I’m gonna be writing stream of consciousness, so please forgive me if my verb tenses don’t always agree.
So I had this client referred by the Public Defender’s Office. His name was Robert Dale Hicks. He was charged with Robbery 1 and P.F.O. 1 (Persistent Felony Offender in the First Degree), an enhancement charge in KY that’s kind of similar to a “three-strikes” law. Robert was looking at 20 to life.
Robert was in a wheel chair when I first visited him in jail. I thought, “That might be good. He couldn’t have been Robber-like in a wheelchair.” So Robert starts telling me his tale of woe and says confidently that they can’t identify him because he has a beard now but the description of the defendant they caught didn’t have a beard. I said, “Well, do you think they might figure that you grew a beard at some point in the two years you’ve been awaiting trial?” He considered and then started yelling that I was an idiot.
So while he was yakkin’ I was reading through the discovery. I said, “It says here that you left the Sav-A-Step in a lime green ’74 Plymouth Duster. Is it possible that the cops id’d someone else’s lime green Duster?” He said it was a distinct possibility, given the number of Dusters on the road in 2001.
Robert didn’t want to plead. I told him that I thought he would be found guilty. He told me that I sucked and he wanted to have his trial. There was a security video the prosecutor showed at trial that showed a guy limping into the Sav-A-Step on two canes trying to hold a handgun in one hand. Robert’s wife was working there that day. Robert took her and the manager in the back where he asked the manager to sack up the money. While he was guarding them, Robert dropped the gun. The manager picked it up and gave it back. He said at trial that he learned that in a loss prevention seminar. Robert left in his Duster and was stopped at a light when he saw a cop with his lights flashing responding to the scene. The cop looked at Robert and Robert tore off through the red light, smashing into a car and leaving part of his Duster behind. The cop chased him into the projects, lost him, but found the Duster because he had retrieved the piece of Duster left behind and he matched it to the one Robert parked in his parking lot. The cop went around to apartments, found Robert’s, was allowed into the apartment by Robert’s father, and found Robert under the bed.
Robert was in a wheelchair because he tried to escape from jail once by rapelling from the roof with a rope he made from tied together bedsheets. The sheets tore apart and Robert fell four stories and broke his back.
Now, there was no doubt that Robert would be found guilty, so my guard slipped a little and I let a bad question pass my lips when I was crossing his wife. I asked, “How long has Robert been disabled?” I knew as soon as the last word left my mouth that I should have phrased it “Please tell me the date on which Robert became disabled.”, but it was too late. She said, “Ever since he broke his back trying to escape from jail.”
During Robert’s testimony he told us about how he couldn’t have done a robbery because he was too disabled. In fact, he said that he was paralyzed from the waist down and had to have a catheter and colostomy bag. The he pulled out his catheter on the stand. I said, “Please put that away Robert.”
The jury was sequestered right before lunch. The trial had lasted four days. Many people asked me how long I thought they’d be out. I said that I heard the judge order lunch and so I thought they’d at least eat lunch. I was wrong. They were back in ten minutes. Robert eventually got 25 years.
A couple of other bits: When the cop found Robert under the bed, he found the gun on top of the bed. During his wife’s testimony, the prosecutor meant to show that the two were working together and so he asked a lot of questions about the gun. It turned out that they kept that gun on the top shelf of their closet. The prosecutor asked whether she had seen the gun that day before she left for work at the Sav-A-Step. She said, “Oh you know how it is Joe Gutman (prosecutor’s name), we had just made love and you know how it is when you’re layin’ with your man and then you bring down the gun and start playin’ with it.” Everybody was just staring at her, and you could’ve heard a pin drop.
Kinda unrelated – it also came up during her testimony that she was married to someone else at the same time she was married to Robert. She thought she had diovorced the previous husband by signing a form at the county clerk’s office.
This post was written by guest writer Joe the Lawyer. Yes, Joe is a real lawyer.