Lawyers I’ve Known
No. 8: I guess I'll never know what drove that prosecutor to attempt to ruin my client's life ...By Dave Grossi | Aug 13, 2015
Author’s Note: Most readers know that my past contributions to this series revolve around the humorous situations I’ve experienced with past attorney/clients. This will not be one of them.
I don’t testify a lot in criminal court. My testimonial history reveals I’ve appeared as an expert in criminal cases (federal and state) only 10 times. That’s probably because not many cops get charged or indicted for excessive force, although that appears to be changing.
For the last 18 months, I’ve been working as an expert for a former FBI Special Agent who was indicted for Murder in the fatal shooting of his estranged wife. Time and space require me to keep these pieces to a minimum number of words. So I’ll keep this intro short.
Special Agent Art Gonzales came home early from his job at the FBI National Academy where he was an Instructor. Upon entering, he found that his estranged wife, Julie, had broken into his home. The conversation surrounding her illegal entry began rather benignly, but turned vicious when she grabbed an 11.5-inch serrated kitchen knife and attacked Gonzales, slashing him three times on his left forearm.
Unable to create sufficient distance to avoid the fourth lunge, he fired four times, striking her in the chest. His attempts at first aid while waiting for EMS proved futile and she was pronounced DOA at the local hospital.
The after-action investigation revealed GSR on the knife blade and handle, as well as Julie’s hands and clothing. The knife was found by responding deputies still in Julie’s right hand. The three slashes on Art’s left forearm matched up precisely with the blood and cuts on his shirt. Forensics-wise, this was a clear cut case of self defense.
It was a shock when the county DA sought an indictment against Gonzales for murder and criminal use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, charges that could put Art in prison for 40-plus years. The first trial resulted in a mistrial when the jury hung 10 – 2 for acquittal. That shock was only compounded when the DA announced with great fanfare that he was going to retry Gonzales. The second trial wound up like the first: a mistrial when the jury again overwhelmingly voted to acquit Gonzales.
To everyone’s surprise, this DA decided to retry Gonzales for the third time. Fortunately, this third proceeding was a bench trial, with the earlier red herrings left out of the mix and the judge quickly acquitting him.
We’ll never know what prompted this county prosecutor to go off on this relentless path to ruin the life of a dedicated federal agent. But one local sheriffs deputy confided in me and told me off the record that the DA was on “a mission to ruin Art financially, professionally and personally.” But in this case, the DA only accomplished 2/3s of his goal. Gonzales was acquitted—three times!—his employment with the bureau was terminated months shy of his 20 years and he has been left virtually broke from the trials.
I’ve worked with a lot of attorneys. Most are competent, honest and fair. But words cannot adequately describe the hate I saw in this Virginia prosecutor’s eyes during my three appearances as an expert in Gonzales’ defense.
I’m sure there’s a statute of “Lady Justice” somewhere in this county courthouse. And I’m sure she still bears the Sword of Justice in her right hand, the Scales of Justice in her left, and still has her eyes blindfolded. But not in the name of impartiality. In this case, it has to be from embarrassment.
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