Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

Battery to a Law Enforcement Officer is a crime that defense attorneys dread to defend. The case boils down to this. A police officer, usually in uniform, with gun and badge, will come in and tell the jury how much of a bad guy the defendant is, show his bruise, and then leave the stand. If anyone else testifies, it is usually his partner who witnessed the whole thing unfold. Slam dunk for the prosecution, right?

Not necessarily. Keep in mind that just because a case looks like a loser on its face does not mean that it is a loser deep inside.

As it turns out in our scenario, two police officers got on the stand and testified, but interestingly enough, they both told different stories. Under cross examination officer 1 and officer 2 could not even explain exactly how the injury occurred, even though they claim they were both, "right there". Referencing their police reports didn't help either. Upon refreshing their memories, they both realized they had written down different accounts of what happened. On top of the debacle which was the testimony of the two on scene officers, a detective got on the stand and initially testified that he had spent 2 hours with the defendant getting his confession. As it turns out, that didn't happen either. On cross, it came out that he really only spent 20 minutes with the defendant. By his own training manual that was not enough time to get an accurate statement.

In the end, the jury found my client not guilty and sent him home. So despite the charges, the bruising evidence and what may seem like insurmountable odds, we asked questions and set the record straight in a criminal trial by jury held in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on the charge of battery to a law enforcement officer and won an outright acquittal (not guilty verdict from the jury).

John A. Birdsall - T.J. Perlick-Molinari
Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Ste 214, Milwaukee, WI 53203
801 West Walnut Street, Green Bay, Wisconsin 53704

Friday, September 14, 2007

Public Defenders Underfunded

Justice Schmustice

Justice is priceless, but it's not free
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Posted: Sept. 9, 2007

In an op-ed piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the president of the State Bar, Thomas Bastings, complained - appropriately and accurately - that the entire justice system in Wisconsin is underfunded. I couldn’t agree more. After years of lobbying on behalf of the state Bar Criminal Law Section and the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, I have drawn the only possible conclusion about our child-like legislature: they either don’t get it, or don’t care. This goes for both sides of the aisle. The willy nilly passage of tough-on-crime bills aside, they don’t recognize the triangle of courts, prosecutors and defense attorneys that must be equally funded not only for more just results but for pure functionality.

There are legitimate shortages on all 3 sides of the triangle but, for obvious reasons, I focus on the defense. Let’s start with the indisputable premise that every citizen in this country has an absolute right to the effective assistance of counsel (see, the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution). That is the ultimate unfunded mandate in the eyes of most legislators and they want to pay rock bottom price. They need to step back and look at the forest for a minute.

The entire foundation of democracy rests on a reliable and fair legal system. Obviously many, many factors contribute to, or detract from, how fair that system is, the bottom line is that without it, people resolve their differences with bullets and car bombs (see, Iraq) or simply have authoritarian (or worse theocratic) governments. With Bush in office, we have seen a study slide into more centralized power and secrecy - hallmarks of a police state. It is defense attorney’s more than anybody else, who are institutionally designed to challenge these encroachments of freedom.

John A. Birdsall, Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Ste 214, Milwaukee, WI 53203
414.831.5465 -

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Introduction - Disclaimer

Welcome to my blog!! As we begin, the reader should be aware of the "narrow scope" of this blog - we will be strictly limiting to anything that has to do with the law since the beginning of the universe. It may also occasionally delve into the morass that is politics and/or history from the time of the Big Bang to the present.

Now that we have established our boundaries, I would issue the following disclaimer: anyone who relies on this as legal advise for a specific case is clearly not well and should probably see their therapist for some powerful psychotropic medication.

That does it for the disclaimers - believe it or not, I do intend to tackle serious subjects -mainly notorious criminal cases in Wisconsin and around the country - even the world. I will seek to praise those parts of, and person in, the system that are good/great and criticize (occasionally skewer) the parts that aren’t. The latter, unfortunately, are more common.. These will be both anecdotal and systematic observations based on 17 years of legal practice. Most of those exclusively doing criminal defense.

The first few posts may be more overview to imbue the reader with an area that they may not be familiar with (unless they get arrested regularly). But I shall also seek to be timely - though I won’t always try to keep up with the crazy Wisconsin legislature who seem to have a policy of introducing a bill on whatever the crime du jour happens to be in today’s headlines.

Please feel free to respond to posts, add to, point out mistakes, and offer alternative opinions. While I have strong views, I rarely outright reject another point of view (with the possible exception of the death penalty.

John A. Birdsall, Attorney at Law
Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Suite 214Milwaukee, WI 53203
414-831-5468 - Fax
414-831-5465 - Telephone
800-257-4799 - Toll Free

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Comments Welcome

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