Last day on the jury: deadly weapons?

November 29, 2007

Whew! We finally deliberated and were finished by 4. I learned a lot. Not that I’m ready to try to convince you that I know much about law, which I dont’, but it was fascinating to see it all in action.

I was on a criminal case: 2 charges of assault with a deadly weapon, and the other was possession of a crack pipe. We decided the defendant was not guilty on the first two counts and guilty on the third. We found him guilty of one count simple assault which is a misdemeanor. We were relieved because he had 2 felonies already, and the third would have put him away for good under the California three strikes law.
Deadly weapon? It was a bottle. The defendant was alleged to have hit his sister in the forehead with the bottle. It gave me pause. Look around your room for a moment and realize how many objects could be considered a deadly weapon. My martini glass. My metronome. My box of blank DVDs. This glass coaster could be deadly.

And Simple Assault can be me tapping you on the shoulder. Or almost hitting you. Or slapping you, or poking you, or threatening to or thinking about poking you.

I felt like Oscar Wilde peering into this strange world of a brother, who was on heroin at the time of the incident (the defendant) against his sister who was trying to score crack cocaine under the guise of dropping off groceries at 1 in the morning, who claimed he assaulted her with a deadly weapon. When she testified, it was a stoned out love fest “I love my brother, I would never hit or disrespect him–I don’t want to be here, I don’t know, I don’t remember” and so on. But ultimately, she was the one bringing charges against him. This was one big family affair. I noticed on one of my breaks that Judge Wapner was just down the hall. This was a case that shoulda been on his show, er, court.

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Here was the mindf*ck: the brother was allegedly trying to keep his sister away from the dealer by physically blocking her from going in the door. He wanted to take her away and bring her back to Ohio to go into rehab with him. So, to that end, he tried to grab her, pull her somewhere, but in the tussle she cut her head, and then fell back and had bumps on her head and four stitches.
HER perception was that he was attacking her. HIS intention was to save her from her addiction. We were fuzzy as to exactly how much sympathy to have for the defendant, a now-sober 2 time felon who has paid his time. But he seemed sincere. He loved his sister and wanted to save her from this terrible world. The sister was probably stoned as she sat before us. She told us she was depressed and threatened suicide, just like her other brother–who oddly enough had killed himself one year previous to this incident.
So, we had to determine whose INTENTION to believe. We determined that his intention was ultimately good, so he did not get assault with a deadly weapon charge, but he DID assault his sister, but trying to haul her ass out of the that drug infested neighborhood that he knew all too well. THe defendant was found guilty of simple assault.

One’s INTENTION is very important in any action. One’s intention can be legal or illegal, and when combined with an illegal action, you’re in real legal trouble.

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I can see this story morphed into an opera. In the roaring 20s. A group of fabulous sibling musicians become the toast of the town, and then become addicted to opium. Like “The Rakes Progress,” we see their lives and careers tragically spiral downwards as their addiction ruins everything.

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What a bizarre interruption to one’s life, to have to participate in this civil duty. I had to stop all my meetings, lessons, classes, and composition. I get this weekend to try to catch up. But I think about people who earn hourly wages and have to spend four month on a case and really hurt. There needs to be a softer heart in the judicial system, at least in terms of being more lenient to potential jurors who have real hardships. I saw a poster in the juror room encouraging people to become career jurors (or something like that). You get paid more. As Richard said, you really get accustomed to the rhythm. I got to drive down to Disney Hall and see that gorgeous building from atop a parking structure rooftop. The fabulous skyline of downtown Los Angeles was thriling. And our jury bonded. One big-hearted dude wanted a reunion on Monday. We all groaned but were touched. Nope, that’s it!

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