Wednesday, November 24, 2010

PART FIVE: Closing The Curtain On The Late, Great Civil Rights "Toe Stepping Trial" Of 2010...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

It is fitting the coverage of this trial should end with an image of Michael "Kip" Browne speaking. Because Browne was trying to speak at a press conference...because Browne NEEDED to speak and represent the neighborhood, but loudmouth bully Al Flowers was shouting down Michael Browne...because Council Member Don Samuels took a moral stand, and made a gesture of standing in front of Al Flowers...

And because within the span of two seconds Flowers SHOVED Don Samuels, then shoved Samuels AGAIN...then filed a lawsuit a few days later, ridiculously alleging Samuels had stepped on Flowers' toes (which reportedly lack toenails, ewwww) here we were: the great "toe stepping civil rights trial" of 2010.

It was time for final arguments by plaintiff attorney Jill Clark. Some of her first words were...

"We don't need to get too deeply into bias."

This statement was in regard to the witnesses who were presented as to whether Don Samuels did or did not step on Flowers' toes. Indeed, one might agree with Clark, here. Both sets of witnesses had their bias though perhaps one set of witnesses were biased for THE TRUTH and the other, well, you do the math.

So, indeed, let's set bias aside. Ultimately, it would appear it was a question of who was CREDIBLE.

NOT A SINGLE JUROR WAS TAKING NOTES as Clark outlined the "elements of assault." Not a single juror made a written notation as Clark said, "Getting in somebody's space is offensive conduct."

Describing Don Samuels standing with back turned to Al FLowers, arms crossed, Clark said of Samuels: He could have kicked backwards, elbowed, slugged, ANYTHING! And Clark vigorously demonstrated "could have elbowed" with her arms, elbows crooked, looking something like a funky chicken only without the actual funk.

At least twice in her closing statement, Clark made mention of something she called The Sixth Sense. While I have always understood this phrase to mean "extrasensory perception," some paranormal ability to, for example, talk to the dead as in the movie The Sixth Sense, click here for movie trailer, Clark appeared to steal a page from the all-too-innovative linguistic playbook of plaintiff witness Steve Jackson when she said "the sixth sense" somehow involved the feeling of personal space being violated.

Clark pointed out that witness Megan Goodmundson said "We were all shoulder to shoulder" in that room, but Samuels was on the other side of the room (when Flowers started doing what Flowers does so well) so, well, "couldn't he (Samuels) have been symbolic over there?"

In her closing statement, Clark put forward an idea that Don Samuels basically came up with a premeditated plan to stomp on Flowers foot and get away with it. Once again making mention of Megan Goodmundson, whose video was virtually the "Zapruder film" of this incident, Clark asked, in a conspiratorial tone, "Was the cue...when Samuels starts to walk over, turn on the video cameras?"

(At this point, dear reader, if I was telling you the story in person I would be imitating somebody's facial expression, the all-too-serious look of a paranoid as something ridiculous comes out of their mouth which makes you want to laugh, but you have to suppress your laugher as you realize, oh my god: it's not funny to the raving paranoiac. No, indeed, the raving paranoiac is making this statement seriously and expects YOU to take it seriously)

Clark next attacked the notion Don Samuels wasn't acting under "color of law" when he stood in front of Flowers. Clark used this example: A police officer who was chasing somebody but, at the moment of shooting his gun, said, "Oh, but now I am a private citizen." Despite the overwrought analogy, Clark would ultimately win on this point: the jury agreed Samuels was acting "under color of law."

But it didn't matter. Samuels hadn't stepped on Flowers' toes. So said the jury.

Clark next addressed the issue of damages, saying the defense had "not made any effort to dispute damages." At this point I looked over and saw a jurist had her arms crossed at this point. And, my word, I had thought THAT juror was one of the most sympathetic to Clark's arguments.

None of the jurors took notes as Clark talked about damages, except one juror: a young female who was scribbling furiously, as she had scribbled furiously throughout the trial. Indeed, often that juror's scribbling didn't seem to follow the ebb and flow of the trial at all. I finally formed the opinion the "novelist juror" was writing something creative which didn't relate to the claims of Al Flowers: a personal journal, a love letter, even poetry. During key points of trial drama, she didn't look up, but was scribbling furiously with her head down.

Clark talked about the previous civil rights case with Flowers, and the $1 of punitive damages in that trial. That jury, Clark said, was trying to "send a message."

(Editorial comment: Yes, but perhaps the message was intended for FLOWERS and the very existence of this toe stepping trial shows Flowers didn't get the message?)

Once again going after Megan Goodmundson in her closing statement, Clark imitated Goodmundson chanting "Shut up, Al" and noted Don Samuels didn't go stand in front of GOODMUNDSON. Clark claimed that "the real Don Samuels shows through for a moment" when Samuels related "what he said" to Farheen Hakeem.

Clark didn't repeat what it was Samuels said in that chastising tone: something along the lines of "you were a promising young woman, you ran for political office, but now you associate yourself with marginal people and with crazies."

Clark began to talk about damages and how there was a need for a relationship between the various kinds of damages. The amounts should make sense and not be random. For example, Clark talked about the relationship between $100,000 versus a million dollars...

In the back of the jury box, a young female juror with hair as dark as McDonald's coffee was looking directly at Clark and I thought I could read the expression on her face, almost use "The Sixth Sense" to read her thoughts: this is madness. This is the stuff you hear about on television, the ridiculously large jury verdicts for petty incidents. Only it's not something distant and disconnected, something on television: here I am right in the middle of it, and I have to render the verdict!

City Attorney James Moore stood to his feet and made an objection: improper argument. The judge sustained the objection.

Clark moved on breezily, asking for "damages" (amounts not specified) to deter Council Member Don Samuels from "future disregard" of the First Amendment.

Before the jury went back, the judge told them to consider whether a contradiction might result from "a lapse of memory or a falsehood."

(If I had a vote on that jury, I'd probably go with "falsehood" based on what I observed of the plaintiff witnesses)

And so the jury went to render its verdict, and I scored some lunch downtown, expecting the jury wouldn't be gone long. In fact, I'd made a public prediction of one hour. But I forgot the "lunch theory" of jury duty: if a jury breaks around lunch time, they're darn sure going to make sure they get lunch. And so the jury was actually out for something like four hours, lunch included. Word of a verdict came back at around 4:05 PM. A source tells me the jury had sent a question back to the judge. The question concerned assault and was something along the lines of: can an assault take place if there was no (deliberate?) physical contact by Don Samuels against Al Flowers? As soon as the judge answered "No," the jury announced it had a verdict.

I ran back to the courthouse after being dialed by the judge's assistant. Samuels' attorney James Moore, who works in an office nearby, returned but plaintiff attorney Clark did not, nor did Al Flowers. It was only myself and Jordan super citizen Megan Goodmundson (who is my girlfriend) present to hear the verdict in that lonely courthouse.

The judge assured the jury that a real court was not like television: parties are not always present for the verdict, but Moore happens to work nearby. So no disrespect should be taken from the gesture of individuals not being present. One or two of the jurors nodded understandingly including the venerable Mr. Martinson.

The foreperson of the jury read the verdict. She did not bother to stand. The foreperson turned out to be the "novel writing juror" who had taken so many notes during the trial, to the point I began to doubt whether her notes concerned the trial at all. Maybe I had her wrong, and maybe I had her right, but in any case she was the foreperson. The first part of the verdict concerned whether Don Samuels had acted under color of law. The answer was yes. Don had acted as a public official when he stood in front of Al Flowers.

The next part of the verdict concerned whether an assault took place. To that, the jury said "No."

And so said them all.

At some point I ran into the husband of the juror named Sandy Zappa, and I asked him what may have been the most important and pressing issue of the trial: Any relation to the musician Frank Zappa? (Click here for more info) I was informed "That is my dad's second cousin."

Thus ended the Great Toe Stepping Civil Rights Trial Of 2010.

Click here to experience, once again, the Benny Hill theme song ringtone of an unknown juror's phone, an inadvertent musical commentary on the dubious civil rights claim of Plaintiff Alfred Flowers.


Patrick said...

Well that was just facinating but thank god it's over. Lets get back to that ugly glass over at Friedman's.

Anonymous said...

Alfred wasn't even there for the verdict??? Wow. Speaks volumes...