When I met DJ, he was crying so hard that he couldn't speak. His head was buried in the fold of his arm, shoulders shaking. He was 20 years old, but fear and anxiety made him seem much younger. I wanted to pat him on the back, to tell him that it was okay. But there were bars between us.
DJ was accused of robbery: pushing a woman near the Coney Island boardwalk and running off with her purse. This happened two weeks before he was arrested. DJ swore that he didn't know anything about the accusations. He didn't know the woman, and only went to Coney Island to work. According to the prosecution, he had been picked out of the police photomanager program (an electronic repository for mugshots). I was in court to represent him; and this is how we met.
The sobs slowed down. He lifted his head to look at me and used his white t-shirt to wipe his face clean. DJ put a hand in front of his mouth. He apologized for crying so much, and for his breath; he hadn't been able to brush his teeth since he was arrested 23 hours earlier. We talked about the next steps; what to expect when we went in front of the judge, how we could fight his case, and what I needed from him and his family.
Let's fast forward... His family was present in court and they were inconsolable, Despite a clean record (save an arrest for having a joint), and his family being present, the judge set bail. The family couldn't pay it so DJ remained incarcerated for 5 more days until the grand jury hearing for his case.
During that time, my team investigated his alibi. We made a dozen calls to his family and friends. We spoke with his boss and got his time sheets and pay stubs. When we traced back that night, we put together that he had been playing video games with friends and later left to meet up with his girlfriend. We verified the video game party. And his girlfriend met with us in the courthouse to show the text messages that corroborated they spent time together.
On the 6th day (the day where the grand jury has to vote for an indictment to keep the defendant in jail), I met with D.J. in the cells near the courtroom. He looked tired and hopeless, his shirt was now grey, stained and stretched out. "Please miss, please miss, I don't belong here!. You have to get me out of here!" l had good news. He was going to be released! We were able to convince the ADA to do further investigation before moving for an indictment, in light of the alibi witnesses and favorable statement from his employer. Even though the case wasn't over this was a major development. He put his head down and cried.
The case ended on a good note. We subpoenaed his cell phone data to triangulate his location during the incident. He had been in his neighborhood, 6 miles away. That plus the text message proof that DJ had personally been in possession of his phone was enough to convince the ADA.
The charges were dismissed.
So what happened? How did DJ get caught up in this? He was arrested based solely on basis that the victim picked him out from that photo array program. When victims look through the Police photomanager program to look at suspects, they look at hundreds and hundreds. Scanning for an hour or two at a time to find the face that looks like the perpetrator.
During summers, DJ worked as a ride operator in Coney Island. Because of his experience and good job performance, he was promoted to team leader and was there at least 5 nights a week. DJ's picture was in the system because he was caught with a joint when he was 16. The woman who was robbed was a Coney Island resident who lived just blocks away from his workstation. We believe DJ looked familiar to her because she probably passed him on the street regularly.
This happened 5 years ago. But I share this story because DJ stays with me. I became a criminal defense attorney to help kids like DJ, professionals who get accused of bullshit crimes, and the folks who messed up, but don't want their lives ruined because of a mistake. It doesn't matter if it's robbery, a domestic violence accusation, a DUI, or a summons ticket. Everyone deserves a vigorous defense, an honest attorney, and compassion.
If you know someone who was arrested or received a summons ticket, make sure they have a good lawyer. And if they don't, you can call us. Fisher Law Practice: 917-819-5656.