Back in the old days when I was practicing criminal defense law, about when electricity came to our area, I tried my hand at defending “persons accused of crimes” also known as criminals.
Fortunately for said criminals, I have been relieved of duty and Ravn Whitington of our office handles criminal defense cases.
How Can You Represent a Criminal?
The question I was always asked was, “How can you defend someone when you know they’re guilty?” Actually, I had no problem representing alleged criminals. That’s what lawyers do – part of our legal system, part of our Hippocratic Oath.
On the other hand, while I didn’t mind doing some pot defense, I had moral issues representing burglars. In fact, that marked the end of my defense attorney career. Here’s the story.
A rough-looking character, just released on bail, wanted to hire me to defend his recent burglary charges. He admitted to “burging” this and “burging” that and wanted me to get him off. Instead I referred him to my partner…and while I didn’t know it at the time, that was it for my brief criminal defense career.
10 on the Boredom Scale
But that doesn’t mean I can’t write about criminal cases, especially when the facts are particularly intriguing. Today’s Law Review is all about the facts, not much about the law, which is a bona-fide 10 on the boredom scale.
Renee Robinson and the victim, Sam Wright, were married in 1999. During the marriage Wright had an affair which resulted in the birth of a child in 2009.
On September 15, 2011, Renee had been drinking rum and possibly smoking crack cocaine and haranguing Wright for about an hour about the child, saying that he took better care of the child than he did of her.
Renee did what any upset spouse would do, she put two pots of water on the stove, heated them to the boiling point, then walked up behind Wright, who was seated in the living room, and poured the contents of a three to four-quart pot of scalding water onto Wright’s head, shoulders, stomach and back. So much so Wright later said the pain was “the worst pain [he’d] ever felt…about nine and a half out of 10.” I don’t doubt that.
Wright went outside and rolled on the wet grass until paramedics arrived. His skin was starting to bubble and looked like it was melting off, as the Court wrote.
Renee Robinson was charged under the Penal Code and convicted of aggravated mayhem and simple mayhem.
Mayhem is, “Every person who unlawfully and maliciously deprives a human being of a member of his body, or disables, disfigures, or renders it useless, or cuts or disables the tongue, or puts out an eye, or slits the nose, ear or lip of another.” I must say that is one peculiar, selective crime. What if I cut off someone’s ear vs. “slit” it?
Aggravated mayhem is, “when a person unlawfully, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the physical or psychological well-being of another person, intentionally causes permanent disability or disfigurement of another human being or deprives a human being of a limb, organ or member of his or her body.”
Remember Lorena Bobbitt? It hurts to even think about it. Of course, he deserved it.
Renee Robinson challenged her convictions of both simple and aggravated mayhem contending that simple mayhem is a necessarily included lesser crime of aggravated mayhem, so her conviction of simple mayhem must be reversed. By the way, as the Court wrote, mayhem “is an older form of the word ‘maim.’” How difficult would it be to change the word “mayhem” in the codes to “maim?”
Ultimately the Court of Appeal agreed pouring scalding water over Sam Wright’s body should have been aggravated mayhem only. I am not sure what the difference in sentencing is but Renee Robinson will be doing life in prison with a possibility of parole. I suppose she will be assigned to the prison kitchen detail.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.portersimon.com.
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