Oral History of June Jeffries
Fourth Interview
April 29, 2019
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Will Weaver, and the interviewee
is June Jeffries. The interview took place at the Alumni Relations Center in the Hotung Building
at Georgetown Law School on Monday, April 29, 2019. This is the fourth interview.
MR. WEAVER: During our first three sessions, we covered your early life and family and
the beginning of your career as an attorney and prosecutor. Today we’re
going to pick up on your career focusing on the period starting when you
were named Senior Litigation Counsel at the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in
1992. In general, we’ll try to focus on that period. When did you find out
about your promotion?
MS. JEFFRIES: I found out because at that time, I think Ramsey Johnson was the interim
or acting U.S. Attorney. We were between appointed people. My son had
the chicken pox, and I was home with him for that period because
Mrs. Cox, the lady who took care of Rudy, had never had chicken pox,
and they said if you get it as an adult, it was really bad. So I didn’t have
anyone else to take care of Rudy, and I was home for about ten days with
So they called me and told me. I had never heard of Senior
Litigation Counsel before. I was pleased. I was honored, but then I had to
come in and sign some paperwork, and Rudy had the chicken pox, so I
wrapped him up and drove in. I guess I left him in the car and went
upstairs and signed the papers. So that’s how I found out. And then they
had a ceremony, which I don’t remember if I had my mother come or not.
MR. WEAVER: Were you surprised?
MS. JEFFRIES: Yes. I was surprised because, like I said, I’d never heard of it before. I
was honored.
MR. WEAVER: Did the promotion come on the heels of a major case or anything else, or
was it just kind of the natural progression after you had tried a number of
MS. JEFFRIES: I had gone to what was then called Felony Ones on March 31st of 1987.
The Felony One section did first degree murders and they did rape, maybe
child sex cases too. So I had handled several I will call high-profile
murder cases. I view each murder to be significant, but these I had tried
several high-profile. I had a guy called Ricky Brogsdale who was the
peeping top shooter. He became called that. Ricky did his shootings in
1987, I think. I had retried Eddie Mathis. Eddie Mathis had originally
been tried by another prosecutor, Mark Biros. Eddie and two or three codefendants
were tried. It was believed that Eddie and his operation were
responsible for about twelve homicides, and he got convicted on the one.
This one particular trial, he killed a man named Moxie up on 9th Street
right below U Street, and it was three of them that did the shooting, but
Eddie was the only one convicted in large part because Eddie didn’t wear
a mask because the testimony was that Eddie said he wanted the mother
fucker to know who shot him. The other two defendants had on masks.
So Eddie had been convicted. They had a big drug ring and did a lot of
things. It got reversed for several reasons. I think when the judge would
make rulings, Mark would say thank you or something. The Court of
Appeals didn’t like that. But he did call Ken Mundy who had been
Eddie’s lawyer. He called Ken Mundy, the leader of the pack, in his
closing arguments. He said Ken Mundy was the leader of the pack in the
courtroom just like on the streets, Eddie was the leader of the pack. The
Court of Appeals didn’t like that. So I retired Eddie all of my witnesses,
his cohorts and people were by then in various federal institutions around
the country, and all of them came out wearing orange jumpsuits because
they were all incarcerated. Eddie, of course, didn’t take the stand. All he
did was sit there at the table. The Cosby Show was popular back then.
Eddie sat there every day wearing a different pullover sweater looking like
Cliff Huxtable, and not a word came out about him and his background.
So anyway, I had done that retrial for the office. Eddie was not
surprisingly acquitted. I had some continuing interactions with Eddie
through the years after that.
I had somebody else back then. I had a double homicide of a
mother, 41 years old, and her 8-year-old daughter up in Northwest. These
guys had killed them and then proceeded to use their home as their home
for the next week, eating her food, drinking her champagne, pawning her
goods, until that came to an end. So I had several cases that had gotten a
lot of publicity by that point.
MR. WEAVER: Was this when you tried Linda Cannon as well?
MS. JEFFRIES: Linda Cannon was early on. Linda took a plea. I believe that Linda was
probably in 1987. Linda is significant to me because she had killed her
10-month-old son, Gregory Cannon. Gregory’s cause of death was
starvation and blunt force trauma. She beat him, and she didn’t feed him.
I believe that up to that point, I was not aware of mothers killing their
children. I’ve thought about that, and I can’t remember anything in my
life to make me aware of that beforehand. I was very struck by the case. I
was also struck by that case because by then they had started using colored
photographs at autopsy, and I had not gone to his autopsy, but I had the
pictures. In some of the pictures, he’s lying on the autopsy table before
the procedure began with his eyes closed, and he looked just like he was
sleeping. He looked very sweet. Other pictures showed me that he wasn’t
sleeping. So I took that case to heart, and I also disagreed with the judge’s
sentence because he gave her probation. Straight probation. I took
offense. I took umbrage with his sentence. One of the things I did was I
had some blow-ups, 8 ½ x 11, color pictures. I kept a set of those pictures
in an envelope on the window ledge behind my desk because I did not
think that she would successfully complete probation. I was right about
that, but I was also a little miffed about it because not long before her
probation would have ended, she got violated, but the judge didn’t send
the violation to me, so I didn’t find out about it. That, I would say, teed
me off, and I think he did that on purpose. But I found out. I told him she
violated his probation, and he’s the one that did all that stuff, so essentially
I’m like what are you going to do about it? So he locked her up.
MR. WEAVER: You found that to be a pretty motivating experience, because that was
early on when you were in Felony Ones?
MS. JEFFRIES: It was a murder two, which we did in Felony Twos.
MR. WEAVER: So it would have been right before you moved up to Felony One
MS. JEFFRIES: Yes. I don’t think I did that as Felony One, and that judge wasn’t a Felony
One judge. It was a little before 1987, maybe 1986. I did it as a plea and
kept it or something. Of course my son was very young, because he was
born in 1985, and I was flabbergasted by this. I felt that way about
Gregory. The other thing I would say is that when you get into child
homicides and stuff, you’ll see some common themes, and often a mother
kills a child because she doesn’t like the father, has problems with the
father. Linda did not like Gregory’s father, and she had a three-year-old
who had a different father, and she treated him fine, but it’s this baby who
didn’t get treated well. So that’s a common theme that you see. I still
have those pictures of Gregory packed away in my box of office things,
and I think about him. In fact, I was thinking about him recently. But I
think about him, and I think that I could be the only person in the world
who thinks about little Gregory Cannon because Linda didn’t like him.
Now she may think of him, but I’m probably the only other person who
thinks about him and his short life.
Anyway, they named me litigation counsel. I had a string of cases
that I did.
MR. WEAVER: In the last session, we talked a little bit about when Joe DiGenova was the
U.S. Attorney, and kind of the way he encouraged assistants and
prosecutors and he would write notes when people did a good job. For
prosecutors in the office that were going to be selected for judgeships, he
would assist them in that process. I think by the time you were elevated, it
was Jay Stephens who was the U.S. Attorney in D.C. Is that right?
MS. JEFFRIES: When I became litigation counsel, it was Ramsey Johnson, but then Jay
came. Jay was probably the next one after Joe under Daddy Bush.
MR. WEAVER: What was your relationship like with Jay Stephens and also with Ramsey
MS. JEFFRIES: Ramsey, when I first started in the Office, Ramsey was deputy chief of
misdemeanors and the office had I’ll call it less formalized, maybe less
stringent kind of training back then than it does now. Things have
evolved. But when I started in Misdemeanors, I think there were about
three or four of us who started in that time period, and Ramsey did a week
of training with us in his office there, and then he was deputy chief. So I
knew Ramsey from that experience and got along well with him. He
became head of Superior Court. This was a funny thing that happened. I
was in front of Judge Henry Greene one time on some case, and he was
upset about something that the government had done. So Judge Henry
Greene is on the bench, and he keeps saying to me he’s going to call over
to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and he’s going to talk to Mr. Johnson, and
Mr. Johnson this and Mr. Johnson that, and I’m standing there thinking to
myself who’s this Mr. Johnson person? I had not a clue. But no, Ramsey
had only been chief of superior court for a week then. I didn’t know who
he was talking about. So I got along well with Ramsey. In fact, I saw
Ramsey a couple weeks ago at the D.C. Court’s Judicial Conference.
MR. WEAVER: Who else served as U.S. Attorney for the remainder of your tenure there?
MS. JEFFRIES: I used to know the order. We had Jay Stephens, Eric Holder, Wilma
Lewis, Jeff Taylor. I guess Jeff was U.S. Attorney when I left. Mary Lou
Leary maybe served as interim or acting. Roscoe Howard was U.S.
Attorney at some point. Roscoe and I had been line assistants.
I want to say this about Jay Stephens and his tenure in the Office.
Jay came in. He had been over at the White House Counsel’s office. Jay
came in and he started the era of technology and stuff. When I first started
in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Superior Court Division, we were all on the
fifth floor of the courthouse, but either in 1985 or 1986, Rudy was six
months old or a year-and-a-half when we moved over to the triple nickel
as they call it, on Fourth Street. When we were there in the courthouse,
when we got a second Xerox machine, that was a big deal, and my
understanding was that the head of Superior Court hadn’t wanted us to get
that. Jay came in and he ushered in an era of we were getting computers.
I was one of those people who didn’t really want a computer, and when I
first got my computer, I used it as a clock. But I slowly began using it.
We got upgraded phones where people leave voicemails. We could start
going to outside training. The office started having significant training
programs. He probably I think named a training director. We had kind of
had somebody in that position who had been in the office for many years
who was an elderly person and really didn’t train. He would come around
the courtroom and watch, but really there wasn’t any training going on
under him. Jay changed all of that. So Jay brought in a whole lot of stuff.
We started getting paralegals and all kinds of things that we had not had
beforehand. That used to make me wonder did Jay suddenly come in and
started making requests and getting money or had the money been there all
the time and people weren’t using it. I was stunned. Jay was good in that
regard. Jay opened a lot of things, particularly for when I came into the
office. Black assistants in U.S. District Court, those were few and far
between. Jay opened up District Court to minorities, probably women too.
I’m sure they must have had some women. I can’t think of one. So Jay
did that. Jay made some good appointments of Black assistants to his
staff. So I like Jay Stephens a lot. I probably saw him last year at one of
the AUSA cocktail parties. I think he’s general counsel for some big
MR. WEAVER: This is another question I was going to ask later, but I’ll ask it now since
we’re talking about it. I was thinking about the technological changes and
the way the legal practice changed in the 1990s. That happened right as
you had kind of your feet beneath you, you had been a lawyer for over ten
years at that point, and then all of a sudden, when you become Senior
Litigation Counsel in 1992, the next fifteen years were monumental
technological changes. What was that like and how did that impact your
practice? Did you feel that you were already in the zone and had your
way of doing things? Did that make it slower to adapt or were you excited
about the changes? What was that like?
MS. JEFFRIES: I’m not adverse to change, but like I said, the whole computer thing I
wasn’t big on that. How is that going to help me? But here’s an
interesting thing. The Office does not hire people straight out of law
school. They made an exception for a guy who started right when I did,
and he had been an astronaut, but he never got chosen for a mission, and
he had a PhD in physics. He had an interesting background, went to
UVA, and then they hired him. His name is Paul Patterson. So Paul, his
name actually was Norman Paul Patterson, and he wrote, NP Squared.
Paul embraced technology. He’s all into computers. You may not be
aware of this because you’re so young, but when those computers first
started coming out, they would have these numbers affixed to them that
ended in 86, so you get like a 286 or 386 or a 486. As they got more
power or memory, they’d go up another. So Rudy’s around 4 or 5 then,
and I’m maybe thinking I should get the child a computer, is this
necessary? Paul was all into it and all these things you could do. So that
was good because we had been team members at some point, so Paul was
all into this, and you could ask Paul stuff about what you should do, how
you should do it. I had a friend who was telling me about the Internet and
things you could do, and email, so I began to get curious. Of course I
would say having the computers was a world of difference. At one point I
told my secretary if she wanted to continue working as a secretary at the
U.S. Attorney’s Office she was going to have to go to law school because
with the computers and phones, their work was decreasing. You used to
have to write everything out, and they did the legal typing. But with the
computers, you really could do all that yourself. And then once
Lexis/Nexis came along. I would imagine that by the time I stopped
working in 2008, I probably had not gone to the library to pull a case or
shepardize a case or something in ten years. I just had not done that. And
then the other thing that also was good, Jay, I think it was, got us a really
crack shot law librarian. His name was Jay Ferris. Jay was a fabulous
librarian and could get stuff for you whatever you needed. Especially with
my baby cases, I would do a lot of research, and Jay could get things for
me. I used to tell him, I said if you retire, whenever you retire, I’m
leaving. Because he was my support. I think he retired a year or so before
I did.
You stopped having to go to the library. But then eventually, they
switched us over from those keyboards and monitors and IPUs to the
laptops. And then you could take them home and do work. That was
fabulous for me because I was a single mother, and I had a child. I’m not
the kind of person who wants to stay there until 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 at
night. I needed to go home. Once I could get Rudy situated and
everything, then I can stay up late doing things. So having the access that
the laptops gave you, that was marvelous.
Being able to call in for your messages. You could stay in contact
with judges and people. When we got the beepers and pagers, yes. Give
the judge’s law clerks your beeper number so they could page you if
something comes up. That made it a lot better and easier for us and for
everybody. By the time my son went to law school, he told me that they
recorded even his law school lectures, and you could get them online if
you missed class. People take their bar exams or different exams on the
computers now. I bought twenty pencils for the bar exam because I didn’t
want to fail. I’d be afraid, what if my computer fails? All these issues.
So yes, it made a difference, and now all this electronic stuff in the
courtroom. I never did PowerPoint in the courtroom, but before I left,
people were doing PowerPoints, and I had created some for other usages.
All this technology that you can now use to present your evidence, I think
it’s a good thing. Getting discovery documents on a disc, I don’t know
what people do now, maybe flash drives, but that was such an
In one of my very big cases, you have to be aware of Brady. The
Office’s position on Brady and maybe less resistant to some things, but I
had a really big case that had gotten all these tips, people calling in, all
these tips. You can make charts on your computer, so I made this chart.
Every tip had a number. I said who the people were, the information,
what came of that, all of that. I gave this stuff in discovery. In the midst
of the trial, somebody made reference to some point, and defense counsel
made an objection. We went to the bench. She said she had not been told
about this, and I said to the judge I tend to think she was because I did this
chart and I gave everything. I don’t have my laptop here with me, but if
you want, we can stop now and I can go get it and produce what it was
that was given. I was able to do that that evening and give it. So that
really saved me. So I’m glad for the technology even though it was a
fairly simple thing. It was something I would not have done if it had been
a legal pad.
That’s the other thing. By the time you started using computers so
much, I think this is true of young people now, I was so into using the
computers and writing that if you just gave me a legal pad to write
something, that would then slow me down. So I virtually composed
documents or letters and stopped writing things out. I made that
transition, and I think it was a good thing. I know some people fight it.
People do electronic court filings now and everything, and that’s good.
MR. WEAVER: Do you have other memories or interactions with the subsequent U.S.
Attorneys at the Office after Jay Stephens?
MS. JEFFRIES: Eric Holder was U.S. Attorney. Eric had been a judge beforehand.
MR. WEAVER: Did he go straight from being a judge to U.S. Attorney?
MS. JEFFRIES: Yes. He came out of Justice, Public Integrity. But yes, he went from
superior court to being a U.S. Attorney. His period was good.
Let me jump back to Jay Stephens, When Jay was U.S. Attorney,
he hired a woman named Judy Smith to be his press person. This was a
difference in Jay. With prior U.S. Attorneys, we, AUSAs, could not speak
to the press. Jay changed that policy and allowed us to do so. So if I had
a case and they spoke to me after court, I could. But there are guidelines
on what you can say. That was a change that he made. I guess you could
say started allowing us to do some community outreach because at one
point, I was invited to speak at an elementary school to give their sixth
grade graduation talk, and I sent it up to Jay’s assistant who handled that
kind of thing, and her response to me was why do they want you to speak,
to which I believe I said to her I guess because I’m not any old crack
addict standing on the corner. I was perturbed by her saying that to me.
She was my classmate here at this law school. So I sent it to Jay, and Jay
had no problems with it whatsoever. So that was a change in attitude from
the prevailing attitudes of the office.
Jay hired Judy Smith, and Judy had worked with the guy who had
Iran-Contra. She had worked on that doing press things. Jay hired Judy to
handle press, and I guess back then, Jay had the Marion Barry case and
other cases. They were doing a lot of things. So from there, Judy went to
the White House as Deputy Press Secretary under Marlon Fitzwater for
Daddy Bush. While Judy was there, Judy is a Black woman, Judy
contacted me and she had some of us go over to the White House. She
invited us over for a tour, and we had lunch at the White House mess.
There were souvenir menus. We walked around. While we were there,
Mrs. Bush came down and was walking through so we saw her. But then
we went out back because President Bush was leaving by helicopter to go
to Andrews, so she had the White House photographer get a picture of our
group as the helicopter was rising above us. With Judy at Bush’s White
House, that’s probably the first time I had been to the White House. And
then, of course, she was there and they’d have those White House Easter
egg rolls, so Judy helped us get into the Easter egg rolls without being
with the public line. But then once you get in, there are lines everywhere.
So, yes, Judy was very helpful to us in that regard. And as many people
know, Judy has gone on to do many other things. She is the person for
whom the TV show Scandal was based, and she was an executive
producer with that. Now she has a new show on ABC called We the
People about AUSAs versus the Public Defenders up in New York. Jay
hired her, and that’s where she went with her career.
MR. WEAVER: After you were able to talk to the press after that changed in the office, did
you make it a habit of that or did you do it on limited occasions or was it
something you steered clear of?
MS. JEFFRIES: If they asked questions, if it was a question that I could answer, public
information, things said in open court, I would do that. I think the public
should know. I certainly would not do anything that would taint a
defendant’s right to a fair trial, and I wasn’t trying to gain sympathy or put
things out in the public, but if it was dealing with something that had
occurred in court, yes.
MR. WEAVER: Shifting gears a bit, how did your day-to-day responsibilities change and
the work you did change after you were promoted?
MS. JEFFRIES: It wasn’t so much that I was given per se specific duties, but certainly it
was known that I was Senior Litigation Counsel and people could come to
me and ask questions, and I did try to assist people when they had matters
and help them with strategy or sound things out. They didn’t give me a set
of things to do. They gave me more money, and I think I got a parking
space and had to fill out financial disclosure forms. I believe that now
they may have you do a little more with that.
MR. WEAVER: You had already been managing trial teams before this?
MS. JEFFRIES: No. I was just a line AUSA. I was never a supervisor. I think when I was
appointed, I was in Superior Court, maybe one person in District Court,
and somebody in Civil.
MR. WEAVER: After 1992, what were some of the more interesting cases you worked on
in the 1990s?
MS. JEFFRIES: I had a case, here’s what I say to people. Here’s a question I’ll ask you. I
had a first-degree murder case. The woman was shot, she was choked,
and she was punched. The medical examiner said that any of those things
independently could have caused death, but she had all three. It was a
first-degree murder case. My victim was named Debbie. Debbie came to
court. She would come to court on this matter. So how was it that the
murder victim could come to court?
MR. WEAVER: I am guessing that they brought her body into court.
MS. JEFFRIES: In a way. Debbie had been cremated, and they had her ashes in an urn.
She had a sister, and the sister’s girlfriend would come. They had Debbie
in an urn. So the first time we go to court, the sister came, and she had
Debbie with her. Well Debbie had been to glamor photos shortly before
the murder, and they had pictures of her. Nice pictures. She’s made up.
So on the urn, they had Debbie’s picture taped to the urn, and it said born
and the date and died and the date. She came to court, and then afterward
we’d go to my office to talk, and I’m sitting on this side of my desk as
you’re sitting over there. She’s sitting over there in a chair with arms, and
she’s got Debbie right here on the arm, and she’s holding it. And I’m
talking to her. Now, I will say this, the whole time I’m talking to her
about how things will play out and what we’ll be doing and all this.
What’s on my mind? In fact, I’m going to do this. She’s sitting there
holding Debbie like this, and I’m sitting there thinking the whole time I
hope she doesn’t drop Debbie and that lid comes off, and then Debbie’s
ashes are all on my floor because you could never suck Debbie up to my
satisfaction, and I was not going to be walking on Debbie’s ashes for the
rest of my career, so if she dropped that, that meant to me I was going to
have to pack up everything in this office and move to another location
because I was going to be out of there. So that what was really going on
through my mind. Fortunately for all of us, Debbie was never dropped.
So anyway, we were going to go to trial, and they wanted to bring Debbie.
I said okay, here’s the deal. You all really can’t do that because we only
want to do this trial once, and I don’t give people appellate issues, so we
don’t want to do that because if you do, the defense is going to object to
you having Debbie here, and I’m not going to fight that. So they didn’t
bring her for trial, but they brought her for other proceedings and for
sentencing. So then some time goes by, and the case was up on appeal
before the court of appeals, and I called and I’m talking to the girlfriend,
talking about life and stuff. I asked what they did with Debbie. Debbie
had teenage children back in Tennessee, and they wanted the children to
make the decision of whatever happened, so Debbie was upstairs in a
bookcase. I was telling the girlfriend that we were going to court on a
particular day, so she asked me do you want me to bring Debbie. I said
I’m not saying that, I’m just telling you. So on the day we had the
appellate argument, they came. They had Debbie with them, and while
I’m not sure, and I don’t think that the judges on the court of appeals were
aware or could see that, those law clerks saw it, and they kept looking.
Debbie also went not only to her trial but to her appeal. That case was
interesting because the defense attorney was Michelle Roberts, who you
probably have heard of. Michelle is now at the NBA Players Association.
Michelle was two years behind me at Wesleyan. She was this defendant’s
lawyer. It was a good trial, except that she had nothing to work with.
Nothing. Because I’ve never had a case that had more evidence in my life.
In this case, the defendant is named James Parker. He killed his girlfriend.
James was a married man with two children. They lived in PG County,
the wife, the kids, and him. Debbie worked for a management company,
an apartment building, so she managed a couple buildings in northwest on
Wisconsin Avenue, lived in one of them, but her office was in the other
across from the National Cathedral, and James would stay with her, then
he’d go over to his wife, whatever. Debbie was a white woman from
Tennessee. Then the wife maybe would call or write Debbie messages
and say things to Debbie. This is going back and forth. Debbie breaks it
off with James. Now he wants to get back together, so he’s calling her
and leaving her these messages and all this stuff, so he evidently calls and
wants to take her out to dinner the next night and evidently she said yes.
Now, I don’t know if she intended to go out to dinner with James or not or
if she was just saying it to get him off the phone, but the next day, she did
not go out to dinner with him. She and another woman she worked with,
also named Debbie, went down to Potomac Mills to go shopping and stuff,
and when they came back, Debbie, my victim, wanted to go by her
apartment. On Wisconsin Avenue, you turn right into the driveway and
you can kind of go into the garage and come back around like a U. As
she’s driving back there, she told the other woman she saw James’ car and
that spooked her, so she did not go. Well, James followed them to the
other building, and you had the gate, she tried to get in without him being
able get in, but he came on through. She told the other Debbie to act
normal. They parked, and James comes over to them and says good
evening, Ms. Debbie, whatever her last name was. The other woman gets
out and goes into the building, stopping by the laundry room where
another tenant is there with her baby and three-year-old. They hear a
scream, and they go back out into the garage, and at that point, James is
dragging Debbie, trying to push her into the car, and Debbie is screaming.
Debbie sees them and says to call the police. So then Debbie her friend
goes into call the police, and the woman with the baby and the three-yearold
stands there because she said she thought that if he knew somebody
was watching, he wouldn’t do anything, and then boom, she heard the
gunshot so she ran. So anyway, the police come. Debbie is on the ground
but conscious, and the police say who did this, and she says my boyfriend.
She says my boyfriend. I should point out that Debbie her friend knew my
defendant James Parker, so she knew him and she recognized him when
she saw him. I think that woman with the baby also knew him because
they had been at the building. So anyway, she goes to Georgetown
Hospital. They have to do emergency surgery. The detectives go there,
and the detectives get a window of opportunity before she goes to the ER
and says we think we know who did this, she says James Parker. They
said where would he be and she gave the wife’s address in Oxon Hill.
While the doctors were working on her, she also told them her boyfriend
shot her. So we have dying declarations. Now, MPD then notifies PG
County. PG County Police drive by the wife’s house, James’ house. His
car is in the driveway. The window is shot out. When they come by,
James runs out, gets in the car, they follow him. I think he drives around
the block and then runs back in the house. Now while he’s in the house,
he calls 911 in PG County. He tells them he did a bad thing; he did this,
he did that. He’s in there with his wife. His two boys are asleep.
Ultimately, James comes out with his hands up. The police ask the wife if
there’s anything different in the house from when James got there, and she
points to the sofa. The gun is in the sofa. So they recover the murder
weapon. They have the car that has the busted-out glass, and we have
glass on the scene, and we’ve got James calling 911 tapes in PG County
saying I did this. Then he goes to the detective’s office, and I think he
tells them he killed her. MPD detectives come, and he tells them he had
done this. He gets extradited back to D.C. James was a salesman for a
bottled water company, like you have water coolers in offices. One of his
clients was over at MPD headquarters, I think Sex Squad had a water
thing. So while he’s at MPD, he asked if he could see a couple detectives
that he knew from Sex Squad. They came up, and James tells all of them.
Okay. Then we get fingerprints, whatever. So we’ve got dying
declarations to the medical staff and to the detectives, we get the
identifications, she tells the detectives and the first one on the scene.
We’ve got the glass. The two women, they know James. James is telling
everybody. We get the gun and everything. So this is it. He goes to trial.
There’s really not that much you can do. So JamesError! Bookmark not
defined. took the stand, and Michelle examined him. That was the other
thing. While Debbie was out that day and he went to meet her, he was
calling her phone and her message machine. So I have this tape, and I still
have it, about ten minutes long where he’s just talking to her about how
he’ll do this differently, he could do that, they can get married. He said
the three of them, him and his wife, they can sit down and have a
conversation about how things will work out and the money will be this. I
guess she liked looking at TV shows because he said if she wanted, he
would watch Sisters with her, which was a TV show at the time, and all
this different stuff, and he missed her and just wanted to be with her. That
was the thing. She had told her co-worker that morning when they drove
to work, they lived in the same building, when she got down there, James
had left a note on her car. He had come by and washed her car, and he
said he needed to do something with the car but the equipment was in her
apartment and he didn’t want to come up there and spook her. The reason
why he didn’t want to spook her was because James told her if she ever
left him, he would kill her. He said they could just go for dinner and go
for a ride with the top down and all this stuff. So I had all these tapes. I
also had tapes of his wife calling Debbie and leaving messages, and
Debbie calling. They were going back and forth. James takes the stand,
he was saying how happy he was to see Debbie, and he said when he put
his arm on her, she started screaming, and he didn’t understand why she
was screaming. I understood, because he said he would kill her if she left
him. And then he said, as people will say, he said it was as if the evil in
her flowed into him or from him into her, and the next thing he knew,
because they never know, she’s laying on the ground and she’s been shot.
And he said she said to him, “JamesError! Bookmark not defined., help
me.” His help was he got in his car and drove away. Left her laying on
the ground because he heard the sirens. I think he was trying to get it
down to second-degree murder, and he didn’t, and because of the
circumstances, we filed life without parole papers. I think he got life
without parole.
So Michelle represented him. That was our trial together as former
classmates. As I tell anyone, if I got charged with murder or anything
else, I would hire Michelle if she were available and if I had the money.
She’s right good at what she does.
The first murder case I indicted, she was defense counsel. She was
at PDS then, and I went to trial. She never put on a witness, and she put
her whole defense in through cross examination. They were putting in
self-defense, and I think that guy was acquitted.
So that was my one trial with Michelle, which, a few years ago, I
got Michelle and Dee Marie Smith, who also used to be in my office and
who is now head of the NFL Players Association. I got them to do this
symposium that the Black alumni at Wesleyan put on once a year, so I was
able to tell everybody in the Wesleyan crowd that we had gone to trial
together and I had won, despite Michelle’s many talents.
That case occurred back then. Let’s see. In the 1990s, when I had
Debbie with the urn, you know, Dead Debbie, while we were in trial one
day, that’s when they had a shooting at police headquarters, and a female
FBI agent and Sergeant Hank Daly were killed, and maybe one other
person. They had that shootout over there. When I finished Debbie’s
case, I decided okay, June, you’re trying murder cases and now they bring
the victims to court. So I said you need to take a break from this because
now the dead people are coming to court. I told them in 1995 in the spring
that I was no longer going to try their homicide cases, and I wanted to go
to Appellate. The response to me was yeah, they can do that but it will be
fall or something because this, that, and the other. So I worded it to them
in a way that got their attention. So I was able to leave as I wanted to. I
left Homicide for about a year-and-a-half. So I left in 1995, I did about
six months in Appellate. I did a year in the Civil Division, and I’ll come
back to that, and then I went back to Homicide the first week of February
in 1997. Eric Holder was the U.S. Attorney. I go back to Homicide. Bob
Mueller was then the chief of Homicide. When I left Homicide to go to
Appellate, Bob took over my case load. He was a line assistant. When I
came back, he was the chief.
In my job, I look at the news in the morning to see who got killed,
shot, or whatever because maybe I’ll get a new case. That happened. So
I’m looking at TV Wednesday morning, Channel 4 as I would look at, and
a police officer had been shot and killed on Georgia Avenue near the
IBEX nightclub. So when I got to work that day, I got that case. Police
Officer Brian Gibson of the 4th District was sitting in his car at a light
around 3:10 in the morning on Georgia Avenue headed north at Missouri.
He was shot four times. The first one was in the neck, and the other three
were in the head. The IBEX was a nightclub where a lot of things would
happen. It was only one to two blocks from the 4th District headquarters,
and it was around time that they would be getting out, so there were police
in the area anyway. We got the radio runs. The call came out for the
sound of gunfire near the Ibex, so police went to the area. Brian was
stopped at a light. One of his colleagues was driving south on Georgia
through the intersection, saw Brian at the light, went past. He did
whatever he was doing, and then he came back to the intersection, and the
car was still there. So he got out to see what was wrong, and that’s when
he discovered the Brian had been shot. So he went over the air. I have
that radio run too. He went over the air. Then people were pouring out of
4D running down the street in the area. The defendant was running away.
What did he do? Either he had the gun or he dropped the gun while they
were chasing him. So the defendant was caught early on. A man by the
name of Marthell Dean and Brian died. So I got that case, and that was a
big one in the news, and that was one that was fought hard. Judge Fred
Weisberg was the judge. He appointed counsel for Marthell, lawyers from
Zuckerman Spaeder, so he got big-money lawyers. It was three of them.
Steve, Elizabeth Taylor, who had been at PDS and Blair Brown. He had
been at PDS too. Elizabeth and Blair had been at PDS. They put on a
substantial defense. At that time, we didn’t get second chairs, so I don’t
think I had a second chair. I was doing that one by myself. Certainly an
issue came up about his statement. Marthell ultimately gave a statement
that was videotaped. The problem was, and this is a problem with police
practice, they had talked to him for a long time before they went on video.
As MPD would say, they liked to talk to people, but they wouldn’t record
until they got “the true version.” And then they just have in their notes
what the person had said earlier. That was always a problem for me
because in this day and age, if you have taping capabilities, why aren’t
you taping everything. For me as a prosecutor, what the person said
before you got there was equally as important, and the circumstances in
what was going on. So there was issue over that, and the defense fought
big time, and they were making these other claims. I did find that if you
listened to the news reports or read the articles at the time, I felt that they
didn’t necessarily reflect things in the courtroom as I saw them and maybe
would be more sensational about things. Anyway, it was hard-fought, and
it was getting a lot of press. We won that case, and he was affirmed on
appeal. Subsequently, some years later, Marthell is doing life without
parole, but I want to say some years later, we found that Marthell was on
this website called Love Behind Bars. You can look for people, people
behind bars can say men seeking men, men seeking women, women
seeking et cetera. So Marthell was on there. He was seeking a woman,
and he wrote about himself. One thing he said was he didn’t like liars. He
also said that he’d be getting out in about five years. Well I found that to
be a lie since he was doing life without parole and it was affirmed. But
anyway, I didn’t know people did that, Love Behind Bars. Some
interesting posts.
So that happened, and that was in the 1990s. I should talk about
my time in Appellate. I had skipped Appellate because when I was
coming into rotation, about the time I was going into Appellate, they
needed people with experience in felony trials, so I had skipped Appellate
and had never done it. I started in the office in 1982, so I didn’t go to
Appellate until 1995, which was a really interesting experience, but it was
a very boring experience because you’re just there in your office reading
cases, writing briefs, or going to do your arguments. When I went to
appellate, and I told my son, so 1995 Rudy would have been ten, I told
Rudy I was going to Appellate, and he was like, what about TV or the
news. You’re not going to be on anymore? I said no. Because I would be
on TV and stuff and people would see it and kids at school would see me
on TV. One of Rudy’s classmates, he was on a softball team one time,
I’m at the game, and a girl in his class came up to me and asked are you a
lawyer? I said yes, I am. She said, Do you make a lot of money? So I
said yes, I do. Which I didn’t. I made government wages, but compared
to other people, I did. Compared to people making hamburgers at
McDonald’s. I said yes I did. But they knew because they’d see me on
Appellate, I would call that a dead and dry environment, but you
certainly learned a lot. I saw where things came from in the law and
arguments that people had made. I had my first and probably only
appellate argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
on a panel which included Judge Harry Edwards in a drug case. Now, of
course, crack was around back then, and I used to hear people talking
about the disparities in sentences between crack cocaine and powder
cocaine, so I was aware of that. One of my friends at the time was up in
District Court, and they did drug cases up there. She said that she thought
the officers went out of their way with Black defendants to get crack
cocaine as opposed to powder cocaine. I get up there, and the case I had
was one which involved a Brady violation where the prosecutor had not
given prior convictions of some of the witnesses and maybe the defendant.
That’s what it involved. So I had to defend this case.
At that time, because of something that had happened involving
another case, the Office had sent out a memo that if the trial attorney was
still in the Office when the appellate argument was done over there in the
Court of Appeals, the trial attorney would have to go and sit with the
appellate lawyer. So I had notified this guy when the argument was, when
to be there. I will note that he did not appear. My plan was, and of course
I would not have done this, if those judges had really pressed me on why
was it that he hadn’t given up that information, I was going to say to them
that’s a really good question, but he’s sitting right here. Why don’t we ask
him? But he didn’t come to the argument. When I got back, he had left a
message on my phone saying he didn’t know when or where. You know
that was such crap. The guy got reversed, and I’m glad he did because
here’s the deal. He was one in a co-defendant case, the only one to go to
trial. Others to pleas and had gotten reduced sentences. He went to trial,
and he was convicted of one count of distribution of crack. The value was
$300, whatever the weight was. So it’s not a lot of stuff. But he had prior
state convictions, like a burglary or assault or something. So this qualified
him as a career criminal. I think the minimum was thirty years. This guy
got like thirty years. He was in his 20s somewhere. I’m here to tell you I
had just come from Superior Court, I had murderers who were not doing
thirty years. I thought thirty years was outrageous. It was, and is, given
the circumstances. So he was reversed, and by the time of the reversal, the
trial assistant said whatever the witness issues were they probably would
not be retrying the case. So I believe the guy got out. I thought that was
fair, but I thought it was outrageous. I took my son, who was then, that
would have been in early 1996, to the argument. He was ten or eleven.
He hadn’t had his birthday yet, so he would have been ten. We were in
the lawyer’s lounge, which is four walls, so I said to him to look around
the room starting in that corner and to go all the way around the room and
to tell me what was wrong with this room. So he’s looking at the pictures
on the wall, and he’s going all the way around the room, and he says I
don’t know. I said okay, here’s the problem, Rudy. If you start right there
and go all the way around the four walls, it’s only when you get to that
little corner of the fourth wall do you see anybody who’s not an old white
man in the history of this court, and that’s when you saw Clarence Thomas
and Judith Rogers, the Court of Appeals Harry Edwards. So that was
striking. I took Rudy to that argument, which makes me want to mention
Judge Harry Edwards. He is also from Detroit. I didn’t know this until
years later, his father was George Edwards, who had been a state
representative or senator but was the husband of Esther Gordy Edwards.
Ester Gordy being the sister of Barry Gordy of Motown. She was judge
Edwards’s stepmother. So I didn’t know this until sometime later.
Anyway, when I was in the Office, before I had gone to Appeals, I
didn’t know Judge Edwards. He gave a talk at the University of
Michigan. I think it was called Reflections on Thirty Years of Law after
graduation. I guess he had gone to Michigan. I know he taught at
Michigan. Anyway, he gave this talk, and it was reprinted as a little
monograph, and I did not know Judge Edwards, but he sent me a copy,
which I was very appreciative of, since I had never met him. So I guess he
had heard of me, and he sent me this copy. But the remarks he made were
very interesting because he’s talking about the practice of law as a Black
man and things he had encountered. His wife at the time was a Superior
Court judge, Mickey Edwards. I think her name is Mildred. He sends me
this monograph, and I read it, and it was very interesting. He said he was
involved with some national legal organization that would give an award
to a lawyer, and they take the lawyer out to dinner, maybe the board
members, and they would make this presentation. So then one year he
said they chose a Black judge or lawyer to win the award, and then they
just had a certificate printed and gave it to him to mail to the Black
honoree. They didn’t do anything like they had done for other honorees. I
was once in front of his wife and had occasion to speak to her at some
point, and I said I read this monograph Judge Edwards gave me, and he
talked about this dinner. She said that’s exactly what happened. He
talked about other things over his career. I always appreciated that
someone like him would take the time to do that for me.
So I had my argument in front of him and whoever else was on the
MR. WEAVER: How was your experience arguing in front of him? My experience is that
he was a very lively questioner. This just seems like a case where he may
have had some pretty tough questions for you.
MS. JEFFRIES: You know what, I’m not an appellate person, and I like trial much better,
so that was really what I would call my frightening experience. I don’t
remember being frightened in other courtroom settings really, but I was
frightened by that such that in many ways it’s really a blur to me. I was
glad I lived through it. I remember him, I can’t remember the other panel
members. Appellate was not for me. But that was good, Judge Edwards.
What else. I did Civil. Civil is a totally different experience. At
that time, the Civil people were on the tenth floor of our office building,
and around that time, and up to that point, there had been very little
crossover between people in criminal and people in the civil division. So
you really didn’t interact with them much at that point in time. So I go up
to civil. Civil was totally different, and much more intense. You worked
much harder up there than you did down in the criminal stuff because 80%
of the caseload in the Civil Division is defensive, where they’re defending
the federal government in these lawsuits, and 20% was affirmative
litigation. I didn’t have any affirmative litigation. So everything’s
defensive. In federal court, you have in the civil cases all these timetables,
and you have to file this, you have to file that, you have to respond, you
have to do all these other things. These deadlines. So you could be in
court all day on a trial, but you’d have to go back and work because you
had to file your Rule 26 whatever it is, your pre-trial statements. So your
civil caseload does not stop. If I was in trial over there in Superior Court,
I could pretty much put things on hold while I’m doing my trial, but it
doesn’t work like that in Civil. Those people are in court all day and then
come back and have to work all night. It’s very hard for people in the
Civil Division taking a week off let alone two weeks. You have to have
somebody covering your box, you have this happening, you have that
happening. So Civil was very intense.
Civil you’re working very hard. I would tell them, you know, the
rest of us in this office don’t work like this, and we make the same money.
Number one. It was a good experience because you’re doing lots of
different things. You’re doing tort work, contracts, constitutional issues.
Some guy sued because he was in the Army deployed to a UN
peacekeeping force, and the UN peacekeeping force wore patches on their
sleeves identifying themselves, and he objected to putting the patch on his
uniform because he didn’t join that, he joined the Army. So different
issues were going on, people making FOIA requests all the time, all these
In affirmative litigation, now this was big back then. Janet Reno
was Attorney General. They were going after healthcare fraud, so if they
could do a criminal case, have a companion civil case, in the civil case, if
you win, you get treble damages. There was big money being made, so
one of my colleagues got some award, millions of dollars. I said this is
very interesting. If you were in civil practice and you got this award,
you’d be getting a third. You’re just getting your paycheck.
The work in Civil, it was a good experience for me. I was over in
U.S. District Court. And then they’ll get these emergency TROs, and then
you’ll get a Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve TRO, and if you’re low
person on the totem pole, yes you will. I had a TRO in front of Judge
Norma Holloway Johnson, and I’m glad I did because that was my one
experience with her. It was a Black woman employee at some agency,
they had a riff, and when you did the formula, whatever, she was the
person who got riffed, even though she had 25 years with the agency.
What happened was there were some men working in the agency who had
been in the military, and they had that military preference point or
whatever, so they were ahead of her. So she does this TRO. She said that
when she went to college or something, she would have gone in the
military, but they didn’t let women in whatever she wanted to claim, she
couldn’t do that because she was a woman, so that’s why she was unable
to have that, and it was unfair. With this woman, she also was eligible for
retirement, so it wasn’t that she’d just be destitute if she were riffed, but
the job said that when they tried to talk to her about it, she would not do
anything. She would not talk to them about it, she didn’t pack up her desk
or anything. We are there on New Year’s Eve until 4:30 in the afternoon
in front of Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, and I prevailed in that. Now,
in fact, her lawyer is a Howard Law School grad, and we were at a funeral
three weeks ago. We were talking and I said remember we had that TRO
together. So I did that in Civil.
I did one trial, which was a age discrimination and a national
origin. He was Italian-American, and sometimes he’d use Sicilian-
American. He claimed his supervisor was Irish-American and
discriminated against him in favor of other Irish-American employees.
One thing he said they would have Christmas parties, he worked for DEA,
and so you’re planning a party and the food. He said his supervisor put
him in charge of the food one time because the supervisor said because
Italians have good food. Okay. I’m not making light of that, but I think
you do. I’d rather have that than corned beef and cabbage at my
Christmas party. Anyway, he did not prevail. The other part was he had
gone on 60 Minutes to criticize the agency. He and some other people, to
criticize the agency, and in response the next day, the head of the agency
sent out an email to every DEA employee responding, and he mentioned
this guy by name, so then they were claiming privacy violations. But he
had been on 60 Minutes talking the night before. So then they wanted
millions of dollars. I think his lawyer wanted $1 million per employee or
something like that. So we did a two-week trial over there in U.S. District
Court in front of an older judge, who is very irascible, and he and I almost
would have had it out in court one day. It was my practice, whenever I
was going to try a case in front of a judge, I would ask the judge or at least
ask the courtroom clerk or the law clerk about the judge’s various
practices, and I had asked what time did the judge break at the end of the
day, and they told me that. Now our building, the Civil building was then
across the street on 3rd Street, and they had a parking garage which closed
at 7:00. So we’re in this trial this one day and it’s getting toward 5:00 and
the judge is like keep going. So I asked to come to the bench. I said I
need to know what’s going on because my garage closes and I need to get
my car. He said we’re just going to keep going. I was about to stand up
and announce to the courtroom, which is everybody, the jury, that I
needed to get my car and I would be leaving and I could come back, but I
was going to get my car because I’m very clear about this. I was Rudy’s
mother, and I was not going to be trapped without a car and go home and
have something happen and he needs to go to the hospital or whatever and
I didn’t have my car. I don’t play that, and I wasn’t going to play that for
some judge in the courtroom. But right before I got to where I was going
to do that, he then broke for the day. So I would have had a showdown
with him in the courtroom over that issue because Rudy was my
responsibility, and the judge, nor the marshals, were going to take me
home or come take us to the hospital if something had happened.
I did that trial in Civil. There were four counts before the jury of
which in those discrimination cases for incidents after I think October of
1991, they were jury demandable, but before those were not. So some of
his claims were before that date, and some were after. Then there was the
privacy thing. So he was entitled to a jury. The judge let the jury rule on
all the counts, even though that was of no moment for some of them. The
jury ruled in the defendant’s favor and gave him a total of $10,000, and
then afterward, we had post-trial motions and everything, got it down to
MR. WEAVER: This is the plaintiff, right?
MS. JEFFRIES: Yes. In the end, he got $2,500. The woman from the General Counsel’s
office, the lawyer over there I was working with, she felt if he got $1 that
was a loss. I got them down to $2,500, so ungrateful people that they
were. What happened is his lawyer was from Memphis, and the plaintiff
was from New Hampshire, so every time they came to court, they had to
travel here. They had to pay lodging and food and everything. We had a
settlement conference with the magistrate judge where we first went in all
together, and the magistrate talked to plaintiff, and then he talked to us.
When he brought us in, I said to him we’ve got $65,000. I had $75,000.
He said to me I’m not even going to tell you what the other side wants
because you all or so far apart, he said this won’t come together, and he
said sometimes people have visions of pie in the sky or whatever. I spoke
to plaintiff’s counsel by phone a week or two later, and I said to him the
magistrate never told us what you were interested in. I said, so I’m just
curious how much would you want to settle. He said not a penny less than
$3 million. I said you and I both know you’ll never get that out of my
client, you won’t take $65,000 and call it a day? He said no. I said okay.
So the award was $2,500, plus he could get attorney’s fees but he’d have
to parse it out and apportion it to what he won on. Not long afterward, the
attorney died, and I figured he was so disorganized and stuff, I didn’t think
anyone would be able to come behind him and come up with the money. I
don’t think they ever got attorneys’ fees. But for all that, he got $2,500.
That was affirmed. I did do that. I had a co-counsel. That co-counsel is
now a judge over there in U.S. District Court. He had never done a jury
trial before. That was the other thing.
MR. WEAVER: Who was your co-counsel?
MS. JEFFRIES: Rudy Contreras. Because of the change in the law, most of the civil stuff
was not jury triable, but because of the change in the law, they were then
beginning to do jury trials, and a lot of them did not have jury trial
experience, so I went up there with all this jury trial experience.
I understand one of my colleagues back then who later became
U.S. Attorney for the District, she had a completely civil background, and
I understand that when she tried her first jury trial with another lawyer, she
required him to work all day and all night and they could only sleep in
shifts. I’m like you people are crazy up in here. She became U.S.
Attorney. She had no criminal background.
MR. WEAVER: When did you decide to go back to Homicide?
MS. JEFFRIES: That whole Civil schedule. I had a kid. I needed to go home, and we need
to be able to take vacations. I need to be able to go to the school or the
doctor’s office. So I stayed a year in Civil, and then I told Eric I’d like to
go back to Homicide, so I went back to Homicide. That’s when I picked
up the case with Marthell Dean. If you drive by 4D, they named the
building after Brian Gibson. Brian’s mother, in particular, but the family
became very involved with police officers, the department. There’s an
organization called COPS that supports the families of police officers who
are murdered. Concerns of Police, I forget what the S stands far. It
supports the police, and she became very involved in that. I believe she
became the national president of COPS. Every year a couple of weeks
before Christmas they would have dinner for police in their home, and all
these people would contribute. They’d have fried turkeys, people would
bring food. And you could eat in or take out. I think they stopped it a
couple years ago because they’ve gotten older and other things. I think
there was hope that the FOP would pick it up. I don’t know if they did or
didn’t. I would go to that and see them and see other people in that circle
of folks. In fact, Brian’s former mother-in-law and I just became
Facebook friends last week because one of my church members said she
had gone to some event down in Clinton, Maryland, and met this woman.
I don’t know how they came around to be talking about me. I just hadn’t
talked to her in a long time, so now we’re Facebook friends.
MR. WEAVER: These are a couple of different questions, but sort of if anything comes to
mind, just answer it however you see fit. During that stretch of time
where you went to Appellate, you went to Civil, you had done some big
cases before that in the late 1980s and 1990s, are there any big mistakes
you made or regrets you have or cases maybe you lost that you look back
on that you learned a lot from during that time?
MS. JEFFRIES: I think that when a lot of people lose cases, and my experience as
colleagues would come back and they’d call the jury stupid or this
happened or the judge was wrong or blah, blah, blah, whenever I lost a
case, my thought was not that. My thought was is there something I could
have done differently. As I would tell my victims, survivors, when they
met me, I told them my promise was to give them the best possible trial,
but that I did not control outcomes, and the jury decides the case, and they
could decide the case for whatever reason they wanted to. Maybe they
liked the other lawyer better. Maybe they felt I was awful. It could be any
number of things that may or may not have to do with the evidence and
that I didn’t control that. But I would give them the best possible trial. So
I will say I didn’t have any real regrets if I lost a case because I hoped that
I had given it my best, and also, I just kind of believe in the jury system.
Let these people hear these facts and let them make a decision. I
prosecuted a police officer for killing her boyfriend, kind of ex-boyfriend,
a fellow police officer, and there were no witnesses. She took the stand
and essentially put on self-defense, and she was acquitted. I think that was
a fair verdict. My thought was the situation wasn’t such where we could
just say flat out this was self-defense, but I felt it was a situation where a
jury of her peers needed to hear the facts from either side, both sides, and
then make the decision. The case was such that she and he had been
together for some reasons but whatever was going on, she started seeing
this other police officer and broke it off with my victim. Well, she was
over the other police officer’s apartment one night, and the next morning
when she leaves and starts driving home, my victim was there, and he
starts following her. Something had happened while they were on the
road. When she got to work, she reported it to her officials. I think she
worked at 1D. So her officials called his officials, and then the two of
them got sent to the police chaplain. This particular chaplain was not only
a minister, but he was a sergeant on the police department, and he talked
to the two of them and counseled them. I guess their agreement was there
wouldn’t be any other problems, and so he let them go. He had the ability
to suspend their police powers and take their weapons from them, but he
did not. The next day, my decedent showed up at her home, and inside,
she said he had the gun. It was his gun, I guess. And they struggled, and
in the struggle, the gun went off, and he was shot. I think that she was a
credible witness. I couldn’t disprove that that’s what had happened, and I
very much think that it was a failure of the police department in how they
handled this because the sergeant should have taken their guns away from
them, and they could have done some other things. That was very hard for
the victim’s family, and I understood that. One of the sisters worked in
firearms where they did ballistics testing, and I would talk to her
sometime. Sometime later, one of my chiefs came to me to ask me if I felt
she was credible when she testified because she had applied for some
position or something, and they maybe were going to weight in. I told
them I thought she was entirely credible and they should leave her alone.
She had a young child, a daughter, who my decedent was the only father
that girl had known, and I felt my victim certainly didn’t wake up saying
she was going to kill him that day, and it’s not that she went after him, and
I know this was a tremendous loss for her daughter as well. So anyway, I
ended up talking to her one time in a later case of mine because she
worked in traffic, and I called over there and she answered the phone. I
told her about that.
MR. WEAVER: What was that conversation like?
MS. JEFFRIES: It was okay. She wasn’t hostile toward me. I told her that I had told them
I thought she had been truthful and to leave her alone. So yeah, I had that
I once called a unit in the police department and talked to a
woman, another police officer, who was actually the mother of a child that
had been murdered, and I had gone to the trial. When I was pregnant with
my son, Amy Berman Jackson, who is now U.S. District Judge, tried a guy
named Paul Jordan for a double homicide, killing a woman, I think
Mrs. Barnes, and the three-year-old girl she babysat, Crystal Fletcher,
Crystal was the daughter of two police officers, and Mrs. Barnes was a
retiree, and she would babysit the girl. It didn’t matter what shift the
parents were working. So this case was going to trial. This case started
trial the same day as the 8th & H murder trial, which is a big, infamous
case here. Amy was trying this one by herself. It was statements which
were contentious. Anyway, I would go to the trial. I was very interested.
The father would be at the trial, and I would talk to him. It went up on
interlocutory appeal. When they really started testimony, the mother was
the first witness. When she came in the courtroom, it was clear she was
heavily medicated. She testified, and that’s the only time she was there, so
I never interacted with her, but I called her. She answered the phone at
least fifteen years later, and I told her I know who you are because I used
to go to that trial, and she and I talked.
I wouldn’t say that I felt bad because I felt that I had done what I
could, and if I had seen a personal failure, then I would hope I would learn
from that. I’m sure there are things you could do differently. My
approach was different from what I felt the approach was of many of my
MR. WEAVER: When you left Civil to go back to Homicide, did you go back as Senior
Litigation Counsel again?
MS. JEFFRIES: No. Senior Litigation Counsel is just a one-year appointment. So I was a
line assistant. I went back to Homicide. You know how we do baby
MR. WEAVER: I was going to ask at what point, were you already known as the go-to
person for child homicide at that point?
MS. JEFFRIES: After doing Linda Cannon, I don’t know, maybe I was asked early on. I
may have heard of cases and asked for them, and then they started giving
them to me. As I said, Jay Stephens, that’s when the money flow began,
and you could do training, so I found some outside training. One
conference I went to, they did it as a three-year cycle, so I went for three
years. It was pediatric forensic issues, and I went to three different places
for that. That was a very good one because pathologists and different
people would be presenting on various aspects of child homicides and
child deaths in general, which I would point out ones that were the worst
were the farm equipment deaths. Homicides, accidental, a lot of evidence
about trauma. And, of course, during that time period, shaken baby was a
big thing. You had that case up in Boston, Louise Fletcher. The nanny
was prosecuted for shaken baby. What I would say about shaken baby is
anecdotally for me, in all of the cases that I had where the children had
been shaken and had injuries consistent with that, mine also had blunt
force trauma as well. I never saw a case in my time period that was purely
shaking by itself causing death. I never saw that. But that was a big thing.
I don’t hear about shaken baby as much now, and a lot of people challenge
that. I did go to conferences and things dealing with that and pediatric
forensic issues, and that was good.
MPD created their special victim’s unit, and the police officers
were getting training and doing things as well, so that kind of thing
occurred in tandem. I would do baby cases. A lot of people, of course,
will say I don’t know how you can do that. Well those children didn’t
have anybody usually, many times in life, to stand up for them, and I felt
that I was standing up for them in death. Like I said, Gregory Cannon, I
doubt that anyone thinks of him now. She kept him locked away in a
room by himself. Other people weren’t seeing him or interacting with his.
I have his pictures.
MR. WEAVER: Are there other cases like that that stick out that are hard to shake?
MS. JEFFRIES: In doing that, I was also on the Child Fatality Review Committee, which
would meet monthly, which brought many players to the table. So you’d
have people from the police department, from the hospitals, from different
medical centers, the school system, CFSA, the court counsel, my office.
You could have twenty to thirty different agencies and people around the
table going through these cases, and we reviewed cases which were not
just homicides, but also natural deaths because it was deaths of children in
the District of Columbia, as well as children who were wards of the city
but in placements outside of D.C. because they send some kids away. I
can see this. Generally speaking, for instance, some of those cases would
be cases I had or knew. Every time you’d go to that, it would be one
messed up family after another. And every time you’d think you’d heard
the worst and it couldn’t get any worse, it would. In that realm, I had a
mother who took her three-month-old child down to the Anacostia River.
Right there at Benning Road, crosses over the river, and there’s a PEPCO
power plant, and then on the northwest corner would be Langston golf
course, but on the south side, there’s parkland and you can go down there.
She went down there and threw her kid in the water, and she went in too.
The problem is, and I went out in a boat with the water police, or whatever
you call them, harbor police, the water isn’t all that deep, and in many
places, you can just stand up in it. I think it’s hard to drown in water that
you can stand up in, and that’s apparently what happened with her, such
that there were men playing golf, and one of the men was a U.S. Deputy
Marshal. He’s playing golf, and he said he kind of thought he heard
somebody screaming, but there were trees between him and the water. He
kept playing golf, but then he heard some more, and there were no longer
trees. He looks and he sees this woman in the water, but he can see her
head and shoulders. There are some grounds people, they go out, go in
and bring her out of the water, and then they’re standing there like what
now, and they say something to her. She doesn’t say anything and then
they say something to her again, and she says to them, “Well I have a
much bigger problem,” and they said, “What is it,” and she said, “My son
is in the water.” She then took them to the location where she had pushed
the child in, but they said she was so quiet and not saying anything. He
said at one point they asked her was she pulling their leg about this. So
they called the police. The helicopter goes up. There’s an inlet near the
power plant, and Eagle Park police helicopter saw the child’s body in the
water. He died. That woman, I prosecuted her. Her name is Michelle
Francis. She was out on release during the pendency of the case and
represented by PDS. So in doing these cases, an obvious question is why
would you do this. Is something wrong with her? She was herself the
child of a mother and father who both had mental health histories, and in
fact, her parents had met when they were both patients at Saint E’s. When
I was prosecuting Michelle, her mother was in prison for killing a fireman
who had befriended her and taken her into his home, and the mother had
stabbed the man and killed him. So she had a family with a mental health
background. Her child’s father had been her high school sweetheart. She
got pregnant. I think she wanted to get married and be a family, but he
wasn’t there yet, and he was maybe seeing someone else. She had this
baby. At some point, she had told him and his mother that she had put the
child in the microwave but whatever happened, he wasn’t harmed. So
they had taken the baby for a while and cared for the baby, and then she
seemed to be okay and they let her have the baby back. So the paternal
grandmother was very kind toward Michelle, and they thought she’d had
post-partum depression or something. And then, of course, while the case
is pending, counsel said to us that she had been diagnosed as bipolar and
they made some representations about that which later were problematic to
me for various reasons. But anyway, one thing that happened, Michelle
got pregnant while my case was going on, and that was a problem for me
because she’s out on bond. She could have had the baby and gone to any
hospital and not told them that she had this order where she could not have
contact with children, and they give her the baby. So that was an issue
that we had to deal with in court.
I don’t know if I said this before, but back then on those child
cases, you often couldn’t charge first-degree murder. You had to charge
second-degree murder. The penalty then was only fifteen years to life, and
if a woman went to prison, if she got the maximum penalty, if you got
fifteen years to life, after you’ve done about 85% maybe 12 ½ years, you
get parole, and unless you’ve killed a prison guard or something, you’d
probably get parole, which meant that the mother would get out and she
would still be in her childbearing years, and then if she had other children,
they would have been taken from her, and they come out and they want to
have more kids. So I was very concerned because I felt we had a duty to
the protection of these future unborn children. What do we do with the
mothers? The mothers needed help. So there were times when we did
these sentences where she was incarcerated but also would come out and
have strict probation. With Michelle, we did that. She came out and I
think we were doing quarterly reviews before the judge and we had these
reports. I know reports are good, this, that, and the other. So another
thing that happened is she was working for Roy Rogers, so she started
working at Roy Rogers near me, first at Georgia right at the D.C. line,
Eastern Avenue, and then up at Wheaton Plaza. So sometimes when I
would go to work in the morning and ride the subway at Wheaton, she
would be getting off the elevator when I would be getting on, and I’d see
her, and we would speak. She told me, because the baby who she had
been put in foster care and she would have visitation, she told me one time
the woman wanted to adopt her child, and she told me that she had agreed
to termination of parental rights because she thought this was good for her
son, and she wanted to do that. I thought that showed insight on her part.
Also, when she had that baby, she had her tubes tied, which is a big thing
to do, and I thought that showed insight on Michelle’s part as well.
So we would have conversations. At one point, she would be at
the Roy Rogers on Eastern Avenue, and I’d go through the drive-thru and
I’d order my food from her. I told my son who she was. I talked to my
son a lot about my cases. Rudy would be like you’re getting food from
this woman, and I would say she’s not going to do anything. So I would
see her sometimes.
People had life situations. She came from a background of mental
health problems. As I said, the baby’s father and paternal grandmother
were very compassionate toward her.
I had another young woman had her niece, and she was beating the
child so violently in her apartment, people could hear her outside, so those
people called the police. She got the maximum. She got fifteen years to
life. I think since I stopped working, I was reading the paper one time,
and maybe the Public Defender Service or somebody was having some
kind of fair, not an exoneration fair but something for people, maybe
women, back in the community, and they quoted my defendant, Darnella
Adams, in the paper. So I said oh, I see she’s out. I hope she worked on
that anger she had. I hope they were dealing with that.
So, yeah, I had a lot of those baby cases. When I said I left
Homicide, I had a case where an 18-year-old guy – he was either 18 or 20
– killed his 18-month-old cousin. He was there, and the mother was a
crack user, and in pursuit of crack, she left her four kids with him at 11:00
at night so she could go off and do things with men and get crack cocaine,
and then he ended up killing the child. I will say this, the death of that
woman’s child was a life-changing event for the mother. Her name is
Valerie Morse. I’m free to talk about this. Life-changing event. She went
into rehab. She totally changed. With her other children, she started
working. When I left Homicide, Bob Mueller took over that case, and he
finished it out, and he and Valerie got along very well. Valerie holds him
in very high esteem. Since he was Special Counsel, what is it, the Daily
Beast, they contacted me talking about Bob one time, and I told them
about Valerie and how she felt, so they contacted her and interviewed her.
She’s quoted in the article. Both of us were quoted in the online article.
She held Bob in high esteem.
So, yeah, I had a lot of those cases. I call them my babies.
MR. WEAVER: Did he take over your whole case load at that point?
MS. JEFFRIES: Yes. He did.