Saturday, May 26, 2007

Jury Duty - Part II (read Part I first)

The trial started Thursday morning with brief opening statements by the prosecution and defense. The defendant was being charged with breaking into a home and stealing $50 and two guns. The guns were lawfully owned. The big evidence against the guy (a 19 year old "kid", imo, with only a 9th grade education) was a set up footprints leading from his house to the house that was broken into, and a set of footprints leading back to his house. We know that drugs are somehow involved (based on questions asked in jury selection), but that information is being kept from us.

A full week after the break-in (why so long?), a SWAT team (overkill?) shows up at 8:00am at the kid's house, where he lives with parents and five siblings. There may also be a friend at the house. A SWAT team member sees the defendant trying to head out the back door, yet the defendant is the second person to exit from the front door? It did take some time for people to exit, but if you can imagine a SWAT team coming to your house at 8am ...

The prosecution sends up several police to testify. But hmmm ... where is the SWAT guy who saw the defendant heading out the back door? Not there. A specialist in crime scene investigation takes over 100 pictures, including pictures of the footprints and a picture of the door (where the illegal entry took place) , yet apparently didn't measure the footprints? And there was no mention of fingerprints found either inside the house or on the stolen guns? And the worst evidence was the defendant's own statements to police after being questioned after exiting the house during the SWAT raid? So a veteran police officer was able to verbally confuse the kid and get him to "admit" (the kid mixed up names) he stole the guns?

The guns were found in the defendant's little sisters' bedroom about 15 feet away from his door. But they weren't found until a week after the burglary. Couldn't someone else have put them there?

The kid had a hokey story. He said that a friend broke into the house. The defendant said he wanted no part of the break in, but was apparently not averse to dealing in the stolen booty, which appeared to include a pound of marijuana and some crack. Funny -- the victim didn't mention having drugs stolen from his house ... and most jury members actually found him scarier than the defendant.

When Thursday ended, right before closing arguments, I didn't think that I could find this guy guilty of stealing the weapons. He may have been the one to break in, but where was any physical evidence? Did the police even attempt to collect real evidence? Did the other jurors have the same reservations I did, or was this going to look like a repeat of Twelve Angry Men?

Closing arguments were Friday morning. A last-gasp emotional plea by the prosecution was silly. The lead defense attorney, a public defender, was clearly the best attorney in this case. She stated pretty bluntly that even if the defendant had something to do with the attempted sale of the guns, it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the one who stole the weapons.

Both sides rest and the jury left to deliberate. One young guy asked to be the foreman and no one disagreed, so he was it. The foreman asked that we take an initial vote to see where we were. The first two votes were Guilty, and I was thinking "uh oh...". However, the initial count was 9-3 for Not Guilty. We started discussing the case, and everyone was speaking at the same time. Our foremen sat on his hands, so I quieted everyone down and asked that we speak one at a time so that everyone could be heard. We went around the table, and practically everyone was thinking the same thing: the kid was involved, but there was nothing to prove that he went inside the house and stole the guns.

We all knew we were missing parts of the big picture and would hopefully find them out after the case was over. The three who initially voted Not Guilty quickly changed their votes after hearing the resons why the rest voted the other way. The deliberation was over very quickly.

We went back into court and the verdict was read quickly. We were dismissed, and it was over.

Today's (Saturday's) local paper had a small article about the case. It appears that the defendant allegedly shot one of the guns into a car a few days after the theft, and the shooting was what led the SWAT team to the kid's house.

My questions: 1) Why was virtually no physical evidence collected after the guns were stolen? Was it because the crime was seen by police as one low life stealing from another? 2) Couldn't they get the kid on anything other that stealing the guns? 3) How did this case ever go to trial with such a lack of evidence?

I doubt that the defendant learned much from the trial except that lies sometimes might work. My guess is that he'll soon either be in prison or a grave. What a way to waste a life.


Blogger KajaPoker said...

I've received a jury duty summons three times so far. Each time I checked "not a citizen" and they never asked me again.

Your guy might have been guilty, but the prosecution didn't prove it. Good thing he doesn't live in France.

9:30 PM  

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