Well, I completed my tour of duty, and even though the end results did not turn out to my liking, I still believe we have an amazing system.
The trail ended Thursday at noon so I can tell you all about it. It was a felony domestic abuse case. I can write the details about the case here, but I can't take any money for the story....but if any of you feel compelled to send me money, well...I'll take my chances with the law!
Our main characters are LJ and Lisa. LJ and Lisa met around November 2007, they fell in love and within a few days Lisa moved in with LJ in a mobile home he rented in rural Kern County. The beginning of the relationship was "the happiest time of my life" according to Lisa's testimony. In December, LJ received what Lisa called "Christmas money" and they happily spent it repairing LJ's motorcycle and Larry purchased a black chopper for Lisa. (It was not testified as to where LJ got this money from or how much it was).
**Side note: Lisa and LJ are both bikers. LJ owned a red chopper and Lisa was given a black chopper as a gift by LJ. They lived a bikers life, partying, tattoos, LJ had long hair which he wore in a pony tail and Lisa worked off and on as a cocktail waitress. Lisa admitted she's smoked meth and drank and smoke. Because LJ was the defendant he didn't have to testify and he chose not to, so we don't know much about LJ other than as was relayed by Lisa and various other witnesses.**
The black chopper was custom built especially for Lisa, so in February, they decided to go to DMV and do the registration work on the bike. Lisa asked LJ who's name she should put the bike under, LJ told her it was hers, just put her name on it. Lisa said she decided that both of their names should be on it so she registered it as such.
Shortly thereafter LJ only worked off and on and on May 23rd LJ and Lisa got into an argument. Lisa was in the process of moving out of LJ's trailer as they had been constantly arguing and things were quickly going downhill in the relationship. Lisa had borrowed the truck of one of her ex-boyfriends who was a deputy coroner with the coroner's office, lets just call him JC. When Lisa decided to leave on May 23rd she had JC's truck and it wouldn't start. She went to the glove box of the truck to get the info to call Triple A and Larry tried to get the registration she had for the black bike away from her.
**Side note: There was no actual direct testimony to this, but it was implied...I believe Larry wanted to take the black chopper away from Lisa and that was why he was angry with her on May 23rd.**
In the struggle for the registration, LJ somehow got a bloody nose. Lisa testified that she may have hit him accidentally, but that he also got bloody noses often. LJ called the police and Lisa was arrested for spousal abuse. LJ and Lisa made up prior to this going to trail and LJ admitted to the police that Lisa had not hit him, that it was just a bloody nose.
So the relationship continued in this manner. Things would be good when Larry was working, but when he wasn't they did nothing but fight. Things finally escalated and on August 1, 2008 LJ and Lisa got into the altercation that cause them to end up being in the case that I ended up having to deliberate.
As Lisa was the only one of the two who testified, I can only recount her testimony. (LJ and any defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore a defendant is not required to testify nor may we assume by his quietness that he is guilty.)
First let me set the scene. LJ was 40something yrs old. He wasn't a big guy, about 5ft 6 or so, probably weighed about 160lbs. He had long dirty blond hair which he wore in a pony tail. He wore a dark grey shirt and blue and grey striped tie. He seemed like a nice guy, smiled a lot and made lots of direct eye contact. LJ sat at the table with his defense attorney Mr. Willingham. Mr. Willingham was very tall and thin and not bad looking.
The Prosecutor, Ms. Bowles was a little bitty thing! She appeared to be in her late 20's early 30's, about 5ft tall and probably weighed no more than 110lbs. She had straight blond hair which she only seemed to think grew out of the front and side of her head as you could tell that she didn't worry about how messy the back was. She wore gold framed glasses and seemed to have forgotten how to smile. She was fierce and determined, perhaps too fierce though as I never saw her smile, but she did have the softest southern accent I've ever heard and was quite charming when delivering her opening statement. I took to calling her the "little bulldog" in my head because she was so fierce and serious!
So both attorneys gave their opening statements and then the prosecutor "little bulldog" got to call her first witness. She had already told us in her opening statement that she would only be calling one witness, Lisa herself. Lisa walked into the courtroom. She was a nice looking women, not beautiful, but not ugly, she was attractive. Her face showed that she had lived life in the fast lane. She had long, light brown hair and wore a top that was cut very low showing a lot of her breasts, not even cleavage, actual breasts. She wore a long A-line skirt with suede boots. She was a woman that would be difficult to like or trust.
Little bulldog proceeded to ask Lisa questions. At first Lisa was very calm in her responses, then little bulldog entered photos showing the alleged wounds that LJ had caused. Lisa was shown the pictures, and asked to explain with each how the wound was caused. The first picture was a huge bruise on the left side of her butt. Lisa testified that on Aug 1, in the "early afternoon", she and LJ were arguing, something about his having given some of her clothes to his ex girlfriend. She admitted she had been drinking that day and had had a couple glasses of wine but no drugs even though she freely admitted that she does smoke meth. She said she was sitting in the living room and LJ walked to the front door and grabbed an ax handle that he kept by the front door. It was just the handle, the ax was not attached. She testified that the handle was 2 to 2 1/2 ft long and about 2 to 2 1/2 inches wide. He started walking towards her so she got up and walked towards the kitchen. He swung the ax handle as you would a baseball bat and struck her on the left side of her butt. He hit her with such force that she fell in pain to her knees.
During her testimony with little bulldog Lisa was very emotional and had a difficult time recounting the events. But to continue, Lisa rose back up and headed to the bedroom, LJ followed her and she examined her butt. She testified that she stood in the door of the bathroom and showed LJ the bruise that was already beginning to appear and said she was going to call the policy. He told her, "I'm not going to go to jail for something like this. If I go to jail it's going to be for something bigger, like rape or something." He then left in his truck.
Lisa had no vehicle, her motorcycle was broken, LJ had broken her cell phone weeks earlier and she was out in rural Kern County so she had no where to go. She was bruised and hurt and probably still a little drunk, so she stayed there all night and until LJ came back the next day, Aug 2nd.
On Aug 2nd according to Lisa, LJ returned to the trailer at about 3:30 or so, the time was not exact. She had been drinking, finishing the bottle of wine she had been drinking the day before. LJ came in and first thing he said to her was, "Why the hell are you still here?" They started to argue again and LJ picked up an empty wine bottle that was on the counter and came towards Lisa who was holding a bottle of wine. She testified that she didn't know if LJ intended to hit her with the bottle, but the bottles connected in midair and exploded, the glass cut Lisa's left arm. It was bleeding but the cuts weren't deep.
Lisa now tried to leave the trailer and LJ blocked the door and told her, "You're not going anywhere". LJ then knocked her to the floor and sat astride her while she was on her right side. He hit her in the eye causing a cut which bled a lot, then she brought her arms up to protect her face and he hit her 8 or 10 times in the back of the head with his fists. The she testified that he took a cigarette and put it out on her breast. Little bulldog had photos of all these injuries. Before LJ got off of her and left he said to her, "There, now you can call the police, I deserve to go to jail for this."
LJ left the trailer and she left as well and she started walking down the road when the closest neighbor drove up in his truck. According to Lisa's testimony, he said something to LJ and then he drove up to her and told her to "get in the truck". The neighbor then took her to his home, gave her towels to clean herself up and stop the bleeding. He gave her a shot of whiskey to calm her and then they sat down to talk and they continued to drink whiskey. He then suggested they go to a local Bakersfield bar called Trouts. She went with him and they continued to drink and she danced and admitted she got drunk. She didn't call the police though. She didn't want to file charges as she had called the police before when LJ hit her and nothing came of it so she figured nothing would come of this either.
The next day, which would have been a Sunday, she contacted her ex boyfriend, the deputy coroner to help her move. He was her "go to" guy. When he saw the injuries, he told her she had to report it, but she didn't want to. The next day Monday, he reported it to his supervisors and they told him that he would have to convince her to come in to file a report or they would go find her. On Tuesday he finally contacted her and she came into the coroner's office for the pictures that were entered into evidence at trial and the report was filed.
The prosecutor ended her questioning and then it was the defense attorney's turn. You could instantly see Lisa's personality change. This was the enemy and you felt as though she wanted to spit at him. She answered his questions with a grudging yes or no and at one point he showed her the picture of the bruise on her butt and asked her if that bruise looked to be about 10 inches or so and she answered, "I don't know, do you want to measure my butt?" You could instantly see that it wouldn't be too hard to get mad at Lisa, perhaps mad enough to strike her!
The prosecution called four witnesses, two ex girlfriends of LJ who I didn't believe at all, his supervisor at his job and the man Lisa went to live with after leaving LJ.
To make a long story short, let me just say that we came up a hung jury. There were four counts we had to decided on. The first count was a felony assault with a deadly weapon and we came up 6 to 6. The 2nd and 3rd count were assault upon a domestic partner and the 4th charge was false imprisonment. On the 2nd, 3rd and 4th count, we were 1 guilty (that was my vote) and 11 not guilty. Needless to say we were a hung jury and the judge declared a mistrial. Now it's up to the prosecutor to decide if she wants to prosecute LJ again.
Even though I know he's guilty, and even though not too many agreed with me, I still say our legal system is amazing. Sure it could use some tweaking, but for the most part it works.