The Counsellor's Corner
While perusing the Los Angeles Daily Journal last week, I came across two stories, each of which were to say the least, troubling. The first dealt with a case in West Virginia which found a former juror sentenced to six months of home confinement and two years of probation. What was the crime committed by former juror Matthew Smith? Believe it or not, he smoked marijuana with three defendants the night before he helped convict them in a drug case. I wish I were making this up. Mr. Smith pleaded guilty in December of 1997 to contempt of court and, needless to say, when the defendants were convicted they mentioned this experience to their lawyers and their cases are presently on appeal due to alleged juror misconduct.
For openers, I don't think the three convicted defendants pick their friends particularly well. Aside from the ridiculousness of smoking pot with a member of the jury, these defendants clearly picked the wrong juror because Mr. Smith apparently viewed this as a short-term friendship as he voted to convict them the next day. I don't expect the defendants to prevail on appeal.
Just when I thought I had read the most ludicrous story of the day, it was followed on the same page with a story entitled "Singleton Apologizes For Killing." I'm sure you all remember Lawrence Singleton, the monster who was convicted in 1978 of chopping off the arms of a teenager after raping her. His release nine years later caused a great deal of controversy and lead to a change in the length of the sentence one receives for these crimes.
When he was released from prison, Mr. Singleton moved to Tampa, Florida where he was recently convicted of first degree murder for the killing of a 31 year old prostitute named Roxanne Hayes, a woman who had three daughters. During the sentencing phase of this case, Mr. Singleton, somewhat amazingly said as follows: "I'm sorry about the death in this case. I'll have to carry it on my conscience the rest of my life." What conscience? Truth really is stranger than fiction. At his recent sentencing, the woman he had raped in 1978, Mary Vincent, the woman who had her arms chopped off by Mr. Singleton, testified as follows: "I was raped and I had my arms cut off, he used a hatchet. He left me to die." Ms. Vincent then told the court how she survived by walking naked for two miles holding the remains of her arms in the air to slow the flow of her blood.
Sick, pathetic, disgusting; all of these words come to mind when I think of Lawrence Singleton. Yet he has the unmitigated gaul after committing the second horrid crime in his horrid life to indicate that he is sorry about the death and he'll have to carry it on his conscience. To borrow an often used expression of local talk show host Ronn Owens: "Get real."
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Charlie Unger is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Booth & Unger. Mr.Unger has obtained his doctorate in psychology and writes a bi-monthly column on legal and psychological issues.