Courts, Judges, Lawyers, and Hearings: Valley
Police Department, 1985 through 1993
"Yes. You will see me in Court!"
a cop, you have to go to Court from time to time. It’s part
of the job!
write a ticket, or make an arrest and the subject shouts with righteous
indignation, “I WILL SEE YOU IN COURT!!” as
if were some sort of threat that I was supposed to fear.
replied, “Yes. You will see me in court!”
interesting to note, that I never had to testify the entire time
I worked in Buffalo County. I believe I only needed to appear in
court about four times in Hall County. The two years I worked in
Washington County, I probably had to appear in court no more than
twenty occasions. I lost count how many times I appeared in court
in Douglas County over the nine years I worked there. I was there
Douglas County Courthouse, Omaha, Nebraska.
Note: The glass roof situated over the rotunda.
any other group of workers, you’ll find people of various
personalities, skills, and talents. It’s the same with cops.
Some guys, (and Gals for that matter,) were very comfortable in
Court while others were very uncomfortable. Personally, I actually
enjoyed Court! Call me nuts, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process,
the drama, and the strategies unfolding. I was a speech major in
college, and while I was not big into debate, I certainly had no
problems speaking before an audience.
The Law Enforcement Officers’ second greatest tool is his
or her report. It is a MUST to learn to write a complete, accurate,
and concise report. A good report will make the difference whether
or not the matter even needs to go to court. If you have all the
true and correct facts, the issue will likely result in a guilty
plea before a trial is set.
Enforcement Officers’ first greatest tool and asset is his
or her credibility. This goes to your reports, as well as your testimony.
If you’re the new guy, you may have to establish and cultivate
that credibility until it is rock solid. If you ever lose that credibility,
you might as well hang it up. It takes time to cultivate credibility,
but if that credibility is ever in question or is tarnished, it
takes forever to restore. It will never be the same again.
primary job of the defense attorney is to cast doubt on your credibility.
It’s his job to cast doubt on the credibility of not only
you, but all of the prosecution’s witnesses. Once you understand
this concept that it’s his job to do this, and that it’s
not personal, your job becomes much more simple.
defense has all sorts of tactics in his trick bag to try to diminish
your credibility. In the most basic terms, the best way to deal
with these tricks is to calmly tell the truth. Even if you think
your answer might hurt your case, tell the truth. If you've already
provided the prosecutor with a good report with all the information,
and have brought any other observations or issues to the attention
of the prosecutor before it goes to trial, he or she will already
know what your answers will be when cross examined by the defense
keep your answers calm, concise, and to the point. If you get excited
or loud, you will simply make yourself look like a hysterical idiot.
You will then appear less credible. Your calm, frank demeanor might
also make a loud, flamboyant, or obnoxious defense attorney look
like a fool through his own efforts.
Defense Attorney’s "Trick Bag”
let’s look at some of the tricks in the trick bag of the Defense
Putting words into your mouth: During a trial for a speeding offense,
I’ve seen defense lawyers start his cross examination with,
“I hear that police radar has clocked a bunch of stationary
trees at over sixty miles per hour!” What he’s trying
to do is, without even asking a question, is to get you to voluntarily
explain how or why the radar in that case misinterpreted the signal
return, etc. If you respond, you have now placed yourself into
the argument as an expert witness to something you did not personally
observe. So what do you do? Absolutely nothing. You stand there
with your mouth shut! The defense might then shout something like,
“Radar has been known to register the speed of moving objects
that are miles away…” or some other alleged mumbo
jumbo. Keep your mouth shut! He needs to ask you a question, not
challenge you to an argument. The bottom line is if he keeps this
tactic up, the Judge will probably ask the lawyer if he has a
question for the officer and if not, to move on!
Another way the defense might try to put words in your mouth,
is when they ask an improper question. The Prosecutor would object,
and the judge will sustain the objection. The trick comes to play
when the defense responds to the objection saying, “If the
officer were allowed to respond, he would have testified to bla,
bla, bla, bla…” If your prosecutor is good and alert,
he or she will respond with another objection that states, “(But)
the officer did not testify to that.” The Judge will usually
Illicit an angry or emotional response out of you: I’ve
seen defense attorneys shout, stamp their feet, pound their fists
on the bench, make accusations, some which will downright insult
you or call you an outright liar! Your response is to keep calm,
stay cool, and tell the truth. You’re a big boy,
you can handle it. If the defense gets too wild, the prosecutor
will object, or in extreme cases, the Judge will tell him to back
off. Remember, if you lose your cool, you’re thinking emotionally,
not rationally, and it will reflect negatively on you. There’s
an old saying; the man with the facts pounds on the facts. The
man with no facts pounds on the table!
Asked and Answered: A common trick is to for the lawyer to receive
an answer to a question, then come back a little bit later, asking
the same question in a different way. Your prosecutor should catch
it and object, (Asked and answered!) But in case he or she did
not, it’s not out of line for you start your answer with,
“As I previously testified…” Make sure your
truthful answer is stated the same as it was before. Stay consistent.
A third way to put words into your mouth: Start with “You
mean to tell me..?” Here the lawyer will paraphrase your
previous answer back to you. Again, calmly reply, “As I
previously testified…” Make sure your truthful answer
is stated the same as it was before.
Highly technical questions: Unless you really are an expert on
a topic, be careful with highly technical questions. “Officer,
at what speed is the signal emitted from the radar antenna?”
A good answer might be, “At the speed of light.” The
attorney might then ask, “And what is the speed of light?”
If you know for sure, you might answer, “About 186,000 miles
per second…” But remember, you’re not an engineer
or expert, so you might instead answer, “At the same speed
as a radio signal.” If he wants to continue playing the
game, he might ask, “What is the speed of a radio signal?”
You might then answer, “The same as the speed of light.”
The Judge will likely ask that he move on.
there are no Municipal Courts. The Legislature did away with Muni
Courts in the 70’s. Everything starts in County Court, regardless
if the matter was a Municipal Ordnance or a State Law. The only
difference was the violations of City Ordinances are prosecuted
by the City Attorney, while violation of State Statute are prosecuted
by the County Attorney’s Office. As a result, as Municipal
Police Officers, nearly everything we made a case on was prosecuted
as a violation of State Law. The instance of City Code, Nuisance
Violations, and such which were a small percentage of our work,
which was prosecuted by the City Attorney’s Office.
first question raised when I’d bring up this process to my
counterparts from other states, was how do they divide up the money
collected from fines between the City and the County? Simple. Neither
one of them get the money. All moneys collected from fines are sent
to the public school district where the primary offense occurred.
I like this. For instance, instead of enforcing traffic laws as
a revenue generator for the city, traffic enforcement was done in
the interest of traffic safety. i.e. Tickets were written to reduce
accidents at locations with a high accident rate instead of where
the most tickets could be issued in order to make money for the
next higher court was District Court. District Court might consist
of one or more counties in a district within the State, based on
population and case load. Next is the Nebraska Court of Appeals,
and finally, the Nebraska Supreme Court.
that in the less populated counties many of my cases, particularly
serious traffic offenses or criminal offenses were often plead down
of dismissed due to political reasons. In Washington County, we
had to constantly argue with the County Attorney just to file on
just about everything we submitted, as he would dismiss practically
anything that had a chance of being contested in Court. (Read the
story about Small Town –
Big Crime. To get an idea of what was going on back then.)
County, everything was filed unless there was a serious
error in the case. Typically, Traffic Citations or Misdemeanor Criminal
Citations were issued in lieu of full custody arrests. In most cases,
individuals arrested for Driving under the Influence were released
after processing, to a sober friend or relative. Subjects arrested
on warrants were transferred to the agency holding the warrant,
or booked into corrections as a fugitive. In the case of any criminal
arrest for a misdemeanor or a felony where the subject was booked
into corrections, an Affidavit of Probable Cause needed to be reviewed
by a Judge the following morning. In the case of any felony charges,
in addition to the Affidavit of Probable Cause, the Arresting Officer
was required to present his report, in person, to the Prosecutor
on the morning of the next business day to review the case in preparation
for arraignment and the eventual Preliminary Hearing. All and all,
if you were working C or A Shifts, (evenings or nights,) and you
made a full custody arrest of an individual during your shift, it
was likely that you would not get home until Noon the following
you write your tickets, and and you make your arrests. Typically
it would be about six weeks before you heard anything. If the issue
was resolved, (such as the violator paid the fine by waiver, plead
no contest, plead guilty, etc.) you would receive a Disposition
report that would state how the matter was “disposed.”
If the matter was contested, you would receive a subpoena to appear
in Court for Trial in a specified court room, at a specified date
see you in Court!” That was the threat issued by the
accused that was supposed to strike fear into the heart of every
law enforcement officer… “Yes. You will…”
officers we were paid by a monthly salary, but if we were summoned
to appear in Court while we were off duty, and if you worked evenings
or nights, that was given, we would be paid a prorated, straight
time, hourly rate for a minimum of four hours, and hourly for each
hour beyond the fourth hour. So if I was summoned to appear, and
I show up at the Courthouse, the Prosecutor informs me that the
defendants plead guilty, and I turn around and walk out, I still
got paid for four hours! “Yes. Thank You! You will see
me in court!”
Traffic and Misdemeanor Session of the Douglas County Court was
hearing cases generated from at least seven law enforcement agencies,
which included not only Valley, but the Cities of Omaha, Ralston,
Bennington, Elkhorn, and Waterloo; and the Douglas County Sheriff’s
Office and the Nebraska State Patrol. They managed the court room
like a finely tuned process!
Court was called into session, and the Judge was on the bench, the
process began. Once things were rolling, you had the case that was
just finished on the left side of the bench settling up with the
clerks. Directly in front of the bench, was the case that was presently
being heard in front of the Judge. On the right side of the bench,
was the next case that was about to be heard. Every so often, an
individual officer was allowed to cut in line to have a warrant
affidavit to be reviewed and signed by the Judge, which typically
took less than five or ten minutes.
Rotunda was the very large, marble entry area of the Douglas County
Courthouse. From the main floor, you could look up to the 6th floor
ceiling, with balconies surrounding the 2nd through the 5th floor.
It was alive and loud with all manner of activity and was where
all of the plea bargaining and negations were going on between the
various attorneys, which could be very entertaining to watch, if
even from a distance.
very first day in the Douglas County Courthouse, I was standing
aside in the rotunda, taking in all the activity around me when
a very skinny, half shaven old man of about 65 years of age, wearing
a girls cheerleading outfit walked right past me. Apparently, my
jaw must have hit the floor pretty hard, as one of the Clerks came
running up to me from the other side of the rotunda, grabbed me
by the arm, and cheerfully said, “Oh! You must be new
here! Let me help you!”
with all the Prosecutors from the Douglas County Attorney’s
Office, but the majority of my cases were worked with the attorney
assigned to the Traffic / Misdemeanor Desk. It seemed that the new
attorney’s on staff were assigned to the Misdemeanor Desk
where they cut their teeth. Soon, after fighting many battles in
the trenches, they would be promoted up, or assigned elsewhere.
Then another new kid would have to be broken in again.
I remember being introduced to one new kid, fresh out of law school.
“Well officer, who are you here for?”
Let’s see… State versus Gerber, DWI second offense…
"Tell me Officer, have you testified in a DWI Trial before..?”
down at the twelve years worth of hash marks running down my left
coat sleeve, “Sure, I’ve testified for a few…”
have been the kids first time in court as a prosecutor. My partner
and I had to coach him on what questions to ask, and when to object.
I’m pretty sure, even at his young age that he was making
fifteen to twenty thousand dollars more than I was. It made me wonder
why I didn’t go to law school instead of becoming a cop!
guy was the exception as we typically worked with very bright and
more than competent attorneys that I worked with. One of my favorites
was Darryl Lowe.
This is a recent news photo of Darryl Lowe, but
this is pretty much
how I recall seeing him as he addressed the Court.
Darryl was first appointed to the job, he made the effort to get
to know his clients, the Law Enforcement Officers. When I met him,
he was hanging out in the Sheriff’s Booking Office when we
brought in a DWI Arrest to be processed. This drunk, a woman, was
particularly nasty and obnoxious. Aside from the fact that she was
uncooperative, she had a mouth on her that would embarrass a truck
driver! Darryl was watching all of this and taking it in…
she refused to submit to a breath test, I sat down at the desk to
complete paper work. Darryl is seated in a chair, with his back
against the wall, to the left of the desk, reading a newspaper.
The subject is sitting across the desk from me, when she starts
hitting the desk. “Hey Cop! Cop, Cop, Cop! I know
what you want…”
What’s that..?” I ask.
want to rub your hands on my firm round ass…”
over toward Darryl. I can’t see his face, but I can see the
newspaper shaking as he’s laughing…”
you want to stick your finger is my sticky, private, personal place!”
Darryl stands up in his chair, laughing hysterically as he wads
the newspaper into a ball and spikes it onto the floor, while he
walks down the hall, howling with laughter!
to the subject, “Lady… I wouldn’t touch you with
a ten foot pole if you were the last woman on earth!”
who the Prosecuting Attorney was when the matter went to trial?
She plead guilty...
Daryl to be a good friend. While I’m not in contact with him
as much as in the old days, I’m proud to have worked with
him, and have always listened to his advice. I also included Darryl
as an employment reference for me, early in my Information Technology
Career, and I credit him as part of the reason I landed the job
at Sprint. Darryl went on to be a Felony Prosecutor, and I had the
opportunity to work with him in that capacity on a number of occasions.
Today, His Honor, Daryl R. Lowe is seated as a Judge for the Douglas
His Honor, Judge Darryl R. Lowe,
Douglas County Court
with many other great attorneys at the County Attorney’s Office.
Mike Haller was very good, and very helpful when I first started
working in this venue. Trish Ryan was a very quick witted and fast
thinking attorney. Mark Ashford went on to be a County Judge, and
today is seated as a Judge on the District Court. Bridget (Brochtrup)
Erickson was one of the best advocates we had in the County Attorney’s
Office as she went to bat for us quite often. She went on to become
the County Attorney for Platte County, Nebraska, and today works
with the Disability Rights Commission for the State of Montana.
cases, these people are not the sleaze and slime many would make
them out to be. As a police officer, I actually got to know some
of these individuals away from the bench. I was pleased to also
learn of the amount of respect many of these attorneys had for us
as individuals. One attorney actually confided to me that when he
observed my name at the bottom of the report, he advised his client
to take a plea, adding that if “Schulze said it happened,
it most likely happened that way, and Schulze will be ready to prove
people in the Public Defenders Office really get a bum rap! Everyone
assumes they are a bunch of low paid, second rate lawyers suited
only for making a plea bargain. This is certainly not the case!
These were well trained, experienced attorneys who are very dedicated
to their craft. When you consider what they have to work with as
the majority of their clientele, i.e. obviously guilty street offenders,
it can often render the appearance that all they do are plea bargains.
Trust me, if an individual’s rights are at stake, the Public
Defender will get to the bottom of it!
one misdemeanor assault case where the defendant was represented
by one of the most prominent criminal trial attorneys in the state.
This guy was known nationally, and had defended and obtained acquittals
for defendants charged with murder.
involved a local young woman who was about seven months pregnant.
While visiting her physician, it was learned that she had contracted
a venereal disease, and was advised to inform any sexual partners
she had. She found her ex-boyfriend on a Friday evening at a local
bar, and went in to inform him of the good news, and suggest he
seek medical attention. As she went to leave, the boyfriend called
her a derogatory name, and she turned and slapped the boyfriend.
As she turned to leave, the boyfriend got off his barstool, grabbed
the young lady, and proceeded to beat her up. The young lady, hereafter
referred to as the victim, is taken to the hospital, and with consideration
to her pregnancy, kept he in the hospital over the weekend for observation.
following Monday, the victim, accompanied by her friend who was
a witness appears at my office, seeking to file an assault report.
Written Witness Statements are obtained, and included with my report
containing the basic summary of information provided, including
suspect information. This is sent off to the County Attorney’s
Office, who felt that a crime had indeed been committed, and filed
the charge of 3rd Degree Assault against the boyfriend. The boyfriend
willingly turned himself in, and about a month later, the matter
was scheduled for trial.
the State was Trish Ryan of the Douglas County Attorney’s
Office. Appearing as witnesses for the State was the victim and
her friend. While I was not a witness to anything, I was subpoenaed
because I submitted the report. The defendant was represented by
the best criminal attorney in the State of Nebraska. As defense
witnesses, he subpoenaed every patron that was in the bar on the
night of the incident.
State called the victim to testify, and she provided her perspective
on the incident. The State called the victim’s friend who
basically testified to the same thing as the victim. The State rests,
and turns the matter over to the defense.
know what sort of arrangement was made between the defendant and
his attorney, but in my opinion the defense was not prepared at
all. Maybe he felt that since this was a lowly misdemeanor case
that the “Super Attorney” could simply breeze through,
or perhaps he was taking on the case pro bono, and did not have
the budget to properly prepare for trial. In any event, the
defense was a disaster!
mentioned earlier, the defense had subpoenaed about ten people,
patrons from the bar, as defense witnesses. The defense called the
first witness, who more or less testified to the same as what the
victim and her friend told the court. Then, he called the second
witness who also said the same thing! Clearly, this was not looking
good for the defense, so Super Lawyer, stops calling witnesses,
and chooses to go straight to his closing argument:
Honor... Until Woman’s Liberation came along, bars, taverns,
and drinking establishments were the last bastions of male dominance.
When this woman, comes into a Man’s Domain, and hauls off
and hits my client! If this is how she is going to act
in a Man’s Domain, then this is the type of retaliation
she should come to expect!”
Judge, with a slight smile on his face turns to the Prosecutor,
who happened to be a woman, and asks, “Is there any rebuttal
from the State?”
simply replies, “Well, You Honor, I guess there’s
just some places a man isn’t safe anymore!”
entire Courtroom, Judge, gallery, clerks and attorneys all busted
out in laughter! The Judge agreed, and pronounced the defendant
Comes the Judge:
are appointed and maintained on what was known as the Missouri Plan.
If there was a vacancy on the court, a State Board would recommend
worthy and qualified candidates to the Governor, who would appoint
the Judge to the bench. The Judge would be retained on the bench
by election of the people. In Nebraska, this was the plan for all
Judges in the State. I found it interesting that The Missouri Plan
is only used for Circuit / District Court and higher. Municipal
judges serve at the “pleasure of the Mayor” in Missouri.
counties in Nebraska had one County Judge, and perhaps an Associate
County Judge. There would be one Judge of the District Court who
may be shared with other counties. Douglas County, Nebraska was
the most populace county in the state. The 4th Judicial District
Court for Douglas County has sixteen judges seated on the bench.
The Douglas County Court has twelve judges on the bench. For trials
in County Court for Misdemeanors or Traffic Violations, you never
knew who was going to be seated on the bench until the bailiff called,
“All Rise” and the Judge walked in. I always felt this
helped keep everyone on a level playing field!
all the Judges I appeared before. All of them were fair, honest,
and all appeared to have a wealth of experience behind them. Of
course, each of them had their own personalities and traits.
of my favorites was Judge Walter Cropper. Judge Cropper sat on the
bench from 1967 through 1994. He passed away in 2007. He
had a very strong, commanding, baritone voice that could be heard
by everyone in the Courtroom; and Judge Cropper always had pleanty
to say!. If you had ever been in Judge Cropper's Court, you never
Honor, the late Judge Walter Cropper
Douglas County Court
1918 - 2007
plead guilty before Judge Cropper's Court, the Prosecutor would
hand the Officer’s Report to the Judge to review as factual
basis for the arrest and charges filed. Unlike the other judges,
Judge Cropper would read the report out loud, so it would become
part of the Court Transcript. In the language of police reports,
the person arrested is always referred to as “The Subject.”
Whenever he came to “The Subject” in the report, he’d
pause, point at the defendant, and say, “That’s
you…” then continue reading.
have this cocky, arrogant kid as a defendant, smugly standing before
Judge Cropper's Bench while the Judge is reading the report out
loud. About every third sentence, Judge Cropper would pause, point
at the kid and announce, “That’s you…”
In an average report, the Judge would point at the defendant, and
announce, “That’s you…” about thirty to
forty times! Each time, the defendant’s stature got smaller
and smaller until all that was left was a sniveling wimp cowering
before the bench!
one case involving a very violent, 18 year old individual who assaulted
our officer while resisting arrest, Judge Cropper read the report
in his typical fashion. He also looked at the defendant’s
prior arrest record containing numerous assaults and other arrests
for confrontations with the police. He asked the defendant if his
parents were present in the Courtroom. The kid indicated they were
there, so Judge Cropper invited them to come before the bench. He
looked down to the parents and asks, “What seems to be going
on here with your child?”
mother replies, “Well… Troy has a problem...”
Cropper loudly cut the mother off, “You’re darn
right he has a problem! He has no respect for authority, and at
this point it’s doubtful that he ever will!” The
Judge went on to say that perhaps it’s time the defendant
took some time to think about it, and sentenced him to 90 Days in
the County Jail, to be followed by One Year of Supervised Probation.
Judge Cropper then predicted to the parents that unless this young
man learned his lesson, and changed his ways he would likely be
dead before reaching the age of majority.
while this kid did complete his time in jail, he never completed
his period of probation. About a year after this court date, Troy
and one of his buddies had been committing a number of burglaries
up in Dodge County. He and his accomplice got in an argument about
how to share the loot, and his friend shot Troy dead with a single
shot, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Judge Cropper!
side of Judge Cropper might be seen from time to time. He once observed,
“Your last name has a rather unique spelling… Are you
related to Donald Schulze from Benson?”
Your Honor, Donald Schulze would have been my uncle…”
He passed away during the war… I’m very sorry about
that… Who’s your Dad?”
would be T. J. “Dutch” Schulze.”
sure! Tommy Schulze! Say hello to your Dad and to the rest of your
family from me, would you?”
recall, that any time I presented papers or affidavits for his review
and approval, after all the formalities, he would always remind
me to “Be careful, and stay safe!”
an article which provides a summary on the life and career of His
Honor, Judge, Walter Cropper, Click
Purple Sage Law Enforcement