Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Know your audience
Not too long ago, I wrote a bit about the murder in my hometown. That case was eventually concluded with a hung jury. And that, my friends, comes down to the prosecutor not knowing his audience.

Here's the dealio: the case is going to be retried, in the same county, from the same jury pool. However, once the first trial was over, the jurors were free to talk about the case. As I've mentioned before, my father's best friend and his brother-in-law were both on the jury. As such, we know a bit about why the jury failed to come to a unanimous decision.

And the fault all lies with the prosecutor and his inability to both a) state the most important parts of the evidence and b) not make assumptions about the jury pool.

I'm no lawyer, but I think when you are presenting evidence to a jury you should be sure to hit the most damning evidence especially hard. Not, oh I don't know, skip it entirely.

You see, in the presentation of the prosecution's case, they presented blood evidence. This blood was collected from two distinct spots on the defendants' porch and a DNA expert confirmed that the blood was a match to the victim. (Keep in mind, no body has ever been found.) The way the evidence was presented, the jury couldn't be sure that these two spots of blood were not from a bloody nose. It might mean fist fight, it might mean more, but they couldn't be sure.

It was only after the jury came back and the gag order was lifted that a member of the jury learned from his son the local cop (who was on the scene at the time of the blood evidence collection) that the blood hadn't just been in two spots, but had fallen down through the cracks and into the soil below.

Now, this would seem like a critical piece of information to me. Blood in enough quantity to flow like that off of a porch would seem to be more than a bloody nose would have to offer. This was the prosecutor's first mistake. It seems to me that if you don't have a body, you need to leave the impression with the jury that the only reasonable conclusion from that much blood loss is death, but again, I'm no lawyer.

On to mistake #2...

As I've mentioned before, we live Out There. We live 3 hours from a mall in a place where you find rattlesnakes and coyotes and most people travel with at least a rifle in the pickup. It is just the way it is. The community as a whole is used to seeing gun racks in the back windows of pickups the way people in the suburbs see those I heart my labrador and My kid is an honor student stickers. We don't even think about it. A gun isn't something to be feared, the guy pointing it at you is.

But the prosecutor saw the fact that the defendant had acquired a new gun just before the alleged incident as damning. And this argument kind of pissed people off, especially considering the lack of a body and no ballistics evidence. The acquisition of a new, legally acquired firearm doesn't make one guilty of murder necessarily. On the day after a gun show that could literally mean hundreds of new crimes and we all know that that isn't in line with reality. Ownership of a gun doesn't make one a murderer and more than ownership of a knife does. The prosecutor saw the case through his suburban Kansas City or Wichita or Topeka eyes and not through those of his jury pool. That was a mistake.

The jury had other questions as well.

Apparently not enough was made or questions asked about whey the defendants got rid of a brand new SUV very shortly after the alleged victim's disappearance. The defendants claim that they "didn't like it", so they replaced it...with the exact same SUV in a different color.

I ask you, would you get rid of a brand new SUV that wasn't in an accident, that wasn't recalled, that was completely operable...because of the color of said SUV? I wouldn't. If the color was that objectionable, I'd get it painted.

So, the case will be going to trial again. Let's hope the prosecutor presents a better case next time, shall we?


posted by Phoenix | 12:01 PM


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