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Orange County Murder Case Dismissed

As TLC's instruction in "Discovering the Story" teaches us, good trial work beings long before the actual commencement of trial. In fact, good trial work is extraordinarily difficult without a thorough, thoughtful and connective workup of your case. There are times, however, when the thorough, thoughtful and connective workup of your case renders good trial work completely unnecessary.

A great example of that appears in Joey Low's day in court today. Joey represented a woman who was charged with murdering her husband. The woman had assisted her husband in his suicide; the so-called "victim" had cancer of the tongue. Although his treatment had succeeded, it was a scorched-earth situation wherein the aftermath of the treatment left him alive but miserable, and wanting to die. On his request, his wife gave him a cocktail of prescription medication in a dosage sufficient to take his life.

The police arrested Joey's client on the same night as her husband's death. She never had time to grieve and mourn the loss of her husband of 33 years - unless one counts her tearful videotaped confession to the police.

Joey was not the first attorney whom this woman contacted. Her first choice of a lawyer told her that the only recourse was to beg the D.A. for a plea. Unwilling to plead into prison, the woman hired Joey, and turned Joey loose on the government's motivations in prosecuting this woman for helping her husband end his suffering.

Joey rifle-sighted the coroner who had classified his death as a murder. As the coroner had worked in that capacity for over 40 years and had testified well over 500 times, there was an overwhelming volume of material to review in order to dig into the coroner's personal history. Joey took the time to read it, and learned that in the classes the coroner took to develop the foundation for this cause-of-death opinions, the coroner only earned a "D." In previous jobs, the coroner had been booted off of all murder cases because of his poor performance and questionable results. The coroner had admitted to this demotion in one of his previous 500 trials.

In this case, Joey reconstructed the coroner's work, minute-by-minute. He learned that the coroner had spent maybe 15 minutes analyzing the husband's body. The coroner had actually estimated time of death to be at a moment when Joey could prove that the husband was still living. And most importantly, Joey found that the coroner had originally ascribed the cause of death to be either pneumonia or a myocardial infarc - the coroner changed his report, only after Joey's client was charged with murder.

The digging was not all Joey did, however. He retained and prepared four experts who would address the coroner's claims: a pharmaceutical representative, who would testify that the manufacturer's data showed the drug levels in the husband's body to be non-lethal; a professor of forensic pathology who would have testified that the coroner had conducted inapposite, inappropriate tests; a cancer expert who would have described the husband's treatment program and prognosis for quality of life; and a psychological expert who would have testified that Joey's client lacked the mental capacity to understand her rights, waive her rights and give an accurate statement.

Joey presented this case in three separate mock trials to hone the themes of the case. He was prepared to present photographs showing his client's marriage to her husband, and he had prepared his client to testify the meaning of "in sickness and in health, 'till death do us part." And in accordance with court rules, Joey had put the D.A. on notice of his experts and their testimony. Joey had also suggested that the D.A. might want to do half as much investigation into the coroner's history as he had done.

It is fun to think what the trial would have been like, had Joey been taken off his chain in front of a jury in this case -- but there is something even sweeter about seeing the government throw up its and sigh, "forget it, we give up, life's too short." The D.A. saw the proverbial writing on the wall and, after answering that she was "ready" for trial, asked the judge for a sidebar.

There, the D.A. announced that she was dismissing the case, due to her lack of evidence sufficient to prove the allegations.

One can only imagine how emotional the ensuing moments were, for Joey's client and for Joey himself. Recall also that Joey was making his final preparations for trial while also attending the argument of his case to the United States Supreme Court. Not too shabby for a week's work, Joey -- congratulations, great job and may your client find some peace.

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"Joseph, Thank you for your assistance. Your understanding compassion & incredible expertise are admired & appreciated. I will be referring any of my clients who require legal help to you."
- M.D.