In a criminal trial on television, like in a fictional drama, or a less-than reenactment, writers manufacture the building conflict and shocking revelations that are appropriate for a 44-minute show. We may see some objections or motions, usually ones that are related to the “ripped from the headlines” twist, but most we get the banner testimony from the star witness, or a sudden confession from the killer. The worst damage taken in this case in Walla Walla was an unsuspecting mailbox, so we were orders of magnitude less dramatic than the average storyline on Law & Order. But there were still moments of tension between the attorneys, who battled back and forth over a few issues like old friends squabbling over the size of a rainbow trout caught a decade earlier.
Stephanie was something of a lightning rod for the case. She was, after all, the owner of the runaway vehicle, and the individual asserting that Skyler Glasby was all to blame for the litany of crimes that took place that cold January evening in College Place. April King—I mean, Lisa Simpson’s Human Counterpart—walked us through Stephanie’s experience in the car and afterward, but it looked like the tooth-pulling experience that many parents have with their teenage daughters who answer everything with, “I dunno.” Many of Stephanie’s responses on direct were vague, spoken through clenched teeth, or told with a shrug. LSHC asked for more details, but they didn’t come. On cross examination from Downtown Julie Brown, Ms. Adele remained circumspect. According to her Skyler knew where he was going, ending up at some purpose at the old landfill site.
After the cross-examination, LSHC called her back to the stand.
LSHC: Can you tell us, after Grumpy threatened you with the gun, why did you get in another car with him and Stretch? Why did you walk away from your car with them?
SA: I don’t know.
LSHC: But you handed him your phone? And the defendant had your car keys?
LSHC: What did you think would happen after you left with them?
SA: I don’t know.
She said she just wanted to get out of there. For her end, she also just wanted to get out of the courtroom, at least from her body language. She told us that the next day, she hid out in her boyfriend’s house and didn’t leave for two weeks, because she was so afraid.
LSHC brought up that SA had a conviction from the Milton-Freewater prosecutor’s office, and I don’t remember anymore if it was discussed in advance of the cross-examination, or on redirect. Probably before DJB could bring it up. At any rate, Stephanie relayed to us the sad story of the thieving ex-boyfriend who took her rent money to buy drugs and alcohol. As revenge, slash making her rent, she had stolen his PS3 and sold it. Turns out, she says, the game console wasn’t his. Well, that’s a tough lesson for a teenager. What I picked up from this story was that she wasn’t a great decision-maker, she had at least one scuzzy boyfriend, and she was living on her own with little or no financial support from her parents at the ripe old age of 18 (at the time of the arrest). And all of that made me sad. It was also interesting to see the prosecuting attorney grant a large deposit of sympathy for criminal behavior on a person, especially since she was so fired up about the defendant allegedly running over a mailbox. But I digress.
When Stephanie Adele left, the large bailiff who’d come in with her left the room, and we didn’t see him again.
I wasn’t sure what to make of her testimony, but I reminded myself not to worry about what looked like red flags until I saw what else the prosecution and defense had to say on the matter. But just then LSHC rose and told the judge that the state was resting its case.
I was agog, but I tried not to show it. That was it? That was all of it? Nobody saw anything, nobody found evidence, even the lady whose mailbox had taken it on the chin couldn’t bother to look out her window to see a car barreling away? And that was it? Seriously?
The judge asked us to stand for a moment and stretch. He did this periodically. I don’t know if he saw one of the jurors nodding off, or he wanted to give himself a moment to break his own sleepiness. We stood, all of us except the people in the gallery. And then we sat back down.
DJB stood up and gave us her opening argument. It was not Skyler driving the car, it was Stephanie Adele herself. Please remember, she appealed to us, that there is absolutely no direct evidence in this case putting Mr. Glasby in the driver’s seat. In order for us to find him guilty of any of these charges we will have to decide that he was the driver on January 10, 2013, and that is simply not in evidence. Of course Ms. Adele says Skyler was driving, because she does not want to admit that in fact she was behind the wheel that evening. And why would she lie? It does not matter. What matters is that there is certainly reasonable doubt regarding who drove the Dodge Intrepid on the night in question.
There was more but those were the key points. And with that, Skyler Glasby took the stand in his own defense. His shirt was too large for him. The neon stripes on his tie clashed horribly with the primary color and checks of his shirt. He leaned forward in the witness chair, enunciating without any hint of an accent or affect. He had the look of a man extremely ready to speak. My notes drizzled sideways on my steno paper because I was looking at him while I was writing.
He told us that he had been dropped off at a party in Oregon by his longtime friend Grumpy, who said would be right back in a few minutes. Instead it was four or five hours before he showed up, and Ms. Adele was with him. DJB asked if he noticed anything about the way they acted toward each other.
“Objection, Your Honor, honestly. Calls for speculation,” said LSHC.
DJB countered with her own sighing eye roll.
“It’s what he directly witnessed, Your Honor.”
In hindsight, I seriously think Judge White hates being called Your Honor.
“How about if you rephrase,” he asked Downtown Julie Brown.
But for some reason, she let it go. I got the distinct impression that she was pushing Skyler to say that they were affectionate or flirty with each other, making the idea that Grumpy would pull a gun on Stephanie a stranger, more complicated action, potentially casting doubt on her story. But instead, it disappeared like a bad smell on a breeze. Maybe DJB just wanted to hint at us and didn’t care about having it stated more clearly. But at least we had agreement on one thing in this trial: Before January 10, 2013, Skyler Glasby and Stephanie Adele had never met each other, even if they both knew Grumpy.
According to Skyler, he was frustrated with Grumpy for not getting back to him for several hours. He asked Grumpy to take him to his girlfriend’s house in College Place, Washington, across the state line. He told us how they drove there, by heading up Rte. 125, turning left just before the Walmart, and then making a right to wind up on S. College Avenue. He put himself in the back seat, behind the driver. And the driver, he said, was Stephanie. There was no mention of him showing her how a “real man” drove, no mention of his wanted man status, be it in Walla Walla, or the entire state of Washington. Not that I would expect him to talk about such bravado while he was trying to show us his grownup side.
DJB: What happened next?
SG: A cop put his lights on and pulled us over, right before Andy’s.
DJB: So Stephanie pulled over?
SG: Yes. Just for a moment. And then she sped away, and she and Grumpy were arguing.
Skyler also said (another area of agreement between them) that Stephanie didn’t know where to go. In his version of the story, Grumpy directed her to turn here and there. He seemed a little incredulous that she seemed to lose the cop. He recalled running over the mailbox, and he said there were a lot of cut corners, running over curbs, and so on. They turned down Evans, hit the post holding up the mailbox, made another turn, and wound up at the abandoned landfill. Stephanie was upset, Grumpy was trying to calm her down. There was no mention of a gun in this retelling. Grumpy asked for her phone to call Stretch.
Skyler was done with Grumpy at this point. He had another friend, John, in close proximity to where they were now, so Stretch dropped him off there, and he doesn’t know what happened to them afterward.
On cross-examination, LSHC asked him if he called the police to tell them about the mailbox. He said he hadn’t. She asked if he tried to contact Judy Cushman to tell her about her mailbox. He said he hadn’t. She said, “Well, why do you care, right? It’s not your car.”
“Objection, Your Honor, she is speculating.”
“I’ll withdraw it.”
I think this was the state’s attempt to paint him as callous or self-interested. I wouldn’t have tried to contact Judy Cushman either, if it were me, and maybe that makes me a Bad Person. But I didn’t find this factoid damning of him in any real way.
DJB went over his earlier convictions. There were three admitted into evidence. Nonpayment on a moving violation had led to his license suspension. But there was one for forgery. What did that mean? That’s not a “I didn’t know it was his PS3” kind of accident. In fact there was far more to the charge than we realized, and I don’t know if that was the fault of the prosecuting attorney or the talent of DJB. But in any case these charges were played off by the defense as stupid reckless youth stuff.
To my shock, the defense rested its case. I blinked. Where the heck were Grumpy and Stretch? After being such a part of the evening, were they really not going to be put before us? It was like a bad Mamet play.
The clock read 4:20. The judge gave us another tilted head look and said he was going to adjourn us for the day. We would hear closing arguments in the morning. We were not to talk about the case, not search online the names of the parties involved, not drive by the scene, not conduct our own research. We were also not supposed to read the paper, although I suspected it wouldn’t have anything about this case in it, given that I didn’t see any reporters in the court room all day. I went to the patisserie and I drank a coffee until it was time to end the nanny’s shift for the afternoon. And I tried not to think about the questions rolling around in my head. Maybe there would be something in the closing arguments that would shift the entire trial for the jury.
Or maybe this was all there was to it.
(Part 4 next)