Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reasonable Doubt

I'm done with jury duty. Since we turned in a verdict, I can talk/post about the case. The only restriction is that I can't sell any information about the case for 90 days. Since no one pays to read my random thoughts...

It was criminal case with 5 counts: two 2nd degree robbery, two assault with deadly weapon, and one illegal possession of a firearm (defendant is a convicted felon). Jury selection took until ~10:30am on Tuesday and the prosecution called three witnesses (victim plus two Santa Ana police officers). We thought there would be more witnesses but the lawyers gave their closing arguments this morning and we started deliberations at ~11am. The first poll was 10 for not guilty and 2 undecided. Yup, the prosecution's case was that weak.

Anyway, the facts of the case was pretty simple. Two guys were riding their bikes at 1am on Main Street in Santa Ana when they were approached by two other guys with guns. There was some conversation about Lopers (Santa Ana street gang) and the two guys on bikes were hit over the head with guns. One victim said he passed out for a few seconds and when he woke up, their bikes were gone. They flagged down a Santa Ana police officer and while they were telling the story, the defendant was seen riding down the same street on a bike. The police gave chase, cordoned off the neighborhood (more like one small block), and found him hiding under a SUV after 45 minutes. The case basically hinged on whether the victim's ID was credible. I thought that there was a good possibility that the defendant was the assailant but there was some doubt. I think most of the jurors felt the same so we reluctantly voted not guilty on all counts.

It was an interesting experience. As I mentioned before, both lawyers were not that great. I found out today that the defense attorney was from the Public Defender's office and she seemed very young and inexperienced. I was surprised that some stuff I see on TV shows was actually true. Both police officers came across as arrogant and it was very obvious that the 2nd officer didn't like the public defender at all. All the jurors (me included) took our task very seriously. It was mostly a white crowd (include the judge and both attorneys) with three Asians in the jury. Since both the witness/victim and defendant were Latino, as well as both officers, you would expect some racial prejudice/commentary during deliberations. In fact, there was very little discuss about that other than admitting that we didn't know much about the Latino gang culture; the focus was pretty much on the facts and the law as instructed by the judge.

We were done deliberating at around 3:30pm. After the verdict was read, both lawyers met the jury in the hallway for a quick Q&A both ways. We felt that there was a lot of evidence lacking and didn't enjoy having to make a decision based on so few facts. The prosecutor told us that one of the victim/witness was an illegal so he took off to Mexico right after the incident and could not return for trial. We then turned in our badges and I was back at work by 4:30pm. Other than the fact that I have to burn 3 vacation days (maybe I can negotiate it down to two), it was a pretty good experience...

Oh yeah, hopefully we didn't let a criminal back on the street.

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