Trials and Tribulations

Saint Louis County Courthouse

In December of 2012 I served on a jury. The case was statutory rape. Other than the defendant and the victim, everyone else in the courtroom was white. The prosecution could not narrow down when this rape occurred any closer than the 5-10 years, between when the defendant first turned 18 and his niece, the victim, eventually turned 18. The definition of statutory rape. Fuzzy timeline and he said, she said case aside, his case boiled down to a confession. This confession had been videotaped. I’m sure that the prosecutor had intended that the jury only watch the last half-hour of this interrogation, but the defendant had hired one of those high-priced TV advertising lawyers and I’m sure that before we were seated this attorney had got the judge to rule that we had to watch the full four and a half hours. Enduring this interrogation, we came to reasonably doubt the state’s case. We unanimously acquitted. A year and a half later Ferguson exploded, exposing the racist corruption that was prevalent in Saint Louis County government. At the next election, I helped to vote out the old prosecutor and his staff.

This is a story that I have told before and is preamble here, because at the time, I was working with Chris. Chris and I were a bit of oil and water. He knew more about our assignment than I, but I was at least nominally in charge. At least my work retelling of my case got him to open up about his own life altering event.

In 1987 the worse mass murder that has happened in Saint Louis occurred on a Friday in June. A National grocery store on Natural Bridge had just closed for the night. The store was already locked, but the security guard unlocked the door to allow the two-man night cleaning crew to enter. They were not the normal cleaning crew, but heck it was Friday. These two men drew guns, overcame the guard and quickly ushered most of the staff into a side aisle, away from the windows, where they were forced to lie in a row, face down. These men then began to execution style kill the grocery store workers.

Five people were killed and two more wounded. At the time, Chris was a young stock boy and had been in the storeroom at the back when the gunshots began to ring out. Reacting, he and another guy in the backroom went right, climbed a ladder to the roof and were eventually able to get people on the street to call the police. A third guy went left and became one of the seven victims. The two perps were captured, convicted and are still serving time. Chris testified at their trial. The prosecutor told him that by testifying, he would never serve on a jury. 

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