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2012-04-10 10:00 PM
As The Juror in Seat Number Five, I sat in the middle of the back row of the jury box, with four people on either side and five more in front. I had a great view of the judge, but I couldn't see the defendant at all, and I had to stretch a bit to see the witnesses on the stand. And even though they had a microphone, some were mumblers.
The first witness the prosecutor called was Lucy, the ex-girlfriend of defendant Spike. Even though the jurors were forbidden to chew gum (something about a recent cleaning fiasco in the courtroom) or bring in food (the judge cited a "vermin incident"), Lucy was chomping away on something during her time on the stand. She also repeatedly said "uh-huh" and "mm-hmm," forcing the judge to remind her, over and over, that the court reporter couldn't record that response. "Yes," she would say, and then go right back to "uh-huh" and "mm-hmm."
It was Lucy's garage door that was kicked in. We know that happened because there were photographs. The facts of the damage to the garage door and the popped tires were not in dispute. But Lucy had a swagger that said she was nobody's "victim." It could be that she was putting up a front for the benefit of Spike, in case he should think about harassing her again.
She was asked about the relationship, which had a lot of stops and re-starts over the course of three or four years. She was asked about Spike's behavior since the last breakup, several months before the incident, and she told about receiving unwanted texts and photos from him. She blocked his number, and we never got a clear explanation of how his texts kept getting through.
Lucy also said that Spike had been seen driving up and down her street, which was about a mile from where he was now living with his sister. And he had knocked on the door in the middle of the night. She said he scared her. Some of the men on the jury had a hard time believing this, because of how she came across. None of the women had any doubt that a person could be scared for her life and still seem tough as nails.
That night, Lucy and her current boyfriend, Casper, had been sitting on the living room couch, drinking wine and watching television. She had fallen asleep but woke up, somewhat disoriented, to the sound of the banging on the garage door. Her roommate had been sleeping upstairs, and when he came down to see what was happening, she said, "It's Spike." She never saw Spike, but she said the roommate went out on the porch in his boxers, then ran back upstairs to get dressed. He came down and went after Spike in his SUV (the tires on his work truck having been slashed).
If she didn't see him, how did she know who it was? She knew it was Spike because of his patterns of behavior, and because earlier that night he had texted her from the Thursday night market, saying "Something is going to go down tonight." He had also sent her a photo of his hand (or someone's hand) holding a beer. That's why, when she called 911, she told the operator that he had been drinking. She also told the operator what vehicle he was driving, even though no one had seen a vehicle. He had run off down the street and disappeared.
It came out that he had, in past incidents, parked around the corner out of the view of the house. It wasn't supposed to come out, and when it did the judge had it stricken from the record. The jury disregarded it and never discussed it, except in the theoretical sense. "What if he parked around the corner?" we asked each other. But I'm pretty sure we all remembered. (Still, this had no bearing on our decision, so don't go looking for grounds for an appeal here, okay?)
That was pretty much the extent of Lucy's testimony. At the end of the trial, in his closing argument, the prosecutor told us we shouldn't disregard any witness's testimony if we believed it, even if they were a little rough around the edges and maybe, let's say, chewed gum on the witness stand. This was outside the official jury instructions read to us by the judge, but I took it to heart anyway. I know people who would probably make bad witnesses, even if they were telling the truth. I also know people who can tell a believable lie. Our job was to sort out the difference.
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