Presiding Juror (The Aftermath)

statue of justiceThe twelve members of the jury walked back into the deliberation room, after we’d handed over our verdict and individually attested that we voted freely and according to the instructions from the court.

“Did you see his face,” asked one juror, meaning the defendant.

“He looked like the weight of the world came off his shoulders,” answered a juror. Kiffen was her name.

The mason grumbled. “He looks like he dodged a bullet.”

Soon thereafter the judge came into our room. He’d said he had a quick question for us, but we peppered him with ours first. They came out all in a barrage—why didn’t we hear from Grumpy and Stretch? why isn’t Officer Tony’s dashboard camera working? why was the testimony so vague? Did we just let a guilty man go free? What did you think about his guilt or innocence?

He tried to answer them in turn. He looked much smaller standing in front of us instead of occupying his perch above us, and his robes looked like they could smother him.

“Nobody can find Joaquim (Grumpy) or Stretch,” he said, looking like he was trying not to sound dismissive. “If we could have located them, we would have brought them in for questioning.”

Juror number 4—the woman who had sat in front of me the whole trial—asked why Stephanie wasn’t coached to be more assertive on the stand.

“Ms. Adele was brought here by officers, as a material witness. The prosecutor had to put out a warrant to get her here, and she stayed at a motel with a guard so that she would testify.”

Well, that explained the very large bailiff who’d accompanied her to the court.It also explained her reticence on the stand, her disinterest in giving specific answers, and April King’s manner of questioning. And yes, it cleared up her odd statement to the state that, “Hey, I don’t know where I am now.” If she’d been driven to the court house, then she may not know where she was. Even if ahem, the court house is smack in the middle of Walla Walla.

The mason asked again, how do we handle the possibility that we let someone who committed a crime go free?

The judge thought for a moment and then looked directly at him, even though his point was for all of us.

“When I was a prosecutor and I lost a case I believed in—and I believed in them all—I just told myself that this individual is going to come across my desk again. I’ll get him then.”

We were quiet, mulling what was at once reassuring and troubling.

“But I had a question for all of you,” he said. He already had our attention so he didn’t need to pause long to ask it.

“Were there enough stretch breaks?”

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Yes, we said. The stretch breaks were perfect in every conceivable way.

I got back in my boiling car and drove to the office because I’d missed a day and a half and I had a brand new case manager to train. (That’s another story.) The names and facts of the case continued to swirl in my brain, not entirely unlike the mini-cesspool created in a plugged toilet. I had to find a way to purge the details, but first, free to finally do some research, I could go online and search to my heart’s content. I swerved away from my workplace, and sat down in a coffee shop with my laptop.

It didn’t make me feel any better.

Not only had Skyler Glasby plead guilty to three prior crimes, but the forgery was actually a $20 bill counterfeiting attempt, and he’d also been in a 21-hour standoff with Walla Walla Police in November 2011 as they attempted to arrest him for the counterfeiting. He’d also been charged with sexual assault but not convicted. A couple of online bulletin boards (yes, those still exist) named him as a well known white supremacist. Brilliant. My first thought was: “Downtown Julie Brown sure knows how to get shit excluded from a trial!”

My second thought left me worried—why was a young man who had a violent past out of jail by the time January 2013 rolled around?

Let me say clearly: I am not a fan of the police state. I worry that lack of transparency leads to systematic abuses by law enforcement officers against the most vulnerable among us. I would never vote guilty in a capitol case. I am completely opposed to the death penalty, I think laws are often enforced from a biased understanding of who looks suspicious and who does not. I question why the rates of people imprisoned looks nothing like the demographic proportion of the people living in the United States. I find immense fault with the “shoot first, ask questions later” sensibility of police academy training, with the way in which sexual assault cases are carried out, and with the open harassment that police carry out against racial and sexual minorities.

That said, I don’t think this society can work without laws. If there is a space between the ideal and the current implementation of justice, I am not so much against the concept as I am the manner in which we identify suspects and mete out judgments. I don’t want to see violent offenders walking around able to commit new crimes, either. Although we could have a discussion about what the consequences of breaking the law could look like.

I tried to find the hearings docket for the county. Was there a paper trail of when these earlier crimes were excluded? There must have been hearings and motions and the like. And then I saw this:

image from superior court

The same exact charges, plus two counts of violation of the Controlled Substances Act, and two counts of driving a stolen vehicle, against a “Jessica Lee Glasby.” Was this Skyler’s mother? Sister? Why file these charges against someone not named to be in the vehicle? I looked at the date of the filing, January 13. This was three days after the alleged incident. It was for a plea, not a change of plea. So 72 hours after Judy Cushman’s mailbox went to the great post receptacle in the sky, the state sought out  Jessica Lee Glasby to say if she was pleading guilty or not guilty to the charges of eluding police, driving on a suspended or revoked license, hit-and-run, and drug possession. And on March 28 they scheduled her to make a plea in court.

Why?

Does the county file charges against relatives to bring in the actual suspect as a matter of course?

By May 2013, the court docket read a little differently:

image from walla walla county docket

This was a change of plea. What had she plead originally? When did Skyler make an appearance in these proceedings? And on what basis did anyone charge Jessica Lee with the stolen vehicle or the drug possession?

Was her plea deal to sell out Skyler in some way? In a town as small as Walla Walla, there are no news reports, no blogs about criminal jurisprudence, although there is a Facebook page managed by people who listen to the police scanner. I’ve thought more than once to myself in the last week and a half, about trying to find Lisa Simpson’s Human Counterpart to ask her about the history, now that all is said and done, but I’m pretty sure she’s up to her elbows in new prosecutions.

As a final note, I noticed when we walked out of the jury room for the last time, a few minutes after the drama of the verdict reading, after our short ex parte with Judge White, there weren’t many people left in the room. The clerk was typing up something official. The bailiff was organizing a short stack of paper. The prosecutor was long gone, as was Skyler. But his mother was there, still in the gallery, crying into a tissue, and Downtown Julie Brown was talking to her quietly. Maybe that was Jessica Lee. I didn’t know her name then, since I hadn’t had a chance to look online for the people in this case.

Julie caught my eye as I walked past. We exchanged something, but I’m not sure what it was. Did she think her client was innocent? Did she enjoy the win?

I think I have to get good with not knowing. But I admit I scour the newspaper every day for the name Skyler Glasby.

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