Ok, sorry for the delay, dear Readers. That darn work thing gets in the way of my writing. I’m ready to retire, but my IRA has other plans. So, what’s a girl to do?
If you’ve been following my adventures as a juror on the murder trial, read on. If this is your first visit, then you’ll want to start here, at the beginning.
Psycho girlfriend (hereafter referred to as CFCP, as in Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs) finished testifying, finally, not really making things any clearer at all. The prosecution called three more of the defendant’s girlfriends (he was dating them all at the time of his wife’s murder, and none of them knew about one another). None of them were happy, but only one had anything remotely relevant to say, and still, I wasn’t sure I could believe her. Evidently she’d spent a few hours talking to a detective about the defendant a couple of days after the murder, and while she mentioned that the defendant was in the midst of a custody dispute, she had no idea he was still married. She told the detectives he was a good father. Then a few days later, she called the detective back and told him that, in fact, he had once said that his wife needed to die and that he would have to kill her. She didn’t take him seriously at the time and only remembered about it a few days later. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d remember something like that if I were discussing my boyfriend’s wife’s murder with the police.
Both of the other girlfriends said only that he was a good father and that he didn’t seem to be terribly concerned about the custody issue. Yes, he knew his ex might take the kid back to her hometown at some point, but he did not seem terribly concerned about the issue. I wondered why the prosecution would call such lukewarm witnesses. I still had reasonable doubt—so what that he said he wanted to kill his ex over the custody? Nearly everyone who has ever been through a custody battle ends up hating their ex, most of them wish the ex would die. I bet a lot even threaten to kill them. I wasn’t convinced that he would have killed her over the custody thing. After all, they’d been sharing custody successfully for a few years. His child support payments were only $20/mo (a fact that did not escape my attention—clearly I’d hired the wrong lawyer those many years ago). I still wasn’t seeing it.
The only thing that I knew for certain at this point was that the defendant liked big-bottomed girls. Boy liked booty. Bootay. He definitely had a type: Low self-esteem. Willing to let him control how much they saw of each other. He liked big butts and he could not lie. Bay-bee got back. Like Kim Kardashian, but without any money. Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs had spent the last year in jail and had lost 100 pounds, which explained why she looked like such a waif in comparison.
Intellectually I knew that women who were in the midst of a divorce are probably at the highest risk of becoming murder victims. I read the paper (online). I know that just about every week a woman and/or her children die at the hands of husband or boyfriend: Susan Powell and her boys being the most notorious recent statistics, yet I couldn’t reconcile this knowledge with the testimony. I certainly was in no way prepared to convict a man based on the evidence thus far.
The prosecution rested. That’s it? I couldn’t believe it. That’s all they’ve got? How were we supposed to reach a conclusion based on what we’d seen so far? No wonder so many criminals walked the streets. Help me out here, I thought. Give me something.
The defense called only two witnesses: the police detective who accompanied the suicidal girlfriend to Harborview, and a DNA expert. The detective, a female, recounted Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs’ demeanor when questioned about the defendant, telling the courtroom how her face lighted up when she heard his name, how she smiled while reflecting on their time together. Did she seem distraught? The defense asked. Not at all, answered the detective, and added that CFCP beamed when questioned about him.
The DNA expert took the stand. Once the defense attorney established the DNA guy’s credentials, he asked him what he thought about storing DNA samples in paper envelopes and paper bags, as seems to be the BPD’s standard operating procedure. Well, said DNA guy, it’s possible that DNA could get through a paper envelope to contaminate a DNA sample in a paper bag if they were in close proximity. Turns out that the DNA sample from the defendant and the latex glove found at the scene traveled together in a box to the Washington State Patrol’s forensic lab, protected only in paper bags. Standard lab practice, said the DNA guy, is to use impervious (i.e. plastic) bags for the storage and transportation of evidence. That made sense to me. He also testified that one nanogram was a very insignificant amount of DNA and could easily be the result of cross contamination in the lab. After all, the WSP lab did process known samples in the same area that the processed evidence.
How much doubt is reasonable doubt? The judge had told us clearly before the jury had been chosen, reasonable doubt was doubt for which a reason existed. Not that that helped me at all. The judge had also said that a shadow of a doubt is not the same as reasonable doubt. We could convict if we had a shadow of a doubt, but not if we had reasonable doubt. I’m surprised my brain didn’t explode.
The defense rested and after a short recess, we launched into closing arguments. The prosecution rehashed the entire case and reminded us of all of the evidence: the red jacket, the dark-skinned man in the video, the DNA on the glove, the girlfriend’s car; the girlfriends’ testimony. The photographs of the dead woman. The divorce. Bunk, the prosecution said about the DNA expert’s testimony. Red herring, he said about the defense wanting testimony from CFCP’s son and husband. We must convict based on the evidence.
The defense attorney insisted he had presented us with enough to raise reasonable doubt: the crazy girlfriend and her “monster,” the lack of DNA on the red jacket, the possibility of contamination of the evidence. The apparent lack of acrimony regarding the custody dispute. The fact that the defendant always wore glasses and that the person in the surveillance video clearly was not wearing glasses.
Lesson Five: Sometimes, less really is more.