No Justice, No Peace

The attorney asked if I could be a fair juror. I said yes. What a sucker I was.

When asked directly, and repeatedly, whether he recognized Keevin Hinton as the shooter or simply from the neighborhood, Oultman said that he couldn't be sure, and concluded that he wouldn't want to convict an innocent man. Was he recanting his original testimony? Was he covering his back? Or was he simply using a platitude to soften the impact of his damning testimony? (We jurors would argue about this for at least 30 hours straight.)

Could Oultman even have seen out the window very well? Wasn't his roommate in the way? And if his roommate was there at the window too, why wasn't he testifying? Oultman said his roommate said there were three shooters, but that was ruled hearsay. We were told to forget it. Now you try to forget it too. Whatever you believe, you may conclude this: Without Oultman there is no case. With Oultman there is a case as solid as fog.

Upstairs Myrne Bunker, an ex-girlfriend of Oultman's, had been polishing her furniture. She heard shouting on the street, and then gunfire, and she rushed to the window to see Milton crumpled in his own blood and a man in the street shouting, "Come on you motherfuckers, come on." Bunker related this and burst into tears. Was she crying because of the devastation in her neighborhood? Because she was a basket case? Or because she felt that her testimony might place her in danger? And why is it that some people hear gunfire and rush to their windows?

Patrick Rolo

Another witness, Earnest Jackson, was out on his second-floor deck barbecuing, down the block from the shooting. He heard shots, which worried him because his wife had just left for the grocery store, so he noticed when someone biked up the alley from the direction of the shooting. That cyclist had long braids or dreadlocks, distinctly unlike Keevin Hinton. Asked what he did next, Jackson earnestly replied: "I personally continued to barbecue."

Back to Milton. Milton got out of the hospital 29 days after he was shot, having been quite a handful to the staff at North Memorial--trying to check himself out, stowing cans of beer in his pillowcase, and mysteriously generating high THC levels in his blood. Milton left the hospital and no one arrested him for his outstanding warrants. Why? Who knows.

Milton found out that a month after the shooting, no one had been charged. In fact, the detective who was assigned to the case never did a thing about it. Never questioned anybody--not Milton, not Burstyn, not neighbors, nobody. No one seemed particularly surprised or alarmed that people wanted to kill Milton. Except, of course, Milton. So he flagged down his neighborhood beat officer and told him he wanted to ID his would-be killer.

Let's pause here and say that Milton had had ample opportunity by now to hear other people's versions of what happened. (I found out after the trial that Milton and Hinton had met for the first time a few days before the shooting in Hinton's front yard, which was about 20 yards from the crime scene. Was that the start of a lethal argument or fodder for a memory mix-up?)

Though Milton isn't old enough to drink, he had a blood-alcohol level of .268 when he was shot. How clearly could he see up a slight incline, into the shaded area between two buildings, and behind a pointed gun? When the paramedics arrived he gave the civically poetic name of John Ramsey. Does this mean he was alert enough to remember his outstanding warrants, or does it mean that he's habitually loose with the truth? Does Milton know beyond a doubt who shot him? There are equally persuasive arguments either way.

The beat officer led Milton to police headquarters, and they spent some time looking through mug shots on a computer. Milton didn't recognize anyone. The cop, a rookie who was at the end of his day and was dealing with someone else's case, wasn't finding anything.

Milton said he knew that the shooter's street name was "Shasheed," and the beat officer said to try the name "Hinton," or "Hinyon," or something. So they pulled up Keevin Hinton's picture and stuck it in one position in the lineup and picked out other mug shots they had on file to match the skin tone and facial-hair patterns of Keevin Hinton, and that's when Milton identified him. A warrant was put out for Keevin Hinton, he heard about it, and turned himself in. (Another detail I didn't learn until after the trial: Hinton says at the time all this happened, he was suing that very beat cop for illegal search and seizure in an unrelated incident.)

The Trial

The trial lasted maybe 10 hours, spread over three days. I could write a thousand pages on the nuances in it: How when Milton testified, metal detectors and armed deputies suddenly appeared in the hallways, making him seem very dangerous indeed. (The deputies said the metal detectors were set up randomly, and we would have believed it if juror Veronica hadn't laughed at us rubes.) How the process made us jurors feel flatteringly important: We got to come in through a special door and leave that way too; everyone turned quiet when we entered; we flashed little smiles and shyly looked away from each other and the attorneys. Especially the attorneys.

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1 comments
flyingmonkeyair
flyingmonkeyair

There's nothing worse than reading interviews/accounts with jurors having a public crisis of conscience in the media *after* convicting someone.  If you were unsure that they were guilty, there was the *reasonable doubt* you were commissioned to look for that tells you not to come to a guilty verdict. 

Never mind admitting to pressuring another juror who "switched her vote because she felt the jury was about to turn into a lynch mob and attack her criminal past" or admitting that you "would have done anything to get out of there". 

Don't send someone to a dungeon for a decade because you were trapped in jury duty—missing your lattes and life as a food critic writing about restaurants most of us can't afford to eat at—then cry in the media about whether you sent an innocent person to prison. That's obscene.

 
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