Portraits: How the system failed
Sunday, April 4, 2003
It is expensive to keep the promise of equal justice through public defense. And it can be a tough sell to taxpayers since many accused defendants, poor or not, are found guilty.
But the cost can be great to those it fails such as the people profiled here.
Bladimir Analco Aquino
When Guillermo Romero defended Bladimir Analco Aquino accused of helping beat and rob a store manager of goods that were never recovered he asked a police officer to speculate what happened to the missing loot. That undercut his case and gave the prosecution an edge in convicting Aquino. Prosecutor Eric Weston was baffled: "I can't imagine what strategic reason he would have had for asking that question." Aquino, now 24, lost an initial appeal and has 10 years left in prison.
|KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES|
Barry Loukaitis was 14 when he killed two classmates and a teacher at his Moses Lake school the most stunning crime in recent Grant County history. But county officials saw nothing "extraordinary" in the case and it was assigned to Guillermo Romero, a contract public defender with limited experience and skill. Romero handled the crucial hearing that determined Loukaitis would be tried as an adult. One of his own witnesses said he wondered if Romero was a "real attorney." Loukaitis, shown above with a different attorney at an early court appearance, is now 23 and serving life in prison without parole.
|ELAINE THOMPSON / AP|
James Allen Anderson, shown at home in Soap Lake, claims he solved several famous crimes before they occurred. How? "This," he says, tapping his head. Anderson's testimony helped convict John W. Jackson of selling cocaine in 1996. Public defender Tom Earl had failed to discover Anderson's tendency to confuse fact and fiction. The conviction was reversed, but not until Jackson had served his full sentence.
|KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES||
Lawyers and judges with legal troubles of their own
In Grant County, several lawyers and judges have been disciplined professionally or run afoul of the law. A snapshot of those cases reveals a portrait of a troubled justice system.
For 17 years, Gerardo Solorzano's "green card" allowed him to travel freely between his home in Mexico and a job in Central Washington.
But when Solorzano pleaded guilty to felony drug possession upon the counsel of his public defender he lost his green card and, for more than a year, his livelihood.
The lawyer would later be disciplined for giving his client poor legal advice.
In late summer 1999, Christian Rainey, 33, was on her way to the popular Gorge Amphitheatre for a Tom Petty concert. It was a rare night out for Rainey a Tacoma-area woman who had left a troubled relationship and was raising three children on part-time work and welfare.
She rode with her date over the Cascades, into Grant County and into an arrest.