Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What was Prosecutor Dan Patterson thinking when he brought State v. Carol Shuler, a criminal case that provides no evidence of a crime being committed?

Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson
Like many Americans, I have supported the death penalty at some point in my life. I once thought, contrary to substantial evidence, that it served as a deterrent to violent crime. I assumed cops, prosecutors, judges, and juries were competent and honest enough to pretty much always get it right in capital cases.

My views on the death penalty began to change about 17 years ago, when the legal travails described in this blog began. That's when, for the first time in my life, I came face to face with our "justice system" in a personal way. I saw the system is riddled with dishonesty, fraud, self-dealing, back-stabbing, criminality, and utter disrespect for the rule of law. I saw that our justice apparatus is so broken that it routinely turns out judgments that are unreliable, unjust, and contrary to facts and law. I learned our appellate courts too often are unwilling to correct the grossly unlawful outcomes that trial courts spew out.

Such a system has no business taking anyone's life, no matter how heinous we think their crimes, so I have become an ardent opponent of the death penalty. I've come close to concluding that such a system has no business taking anyone's freedom either, so I'm almost anti-incarceration, across the board. On top of that, such a system has no business depriving citizens of their money, their homes, their real property, their personal property, their children, and much more. In other words, I've pretty much concluded our civil-justice system has become such a sewer that it needs to be drained and closed.

It would be fine with me if we turned our jails and prisons into racquetball courts, community health centers, technical colleges, manufacturing plants. I'm fine with turning our courthouses into rec centers, schools, primary-care clinics, museums.

What are we to do about crimes and other wrongs? I'm starting to think Charles Bronson might have had the right idea with his "take matters into your own hands" approach.

Nothing drives home these points quite like the pending criminal case against my wife, Carol, here in Greene County, Missouri. We've written a string of posts that show there was no probable cause to arrest Carol, much less prosecute her. The so-called officer/"victim" in the one remaining charge against Carol admits he "caused contact" with her, not the other way around, meaning she did not assault him.

The court docket shows Carol, acting pro se, filed documents in March, April, and May 2017, that should have, by law, forced dismissal of the case. (See, 1631-CR07731 - ST V CAROL T SHULER.) And yet, Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto told Carol in open court that she was not going to consider Carol's motions until she had a lawyer or waived her right to an attorney. Carol chose to have an attorney, and that's how we wound up with a public defender who seems to be developing a personal view of the law that is wildly out of touch with the real law.

Aside from that, Carol's representation issue has been resolved for quite some time, and we still see no sign that the judge has even read motions that have been sitting for four to six months.

How bad is the case against Carol, how much of a farce is it? Not only does the "victim" acknowledge that he wasn't victimized at all, a key element of the offense has been missing all along. (More on that in a moment.)

Those who fondly remember the classic TV sitcom Cheers, might recall public reaction when Shelley Long left the series for a movie career that proved to be stillborn. Many wondered, "What was she thinking?"

A similar question might be asked of Greene County Prosecuting Attorney (PA) Dan Patterson. "What was he thinking when he brought State v. Carol Shuler?" His case looks like a balsa-wood shed after an encounter with Hurricane Irma. Let's review where it stands:

The Probable Cause (PC) Statement and Misdemeanor Information (MI), taken together, more or less brought three charges against Carol:

(1) In the PC Statement, Officer Debi Wade claims Carol "barreled into her head-first." I witnessed this supposed event from about 15 feet away, and nothing even close to that happened. Patterson apparently agrees with me because his office did not bring the claim against Carol in the MI, its charging document.

Can Wade's claim, as an attorney close to the case has suggested, be incorporated into the charges against Carol -- even though the MI charging document makes no mention of it? The answer is no. (See State v. Metzinger, Mo. Ct. of App., 2015.) That means Wade's claim is dead on arrival; in fact, it never arrived at all because the prosecutor didn't bring it.

(2) Count 2 in the MI was a charge for trespass. It had a slight problem: The PC Statement, which is supposed to provide evidence to support the charge, said not one word about it. Public Defender Patty Poe moved for dismissal, and despite Assistant PA Nicholas Jain's spirited argument, Judge Palmietto booted that charge.

(3) Count 1 in the MI was for Assault of a Law Enforcement Officer, Third Degree. Under Missouri law, the issue in such a charge is: Did the defendant cause contact with a law enforcement officer? Carol is alleged to have pushed Officer Jeremy Lynn. But Lynn admits in his incident report that he "caused contact" with Carol, by grabbing her. This is the one remaining charge against Carol, but it should be booted soon.

What about that element of the offense that has been missing all along? Under RSMo. 565.083, a defendant commits the offense when "such person knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical contact with a law enforcement officer . . . ."

Notice that word in yellow: knowingly. It must be present for this offense to have been committed. What does "knowingly" mean? The answer is found in RSMo. 556.061 (Code Definitions), which reads, in part:

(31) "Knowingly", when used with respect to:

(a) Conduct or attendant circumstances, means a person is aware of the nature of his or her conduct or that those circumstances exist; or

(b) A result of conduct, means a person is aware that his or her conduct is practically certain to cause that result;

Was Carol aware that she was "assaulting" Jeremy Lynn? Hell, Officer Lynn's own words show HE wasn't aware she was assaulting him. So how could Carol be aware of it? Plus, court documents show we timely filed a Notice of Appeal (with fees), and the Missouri Court of Appeals had received our notice. Carol had a reasonable belief that put a stay on the eviction, and in fact, it did.

Despite that, Carol found a strange man breaking into her home -- without lawful grounds for doing so -- and grabbing her. Under those circumstances, Carol "knowingly" was trying to protect her home and its inhabitants -- as she is entitled to do under Missouri's Castle Doctrine Law. Jeremy Lynn probably is lucky he didn't get a frying pan smashed into his cranium, which Carol was entitled to do under the law. Either way, the "knowingly" element is missing, meaning the assault charge is kaput.

So, what does PA Dan Patterson have to show for bringing State v. Carol Shuler? He has:

(1) A "sort of" claim from Debi Wade that never even made it into the charging document;

(2) A trespass charge that had no evidentiary support, and was dismissed;

(3) An assault charge that even the "victim" admits, in so many words, isn't supported by evidence.

The people of Missouri, whose tax dollars support such prosecutorial nonsense, have every right to ask Patterson: "What in the hell were you thinking?"

And this is a guy who surely has helped send people to death row. He can't handle State v. Carol Shuler; he certainly should not be handling matters of life and death.

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