Skip to main content

View Diary: 70-year-old great-grandmother fired for helping free an innocent man (142 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Who (whom?) are you referring to? (8+ / 0-)

    the exact chain of events in the diary is a tad difficult to follow, but this:

    Byrn fired her June 27, telling her she had violated several court rules by providing assistance to Nelson and talking about aspects of the case, even while under seal, to attorneys not involved in the matter.
    seems to put some degree of culpability on the firee.
    •  If not culpability, cloudiness. (6+ / 0-)

      I'm not sure what the hell happened here. There's not enough in this news story for the reader to make any sense of the situation.

    •  Hard cases make bad law (16+ / 0-)

      She is excruciatingly sympathetic; she was also giving legal advice which is absolutely verboten of court staff as it tends to compromise the impartiality of the process.

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 12:22:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But I think that it is safe to say that (16+ / 0-)

        the process is less and less impartial and more and more leaning in favor of the prosecution for various reasons.

        One wonders if that sense of injustice was what she was responding to in offering the legal advice.  Seems like she'd be a great person to fold into the legal aid process now that she has some free time on her hands ;)

        Just for the record, I do agree with what you are saying, in principle - just wish our system was not so lacking in defense resources that an innocent person's hopes rested entirely on the kindnesses of a court clerk.

      •  She can't give legal advice (8+ / 0-)

        she can tell you she needs you to pay a fee or get something certified or notarized or inform that the court provides a financial services person for forma pauperis issues. I'm not sure that constitutes advice so long as she doesn't tell the individual what they should do.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 12:41:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  A person has an obligation as a human being... (22+ / 0-)

          to attempt to right a wrong and to attempt to aid someone in need of justice.  

          Not only was their injustice for this person wrongly convicted but it appears that the rape victim was denied justice as well.

          If this person was fired because she gave help to an innocent person who needed it, it was wrong and their should be an outcry in her defense.  If she was not fired because she helped someone but rather went around talking about helping someone and violated the confidentiality of a document or a court case ordered to be sealed by the court, then she deserved to lose her job.  If it was the only way she could help this person and she made a conscious decision to do so in spite of the consequences, good for her.

          "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

          by Buckeye Nut Schell on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 12:56:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree (11+ / 0-)

            To all those suggesting that her firing might be appropriate, I pose a simple observation.

            Does everyone who breaches the protocols of their employer get fired?

            Is no part of the process a judgement call based on the harm caused?

            I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
            but I fear we will remain Democrats.

            Who is twigg?

            by twigg on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 01:07:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You might feel differently if you found her (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              marykk, MPociask

              giving an undue advantage to the Prosecution.  I'm glad she did it, but she still should not have done it.

              •  I don't feel any way (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                StrayCat

                I simply made an observation.

                I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
                but I fear we will remain Democrats.

                Who is twigg?

                by twigg on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 03:04:12 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  So We should withold the facts of the law from (10+ / 0-)

                those involved in the process?

                 I don't get that.

                If the law is so complicated that a reasonably intelligent lawyer cannot find this and provide it to his client, then something is terribly wrong.

                I don't care which side he is on. I want every case to benefit from due process, I want both sides to be able to access the statutes they need to present a good case on behalf of their client.

                Otherwise--what are we paying for again? It's like throwing money down a hole for the defense, without even the benefit of landing on it, when one ends up in jail, in this case.

                Harm done--beyond the harm to this man's professional character and his social standing, and the harm done to his earning power and to his family in the same vein, but do you have any idea what happens to rapists in jail?

                Holy crap.

                I would love nothing more for the woman who was raped to have her day in court and to face the perpetrator and get justice for the harm done to her.

                But no person should be declared guilty for the purpose of giving the public the illusion of closure.

                Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

                by GreenMother on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 03:24:22 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  No - we should not withhold. (4+ / 0-)

                  We should fund the public defense system better than adequately AND if you scroll down thread you will see that I argue that any convict whether indigent or not should have access to at least one DNA test without any judicial review.  I believe it should just be a matter of course if they want it.

                  I'm not arguing for injustice to stand, but I am saying that it would be better if the court workers weren't freelancing.  And the truth is that more often than not, they would freelance for the prosecutors than the defense, so, be careful  what you wish for if you want this kind of vigilante justice to take hold.

                •  Also, if you scroll down, you will see that (5+ / 0-)

                  I linked to a story about the dramatic cuts that are coming to the Federal Public Defender's Office.  If you want to get outraged, that's where your energy should be going - and then please, I beg you, to then use the momentum to not just preserve that workforce, but also expand it.  Then if you have any energy left over, work in your state to get more funding for the State Public Defender's offices. Then, let's see if Legal Aid  can be expanded writ large.  It is bad out there for people accused of crimes these days, really bad.

                  •  I know, I have watched it unfold for friends (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Kevskos, Buckeye Nut Schell

                    personally. And there was nothing to be done.

                    Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

                    by GreenMother on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 03:53:51 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I have watched friends labor to manage (4+ / 0-)

                      80+ defense cases at a time.

                      •  So what's your point? (0+ / 0-)

                        You think that watching someone juggle 80 defenses is worse than watching someone's family ripped apart by  bigotry of a DA is somehow more [what should I fill in the blank with here?]

                        I don't know what to make of your posts here. I cannot relate to you at this point, because I am not sure what angle you are working.

                        I belong to the segment of America that would have to mortgage their lives if I had to hire a retainer for any reason. Too much for legal aid, not enough for a good lawyer.

                        I have watched others in my shoes go down in flames because of that. I have watched people spend their retirement just to keep their heads above water.

                        Sometimes, the legal eagles are part of the problem.

                        Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

                        by GreenMother on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 05:38:55 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  80 cases is too many cases - the point is (0+ / 0-)

                          that the "legal eagles" are human beings and can only take on so much before they start to drop balls - and that's because there's not enough funding to add more human beings to the pool of folks who would work on these cases.

                          The point is that our judicial system is both inequitably and poorly funded.

                          Anyway, the integrity of the system is important.  Funding the defense options is important.  If you want to protect those families, that is.

                          •  You seem to want to monopolize the criticism (0+ / 0-)

                            process. That isn't helping the discussion go forward.

                            For instance: taking a more sympathetic stance:

                            Yes, the working poor, and the barely middle class can also be at the mercy of a broken system. I offer that part of that problem is that when affordable, good lawyers do arise, they are quickly overwhelmed by a huge caseload.

                            --totally different tone.

                            You still express your frustration from your unique position, without alienating those who are expressing frustration from another angle.

                            This fosters the understanding of interdependence of low quality representation, exacerbated by a broken, corrupt system that cannot self regulate at any level and cries out for reform in a multitude of ways.

                            Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

                            by GreenMother on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 08:41:04 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Sigh. (0+ / 0-)

                            Right out of the gate when you entered the thread, you decided that I didn't care about the guy because I believe that relying on the kindness of courthouse employees is not a solution to the problem and because I believe that the ethics rules that are in place are there for very good reasons.

                            You went after me for not caring about justice which was totally wrong - not wrong for going after me - but wrong in the sense that you drew exactly the wrong conclusion about what I was saying in that particular comment in the thread.

                            Then you went on to blame the public defenders and to cast aspersions on lawyers working in this arena.  Again totally your right to think and do that, but you are wrong about what the real problems in our justice system are.

                            Like the ethics involved in this particular case of the helpful courthouse worker, the layers upon layers of inequity built into our system right now are complex - but they come down largely to the question of funding and resource allocation.

                            The Police and Prosecution generally have healthy budgets.
                            The Public Defender system all of the country is under siege and being defunded.
                            Public Defenders tend to have no where to go in terms of rising through the ranks whereas Prosecutors tend to be the favorites in appointed and elected judgeships.  
                            Most Judges start out as Prosecutors - not PD's - which to me is the most chilling aspect of our criminal justice system having known a few Prosecutors and understanding their biases.
                            Juries and the Public are more likely to believe the Police than any other witness in a trial and most jurors tend to believe that the accused would not be in the Defendant's seat if they were not guilt of a crime - or "something".  
                            Public Defenders are underpaid and overworked.  
                            The Federal Prosecutor's office is suffering no cuts as a result of the Sequester - the Federal Public Defender's office may see cuts in personnel around 40% because of how the Sequester was designed and applied in this area - the Federal Prosecutors are taking advantage of the furlough days when the PD's office is closed, I am told.

                            These are all trends that have been in the works for a couple of decades now.  The priority of policies in the judicial system has been trending away from "justice" and trending towards a system that cripples the defense and gives clear advantage to the prosecution.

                            Americans confuse "Law and Order" with "Justice".  That's the kind of perverted thinking that saved George Zimmerman's ass after he killed a kid for walking home too slowly (or whatever insanity that defense was).

                            I am glad that the lady helped the man successfully petition for a DNA test, but she's not the answer to our ails.  

                            I lived in a small, fairly corrupt, third-world country for a while.  It was really taxing and stressful to try to get anything government related done there because the reality was that on most things you had to know and be liked well enough by the lady at the courthouse; the lady at immigration; the lady at customs; the lady at the DMV; the car inspection guy etc. well enough to get through basic government transactions.  Basically, I know what it is like to live in a society where your only hope is finding someone sympathetic to you or your situation - and hope that you or someone close to you hasn't pissed someone off - in order to live your life.  There was nothing remotely just about that environment.  Mostly it was a biased, partial and quixotic experience.  I missed the States a lot on those days when I had to do something involving the government.

                          •  No I am just confused why you say you care but (0+ / 0-)

                            then seem to jump all over people on the thread. You are all over the place.

                            It's not the first time I have seen professionals get proprietary over their profession, when faced with a combination of personal frustration and public criticism.

                            Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

                            by GreenMother on Wed Jul 31, 2013 at 05:28:31 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                •  The law isn't withheld (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  marykk, twigg, Buckeye Nut Schell

                  You can find out pretty much anything you want about the law and the rules of judicial procedure. It shouldn't take you much longer than teaching yourself matrix algebra, quantum mechanics, or how to do open heart surgery.

                  If you have a reasonably clean record you could also go to school and study law, take a bar exam and practice for a while. Either approach takes some time and some money, but you aren't forced to be represented by an attorney unless you are in a fiduciary relationship.

                  Most prosecutors believe its their job to do the best they can to convict everybody who comes before them. Defense attorney's take the opposite approach, judges are supposed to just act as competent administrators of the rules. Sometimes you just get lucky and the clerk mentions something that saves your bacon.

                  Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

                  by rktect on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 04:36:21 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  by inclusiveheart (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                jrooth, Buckeye Nut Schell
                You might feel differently if you found her  giving an undue advantage to the Prosecution.
                Why does it matter who it helps if justice is served ?

                Unbelievable , with the giant unfair holes all over the justice system for the poor , people on here are going to nit pick about this ?

                No wonder the poor never get a break , with so many people agreeing to stand on their heads    

                Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

                by Patango on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 08:14:18 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Bingo. The article doesn't really explain whether (6+ / 0-)

            ...this was a case of the rare-but-it-does-happen case of a false accusation of rape, or if the victim really was raped, just by someone else.

            However, assuming it's the latter (which I assume is the case), that means that the ACTUAL rapist has been walking around free for all these years.

            •  If the DNA and other evidence rules him (8+ / 0-)

              out then it is reasonable to believe that the real rapist is still out there - or at least not convicted of this specific incidence of rape.

              Honestly, that's always been my biggest beef with prosecutors who steamroll people who are wrongly accused of crimes.  That species of prosecutor is more often than not looking for a notch in their conviction belt and not thinking at all about their responsibility as protectors of society writ large.  They'd rather get a win than actually protect society from a real criminal and that's kind of a big deal especially when you are talking about offenses like rape which are horrifying, destructive and extremely violent crimes.

              •  Its very popular to corner the accused and (9+ / 0-)

                threaten them with big time behind bars--OR plead guilty to a slightly lesser charge in the process of deal making.

                It's all very political.

                The prosecution gets their "man" in the public eye, they are tough on crime, which looks good for election year, meanwhile.....

                Lives ruined, actual perps not apprehended, and more than likely more rape survivors will emerge at a later date, because the perp wasn't caught.

                Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

                by GreenMother on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 03:27:30 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  The problem here (11+ / 0-)

            Is the lack of public defenders to give the same legal advice so that the clerk is never in the position of having to do this

            There are extremely good reasons why such prohibitions exist (namely to prevent one side from getting insider baseball which won't surprise you usually will go to the powerful and connected).  The solution here isn't to change that but provide a reliable way for defendants to get good counsel

            Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

            by Mindful Nature on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 02:04:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Not only was the rape victim denied justice (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Buckeye Nut Schell

            Who knows who else was raped by the rapist while they were prosecuting this innocent guy?

            Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

            by splashy on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 12:45:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  This is extremely common. (16+ / 0-)

        People who don't have a lawyer constantly ask the court staff for help.  It's understandable, but it creates a huge problem for the staff.  

        In most cases the court staff don't really know the answers anyway, because the people asking the questions don't understand the legal issues, and the issues are unclear which is why the case is being litigated.  If the court staff gives bad advice, they get in even more trouble than if they give good advice.  

        The real question to ask is why our system needs to be more complicated than other systems around the world, and who benefits from it being that way?

        In the civil context it's pretty clear that the person who can afford the most legal help benefits the most from a complex system.  

        Trying to figure out who benefits from an impenetrably complex mass-incarceration system requires a little more of a paradigm shift, but it seems pretty clear to me that the system is set up to benefit the people who make money from fear-mongering on both security issues and economics.  

        The Panopticon-Industrial Complex.

        •  And that is too common. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marykk, Ice Blue, RoCali, VClib

          I have known more than one court clerk who thought they were an expert on the law, but were not.  It is part of basic training that you never give legal advice, partly because if you're wrong, it could cost a person their liberty or even their life.  Even clerks with a JD* are forbidden to give legal advice.

          (Usually clerks who have finished law school, but not passed the bar yet).

          I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

          by trumpeter on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 02:09:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  There's something grievously wrong (12+ / 0-)

        with an "impartial process" that demands a potentially innocent person be held in ignorance of the proper procedure to follow to get exculpatory evidence.

        "That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything ... There would be no place to hide." - Senator Frank Church

        by jrooth on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 01:22:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not (0+ / 0-)

        being advised of a law makes the system impartial?

        Are the rules of order my important then justice.  It would seem so to this judge.

        "In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism" Marine Corp Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler

        by Kevskos on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 05:46:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  how did they find out? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happymisanthropy

      she told?  Somehow I doubt that.  Probably the attorneys mentioned where they got the info?  

    •  Given that the innocent man didn't have (3+ / 0-)

      an attorney, who should have been the one to unearth the case, and the judge is apparently the one responsible for appointing public defenders....Seems to put the blame back on the judge, for not ensure he had proper representation.  Or on the system, for the same reason.

    •  Talked to What Attorney? (0+ / 0-)

      She talked to his Sister.  Is She an Attorney?

      Was she involved in this case?

      (Certainly not, as she is his sister.)

      I hope Bryn is fired and penalized heavily - like being sent to jail for a few months in the general body.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

  • Recommended (150)
  • Community (65)
  • Elections (43)
  • Civil Rights (38)
  • 2016 (32)
  • Culture (32)
  • Baltimore (28)
  • Economy (27)
  • Texas (27)
  • Law (27)
  • Bernie Sanders (26)
  • Environment (26)
  • Hillary Clinton (24)
  • Labor (23)
  • Health Care (21)
  • Rescued (21)
  • Barack Obama (20)
  • Republicans (18)
  • International (18)
  • Freddie Gray (17)
  • Click here for the mobile view of the site