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,
the San Diego District Attorney’s Office sent John Shale, one of
their psychiatrists, to evaluate Mr. Parker. So far so good; nothing
What takes this case into Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” is the
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
Maybe I ought to start doing that. In the criminal cases I defend,
I could perform psychiatric evaluations on my clients as Dr. Unger,
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
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
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
* 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