By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Before the jury in the trial of Lovett “Cid” Chambers can start deliberating, defense and prosecuting attorneys have to agree on the instructions jurors will be given.
It won’t be a quick, simple recitation. The wording they’ll resume working on when court reconvenes this morning includes more than two dozen sections dealing with various aspects of the case. But it also includes the simplest of reminders, such as, “As jurors, you are officers of this court.”
Officers to whom all due respect has been given these six weeks – jury duty might be the only time in your life when people are asked to stand up before and while you enter the room.
Today, the jurors get to arrive two hours later than usual, since Judge Theresa B. Doyle estimated the finalizing of instructions would take at least that long. Then the final presentations to be made directly to the jury in her courtroom on the eighth floor of the King County Courthouse downtown will be the closing arguments of both sides.
Each side, she decreed Tuesday, will have up to two hours. The prosecution goes first. Given the way the court schedule is laid out – resuming after lunch at 1:30 pm, taking a mid-afternoon break around 2:30 pm, ending for the day around 4 pm – the arguments would have to be incredibly brief for the case to go to the jury today.
It was 3:30 pm Tuesday when defense attorney Ben Goldsmith declared “The defense rests.” Chambers himself was the final witness called in his own defense, and the day had begun with the continuation of his testimony.
For starters, the testimony hopscotched mostly through ground previously covered, so this report will include more summarizing than direct quoting, especially in the portions that did not deal directly with the night of the shooting, January 21, 2012.
Goldsmith first asked Chambers about the punishment he witnessed or experienced in his younger years in detention facilities, administered, he said, by police or facility staff.
That set up the questioning about his interrogation by Seattle Police Homicide Unit detectives hours after the shooting.
“I was very tired, still intoxicated, had been up since 5 am the previous day,” Chambers said.
Did he feel like he could trust the police?
“No. By this time it had been demonstrated to me that these police had no intention of playing by the rules”
This section of questioning was punctuated by short sections of the video recorded during the interrogation, played back by Goldsmith via the courtroom’s big-screen monitor, set up to face the jury. Much of it was shown during the prosecution’s presentation of its case, and was the first time jurors heard Chambers’s voice. This time, clips from the often-confrontational, profanity-laden interview were a dramatic contrast to Goldsmith’s gentle questioning and the defendant’s soft-spoken replies.
The first segment included Chambers bellowing that he didn’t know what happened, and police bellowing right back, imploring him, “tell us what you DO remember.”
Goldsmith stopped the video. “You’ll agree you say a number of times, ‘I don’t know’ – at that time, did you know what had happened?”
Chambers replied, “Yes, I knew the details.”
“Why didn’t you tell that to the police?”
“I didn’t trust them – I was concerned for my own well-being, I’d already been shown they weren’t going to play by the rules …”
A bit later, he said that he had offered a few details as the interview went on – such as suggesting the victim must have done something “aggressive” – because he wanted to “see what (police’s) response would be.” But, he said, “from the looks on their faces … they weren’t interested in anything I had to say.”
After another video clip was played, in which he told police he suddenly remembered there were “two guys … (and) they were f—in’ with me,” Chambers testified, “I was putting more information out there, to see what their response would be to what actually happened.”
“What did you think their response was?”
“They didn’t believe me – they weren’t interested.”
The next clip played was an intensely adversarial section of the interview, regarding what Chambers said happened at his car, and police accusing him of changing his story. After the video was played, Chambers told Goldsmith again that he felt police “weren’t interested in the truth.”
Goldsmith next introduced the subject of Chambers’s alias, Cidrick Mann, the name in which his car was registered. “36 years ago, I created that name,” he testified, while saying he had no “good reason” for why it was on his car registration.
“Does that name had anything to do with what happened on January 21, 2012?” asked Goldsmith.
And then came the video clip in which police brought up Chambers’s alias – “Are you Cidrick Mann?” – and he retorted that it had “nothing to do with” the incident. After the clip, the defendant told Goldsmith that he thought the mention of his alias was “just a diversion tactic” in the interview: “He didn’t want to talk about the white elephants in the room regarding the two assailants who attacked me, didn’t want to talk about the knife, didn’t want to talk about the shovel.” Police never asked him about the latter item – which he says Travis Hood was holding in a baseball batter’s stance when he shot Hood; Chambers told Goldsmith that he felt the shovel “would disappear” and that police “would manipulate the evidence.”
Asked why he raised his voice in the interview, Chambers said, “They started shouting at me first. … I knew they were trying to intimidate me and I wasn’t sure if it was going to escalate into something else.”
In the video clip played after that, everybody was shouting.
Stopping the video, Goldsmith asked, “Did you feel like you could just stop talking to them and not say anything?”
“No – the whole reason for talking to them was to make it through the night and the morning, to prevent further escalation when I thought there was going to be physical violence.”
Next video clip featured police asking why he shot Hood, with Chambers insisting he didn’t know.
Video paused. Goldsmith: “Was what you told police that night the truth?”
“Was what you testified (in court on Monday) the truth?”
That was it for questioning about the interrogation video. Chambers next was asked about his time in prison in California, starting with San Quentin, which he called “the most dangerous place I’ve ever been in my life … there’s a low regard for life there … by prisoners and staff,” largely because of competing gangs organized along racial lines.
As had been brought out during testimony by Dr. Mark Cunningham, the forensic psychologist brought in by the defense as an expert witness, Chambers said he affiliated with the Black Guerrilla Family gang because he felt he had no choice – “I would have been killed.” He said he witnessed one murder and the immediate aftermath of another, and that this is where he found out about “ratpacking” – a term that has come up before in the trial – someone distracting a victim so they can be ambushed by others. And he called the San Quentin guards “corrupt,” interested in “making sure dissension continued between gangs.”
Chambers also testified about the BGF gang wanting him “to do some things to stay in prison longer to demonstrate my allegiance; I said no.” That, he said, made him the target of a “hit … they marked me for externmination, death … the way that usually works, when it’s decided, they give it to a younger aspiring gang member and if he accomplishes (the hit), he’s in; it’s called ‘making bones’.”
He left prison for the last time in 1989: “I was just done with that (part of his life) … I wanted to do something that would make my mother happy.” However, he said the fear persisted, and he “did things I had done in prison … in terms of evaluating my environment.” That included being “standoffish, very wary, look(ing) to see if something else was going on behind the scenes of what was actually happening – I would always sit with my back against the wall, or in the corner … I just don’t like people walking in back of me, making movements I don’t know about.”
He spoke of encountering someone in Los Angeles who had been a high-ranking BGF gang member, and feeling suspicious that it was more than a coincidence.
One of the reasons he moved to Seattle, taking a “lucrative union contract” in his then-profession as an ironworker, was to “put distance between myself and (California),” he said. But his concerns were raised, he said, by incidents including the 1983 Beach Drive shooting attributed to an aspiring gang member – “a guy who was ‘making bones'” – and gang activity in Tacoma, both of which had been cited in Cunningham’s report.
Back to the night of the shooting: Did Chambers think Hood and friend Jamie Vause were “BGF people after you”?
“Who were you thinking they were?”
“A couple of drunks” – at first, Chambers said – but then as the incident proceeded and, he said, one tried to get into his car, “that’s when I knew they were ‘night crawlers’.”
Goldsmith brought up the previous day’s brief testimony from two friends of Chambers brought in to say that they had made jokes with racist language in his presence and that he had not reacted angrily nor voiced offense.
“Some were just rude jokes,” Chambers elaborated. “That’s the relationship we had … a bunch of guys, we did things together, hung out at the Rocksport, went to (parties) – it was all part of the group activity.” And, he said, he was not the only African-American member of the group.
Goldsmith then jumped back to the shooting, citing racist insults that Chambers said were coming from one man walking in parallel with him northbound on the sidewalk toward Morgan Junction Park.
“Did you take your gun out?”
“He wasn’t threatening me.”
“Were you planning on shooting Mr. Hood?”
“After they said, ‘look at that ni–er there’?”
“How did you feel when they used that racial epithet toward you?”
“I thought it was just two drunk guys … being rude.”
“Did you want to shoot them?”
“Did you want to hurt them?”
“When … Travis Hood picked up the shovel … what did you think he was going to do?”
“I thought he was going to kill me.”
Outside the jury’s presence (in these instances, they are sent to their closed-door room at the back of the courtroom until summoned again), Judge Doyle was asked to rule on whether Goldsmith could subsequently ask Chambers about past incidents in which he had encountered racist insults. She allowed some of the testimony the defense wanted to introduce, and proceedings resumed.
The two incidents were more than a decade ago, Chambers said, one attempt to eat lunch at a restaurant in Everett while doing steel work for Boeing, with strangers using racist insults; he and his co-workers just “decided to have lunch somewhere else,” he said. The other was on the Eastside, at a job site where co-workers targeted him with racist insults; he said he just “continued doing the tasks I’d been assigned.”
Goldsmith: “Did you shoot Travis Hood because he called you a n—-er?”
“Did you shoot him because you heard him and Vause calling each other a (similar word)?”
“… Why did you shoot him?”
“He grabbed that shovel and put it up like a baseball bat and came toward me and told me he was going to kill me – he said, ‘Now I’m going to knock your n—-er head off’.”
Goldsmith had done his questioning from a podium parallel with the end of the jury box that was farthest from the “witness stand” (chair). Moving in for cross-examination, prosecuting attorney Mari Isaacson stood much closer:
“You killed a man that night, didn’t you?”
“You took Travis Hood’s life with that gun we see here in court .. did you not?”
“… You shot him three times.”
“You didn’t have a scratch on you.”
“No bleeding, no bruises, no contact with your body whatsoever by Mr. Hood.”
“That is correct.”
“That night when you talked to police you didn’t say one word about being afraid.”
“… Not one word about being threatened.”
“When you took your gun out, you didn’t stop with one shot.”
“I don’t recall how many shots were fired.”
“You fired a second shot.”
“I don’t recall that.”
“You fired a third shot.”
“I don’t recall that.”
“And those second and third shots were in his back.”
“I don’t recall where those shots were.”
Her staccato questioning went on; Chambers acknowledged lying to and withholding information from police: “So that hour-long interview we watched most of, most of it was lies?”
“That is correct.”
She asked Chambers to stand up.
“How tall are you? 6’3″?”
Six feet, he replied; she pointed out that his driver’s license said 6’3″.
“It says 6’2 1/2″,” he countered.
She also asked him to confirm his weight, “about 225,” and then asked him to sit down.
Isaacson next asked, “Would you consider yourself a habitual drinker, sir?”
“Do you disagree that alcohol is part of your daily life?”
“it is sometimes.” He then acknowledged going to bars several times a week, and that he liked martinis.
“So hard liquor is your drink of choice?”
“It depends on the setting … I like a cold beer also, every once in a while.”
“You are aware that your blood-alcohol level was .20, five hours after you killed Travis that night?”
“It was.” But, Chambers said, he couldn’t recall how many drinks he had had that night.
“You told Dr. Cunningham you had five drinks.”
“I told him I thought (that was how many he had had) but I wasn’t sure.”
“Would you agree that’s not reflected in his report, that you weren’t sure?”
“I’m not sure of the number of drinks I had.”
She moved on to ask about how intoxicated he had felt. He said he didn’t feel that way at Feedback Lounge, where he had been right before the shooting. But, she said, he told Dr. Cunningham he felt an “urgency” to get home.
“There was a level of intoxication, yes.”
But, he contended repeatedly, that hadn’t affected his judgment or perception the night of the shooting.
Next line of questioning: “About the racial epithets you say Jamie and Travis were hurling at you that night … are you telling us today, sir, that calling you the N-word doesn’t affect you?”
“Doesn’t make you upset at all?”
She then had him confirm a partial list of prisons in which he had done time, and that he was “in prison for felony convictions.” (Though the topic of his prison time has come up often, specifics of his record have never been brought up in testimony, as decided during the extensive parameter-setting before the trial.)
“In prison you did what you needed to survive.”
“You didn’t know you had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) until (after) the shooting and (meeting with Dr. Cunningham).”
“Before that, you thought you were fine.”
Another round of questioning involved having him confirm that specific prison/juvenile-facility horrors he’d described had not happened to him personally, and that the Beach Drive shooting victims were not people he knew personally.
As for the gang concerns in Tacoma: “Tacoma is about an hour’s drive from Seattle, correct?” Isaacson asked.
“Depends on what you’re driving!” Chambers replied.
She then asked about his mental health and noted he had been diagnosed as “paranoid” at one point in his prison days. He said he had disagreed with that. “But they sent you to a special facility to be treated.” “They sent me there to be diagnosed and evaluated.”
After lunch and more discussion between lawyers and judge over potential additional testimony, Isaacson resumed:
“You never said one word to your wife about having been in prison.”
Nor, he acknowledged, did they discuss the topic of his daily alcohol use; nor did she know about his alias, or about his prison time and past convictions.
She asked next about the night of the shooting. He didn’t remember how many drinks he had at the Feedback; he denied having noticed Hood and Vause there, or having heard them talking.
She asked him to again recount what happened at his car afterward.
“I was sitting there preparing to put my seat belt on and the passenger door was yanked open.”
“Three-quarters of the way. … The person who opened the door stood in the door frame and made a motion like he was going to come into the automobile with me, and at the same time made a motion to his waistband to get what looked to me like a knife … Then he abruptly stood straight up; I reached … over the center console and passenger seat and pulled the door shut with my right hand.”
“Where did (the man) go?”
“He was standing outside the car but not right at the door.”
She asked him to clarify what happened after that: “The fellow that was shouting the remarks at me on the curb, he just continued to try to distract me and get my attention to cause me to focus on him … the intensity of his efforts (increased) whenever I would look around to try to locate the other person.”
Isaacson: “You passed the person we now know was Travis .. he was on the outside of (the sidewalk) and you were on the inside … where was the other person?”
“I was worried he could be hiding in the park, in the parking lot, or behind cars.”
“You were walking up the street next to Travis.”
In parallel, Chambers corrected.
“You said (all this) happened in a short period of time.”
“How much time passed between when you got out of your car and the shots were fired?”
“I have no idea.”
“Was that within seconds?”
“It seemed like a lifetime to me but it wasn’t really that long.”
“You don’t recall (driving away after Vause drove his truck away with Hood, wounded, inside)? You don’t recall anything between firing the gun and police arriving at your house?”
Asked why he got his gun out of his car and took it with him, heading up the sidewalk: “Because a man had just stood in my car doorway with a knife.”
“You didn’t actually see a knife that night.”
“I thought I saw what was a knife.”
The attempt to clarify what he saw and why he thought it was a knife went on for a while. Ultimately, again in the staccato statement/answer/statement/answer manner, Isaacson had him confirm he never saw one nor had it brandished at him.
She noted that he was seen with his phone after the shooting. “Were you calling or texting somebody?”
“I don’t recall.”
“You certainly weren’t reporting what just happened.”
“I don’t recall.”
About his gun: His wife bought it and it’s registered to her, she noted.
“It’s a semi-automatic pistol.”
“Every time you want a bullet to come out, you have to pull the trigger.”
“You would go to the shooting range routinely.”
“Aiming at a target.”
“Using this Colt we’ve seen here.”
“The same weapon you used to kill Travis that night.”
“… Had you ever taken gun-safety courses?”
He said he had. So, she said, he must have learned that it’s more dangerous to have a gun in your possession when drunk than when sober.
Her next topic, the interrogation with detectives, but without using the video. She noted that he had had positive experiences with Seattle Police, and he acknowledged that (there was no elaboration on what they had been).
She focused on Chambers’s assertion that he was injured by handcuffs that night. He hadn’t said anything about them during the recorded interview, she noted; he didn’t disagree. He had said he wasn’t seen by anyone regarding the injury; she produced a “medical provider review note” dated January 23, 2012. He said, “That’s not what I was talking about. I was not seen by a nurse about the handcuff injury.”
“But you were seen by a nurse that day.” And yet, Isaacson contended, he didn’t mention the injury to anyone for months.
Also in the police interview: “You said .. you put some facts out to see how they would respond. … You didn’t think they were interested in what you had to say. But they (asked what happened) six times. … Isn’t it true you were worried you would be charged with murder if you told the truth?”
She also asked him to verify that he hadn’t told police his car wouldn’t start (just before the shooting), and that his gun was “cocked and loaded … ready to shoot,” loaded with hollowpoint bullets.
“You didn’t call 911.”
“You didn’t go into the bar and ask for help.”
“You didn’t tell them you had just shot a man who had tried to attack you.”
“You didn’t make any effort to get a medic for the man you shot.”
“The truck was there as you walked away.”
“You mean the truck he pulled the shovel from? … I think so.”
“… When you got home, you didn’t call police … you didn’t tell your wife what happened.”
“You went the same direction (as the two men) before the shooting. Why didn’t you go back into Beveridge Place or Feedback for safety?”
“It would have been the (same) direction where the guy with the knife was.”
“You didn’t yell that you were being attacked, didn’t run away, didn’t cross the street … ”
He agreed that was all true.
She concluded cross-examination after noting that Chambers had told a detective his car was parked in front of Beveridge Place, but then testified that it was not “right in front of the front door.”
In re-direct questioning, Goldsmith asked Chambers, “Do you have any doubt you are (the person) who shot him?”
“Was it true (that, as he had told police that night) you didn’t remember parts of what happened?”
“No.” Again, he said, he hadn’t been honest because he didn’t trust police.
He affirmed he didn’t recall how many drinks he had, but again contended alcohol didn’t affect his judgment that night.
“Did you overreact to Mr. Hood and Mr. Vause because you had some drinks?”
“Not at all.” And he said he was “100 percent sure I accurately perceived what was happening.”
“Ms. Isaacson asked about you not telling your wife about the time you spent in prison. Is (that) something you’re proud of?”
“Is it something you talk to a lot of people about?”
“I don’t talk to anyone about it.”
“Is Cidrick Mann your real name?”
Goldsmith then went back to the antitheft feature in Chambers’s car, which he said “just spins” if you use too much force trying to start it. “In my panic, I probably didn’t have the doors completely closed.”
And again, he reiterated he feared he was being “ratpacked,” and that he thought he had seen a knife.
“Were you in any way intending to have any sort of confrontation?” asked Goldsmith.
“What did you believe was going to happen if you didn’t have your gun?”
“I believed he’d kill me.”
Back again to Chambers’ prison experiences: “How does it feel even to this day to think about the things that happened to you?”
“They’re still terrible things, still cause me moments of anxiety.”
“Is that stuff you like to talk about?”
And back to the interrogation – Chambers reiterated he was afraid police “weren’t going to play by the rules,” and that he “thought the evidence would disappear” since they weren’t asking about the shovel.
“Did they ever ask what racial slurs Mr. Hood and Mr. Vause (said to Chambers)?”
“No, they didn’t care.”
Back to Isaacson for re-cross-examination – her points were:
*You didn’t seek medical attention for your hand for months
*Conflicting accounts of where his car was parked
*No trouble with his car when he drove away after the shooting
Back to Goldsmith for re-re-direct questioning – just the handcuff-injury point:
Why did Chambers wait to get medical help for his hand? He said they were swollen, “causing a lot of pain,” but he tried to treat that himself, before finally seeking help.
The prosecution had no further questions; that’s when Goldsmith told Judge Doyle, “Your honor, the defense rests.”
The lawyers and judge spent more than 40 minutes afterward, starting to go through the jury instructions, including the jurors’ options for a verdict. They are scheduled to resume that discussion this morning, with the jury arriving around 11 am; we’ll be going downtown by then too, and will publish an afternoon update as we’ve done the past few days; if you’re interested in toplines before then, we have been tweeting sporadically too (twitter.com/westseattleblog).
Trial report, Monday 3/31/2014 proceedings (Defendant testifies)
Trial report, Wednesday 3/26/2014 (Last day before a 4-day recess)
Trial report, Tuesday 3/25/2014 (Five defense witnesses)
Trial report, Monday 3/24/2014 (Cross-examinations dominate the day)
Trial report, Thursday 3/20/2014 (Defense’s 1st witness continues)
Trial report, Wednesday 3/19/2014 (Prosecution rests, defense begins)
(No court Monday-Tuesday 3/17-18 due to illnesses)
Trial report, Thursday 3/13/2014 (Prosecution calls final witness)
Trial report, Wednesday 3/12/2014 (More blood-alcohol-level discussions)
Trial report, Tuesday 3/11/2014 (Interrogation discussion, autopsy photos)
Trial report, Monday 3/10/2014 (Confrontational video continues)
Trial report, Thursday 3/6/2014 (Car controversy; Chambers on video)
Trial report, Wednesday 3/5/2014 (Defense protests surprise, calls for mistrial)
Trial report, Tuesday 3/4/2014 (‘Police and a passerby’)
Trial report, Monday 3/3/2014 (‘Back to the background’)
Trial report, Thursday 2/27/2014 (Jamie Vause’s second & final day on the stand)
Trial report, Wednesday 2/26/2014 (Jamie Vause’s first day on the stand)
Trial report, Tuesday 2/25/2014 (DNA analysis, police)
Trial report, Monday 2/24/2014 (5 more witnesses)
Trial report, Thursday 2/20/14 (first witnesses)
Trial report, Wednesday 2/19/14 (opening statements)