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Archive for the ‘Criminal Defense’ Category

Court rules the real life character protrayed in movie “The Departed” not given license to kill by FBI

Judge strikes down key part of defense in Whitey Bulger trial

(CNN) — Reputed former mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger did not have the right to commit more murders after striking a purported immunity deal with the FBI in the 1970s, a federal judge ruled Monday, knocking down a key part of Bulger’s defense at his trial.

Bulger, the alleged former head of Boston’s notorious Winter Hill gang, faces 19 murder charges, as well as charges including extortion, money-laundering and narcotics distribution.

The defense had initially moved to dismiss the case, saying Bulger was granted immunity by federal agents working to infiltrate Irish and Italian mobs in Boston three decades ago.

Judge Richard Stearns denied Bulger had “prospective immunity” — that is, immunity to commit crimes made after his purported deal with the FBI.

Stearns left undecided whether Bulger had “historical immunity” for crimes committed before a deal. He gave both sides time to review evidence on that point.

Bulger’s attorneys had also sought to have a jury decide on his immunity claim, arguing he would receive a fairer hearing, but Stearns refused.

Bulger’s attorneys said he is prepared to detail the immunity deal “for past and ongoing crimes” at trial, and they said they will continue to fight for a jury trial.

“The federal government has done everything in its power over the past 25 years to cover up the relationship between James Bulger and federal law enforcement authorities,” the attorneys wrote in a statement after the ruling.

“The federal government, including attorneys who worked for the (U.S. Justice Department) during this period, desperately want to conceal this sordid history from the jury, the victims, and the public. Today’s decision is another step toward that goal.”

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Regarding Bulger’s claim of immunity, Stearns wrote that a license to kill is “beyond the pale and one unknown even in the earliest formalities of the common law.”

He wrote the defense has provided a “paucity of information” about the deal that Bulger says he struck with Jeremiah O’Sullivan, then the head of the Justice Department’s New England Organized Crime Strike Force.

Prosecutors submitted an affidavit from a former U.S. Justice Department official who says that if O’Sullivan did grant Bulger immunity from his past crimes, then it was without proper approval and against agency practice.

The affidavit is part of the evidence the two sides will be reviewing on historical immunity.

Bulger made headlines when he was arrested in June 2011 in Santa Monica, California, after being on the run for 16 years.

Before his sudden departure from Boston, he cooperated as an informant with disgraced ex-FBI agent John Connolly Jr., who is serving a 50-year sentence for second-degree murder and racketeering.

According to an indictment against Connolly filed in 2000, Bulger became his confidential informant in fall 1975.

Why I only support lawyers for Judicial Vacancies

Why I only support lawyers for Judicial Vacancies

by: Eric C. Crawford (note that this opinion is mine and does not necessarily reflect the position of Crawford and Boyle, LLC or its other employees)

In Georgia counties below a certain population threshold, there are three types of courts that can hear criminal matters where the judge is not required to be a lawyer: magistrate, municipal, and probate courts.  The theory behind this practice is that Georgia has 159 counties (second only behind Texas), and persons elected or appointed to these judgeships must live in the county in which they are appointed.  Accordingly, in some of the smaller, more rural counties, there are not enough lawyers around to fill all of the vacant positions.  And really, who is going to complain about not having enough lawyers in their county?

However, where there are a sufficient amount of lawyers in a county such that a lawyer is in a contested race against a non-lawyer, unless the lawyer is absolutely unqualified for the position I’m going to support and vote for him or her.  And, believe it or not, it’s not just because I went to law school: there is an actual story behind my opposition to non-lawyers on the bench.

In July, 2003, the Georgia “Move Over” law went into effect.  On July 31, I happened to be traveling down GA-316 through Barrow County to visit my then girlfriend, now wife, Cindy, in Atlanta.  I wasn’t speeding, wasn’t breaking any traffic laws, but was pulled over for a move over violation for the law that had just gone into effect. Being in law school at the time, I took my citation and researched the law and came up with a rather clever statutory construction argument regarding the definition of an “authorized emergency vehicle,” an argument that is still being used by attorneys today.  Barrow County stalwart attorney Billy Healan was kind enough to give me some pointers and the lay of the land prior to my court date.

I came to court; the officer presented his case, then after I cross-examined him I launched into my statutory construction argument complete with references to other statutes and supporting caselaw.  Following my argument, the judge recessed to chambers and called another probate judge and an official with the DMV.  She returned to the bench and indicated that while I had “created lots of questions,” that I “had not proved” my “case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

For those of you who have lived in the United States for any period of time and have even a vague understanding of the American Justice System, you know that there is no burden on the defense to prove anything.  The burden is on the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  After doing some research, I found out that the judge was not an attorney, which explained some of the confusion.  However, if someone does not understand that basic principle of our system, there is no way they should be deciding guilt or innocence, sentencing in criminal cases, whether a search warrant is sufficient, or whether a complex will is correctly drafted.

Yes, I know that I cannot ascribe this level of incompetence to anyone without a law degree seeking office.  I know some very fine judges who do not have a law degree.  And yes, I know that there are incompetent attorneys and crazy attorneys out there that should not ever be placed in a position of power.   However, when my client’s freedom and/or finances are at stake, I want someone who has studied the law and practiced law making the decisions in the case.  I do not want to have to spend my time trying to teach the judge about such basic concepts as “burden of proof” and “presumption of innocence” when I need to be arguing the finer points of more complicated issues of law.

As a private citizen, as a representative of an accused, as an attorney, as a former prosecutor, or as the accused myself, I want, no, I deserve nothing less than having a judge with a law degree hearing and deciding my case.

And, for those of you concerned about my case, it was overturned on appeal to Superior Court.  Had a lawyer been on the bench at the time of my trial, neither I nor the State would have had to waste time and resources on an appeal, and I would have won a whole lot sooner.

Get a FREE wallet-size card on “What to do if stopped for suspicion of DUI”

DUI checkpointThe attorneys and staff at Crawford and Boyle wish you a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend, and urge you not to drink and drive.  We are frequently asked, however, “what should I do if I am stopped by a police officer for suspicion of DUI?”  We have come up with nine simple steps to follow to give you the greatest possible chance to minimize a DUI conviction and the numerous collateral consequences that come with such a conviction.

For your convenience, we’ve listed those steps below, and we’ve also put them on a credit-card sized card that you can download by clicking here (PDF format).  Print out a copy for your wallet, your glove box, your driver’s side visor, or wherever it will be handy in the event you need it.  Feel free to share it with one friend or all of your friends and family.

WHAT TO DO IF PULLED OVER FOR SUSPICION OF DUI:

1. Be polite and respectful. (You’re probably on camera.)

2. NEVER lie to the officer.

3. NEVER admit to drinking or using drugs, even prescription drugs.  Say “I’m sorry officer, but my attorney told me not to answer any questions without him here.”

4. Decline ALL field sobriety tests.

5. Decline to take the roadside (handheld) breathalizer test.

6. If you are arrested, agree to take the breath or blood test unless:

– you’re under 21

– you were in an accident involving injury or death

– you’ve been convicted of DUI within the last 10 years.

7. Always request an independent test of your blood at a hospital.  (You may be required to pay the cost of the testing.)

8. If there is anything illegal in your car, call a friend or tow truck to retrieve it, preventing a police search.  NEVER consent to a police search of your car.

9. Call Crawford and Boyle IMMEDIATELY so we can begin building a defense strategy.

Your felony dismissed in 30 minutes or less!

A Crawford and Boyle success story from last Friday:

Eric was in a Gwinnett Superior courtroom on a case, and the judge appointed him to represent H.D. on a felony suspended license charge.  H.D. was in custody without a bond, and the prosecutor said she couldn’t offer a “time-served” plea on the felony.  Eric posed a simple foundational question to the prosecutor about the case; after a quick review of her file, she agreed that she didn’t have everything she needed and reduced the charge to a misdemeanor, releasing H.D. from the Gwinnett jail later that afternoon.

While we probably can’t get all felonies dismissed in less than half an hour, we’re happy to put our knowledge to work for you and give it our best!

Good Win in Gwinnett State Court!

Police Stop Blue LightsThe best way to start a week is with a win in court on Monday, which happened for Eric Crawford and his client P.D. in the Gwinnett County State Court.

Background: P.D. pulled his vehicle into a shopping center around midnight on December 02, 2010.  He was waiting to meet a friend so he could follow that friend back to his house, as he was unfamiliar with the area.  Two police officers approach, and P.D. gets out of his car and throws his hands up, smiling, saying “I didn’t do it!”  The officers, who apparently left their standard issue sense of humor back at the station, ordered him back into his car.  The encounter eventually leads to the officers finding a bag of marijuana outside P.D.’s car, tackling him to the ground, and arresting him on felony charges.

The first order of business was to get the felony drug charge dismissed, which the DA’s office did on June 8, 2011.  When the case was formally charged in State Court, I filed a motion to suppress, alleging that the police illegally detained and searched P.D. from the initial encounter.

On April 9, 2012, a hearing on the motion was held before Judge Iannazzone.  After hearing evidence from the two officers and arguments from counsel for the State and the accused, the judge found that when the police ordered P.D. back into the car he was illegally detained, moving this from a consensual police-citizen encounter to a detention which required a reasonable, articulable suspicion, something the police officer did not and could not articulate.

This is a great victory for P.D., who has since moved to another state and has a great job.

-Eric C. Crawford
Attorney at Law