Sunday, November 7, 2010
Days 3-4: THB goes to court
Day 3: November 3, 2010, SF Civic Center
Pics: jury duty notice, sunrise and bike parked at Bart, civic center art from a different viewpoint, utility boxes (including a giant one open and being worked on in the back of new Target near the loft and one with graffiti), Hunan, Oakland murals, sofa free
Today, Wednesday, is the parade and celebration in civic center for the Giants, from 11am to 2pm. Bart at 7:30 is crowded, and it turns out most of the people are going to civic center. That seems a bit early, and when we approach the open area, there are already 3-5,000 people around (at 8am!!), trying to get good viewing spots.
The jury is to be ready to start at 8:30; at 9am, there are only 12 of us and the court clerk comes in to say the other two are on their way. One of the missing women shows up at 9:40, she has been stuck in and around civic center looking for available parking (she lives in Oakland, so parking near Bart and coming in that way sure seemed better than driving; parking is paid for, so some people want to stick with cars since it is free to drive). The clerk then comes in and announces that the other no-show is now sick, and the judge has decided to promote alternate #1 (HEY, THAT’S THB!) to be juror number 3, and into the court we go. It even means that now THB sits in the seat reserved for number 3.
First, the judge advises us that a witness that was supposed to testify today is not able to be in court today, so we will be in session on Thursday, a change from the original schedule. This clearly causes most of the jurors some distress, since they had already made plans (like going to work, scheduling appointments, resting up for Friday’s court duty, etc.) and now need to change them.
Chuck calls a few witnesses, mostly to show that he had many reasons for being out of sorts: abused as a child, drug user since 13, in jail since 20, raped while in Santa Rita jail, suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the rape, and then, when he returned over a year later to jail, was put in the same cell where the rape allegedly occurred, causing more emotional distress, and that he might be transgender. The Marathoner uses Chuck’s witnesses (as well as her own when Chuck recalls them) to show that maybe Chuck is making up most of stuff that has come up in the last few years.
Surprisingly, as we near the end of the morning session at noon, the defense rests. This also surprises Judge Walker! The jury retires to the jury room for about a half hour and then the clerk sends us off to lunch. THB has a decent turkey burger and iced tea in the cafeteria (to avoid the giant Giant crowds, swarming a block away), $7.50.
Back in the courtroom around 1:45 where the judge lets us know that we will still be on for Thursday morning at 8:30, this time to get his instructions and closing statements and deliberation. We don’t know what happened to the witness that couldn’t make it today. We’re free to go…we’ll, if being
set free means being released to the streets where somewhere upwards of 200,000 people are just leaving the Giants victory celebration. Bart is jammed, so THB decides to walk down Market Street (closed except for police motorcycle motorcades) to Fifth Street, where he joins the crowds in Bart, hops a train, is home to ride the elliptical at 3pm.
Day 4: November 4, 2010, SF Civic Center
Another gorgeous warm day in the Bay Area. And, fortunately, just another day on Bart! After having my camera confiscated today as I enter the building (and not yesterday), I am up in the jury room at 8am. The jury is fully assembled at 8:30, by 9:15 we’re in the courtroom for instructions from Judge Walker. That takes 15 minutes and then the Marathoner gives her closing statement, 30 minutes, followed by the rambling closing of Chuck, 15 minutes, and then another few words from the judge and we’re back in the jury room for deliberations at 10:40.
THB would like to say there was some heavy duty lifting and analysis, and that would not be the truth. Most of us were ready to vote at 10:42. After selecting juror #1 as foreperson (isn’t that an awful title?), we make our way through the four counts and THB’s contribution is to remind the others that the defendant was not testifying while interrogating witnesses, so anything he said was not admissible and thus not to be considered (it wasn’t easy to make this distinction while listening in court, a lot easier to do once we’re in deliberations, at least for THB).
After 18 minutes, we’ve voted four times and the defendant is guilty on all charges. We send off the message to the judge that we’re done, and at 11:30 we get to file back into court one more time for the reading of the verdict. The judge thanks us for or service and says that for anyone who waits, he will be in to discuss the case, answer questions, and thank us personally for our service. This turns out to be the best part of the whole process!
Judge Walker is a very nice guy, seems compassionate, and very open. We find out the following:
• The judge thanked us and admitted that we should consider ourselves lucky to have been on such a slam dunk of a case, wasting our talents as we were a terrific jury (yeah, right!).
• He had Chuck in his courtroom before, and for this trial thought the idea of a defendant representing himself and using a diminished capacity defense was just daffy. He counseled Chuck to reconsider, and thought Chuck wasn’t so bad, given the (low) expectations.
• Chuck’s advisory assistant was actually an attorney from the public defender’s office who had represented him in the past. Given the representation rules, she was not allowed to speak in court other than to whisper with Chuck.
• The witness that was never called was Chuck’s mom! She was in court today, and it seemed likely that it was her; we couldn’t tell for sure until the judge confirmed it. The judge figured that she was there on the pretense of testifying so that he could see her for a short while on the court’s dime (they paid for her transportation and hotel room the night before). They did get 10 minutes together while the jury was deliberating.
• It turned out that it was the Marathoner’s first case and (per the judge) she had a rocky start and then got her sea legs under her. Most of the jurors had surmised as much. The physical therapist thought her posture was terrible.
• Chuck was going to call himself as a witness (remember, as an attorney none of what he said in court counted as actual testimony, though he talked a lot and hurt himself most of the time with his own admissions). Judge Walker said that Chuck had two options: interview himself in Q&A format (the prosecution’s preference so they could object to questions) or narrative (Chuck’s preference). The judge said that he was going to play it by ear (meaning, THB thinks, that he would bend over backwards to give Chuck a chance to explain himself) if and when the time came. Too bad, it would’ve been a thriller:
- Chuck the lawyer: So, what was your state of mind when you wrote these vile, disgusting, threatening letters and plopped them in the USPO?
- Chuck the defendant: Well, I was highly agitated, depressed, strung out, raped, pillaged, and didn’t understand the consequences of my actions. Did I mention I was abused as a child, some people think I am delusional, and I believe I am capable of writing the most invasive and ugly letters to vulnerable women only because of all these other factors?
- Judge: Marathoner, your witness…
- Prosecution: No further questions, your honor.
• The guy I thought might be a bailiff/judge-security turns out to be one of the two law clerks working for Judge Walker (that explains the suit and tie and following the judge wherever he goes)
• Judge Walker thinks that we do have hardened criminals and they should be in jail, and that many other people in jail would be better off if in a treatment center for mental health. Putting the latter group in jail pretty much guarantees that they will stay criminals rather that get the kind of help they need. Chuck appears to be one of those that needed mental health support. However, he did walk away from New Bridge and, within a few months, abandon his halfway house to head up to his mom and steal a car, gun and money from someone in his mom’s town, only took him 5 days to get that done. The judge did not think Chuck would carry out the threats he made (not sure the recipients would agree with him)
The trial is over, THB heads to the Hunan for lunch, hot and sour chicken and rice, $12 (with half saved for a weekend lunch).
Oh, and THB made $160 + around $20 in transportation costs (time to go back to work as a professional US District juror?). As one of the jurors asked: Are they taking out withholding or do we get to keep it all because it is payment from the US government?