Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Guilty Verdict

This afternoon my client was found guilty of possessing a firearm. This case has been discussed before.

I had bad facts. A gun was found in the trunk of my client's car. The only positive spin I could think to put on this was: since the gun was in the bottom of a closed gym bag in the trunk, my client didn't know it was there. If the case was to be won, it had to be by superb argument.

In Illinois, knowingly, is in the statute. One has to knowingly possess the firearm to be guilty. Knowingly can only be proven through circumstantial evidence. The state's argument was that since the gun was in his car he knew it was there. I argued that was too big of a leap.

There was also testimony from the arresting officer that my client allegedly said he bought the gun like it was. This was disputed.

I had to put my client on. My theory (the real story) was that someone had borrowed my client's car regularly for two weeks before the arrest. I had no other way to get that before the jury.

The client had a conviction in another state over ten years ago. I brought that out on direct. He testified he didn't know about the gun or the gym bag. He hadn't seen either. But when shown the gun and bag he thought he knew how they got there: the person borrowing his car. But he never told the police officer he had purchased the gun or knew anything about it.

He didn't tell the cops he thought he knew who put that gun in his trunk. Doing so might have implicated that person in another matter. And it was a close family member. My client took the case.

Today on cross-examination, the prosecutor pressed him to reveal who the mystery person was. My client would not tell them. He didn't snitch. And the jury may have punished him for it.

For what's it worth, my client, though a convicted felon, has more integrity and character than most people I have ever met. He got into trouble when he was young. He did his time. And he came out of prison positive and has worked ever since.

Everything was fine until this gun was found seven years later. This case has been pending for over a year. At no time has he even considered snitching. Personally, I applaud that. Has his refusal to reveal the true culprit frustrated justice? Academically, yes. But some things are more important. Like family. Like not being a rat.

I learned a lot from this case. I learned that bad facts can be hard to argue around. I learned that not every case is winnable. I learned that most people will believe a cop over a convicted felon, which isn't a shocker.

This was a case I wasn't supposed to win. But I never accepted that. David took down Goliath. While I knew the facts were working against me, I had some room to argue.

Now that I have lost, it feels horrible. I can accept losing at spades or video games. But losing a case that you have invested so much time, effort, and emotion into is terrible. It felt like a part of me died.

Maybe I am too much of an idealist, but I hate seeing people going away for the wrongdoings of others. That really bothers me and I don't think enough people care.

But the most valuable lesson I take from this case is that sometimes doing the right thing can hurt and cost dearly.


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