|Matthew Daly (matthewdaly) wrote,|
@ 2009-05-23 12:25 pm UTC
Two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon, in the second and third degrees. Long story short, possessing a loaded firearm somewhere other than your home or place of business without a permit or another sort of exemption. And "possession" is, IMHO, a definition that is broadened every year by the New York Legislature and courts to make prosecutions easier. No lie, you can be in a car with six other people, you get pulled over at a traffic stop, one of the passengers you don't know takes a weapon you didn't know existed out of their pocket and drops it at their feet, the police find it -- all six of you can be charged with possession. New York is just that tired of reasonable doubt. I'm not a fan, and that goes double when the charge is just CPW and not possessing a weapon in the commission of a "real" crime, if you know what I mean. I'm on board with reasonable regulation of our celebrated "well regulated militia", but this just leaves the icky taste of a potentially common crime that is disproportionately applied to the sorts of people the police don't like. (But to be candid, I have no hard evidence to support this suspicion.) So, going into the trial, I was conflicted as I indicated in my previous entry on the subject.
Essentially, the narrative of the case was that the defendant was in a hotel room bathroom with his girlfriend, washing his hands. The water was splashing the cuffs of his zippered sweatshirt, so he unzipped it and dropped it to the ground, at which point the miniature revolver in the pocket accidentally discharged, sending a .22 bullet cleanly through one of his legs and glancing off the other. D'oh. He goes off to the ER with his girlfriend, who puts the gun in her purse. A police officer who happens to be at the ER on an unrelated matter investigates the situation, immediately sees through their cover story, asks the woman if she has ID in her purse, and looks through it to find the gun. Ouch. Then the police talk to the defendant and the girlfriend until they arrive at the story I told above, take them down to the station where they both sign statements to this effect, and here we are. All this wound up taking a day and a half, with one day filled with the testimony of the girlfriend, two hotel employees, three police officers, and a crime lab expert who testified that this gun could theoretically discharge by dropping it on the ground but it is practically irreproducible and a solid defense attorney doing what he could to impeach as much of the testimony as he was able, and then a second morning of closing arguments and instructions.
I was able to satisfy any remaining doubts about two minutes into deliberations, when we were able to investigate the pants that the defendant was wearing when the shooting took place and observe that the three bullet holes were consistent with the highly unusual angle of coming from the ground a few inches away from the body. As much of a million-to-one shot as the accidental discharge theory might have been, there was no actual evidence and no credible speculation that anything else could have caused the wound but a gun falling out of his pocket. In addition, there was his own statement to police that he found the gun and had been carrying it around for a while. The entire deliberation took about two hours, including light discussion during a working lunch, mostly while we waited for the court officials to return from their lunch so we could hear a readback on some testimony and clarify the definition of "possession". After returning from that, we had a unanimous verdict to deliver. Another small carnival, clearing the court, and then we had a brief post-mortem alone with the judge who was happy to answer questions about all the stuff that happened
But it was a good experience. Perhaps this would be a better world if we had more pseudo-involuntary tasks to perform with eleven strangers from a broad cross-section of our community. And I learned that we've got at least one solid judge on the bench, our DA's office has at least one really sharp young guy in it, and even the defense attorney distinguished himself as well as he could with the case he had. I'd do it again, although I suppose I won't have the opportunity for at least eight years.