In what has to be the most ridiculous turn of events ever, Judge Fuchs dismissed the case against the raging grannies in court just now, because the District Attorney's office subpoened the cops to appear tomorrow, rather than today. The DA moved for the trial to proceed tomorrow, but there has to be a very good reason to delay a trial, and incompetence isn't one of them.
District Attorney Mike Schrunk says: "If the trial was set to go to trial today and we weren't prepared, then it should be dismissed."
I asked DA Schrunk if he expects a general level of competence from his deputy DA's, including scheduling appearances by cops correctly. He said our information on this case was more current than his, and that he'd have to get back to us.
So I asked whether this appearance of incompetence on behalf of the DA's office might, in fact, be a convenient way for the DA's office to get out of trying a politically controversial case..that it doesn't look good to prosecute aging protesters, and so on. But if they've committed a crime, I pondered, shouldn't they be brought to justice?
"I'm sorry, I missed you," Schrunk said. "I was doing something else."
I bet you were, Mike. I bet you were.
UPDATE, 11:01am: Schrunk called back and put me in touch with Senior Deputy DA Jeff Howes, in charge of misdemeanor prosecution at his office. Howes said the trial was originally scheduled, on May 29, for 6/9/08, but that someone had also scheduled the trial for 6/10/08, and that the Police Bureau's computer picked the second date, automatically. So, it was all the result of a computer error...
HAL 9000: Meting out Portland's Justice since 2001...
Howes didn't know who, exactly, had entered the wrong date on the computer system, but he was sure of one thing: "It's not the fault of the District Attorney's office," he said.
On the other hand, "It is the responsibility of the DA's office to have its witnesses ready for trial," Howes admits.
Asked about the amount of taxpayers' money wasted in the case, Howes said "that's the phrase that gets tossed around a lot when a case gets dismissed."
He added: "We try to walk the line of upholding the law and prosecuting violations and crimes. Doing so, sometimes, people who are protesting are charged with violations and crimes. It appears that sometimes their goal is to be charged with violations and crimes as a way to draw attention to their cause. We're not just playing along, but we can't pick and choose which people to prosecute and which people not."
Again, I asked if the computer error was convenient.
"It's not convenient," he said. "It's inconvenient. I think these issues are best aired in the trial proceeding."
So do I. It's better for democracy. Still, GREAT NEWS FOR THOSE WHO LIKE THEIR JUSTICE FUDGED, TODAY.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!