Rod Hackathorn, head of the public defender's office in Springfield, sent a letter to the court last week, saying his staff is handling such heavy caseloads that they cannot take on the case of Dameon Clinghan, who has been charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 7 killing of Tyler Rambo. The public defender's office has sent several such letters recently, stating that its office is violating Missouri Supreme Court rules because of excessive caseloads.
How does that make us feel about the quality of Carol's representation? Not very good. Missouri has the second most poorly funded public defender's system in the country, which is one reason Carol was not anxious to have the system represent her. In fact, Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto pretty much forced Carol to fill out a PD application.
Funding woes certainly are a major factor behind the overwhelming caseloads. But our experiences suggest other factors are in play:
(1) Corrupt cops and prosecutors don't help -- Carol's case is a classic "cover charge," designed to thwart her efforts to achieve civil justice for the police brutality that left her with a shattered left arm. The case never should have been brought because even the alleged "victim," Officer Jeremy Lynn, admits he caused contact with Carol, not the other way around -- meaning she could not have assaulted him, under Missouri law. But Sheriff Jim Arnott, who was on the scene for our eviction, stood five feet away as his officers body slammed Carol butt-first to the ground, yanking viciously on her arms, and verbally stated, "She assaulted a police officer." In other words, the police brutality was so obvious and disturbing that Arnott felt the need to concoct a "cover charge" on the spot.
Prosecutor Dan Patterson waited until the last day before the one-year statute of limitations ran out, to file charges based on Arnott's bogus claims. Talk about collusion.
A reasonable assumption would be that Arnott and Patterson are aware the public defender's office is overwhelmed. And a citizen might think, knowing that, the sheriff and PA would bring only cases that had at least a whiff of merit. But dumping bogus cases like Carol's on a system that already is struggling to stay afloat, just makes the situation worse -- and it is a disservice to Missouri taxpayers.
(2) Calcified judges don't help -- As we've reported previously, Judge Palmietto has made correct rulings and asked probing questions that indicate she has the integrity and intellect to handle Carol's case properly. But we don't understand why the judge is acting so slowly. If the public defender's caseload is excessive, one can assume judges' dockets also are overloaded. You'd think that might motivate Palmietto to dismiss the charges -- especially since Carol, while acting pro se, filed documents in March, April, and May that, by law, should have forced the charges to be dropped months ago. Palmietto has stated in court that she is aware those motions have been filed, but we've seen no sign that she has considered them. Since Carol's injuries were disclosed in court about a month ago, Palmietto has made statements indicating she suspects the charges against Carol are bogus. So, why hasn't she considered motions that are on the docket, make the lawful ruling to dismiss the charges, and do everyone in a swamped system (including herself) a favor?
(3) Public defenders themselves sometimes don't help -- Patty Poe, Carol's attorney, is one of those overwhelmed public defenders. So why does Poe seem reluctant to have Carol's case dismissed. She repeatedly has discussed with us various options for the case going to trial. But the case, by law, can't go to trial. Carol has spelled out for her five or six grounds upon which the charges must be dropped, but Poe seems reluctant to take action on them.
Poe does seem willing to do at least a limited amount of discovery, which we appreciate, and it has yielded some valuable information. But discovery, which is for producing facts, should not be necessary because this case must be dismissed as a matter of law. Poe, in her own self interest, should want Carol's case booted ASAP. So, why hasn't she taken action?
It should not be hard. As already noted, the so-called "victim" has made statements in writing to show that Carol did not assault him -- as the offense is defined under Missouri law. Will Poe file the appropriate motion? She hasn't yet, but she soon will receive pressure from us to do just that.
Bottom line: Inadequate funding is a major cause of what has been described as a "constitutional crisis" with Missouri's PD system. But members of the "justice system" contribute to the problem by bringing bogus cases and allowing them to linger much longer than they should on the docket -- even when facts and law plainly show they must be dismissed.