No, I didn’t get paid to trot downtown and spend 2/3 of a day in a mock jury trial orchestrated to train budding county prosecutors. Did it because an old friend, recent law-school graduate, worker at a grant-funded county project importuned. All volunteer…it was worth it. What a hoot!
So here was the scenario:
Boyfriend and Girlfriend go to a local casino to celebrate Boyfriend’s birthday. They have a nice dinner, imbibulating a few boozies to go with the food. After a couple of hours at the all-you-can-eat chow line, whereat Boyfriend scarfs up more BBQ’ed ribs than a starving African lion could dream of, they move on to the gambling room.
Girlfriend parks herself at a one-armed bandit. Boyfriend goes to the tables to play a game called Show Low, and as the evening and early morning wend on, he’s doing pretty well. He’s about $860 to the good, but more enticing to his feeble brain-pan, he’s now in the running for a chance at a lottery to win an expensive gift, and he’s also in the running to win a Bass boat, something he’s been coveting for quite some time.
She, however, is not faring so well. When she runs out of money, she applies to Boyfriend for a few bucks to continue playing the slots. As part of their live-in arrangement, they share incomes, so she regards this as a request for her own money.
She throws a sh!tfit. The decibel level quickly accelerates. Just as quickly, the casino management asks them to depart. The argument moves into the parking lot.
In the ensuing discussion, according to Girlfriend, he throws her to the pavement, kicks her several times in the ribs, gets in his car, and drives away, thereby “abandoning” her in the casino parking lot. (In Arizona, that would be on an Indian rez, a good long distance from wherever the Belagana She and Boyfriend probably live.)
Nine-one-one is called. A cop arrives. As he’s interviewing Girlfriend, Boyfriend weaves his way back into the parking lot, where, despite creeping along at an ultra-cautious 5 mph, he knocks over three parking stanchions and inserts his car into not one but two parking spaces.
Girlfriend, meanwhile, has displayed several bruises to Cop, which she claims to be the outcome of the evening’s quarrel. Cop takes due notice but does not bother to photograph these alleged injuries.
BF staggers over and engages Cop in a quarrel, during which he expresses his suspicion that Cop, whom he calls “Mr. PlasticBadge,” is GF’s new boyfriend. Cop, not surprisingly, arrests the bastard for drunk driving and domestic abuse.
Fake Jury is asked to discern Boyfriend’s guilt in the matters of
a) driving with even a WHIFF of intoxication;
b) driving sh!tfaced (Arizona’s definition of sh!tfaced is a blood alcohol count of .08; Boyfriend’s was .094);
c) domestic violence in the matter of kicking the bedoodles out of the broad after he tossed her on the pavement.
Prosecution and Defense put on spirited cases. Fake Jurors learn a helluvalot about Arizona DUI and domestic abuse laws, after which we are despatched to a room to deliberate.
OK. In Arizona, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle if you’re even slightly impaired. (This would mean if you have the hiccups, to say nothing of having ingested the numerous hard-liquor drinks Girlfriend says Boyfriend consumed.)
In Arizona, it is believed that any blood alcohol count (BAC) over .08 indicates impairment. Boyfriend has registered over .09.
First off, Defense tells us Boyfriend is a Disabled War Hero, having sustained several concussions (six years prior…) and shrapnel to the knee in Iraq. The apparent unsteadiness on his feet and the inability to follow a point back and forth without jerky eye movements are the aftereffects of his war wounds. Next, Defense tries to insinuate that we have no way of knowing whether the crew of scientists who run the BAC tests have f*cked up said tests. Therefore, say they, we have a reasonable doubt.
Prosecution trots in a forensic chemist (called a “criminalist” in the dumbed-down language of the early 21st century) who bowls everyone over with her professionalism and expertise.
Girlfriend weeps on the stand.
Boyfriend, limping in with a baroquely exaggerated stagger, proclaims his innocence.
All very informative. Soooo…
How do we hold in the matters of
charge 1: driving a vehicle with even a whiff of intoxication;
charge 2: driving a vehicle heavily under the influence;
charge 3: kicking Girlfriend while she was down?
When we went off to confer about this, I was amazed to discover that I was far from alone in thinking Boyfriend was three sheets to the wind when all these shenanigans occurred but that the evidence did not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he beat the bejayzus out of Girlfriend, once he had her in the parking lot.
We suspected the bruises could have been sustained earlier. We worried that Cop failed to photograph these wounds. Our suspicions were aggravated because Girlfriend didn’t go to an ER to see whether she had any broken ribs or internal injuries. Several of the younger members of the Fake Jury noted that casinos have video cameras coming out the ying-yang, and that Prosecution was remiss in not at least subpoenaing videos of the quarrel inside the building, to say nothing of the probable videos of whatever went on in the parking lot.
Guilty on counts 1 and 2, DUI
Not Guilty on count 3, domestic abuse.
Here are a few things I learned:
• Police reports are not admissible as evidence. When an officer reports that X person said yyy, that is regarded as hearsay and is not admissible. Only what the officer actually saw and could measure on the scene is admissible.
• Imagining a police officer should document wounds from an alleged domestic violence incident with photographs comes under the heading of “CSI syndrome.” Lawyers should try to elicit these tendencies from prospective jurors and disqualify people who expect concrete documentation of violence.
• Even if you’re far from sh!t-faced, you can be convicted of DUI. Arizona, for example, makes it a felony to be driving to any degree impaired.
• A good lawyer can put on one helluva show.