Tuesday, December 15, 2015

People v. Wright (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 15, 2015)

I know it's probably futile to try to persuade anyone to read a 77-page opinion from the Court of Appeal.  There's nonetheless a lot of interesting stuff in there.

It's a murder case.  "Following years of strife between Jennell Wright and her former boyfriend, Le’Mar Green, some of it centered around their three-year-old son, defendant drove to Green’s home, waited for him to return from work, and shot him three times. A jury convicted defendant of first degree murder with a special circumstance finding of lying in wait."  That's fairly cold blooded.

But as the opinion explains, there's a history of conflict between the parties.  So the outcome was by no means clear.

Justice Humes' concurring opinion explains the only area of disagreement:  "Jennell Wright shot Le’Mar Green while he was sitting in his car, minding his own business. The two had had no direct interaction for two-and-a-half days before the shooting, and the only reason they were together at the time of the shooting was because Wright drove herself to Green’s residence, parked her car outside, and waited for him to return home from work. The majority concludes that the trial court erred by not giving heat-of-passion and provocation instructions because of the evidence presented about the estranged couple’s acrimonious history, which included conflicts about child rearing and custody. According to the majority, Wright could have shot Green in a heat of passion or without premeditation as a result of provocation that “developed over a ‘provocatory’ period.” Although I agree that a course of provocatory conduct can give rise to the need for such instructions in some circumstances, I disagree that those circumstances are present here. I therefore do not believe the trial court erred."

The Court of Appeal's opinion also gives some insight into how sausage is made in the jury room.  It also has to deal with the inability of some participants in the criminal justice system to keep their mitts off of Facebook.  Here's a taste:

"On February 20 at 6:38 p.m., two hours after court adjourned until February 25, and the day on which defendant testified, Juror No. 12 posted the following comment on her Facebook page: “WHOA….defendent (?) or defendant (?) or whatever…took the stand today. Velly interesting!” Several people “liked” and/or responded to the comment. At 6:45 p.m., Mr. P. wrote: “He’s guilty. Hang him.” At 6:52 p.m. Juror No. 12 wrote back: “I have to keep an open mind until next week!! They don’t know how easy that is for a blonde . . . feel that breeze blowing thru every day.!!” At 7:07 p.m. Ms. McK. posted: “which trial? Im [sic]watching the tearless Jody [sic] Arias describe how she killed her boyfriend is self-defense . . . yea right . . . the only time she cried is when she was discussing her own life . . . not one tear for him . . . psychopath. . . .” Juror No. 12 responded at 7:18 p.m.: “I have been on one over in Richmond since 1/22.”

Several people responded to the length of the trial, or expressed interest in learning about the case when it was over.

The next day, Ms. McC. posted: “Hey Miss [Juror], are you off today or are you FBing while in court? Do they let you keep your phones with you?” Juror No. 12 responded: “Yeah, my mind is already made up so I am FBing. LOL! Since we are always off on Friday they are just going to wait until Monday to give us the case so we got today off. I never have my phone with me but the 3 times I did, [I] thought it was off & it rings!! Now when we go in, everyone looks at me & asks if my phone is off! I hand it to someone else to double check it.!” Later, Juror No. 12 added: “Everyday but Fridays to Richmond. Hopefully it will be done this next week!” Mr. McC responded: “[Juror]. . . this is your social gold ticket! You’ll have a guaranteed invitation to every meaningful social event in Antioch (. . . that includes the possum round-up and stomp.) Nothing entertains like an inside look at the criminal just-ass system! Milk it, baby!”"

How hard is it to follow the trial court's instructions to keep your opinions about a pending criminal case to yourself?  Fairly difficult, apparently.  At least for some people.