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SAN JOSE — Jurors sitting in the nearly empty sixth-floor courtroom in the Hall of Justice earlier this month faced a sign that described a rare sexual disorder: “paraphilia.” The prop detailed how the disorder is characterized by recurrent sexual fantasies, often involving children. Standing in front of the sign was Deputy Public Defender Andrea Flint. Her job on a recent Tuesday afternoon was perhaps the most difficult in the court: convincing the jury that client Dariel Shazier, jailed numerous times for molesting teenage boys, should be released from jail instead of transferred to a state facility for sexually violent predators. Strolling behind the desk in a burgundy suit, Flint tried to cast doubt on testimony from a psychologist who said Shazier would be at risk for re-offending if released. “Would you agree that psychologists can differ — that they can review the same material and come to different conclusions?” Flint asked the witness, Craig Updegrove. “Would you agree that the evaluation of future human behavior is a ‘cushy’ science?” Flint later secured an admission that Shazier had never been convicted of a criminal count the psychologist had reviewed in analyzing him. Although the proceeding was similar to a criminal trial, it was actually a civil trial used to determine whether Shazier could be held for an extended period after serving his prison sentence to continue receiving intensive psychological treatment. While such hearings seem dry and heavy on psychological detail, each proceeding is important because the attorneys are helping develop an area of law that is less than 10 years old. California only recently released Brian DeVries, the first sexually violent predator, or SVP, to graduate from the program to unsupervised release. Flint’s rapid rise to such a high-profile trial position doesn’t surprise those who know the 34-year-old lawyer. Flint boasts a string of trial victories since starting as a public defender. Two years ago she helped launch the Santa Clara County public defender’s SVP unit, and has continued her success there. Flint assisted Deputy Public Defender Brian Matthews in defending DeVries, who admitted molesting some 50 children. DeVries received unconditional release earlier this year after the lawyers successfully argued that chemical castration had eliminated his unnatural sexual urges. The story was publicized both locally and nationally by the news media. Flint also recently helped Matthews research and write a writ petition to the Sixth District Court of Appeal, Litmon v. Superior Court, 04 C.D.O.S. 9962, asking that prosecutors be prohibited from trying two SVP petitions at once. Flint also argued the case. The court ruled that while trial judges have the power to consolidate petitions, they should not have done so in her clients’ cases. “She has tremendous energy, is extremely intelligent and has a strong passion for justice,” said Deputy Public Defender Roderick O’Connor. “Andrea dignifies her clients better than anyone I know, and that’s a quality every public defender should aspire to.” O’Connor said he went to Flint in January when he needed help in his first felony case, a two-strikes defense. His client was accused of possessing crack cocaine with intent to sell, but O’Connor believed the man was just loitering in front of his apartment building. Flint calmed O’Connor and helped him craft an effective argument. The case was dismissed. “She’s been a great resource and someone I feel comfortable going to for advice,” said O’Connor, 43, who has been with the office almost four years. EARLY YEARS Flint said she knew early in life that she wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer. “You know how you hear a kid say, ‘I want to be a fireman?’ Well, I said I wanted to be a lawyer, and I didn’t even know what it meant,” she said. Flint grew up in Orange County and moved to Northern California to attend UC-Berkeley. The move from the conservative suburbs was a “welcome shock” because she never thought her community offered much in terms of alternative viewpoints and lifestyles. Still, she was struck by the discrepancy in wealth in Berkeley between the affluent hill neighborhoods and the homeless camped out on Telegraph Avenue. At Boalt Hall School of Law she immediately gravitated to public defense work. Flint didn’t grow up in a legal family like many attorneys — her mother was a hairdresser and her father an oil company economist. But she was haunted by the concept of innocent people who were incarcerated despite favorable evidence. She graduated from Boalt in 1996 and joined the Santa Clara County public defender’s office, where she worked her way up from misdemeanors to more challenging assignments. Among her early successes was defending a probationer on charges of burglarizing a park kiosk where he was completing his community service. The jury returned a not-guilty verdict in less than an hour. Flint also represented a man accused of inappropriately touching his stepdaughter three times. Flint discussed settling the case but was later able to convince a jury that the 12-year-old girl had fabricated the story. Along the way she seems to have developed good will. “She gets along with everyone in the system � judges, DAs and probation officers,” said Chief Assistant Public Defender David Mann. Flint came upon the SVP assignment accidentally. While working on a felony case she was assigned an SVP commitment hearing. The case was so time- and labor-intensive that she and other attorneys lobbied their supervisors to have SVP cases handled similarly to serious crimes like homicides — with a dedicated team of lawyers. “I mentioned that the clients on both ends would benefit from a team approach,” she said. “I’m always interested in the best way we can represent these clients, and this was one way to do it.” Flint is serving a two-year term on the team and said she will likely serve another two years. The work is both rewarding and frustrating. Flint must almost always explain to her clients that they are returning to court for another lengthy proceeding and could possibly remain in custody after serving their prison sentence. And she often worries about dealing with a public that is not exactly sympathetic to sexual offenders. “When I talk to my clients, the first thing they ask is if this is double jeopardy,” Flint said. Flint’s understanding of law has changed due to her work on SVP cases. She is now concerned that some criminals — especially those tagged as SVPs — are so demonized by the public that their rights are ignored. “It’s difficult to get past someone’s past, and see that even if they had a negative past they can have a positive future,” Flint said. “When people are previously convicted of sex offenses it’s tough to convince the public that they can be assets to the community.” TOUGH OPPONENT Flint’s dedication and unyielding approach have earned the respect of prosecutors. “Even if I have a very good case, she’s going to make it tough for me to do my job,” said Deputy District Attorney Randy Hey, who faced Flint in a recent SVP case. Hey said Flint’s strength is that she can win over a jury with her straightforward demeanor. “She comes off as trustworthy, and the result is that a jury will listen carefully to what she has to say,” Hey said. Deputy District Attorney Griffin Bonini said Flint is the type of attorney who can put the “best face forward” for clients who are often difficult to represent because of lengthy sex offense backgrounds. Bonini has not faced Flint in trial but remembers her courtroom demeanor from preliminary hearings and routine motions. “She’s very good, easy to work with and confident, and it serves her well in court,” said Bonini, who was elected to the bench last month. Bonini added that Flint’s calm and composed personality is also a boon to her clients. “A jury can’t help but attribute some of the qualities they see in an attorney to their client,” he said. Flint will continue to represent Shazier during his SVP hearing before Judge Alfonso Fernandez through at least Wednesday. While some might wonder why she works so hard to defend people abhorred or misunderstood by society, Flint said she is heartened and encouraged by how other attorneys respect her tough job. “They [lawyers] have a whole lot of respect for what I do,” she said. “The fact that a lot of people think we do this type of defense well is something people in the office are very happy about.”

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