Friday, January 20, 2012

1/4/12 Ogden Shootings Story: Three More Items From the Standard-Examiner

We'll once again focus the WCF spotlight on three new items concerning the fast-developing 1/4/12 Ogden Shootings story which have been uploaded to the Standard-Examiner website and/or have been published in the print edition since our last update. As to the first two of these, a Scott Schwebke story, and a reader-submitted Letter to the Editor, we'll simply continue to play the reduced role of a story aggregator, and furnish the links, without offering any further editorial commentary of our own:
With regard to story #3, we'll expand our discussion, as this new story does offer the invitation for consideration of some background issues which truly open up a can of worms, wethinks, concerning the early treatment of this matter by the Weber County Attorney's Office as a "Capital Murder," "Death Penalty" prosecution.

As a followup to a story which first appeared several days ago on the S-E website, we'll refer our readers to an updated (1/20/12) story, which sets forth the burden that this latest homicide case places on our already heavily overloaded County Prosecutor's Office. The concise lead paragraph provides the gist:
OGDEN -- Handling three major cases at the same time is having an impact on the Weber County Attorney's Office. "We're maxed out," Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said of the drain of three major investigations under way simultaneously.
Read the full story here:
With three major cases now pending, Dee Smith's already overworked public law office is seriously feeling the heat; but that's only half of the problem, wethinks; and here's the other half of whole troublesome ball of wax, as we see it:

Notably, on the S-E site a couple of days ago a S-E reader identifying himself as Colorado Deputy State Public Defender Bill Schurman posted a comment which we believe to be well worthy of some discussion:
Going for the death of Mr. Stewart will surely weigh down your Office like you have never seen, Mr. prosecutor. It will be more than the self-serving arrest warrant affidavit. As an attorney in Colorado involved in death cases you'll rue the day that you announced death. If you are a little busy now just wait.
While we don't know whether this S-E commenter guy was an imposter or not, we do believe the guy "nails it." The difficulties are compound in death penalty cases too, folks. Here are a couple of web-based resources you can all check out, just to give you "the drift."

First, and "for starters," the whole approach to defense counsel representation is much more complicated in death penalty cases, than in garden variety felony cases. Specifically, Utah death penalty defense lawyers must fulfill the quite rigorous requirements of Utah law, the details of which are statutorily set forth in the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure:
We're making the assumption that Defendant Matthew Stewart will be entitled to the services of the Public Defender's Office, by the way. We'll have more on that assumption further down this article.

Remember, people. Death penalty-qualified defense lawyers don't grow on trees, due to the aforementioned stringent experiential qualification requirements for death penalty defense counsel.

And here's another good link, an eye-opening S-E article dated June 6, 2010, going into some of the other issues concerning the most recent difficulties of defending death penalty cases in Weber County, and also containing some very good nuts-and-bolts insight on this subject from our old pal, Ogden-based Public Defender, Bernie Allen, now that the tightwad genii in Weber County government have all but dismantled the Weber County Public Defender's Office:
Among other things, Ace Attorney Bernie mentions that a first class criminal defense will cost, as a rule of thumb, "close to a million dollars for each case," whereas the cheapskates in Weber County government have reduced appointed defense council compensation to... get this:
The rule of thumb for a minimum paid to public defenders in a capital case is [now] a flat rate of $100,000 per case, Allen said, which can equate to $28 an hour given the time commitment needed for an appropriate defense.
And laughably, according to Attorney Bernie, Weber County is pretty much a deadbeat, even in actually paying up these drastically reduced legal fees.

Factor in the required two (count 'em 2) death penalty qualified Capital Murder defense lawyers who'll have to "split" this pittance, and that works out to $50K apiece, not counting the dough they'll have to shell out hiring investigators, conducting pre-trial discovery, and every other expensive detail which goes into defending a Capital Case.

Think about it folks. Why would a competent Utah felony defense attorney even think about getting involved in a major capital murder case which will yield little more than $50 grand in fees, before expenses, when the average felony case will yield just about the same amount, with a lot less overhead, after a mere half-dozen or so court appearances? Nobody in their right mind, that's who.

And what's going to happen when Mr. Stewart possibly gets convicted because Weber County officials only authorized and approved funding for a "cheap-ass, cut-rate, low budget defense?"

The next thing that will happen, assuming that Stewart might get convicted in this twisted scenario is that an upper appellate court will likely go along with what Attorney Bernie suggests in the above S-E story:

"Conviction over-ruled and set aside: 'due to 'ineffective counsel.'"

Here's an informative article on the topic:
Moreover, even though prosecution and defense counsel sit at tables on opposite sides of the courtroom, the taxpayers will be footing the full bill for the whole upcoming dog and pony show; and the Weber County taxpayers are the ones who'll finally get seriously nicked once again, once the smoke clears on this unfortunate situation, after the politically ambitious County Attorney Dee Smith takes his deep "post performance bow," of course.

Food for thought, People.


Ernie the Attorney said...

No competant criminal defense attorney would take on a complicated case like this for a mere $1oo thousand .

So far the defendant. Mr. Stewart is being totlly  "screwed."

Danny said...

It is sad when the cost of defending oneself becomes completely outside the realm of the common man.

Our system is totally screwed.

We always hear how the county does not have the money for attorneys.  So I say, let Matthew Stewart go with only a fine for possession of marijuana.  That's all he really did wrong, if even that was wrong.

Defending himself from an armed assault was self defense.  That it was the government assaulting him makes it even worse.

How about this?  Let him off in exchange for him not suing the county for the $100 million dollars he  has coming for getting shot up in his own home in the middle of the night.  They shot him for growing hemp.  Ben Franklin grew hemp.

D_Dalton said...

This is an odd one to me and could get confusing pretty fast--especially considering the opportunity costs in addition to the outright dollars. 

One tool that I like to employ to give me clarity on a situation is the question, "if money were a non-factor, what would you think?"

I'll leave this as it is for now and hope that it sparks thought regarding principles of justice (on both ends--the prosecution and defense) in a venue which is removed from the potential, existential outcomes.

I think it's an important exercise because in my view, our practical-ness must necessarily be informed by our values, generally.  While a chicken/eggy argument could be defended fairly well from a pragmatic perspective, I'd counter that descending into pure context without a datum to which to appeal would not necessarily produce replicable results repeatedly given the same inputs. If that's the case, I don't think that's what anyone would call justice.

I hope that wasn't too much for this medium...

rudizink said...

"Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people. -Eleanor  Roosevelt."

Methinks your idea-oriented  "queries" fit in well, here at WCF.


blackrulon said...

Dee smith might be acting concerned about the costs of 3 major trials but he knows that the money will be available. Unlike most defendants who have to use their own funds or rely on public defenders he can  ultimately count on tax money to alleviate any funding shortfalls. If the prosecutors had to defend their actions and costs for a trial they might take a pragmatic looks about costs.

Danny said...

This is interesting to read slowly and carefully.

Real personal
income less transfer payments, has recovered off its recessionary low in 2009,
but is still about a half trillion dollars below where it was in 2008.
Industrial production is still off 5% from its peak and no higher than in 2005.
Full time employment is at the same level as in May 2000, despite a 28 million
person increase in population and a 11.4 million rise in the labor force. Real
median income stood at $51,800 in 2007, but for the first time ever has
declined in this recovery and now stands at an estimated $49,400, a 6.4% drop
from the previous peak.

rudizink said...

Off topic but very good, Danny, I've edited your missive, by the way, to remove the blank page space.

Jim H. said...

Although I'm fairly new to Ogden City, having moved here from California about a year ago, I'm wondering how much experience in criminal matters the Weber County attorney Dee Smith had in private practice, before he was elected to office a couple of years ago.  Can anyone fill me in on this?  I'm watching what I'd consider to be serious political posturing  on his part, and I'm so far unconvinced that this guy has even the slightest clue what he's doing.

Smattguy said...

I can tell you this...Richards knows exactly what he's doing. If stewarts injuries were not life threatening ...whats he still doing in hospital? Anyone catch Grieners snippet on the radio this morning ...not much. I wanna know where the cameras were on that raid too...or more like lack thereof.

D_Dalton said...

I felt the bile rise in my throat during Stewart's press conference when he said that there was no good film of the event. If that's true and it was a conscious choice made pre-raid...

I'll leave the implications to you, but I cannot think of a single good one for anything that we (collectively pretend to) value.

Swarmi said...

Thanks, excellent piece.

BTW, did y'all hear that the Weber County Sheriff is an alleged violator of the Hatch act?

Whats up with that, the schools running out of money in Ogden?

See that Jon Geiner got the boot, why not the Sheriff.  hmmm

Is he getting the Dewey Mackay treatment?

So many questions.  

rudizink said...

Yep, Swarmi, we ran an article on that topic earlier yesterday:

Standard-Examiner: Weber Sheriff (Allegedly) Violated Hatch Act

Happy to see that you used the word "alleged," inasmuch as Sheriff Thompson's Hatch Act matter has never been actually adjudicated.

Danny said...

There isn't any good film of the police raid, at least not ANY MORE.

Jamosnatang said...


Jamosnatang said...

NOW THAT'S WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING!!!! Our Amendments being served.. That's America!!! Oh nevermined, I forgot we are in Ogden, Utah 84401.*7%!^

Jamosnatang said...

That's Right!!

Reciever4life said...

I understand Mr Stewart did very wrong but who is this Dee Smith think he is, only god can say who lives and dies. I'm so sick of this Dee Smith, he has a personnel agenda here.

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