I recently had some time to sit down and chat with Attorney Joseph McKenzie and was told about a recent case he dealt with that I knew had to be published. Why? It’s important to know who you’re hiring when you are trying to win a case. The following are in his own words:
I am sitting in court with my client waiting for my case to be called. A police officer signaled for me to come back into lock up. I follow his directive and go back into lock up and I see a young African American male chained up surrounded by multiple policemen all staring at me. One officer looks at me and points to him and tells me that the man needed help and to take care of him today. I was a little shocked because this never happens. Police officers don’t usually ask attorneys to help defend someone that is under custody. I knew this was a case I had to take.
I jumped right into gear and before I could do anything the judge called the young man’s case. I panicked because even though I was ready to represent him, I didn’t know what kind of criminal procedure or hearing was taking place. I didn’t even know his name! Without any information we went out to face the judge and the judge was confused because he had just seen me sitting with my client in the courtroom waiting. The judge asked me if I was going to represent him and I told him yes. All of a sudden out of nowhere I started making oral motions and requests on his behalf. I started asserting his constitutional rights during the proceeding and I even asked for an impromptu bond hearing for him to be released immediately. The prosecutor got nervous and objected to my bond request. At this point I don’t know what just happened because in all the 18yrs of practicing law I had never advocated for someone like this on this level with zero preparation and zero knowledge about the Defendant. It’s like all my training and experience jumped into the front of my mind and I was rolling. The judge said he will give me time to come back and argue more for his release. The cops allowed me to go back w/him into custody. When i got back there and looked at the cops all I could see was compassion, humanity, sympathy, and a genuine desire on the part of the cops to take care of this young man. Their attitude towards me was, “protect this man at all costs”, because they believed in him and something was unique and different about him. What humbled me was the cops’ look of confidence in me, in that they already knew I would be willing and ready to help this young man without hesitation. It’s like they were very familiar with my desire to help other human beings. I would like to give a shout out to those officers for helping this individual get the representation that he deserved.
UPDATE: The client that I was essentially ordered to represent by the police has just been released from custody by the judge after the Prosecutor put up a vigorous fight to keep him locked up! At one point the judge even took over and started arguing on his behalf against the prosecutor. Next move is to get all charges either dismissed or a judgment of acquittal!
FINAL UPDATE 10/26/22: The 1st Judge was shocked and happy that I spontaneously took the case and was ready to give me a chance to argue for his release but he delayed it so the prosecutor could prepare. The 2nd Judge at his bond hearing took over my arguments for his release and started sparring with the prosecutor for his release and at the end released him. Today in front of his third Judge, the witness did not show up and the prosecutor argued for a continuance. This is the 1st trial date and all judge’s always continue the cases at least once on the 1st trial date, but I told the judge that I personally spoke to the witness and that the witness wants the charges dropped and does not want to come to court. The Judge told the prosecutor that he’s known me for many years and whatever I say he trusts so he told her he will not continue the case unless she calls the witness right now to confirm. She called the witness and verified what I said was true, however, she still requested the continuance telling him that it’s her office’s policy to have the witness come in and sign documents confirming that they want the case dropped. Before I could counter her argument the judge took over my arguments and started cross examining the prosecutor about the strength of her case and her level of preparedness. After she answered his questions the judge said “I’m not continuing this case for you.”
The prosecutor was forced to drop all charges. I told my client that from the start of this case everybody has been on his side, starting with the 5 officers that had you in cuffs and chains ordering me to represent you because you are a good man and then having all 3 Judges at each court date proactively arguing on your behalf after I made my arguments, was something I’ve never seen in a system that was set up to fail you as a black man. I told him “both the white Judges and black Judges were advocating for you and that this is unheard of.” I told him “I expect big things from you because there’s something special about you!” It feels like the police and Judges were all conspiring to get this young man out of the system. I have never seen anything like this ever before in my career.