I had a conversation with Jenkins other day, an old friend. Unlike me Jenkins is still out there haunting the halls of justice. Not sure Jenkins wants to be outed as knowing me so that’s the reason for the handle I’m giving him or her.
Jenkins said after we exchanged a few words, “by the way what’s that you call your blog” I said: “TTTT, trekking toward the truth.” Jenkins said: “Looks like you’ve fallen off the path.”
Now what did I do I wondered. I kept my mouth shut. Jenkins looks for opportunities to get one up on me so I knew Jenkins wasn’t going to stop. “I read that article on Susan Garsh you did a while ago, you fell into, what was that you said you avoided when you were in Japan, oh, yeah, the benji ditch.“ I wondered who was Susan Garsh but would never admit to Jenkins.
“Where was I off base?” I asked trying to figure out who Jenkins was talking about. “You said she had no experience handling criminal cases.” Now I remembered. Jenkins was talking about Judge Susan Garsh the one who is sitting in Bristol County on the Hernandez case. I had said that. I pointed out she’d come from a civil background. I mentioned the ADA in Bristol County indicated that, so I went with it.
Jenkins went on, “Did you check her out?” I told Jenkins I looked into her background. Jenkins said that wasn’t checking her out. “She’s been on the bench over 20 years did you check with any of your buddies in the criminal trial bar.” I admitted I hadn’t. “Well shouldn’t you!”
I did a little later. I talked with trial lawyers who had tried cases in front of her. The opinion was that she was bright, leaned to the defense side, and well versed in criminal cases. The defense lawyers generally gave her high marks. But as I mentioned previously that only goes so far with me. I’ve always been wary of defense counsel bringing gifts of praise of a judge. But I have to admit that she has had much more experience handling criminal cases including murder cases than I gave her credit for. So as far as not being sufficiently experienced to try the Hernandez case, I have to eat a little humble pie and admit I was wrong but I won’t admit it to Jenkins.
I told Jenkins I would look into it and as I just mentioned I did. But I also told Jenkins “Whether she’s experienced or not she still shouldn’t be sitting on the case.” Jenkins asked why not. I explained that she’s had public run-ins with the Bristol ADA and DA’s office so it would have been be best if someone else sat on the case. “Your problem,”Jenkins said, “Is you’re living in the past. Just because your office never had public disputes with judges doesn’t mean it’s not common now.” I never thought of that. I knew back in my time when we didn’t like what a judge had done we’d keep it in house. Sometimes we could resolve it, other times we took the hit, licked our wounds and went on. But most times by working outside the public light we accomplished what we sought.
Jenkins went on: “Do you know how many judges the DAs have had disputes with lately? If a mere dispute eliminated a judge there’d be no judges left to sit.” I said I doubted it. Then Jenkins went on, “Do you think it would be fair to Judge Garsh to take the Hernandez case away from her if she’s well experienced just because of a run in or two with the Bristol DA. If she’s the senior judge in the county not to give it to her would be a slap in the face.”
I told him it wasn’t that simple. I didn’t care how many other DAs had run-ins with judges. Nor did I care about being fair to Judge Garsh or assuaging her feelings. I was concerned with the public perception of fairness. Where you have a history of animosity between a judge and a prosecutor’s office the right thing to do in that case is to bring in a judge who is beyond any question impartial. I thought about Whitey Bulger’s case and Judge Stearns. I never doubted he’d be fair and impartial but his prior relationship with the U.S. attorney’s office might make some wonder.
Jenkins not liking the way the conversation was going move on. “And another thing,” Jenkins said. “You said she may have shown continued animus by suppressing the evidence, that wasn’t fair.” I said, “I didn’t say she had animus, I just said it may, you know may, that it may be the case.” Jenkins said did you ever think cops screwed up and she had no choice. I said I had considered it. Jenkins went on, “You know she has to be right on all this – she doesn’t want to screw up and let some evidence in that shouldn’t come in and have the case reversed on appeal.” I told him I knew that.
I went on to say that having evidence suppressed in a case as important as the Hernandez case seemed way out of course. Jenkins said: “You’re again thinking of how your office used to do things –you always had ADAs working on affidavits and warrants – in the Salvi case you had five or six ADAs working there. Maybe Bristol doesn’t do it that way.” I replied, “You mean they let the cops run the show without the ADAs doing the legal backup?”Jenkins didn’t know for sure but said either that was the case or the ADAs that were there didn’t know what they were doing. I had to agree.
“Gotta go,” Jenkins said. I nodded. “And think about correcting the record on Garsh.” I indicated I would.