My client was represented by another lawyer for 18 months. Not satisfied with the fact that his lawyer wanted him to plead guilty to stabbing two people at a party (violations of Penal Code Section 245(a)) he hired me. The Defendant told me he had been to a party where one of his friends had brought a NOS tank. NOS is nitrous oxide and is used by many young people to get high. The owner of the house where the party was being held didn’t want the NOS at the party and told the Defendant and his friends to leave. Before the Defendant could leave he was confronted by numerous party goers who decided they would attack him and teach him a lesson.
The Defendant was confronted by multiple individuals who were threatening him. He found a knife near the NOS tank and was waving it in front of him in order to ward off the attackers. He knew he had not stabbed anyone and certainly hadn’t stabbed anyone intentionally. A friendly stranger stepped in and grabbed the Defendant’s hand and led him out of the party to a place of safety across the street. During the trip across the street to safety the stranger noticed his hand had been cut by the knife in the Defendant’s hand. The Defendant apologized for cutting him and left the area. Before he left, he threw the knife in the bushes. After leaving he decided throwing the knife away wasn’t a good idea and he went back to retrieve it. Of course, when he did that he was arrested for a stabbing that had occurred at the party and for cutting the stranger’s hand.
At the police station he was questioned by the police. The reports stated that the Defendant had confessed to stabbing the two victims at the party. My client denied ever having said any such thing. Fortunately, the conversation at the station was recorded. The previous lawyer had not listened to the tape recording so he didn’t know when the police officer testified at the Preliminary Hearing as to what was in his reports, that the report itself was either a lie or just inaccurate. Either way, when I listened to the audio it was clear the client was telling the truth, he never confessed to stabbing anyone and , in fact, had denied it.
Investigation revealed the stranger was willing to come forward to testify that the Defendant was only acting in self-defense and that he was cut by accident and not intentionally as stated in the, again inaccurate, police report. Further work discovered none of the DNA on the Defendant’s knife matched the second stabbing victim. In fact, doing the necessary preparation for trial revealed that a second individual had stabbed the victim long after the Defendant had left the party.
When all the evidence pointing towards the Defendant’s innocence was revealed to the District Attorney (DA) he decided to dismiss the case “in the interests of justice”. It makes me wonder what justice there would have been if the truth hadn’t been pursued doggedly and without regard to making a plea bargain? Being a “good lawyer” requires the relentless investigation, preparation, and having a reputation that if a case goes to trial the defense won’t rest and won’t compromise.