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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Satchel. What can I say about Satchel? He was the prosecution's star witness, the only person who could testify that he saw Spike slash his tires and kick in his garage door. He was Lucy's roommate (not to be confused with her boyfriend, Casper), and he was the most nervous person I saw the whole time I was in court for the trial. Twitchy doesn't even begin to cover it. (But it's a start. Add goofy, and you're getting there.)

At least he admitted it. He said that on the night of the incident he was so nervous he had to take a break from giving the police officer his statement so he could vomit. He was afraid for his life, he told us. And yet, after seeing this former roommate, who he told us had always given him the creeps, commit two acts of vandalism, he took off after him. Spike was on foot, and Satchel was in his SUV, which had been parked in the garage. Because of the damage to the garage door, he had to open it by hand, using brute strength and aided by the adrenaline of being in the midst of all the drama.

Let's back up a bit here. He confirmed that he had come downstairs in his boxers when he first heard the explosive sound of his tires being slashed. Through the living room window he saw Spike using something to cut the rear tire on the curb side. Then Satchel watched as Spike ran toward the driveway. Through the side window he could see Spike use his heavy boots to bash in the garage door. That's when Satchel ran upstairs to get dressed, yelling at Lucy and Casper to call 911. He said they were in their bedroom, which was also upstairs.

By the time he came down, Spike was gone, so he took off in his SUV. He drove halfway to Spike's sister's house, then got so nervous that he thought it wasn't really safe for him to drive. He was making a loop to return home when he got a call from Lucy to let him know the police were there. She told him to come back, and he said he was on his way. According to phone records (which we never saw but which were never refuted), all of this took about nine minutes.

The time line was crucial, although we didn't know it at the time. It's a good thing we were taking notes. I wished later that I'd taken more, although we were discouraged from doing so by the judge. He said if we spent too much time writing in our notebooks, we might miss something we needed to see or hear.

The story got a little murky here. The prosecutor asked Satchel if he knew where Spike was living, and he admitted that he'd driven by that house earlier in the day. He had done this, he told us, because he feared for his safety and had been told he couldn't file for a restraining order until there was an actual incident to report. They also told him he would need Spike's address, so he drove by that day to get the house number.

The prosecutor asked Satchel if he'd been arrested. I assume this was to keep this part of the story from coming out during cross-examination. Satchel had indeed been arrested, that very night, for torching an ATV. Spike's ATV. Which was parked in front of Spike's house. He had confessed, he said, because the police officer who had responded to the ATV fire told him he would be raped in prison if he didn't confess. He insisted he wasn't guilty, and if he stayed out of trouble while on probation for the next year, his felony conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor.

He also insisted that the nine minutes was not enough time for him to drive to Spike's house, set his ATV on fire, and get back. (On the other hand, if he's actually done that maybe the time line was a bit off it would explain why he was so nervous that he threw up while being questioned. And this was after midnight, so traffic would have been light, for whatever that's worth.)

So now we have heard from two prosecution witnesses, one who said she was in the living room but didn't see anything, and another who says he did see the defendant but was arrested the same night for a crime at the defendant's house. There is already some confusion about who was where when things started happening, because Lucy said she was asleep downstairs and Satchel told us she was upstairs phoning 911 when he left.

These are a couple of the discrepancies one of the lawyers should have cleared up for us. This is why we wished we could have questioned the witnesses ourselves. And it's the tip of the iceberg. In the end, the judge told us that we could disregard minor discrepancies, but that we had to decide what that meant. One thing we decided was that there was so much confusion, nobody really knew what happened in what order.

So far we've heard from two prosecution witnesses, and although there was more testimony to come, I can tell you without giving anything away that when we got to the jury room, one thing we agreed on was that the prosecutor had presented a lousy case. Some people, seriously or not, wanted to come to a not guilty verdict simply to send him a message. But at this point, we're less than halfway through the witness list and still keeping an open mind. (Coming up: Lucy's boyfriend and two police officers fill us in on some missing details.)

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