Too often we as lawyers ignore the human element that sits a few feet above us in court. When we win a case, or a motion is granted, or a downward departure is given, we take the credit. When we lose a motion, or a higher sentence than we were expecting was given, we criticize the Judge as being “prosecution oriented”.
The truth is that like all of us, a judge's decision is guided by experience (or lack of experience), the law, the facts, and emotions. The fascinating issue is when a judge's emotions come into conflict with what the law and justice require.
Judge Scott Silverman and the late Judge Henry Leyte Vidal have authored a wonderful article about the feelings local judges have had when confronted with imposing the death penalty.
As lawyers is that most of us have never sat on the bench. Even those of us who worked as prosecutors and defense attorneys have never had the unique prospective of sitting above the fray. We as criminal defense attorneys value Judges like Reemberto Diaz and Stan Blake who were excellent criminal defense lawyers. We feel they know our problems and concerns because they have stood where we are standing. And yet to become a really great lawyer, you need to know what is going on in the Judge’s mind. How will they feel about a particular motion, or about imposing a less serious sentence than the prosecution is asking for?
This is the value of Judge Silverman and Leyte-Vidal’s article. It give us, as trial lawyers, insight into what a Judge thinks and feels when considering the most serious of sentences.
The article is not that long and is worth reading.
And speaking of death sentences, word reaches us today (Wednesday) that the jury in the Carabalo case has recommended a sentence of death. Now the final decision comes down to Judge William Thomas. Judge Thomas joins the long line of REGJB Judges who have had a defendant's life in their hands. Some of the great ones, like Judge Cowart, who sentenced Ted Bundy, among others, to death, are remembered for their wisdom and humanity even in the face of imposing the death penalty.
Some Judges like former Judge Philip Bloom, are remembered for their courage. Judge Bloom stood firm against public opinion and a jury recommendation, and sentenced a defendant to life in prison.
In the end, after all the fine lawyering in the Carabalo case, it will be Judge William Thomas who makes the final and most difficult of decisions.
We believe that this is Judge Thomas's first possible death penalty sentence. Judge Thomas comes to the REGJB as a former ace Federal Public Defender. We will neither applaud nor criticize his sentence, whatever it is. The defense bar was closely watching this case. Not for the final outcome- but,we speculate- for how Judge Thomas ran his courtroom and the process of this death penalty case. From all appearances, Judge Thomas did a very professional job so far. We await his decision in this matter.
See You In Court.