Friday, April 23, 2010

What Happened?

My client was convicted today of first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm for the shooting of a second person.

The jury deliberated for 45 minutes. One would think when a verdict is reached so quickly, that the case wasn't real close. When I heard a verdict had been reached everyone around me thought it was a not guilty. I did so too. Our joint assumption was based on the evidence presented during the trial.

No one, myself included, thought the case was a slam dunk for the state. We all thought if there was any slam dunking to be made, it was by the defense. The prosecutor thought the same thing. He didn't say as much to me, but it appeared so when he heard the verdict was back already.

When the verdict was read I was sure the clerk misspoke. I really did. Sitting here a couple hours later, I am still in shock. How did this happen? Why did this happen?

Next comes loser's self-analysis. It wasn't a perfect trial. I did make mistakes. But I think I did a good job. Everyone around me, client and his family included, said I did a good job. The prosecutor told me the same thing.

There were two defendants in this case and two juries. The other defendant's attorney is a very experienced assistant public defender who probably has more murder trial experience than anyone in the county. She also said I did a good job and was equally shocked at the verdict.

I am not going to discuss the facts of the case. It wouldn't be appropriate. But I really don't think a reasonable jury could have came up with this verdict on this case in 45 minutes. I just don't.

There was some goofy crap going on with my jury from the get go. I picked my jury on Tuesday afternoon. Like all juries in my jurisdiction, we picked 12 jurors and 2 alternates. The way this works is that all 14 hear the evidence and when closing arguments are done, the 2 alternates are dismissed.

The trial started Wednesday morning. Before we get started one juror calls in with a story about being at the hospital with a sick relative. She never comes to court. Now alternate 1, is juror 12. During lunch on Wednesday we are told another juror has travel plans on Friday and can't be here.

Since it appeared that the evidence would be done on Thursday, we decided that she could be dismissed as long as we would still have 12 on Friday morning to hear closing arguments and deliberate. But on Thursday a woman claimed her husband was sick and should couldn't come on Friday. It just so happens she was alternate 2.

By now the judge is pretty ticked off. And so am I. I had jurors that didn't want to be there. What the hell is that?

I am sorry but you don't get to be the beneficiary of all of these great American rights, freedoms, and privileges for free. Is your life so important that three days from it are worth more than a person's right to a fair and impartial jury trial? Really? Really?

Last night before we left the judge called the woman with the sick husband into chambers. At that time we didn't know if this person was dying from terminal cancer or had a tummy ache. It turns out he's diabetic and doesn't know which foods to eat.

The judge ordered her to be in court this morning. The travel plans girl was excused. Alternate 2 is now a juror. And this morning there were 12 in the box. Phew. Or at least I thought phew.

I gave what I thought was a good closing. I had the attention of all 12 jurors. When I got done and the prosecutor stood up to rebut my argument he was quite animated and pissed off. I thought I had scored points. If not, why such a ferocious attack at what I said?

If this case would have been a 45 minute guilty verdict, I wouldn't have taken it to trial. I may still be green at trying cases, but I know a dead losing case when I see one. A 45 minute guilty verdict on a murder case is for dead losers. My client's case was no dead loser.

The jurors did not want to stick around to talk to the attorneys from either side after the verdict was read. There's a shocker. I guess their Friday afternoons are more important than at least the next 45 years of my client's life. 45 minutes for 45 years. That's rough people. Really rough.

Now I am sitting here thinking of my post-trial motion for a new trial.  I am contemplating ways that I can blame everything on me in the hope somewhere down the road this young man does get a new trial. And if that happens, I hope he gets a real jury the next time.

I ask anyone that might be reading this to do your duty as a juror should you ever have to sit and hear a case of any kind. The American system doesn't ask much of its citizens but provides so much. If the call comes, be a real American. Please.



  1. This is just crazy. It is pretty sad that someone's life was decided about in 45 minutes. Sounds like the jurors weekend was more important than making sure the right individual was punished for the crime. Was the co-defendant found guilty as well?

  2. I reread Martin Buber's I and Thou after my last loss. It made me rethink I lot of how I approach witnesses and juries. Check it out. Be sure to read the edition with a preface by Walter Kaufmann. Shoot me a note if you want more details.

    Norm Pattis

  3. A very compelling post. I've never had to appear for jury duty so far, so I have no personal experience. All I've heard are the complaints. But you can bet that when it's my turn, I won't complain.

  4. Its very bothersome that we live in a society where you are guilty until proven innocent. Yes according to the law "The evidence is always viewed in the light most favorable to the state," and guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However this mantra all goes flying out the window once a person is inconvenienced for jury duty. I worked a with a less then stellar guy who once told me, "I gave a guilty verdict to a guy charged w/murder,because I had to be at jury duty,I didn't care what was said." REALLY? This may be a biased opinion but there needs to be some kind of law,justice reform in our country. Jurors must be held accountable as well.


Please feel free to offer comments and opinions. However, if you require legal assistance please call 312-504-4554 to speak with me personally.