CourtWatch's goal is to be impartial in our assessment of the justice system. Today, we want to call attention to a case where a defendant's attorney, Octavio Andrade, left his client hanging outside a courtroom without notifying him that his court hearing, a Motion to Modify Conditions of Bond, had been cancelled.
In the words of one of our volunteers:
I went to Judge Rand Wallis' courtroom today (6/26) to watch the Edwin Cintron case (scheduled for 2:00pm). I arrived at the courtroom at 1:20pm, and the door was locked. I noticed that a young man was sitting with his friend (or relative) near the courtroom door. When it was 1:35 the young man asked if I had a list for the courtroom. I informed him that on my list I was showing a 1:30 hearing for an Abraham Zamora. He took a deep breath, and said, “That’s me, I was worried that I was in the wrong place” he explained that his attorney hadn’t showed up and of course, the door was still locked. I told him that there was also another case scheduled for 2:00, and it would probably include the media and news crews. He looked a little puzzled, said "oh, okay,” checked his cell phone and quietly waited.
At 1:40 someone for the 2:00 hearing showed up and asked if that was the correct courtroom. I confirmed that it was. At 1:45 a cameraman from channel 9 arrived. Abraham stared almost in disbelief. The judge’s trial clerk walked up to the courtroom, used a key on the door, and walked in. The cameraman then tried to enter the room but the door was locked, so he knocked. A deputy answered, and the cameraman asked if he could come in and set up. Abraham walked up to the officer, with a look of fear on his face, and simply couldn’t talk. I could feel his fear at that moment. So I asked, “He is here for the 1:30 bond hearing, is that still happening?" The officer said, “Oh, no that was cancelled… well, let me double check on it, wait here.” The young man believed that this meant he would have to go to jail because he missed a court date. The deputy came back about a minute later and informed him that it was cancelled, there weren’t any other notes, he then asked him what his relationship was to the case. Abraham identified himself and asked what he should do next. He was informed that he should contact his attorney and ask him. He did thank me for telling him about the media and news crew showing up.
I made a point to be there to watch this case because it was still “active” and on my print out from this morning. Mr. Zamora made it a point to be there. He knew about this court date. He arrived early. He was well groomed and appropriately dressed. At no time did he show any anger or frustration.
When did this change? Why was defendant not informed? He had a cell phone. He checked it at least twice. When we sit in the courtroom and listen to people being told over and over again that they are to stay in constant contact with their attorneys, and then their attorney seem to be unreachable, what message is really getting across? Further, in this particular case, this young man had hired a private attorney, which is what makes this all the more frustrating - he is paying for someone to ignore him.The rest of the story:
In researching this case on the Clerk's website, CourtWatch discovered that there was a notation of "No Information Filed" on this date. In other words, the case was dismissed.
If there's something scheduled on the docket, the door to the courtroom ought to be unlocked so that anyone showing up for a hearing can get inside. The deputies do an excellent job of providing information when needed, but if they don't know someone is waiting outside for a hearing, how can they inform them when there's been a change in schedule?