12 People, 1 Purpose, Justice 4 All



I was going to write a series of posts detailing the rape trial that I was a juror on this week, but Anne who is way wiser about all things than I, advised against it. Those readers who know both Anne and I, know that this is true. Those readers, who are not personally acquainted with us, will just have to take her word for this. Per her advice, I shall offer you an abbreviated and highly sanitized recounting of the trial.

The trial began immediately after the seating and swearing of the jury. This was on Tuesday afternoon. The prosecution called two witnesses, the alleged victim and the arresting detective. Beyond testimony, only one piece of evidence was entered, a recording of the defendant’s interrogation. Wednesday was consumed with watching this four and half hour DVD and hearing the defendant’s confession.

On Thursday, both sides rested and then made their closing arguments. We began deliberations by mid-morning. The bailiff locked us in the jury room. Per our instructions, we elected a foreman. She and another juror read the jury instructions. We were now ready to deliberate.

I was nervous going in, but the jury deliberations turned out to be quite amicable. We quickly reached agreement on not guilty. We all had problems with the alleged victim’s story, the chronology of the case and most importantly with the truthfulness of the confession.

I went back to work on Friday. One co-worker asked me, did I really think that the defendant was innocent or was there just not enough evidence to convict him? His question echoed the central point of the prosecution’s case, “something happened”. I still don’t know, if I agree with this assertion, but “something” is too vague a thing to hang a man’s life on. There was not enough evidence to convict.

Voir dire

14 Seagulls on the Rocks

14 Seagulls on the Rocks

On Tuesday, I flopped out of the jury pool. I was one of 42 pool members called down for this one case. If you figure twelve jurist and two alternates, then that leaves a three-to-one ratio between prospective jurist and actual ones. At this point, I was Juror #33. The bailiff trooped us down to the courtroom and seated us in order. Jurors one thru twelve got the soft cushy seats, the ones that the jury sits in during the trial, while I sat in what the prosecutor referred to as the bleachers. They were like church pews and eventually turned hard on the ass. I was in the literal backbench. The lead prosecutor began the Voir dire of the jury. According to Wiki, Voir dire means ‘truth telling’. It could be of Latin, Norman or French origin, you know how Wiki can be.

The prosecutor then began to explain his case through a series of questions. You know how when someone asks a series of questions, they tend to telegraph their thoughts or motives? This prosecutor was like that. He supposedly could not tell us the facts of the case, but he could question us on what would become the deciding aspects of the case. He told us that the sole charge in the case was first degree statutory rape. Rape is rape. Statutory rape is rape, when the victim is a minor. Minors are deemed too young to consent to sex. First degree statutory rape occurs when the victim is under twelve years of age.

Another import aspect raised in Voir dire was that the crime occurred years ago, but was not reported until recently. This is called delayed disclosure. This meant that there was no physical evidence, in particular any DNA evidence. The prosecutor asked if no DNA would preclude a juror from convicting. A number of the jurors said that they could not do it. None of them were seated. Then the prosecutor asked all the jurors about any run-ins with the law. An amazing quarter of the pool admitted to DUIs. The prosecutor later commented that this was normal. The gentleman on the bench seated next to me admitted to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. He was like the other jurors who admitted to felony charges, he had been charged, but never convicted. Otherwise, they would have never even been called for jury duty.

The prosecution then asked about any sexual victimization among the jury pool. A number of jurors requested a sidebar. The juror and both sets of consuls would troop to the bench and whisper for a few minutes. I don’t believe that any of these jurors were seated either. The defense performed Voir dire next, they were much shorter. This was as it was supposed to be. Their questions were more general. They didn’t tend to drill down to individuals as much as the prosecution had done. They also tended to poll the pool on the Mom, America and apple pie aspects of jurisprudence. They did mention my name in one of these polls.

Throughout the Voir dire there was a certain hierarchy. The fourteen sitting in the juror’s chairs were first up. Where-as where I was sitting on the backbench, I was third string. Most questions were directed at the top half of the pool. The prosecutor even once apologized to us bottom half for having to sit through this process. I was never asked a question. After a brief recess, the bailiff announced the jury selection and called my name as Juror #12.

Free Steven Pogue Now!

Several months ago, I wrote a blog post called, Free Raymond Davis! Raymond Davis was the CIA contractor that was being held captive by Pakistan. He was also a friend of Cousin Mac. This post is also in the political prisoner vein, but it is much more tongue-in-cheek then that post was. I don’t expect to get the hate mail that I got with that one, this time around, but I could be wrong. Like that post, there is a personal connection, I work with Mr. Pogue.

Normally, blogging about work is something to be avoided, but since Steve’s story has been in the local media all week and has now hit the national news, I think that it is plenty safe for me to pile on too. Steve’s story went public last Sunday, when Saint Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, Bill McClellan, first published it. Since then, Steve’s story has spread virally through the Saint Louis media, first being talked about on the radio, during Monday’s morning drive time. Tuesday night, Anne called me in to see what was on the late news and there was Pogue, in my living room, telling his story on the TV. By Wednesday morning, his story was on CNN and frankly, I think that it was getting to be a wee bit too much for old Steve, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

Several months ago, Steve Pogue was on Manchester in Ballwin, a West County road and municipality both of whom feature way too much traffic and congestion. On this particular Saturday, a particularly bad day of the week to be driving there, Pogue was just driving along, singing a song, well no, creeping would be more like it. He was creeping in stop and go traffic, his frustration naturally building. After slowly, but surely working himself up to the light, it turned green and it was finally his turned to go, but alas no. Another motorist, blocked the intersection and Steve’s way. That motorist sat there, even after the light had changed red. As this offending motorist, finally moved on, Steve signaled his displeasure, by reaching out his left arm and then extending his middle finger. Steve flipped the other motorist off. The light cycled and Steve moved on and quickly left the incident behind him, at least until a pair of flashing red lights appeared in his rearview mirror.

The cop asked Steve if he knew why he was being pulled over. Mystified, Steve answered no. When the officer recounted the bird flipping incident, the light began to dawn for Steve. What about the other guy, Steve asked? He was certainly guiltier than I. The policeman said that he couldn’t catch him. Some time then expired before the cop issued the ticket. It took the officer a bit of research to codify the crime. He finally hit upon, extending body part outside the vehicle, for other than signaling. Subsequently, Steve tried to pay the ticket, but since none like this had ever been issued, he was summoned to appear before the judge for sentencing. Enough time passed that the whole idea began to rather irk Steve. When it came time to plea, he pled innocent. His court date was set in August and his very own media circus subsequently ensued.

Steve was going to represent himself, but it appears that the ACLU will step up to his defense. You see, Steve is planning a first amendment defense, freedom of speech. There are many and recent precedents for flipping the bird to be protected speech. I don’t know if Ballwin will choose to litigate this or not. I would recommend dropping it. If they do, they will probably claim that it is a safety issue and that free speech does not apply. Just as yelling fire in a theater is not protected speech. All this bad press may rile Ballwin’s prosecutor enough, to throw the book at Pogue. In that event I offer this final line of defense, claim second amendment rights, the right to bare arms. 😉