Ninja Turtle Jury Duty: Part 2

If you missed ahht on Part 1, you can find it hizzear.

I’d like to start this entry by saying — it’s sort of inappropriate for me to give Ninja Turtles names to the counsel because…I didn’t like them. The whole time, I felt like I was being lied to. I felt like both of them were bending words deliberately to confuse me. And I’m smart! We weren’t allowed to speculate as to why objections were made, but sometimes they were during things I thought it was necessary to hear. Other times, they were during things that were so arbitrary, I couldn’t figure out why they were made. “Is your shirt blue?” “Objection!” “Sustained.” “Your shirt — is it blue?” “Objection!” “Sustained.” “If you were wearing a shirt today, and it was blue, would you say, ‘yes’?” Oh, that one’s allowed! Carry on.

I should also let you know that, as were the rules of being a juror, you are supposed to ASSUME the person is innocent, and then let the evidence convince you otherwise or not. If you’re 50/50, you were supposed to go with “innocent.” Beebop and Rocksteady were also on trial separately, and one could be guilty and the other innocent. We were also supposed to consider that being involved in the crime was a crime itself — ie. the driver was no more or less guilty than the passenger who was said to have pulled the trigger.

Let me skip ahead and spoiler alert myself by saying that I was the final holdout maintaining Rocksteady’s innocence. I’m not proud of this, as I don’t like being in the minority or having people ganging up on me. I am also not easily swayed. While Judge Splinter was swearing us in, he brought up these very topics. You weren’t supposed to “just go with the flow” because you were too meek to oppose, but you also weren’t supposed to stand alone just because you’re stubborn. You also weren’t supposed to let other people’s opinions change yours, if you feel the opposing viewpoint in your heart — and, you know, your brain, as influenced by a pile of evidence.

It all came down to Dog Scent Evidence versus DNA Evidence.

Scientists were brought up to the stand to “teach” us about DNA, so that those of us who had to pretend to ignore anything we’d known from before could have those gaps legally filled in. Raphael and Michaelangelo, the defense team, hilariously tried to discredit these scientists in the most ridiculous ways possible, and it was hard not to laugh out loud while looking at the scientist’s face, who was also trying not to laugh out loud.

“Isn’t DNA, like, really small?” “So a fingerprint can CHANGE LENGTH?! NOT VERY CREDIBLE, IF YOU ASK ME!!” *
*This one took me a sec, but, yeah, if you lightly touch something, the grooves of your fingerprint will be closer together than if you were to mash your finger into the surface, which is why they take the design into account more than the fingerprint-groove distances.

Then, dog trainers came in to explain to us about dog scent training and identification, and I had to pretend I hadn’t captioned all those shows for Animal Planet about how flawless the dogs are and how well-trained they are, and also forget dogs I’d actually seen find objects in real life. Come ON, isn’t this “Blatant Ignoring Things You Know” the stuff they were supposed to weed me out for in Jury Selection? Oh, I forgot…Things you see on TV don’t count. Discovery Channel is obviously run by liars with their own agendas.

So, last we left off in the actual STORY, Beebop was in jail for something else. Rocksteady was free and being watched by police, and he knew it. Testing on t-shirts and latex gloves found in and around the car, though, takes time, and although the lawyers never explicitly say it, the only thing that the police have going for them is the positive ID by Baxter Stockman, which, to me, is shady at best.

The cops did a sweep of the neighborhoods where Beebop and Rocksteady had been known to frequent. The two said they don’t know each other “very well” but as was revealed in gasping testimony later, they’re actually brothers-in-law. One dog, led by his trainer, got a sniff of Beebop’s shirt and walked down the road. He stopped briefly by an address that the trainer didn’t know, but was later proven to be his aunt and uncle’s house where he stayed. The dog didn’t go in, though, which the turtles had a field day with. On the stand, the trainer said he was scared to go any further into a house where there may be a criminal. “Ah,” Raphael says, “but you said the police didn’t tell you ANYTHING or it would taint your ability to give a blind search! But yet You KNEW it was a criminal! So they could have EASILY told you something ELSE? HMM? LIKE WHICH HOUSE TO GO TO!” I wanted to stand up and yell, “Yeah? Well, they don’t do dog scent searches to give you Publisher’s Clearing House awards, you manipulative jerk. Of COURSE he assumes it’s a criminal!” I mean, the sheer fact that he stopped at Beebop’s house…out of ANY house on the street…is pretty significant. People can argue that police dogs WANT to find things and want to please their masters so much that they feel let down if they turn up nothing, but I mean, it is the house of Beebop — the guy who (skipping ahead) ended up matching the DNA evidence.

When a different dog did a search for Rocksteady, he was still free and at home. The dog pointed near the house, “signaling” that he had found the source of his scent. Some police radioed to the trainer to pause, as they knocked on Rocksteady’s door and ask him to come outside for more questions — since, remember, he already knew they wanted him for SOMETHING. The trainer calmly walked past and the dog, sniffing Rocksteady as he passed, stopped and sat right in front of him — which was HIS “signal” that he’d found the source of the scent.

Now there were DAYS of witness testimony about this. First, people argued that: Isn’t a dog SITTING sort of a sketchy tell? It would be different if he made a digging motion or pointed or barked or something else that wasn’t “normal dog behavior.” What if he was just tired? What if, as Rocksteady’s family SWORE, the trainer stopped first, and the dog followed suit, being well-behaved?

Then, in what was the most tense moment in court (and when I almost busted out laughing again), Michaelangelo, in what was granted a pretty snarky tone, asked the dog trainer on the stand WHY he had the dog sniff the articles 4 times — once at each end of the street, before he did a pass. Wasn’t the scent strong enough to sustain him? And if it was such a weak scent, how can it be reliable?
“Well, Michelangelo,” the dog trainer started, “that’s because, if I didn’t, people like YOU would ask me if I were certain he were following the correct scent.”
“Peop-PEOPLE LIKE *ME*?! DO YOU ASSUME TO KNOW WHAT I’M ABOUT TO ASK YOU?!” His face got all read and everyone held their breath, because it was really strange to see such a lack of composure in what was otherwise a smooth waltz of polite justice. I tried not to laugh. Calm down, buddy. I think you just got served.

The dog sitting was enough to get a warrant for the arrest of Rocksteady, and the police put him in the back of a tapped cruiser. They then got Beebop out of holding and left them in the car alone together before moving them both to a new cell. I also knew enough from movies and television to know that this sort of tapping is totally legal, and when the bleeding-heart hippie juror exclaimed it was an injustice of human rights, it was all I could do to roll my eyes. Of course, when we did the tally, she thought they were both guilty and I thought Rocksteady was innocent, so who’s the bleeding heart now?

So, they’re in the back of the cop car, and they have a conversation in Spanish, of which we are given a translated transcript and asked to hold the translation AS PURE TRUTH even if we speak Spanish and find a mistranslation. For example, if someone answers a word that can be translated as “Sure” or “Right,” and it’s translated as “Yes,” you, as a Spanish speaker, are REQUIRED BY LAW to take the transcript’s translation instead of your own. I guess the difference here is small, but as a linguist, “Right” and “Yes” can mean very different things. One can mean simply “Keep talking, even though I don’t necessarily agree with you,” but I guess we weren’t there to discuss the ins and outs of Spanish translation.

In Spanish, these two men have more or less the following conversation.
Rocksteady: Do you know why we’re here?
Beebop: No. Do you?
Rocksteady: No, but if I had to guess it has to do with that robbery.
Beebop: Hmm.
Rocksteady: Why us?
Beebop: I don’t know.
Rocksteady: They said they have some evidence, like, fingerprints and stuff.
Beebop: Hmm.
Rocksteady: Do you have guns at your house?
Beebop: No, but there’s ammo.
*English speaking cops get in and drive them to the station*

Now. Two things annoyed me about this conversation, which seemed to “seal the deal” for some jury members. Which, by the way, you’re not supposed to come to a conclusion until the end of the trial. You’re supposed to keep an open mind throughout. So when Grandma in the deliberation room says she knew Rocksteady did it from early on, I wanted to kick her in the teeth.

Anyway, 1) this conversation did not necessarily implicate either of them. What if you lived in a small neighborhood, where almost everyone’s family or at least friends, and a robbery goes down a few blocks away? You might hear about it. Hell, you might even KNOW who did it. It doesn’t have to be your friend. You don’t even have to know EXACTLY who did it. If you know someone who is in a gang who knows another gang…I mean, word travels, and people like to talk. But are we allowed to assume even this? Is this common sense? If a kid steals a ball on the playground, and everyone’s crying about the ball, is knowing about the stolen ball a crime?
2) The officers also spoke in English on the tape. Deciphering completely garbled audio was my job for almost 5 years. I caught at least 4 errors in the English-to-English transcription. Can I really to trust this Spanish one? I guess I had to.

This is getting way too long. Part 3 tomorrow. PROMISE!

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