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If this case doesn’t present a conflict of interest, what does?

Are you kidding me? I want to give you the facts of this case

slowly, as I find it hard to believe.

Calvin Parker is the defendant in this case, as he is accused of

murdering and dismembering his Brazilian housemate. Upon his arrest,

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the San Diego District Attorney’s Office sent John Shale, one of

their psychiatrists, to evaluate Mr. Parker. So far so good; nothing

unusual yet.

What takes this case into Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” is the

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fact that Dr. Shale is also a lawyer; in fact, he is a part-time

deputy district attorney, and was assigned to be one of the trial

attorneys on this case. In other words, first he evaluates the

defendant in his role as Dr. Shale, and then he prosecutes Mr. Parker

as Deputy District Attorney Shale. Do you think there’s a conflict

there?

Maybe I ought to start doing that. In the criminal cases I defend,

I could perform psychiatric evaluations on my clients as Dr. Unger,

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psychotherapist, and then represent the people in court. Do you think

that I might be somewhat conflicted when evaluating the individual

about to become my law client?

The judge hearing this case indicated that he had never heard of

anything like this in his 30 years as a judge; however, he did not

find any law that would cause the D.A.'s office to have to disqualify

itself from the case.

To add insult to injury, the judge in this case, Michael

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Wellington, found that Shale did not engage in misconduct when he

called the defense attorney’s expert psychiatrist to attempt to get

information from her about her opinions and conclusions regarding the

defendant, and further attempted to get her to change her mind away

from her pro-defense view. The judge called Shale’s actions more in

the line of stupidity than bad faith. That is absolutely ridiculous.

The judge also used the word “inattention” to characterize Shale’s

behavior.

Mr. Shale’s career developed in the opposite order of that which I

pursued. Mr. Shale had been a psychiatrist for a lengthy period of

time, then went to law school and passed the bar in 1999. I have been

practicing criminal defense law for 21 years, and in 1994, I went

back to school at night to become “Dr. Charlie” and to see patients

as a psychotherapist.

When Parker was arrested, Shale was contacted by a deputy district

attorney named James Pippin, who was the division chief, and he was

told that he would be sitting second chair if the case went to trial,

and he should go to the police station to evaluate Mr. Parker. What

was Pippin thinking?

When he arrived at the police station, Mr. Shale observed police

investigators interrogating Mr. Parker, and then Shale went in alone.

At the time Mr. Shale interviewed Parker, attorneys from the public

defender’s office had not been appointed to defend Parker; however,

when they watched the videotape of Shale’s questioning of Parker,

they stated it was something that had very little to do with

psychiatry, and was “a fine dress rehearsal to cross-examination.”

Nothing like getting a free pass to get a practice round in of

cross-examining the defendant.

Although the judge did not make the rulings I would have liked to

have seen, the good news is that, perhaps due to publicity, Dr. Shale

is no longer assigned to prosecute this case. There is a difference

between something that is legally wrong, and something ethically or

morally wrong. If this situation does not fit the former, it

certainly fits the latter.

While Dr. Shale is no longer prosecuting Mr. Parker, Deputy

District Attorney Pippin indicates that they still may call Shale as

an expert witness in Parker’s trial when it commences.

Rest assured that if Parker is convicted and Shale testifies,

there will be an appeal in this case. This is clearly an opportunity

for an appellate court to step in and set some firm rules regarding

prosecutorial misconduct.

* CHARLES J. UNGER is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale

law firm of Flanagan, Booth & Unger, and a therapist at the Foothill

Centre for Personal and Family Growth. Mr. Unger writes a bimonthly

column on legal and psychological issues. He can be reached at

charlieunger@hotmail.com


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