Does anyone remember when I got jumped? Well it was 18 months ago. The trial was postponed three times and it finally got underway on Wednesday. Let me tell you about my dealings with the court system.
So, Tuesday I left work and drove straight down to Pittsburgh to stay at Steve’s place. We got up at like 6:45 and headed down to the courthouse. We arrived around 8 a.m.
They make you go to the witness room and hang out for about an hour. We see the witness (Tim) and a little bit later the arresting officer (OW). We make our way to our courtroom and wait outside for our assistant district attorney (ADA). ADA gets there and tells us that the defendant has decided on a jury trial. We have to wait for them to pick the jury.
By 11 o’clock it seems that nothing has happened and ADA comes back and informs us that the jury will be picked on Thursday. Another day wasted at the courthouse. We meet with ADA and go over the strategy and he has us go over the events of the night. We head back to Steve’s place after getting some food.
We get to the courthouse around 10:30. They have started picking the jury, but it is slow going. Tim, OW, Steve, and I head to lunch. We come back and ADA informs us that they still need to pick four jurors. Ugh. We stand around until about 4 o’clock.
Finally the trial begins, opening statements are made. We have to wait outside. Steve gets called in and begins his testimony. He testifies for fifty minutes (we timed it). He comes out and says the defense attorney (who apparently the defendant’s parents mortgaged their house to pay for) tore him apart. This makes me slightly nervous.
ADA tells us that this judge might go as late as 8:00 p.m., which is good because Steve and Tim have already missed enough work due to the case. He then comes out and says the judge decided to rest for the day and begin again on Friday.
We leave the courthouse and head home, getting stuck in rush hour traffic. We go to the mall because I was out of clothes. I decided to buy a new suit (the county gave me plenty of money for driving down). We then head to Smokey Bones and eat a good dinner on the county’s dime. Why not, Steve drove everyday, I was sleeping on his couch, least I could do was treat him to a good dinner.
We arrive at the courthouse 8:30, and find a huge line to get in. Apparently Friday is DUI day or something. We finally get through the metal detectors and some guy asks a sheriff if this is the third floor. She laughs at him because he is stupid.
We head to the courtroom and ADA tells us the order we will go in. I am to be third behind Mike (the accomplice who turned his friend in) and Tim. My time finally comes and I head into the courtroom.
I am very nervous. ADA asks me to go over what happened that night and I do so. He then has me identify the attacker, which I do. The defense attorney gets his chance. He asks questions that are similar to ADA’s, yet he says them in a very disbelieving tone. For example, ADA asked if I was drinking. Defense attorney asks it this way “Would you say you were drunk, or were you FLAT OUT drunk?” I tell him that I was drunk.
The worst part is that he constantly switches gears, he asks a question and then the next question is totally unrelated. I know that he is trying to throw me off, but it is not going to work, I am not some moron.
I come out of the courtroom and Steve says I was only in there for seventeen minutes. Interesting. OW goes in and he is in there for another 45 minutes. The prosecution rests.
The defense is waiting for a character witness, so they take a five minute break (actually lasts 15 minutes). The witness shows up (he is some kind of private investigator), but the defense does not use him, so the defense rests.
We are allowed inside to hear the closing arguments. Defense attorney goes first. He is good, he makes grand gestures, he talks about how reasonable doubt works, he makes an analogy to buying a house. He explains how each witness (and victim) could be confused about the attacker. Hell, if I was on the jury he would have had me sold.
Then it is ADA’s turn. I was nervous about him. He is young, most likely younger than me, probably fresh our of law school. He tells us later that this was his first case with actual victims, usually he does plea bargains and trials for gun charges and whatnot.
He gives a very good closing statement. He also explains reasonable doubt to the jury and says that they do not need to be 100% sure, but that with the evidence provided by the commonwealth, that they have a puzzle. And if you lose a few pieces of the puzzle, you can still tell what the picture is, and that is the same with this case.
He then closes the whole thing with turning the whole “the defendant is the victim of misidentification” by saying “there are only two victims in this trial, and they are over there.” He points at us. I get chills.
The judge now explains each charge and how they are to determine guilt. It is the most boring moment of my life. Some jurors are nodding off. I will explain court time in a little bit.
The jury heads out to deliberate. We go outside for a smoke. We come back inside and bullshit with OW, he is a funny guy. We discuss how a bunch of the jurors are really hot. Fun times. The jury comes back around 4 o’clockish.
Foreman: Charge of Aggravated Assault, Not Guilty.
My thought: Okay, maybe they did not feel he tried to kill us, they will hit him with simple assault.
Foreman: Charge of Simple Assault, Not Guilty.
It feels like someone hit me in the stomach with a sledge hammer.
Foreman: Charge of Robbery, Not Guilty. Charge of Theft, Not Guilty. Charge of Disorderly Conduct, Not Guilty…
I am shocked, I cannot think of how this can happen. Where is justice? Why does the court system suck so bad? I mean, not guilty? This guy beats the living crap out of us, sends us to the hospital, and they believe we have mistaken his identity. Let me tell you something, when someone stands over you demands your phone and then hits you again, you remember that face.
We leave the courtroom and talk with ADA, he is clearly upset. We shake hands with him and tell him he did a good job. He admitted that he should have done some things differently, and I hope that this was a good learning experience for him. I hope the best for him and if I ever see him out in the city I will definitely buy him a drink.
Assistant district attorneys do not get enough credit, they do not make great money, which is why they usually use the position as a stepping stone. Sadly though, they are needed. The judge talked about how the jury was to be commended for doing an important civic duty, well I think ADA should be commended. He was seeking justice for a crime. He may not have won, but there will be others and hopefully if he learned some tactic from this case that helps him put someone else away, then I guess it was not all for nothing.
As of now, I am bitter. I am angry. Most of all, I am emotionally drained. My faith in people make smart decisions is at an all-time low. The evidence was there, yet a high-priced lawyer can make it seem like the evidence was tenuous at best. The say Lady Justice is blind, but the joke is that she is a just an expensive whore.
They tell you to be at the courthouse at a certain time, say 8 a.m. They make you sit around until 9. Then you hurry to another room, and they make you wait. They say that closing arguments and the explanation of charges will take an hour, they take about an hour and a half. It is very frustrating.
I understand that the defendant has the rights. However, how shitty does that feel? If Steve and I got stuck in traffic, and were running late, the judge would have a fit. The defendant’s one character witness is running late and we take a break. If OW or any of us would want to postpone the trial, it would be a major hassle, yet the defendant can postpone it multiple times. Actually OW said that if he needs to postpone it, he better have an excuse like “my wife died today.”
I met some great people because of this trial. OW is an outstanding police officer and has my respect. He seems like a great father and someone that we should be proud to have wearing a badge. The same goes for Tim, he came to court everyday because he wanted to see justice. He did not know us, yet he took off work to try and do whatever he could for the case. Again, the jury gets all the thanks, but I would like to thank Tim. He could have closed his blinds and just pretended it was not happening, but he did not, he called the police and described what he saw happening.
The defendant has another case coming up. I do not know all the details, but it sounds pretty bad and he might be looking at jail time for it as well. Although, I am sure his lawyer will do the same stunts. Part of me hopes this lawyer pumps his family for all their money and he goes to jail anyways.
I also wonder if this (coupled with the fact that he has a newborn and wife now) will wake him up and make him become a responsible human being. Maybe he will settle down and not harm others. That would be a good thing, unfortunately I do not believe that will happen. He just beat the system, he thinks he is invincible. I am sure he will be bragging to people about how he got away with it. I am also sure that he will eventually end up in jail. I just hope it is not because he kills someone. I hope those jurors that let him walk today can live with that.