Monday, March 26, 2018

I can finally talk about this: Part 6, the trial

After the flurry of events beween Nov 13th and Nov 22nd things are quiet.  Dale ignores me, I ignore her.  The trial is set for March 21st 2018 and I wait.  On one hand I'd like to get this over - either way, guilty or not guilty - at least there would be some certainty.  

On March 21st I showed up at the courthouse at the scheduled time - 830 am, and the prosecutor and my attorney spent the next 3 hours arguing about everything; my attorney won some points, the prosecutor won some, from my lay point of view it was interesting.  more so because if I lost this case I could be going to jail, or be fined a large amount, or both.   They argue what can be admitted, and what can't.  there's a huge controversy about pictures with writing on them - they get tossed out.  
this evidence picture was ruled inadmissible because of the marks on it

Jury selection was voie dire; basically a set of open ended questions asked of potential jurors.  I'm scrutizing the faces and trying to figure out who will be sympathetic, or at least fair, to my arguments.  

One juror says "He's got four counts against him?  why are we wasting our time!  this should have been solved outside of court with a fine".  Another says "He should keep his animals on his property and if it happens twice it's his fault!" "I keep cattle and if he's got them running loose constantly its on him!"  

I'm not very hopeful at this point.  I notice from the juror questionnaire that one of the jurors works at the local chicken farm as a manager - he gets a check.  The guy who understands the difference between 'beyond a  reasonable doubt' and  'a preponderance of evidence' gets a check.  The other 4 jurors and an alternate are ciphers to me.  I don't know what they'll think, or do.  I hope that they'll listen to my attorney and I think that I only need one to get a hung jury, and that makes me feel better. but I'm worried

The jury seated, Ms. Shelton goes on the stand.  questions by prosecutor:  (all dialogue paraphrased)  "I took those pictures, they show pigs in the road, i live nearby, i've told him his pigs are out".  My attorney questions:  "i have made dozens of complaints about mr. king.  i did turn him in for the building permit.  i used to own
the property he now owns.  i own the road.  i own the land.  he has no right to use the road.  i have a permit that allows that.  i've tried to get him arrested on trespass.  this has been going on for years"

during this there's a whole bunch of objections by my attorney and by the prosecutor.  the poor jury is standing up and going into the jury room every 10 minutes so the issues can be hashed out without them hearing what they are.  my attorney is objecting to ms. shelton saying they're my pigs; she doesn't know that as a fact, etc. 

I watch the jury and hope that we're not losing them in this.  I can't really watch their faces because i have to turn and look at them to do so and I don't want to seem like i'm staring at them.  I want to stare at them.  i want to read their minds.  

office davis from animal control gets up and says "yes, i've inspected bruces fences and he's spent thousands of dollars on them".  

The court adjourns for the evening and I go home to a sleepless night.  

The next morning we bring officer davis back to the stand, ask a couple of questions about his involvement in the case "i didn't take any of the pictures, I didn't see any of the animals, I didn't look at most of mr. kings fence" and the prosecutor rests.  

I offer a witness who talks about the fence, and then i'm on the stand.   I answer my attorneys questions carefully; my attorney is terrified that I'm going to do something that will convict me, and i'm too.  I answer clearly, with YES or NO as much as possible.  i draw a picture of my fencing.  I talk about the activity on the farm that month - deliveries, employees, contractors, customers, everyone opening and closing gates.  I talk about the 6 week delay in my learning about the incidents and how that makes it impossible for me to fix any problem.  i say she could come and knock on my door, honk her horn or call me but she doesn't do any of that.  she wants me to pay a fine, she wants to hurt me.  

the closing arguments are direct:  Find mr. King guilty.  this is not a trial about ms. shelton its
about pigs out.  Convict him!   Ms Shelton has an axe to grind, and the prosecution has never
even proven they're his pigs.  She let those pigs out, she's causing these problems, she'll do anything to get Mr. King even turning herself in for violations she committed in an effort to harm my client!
Of course the pigs are Mr. Kings - no one else in the area has pigs.  Jury duty doesn't mean you don't have common sense - you do.  convict Mr. King

It's a little surreal to hear your own case being argued.  this was a first for me. 

We are all done with testimony by noon.  The judge declares lunch, and tells the jury to begin their deliberation at 1:15.  The jury files out, and I'm told to stay within 15 minutes of the court for the rest of the day.  I go home, and sit and stare at my tv but i'm not registering.  I have no idea how the jury is going to rule.  

1:30pm i get a call from my attorney.  They have a verdict.  I'm crushed.   They barely had enough time to work  through the jury instructions.  Hung juries take a long time to happen.  I know its not a hung jury. 

I drive to the courthouse picturing myself wearing an orange jumpsuit and picking up litter along the freeway.   I wonder what the fine will be.  I'm wondering if they convicted me of one count and let me off on the others, or if I got all counts.  I grit my teeth and walk through the courthouse security, and I rise from the defendants seat and watch the jury as they enter.  

The jury won't meet my eyes.  I'm cooked.  

Not guilty on all counts.  


grasspunk said...

Oh man. I was wondering if you were blogging from prison there for a while.

Bill Gauch said...

Haven't you ever watched an episode of Law & Order? You can't just end with the verdict! We need the catching of the real criminal, the social commentary and snarky closing line! Congratulations on the verdict, BTW.

Bill Gauch said...

By the way, if it were me, I would take down the cameras from visible sight and move them to a concealed location, plus, buy a bunch more cameras for the entire fence line and the house. I am 100% certain that you will find the mysterious culprit that absolutely no one can figure out. In true TV-show twist fashion though, it will actually be her ex-husband who she's had locked on the property with one of those invisible fence shock collars and he was trying to get help or rescue by letting the animals out and calling all those agencies because he was hoping one of them would find him.

Hector B said...

Congratulations Bruce! From my personal experience juries tend to exhibit common sense. I'm however very surprised the prosecutor decided to move forward with a trial, considering the reliability of the instigator.

Keep up the good work. Farming well is the best revenge.

Susan from the Pacific Northwest said...

Excellent - and that was a fast verdict!!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Riveting! It's a wonder you've been able to farm at all with this going on. Congratualations!

sheila said...

Somehow I don't think your done dealing with the crazy shenanigans of this woman. She isn't well.

Curiousfarmer said...

Glad you won! Bill Gauch's comment is the best!

Amazing story. As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction.

Chris said...

And folks ask me often what are challenges to being a farmer... I'm just lucky mine are livestock/infrastructure ones. Congratulations on a good resolution for you besides the ridiculous costs associated for attorney, etc...

BigGAdawg said...

Have to agree with Bill Gauch on the additional cameras and hiding them well. Spend a small portion of what you would have lost if the next door neighbor had gotten her way. Cover every bit of your fence from at least two angles. With good video evidence of the perpetrators behavior you should be able to sue her out of her property in a civil trial and get her locked up in a criminal action. That is the post I want to read. Happy hunting.