All’s Fair in Love, War and Law Practice (At least on the Defense side)

Recently on a Sunday morning I answered a knock on my front door. I looked out to see a young woman who smiled at me pleasantly. My dogs were barking furiously so I told her to hold on and I went out my kitchen door and then through the garage. I approached her on my sidewalk and she advised me her name and that she was a private investigator working on “The Kaiser Case”. I immediately knew who she was referring to but I still did not comprehend why she was here. I knew she was referring to Marlon Kaiser who had cold-bloodedly murdered Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff Donald Bond in September, 2001. I had been a police officer for the Chattanooga Police Department and on the Special Weapons And Tactics Team at the time of the tragedy. The SWAT team had been called out when it was determined Deputy Bonds’ assassin had been located in a house not far from the murder scene. I was deployed as a sniper and observed the killer carry something to the railing of a back deck and watched him drop it over the deck rail.

What he had dropped was Deputy Bonds’ body armor and his duty pistol. I had testified at the murder trial. I realized that was why this person was attempting to interview me but did not understand why. She explained there was some type of alternate theory about what happened and that as I understood it his defense team was trying to file another appeal. I asked the young lady and her accomplice for identification. They produced some. At that point I told her “This is Sunday morning and you show up at my house.” I felt this was very unprofessional or at least improper. I told them that they should have realized that as a 30 year police officer that I would not discus the case without either the approval of or with someone from the D.A.’s (District Attorney’s) office present. I told them “He should be gone”, referring to the killer. She replied, “He’s on Death Row.” I quickly told her, “He hasn’t been executed”. She looked a little dumbfounded at that point. I then told her they needed to get in their van and get out of my driveway. They quickly complied but it did get me upset. I put a post on Facebook about the incident to warn other people who were involved. I remember the days when people respected Sunday did not disturb people on business matters. I really thought the attempt to interview me was handled unprofessionally and improper ethically.

Hey, it wasn’t the first time I’ve been the target of a defense attorney committing what I considered an unethical act. I was sitting in the “police peanut gallery”, which is over to the side of the courtroom so police officers do not have to sit with defendants and their supporters and family members. I was reading a magazine waiting for my case to be called when an officer came over and advised me that a defense attorney was taking our victim outside the courtroom. This person was an employee of a fast food restaurant that had been robbed with the employee being placed at gunpoint. I had seen that the attorney leaving with the victim but thought nothing of it as this attorney had been working for the District Attorney’s office. He told me this attorney was now doing defense work. I jumped up and practically flew out of the courtroom scanning the outside area for my victim. When I spotted her I told her this attorney was representing the robber and that she did not have to talk to him if she did not want to. She told me she did not wish to and I had her return to the courtroom. This attorney was not happy. I did not care about his feelings. I knew my victim did not know who she was talking to or that she did not have to talk to him. I felt the way he handled this was very improper. When I returned to the courtroom my victim related she only knew that this person was an attorney and she did not know he was representing the defense or that she was not required to talk to him. Alas, just as I thought. This attorney was upset I had interfered. He tried to get me back by referring to some obscure legal decision or precedent where the preliminary hearing was held at the scene of the crime. The judge did not agree and the hearing was held there in the courtroom and his guilty client’s case was bound over to the grand jury. The robber later received prison time. Ah, some days it was really fun to be a detective.

On another day in court I was approached by a defense attorney before the hearing. She told me she was asking for the charges to be dropped against her client as I had coerced the victim into prosecuting. I was not happy. This was a case where a girlfriend had been robbed of her belongings by her no good boyfriend, assaulted then left on the side of Brainerd Road in thin clothes and no shoes. This during cold, rainy weather. A passerby had seen her get dumped on the side of the road and called the police. This classified as a robbery so a detective was summoned. The victim said she wanted to prosecute so I procured warrants for the now ex-boyfriend. Ah, never underestimate love. This no good ex-boyfriend contacted my victim from the jail and convinced her to take him back. They had even gotten married. The defense attorney, who seemed to not like me for unknown reasons, was practically drooling as she related this information to me. She inferred she might file a complaint against me as she claimed I had unduly influenced her client’s now wife. I told her we would be proceeding with the hearing. She seemed astonished. I told the D.A. what the situation was but let him in on my ace in the hole. When the case was called the defense attorney told the judge my victim did not want to prosecute that day but that I had intimidated her into prosecuting. The judge didn’t look happy. I told the judge to examine the paperwork and with the affidavit there was an agreement to prosecute signed by the victim declaring she wanted to prosecute of her own free will, without intimidation or words to that effect. I related to the judge that I had read the agreement to the victim and explained it just in case she did not read well or understand the agreement – all in front of a witness. I got to turn and grin at my accusing defense attorney. I was really mad she had attacked my credibility. Now I felt vindicated. The judge was really not happy now. He gave the non-prosecuting “victim” ten days in the workhouse. I always felt the defense attorney should have been given some type of censure but I was happy enough that I had got the best of her. Lesson learned: read all the paperwork on a case. Don’t jump to conclusions and make accusations without doing some checking. Lawyers aren’t supposed to ask questions they don’t already know the answe.

Another day in a civil proceeding a former judge tried to claim that I had told an administrative board that his client had a felony conviction. This would have prevented the client from obtaining a beer permit. I had told the board the person had been ”charged” with a felony. Any attorney knows there is a difference between being “charged” with a crime and being convicted. Charges are sometimes dismissed, reduced or the person is acquitted of the charges. This former judge began grandstanding and inferred to the Board that I had said his client had a felony conviction on his record. This “attorney” claimed the police department had just gotten a “million dollar computer system” and that I should have used that to check the record. Two problems with that: The police department had never gotten any such system and the other is that when my office did background checks they could only do a very limited one as this was not for a criminal investigation. You would think a former judge would know that. Perhaps he did but just wanted to make it appear I had committed some type of impropriety. Why I would do this was never asked. This “attorney” basically accused me of perjury even though this was not a court and I had not been sworn in. Again you would think a former judge would know that. He had some of the Board going along with his malarkey. I was not happy he got these ‘free swings” at me and I really had no recourse. Sorry but when I had to deal with this person after that it was with a really “cold shoulder”.

Sometimes I did get a little “payback” with an aggressive or unfair defense attorney. We had an officer struck by a vehicle. In our search for the suspect I had seen the defendant driving the vehicle. His being behind the wheel of the vehicle was being disputed by his attorney. I had just testified I had seen the defendant driving the suspect vehicle. The defense attorney very dramatically turned toward the audience in the courtroom and asked” You mean here in front of God and everyone you saw this man driving?” I paused then took a step toward the attorney and in a very theatrical voice I replied, “Here in front of God and everyone ….” As I had stepped forward the attorney had shrunk back as if he thought I was coming after him. The gallery erupted in laughter. I noticed the judge was trying to contain a chuckle. The attorney, now flustered, looked at the judge and asked “your Honor?” The judge replied, “Well, you asked him”.

Hey, you win some and you lose some but I always tried to play fair. I didn’t think the defense always did. But, hey that’s my opinion.

Mark Haskins