Saturday, February 27, 2010

“Experienced” Lawyer


Shon Hopwood was an ordinary bank robber. In 1997 he robbed 5 banks in Nebraska and stole almost $200,000. He was caught by the police and sentenced for 13 years in prison.

Shon told the sentencing judge that he would change his lifestyle and pleaded for an easier sentence. The judge did not believe his promise. The judge said: We will know in 13 years if you mean what you say.

He was locked in the federal prison in Perkin, Illinois.

The prison’s law library changed his life. He spent much of the time there. He suddenly realized he was able to understand the laws very quickly and very clearly. He turned himself into a Supreme Court practitioner.

In 2002, Shon prepared his first petition for certiorari. This is a formal request to the Supreme Court to hear a case. He did this on behalf of his friend in jail, John Fellers. John was sentenced on a drug related case. Since Shon was not a lawyer, his name did not appear on the brief. That year, more than 7,200 such requests were received by the U.S. Supreme Court. It agreed to hear only 8 of them. One was Fellers v. United States.

Seth Waxman, a former U.S. Solicitor General, agreed to argue this case in the Supreme Court. He said this certiorari was one of the best he has ever read. He had one condition to Fellers. Shon should be involved in this case and decide how to frame the arguments, decide on strategy, and anticipate questions from the justices.

The Supreme Court unanimously (9-0) decided in favor of John Fellers.

Shon helped several prisoners in many states and got their sentences reduced from lower courts. He was released from prison in 2008. He is now working on many Supreme Court petitions. He recently wrote a petition for a prisoner, who says his Miranda Rights were violated.

What is a “Miranda Right”? In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court mandated (Miranda vs Arizona) that arresting police officer must tell the criminal suspect his/her fundamental rights at the time of arrest. The police officer should inform the suspect with the following words:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you”.

If the suspect does not know English, the above statement must be told to him/her in his/her mother tongue.

If the arresting police officer fails to tell the suspect his Miranda Rights, the judge will dismiss the case even if the arrest was made for premeditated murder committed in front 100 witnesses.

Shon is interested to go to law school and get a law degree. A law professor at the University of Michigan, who is working with Shon on various cases, has already secured a seat for him.

I know couple of lawyers (one in Mumbai and another one in Delhi) is looking for a talented assistant.

27 comments:

  1. This is such an inspirational story. But I just wonder if it could be this co-operative in India!!

    Anyways, this man is a loot. The lawyer from Mumbai should consider hiring him :-P

    ReplyDelete
  2. well, we do have article 22 of Indian Constitution for protecting the rights of under arrest and under detention person..

    SG, I wish I was in litigation practice..then I would surely have hired him.. :D

    @ Insignia, in India too, people are this co-operative..at least that's what I have seen in the jails I have so fa visited..

    the comment space is too short to mention about my experience..I will either blog about it or write a post :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. thats an interesting story... criminal turning into lawyer... irony :D
    informtaive too :)

    got an award for u in my blog :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. SG you find such interesting stories to tell us, thanks for doing that; this was no different :)
    it most definitely is an irony of life.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I feel environment maketh a man. Envt: could have been he reason for him. If he has realised the mistake good for him
    Thanks SG for this good narration.

    ReplyDelete
  6. WOW! Instead of wallowing in prison, he totally turned his life. Thanks for sharing:)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Award for u http://mindfull-meanderings.blogspot.com/2010/03/some-awards-for-me-and-you.html

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good post. I guess, oridinarily, he may not have had the time ( since it was spent for other activities) or the library access. So it worked for him, even though not one might say, the normally done manner.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Who Posted This?March 1, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    As a long time defense attorney, I only have one thing to say to judges and juries.

    If it doesn't make sense, you should find for the defense.

    Regards,
    Johnnie Cochran

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for your comments Insignia. I wish they are this cooperative in India.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for your comments Neha. Indian Constitution is protecting the rights. But are they enforcing it? All we read are almost all the criminal suspects are beaten in Indian police custody and many women criminal suspects are raped at the police station. Sorry state of affair.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for your comments Rajlakshmi. And, thanks for the award. I appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for your comments Shruthi. I am glad you liked this story.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for your comments Chitra. You are correct. Environment maketh a man.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for your comments lostworld. He is a changed man, alright.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for your comments MindfulMeanderer. And, thanks for your award. I appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for your comments Radha. You are absolutely right.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for your comments Johnnie. How is your former client, O. J. Simpson, doing? Head he is in jail on a robbery charge.

    If you put this knit cap on, who are you? You are still Johnnie Cochran in a knit cap.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for your comments Mrs. Sulagna Mukherjee. I like addressing you Mrs. Mukherjee.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Nice...this shows how life of an individual can change!!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Good one, SG!

    He might not have even dreamed of becoming a lawyer or even interested in reading law books, if he was not sentenced for so many years.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks for your comments Nazish. You are right. Life of an individual can change at any time.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks for your comments Sandhya. The long prison sentence changed him as a decent human being.

    ReplyDelete
  24. WOW, that was interesting and inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for your comments Titaxy. I am glad you found this post interesting and inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
  26. wow, see where life took him. Some people just need an opportunity and Shon in this case has taken full advantage and reformed himself... lessons to be learnt

    Thanks for sharing this SG

    Ashes

    ReplyDelete