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9.05.2003

Lip Service

Okay, so you're in the courtroom, defending yourself against a murder you did not commit. You have plenty of evidence to support your innocence, and the prosecution has only supposition and imagination. Amidst it all...the daily fear of being condemned for a crime you had nothing to do with, the spectacle of a prosecutor who would wave a bat through the air like it was a murder weapon even after it had been dismissed as possible evidence, and feeling very small after your character had been methodically ripped to shreds by cherry-picked accounts of your history...the judge asks your attorney a question.

There is only silence. So she asks again.

This time he looks up at her, smiles slightly, and replies:

"Sorry, I was daydreaming."

I've been pulling my punches when it comes to court-appointed attorneys. This is mostly because I wanted to explore the very important evidence of innocence for Kirstin's case, and I can get rather up in arms when it comes to people being harmed by a lack of proper defense. But I think the time has come to turn my thoughts in that direction.

In my last post, I talked about the prosecutor's close-minded hunt for a conviction in the face of evidence that Kirstin was innocence. To be honest, I find Kephart's actions pretty understandable, if distasteful in this case. He has probably put some people behind bars that need to be there, and that is by most measures a good thing. He was essentially doing his job and what he probably thought was the right thing, even if he did do it with a sort of blind fanaticism.

If only Kirstin's public defender had possessed that sort of focus, that sort of dedication to his job. Unfortunately, when looking at her trial, it is obvious to see that the prosecution and the defense make a marvelous study in contrasts.

The comment about daydreaming was uttered by Phil Kohn, Kirstin's public defender (and taken from the trial's transcripts). And just so you don't think that this was the only bit of incompetence shown by the public defender's office in her case, consider that her attorneys could not get a specialist who would show that the evidence would exclude Kirstin from the scene on the stand (the article is here). The reason? They were too late in following the proper procedures, a technicality that had nothing to do with the crime, the specialist, Kirstin Lobato, or the evidence being presented.

In their defense (that's kind of a sad phrase to use regarding public defenders, don't you think?), the entire Clark County Public Defender's office is screwed up. But there are more screw-ups from Kirstin's own defense team, and you can be sure I will be returning to this subject.

It should be noted that this is not intended to be a personal attack on either of Kirstin's attorneys, but rather a criticism of the job they have done. In the spirit of this, I'll point out that they aren't the only public defenders to be inept during a trial.

Here is something from the American Civil Liberties Union. CBS News did this report on a sleeping, judge-appointed defense lawyer...but this one is better. And this page has plenty of information on how innocent people get convicted, and much of the other information also pertains to Kirstin Lobato's case.

It makes you wonder how often this happens.


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