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Final Verdict in Chris Robertson case.
DA convinces the jury that it's wrong to throw a block of wood at someone, but not that a vehicle can be used as a weapon. Espinoza is at the wheel, but Chris is to blame for his own death?
The jury went into deliberation early this afternoon. At about 4:40PM, the clerk of the court came out looking for the attorneys. The jurors had a question that they needed to ask the judge in order to continue deliberation.
Espinoza and his attorney Charles Smith hurried into the court room, Andrew Clark was called and soon joined us.
The jury entered and the judge was called. After he entered, he asked the foreman if the jury had reached a decision on any of the charges. They had on one, but had not reached a decision on the 2nd charge, and were unsure as to how to proceed, given the hour of the day.
The judge said that they would read the decision on the first charge. The jurors would go home and return tomorrow at 9AM to continue deliberation on the 2nd charge. He advised the jury to discuss the case with no one other than other members of the jury, impressing on them the temptation to discuss it with others, or research the case, or go to the scene of the crime. He told them if they did any of those things, they would be excused. Then he asked the foreman for the paper with the decision on it so it could be read by the clerk.
The clerk read the verdict related to the throwing of the block of wood (criminal code#245A1. I believe that is assault with a deadly weapon.).
The verdict was Guilty.
It was a relief to hear, but we still didn’t know what the next day would hold. We could only hope. And many of us had no great joy in this case being charged on anything other than felony charges, so that the defendant would have to take full responsibility for his actions.
Court started this morning with Judge Dondero confirming once again the verdict of guilty on the charge of assault with a deadly weapon (the throwing of the block of wood). Then he sent the jury back for deliberation on the remaining charge of vehicular manslaughter. He told them that the court and the lawyers would be on hand to answer any questions, and that they should discuss drafting any questions they had that prevented them from deciding on the charge. He also suggested that since they had each had time to think about the case overnight, they might be able to come to a decision.
So the jury went into deliberation. Around 10AM, there was a small flurry of activity that indicated that something was going on. The defendant and defense attorney returned to the courtroom. They paged Asst DA Clark, but had to wait a good 10 minutes for his arrival. He finally arrived and then the jury was brought in, followed by the judge. The jury foreman did not look in our direction.
The judge asked if they had reached a verdict on the remaining charge. They had. He asked the jury foreman to give the verdict to the bailiff, who gave it to the clerk to read.
The verdict on the charge of vehicular manslaughter was Not Guilty.
The defendant wept upon hearing the decision.
The DA's assistant requested a "polling" of the jury, and they were each asked if they had voted yes or no to agree with this decision. They had all voted yes.
The judge then asked if the prosecution and the defense were ready to discuss sentencing. DA Clark requested to discuss that in the judge's chambers, but defense Atty. Smith objected, saying that he wanted everything on the record. The judge said it would be on the record. They retired.
When they came back, the judge said he was prepared to proceed with sentencing. Clark said he was ready as well. Smith conferred with his client and asked for a postponement of sentencing until next week. Espinoza explained that he had a 10 year old stepdaughter and he wanted to go home and talk with her. Smith explained that if they went into sentencing, his client feared that he would more than likely be remanded into custody immediately and wouldn't be able to talk to his family. There was some kind of question from the defense to the judge as to whether or not that would happen, and if he could give any indication of that. The judge said quite sternly, "We don't do that here. I will give no indication of my sentence in advance."
They conferred and the judge agreed to postpone sentencing until Tuesday morning at 9AM. (It will be in the same location: 400 McAllister, room 504 with Judge Dondero.)
The judge then thanked the jury for their work and excused them.
Clark went into the hall after the jurors at this point and spoke with at least 4 of them. What he told me afterwards is that they had found Espinoza not guilty of vehicular manslaughter, because they thought that Chris could have done something to prevent what happened. I said to him, "so they blamed the victim then."
Because that's how I felt. The jury consisted of both drivers, a few non-drivers and self-styled "recreational" cyclists. The case the DA made did not convince them of what life is like on the road for everyday cyclists, who use a bike as their main form of transportation or employment, and constantly have to defend our right to be on the road. They know it's wrong to throw a block of wood at someone, but not that a vehicle can be used as a weapon. And they don't agree that the victim of a misdemeanor who loses his life is not to blame for his own death to in this instance. So I feel like we have a lot of work to do. There will be a meeting with the DA and members of the bike community to discuss this case and it's after-effects. I'll keep you posted. Once again, the sentencing will be this Tuesday at 9AM. With all the fuss about terrorism and other sensational news, this has apparently dropped off the radar of the commercial media. I’m glad this forum exists.