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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Watching a Good Lawyer Work--the Almaleki Trial

The first time Maricopa County prosecutor Laura Reckart came to my attention, she was grilling witnesses in the Serial Shooter Trial of serial killers Dale Hausner and Sam Dieteman. Over the course of more than 6 long months, she won the admiration of everyone in court. Oh, except for Dale, who complained to the judge about her "facial grimaces" he alleged were intended for him.

So, of course, my attention was riveted when I saw that she was also the prosecutor for the Faleh Almaleki "honor killing" trial. I couldn't help myself, I went down to court to watch her work.

A Peoria police detective, Chris Baughey, had been cross-examined by the defense. Baughey had met the plane in Atlanta when defendant Almaleki arrived from London, to which he had fled after driving his jeep into two pedestrians, one of them his own daughter. The defense made a big deal out of the fact that Baughey had presented his badge and, apparently even more ominously, his credentials to Almaleki as he arrived. I'd never heard it sound so sinister that a policeman would be carrying his authorization to do his work. Poor Mr. Almaleki had been so traumatized by this little bit of paper and flash of badge that he apparently made statements he should not be held accountable for we were, it seemed, to infer.

Statements such as that his adult daughter, Noor, was "a little fire" that needed to be "extinguished." Mr. Almaleki, who has been in this country 17 years, spoke to the detectives in English.

When it was prosecutor Reckart's turn to do the re-direct, she sliced right through the smoke cloud:
(aaaaaack! blogging is supposed to be writing chaos, according to Andrew Sullivan of Atlantic Monthly, so I'm just going to keep going here. I wrote down this exchange word for word in court but I can't find the proper notebook in which I wrote! Well, Mr. Sullivan, I'm gonna take your word for it and go from memory.)

She led him through step by step each one of the defense points, moment by moment, in the Atlanta airport, and filleted the center right out of them. Her razor edged questions culminated in, "Was Mr. Almaleki so traumatized that you successfully gained a full and detailed confession from him?" The answer, from a relieved detective, clearly was "no."

Sorry for the loss of notes but, trust me, the exchange between Reckart and Baughey was a thing to behold. The defense's carefully constructed platform of doubt had collapsed, puffs of sawdust in the air and the faint of echo of a buzz saw. That's what I knew I would find when I followed the Serial Shooter prosecutor, Laura Reckart, into court.

(Photo above: Convicted serial killer Dale Hausner listens to Maricopa County Prosecutor Laura Reckart work during his own trial in 2008--same courtroom as the Almaleki trial in 2011)

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1 comment:

  1. That is where the problem lies, the clients will have the benifit of the doubt as to what the attorney is really capable of.
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