Before the actual trial began, the judge and attorneys let us know that there were notebooks and pens on our chairs so we could take notes during the trial. They said it was up to us as individuals if we wanted to take notes, that some people found it helpful, particularly when there are a number of witnesses present, to keep the different accounts of the story separate. If we didn’t want to take notes, that would be fine too. We always had the option of the court reporter reading back to us during trial or in the deliberation room.
“She’s not here”
The defendant had gone looking for his girlfriend after they had an argument. He went to her friend’s apartment and rang the doorbell. The female tenant opened the door and told the defendant, “She’s not here.” The defendant said “I know she’s here” and attempted to barge into the apartment. The tenant tried to stop him but her boyfriend was right behind her saying “Don’t you hear her, she’s not here?” At this point, the stories of the various parties differ. The enraged defendant was carrying a weapon that he alleged in his testimony he used in self defense to shoot the other man who he perceived as a threat to him as well as another man who was also present. The other witnesses’s statements discounted the defendant’s story of self-defense. Defense attorney attempted to discredit the other witnesses present by asking them how much alcohol they had been drinking and if they were taking any drugs that night as there was a card party going on in the apartment at the time.
After the shooting, the defendant ran from the apartment. The others called the police. The defendant was found a few miles away from the apartment as it was late at night. There was no firearm in his possession at that time. However, the next day, someone found a gun by the roadside and turned it into the police who were able to match it to the bullets found in the victims, one who had died instantly and the other who went to the hospital.
During the trial, we learned that all the males involved were members of two separate gangs in the Sacramento/Stockton area. We learned some gang vocabulary which I have forgotten by now as well as what gang colors meant.
We had testimony from a firearm expert on how the gun and bullets matched and how this is done. That was one of the more fascinating aspects of this trial as we learned about categories of guns, bullets, and how to identify bullets that matched a certain gun as well as bullet wounds.
The varied witnesses came in to testify during trial and as I stated before, none were allowed to sit in the public area of the courtroom during the trial proceeding. The purpose of this is to make sure the witnesses testify to their own experience and knowledge of the situation.
We also had police witnesses who led us through photos of the scene of the crime, the doorway, the apartment, and the location of the victims. These were photos that were taken at the scene right after the crime was reported. The photos were graphic and showed the sad aftermath of the shootings.
The judge read out the charges to us prior to sending the jurors to the deliberation room. Since the original 12 jurors were still intact, the alternates, including myself were sent home or to work with a warning to be ready to go to the jury room in case something happened to one of the 12 and they had to leave the jury deliberations.
I received a call from the court that the verdict was to be given after lunch and I was welcome to go to the courtroom to hear the verdict. I drove downtown and went into the courthouse, waiting in the corridor to get back into the courtroom. We all went in and the verdict was given to the judge. The jurors found the defendant guilty on all counts of murder and attempted murder. The judge thanked us all for our service and said she would be deciding the defendant’s sentence later.
Addendum and aside
One of the mornings of the trial, the judge beckoned my interpreter to the bench and spoke with her briefly, giving her a newspaper to give to me. The interpreter explained the judge thought I would find the article to be of interest. I looked at the article and noticed it was one about a robot hand that fingerspelled in ASL. I smiled at the judge to show her I appreciated the gesture. I thought it was courteous of the judge to be interested in this and share with me.