Tuesday, June 30

Episode V: The Case

So here’s what happened. Late at night, two males are walking down a residential street. A car passes them, then stops abruptly and backs up. The men walk to the rear passenger window and begin talking. Then shots are fired and the two men fall to the ground as the car speeds off. One man is dead at the scene, the other is taken to the hospital and dies. When the police stop the car a few minutes later down the road, a male driver and female passenger exit. Neither one has a weapon. They are taken into custody and the car is impounded.

Okay, I admit it. I’m bored with this. There have been so many intervening events since the trial that it just doesn’t seem all that exciting anymore. I get that way sometimes. It comes from being lazy.

Anyway, to make a long story short, this was a gang-related killing. Evidently the two men were shot because they were members of a gang in Fresno and the shooter was a Phoenix area gang member. Classic gang confrontation, but without the Jerome Robbins choreography.

We had two main eyewitnesses. One was a neighbor who saw the entire incident from her house at the corner of the intersection where the shooting took place. Very credible, but she couldn’t actually see the shooter. She did identify the car and the driver. The other eyewitness was the female passenger in the car. Real piece of work that one. Sixteen year old gang member, already had kids but ditched them that night to go over to some homey’s crib with her cousin to pound beers. She ends up taking a ride in a car with two guys, drifts in and out of “sleep,” hears gunshots behind her. She can’t (or won’t) identify the defendant as the shooter. From recorded prison phone calls to her family, the police learn the gang name of the shooter: Drifter. Her whack job, drug addled cousin testifies that she knows Drifter and identifies him as the defendant. That’s about all she is good for. The driver of the car did not testify. The defendant also did not testify.

We had hours and hours of forensic testimony. Excruciating detail about gun shot residue particles: barium, lead, and antimony, oh my! But the police never found the actual gun. We had rival gang expert testimony. (Rival, gang. Get it?) The prosecution expert was a police detective that lives here and knows the defendant. The defense expert was an academic with a chip on his shoulder, a distinct sympathy for urban youth and an antipathy for statutes defining gang activity as criminal. Guess which one I believed. We had a pompous blowhard defense expert who attempted to recreate the shooting based solely on the notes taken by the actual forensic examiners. He was convinced that based on the entry wounds of the victim and the gun shot residue found inside the car, the gun was most likely fired by the driver – two shots out the front passenger window, one shot out the rear passenger window. But he did not take any notes at all during his analysis, nor did he attempt any recreation of the crime. And he misspelled “ballistic” during his testimony.

So that’s about it. We got the case to deliberate. There was no smoking gun, no slam dunk piece of evidence tying the defendant to the shootings. The prosecution gave us several puzzle pieces that if put together properly could lead to a guilty verdict. But was it enough?

Coming next: THE DECISION

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