A week ago we wrapped up deliberations on our two week long trial. To this day I still have some nightmares about the trial. If you’re squeamish, this may not be the post for you.
Before any opening statements were read, I think it’s important to let you know it took three solid days to pick a jury. Roughly 200 potential jurors were called into the courtroom and I ended up being one of the final fourteen, including two unknown alternates. Many jurors were dismissed because they said they’d have biases towards protecting children. The judge was careful to remind all jurors how the burden of proof in this trial is on the prosecution. The defense does not have to prove a single thing.
Prior to the opening statements, the judge read the alleged seven counts accused of the defendant. The defendant, a 44 year old male, entered a plea of “not guilty” on all seven counts listed below.
I. First degree rape of a child
II. Second degree rape of a child
III. Third degree rape of a child (victim #1)
IV. Third degree rape of a child (victim #2)
V. Third degree child molestation
VI. Sexual exploitation of a minor
VII Possessing depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct
Now that the jury was aware of the charges, it was time for the prosecution and defense to give their opening statements.
Prosecution opened by talking about the importance of being a parent and looking after your child. The prosecutor talks extensively about how victim #1, we’ll call him RB, had very little family structure. His mom was a stripper and the dad left the house at an early age. Prosecution alleges the victim fell into the wrong crowd and didn’t have any valid role models until he met the defendant at the age of 10. The defendant and the victim became instant friends, despite their age difference of nearly 25 years. Shortly after they met, the prosecution alleged an intimate relationship formed between the two males. We were first introduced to RB via a Polaroid photo shown to the jury. He appeared to be about 8-10 years old in the photo with a big toothy grin on his face. The prosecution concludes her opening remarks stating how the prosecution witnesses will corroborate the testimony given by the two victims and that the jury will find the defendant guilty on all seven counts.
Defense’s opening arguments centered on police procedures the day the defendant was arrested. Their argument was that the Seattle Police detectives were quick to judge in this case and didn’t do an adequate job gathering the evidence. They alleged that friends of the victim planted significant evidence in the defendant’s apartment in the immediate days following the defendant’s October 2008 arrest.
SIDEBAR: the defendant was arrested by Seattle Police after serving a search warrant on his apartment in late October of 2008. He has been in jail since October 2008 up to the time of the trial.[/SIDEBAR]
Defense alleges the character of the prosecution witnesses is questionable at best. They also allege the detective work to be shoddy and rushed.
The defendant was flanked on both sides by his attorneys. He will wear the same outfit every single day of the trial, a long sleeve button shirt. He’s largely emotionless during the two weeks of testimony with a few key exceptions, keeping his hands hidden under the table. The accused appears to be in his 40s and has dark hair with grey streaks. His eyebrows are bushy and dark as well.
I was seated closest to the judge, about ten feet away in the front left row. The witness box was between me and the judge. Without any effort, I bumped feet with a couple of the witnesses. If I looked to my right, there was a Visio screen where we’d see much of the critical evidence and slightly to the right I could see the defendant. I studied his expressions extensively during the trial since I had an unobstructed line of sight. I carefully studied his reactions as we heard testimony, looked at pictures, watched video, etc.