Jury Duty, Day 2-6 and beyond

This is a report from a private journal I wrote in 2006. It’s been long enough now that I feel I can post it here.

Again, tried to keep this as PG as possible. There is some mention of blood, but not nearly the description I originally had of what was shown to us.

Today was lots of police officers. Started with the first officer to arrive on scene, then to the lead detective for the case, then Nordstrom Security, who pulled the tape of the getaway car.

We saw crime scene photos. LOTS of them. And evidence. And more evidence. Mostly in the way of photos and cell phone records that placed the suspect in the right location at the right time, and talking to the victim on the phone shortly before, arranging a meetup. And we saw the video of the getaway car driving the wrong way down the parking aisle.

Did I mention there was a lot of blood? But not NEARLY as much as we’d been led to believe. One of my first questions when we started the case, and in fact, the one asked as a “defense” by his atty, was “WHERE IS THE BLOOD?” – meaning where was all the blood from the shooting? Why did he not have blood soaked clothing, or a car full of blood, etc. Well, it’s fairly clear from the crime-scene photos. There was NO blood spray that went backward. NONE. No blood stains in the backseat at all. Questions answered? Maybe.

Where’s the gun? We still don’t know. But search of suspect’s house finds .380 cal ammunition in a safe, along with multiple IDs and a passport and cash and drug paraphernalia. So he had the same kind of gun, we are to assume. Why else would he have the bullets? However, they’re not the same brand as the ones at the scene. This is not a big concern. It is concerning that he has the same caliber bullets but NO GUN IN HIS GUN SAFE.

Oh, and aviator style sunglasses, red-tinted. This was a distinct feature that witness described shooter wearing. They found multiple pairs at his home. Apparently he collected them or something. Weird. And a newspaper printout of the story about the shooting. Why would he have that printed out off the computer? Yeah he knew the guys, but why print it?

The prosecutor made much of him getting a new driver’s license photo taken shortly after the crime. Turns out it was right at the time of his birthday, according to the defense. However, I calculated. ASSUMING he got his license at 16 (big assumption) it was an odd number of years, not a multiple of 4 or 8, between his 16th birthday and that year. So he wasn’t up for renewal. WHY did he renew?

Lots of unanswered questions.

………
Day Three

This day was the testimony of the DNA expert from the WA State Patrol Crime Lab. It’s not gory. It’s detailled, but not terribly long – I tried to edit it down.

Today was mostly taken up with the DNA expert.

Before we get to her, however, we have the mechanic who fixes the suspect’s car. Defendant’s wife and stepson dropped off the car 2 days after the crime for a tune up. When it’s impounded by police it’s particularly clean. It’s been armor-all’ed on the inside, and the passenger side has a sheepskin seat cover, which is missing on the driver’s side. The driver’s side is particularly clean. The mechanic is no help in either direction. He can’t recall anything about the car, so he says. It’s just a car. Not dirty, not clean. Not anything. Just a car. Crime Lab disagrees. They find it’s very clean on driver’s side and regular amount of debris on passenger side.

DNA expert was from the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, and is a PhD in Biology of some sort with thousands of hours of forensics training. She’s been working there 10 years after working 10 years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their Forensics Unit in Alberta. She definitely knew her stuff.

She showed the link between the one drop of blood found on the suspect’s car and the blood of one of the victims. She showed that the murderer had to be sitting in the backseat of the vehicle at the time of the shooting, and there were multiple pictures of the crime scene showing that there was no back spray at all that reached the back seat, so the shooter would not have had any blood on him, most likely. He may have had some on his hands due to the close-range of the shooting of one of the victims.

The defense atty tried to question her labeling system. She uses her initials and then numbers for evidence collected from each scene. However, each scene has its own set of independent identifiers also on the packages, and in addition when she packages she puts a full description. The big thing they were going after was the blood on the suspect’s car that matched the victim’s “control sample” – both were labeled BAH-2. They were trying to say that somehow she had gotten them mixed up. However, The “unknown” samples are always processed before the “known” samples. In this case a FULL MONTH prior. Also, in this case, she had pictures of the packaging. So the package of the sample from the suspect’s car said BAH-2 but it also said “red-brown stain from underside of driver’s door on Toyota Celica” and the date.

The Control sample was a blood-card (like a sample card when they test your blood type) heat-sealed in plastic laminate, labeled “Control sample blood from Felix Payan Cruz” and the date and case number. She re-explained about 4 times that there was clear labeling on all her items, and the defense atty acted dense and said “but you have no clear protocol in place regarding keeping them separate from one another in the fridge or using different numbering systems so you don’t get them confused.” The DNA expert was funny. She said, “well I suppose if dried DNA evidence could somehow magically crawl through a heat-sealed piece of plastic laminate, and get out of a sealed envelope, and through another sealed package, and into another sealed envelope, where it would then magically insert itself into yet another sealed carton, then yes they could cross-contaminate. But since that is not the case, then no – there’s no cross contamination.”

This is the only defense they’re bringing so far. Attacking things that were clearly done correctly. They truly seem to have NO defense.

1. Where is the gun? We don’t know. Could be ANYWHERE. But suspect obviously once owned that sort of gun, or had access. He has bullets for one in his home safe.

2. Where is ALL the blood? Answered. There was no back spray. ALL the blood is in the victim’s car. A drop of it is on the suspect’s car.

3. Where is the motive? Don’t know. Does it matter when the evidence is there? I don’t think so. I don’t think we need a motive when we have the evidence.

Unless the defense pulls a rabbit out of their ass, this case is over.

Three families have lost their sons. Everyone loses in this one. There is no good answer, but at least we can do the right thing, whatever that may be. At this point, I think I know. But we shall see if there is anything new to come.

……

Day Four

Today started with the final State witness. Kathy was the defendant’s supervisor at work. She testified that he did not show up for work (nor did he call in) on the day of the crime. The following day, he called in sick. The third day, he returned to work, minus the moustache he’d always had and driving a different car than what he’d always driven.

At this, the State rested its case.

Defense

First defense witness was a DNA expert. This is a man who works at UW Medical Center in DNA research, and by his own admission on the stand, contracts out to defense teams. He gets paid to consult and testify. He says he has consulted on 200 cases. Of those, 198 have been for the defense, where he was paid by the defense team to find holes in the prosecutor’s DNA portion of the case.

I tried to keep an open mind as to what he was going to say. However, when he testified, the “holes” he brought up were ALL already explained by the prosecutor’s team. He made a lot of the fact that he didn’t know how the samples had been stored. However, it’s all clearly documented. The WSP Crime Lab is afterall aware that most of their work will be scrutinized in court eventually. He really had a lot to say about the labeling of the swabs from the defendant’s car and from the crime scene (BAH-2). However, there was additional labeling that made it very very clear what was which. His answer for that was “well I don’t know when that additional labeling was put on there.” We had earlier testimony showing that the labeling was done at the time of collection. In fact, it was photographed RIGHT after being labeled and was clear at that time.

I found myself sitting there thinking “it must really feel shitty to be a sellout” and “I wonder what the scientific community thinks of this guy?”

So pretty much the whole day was taken with this witness. But he was a waste of time (and money) as he didn’t manage to cast ANY doubts, much less reasonable ones.

…….

Day Five

The defense called back the lead detective in the case. They asked about the ring that was recovered from the defendant’s personal effects and tested for blood – it was negative. They implied that had the defendant been the shooter, he would have had blood on that ring due to blowback.

However, on cross the prosecutor brought up that the defendant was arrested more than 10 days after the murders. Plenty of time to have washed his hands multiple times. In addition, what I noted as they showed us the ring, was that it was most likely his wedding ring. It appeared from the scene that the shooter was right-handed. He also may have been wearing gloves, which reinforces premeditation. This would also explain the lack of fingerprints on the car.

That was it for defense witnesses. The defense rested at this point.

So we had Jury Instructions, and then Closing Statements. The one thing that made me mad was that the defense atty implied that because the victims were dealing drugs they deserved to be murdered. I think his words were “they were drug dealers. Their lifestyle and their world is not the same as yours. They made a lot of enemies, and any of those enemies could have committed this crime. The defendant walked up, saw what had happened, and as happens all too often in our society, he walked away, not wanting to get involved.”

The prosecuting atty jumped on this in her rebuttal. She said that yes, they were dealing drugs, but both were young, one just 16. They were never allowed the chance to have a future. That future could have been continued drug involvement, but it could have been turned around. What is important is that they weren’t given the choice. They didn’t deserve to be murdered.

And then I was excused, since I am Juror #14. I will get a phone call if anything happens that they have to excuse a juror and I have to come in. Otherwise, I’ll get a call once they are done and it’s all over with. I asked the Bailiff if I could be called when they reached a decision so I could come sit in the courtroom, but she basically said no. I would have liked to be there, since I feel quite invested in this case at this point.

I was excused at noon. It’s now 5:00pm and no call. I’m definitely anxious/curious to hear what happens. There is no good solution in this case. Not at all. The options are first degree murder or second degree murder for both count one and count two, and an additional “special charge” regarding the use of a firearm.

When I walked out that door I had no doubt that I would have voted him guilty on all of the above. We shall see how the other jurors vote.

I feel so sad for all the families involved.

……

Day Six – Decision Day

The decision was announced today.

Count 1 – Murder in the first degree of Felix Payan Cruz: Guilty.
Special Charge of use of a firearm: yes.

Count 2 – Murder in the first degree of Ivan Payan Rojas: Guilty.
Special Charge of use of a firearm: yes.

There is no good in this news, really.

Three families have lost their sons.
It’s a sad, sad situation. However, the correct decision was made. It was the only decision that could be made.

After the decision was announced, the jurors were allowed to speak freely with the attorneys, and the defense attorney essentially said there was no way to defend this case. The prosecutor agreed. They did their best with what they had, but they had nothing.

My heart breaks for all the parents involved, all of whom were in attendance in the courthouse during the trial. I just want to hug them all. They have all lost. Simply sad.

May the victims rest in peace, and may the family members find some sort of peace.

I haven’t decided yet, but I may want to attend the sentencing. Another juror who became my friend during the case may also do the same. It’s a sort of closure thing, I think. Seeing it through or something. I don’t know. We’ll see how I feel as time goes on.

I don’t have to work tomorrow. I’m taking a mental health day to recover. I’ll go back on Friday.

……..

After Thoughts

The victims in the case reminded me of my ex, and I find myself thinking about my life, and my escape from certain death.

When I was 18 years old, I met a guy named Gabe. He told me he was an ex-gangmember and had gotten his life turned around. He was a friend of a friend. She vouched for him, since I was skeptical of his story at first. He had a job and seemed ok, so I decided to go on a date with him and see how it went. A month later, we were living together. I moved from my parents’ home in La Jolla to a dumpy apartment in Pacific Beach and dropped out of college (I’d come home from UC Santa Cruz the summer before and decided not to go back due to homesickness. I was at San Diego State University.)

We’d met at the end of November 1991. We moved in together in January, and by that time I was already afraid to talk to my friends. I couldn’t go anywhere without him. I couldn’t dress the way I wanted. I was intimidated. He’d accuse me of cheating on him with my coworkers, so I got a job in a retail store where all my coworkers were female. He’d hang out outside to make sure I wasn’t sneaking anyone in to have sex with them in the back room on my breaks. I was afraid of him. By March, he was dealing drugs from our apartment, and kicked me out during a fight. Shortly thereafter he was evicted and we both moved to his parents’ house, where he began shoving me during fights. To be fair, I did often intentionally provoke him, out of frustration with the situation, and then dare him to hit me. Finally he took me up on the offer. I stopped provoking, as he’d start in for any or no reason by that point.

Hi drug activities escalated, and he became addicted to meth. His temper was explosive. I never knew when I’d be attacked, or for what reason. When he finally went to jail for his drug-related shenanigans, I got a job at a fast-food restaurant where his brothers and his sister-in law worked. So “they could keep an eye on me while he was gone.”

Eventually, he got out of jail, and the abuse continued. He was in and out of jail during the entire 2.5 years of the relationship. He got me two kittens in early 1993, and in December 1993 one of them died mysteriously of what I now believe to be poisoning. The other disappeared a month later, in January 1994. I am fairly certain he killed her while in a rage.

Finally, in June 1994, Nicole Simpson was killed. It was, of course, all over the news. At this time, Gabe was wanted by the FBI for shooting at the house of a guy who’d driven past my house. The FBI came knocking on my door looking for him (I was living with my parents again, after he kicked me out of his house during yet another fight.) The FBI visit scared me. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about ending the relationship. But I didn’t know how. And then we were talking one day in July 1994 about Nicole. He told me he thought OJ had a right to kill her. I was momentarily stunned silent. When I found words, I asked him to explain. He proceeded to tell me that if she’d ever loved him, she wouldn’t ever be with any other man, even after they were divorced, she’d “stay true to him” and not even have male friends. He said THAT was how a woman should show love, and that anything less, the man had a right to kill her. I was still in disbelief, and asked, “so you’re telling me that if we broke up, and 10 years from now you saw me with a male friend, you’d kill me?”

He responded, “I’d pull an OJ on your ass so fast you’d never know what hit you.”

I took off the rings he’d given me, and the bracelet, and calmly handed them to him. I asked him to please get out of my car. I told him it was over, and that I meant it. He cried, he begged, he said he didn’t mean it. I was like ice inside. I had to physically shove him out of the car. He tried to lock the door and stay in. We fought, and I opened the door and pushed him out. I drove away with him still trying to get back in. Thank god for automatic locks.

Little did I know my father had allowed the FBI to bug our phones, so he was arrested shortly after. A year later, I moved from San Diego to Washington. My entire family moved. I obtained a lifetime order of protection. It was going to be the standard 5 or 10 year order, until the judge heard that quote. At that point, he found that it was necessary to make it a lifetime order.

Periodically I check to be sure where he is. A year ago he was in jail for domestic assault. This year it’s burglary.

I feel a certain connection to Nicole, and a gratitude. I can’t imagine the pain her family has gone through. However, her death allowed me to live, and love, and truly thrive and maybe make this world a better place.

My life has changed, obviously. But the trial brought it all back. I needed to dump, to get it out so it’d stop eating me up. I haven’t been sleeping. Maybe this will help.

……

This was all written in 2006, nearly 8 years ago. So much in my life has changed since then, and I am an entirely different person from the one I wrote about above. But I think it’s important to remember and to tell the story, because it made me who I am today. And I kinda like that chick. 🙂

Fingers crossed for an uneventful jury duty 2014.

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