Jury Duty and Lessons Learned


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Halffast
August 30, 2004, 04:34 PM
I spent 4 days last week on Jury Duty. I was selected for a criminal trial for aggravated robbery. The defendant in this case robbed at least 21 restaurants and convenience stores at knifepoint in less than three months. Most of the time he made his getaway in a taxi or on a city bus. The perp used the same MO in almost all of the robberies. He would go in close to closing time and stall until all the other customers were gone, then pull his large kitchen knife out. However, despite the close proximity of all of the robberies, the police never warned any of the other restaurants or stores in the area. The police had video from at least a couple of places. One time the guy stole one of the employee’s cars and a police cruiser was behind him when it came over the radio. The chase was on for a few minutes until the perp wrecked the stolen car and ran off on foot. The officer did not give chase on foot. (I’m sure he was following regulations.) Other officers arrived in less than a minute and they started looking for the perp. They searched for five hours while he watched them from underneath a SUV and then a storage shed. The only way they finally caught him was he robbed a place he used to work and someone remembered him. The restaurant had all of his info in their payroll files. I am not cop bashing here, but I was embarrassed that our city police department could not catch this guy. He never wore a mask and they had a good description of him. I feel they could have at least warned the restaurants and stores in the area to be on the lookout for this guy. If they had, someone may have been able to call police while he was stalling. Since he never hurt anyone in any of the robberies, I guess it wasn’t a priority. Not that he couldn’t be violent, I just think he tried to stay under the radar as much as possible. Once he was caught, he badly beat a detention officer in the county jail. He was trying to escape, and wanted the officer’s uniform. This officer was watching 74 inmates by himself and was tricked by the perp. He told the DO that someone was sick and the officer left his station and went to the head with the perp (I’m sure against regs) to see what the problem was. Once there, the perp attacked him with a cast that was on his arm. It was the other inmates that pulled him off of the officer. I’m sure the DO will never do that again.

While nothing I learned from this experience really shocked me, it reinforced some points, and I wanted to share them with you.

1. The police cannot protect you. They are either overworked or not willing to scare the masses by warning them of danger. Probably both.

2. Never take your eye off of the ball like the Detention Officer did.

3. I have a CHL and carry all the time. My always gun is a Kel-Tec P32. It’s hot most of the time here in South Texas and it’s the only gun I can carry comfortably. Well, I realize that, comfortable or not, I need to carry more gun all the time.

4. Although I am considerably more aware than most people, my condition yellow has become a pale yellow. In the five years since I first got my CHL, I have relaxed too much. I need to ramp up my awareness.

In case you were wondering, we found the guy guilty (in less than five minutes) and sentenced him to 59 years for just one of the robberies (deciding on punishment took us 9 hours).

David

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TimRB
August 30, 2004, 04:51 PM
"In case you were wondering, we found the guy guilty (in less than five minutes) and sentenced him to 59 years for just one of the robberies (deciding on punishment took us 9 hours)."

First of all, thank you for performing this vital service. It sounds like the interests of justice were well-served.

That said, I am curious about the sentence you gave him. Apparently there was no question about his guilt, so what were some of the arguments presented by the jurors in determining the sentence? Is the sentence you gave him automatically applied, or is it just a recommendation to the judge? What were the sentencing options?

Tim

Halffast
August 30, 2004, 05:04 PM
We could have sentenced him to as little as 25 years or as much as life. He selected the jury to decide on his punishment. The judge is known to be on the tough side and I think he thought he would come out better with us. The DA wanted a life sentence and I don't know what the judge would have done. After the trial, I had a chance to ask him. His reply to me was, "I thought about that, and you all did a good job and the right thing. Don't consern yourself with what I might have done."

He will have to serve at least half of his sentence before he even eligiable for parole. He is 35 yo now.

David

Teufelhunden
August 30, 2004, 05:25 PM
This officer was watching 74 inmates by himself and was tricked by the perp

This may be surprising to you, but a 74 to 1 ratio is kinda low from what I've seen of the corrections world. In the new(er) wings my my jail, one floor officer has 200 inmates to control, and the other has 160. Only in the old areas of the jail are the cell-blocks still small enough to contain fewer than 80 inmates.

-Teuf

Frohickey
August 30, 2004, 05:33 PM
Whats the ratio of prisoners to slavemaster in one of those oar-driven slave ships?

I bet its better than 74 to 1. Plus, the slavemaster has the drum-beat guy to help him out. :p

DevilDog
August 30, 2004, 05:40 PM
Thanks for your service.

"I thought about that, and you all did a good job and the right thing. Don't consern yourself with what I might have done."

In this era when everyone second guesses everyone else, this is refreshing to hear.

Can'thavenuthingood
August 30, 2004, 05:57 PM
Is there a good reason for Police not to inform related and close business' of robberies in the neighborhood? Or any spike in crime in the area?

Seems it would be in the best interest of everyone to alert the surrounding business' of an ongoing, in this case 21 robberies, spree.

At what point would the "Alert the neighborhood" alarm go out? The 25th robbery?

Also why tried for only one of the robberies? Was that all the DA went for?

Vick

steveno
August 30, 2004, 07:44 PM
I'm surprised that as a gunowner that you were selected to sit on the jury. I was called to the jury box for questioning and once the defense found out I was a gun owner I was removed from further consideration. I have sat as a juror on a federal civil case in Denver several years ago

Standing Wolf
August 30, 2004, 08:05 PM
...we found the guy guilty (in less than five minutes) and sentenced him to 59 years for just one of the robberies (deciding on punishment took us 9 hours).

Did he look surprised?

spacemanspiff
August 30, 2004, 08:29 PM
not sure if you can answer this, but did the topic of your carrying concealed come up during deliberations?

reason i ask is that i watched some abc show last week, forget the name of it, but its about juries and the cases they decide upon. one of the jurors in that case (murder) mentioned that he carried a gun, and like most of us, did so, not because he intended to kill anyone, but simply for protection.
the case they were deliberating was of a guy who was suckerpunched, and later went back to confront the guy who punched him. both had guns, and the guy who was suckerpunched wound up killing the other guy. he tried to say 'self defense', but the jury didnt take long to decide otherwise.

but back to your jury duty.....
what was the attitude of other jury members? were they advocates of regular joes carrying concealed?

Aikibiker
August 30, 2004, 09:51 PM
Sort of an eye opener to come face to face with a violent criminal isn't it?

On the beating of the Detention Officer. I am really sorry to hear about that. The sad truth is a lot of Corrections Officers tend to start disregarding basic safety precautions in favor of efficiency. Just today I was chided by a senior officer for my habit of always looking at who is on the other side of a door before opening it for them. (The unit I was working shares common areas with the female portion of the facility so the main door between the two has a cover over the window. Entry is gained by ringing a door bell and waiting for the unit officers to open the door with their keys.) I refuse to open the door until I open the cover and check to see who is on the other side.

Jim Diver
August 31, 2004, 02:44 AM
THanks for the info... as I have jury duty this month.....

Highpower1
August 31, 2004, 02:58 AM
me too, I have jury duty starting the 27 sept. This is my first time on jury duty, so it should be interesting.

CAS700850
August 31, 2004, 10:13 AM
"I'm surprised that as a gunowner that you were selected to sit on the jury. I was called to the jury box for questioning and once the defense found out I was a gun owner I was removed from further consideration"


Really? Here in Ohio, we would not be permitted to inquire on this issue during jury selection unless the case involved firearms issues. And, even then, merely owning a firearm would not amount to bias, although either side could use a peremptory challenge to remove you (no reason asked). Was it a gun case? Just curious...

sendec
August 31, 2004, 10:40 AM
It's hard enough to fill a jury - If they tossed everyone who owns a gun their would'nt be any jury trials.

Halffast
August 31, 2004, 10:42 AM
The fact that I am a gun owner and that I have a CHL never came up in voir dire or during deliberations. The perp used a knife in his robberies, so it was irrelevant.

Vick, I wish I had the answers to your questions. Perhaps one of the LEO's on the board could give us some insight. I'm sure the police are doing what they think is best. I just doubt that I would agree with them. The DA only brought the one charge. I don't know why, but she did say that she planned to try him on another charge and would push to get the sentences stacked.

One other thing that struck me as strange was the fact that I was most lenient when it came to his sentence. Not that I wanted him to get even close to the minimum, but most of the jurors wanted to give him life when we first went back. The funny part is, if I had been in one of the restaurants and felt that someone's life was really at risk, and if I could have stopped him with my CCW with little or no risk to bystanders, I don't think I would have hesitated a bit. I think I could have killed him, but I couldn’t send him to prison for life. Weird, huh?

David

LawDog
August 31, 2004, 10:43 AM
This may be surprising to you, but a 74 to 1 ratio is kinda low from what I've seen of the corrections world.

Texas Commission on Jail Standards mandates a ratio of one Detention Officer to 48 inmates until you reach 100 inmates, then you must have 3 officers for every hundred inmates.

There should have been two officers for the 74 inmates. Somebody dropped the ball big-time.

LawDog

Gunsnrovers
August 31, 2004, 10:45 AM
Jury duty was the most misearble 8 days of my life. The cavalier attitude of the jurors and their concerns about making sure they got lunch breaks and home early in the evenings out weighed discussing the trial. My thoughts and opinions of the legal system will never be the same. :(

jdege
August 31, 2004, 10:54 AM
My sister was called to jury duty a few weeks ago. She's a single mother and didn't want to serve.

So she brought along a book I had bought for her as a gag for Christmas a couple of years ago, and read it while she was waiting:

"Defending yourself against alien abduction"

She wasn't selected for the jury.

LawDog
August 31, 2004, 10:55 AM
Is there a good reason for Police not to inform related and close business' of robberies in the neighborhood? Or any spike in crime in the area?

Seems it would be in the best interest of everyone to alert the surrounding business' of an ongoing, in this case 21 robberies, spree.

At what point would the "Alert the neighborhood" alarm go out? The 25th robbery?

That sort of alert is beyond my pay-grade. Captains, Majors and higher make that recommendation to the Sheriff (of Chief, in PD cases) and his is the final word. I have no idea what kind of criteria they use.

The street-level officers around here are good about dropping in on business's in a spike area, mentioning that there is a problem of a certain type and suggesting that the owners and employees be careful.

For all the good that it does.

Also why tried for only one of the robberies? Was that all the DA went for?

Aggravated Robbery is a Felony of the First Degree in Texas, and thus carries a punishment range of not less than five years, or more than 99 years, or life in the pen.

With a 25-year minimum sentence, it sounds to me like the DA hit the critter with the five cases that he had the best evidence on.

I could be mistaken.

LawDog

Ktulu
August 31, 2004, 11:06 AM
I served on a jury in Detroit earlier this year. It was a murder trial were a 17 year old and her lesbian lover killed her grandma with a claw hammer, burned the body, and went to the movies. Although the whole experience was fascinating there was nothing pleasurable about it. My CCW or owning guns did not come up and didn't have any bearing on the case.

The part that really astonished me at the time, in retrospect it shouldn't have, was the people who lied or were too big of cowards to serve. "I'm not comfortable serving on a murder trial." "If someone doesn't testify on their own behalf I'll hold that against them." "My brother is a cop and I can't be unbiased." "My cousin is in prison and I can't be unbiased."


Sort of an eye opener to come face to face with a violent criminal isn't it?

Indeed!

Halffast
August 31, 2004, 11:07 AM
LawDog,

This was his third conviction for robbery. His two previous convictions were in South Carolina. He served 5 years for the first (aggravated robbery) and 22 months for the second (common law robbery).

We were told that, in Texas, the minimum sentence for Aggravated Robbery is 5 years for the first , 15 for the second, and 25 for the third.

David

LawDog
August 31, 2004, 11:16 AM
Ah.

LawDog

Henry Bowman
August 31, 2004, 11:23 AM
Thanks for a great report. Your absence is excused for the time served.

NOW GET BACK TO WRITING LIGHTS OUT !!!!! :evil:

Sungun09
August 31, 2004, 12:07 PM
This thread reminded me of some things I have read, some of which comes from http://www.jpfo.org/.

For instance; did you know Police are not required to tell you the truth I.E. searching your car during a traffic stop - they can say its required you give your assent. (its not)

Probably more commonly known so I apologize, but "Jury nullification" is an available option to juries. In other words, you do not have to find someone guilty of a bad law. Its not widely taught for obvious reasons.

Double Maduro
August 31, 2004, 03:16 PM
Why weren't the other businesses in the area notified?

If the area is like any other that I have done business in, all of the other business owners knew about it the next day. Maybe the question should be why they didn't tell their employees.

DM

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