I argued an aggravated robbery case this week. Trial opened on Monday and the jury deliberated for just under five hours. At about 2:35pm Thursday the verdict was guilty as charged. My client went into lockup with tears down his face while his family cried in the hallway. I knew this day was three years in the making. I was shaken by the loss and by how much I still remember the late Judge W. Otis Higgs, Jr.
I was appointed to this case September 20, 2011 in Shelby County Criminal Court Division 2. Many factors led to months of negotiation. In March 2012, on one of our many report dates, Judge Higgs asked me to approach the bench after I announced my case. He stated that he had something for me; he gave me a quarter and a nickel. “I heard you had a birthday recently. Thirty cents for thirty years” he whispered while technically still on the record. I probably had a look of confusion still on my face. “Don’t worry,” he continued, “that’s not enough money to be considered a bribe.”
This case was untimely set for trial for February 19, 2013. I received the phone call late Friday evening February 15, 2013 that Judge Higgs had died. I couldn’t do much more than stare at my trial binder in shock. I had spent days in almost giddy excitement to go to trial in Judge Higgs’ court. I carried that quarter and nickel with me on the March 4, 2013 report date. The case entered a tumultuous holding pattern for another year. It drove me crazy and took up all of my time. Honestly, I wanted to win this case for Judge Higgs. But I have to remember that Judge Higgs wanted me to be a great lawyer, not a just a “trial winner.” It sucks, but it wasn’t my life or case to win or lose. I didn’t make the evidence or the law.
My opinion of the verdict: