The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

The District Attorney’s Office

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Several nights ago when Jacob called from the Allegheny County Jail, he told me that ADA Evan Lowry II was leaving the District Attorney’s office. Jacob has been getting the paper for the last couple months (He is perhaps better informed than I am now.). He read an article about the Plum schoolteacher case; ADA Lowry was assigned this case, as he was assigned to Jacob’s case a year and a half ago. The article reported that the case was reassigned since ADA Lowry was leaving the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office. The article was not about ADA Lowry, so who knows where he will turn up. Attorneys do flip-flop from prosecution to defense. Perfect opportunities to learn about cases from the inside out or would it be the outside in. Jacob’s second attorney told us he worked in the DA’s office for a several years.

We disliked Evan Lowry or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we disrespected him. You might assume that we would not have liked anyone who prosecuted Jacob’s case. Perhaps that is true, but how can I say since we only have this one experience. Why did we dis(like)(respect) him? It might have been the way he slid into the courtroom or the way he looked at us or the way he looked as that Allegheny County detective whispered in his ear or wrote notes or the way he described my son as less than a man or the way he implied during his questioning of Jacob’s friends and character witnesses that they were liars. Perhaps it was the way he was led by the extended family of the accuser to bring up my Facebook postings and these blog posts in the sentencing hearing. Perhaps it was the questioning of Jacob’s reference letters from his friends, even the reference letter from a reverend. It might have been any one of those things that bent us or it might have been the totality of those things. Anyway, he is no doubt off to greener pastures. Perhaps he has earned recommendations and accolades from his satisfied customers. Perhaps he will now be offering defense advice to those same clients he once called less than a man (or woman).

As I watch shows on TV, I wonder if art imitates life (AIL) or life imitates art (LIA). I was watching a movie a couple of weeks ago (I forget the title) about an assistant district attorney who had struck a pedestrian and left the scene. He called 911 and then left the scene because he had been drinking. Another man was arrested, and this ADA was assigned the case. He faced a dilemna; how to do his job without actually convicting this innocent man. As this ADA sat with his boss, they discussed the possibility that the accused was telling the truth when he said he did not hit the victim. They knew there was a 911 call reporting an accident in the same vicinity. Was their discussion about finding that caller and learning the truth? No; their discussion centered around the risk to their prosecution if that 911 caller was brought up by the defense or the caller came forward. Of course, this was a movie with twists. In fact, the accused was not the hit and run driver; but he was a serial killer. Perhaps justice would be served if they just ignored the fact that he did not commit this crime, since he was guilty of other crimes. Maybe we should not worry about whether people are wrongfully convicted since they surely must have done something wrong in their lives to deserve a punishment. So what if the punishment does not fit the crime? My daughter was watching the new show with Jennifer Lopez who plays a corrupt police officer. My daughter filled me in on some background when I jumped into episode 3 or 4. Lopez framed her (ex?)husband for murder and got away with it. My daughter added that the husband was not a good guy. Was that a justifiable rationalization? I guess Lopez felt entitled to be accuser and executioner because he was not a good guy. Has that ever happened where the police become both investigator and judge? Is that part of their role? Do they gather evidence looking only for the damaging evidence and avoiding anything exculpatory? Is this new Jennifer Lopez show AIL or LIA? HBO recently was showing GONE GIRL again, another of those AIL or LIA questions. I remember discussing this book with my ex-daughter-in-law and then my daughter. Both had read the book before I did. I read it on their recommendation, and it was a fascinating story of warped revenge; it has popped into my head more than once.

I looked up the definition of justice and saw the words fairness, respect for people, impartiality, objectivity, neutrality. In my son’s case, I did not see those things. I did not see the police exhibiting impartiality or objectivity. Their case seemed to rest solely on the accuser’s statement. If they did any investigatory work on Jacob’s case, it is not evident in the discovery documents provided to his attorney. One employer told Jacob that they were contacted by the police, yet that information is not noted in any discovery documents. When Jacob’s ex-wife (then wife) made her statement to police a few days after his arrest, she intimated that he had left this same employer under suspicious circumstances when in fact he still worked for this employer. It is true that once you have been accused, you are fighting those intimations and innuendo.

I did not see in ADA Evan Lowry II evidence of those words defining justice. How can impartiality and objectivity be maintained when family members of the accused go to the DA to complain about their methods. How can that be displayed when their job is to prosecute with only a passing interest in the truth? How can that be when the District Attorney is an elected official whose job rests on satisfying the electorate, minus the accused of course? Is the electorate only interested in wins or are we interested in the truth? I can only opine the truth of what goes on in the offices of the District Attorney. I think most of us on the outside do not see the real picture. I read a comment in my news feed saying that a person accused is just one person up against the power of the state. In other words, good luck (and hope you have money)! What they did not add to that ‘might of the state’ was that the accused may also find him/herself up against the influence of those who know people. Who among us is not just a little bit swayed by that mention of the connection of a ‘victim’ to someone you might know or work with or respect. Who does not lose a bit of impartiality to think that a ‘victim’ has a connection to community leaders or someone with political influence. This is a political arena.

Do you know the term cronyism? One day Jacob’s lawyer tells us how certain positions in the Courthouse are filled with employees who are friends or relatives of judges and lawyers and politicians. Jacob’s attorney greets a man outside the Courthouse; later he told us that this man lost his Courthouse job when the judge he worked for fell from grace. So easy come, easy go. Why do I talk about these things in regards to Jacob’s case? Why do I think the efforts or lack of effort by the players in the case could have been influenced? I say this because Jacob’s ex-family thought they had usable influence; perhaps they have used it before in the courts. Jacob’s attorney tells us that the grandfather of the accuser (that really is not his relationship to this accuser) has gone to ADA Lowry asking why he has not made a plea agreement with Jacob. This man threatens to go to ADA Lowry’s boss, DA Stephen Zappala to force a plea offer. It would seem that this ‘grandfather’ tries to wield influence because he has a relationship with the Allegheny County Police. His visit is more than simply a family member of the accuser. Again, I believe this because my ex-daughter-in-law told us her family knew judges and lawyers. My son’s ex-father-in-law told us he knew lots of police officers. He talked about a relationship with a police officer in Butler County where he lives. When my son’s lawyer sends a subpoena to Jacob’s wife and the accuser’s mother, it is a lawyer family member who ran for judge and whose father was a judge and whose brother is a lawyer who called my son’s lawyer. Just that little hint of relationships and connections can change someone’s perspectives.

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