- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

Glenn Kirschner says he spends a lot of time on the job putting out fires the kind of flare-ups that can erupt at any minute in the homicide section of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District.The phone rings and Mr. Kirschner, 41, the department's acting chief, rushes out to make arrangements for a search warrant.

Mr. Kirschner, who looks like a professional wrestler with his shaved head, Fu Manchu beard and weight-lifter's physique, returns minutes later, explaining, "There are probably half a dozen fires that pop up every day. Murder is unpredictable."

The bulletin board next to his desk is covered with photos of his five school-aged girls. On the wall hangs a plaque with the engraved outline of Alaska, where he learned his trade during six years in the Army's Judge Advocate General Corps. His desk is covered with files, assorted papers and the picture of a dead man.

Photos of the man, who appears to have been shot in the chest and had his throat slashed, will be used as evidence in one of the 230 or so homicide cases in the District this year.

In his zeal for his job, Mr. Kirschner can sound like an auto salesman pitching an expensive sports car to a prospective buyer.

"One of the greatest joys about this business is going in and trying murder cases," he says. "It's your job to do right and to do justice. It's a great job. It's fun, it's exciting, it's always different."

Much of his morning this day is taken up with the sentencing of a mother and daughter in a manslaughter case.

The pregnant, teen-aged daughter was beaten severely by her boyfriend. After more threats at the girl's home, her mother defended her with a gun. The mother pleaded guilty to shooting the fleeing boyfriend in the back.

Initially, the daughter lied and took the blame for her mother. Neighbors who witnessed the shooting revealed the truth to detectives, which earned the mother one 15-year sentence for manslaughter and another five years for obstruction of justice.

In the third-floor hallway of D.C. Superior Court, the family's emotions erupt into one of those screaming, crying and yelling scenes that wrench the stomach and bring security guards running.

"It was a difficult case," Mr. Kirschner says. "If the mother hadn't lied, she would have been in a better position."

The 19-year-old daughter is supposed to be arraigned for obstruction of justice just before noon, but leaves the courthouse and fails to return. During a separate hearing, the judge and attorneys discuss whether to issue a bench warrant that could result in her immediate arrest and incarceration.

"She's pregnant, she's very pregnant," argues defense attorney Renee Raymond. "Her aunt said she was having pains."

Judge Judith Retchin says she will issue the bench warrant but stay execution of the warrant by police until Monday, giving the girl time to return to court on her own.

Mr. Kirschner says he would not object.

As she leaves the courtroom, Miss Raymond says, "The mother trying to protect the daughter and the daughter trying to protect the mother how do you quantify the morality here?"

The girl returns to court later in the day and decides to plead guilty.

Minutes after the hearing, Mr. Kirschner grabs his trench coat and rushes down the stairs to a manslaughter and conspiracy hearing.

The defendant had already been convicted and imprisoned, but his attorney filed a motion for a reduced sentence.

The attorney says the defendant should get credit for time served and wants a clarification on whether the sentences for both charges are consecutive or concurrent. The judge clears up the confusion by saying the defendant would serve a total of three years in prison, which would include credit for time served.

In law school at the New England School of Law, Mr. Kirschner expected that 90 percent of his cases to be like the black-and-white issues of ethics he found in his law books.

In the reality of his workaday world, he says, only 10 percent of his cases are that simple.

The other 90 percent fall into a gray area where ethics are a matter of opinion and the role of the law is arbitrary.

In recent days, much of Mr. Kirschner's time has been taken up with a reorganization of the homicide division. Rather than having a few homicide prosecutors handle specialized cases, such as child murders, sex-based murders and drug-related murders, they will all be integrated into a "community approach." In other words, each homicide prosecutor will be assigned to one of six districts within the city to handle a variety of murders.

"I'll be heading up the Fifth District," Mr. Kirschner says.

Between meetings on the reorganization, the murder prosecutions continue.

"We're gearing up for the Gallaudet double," he says, referring to the slayings of two students at Gallaudet University.

When he's not at his 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. job, Mr. Kirschner shuttles between ballet lessons, piano recitals, soccer games and swim meets for his children."That occupies pretty much every spare minute when I'm not at work," he says.


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