Sunday, May 29, 2005

Justice doesn't seem color blind

Public Defender Dude has a post up about a public defender in Los Angeles who was found by a judge to be 100% liable after one of her clients was framed by the LAPD. He writes:

"As much an outrage this was, it is an even bigger outrage that she was found 100% liable for Mr. Ovando's predicament, as if the police who shot him, framed him, and lied at his trial had nothing to do with it. How, exactly, is someone supposed to represent someone when lying cops can expose you to unlimited liability? And, the fact is, as much as we bring this stuff up, the DAs still pooh pooh our claims of lying cops, Judges still refuse to call a cop on lies, and juries still find people guilty even though it's obvious cops were dishonest."

Bitch, PhD put something up this week about white privilege, and the two sort of came together in my head to remind me of a story. Have I mentioned I love story hour?

A number of years ago I was called up for jury duty. You would think there would be no way in hell I could ever be selected for a jury; if you think I'm opinionated and mouthy here, you should catch the live show sometime. But damned if I didn't get selected for every fucking jury which came down the pike, I sat for three trials during that week (it was municipal court--DUI, shoplifting, no OJ stuff).

The last trial I had to sit through had six of us selected as jurors, one of whom woud be designated an alternate right before deliberation began. I wound up being the lucky loser sitting outside waiting on the outcome. The jury consisted of myself, three older Hispanic women, a middle aged white man who worked at the National Lab, and a young white soccer mom. The trial itself involved a little old Hispanic man accused of interfering with an officer and resisting arrest. When I say little and old I mean the guy was 70 years old, stood about 5'6", and weighed maybe 120 pounds soaking wet.

There were five officers who testified during the trial and none of them told the same story, in fact no two versions of their testimony even came close to matching. After listening to the several witnesses and hearing the wildly different stories from the cops, it was pretty clear to me that the cops were lying. It was a little disheartening that they didn't seem to be smart enough to make sure their stories even matched. This poor old guy had been caught up when a pursuit went through his property and things got out of hand. After sorting things out the police wound up charging him rather than admitting they'd roughed up an old man for no reason.

While the jury was deliberating the defense attorney came over and asked for my impressions, he wanted to know if I felt he'd made his case, or if there were suggestions or criticisms I could offer. I told him I thought he'd done a great job, that it was clear to me the cops were lying, and that it was a slam dunk as far as I was concerned. Imagine our shock when we got word that there was a hung jury. What the fuck? When the jury was released I spoke with the jury foreman, a very nice old Hispanic lady, who told me the two white jurors had voted guilty and could not be convinced otherwise. Soccer mom wouldn't talk about it and bailed immediately, but I got a lock on Lab guy and asked him how he could possibly believe the police, given that no aspect of any of their five separate stories matched up in any way and were contradicted by eyewitnesses. He gave me this puzzled look and said "But they're the police, they wouldn't lie."