The trial where nobody lied

Iconic columnI attended a criminal jury trial today. The defendant was charged with the sale of methamphetamine. The MUSTANG drug task force had set up a sting in a Jefferson City motel and set the room up for video and sound. The police used an undercover informant who arrived at the motel with a list of phone numbers believed to belong to drug dealers. The informant called through his list and asked the dealers and to come over and sell him drugs (not mentioning, however, that the sale would be for the cameras).

The defendant showed up with another guy. The jury watched and listened to the drug sale on videotape. The defendant–who was facing ten years to life as a prior offender–took the stand to testify. He told the jury that it was him on the tape and yes, he sold the meth to the undercover informant.

Why was he not guilty? Because, he said, he only sold the drugs because he needed the money. That was his defense.

ArgumentIn closing argument, his lawyer asked the jury to ignore the law and find the guy not guilty. He conceded his client may be guilty under the law, but he only did it for the money. Besides, it wasn’t quite fair that the police tricked him into coming over to the motel and then videotaping him.

The jury went out. While the jury deliberated, the court asked the defendant if it had been his decision to take the stand and testify. Did he know he didn’t have to testify if he didn’t want to? The defendant said he hadn’t talked much with his lawyer and the only advice he had been given was to plead guilty.

By this time, everyone in the room was thinking that the pleading guilty advice was probably pretty sound. A few minutes later this was confirmed when the jury sent back a message saying that they couldn’t find the “guilty” form for the foreperson to sign. The form was quickly found and the inevitable guilty verdict was read.