Archive for the ‘Punishment News’ Category

The High Price — and Catch-22 — of Parole

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

ohio tylerboard2png-adeb668c636551a6 full

Punishment, the first book in the trilogy known as The Justice Series, deals with a man who was found guilty of murdering his wife by using his trained pit bull dog to attack her repeatedly. The trial is loosely based on a real case that took place in my courtroom around twenty years ago. Following the jury’s verdict, I sentenced the defendant, who was in his mid-thirties at the time, to a minimum of fifteen years to life in the Ohio Penitentiary.

As the judge who presided over the case, I listened carefully to all the testimony presented by both the prosecutor and the defense counsel. I considered motions to exclude certain expert witnesses, read portions of the grand jury record of witnesses’ testimony, and studied legal precedent on a number of issues. At the conclusion of the presentation of evidence and closing arguments, I was prepared to instruct the jury on the law they should apply to the facts, as they found them, to determine their judgment in the case.

Colbaith 102414_Goodman_Day_12_15

As usual, I met with counsel for both sides to discuss certain aspects of the instructions I would give to the jury. I proposed that I would instruct the jury on the elements of a charge of murder and, additionally, that I would give them an instruction of manslaughter, a crime of passion for which the sentence was eight to fifteen years at the time.

The prosecutor agreed to the instruction, but it was vigorously protested by the defense. Their objection, as I described it in Punishment, was that they believed that no jury could find their client guilty of intentional murder and, that being the case, an instruction on manslaughter would allow them an “easy path” to a conviction where a mistaken verdict would be less onerous. Because a judge cannot overrule a defense counsel’s objection to a charge, the only instructions I gave the jury were for the murder charge.

Unlike the verdict in my book (no, not what you assume), the jury in the case in Cleveland found the defendant guilty. The verdict was upheld on appeal and the defendant remains in prison to this day.

Several months ago, I corresponded with the Ohio Parole Board regarding the defendant’s application for parole. I shared with them my view that while the evidence presented could have been, and was construed by the jury, to support a murder conviction, there was ample evidence to support a finding of manslaughter. The Board denied the parole request.

Punishment: A Legal Thriller by Linda RockerI suspect the denial of parole was based on the defendant’s refusal to admit that he was guilty of the crime for which he was imprisoned. It is a scenario repeated daily in prisons across the country. I deplore it for two reasons: First, the insistence on a guilty plea flies in the face of the increasing number of convictions for major crimes that are getting overturned — in some cases the defendant has already served decades of his or her sentence; and second, parole boards may easily overlook the consequences of decisions regarding jury instructions that doom a defendant to a Catch-22: either plead guilty to the charge or remain in prison — pleading to a lesser offense is not an option.

Judges enjoy immense power. It can be gratifying, but it can also be confounding and haunting because some decisions are made by others outside the judge’s control — juries and lawyers, in particular. And it is never the proper role of a judge to substitute her judgment for that of the jury in a criminal trial. (I admit to ordering a new trial in two unrelated civil cases where the jury’s verdict was blatantly against the “manifest weight of the evidence.” In one such case, the jury acquitted the defendant trucker because he testified that he drove President Kennedy’s casket from Air Force One to Bethesda Naval Hospital in D.C.).

All of this discourse brings me back to the reason I began this journey. If I do nothing else, I derive enormous satisfaction from the possibility that my books and stories will cause you to pay greater attention to the character and fitness of the people who don their long robes and make life altering decisions about our neighbors and families.

Could you be Casey Portman?

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Oliver asking for more Cruikshank 1846Here’s a question for you, dear reader:  Do you picture the character(s) depicted in a novel, characters for whom there is no physical description to confirm your mind’s eye invention? When Charles Dickens wrote, his folios were regularly accompanied by pen and ink drawings of his characters and the settings in which they appeared. The same is true of much of our early literature in America. Even Thoreau felt it necessary to include some illustrations of the abundance of nature’s beauty at Walden.

Walden_Thoreau cover first editionThe corollary to my question to you is, naturally, whether I see my characters as I write them.  Indeed, I do. Some of the characters come to me crystal clear and complete. Pleasure Jones, the prostitute and entrepreneur in Blame is one of those people. I not only see her, I know her. I know her voice, her temperament, her style and even her favorite colors.

Other characters are less intuitive for me and I’m often surprised by what emerges on the page. Casey Portman, an important player in my books, has intrigued me, and baffled me, on more than one occasion because, as a young woman, her life is often in flux, her emotions are frequently close to the surface and she is changing, growing into the woman she will become over time. I see her clearly, but not consistently with the same physical features.

Could you be CaseySo it was a bit of a shock when I caught sight of a woman at a restaurant in West Palm Beach and exclaimed to my companion, “Look over there — at the bar — that’s Casey!”

I took a few pictures, although she was facing away from us, and thought briefly about going up to her, risking a tap on her shoulder followed quickly by an explanation of my interest. It didn’t take much to dissuade me. Awkward, I thought, extremely awkward and intrusive. 

But, I’ve come across the picture a few times recently and I can’t help but wonder about the young woman and whether one day she’ll walk into Liberty Book Store on Clematis Street and pick up a copy of Punishment or Blame. Will she recognize herself?

Cocktails, Book Signing & Punishment

Monday, March 18th, 2013

NOTE: This even has been postponed.
Rescheduled date will be posted to the blog and to the Official Linda Rocker Facebook page.

Here’s your chance to meet Linda and have your copy of Punishment signed by the author!

Linda Rocker Books Signing

On Thursday, April 4th, from 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM, Palm Beach Dramaworks will host a live performance of portions of Linda Rocker’s debut novel Punishment: A Legal Thriller!

In addition to the live performance, there will be cocktails and a signing party where you can meet Linda and get your copy of Punishment signed!

You can visit Palm Beach Dramaworks on the web at www.palmbeachdramaworks.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PalmBeachDramaworks.   They are located at:

201 Clematis Street
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
561.514.4042

To RSVP for the event, please fill out our contact form.

Some Punishment In Your Inbox

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Check your email folks… you may just be getting some Punishment!  Amazon.com has recently been recommending Punishment: A Legal Thriller for those members that are interested in their Mystery, Thriller & Suspense department!

You can pick up your own copy of Punishment at Amazon or at a variety of other retailers.

Punishment In Your Inbox

Amazon recommends Punishment!

Have you read Punishment?  Let us know what you think and you may see yourself in the reviews section!