SGT. Bowe Bergdahl will stand trial for Desertion and for Misbehavior before the Enemy despite the recommendations of the officer who presided over the Article 32 Investigation that a lesser proceeding is appropriate. Bergdahl left his post, was captured by the Taliban, was held 5 years and was only released when President Obama worked some magic and traded him for
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 From the Idaho Statesman tonight: 

"Four years ago, a report from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association found that Idaho is violating its Sixth Amendment obligations to defendants. Public defenders across the state were being given too many cases, and some defendants weren’t meeting their attorneys until they were in the courtroom. The report also said that defendants


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Years ago I was getting ready for a monster trial – pitting the ultimate power of the United States against a little guy who held out in the face of an all out attack on his home. People died. Protestors gathered. Television cameras rolled and major magazines wrote headlines in anticipation of an almost certain end. Tanks and helicopters ferried officers  and snipers about until the thing finally ended. 

As the time for trial neared – nearly nine months after the siege – the question of whether we could settle the case arose. The Sage – a burley mountain man of a lawyer who was our leader – looked me square in the eyes and said it best: 

"We only go to trial if we have to. If we can settle any case and walk away with our heads up, that’s what we do."

To win your case at trial you have to know if it can be won. Then again – what is winning?

If you are charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (pointing a gun at someone, a felony) and the government offers to accept a plea to simple assault (a misdemeanor), should you go to trial? I suppose it depends on your tolerance for the pain of a possible felony conviction. Sometimes you know that what you did went too far, and you can swallow a little crow and pay a small price to avoid the possibility of a felony conviction. Sometimes you can’t. And sometimes the government makes that decision for you – they refuse to negotiate and settle. 

Then you try your case.

Here’s the starting point: is there an alternative to trial? 

Last summer we prepared for a wrongful death trial in Wyoming. Our clients had lost their son while he was skiing at a well-known ski resort. This was the second such case we had handled against that resort in the past five years or so. In each case, the lawyers were the same, the decision-makers were the same, even the experts were the same. Two lives lost. Families destroyed. The ski industry almost never settles until you are almost at trial. They spend money defending their industry, even in the face of an unnecessary death. 

The case settled just a few weeks before the trial was to start. Why? Because each side understood the risk of going to trial. We all knew that juries are impossible to predict, regardless of how many mock trials or focus groups are done. And we did not have to try the case to win.

Our clients had already lost their son. They wanted a resolution that mostly included an acknowledgement of their loss and the defendants’ partial responsibility. A mediated settlement achieved that solution. 

If you have a case – civil or criminal – and a trial is your only way out, by all means, go and fight and do everything you can to "win." But after 31 years in the courts, I can tall you the Sage is right. If there is another solution, explore that option first. 

Think you have a civil case? Wrongful death? Personal injury? Wrongful discharge? Or a criminal matter? Maybe we can help you win – whether you go to court or not.

 


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The Supreme Court recently heard arguments surrounding two new cases up for review. Both involved the question of just how severe a penalty imposed on a juvenile offender must be in order to declared unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.

The first case, Miller v. Alabama, involved a 14-year-old in Alabama who beat an older man to death and subsequently burned his house down. Evan Miller, the teen, and a friend stole a collection of baseball cards and $300 from a neighbor. They attacked the man with a baseball bat, and killed him when they set fire to his home. The second case, Jackson v. Hobbs, involved another 14-year-old boy in Arkansas who, along with two older boys, tried to rob a video store in 1999. One of the older boys involved in the robbery shot and killed the store clerk as he was going to call the police. Both Mr. Miller and Mr. Jackson received mandatory sentences of life without parole for murder.

Proponents for harsh penalties point to the “sanctity of life” as the reason a juvenile should be sentenced harshly for crimes involving killings. There age should not be an excuse for punishment given the severity of their crimes. However, in oral arguments, Justice Ginsburg turned the argument around, noting that the same interest in the sanctity of an individual’s life could be used as justification for not severely punishing young offenders. By imposing a life sentence without the possibility on a 14-year-old, the state has essentially thrown away that person’s life.

Those opposed to meting out such harsh sentences believe that teenagers are immature and should be given a more lenient punishment because of that inexperience. While they acknowledge a life sentence is appropriate in such heinous situations, they believe that tacking away even the hope of parole is a step too far for such young criminals. Proponents of harsh punishment worry that teens have less incentive to commit such crimes in the future if they know that all they have to do is claim immaturity when they’re caught.

The Court weighed several possibilities when hearing the case and they include the following options:

·              Prohibiting life without parole sentences for any minor under the age of 15.

·              Prohibiting life without parole sentences for anyone under the age of 18.

·              Ban life without parole sentences for defendants who only acted as accomplices to a crime.

·        Bar mandatory sentences, relying on the discretion of the particular judge to consider all the facts and   circumstances of the case before reaching a decision. 

Headed to trial? Got a case that you want to talk about? Call our experienced Idaho criminal defense lawyers today at (208) 342-4633.

 


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The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution provides you with many of your most important tools at trial. It is intended to guarantee a fair trial to every person accused of a crime. Whether you are charged with DUI, a drug crime, a sex offense, fraud, manslaughter or murder, the Sixth Amendment helps us to get you a fair trial.

If you have been charged with a crime, we will be happy to meet with you to explain your Sixth Amendment rights and how they can help us defend you in your particular criminal defense matter.

So what does the Sixth Amendment provide?  It provides you with these essential rights at trial:

You have the right to be tried by an impartial jury.
You must be informed of the nature of the charges against you.
You have the right to confront the witnesses against you.
You have the right to a lawyer.

These basic rights are just the start – for example you don’t want just any lawyer – you want an experienced trial lawyer.

You don’t really want just any jury that might be impartial – you want a lawyer who can use his or her experience to choose jurors most likely to listen to your story, and jurors who will want to help you.

So the Sixth Amendment gives us a framework to defend you, but the key to your defense – your trial and your innocence – is the lawyer you choose.

Before you hire a lawyer who says he or she has the experience you need to face a prosecution – STOP.  Ask that lawyer the five questions we have here.  Then give us a call. For over thirty years we have been providing the best defense in criminal cases in state and federal courts.


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When a police officer goes too far – and uses excessive force – he can be held accountable for the harm he causes. Police officers have a tough job. We rely on them to keep us safe, and most of the time an officer uses force it is justified. Still, if you have been harmed by the actions of a police officer, you may have a case. The officer and his or her agency may be responsible for your damages.

Holding a law enforcement officer accountable is not an easy assignment. The evidence must make it clear that the force used was unreasonable or unnecessary. For example, if an officer used a baton or stun gun on someone who was simply arguing whether he or she had been speeding, a case might be made that the officer had used excessive force.

Here are three things to keep in mind about your potential excessive force claim:

First, a law enforcement officer may use force that is necessary under the circumstances presented. So not every use of force will result in a case.
Second, juries want to believe that law enforcement officers “did the right thing” when confronted with a tough situation. This means that you will likely start at a disadvantage when it comes to credibility, so your choice of a lawyer to handle the case is critical to your possible recovery.
Finally, there are procedural hurdles designed or intended to keep you out of court and to limit your recovery. Do not wait to contact an attorney and review your rights as the passage of time may destroy any opportunity you have to recover.

To safeguard your rights, your lawyers need to build your case expecting to go to trial. This means that we will help you safeguard evidence, document your medical treatment, account for lost wages and employment, and identify and interview witnesses.

If you or a family member have been injured or killed as the result of a confrontation with the police, call us for a free consultation.

 


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Have you noticed how many attorney websites are all about the lawyer and pay no attention to the information that people charged with criminal matters are looking for? Most lawyer websites scream: "Hire me! Do it now! You might go to prison if you don’t act within the next hour! Call me now!"

I hate those websites! Instead of providing information, the lawyers using the sites try to scare you into hiring them based on emotion, not information. The truth is you might not even need an attorney to handle your case. So before you sign that retainer agreement, get informed!

This blog is different. There is a ton of free information here for you to review based on your needs. Have a DUI case? Check out the DUI section of the Topics. Have a question about how to value a personal injury or wrongful death case? Look at the Civil Practice section.

The Topics section can lead you to information that you can use to help you become informed on whatever area of law you are interested in. Well, not every area – this blog is really about criminal defense, civil rights and civil trials. With over thirty years of experience in those areas, my goal is to help you become better informed!

And what if the issue you have is not listed in the Topics? Send me a question and I will get back to you. We promise to get you information – then you can make a great decision about whether you need a lawyer and which lawyer you want to hire.

 


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 Let’s just say that your are leaving the parking lot of your favorite convenience store.  Slurppy in one hand, cell phone in the other. An unmarked car stands by and hidden from view an officer watches your moves. You get into your car and back out. The unmarked runs interference and a couple of squad cars appear.  

"Do you


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 This week I had to write that "sorry, but I cannot take your civil rights case" letter to a man who had been badly assaulted in prison.  In Idaho over the past year there have been a number of lawsuits filed by prisoners and lawyers on their behalf for damages they received when the prison failed to protect them from


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