My client was facing a life sentence for burglary with an assault and armed robbery. She had been a prostitute most of her life, and had been labeled a “Habitual Violent Offender” by the prosecutors, based on her extensive criminal record. The charges stemmed from an incident in which she and a friend allegedly entered the house of one of her clients and held a machete to his throat while the friend took his wallet. She could get life.
I was both excited and a little nervous about taking this one to trial because we would be before the infamous Judge Ellen “Maximum” Morphonios, known for her penchant for dishing out thousand-year sentences. She had been profiled by both “60 Minutes” and People magazine and had sometimes exhibited bizarre behavior. After sentencing a rapist to a life sentence, she reportedly stood up and lifted up her robe, revealing her rather shapely legs, and remarked, “That’s the last time in your life that you’re going to see a pair of legs like this.” Another story involved a defendant’s mother, who cried so hard that she passed out on the floor. Morphonios continued the court’s business, announcing “Next defendant. Step forward. Step over the body.”
It was evident at the outset of our trial that the judge had taken a liking to the victim, who was in his late 90s. Testifying through a Spanish interpreter, the victim revealed that he had been paying for the sexual services of my client three times a week for several years. They had engaged, he said, in both oral and regular sex.