I was struggling to make a living when I first started practicing. I really didn’t know anyone in Anchorage, other than some guys I’d met studying for the bar exam. I was hanging in there, still taking those $20 an hour appointments from the federal court to represent criminal defendants. Finally I got an appointment from the State Court, where the money was quite a bit better, because of a conflict in the Public Defenders Office. A local black guy named Leroy Hunnicutt was charged with first degree murder in a street shooting on 4th Avenue. If you’ve seen “The Frozen Ground” with Nicholas Cage, it depicts quite accurately what this part of town was like.
This would be my first felony, and, to tell you the truth, I didn’t really know much about the criminal law, not at this level. I felt like I was over my head. Leroy was seen shooting Alfonzo by an eyewitness, there were powder marks on his shooting hand, and he’d made a couple of confessions. He insisted he was innocent, and we had to go to trial. This did not look promising.
For the state was Gene Cyrus, a misdemeanor prosecutor who was dying to get into the felony division. The only problem was, Gene wasn’t really that bright. You’d be surprised at how many of them there are. But Gene wanted this case, which no other felony prosecutor would take. So a couple of rookies were going at it.
The facts of the case explain its outcome. After Alfonzo was discharged from Fort Rich, he went back to Alabama for a little while, then returned to Anchorage to begin a career in crime in 4th Avenue. He ran crooked crap games, sold people crushed Tylenol as cocaine, and tried to get some prostitutes to leave their pimps for him. He was shot on the streets of 4th Avenue after about three weeks. He was a man that needed killing.
I was in the court house talking to Wendell Kay, who I only knew by reputation. He was an Alaskan legend., and this black woman came up to him, and asked him if he thought her son Leroy was going to get an adequate defense. He assured her he was, and she was relieved.
For you see, this was a show trial. Leroy was going to be acquitted by the Judge, Seaborn Buckalew, an old time Alaskan, as soon as the prosecution rested. Leroy was a local boy, who’d been in some trouble but was not a bad man. Somebody had to kill Alfonzo Green, and Leroy had stepped up. They wanted to give him a medal.
The only thing that pissed me off about it is that as soon as they released Leroy he went to a lawyer to see if he could sue me for not getting him out on bail. That seemed like rank ingratitude to me.
The funny thing is, Rex and I have some business to do, if I can get a hold of him.