Patterico's Pontifications

7/15/2008

Outcomes like this sometimes cause me to doubt the wisdom of juries

Filed under: General — WLS @ 5:56 pm



Posted by WLS:

I’m a committed defender of the criminal justice system of this country, and I believe it is the best criminal justice system in theory and practice to have ever existed in the history of mankind. 

But decisions such as this cause me to shake my head in disgust.

Here’s a summary of what happened:

Kaliah Harper was a police officer in the City of Richmond, in the East Bay of Northern California near Oakland.  After attending a church memorial service for her two young cousins who had died a week earlier in a car accident, she was approached in the church’s parking lot by her killer — ex-boyfriend Quartus Hinton.  Hinton pulled out a stolen .45 caliber handgun and proceeded to shoot Harper numerous times — including several shots while standing over her body as she lay on the ground.

After being arrested, Hinton made several comments to the police about what he had done, including the following:

“there’s no excuse for what I did. I was at my wit’s end.”

I was so overwhelmed by jealousy. I was out of my mind. Jealousy threw me over the edge.”

he was remorseful for what he called a “foolish mistake.”

But his defense was buttressed on the claim that SHE was threatening him — right there in the church parking lot where she had just attended a memorial service, where he had come to confront her with a stolen .45. 

Hinton also told police that Harper had threatened him, saying, “I could put you away for life,” and that he “got fed up with it…”

Hinton’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michael Ogul, said the verdict supported Hinton’s assertion that Harper had been trying to kill him that day and had reached into her purse for what he thought was a gun

Now the jury, in an unbeliveable display of collective wisdom, deliberated for 3 days over this uncomplicated set of facts, before finally convicting the defendant of ….. did I call him a “killer”??  I misspoke, he’s not a killer, he’s only a “Manslaughterer”.  

So, to recap — steal .45, go to church where ex is grieving the death of two cousins, wait in parking lot for her to exit, confront her in parking lot, shoot her many times, including standing over her to make sure she’s dead, tell the police it was all a “foolish mistake”, and wait for a jury of your fellow Solano County residents to give you a break.

Word of advice, from a prosecutor to all you prospective jurors — DO NOT COMPROMISE for a verdict.

If you have a strong belief in the guilty or innocence of the defendant, hold to your belief.  Listen respectfully to the views of your fellow jurors, but vote your own conscience.  If I could give advice to one of the jurors who wanted to convict this guy for first degree murder, I would have said “Hold out and hang the jury.  I’ll retry the case without three knuckleheads who wanted to acquit the guy altogether.”

I don’t know how these 12 jurors are going to be able to sleep at night with this verdict. 

Did I mention that Officer Harper had 12 letters of commendation for her work? 

Did I mention that Quartus Hinton was a parolee with a long criminal record?

She’s dead, he killed her, but hey, it was a foolish mistake.

28 Responses to “Outcomes like this sometimes cause me to doubt the wisdom of juries”

  1. It does seem that certain qualifications should be required to be on a jury.
    1. Can you think?
    2. Can you reason?
    3. Can you debate?
    4. Do you have an ounce of moral fiber?

    Something like that.

    tyree (139bd6)

  2. Just a small geographical clarification: the trial was held in Solano County because the shooting was in Vallejo, not Richmond (which is in Contra Costa County.)

    aunursa (09c81f)

  3. This type verdict occurs daily.

    I no longer believe in or trust the American injustice system. The only true justice in this case is for one of her friends or relatives to cut the murderer into small pieces (while he’s alive) starting at the toes. I see revenge as the coming justice system to replace the joke we have now and the clowns we call lawyers/judges.

    Scrapiron (c36902)

  4. I and two others did hang a jury: we three for conviction, the other 9 for acquittal. It was a stupid case that should not have been brought (felony trespass, for going in an unlocked dorm room). The best argument of the defense was that we didn’t want to ruin this young man’s life. But I’d given an oath to convict if the case was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and it was. Most of those going for acquittal agreed it had been proven. I also dislike the defense’s idea that the people who give you the consequences of your behavior are the ones who are the culpable moral actors – as if we were the ones who went in that room and refused to leave when asked. Finally it got late, and it was clear that 2 of the 3 of us would have stayed, politely listening to their nonsense, forever.

    This case meant very little in the great scheme of things, little in my life, a bit more in the lives of the young man (who learned you can skate if you get an ostentacioiusly sincere attorney) and the young woman who testified with dignity and credibility against him (who probably learned never again to trust the court system). But I admit to feeling an irrational anger about the process, even a year later.

    Simon Kenton (19874b)

  5. With any luck, the judge will give him the maximum sentence possible for manslaughter, to ameliorate the jury foul-up as much as possible. (Or is sentencing also a jury function in CA?)

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  6. I think WLS’s advice is generally correct. I would amend it to add that each juror should consider whether or not the arguments of the other jurors make sense. In other words, be steadfast but do not be closed-minded.

    Ira (28a423)

  7. I’m curious as to what Ogul presented to support this defense.

    Hinton’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michael Ogul, said the verdict supported Hinton’s assertion that Harper had been trying to kill him that day and had reached into her purse for what he thought was a gun.

    I’m interested as to what happened with her alleged threat in the parking lot. Clearly, the jury bought it. The guy stole a gun and even confessed to doing it. Her ‘former boyfriend’ had a long criminal record. What brought these two together… birds of a feather…

    Hinton also told police that Harper had threatened him, saying, “I could put you away for life,” and that he “got fed up with it…”

    ^ The above statement just made me think of Drew Peterson (although I’m not trying to attach any percentage of control freaks as generally being part of the force). I do doubt that this guy was defending himself. But I don’t doubt that she made that statement. Also, names may have been called in to state examples of her being threatening during the relationship.

    Not to uphold the main complaint here: that (dumb) jurors likely handed out a soft punishment. I’m just curious what the public defender put together.

    Vermont Neighbor (31ccb6)

  8. “Or is sentencing also a jury function in CA?”

    No, it isn’t. And it looks like he could easily receive 22 years (11 for manslaughter, 10 for the gun use, and 1 for his prior prison term — WLS said he was a parolee) — and possibly more depending on his priors. He would serve 85 percent of that time.

    Patterico (09ee45)

  9. Patterico – the 10 for the gun use: is he a felon? If so, is the 10 year addition because of the felony or because of the use of the gun in the crime? Had he been a felon in possession of a firearm (which I thought was illegal in itself) would that have added additional time?

    Apogee (366e8b)

  10. the sf chronicle reports that he’s facing a maximum 38-year sentence. i wondered about the jury too. seemed like a pretty straightforward execution. i might compromise in the penalty phase if it were 11-1 against me, but i would never compromise on guilt or innocence.

    assistant devil's advocate (1d3513)

  11. “the sf chronicle reports that he’s facing a maximum 38-year sentence.”

    Then he has a strike prior: something like a robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder, home burglary, or the like.

    That doubles the base term.

    The calculation:

    11 for the manslaughter x 2 = 22
    plus 5 for a serious prior = 27
    plus 10 for the gun = 37
    plus 1 for the previous prison term = 38.

    This also means his strike prior is not the one he went to prison for.

    Patterico (0b7561)

  12. aunsura- I’m pretty sure the shooting was in Fairfield. That aside, why was a police officer dating a convicted felon? I’m not blaming the victim here, but it was some seriously bad judgement by the deceased officer.

    PDizzle (49fd38)

  13. “After attending a church memorial service for her two young cousins who had died a week earlier in a car accident…”

    Clarification:

    It was HIS cousins who were killed in the car accident, and she went to the memorial because he asked her to (according to the testimony of her mother). IOW, he lured her there, and then killed her.

    Based on what I’ve read in the papers, this is murder 1 committed by a con on parole, in possession of a firearm, with prior convictions for burgalry and drug possession.

    That being said, I wouldn’t want my opinion to overrule what the jury decided. They heard all the evidence, and I didn’t, so their judgement must prevail.

    Dave Surls (b4713c)

  14. Murder 1 requires proof of premeditation. Murder 2 and manslaughter do not.

    Michael Ejercito (a757fd)

  15. The prosecution charged him with the Special Circumstance of “laying in wait.”

    wls (02df99)

  16. I’m guessing that he didn’t bring a .45 to a funeral in order to fire off a few celebratory rounds, but apparently the jury thought there was some doubt as to his intent.

    Dave Surls (b4713c)

  17. The prosecution bungled this one. They should have charged him with packing the gun for his personal protection without a permit. That seems to be a more serious offense in California than premeditated murder.

    Xrlq (62cad4)

  18. Having been on a jury, I have struggled with people who would not listen in court, and who were incapable of interpreting the little bits and pieces they could remember from the trial they just witnessed.

    One of the jurors decided that the defendant had never been read his rights when he was arrested. The defense had never made this claim, but because it wasn’t explicitly stated in the courtroom that the defendant was read his rights the juror assumed it didn’t happen.

    The rest of us were able to bring these people in line – not through superior argument, but because they really didn’t give a crap.

    Incidentally, these problem jurors were county employees and civil servants who were collecting full pay while they served on the jury (the rest of us were getting nothing for the day but the chump change). Not to make a generalization about the civil service, but these people were incredibly stupid, and holding things up with stupid objections obviously made them feel superior. It was a vacation day for them.

    I suspect people like that are over-represented on juries, and shame on sensible people who dodge the duty and let meatheads administer justice.

    Glen Wishard (02562c)

  19. Don’t forget the jury nullification effect when you have majority black juries judging black men, particularly against the police.

    But our jury system is a joke, it seems like both lawyers have too many challenges they are allowed to make. They both want jurers that they think THEY can best manipulate. And then the trials drag out with hearings for motions, the strictly limited answers that witnesses are allowed to give to biased questions, and the supressed evidence and testimony.

    We long ago lost our justice system, we have a legal system and a lawyer employment system.

    martin (0bd3dd)

  20. After serving for almost twenty years in local law enforcement, I’ve witnessed some incredible stupidity on the part of jurors. And since our state chooses potential jurors from, of all things, driver’s licenses and state I. D. cards, I expect that it will not get better anytime soon.

    SuzEQCitizen (ff03e2)

  21. I’m a committed defender of the criminal justice system of this country

    Lol! You don’t even know how it works man.

    Levi (74ca1f)

  22. Levi, that’s pretty hilarious coming from someone as ignorant as yourself.

    All the more so, given who wrote this post. You really have no other purpose in life than embarrassing yourself in public?

    SPQR (26be8b)

  23. LOL! It’s not too late for your parents to decide on part partum choice and abort you Levi.

    Why are they or somebody paying for you to go to college to watch TV? To get even more stupid?

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  24. I’ll give you this Lev — your presence here is entertaining.

    wls (02df99)

  25. This is the main reason I do not commit crimes (or try real hard heh); no matter how good the judicial system is (the best around actually) there are always 12 idiots to make it go to pot.

    Lord Nazh (899dce)

  26. Could have been worse. He could be a celebrity and be walking around free right now.

    Gee dee see ay.

    Icy Truth (974524)

  27. Having served on a couple of juries myself, I’m disinclined to judge the competence of this jury until I know what facts they were actually allowed to learn.

    For example, were the twelve letters of commendation mentioned? The killer’s past record?

    Insufficient data!

    Karl Lembke (ff486c)

  28. I’ll give you this Lev — your presence here is entertaining.

    I’m serious dude. One such as yourself, that believes that the Constitution grants the President limitless power to ignore the laws that he doesn’t like, cannot possibly understand the first thing about American government. The system you’re defending is some twisted perversion dreamed up by John Yoo and Dick Cheney that says that the executive shouldn’t be held accountable for anything it does as long as they invoke some excuse about national security. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

    Levi (74ca1f)


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