When a prosecutor tries to get my goat, I return to the power of zero
Many years ago, there was a prosecutor who two times early on in our knowing each other made me seriously think about letting loose on telling him what an asshole he was. In one instance, I was making a brief effort to convince him to dismiss a case in exchange for community service. He had not yet even spoken to the cops, from what I could tell, and he looked me straight in the eye and said: “Your client is guilty, and should plead guilty.” I almost hit the roof in anger about a prosecutor — deputized to do justice and paid by tax dollars — presuming criminal defendants guilty without even having looked at anything but the charging document, and not even any police report.
On another occasion with the same prosecutor, he asked me a question about my client’s version of the case, in that he had not yet spoken to the police officer. When I told him one or two brief things about the case that might help us in negotiations, but said I would be passing on giving my client’s version of events (fully immune from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege), he looked me directly in the eye, seemingly as cold as ice, saying: “I don’t appreciate that, counsel.” I got pissed off again. In both instances, I made my best effort not to reveal that.
In both of the above instances, I do not think the prosecutor was seeking to anger me. By the same token, with the magic mirror principle, this prosecutor was perhaps smart and aware enough to know the contempt I held for him at the time. How would my then-low attitude towards him lead him make any effort to try to change a contemptuous attitude that was not clearly changeable?
Later that morning, I watched the same prosecutor interact with one of the criminal defense lawyers who is among the handful of those I would hire if prosecuted myself. This criminal defense lawyer is a strong and calm lion, no pushover, and never a kiss-ass in his whole life, from my observations. Yet, I saw no contempt, no expectations of the worst from this prosecutor, and no expectations at all. This very persuasive lion of a lawyer had clearly accepted that this was the prosecutor on his case, and that he could either try to bulldoze the prosecutor or to persuade him. So, I gave myself a swift and sharp proverbial kick in my own ass — leaving proverbial black on blue marks thereon — remembering that my great mentor Steve Rench had already given me the about dealing with difficult judges and other difficult people involved in my cases: They will not make an effort to rise higher than I give them trust to rise to; and a difficult judge or prosecutor is like a boulder on the highway, which we can either choose to move in the course of sustaining a hernia, or drive around.
Speaking of mirrors, I am sure that plenty of prosecutors, judges and others have seen me many times as mean-spirited, a pain in the ass, and sometimes even condescending. That, of course, is when I am not at my best or being misunderstood, and such behavior is not excused merely when exercised on the path of defending the side of the angels. Nevertheless, when I describe a prosecutor to a client as acting like an asshole, I sometimes point out that I am experienced neutralizing including by acting as an asshole right back on the side of justice, having had the experience just about my whole life not to take anyone’s sh*t. However, I have learned that being an asshole, or pretending to be one, is a weapon best left in one’s pocket for rare use. The persuasive power of powerful compassion, deep listening, being in the moment and role-reversal reigns.