November 16, 2004

A meth trial, with a snarky narc

Spent a day in jury trial, my last as an Idaho p.d. Does your state have these, one day felony jury trials? Picked a jury early in the a.m. Out here we do voir dire Donahue style, as a group, rather than the old-fashioned one venire-person at a time. Judge started jury selection, taking most of my good questions, then the prosecutor did her prosecutor thing. One standard fair and balanced prosecution question - "well, do any of you think that if we just legalized all drugs, then all of our problems with drugs would disappear?" - and a brave hand raised up. An older working guy, G d bless him, stated, "well, yes, I've seen too many families broken up when someone goes to prison, and mostly it's a victimless crime, and we need more treatment and less jail..." and on and on. This prompted a second hand up: "They should decriminalize marijuana." (this was a meth trial, but the thought's appreciated) Heads were starting to nod in agreement. Of course, none of the friendlies made it onto the jury, but while it lasted it was beautiful.

First state's witness was a state narc. Just happens that he was off-duty and at a garage sale when my client and his friend drove past very, very slowly, setting off the narc's Spidey Sense. My clients have all the luck, right? Narc turns out to be a classic running witness, and I'm spending half my time going, "objection, non-responsive, move to strike, I say whoa there", til he comes up with this gem of this-will-really-help-the-state's-case provocation: "The Defendant wasn't behaving in the way a member of the innocent motoring public would..." At that I'm off to the races, and once the jury's escorted out, six years' worth of appreciation for state narcs and their methods come pouring out. Hope they'll order the transcript when I'm gone. Mistrial denied, but it was liberating, that and knowing I will never have to face this guy in court again.

My client and his friend had the bad luck of stopping to meet another friend two doors down from where the narc was buying knick-knacks. That friend has the bad luck of coming out of his house and leaning into my client's car "in what based on my training and experience I observed to be a drug deal," speculated the narc. ("Overruled!") He climbed in, while the narc phoned dispatch for some uniformed assistance.

(We broke for lunch after the narc's testimony. During the break, I was told that the narc supposedly was overheard saying, "I hope I can get out to the desert today and shoot some coyotes." Made me glad that after he finished testifying, when the judge asked if he was excused, I said "subject to call." Somehow he didn't get recalled all day. Oh well. As the song says, "true men don't kill coyotes". Neither do men who haven't been released from their subpoenas.)

By contrast, after Detective Svengali comes the good cop, who certainly knows his shepherd from his malinois. I've always enjoyed K-9 cops and gotten along with them; something about working with dogs seems to keep them decent. This officer takes his non-human partner everywhere, so when the call came, man and dog were on the trail. My client then made some bad choices, like driving around the narc who was standing in the street badging him empathically, and driving away from the K-9 police cruiser with its overheads and sirens going. Furtive movements by my client were observed, a digging in the pants motion here, a hand moving toward the dash there. A previous bad choice had lost my client his driver's license, and here he was behind the wheel, so once he came to rest, the K-9 officer testified helpfully that he was identified "with his Idaho Department of Correction ID card." Jury's escorted out one more time, "mistrial!," "denied." And then comes the part where the German Shepherd finds the meth in the hole where the radio used to go, in the dashboard between the driver and the passenger...

If it was just a matter of equidistant meth, this would have been a fine constructive possession case. As it was, the trial took six and 1/2 hours. Jury deliberations took four: second place. Damn.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Skelly. My favorite so far. Wish I could have watched that trial.

Menagerie said...

It sounds as though you had a ball!

And my hat's off re: the Malinois reference. As a Mal owner, I am MUCH impressed. =)