|Margaret Holden Palmietto|
We're talking about the trespass count in State of Missouri v. Carol T. Shuler (No. 1631-CR07731 at case.net). It wasn't a monumental legal victory, paling in comparison to, say, Brown v. Board of Education. And it was not a complicated or wide-ranging issue. The trespass count was the only matter on the table yesterday, and as we showed in a post on Monday, it was clear (under the law) how it had to be decided. In fact, we never saw any written opposition from the State on our Motion to Dismiss Count II. (The motion is embedded at the end of this post.)
But we've been in that position many times before. Time and again, we've had motions that had to be granted -- even motions with no opposition from the other side -- only to have judges (and yes, they were corrupt judges; there is no other way to put it) rule against us. It's happened in Alabama; it's happened in Missouri. It's happened in state court; it's happened in federal court. It's happened with white judges and black judges -- Republicans (mostly) and Democrats.
But Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto did not buy any of the State's BS yesterday -- and it offered up plenty. She was calm and reasoned and treated prosecutor Nicholas Jain with more tact than he deserved. But the judge, after listening to argument back and forth for about 10 minutes, essentially said, "Mrs. Shuler, you are right. This count is due to be dismissed."
I should point out that this was Carol's victory. Technically, I'm not a party to the case, but I very much was involved in all the events leading to the criminal charges against Carol. I saw every relevant event that happened, from a few feet away, and I know the charging documents are packed with lies from cops. But yesterday was a time for me to play bystander. I sat near the back of the courtroom, and in a facility with horrible acoustics, struggled to hear what was being said. You might say I was a highly engaged spectator -- and blogger/journalist.
But it was Carol's day, and her victory, and I was immensely proud of her. She didn't really do much, but sometimes, that's the best thing a client can do in a courtroom -- if you have a trustworthy attorney, sit back and let them (to borrow a phrase from Steve Winwood) "roll with it." That's what Carol did, and Public Defender Patty Poe did a cracker-jack job on Carol's behalf.
Without sounding like a suck-up (I hope), I also have to give props to Judge Palmietto. She is the first judge I've seen in 17 years who shows signs of having the integrity and intelligence to decide a case correctly -- and stand up to powerful and corrupt forces on the other side. I continue to brace myself for the possibility that she might turn in the other direction, but for now, I think she rocks.
Poe's primary work came in preparing a motion that really could not be beaten. The key point was that the Probable Cause Statement against Carol said not one word about trespass; it presented zero evidence to support the count, so it had to be dropped. The facts and the law were stacked in our favor. But that doesn't mean the morning didn't feature some drama -- or black comedy, depending on your viewpoint.
A trip to the courthouse would not be complete without some ugliness and Nicholas Jain provided it yesterday. Prosecutors apparently feel it is their duty to argue the slightest motion, even though they have no valid legal or factual argument to stand on. Jain tried to pull one out of his ass anyway, and in the process, made himself look like an utter boob. He also confirmed what many citizens think about prosecutors -- that they only care about winning and have zero interest in justice.
Based on what I could hear, and what Carol reported to me later, here are some of the "arguments" Jain appeared to make yesterday:
(1) Hey, let's change the charging documents!
Jain's position: We need to schedule a hearing for this afternoon, so I can prepare an amended Probable Cause Statement and Misdemeanor Information, and we can argue them then.
Palmietto's position: Bub, these alleged offenses took place in September 2015, and the one-year statute of limitation ran out in September 2016. It's now June 2017, nine months after time for any amendment, and you decide your charging documents need to be changed? Not gonna happen. Next.
(2) But . . . but . . . she pushed on the door
Jain's position: Mrs. Shuler pushed against the door when officers tried to enter the apartment. This must prove something, but I have no idea what that might be.
Palmietto's position: If you don't know what argument you are trying to make, I can't help you. What does the door have to do with trespass? Next.
(3) But . . . but . . . she filed a notice of appeal on the eviction
Jain's position: Mr. and Mrs. Shuler filed a notice of appeal, so that means Mrs. Shuler knew about the eviction.
Palmietto's position (best I can tell): And that's supposed to mean she "knowingly" trespassed? Are you on acid? The filing of a notice of appeal means the Shulers believed the trial court got the eviction ruling wrong. They went to the trouble and expense of filing a notice of appeal, and they did it in a timely fashion that, by law, put a stay on the eviction. That tells me that Mrs. Shuler believed she was lawfully at the apartment, that she did NOT knowingly trespass. Again, are you on acid?
|Carol Tovich Shuler|
When Carol and I walked out of the courthouse and into the bright sunshine -- and oppressive Missouri heat -- we looked at each other as if to say, "How do you react when you win in court? Are we supposed to high five?"
To be sure, we are not out of the woods on this criminal matter. Both counts against Carol are misdemeanors, but the remaining count -- "assault" on a law enforcement officer -- is the more significant of the two. Based on the charging documents, the "assault" count is every bit as weak as the trespass count was. In fact, it should be dismissed on almost a half dozen grounds -- and it's been established that it's too late for the prosecution to amend its flawed documents. But will Palmietto continue to show the kind of integrity and level head she displayed yesterday? We hope so, but one never knows if the law actually is going to rule the day in a courtroom.
The next hearing in Carol's case is set for July 19, and we have our first extended meeting with Patty Poe today. We don't know what's around the next corner, but for now, we have one victory in our pocket -- and that's a new. and most welcome, feeling.
So, how did we celebrate? Well, Carol has grown fond of the cupcakes at Price Cutter supermarkets here in fashionable Springfield, so we stopped and got a half dozen of those. I got a cup of frozen chocolate yogurt (with sprinkles!) at a local establishment. We were able to enjoy those treats only because of loyal readers and supporters who have helped keep us afloat.
We never would have made it to yesterday's victory without the help of others. I guess I have a decent vocabulary, but I don't have the words to adequately express my thanks to some very special people who have saved us. Perhaps there will be more victories in the future -- and justice, finally, will prevail.