The Punishment Verdict In My Trial

I kind of lost. I kind of won. It might have been a tie. It's worthy of debate.

The case: Two counts of Indecency With a Child occurring two years apart. Same victim -- a family member who was not biologically related. There was a written confession to both acts as well as an admission to a third incident involving them. Throw in a similar offense involving another family member, who was more than willing to come testify, which happened twenty years ago when they were both teenagers and you've got a prescription for trouble.

Yell at me all you want, but I liked the guy. He confessed to the offenses twice. Once in a video session and then came back a week later to write it all down for the cops. He never dreamed of pleading "Not guilty" and readily pled guilty before the jury. Some folks use the phrase about "owning" your conduct. Well, he owned his conduct.

Prior to committing the indicted crimes, he had been to Christian counseling 178 times over five years on his own for alcohol dependency issues. 178 times. Any incident, he told the jury, was committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Primarily alcohol. Edit: One line I forgot to say on closing argument was "Alcohol is not to blame, but it's not blameless." That's the best description I can think of.

The range of punishment was 2 to 20 years on both counts, but he could receive probation because he had no prior felony conviction. The prosecutors could, and told me would, ask for the sentences to be stacked by the judge if they involved prison time. Worst case scenerio: Two 20 year sentences to run back to back. Best case scenerio: Probation.

The result after over five hours of deliberations: An interesting combo that no one suggested to the jury. Fifteen years in prison on Count I but probation on Count II. Practically, he'll have to serve at least 7 1/2 years before becoming eligible for parole. After parole, if it happens, he may or may not have to start the probation. (We're still sorting that out.)

Overall, the verdict seems fair.

Everything above is in the public record and will probably be in the Messenger this weekend. (That dang Joe Duty was snapping pictures everywhere.)

But let me end with one interesting note. Well, at least it is interesting to me. Prior to the trial, he asked me if he could dip snuff while it was going on. I told him no, we can't have him spitting in a cup the entire time in front of the jury. He then told me that every time he had met with me he had a dip in, didn't spit, and it was undetectable. (It truly was.) I told him, it would probably be OK. Fast forward to this afternoon when the deputy was taking him away. He handed me his personal effects which included some nicotine candy. At that time I remembered our earlier conversation and asked him if he had had a dip in throughout the trial. "No," he said. "I used that candy instead. The sign said this is a tobacco free facility."

Laugh at him if you will but, upon reflection, that attitude doesn't surprise me a bit. It's OK to like people who have done bad things.

Edit: One of the prosecutors posted in the comments that the plea bargain offer was "12 years." Yes and no. It was at one time but the offer was pulled after more damning evidence was found. Honestly, it probably wouldn't have mattered if the offer was the minimum of two years. Just like there are some cases that the prosecutor just wants the jury to decide, there are some defendants who will have that same mindset.

But at the risk of sucking up, I'll give props to the DA's office. No dirty tricks. Stipulations on legal issues that were critical yet undisputed and, therefore, not worthy of a fight. All evidence disclosed before trial. Prepared. Professional. Every defense lawyer just wants a chance of a fair fight with a fair jury. Prosecutors should never prevent that from happening.

Over the years, I've been stunned by the number of opposing lawyers who won't reach over, shake hands, and say "good job" at the end of a trial. It happened today. Edit: The handshake DID take place yesterday. Sorry for the lack of clarity.