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Monday, April 16, 2012

The members of the jury were not ready for Bucky. With the other witnesses, we knew ahead of time either what they were going to say, or what they were supposed to say. There were no gasps of shock from the jury box. There were sighs of boredom, when the judge and lawyers were whispering to each other in the corner, and groans of exasperation, when the same question was asked and answered more than a few times in a row. Sighs and groans, yes. Gasps, no.

Bucky lived across the street from Luna and Spike. He refused to describe himself as a friend of Spike, but on the day of the vandalism incident, at about 6:00 pm, he and Spike were standing in the street admiring Spike's ATV. Suddenly a red SUV came racing down the street. It slowed when it got to their location in front of Luna's house, and the driver looked in their direction. They could see him clearly, but Bucky didn't recognize him.

The SUV driver, whom we believed was supposed to be Satchel because the vehicle description matched, turned around at the end of the street and drove by Spike and Bucky in the other direction before leaving the area. That was all Bucky told us before he was excused. I think we were meant to conclude that Satchel had been casing the place for his later torching of the ATV, but Satchel himself had told us he'd driven by that house to get an address so that he could file a restraining order.

Besides, the torching of the ATV was a separate case that had already been adjudicated in another trial. We hadn't heard any of the evidence and had no way of knowing whether anything that went on there could shed any light on our case. I think Bucky's testimony was presented to guide us toward an alternate theory on the vandalism. I think it was allowed because it illuminated the time line for that night.

The lawyer had one thing up his sleeve, not an ace but maybe the six of clubs at best. And the prosecutor didn't have enough to keep him from playing it. It's hard to win a hand if your hole card is a six of clubs, but maybe that was all he had, or all he thought he needed. Of course, this is all idle speculation, because we weren't allowed to hear any arguments for or against the admission of any evidence.

Whatever the reason the car drove by, we didn't learn much from Bucky's testimony that we didn't already know. It didn't exactly leave us with a sense of satisfaction that we now had a critical piece of evidence. Instead, it left us with an anticipation of what might be coming next. We were ready for whatever witness Spike's lawyer had up next to beef up the defense.

What was next was nothing. The defense rested after calling two witnesses, Luna and Bucky, who told us nothing useful. It had been hinted that Spike wouldn't testify, but we expected it anyway. We yearned for it, in fact. But during jury questioning before the trial, one of the questions asked was if we would be prejudiced against a defendant who didn't testify at his own trial.

Most of us said no, of course not, we watch TV legal shows and know how the system works. It's worked that way for centuries, so it must be right. A couple of people who pondered why an innocent person wouldn't want to tell his story ended up being excused, but one man who said he would be eager to testify in his own defense if he were ever put on trial was allowed to stay on the jury.

Spike's lawyer had also asked us if we could think of any reason an innocent defendant might not want to take the stand, and we came up with several creative scenarios. A few people said they would be nervous under questioning by a hostile lawyer who might find some underhanded lawyerly trick to make them seem guilty. I'm sure lawyers hear that all the time. They kept their faces stony whenever a prospective juror said something along those lines.

Although it was a huge disappointment not to hear from Spike, but we didn't hold it against him. Or at least, we tried not to, but the abrupt end of this flow of information left us somewhat disoriented. We would take that sense of confusion with us into the jury room.

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