Is there a Case in the Courthouse? – Kazi F. Eshita
For the first time in my life, I visited a court today (April 18th, 2019). I always enjoy blending academics with new experiences. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, finishing the college assignment, along with getting a new topic for a new article. Yes!
The Los Angeles Consolidated Superior Court (civil and criminal) at 300, East Walnut Street, Pasadena, California was a 30-minute drive from home. I reached there at around 10 AM. It was a big building, quite appealing to look at. I saw a few police cars and men wearing light-brown uniforms with a SHERIFF label on it. Obviously, there were a lot of people in formal attire, the usual for lawyers. Different floors of that building had different types of hearing going on. I decided to go to the top floor (6th floor- department J) as I wanted to hear something about criminal law: the most recent topic I had to study for my course. I tried to get a little mental image of my surroundings before the court procedures began. There were little notices on the walls, one caught my eye:
“Any communication with prisoners is strictly prohibited by law, pursuant to penal code section 4579.”
Other notices included dress codes for the courtroom (I didn’t know that, but I was dressed appropriately- phew!) There were also warnings about phone and laptop usage in the courtroom. (Isn’t that obvious? Even then, I saw a lady browsing the internet and taking selfies!) I saw a notice about not talking, reading and chewing gum too.
I took a seat at the back. The judge, Robin Miller Sloan, had a black cloak-type-thing on. She had a clerk seated just beside her, and another lady sat equipped right in front of the witness stand. The lady had the job of taking notes as the witnesses spoke.
One thing I noticed about criminal cases is that there were no plaintiffs in the criminal cases, only the defendants. That was because only the state or federal government could bring criminal charges against a person or corporation. The lawyer for state would be representing “people”. Another irritating experience was having to see around six to seven groups of lawyers and accused’s come in and shift their trial date. Some people were still in the discovery process (obtaining information from both plaintiff and defendant and third parties prior to trial). Someone else decided to show up in court, but literally walked away right before the trial. Finally, I got to see two trials, both of which were preliminary hearings (this takes place before original criminal trial).
I watched a trial where the defendant (I didn’t get his name, so I’ll call him Mr. Husband). This Mr. Husband walked into court, his hands cuffed at the back. He was wearing a yellow jacket with LA County Jail written on it. His lawyer was called Mr. Miller.
At first, the judge said that the defendant was present, along with his lawyer. Then she asked if any witness was present there for the case. A woman called Chit Therese Wayne (Miss Vee) went up to the witness stand (the same person taking selfies earlier). Before sitting on the witness chair, she was sworn to speak the truth by the clerk. The witness was asked to use proper words for the sake of note-taking (no nodding or shaking of head) She was then asked if she recognized anyone in court and if so, describe an item of clothing he/she was wearing. Miss Vee said she recognized her husband in the yellow jacket.
Mr. Miller mentioned that special allegation was denied for his client (I didn’t quite understand what he meant, though).
Miss Vee was married to Mr. Husband on September 2018. Somehow, their marriage was falling apart, so they started living in separate houses. (I don’t think they were divorced yet, as Vee still called him husband.) On January 5th, 2019, Vee was in Mr. Husband’s garage, she responded when she was asked to come over. (Vee, despite living separately, still went whenever he called her, because she wanted to make the marriage work.) Vee’s male friend called, and when she answered, Mr. Husband had a heated argument with her regarding that friend. At one point, he began kicking her violently. He punched her with both hands, leaving a bruise on her left arm. (The lawyer showed her some pictures which the judge also saw, after she mentioned her arm discoloration.) Next, Vee said that Mr. Husband took out his black gun which he always kept loaded, and pointed at her head.
Vee worked night shifts at a specialized nursing facility. Mr. Husband had been texting her during work hours, using plenty of profane language. On January 6th, 2019, Mr. Husband came to Vee’s house, shouting: “Open up!”
When she didn’t, he used a spare key to open the door, didn’t step in the house, but fired his gun at Vee’s television once, and walked away. (Vee clearly looked traumatized now, almost at the verge of tears. I was wondering about Mr. Husband’s mental state too). Just afterwards, Vee nearly stormed out of the courtroom, sniffing.
Mr. Michael said his client had committed residential burglary (opening door and pointing gun). Here, the judge said that can be a question of fact for the jury. I also heard the term brandishing used more than once, I don’t clearly know what that meant. Mr. Husband was guilty as charged.
In my opinion, Mr. Husband definitely can be charged for both assault and battery, because he did threat to kill Vee in the text messages. Also, Mr. husband had Mens Rea (the will to commit a crime). Moreover, the accusation of burglary also stands, because he did break into someone else’s property. Vee suffered some non-monetary damages like mental trauma, which can be compensated with money. She can also ask for special damages because she did suffer physical injuries that require medical attention. To sum up, I can only say that I’d have supported Vee in this case and I hope she gets justice.