You’re probably scratching your head at the title of this piece. What would compel an attorney to inquire about incriminating doodles? You’re not representing 5-year-olds, right?
Wrong. Even older clients have been known to put pen to paper and in incriminating ways. Consider Ariel Jasso, a 22-year-old convicted of armed robbery in 2009. The then teenager drew a picture of a hold-up on his homework and left it in the getaway car.
The cartoon evidence helped convince an Oregon jury he was guilty.
The doodle — wonderfully reprinted in a recent ruling by the Oregon Court of Appeals — depicts a masked robber holding a gun similar to the Airsoft pistol used in the robbery, explains the Oregonian. The robber is pointing it at a woman while saying, "Gimme tha jewelry b——."
Police found the doodle in Ariel Jasso’s backpack, which was being stored in the trunk of the getaway car. After he and his friends stole marijuana, clothes, money and a video game controller from a drug dealer, the dealer’s mom called police. Officers tracked the car down on their way to the home.
At trial, prosecutors argued the cartoon evidence showed intent. Jasso’s public defender claimed the teen was only a bystander, explains the paper. The doodle showed he intended to participate and was not merely along for the ride.
Faced with the evidence, Jasso’s attorney tried to get the doodle tossed, calling it unfairly prejudicial. The trial court disagreed, and the Oregon appellate court upheld the decision.
So, are you going to ask your clients if they have any incriminating doodles? Cartoon evidence can really ruin a case.
- Appeals court OKs use of doodle in trial (Statesman Journal)
- Ethical for Lawyers to Profit Off Their Client’s Life Story? (FindLaw’s Strategist)
- Deleting Discoverable Docs Lands Obama Poster Artist in Criminal Court (FindLaw’s Strategist)