Thursday, December 4, 2014
The Jury Got It Right
You didn't think I was going to weigh in on the mess in Ferguson, or even yesterday's fiasco in Staten Island, did you?
I like to play with fire and walk the razor's edge but I'm not about to poke that hornet's nest with a big pointy stick.
No, the jury I'm talking about is the one I chaired in an Inglewood courtroom about 5 years ago.
I had been called to jury duty many times prior, but never found a way to get inside the box. And unlike my fellow potential jurors who could spin a yarn or feign mental incompetence, I was eager to serve.
I wanted a first hand look at our dysfunctional judicial system. My experience in Inglewood did not disappoint.
Once in the leather seat, the prosecuting attorney greeted us, spent less than a minute with the pleasantries and then immediately launched into his case. He was not saving the best for last. He went straight for the jugular.
"Ladies and gentleman, I'd like you to look at this videotape."
With that he opened his laptop and hit the play button.
The screen positioned for our viewing pleasure brought up the picture in full High Definition. It was security camera footage shot from inside a convenience store, a 7-11 located just two blocks from the Inglewood Police Station. I could have covered that distance with a solid 5 iron and a good tail wind.
On the tape, we saw a large man wearing a tan polo shirt and blue shorts step behind the counter and hold a screwdriver to the back of a tiny Pakistani man who stood all of 5'4". He demanded all the money and the fresh-off-the-boat cashier complied and handed the man $32.68 cents from the register.
"Thank you, have a nice day," he said reflexively in his thick Urdu accent.
As soon as the thief ran out of the store, the Pakistani man called 911. While he was on the phone with the police he dutifully began ringing up a customer with a two Slim Jims, a bag of corn chips and a large Grape soda.
The burglar did not get far, as a cruiser was returning to base and chased the man down on a nearby street.
As open-and-shut cases go it was textbook open-and-shut. We returned a verdict in 45 minutes, a new world record the Bailiff told us.
It would have been sooner but one guy on the jury was not convinced by the videotape. His reluctance was short lived after an older African American woman on the panel started chewing him out in the most delightful public shaming I've ever witnessed.
"Did you not see the video? What kind of nonsense is coming out of yo mouth? Pick up that damn piece of paper and write guilty before I come over there and slap the stupid outta yo head."
The perpetrator, who has also served time for sexual abuse, is now sitting in a prison in Calapatria. I took the trouble to find him online. And ladies, though he won't be eligible for parole until 2019, he is available and currently looking for companionship.
Clearly, from his criminal activity, he's not the brightest bulb in the package, but he might want to rethink his movie references.