Solo Either Way
by Letters to the Editor, March 11, 2010
To the editor,
I want to acknowledge and commend Mr. Bruce McEwen for the bold journalism displayed in his report in your Off The Record section on March 3, 2010. I respect anyone unafraid to call a spade a spade and not shy away from the facts and truth of matters of importance. It troubles me that other reporters and publications do not act with an aggressive voice to protect and make aware the citizens in this country of their constitutional rights and force the courts, government officials, law enforcement, etc., to abide by the Constitution and laws which they are bound to. The freedom of the press is a very powerful engine, one on which the citizens of this country rely heavily for action and information. The courts or anyone else should not be allowed to ignore any of the Supreme Court rulings, government and state laws, and Constitutional amendments without consequences when deciding on the interests, welfare or fate of any one person, group, or organization in this country.
In my case it is frightening to learn that the Mendocino County justice system is doing whatever it chooses to do with no regard for my rights and the specific duties and obligations of court-appointed defense counsel in a criminal proceeding. For a black man — myself — to be told in an all-white courtroom that it is fair and that I have not been wronged by a public defender who refuses her obligation to conduct necessary investigations, call and contact expert and alibi witnesses, file motions critical to the defense, etc., etc., is not only outrageous, but demoralizing.
I mean seriously, my public defender, Ms. Linda Thompson, has done absolutely *nothing* for me. I've been incarcerated for 19 months and I have *never* spoken to her over the phone and she has only met with me on *two* occasions for a total of 50 minutes. The depth of these errors is so critical that the National Bar Association has now gotten involved.
Yet it is the trial judge who has the power to enforce and protect my constitutional right to a fair trial and competent and effective assistance of counsel. However, so far he has failed to do so. I have since convinced the court to allow me to represent myself (in pro per) and relieved Ms. Thompson as counsel. Of course, this is not a move I am absolutely comfortable with, being that I am ignorant of the laws and processes and I am now officially solo.
But truthfully, I've *been* solo and without effective attorney assistance since I was arrested. So what's the difference? Can I really do any worse than the nonexistent lawyer? Sadly, the answer is yes, which is the number one reason the court's rulings should be scrutinized. A person should not have to take such extreme measures to receive justice and fairness. But that is why I say that journalists like Bruce McEwen and publications like the Anderson Valley Advertiser are extremely critical to the American people. They give a voice to the little people like myself who refuse to remain tightlipped by a court system such as the one in Mendocino County which is doing as it chooses and operating entirely in the dark without caution.
I hope there is someone out there who is willing to investigate my story and cast light on the situation. Otherwise, one day it will be your friends and family members tangled in a system where the people appointed by the court to defend you are merely district attorneys with public defender business cards.