Sunday, March 15, 2009

Team court & prosecutrix v. me - trial fun

In preparing for a sexual assault trial, I read an old record in which I tried a sexual assault case in 2004 in Harris County. My memory of the trial, and the record, are just a little different. My opinion is the same - the client did NOT get a fair trial. (Luckily, we got a hung jury and a subsequent dismissal.)

I'll spend a few of blogs talking about this case and record. To a trial lawyer, it is funny now because we know the outcome. It was not funny at the time, and I worried about Client's freedom. I truly believed him and in him. Maybe some non-lawyer types will read this & have an understanding of what citizens face in trying to get a fair trial (although it is a bit difficult to understand in portions & not in the totality.)

I appeared the week before to go over motions, including limine (keep stuff out of trial because irrelevant or prejudicial). Went over prosecutrix's motion first and then a couple of mine when the court announced something to the effect that my motions were taking too much time and my verbal explanations (between the interruptions from other cases and her telephone calls) were confusing. Well, okay.

We were set the following Monday for trial. We picked the jury on Friday, and Monday I come to court with a detailed "trial" motion with cites to cases and full explanations. Unfortunately for the court, I guess, I worked very hard trying to make my points crystal clear. The motion was 8 pages (including long paragraphs that were, uh, single spaced. I knew that if I double spaced them she would really freak out over the length and I certainly didn't want Client's freedom to get in the way of her clearing her docket.) The purpose of the motion was that when I was trying to verbally explain my theories on why Client was accused by his niece years after an alleged incident so I could get in the evidence I needed (which was somewhat controversial), I did not have someone who was listening and actually considering my offers. Making considered decisions based on the law and facts requires attention and understanding. Instead, I had someone trying to assist the State in keeping the jury in the fog about the truth. (This was their conclusion after the jury hung and we discussed what they didn't get to hear at trial.)

So for some of the quotes from the record:

Vol. II - pg 36: The court: "Ms. Henley, I want to work with you on your theory of the case; but you also have to follow the Rules of Evidence. And every time you want something in, I have to do a balancing test as to -- because the State's entitled to a fair trial here also, not just the Defense." (Okay, I did add the red but as it turned out, it seemed throughout the trial that it was only applicable to me. I think the court meant the State was entitled to introduce whatever it took to run Client over.)

I should have seen what was coming during trial when she made that comment before the testimony had begun and after only a couple of points on my trial motion.) (Multiple times throughout the trial I was admonished, "you're going to have to follow the rules of evidence, Ms. Henley." Well, I was but there were a couple of people - namely the prosecutrix and the court - who either didn't know the rules, didn't understand the rules, or didn't like that I knew them and how to use them properly and to Client's legal advantage.

Right after we discuss trial motion number 14, in Vol. II - page 40: The court: ". . . Seems like we should have voir dired the jury on three weeks trial instead of one. The defendant objects to any testimony by any witness - thank you." (SERIOUSLY. Heck, testimony had not begun I had already exhausted her. Why didn't I think of that objection?! And, if you want the flavor of the entire trial, read the court's comments with a sweet, syrupy tone, and imagine being the subject of glaring eyes.) She even complained when, after 7 lines of record at a bench conference where we all whisper because the jury is . . . uh . . . just right THERE . . . when I was trying to again explain that I wanted a limiting instruction about the extraneous offenses - hello, I'm entitled to that - the court huffed to my 5'2" person trying to communicate up to that 10 foot tall bench (OKAY - it only feels that way - but it is at least a foot taller than me, as was the prosecutrix who had no problem leaning right over the top): court "I can't hear a word you're saying. This is going to be a looonnnngggggg trial." (Okay again, the court reporter doesn't drag out the word like it is said in disgust, that that is how it was said.)

Next blog we'll talk about some of the trial stuff (like when the prosecutor objected because I reserved my cross of her witnesses because I had to wait until the lying complainant testified so I could confront her with the many, many, many [did I say many] inconsistencies in the multiple statements & interviews she gave before I could use the other witnesses to impeach her. Confusing. Certainly was for the prosecutrix [whoooo by the way is a PNDL.] Want to guess what she said? Vol III - page 51: "Judge, in regards to Ms. Henley reserving cross, I mean, I have never heard of reserving cross. So how exactly - - " [You must always remember to read sarcasm, imagine a looking down her nose, a foot above me, and rolling her eyes when I quote the prosecutrix. Also, if I quote some stuff where the court doesn't give her what she wants, imagine whining.] HA!)

Next blog begins with the court coaching the prosecutrix on how to keep me from getting evidence in. Nnnnoooo. Say it ain't so in these Harris County courts!

Enjoy. : ) I can now. So can Client.

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