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But you keep trying and looking for someone with the better mousetrap.

And now I am tired. But my mind is working in overdrive and sleep is a long way away.

After this is all over, I will remember why I do this.......

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I must say that spending my weekend trying to figure out what the other side is thinking is kinda like early relationship dating. Does he know about this? Does he do xxx this way? How do I stop that without pissing off everyone. Or better yet, how do I stop him without him knowing? That is a real trick.

I have done it many times but it is a very personal thing. I usually have to know the person on the other side or have people who know.

I've got a green as grass prosecutor on this one. So I must be careful. If the trial goes in a certain way then I can plan to do X. If it goes in another I must do Y.

So today I stew and conjure and reevaluate.

I always do this.

Even though I know that Monday I will walk into court and do exactly what I do every time. I will stop actively thinking. If someone were to ask me why I said something or did something, I would not be able to tell them. I just do it. After 25 or so years I think I am entitled to the Nike logo.

But until then, I will stew, conjure, reevaluate, fuss and fume. I will rework my case until it has spawned baby neurons in my head. And 24 hours after the verdict those neurons will be as dead as the ones I killed with alcohol. I won't remember a thing about the case. Jettisoned. Gone.

What matters is what happens in between the creation and the expulsion.

So if you will excuse me I have to nurture a few brain cells.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Scattered Thoughts

I watched the effects of the earthquake and tsunami early this morning. It brought up lots of thoughts about my brother. But it brought up lots of other thoughts.

First, my child has an irrational fear of earthquakes. Living in California a healthy respect for the earth moving under you is wise. You prepare. You have bottled water and canned food. You have flashlights and batteries. You bolt things to the walls and you don't hang heavy stuff (or anything, for that matter) over the head of your bed.

But she has been through two big ones and she has never gotten over the fear. A 3.0, a one second jolt, can send her under the table or out the door--- whichever is safer in her mind.

So I am watching the news today and I am beginning to feel a bit of her fear. I begin to understand why this otherwise ultra rational person loses it when the earth does something unexpected.

Combing that realization with the thoughts I was having about my brother, the upcoming trial, the need to get the dog to the vet (Zelda had a mole removed and needs her stitches out), the threat of a tsunami 1/2 mile from me and I sorta lost my ability to think.

That in itself was a bit unsettling. Thinking is my bread and butter. Literally.

So I went to the optometrist, had my eyes checked, (which has no connection to anything except I had an appointment) went home and worked on a jigsaw puzzle.

Tomorrow I will go to work and try and save my client.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Preparing for trial

I can't tell you anything about the case (confidentiality and all that good stuff....) but I can tell you that from the minute that negotiations broke down today until the trial is over (probably on Thursday) it will always be on my mind. I will dream about it.

I will see simple daily scenes that I can use in a good closing argument. I will overhear people talking and remind myself to discuss that particular bias or thought pattern in my voir dire questions. I will read speeches and poems for use in arguments.

I will talk to the expert another 2-3 times. I will discuss the underlying theory with other defense attorneys that I respect and trust. I will write notes on the computer and lose them. (It doesn't matter, they are now in my brain) I will reread for the millionth time the evidence code notebook.I will rework my trial notebook.

I will take every road, trail, footpath and track that I can think of to its logical (I hope) conclusion.

All of this I will do while I think I am being totally normal with my family, my dogs, my cats, the grocery clerks, the restaurant servers and anyone else with whom I come in contact.

I am told that this last sentence is a complete hallucination on my part. Apparently, while preparing for trial , I am a bit of a myopic, tyrannical, offspring of a velociraptor. I don't see it but I have noticed that the dogs tend to avoid me during these periods of work.

Zelda did take a dog cookie from me tonight. She is asleep in the other room right now. So is everyone else.

I don't get it...........;-)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I sing to relieve stress.

It is a massage from the inside (I heard Holly Near say that in a concert one time). I belong to a singing group that focuses on older classical music with some Americana tossed in for good measure and probably ticket sales.

It is a fabulous group and I feel more than fortunate to belong to it. I have been on two tours with the group-one to Italy, Slovenia, and Austria before I was a member and one, as a member to Canada. The group sang in duomos and churches everywhere. We sang in restaurants, on street corners, anywhere that we thought would get people to listen.

On of the things we do in formal concerts is to have a member of the choir introduce each selection. It helps to explain whether a piece is in romantic style or classical, who the composer was or is and a bit of the history. There are a few hams in the group who love to do this sort of thing. It is their minute of fame.

I like my minute of fame. So I always volunteer to introduce a selection.

The last couple of concerts, our Director has figured I am good for the Ave Maria. Now there are thousands upon thousands of renditions of the Ave Maria. The group has sung a lot of them. Some are in Latin, some in Greek, some in English, some in....well, you get the picture.

But they all say the same thing. They are all music written to the Roman Catholic prayer of intercession to the Virgin Mary.

How many ways can you say this is the prayer of intercession?

One time I just said the prayer. One time I talked about the Latin. This time I talked about the composer.
When I sat down the Director complemented me. I was, to say the least, a bit surprised. This was a rehearsal and such words are a bit unexpected.

So I said something flippant like "Well, its what I do for a living!" and we bantered a bit until it came out that I do murder trials.

He looked at me and he said," When I screw up I lose a chord. When you screw up you..." and we said in unison "lose a life".

Like I said. I sing to relieve the stress.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Sometimes I just don't get it.

Saturday was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the dogs were digging. Then Sunday happened. I didn't bother to get out of my pajamas. It was cold and rainy, the cats were grumpy and the dogs just wanted to sleep. To top it off Sabattini won the golf tournament. Rats.

Then there was today. I show up at court on time but the court doesn't have time for me. To be fair, there were lots of other attorneys and clients there but I am on a real whine so they don't count right now. (They will later, I promise)(I didn't say when later was, did I?)

So I spent all morning sitting waiting for a chance to say a few words and continue a couple of cases. The total transaction time for all of the cases took 15 minutes. I was in court for 3 hours. AUGHHHHH! (As Charlie Brown would say)

It is bad enough that I have to wear a suit to walk into a courtroom where everyone else is dressed in orange jumpsuits or (if they are out of custody) in designer jeans purchased at the local second hand store. It was worse when I had to wear pantyhose so I thank the sky's for designer sox!

My point is that everyone is dressed comfortably except the women lawyers. The guy lawyers have to wear ties but that is the only uncomfortable thing about their apparel. AND they have pockets! Cell phones, keys, ID cards, State Bar cards are all neatly concealed. I'm stuck with rummaging in my briefcase for all the necessary accouterments.

In my dotage I have given up on wearing heels. Stupid things. They hurt and they make you look like you have no center of gravity. They do make you swing your hips. In my case that could be life threatening. So I wear pants and flats.

Not very ladylike but then again I am no lady. I am a lawyer.

I am talking about all of this to vent my frustration. This seemed to be an appropriate place to do so. I didn't kick my dogs or swat at my cats. I didn't yell at my spouse or guilt trip my offspring. I didn't break any dishes or disturb anyone's peace.

I just ranted and whined in print.

I just don't get how you can go from fabulous to whiny in less than 48 hours.

Actually, I do. I think I shall have an internal attitude adjustment. I work better that way.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

That Rare Day

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous days on the Central Coast. The sky was a brilliant blue with only an occasional cloud. The wind was gentle and brought the faint smell of the sea. The hills shimmered in emerald green.

And it was warm. I actually went out side and pulled some weeds in the dog run.

Exercise, the actual moving of my body away from the computer, is not something that I do easily anymore. My occupation requires that I do "research" or contact clients, or write briefs or other wordy documents. I do all of that in front of a computer with a telephone stuck in my ear.

I go to the jail to see clients. To do that I sit in a car with a blue-tooth stuck in my ear.

So pulling weeds in the dog run was an existential experience. Under coastal oaks with my three cocker spaniels I yanked up dandelions, milk weed, and foxtails. My mind actually cleared and I did not think about any of the murder cases sitting on my desk.

I watched my dogs try to dig to China after that long gone gopher. I watched the shadows filter across the yard as time passed.
LadyBug, Zelda, and Mohawk in the dog run

And I listened to my hamstrings scream "WTF". But I kept going.

Because the air was clear, the dogs were happy, and I wasn't thinking about work.

That is a rare day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Innocent? Yeah, right.....

I was at a public defender's office in the late 80's just after  some 30+ people had been convicted of molesting children in several giant, satanic child molestation rings. The DA's office was ecstatic. The trials had as many as eight defendant's apiece-some married to each other, some related, some just neighbors. The worst cases were the ones where the defendants were just names of people the "victim" children had heard in passing.

It turned out, years later that the entire investigation was tainted. Children were forced to testify against their parents, were lied to by investigators and prosecutors who firmly believed that there were satanic rites taking place where babies were being molested, killed and buried in the desert.

It took nearly 20 years for the last of those defendants, the ones who survived prison, to be exonerated. Their lives were ruined. Their relationships with their children forever shattered

And during the whole process of habeas corpus that brought the insanity of these trials and the innocence of these people to light, the prosecutor's office fought like hell to maintain the convictions.

Oh, there is a book out about it and it is chilling to read.

But those cases were why we were taught as green public defenders to fight like hell in the trial court. Make every objection count and make every objection. Have the case law in your trial binder and be ready for a judge that wants to ignore the law or the facts or both. Be ready for a prosecutor who just wants to win.

We were taught that prosecutors had lost the ethic of serving justice and that we had to force them to do their jobs.

I still believe that to be true in many cases.

So when I read the following article, I almost cried. It wasn't about winning or keeping a conviction. It was about the truth. What a concept.

Take a peek. I think you will agree.