Cheap Like Your Mom

Eclectic. I think that pretty much describes it. Yep. Eclectic.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Not Guilty

So I won a trial this past week, which is always a great feeling. It was a Criminal Mischief charge, which for those not in any law based profession means vandalism. The Prosecutor was accusing my guy of breaking out someone's passenger side window. Essentially, my guy and his friend were invited over by a third friend to his new apartment. The problem was it was 1 a.m., and the third friend's girlfriend wasn't having it, because the baby needed to sleep. So she met them outside and started yelling at my guy's friend. My guys friend started yelling back, the third friend didn't appreciate him yelling at his girlfriend, and a fist-fight ensued. My guy actually broke up the fight, and took his friend, who was now bleeding from the head, to the hospital. They were saying that my guy had taken his friend with the head wound to the car, but stopped before taking him to the hospital to handle some more important things, namely smashing in their truck window with a jack-handle.

Their relevant evidence consisted of two witnesses and some pictures of the damage. To impeach someone is essentially to call BS on them, and it is incredibly satisfying to be able to pull it off when someone is on the stand and absolutely full of it. For example... Their first witness, the girlfriend, gets on the stand and starts testifying about how she didn't start the argument, my guy's friend started grabbing her by the arms and shaking her when she had politely asked him to leave because it was too late for visitors, and then went on about how crazy the fight was that my guys friend had gotten into with her boyfriend, friend three. So I went ahead and showed her the part in the police report where she had told the officer that there hadn't been any physical altercation, only verbal. She said that the officer must have written her report wrong. We'll see. She then proceeded to talk about how she had seen my guy do it with her own eyes. So again I showed her the police report, where she had told the officer that she had returned to the apartment after the fight, but before the damage occured. She responded that what she meant when she said that she returned to the apartment was that she walked over to the apartment, but didn't actually go inside, she stayed in the doorway and watched my guy do it. She tried to tell me that the officer had neglected to put in her report that she was an eyewitness to the damage occuring. I call BS. There is no way the officer forgot to put down in her report that she saw him do it. The impeachment of the other witness was not nearly as exciting, as she only changed her story a little bit from "I saw him do it," to "I saw him standing next to the truck with the jack-handle in his hand, and I heard shattering glass, but there was a tree in my way, so I didn't actually see it happen." As it turns out though, the officer was my best witness, because there was no one else who could have definitively testified to their previous statements and showed that they were changing things.

Oddly enough, none of that was relevant. I thought it would come down to whether they believed the state's witnesses or mine. It apparently did not. The jurors actually talked to the bailiff after court, which they are allowed to do if they want, it's just that they also have the absolute right not to talk to anybody about it ever again, which is why we are always ecstatic whenever we get even the tiniest glimpse into how a juror's mind operates. This information is about fourth or fifth hand, so I can't really vouch for it's veracity, but I was told the conversation went a little something like this. They asked the bailiff whether he felt they had made the right decision in finding Not Guilty. He bluntly responded "No." So they explained their decision to him. It had nothing to do with the burden of proof, or witness credibility, or clever legal arguments, of course. They felt that my guy would not have had time to do it, and the evidence picture looked staged. As far as the time, I am not sure how that would have even crossed into their heads. There was no definitive time for when my guy and his friend arrived, just sometime between 12 and 1 a.m., and the officer arrived at 1:30. Either they were saying that this wasn't enough time to get there, look around for the new apartment, get in an argument, get in a fight, break up the fight, drag injured friend to the car, and leave, or they were saying that there's no way he would have taken the time to stop and break a window on his way to take his buddy, who's bleeding from the head, to the hospital. I suppose I'll never be sure which. The argument about the picture being staged I was excited about though, because jurors are known for making their decisions are unpredictable, and based on things that, to us as attorneys, are completely off the wall, and yet this was actually an argument that I had made in my closing. The jack-handle was sitting in the car-seat in a manner that didn't make sense. It's handle was down on the seat cushion and the metal end with the prongs was up and leaning against the arm of the car seat. I only argued it for 30 to 45 seconds, because it is incredibly difficult to get a jury to believe the "I was framed" defense, but if the jack-handle lande that way, it meant that whoever was holding it had to have been holding the metal end with the prongs in it, and hit the window with the plastic handle end. Whichever end went in first, it only makes sense, would fall to the ground first. Anyway, a win is a win, so I was very excited all week, I hope everyone else had a great week too. Peace.