When last we left our intrepid Walla Walla courtroom, a jury had been at last selected for the trial of State of Washington vs. Skyler Glasby. Twelve jurors and one alternate were ready to dive into the case, all with stenographer’s pads and freshly sharpened number two pencils at the ready. The judge looked at us, seeming to assess each of us as individuals. Five of us had on purple clothes. Three were men. All of us were white. Every single one, white. Eight of us wore glasses. We had discussed, with the judge and attorneys for each side, our understanding of “reasonable doubt,” the unrealism of NCIS, CSI, and Criminal Minds, the weighing of disparate testimony, and the gravity of our responsibility to remain fair and impartial.
He gave us a look, tilted his head to one side, and then told us we would be breaking for lunch.
“The trial will begin with opening arguments,” he said, and it was clear he’d said this hundreds of times before. “We will begin at 1:30, so be back in the jury room at 1:15. My standard is that if you are here fifteen minutes early, then you are on time.”
Okay, tight ship there, bucko, I thought. This made him my people, this little insistence on punctuality. This is my cloth, and I wear it well.
We stood in the jury room for a couple of minutes, waiting for the bailiff to let us out.
“So how many children do you have,” Juror Number 3 asked the woman in purple paisley. The defense attorney had asked her a question during voir dire as if she had 18 kids at home. I admit, I was curious.
“Five,” she said.
We laughed. Five is a lot of kids, of course, but not outside the bounds in the way Downtown Julie Brown had made it seem.
I texted Susanne and told her I’d been put on the jury, asking if she wanted to have lunch. I texted her only once my phone cooled down enough, since I’d had to leave it in the car, which was now approximately the temperature of molten rock. We met up and I went over the voir dire. I knew I couldn’t talk about the trial, so instead we tried to figure out the childcare for the next couple of days, since I usually watch Emile for a few hours before the nanny comes in the afternoon.
Back to the car, stick the jury notice on the dash so the car was excepted from the parking limit, tuck the phone in the glove box to heat up again, then up the three flights of tall stairs that would never pass building code in today’s construction market. We waited for the other jurors to arrive. I pretended not to notice the attorneys or defendant as I walked past them and into the jury room.
Lisa Simpson’s Human Counterpart began with her opening statement. The state will show that Skyler Glasby, on January 10, 2013, while driving a vehicle, eluded a police officer, drove recklessly, on a suspended license, and caused property damage without notifying the owners. We will hear testimony, she said, from the vehicle’s owners, as well as the officer involved and the detective on the case. And we need to convict Mr. Glasby for his terrible actions. It took longer than that, dwelling on eyewitness testimony, and again, what reasonable doubt means. I wanted to make a note, something to the effect of: SHE SURE IS WORRIED ABOUT US HAVING DOUBTS but I reserved judgment. You know, since everyone kept asking us to reserve judgment. And this is actually harder than it looks, given the human’s impulse to find patterns and draw conclusions and such. But okay, reserving judgment. The judge offered the defense a chance to make her opening argument, and DJB declined; she would save it for later.
The first witness in the state’s case took the stand, raising his right hand to swear an oath, sans bible. I wondered what the God’s Law guy would have thought of this. He sat down, looking younger than when I’d first glanced at him. His name was Officer Alan Tony.
He testified that he saw a Dodge Intrepid with a broken tail light, at about 20:10 on January 10, 2013, a little south of Andy’s Market on S. College Avenue in College Place (this is a little town south-southwest of Walla Walla, the very next town over, home to Walla Walla University). (PLEASE NOTE:
The following testimony is my recollection, not from a transcript.)
LSHC: And what did you do then?
Officer Tony: I signaled for the driver to pull over.
LSHC: And how did you do that?
Officer Tony: I turned on my lights.
LSHC: Did you do anything else? Is your car equipped with a siren?
DJB: (Sighing) Objection, Your Honor, leading. (At this point DJB rolls her eyes like Lisa Simpson is a total tool. We are in minute three of testimony.)
LSHC: (Sighing) Fine, I’ll rephrase.
According to Officer Tony, his siren was not on initially, and because the car pulled to the side of the road he did not turn on his siren. Also according to Officer Tony, he had taken down the license plate of the vehicle, had not shined his spotlight into the car, and had a broken dashboard camera in his marked patrol camera on the night in question. In the dark of that winter night, Officer Tony needed his spotlight to see what he was facing in the vehicle. LSHC asked if he saw who was in the back of the Dodge or who was driving, and this is where he seemed like the saddest man in the room.
Officer Tony: No, I did not.
In retrospect, that was the entire case for the state right there. It was a pivotal piece of missing evidence for the jury. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
LSHC: What happened next?
Officer Tony: The vehicle peeled out.
LSHC: When you say, “peeled out,” do you mean it screeched the tires?
DJB went all goggly-eyed with objection again, so LSHC rephrased again. It was a little like watching a sighing contest between high school cheerleaders.
Officer Tony did not tell us how long the car had been on the side of the road. He did not say if the driver ever cut the engine, but he told us that it was a “brief” period. But once the Dodge bolted, he took after it, now hitting his sirens and trying to keep up. At one point his speedometer hit 70mph. In a 25mph zone.
LSHC: Were you keeping up with the car at 70mph?
Officer Tony: No, I was not.
S. College Avenue in College Place is an eastern border to the university campus of Walla Walla University, a Seventh Day Adventist school.
there are lots of crosswalks, and a couple of blocks north, a big hill. Drivers on the road cannot see over the hill, to see the cars ahead or to see if there are pedestrians crossing the street Officer Tony knew this and abandoned the chase shortly after it began, once he came to the hill at the university. This was the end of Officer Tony’s direct testimony, and DJB did not uncover anything else on her cross examination. Officer Tony just plain did not know who was driving the runaway Dodge.
Next up to take the stand for the state was Detective Melman. He reviewed a vehicle at the College Place impound on January 11 in the early afternoon. It was a Dodge Intrepid with the same license plate that had eluded Officer Tony the night before. According to his report, which he reiterated on the stand, he saw the vehicle after police officers from College Place had been through the car. One item inside the car had a name on it—Stephanie Adele. The vehicle’s registration also came back as belonging to Ms. Adele. The car was filthy inside, lacked any usable fingerprints, and had sustained front-end damage. The prosecuting attorney asked about this. Three photos were admitted into evidence, darkish shots of the Dodge head on, a close-up of the right front fender, and a corner view of the fender. No photos of the Dodge showed whether it was a 2-door or 4-door vehicle. We the jury looked at the photos on a white screen across the narrow room, and the detective explained how the scratches on the hood were consistent with knocking over a 4 x 4 mailbox post. There were a few objections from both sides during direct testimony and cross-examination, but the judge pushed everybody through.
One thing made me concerned: Detective Melman did not know what had been moved, destroyed, or changed inside or outside the vehicle by the police search. Yes, the driver’s seat was pulled fairly close to the dashboard, ahead of where the passenger seat sat. Was that done by the driver to reach the pedals, or by the police looking for objects under the driver’s seat? The car’s keys were found on the passenger seat. The reason why would be interpreted later by each side, in furtherance of their own case. But we as a jury would have to determine if one or the other explanation made more sense to us.
Ms. Judy Cushman, owner of the misbegotten mailbox, took the stand, for something like all of three minutes. This woman admitted in open court that she heard “a loud bang or boom” [well, which was it, lady?] on the evening of January 10, but did not bother so much as to look out her window to see what had happened. She claimed she was in her bedtime routine. People, do not get between Judy Cushman and her freaking bedtime routine.
The owner of the car took the stand next. Ms. Stephanie Adele herself, and she entered the courtroom with a bailiff escort. She was very quiet, mumbled a lot, was overall very vague. LSHC had to ask her several times to speak up. She looked scarcely old enough to fill up the 19-years-old age she gave on the stand. She reported that she had never met the defendant before that day. DJB sighed out an “Objection, Your Honor, really, that is hearsay” at one point early on and Ms. Adele sunk back in her chair, looking like she wanted to be anywhere more than here.
She testified that she and the defendant have a mutual friend named Grumpy. (Real name, Joaquin something.) Grumpy took Stephanie to a party over the state line in Oregon (south of WW and CP), and met up with Skyler Glasby. According to the Ms. Adele, Skyler bragged to her about being the “most wanted man” in either Walla Walla or Washington. It wasn’t clear which he’d said. The defense and prosecution returned to this subject often, about which he’d said and I still have no idea why it mattered. It’s obviously a stupid, arrogant thing to say. It’s not evidence of anything other than his mental state, but does anybody really think he’s a totally different person if he narrows his criminal reputation to Walla Walla?
According to Stephanie, Skyler told her he wanted a ride to state line (which doesn’t make sense, because that’s around where she would have met him), and that he didn’t want her to drive. “I’ll show you how a real man drives,” he said, according to her. This statement also doesn’t make sense to me. It sounds like he is comparing himself to someone. To Grumpy? To Stephanie? But okay. So according to her she gave this stranger her keys, and he was the one who eluded police at the stop outside the grocery store.
When LSHC asked her what happened next, Stephanie said “It was all a blur,” and that they ran into various things. She testified that she asked him to stop driving, and he refused. Actually, she testified that she was in the back seat, watched him get pulled over, noticed that he and Grumpy got very quiet, and then commented that Skyler “floored” it.
LSHC: What do you mean by that?
SA: He pushed the pedal to the floor.
LSHC: You could see that his foot was on the floor from the back of the car?
SA: I could see between the console and the front seats, yes.
On cross examination the defense asked her how she knew he had floored it. I thought, This isn’t a technical term. She could just mean he left at a high rate of speed. But Stephanie here insisted she could see his foot on the floor, the pedal all the way down. The defense implied but did not admit any evidence that she could not see his foot from the back seat of her car. One thing I noticed was that Stephanie was not specific on where in the back seat she was. Was she in the middle? Behind the driver? Behind the passenger? She said they peeled around a few corners, hit something, possibly hit a house, and kept going until they came to an abandoned landfill. They noticed that the police car was no longer following them, but they kept going.
LSHC: You don’t know where you were?
SA: No. I don’t know where I am now.
Eventually (actually only a couple of miles) they came to the edge of an old landfill, a cul-de-sac of sorts for trucks to turn around. And Grumpy pulled out a gun, pointing it at her and threatening her that if she told anyone about this, he would kill her and her family. She got out of the car with them and walked back toward College Place while Grumpy used her phone to call his friend Stretch (nobody knows his legal name) to come pick them up. According to Stephanie, Grumpy threw her keys in the car and the three of them got into Stretch’s car. They dropped off Skyler at another friend’s house and she went back to Oregon with Grumpy and Stretch.
The prosecuting attorney shifted gears and asked Stephanie about what she did the next day.
SA: I called the Milton-Freewater (Oregon) police to report my car stolen.
LSHC: Why did you do that?
SA: I don’t know. I wanted to get my car back.
On cross-examination, it came out that Ms. Adele was caught lying by the police officer who came to take her report. He told her he didn’t believe her, and to just give him the actual story. Ms. Adele then said the car had been involved in a hit and run, and police chase in College Place the night before. And supposedly this is where Mr. Skyler was implicated in the crime.
Except it really wasn’t. But we the jury didn’t know that during the trial.
And with this, the state rested its case.
(Part 3 next)