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Alumni in the News: Protecting the Rights of the Accused
Author: By RaeLynn Ricarte, The Dalles Chronicle
Posted: December 26, 2013

Rob Raschio graudated with a bachelor's degree in history from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1997.

Read the original article in the Dalles Chronicle here

ROB RASCHIO displays a forensic artist sketch of the trial of Charles Manson, leader of a cult in California who was convicted for masterminding seven murders, that he obtained from a friend. The drawing hangs in his office as a reminder that every defendant, no matter how horrific the crime of which he or she is accused, is given the right of due process under the U.S. Constitution.

ROB RASCHIO displays a forensic artist sketch of the trial of Charles Manson, leader of a cult in California who was convicted for masterminding seven murders, that he obtained from a friend. The drawing hangs in his office as a reminder that every defendant, no matter how horrific the crime of which he or she is accused, is given the right of due process under the U.S. Constitution. Photo by Mark Gibson.

Raschio will relocate near family home

Rob Raschio has been a shareholder in the gorge firm of Morris Smith Starns Raschio and Sullivan since 2006, when he began working in The Dalles. He and his wife, Sena, started their family, which now includes daughter Annabelle and son Vincent, during that time and have compiled many happy memories of their time in the area.

They are now returning to Eastern Oregon, where Rob began practicing law in 2001, because that is where his wife’s parents and twin sister reside.

“We’ve lived within 80 miles of my family during this time and now we’ll be within 70 miles of hers,” said Raschio. “It feels like it’s time to get closer to them for a while.”

Although he will be practicing in Oregon Judicial District 24 as he did before, this time Raschio will be the lead defense contractor for criminal cases in Grant County and conflict cases in Harney County. He is establishing an office in the town of John Day and will be taking private clients as well as those who come his way through the court system.

“It’s nice to mix it up once in a while,” said Raschio. “It’s a pretty exciting opportunity for me to build my own business.”

There are currently 90 contractors throughout the state and Raschio is looking forward to the challenges of joining the group that seeks to protect the rights of the accused.

Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley praised Raschio as “an excellent advocate for his clients” and said he will be missed.

“We’re sad to see him go. He works hard for his clients and I have respect for anyone who does that,” he said. “He is an easy person to work with and communicates well.”

In turn Raschio said of Nisley and his two deputy district attorneys: “It takes a special type of person who thinks about both sides and is committed to the liberty interests of the defendant and the needs of the victim to do that job.”

In his advocacy role, Raschio has served as president of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Mid-Columbia Bar Association and is the current editor of The Trial Notebook, a widely-used publication compiled by criminal defense attorneys around the state.

“I am thankful to have been a part of some very important work done in this community,” he said.

Hanging on the wall of Rob Raschio’s law office in The Dalles is a forensic artist sketch of Charles Manson standing behind a wooden door in a California courtroom with a wire mesh opening in front of his face.

He is depicted in the rendering with his legal team gathered around the door, which has a hinged panel that can be dropped over Manson’s face if he begins to create a disturbance.

“He didn’t get to face his accusers,” said Raschio.

Manson — diagnosed with anti-social disorder and other mental illnesses — led a cult in California and was convicted in 1969 of conspiracy in seven murders, including those of actress Sharon Tate and her unborn child. Although he did not personally commit the acts of violence, a jury found Manson guilty of masterminding the grisly deaths.

“I have a hard time imagining how a man in a cage can get a fair trial,” said Raschio, who obtained the drawing from a friend after the Tate family auctioned it in April 2007 as a crime victim benefit.

Raschio, a shareholder in the gorge firm of Morris Smith Starns Raschio and Sullivan, is leaving The Dalles to serve as the lead defense contractor for criminal cases in Grant County and conflict cases in Harney County.

The Manson trial setting is a constant reminder to himthat no matter how horrific the crime that someone is accused of, they are guaranteed the right of due process by the U.S. Constitution.

“Sometimes I tell my clients to exercise their right to remain silent, meaning their right to ‘shut up,’ but I have relaxed enough after 12 years in this field to realize that if they insist on speaking out, they are exercising their right to protest,” he said.

If a mentally ill person manifests symptoms of his or her illness in the courtroom, Raschio said jurors need to remember that America’s judicial system rests on the premise that all people are innocent until proven guilty.

“I love thinking well of people around me, thinking positively about my client and the case,” he said. “I have to figure out if someone crossed the line and, if so, the underlying cause of the crime in the first place.”

The Framers of the U.S. Constitution lay the burden to prove guilt at the feet of the prosecutor representing the government. That individual has to convince a jury that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime.

“The core principles behind ‘reasonable doubt’ and ‘presumption of innocence’ are really just the Golden Rule –you treat others as you would like to be treated,” said Raschio.

It is no surprise that a man who graduated from Portland State University with honors in history before going on to the University of Oregon School of Law in Eugene would revere the protections afforded by the constitution.

“I like working for individuals and I like working for the constitution and I feel I can do that best as a criminal defense attorney,” said Raschio, who tried a short stint at prosecution before deciding it wasn’t a good fit for his personality.

The U.S. Constitution took effect March 4, 1789, slightly less than 14 years after the Revolutionary War to free America from British rule began. The Founding Fathers had taken special care to guarantee that an individual charged with a crime had a variety of rights. One of the most serious abuses of governmental power they sought to prevent was the unfair imprisonment of citizens.

For that reason, a suspect cannot be held under Article 1, Section 9, of the constitution for more than a short period of time if the government cannot formally charge that person with a crime.

Once a charge has been levied, the defendant has the right under Article III, and by the Sixth Amendment, to have their guilt or innocence determined by a jury, a panel of citizens from the community where the crime occurred.

Felony charges in Oregon are typically not pursued unless a grand jury is convened and issues an indictment.

The challenge facing defense attorneys, said Raschio, is that it is the nature of human beings to look at things from a worst-case scenario. So many prospective jurors arrive in the courtroom with the belief, whether expressed or not, that the accused must have done something wrong if he or she was arrested.

He said many people don’t seem to understand the importance of the role they play as jurors. They are charged with protecting their fellow citizens from overzealous law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges.

So, if a defendant exercises his or her Fifth Amendment right not to testify, Raschio said the jury should not construe that move as an unspoken admission of guilt. In reality, that provision prevents the government from forcing a suspect to “be a witness against himself” and give statements that could be misinterpreted.

“It’s really funny what our expectations are of people — not enough eye contact or too much, etc.,” he said. “All I’m learning at the end of the day is that it’s a very human system and it has all the fallibility of the humans in it.”

The “Miranda warning” given to people arrested by police officers is intended to remind them of their rights under the Fifth, including the right to remain silent, and let them know that anything they say can be used against them later in court. They are also told about their right to be represented in criminal matters by an attorney, whether they can afford to pay for one or not.

The Fourth Amendment forbids the search or seizure of an individual’s private property without a warrant, which has to be granted by a judge because enough evidence exists to show that a violation ofprivacy is necessary for the public good.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits the government from imposing excessive bail and fines not proportional to the offense. In addition, “cruel and unusual” punishment is forbidden. During the era that provision was drafted, there had been whipping and other torture practices imposed on people accused of crimes.

Today, the Eighth is used to ensure jail conditions are not too crowded, sanitary or otherwise inhumane.

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments are broadly defined to ensure that no one shall be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

“I try to teach civics lessons when I am dealing with people in the system,” said Raschio. “It’s an important role to stand up for the rights of people and remind them that justice is about making sure that all people get treated fairly.”

On Dec. 20, he walked away from more than seven years in Wasco County with one case forever seared in his memory.

In May 2010, The Dalles Wahtonka High School Senior Kaedyn Drake, 17, pleaded guilty to causing multiple injuries to the five-month-old son he had fathered with a 19-year-old woman.

Raschio represented Drake, who was an unemployed fast food worker and living with his girlfriend in her mother’s apartment at the time of the attacks. The teenager was sentenced to almost six years in an Oregon Youth Authority juvenile detention center, where Raschio said he is doing well and pursuing a college education.

“He was a kid that got into an impossible situation because he didn’t have the maturity to keep it all together,” said Raschio. “I have been very saddened by that case. I think it’s a huge waste of resources to have a kid like that locked up in any institution.”

That case brought home to him the huge choices that his clients have to make when they are charged with a crime.

“My clients have to make the tough decisions because it’s their life,” said Raschio. “All I can do is be there for them and fight when the time right – or advise them it might not be the time to fight.”