Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Annals of Inexplicable Client Conduct--Running Away

Reporter Benjamin Alexander Bloch (great name!) at the Times-Picayune has this account of inexplicable client conduct:

"A 20-year-old Mississippi woman on Tuesday afternoon fled a St. Tammany Parish courtroom midway through her own trial but her trial continued without her and the St. Tammany jury only took about 10 minutes to find her guilty as charged.  Hannah Salsbury faced a possession of hydrocodone charge and apparently didn't like how things were going so she bolted with her boyfriend, authorities said. Her companion, Kerry Kennedy, 38, is also facing a drug charge for the same incident.

The duo did not return when the trial resumed about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday after the lunch break. Her trial continued, and the jury returned the guilty verdict about 4 p.m.

Salsbury and Kennedy were pulled over by St. Tammany sheriff's deputies at the Hwy. 90 and Hwy. 190 interchange in the Slidell area on June 10 and found in possession of several nonprescription pills.   Kennedy, who was driving, allegedly had 55 morphine pills, while Salsbury was found with five hydrocodone pills stuffed in her brassiere, according to St. Tammany Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea Jr. who prosecuted the case. Kennedy is scheduled to go to trial on Nov. 15.

An arrest warrant was immediately issued for Salsbury and Noriea said another may be issued for Kennedy for aiding and abetting her escape.

According to state law, 'A defendant initially present for the commencement of trial . . . shall be considered to have waived his right to be present if his counsel is present.'  State Judge William J. 'Will' Crain is scheduled to sentence Salsbury on Friday and she faces a maximum of five years behind bars."
Don't run away.  You do not improve your outcomes, by fleeing.

It's been the rare moment in my career where something close to this occurred; but, there is one memorable incident from the years when I began to actively represent victims of child sex abuse. 

My then partner Nancy, and I were deposing a brother who had violently and sexually abused his younger sister, now both adults.  The deposition was tough.  I asked hard questions and I challenged the denials of the brother with details that would be hard to fabricate, supplied by his sister.  We reached lunchtime and the attorneys asked for a break.  When returned at 1:30, I asked opposing counsel where the deponent was.  [Obviously, I'm reconstructing the conversation in the following quotes, but the exchange did occur.]

"You killed him."


"You killed him, he had a massive heart attack shortly after we left for lunch and he could not be revived."

"Counselor, he may have had a massive heart attack and died, but I choose to believe that my questions did not 'kill him,' perhaps his conscience and coronary health had more to do with his death,"  I said. 

You can run away, you can get away, you can avoid a legal consequence, or a financial consequence; but, you can never get away from what you did.  It's in there, and unless you can get honest with yourself, you will never know a new freedom and a new happiness.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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