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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Happy Women’s Year

Happy New Year! In spite of the holidays being hectic there always seems to be time for reflection as the New Year approaches. And I have been doing my own reflecting about this blog. I had meant to acknowledge the two year milestone of the blog in October, but I forgot. We have never missed a weekly post in two years which was a personal goal. In 2014 we highlighted some amazing women which I want to do more of in 2015. I had women share with me that they were shocked at the positive reaction they got from doing an interview, I had women tell me that potential clients read about them on the blog when researching them, and I had women tell me their firm marketing directors absolutely loved the interview. All in all it has served as a wonderful tool for us to get to know each other and for women criminal lawyers to get more exposure and recognition. I couldn’t be more thrilled about that. We started a series called What makes a Great Defender which I would love to see grow. I would love to see more women contribute and participate in the blog in the New Year. And I would love to find more women criminal lawyers highlighted in the media and women involved in the representation of big cases. So in the spirit of reflection I created a list of my top ten successes for women criminal lawyers for 2014: WCDA blog interviews 5 women (more next year) and highlights 10 women (more next year)…just killing it on specific cases March 2014 ABA panel “Women in White Collar in Today’s Global Community” March 2014 Women White Collar Subcommittee holds cocktail at ABA White Collar Conference March 2014 Women White Collar Defense Association holds “Spa day” event at the Biltmore with over 175 women white collar practitioners participating from all over the country March 2014 Jan Little is one of the recipients of NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense Award March 2014 NACDL Women’s Initiative holds panel “Career path for Women in Criminal Defense: Challenges and Triumphs” May 2014 NACDL Women’s Initiative holds panel on “Mentoring and Your Career” August 2014 Cynthia Orr installed as co-chair of ABA Criminal Justice Section and receives NACDL Robert Heeny award November 2014 Women’s Initiative networking luncheon organized at NACDL White Collar Conference Cris Arguedas hired to represent FedEx in controversial drug trafficking Indictment. Here is to a New Year of prosperity and full of continued successes! Happy Women’s Year!
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Give the Gift of Knowledge and Experience

During this season of giving I have been contemplating what gift this blog can give. And the answer that I keep coming back to is the gift of sharing knowledge and experience. I have used this phrase before “reach out, up, and back to connect and draw upon the knowledge base of fellow women.” Gifts of knowledge and experience last forever and truly are what matter most. And these gifts are not reserved for young lawyers. This past year, after twenty years of practicing, I was the recipient of such a gift. A woman that I met through NACDL’s Women’s Initiative, who has been practicing twenty-six years, generously shared her experience and knowledge with me. Of course these gifts aren’t reserved for women, either. Just last week I sat with a new male associate in our office and talked to him about court hearings. But it is important to make a specific effort to reach out, up, and back to women in the field. This is still a very male dominated field and women still struggle with finding their voice and direction. We need to help them and we need to help each other. In that spirit I have been thinking a lot about what I have developed in my arsenal of defense tools that I found most useful in twenty years of practice. One of those tools is Judgment. When we start practicing we are obsessed and consumed with the idea that our opponent or the Judge will know the rules or case law better than we do. We falsely believe that mastering the law alone will protect us in a fight. The truth is, in my opinion, that these are a criminal defense lawyer’s weakest tools. That is not to say that knowing the law is not important. It is. But not at the expense of one of your most valuable tools… your judgment. You have to learn to develop your guiding voice, your gut, and your instinct. They all come together to form Judgment. This is when you decide “should I reach out to the detective or prosecutor?” in the midst of an investigation. This is when you decide “do I sit down and stop talking because I’m winning?” This is when you decide what kind of resolution you can push for and which is going to cause push back and make matters worse. This is when you decide which argument passes the “laugh test” and which doesn’t. The list of how judgment affects every aspect of criminal defense is endless. I could go on for days. The point here is that in defending a client sometimes the best defense entails putting down your book and Westlaw and listening to your own guiding voice. There is tremendous amount of instinct to this job and the earlier you start trusting that instinct or finding a mentor that can help you develop it when you are insecure about it (which is normal), the faster you will grow as a criminal defense lawyer. There are certainly more tools at my disposal which I am pledging to share more about on the blog and in my office to whoever wants guidance. That is my pledge in the New Year, to share my own knowledge and experience with generous heart and open spirit. It is my way of paying it forward. Happy Holidays!
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Against the Odds, Cynthia Orr Receives Bail for Client

Events this week have underscored the passion and dedication that women attorneys bring to this field, often yielding stunning results for our clients. On Wednesday I wrote about the remarkable appeal victory earned by Lori Voepel. In another amazing turnaround this week, attorney Cynthia Orr was finally able to obtain bail for Hannah Overton – almost two months after her conviction was overturned. Multiple news organizations picked up the story, including ABC News, Huffington Post and Newser. These kinds of life-altering results driven by women criminal lawyers are worthy of a second post this week. The judge awarded Hannah Overton a $50,000 bond and rejected the prosecution’s request for a $250,000 bond. Overton was convicted of murder in 2006 for the salt-poisoning death of her foster son. In October of this year an appeals court agreed that she received ineffective representation during her murder trial and the conviction was reversed. Overton has been asserting her innocence since being charged. Her husband was also charged but accepted a plea after her conviction and was sentenced to probation, which has since terminated. The Overton’s have five children that have only seen their mother through glass in the jail once a month during her last seven years of incarceration. Cynthia Orr has been a ferocious advocate for Overton throughout and hasn’t for a moment stopped fighting to gain her freedom. That effort was rewarded this week as her client walked out of jail to spend Christmas with her kids and hug them for the first time in over seven years. This is the kind of thing that gives you goose bumps. So many people get lost in our criminal system. A few lucky ones meet advocates like Cynthia Orr and Lori Voepel who breathe life into their quest for justice. This kind of perseverance is simply inspiring. For those of you that don’t know Cynthia Orr, she is currently a co-chair of the Criminal Justice Section for the ABA and a past president of NACDL. She exemplifies the term “champion of justice” and obviously doesn’t sleep. Congrats to Cynthia on a stunning victory. The fight is not over… but Hannah Overton couldn’t be in more capable caring hands.
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Lori Voepel Wins Appeal for Woman Who Spent 22 Years on Death Row on Egregious Prosecutorial Misconduct

Attorney Lori Voepel, from Phoenix, Arizona, won a stunning appeal last week for Debra Jean Milke, who spent 22 years on death row for the alleged murder of her 4 year old son. The Arizona Court of Appeals ordered the dismissal of murder charges against Milke and agreed with Voepel that to conduct a retrial would amount to double jeopardy. The Court was extremely critical of the prosecutors’ failure to turn over evidence during Milke’s trial about Detective Saldate who had a long history of misconduct and lying. The case was largely built on the detective’s testimony that Milke had confessed to him in spite of the fact that it was not preserved by recording or in writing. The Court called the prosecutors’ actions “a severe stain on the Arizona justice system” and stated that the failure to turn over the evidence “calls into question the integrity of the system and was highly prejudicial to Milke.” The Huffington Post detailed the appellate twists and turns starting from the federal habeas to 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that resulted in the conviction being reversed in March of 2013. Listen here to Voepel discussing the 9th Circuit’s ruling last year. The 9th Circuit cited numerous instances of now-retired Detective Saldate committing misconduct in previous cases, lying under oath, and violating suspects’ rights. The federal appeals court went as far as asking the Justice Department to investigate whether he had committed civil rights violations. Thereafter when the prosecutors were preparing for a retrial the detective refused to testify and asserted his Fifth Amendment right, which the trial judge accepted. When the State appealed, the court’s ruling was reversed after both State and Federal authorities said they would not prosecute him. Finally, the last appeal resulted in the Arizona Court of Appeals agreeing that a retrial would amount to double jeopardy. Some news reports have indicated that the County Attorney plans to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. In September of last year Milke posted bond and was released from prison after spending close to 25 years in prison to await her retrial and the appeals the followed. This case is yet another example of the insidious nature of Brady violations. Here the prosecutors had evidence that went directly to the credibility of the main witness against the defendant and rather than follow the law, they chose to break the law. Thankfully in this instance Lori Voepel was able to demonstrate that Brady evidence existed but wasn’t turned over. This kind of case is a prime example as to why we, as trial attorneys, need to remain vigilant about Brady and continue to shine a bright light on the damaging effects of Brady violations. Congrats to Lori Voepel and her tireless fight for justice for her client. Bravo!
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: What’s Happening that Matters to Women Lawyers

Today I’d like to call several interesting articles and developments regarding women in law to your attention. I loved reading this article about The 39 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2014. Nothing short of inspiring that more and more women are speaking out in support of feminism. I simply can’t believe we let our culture decide that “feminist” was a bad label. On a more disturbing note, a female criminal lawyer in New York was recently denied a trial delay based on a request to postpone the trial due to her high-risk pregnancy. The hearing relating to the request got a lot of media attention, and Deborah Misir, the pregnant lawyer, had to appear by phone due to her condition. The New York Times called the hearing tumultuous at points. The Judge ultimately denied the request because there was a second lawyer who could handle the case and finding that the right to counsel of choice was outweighed by the co defendants right to be tried quickly and the need to try the case once for judicial efficiency. Both Misir and her husband were visibly upset and argued that there was obvious sexism occurring in the process. The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession is a great resource for women lawyers. Check out the ABA Current Glance at Women in the Law from July 2014 and become more educated on how women fare statistically in the field. Also read The Goal III Report published February 2014, which is an Annual report on Women’s Advancement into Leadership Positions in the American Bar Association. Finally be sure to look at the Call for Nomination for the 2015 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Awards that are due by December 15th. This is how the awards are described: “The award was established in 1991 to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women lawyers. Each year, this award honors five outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence within their area of specialty and have actively paved the way to success for other women lawyers. These women demonstrate excellence in a variety of professional settings and personify excellence on either the national, regional, or local level.” If I am missing something we should know about please let know, and as always I am looking for information and assistance with the following: Specific Cases that women criminal lawyers are handling A mentor or outstanding lawyer that you think should be interviewed How you would define a “Great Defender” as a woman criminal lawyer I also welcome your thoughts on how we could enhance this blog. I would love to hear from you!
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