Meet the Truth

When you’re nice to people, they give you attempted murder cases.  That’s what I found out when a more senior DA got transferred and specifically asked that a case be assigned to me.  Normally, someone with my experience level would not try an attempted murder.  It was her vote of confidence that let me cut the line.

The case was strong: lots of forensic evidence, incriminating statements by the Defendant prior to trial, and the weapon involved in the shooting was registered to him.  The Defendant lured the his ex-girlfriend over to his house in the middle of the night by throwing her stuff out.   He then shot a man that the ex-girlfriend brought to help her with the stuff.

I spent the weekend before the trial re-reviewing the medical records, which were voluminous.  There’s one line in the medical records that I noticed for the first time: it said that our victim gave a statement to another police agency (a different agency than the one handling the crime).  I didn’t have that report.  Visions of Brady violations swirling in my head, I scrambled to locate it at the last minute.  And sure enough, when my detective was able to run it down, it was extremely harmful.  The victim flat-out lied to the other agency.  He didn’t leave out details, he didn’t confuse things, he affirmatively made up a new story that had no relation to the facts.

I had to turn it over, of course, but I heard about it during opening, closing, and ad nauseum during cross-examination.  “The People’s witnesses are liars!” again and again.

The defense was self-defense.  Which meant the Defendant had to testify and provide an alternate version of what happened.  His lie, however, was so poorly thought out that I was shocked.  At first he seemed very smart and reasonable.  He was soft-spoken.  He did not let his emotions through in the courtroom.  But when he got the meat of the story, the exculpatory part of the story, he just didn’t have a compelling lie.

The best lies meet the truth halfway.  But the Defendant told a story that completely excused himself altogether.  He didn’t admit that he intended to kill but asserted that it was justified in self-defense.  Instead, he said that he never intended to actually shoot anyone.  He only intended to “cover” himself and scare the victim into ducking.  Then, he could make his escape.

The jury did not buy it.  The grouping of shots near the victim was too close together for an accident.  They discounted the Defendant’s story and convicted him.  He was charged with attempted first degree murder and they convicted him on first degree attempted murder, because they thought he only quickly decided to kill the victim; he didn’t premeditate.  But they found the gun allegations true.  Those gun allegations enhanced the punishment by 25 years to life.

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