Public Defender in the Dock

by Bruce McEwen, October 20, 2010

Thompson & Sunkett

Glenn Sunkett called the other day. He sounded pretty good for a guy who just got 63 years in the state pen for a Fort Bragg marijuana job back in July of 2008. It was a bad one. An indoor grow guy got clubbed on the head. He was in the hospital for a long time and still isn't right. The other people present were threatened in sensi­tive places with a blow torch. Scrotums throughout Mendocino County tightened at the news of the blow torch.

Did Sunkett do it?

Maybe, but you wouldn't have known for sure from the deeply flawed defense Sunkett received from Public Defender Linda Thompson, the best defense lawyer local prosecutors have ever had.

"I knew going in," Sunkett said Monday, "what was going to happen. I wasn't surprised. I was just trying to get the facts into the record for appeal. I was shocked, though, how Thompson perjured her­self under oath, lying about things that were already part of the record. And the judge just sits there knowing she's lying. It's all just a big old boys club they've got here. I'll say this, though. Eyster's the best lawyer I've ever had. He did a good job for me under the circumstances."

Sunkett is black.

That fact alone seemed to unhinge official Men­do­cino County. They moved Sunkett around like he was John Dillinger. The streets around the Court­house were cordoned off. The biggest muscle boys the cops have at the County Jail marched Sunkett into court. Anybody looking on, anybody on the jury would be thinking, "Wow! We've got a real heavyweight going here."

Sunkett was no pushover, for sure. He did a much bet­ter job defending himself than his public defender, Linda Thompson, did for him. He finally got her removed for David Eyster.

Sunkett was happy with Eyster, but Judge Ron Brown, always a guy for the home team whatever the facts are, finally sent Sunkett off last Friday.

Eyster said he knew in advance that Judge Ron Brown would deny Sunkett's motion for a new trial, but Brown's denial would set the stage for the re-trial motion to the State Court of Appeals where some level of objec­tivity can be applied.

Sunkett's conviction was largely based on an eyewit­ness identifying Sunkett as one of the rob­bers. that wit­ness said Sunkett "looked kinda like Barry Bonds."

Or maybe Sidney Poitier. Or Willie Brown. Or......

Let's say the ID was imprecise and leave it at that.

If Sunkett was the experienced criminal the prosecu­tion said he was, why was he the only invader without a mask? Mr. Eyster said a cross-race identification expert was not called in to make it clear to the jury that it could have been a case of mistaken identity. Black people do tend to look alike to white people, especially rural white people.

Nor was Mr. Sunkett’s alibi checked out. His ali­bis live in the Bay Area. No one from the PD's office drove down to interview them.

These obvious loose ends, among others, were neglected by Ms. Thompson. Plus other omissions like not bothering to file ordinary motions. Or look at the case file. Or meet with the client. Or answer or return Sunkett’s calls.

The incompetence of the Public Defender went beyond mere neglect of duty. It looked more like malice, a real personal dislike for Mr. Sunkett. Linda Thompson makes it very clear that she is a lesbian. She wears men’s suits to court. Is she more interested in making a sexual statement than she is in defending a man looking at the rest of his life in prison? Would a male attorney dare show up for court in drag?

Ms. Thompson had another case a few short years ago where she advised young Tai Abreu, 19, to take his case to a jury rather than take a plea. Abreu's trial for murder in the first degree lasted one whole day. Thomp­son called no witnesses, pre­sented no defense beyond an obscure argument that Abreu had been improperly advised of his rights, and the kid was sent away forever as his co-defen­dants got lesser sentences of 15 and 20 years. The victim in that one was a gay man.

Ms. Thompson seems to have man problems.

When the PD’s office took Sunkett’s case — Judge Brown refused Sunkett the Bay Area attorney Sunkett wanted although that attorney wouldn't cost Mendocino County more than a public defender — the DA would have been obliged to give them an overview of the evi­dence they had on the defendant — the discovery, they call it. But they don’t always play as scrupulously as they know they should and this material always has to be investigated and pur­sued.

And so, looking into Ms. Linda Thompson’s “work product,” Mr. Eyster first called the PD’s chief investi­gator, Mr. Will Kidd.

“Did you review all the discovery?”

“No, not all of it.”

“And why is that? Did you not have the time or the opportunity to do so?”

“I had the opportunity, I just didn’t think it was neces­sary.”

“Is that a practicality, then?”

Mr. Kidd was murmuring so indistinctly that he could hardly be heard outside the rail where only the officers of the court are allowed, but he seemed to answer in the affirmative to this and some other ques­tions about the ‘practical’ nature of his investi­gation of the case.

“So you never went outside Mendocino County on this case?”

(Sunkett lives in Oakland and works in the Bay Area.)

“That’s correct.”

“And so regarding evidence that there was some­one who could provide an alibi, you never went to see this person?”

“I don’t believe he ever responded to my call.”

Mr. Eyster took a letter to the witness. Mr. Kidd glanced at it indifferently.

“This letter was not shared with you as the inves­tiga­tor in this case?”

Kidd said, “I don’t recall ever seeing it.”

Eyster showed him another letter. Kidd hadn’t seen that one either.

These letters were from the defendant, one say­ing he had an alibi, the other that he felt there’d been a case of mistaken identity and that an ID expert was needed. The letters were mailed to the PD because she never answered or returned his calls.

“Had you been provided with any documenta­tion at all with regard to Dr. Davis, the ID expert, in preparation for the trial?”

“No.”

“Can you tell me when was the first time you made contact with Dr. Davis?”

“It was during the trial.”

“The trial was already going on?”

“Yes.”

“When did you first think of a need for an expert?”

“The ID expert? Probably right away.”

“Do you recall when you talked to the attorney about it?”

“The ID expert? During the trial.”

“Was there any discussion with you that there was not a budget for an expert?”

“I think that’s pretty much a given in the PD’s office. Since I’ve been there it is, anyway.”

“So it was a cost issue?”

“I don’t know. I don’t recall anybody saying we can’t afford it, if that’s what you mean. Mr. Sunkett said he’d pay for it when I told him the amount and I started mak­ing arrangements to get her [Dr. Davis] to Ukiah.”

There was also an issue with a number of search war­rants and affidavits. It was the investigator’s job to go and get these documents and check them out for irregu­larities, but Mr. Kidd hadn’t done so. Moreover, there was an allegation that he’d talked to a juror about Dr. Davis. This is called suborning a juror and it’s a huge no-no. When Eyster asked Kidd if he’d talked to the juror, Kidd came down with amnesia.

“You’re a licensed investigator?” Eyster won­dered aloud.

“Yes,” Mr. Kidd responded confidently.

Mr. Eyster called the Public Defender, Linda Thomp­son, to the witness stand.

Ms. Thompson, in her affable, off-hand manner — the one she adopts when put on the spot. Ordi­narily she’s reticent to the point of being rude. She chuckled dismis­sively at the idea of being put in such a demeaning pre­dicament.

Eyster began with some foundational questions, estab­lishing that Ms. Thompson had passed the state bar in 1985, worked as a contract public defender before her arrival here, and had been appointed Mendocino County Public Defender in 2008 by the Board of Supervisors. There are 13 public defenders in her office, she said, and she had assigned herself to Mr. Sunkett’s case.

“How many investigators?”

“Three, until recently. One had to be laid off.”

“So you assigned Mr. Sunkett to yourself. Did you send out for discovery?”

“Typically, the policy would be to submit that.”

“Well, did you submit it?”

“I don’t recall.”

“Well, if I didn’t find any discovery demand in your file, would it be elsewhere?”

Ms. Thompson seemed to think it was all rather amusing.

“I got the case from two different lawyers.”

“Yes, but did you send out for discovery?”

“I don’t recall. He’d seen five different law­yers.”

“Did you turn over your discovery to Mr. Rich­ard Petersen in October?”

“”Yehhhhhs,” she said.

Oh, these silly people and their silly questions.

Mr. Eyster tilted his head quizzically.

“Had you been able to review all the discovery when you got the file back from the Petersen law firm?”

“I like Justin Petersen,” Linda Thompson said irrele­vantly. “But when I got the box back I had to put it all back together again.”

“And you assigned yourself to the case again?” Eyster asked coldly, tiring of her refusal to take the hearing seriously.

“Correct,” Thompson answered soberly.

“Did you submit a written demand for discov­ery?”

“I believed I had it all, the discovery. I did not believe there was a need for a motion to compel. It’s been our practice not to. We’ve taken some heat for fil­ing the motions to compel.”

She had still not answered the simple question. Which was it? Did she have all the discovery, or was she afraid to ask for it?

We’ll never know.

Eyster, a man who knows exactly how to quash and traverse a search warrant, and who perhaps assumes anyone else who has a bar card should also know how it’s done, said, “Were you aware of the search warrants in Sunkett’s case?”

“I knew that there were multiple search war­rants.”

“Did you review the search warrants?”

“I did review them, but I didn’t see any reason for a reversal.”

“Did you see the one from the Honorable Jona­than Lehan in ‘08?”

“I don’t recall Judge Lehan doing that though it would have been in his jurisdiction.

“Well, since you reviewed the motion for a new trial…”

“Actually, I didn’t read your motion, Mr. Eyster,” Thompson laughed contemptuously. “I wanted to answer your questions here in court.”

“Well, can you explain what happened to that search warrant?”

“I don’t know which search warrant that is.”

“You said you reviewed them all…”

“I thought I had reviewed them all.”

“So the first search warrant issued was not in your case file? Did you provide that search warrant when you turned the file over?”

“I provided you with what I had, Mr. Eyster,” she said with an air of finality, folding her arms and looking off angrily.

“Yes, but what if the prosecution doesn’t include a search warrant in the discovery? What do you do?”

“There are times they don’t turn over every­thing, that is correct.”

“Is there a system, a plan of action you follow, if one is missing?”

“If the theory of the defense has nothing to do with that, I may not have followed up. I just know that there were multiple search warrants.”

“The first search warrant issued in ’08, Number 1978.02 was not in the file. Do you have an expla­nation for that?”

“By the time the case file got to you I’d sent it to an attorney in Oakland. I didn’t go through the file then. And a second time it went to Mr. Archer during one of the Marsden hearings.”

“Was the search warrant in it when it came back?”

“I can’t tell you because I didn’t go through it before I gave it to you. I did not do an inventory and I did not review it again on its return.”

“When you got appointed to the case on January 13th of ’09, when was the first time you made con­tact with Mr. Sunkett?”

“I believe it was February 20th of ’09.”

“A month after?”

“You can calculate the math, Mr. Eyster,” Thompson snickered.

“Did you review the prelim by the Petersens?”

“Yes.”

“Did you make any attempt to challenge the kid­napping charge?”

(The victims were moved from one room to another. They weren't kidnapped in any true sense of the term.)

“I did not.”

“And you didn’t file a 995 Motion [to set aside information from the prelim]?”

“I did not.”

“A motion to suppress the evidence, a 1538.5?”

“I did not.”

“And the first trial date was set for March 30th?”

“I believe it was before the end of March.” Ms. Thompson’s tone had grown increasingly injured.

“When did you get Mr. Kidd involved?”

“Some time in March.”

“Is it usual to wait so late to get the investigator involved?”

“I was waiting to contact Mr. Petersen,” Thomp­son said, as if the Petersens were living in some remote part of the universe where telephone service was unheard of. “The difficulty I was hav­ing,” she suddenly said abandoning the attempt to once again blame the Petersens, “was when I asked Mr. Sunkett something, he wouldn’t answer.”

Sunkett was vigorously denying this by wag­ging his head and tugging at Eyster’s sleeve.

“So I sent Will to see if he would open up with him, but he wouldn’t. I told him my estimation of the case, that it was circumstantial and I needed him to open up, but I couldn’t get any answers.”

Sunkett and Eyster conferred, and it was appar­ent that Sunkett thought Thompson was intention­ally misrepresenting the facts. Sunkett would be taking the stand himself later, and in the meantime, Eyster wanted to move on. He asked about the ID expert.

Thompson said, “The discrepancies in the physi­cal descriptions didn’t match Mr. Sunkett and three or four other lawyers told him he needed a cross-racial expert. I didn’t feel it was necessary in this case. I felt the ‘taint’ would be sufficient with the description discrepancies. In Mendocino County my experience has been that juries disregard experts."

“Are you aware of the studies on the problems with cross-racial ID?”

“I’m well aware of that and I’ve used ID experts in the past.”

“Were there budget constraints?”

“It would only have been that I did not feel the investment was necessary for this case. I thought it would be disregarded. We had the funds.”

“So you didn’t even explore it?”

“I did not believe the expenditure was appropri­ate or necessary in this case.”

“Do you recognize this?”

“It looks like one of Mr. Sunkett’s letters.”

“Do you see in there that he thinks there is a need for an ID expert?”

“I do indeed,” Thompson said airily.

“Did you go and see him and explain that there was no need?”

“No. I did not discuss it with him and he never brought it up. It was not discussed until we were nearing the second trial date.”

Again, Sunkett was vigorously shaking his head at this testimony, which was unbelievable on its face.

“Did you at least ask Mr. Kidd to look into it?”

“I did not.”

“Did you anticipate that the jury would be all white?”

“Yes.”

Eyster presented another letter. “You were also sent this letter, dated January 1 of ’09, which lists areas of investigation Mr. Sunkett was interested in pursuing—?”

“”Yehhhhs,” Thompson answered with her mock-martyr sigh.

“So he was communicating with you?”

“He believed the GPS device was crucial to his case. He insisted he was not present at the resi­dence. He said he had an alibi. But we did not get any names until May 1st.

At this point a lunch recess was called. The hear­ing was estimated to last two hours, but it ended up going all day. After lunch, Eyster went back to Ms. Thompson’s complaint that Sunkett wouldn’t open up with her.

“Besides these letters, didn’t Mr. Sunkett also call you from the jail?”

“Yehhhhhhs.” This hugely arch little exasper­ated sigh was beginning to lose its (largely imag­ined) charm.

“Do you recall how many times you took these calls?”

“Newoooooo.”

“What about messages on your voice mail. Do you recall how many times you responded to these?”

“Newoope.”

“So when you get a call from a client at the jail, and this call is followed up by a letter, would there be any chance of, uh, dropping the ball?”

“No, Mr. Eyster,” Thompson snarled going from cute to full fangs in the instant. “There would be NO chance of ‘dropping the ball’!”

“Was it your plan to have the investigation com­pleted by the time of the trial?”

The prosecutor, Chief Deputy DA Jill Ravitch, and just elected District Attorney of Sonoma County, had been chipping in a few minor objec­tions along the way as the Q&A between Eyster and Thompson played out. But at this point Ravitch wanted the question rephrased.

Eyster said, “Did you speak with any of the wit­nesses before the trial?”

“I did not,” Thompson said.

“In your practice do you find it valuable to do a dry run with a witness?”

“It depends on the case.”

“But not in this case?”

“We’d talked about meeting them halfway.”

“But you didn’t go…”

“No, we did not.”

“Did you at any time visit the crime scene?”

“No. I did not.”

“Did you engage in any witness preparation?”

“With what witnesses? There were no defense wit­nesses!”

“Did you sit down with Mr. Sunkett and go over—?”

“Jesus…” Ms. T blurted. Then, “No, I don’t remem­ber doing that, specifically.”

“At some point in March, the DA filed new charges against Mr. Sunkett. Did you ever discuss the issue with him?”

“No. I determined it would be dismissed.”

“Did you do any research into the charges?”

“No. I didn’t do any research because I knew it would be dismissed.”

“But the matter had not been dismissed at that time?”

“It was discussed in court, it was stricken, it was an error.”

“Eventually, after the trial it was dismissed.”

“Until then the witness was out of the country.”

“Then wasn’t it immediately refiled?”

“I don’t really know.”

“Well, when the Public Defender’s office was appointed you assigned yourself. Did you make a demand for discovery?”

“I don’t believe I did.”

“Were you announcing that you were ready for trial before it was dismissed?”

“I don’t recall.”

“Wasn’t the prelim April 1?”

“I don’t remember. It may have been.”

“Did you waive time for the prelim?”

“No. He wanted it in a timely fashion so I wanted to go to trial”

“Did you have a strategy different than the first prelim?”

“The problem was, it was going to be a 215 pre­lim. I was pretty much going to be just getting some informa­tion on how to proceed.”

“So you hadn’t developed a strategy on how to pro­ceed?”

“I got the responses to the questions, the six-packs, and well…”

“What had you developed from that?”

“Well, there hadn’t been any real fleshing-out of a strategy. I just wanted to see if it would be useful in the trial.”

“At the time, you knew about it but didn’t get the booking photo that was being sent out?”

“Noewoope.”

“Did you file a motion to suppress?”

“No I did not ‘file a motion to suppress’,” Thompson sang in mockery of the question. “I did not file any pre-trial motions.”

“Were you concerned at all that the booking photo would have adversely impacted the witnesses?”

“That was the basis for the cross-examination of Ms. Williams in light of the fact none of her descriptions matched Mr. Sunkett. I didn’t believe under the circum­stances that she’d actually ID Mr. Sunkett. I believed that if she did, all that information would be enough to cross-examine her.”

“And the fact that Mr. Sunkett being the only Afro-American in the court and sitting at the defense table — didn’t you think it might be a better idea if you…?”

“Are you asking me to re-think my trial strategy? If I had a chance to do it again I still wouldn’t get the expert,” Thompson said petulantly.

“Well, if you wouldn’t do it any differently, then why did you bring Dr. Davis from Reno?”

“To appease Mr. Sunkett. And because he’d paid for it.”

“He told you he wanted the expert in January, but you waited to appease him in the middle of the trial?”

No answer.

“Did you have a Marsden hearing?”

A Marsden hearing is convened when a defen­dant wants to remove his lawyer. Sunkett was understandably desperate to remove Thompson as his lawyer.

“Which one,” Thompson scoffed. “I had about six or seven of ‘em”

“In any of ‘em did you explain to the judge why the ID expert was not needed in this case?”

“I don’t know, maybe I did.”

“So you brought a witness from Reno just to appease Sunkett?”

“I’ve already answered that.”

The ID expert never was called to testify. Thomp­son left her outside in the hall, cooling her expensive heels.

“Did you give notice at any time that you were going to have this person come in to testify?”

“I don’t believe I did.”

“But didn’t you see how that would be a prob­lem?”

“I did.”

“So you had no intention of putting her on?”

Judge Brown interrupted to say that neither side had seen the Marsden motion but he had. So he didn’t think it appropriate to get into the particulars of it.

“Eyster said, “Do you recall telling the court that you didn’t put the witness on because of fund­ing?”

“I don’t know.”

“Were you afraid this client would adversely affect your budget?”

“Objection.”

“Sustained.”

“Did you ever represent to the court that an ID wit­ness would be crucial to this case?”

“I don’t recall and I don’t know.”

“Was it crucial?”

“Yes.”

“You have a recording, don’t you?”

“Objection, your honor. Counsel is leading the wit­ness.”

“You are leading the witness, Mr. Eyster,” said Judge Brown. “Perhaps if you can phrase your question hypo­thetically, I’ll allow it.”

“Thank you, your honor…”

Eyster turned to the witness.

“…if you were an officer of the court … and you had a tape recording with exculpatory informa­tion … can I get that recording…?”

Ravitch: “Objection. It’s outside the scope of this hearing, judge. He can’t just—”

“I’ll receive it as a motion to strike,” Brown told Ravitch. Then turning to Eyster he added, “tempo­rarily.”

Thompson took the cue: “I believe Mr. Sunkett only heard a small portion of the tape,” she said.

“What steps did you take to investigate?”

“Well Aziza was”—

(Aziza, Mr. Sunkett's love interest, is fully explained later in this account.)

“Did you locate the tape?”

“We asked if we could get a copy…! We never got a copy…!” Ms. T pantomimes her punctuation with shrugs, flipping her palms up like a seal, the seal that didn’t get thrown a fish. She said, “Some­body ‘anonymously’ sent a copy to the DA.”

“They were trying to get it to you.”

“They finally did. I asked Kidd (Thompson's investigator) to take it to Sunkett and play it.”

“Ever get an expert to investigate it?”

“I did not. I was hoping Aziza would help us.”

“Did you talk to Aziza?”

“I did not.”

“Do you find it helps if the trial attorney steps in when someone’s being reluctant?”

“Yes.”

“Did you have time to do that?”

“I did.”

“But you didn’t talk to Aziza.”

“I did not.”

“Was there an issue with sleeping jurors?”

Thompson retorted dryly, almost rolling her eyes: “One or two.”

“And they were admonished?”

“They were,” she said.

“Regarding the tape. Can you tell me, Ms. Thompson, when you became aware of it?”

“Early on. Probably on January 18th.”

“But from then on, through June, you were not able to contact Aziza?”

“I think we tried in February. Or maybe in April.”

“When did you first get information that there was an alibi?”

"May 14.”

“Did you follow up?”

“Mr. Kidd and I both went to Mr. Sunkett and gave a very thorough listen to his side of the events. He gave us the names of Geneva and his uncle.”

“Did you do any trial prep with him, a dry run, or discuss the elements of his testimony?”

“I didn’t even know what the defense was. No, I did not do a dry run. I did not know he was going to testify.”

“Yet you announced you were ‘ready’ — with­out knowing what the defense was?”

“I announced ‘ready’ because the defense was — with or without his assistance!”

“I have nothing further, your honor.”

Prosecutor Jill Ravitch didn’t bother to stand for her cross examination of her ally in the prosecution of Sunkett, Public Defender Thompson. Ravitch has just been elected DA in Sonoma County and this is her final piece of business with Mendocino County, wishing us all another four years of luck under the “Leadership With Integrity” of her interim boss, DA Meredith Lintott. Ravitch got to work in Mendo while running for office in SoCo, a kind of lease-option deal which, if Ravitch had lost in SoCo, she'd still have a job in palsy-walsy Mendo.

The Public Defender Linda Thompson and Dis­trict Attorney-elect for the adjacent county, Jill Ravitch — two alpha females — sisters in the pur­suit of Glenn Sunkett and David Eyster, enemy males.

Ms. Ravitch asked Thompson, “You were put­ting the People up against the wall, weren’t you? Because you knew the witnesses were out of the country.”

“Yes,” Thompson purred, “That’s true.”

“Now, Ms. Aziza Washington,” Ravtch said.

Ms. Aziza Washington is Sunkett’s girlfriend. When AVA reporter Tim Stelloh covered the trial last year he noticed that Ms. Washington was a very poor defense witness, more emotional than infor­mative and making statements that seemed difficult to believe — a perfect prosecution witness, in other words. Thompson should have checked her out before throwing her up there on the stand.

“Yes,” Thompson said, running her lips over the bait, feeling for a barb, perhaps.

“Do you remember how she was on the stand?”

“She was really angry.”

“Would it be fair to say that she was not a co-operative witness?”

“Yes,” Thompson agreed eagerly.

Ms. Ravitch may as well have crooked her fin­ger and beckoned Ms. Thompson forward. “And Mr. Kidd was looking for witnesses because Mr. Sunkett was not being co-operative?” Ravitch prompted Thompson.

Ravitch had obviously seen Thompson’s cards, although the Chief DA played hers pretty close to her chest. That’s why it was so fascinating — Ravitch could have batted Linda’s testimony across the room like a tennis ball if she wanted to, but she was playing ping-pong; patti-cake, even.

“I sent Will over there to see if he [Sunkett] would open up.”

“With Mr. Kidd?”

“”Yes.”

“And despite Mr. Sunkett not giving anyone for you to contact you were still preparing a defense?”

“Yes.”

“You put your entire file in a box.”

“Yes.”

“And sent it to an attorney in Oakland…?

Ms. Ravitch was sounding more like a therapist than a lawyer, which is always a safe strategy in Mendocino County, inside and outside courtrooms.

“I didn’t want any accusation that I was with­holding anything,” Thompson said dramatically.

One got the impression that the appeals court was getting the proverbial earful, the wink and the nod, somehow, through these theatrics. I mean, it was a given that the retrial would be denied, the sentencing would follow, and thence the obligatory appeal. Because there has NEVER been a re-trial granted in a California Superior Trial Court.

Ravich said, “Mr. Sunkett was quite a pen-pal when he was in jail, wasn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“And many – many – phone calls?”

“Oh, yes!”

Something odd was going on with Judge Ron Brown’s face.

Brown, himself a former Mendocino Public Defender himself with more than a few botched cases in his his­tory, probably hired Thompson and was probably not too inclined to find fault with her. Brown’s eyebrows knitted over his popping eyes and his mouth was as tight as a Scotch banker’s purse. After long and acrimonious back and forths between Eyster, Ravitch and Thompson, Eyster called Sunkett to the stand.

I gathered by the look on Sunkett’s face that he had been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time. His attorney appreciated his eagerness as well. Eyster still had the two letters he’d started off with, the ones he’d shown Will Kidd and Linda Thompson. He picked the first one up and waved it.

“Did you ever get a response regarding this?”

“No. No, I didn’t,” Sunkett said.

“Your public defender was appointed in January of ’09.”

“That’s right.”

“Did you ever see anyone from the public defender’s office?”

“No, I never saw her but once. Just an introduc­tory meeting and that was it.”

“What about Mr. Kidd, the investigator?

“No.”

“Ever shown any of the discovery?”

“No. Never.”

“Recognize this letter?”

“Yes.”

“The letter you sent from the jail?”

“Yes.”

“And you were not getting any response at all asking about the ID expert?”

“That’s right. I gave her Aziza Washington’s contact number. I left it on her voicemail, never getting any answer to my calls. She never spoke to me on the phone in my whole time in jail. I would get the receptionist and they would send me to the voicemail. They don’t have time to talk to you and then they come out and say they couldn’t get any information from you. I must have called her over 200 times and wrote 15 letters. If I’m reluctant to talk to the public defender, that would make no sense."

“Did you get a response to this letter?” Eyster asked, holding up the next letter.

“No. I never got one piece of mail from her at any time.”

Judge Brown was glowering. At Sunkett. The judge seemed to take Sunkett personally.

I knew then that Brown was going to deny the motion.

The hearing, for the sake of appearances, it seemed, lasted the rest of the afternoon and contin­ued the next day, but it was a done deal, a done deal that had made clear the opposite of its outcome, that Mr. Sunkett, was going to prison for the rest of his life because he'd received no defense.

The next day Judge Brown duly sentenced Sun­kett to 63 years in prison.

But let’s not say good-bye to Mr. Sunkett just yet. He’s got better chance than anybody in recent memory for a retrial from the appellate court.

6 Responses to Public Defender in the Dock

  1. Trent Foster Reply

    October 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    OUCH!
    Well according to Casptain Fathum, Glenn is going to miss out on some real luxury. Relaxing in the Mendo riveria’s best spa. But I can only say the best sleeping is done at the court house. Milk cookies and briefs.
    Makes no difference if justice is served as long as you dont shit your briefs!

  2. wizeup Reply

    October 22, 2010 at 12:18 am

    disgusting. worse than the south in the “good ol’ days”. total miscarriage of justice no matter if the guy is guilty or not. he should get a retrial somewhere else, she should be disbarred, and bruce m should get an award of some kind for his work on this case and his expose’ of the county’s injustice system.

  3. juror #9 Reply

    October 25, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    I was one of the jury members, and I can tell you there was no miscarriage of justice. I dont’ think any jury members put the look of the defense attorney over what was presented in the case. She may not have been a better lawyer than the DA, but she did her best with what she had.

    Prosecution had amazing evidence against Sunkett. Even the best defense attorney would have a very hard time going up against the prosecution’s case. We are talking facial recognition by victims, receipts of items used in the robbery days before the incident, Sunkett’s own GPS system tracking his car to the victim’s house at the exact time of the robbery.

    Defense didn’t have a leg to stand on. It isn’t that she is a bad lawyer, its that Sunkett had no real evidence to back him up.

  4. Mark Scaramella Reply

    October 27, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Based on Tim Stelloh’s coverage of the trial and the juror’s take on it I’d have to agree that “Sunkett had no real evidence to back him up.” And that based on the case presented the Guilty verdict was justified.
    BUT, didn’t the defense have an obligation to at least file the requisite motions, check out the crime scene, interview witnesses, check out their stories, check out all alibi witnesses, etc.?
    Based on what I know about the case today I’d say Sunkett is probably guilty. But I’d also say he didn’t get a fair trial because nobody even tried to get any “real evidence to back him up.”
    If you’re going to send someone away for 63 years, wouldn’t you want the trial to be fair and reasonably complete?

  5. S. Sunkett Reply

    October 28, 2010 at 1:30 am

    i stand behind him 100% whether he is guilty or not . i honestly in my heart believe he is not guilty . i know him very well and know he wouldnt use the weapons that was stated . he didnt get a fair trial from the start which is messed up 100% !

    • Bruce Anderson Reply

      October 29, 2010 at 7:32 pm

      We often argue about the Sunkett case here at the AVA, but we always agree that juries are a lot more trustworthy than either judges or most attorneys, especially in Mendocino County. There are, by the way, more and more cases involving GPS systems. They are far from infallible. And I agree with Scaramella that any time a defendant, any defendant, is looking at this much time his attorney has got to go all out for him. Ms. Thompson did not go all out for Glen Sunkett, to put it gently. Not that what follows is evidence, but I’ve talked with Sunkett several times and we’ve published letters from him. He’s a smart guy. I find it hard to believe he’d do a home invasion without a mask while his alleged confederates wore theirs. Also, moving the guy back and forth from the County Jail to the Courthouse like he was John Dillinger, complete with closed off side streets, was clearly prejudicial, as were Sunkett’s widely publicized “plans” alleged plans to break out of jail. If I were in serious trouble I’d move mountains to get my case out of the palsy-walsy Mendocino County Justice Club. It’s clear that Thompson did nothing for Sunkett but show up.

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