Let’s Make a Deal

When I was a 27 year old State’s Attorney handling felony cases at 26th & California, we’d have maybe 20 to 30 cases on call every day. As defense attorneys stepped up when their case was called, they’d sometimes lean over and ask “can we work this out?” In other words, if a guy was brought out for a homicide in a bar fight, the defense would want to discuss the matter. Maybe reduce murder to voluntary manslaughter. Resulting in a lower sentence. And it was “let’s make a deal.” Negotiations were usually carried out in the judge’s chambers. Chatting. The judge’s office was small and defense counsel sat next to me – six feet from the judge who would lean back and say “what can we do, boys?” If we “reduced” a crime (murder to manslaughter), we would have to go downstairs for permission from higher ups in the SAO.

When I moved on from negotiating felony cases (sometimes life or death), I continued to negotiate. All the time. Meetings in person were usually held in a room – with opposing counsel sitting on the other side of a table. When I’d walk in – I would always plop down next to him (or her). They’d look over like – what the @^$@*X is he doing?? I’d say “easier to talk this way.” And I’d sometimes set a coffee cup or something in the center of the table and pause – counsel would look at me – and I’d say “that’s our problem.” Now the other side would look at me like I was demented – but I’d press on – “let’s think of that as our problem. How can we work together to resolve it?” And counsel would catch on. We’d discuss options. And nearly always resolve our differences. Coming to a solution. Let’s make a deal.

Statistically, cases filed in court are resolved 85 to 90% of the time. Why?? Because if you go to trial, there is a 100% chance that somebody’s gonna lose. And that loser could be you. Resolutions were often like drinking a warm Pepsi on a hot day. Not perfect – but satisfactory. For both sides. Let’s make a deal.

Look at the photos of negotiations going on with Vladimir Putin (a criminal who should be at 26th & California). There is a table as long as a football field with participants sitting at opposite ends. And I think to myself – if that was me going in to negotiate with Putin, I’d drag my chair over and sit next to him. And put my coffee cup in the middle of the table. . . . .