Pro Se Chicago's Weblog

November 28, 2014

Why grand juries and trials so easily fixed and manipulated by attorneys


What is a grand jury, how does it work, and what is it’s purpose?

A grand jury is a group of citizens brought together to consider evidence in order to determine only one thing – Is there probable cause to charge a person with a crime? It is supposed to be a safeguard against the state bringing outrageous charges against innocent people for the purpose of harassment, but it has turned into a joke as the jurors don’t understand what they are doing, what they can do, the purpose of the grand jury, and how grand juries are manipulated which is clearly and in great detail explained in the link to an article available on line in this post.

Probable cause is not proof of innocence or guilt. It is just evidence that may be hearsay or untrue, suggesting a person committed a crime. It has to include all the elements of a crime. (For example: Elements of trespass to state supported land are that a person was told to leave and did not and that their actions interrupted a citizen’s use of services in the state owned building.)

Probable cause evidence is presented to the grand jury solely by the prosecutor in a closed secret hearing. Usually the defendant is not called as a witness nor is he or she aware that a grand jury has been called in their  case and only the most minimal amount of evidence, including hearsay allegations without proof, are presented to the grand jury.

The grand jury has the right to call witnesses and question witnesses, but they never do, as they are urged to work quickly, usually hearing a case in a minute or two at the most and their instructions are rarely explained to them in a clear unhurried fashion.

The defense has no rights in a grand jury, except that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the prosecutor may not strike foul blows by giving knowingly false information or exluding such overwhelming exculpatory evidence that there is no way a grand jury would find probable cause. (Like excluding the video in the Garner case).

There is no double jeopardy with a grand jury.  That means the prosecutor may call a new grand jury and try to get an indictment again, as long as it is within the statute of limitations for the crime.

This article explains in great detail why confirmatory bias taints particularly one-sided presentations like the Brown case to the grand jury, as well as trials if they are not extremely fair, and even if they are “fair.” One of the most striking findings in emotional cases is that the jury remembers what is said first no matter what else is said and may blank out all other testimony. There are psychological reasons for this fact.

This is why grand juries must be given evidence only by special prosecutors when the defendants are people who the state’s attorney interacts with daily – like police & judges. This is why police are almost never successfully indicted. Read it carefully. Think of laws that must be changed in order to firmly control this bias. 

Click here to read article: Memo of Law – Confirmatory Bias

SUMMARY OF ARTICLE

Confirmation bias, also called myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, or prioritize information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations)

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November 25, 2014

How confirmatory bias taints the law – a must read for all attorneys


There is a concept in psychology and psychiatry termed confirmatory bias, which often adversely influences the judgment of officers, attorneys, judges, and juries, resulting in biased, unfair or unlawful arrests, decisions and convictions. It is the unfortunate human tendency for each individual to become part of a position, to hold that position regardless and to hear only that which supports that position, a phenomenon known as “confirmatory bias”. Dr. Richard Rappaport, a nationally renowned member of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law concluded in an editorial in a leading Journal for the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, in 2006, that AZ, a civil rights activist, had been abused by the courts and police due to this principle, when they falsely labeled her as psychotic and treated her as an escaped mental patient, disregarding everything she said, withholding medication needed for medical illnesses that threatened her life, and even beat her.[1] In the 2013 murder trial of David Camm, the defense argued that Camm was charged for the murders of his wife and two children solely because of confirmation bias within the investigation.[2] Confirmatory bias is pervasive in law. It is an area which is ripe for increased efforts to recognize it, as well as for legislation and rules that incorporate methods to reduce it.  To see the rest of this article click here: HOW CONFIRMATORY BIAS TAINTS THE LAW

[1] Editorial:  Losing Your Rights: Complications of Misdiagnosis,  written by Dr. Richard Rappaport, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 34:436-8, 2006

[2] “David Camm Blog: Investigation under fire”. WDRB. October 10, 2013.

 

June 17, 2014

Offers of Proof – Preserving barred evidence & testimony for appeal


OFFERS OF PROOF

These are used to preserve evidence or testimony for the record when the court bars its introduction during the trial or during an evidentiary hearing. During a trial, if an offer of proof is formally made, the jury will be excluded and the witness is put on the stand so that the testimony will be on the transcript or the attorney/pro se counsel may put the evidence on the record or state what they expect a witness would have said in detail, just to get it on the record for purposes of appeal.  Anything not on the record cannot be considered for appeal.  If the judge won’t let you do this, you can file an offer of proof with an attached affidavit as to what the witness would have said or attached evidentiary document. This memorandum explains offers of proof a little more clearly. Everything I write uses Illinois and federal case law. 

MEMORADUM OF LAW – OFFERS OF PROOF

NOW COMES, Linda Shelton who respectfully presents to the court this memorandum of law.

  1. The refusal to allow an offer of proof in a trial denies due process and is reason for overturning the verdict. Every defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to present a defense. People v. Manion, 67 Ill.2d 564, 10 Ill.Dec. 547, 367  N.E.2d 1313 (1977) It is a fundamental error to deny the right to present a defense that requires the verdict be overturned. (Ibid)  Refusing to allow a person to place an offer of proof on the record, de facto denies defendant the right to present a defense.
  2. “When a party claims she has not been given the opportunity to prove her case because the trial court improperly barred certain evidence, she “must provide [the] reviewing court with an adequate offer of proof as to what the excluded evidence would have been.” In re Estate of Romanowski, 329 Ill. App. 3d 769, 773, 771 N.E.2d 966, 970 (2002). An offer of proof serves two primary functions: (1) it discloses to the trial court and opposing counsel the nature of the offered evidence, thus enabling the court to take appropriate action, and (2) it provides the reviewing court with an adequate record to determine whether the trial court’s action was erroneous. People v. Thompkins, 181 Ill. 2d 1, 10, 690 N.E.2d 984, 989 (1998).
  3. The traditional way of making an offer of proof is the “formal” offer, in which counsel offers the proposed evidence or testimony by placing a witness on the stand, outside the jury’s presence, and asking him questions to elicit with particularity what the witness would testify to if permitted to do so. People v. Wallace, 331 Ill. App. 3d 822, 831, 772 N.E.2d 785, 794 (2002); M. Graham, Cleary & Graham’s Handbook of Illinois Evidence §103.7, at 22 (8th ed. 2004).
  4. In lieu of a formal offer of proof, counsel may ask the trial court for permission to make representations regarding the proffered testimony. If counsel so requests, the court may–within its discretion–allow counsel to make such an informal offer of proof.
  5. A trial court may deem an informal offer of proof sufficient if counsel informs the court, with particularity, (1) what the offered evidence is or what the expected testimony will be, (2) by whom it will be presented, and (3) its purpose. Kim v. Mercedes-Benz, U.S.A., Inc., 353 Ill. App. 3d 444, 451, 818 N.E.2d 713, 719 (2004). However, an informal offer is inadequate if counsel (1) “merely summarizes the witness’ testimony in a conclusory manner” (Snelson v. Kamm, 204 Ill. 2d 1, 23, 787 N.E.2d 796, 808 (2003)) or (2) offers unsupported speculation as to what the witness would say (People v. Andrews, 146 Ill. 2d 413, 421, 588 N.E.2d 1126, 1132 (1992)). In deciding whether to permit an informal offer of proof, the court should ask itself the following questions: (1) Are counsel’s representations accurate and complete? and (2) Would a better record be made by requiring counsel to make a formal offer of proof, even though doing so might be inconvenient and require more time?
  6. In addition, before deciding whether to accept counsel’s representations in lieu of a formal offer, the trial court should ask opposing counsel if he objects to proceeding in that fashion, even though counsel’s response in no way limits the court in exercising its discretion on this matter. If opposing counsel concedes the sufficiency of the offer or has no objection to proceeding by counsel’s representations, then opposing counsel’s client may not later challenge the court’s decision to proceed by counsel’s representations, rather than a formal offer. See In re Detention of Swope, 213 Ill. 2d 210, 217, 821 N.E.2d 283, 287 (2004) (“Simply stated, a party cannot complain of error which that party induced the court to make or to which that party consented”); In re Marriage of Sobol, 342 Ill. App. 3d 623, 630, 796 N.E.2d 183, 188 (2003) (a party forfeits the right to complain of an alleged error when to do so is inconsistent with the position the party took in the trial court).
  7. We emphasize that a trial court is never required to settle for less than a formal offer of proof, whatever the positions of the parties at trial may be. Whether to do so is left entirely to the court’s discretion. Thus, if the trial court is not satisfied that counsel’s representations alone are sufficient, the court may require counsel to place his witnesses on the stand and make a formal offer of proof.”  Miller v. Miller, 2004 Ill. App. 4th Dist.

 

QUOTED FROM ILLINOIS INSTITUTE FOR CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION  9 — 35

EVIDENTIARY MOTIONS AT TRIAL §9.48

 

 

  1. “Offers of proof are technically not evidentiary motions but rather serve as a sort of narrative insurance policy for appeal. Offers of proof are designed to preserve the record and guarantee that testimony that is not allowed is at least previewed for the appellate court. The purpose of offers of proof is discussed in Lagestee v. Days Inn Management Co., 303 Ill.App.3d 935, 709 N.E.2d 270, 237 Ill.Dec. 284 (1st Dist. 1999). Lagestee followed previous holdings that offers of proof are made to disclose to opposing counsel and the trial court the substance of excluded evidence and to enable the reviewing court to determine whether the trial court committed error thereon. It should be noted that unlike most of the motions made at trial, a motion to make an offer of proof is not subject to the discretion of the court. It has been held in People v. Richmond, 201 Ill.App.3d 130, 559 N.E.2d 302, 147 Ill.Dec. 302 (4th Dist. 1990), that trial courts are required to permit counsel to make offers of proof. Refusal to permit an offer may constitute error. However, refusal of an offer is not error if the suggested testimony is not relevant.

 

  1. Because offers of proof are essential to make and preserve a viable record, the offers should be as accurate as possible. In Snelson v. Kamm, 319 Ill.App.3d 116, 745 N.E.2d 128, 253 Ill.Dec. 354 (4th Dist. 2001), aff’d in part, rev’d in part, 204 Ill.2d 1 (2003), an offer was held adequate if it informed the court of the particular answer that would have been given. Note that Snelson also holds that a summary or synopsis will not suffice. The offer must be as accurate as possible.

 

  1. To insure that the offer is as accurate as possible, the author would urge that counsel write out, or at least loosely outline, the offer in advance so that it can be read carefully into the record. Obviously, the offer cannot always be written out; but in most instances, the opponent’s objection and the court’s possible denial can be anticipated. A written statement or an outline helps to ensure that all necessary evidentiary elements are included and clearly and artfully set forth. If the need for an offer has not been anticipated, counsel may ask the court’s indulgence for a short break to gather his or her thoughts and compose or outline the offer. If the evidence has been excluded during the testimony of a witness, the questions and proposed answers should be set so as to show the reviewing court what has been excluded. The traditional or classic method of making the offer involves posing the question and eliciting the answers from the witness. The alternative to the questions-and-answers format is for counsel to read the offer into the record. Presenting an offer of proof by orally reciting the substance of the expected testimony was specifically approved in Wright v. Stokes, 167 Ill.App.3d 887, 522 N.E.2d 308 (5th Dist. 1988). Although it runs counter to the conventional method of putting the witness on the stand, the narrative by counsel is the most effective and safest method. The narrative avoids an inarticulate or nervous witness who is very likely to be shocked and concerned by the exclusion of his or her testimony, insures that the testimony is on point, and should provide the optimum voice in setting forth the reasons why the evidence has been improperly excluded. An offer read into the record by counsel is generally more orderly and better understood.

 

  1. In making the offer, specificity is the goal. Conclusory or summary statements as to what the testimony or evidence would have shown will not preserve the record. Snelson, supra. Any offer of proof should be made out of the presence of the jury, and it is suggested that at the close of the offer counsel renew the request that the testimony be allowed into evidence. Restatement of the request gives continuity to the record, ties up loose ends, and ensures that the offer and the ruling of the court are tied together and understood by the reviewing court.

 

  1. Various texts and cases reflect a further relaxation in the method of making an offer and go as far as to suggest that it is not needed at all when the court clearly understands the objection and the nature of the evidence being offered. See People v. Foster, 81 Ill.App.3d 915, 401 N.E.2d 1221, 37 Ill.Dec. 128 (1st Dist. 1980). Notwithstanding Foster, it is strongly suggested that the offer of proof be made outside the presence of the jury in a formal manner whenever testimony has been circumscribed in whole or in part.

 

  1. From a purely practical standpoint, there is generally little likelihood that the offer of proof will have an immediate impact on the trial court. The fact that the offer is being made is indicative of the trial court’s position. The offer is primarily directed toward compiling and preserving an accurate record for appeal. Since the offer entails the refusal of testimony during the case in chief, it properly should be viewed as a very serious motion deserving careful attention.

 

  1. Thus, the offer of proof satisfies two critical needs in preserving the record on appeal: it demonstrates (1) that an error has been committed in excluding evidence and (2) that that error was harmful to the presentation of counsel’s case in chief. The author believes that the only way the above defects can be lucidly conveyed to an appellate court is through a disciplined, formal recitation on the record, as in the following sample: Your Honor, at this time I would like to make an offer of proof in connection with the testimony of [witness]. [Witness], if allowed to testify under oath in these proceedings, would testify as follows: [foundation establishing background and competency, and then a specific narrative of the substantive testimony that would have been adduced.]

 

  1. Again, the offer of proof should be as specific as possible, at all times avoiding summaries or vague conclusions.” [emphasis added]

 

Dated: April 29, 2014

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Linda L. Shelton

Pro Se Defendant

 

January 15, 2013

Free legal assistance for those who are wrongfully convicted or coerced to falsely plea guilty


There is no guarantee you will be able to find a lawyer to help you, but here are the places you can look.  You will have to make appointments by phone and then go to them.  There will be lots of appointments and lots of rejections before  you are likely to find someone to help you, but don’t give up!

Prepare a SHORT document where you write about your case and send it or deliver it to the attorneys or law clinics you made appointments with before you go to your appointments – with a cover letter that is a few sentences saying this is what you are doing.

Write a one to two page story about your case and attach any evidence that proves you are innocent (affidavits or letters from witnesses or whatever else you have).  Give the details of what you were accused of and what you confessed to and pled  guilty to.  Write a paragraph as to why you pled guilty when you didn’t do it.  Write a paragraph about what you plan on doing in life and how the conviction is preventing  you from accomplishing your goals.  Write a paragraph about what the state’s witnesses said that caused you to be convicted and why you think they were motivated to lie.  Give this to each of the places you get an appointment BEFORE you go to the appointment.

Contact law school clinics where they have lawyers who represent indigent clients.  They all don’t do this automatically and they are limited by funding from grants and government. etc.  But call each one and pound the pavement meeting with them after making appointments and showing them the evidence that proves you are innocent. This is NOT an easy task.

http://www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org/?section=LinksPage&LinksPage=Law_Schools

You should also apply for executive clemency from the parole board – which reviews your case and recommends to the Governor if you should be granted a pardon.  Make sure you answer the above questions in your written application. The Gov. can overturn any conviction with a pardon.  It would be better if you could find witnesses who can prove your innocence and get a signed affidavit from them that would be signed by a notary.  Remember that letters are hearsay and not admissible in court.  If you have witnesses that sign affidavits that state they are willing to testify to what they wrote in their affidavits that would be best.

http://www2.illinois.gov/PRB/Pages/prbexclemex.aspx

This page  contains links to free legal services.

http://www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org/?section=SERVRESPage&SERVRESPage=7020

It will be tough finding someone to help you.

Good luck!  Work hard pounding the pavement going to appointments and never give up!

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