Thursday, August 30, 2018

What A Month On Jury Duty Taught Me - Part II: The Circus Trial

(Click HERE to read Part I of this three-part series.)

Until this point, everyone had stressed the importance of considering the defendants innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution, so, as far as I was concerned, they started with a clean slate.  Still, I couldn't help but wonder why the hell the defense attorneys (who were all public defenders) seemed so disheveled and disorganized in comparison to the prosecuting attorneys.  They asked stupid questions (contrary to what you have been told, yes, there ARE stupid questions), they allowed their clients to come to court wearing inappropriate hairstyles:

Two men and a woman: let's call them "Willie," "Ron," and "Shante."
  • Wille wore two fat cornrows on the TOP of his head and an ill-fitting suit (maybe the suit couldn't be helped, I'll issue a pass for that)
  • Ron wore a tail in the back of his head (people still DO that??)
  • Shante wore a wig that looked like a hair hat.  I mean, like she took it off of a coat rack and put it on her head and came to court.
I'm going to be the voice of honesty and say that you  DO NOT allow your clients to go to court looking like that because it can very easily read as "low-income throwaway."  I would have had BOTH get haircuts, and told that woman to put the wig on properly or take the shit off altogether.  

I, because I KNOW African-American (or "Black-American" - take your pick) culture INTIMATELY, know how to place the packaging in proper context and discern what is relevant to the case and what isn't.

I DO NOT expect most white people to understand African-American culture nor the socio-economic hierarchies within well enough to be able to notice this before it becomes an issue.  But here they are, in the courtroom, looking "ratchet."  Perhaps their public defenders TOLD them to do differently, but, I suspect that they assumed it was just "what black people do," if they considered it at all.

Now, I'm on the case, and right before opening arguments began, the female defendant, "Shante", was removed from the case.  We weren't told why, and we WERE told not to speculate.  Alrighty, then.  The two young men remain: Willie & Ron.

Opening arguments began, and at the outset we were presented with photos of the victim:  an Asian grandmother.  We saw her alive and radiant... and then we saw her dead: private areas covered with black boxes, bullet hole to her heart clearly visible.

This is when I realized that I was IN IT.  Like, FOR REAL.

Family members of the victim and the defendants were all present in the courtroom throughout the trial, bearing witness to what was presented as well as our reactions to what we were learning for the first time.  Sometimes they cried.  Mostly the victim's family looked stricken, and the defendants' families looked sad, but hopeful.  There were elementary-school-aged children amongst them.  I wanted to throw up, but felt compelled to keep a stiff upper lip.

The defense attorneys opening arguments seemed to consist of: (Ron) "He's a knucklehead who intended to rob, but accidentally killed this woman." and (Willie) "He wasn't there when any of this happened."

My thoughts?  "Y'all better do better than this, because this is already looking like some bullshit."

In short: They did NOT do better. 

The prosecution brought in witness after witness and built their case meticulously.  The defense?  Well, they asked obvious questions that had already been answered (sometimes multiple times), called their clients by the wrong names, pissed off the witnesses, AND the jury with their ineptness, and did an excellent impersonation of Bozo and Cookie while not calling a single, solitary witness, nor building anything remotely resembling a defense.  By closing arguments, the sum of the defense was: (Ron) "My client got scared and shot the woman, and he just picked up her purse and ran because he had been told to do so, and was too dumb to understand the consequences."  This attorney actually likened the shooter to the character, "Lenny" from "Of Mice and Men", and implied that he had the mental capacity of a 9 year old.  At that point I rolled my eyes so hard I'm surprise they didn't fall right the fuck on the floor in front of me.  If your client is mentally unfit to be held accountable for his actions, where are the witnesses verifying your assertion?  In fact, where is ANY PROOF that you have prepared for this case in any way whatsoever?

Willie's attorney had a different strategy.  Let's call his strategy, "Throw Ron Under The Bus And Hope Nobody Asks Questions."  Let's forget that the two defendants are long-time friends (or at least long-time associates, as shored up by photos from Ron's Instagram account), and pretend that Willie let Ron drive the car that one of his relatives had rented for him (because he was underage). And oh yeah- Willie left his cell phone in the car, which explains why cell phone records put him at the scene.  Also, Ron was a pimp, and his girlfriend/ bottom bitch (Shante) left her phone too, which is why it also looked like she was there - but she wasn't either.

I will not belabor you with 4 weeks worth of foolishness.  If you've read this far, I suspect that you get the idea: The public defenders put on the most spectacular display of "not giving a fuck" that I have ever seen.  And coming from someone (me) who is pretty unapologetic about not giving a fuck about things that she doesn't give a fuck about, that says a LOT.  The could not have failed their clients more if they had done it intentionally, which I don't think they did.  I think they just didn't give a fuck, because people who DO give a fuck come prepared.

Have I said "fuck" enough?  I don't think I have, because (trigger warning) I strongly suspect that it's going to show up again in this narrative.

Willie spent a LOT of the trial looking at me. I mean, a LOT.  Quite a few times, I caught his attorney looking at me as well.  They had both heard me tell the court that I wanted the defendants to have a fair trial, so I think I was their barometer for how things were going.  I mostly avoided looking at Willie, but, given that he sat at a table that was right in front of me, it was impossible to avoid his eyes altogether.  When our eyes made contact, he would shake his head slowly.  It looked to me like he was saying "Ain't this a shame?"  And it was.  A woman was dead and they were on trial because they put themselves in that predicament.  Yeah, calling that "a shame" would be putting it mildly.

The public defenders asked the jury to find defendants Ron and Willie respectively: 1.) Guilty of robbery and second-degree murder (because he was "dumb" and killed the woman by accident) and 2.) Not guilty because he, a pimp, and his girlfriend, the prostitute, left their phones in the car while Ron drove the rental car that Willie wasn't even supposed to have- 35 mins away to commit the crimes alone, or with another person who was NOT Willie.

You buying any of this nonsense??

Neither was anyone on the jury.


*Read Part III HERE*

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