Several years ago, I tried a hotly contested case before the late Judge Anthony DeFino. He taught me the need for thoroughness in preparing a case. I have always remembered how his conscientious approach to the law saved an innocent man from deportation.
I represented one of four young men who were arrested for a brawl outside of a wedding hall. My client’s family were here on political asylum. It was dangerous to be a Christian in their home country. Below the surface of the brawl, was political factionalism within their community.
The evidence was confusing. The complainant testified that he was severely beaten. He came from a macho society. The prosecutor emphasized that he suffered so much humiliation that he required psychological treatment. The defendants had a conflicting account.
The four defense attorneys pounced on the prosecutor. The case was close. The prosecutor introduced medical records. None of the four defense attorneys objected or asked any questions about the medical records. Both sides closed at about 4 p.m.
Throughout the trial, a priest from the Archdiocese stood by my client’s family. The priest, who was also a lawyer and a specialist in immigration issues, told me that the deportation papers had been cut and were only awaiting a conviction.
The next morning Judge DeFino announced his verdict. He stated that the night before, he read the medical records. He said that the medical records were inconsistent with the complainant’s story of severe injuries. Judge DeFino acquitted my client and his codefendants.
Thanks to a conscientious Judge, my client was saved from deportation. Judge DeFino taught me to always study the medical records, and if necessary, have them explained by a medical professional.