Trial Thursday

THE TRIAL.This is so very long. Grab a donut and settle in.

I have learned so much about drugs and drug dealing over the past couple of weeks. I had no idea about any of it! The whole case started when two narcotics officers were cruising around and drove past a house that had two cars parked on the lawn and two cars parked on the street, but no cars parked in the driveway. Apparently that is something drug dealers do (so people can come in and out quickly by parking in the driveway). The officers noted the address and came back a few days later to do a “trash run.” I never thought about the fact that the police can take your bag of trash to search once you have pushed it out onto the street for pickup.

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In it they found several pairs of latex gloves and HUNDREDS of plastic sandwich baggies with the corners cut off:

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Because I have no drug dealing or buying experience, I had no clue what that meant at all. My only frame of reference was using a bag in that manner was for frosting, so I thought they were squeezing something out of the bags.

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I did not understand the significance of plastic bags with cut corners for the entire time I sat in the courtroom. My fellow jurors also did not know, and we had to get the judge to explain it to us in deliberation. Dealers put something like cocaine in the bag and shake it down to one corner, then tie off (or use a rubber band around it), and cut the little wad off to sell. Then they do it with the other corner. Hence, corner-less baggies.

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A bunch of these bags were found to have traces of cocaine, meth, and cocaine base in them. In the trash they also found several pieces of mail and pill bottles with the same man’s name on them. They ran that name and the license plates on the four vehicles at the house, and found that they belonged to a convicted felon.

They obtained a search a warrant, and a team entered the home very early on a Saturday morning. In the house, they found the man in bed with a woman, and two teenagers sleeping in another room. They also found large quantities of cocaine bagged in small amounts as shown above, cocaine base, and little baggies of crystal methamphetamine and marijuana. There were also narcotics found in Arizona tea cans and the canisters for cleaning supplies that had been converted to have secret compartments. Apparently, they use a liquid foam around the interior compartment to make them give if someone squeezes them. And you can buy them on Amazon!!!! The portion of testimony about how the narcotics team sweeps a house and finds contraband was deeply fascinating.

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I almost laughed out loud when a detective held up a bottle of Comet and pointed out that there was a handwritten price tag on it for $19.99. Twenty dollars for Comet! He noted that if the price you paid for the diversion can isn’t close to the price of the actual product, then you should probably remove the tag. He said it was really easy for them to locate the secret compartments after that find based on the price tags alone. This fella CLEARLY never did any cleaning.

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On top of that, they found five loaded handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Strangely, the ammunition was spread throughout the house in sandwich baggies containing two or three bullets. We (the jury) still do not understand why you would store ammunition in that way because as a felon, he couldn’t even be in a house that contained an empty casing, much less one single bullet or actual firearms. So, it’s not like someone finding only two or three bullets would have saved him. There were 14 little scales, eight cell phones (on his nightstand), and $12,000 in rubber banded cash that were also found. So, he was arrested and two years later we were selected to serve on his jury.

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After processing the evidence, the lab found no fingerprints on ANYTHING. Not on the guns, not on the drugs, not on the secret cans, not on the little scales, not on the cash, and not on the cell phones.

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Additionally, the house where the defendant was found was not actually his residence. He had another house in his name two miles away. His name wasn’t on the lease, the utilities, or any bills for the house he was found sleeping in.

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Despite that, he was getting some mail delivered to his name at that address and he had registered at least two of his cars with the DMV there. Also, the two teenagers in the house were his kids. That shocked me. I felt my mouth actually fall open. So, he “doesn’t live there,” but his kids do with a woman who isn’t their mother and he has piles and piles of shoes and clothes there? Sure, Jan. This forced us to establish if he lived there enough to have known about  and had possession of the guns and drugs. The real kicker (for me) was that between the mattress on his side of the bed were three handguns in a purse (making a large lump that was clearly visible in the pre-search photos) and some of the drugs. He was found sleeping on the evidence.

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Sure, you can only stay there a few days a week, but you were found sleeping on an honest to god pile of guns. A PILE. Also, if you are a felon, then it is your responsibility as a grown ass man to opt not to spend your time in a home with firearms if you are actually interested in staying out of prison.

My fellow jurors were also horrified and shocked that there were loaded guns in a house with his kids living in it, so we had to have a long talk about gun ownership. I explained that plenty of law-abiding people believe that there is no point in having an unloaded gun in a house if you are planning to use it for self-defense in the case of a home invasion. You might as well just have the gun there to throw at an intruder because it will be useless if you need time to load it. I have my own personal feelings about loaded and/or unsecured guns in houses where kids live, but I know those are not shared by a lot of people.

They found that two of the handguns had been reported stolen in other states, but the other records of ownership could not be located in time for the trial (OVER TWO YEARS). This article helps explain why. The police also found eight cell phones, but were only able to pull history from one of them because several had missing SIM cards and they couldn’t get the data from the iPhones. Apple will not allow the data retrieval company the police use to access the phone if there is a pin code. So, keep a pin code on your phone if you’re of questionable moral character.

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Luckily for us, that one phone yielded two years of texts that were clearly people asking him for drugs with him responding were to meet and prices. Someone texted him, “You me and ice,” and I honestly thought they were offering to ice his knees because his texts the day before to someone else talked about them being in pain. I really live in a bubble (“Ice” is crystal meth). Also, in case you believe that maybe it wasn’t his phone, there were over 200 selfies of him on the phone that were identified as being taken by that same phone. He also had pictures of stacks of cash and guns that were taken by that phone. Dumb. The whole phone thing is so dumb and careless.

The texts also included numerous messages from the woman who was found in bed with him. She accused him (by name) of cheating on her and was also upset that she was raising his kids while he was “stepping out” on her. Her distressed messages were interspersed with messages from other women texting him to hook up. The woman he was with has since died, and as the prosecutor read his sexting messages mixed with her messages pleading with him to be loyal to her, he started laughing. Boy, was I PISSED. He chuckled, fell asleep, and rolled his eyes throughout the trial as if the whole thing was a joke. I had to really force myself not to let my dislike of him as a person influence my decisions since he wasn’t on trial for being a shitty human (IF ONLY).

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We deliberated in total for about six hours and from the beginning we were all in agreement that he lived there enough to know about the drugs and guns. We also felt that there was no evidence that the woman was the dealer or in control of anything happening in that house. I also didn’t fully realize that “possession” doesn’t mean you have to caught holding or using something. Having access, control of it, or shared possession with another person is all it takes. We had a few jurors struggle with the idea of possession since there were not fingerprints on anything. Between the location of guns and narcotics on his side of the bed only and the text messages, they found what they needed eventually to no longer have reasonable doubt.

There really was no other logical explanation for any of it. He also made all kinds of comments in the police car about wanting to know who the informant was and how he would “ride” for whatever they found. All of this was recorded, of course. They really mean it when they say that they can and WILL use anything you say or do against you in the court of law.

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One juror decided at the end that maybe the police had just planted it all, so we had to have a long and miserable discussion reminding her that no evidence had been presented to us that even alluded to that being the case. As you can imagine, this REALLY annoyed me. I hate speculation in general, but the unsubstantiated “what ifs” were exasperating. I have no doubt that evidence gets planted or tampered with in some cases, but that should have been presented to us as part of the defense. It was not, so you can’t speculate! It was also frustrating when people conflated their disapproval of laws with whether or not he was guilty of breaking that law. There are plenty of laws I would like changed, but you have to evaluate the charges within the laws that were in place at the time whether you like it or not. Working to change a law is an entirely separate process.

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In the end we found him guilty of nine charges related to possessing and intention to sell narcotics and possession of firearms and ammunition by a felon. I felt like all of the jurors took the case seriously and didn’t make their decision lightly, and we spent at least four of the hours just reviewing the evidence. We made a large chart where we assigned each piece of evidence to the charge which made the decision a straightforward one in the end.

I was surprised by how light headed I felt when the nine guilty verdicts were read in court. It is hard to sit in judgement of another person and I feel deeply sad for his kids. I hope they are in a safe and stable situation, but having a mom who doesn’t want you (which was detailed in texts from their mom to their dad) and having a dad in prison is never going to make for an easy life. Overall, it was an interesting experience despite the hours we spent having to wait around. I just hope I don’t have to do it again for a long time.

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