Dustin DeHaven’s Reputation for Truthiness

The only possible way this could have happened is if some cop in the Cornelius, Oregon, police department had whispered in someone’s ear. That, or it was the most mind-bogglingly lucky screw-up imaginable when volunteer certified law student, Stacy Du Clos, decided to subpoena some officers of the department to testify at trial on behalf of the defense.

Via The Oregonian:

In a rare move, defense attorney Stacy Du Clos, who is a certified law student, had summoned Officer Dustin DeHaven’s colleagues as character witnesses. It was DeHaven’s arrest of her client that led to the trial.

One after the other, the two officers called as defense witnesses stood before a six-person jury. Each one raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth and nothing but.

The idea of putting a character witness on the stand without knowing what they would say is, well, crazy, and one has to assume that Du Clos knew what she was doing.

Officer Doug Schuetz went first.

Du Clos asked, have you formed an opinion about Officer DeHaven’s truthfulness?

“Yes,” he said. “That he lacks credibility.”

No further questions.

Granted, this was a police department with some, ahem, internal issues, and what better way to spill them across the floor than at trial and under oath.  The “mitigated speech” used in the stories about this internal strife leaves much to the imagination about who’s doing what to whom, but clearly the four officers who were called as DeHaven’s “character” witnesses were not feeling particularly supportive of their fellow officer that day.

The four claimed that then-Chief Paul Rubenstein and then-Assistant Chief Joe Noffsinger had covered up officer misconduct and created a hostile work environment.

In the letter, the four officers also made multiple allegations against DeHaven. They worried about his integrity and truthfulness, stating they feared his actions would negatively impact the department’s cases.

DeHaven had lied to a supervisor, falsely attributed statements related to probable cause in a report and disregarded a call for service, writing false dispatch entries related to the incident, the officers alleged.

The State Police investigated the claims against DeHaven and found “no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.”  Apparently, the four cops who testified weren’t thrilled with the outcome, and have since sued the city.  Having obtained no validation from the State Police, it appears the officers took matters into their own hands and decided that this was the time and place to take a stand against DeHaven.

As the prosecutor explained in his post-trial statement:

“I can’t say for sure that it’s never happened before,” he said, “but I can’t remember it ever happening before.”

Ignoring the hyperbole obviously designed to grab national media attention, it would be fair to call it highly unusual.  And indeed, it’s not the sort of thing one should anticipate happening again anywhere else, so think long and hard before you consider subpoenaing the arresting officer’s buds to testify. Just sayin’.

Unfortunately, this dramatic testimony may make for a rather amazing, if slightly snarky story, but to no avail for the defendant represented by this bold volunteer certified law student.

The unusual courtroom scene played out Thursday afternoon in Washington County Circuit Court. Tamera Mayta, 49, was on trial accused of a low-level misdemeanor.

Authorities alleged Mayta had refused DeHaven’s order to sit in a chair when he responded to a domestic disturbance at her home June 3. She was charged with one count of interfering with a peace officer.

Mayta’s 79-year-old mother had called police seeking help with Mayta’s older brother, who has mental health issues and was screaming uncontrollably that morning.

Mayta admitted to ignoring DeHaven’s order, but her defense attorney said it was a necessary measure to avoid the danger of moving closer to her brother.

And so with a witness list four cops deep, Du Clos went to trial. And Mayta was promptly convicted.  As bizarre as it may be to have so many valuable witnesses available, there was a tactical issue at stake that may have been overshadowed by the glow of good fortune: Police Officer Dustin DeHaven’s credibility really wasn’t at issue in the case.

Liar, liar, pants on fire. So what? Had there been a factual dispute at the heart of the case, a he said, she said situation perhaps, the testimony of the fellow officers would have been critical and likely dispositive. But there was no dispute. Mayta admitted doing what she was accused of doing.

While the opportunity to put on a show like this is definitely alluring, and it has certainly created a record that will be available in the future to attack DeHaven’s credibility, it didn’t do Mayta much good.  The sense that the opportunity to have the unthinkable play out in a courtroom was too much to withstand, even though it didn’t do anything to serve the defendant’s interest, is hard to shake.

On the bright side, the judge recognized both that this was a minor misdemeanor and, regardless of DeHaven’s credibility issues, Mayta’s refusal to comply with his commands wasn’t exactly the next worst thing to murder.

Circuit Judge Don Letourneau sentenced Mayta to one day in jail, with credit for time served. He waived her fees. He imposed no probation or community service. She was ordered to have no contact with DeHaven unless in an emergency.

Just a regular day in court in Cornelius, Oregon.

8 comments on “Dustin DeHaven’s Reputation for Truthiness

  1. Marc R

    How do you know the defense attorney didn’t speak with counsel for the cops suing the city that they would testify truthfully about the credibility of the AO? It seems if you’re putting other cops up to tear down their fellow LEO that you have inside info that your testimony is a good idea and won’t bury your client. Just because she’s a new attorney doesn’t mean she didn’t do her homework.

  2. spencer neal

    She is not yet an attorney; just a law student certified for limited practice under the supervision of an attorney.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s pretty clear in the post, no? But it does raise the question of why poor people are only entitled to “just a law student”? Who gets sacrificed so law students can play lawyer? Whose life is so worthless that they aren’t entitled to competent counsel?

      I don’t mean this to smack the kid, but when making excuses for dubious choices, hard issues get raised. And I neglected to mention, thank you for sending me the link. I owe you an H/T. My bad.

      1. John

        As a former certified student attorney I think you are unfairly undervaluing student attorneys. Admittedly just throwing a student attorney into a trial would be as you describe it, but that is not how the program worked in Minnesota. First, most student attorneys never move beyond the first appearance stage and are only doing bail hearings or plea agreements (under the supervision of the head attorney). Second, as I always did and taught all new student attorneys to, we identified ourselves as student attorneys but never had a problem with clients. Ultimately we allowed clients to get better representation because the public defender wasn’t as overwhelmed. But if a client ever said that they wanted an attorney then we stopped what we were doing and got the attorney. Also, in three years of working for the public defender’s I was only able to work on three trials and only two of those as the lead attorney. But for those two I made it clear to the client that I was a student and that it was up to them if they wanted me to act as lead attorney (with a supervising attorney observing). Finally, while I do think that just a law student would be unfair to a client if there was no attorney assisting, but as I noticed in my time in court (as I’m sure anyone who has spent time in court has noticed) there are plenty of bar certified attorneys in criminal court who are not prepared or able to do the job properly. So just because someone is a student attorney doesn’t necessarily mean they are less able to represent a client.

        1. SHG Post author

          Putting the choice into the hands of clients is a dubious answer. Why? Because clients have such a firm gasp of the system, the relative merits and their best interest? That could explain why they universally exercise their right to remain silent.

          But yes, “just because someone is a student attorney” does necessarily mean they are less able to represent a client. That’s exactly what being a student means. That lawyers can be incompetent screw ups or overwhelmed doesn’t make students better lawyers, just attorneys worse lawyers.

          1. spencer neal

            That’s a good point. I worked for the Public Defenders Office in Seattle while I was in law school and got to represent some clients in court. I don’t recall if the clients were ever given any choice in the matter but then I probably would not have involved in that part of the process.

            However, while I was in law school, I also had a lot of dental work done by dental students at my school. I had no complaints, other than the work taking a long time to get done. The students got training and I got root canals.

            1. SHG Post author

              I’m all in favor of students working alongside lawyers in court. I just don’t want anyone to forget they’re still students.

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