Murder In The 1st Degree!


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Now that my jury service ended last night, let me share some thoughts and reflections. I was picked as 1 of 12 jurors and 2 alternates, on a 1st Degree Murder and a Robbery Using A Handgun trial. I also ended up being picked as the Jury Foreman, and this case was finally being presented since 2013.
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The trial itself was a long tedious process, as the prosecution laid out it’s case. The defendant was representing himself, which from the very beginning, I felt was a mistake. No guns were ever recovered, but the crime trail was easy to follow. All of the participants grew up in the same neighborhood. The bullets removed from the deceased were from either a 38 or 357 revolver, which an eyewitness confirmed was the handgun that the defendant was carrying. It was a robbery of a small time marijuana dealer. And I know what you’re thinking, He got what was coming to him. But in the grand scheme of things, this man didn’t deserve to die over 75-bucks.
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Both robbers had hoodies and ski masks. No weapons were found on either the deceased or his friend.
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It was a robbery, struggle, shooting, and flee. The eyewitness (friend) ran as soon as the shooting started. And there was an unwritten code in the neighborhood, “if you snitch, you get stitches”. The eyewitness was petrified. There was a tracking dog, DNA, security video, tossed clothing, and other witnesses.
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The chain of events occurred something like this: two men were sitting out in the front yard of the deceased house, at roughly 10PM on March 27th, 2013. Two hooded men with ski masks (one tall, one short) showed up in the darkness, demanding money. The tall man walked over the the deceased truck, and found a small amount of cash, and a bucket of bagged marijuana. According to the witness (friend), the tall man came back infuriated that there was no more cash in the truck. The tall man shouted “give up your pants”! At this point the deceased grabbed both assailants in a head lock. It was at this point both assailants started shooting, and the witness, scared for his life, started running. Shots were fired at the witness, but all bullets missed their target. Both assailants took off.
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We pick this trail back up once the police showed up. A tracking dog was used after the area was cleared, and the dog, heading south, stopped at a few places where a ski mask, key lanyard, and hooded sweatshirt were found. The last known location of the assailants was 3 blocks south, where they tried to talk an older gent into letting them into his house, even offering to pay him. The man said no, and shut the door on them. Video of the 2 assailants was captured by a house across the street, of a tall man and short man, with the tall man taking off his sweatshirt and tossing it, where it was later found by the dog and police.
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Based on interviews, DNA collected, property collected, security video, and the tracking dog, police were able to arrest and charge the defendant. And this is where I come in.
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During the trial, I wondered to myself why a person, who lived in this neighborhood their whole life, along with the deceased and witness, would even consider robbing someone from this area.
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During the 1 1/2 hour deliberation, ten jurors were on-board with a guilty verdict. But there were 2 holdouts – an older gent who was crying as we were discussing the crime, and a young lady who was also crying at the thought of sending someone away for life. For my part, I had to be convinced that this was a robbery and not just an bumbled attempted robbery. Finally convinced and in 100% agreement, I checked the form and signed my name – Robbery with the Use of a Firearm. Now on to the big one. I slowed things down a tad, in order to give both jurors some breathing room to think through exactly what happened that night on March 27th, 2013. With tears dried, and all of our hearts mended with some juror humor, all hands were finally raised together in unison. I grabbed the final sheet, and asked one last time, was everyone in agreement to the line I was about to check – Guilty of 1st Degree Murder! All hands were raised for the last time in the jury room, and I then checked and signed the Guilty of 1st Degree Murder.
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I thought about this action, that I was officially putting someone away for a life of prison. But also thinking, what kind of chance did they give the deceased…
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I walked to the locked jury room door, and saw Gary, our court sheriff officer, and told him we were ready. We had 10 minutes alone to collect our thoughts, drop down some more humor we saw during the trial, when Gary opened the door and said “let’s go get this done”!
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As we got to the rear courtroom door, I remembered when we left for deliberation, there were 3 sheriff deputies, 5 people sitting on the defendants side, and maybe 10 on the deceased side. When the door opened and we walked in this courtroom for the last time, we were in awe. There were at least 12 sheriff deputies standing up the center aisle, around the defendant and out front of the juror seats. I have never felt more in awe of surroundings in my life. The deceased side was now standing room only. I felt the breath being sucked out of me. I thought what was I thinking when these 11 people voted me to be the Jury Foreman, and I said yes.
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The judge asked me if the jury had reached a verdict, and I said “yes we have your honor”. I gave the verdict papers to the court deputy sheriff, he gave them to the judge, and she asked me if these were the will of the jury, and I stated yes your honor, they are. As the court recorder read the charges, and then our verdict, I heard a massive sigh coming from the deceased side of the room. I don’t remember hearing our verdicts, only this – “so signed and dated by Norman Hogg”. I stared at the defendant, standing alone at his table, showing absolutely no reaction.
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Escorted from the courtroom while being told we all would be escorted out to our vehicles, and that the judge wanted to talk to us before we left.
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Once the judge was talking to us did we hear that the defendant had 11 previous felonies to his credit he was convicted of. Later, both prosecuting attorneys told us the the previous felonies was the reason he didn’t want to testify, hence this is why he represented himself. Even the sheriff deputies all told us the defendant had a rap sheet 20 years in the making, and he was only 32. I guess we did right thing after all!
Categories: Norm's PlaceTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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