Tuesday, November 9, 2010

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Jury Selection In Alfred Flowers v. City of Minneapolis, et al, US Dist. Ct. File 09-402 PJS/JJG (A.K.A. The "Toe Stepping Trial")

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

It was the best of trials, it was the worst of trials. It was a trial of wisdom. It was a trial of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief and the epoch of incredulity; it was a courtroom of Light, it was a courtroom of Darkness...

And so the comic and tragic "toe stepping trial" began. Let's recap the beginning before this beginning, shall we? Very soon after the JACC press conference where notorious loon-at-large Al Flowers had shoved City Council Member Don Samuels in the back, twice, a lawsuit had been filed.

No, the lawsuit was not by Don Samuels. It was filed by Al Flowers, alleging civil rights violations and assault. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. There have been two JACC elections since that fateful post-JACC election press conference. And yet proceedings in the "toe stepping lawsuit" had been creeping forward all the while...

And so one day...it turned out to be today...the fateful day arrived. There was Council Member Don Samuels in a dark suit, and Al Flowers in an aqua colored dress shirt, and Flowers' eternal sidekick Zack Metoyer wearing a tan suit with a crazy "safety orange" dress shirt, no tie, and--best of all--there was self-proclaimed JACC "Sergeant-At-Arms" Steve Jackson in a dark black, long-sleeved shirt with some kind of embroidered emblem on the back which looked like a martial arts logo. Unlike the JACC "Old versus New Majority" lawsuit which dragged on FOREVER, this proceeding was like Mardi Gras: it only lasts a short time, and what you remember most are the cool costumes.

First came the voir dire, as plaintiff and defendant attorneys picked through the jury pool. Approximately 24 potential jurists were seated in the gallery, with 15 in the box. All of the jurors were white. There were no blacks, no face that looked Asian, Indian or Hispanic. The court scooped up some demographic ice cream, and all it got was vanilla, much of it from the suburbs. Many mentions were made of being "active in my church," and one juror who stayed on the jury said she gets all her information from Fox news.

These Minnesota jury compositions...they are amazing.

I've editorialized it before, but I'll say it again: GOD HELP YOU if you are a criminal defendant going in front of a jury in Minneapolis. Just plead out. Seriously.

At the point where one of the lawyers asked if this case was outside of their ordinary, everyday experience...every single juror in "the box" raised his/her hand. Nothing about North Minneapolis, rough and tumble Jordan neighborhood politics, or alleged First Amendment violations had any resonance with the day-to-day life of this jury pool.

Only 9 jurors were needed, and so it was a matter of eliminating 6 of the 15. Eliminated from the jury were the following:

* Claude Smith, a "police officer for 30 years at the Minneapolis airport" who most recently retired from a job doing "executive protection" for US Bank, a member of the American Legion. In answering a question about whether he'd ever been assaulted, Mr. Smith mentioned how he'd been "hit by a car and dragged" by suspects who were trying to get away. JNS blog doffs its virtual hat to you, Mr. Smith.

* Alberta Lee Orcutt (spelling unknown) who described herself as a "poet and performance artist." She was once a volunteer census taker. Though she only appears in her late 40s, she is 68 years old with children who are 33, 40, 42, and 43. Clearly, this is somebody who is young at heart: She is a member of Women Against Military Madness and "an advocate for women and for peace." She can't even count how many protest marches she has been a part of and brags that all her children take after their mother in their activism.

Clearly, Smith and Orcutt represented the extremes of a potential sympathies on the jury. Smith would have been fantasizing the whole time about cuffing Al Flowers, and Orcutt...well, it's hard to say. Orcutt did mention she was raised in a "patriarchal family" and that's why she wanted to get involved in social causes. There's just something about Al Flowers shouting at the top of his lungs which isn't exactly, er, feminist friendly. Come to think of it, Orcutt may have found rare common ground with Mr. Smith on this case. But Orcutt was cut along with Smith.

Also cut were...

* Bill Johnson, a resident of Minneapolis, married with two children. He is a "self-employed wildlife photographer." One suspects he would have weighed photographic evidence quite heavily (bad for plaintiff) but judging by his somewhat wild beard and hair, he came off like a bit of an anti-authoritarian. (Bad for defense) Hard to say who would have wanted him gone more.

* Robert Hoover of Owatonna, a clean-cut guy with a bachelors in business administration who described himself as "active in my local chamber of commerce." This probably didn't mean shouting down somebody calling a press conference at the chamber of commerce.

* Mark Johnson, whose body language and words screamed, "I really, really don't want to be here."

* Robert Afterbow (spelling and exact surname unknown) a press operator.

Those who remained behind are as follows, name spellings are approximate:

* Jennifer Woods of Brooklyn Park. She has three stepchildren, a degree in addiction studies, and she's a substance abuse counselor. She is a member of a corrections association and her husband is in the mortgage industry.

* A young woman whose name is either Morgan Matila or Matila Morgan.

* Sandy Zappa of Maple Grove. Her husband's name is Bob and he's a contractor. She knits and reads mysteries.

* A man from Faribault, Minnesota who graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota just like me. He's self-employed at a printing company and very involved in his church.

* Annette Evenson of Harmony, Minnesota. She's an electronic assembler. Her spouse works for the same company. She's active in her church and enjoys scrap booking.

* Theresa Ramos of St. Paul. She has a BA in Criminal Justice.

* Tony Irwin of Rochester, Minnesota. He has a Masters in Computer Science, works at IBM in Rochester.

* Katie Bloom, a woman in her 20s who works at Target.

* Drew Martinson, a senior citizen and "unemployed print salesman." Both plaintiff and defense followed up with Martinson, since his print sales involved contracts with the City of Minneapolis. At the end of the questioning, both sides seemed to conclude Martinson could be fair. Of course, this way waaaaaaay before the look Martinson had on his face after the first showing of the video of Al Flowers falling off the loon wagon at the JACC press conference. The plaintiff thought Smith would dislike their client? Wait until they get a load of Mr. Martinson.

However, both sides seemed to think the jury wasn't very "exciting" or "talkative." At one point the judge even quipped, "We've had more exciting juries." The quip was met with laughter. This was a jury playing the game very close to its chest. Maybe their employers were paying them regular wages for jury duty and this was like a vacation.

Another question poised to the jury involved blogs. Did any of the jurors read online blogs about North Minneapolis? Specifically, had they heard of the "Johnny Northside blog?"

And somewhere Michael "Kip" Browne owes me a shot of whisky. But none of the jurors had ever heard of this blog.

The questions asked by plaintiff attorney Jill Clark managed to hit lots of emotional buttons: If a witness came in dressed in Muslim garb, would you think "That person is a terrorist?" Did they have any presumptions like "black men are liars, violent, or sell drugs...the stuff you see on television?" These hot button questions couldn't get a rise out of the jurors. Nobody was as fair and balanced as they were...that was the story and they were sticking to it. There were small, solemn nods of agreement that they would "follow the law and apply the instructions" as given by the judge.

The show was getting set to begin. During microphone adjustments, Ms. Clark mentioned her "rock and roll career" and how "we were taught to eat the microphone." She said at the end of the night she'd end up with her red lipstick just smeared on the microphone.

JNS blog will leave you with that image for now, with more coverage to follow tomorrow...


Johnny Northside! said...

On a funny note:

Al Flowers website "Truth To The People Dot Org" had its domain name snapped up by an entity advertising cures for sleep apnea. So when you search "Al Flowers" on Google, the first thing that pops up is a website about sleep apnea.

Anonymous said...

Don't be too surprised if you get served with a subpoena. Enjoy the trial.

Johnny Northside! said...


Because if somebody wanted to be very sure of serving me with a subpeona, they'd make a point of telling me beforehand, right?

I will enjoy the hell out of the trial, thank you very much, troll.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, Maybe not...trying to outsmart the subpoena dodger might be a fine art.
Just sayin...don't be surprised of a guy in a suit is looking for you there...or maybe not. Maybe he'll be the guy delivering your pizza next time. Or the troll hiding under your stairs - so to speak.

Johnny Northside! said...

Sure did enjoy the trial today. There were lots of men in suits present, none with a subpoena for me. Stupid troll.

boathead said...

Is the shithead in the background Don(puke by the gallon) Allen?I would like to tell him and his buddy Al(smokin' away the hours)Flowers that their unemployment benefits ended 23 years ago and it's time to find a job that doesn't blow.Boathead wishes both to quit smokin' bunk...at least.Good Day and no way.

Johnny Northside! said...

Check out this video as well, of the "exorcism" of West Broadway.


Geez, Hawkman, I need you to show me how to make those links live.