Friday, February 23, 2007

TRIALS: Overreaching by a long shot.

Yes, the jury in my case this week in the 147th District Court was hung. The final tally was 11-1 in favor of not guilty.

The charge was a constructive Delivery of a Controlled Substance-Cocaine. The State alleged the transaction was within a school zone, elevating the charge to a 3rd Degree Felony, enhanced by three prior trips to the big house. This made his initial range of punishment 25-life. After some discussion with the state, the school zone enhancement was struck, making the punishment range at trial 2-20.

My client (Let's call him Billy for convenience) was alleged to have been part of an elaborate scheme to distribute cocaine in the night club district of Austin. He essentially knew a man, who knew a man, who had supplied a pipe with cocaine in it to an undercover policeman. The alleged transaction was recorded on video taken from the parking garage across the street. The undercover officer supposedly gave Billy a $20 bill during this transaction which the police claimed they recovered from him immediately afterward.

So you ask: How can the transaction be recorded, buy money recovered, and yet a jury not convict? Easy, they didn't believe the officer and the state provided insufficient additional proof.

The undercover officer made some incredible claims. First, the transaction began with a head nod, followed by the officer turning around and walking in unison with Billy followed by Billy stating; "What do you want?" This was taken by the officer as an acknowledgment of a desire for a transaction and a follow-up question of how much crack he wanted. This was followed by Billy talking to another man which the officer then supposedly followed to meet with the connection. He eventually was given a pipe with .1 grams of crack. No crack was ever recovered from Billy or the second man. The Officer's testimony then continued to map an elaborate, sophisticated, and complicated web of crack dealing on 6th Street in Austin. One problem. The jury didn't buy the story. In addition, the video which was purported to show the transaction was muddled, out-of-focus, and hard to follow. Of course the undercover neglected to point out where and when he gave Billy the money.

The State's next witness testified as to the recovered money. However, the officer couldn't show the log with the recorded serial number, couldn't explain why his supplement to the offense report was entered two weeks after the supposed transaction, and finally, HE DIDN'T PRODUCE THE ACTUAL TWENTY DOLLAR BILL after testifying he filed it as evidence.

The clincher for the jury was the only witness for the defense, the last person in the sequence who actually supplied the supposed cocaine to the cop. This person was a pathetic, homeless addict. This poor guy could hardly make it to the stand. He denied knowing my client, never saw any money, and denied any scheme. When asked if he was the one responsible for supplying the officer with the pipe with cocaine, he stated: "Ma'am I probably gave him the pipe, but if there was any cocaine in it, I would have smoked it!"

The jury deliberated from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm. With the jury deadlocked, we reached an agreement for back time in State Jail. It was the first time I'd seen my client smile.

1 comment:

Margie in Austin said...

You go ahead, Keith. I have a similar case in the 147th. I'm feeling more confident about taking the case to trial.
Margie in Austin