Attorney Dennis Melowski recently defended a female driver on a group of traffic cases, including a charge of operating while intoxicated, commonly known as drunk driving. The cases went to a bench trial, and the evidence showed that the arresting deputy had been “amorous” with the female defendant during the traffic stop. Also, it turned out that the deputy’s squad camera worked fine for every traffic stop he made that evening, except—you guessed it—this one. But in the middle of the Deputy’s testimony, the bench trial was adjourned for what turned out to be a two year delay. Here’s what happened when the case finally made it back to court:
Judge: State ready to continue?
Prosecutor: Judge, this case was—you know, was set some time ago. The Deputy has since retired, and there’s been—as you can imagine, he has a number of cases in the system; and so there was some fair amount of coordination that had to take place in order to figure out what his availability is, when he’s coming back, ’cause now he’s a citizen. And I was not coordinating with the Deputy . . . And in the interim, the case was transferred to another Assistant DA, and he was following up as to the availability of the Deputy.
Atty. Melowski: Can I – Can I intervene?
Judge: Sure, Sure. Help refresh me a little bit. Maybe I –
Atty. Melowski: I will absolutely refresh you, Judge. This case is two years old. The arrest –
Judge: Yeah, this is the one where he gave her a ride home, and there was a lot of –
Atty. Melowski: Ooohhhh, yeah. . . . And the Court made a comment at the close of testimony that we were going to start this case over because you weren’t confident you were going to be able to remember the facts of the case.
Judge: Well, by golly, I don’t suffer from Alzheimer’s yet. I probably said that too. But I – I remember what he said.
Atty. Melowski: Well, we weren’t done with the Deputy. And here’s the problem, the Deputy was in –
Judge: Sssshhhhhh, shh!
Atty. Melowski: Deputy –
Judge: Sssshhhhhhh, shh! Rest.
Atty. Melowski: Pardon me?
Judge: Rest. Just rest your case. Rest your case.
Atty. Melowski: I rest my case.
Judge: Closing argument?
Prosecutor: Judge, I don’t have the file here. I was just trying to explain to the Court the history of this case.
Judge: And I remember this case. What happened is that we’ve had an officer who I have the greatest respect for. I like him. He’s testified in a lot of cases. But it’s rather clear from the evidence that he was amorous with this lady wanting to give her a ride home and didn’t have the camcorder on. Right, Counsel?
Atty. Melowski: The one traffic stop from that night, Judge, that his camera was not working.
Judge: And the State hasn’t met its burden of proof . . . Case is dismissed with prejudice.
Atty. Melowski: Thank you, Judge.
Judge: All of the cases.
Defendant: Thank you.
Judge: That’s justice.
I don’t know what I like more: the flurry of excuses offered by the prosecutor for why he couldn’t move forward on a two year old case, or the judge “shushing” Attorney Melowski. In either case, the end result is what counts. “That’s justice.”