Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The House Hunt

So, we're taking the plunge into the marketplace. 2009 brought with it the best buyer's market in history. 2014, not so much. The truth was we weren't in a position to buy a few years ago. We really aren't in a position to do it now, but a quickly expanding family is forcing our hand.

We visited a home tonight that was in need of a major update (that means it's in our price range). The basement was not finished, but the cement floor, hot water tank, furnace, and electric were all new, and necessitated a visit to the lowest level to see it all. I was the first to the basement and noticed a small, walled off section enclosed by a slightly ajar door. 

We've seen enough houses now to know that these rooms will always hold something unique to the homeowner. Maybe it's their woodworking area or where they paint model cars. Something about the dim light seeping through the cracked door in this room said it would be different.

I pulled the door towards me slowly, with my child in my other arm. The first thing I noticed was the mattress on the floor, with blankets and pillows placed neatly on top. Then the walls filled with tie dye posters assaulted my eyes. The centerpiece of the room was the 10 foot by 10 foot flag with "Blunt" spelled on it over a marijuana leaf. Needless to say, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley were prominently featured smoking what this room was made an homage to. The lava lamps and black lights completed the feeling that someone was clinging to a college dorm lifestyle. The unique smell of the room didn't make it to the rest of the basement though.

Couples streamed in and out of the open house because the price was terrific in a great school district. When selling a house, it is a bold move to wave the marijuana flag (literally) in such a manner. I can honestly say that this is a first in the dozens of houses we've seen. But it might have worked because most of these houses run together so that they might as well be the same. "The weed house" will always stand out.

Monday, April 14, 2014

In the Line of Duty

There have been some stark realities recently about what it means to be in law enforcement. 

NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra was killed while running into an apartment building to save lives after the call of a fire, which was set by a 16 year old arsonist.

Officer Guerra left behind four children and a wife after making the ultimate sacrifice. Head over to Huff Post for some incredible pictures of how the NYPD mourns one of their own.

The suspect, Marcell Dockery, is 16 years old, and in New York State that means he will automatically be tried in supreme court. He is currently charged with murder in the second degree.

In North Carolina, the father of an Assistant District Attorney was kidnapped and beaten over the course of four days until the FBI tracked his location and rescued him. Five people were implicated in the kidnapping, including an inmate convicted by the ADA. The inmate apparently smuggled a cell phone into his prison and was able to orchestrate the kidnapping using it.

The murder trial for one suspect accused of killing two prosecutors is in the beginning process of jury selection in Texas.

Even in my own office, there have been two times in the last month when prosecutors have been threatened over the phone. Also, a defendant on trial tried to strike the ADA trying him with his car.

The further I move along in my career as a prosecutor, the more serious the cases become. The more serious and far-reaching the investigation, the more dramatic the consequences for the accused and usually the more violent the targets. It's reality. Most days I don't think about it, but there are definitely times I look over my shoulder a few times when I'm leaving work late at night while I'm on trial with a murder case.

It's no secret that the police and prosecutors follow social media, listen to phone calls, and have other investigative means. My name is mentioned frequently by defendants I'm prosecuting. It's always disconcerting, but there have never been legitimate threats. Usually, it's just jokes to their friends.

It's a reality of choosing to fight for victims in court. Intimidation is one of the biggest problems I face in  persuading witnesses to testify. Unfortunately, it seems to be spreading to the public servants themselves. This isn't to say defense attorneys and judges are immune from the intimidation. There are many cases we investigate where defendants are stalking or harassing their attorneys, or a defendant obtains the cell phone number for a judge somehow and leaves horrible messages. Technology has made intimidation easy and anonymous.

This last month has served as a reminder of the dangers we all face in trying to do the right thing. The intimidation doesn't drive me away. It just strengthens my resolve to find justice. The suspects that have the means and choose to carry out their threats are the ones we need to focus on. Their level of intimidation is pervasive on the streets and will make life better for the citizens who have to put up with it every day.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My Weakness

We have been interviewing candidates at my office for a few positions. The screening and selection of candidates is interesting as are the truly unbelievable interviews (both good and bad). One of my colleagues always asks for the candidate to explain their perceived weaknesses.

I'm currently on vacation with my family. It was much needed after the brutal Winter and long trial. As I sit here reading and writing while my son naps, I thought of my weakness. I find it difficult to relax. To unwind. To just be in the moment and let the beautiful world overwhelm me.

No matter where I am or what I'm doing I'm always thinking of other projects. I am trying to be better about it, especially while hanging in the sun with my family. Relaxation for me isn't TV. It usually is a good book and a quiet place, or writing stories. But I need to get better at living in the moment.

So now if you will excuse me, sunshine and family are calling my name and there are moments I'm missing. See you next week.