Some cases stick on out more than others from my years on the Mobile Municipal Court Bench. Perhaps it was the incendiary nature of the accused’s threat to take his vengeance “out in blood,” or maybe it was the alleged victim’s candid admission that the accused was his crack dealer that stick out in my memory. Regardless, this was the case that landed on my trial docket this month in 2010.
As is true in all criminal cases where the imposition of incarceration is possible and where the accused is determined legally indigent, the accused (whom I will call Stephen) was appointed counsel to represent him on the charge of Harassment. The complainant who I will call Robert swore under oath to the following in his deposition to the municipal court magistrate:
Robert left out some critical omissions in his bill of particulars against Stephen as I would soon find out. Robert testified first pitching his tale about how he was unfairly and wrongly targeted by Steven who thought Robert stole his bicycle. Robert testified Steven sought him out on the streets of downtown Mobile, eventually finding his tent. Robert testified Steven then ransacked his humble abode and personal effects. Steven put it out on the street that he was going to kill Robert. This rightly alarmed poor Robert who promptly sought Steven out to see what all the fuss was over. Robert found Steven who made no qualms with him about what the beef was over. If Robert didn’t return his bike within 24 hours Steven would “take it out in blood.”
Next came cross-examination, “beyond any doubt the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” 5 J. Wigmore, Evidence § 1367, p. 32 (J. Chadbourn rev. 1974). Steven’s attorney asked Robert about how he had the good fortune to become acquainted with Robert. To his credit, Robert candidly admitted that he would buy his crack cocaine from Steven at a local bar. When asked if he was under the influence on the day in question, again Robert candidly admitted he had been drinking on the day of the event.
The city rested it’s case. The defense then called Steven to testify. Steven said he lived under the I-165 bridge and that this forum of a court of law to resolve dispute resolutions was foreign to him as the code of conduct on the street mandated a different course of action. Steven testified that he bought his bike, possibly a Mongoose, for $36 from Wal-Mart and in a rather poignant moment confessed, “I’ll never forget that bike.” He was also quite sure Robert stole his bike as he saw Robert riding the bike after it turned up missing. Steven admitted to threatening to kick his a**.
After hearing the case and evaluating the credibility of the witnesses and the totality of the circumstances, the Court had a reasonable doubt as to what exactly transpired and entered a finding of NOT GUILTY, instructing the parties to have no further contact with one another.
I still wonder, what ever happened to that bike? And I, like Steven, will never forget that bike.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matt Green is a solo practitioner who represents personal injury and victims of criminal wrongdoing. He represents members of law enforcement injured by drunk and careless drivers. He served as a municipal court traffic court judge in the City of Mobile and the City of Saraland for nearly a decade. Before that Matt prosecuted major felonies, traffic homicides, and violent crimes in the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office. He teaches trial advocacy to Mobile Police Cadets and speaks to the Mobile County Court Referral Victim Impact Panel. Matt also defends the constitutional rights of his clients. He may be reached at 251.434.8500 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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