1220 Town Center Drive Fax 651 454-0507
Eagan, MN 55123 Telephone 651 454-0505
December 17, 2011
Re: Caroline Rice Jury Trial
To: 21 Minnesota senators; 47 Representatives
This letter is to inform you of a trial in progress in State of Minnesota (Carver County) v. Caroline Rice. It is shocking. In this case, Carver County Judge Richard Perkins and the prosecutor, Assistant County Attorney Peter Ivy, lied to the jury as to why Caroline Rice is representing herself pro se even though she is not a lawyer, and is unqualified to represent herself. It demonstrates the urgent need to make judges and prosecutors accountable for their abuses as was discussed at a hearing of the senate Judiciary Committee on November 17, 2011. A proposed bill does that and I and many others urge you to consider it.
Ms. Rice is charged with a felony crime punishable by a sentence of jail for two years and a fine of up to $4,000. Specifically, Ms. Rice is charged with depriving a custodial parent of custody of a child, causing a child to be a runaway, refusing to return a runaway child to the child’s custodial parent, and similar charges. The child involved is Ms. Rice’s then 13 year old daughter who ran from her father’s Minnesota home to see her mother who was seeking refugee status in Canada. The stature also provides that an accused parent can assert an “affirmative” defense that she believed in good faith that her child was in danger of physical or emotional harm. However Judge Perkins denied Ms. Rice the opportunity of asserting that defense after he denied her of presenting evidence of such abuse.
The lie that Judge Perkins and Mr. Ivy persisted in telling the jury is that Ms. Rice made the decision to represent herself and proceed without an attorney. She did not. In early 2011, Ms. Rice retained a private attorney suggested by Senator Barbara Goodwin to represent her. This attorney had recently been admitted to the practice. She offered to represent Ms. Rice pro bono – without charging Ms. Rice fees in the hope the court would award Ms. Rice amounts for attorney’s fees. At the time, Ms. Rice was penniless, homeless and even without a vehicle as a result of court decisions. In the divorce action from her former husband, she had been awarded nothing – no money, no property, no equity in the marital home, absolutely nothing. Her millionaire former husband was awarded all of the party’s money and assets, and all of the equity in the marital home. He paid his lawyer substantial sums to get these results, In May, 2011, the attorney Ms. Rice had retained on a pro bono basis demanded $2,500 in fees. She said she would not continue to work on the case if her fees were not paid. Ms. Rice had no money or means to pay her, she had no choice other than to discharge this attorney which she did. Judge Perkins refused to tell the jury about these circumstances of let Ms. Rice reveal them. Ms. Rice then asked for a public defender. Judge Perkins agreed to appoint a public defender after he “conferred” with the proposed public defender – a highly inappropriate action. In July, 2011, Judge Perkins appointed Steven Walburg as Ms. Rice’s public defender. He is a lawyer in private practice in Shakopee, Carver County, Minnesota who is a part-time public defender and who regularly appears before Judge Perkins and other Carver County judges. Trial was scheduled for December 14, 2011. As of the first week in December, 2011, Mr. Walburg had done nothing for Ms. Rice. He had not prepared or submitted a witness or exhibit list, had not worked on Ms. Rice’s defense, refused to interview any of Ms. Rice’s witnesses, even those who went to Mr. Walburg’s office, failed to issue any subpoenas, and otherwise took no action for Ms. Rice. This left Ms. Rice without any witnesses, exhibits, or defense just before trial. Ms. Rice had no choice other than to discharge Mr. Walburg. By letter dated December 6, 2011, she discharged Mr. Walburg. But Judge Perkins refused to discharge Mr. Walburg until the first day of trial on December 14, 2011 and ruled that Mr. Walburg was Ms. Rice’s attorney until that time. Ms. Rice told Judge Perkins that she was not an attorney, was not qualified to represent her self, did not know or understand the rules, and wanted to consult with private counsel. Judge Perkins gave Ms. Rice one and one-half hours to find, consult with and retain private counsel, and get that attorney prepared for trial – impossible conditions. Judge Perkins insisted that Ms. Rice made the decision to represent herself and refused to let her tell the circumstances. When Ms. Rice attempted to tell the jury why she had no attorney, Judge Perkins stopped her, forced her to go into a private conference room out of the jury’s presence, where he shouted at Ms. Rice, threatened her with sanctions and contempt of court and even jail if she persisted in attempting to inform the jury of the circumstances. He also refused to let Ms. Rice show the jury a DVD of an interview of her daughter as to why she ran from her father’s home on October 31, 2010 and what part Ms. Rice had, if any, in that decision, and whether or not Ms. Rice in any way caused her to run or assisted in any way. The DVD shows that Ms. Rice had no part in causing her daughter to run. It was recorded in November, 2010, shortly after the child was forced to return to Minnesota. On the witness stand, Mr. Rice admitted that the child had run from home before and even had been placed in foster care because of that. He also admitted that his children badly wanted to visit their mother, which is forbidden. Court orders allow Ms. Rice only supervised visitation under therapeutic conditions. The DVD completely exonerates Ms. Rice. The prosecutor, who provided the DVD to Ms. Rice, claims that it is “sealed” and privileged and cannot be shown to the jury, but gives no reason for that. Judge Perkins ruled that Ms. Rice would not be allowed to show the DVD to the jury. At the trial, he refuses to let anyone help or attempt to help Ms. Rice.
The jury should be informed of the above before they begin deliberations. The above illustrates the actions of an abusive judge and prosecutor who are abusing a mother and her children as well as greatly harming the children. It illustrates the need for oversight of judges and prosecutors by an independent, legislative agency
cc: Richard Perkins, Judge; Peter Ivy, prosecutor
Caroline Rice had no knowledge of the preparation or distribution of this letter