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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Jury Duty AGAIN

You heard me: Again. At 32 years old I have now served on a jury twice. Lucky me. Here is my account of of the first time. Since I already explained the process there, I will move straight on to the case itself.

Again, it was a criminal case. Again, it involved unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree, however this time there were a couple key differences: 
1. There were a total of 6 charges that the jury all had to decide on one by one
2. The defendant was pro se

Number two turned out to be a major issue. What could have been a 1 week case turned into 2 (including deliberations) because the defendant didn't really know much of what he was doing. He had counsel, but still. Okay, so here's the breakdown of the charges.

On the night of Jan 12th, 2016, Mr. Cole (the defendant) had smoked a blunt with someone he knew outside the bar at Latitude 84 in Tacoma. He apparently was not told that, what he thought had been regular marijuana, was primo - soaked in embalming fluid. (when I look up what "primo" is, it mentions cocaine so now I'm confused but that's what the court was calling it so I will say that as well.) Anyway, so he realizes something is off and leaves the scene in his car. On his way home he ends up crashing through someone's cyclone fence. Somehow, the door is either locked or stuck; so he climbs out the window, tries to push his car, tries to back it out etc but can't. The occupants of the house are watching all this and calling the cops.

The first to arrive is officer Bratcher. After that, Officer Bradley and Welsh arrive. The suspect is attempting to flee, they catch up, a struggle ensues. During the scuffle, which lasts 2-3 minutes (time that out on your watch. It's a long time!) officers Richie and KP Smith come. Welsh is on his left arm, Bratcher is on his right. Bradley is attempting to hold down his legs and/or use his taser which seems to be non-functional. When Richie comes on the scene, he attempts to use his taser as well, and although it sounds like it should be working, it has no effect. This whole time, Cole is kicking, flailing, actively resisting, and doing everything he can to basically get away from the situation.
At one point, near the end, Welsh calls out "Gun!". Welsh's account of the situation is he felt something on his abdomen (they are all down on the ground at this point), which turns out to be the barrel of a gun pointed up at him as it is stuck under his belt. He manages to wrench the gun out of Cole's hands and it falls to the ground. Then Welsh feels Cole's arm wraped around his waist, specifically his duty belt, and Cole manages to grasp onto his firearm and there's a pulling motion as if it was an attempt to get it free. Welsh manages to get Cole's arm away from there. KP Smith picks up the gun from the ground and puts it aside. At that point, they manage to get the suspect handcuffed and there's a whole account of him at the hospital as we also have Dr. Ursic testifying about his mental state while being checked out at TG.

So, here are the charges:

Count 1 is assault in the 3rd degree with a firearm (towards officer Welsh)
Count 2 is unlawful possesion of a firearm in the 1st degree
Count 3 is assault in the 2nd degree of officer Brtacher
Count 4 is assault in the 2nd degree of officer Bradley
Count 5 is was stricken and never announced
Count 6 is attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer
Count 7 is driving with a suspended license

Okay so obviously I didn't go into nearly all the detail surrounding the case so you might be thinking one way or the other already, however there was a whole lot that I didn't mention. And just like the first case I did, definitions of specific words are key. You literally have to pull each word apart and scrutinize it. 
All 12 of us had to roll over what the legal definition of "intoxication" was. What the legal definition of "assault" was, and (oh my god) the legal definition of "knowing" which I'm going to link because damn, I hate that one. We all did. 
We also had to start over after a full day of deliberations because one of the jurors had a thing she had to do and I guess also was experiencing emotional termoil from the case and wanted to be excused. I believe it was a blessing in disguise, even though we had lost a full day. (All in all, it was 2.5 days of deliberations) 

All of this really hinged on two things.
1. Did we believe Welsh's testimony about the gun because he was the only one in direct contact with it and most of the jury had their doubts as to where the gun had come from in the first place. (This was a big convoluted mess and that I won't delve into).
2. The intoxication part of Cole's defense. Because the law explains that if you are voluntarily intoxicated that doesn't absolve you of any crimes you may commit. However, that leaves involuntary intoxication as a possible "out" to possible crimes.

Because Cole had no prior knowledge of this laced blunt before he smoked it (and testified that he had no memory of events until bits and pieces came back once he was at the hospital), we believed that his actions didn't have intent to harm (and yes, there's a legal definition for the word "intent" as well. ugh) the officers. Yes, he was kicking, jerking, what-have-you, but only with the intention of trying to get away. When the gun ended up pointing at Welsh's abdomen, it was because Welsh had been trying to get in control of that arm and in the process of pulling it out from under him, the gun had come with it. We believed that he did not have the intention of using that firearm to harm the officers. Same goes with the "attempting to disarm". We believed that Cole's hand had inadvertently just found the gun as something to grab onto in his attempt to get back up or to get away. The same goes with Bradley and being "kicked" (his assault charge). The only thing we found him guilty of was possession of the firearm, which was still a contentious issue because even though the firearm was admitted into evidence and sitting at our table during deliberations, there was speculation of it in the first place, which again I won't get into. Charge 7 was a stipulation and he'd already pled guilty to that one.
We basically concluded that the State did not give us enough evidence to convict Mr. Cole. They had the burden of proving guilt and unfortunately due to the police officer's inconsistent testimonies, the handling of the evidence, and various other things the State could (or might have) provided and didn't, we couldn't find Mr. Cole guilty of the assaults.

What we learned later was that if he had been found guilty of the assaults, he would have been looking at life in prison without the possibility of parole due to this being his 3rd strike.
We were also finally able to look up what "embalming fluid" can do to a person: 

"Effects of embalming fluid included visual and auditory hallucinations, euphoria, a feeling of invincibility and increased pain tolerance. The high lasts from six hours to three days. However, the drug also produced feeling of anger, forgetfulness and paranoia."


We had one witness named Jeffrey Katz. He had been the detective assigned to Mr. Cole's case. I am a complete and utter sapiosexual. As he was explaining why they didn't fingerprint the gun, using a pen as an example, all I could think of was how cute he sounded, how obviously smart he was, and how well he was able to explain a concept into words that everyone could understand. You could say I was enamored. Unfortunately, I did see a ring on that blasted finger so no chance for me! lol Not that I'd be able to just walk up and talk to him as being a member of the jury anyway. Oh well.
One of the jurors, Jessica, coined the phrase "Jury wink" or "Juror wink" because damn, police officers be just like firemen lol Officer Bradley was pretty hot, so was Welsh, as was Bratcher (poor Bratcher - he was pinned up and tangled with the fence during the entire scuffle.) But I'd choose me some Katz. xD

Oh and for future reference, I am fulling intending on getting a work note to be excused next time! This is my progression into madness via Facebook:

Saturday, April 8, 2017

I'm my own boss now, kind of.

So I'm am Uber driver now. Technically I'm a Lyft driver too but turns out I can't run both apps on my phone simultaneously so right now I'm just doing Uber because there's more people on the system.

In case you've lived under a rock for the last 3 years, Uber (and Lyft) is a for-hire rideshare company. You are basically an independent contractor for the company. You use your own car, pay your own gas and maintenance (but you can use it as a tax write off come tax time) and drive people to destinations. Ubering as a passenger is a bit too rich for my blood, but I think the system works well for several things:
1. Your car breaks down. Especially if it breaks down in a place that would require a lot of walking to get out of.
2. You're drunk. This is the biggest one.
3. Parking at the place you're going to is atrocious. read: Seattle. I'm actually thinking about doing an UberPool to get me to Cal Anderson Park for the Science March on April 22nd.

What it takes to become an Uber driver is slightly involved, especially for the state of Washington. Uber will:
1. Run a background check
2. Inspect your car
3. Require proof of license/insurance/registration
4. Ask you to complete a Tacoma quiz
5. Ask you to take a (free!) Defensive Driving online course.
6. Buy a business license ($25 if you intend on making less than $12,000 a year)
If you want to drive in Seattle you will also have to take a Seattle quiz, and buy a Seattle business license AND a State of WA business license. I was like, um, no thanks! (So I'm actually not able to pick up anybody outside of Pierce County. I can drop them off anywhere, though.)

After all that is done, you are set! I spent a bit to get my car "Uber ready". This included buying a stun gun (yup!), a multiple-plug car charger, longer usb cables, mini waters, and this neat storage net that fits between my car seats. I also have some emesis bags just in case. 

I also made this cute little sign:

So what prompted me to sign up for Uber, you ask? Believe it or not, it was Derek. Remember Derek? I dated him for 3 months like two years ago.  We reconnected over a year ago and are friends now (some people may think this is weird. Probably everybody. I don't care. We didn't click as a couple and I'd never date his ass ever again but he's a very interesting person and a riot to hang out with). When I went up north to visit him recently, he had signed up for Uber to make extra cash, and I ended up on a couple of his runs (shhh! That's against the rules, don't tell anyone.) So I got to see first hand what it was like.

Now, fair warning if you are interested in doing this. It's not as "lucrative" as some people would make you believe. Yes, the more you work the more you make, this is true. You are your own boss. Go nuts. However, the more you drive the more gas you spend. And up here in WA gas is pretty damn expensive. Uber takes 25% of everything you make. And a $300 payout (example) may seem huge, but if you don't take the taxes out and put it aside, you'll be hurting come tax time. In Tacoma, Uber pings (as they're called; the requests) are not constant. I'm often driving around waiting (it works kind of like sonar. The closest person to the request when it is made gets the offer to accept it.) for a ping. I don't get paid to drive around. I also don't get paid when I'm driving to pick somebody up. (nor do I get paid after I drop them off! I had to drive home from Des Moines once!) You also need to be aware that most insurance companies in the State of WA will not insure you if you choose to drive for a rideshare company, or they will not insure you while you are online with them. I had to drop Progressive @ $80 a month and start fresh with State Farm, who offers TNC coverage for (a total of) $130. So that's another added expense. 

If none of that detours you, feel free to use my code and sign up, as we will both get a bonus for doing so, once you hit 40 rides.

Happy Ubering!