So now we had to get down to figuring out who was lying and who was telling the truth. Straightaway we decided that both sides were lying to some certain extent. For one thing, Miss Shelton had testified that she was asleep on the couch when Johnson burst in. Her testimony occurred before Mr. Rogers had been called in to testify and he had not heard it. He was asked by the defense,
“Mr. Rogers, where was Miss Shelton when you left on your trip to the liquor store?”
“In the bed,” he said without any hesitation whatsoever, as if everyone should have known this.
“Mr. Rogers, How many beds do you have in your trailer?”
“Just one,” he answered.
“So Mr. Rogers, Miss Shelton was in your bed when you left?”
“No further questions at this time, Your Honor. But I reserve the right to recall the witness.”
He continued, “Now I would like to call Miss Shelton back to the stand Your Honor.”
Rogers stepped down and Shelton took the stand, admonished that she was still under oath.
“Miss Shelton,” he began, “Was it not your sworn testimony that you were sleeping on the couch when the defendant allegedly ‘broke in’ to the trailer?”
“Yessir,” she responded, almost inaudibly, while studying the floor.
“Then how do you explain the testimony of Mr. Rogers, stating you were in his bed?”
“Uh…” she spoke rapidly now, “I was in his bed for just a little while, but only because I was a little drunk and he said I should lie down… in his bed while he went to the store… He said I would sleep better there…”
“So you were in his bed when the defendant arrived?”
“Oh no! I had done woke up and moved to the couch to watch some TV and then I fell back asleep.”
“By your own admission, you were in a drunken stupor, yet you decided to get up and watch… some TV?”
“And what, Miss Shelton, were you watching on TV?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Is it conceivable, Miss Shelton, that you were having a sexual relationship with Mr. Rogers, and having been discovered by the defendant, you and Mr. Rogers decided to implicate him in a robbery to cover up your illicit affair?”
“Objection!” Yelled the prosecutor. “This has no relevance to the complaint.”
“Sustained,” said the judge.
So we kicked that bit about for a while. I suggested that I agreed it was irrelevant and nobody’s business if she were ‘cheating’ on her fiancé. Roughly one third of the jury disagreed with me. And they had some good points vis-à-vis her credibility. If she had perjured herself on that, how much of her story could we believe?
My argument was that it was perfectly understandable that a young woman would try to cover that up, given the fact that she was, in fact engaged. Furthermore, I went on, she is not on trial here for her ‘alleged’ infidelity. Does not change the facts regarding assault and robbery. I got some harsh push back on that.
‘Crew Cut’ (who was initially against the defendant) began to waiver:
“You know,” he said. “If she is lying about that, good chance she is lying about everything else.”
(‘Oh please!’ I remember thinking, ‘Please do not tell us she needs to ‘Find Jesus’ too.’)
I argued that I could forgive her that one perjury, given her circumstance.
“Okay,” I said. “Let’s shelve that one for the time being and move on. We can come back to it later.”
One of the jurors, a thirty-ish guy, who wore a John Deer gimme-cap with dirty blond hair poking out from either side piped up and said,
“Why d’y’all suppose Johnson waited until Rogers was not home to fetch the gun he was supposed to have permission to borrow? He had to had know’d Rogers weren’t home. I mean, his truck was gone, Right? Would you just go ta sumbody’s house late at nite, and git a gun without them a-bein’ there? Did he say he had a key? Doan think so. I thank he done was watchin’ to see when Rogers left, then went in ta steal that gun an’ whut-ever else he wanted.”
This, we all agreed, was a valid point.
We turned our attention back to the photos of the door, but really still could not come to any consensus as to whether or not the door appeared to have been kicked in or just a victim of ‘Trailer-Trash’ living. So we threw the photo evidence out of our deliberations.
Putting aside the testimony of Johnson and Miss Shelton for a while, we discussed in some length the testimony (and more importantly) the persona and character of Mr. Rogers. Most did agree that out of the three, he came across as the most genuine, most affable, and most believable.
Fully half of the jury members were smokers and they begged me to send a note to the judge via the bailiff, asking permission for a smoke break. I scribbled out a note:
“Your Honor, we respectfully request to be allowed a cigarette break.” I opened the door, motioned to the bailiff and handed him the note.
Five minutes later, he returned my note to me, with the judge’s hand-written response Sharpie written in the bottom:
OK, now we were pissed; We were really pissed at his curt response; even the non-smokers were pissed, as we had all begun to bond by this point, and we were stressed.
More to come…
Thanks for reading.