A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Archive for February, 2010

My Day in Court

“Madame Prosecutor – what are the charges that you bring before this court?”

“If it pleases your honor I have two charges for this weeks sitting of the court.”

“It’s not a matter of whether it pleases me or not Ms Brill. Could you expedite this matter and read what you have for us this week.”

“Pardon your honor. The Crown wishes to prosecute Hin Sing Chun for threatening to kill, threatening to injury, and injuring with intent of Honi Kupi Ramsey on the 12 of July 2002. The prosecution also wishes to prosecute James Solomon Purcell for threatening to kill Marie Jane Colson on February 23, 2002.”

“Very well. We will now pick a jury. Members of the balloted jury. You must understand that you may be challenged by any neither of the opposing lawyers nor, indeed, by the defendants themselves. This is no reflection on you as a person  – it is merely the process by which justice works. Madam, please call your jurors.”

The lady with the very strong glasses spun the ballot box and pulled the first name from within.

“Stuart Jon Paterson.”

The guy two down the row from me drew in an audible breath and stood and strolled toward the jury box. The accused stood sullenly in the box provided for him at the left of the court, flanked by a guard dressed in green.

“Filipino Sofa Tupela”

The accused, a tall, gangly fellow of obvious Asian descent looked at the young Islander with tattoo’s and hair tied in a ponytail, then indicated to his counsel that he should be challenged.

“Challenger.”

The pacific guy looked at the judge as if imploring him to somehow change the lawyer’s opinion, but turned and sullenly walked back to take his seat at the rear of the courtroom.

“Jason Wiki”

Again the defendant nodded to his counsel and the guy was challenged. I had the sudden thought that this might be about race. Did the court know about a person’s race or occupation before a trial? Where did they get that information? Did they know that I, despite looking like a Pakeha, and having a real Pakeha name, actually had over a quarter Maori blood in me?

“Grant James McDonald.”

Grant James McDonald. Shit! That’s me. I stand and wait for them to challenge me but the accused doesn’t even look up at me as I start my journey to the front of the court and the jury box. I sit there while the rest of the jury is called up. Two more challenges, one from the prosecution for a Chinese lady and one from the defense for a nice looking lady who looks utterly devastated as she is forced to return to her seat. The judge tells the jury they must now be sworn in and then must retire to the jury room and choose a foreman, though it can be a lady if they wish. We file out.

Its not much trouble selecting a foreman as no-one wants to do it and some guy in a suit just takes charge and says we should vote and someone else says well you seem to know what’s going on, why don’t you do it. And he accepts and two minutes later the attendant shows us back into the courtroom. I’m sitting next to the really nice lady who has smiled at me twice and I think I might be onto something here. I remember that movie where the jury all got hooked up with each other and had to spend a couple of nights in a motel and it got real steamy. It had Demi Moore in it and she really got the hots for someone, though when I think back it might have been the accused. The prosecuting lawyer stands up and gravelly addressed us.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Today you asked asked to hear evidence that this man, the accused, Hin Sing Chun, did threaten to kill, threaten to ion jury, and injure with intent, Honi Kupi Ramsey. The facts of the case are simple; it is only the extent of the harm that the accused intended that is in dispute. On June 20 Mr. Ramsey was innocently walking down Cargill Place and proceeding to cross the signed pedestrian crossing at the intersection with James Street. Mr. Hin, driving at high speed, braked suddenly to stop for Mr. Ramsey and knocked him off his feet, onto the road, where Mr. Ramsey sustained minor injures. Mr. Ramsey, got to his feet and Mr. Hin leapt from his car and started yelling in Chinese in an agitated fashion, then proceeded to assault Mr. Ramsey, first with his hands and feet, then, after returning to his car, with a baton. Mr. Ramsey sustained cuts to his arms, hands and face, and sustained an injury to his heads, which required twelve stitches. Mr. Hin then returned to his car and drove in at high speed, narrowly avoiding the prone body of Mr. Ramsey as he lay bleeding and in much distress on the roadway. Mr. Ramsey was attended to, at the site, by St Johns ambulance staff, and in hospital by emergency staff. I have sworn affidavits as to what happened and I intend to call two witnesses to this event. This was an unprovoked attack of a very serious nature and I would urge the jury to bring a verdict of guilty on all charges.”

The judge shifted in his chair and glared at the prosecutor.

“Madam, just stick to the facts of the case at this stage, You will have your chance to convince the good members in your summing up. Does the defense wish to make an opening statement?”

“We do my Lord.” A small, skinny man who looked as a though he had slept in his clothes stepped forward and shuffled some papers in his hand then started to walk up and down before us, waving his hands furiously. “There is more to this case than what my good colleague has outlined,” he said,” my client is the victim of racial abuse and a concentrated campaign on the part of Mr. Ramsey and his colleagues to discredit an honest, hard working member of our community. It is our contention that Mr. Hin was offering help to Mr. Ramsey, who had not been struck by the car but had been intoxicated at the time and fell down, and his intentions were misunderstood and he was threatened and retaliated. He protected himself and his fiancée who was in the car and did not inflict the so-called head, facial and limb injuries, which have been detailed. He admits to pushing Mr. Ramsey, and warding off several blows, and he admits to using strong language, some of which was in his own tongue. He contends that Mr. Ramsey and his friends misunderstood what he was saying and misunderstood what his intentions a]=wee. He also contests that he was racially insulted and his girlfriend was called a number of names, which he considers unnecessary given she had no involvement in the incident other than being a passenger. We intend to present three witnesses who will attest ton the accuracy of Mr. Hins recall of events.”

Now I could see why the accused didn’t want Pacific Islanders or Maori on the jury. He obviously thought they would be prejudiced against him.  Then I remembered the little booklet that we had to read before we started. It implored us not to gather evidence on our own and only listen to what was reported in the court. I had to ask myself – was I racially prejudiced Asians? Ha! Of course I wasn’t. It flashed through my mind about that politician who said that he was descended from some Chinese tribe. Was he a Maori? I couldn’t really remember as he had a white sounding name and he said a lot of anti-Maori things. I thought that Chinese were all right. They seemed to be good at fish and chips and they all seemed to work hard and keep their noses to the ground. But they did keep to themselves and a lot of the young ones flouted their wealth in front of ordinary New Zealanders. I wondered if the guy was actually born in this country or had just arrived. He seemed to understand what was going on and he was dressed Ok so maybe he had been here a long time. I looked at my fellow jurors and they all were white, and the lawyers were all white, the judge was white and I didn’t see any Asian faces in the audience. Didn’t he have family? I tried to put myself in his place and I kind of got what it must feel like for him. The prosecuting lawyer called her first witness.

“Call Janine Mihaka.”

This sullen looking chick with straggly black hair and shabby clothes shambled through the court

“Ms Mihaka. Could you tell the court,” and he gestures towards the jury box because, alas, save for a solitary reporter from the local paper sitting in the press gallery, the court is despairingly empty, “what you saw on the day of June 20, 2002.”

The girl looks stupidly at this man as if he is some kind of alien and he stares back at her for what seems an age.

“The morning of the accident that we are in this court today to hear about.”

“Oh! Yeah! Well! We was walking across the crossing at, you know, outside of, and down from Maccas, and this car comes screaming down the hill and clobbers Hina. Then this guy gets out and starts jabbering away and then he bashes Hina and starts to kick him and stuff.”

The judge removes his glasses and holds his hands up to indicate that everything should stop.

“Ms, Ms ,” he puts his glasses back on and reads from a piece of paper in front of him,”Ms Meehaki.”

The girl looks up at him and her eyes brighten and she says in a load voice

“Miss Mihaka, Miss Rayleene Mihaka.”

“Ah yes, indeed, Miss Mihaka, thank you, I see that your name is spelled incorrectly on my briefing document here. Could you be a little more precise as to the time and location of the incident”

The girl just stares at him and then looks downward as if she has failed an exam or something.

“What time was it?”

“Oh! About 7 or so. They had just started breakfasts at the shop next to Macca’s and we thought about going in there because they have these choice sausage rolls but Jason wanted a burger and fries so we had to go to Macca’s,” she said somewhat brightly.

“And the location?”

And so it went on. A tedious process of listening to each of these people trot out a story which suggested that these innocent, fun-loving, youngsters were joyfully going about their lawful business when this apparition from South East Asia swirled out of the mist and descended on poor old Honi and beat the living crap out of him. The defense lawyer didn’t seem to be able to get a word in as every time he tried to tease more information from the recalcitrant trio that constituted Honi’s friends, they just shrugged their shoulders and raised an eyebrow and intoned “Dunno”. I could sense the unease amongst the other members of the jury and the judge looked like he was about to pick up his sheaf of papers and leave the room to go fishing or anything that would remove him from this tedious boredom. All the time this was going on I couldn’t but help look at the defendant, Hin Sung Chun, who seemed to either be disinterested in what was going on or couldn’t understand a word of what was being said.

Heh! I just starting to think what sort of example do these people think they are setting. They start at 10.00 am and really its not 10.15 until the fat arsed judge sits down and jokes with the lawyers and tells them off like this is primary school of something. Why do they put up with it? I wouldn’t have my boss talk to me that way. Then they break for lunch at 12.00 or so and don’t get back till 2.15 pm, but its more like 2.30 and then they break for afternoon tea which goes for half an hour and the they finish at 5.00. Its like they are saying ‘work is flexible and we take as much time as we want to diddle around to show you how important we are and how stupid you are, but really the impression I am getting is for a group of people who don’t really give a rats arse about what they are doing, only about there own self importance.

I realise that now we have to decide has actually happened on that fateful day. We file out of the courtroom to the little jury room and immediately there is a fight to get to the toilets and the coffee and tea. Then the person who is the foreman asks us how we want to go about this. Someone suggests that we should perhaps have a vote first to see how the land lies or something like that so we all write down on a piece of scrap paper guilty or not guilty until someone else points out there are actually three charges and so we have to start over again and then someone wants it explained again what each charge means and an hour goes by and we still haven’t even had a first vote. Then an old crusty guy who looks like he sleeps on the streets and who sat behind me and I swear smelt so bad that I had trouble concentrating says that he thinks that anybody who doesn’t take the trouble to speak English deserves everything he gets. I can’t work out which person he is talking about – is it Honi or Hin? I notice that everybody sort of edges away from the old guy but he is on a roll and he starts raving about how he was once cheated out of a whole lot of money by some Chink, and then the Chinese Mafia, and then Japs. I can see it’s going to be a long day.

“It’s Murphy’s Law,” a female voice says, and I swivel around to catch who it is. It’s the nice looking Demi Moore lady but she has a scowl on her face that instantly banishes any thoughts of in court trysts with her from my mind. “It’s Murphy’s Law. The one day that I made arrangements to meet someone for lunch and I’m stuck her listening to all this garbage. It’s obvious he did it. Why don’t we just all agree he’s guilty and then we can get away from here? To top it off my bloody car is parked in a two-hour park and I am going to get a ticket. Guilty I say. What’s the argument?”

My former admiration for this woman has instantly disappeared. I mutter to her that we are talking about a man’s life here.

“What do you mean a man’s life,” she replies and glares at me as if I am the accused and I am the one person who has been singly responsible for her missing her lunchtime appointment and getting a parking fine.  “You can tell by looking at his eyes that he’s guilty. The evidence is pretty obvious. This – ,” she looks down at her list of notes, which I note are barely two or three lines and seem confined to the names and ages of the main actors in this drama, “Hin Shun fella is obviously anti new Zealander and he just lost his rag and lit into this guy. He is lucky that he stopped when he did. He could have killed this – ,“ again she consults her notes, “Mr Ramsey.”

The old guy with the bad smell nods in agreement and he writes something down on his pad.

I ask the group if they have considered that Hin’s girlfriend or fiancée’s account of the incident might mean anything in terms of what really happened at the pedestrian crossing. She had stated, in halting English, that the man who had been at the center of this dispute appeared to be intoxicated or something as he had been staggering across the road and “Harry’ had stopped before he even got the pedestrian crossing and the group had started yelling and insulting Harry, saying things about chinks and slants and other things she would not repeat in court. Harry had got out of the car to see what had happened to the man lying on the road and told her to stay put and lock the doors because he thought the situation looked dangerous. She had broken into a lot of foreign words here and the court had not elected to seek any clarification as to what they might mean.

“He put her up to it,” my former dream girl snaps. “She clearly is reciting a rehearsed story. She didn’t even have the good sense to stay talking in English. I didn’t believe a word of what she said.”

I start to tell her that we have to listen to the evidence that is before us and draw our own conclusions, but, and its a big but, the friends of Honi are far from in agreement as to what actually happened leading up to the incident. The affidavits from the ambulance and hospital admitting staff also query whether there was any injury consistent with being hit by a car.

“That’s the sort of crap they talk about on TV,” snarled the dirty old guy between his teeth. “They only do that sort of thing on those crime shows. No-one can actually tell how an injury happens.”

To my horror I see the rest of the jury nodding and writing on their pads and I start to get a sinking feeling that we are going to make a judgment here that is not based on facts or what we have, as a jury, been instructed to do. I take comfort that I can always be the dissenting voice and no matter if all eleven of them decide on this mans guilt I can still say no, and he will get off, or at least have another trial.

We have a break and I am comforted that maybe some of my fellow jurors will see some sense while they down a coffee and a quick sandwich. Some are keen to return to work and have had enough of the trial which they see as black and white yet two secret votes have left us with nine to three in favor of a guilty plea. I wonder who my two fellow conspirators might be. I pass a couple of skinheads in the court corridor who are high-fiving and giggling.
”Shit hot! Only got PD and two C-notes fine, and they can forget about that.  Silly bastard reduced it, after that gutless witness failed to show, to assault. Lets get out of this shithole and I’ll show you what I’ve been saving for after.”

I see a couple of desperate looking girl-women rise from the bench and trail their men out of the courtroom. As they leave the building their shoulders straighten and they strut down the street, eyeballing everyone and shoving into people who get in their way.

After lunch is no better. The foreman of the jury wants to have an open vote so that they can better direct their arguments and so we have vote on whether we will have an open or closed vote but we can’t even agree on that. I seem to be the only one defending the accused and, frankly, I am running out of arguments as to why we should set him free. I am almost ready to give up when this guy who has been sitting silently in the corner doodling on his pad looks up and says, “how is it that this one guy could do all this damage when there were three, strong males and a couple of capable females, much bigger, and I would say, much more used to this sort of confrontation – there in the wee small hours – full of alcohol and god knows what else?”

Everyone sort of looks startled and we all look from one to another.

“I reckon he didn’t do it. I reckon there is more to this than meets the eye and we have only got part of the story. I reckon that the judge said that we had to convict only if there is enough evidence to remove all reasonable doubt from our minds that this man is innocent. I don’t think we have that. I remember when I was a student that it was considered good sport, when you were tanked up, to go out and give some of the overseas student a hard time. Maybe, if they got stroppy, bash them around a bit and show them whose country this was. Maybe steal something of theirs. I know I did it once or twice, and I can tell you, I’m not proud of it, but no-one used to complain so we just kept at it. Usually the ‘victim’ had enough souse to keep their heads down and shut up. I reckon this crowd might just be capable of this. Irrespective of that, we haven’t got enough credible evidence to go one way or the other. We have to vote not guilty.”

I sensed relief from around the table. The old guy sniffed and started drawing thick dark lines through this pad and Demi Moore suddenly found she needed to adjust her bra strap and she filled in a couple of minutes writhing around with her clothing and then finished by glaring at me and my new friend.

I think its time for another vote,” he continued and started ripping up paper. The foreman looked a little disgruntled that his role had been usurped but then he also realised that we had been sitting here now for nearly two hours and hadn’t got anywhere. Reluctantly he nodded and distributed another lot of paper. This time it came back six-six.

“It’s interesting that the police haven’t called any of the medical witness’s into the courtroom to give evidence,” Juror No3 announces after the break. I have to squirm around sideways to see the nametag and it says Brian. “I mean,” he continues, “it seems to me that there is an issue with the injuries maybe not coming form being hit with a car and establishing whether they are consistent with an assault. This is a new twist and I take the opportunity to ask the foreman if we can have this clarified. There are question sheets for this but he seems reluctant to take the initiative. I grab one and start filling it out despite his protestations.   It’s hard to frame the question and I am aware that legalese can sometimes re-interpret what it is you are asking and you may not get another chance.

Honi and his mates had been on the piss and then the hootch since late the night before. All he could remember about it was that at about 6 the dope had run out and there was a big argument about where they would score some more from and who should go and get it, There had been some shoving and then he had been on the ground and someone had been kicking the shit out of his head. He remembered putting his hands up to stop it but it had just gone on relentlessly until whoever it was had either lost interest or simple run out of energy. He remembered them all sort of making up and stumbling off to Herbs, where they could be guaranteed a pick-me-up before going on to some serious drug searching. They had been wandering across the bottom of Cargill Place when this fucking red Datsun had come screaming down the hill and Honi had nearly pissed himself because he didn’t think the damn thing would be able to stop and he just fell to his knees and put his hands over his head and rolled into a ball. He had looked up and there was a number plate with HICHUN on it and he had then realised somewhere in the back of his dope and alcohol ravaged brain that maybe he could regain a bit of his lost pride and he staggered to his feet to be confronted by this gook who was jabbering away in some weird language and throwing his arms in the air and Honi took a swing at him. To his amazement the gook starting doing all this kung fu shit and Honi got real scared and when the guy pushed him he just collapsed on the ground and writhed about. The guy must have panicked because the next thing was that all Honi’s mates were gathered around him and someone screamed and then there were sirens and ambulances and he was in hospital and that was when he hatched his plan. Shit! Everyone knew they were taking over the country and who would they believe, a fucking chink or the tangata whenua.  So they made this story up and after a while they sort of believed it and everyone forgot about the dope and the fighting and they thought they had a real thing going – like they were doing something for the country.

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the start of a new story (to be continued)

The grey Mercedes SKL360 ragtop cruised into the courtyard and came to a halt. A portly man, dressed semi-formally – gray slacks, blue scripted shirt, garish red tie, and white loafers, struggled out of the passengers door. The beautiful, chic woman driver, dark haired, bright red lipstick, Gucci sunglasses smiled and at him, shifted into low gear and executed a tight 180 degree turn, accelerated out of the courtyard, a tiny flutter of a wave as she entered the main thoroughfare. The man quickly walked to seat on the verge of the courtyard and pulled out his mobile. Not many people at the bar and grill on the verge of the courtyard made notice of him except for one solitary woman, seated  at a table, tall lager  and plate of pork belly and Asian greens in front of her. She had an exceptionally long proboscious that could have been altered by surgery but she had decided many hears before that her nose was a minor part of her character. She smiled to herself and reached for her own mobile.

Ten minutes elapsed and a local taxi pulled into the courtyard and deposited a dumpy, worried looking woman. She paid the driver and loped toward the man who was now smiling and holding his arms wide as she approached. She rebuffed this gesture and spoke angrily to him. The woman seated at the table smiled to herself again and once again opened her phone.

“You’ll never guess what I have just seen”, she whispered excitedly into the small device.

“Where the hell have you been”

“Work”

“Yeah! Well a little birdie just told me that she saw you get out of a sports car, gray I believe. Do you want to explain???”

“eeerhh . “

“Yeas , my dear. And on our wedding anniversary. You, siiir, are in d-e-e-p s-h-i-t”