Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jury Duty: Part 2

The first eyewitness lives in the same building as the defendant and claims he sells drugs from the corner every night.  He said he saw him from his fifth floor window shooting with a gun in his hand. And when the police secured the block, he went down to accuse him. He was a very colorful witness, an older man from Liberia, who is in the community board and is the president of the association of Liberian immigrants. He was not letting the defense confuse him. It is entirely possible that he is telling the truth. But he also has a vested interest in removing this punk from his block because he is a menace to the neighborhood. However, selling drugs is not what the defendant was charged with. I wonder how it is possible that a known drug dealer commandeers an entire city block and everybody knows it, but nobody can stop him. Perhaps this shootout was the police's opportunity to put him away.
The second eyewitness was a 30 year old female drug abuser out of central casting, a white woman hardened by drugs. Defiant and bad mannered, she didn't even try to appear reformed although she protested that she has been clean for 18 months. The defense argued, although I think it was stricken from the record, that she did it because she made a deal with the DA to get into a drug treatment program instead of more jail time for selling. The most unbelievable part of her testimony was that she knew the defendant and went to his apartment thousands of times, where she allegedly saw lots of guns, but could not remember what floor it was on (2nd). And even more unbelievably, that they gave drugs to one another, like boy scouts sharing s'mores on a camping trip. Really? Out of the goodness of their hearts? I assume sharing drugs in exchange for blow jobs is more like it.
So two eyewitnesses, one with a vested interest in removing this pest from his building, and the other one perhaps doing it to save her own skin.
We are told we are going to watch surveillance videos. I think, cool, we will see the guy with the gun in his hand shooting: hard, incontrovertible evidence. But the quality of the videos is abysmal, and there is no way that you can determine with any accuracy that what he is holding in his hand is a gun. What else could he be holding, I don't know. A bag of drugs? A granola bar? When you freeze frame a movie in your DVD you see everything in perfect detail. Surveillance companies need better video cameras. So the video is for shit, and in my view, actually hinders the prosecution's efforts. If I were to deliberate I would ask to see those tapes in detail again.
The most damning evidence, in my view, were some recorded phone calls the defendant made from jail. Fully aware that he is being recorded, he asks his mother  to go get a woman on the block who knows a guy who can get in through the window of his apartment and retrieve an "x-box" (the police had secured it and changed the locks). An undercover police officer later testified that this is a code name for firearm.  Then he calls another apparent drug dealer to ask him to do the same.
When his buddy finally tells him he retrieved the "x-box", this guy gets so victoriously happy you can almost picture him jumping for joy.
The calls were appalling. I could see why there was no way this guy could open his mouth on his own defense. He speaks with the foul language and grandstanding of a street thug ("nigger this", "nigger that", "my fucking lawyer," etc) but with his mother he adopts a whiny, wholly unconvincing voice when she asks him what kind of shit he has done now. He promises the buddy to go out on a night on the town for him and is convinced not only that he is home safe but that he has a lawsuit against the police. Apparently, they turned the place upside down. On the phone, he gloats that they could not find anything, not one drug, not one weapon. He has a hiding place for drugs inside the bathroom door. The guy is a pro.
But do these calls prove that he had a gun in his hand and was shooting it the night of the incident? Or do they prove that he possesses a gun unlawfully? They may prove the two charges of criminal possession, if anything. And they may point to consciousness of guilt, but is this the same as actual criminal action?
The most bizarre incident occurred the day of the eyewitnesses testimony, when the Liberian man suddenly interrupted his testimony saying that he was being signaled. They let us out of the courtroom for a good while and when we came back he claimed that the defendant had mouthed threatening words to him as he was on the stand. I wonder if any of the jurors, particularly those who had a clear view of the defense table, saw what happened. As we were instructed not to talk about this between ourselves, nobody said anything. Then the woman who was assisting the DA as an intern also testified that she saw the defendant make a sign of cutting the throat of the drug addict witness, but the witness never came back so we don't know if she saw him threaten her or not. The defense lawyer raised a stink about that one.
It is rather risky if not downright stupid, for this punk to do something like that right in front of the judge, the jury, the bailiffs, the prosecution and the court reporter and I'm dying to know if any juror actually saw this happen, because if they did, the guy is gonna fry. One of the jurors was called out of the jury room and she may have had something to report to the judge, but I don't know what.
The day of jury selection, the defendant looked straight at me. He looked sheepish with a shirt and a tie and glasses. I could not interpret whether the glare he sent my way was "mami, I dig your curls" or "you better vote in my favor", but either way it was not endearing. 
A couple of days later, we saw the pictures of him under arrest and his attire was textbook ghetto punk. Another thing: why was he wearing the same clothes he wore during the shootout when he was arrested hours later? Now that I think of it, the guy is 40 years old but he looks like an overgrown child. So he is not really a young man, he just acts like one. It was mentioned he has an 8 year old son. The day of the closing statements, I arrived early and saw the defense attorney speak with a woman and a kid around that age. They sat in the courtroom the entire day. The kid slept the whole time. The lawyer did not mention them or point them out to us, but they were the only spectators. I saw the woman react to the replay of the phone conversation with the mother. She was shaking her head.

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:16 PM

    Judy -- so you did get picked for a jury! Thanks for your story as I await for part 3.
    Jim Siegel