Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A 5:00pm Verdict??

The call came at 5:00 pm yesterday afternoon . . . get back to the courthouse. The jury had been deliberating since 11:15 am on a two-witness, DWI case including about 4 hours of testimony. We tried an aggressive case and were cautiously optimistic for a not guilty verdict. The prosecutor worked hard, as well, milking his case for every sign of alcohol intoxication possible.

First, a plug for my consulting experts. With the help of Lance Platt, of Platt & Associates, (formerly Walden, Platt & Associates) we were able to take the arresting officer on cross-examination and carve him up like a roast. Lance is a former College Station Police Department officer who provides expert assistance in the evaluation of DWI videos and investigations. For a reasonable fee, the firm takes a DWI video, along with other pre-trial discovery, and evaluates the police administration of field sobriety tests and scoring. Lance provided a detailed report having reviewed the officer's performance with a fine-tooth comb. With this information we were well prepared to attack the credibility of the arresting officer and the prosecution's case.

The client didn't look too bad on the video. The police stopped him for driving without his headlights on. He made a few mistakes on the sobriety tests, but nothing that couldn't be explained as a young college kid, scared, and under the microscope of two uniformed cops. He was honest with the officer admitting he'd consumed 5-6 beers at a local drinking establishment. However, during the trial we showed the arresting officer failed to comply with numerous standardized procedures for administering the roadside tests. The failure to comply with these standardized procedures compromised the validity of the tests by the officer's own admission. Furthermore, we were fortunate to have two officers involved since their testimony conflicted on key aspects of the case. During a rare jury trial moment, the arresting officer "failed" the walk-and-turn test during his demonstration by exhibiting two clues of intoxication . . . stepping of line and making an improper turn. A rare gift, indeed, in the defense of those accused of driving while intoxicated.

I'd like to report the jury acquitted my client . . . but no. Yet, we were blessed with a hung jury and mistrial. After speaking with the jurors the split was 5-to-1 in favor of an acquittal. One juror was impressed a trained and practiced police officer made honest mistakes on his own sobriety tests!

So, we plan on trying this case again . . . anytime, anywhere. When it comes up I'll let you know.

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