The Suburban Buffoon’s Complete Guide … Pt 3
The Suburban Buffoon’s Complete Guide to Fucking Up an Obvious Assault I Conviction Pt. 3
By Mark Driver
Mouthbreathing morons email me all the time and say that I’m too harsh on people. That most people are basically intelligent and can do just fine without having me tell them how to think. These people are wrong. Dead wrong. The public is WORTHLESS. It is 80% sheep and 20% cows and 75% of the cows are charging in the wrong direction. On a jury of twelve people, four of them dogpiled on decency and absolutely ruined justice. That’s an incapable 1/3rd. And the rest of the statistical sample sat back and watched it all happen.
Of the original of fourteen choices (two alternates), there were three sane people on the jury: me, Winston (the guy who also tried to assault his way out of the trial), and some dude that worked for Boeing and looked exactly like Donahue.
When I include myself among the sane, you know there are problems.
Like I said, there were three of us capable of reason. Four jurors were out-and-out bozos—and the other seven? You’d be about as lucky getting a kidney from them as an opinion. You could’ve convinced them of anything. They were just waiting to see what everyone else thought, and then they timidly agreed without much elaboration. A few were happy to be away from work, a few could manage to recap what the previous person had said in slightly different words, a few meekly sat back and waited to inherit the Earth, and one lady actually said that the only thing she wanted to contribute to the deliberation was a double batch her of her famous chocolate-chip cookies.
Three working brains, four diseased brains, and seven sleeping ones. And that, my friends, is society.
But, oh. The four retards. You wanna meet these winners?
Juror #1 almost caused a mistrial on the first day. And old fucker with one of those hats where the USS Whatever is floating on an ocean of scrambled eggs—a hat that nearly brought him to diaper soiling when the judge asked him to take it off in the courtroom. “I’m a Korean vet goddamnit! I am not taking this hat off.”
“Do you take it off when you go to bed at night?”
“Do you wear it in the shower?”
“Do you wear it to church?”
“Then you can take it off in my courtroom.”
I liked the judge.
This old guy, however, was a prick. That very first day, immediately after being chosen for the jury, we walk into the jury room and the old bird turns red and starts totally going off. “I saw those lawyers writing down our names. What do they need our names for? I want that piece of paper. I don’t wanna be on this case. When he gets out of jail, that little gangster is gonna look up my address and come pop me.”
“Pop you? We haven’t even heard any evidence yet!” someone said.
“Oh, you can tell that little bastard’s guilty just by looking at him. We’ll put his butt in jail and then he’ll send his little spick friends after us. I’ve got a wife to think about!”
The bailiff, who had been making a pot of coffee for us, grabbed the old goat and dragged him outside. “Get your hands off me! I’m not going anywhere…” And poof! Ol’ Juror #1 was gone. Just like that. Wonder if that’s the sort of selfless bravery he showed in Korea. Not someone I’d want to share a gun tower with. (This summer, I hung out in Port Townsend with the father of friend. The guy had been wounded twice in Vietnam and still sports an ugly limp. We sailed to one of the old forts that defended Puget Sound, a fort where his father manned a gun during WWII. We docked the boat, smoked some dope, and while we were walking up to the visitor center we passed a bunch of old vets with their egg hats. “My dad loved this stuff,” he told me. “He was in the army for four years, never fired a shot in anger, and spent the next 40 years going to reunions. It’s always the guys who stayed back and polished the boats who wear those goddamn hats. Nobody who’s been in the shit wants to think about it ever again.”)
Because of Old Count Batula’s outburst, our lunch break was curtailed and we all had to file back into the courtroom. The lawyers, defendant, and judge were waiting for us. They went down the line and asked who had overheard the idiot, and we all raised our hands, and then we were asked if this tirade would affect our objectivity while listening to the case. They still had one alternate juror. It was my last chance to get out.
“No,” I said.
Juror #2. Imagine being the defendant in a trial, looking over at the people who are deciding your fate based on their reasonable assessment of the evidence, sweating, looking for a sympathetic face in the crowd—and seeing Juror #2 sitting there, WITH HIS JUROR BADGE ON UPSIDE DOWN. When the judge asked him to turn it the right side up, he looked down at his shirt, read it, and said, “It is right side up.” It was a mistake he made twice. I am not kidding. Little did I know his stupidity would bring me to tears in the weeks to come.
Juror #3. Juror #3 introduced herself to us with a story about getting trapped with her sister inside a car that had a dead battery and electric locks. They remained locked in the automobile for two hours until a cop finally stopped on the scene and suggested they open the locks manually (I wish I was making this up. It’s one thing to be this stupid, but to announce it to strangers?). Juror #3 was a woman in her early 40s, obviously divorced and on the prowl. Highlights, long nails, loose skin on her neck, painfully tight jeans stretched over a flat ass. She had moved to Seattle from Phoenix and HATED the weather. She lived on the suburban east side, complained about parking, and snorted when someone suggested the bus, saying, “I don’t ride the bus.” She snapped her gum and chewed on ice, and I think I saw her eat a booger.
We argued with Juror #3 every day. In the courtroom, it is made extremely clear to you that you don’t discuss anything about the case until both sides give their final arguments and you go into deliberation. Any discussion prior to deliberation can result in a mistrial. This was explained to us every single day. Yet, upon returning to the jury room for our lunch break, Juror #3 would always say something like “well, I think he’s lying” or “did you see what the mom was wearing?”, sending the rest of us into a flurry of frantic shushes. After the 50th time she did it, Winston told her to “shut the fuck up,” which later proved to be a HUGE mistake.
Juror #3 was absolutely bewildered by every stage of the trial, and especially confused by the police reports submitted as evidence. Everyone knows that cops will tweak their reports to make accused criminals look guiltier—not because they’re evil, but because it’s their job to get the bad guys. Reports are often filled with opinion and slanting, which are open to analysis by the prosecution, the defense, and the jury. Same with statements given by witnesses with possible motives. Juror #3 did not understand any of this, and by some inexplicable quirk of fate, I was the only one with enough patience to try to explain stuff to her.
#3: In his police statement, that one gang member said that the victim was acting suspicious and might have had a gun of his own. So if the victim had a gun, they beat up the victim in self-defense.
Me: But he didn’t have a gun. That’s just what he said in the police report.
#3: The evidence says he did.
Me (waving police report): That’s a gang member telling the cop that the victim was acting suspicious. That he might have had a gun. That’s not factual. He just doesn’t want to see his buddy go to jail. It’s hearsay. There’s no proof to back it up.
#3: But it’s evidence.
Me: That doesn’t mean it’s true.
#3: Then why did the prosecutor not do the objection? Why is it evidence?
Me: The prosecutor talked about it. He said there was no evidence.
#3: This statement is the evidence. Why do you have evidence in your hand if it’s not true?
Me: Because there’s no legal objection to this police report.
#3: So it’s true.
Me: No. The person in the actual statement could be lying to the police, or mistaken, or not remembering right, or whatever.
#3: But then why did the prosecution let it through then?
Me: Because there are no legal grounds to stop it!
#3: Because it’s true. He had a gun.
Me: No! Even if it’s total lies, the prosecution can’t stop a statement given legally to the police! The witness could say that he’s from Mars and it would show up in this thing. It’s our job as a jury to weigh these statements for their validity, taking into consideration the source and any—
#3: Can’t stop, or won’t stop?
#3: You said the prosecution can’t stop. I say that he won’t stop the police report.
Me: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE!?!
#3: I think there’s a big difference. (crosses arms, stops talking)
It was Juror #3’s gradual alienation from the group that would fuck everything up.
Juror #4 and I were actually friends for a bit, until he went crazy and ruined everything. He was a philosophy major turned automotive welder. He made his own beer and set up a rainwater collection system that he used for the washing machine and the toilet. Though he looked perpetually sunburned, and had lost part of his nose in a welding accident (always wear those masks, kids!), he had a calming effect on everyone. He seemed to be the voice of reason.
He also turned out to be the biggest wiener in the bunch.
OK, so the trial’s over, and we’re all sitting around in the jury room. Winston says he wants to be the foreman and since no one else wants to do it, he’s the guy.
Basically, we had three questions to answer. If each one got a yes, then we would give a guilty verdict for Assault I.
1. Did the defendant assault the victim?
2. Did the defendant intend to harm the victim?
3. Did the defendant assault the victim in a manner that was likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm?
This was a slam-dunk. Though I wasn’t foreman, I took the liberty of answering for the group.
1. Uh, yes. Even the defense admitted it.
2. Well, I don’t think he was trying to help him with kicks to the head.
3. Hmm, stomping the head of an unconscious person while said person is lying on a concrete sidewalk. Yes, I can see that causing some grievous bodily harm.
It’s a wrap. It was a pleasure working with y’all. What’s say we get back to our real lives and I get to sleep for more than 3 hours in a row.
No, said our fearless foreman. We must chart out who saw what, and in what order.
Um, OK. EVERYONE saw the grown men beat the shit out of a teenage kid, and then EVERYONE saw the defendant stomp the beaten kid’s head like 10+ times. Cool? Cool. Now let’s put this shitheel in jail and go get some BBQ.
But, no. Over the next three days, we filled the walls with charts, witness statements, factual cross-references, drawings of the living room, the front yard, the victim’s position, photos of pre-plastic surgery Cher, tactical underwater terrain maps of the Caspian Sea, critical analysis of the Dali Lama’s credit card bill, unflattering and disturbing nude sketches of Donald Rumsfeld copulating with various garden tools—and hey, this is fine. A total waste of time, but fine. We were sending a person to jail, and we owed it to him, the victim, the families, and good people of King County to make sure that we did everything right. I honestly felt this way.
Up until this point, the trial had been sort of entertaining to me, something to complain about, an excuse to check out the lunch specials in Pioneer Square. But as it came time to make a decision, the gravity of the situation began to take hold, especially after I physically held the stack of mimeographed papers that we would sign and decide the fate of that violent assailant. I would give justice to a family that had been brutalized and been forced to suffer greatly. I would bring a sort of closure to a bunch of kids who had to see their friend beaten to a pulp, to the girl who had to scrub her best friend’s blood off the front door of her house. I personally would see that a perp of a really shitty crime got punished. This was some serious shit. So, if some people weren’t comfortable making swift decisions based on obvious facts, then so be it. Let’s talk about it. Let’s be methodical. We’re all adults here, right?
So, after three days of going through the evidence, it all seemed very easy. The answers to those three questions seemed obvious. This is regardless of gang affiliation, personal opinions of the people involved, the tricks and spectacles presented to us. The law is very narrow, and very specific. And it was broken.
We go around the room with an oral vote.
Wait—what? It was Juror #3, the divorcee, and Juror #4, the peasant-philosopher. Ummm, you guys want to explain your reasoning?
Juror #3: Well, we all make mistakes. I have a nephew his age.
“Kicking an unconscious kid in the head ten times is hardly something you can consider a mistake,” I said, “and furthermore, I don’t think people prone to mistakes like that should be attending parties in our neighborhoods.”
“I just feel bad for him,” she continued. “You’ve all been against him for the whole trial. Like you’ve been against me.” She was about to cry.
“What does that have to do with—”
Juror #4 kicked in. “I just don’t like the term ‘likely.’ I’m just not convinced that the assault was ‘likely’ to cause grievous bodily harm. I mean, there’s no definition for ‘likely’ given. It’s too ambiguous.”
“So, if I started unambiguously kicking you in the head right now, which is becoming an increasingly likely possibility, you don’t think it would be likely to cause you serious harm?”
“Well, you’re bigger than the defendant. And you’re wearing boots. He was just wearing hightops.”
“So you’d let him kick you repeatedly in the head, because there’s no likelihood of harm? It took the victim two months to learn how to walk again.”
“Well, we don’t know which blow actually caused the damage. It could have been when he got thrown down the stairs. He could have already been hurt. And I don’t want to be responsible for putting that young man in jail for the next five years if I’m not sure he’s the one who caused the damage.”
“But the prosecution only had to prove intent to cause grievous bodily harm.”
“And there’s that word, ‘intent.’ We can’t get into that guy’s mind. We don’t know what he was intending.”
“If someone points a gun at another person and pulls the trigger, what is he intending to do?”
“We can never know because we can never truly understand man’s intent, the true causation of an impending event … I mean, if two factories across town from each other blow their whistles at the same time and workers from Factory A start leaving, how do we know that it wasn’t the whistle from Factory B that caused the event?” And then he goes off on a jargon-clogged, pedantic poststructuralist ramble about the shifting nature of knowledge, the effects of observation on subject, arbitrary signifiers—stuff that’s really fun to blab about when you’re passing the bottle around, but has shit to do with fuck when you’re weighing evidence in a court case in the material world.
And I knew just enough bullshit to be a bother.
“Yeah yeah yeah,” I said. “Discipline and Punish. Hegelian Synthesis. We’ve all been to college. We’ve all read Kant.”
The entire jury, which was apparently intimately familiar with all three trillion pages of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, nodded in agreement.
But in my childish desire to bully and win, I pissed him off. He stopped talking. I’m such a dumbass! I forgot why I was arguing. You gotta stroke people like that. You gotta say, “Well, I don’t really understand what you’re talking about, it’s a little over my head, but…” Nope. I had to win. Brutally. I hate that about me.
But not as much as I hate it when people are like, “well I’m a gay Republican Iranian garbageman who studied Shakespeare in Stratford-on-Avon, and as a gay Republican Iranian garbageman who studied Shakespeare in Stratford-on-Avon, I look at everything from a gay-Republican-Iranian-garbageman-who-studied-Shakespeare-in-Stratford-on-Avon point of view.”
Like this guy fancied himself Mr. Philosophy, and his whole “life among the peons” is some academic experiment that he himself is personally above, but as his university colleagues postulate vacuously in their ivory towers, he nobly sullies himself with the grease and grime of the common man, a true Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repairman (although he himself is well beyond the rudimentary text of that overhyped mass-market paperback), and he probably tortures his co-workers with Lacanian psychocrap, reading Wittgenstein at the coffee house up the street in greasy overalls, just wishing someone would come up and tell him how strange it is to see a garage guy partaking in such a heady exercise, putting this vision of himself into words—but no. Instead, he takes a real life tragedy and turns it into an exercise of self-expression. Mutilating reality to make it fit with how he wants to be perceived, of who he wants to be. He is the intellectual superior of all in the room. This idea must survive. This is more important than doing the “right” thing, although to bring up such an illusively concrete concept of “rightness” involves a discussion of historical definitions, shifting motives based on temporal paradigms and SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!
I’m mean come on. We all know that I’m the smartest guy in the room.
OK, fine. We all protect our delusions.
Thus began our descent into the ridiculous that, in the end, just came down to two people with a lack of guts to do what’s right. We argued for another day over it. These two people could not handle the burden of being responsible for the lengthy imprisonment of another, which I can understand, but I cannot excuse. I will be disgusted by those people until the day I die. Along with that old fuckhead who didn’t even last the trial. I suppose you could argue that it took bravery to stand on conviction in the face of an increasingly angry group, but when convictions themselves are based in cowardice, it’s a gesture as hollow as a spoiled war dodger in a borrowed flight suit landing on an aircraft carrier and mugging for the cameras.
And we can argue different theories about the purpose of jail, a corrupt system that disproportionately affects minorities (although the victim was Latino as well), we can talk about the over-imprisonment in our society, the conditions of prisons, their failure to rehabilitate, police corruption, poverty and the lack of opportunity that turns kids towards gangs in the first place—but when a grown man stomps the head of an unconscious little kid to show off in front of his friends, discussions such as these are irrelevant. This guy needs to be put in a place where he can’t make any more “bad decisions” that so brutally affect other people. Anyone who does not agree with this is an idiot, and anyone who can’t put a person like that in prison is a coward, no matter how they try to justify it.
So, we were at an impasse. I absolutely refused to let this little shit off. Sleep or no sleep, I was not going to let it pass. Winston and I spent hours talking to the two no votes, who had both stopped talking or making eye contact with anyone.
So it went on for another day. The two people weren’t going to change their minds. Three women on the jury began a daily crying regimen, Donahue was losing clients at work, the old lady who had to take the bus an hour each way to attend the trial wasn’t looking too good, one woman was growing increasingly frantic because she had to help with her daughter’s wedding in two weeks, the guy that looked like the face on a Pringles can seemed to grow dangerously pinker by the day. The trial was on its third week and really starting to break everyone down. Thinking that everything would already be over, I had scheduled myself to work two triple shifts at the bar in an attempt to start saving money for a Mexican vacation. I could get my shifts covered. I didn’t want to, I wanted the money. But I would.
But, deliberation got to the point where standing on my convictions began to be an act of selfishness. Life had to go on. Winston sadly agreed.
“So,” he said disgustedly, “neither of you will convict on Assault I. How about Assault II?”
They both quietly nodded that they would. There were sighs of relief all around the table that this thing was finally going to be over. There was resignation and anger, too, but this was the compromise. The packet of documents was passed around, and we all agreed to it. After three 8-hour days of deliberation, we had achieved a consensus. However fucked and wrong, we had a verdict. It was time to go home.
And then, as if emerging from a nightmare, Juror #2 stood up in his stained sweatpants and spoke. I could almost hear his jaw creak like an ancient hinge as his voice broke the eerie stillness of the room, an announcement of impending apocalypse coming from Satan’s lips himself, two pitches too low at a half-speed groan. “This ain’t right. I’m not signing that. If we don’t do Assault I, then he’s gonna go free.”
“I’m not signing that paper. Either we’re gonna do some justice, or we’re gonna let him go. There’s nothing in-between. So, if you two ain’t on board, then that defendant is a free man.”
“Fine,” said Juror #3. “Let him go.”
“Fine. Let’s go home,” said one of the other ladies, who had previously voted him guilty.
“STOP IT!” yelled Winston, finally losing his cool. “We are going to sign for Assault II and THAT’S IT.”
Juror #2 didn’t back down. “I ain’t signing nothing that isn’t Assault I.”
Day four was scheduled. A new round of crying began.
I believe I joined in.
Part 4/Conclusion up 10/17. Swear!
Come to my rocking birthday party! Sat, October 18th at Monkey Pub in the U-District (Sea, WA, USA). My band (Snitches Get Stitches) is playing. Misfits and Drop Dead covers will abound. Come be a part of the problem. Or the solution. Who gives a fuck, just get me in a headlock and buy me a beer. And if you’re one of the 15,000 people who voted for Larry Flynt, you get in free.
Life Lessons I’ve learned from Republicans:
1. Cocaine addiction, alcoholism, laziness, draft-dodging, and stupidity qualify one for president.
2. Steroid abuse, sexual assault, extensive plastic surgery, and orgy participation qualify one for governor.
3. Being a pillhead junky qualifies you to be the leading voice of conservative moralism in America.
4. There is nothing wrong with blowing the proceeds from your book about morality on video poker.
5. Condemning the souls of others to hell is tough work. Blow off some steam by spending your nights (and church proceeds) whacking off in front of hookers. Cry on the pulpit. You shall be forgiven.
6. Destroy everything. Nothing matters. Win.
Life Lessons I’ve learned from Democrats:
1. Selling out your friends doesn’t guarantee victory. And then you don’t have any friends.
2. Trying to be a more palatable version of your enemy leaves a poor taste in many mouths.
Life Lessons I’ve learned from Iron Maiden:
1. Fly to live. Live to fly. Die with your boots on.
Life Lessons I’ve learned from Johnny Cash:
1. I won’t ask a life that’s soft or high.
2. Let me be easy on the man that’s down.
3. Let that cocaine be.
4. I’m careless sometimes, Lord, when I’m in town.
5. Don’t bring your guns to town (see above).
Book Update: Being Typeset. Mailed to printer in 3 weeks. ROCK!