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February 17, 2003



If people were made of paper, this just might work

By Scott Harrison





Defendant In Pro Per






   Date: 12-24-02


 Time: 9am


Court: #18








I, Scott Harrison, was appointed the assistance and counsel of conflict attorney Jack B. Sutton by this court in October of 2002. After several meetings and phone calls with Mr. Sutton, I found him to be fiercely and persistently opposed to assisting me in any way if it involved casting doubt on the work or competence of public defender Jonah Shoe.

Unfortunately that was the entire foundation upon which I felt I had a right to submit a motion to the court requesting that I be allowed to withdraw my plea bargain. I felt Mr. Shoe had been ineffective counsel, had been utterly ill-prepared, and had overwhelmed my will at the time the plea was made by very clear and dishonest representations of law and court process. Furthermore, I had seen several things while Mr. Sutton was representing me that suggested to me that he was working closely and in collusion with Mr. Shoe to defeat my cause and smother efforts to lay a legal and factual basis for my motion. The exerted efforts of Mr. Sutton to frustrate my case became so great that I asked him to please put this matter on the calendar so I could part amiably with him and be assigned a conflict attorney who would actually come to my assistance rather than the other way around.

Before the court, on November 25th (Department 18), with the extra work and study of case law by the Honorable Harold Kahn, it was my belief that indeed another conflict attorney would be assigned to me. In fact the court paged one while I was told to wait.

Nevertheless, after I had made one simple brief remark about the matter before the court, my request for further assistance was denied. I am now submitting to the court new and more detailed arguments concerning this matter that the court could not have been aware of. Based on these, pursuant to California Civil Procedure Section 1008, I respectfully ask the court to take a second look at the greater picture and grant my request for legal counsel.

I have submitted for the court a written declaration that I swear under penalty of perjury to be the truth and I have also submitted for the court a single exhibit furnished for the court as a small token signaling why this entire matter should ultimately return to trial. The exhibit, (A), is a copy of the police report of the original incident and a different, conflicting account, made by the alleged victim, Khadija Wahab, in a sworn written declaration to Family Court only days later. Respectfully Submitted,

Scott Harrison

Defendant, In Pro Per



Written Declaration of Defendant, Scott Harrison, No. 2010029, concerning request for new conflict attorney counsel:

On November 28th, 2001, as the result of a plea bargain, I pleaded guilty to #136.1(b)(1) in the Penal Code, dissuading a witness from calling the police. I believe now I have the right to new legal counsel and the right to contest the way this plea was obtained.

The question I want to ask the court is, why would an innocent person make a plea bargain to anything? Why would I subject myself to thousands of dollars of expense, 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling, a stay away order from the person I loved and was married to, and the stigma of a criminal record if I am innocent? If I’m not guilty — and I'm not — then why on earth did I plead to anything?

I pleaded for the following reason. When this whole thing began, Jonah Shoe from the public defender’s office was assigned to defend me. He was new on the job, he was inundated with cases, and it is my guess that he simply did not prepare cases until the last moment. We did not have one single long meeting devoted to going carefully over my case during the entire seven weeks it was open. He did not call witnesses. He did not obtain important evidence such as the “ 911” tape.

My wife accused me of domestic violence to secure her immigration status and to punish me for criticizing her religion, Islam. I know from studying Jonah Shoe’s file that the defense he planned to use for his opening remarks was misinformed and misguided. He was headed off on some formula defense because he had not grasped the essentials of my case. Meanwhile the D.A.’s side was beautifully prepared. They had eight witnesses (five police officers, two domestic abuse experts, and my wife). Being the man, I had a greater burden to prove my innocence and the fact of the matter is that Jonah Shoe was utterly ill equipped to take my case to trail. Although I did not realize it until the prospective jurors were in the courtroom, his construction of a case consisted of some pretrial motions and that’s about it.

I understand that poor preparation alone is not grounds enough to allow me to withdraw my plea or to request that the court appoint counsel. I realize a lazy defense is not grounds to set aside the plea. But Mr. Shoe's conduct goes beyond merely being lazy. There were other serious elements that destroyed my ability to defend myself.

Mr. Shoe made it clear to me that he felt under the law I would be found guilty by a jury of battery and I would almost certainly do significant jail time if I did not accept a plea. He said the choice was mine but he painted it as no choice at all. The first offer he gave me on the first day of trial was to plead guilty to one count of battery. Despite his saying I would be found guilty anyway, I declined. I told him I had never harmed my wife or even thought of harming her. Then without speaking to the D.A., while still sitting out in the court hallway, he made a second offer of a lesser charge that was non-violent. He indicated that I also would most probably be found guilty of this count, #136.1(b)(1) dissuading a witness from calling the police. His recommendation to me was to accept that plea.

Jonah Shoe told me that although I claimed I was protecting myself and my wife when I gripped her arm, it still would constitute battery. But no reasonable person could possibly have done anything other than what I did. My wife, who has a black belt in taekwando, had first broken dishes in our kitchen and then a window with her fist. When she broke the window her hand got cut. It was bleeding. She then told me she was going to kill herself and attempted to go to the long knives beside the stove. If I was a lawyer and I knew the letter of the law, if I decided not to protect her but to protect myself instead, if I made sure to keep my hands off of her, I might have been on legally safe ground but she or I might be dead. I do know what really happened and I also know there was nothing else I possibly could have done.

When Mr. Shoe explained that a jury would find me guilty of battery, I did not understand the law. He never mentioned my basic right, recognized in the law, of self-defense. To illustrate for me how the law worked and how I would be convicted, he gave me an example of someone bumping another person in an elevator. He said that also would be battery and the law is very specific. He added that I might in fact be innocent but I would be technically guilty.

He also said that even if — as I maintained — no crime was occurring and I had no malice, when I told my wife, “No, don’t call the police; call your friend Fatima or Najet,” I was guilty of the crime of dissuading my wife from calling the police and would be found guilty of P.C 136.1(b)(1). Just because I said those words — despite not threatening her or pulling the phone away from her or blocking her path to the phone; despite no intimidation, threat, or interference and no crime having occurred — I would still be guilty of #136.1(b)(1) of the penal code.

Today, after nearly a year has passed, I think innocence is innocence and much of what Jonah Shoe represented to me as law was in fact pure hogwash. He did in fact overwhelm my will by exploiting my ignorance of the law. By citing false and hugely exaggerated examples of the law, he pressured me to agree to a plea bargain, a bargain that apparently he was anxious to obtain because he was utterly unprepared for trial. He did this when I was under enormous pressure by nearly guaranteeing conviction and jail time if I did not go along.

That, your honor, is the answer to why innocent people would plead guilty to anything.

When subsequent attorneys made a motion to allow me to withdraw my plea, they did not raise the issue of ineffective assistance. They were aware of my complaints against Jonah Shoe and decided for their own reasons, unknown to me, not to include that issue in the original motion. So the motion I now am attempting to put before the court is not a repetition of the motion filed in May 2002.

When I obtained the legal assistance of conflict attorney Jack Sutton, I found him to be fiercely opposed to any criticism of the work done by public defender Jonah Shoe. When his opposition became so bad that I had to conclude Mr. Sutton would not or could not represent my interests, I asked him to put the matter on calendar so I could request another attorney. Just to illustrate, I’ll remind the court what happened when I came into court to make the change: the conflict attorney, Jack Sutton, was thoroughly prepared to show the court how I did not deserve any counsel at all and he had case law ready to argue the point. This was typical of my whole experience with him. He did not want any of what I’ve stated against Jonah Shoe in this declaration known by the court.

When law is practiced fast and sloppy, botched cases are certainly going to appear. Mine is one of them. I believe it serves the court well, defendants well, and the people well to eliminate shoddy and dishonest legal work where it is found.

If I were actually guilty of domestic violence against my wife, this plea bargain would have been a sweet deal. Only an innocent person would even dream of undoing it.

Your honor, I never wanted any “deal.” I never wanted anything less then full vindication, and the lack of defense and the misrepresentation of law administered to me by public defender Jonah Shoe cheated me of the one chance I had to get it. I am not asking for a second chance to prove my innocence. I am asking for my first chance, which was stolen from me. I have no prospect at all if I am deprived of legal assistance. That is why I respectfully ask that you reconsider your decision and appoint another attorney.

Respectfully submitted,

Scott Harrison


Motion was heard on December 24th before the Honorable Harold Kahn, Department 18 of the Superior Court. Motion graciously denied.