If you come in my cage I'll eat you too!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jury duty, chapter one

One of my workmates commented today that I do not seem like my old self. I have to admit this is true. Jury duty took it out of me. It was a hellacious experience. In fact, I think it is cruel and unusual punishment to subject good people to such stress as we, the jury, suffered. I will hereby relate the experience in chapters. Every time I tell the story of the trial to someone my heart starts squeezing up and I feel as if I am about to expire, so I will give it to you in small doses. It's an interesting, if awful, story.

I am going to change the names of the people involved. I do not want anyone to google the defendent's and witnesses' actual names, aliases, or the gangsta names they go by. At the end of the story you will learn why. Each of the names I will use are close in meaning and/or sound to the actual monikers and given names of the people involved.

"G-code" is the gangsta code against snitching. "Licks" are crimes drug addicts do to stir up money for drugs, often in the wee hours of the morning when addicts are coming down from their highs, or "crashing." They break into ATMs and pay phones, engage in petty theft, stuff like that.

I did not expect to get picked for the jury. We went through 2 days of selection and I was picked at nearly the end of the last day of selection. The District Attorney, Gia Santiago is a tiny, cute, twenty something Filipina-American. The Defense Attorney Mr Wong, is a fifty something Chinese-American who looks like an Eskimo wearing a fancy Italian suit. Both of the attorneys dismissed and dismissed potential jurors until the room was near emptied out. Many of the minorities were dismissed because they had been victims of crime. They were dismissed for cause during Voir Dire. A woman from India said that criminals had more rights than victims. A man from China said he knew the defendent was guilty.

Many Hispanic jurors had relatives in jail or who were police officers, possibly both in the same family. One Hispanic woman's daughter had been raped. A Black guy had 2 nephews who had arranged a hit on someone. A Filipino man's mother had been shot and murdered. Every time the judge asked potential jurors if they had been the victims of crime a majority of people raised their hands and told of horrific experiences. I knew no one who worked in law enforcement and had never been a victim of a serious crime and I said so. I said I could be fair and impartial.

Some people felt that having tools taken from their garage made them a victim of a serious crime. It's all in how you look at things. I personally do not agree that petty theft is a serious crime. To me, a serious crime involves the loss of expensive property or being the victim of violence. I told them my dad had been arrested and charged with assault on a police officer and my aunt, his sister, had driven her car into someone's house and served time in jail for it. The judge asked me if this was a long time ago and I said 15 years. I thought about telling her that I had once gotten myself and my friends kicked out of a bowling alley for repeatedly walking on the lane, but it really was no time for levity.

They announced our names aloud as went up to sit in the jury box and asked where we lived and worked and even asked people with grown children where their children worked. They did this right in front of the defendent. I found this very irresponsible of the people in charge of the system. At one point I noticed a very beautiful, very tall Latina in the audience during Jury selection. She was there nearly the whole time. Someone noticed her and the bailiffs made her leave. I did not know what that was about at the time, but I found out later.

I got called up to the jury box after many rounds of dismissals. Just before lunch I was asked to come up and sit in alternate juror chair 13. Lucky 13. I knew I was in big trouble. Then we broke for lunch. I went to work and told them I was just called into chair 13. My workmates laughed. One workmate, who hates me, told me they'd never pick me in a million years. Boy was he wrong!

After lunch the attorneys continued to question us. They asked us if we had any problem convicting someone on the testimony of one witness. They emphasised that over and over. They asked us if we had a problem believing people who had been car theives or prostitutes or had been convicted of felony drug possession. I didn't. Just because you lie once doesn't mean you are always lying or that you lie about everything, all the time.

When neither attorney asked me follow up questions after I answered the stock questions I knew I was in trouble. The DA dismissed another juror from chair 3 and the judge told me to move into it. I was juror number 3. They picked 3 alternates, one of whom was an anarchist who said he did not believe in our justice system and could never judge anyone. He was royally pissed to have been selected. The other one was the only Hispanic juror, a very nice woman and the third was a Chinese Christian who worked for the post office and smiled all the time. This was on Thursday and the judge told us the trial would start on the following Monday. I went back to work, mind you I work across the street from the courthouse.

Monday morning, at 9:30, the attorneys made their opening statements. The defendent, an Hispanic male, Roberto Navarro, aka Chato Loco, was acused of car jacking, shooting in the leg, and causing great bodily injury to one African-American male, Mr Sam Hendrickson, aka Boo. He was charged with 2nd degree robbery. Having been previously convicted of felony marijauna possession he was also accused of being a felon in possesion of a deadly weapon.

Boo tesitified for one and a half days on the witness stand. His story is this, on or about March 5, 06, he went over to a friend's, (Bam Bam, who was in jail) girlfriend's (Tiffany) house to help her move. (The street Tiffany lived on is a block from where my parents lived when I was born) Boo went over late in the afternoon in his 1986 green Ford Bronco. Bo bought the Bronco for $200 in Dec,2005, at a Volunteers of America auction. He paid another $40 in processing fees. His Bronco had $4,000 rims on it and contained twenty speakers, his mother's ashes, his clothes, his Ipod and all his worldly goods in it, as Boo was homeless at the time and a meth addict. Boo was a plumber and when he worked he could make 5 or 6 hundred dollars a day. He admitted he had a $50 a day meth habit. He had been convicted of car theft and being a felon and having a gun on his person and making false statements to the police.

Boo met the defendent at Tiffany's house along with about 11 other people. Everyone was doing meth and after they moved Tiffany's stuff(Boo says he put a mattress on top of the Bronco) some of the people asked if they could stay overnight in the empty house. Boo said everyone was crashing, coming down from the meth and it was a bad scene at the empty house and shit was getting weird and as a result he wanted to leave. It was 4:30 AM. As Boo left, Chato, who had been intoduced to Boo as Willy's cousin, asked if Boo would give him a ride to Santa Rita Street. Boo said he would. As they drove around they decided that coming down from meth was a bitch and that they needed some money for more meth. Boo started telling Chato what kind of "licks" he did to get quick cash, such as breaking into the machines at gas stations with a drill.

Chato told Boo that he liked to car jack people. Boo said he didn't like that one bit and was getting pissed and did not like Chato's action and wanted to get him out of the car, but he knew Chato had a brother who sold good dope. He liked his brother's dope, so he didn't want to get rude but he really wanted him out of his car. Chato told Boo to stop at a friend's house. Chato went in to the yard of the house and came back with a drill. The drill had the wrong bit for what Boo wanted it for. They went to a gas station anyway to try it but the air machine was too close to the cashier and it was getting light so Boo just dropped Chato at Santa Rita street.

To be continued...


At 9:36 AM , Anonymous RaLph said...

Don't forget to finish telling us about the "very beautiful, very tall Latina in the audience during Jury selection."


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