As it was so late in the afternoon (and we really wanted to score just one more pizza the following day), we retired for the afternoon, to return the next morning. Now, of course I thought we could make quick work of this business and not get any more pizza.
I was mistaken.
First of all, we had to sit in that musty courtroom for an hour or so, listening to the prosecutor drone on about how we needed (our civic duty) to throw the book at this kid whom we had unanimously recently convicted (Hardly unanimous, but hey! Who’s counting?)
Then we had to listen to The Defense chastise us roundly for convicting an innocent (innocent?) man.
Well, the Defense pissed me off. (Yes. My failing, but more on that later. Not something I am proud of today)
After a couple of hours of this, we retired to our ‘chambers’.
The air was not quite as contentious (almost) as it was the previous day, yet…
The minimum sentence we could pronounce was fifteen years.
Straight-away I had a more roundish number in my head: ‘Twenty’.
Hell! He would be out in seven, given good behavior and prison overcrowding.
Once again, Blue-Haired Lady was having none of this. And I did respect her emotion. Yet, damnit! That defense attorney done pissed me off (Shades of Peanut). How dare he say these words he said:
“Well, Ladies and Gentlemen of the ‘jury’ (Yes. Sarcasm was dripping, like something out of a drunken sailor’s mouth) since you have already made one ‘mistake’… do not make yet another, and give this man anything more than the minimum.”
With his sarcasm bouncing around in my head, I was bound and determined ‘he’, he being in my mind, the attorney (what an ignorant fool was I to think in any way that this ‘Council’ gave two shits about his ‘Client’) was going up for twenty and I fiercely lobbied for twenty.
Looking back now, I regret this.
Sincerely regret this.
Fifteen would have sufficed, but I stood firm and played upon the emotions and the exasperation of my fellows and got my wish.
As I said, I regret this now.
We gave him twenty.
Sorry Johnson, wherever you may be.
I am so sorry for tacking on five years for my ego, and only my ego, nothing more.
P.S. Writing this has taken much out of me. I had buried it long ago somewhere never to be felt again.
After we had all settled in with our coffees and doughnuts graciously provided by Hunt County we began our deliberation by comparing notes from the previous day’s testimony. It didn’t take me long to figure out that not everyone had the same impressions of what had transpired. Therefore the first order of business was to pull everyone closer together on the ‘facts’ we could agree upon:
The defendant, ‘Mr. Johnson’ was definitely at the scene at the time in question, approximately ten p.m.
He gained entry into the trailer
The girl, ‘Miss Shelton’ was in the trailer
The defendant did take the shotgun
The defendant was intoxicated when he was arrested
All three of the principals knew each other
Miss Shelton’s testimony was that she had been asleep on the couch when Mr. Johnson kicked in the door and upon discovering her in the house grew violent, found the gun and proceeded to yell while pointing it at her and threatening to “Blow her f*#king head off!” if she didn’t stop screaming. She further testified that he began searching the living room looking for drugs all the while keeping the gun on her.
She said Johnson kept screaming, “Where’s the f*#king dope! Where’s the f*#king dope?” Then she said after a few minutes the owner of the trailer, ‘Mr. Rogers’ came in, shouted at Johnson and ran over to her, yelling at him to “get the f*#k out of my house!” The defendant grabbed the bottle of whiskey from his hand and ran out with the gun, got in his truck and sped away, slinging mud and gravel. Rogers called the police and approximately ten minutes later they arrived.
Johnson claimed that Rogers had given him permission to borrow the gun and to come by his house that night to pick it up. He said there was no altercation.
This was flatly denied by Rodgers. It had come out during testimony that the defendant had a record of violence, which we were supposed to ignore, as the objection from the defense was sustained. It had also come out that the defendant had a back full of tattoos which displayed things like ‘cop killer’ and other unsavory images. The objection to this from the defense was also sustained, but not before Johnson had turned his back to the jury and pulled up his shirt. We were also supposed to ‘un-see’ the tattoos. Of course, I don’t think we were able to fully comply with either of these admonitions.
It had also been revealed that both the defendant and Rogers had been involved with drugs in the past.
It quickly became apparent that this was a simple case of ‘He said, She said, and He (Rogers) said’. So that is how we were to approach our deliberations. Who did we believe?
Rodgers had testified that he had been home with Miss Shelton up until approximately one hour before the alleged break in, but had gone out to purchase some whiskey before the stores closed (at nine p.m.) He ran into some buddies and stayed gone much longer than he had intended. He testified that when he finally did return sometime around ten p.m. he walked in on the defendant pointing the gun at Miss Shelton. He described her as visibly shaking and crying hysterically.
The defendant testified that when Rogers arrived he was walking out of the house with the gun he had been given permission to borrow crooked under his arm and that he had not threatened Miss Shelton or had even harsh words with her.
After the police questioned Miss Shelton and Rogers they went off in pursuit of the defendant and arrested him at eleven thirty-five. He had the shotgun in his possession and the bottle of Wild Turkey, which was about three-quarters full. He was taken to the Commerce City jail and booked on DUI.
The next day he was transferred to the Hunt County Jail and charged with the additional charges of assault and robbery.
We were shown photos of the trailer door, which did appear to have some damage, but we were also shown (by the defense) other photos of the general disrepair of the entire trailer. It was difficult to discern with certainty if the damage to the door was from someone kicking it in or just from general wear and tear and neglect.
These are the basics of the testimony.
Tomorrow I will get into the finer details and the heated deliberation.
Several years ago (before I went toIraq) I was called for Jury Selection.
My first thought was, “Damn it! I cannot afford this; I live paycheck to paycheck.” I was living in Commerce, Texas and though I had a decent and secure job, the pay did not support my lavish lifestyle: Beer, Cigarettes, a three DVD per week habit, computer games… Not to mention dog food, cat food and Lance food. Gasoline was not an issue: I had no car.
On the appointed day I dutifully showed up at the Hunt County Courthouse (in a borrowed car) along with about one hundred twenty thusly cursed potential selectees. They assembled us into a large room and passed out the questionnaires. It was quite noisy and seemed disorganized. I don’t recall any of the questions, save one: